Kacey Musgraves, Childish Gambino And Brandi Carlile Rule At ‘Inclusive’ 61st Grammy Awards

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Kacey Musgraves (Lev Radin / Shutterstock)


Apparently, the RECORDING ACADEMY learned its lesson after last year’s “Step Up” controversy, delivering an awards ceremony dominated by women, from ALBUM OF THE YEAR and four-time winner KACEY MUSGRAVES to tributes for DOLLY PARTON and ARETHA FRANKLIN. Aside from MUSGRAVES, the night’s big winners turned out to be no-show CHILDISH GAMBINO, who took home both RECORD and SONG OF THE YEAR for his powerful “This Is America,” and BRANDI CARLILE, who collected her three in the pre-telecast, but scored a huge look with her performance of “The Joke” on the show itself. DUA LIPA was a surprise winner for BEST NEW ARTIST.


CARDI B also became the first solo female to ever win BEST RAP ALBUM, taking home the prize for “Invasion Of Privacy.”


LADY GAGA garnered three awards, including the televised BEST POP DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE for “Shallow,” giving a fiery take on the OSCAR-nominated song without BRADLEY COOPER (but with a game MARK RONSON).


DONALD GLOVER’s epic piece also took home BEST MUSIC VIDEO, while MUSGRAVES won BEST COUNTRY ALBUM on air, along with BEST COUNTRY SOLO PERFORMANCE (“Butterfly”) and BEST COUNTRY SONG (“Space Cowboy”) for her field-leading four.


For coverage of the pre-telecast awards, go here.  For coverage of the show, go here.


The show got underway with a bang, a sizzling performance by CAMILA CABELLO of “Havana,” with RICKY MARTIN, J BALVIN and trumpet legend ARTURO SANDOVAL on a multi-tiered set that included a full tenement apartment building.


ALICIA KEYS then arrived to host the evening, playing up the evening’s themes of music, inclusion and, yep, female power, as she brought up a quartet of LADY GAGA, JADA PINKETT-SMITH, JENNIFER LOPEZ, and none other than scene-stealer MICHELLE OBAMA to deliver the message.


Then it was time for the first duet of the evening, SHAWN MENDES singing his two-time GRAMMY nominated song, “In My Blood,” with MILEY CYRUS joining mid-song.


MUSGRAVES’ soaring “Rainbow” was a harbinger of things to come, while JANELLE MONAE was superb on a very PRINCE-like “Make Me Feel,” which did just that with its tic-toc funk rhythms.


Rock n’ roll even reared its head, with POST MALONE following up renditions of his smashes “Stay” and “Rockstar” by joining the RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS for their “Dark Necessities,” hinting at future collaborations to come.


The PARTON tribute found DOLLY herself joining KATY PERRY and MUSGRAVES (“Here You Come Again”), CYRUS (“Jolene”), and MAREN MORRIS (for a lovely three-part a cappella harmony on NEIL YOUNG’s “After the Gold Rush” from the “TRIO” album), LITTLE BIG TOWN (“Red Shoes”), and the grand, all-hands-on-deck finale, “9 to 5.”


H.E.R., winner of BEST R&B ALBUM and BEST R&B PERFORMANCE GRAMMYS, followed with perhaps the night’s breakout performance, dazzling with “Hard Place,” while BEST RAP ALBUM winner CARDI B was a close runner-up on a raucous, peacock-feather twirling “Money” that might have made MAE WEST blush.


KEYS then took center stage, seamlessly gliding in the middle of two pianos for what was dubbed, “Songs I Wish I’d Written,”, a medley which included such GRAMMY-related songs as “Killing Me Softly,” “Unforgettable,” “Use Somebody,” LAURYN HILL’s “Doo Wop” and her own JAY-Z collab, “Empire State Of Mind”). DAN & SHAY were next, with a “Tequila” that ended in an impressive operatic finish from the Country duo’s SHAY MOONEY. Surprise attendee DRAKE won the GRAMMY for BEST RAP SONG for “God’s Plan,” only to launch into a speech encouraging artists to follow their own vision and the awards will come before being cut off in midstream when CBS went to commercial.


The evening’s emotional centerpiece had to be DIANA ROSS, introduced by her adorable grandson, regal in a red gown, as she went with the retrospective “The Best Years of My Life” and “Reach Out And Touch (Somebody’s Hand),” wading into the audience where she brushed past UMG head LUCIAN GRAINGE in one of those surreal GRAMMY moments.


Even with BRADLEY COOPER missing in action, LADY GAGA didn’t disappoint with a fully rocking performance of “Shallow,” featuring MARK RONSON and collaborators, DOWNTOWN MUSIC signees ANDREW WYATT and ANTHONY ROSSOMANDO backing her up.


TRAVIS SCOTT followed up his SUPER BOWL performance with “Sicko Mode,” accompanied by JAMES BLAKE and EARTH, WIND & FIRE’s PHILIP BAILEY and VERDINE WHITE for “Stop Trying to Be God” and “No Bystanders.”


The controversial JENNIFER LOPEZ-starring MOTOWN tribute proved a crowd-pleaser, as LOPEZ had boyfriend ALEX RODRIGUEZ’s jaw dropping after being joined by SMOKEY ROBINSON for “My Girl,” KEYS for “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” and NE-YO for a cover of STEVIE WONDER’s “Another Star.”


CARLILE’s stirring performance of “The Joke,” with lyrics scrolled on a screen in back of her, generated the most enthusiastic crowd response, while BEST NEW ARTIST nominees CHLOE X HALLE paid tribute to the late DONNY HATHAWAY with a version of “Where Is The Love.”


The prize for the night’s most provocative appearance was ST. VINCENT and DUA LIPA’s erotic push-pull on a medley that included “Masseduction,” an interpolation of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” and LIPA’s “One Kiss,” a kinky prelude to DUA’s unexpected BEST NEW ARTIST win.


Outgoing RECORDING ACADEMY Pres./CEO NEIL PORTNOW gave his own version of a farewell speech after a series of taped tributes, admitting he learned a great deal during this last tumultuous year about being more inclusive. The IN MEMORIAM section ended with ARETHA FRANKLIN and segued into a tribute, with ANDRA DAY, FANTASIA and YOLANDA ADAMS leaning into “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” that ended the performances on a high note.


PHARRELL WILLIAMS was named PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, NON-CLASSICAL HONORS.


For a complete list of winners, go here


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