During one of the biggest nights in music history, the 61st Annual Grammy Awards was packed with show-stopping performances from the industry’s biggest names, tributes honoring the greatest and a plethora of firsts in the history of the Recording Academy.
Flourished with color and multiple dancers, Camila Cabello kicked off the show with a celebration to Latino culture, more specifically a tribute to her grandmother and Cuban roots. The performance began with Cabello singing her upbeat single “Havana” as she danced her way through colorful rooms meant to represent a “solar habanero.” Cabello further described the set “a house in which every family live in a room- it was a poor community but she loved it because there was music everywhere, she was never happier.”
Young Thug, who is featured on the track, joined Cabello before Latin notables Ricky Martin, “Mi Gente” singer J Balvin and Cuban-American trumpeter Arturo Sandoval join on stage for an ultimately infectious performance that represented the rise in Latin music from the past two years.
While the remainder of the show did not exhibit overt political statements, a subtle statement on immigration is captured when J Balvin was seen holding a newspaper with the headline “BUILD BRIDGES NOT WALLS” bolded across the page.
The award show was hosted by 15-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys, who brought passion and creativity for music to the center stage. From the get-go, Keys was joined on stage by Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jennifer Lopez and Michelle Obama — a powerhouse group of ladies we never knew we needed until now.
Together the five women preached about the power of music and the unification it brings among those who indulge.
“Whether we like country or rap or rock, music helps us share ourselves: our dignity and sorrows, our hopes and joys. It allows us to hear one another, to invite each other in,” Obama said to the crowd.
Soon after, the first Grammy of the night was award to Lady Gaga for best pop duo/group performance for “Shallow” with her “A Star is Born” counterpart Bradley Cooper. Cooper was not in attendance but Gaga used her speech to highlight the importance of addressing mental health issues.
“They’re so important,” Gaga said. “A lot of artists deal with that, and we’ve got to take care of each other. If you see somebody that’s hurting, don’t look away. And if you’re hurting, even though it might be hard, try to find that bravery within yourself to dive deep and go tell somebody and take them up in your head with you.”
Other highlight performances included Cardi B’s “Money,” that possibly gave viewers a sneak peak into her upcoming Las Vegas Residency and wondering who was the woman playing the piano so fiercely at the opening?
Cardi B who sported a leopard print bodysuit and black peacock feathers during her set took home her first Grammy for best rap album for “Invasion of Privacy.” This award also grants her the title of the first solo woman to win an award in the category.
Other historical wins included Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” that took home the Grammy for song and record of the year. The track is also the first rap song to win record of the year.
The night was also filled with numerous performances honoring music legends.
Diana Ross wished herself a “Happy Birthday” one month early as she amazed audiences with her performance of “The Best Years of My Life” and “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand). Introduced by her 9-year-old grandson Raif-Henok Emmanuel Kendrick, Ross graced the stage in a red ballroom gown as she was being recognized with a lifetime achievement award.
While Andra Day, Fantasia and Yolanda Adams gave a jaw-dropping tribute to the late soul singer Aretha Franklin, the internet highly questioned whether Jennifer Lopez was fit to perform a Motown Tribute alongside Smokey Robinson and Ne-Yo.
Dolly Parton was also honored as joined by Katy Perry, Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, Little Big Town and her goddaughter Miley Cyrus to sing some of the country singer’s hits.
Cyrus and Parton’s fantastic duet of “Jolene” even had South Korean pop group BTS on their feet dancing and singing along. The first-time Grammy attendees also made history as the first K-Pop group to present at the prestigious award show. The group presented the Grammy for best R&B album to 21-year-old H.E.R., making it her second win of the night, after best R&B performance.
Taking a break from hosting duties, Keys stunned audiences as she covered songs from Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly With His Song” to “Boo’d Up” by Ella Mai. Oh, was it mentioned she did this while playing two pianos at the same time?
“Music is just, you know, those songs that just live inside of you,” Keys said in between songs. “It lives inside of me. And you just love it so much because it was done so well that you wish you wrote it. That’s how I feel about these songs. I wish I wrote them.”
Travis Scott performed “NO BYSTANDERS” inside a cage with bystanders on stage and Dua Lipa joined St. Vincent to put on a steamy performance of “MASSEDUCTION” and “One Kiss.”
The “New Rules” singer also took home the golden gramophone for best new artists. Lipa began her acceptance speech by throwing a subtle jab at Recording Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow.
“I want to begin […] by saying how honoured I am to be nominated alongside so many incredible female artists this year,” Dua Lipa said. “I guess this year we really stepped up.”
Her sentiment comes after Portnow made a comment last year that female artists needed to “step up” if they wanted to be nominated in more categories.
Producers cut Lipa’s speech early, a move that was made earlier when Drake was awarded best rap song for “God’s Plan.”
Drake touched in his acceptance speech the insignificance of winning a Grammy to define an artist.
“If there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this right here, I promise you that,” Drake said. “You already won.”
It was evident women dominated the Grammy categories and stage. Other notable wins included Kacey Musgraves who took home four Grammys including album of the year for “Golden Hour.”
“Thank U, Next” singer Ariana Grande also won her first Grammy for best pop vocals for “Sweetener.” Grande was not in attendance after it was reported she faced differences with producers over which song she would perform at the Grammys. The pop sensation decided to not attend all together and posted photos of herself at home dressed in what would have been her red carpet gown.
Karolina Rivas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Tw