The Grammy Awards were very sneaky this year. With no fanfare they offered a nearly all female show with very few male acts.
The show featured tributes to Aretha Franklin, Dolly Parton, and Diana Ross. The centerpiece performances came from Lady Gaga and Brandi Carlile and HER.
If you were looking for men, for male rock stars or rappers, they were in short supply.
Shawn Mendes had a duet with Miley Cyrus. Smokey Robinson sang a little in the Motown tribute. Travis Scott rapped.
But otherwise, it was girls, girls, girls. Kacey Musgraves won Best Album. Lady Gaga won an award for “Shallow.” And so on. One man who wasn’t supposed to be there, Drake, showed up after all. But Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino, didn’t come to pick up Best Song and Best Record. He was being Childish.
All these women were lead by Alicia Keys, who reminded us she has 15 Grammy Awards. It’s hard to believe it’s been 19 years since I first saw her play “Falling” at Clive Davis’s first pre-Grammy dinner when he started J Records. She was a shy one then, just getting used to the spotlight. But she did a fab job as host and musical guide through dozens of genres and changes. Kudos to her.
The only real misstep of the night was Jennifer Lopez pretending to sing a Motown medley. Her voice is shrill at best when unaugmented. Even with lots of backstage help last night, she was miserable. When she sang “Dancing in the Street” I imagined Martha Reeves throwing things at the TV.
The Grammys also skimped on the Lifetime Achievement Awards. It was downright rude not to acknowledge the presence of Dionne Warwick, Sam Moore, Valerie Simpson, George Clinton, all of whom were sitting right there in the audience at their own expense. A medley of their songs would have been preferable to many other things in the show. A rendition of Roberta Flack and Donnie Hathaway’s “Where is the Love” by ChloexHalle was painful and didn’t do much to serve Hathaway’s amazing legacy.
But the big set pieces worked. Cardi B was sensational. HER was, too. Camila Cabello’s opening “Havana” was like a mini West Side Story. Producer Ken Ehrlich really outdid himself on some of these numbers.
I will end this item til morning with shout outs to Neil Portnow, who we will miss as head of the Recording Academy. You’ll see. And to Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire, as well as Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson. They helped Travis Scott last night on his number. EW&F are forever. They are the best dressed, most professional, and most fun. They’re doing Verdine’s late brother Maurice proud! See them on tour this summer or in September, as it were !