In some senses, the 2019 Grammys were defined by what didn’t happen, or who wasn’t there. Childish Gambino didn’t show up to collect his Song and Record of the Year trophies, among other accolades; he, Drake and Kendrick Lamar declined to perform; Ariana Grande skipped the ceremony altogether after discussions over a performance went awry, due to a clash with a producer whom she said “stifled” her creativity and self-expression.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. There was a slight uptick in viewership from last year, and there was plenty that went on, from Cardi B’s historic Best Rap Album win to impressive performances, especially by the soul and R&B set. Here are five unforgettable moments from last Sunday’s ceremony.
Lady Gaga’s glam rock rendition of “Shallow”
The “Shallow” performance scene in Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s blockbuster A Star is Born is so electrifying and emotional that it’s difficult to imagine the song performed any other way.
But Mama Monster gave it a shot, anyway, stomping and hair-flipping through her Grammys performance, decked out in a bejewelled bodysuit that her A Star is Born character, Allie, would’ve probably initially balked at. While social media was split on how successful the performance was, you can’t deny it made an impression, and that Gaga killed it on the vocal front.
Revisit the performance below:
— Lights, Camera, Pod (@LightsCameraPod) February 11, 2019
Ludwig Göransson’s shoutout to 21 Savage
Someone noticeably absent from the hip hop set at the Grammys was 21 Savage, who appeared on numerous nominated songs and albums, from Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy to Post Malone’s “Rockstar.” That’s because the rapper was arrested by American immigration authorities last week, and was under “lockdown” for all but one hour of the day with no communication besides brief phone calls, his co-manager claims. (He will be released on bond Wednesday morning.)
And his absence went without mention for most of the televised ceremony, save for Ludwig Göransson’s shoutout while accepting the Record of the Year trophy on Childish Gambino’s behalf for “This is America.” As the exit music played, the Swedish producer quickly thanked the various rappers featured on the track, including 21 Savage, “who should be here tonight,” he said.
Dua Lipa and St Vincent’s sensual collab
Sometimes, cross-genre Grammy collabs fall short of their ambitious expectations. This live mash-up of “One Kiss” and “Masseduction” by Dua Lipa and St Vincent respectively, though, was not one of those failed experiments. Who knew the British pop star’s smash hit with Calvin Harris would lend itself so well to Annie Clark’s clamorous solo? The duo sold the innovative arrangement—which incorporated the vocal hook of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” as a transition—with palpable chemistry, making the performance one of the best of the night.
The Dolly Parton and friends medley
It’s not uncommon to program tributes by having younger artists cover older hits, but sometimes you can’t beat having the original musician themselves involved. That was certainly the case at the Grammys for both Diana Ross’ birthday performance and the Dolly Parton and friends medley.
A star-studded line-up of pop and country artists—Katy Perry, Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris, Miley Cyrus and Little Big Town—took the stage to celebrate Parton, who had received the MusiCares Person of the Year award earlier last week. But the ever-gracious Parton stole the show with her charismatic presence and her heartwarming, spontaneous “thank you”s to all her onstage collaborators as they came and went.
Watch the medley here.
Drake’s acceptance speech slash thinly veiled Grammys diss
Few knew Drake would even turn up to the Grammys, let alone deliver the most pointed speech of the night. The OVO Sound mogul ultimately accepted the Best Rap Song award for “God’s Plan” in person, and instead of thanking a laundry list of collaborators or expressing disbelief, spent most of his speech affirming artists who hadn’t received nominations or wins—taking the Recording Academy down a peg in the process.
“We play in an opinion-based sport, not a factual-based sport. It is not the NBA,” he said. “This is a business where sometimes it is up to a bunch of people that might not understand what a mixed race kid from Canada has to say.”
“If you are a hero in your hometown, if there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need [a Grammy]. I promise you, you already won,” he added.
Drizzy was interrupted, however, when the telecast prematurely cut to commercial—a move that the Grammys have since claimed was neither intentional nor retaliatory. “During Drake’s speech there was a natural pause during his speech and at that moment the producers did assume that he was done and then cut to commercial,” the Academy said in an official statement, according to Variety.
“However the producers did speak with Drake following his speech and did offer him to come back on stage to finish whatever his thoughts were, but Drake said he was happy with what he said and didn’t have anything to add to it, so just a point of clarification.”
Watch his speech below, via Billboard: