The Grammy Awards ceremony has always had its fair share of controversy, from the best rap artist category being introduced but not televised in 1989, to Recording Academy president Neil Portnow telling female artists they need to “step up” if they want to be recognised. This year’s ceremony was set for its own share of drama as the spotlight was on the Recording Academy’s rocky relationship with hip-hop and rap.
In the lead up to the ceremony Childish Gambino, who ended up winning Song of the Year for ‘This is America,’ Kendrick Lamar, and Drake all threatened to stay away from the event. Drake, however, did show up and while accepting the Best Rap Song award for ‘God’s Plan’ inadvertently, or perhaps deliberately, became the centre of the night’s drama. In his speech, that will be remembered for many years to come, the rapper said that winning a Grammy wasn’t the epitome of success in the industry and in the process had his mic switched off as the broadcast cut to a commercial.
That wasn’t the only talking point, though. After Portnow’s tasteless comments at last year’s ceremony there was a definite focus on women at the ceremony. Alicia Keys hosted this year’s event which included a surprise appearance from Michelle Obama as well as an all-star tribute to Dolly Parton. When all was said and done, out of the 17 performances that filled up the ceremony, only four of them were male. Women also featured heavily in the awards count with Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, and St. Vincent among others taking home the golden gramophone.
In a moment of tenderness that would have brought tears to even the hardest of souls, the late Chris Cornell’s children Christopher and Toni accepted the award for Best Rock Performance for ‘When Bad Does Good,’ a posthumous release off ‘Chris Cornell’ which was compiled and released by the grunge icon’s wife Vicky Cornell. It was a beautiful moment that would surely have brought a smile to the face of one of the best vocalists the rock world has ever seen.
Lastly, the South African flag was flown high as the Soweto Gospel Choir won the Best World Music Album for the third time. They received the award for ‘Freedom,’ a collection of struggle songs they released last year as part of their 100 Years of Mandela Celebrations.