I knew there was no way we were going to get through over three hours during one of music's biggest nights without politics somehow making it's way on to the stage of the 59th Annual Grammy Awards. And of course it did, subtlety with an image of the Constitution being projected at the end of Katy Perry's performance of her new song, "Chained To The Rhythm" and quite aggressively during A Tribe Called Quest's number where they, along with Anderson Paak, Busta Rhymes and Consequence, referred to "President Agent Orange" and urged the audience to continue resisting his outrageously divisive policies. There were also inspiring messages of tolerance and moving words on the importance of the arts in speeches from Beyoncé during her acceptance of the Best Urban Contemporary Album award and from the Recording Academy President, Neil Portnow.
James Cordon, the host of CBS' "The Late Late Show", took over the hosting duties of the Grammys this year and brought a much-needed new energy to the show. No offense to LL Cool J but the comedian kept the show light and breezy (and just in time considering the political climate) with his infectious enthusiasm and cheerful good humor. But he could still be cheeky with a funny bit involving his parents and their "cheat dates". Cordon is a true music lover which is evident from his very popular "Carpool Karaoke" segment (which he couldn't resist squeezing in to the show by doing an all-star version of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" but it would really seem unavoidable with so many of the top music people in the audience) and appeared to be just as thrilled to be hosting as he was watching the performers.
And music was the real focus of the evening and there were plenty of outstanding performances to witness. Adele kicked off the show with a flawless rendition of "Hello" but ran in to some trouble during a tribute to George Michael with a reworking of "Fast Love" (an odd choice out of all of his songs). She was so unhappy with her performance that she insisted on stopping in the middle and starting over. Adele triumphed in the end but was still quite visibly upset despite the enthusiastic response. Other highlights include Bruno Mars who also did double duty with a slick, old-school funk performance of his own song "That's What I Like" before showing off impressive guitar skills on a cover of "Let's Go Crazy" during the tribute to Prince. Ed Sheeran astonished as a one-man band as he did his new single, "Shape of You", Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood brought some fiery soul to country with "The Fighter" and the duet of John Legend and "Color Purple" star, Cynthia Erivo performing the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows" during the in-memoriam segment was absolutely breathtaking. Get them to a recording studio ASAP!
I wasn't particularly impressed with the teaming of Metallica and Lady Gaga which was just loud and inaudible with the technical difficulties not helping and while I was thrilled with the celebration of the Bee Gees and the fortieth anniversary of their "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack, the performers involved (which included Demi Lovato, Tori Kelly and Little Big Town) underwhelmed.
But it was Beyoncé, hardly surprising, who left a spectacularly memorable impression. Merging bold religious imagery with a hallucinogenic flower-child vibe, the singer, resplendent in a revealing, golden gown and the glow of impending motherhood, took over the show for nine minutes with a amazing production of two songs from "Lemonade", "Love Drought" and "Sandcastles" that featured video projection, the usual army of female dancers and dazzling visual effects that made a statement in more ways than one.
There was much made of the Adele vs Beyoncé showdown but it was the British singer who ultimately was the big winner taking all five of the Grammys she was nominated for including Album of The Year while the expectant mother received only two from her nine nominations. Now while I think "25" is a good, solid album but I completely agree with Adele 100% that "Lemonade" should have taken that top prize for it's innovation and craftsmanship. It was a slight to an album that will long endure as a groundbreaking work. But I couldn't help being moved just as much as Beyoncé by Adele's graciousness, honesty and genuine affection for the singer. Adele proved to me she was a winner just by being endearing, humble and a class act.
Here is the complete list of winners from the 2017 Grammy Awards:
Album of the Year: “25”, Adele
Record of the Year: “Hello”, Adele
Song of the Year: “Hello”, Written by Adele Adkins & Greg Kurstin (Adele, artist)
Best New Artist: Chance the Rapper
Best Pop Vocal Album: “25”, Adele
Best Pop Solo Performance: “Hello”, Adele
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: “Stressed Out”, Twenty One Pilots
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: “Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin”, Willie Nelson
Best Urban Contemporary Album: “Lemonade”, Beyoncé
Best R&B Album: “Lalah Hathaway Live”, Lalah Hathaway
Best R&B Performance: “Cranes in the Sky”, Solange
Best R&B Song: “Lake By the Ocean”, Written by Hod David & Musze, (Maxwell, Artist)
Best Rap Album: “Coloring Book”, Chance the Rapper
Best Rap Performance: “No Problem”, Chance the Rapper Featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz
Best Rap/Sung Performance: “Hotline Bling”, Drake
Best Rap Song: “Hotline Bling”, Written by Aubrey Graham & Paul Jefferies, (Drake, artist)
Best Country Album: "A Sailor’s Guide to Earth", Sturgill Simpson
Best Country Solo Performance: “My Church”, Maren Morris
Best Country Duo/Group Performance: “Jolene", Pentatonix featuring Dolly Parton
Best Country Song: “Humble and Kind”, Written by Lori McKenna (Tim McGraw, artist)
Best Rock Album: “Tell Me I’m Pretty”, Cage the Elephant
Best Rock Performance: “Blackstar”, David Bowie
Best Rock Song: “Blackstar”, David Bowie
Best Alternative Music Album: “Blackstar,” David Bowie
Best Metal Performance: “Dystopia”, Megadeth
Best Dance/Electronic Album: “Skin”, Flume
Best Dance Recording: “Don’t Let Me Down”, The Chainsmokers Featuring Daya
Best Contemporary Instrumental Album: “Culcha Vulcha”, Snarky Puppy
Best New Age Album: "White Sun II", White Sun
Best Gospel Album: "Losing My Religion", Kirk Franklin
Best Roots Gospel Album: "Hymns", Joey + Rory
Best Contemporary Christian Music Album: "Love Remains", Hillary Scott & The Scott Family
Best Gospel Performance/Song: “God Provides”, Tamela Mann
Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song: “Thy Will”, Hillary Scott & The Scott Family
Best Latin Pop Album: "Un Besito Mas", Jesse & Joy
Best World Music Album: "Sing Me Home", Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble
Best Children’s Album: "Infinity Plus One", Secret Agent 23 Skidoo
Best Spoken Word Album: "In Such Good Company: Eleven Years Of Laughter, Mayhem and Fun in the Sandbox", Carol Burnett
Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: "Presidential Suite: Eight Variations on Freedom", Ted Nash Big Band
Best Jazz Instrumental Album: "Country for Old Men", John Scofield
Best Jazz Vocal Album: "Take Me to the Alley", Gregory Porter
Best Improvised Jazz Solo: “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, John Scofield
Best Musical Theater Album: "The Color Purple"
Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media: "Miles Ahead"
Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media: "Star Wars: The Force Awakens", John Williams
Best Song Written for Visual Media: “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”, Justin Timberlake
Best Instrumental Composition: “Spoken at Midnight”, Ted Nash
Best Arrangement, (Instrumental or A Cappella): “You and I”, Jacob Collier
Best Arrangement, (Instruments and Vocals): “Flintstones”, Jacob Collier
Best Recording Package: "Blackstar", David Bowie
Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package: "Edith Piaf 1915-2015", Edith Piaf
Best Album Notes: "Sissle and Blake Sing Shuffle Along", Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle
Best Historical Album: "The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series, Vol.12 (Collector’s Edition)", Bob Dylan
Best Engineered Album, (Non-Classical): "Blackstar", David Bowie
Best Remixed Recording: “Tearing Me Up (RAC Remix)", Bob Moses
Producer of the Year, (Non-Classical): Greg Kurstin
Best Surround Sound Album: "Dutilleux: Sur Le Même Accord; Les Citations; Mystère De L’instant & Timbres, Espace, Mouvement", Ludovic Morlot & Seattle Symphony
Best Engineered Album, (Classical): "Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles", Mark Donahue and Fred Vogler
Producer of the Year, (Classical): David Frost
Best Orchestral Performance: “Shostakovich: Under Stalin’s Shadow - Symphonies Nos. 5, 8 & 9”, Boston Symphony Orchestra
Best Music Video: “Formation”, Beyoncé
Best Music Film: "The Beatles: Eight Days a Week the Touring Years"