Every year the Grammys and to a lesser extent, their trashy transatlantic cousin the Brits, generate enormous hype and expectation. We’re split on it, because whilst our faves pretty much never get what we feel is coming to them, it is good to see live music on TV. It is good that music can squeeze into the public consciousness for a few weeks, given how increasingly muted it has become.
With all this in mind, here are the five things we learned from the Grammys 2018.
7. Live performances are the heart of the occasion
Performances on the night remain the most interesting part of the show. Particularly so if you watch along live, as the actual award giving is pretty mind-numbing stuff. Kendrick Lamar provided a blinding opener, performing a medley of tracks from DAMN. He was joined by Edge & Bono, who played a snippet of their collab ‘XXX’, and a spoken word segment by Dave Chappele.
U2 were clumsily inserted into proceedings several times, but their performance of ‘Get Out Of Your Own Way’ was solid, containing a hint of the sparkle that once enlivened their material.
Even better was the empowering tribute to late great rock & roller’s Chuck Berry & Fats Domino. Gary Clark Jr. and Jon Batiste lead a mash up of ‘Ain’t That a Shame’ & ‘Maybelline’, in a move that mirrored last year’s ode to B.B. King.
6. Kesha was the indisputable highlight
Whilst the Grammys did play at being politically conscious, the one genuinely powerful moment came from Kesha. She played her survivor story ‘Praying’ alongside Cyndi Lauper, Andra Day, Julia Michaels, Camila Cabello and members of the Resistance Revival Chorus.
Whilst the organisers saw fit to keep the context of the song (i.e the well documented sexual assault case against Dr Luke) obscured, the performance felt raw. On a night of maddeningly polished artifice, ‘Praying’ was a gut punch.
5. It was a good night for the safe bets
Whilst the nominations were chock full of genuine talent, the soft options won out. Ed Sheeran walked off with Best Pop Vocal Performance and Best Pop Album, beating out Kesha and Lana Del Rey.
Young firebrand SZA lost out to Alessia Cara for Best New Artist. Song of the Year went to ‘That’s What I Like’, which considering ’24K Magic’ the song and the album already scooped awards, seemed like overkill. Besides it’s a truth universally acknowledge that ‘Despacito’ was the song of 2017.
4. Indie darlings got their recognition
Despite the blandness of the choices and ceremony in general, some lesser known artists earned a well deserved boon. ‘Feel It Still’ earned Portugal. The Man the grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, whilst indie-disco royalty LCD Soundsystem took home Best Dance Recording for ‘Tonite’. The National won for Best Alternative Album.
3. *insert Trump reference*
Yes, the Orange One got a few callouts and no, he wasn’t nominated for Best Newcomer. James Corden presided over a segment where various celebs tried out for the audiobook of Fire and Fury, the tell-all smash from Michael Wolff. It was unbelievably hackneyed and forced, presented with the decorum, class and deftness of touch we’ve come to expect from James Corden.
Yes, we all despise Donald Trump. We’re all very aware of that and glad we agree. But he has nothing to do with the ceremony and getting Hilary Clinton (of all people) in on the joke was a pretty terrible idea.
2. It should have been Kendrick
Bruno Mars was the ultimate benefactor of the Grammys this year, earning Album of the Year, Record of the Year & Song of the Year, Best R&B Album and Best R&B Song. Whilst ’24K Magic’ was a blinder of a single, this was Kendrick’s year. Twenty years from now it will be DAMN. that people will be talking about, not 24K Magic – which was essentially a singles collage.
1. The Grammys are an industry awards show
This goes without saying, but this is all the Grammys amount to. Every profesison has their awards show: the fishing industry, taxi drivers, accountancy, wedding suppliers and many more. None of these are declarative statements of what is good and what is not, and whilst it is fun seeing the top talent vying for recognition, you shouldn’t take any of this that seriously.
For the real scoop on the past year in music, see what these guys had to say.