The Grammys are probably the most unpredictable of the main awards reveals. Relying on the yr, they may be a raucous, enjoyable celebration or a horrible snooze — or they may land wherever in between these two poles.
After the 2018 Grammys had been among the many worst ceremonies in current reminiscence, it was tempting to anticipate this yr’s awards could be, at greatest, solely a slight enchancment. As a substitute, they had been sprightly and enjoyable, zipping alongside from large second to large second.
Sure, they ran over their three-and-a-half hour time slot by practically 15 minutes (an unforgivable offense while you’re scheduled to run three-and-a-half hours within the first place), and sure, they made some curious selections right here and there (like having Jennifer Lopez headline a tribute to Motown?), however for probably the most half, this was probably the most charming Grammy ceremony in fairly a while.
And it definitely didn’t harm that the winners had been strong, too, capped off by twin prizes for Infantile Gambino’s searing “This Is America” within the Music and Document of the Yr classes and an Album of the Yr prize for Kacey Musgraves’s swooning Golden Hour, which by some measures was probably the most acclaimed album of final yr.
So what was it that made the Grammys so good this yr? Listed below are three key decisions the awards made to create an gratifying present.
1) The Grammys (largely) celebrated a yr when the perfect music was made by girls by getting out of these girls’s approach
Shortly earlier than the 2019 Grammys had been awarded, the annual Pazz and Jop ballot — through which music critics are surveyed about the perfect music of the yr — was lastly launched for 2018. (The ballot, usually launched a lot earlier, had been delayed this yr as a result of the Village Voice, which hosts it, folded in August, although it nonetheless hosts Pazz and Jop for some purpose.) And for the primary time ever, the highest 5 albums on the checklist had been by girls artists, with two different solo girls artists and Low, a often woman-fronted band, showing within the decrease half of the highest 10 as effectively.
Of these high 5, three — Musgraves, Janelle Monae, and Cardi B — supplied memorable Grammys performances from their nominated work. (The opposite two girls within the high 5, indie star Mitski and pop songstress Robyn, didn’t carry out through the ceremony, although Robyn’s Honey gained’t be eligible for the Grammys till subsequent yr, because of the awards’ offset eligibility window.) And each Musgraves and Cardi gained main awards, with Cardi changing into the primary lady ever to win the Finest Rap Album class. (Monae was robbed, nonetheless. Robbed.)
However even past the Pazz and Jop winners, the night was an enormous one for girls in any respect ranges of the business. Up-and-coming pop star Dua Lipa gained Finest New Artist, and the night’s performances featured a fleet of the music business’s most gifted girls performing both their very own music (Girl Gaga! St. Vincent! Dua Lipa!) or the music of girls who simply occur to be music legends, together with an electrifying tribute to Dolly Parton and a beautiful remembrance of the late Aretha Franklin, whose demise hung over the entire ceremony. Hell, for the primary time ever, a girl gained an award as grasp engineer of an album, when Emily Lazar gained as a part of the engineering staff behind the Beck album Colours.
The Grammys don’t have the perfect observe report on the subject of girls artists. Lipa’s speech made pointed reference to outgoing Recording Academy president Neil Portnow’s snide insistence in early 2018 (a yr when the Grammys weren’t nice information for girls) that girls have gotten to “step up,” and the night nonetheless discovered time for a collaboration between Publish Malone and the Crimson Sizzling Chili Peppers, a phase of the present which may as effectively have been known as “And Now Let’s Test in With the Odor of a Fraternity Home’s Laundry Room.”
However in a yr when probably the most acclaimed music was made by girls, when the business was rocked by the lack of Franklin, and when Diana Ross was turning 75 in a month (an event she marked through the ceremony by proclaiming, “Joyful birthday to me!” after performing a tribute to herself, by herself), the Grammys knew to only get out of the best way. Subsequent yr, the present might very effectively return to the identical outdated, usual, however in 2019, the Grammys had been glad to point out off simply what number of gifted girls are working in so many various segments of the music business.
2) Alicia Keys was the proper host for the night
This may show to be a controversial assertion. It definitely was within the Vox Grammys Slack, the place opinions on Keys because the present’s host ran cold and hot. However truthfully: Alicia Keys was the proper Grammys host, and the present did an amazing job of not making an attempt to make her break too wildly from what she does effectively.
Sure, she was generally slightly too subdued. As soon as, she seemingly wandered across the stage mumbling the phrase, “Infantile!” after accepting Infantile Gambino’s Music of the Yr trophy as a result of he wasn’t on the ceremony. And sometimes, she didn’t appear to understand the present had returned from a business and continued to talk with the viewers. However these moments all felt of a chunk together with her total internet hosting job, which was aimed much less at making her appear humorous and extra at making her look like a terrific recording artist.
She supplied up a faux-moving tribute to the 2004 Grammys, when she misplaced Music of the Yr to John Mayer (for his putrid “Daughters” — see what I imply in regards to the Grammys so usually getting it very flawed?). She offered the ultimate two awards of the night in brisk, environment friendly vogue however nonetheless discovered time to shout out Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
And within the night’s weirdest, wildest second, she carried out at two pianos concurrently, shouting out songs she favored, enjoying just a few bars of them, then singing alongside, as if she was grubbing for ideas at a piano bar. (Pianos had a great evening on the entire, with Cardi B’s pianist Chloe Flower and her glittering piano standing out particularly.)
Keys’s twin piano efficiency was the kind of second that both mesmerized you or despatched you scrambling for the distant, however for me, her sheer virtuosity, mixed together with her seeming unwillingness to play to a budget seats, made for a enjoyable efficiency — and a deeply entertaining Grammy ceremony extra usually. This was Alicia Keys’s celebration, and weren’t we fortunate to be invited over to listen to a few of her closest mates carry out their hit songs?
3) Director Louis J. Horvitz supplied an amazing steadiness of extensive pictures and close-ups
I truthfully don’t know why the 2019 Grammys had been so effectively directed. I’ve spent the final a number of years griping in regards to the Grammys’ common lack of ability to supply strong reside TV path, however this yr’s awards had terrific reside TV path. I assumed this was as a result of the present had switched administrators, however Louis J. Horvitz, who helmed the 2019 telecast, has directed each Grammy telecast since 2010.
Did he abruptly resolve on a brand new protection plan for his cameras? Did CBS give him new community mandates? Did he simply actually hate being in New York final yr? (This yr’s awards had been again in Los Angeles once more after a one-year sojourn to the Huge Apple.)
Regardless of the case, Horvitz’s work on the 2019 Grammys was terrific high to backside. The Grammys clearly consider their telecast because the world’s greatest, most star-studded live performance, however the path lately has robbed viewers of the texture of a live performance, the place you’ll be able to absorb the entire stage directly — the higher to take a look at the dancing, the manufacturing values, and the charisma emanating from the star. As a substitute, the present has usually lower frantically between medium pictures and close-ups, usually making a hyperactive enhancing rhythm that made it laborious to inform what was happening.
The 2019 Grammys had far fewer issues on this regard. Horvitz usually zoomed out from the motion, letting viewers drink in all the things that was occurring onstage in majestic extensive pictures. When it was time for, say, Girl Gaga to set free the well-known howl from “Shallow,” he’d lower in nearer, however he selected his moments judiciously. He even got here up with just a few enjoyable pictures on the fly, as when a digital camera circled St. Vincent and Dua Lipa as the 2 carried out their duet, creating a way of intense, scorching rigidity.
Regardless of the explanations for it, Horvitz’s path was the sneaky, secret success behind the entire night. It’s lots simpler to understand the thought that goes into staging these Grammy numbers when you’ll be able to truly see them, and Horvitz was cautious to verify viewers had been proper there on the live performance, getting the total expertise, from a budget seats all the best way as much as the entrance row.