Olivia Rodrigo, who won best new artist and best pop vocal album, clutches her trophies at the 64th annual Grammy awards.
Teenage pop phenom Olivia Rodrigo and R&B duo Silk Sonic dominated the major categories, and Jon Batiste won album of the year at the 64th annual Grammys – a three-and-a-half-hour mega concert that mostly steered clear of politics or the pandemic, save for a virtual message from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy and an emotional tribute to victims of the Russian invasion.
A week after one of the most chaotic Oscars in recent memory – during which Will Smith slapped Chris Rock on stage – the Grammys seemed to revel in its technical proficiency and lack of controversy. “We’re gonna be listening to some music, we’re gonna be dancing, we’re gonna be singing, we’re gonna be keeping people’s names out of our mouths,” said host Trevor Noah in his opening monologue, acknowledging the elephant in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“Don’t even think of it as an awards show,” said Noah, who returned to the Grammys stage after emceeing last year’s Covid-straitened ceremony. “This is a concert where we give out awards.”
Indeed, after years of controversy over the recording academy’s lack of diversity, recognition of hip-hop or inclusion of female artists, the 2022 Grammys mostly stuck to the music, with only nine televised awards in what was essentially a revue of two years in popular music.
Noah acted as an amiable, enthusiastic hype man with a handful of light quips on Covid vaccines (last year “people were doing shots, but it was more Moderna and Pfizer”) and NFTs (“You know it’s been rough when your favorite artists go from trying to sell you music to trying to sell you pictures of digital monkeys”).
He struck a more serious note halfway through the ceremony, introducing Zelenskiy: “Even in the darkest times, music has the power to lift spirits and give you hope for a brighter tomorrow. There’s nobody who could use a little hope right now more than the people of Ukraine.”
In a pre-filmed video, a noticeably hoarse Zelenskiy cast music as an embodiment of peace and freedom. “The war. What is more opposite to music?” he said. “The silence of ruined cities and killed people. Our children draw swooping rockets, not shooting stars.
“The war doesn’t let us choose who survives and who stays in eternal silence,” he continued. “Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals, even to those who can’t hear them. But the music will break through anyway.”
Zelenskiy praised his countrymen (“We defend our freedom. To live. To love. To sound. On our land, we are fighting Russia which brings horrible silence with its bombs. The dead silence. Fill the silence with your music! Fill it today to tell our story”) and urged Grammy viewers to publicly support Ukraine. “I have a dream of them living,” he said of the Ukrainian people. “And free. Free like you on the Grammy stage.”
The message served as an introduction to a John Legend performance of Free, along with Ukrainian musicians Mika Newton and Siuzanna Iglidan, and Ukrainian poet Lyuba Yakimchuk.
In his second year as executive producer of the Grammys, taking over after Ken Ehrlich’s 40-year tenure, Ben Winston mostly allowed individual artists to shine. Rodrigo, who took home best new artist and best pop vocal album for Sour, sang her record-smashing breakout hit Drivers License from behind the wheel of a vintage Mercedes, with a full American suburban street set.
Brandi Carlile drew a standing ovation for Right on Time, an operatic ballad of regret and second chances. New York-bred rap legend Nas – “your rapper’s favorite rapper,” as Noah introduced him – performed a medley of hits (and also drew a standing ovation from the crowd, including Lil Nas X). Lady Gaga paid tribute to long-time friend and collaborator Tony Bennett, who retired from live performances last year at the age of 95 on doctor’s order (Bennett has lived with Alzheimer’s for several years, he revealed). Jon Batiste, the night’s most-nominated artist with 11 nods, kicked off a sprightly, retro-futurist performance of Freedom with a dramatic, starkly lit piano solo.
In a self-conscious nod to the Academy’s reputational woes – which has led artists such as the Weeknd and Frank Ocean to snub the awards entirely – new president Harvey Mason Jr promised “at the new Recording Academy, we serve music” in a video message. The show celebrated live music producers – the behind-the-scenes workers who helped bring live concerts back from pandemic closures – by inviting some to introduce their artists. Road tour manager Misha Hedman Mayes introduced HER, whom she has known since the R&B star was just 11 years old. Wardrobe supervisor Joan Lee pitched her collaborator and boss, Carrie Underwood, who won best roots gospel album for My Savior. Tour manager Nicole Massey, who shouted out to all “women in touring”, set the stage for “the best 20-year-old boss in the world”, Billie Eilish, who performed a rain-soaked rendition of Happier Than Ever. Eilish’s brother/producer Finneas accompanied her on guitar, wearing a shirt honoring Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, who died unexpectedly last week at age 50 while on tour in Colombia.
Noah also acknowledged Hawkins, who was supposed to perform with the Foo Fighters at the ceremony. The remembrance kicked off the night’s In Memoriam segment: Dear Evan Hansen star Ben Platt, Wicked’s Cynthia Erivo, Hamilton’s Leslie Odom Jr and West Side Story’s Rachel Zegler sang a medley of songs by the late musical theater titan Stephen Sondheim, who died last November at 91.
Amid all the music, there were a handful of lighthearted speeches. “I have never taken such a fast piss in my whole life,” said Doja Cat, who apparently rushed from the bathroom to the stage to accept the award for best pop duo performance with SZA, for Kiss Me More. “I like to downplay shit,” she said through tears, “but this is a big deal.”
Silk Sonic, AKA Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, grooved on to the stage for both record and song of the year. “We are really trying our hardest to remain humble at this point,” Anderson .Paak quipped. “Drinks is on Silk Sonic tonight!”
Jon Batiste closed the evening with, fittingly, a celebration of music for album of the year. “I believe this to my core: there is no best musician, best artist, best dancer, best actor,” he said. “The creative arts are subjective and they reach people at a point in their lives when they need it most.”
Source: The Guardian
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