There was no clear sweep on Grammy's Sunday night that suits a show that has publicly struggled to solve its diversity problems. The 61. Grammys, held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, awarded a series of genre-bending musical and logged several notable firsts in the process.
A breathless Cardi B became the first solo winner to win the best rap album for the Invasion of Privacy, while Childish Gambino's This Is America marks the first time a rap song won for this year's song and this year's story. The biggest prize of the year, this year's album, went to the country's artist Kacey Musgraves for her extra-clear Golden Hour.
Musgraves also swept the country's awards even though they were announced before telecast along with most of Grammys. Only nine awards made the broadcast; British imports Dua Lipa won the best new artist while the new new artist nominated H.E.R. took home the best R&B album (though "it's not an album. It's an EP," she said about her uniform project). Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper won best pop duo performances for Shallow, the true star of A Star born, and Drake won best rap song for God's Plan.
That a woman took home the night's signature award cut off one night, when female artists took their place on stage, starting with host Alicia Keys. One year after the admission academy president Neil Portnow said the women's artists were "stepping up" to be recognized – only one woman was nominated in the four main categories last year – Keys opened the show by asking: "Can I get some of mine sisters here tonight? "as Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Michelle Obama and Jennifer Lopez joined her on stage.
The women each said a bleeding heart, what seemed to be the official theme of the evening: music as the universal language; music as perhaps one of the few forces that could, like a newspaper from Camila Cabello, Ricky Martin and J Balvin's opening performance, said "build bridges, not walls". Music "told me not to listen to them," said Gaga from his former critics, and "has always been the only place we can be truly free," Lopez said.
Obama cried out "Who Run the World Song That Burned Me Through This Last Decade", referring to an absent Beyoncé and her anthem Who Run the World (Girls).
"How honored I am to be nominated with so many incredible female artists this year," said Dua Lipa later when he accepted the best new artist. "I assume this year we really got up?"
Portnow addressed the shift in messages later in the broadcast. "In the past year I have been reminded that if you come from face to face with a problem, opening your eyes big enough, it will make you more committed than ever to help solve these problems," he said. A total of 31 women took home prices on Sunday evening – from 17 the previous year.
In three and a half hours, Grammy's more concert than the premiere – and the emotional highlight was appropriately self-reliant on two iconic female artists, country icons and the bouffant legend Dolly Parton and ultimate 70's diva Diana Ross.
Parton, 73 and with as much scene presence as ever took the stage with his god-daughter, Miley Cyrus, Little Big Town, Katy Perry, Kacey Musgraves and Maren Morris for a medley hits. Here you come again, Jolene, after the Gold Rush and a jumping rendition of the working women's song 9 to 5.
Ross, shining in a scarlet dress, celebrated his upcoming 75th birthday with an uplifting tour through his catalog of added bends of "together we have no limits", "everything is possible with music and with you" and birthday diva booklet "happy birthday to me! "
For all the celebrations, however, Grammy's couldn't escape his prominent scarecrows – the biggest elephant in the room on Sunday night was who was not in the room. Multi-nominated Childish Gambino, Kendrick Lamar and Drake have called for rejection – further evidence that "the case is, we continue to have a problem in the hip-hop world," Grammy's producer Ken Ehrlich told the New York Times. Ariana Grande, whose album Thank You, Next, currently dominates world streams, disputed, after the producers refused to let her perform her hit 7 Rings.
However, Drake jumped in a surprising twist on stage to accept his prize for best rap song, but not before taking a blurred jab on Grammy's.
"We play an opinion-based sport, not a fact-based sport," he told aspiring artists. "This is a business where sometimes it is up to a lot of people who may not understand what a mixed race child in Canada has to say, or a flying Spanish girl from New York or anyone else."
"The point is, you've already won if you have people singing your songs word by word." If you have people with regular jobs coming to your shows, then you don't need it here. I promise you, you've already won, "he said before the show struck him.
"Beautifully said," answered Grande in a page-deleted tweet.
On Sunday, there was also the 21-point-free 21 Savage who was supposed to perform his hit Rockstar with Post Malone until he was detained by Ice to exceed an immigration visa in his youth. The rapper remains in custody, as a small group of protesters outside the Grammy museum and a # Free21Savage hashtag spread on Twitter reminded.
Twitter observers also found plenty of material in perhaps the night's biggest and most confusing bungle: Jennifer Lopez tribute to the Motown hits. Although joined by Keys, Smokey Robinson and Ne-Yo, performance performance was more cavorting Vegas revue than authentic tribute to the legendary Detroit record label of almost exclusively black artists.