The lead up to the 2019 Grammys was full of drama, with artists like Ariana Grande, Kendrick Lamar, and Childish Gambino all announcing they would skip this year’s festivities. The snubs seemed like early warnings that the ceremony might end up being a disaster — or worse, an irrelevant snooze.
But host Alicia Keys led the three-hour telecast in all her boho glory, bravely moving things along with a piano interlude that featured her renditions of “In My Feelings” and “Lucid Dreams.” She also put women at the center of the night during a segment that included Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, J.Lo, and even Michelle Obama sharing their personal connections to music. Performances by Janelle Monae, Diana Ross, and Dolly Parton were high points, too.
A few surprises at the end of the night picked things up. Cardi B won her first-ever Grammy for her debut album Invasion of Privacy, becoming the first woman in history to win Best Rap Album as a solo act. In her emotional speech, she shouted out people she’s collaborated with, like Bad Bunny and J Balvin. They were all up for Record of the Year together for their song “I Like It,” which ended up going to Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.”
If you pulled an Ari and skipped this year’s award show, here are the top moments you missed:
Cardi B arriving in a fucking clam shell dress.
Cardi B, pearl of the Bronx, won the Grammys before the ceremony even started by showing up to the red carpet in a jaw-dropping couture piece from Thierry Mulger’s unforgettable 1995 collection. The look was over the top and absolutely perfect in its extra-ness — not that we’d expect anything less from Bardi.
A solar habanero-inspired opening
Camilla Cabello, Ricky Martin, Young Thug, and J Balvin teamed up for the Grammy opener, performing a medley of “Havana” and “Mi Gente” in a bright set that Cabello said was inspired by her abuela’s childhood in a solar habanero. Some felt the over-the-top performance turned Cuban culture into a caricature, while others were elated to see Latinx artists opening the ceremony. And if you blinked, you may have missed the dancer holding a prop newspaper that read “Build Bridges, Not Walls.”
No matter where you stood on the performance, there were a couple of things that were indisputable: one, whoever staged this deserves an award (I guess we’ll wait for the Emmys?), and Ricky Martin never ages. We were also living for that trumpet solo, courtesy of the Cuban musician Arturo Sandoval.
Women sharing their experiences with music.
Alicia Keys welcomed several women onstage with her early on in the program. She had Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama, J.Lo, and Jada Pinkett Smith each talk about how music has inspired them and united them with others. J.Lo said that “music has always been the one place where we can all feel truly free,” while the former First Lady talked about the sounds she grew up on.
“From the Motown records I wore out on the South Side, to the ‘who run the world’ songs that fueled me through this last decade, music has always helped me tell my story, and I know that’s true for everybody here,” she said.
Cardi carrying out her perfectly choreographed “Money” moves.
Because shutting it down on the red carpet wasn’t enough, Belcalis reminded everyone of her star power later in the night with her razor-sharp rendition of “Money.” Cardi took the stage in a cat suit and cape that gave us dark fantasy, Maleficent vibes, and then performed her flawless choreography over a lush, purple set that had some viewers convinced she’d sneakily brought the strip club to the Grammys. Only Cardi could.
J.Lo’s controversial Motown medley.
J.Lo has been under fire since the news that she’d been tapped for a Motown tribute with legend Smokey Robinson and Ne-Yo leaked a few days ago. Her performance, while high-energy, wasn’t enough to quell skepticism; many wondered why black singers – who would be a more appropriate cultural choice, and could build on the legacy of black music in the U.S. – hadn’t been chosen instead. Many felt it was a slap in the face, especially during Black History Month.
Cardi accepting her first-ever Grammy.
Cardi B accepts the Best Rap Album for ‘Invasion of Privacy’ onstage during the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
“The nerves are so bad,” a shaken Cardi B said after she accepted her Grammy. “Maybe I should start smoking weed.” She went on to thank her team, friends, and family, including her daughter Kulture and her husband Offset, who she said encouraged her to finish her album. She also shouted out J Balvin, who was sitting next to her during the ceremony, and Bad Bunny, along with other artists who have worked with her.
Aterciopelados frontwoman Andrea Echeverri dressed up as a Grammy statue.
Who needs a Grammy when you can just wear one? Andrea Echeverri, the vocalist of the Colombian rock group Aterciopelados, has always thought outside of the box, so we’re not surprised that she decided to forgo a standard red carpet gown in favor of a costume in shape of a literal Grammy trophy. Her band was up for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album, and even though it went to the Mexican rock band Zoe, Echeverri won the award for creativity.
Red carpet troll Joy Villa showed up in a "build the wall" dress.
Joy Villa attends the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Pro-Trump singer and general nobody Joy Villa is known for her desperate ploys for attention, and she struck again last night. She was photographed first in an aluminum-colored dress, designed by Desi Lee Allinger-Nelson of Desi Designs Couture, with wiry accents meant to look like barbed wire. Gesturing toward her outfit, she told the LA Times that “This is the wall.” She eventually tore off the silver garment and revealed another ensemble underneath — this time, a brick-patterned dress with the words “build the wall” emblazoned on the back.