The Grammys were held on Sunday night, February 10, 2019, and were hosted this time around by 15-time Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Alicia Keys, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles with the live broadcast on CBS.
Below are some of the highlights and clips from the broadcast of The 61th Annual Grammy Awards, along with the full list of Grammy winners at the end.
Having Keys host this year was a major change in tone from the previous two years, which were led by comedian and late-night talk-show host James Corden. Instead of comedy throughout, Keys focused on highlighting the talent and careers of the presenters, nominees, winners, and performers.
Here’s my usual official Grammys warning: I am a metalhead, and I prefer hard rock and metal. I really don’t enjoy country music and I strongly dislike pop music in general on a philosophical level. But I love music and can appreciate many genres, and I am especially a nostalgic music lover, which means that once these songs are no longer in heavy rotation, they’ll better grow on me and years down the line, hearing them will bring me back to that time in my life.
For the Grammys, typically there’s an artist or song that I might end up liking. Also, most of the new music I know comes from whatever is played over the Planet Fitness PA. I spend the majority of the Grammy Awards broadcast asking, “Who’s this?” But I do really enjoy it when an artist who I’d otherwise have no interest in does a good performance or fitting tribute to an artist I do like. Therefore, when I say I’m writing about the “highlights” of the show, it’s the highlights according to me, a metalhead who watched the Grammys, a show that doesn’t even bother to televise the Heavy Metal category or now even the Best Rock Song winner. So keep that in mind when I leave out your favorite rapper from the list.
Last year’s show was very focused on the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, while this year left those and most political sentiments behind to instead center on some really great tributes to music legends, like Dolly Parton, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, and Diana Ross, along with the 60th anniversary of Motown.
Because rock’s not dead and metal rules, I’ll start out, as usual, with the winners of the rock and metal awards. The first one up includes my annual compliant about the lack of rock and metal, but it’s a win I definitely approve of: the late Chris Cornell won Best Rock Performance for “When Bad Does Good.” High on Fire won Best Metal Performance for “Electric Messiah.” For Rock (and let’s face it, they use the term “rock” loosely), Best Rock Song went to St. Vincent for “Masseduction,” while newbies Greta Van Fleet won Best Rock Album for From the Fires.
Oh, the rock I like was represented by Red Hot Chili Peppers, who performed with Post Malone, who I only know as the guy with the tattoos all over his face. Unfortunately, this performance was kinda disappointing.
Early on in the show, Keys along with Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Jada Pinkett Smith took the stage with former First Lady Michelle Obama to talk about how music helped them tell their story.
Part of what I do not enjoy about pop music is the way it’s recorded; producers will take someone with a great voice and put so many effects on them that I just don’t want to hear it. For instance, to hear Miley Cyrus sing live will give you goosebumps in a way her recorded versions do not. During this year’s Grammys, she came to the stage several times and was great in each instance, especially during the tribute to her godmother Dolly Parton, which Parton herself took part in. I hope they eventually release the tribute, because Parton was amazing as usual – she is legend. She barely has to open her mouth to achieve the range she gets.
By the way, I’d never heard of country star Kacey Musgraves before tonight and I guaranteed I will forget her name right after typing this, but she has a beautiful voice and I dug her multiple performances throughout the night, including the Dolly Parton tribute. She went on to win not only Best Country Album, but also Album of the Year — THE big award of the night (so, this might have been somewhat of an “upset,” I’m not sure). Btw, speaking of this tribute, I really liked the cover of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush” (love Neil Young), which Parton covered with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris on their Trio II album in 1999, for which they went on to win a Grammy. (My mom, a huge Neil Young fan, right away picked up that they changed the original line “I felt like getting high” to “I felt like I could cry,” so I had to look this up for her. It turns out, Parton did a covered this as a solo song in 1996, where she change the lyric with Neil Young’s permission.)
After this, I was introduced to a new R&B artist I’d never heard of – H.E.R. Not only did she have an amazing, soulful voice, but she come out on stage with her electric guitar and did a solo. Right there, you got my respect. There’s a good change I might not like the recorded version of this song – “Hard Place” – but I will listen to her live any time.
Now back to Alicia Keys – she is really something. SO TALENTED. She did a two-piano medley of classics she says she wish she wrote, like “Killing Me Softly with His Song” and “Unforgettable,” along with more modern favorites before ending her performance with “Empire State of Mind,” her collaboration with Jay-Z, an ode to New York (my home town, that I love).
Next up, living legend Diana Ross, introduced by her little grandson for her 75th birthday, performed “The Best Years of My Life” and “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand),” the latter of which took her out into the audience to touch some hands.
Next on deck was Lady Gaga, clad in 70s glam (channeling Runaways frontwoman Cherie Currie), who performed her nominated song “Shallow.” As always, she was perfect. She can sing. Period. And she knows how to entertain. The song, which was her duet with Bradley Cooper from their recent big-screen remake of A Star Is Born, won Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Song Written for Visual Media.
Then the tributes continued with a performance by Jennifer Lopez who was eventually joined by Smokey Robinson, Ne-Yo, and Alicia Keys for an ode to Motown. Let me say something about JLo, she can dance, she always could and likely always will. I’ve loved watching her since her days as a Fly Girl. I saw on Twitter that people were saying that she lip-synced. It’s possible, but I’m not so sure because I thought there were points where I could hear her labored breathing as she simultaneously sang and danced. Singing was never exactly her strong point, but I thought it sounded good. She spoke a lot to the crowd and the performance as a whole was great (again… she’s a dancer).
The In Memoriam reel, which featured Mac Miller, Avicii, country legend Roy Clark, and Jefferson Airplane frontman and co-founder Marty Balin, was the lead-in for a tribute to the late great Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, by Yolanda Adams, Fantasia, and Andra Day of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.”