This awards season has addressed the country’s political turmoil more explicitly than ever before, but the Grammys seemed to trail behind others this year. For the most part, the ceremony dodged politics; many entertainers (and Recording Academy president Neil Portnow) opted for clichéd platitudes about the role of music in building community and solidarity, instead of pointed political critiques. What’s more, after 59 years, we’re still clamoring for airtime for Latinx artists. Like the Rap/Sung and R&B Performance awards, the winners of the Latinx categories aren’t typically televised – we’re supposed to be happy with our own “niche” ceremony.
As the consequences of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies loom larger, the Grammys would have been an important platform to address the political climate, or at the very least, structural inequality in the music industry, especially as Beyoncé’s virtuosic Lemonade lost out to Adele for Album of the Year. Either way, here’s a roundup of what you may have missed at the February 12 show:
J.Lo opened the ceremony by presenting the award for Best New Artist. In her speech, she cited an essay Morrison wrote for The Nation’s 150th anniversary issue – a call to action reflecting on the work of artists and creators in politically fraught times.
J.Lo struggled with a star-studded rendition of “Sweet Caroline”
In a devastatingly gorgeous celebration of black motherhood, Beyoncé performed a medley of “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles.” Queen B sported a golden crown, glittery dress, and recited Warshan Shire’s How to Wear Your Mother’s Lipstick. On social media, the costume drew many comparisons to Yoruba goddess Oshun and La Virgen de Guadalupe.
In one of the most explicitly political performances of the night, A Tribe Called Quest, Consequence, Busta Rhymes and Anderson.Paak performed “We the People,” a cut from ATCQ’s 2016 album We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. The song explicitly addresses the current climate of anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant hostility: “All you Black folks, you must go/All you Mexicans, you must go/And all you poor folks, you must go.” Visuals of pro-immigrant slogans flashed in the background, including “Build bridges, not walls” and “Immigrants make America great.” Immigrants of all backgrounds joined the performers on stage at the end of the song.
Though the Purple One famously disliked covers of his own songs, the Boricua star delivered a killer performance of “Let’s Go Crazy” from Purple Rain (I don’t know about you, but those licks definitely melted my face).
Gina Rodriguez absorbed some of Queen B’s glory by osmosis
I was about 2 feet from Beyoncé when she won for Lemonade. Yup. That happened. I said goddess. She said thank you. And now I'm preg w twins.