The 61st Annual Grammy Awards ceremony was held on February 10, 2019, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
First-time Grammys host Alicia Keys opened the show alongside fellow winners and one very special guest. As the show opened, former First Lady Michelle Obama made a surprise appearance, giving a speech about the unifying power of music, alongside Keys, Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett-Smith, and Jennifer Lopez.
“Whether we like country or rap or rock, music helps us share ourselves, our dignity and sorrows, our hopes and joys,” she said. “It allows us to hear one another, to invite each other in.”
Keys, the first female host of the show in 14 years and 15-time Grammy winner, continued the show by dazzling the audience with a performance packed with major hits. Flanked by two pianos, Keys performed everything from Lauryn Hill‘s Doo Wop (That Thing) to Roberta Flack‘s Killing Me Softly With His Song to Kings of Leon‘s Use Somebody. At one point during her medley, Keys played on both pianos at the same time.
Pop star Camila Cabello kept the ceremony going with a wild and colourful staging of her smash hit Havana, replicating her grandmother’s childhood home in Cuba. The stunning performance also included fellow Latin performers Ricky Martin, legendary trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, and reggaeton singer J Balvin, as well as a full Cuban salsa band, setting the tone for a night that was full of elaborate sets and pyrotechnics.
Childish Gambino’s This Is America walked away with four awards, including ‘Song of the Year’ and ‘Best Music Video’. His hit was the first rap song in history to win ‘Song of the Year’ at the Grammys. Gambino and rapper Drake had already turned down requests to perform at this year’s ceremony, but Lady Gaga delivered a striking performance of ‘Shallow’, featured in the film A Star Is Born, which took home ‘Best Pop Duo/Group Performance’, along with actor Bradley Cooper, and ‘Best Song Written For Visual Media’. Gaga also won ‘Best Pop Solo Performance’ on her own for Joanne (Where Do You Think You’re Goin’?), from her 2016 album Joanne. The superstar used part of her acceptance speech to highlight the 2017 film’s mental health message, telling the audience: “If you see someone that’s hurting, don’t look away.”
It was a winning Grammys for women in general, with Cardi B becoming the first solo woman to win ‘Best Rap Album’, Brandi Carlile winning three awards in the Americana categories, along with newcomer Dua Lipa winning ‘Best New Artist’. Country singer Kacey Musgraves took home ‘Album of the Year’ for her album Golden Hour, with two of its singles winning their own honours. Musgraves won four prizes in total for Golden Hour, her critically-acclaimed third album, which blends country with elements of psychedelia. Another woman winning big was Emily Lazar, who worked on Beck‘s Colors album, becoming the first woman in Grammy’s history to win ‘Best Engineered Album’.
Fan favourite Cardi B was up against the late rapper Mac Miller, who many expected to take home the prize for ‘Best Rap Album’. Speaking in her dressing room backstage, Cardi said she shared her award with Mac Miller, whose family were in attendance at the awards.
Singer Ariana Grande, former girlfriend of Miller, had pulled out of a planned Grammy performance after a dispute with organisers. The singer, though not in attendance, was awarded ‘Best Pop Album’ for her 2017 album Sweetener – her first ever Grammy Award.
Rapper Post Malone performed his mega-hit Rockstar without artist 21 Savage, who’s in a detention facility awaiting immigration proceedings that will determine if the British-born rapper can stay in the country. The song earned two Grammy nominations with Post Malone taking the stage to perform with legendary rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers.
59 year-old comedic musician ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic took home a Grammy for his collection Squeeze Box: The Complete Works Of ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic. The musician, who is best known for his parody songs, took to Twitter to share his excitement, delighting fans across the world.
The Grammys also celebrated the legendary Diana Ross‘ 75th birthday. Diana Ross, who has never actually won a Grammy, but has received a Lifetime Achievement Award, went on to perform The Best Years of My Life and Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).
The late superstar, and dear friend of Ross, Aretha Franklin was honoured at this years awards with a performance by Andra Day, Fantasia and Yolanda Adams. The trio’s version of (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman sent chills through the audience, a worthy tribute to the Queen of Soul, who died in August.
Another singer lost, Chris Cornell, won a Grammy award for ‘Best Rock Performance’ almost two years after his death. Cornell’s song When Bad Does Good took the top honour. Cornell, 52, died in May 2017.
This year’s Grammy Awards were one for the books. Combining historic female wins with show-stopping performances, alongside honours and tributes to our favourite artists gone too soon.
See you, and the year’s best artists, next year for the 2020 Grammys!