What Happened at the GRAMMYs??
I’m very fortunate to have now attended music’s biggest night twice (2014, 2017) — many thanks to my better half.
Unlike the other award show cousins that make up the EGOT quartet, this one features over 20 live performances (less talking, more artistry). Tickets are not open to the public or legal for resale, and even if you do risk scalping them you‘d have to drop some serious cash on that gamble. This all ads up to an NBA basketball arena hosting one of the most exclusive and anticipated events of the year, where we’ve come to expect big surprises.
The day itself and the entire weekend are an electric experience from start to finish. Stars, red carpets, after parties and live music events happening all over the city all week long.
Exceptional new-to-the-mainstream artists like Sturgill Simpson and Anderson .Paak (who was homeless and sneaking into Grammy parties a few years ago) performed at the Grammys and at private events in the nights leading up.
On the red carpet I found myself bumping into people like Carrie Underwood, Lil Yachty, Rick Ross and Heidi Klum among others that happened to be walking right next to us (Carrie admittedly was only nearby for 10 seconds before veering into a private entrance).
Once getting into the stadium it’s funny to see what’s normally a casual (if not sloppy) crowd of NBA fans replaced with a sea of flashy gowns, towering heels, and fresh suits all the way from the floor to the 300 level. Everyone is directed to their seats by 4:45pm and the concessions are limited to soda, juice and water for the next 4 hours (you will be very hungry before it’s done). The level of work involved with producing a show of this caliber in such a short time frame is hard to imagine. This year we were treated to 23 meticulously designed live performances in less than 4 hours!
After the show thousands of guests go home, and thousands more head for after parties. I and my group were at the GRAMMY-sponsored after party located in the LA convention center next door. This party always has live performers, photo booths, open bars, huge buffets for dinner and dessert, a jazz lounge and is a great place to send your weekend off with a bang. You won’t find celebs here though — they’ll be at one of many exclusive parties elsewhere in the city (that don’t involve plebeians like us lining up to take pictures with them).
As far as who we saw at the show, James Corden took over hosting duties after 5 straight years of LL Cool J and brought some new flavor to the event (my favorite joke might be his introduction of what sounded like Kanye West turning into a speech from Recording Academy CEO Neil Portow). Chance the Rapper stormed the awards and put God and gospel music on full display for the first time in a generation. CeeLo Green was looking like C3PO. A Tribe Called Quest and honorary, unofficial members including Busta Rhymes led an unabashed repudiation of the new administration‘s policies (and coined the term “President Agent Orange”) with a performance of “We The People” off their recent album. And Adele was everywhere.
She performed twice, restarted a live performance, cursed a little bit, gave very endearing speeches, made Beyoncé cry and perhaps most controversially, Adele swept the major award categories including album of the year.
Adele is not only a magnificent singer, she’s already arguably one of the greatest voices ever. Her album “25” was fantastic and a huge success, but Beyoncé also created an unprecedented work of musical greatness in Lemonade this past year. Lemonade is a multifaceted album spanning multiple genres of music and showcasing more than double the traditional body work with unique visual and audio versions of every single track. In Adele’s own words it was,
“So monumental, so well thought-out, and so beautiful and soul-bearing.”
When I heard Adele’s 25 get announced as the winner for best album, I couldn’t help but have a flashback to when Kanye famously bulldozed Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at the VMAs for an award that admittedly, Beyonce probably deserved.
I also thought immediately about the last GRAMMY awards that I attended in 2014 where Kendrick Lamar got beat out by Macklemore for best rap album. It made the error even more painful when Kendrick brought the house down with this performance with Imagine Dragons.
The trend of favoring comfortable mainstream music over monumental works of art that shape American culture is not new, and not exclusively black and white (although it often is). Prince had 38 GRAMMY nominations but only 7 wins, which is certainly far too few given the enormous impact we feel from him today. David Bowie only had 2 Grammys to his name (one being a lifetime achievement award received in 2006) before receiving 4 wins this year post-humously.
These are the artists other musicians look up to. They are the artists that shape our culture, and to be 20 years behind in recognizing their impact on all of us is a shame. GRAMMY voters had a responsibility to educate themselves and recognize the significance of Beyoncé’s Lemonade album in the fabric of American culture.
Unlike in years past, this time around Adele took it upon herself to drive this message home. Her album of the year speech brought Beyoncé herself to tears with an impassioned endorsement of Lemonade (and so much more) before literally breaking her GRAMMY in half. Adele announced loudly and clearly that she herself did not deserve the award and I hope the Recording Academy and its members pay close attention this time. If they do not, we may see more artists (and viewers) going the route of Frank Ocean and not participating for lack of faith in the process.