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Grammys keep controversy to a minimum, as Childish Gambino emerges as the night’s big winner

By | Published on Monday 11 February 2019

Childish Gambino

It was the Grammy Awards last night. Were you there? Did you watch at home? Do you care? It was quite a night. One of the big prizes went to a hip hop track for the first time ever and someone came dressed as a wall.

Childish Gambino’s ‘This Is America’ actually took two of the top prizes – Song Of The Year and Record Of Year – the latter of which has somehow never previously been handed to a hip hop track. The 2018 hit also won Best Music Video and Best Rap/Sung Performance.

Best New Artist went to Dua Lipa and Best Rock Song went to St Vincent for ‘Masseduction’. I’m mentioning these together because both artists teamed up for one of the most talked about performances of the night, playing a medley of ‘Masseduction’ and Dua Lipa’s ‘One Kiss’.

Elsewhere in the rock prizes, Chris Cornell posthumously won Best Rock Performance for ‘When Bad Does Good’. His two teenage children collected the award, with his daughter Toni saying: “His voice was his vision and his music was his peace. This is for you Daddy and we love you so much”.

It’s not the Grammys without some controversy, of course. In the run up to the show, there was a verbal scuffle between Ariana Grande and the show’s organisers, after she pulled her planned performance. Grammys boss Ken Ehrlich said that she’d been struggling to put together a set in time, while she said that the decision to pull out was due to her “creativity and self-expression” being “stifled”.

In the end, she didn’t attend the show at all, instead watching from home, despite winning the Best Pop Vocal Album prize for ‘Sweetener’. She sparked further controversy when she tweeted that Cardi B winning Best Rap Album – the first solo woman to do so – over her late ex-boyfriend Mac Miller was “literally bullshit”. Not enough of the controversy surrounded her misuse of the word “literally”. She later deleted her string of angry tweets and apologised, saying that her anger had “nothing to do” with Cardi B herself.

While what Grande said was causing trouble, what wasn’t said elsewhere also drew criticism. The weekend before the ceremony rapper 21 Savage was arrested and imprisoned, pending a court appearance, for allegedly being in the US illegally. Many felt this should have received more attention than it did – particularly from Post Malone, who performed his 21 Savage featuring track ‘Rockstar’, but made no reference to the situation.

The only mention of 21 Savage during the show came from Swedish songwriter Ludwig Göransson, collecting Best Song prize for ‘This Is America’, which he co-wrote with Jeffrey Lamar Williams and Childish Gambino. He said that 21 Savage “should be here tonight”.

Unable to attend, 21 Savage was represented in the audience instead by his mother. However, this too proved controversial. Prior to the event, the rapper’s co-manager Justin Williams tweeted that Grammy organisers were refusing to let his mother have his ticket in order to attend in his place, saying that reps for the management company would also not attend in protest. After the tweet started gaining attention, he later posted that the Grammys had suddenly had a change of heart and released the ticket.

The subject of politics and immigration appeared elsewhere at the event in the form of a dress. Pro-Trump singer Joy Villa attended in a white dress with brick print and barbed wire on the shoulders, representing the American president’s proposed wall on the US-Mexico border. Driving the point home further, she sported a ‘Make America Great Again’ bag. I suppose it’s always worth being reminded that there are actual people who don’t immediately see the ridiculousness of everything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth.

Despite these blips, the ceremony went off without any of the overarching controversies of recent years. Marking his final Grammy Awards as overseer of the event, departing Recording Academy President Neil Portnow promised that “diversity and inclusion” would be a key part of future events – his struggle with this being one reason he’s leaving.

“This past year I’ve been reminded that if coming face-to-face with an issue opens your eyes wide enough, it makes you more committed than ever to help address those issues”, he said. “The need for social change has been a hallmark of the American experience, from the founding of our country to the complex times we live in today. So we must seize this unique moment to bring change within our own industry to ensure that there is diversity and inclusion in all that we do. And we will”.

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