With the 60th Annual Grammy Awards behind us, Gold Derby senior editor Daniel Montgomery and I had quite a bit to talk about regarding the ceremony, the winners and the thorny cultural issues regarding race and gender that continue to be at the center of much of the Grammy debate. Watch our complete video slugfest above.
First, consider the sweep for Bruno Mars, who won all six of his nominations including trophies for Album of the Year (“24K Magic”), Record of the Year (“24K Magic”) and Song of the Year (“That’s What I Like”). I think Grammy voters took away the wrong lesson from last year when the recording academy was criticized over Beyonce‘s loss to Adele for Album of the Year. “It was a conventional choice which is why I think the win was somewhat disappointing,” I noted. “After going so conventional last year … I think there was this hope that they would take the disappointment from last year and try to turn that into something different.”
Montgomery agreed: “The nominating committee made sure to avoid someone like Ed Sheeran,” he said. “If he had been in the general field like we thought he would, he was winning those.” But they still went with the safest, most inoffensive radio-friendly choice available to them, seemingly going out of their way to avoid rap and hip-hop music. In retrospect, it blows my mind that OutKast actually won the top honor back in 2004. Montgomery added, “These other rap and hip-hop-influenced albums just can’t get arrested. Even Lauryn Hill‘s victory is astonishing at this point.”
But that’s not all. The Grammys were also contentious for their handling of gender. Only one woman was awarded as a lead artist during the telecast (Alessia Cara as Best New Artist), and the only female nominee for Album of the Year, Lorde (“Melodrama”), was the only contender in that top race who wasn’t offered the chance to perform solo. Recording academy president Neil Portnow later responded by saying women who want to succeed in the music industry “need to step up because I think they would be welcome.”
“He should know better,” I said of his comment. I’m sure there’s no shortage of women who want to step up. It’s the issue of the opportunity of whether that’s there.” Montgomery suggested that Portnow Google Kesha and Dr. Luke for evidence of the struggles many women face in the industry when they do step up. Portnow’s response “speaks to a complete ignorance of the moment that his show was steeped in,” Montgomery added.
But we did get around to talking about the ceremony itself, which was mostly a success thanks to the strength of its performances. We both singled out Tony and Grammy champ Ben Platt for his sublime rendition of “Somewhere” from “West Side Story” as a tribute to Leonard Bernstein. We also had high praise for Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) for his beautifully sung version of “Terrified” performed alongside JD McCrary, Glover’s co-star from the upcoming live-action remake of “The Lion King.”
James Corden also had a successful night on his second outing as host of the show, with one of the biggest highlights being his segment in which he auditioned potential audio-book readers for the Donald Trump tell-all “Fire and Fury.” Do you agree? What did you think of the show, the winners and the controversies they stirred up?
Author’s note: In the video above, I mistakenly referred to Bruno Mars as being black when he is actually of Puerto Rican and Filipino descent. I apologize for the error.