Grammys 2018 Recap: Justice For 'Despacito'

To call the Grammys an award show is generous. It’s an hour of performances from some artists you love, some you hate, and then a couple of ungodly mash-ups of the two, distributed throughout two and a half hours of commercials and a cumulative five minutes of award presentations. Returning to New York for the first time in 15 years, the 60th Annual Grammy Awards were everything we’ve come to expect from the Recording Academy’s biggest night: star-studded, long-winded, and (save a few absolute standout moments) generally lacking in any kind of message. In all honesty, it was a bit of a letdown.

Remember two weeks ago at the Golden Globes when you couldn’t go five minutes without a woman standing up and declaring that Time’s Up? Remember that time that Oprah started a goddamn revolution on live national television? The Grammy’s didn’t have that, maybe because women weren’t given the opportunity to make a statement. Even Lorde, the only female nominee for Album of the Year, was shut out from performing. Because, you know, we needed multiple showings from Bono and Sting. They really encapsulated music in 2017.

The Host

James Corden hosted the Grammy’s for the second year in a row, and it’s like someone got the memo that the last thing the world wants to hear right now are the opinions of white men, because his involvement was minimal. His introduction of “the most diverse group of nominees in Grammy history and the least diverse host” really served to highlight that point.

Of his various segments throughout the night (a well-meaning but flat Subway Carpool Karaoke, a cute guest appearance by his parents, a one-sided bit with Jay-Z about Ney York) one stood head and shoulders above the rest. The auditions for the audio recording of Fire and Fury would have been a memorable skit no matter what (Cardi 2020 anyone?), but no one was adequately prepared for the moment that our Lord and Savior Hillary Clinton made an appearance to drag the President to filth.

Hillary Clinton Grammys

Listening to her read about Trump’s paranoia and love for McDonalds revitalized my cold, dead soul. Our wigs: snatched. Our crops: flourishing. Donald Trump’s blood pressure: skyrocketing.

The Awards

Of the nine awards presented on air tonight, few went to the nominees that I thought should have won. Does my opinion matter all that much? Obviously Not really. But the collective opinion of Twitter does, and we happened to be in the same school of thought on this.

Best Rap/Sung Performance: “Loyalty” – Kendrick Lamar featuring Rihanna

I thought Rihanna being on stage this early in the night could only a good sign, a harbinger of things to come. I was wrong.

Best New Artist: Alessia Cara

Okay, I have a lot of feelings about the Best New Artist category as a whole. Namely, that none of the artists actually nominated (with maybe the exception of Khalid) are actually new. As Charlamagne repeated on a constant loop on The Breakfast Club this morning, Alessia Cara’s debut album came out in 2015. Anyone who even remotely pays attention to R&B (so like, nobody who works at the Grammys apparently) would be aware that SZA (who should have won) has been on the map since 2015, when she was already selling out 1,000-capacity venues. It’s like they choose the Best New Artist by polling the white grandpas at the Recording Academy to see who they’ve heard of, and the first person to get name recognition wins the Grammy. The one good thing about Alessia Cara taking home the award is that she’s literally the only female artist who won a performance award last night, which is cute for an award show that was supposedly about empowering women.

Best Pop Solo Performance: “Shape of You” – Ed Sheeran

Wouldn’t it have just been so cool if that, in the year and award season dominated by the conversation around sexual assault and the treatment of women, a song about a woman confronting her longtime sexual abuser took home a Grammy over the song that a man sings about the literal shape of a woman’s body? Wow. Could have been a timely message or something. Ed didn’t even show up to accept it because he fucking knew.

Best Rap Album: DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar

It doesn’t seem like there was a lot of competition here if we’re being honest. Jay Z probably could have stood a chance if 4:44 existed anywhere other than Tidal. Then again, you know no one is going to let him win anything for an album written entirely about that time he cheated on Beyoncé. People don’t forget, Jay.

Best Comedy Album: The Age of Spin & Deep in The Heart Of Texas – Dave Chappelle

The Grammys decided to broadcast the Best Comedy Album award presentation this year and literally no one understands why. Not even the comedians. Please cut to a baffled Jerry Seinfeld one more time because his reactions to this show are all of us trying to figure out why he’s there, sitting front row.

Jerry Seingeld Grammys

Best Country Album: From A Room: Volume 1 – Chris Stapleton

I know nothing about country music but based off everything that happened tonight, this Chris Stapleton guy is a big deal. Congrats dude. I won’t think about you for even a second until this same time next year. Have a nice 2018.

Everything Else: Bruno Mars

Bruno Mars was the big winner of the night, taking home six total Grammys, among them Song of the Year (“That’s What I Like”), Record of the Year (“24K Magic”), and Album of the Year (24K Magic). It’s crazy, because Childish Gambino was in those same categories, sitting in that same room, and breathing the same air as Bruno, but it’s fine.

Let’s talk about AOTY for a second. The Grammys always culminates with the Album of the Year, and like many years before, I both could not fathom Kendrick Lamar’s album not winning (replace with Beyoncé in 2017 and 2013), and I was simultaneously positive that the Grammys would do some mayonnaise shit like give Lorde Album of the Year. I’m sorry, but I don’t even think Lorde listened to Melodrama. 

However, the Recording Academy sort of surprised us by giving Album of the Year to Bruno Mars and 24K Magic. I say “sort of” surprised because a hip-hop album hasn’t won this award since 2004—it went to Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below—but I suppose the Recording Academy could have made a worse choice, like for instance giving the award to Reputation despite the fact that it wasn’t even submitted this year. (I really would not have put it past them. Tell me I’m wrong.)

The wildest part? During his acceptance speech for Record of the Year, Bruno Mars gave a shout-out to his band that was watching at home. Excuse me? This man just swept the fucking Grammys and he couldn’t swing an invite for his band? Ice cold.

Julio, do not get the stretch. Let Bruno and his awards Uber their asses home.

 The Performances

We started the show off with Kendrick Lamar, who gave us a military-themed police brutality performance of “XXX” and “DNA” off his nominated album, DAMN. Because it’s the Grammys, naturally Kendrick couldn’t perform alone, so he was joined by Dave Chapelle and Bono, who likely heard something politically charged was happening and just rushed the stage without invitation.

The performance, which would momentarily pause and cut to Dave Chappelle who would say things like “the only thing more frightening than watching a black man be honest in America is being an honest black man in America,” ended with every single one of Kendrick’s black male backup dancers falling to the sound of a gunshot. The night is off to a subtle and fantastic start.

Lady Gaga gave us the mash-up of “Joanne” and “Million Reasons” that I didn’t know I needed but will listen to every single night before I go to bed for the rest of my life. Her performance was toned down by Lady Gaga standards, which means that she sat at a piano covered in gigantic angel wings and ended her performance draped across it.

Lady Gaga Grammys

Sam Smith performed “Pray” and while it was lovely I couldn’t help but sit and wonder where the hell his adorable 13 Reasons Why boyfriend was and why we were getting no audience shots of him.

Let’s take a second to talk about the performance that we have literally all been waiting for:

“Despacito.” Don’t come at me and tell me this song was overplayed. It was quite literally the only good thing to come out of 2017 and the fact that it didn’t walk away with a single Grammy is my supervillain origin story. Justice for “Despacito.”

Hot take: Daddy Yankee is the Puerto Rican Vinny Guadagnino. Tell me I’m wrong.

Next up, we were treated to a performance from the only man who could follow “Despacito” and not make me angry: Childish Gambino.

We’re going to pause this Grammy coverage just to establish really quick that Donald Glover is the single most underrated part of an already underrated movie: Magic Mike XXL. This has nothing to do with anything that happened last night but somebody had to say it, and it for some reason I’ve been given a platform to do so.

The only thing that could possibly make this performance of “Terrified” better? The arrival of KD McCrary, aka Young Simba in the new live action Lion King. You know who plays old Simba? Donald Glover. There’s just two Simbas up on stage make America weep and it’s FINE. We’re FINE.

Donald Glover

A Pink performance not featuring aerial silks?? Sounds fake.

What’s crazy is that Pink and I are wearing near identical outfits as I write this, except I’m on my couch covered in takeout crumbs and she’s performing at the Grammys. Also when she opens her mouth, magic and angels fly out and when I open mine, it sounds like a cat is drowning. Otherwise we have much in common.

If you started losing steam by this point, you were not alone. The Grammys are not a sprint, and also not even really a marathon. I’d compare them more to an Iron Man, because at one point you’re convinced you’ll drop dead. In this case, it’s less because of physical activity and more because you have never been exposed to this much Sting in your entire life.

Luckily, Bruno Mars (but more importantly Cardi B.) came out to inject some much-needed energy into the room with their first live performance of “Finesse.” Idea for next year: just have Cardi perform everyone’s songs. Watch those ratings soar.

DJ Khaled, Rihanna and Bryson Tiller’s performance of “Wild Thoughts” was momentous because it gave the world something that we very much needed but definitely don’t deserve: dancing Rihanna. Not even DJ Khaled’s near-constant and completely unwarranted monologue throughout the song could ruin her.

Wild Thoughts Grammys

Maren Morris, Eric Church and the Brothers Osborne perform Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” as a tribute to the victims of the Las Vegas Shooting. You know, that mass shooting that happened at a country concert a couple months ago that Republicans conveniently just forgot about. It was the only country portion of the night I could tolerate. Yeah, I’m talking about you, Little Big Town.

While we’re on the topic, let’s fucking talk about Little Big Town. This looks less like a band and more like two couples from Tennessee who met at swinger’s party one night and then decided to start singing songs written by Taylor Swift. I have no idea where these people came from because in my memory they both never existed and simultaneously have been performing at the Grammy’s for as long as I can remember. It’s like they get trotted out once a year to remind us all that they exist before heading back into whatever back room the Recording Academy stores them in.

Moving on to the single most important thing to happen all night: Kesha.

After an emotional introduction by Janelle Monae, the first person all night to actually address anything Time’s Up-related, Kesha took the stage alongside Cyndi Lauper, Camilla Cabello, Bebe Rexha, Julia Michaels, and Andra Day to perform “Praying,” the song in which she addresses the years of (alleged) abuse she suffered at the hands of actual piece of living garbage, Dr. Luke.

Kesha Grammys

There’s not a lot to say here other than I am still experiencing full body chills, hours after the performance ended. She looked so good. She sounded so good. I was so outrageously proud of her despite having literally nothing to do with this performance or any personal connection to Kesha IRL.

Getting up on stage and speaking your truth to your peers, colleagues, idols, and the American public is one thing. Getting up on stage and publically addressing your abuser to a room full of people who STILL WORK WITH HIM is another level of brave. At the very least Kesha deserves our respect, and more than that, she deserved to win in every category “Praying” was nominated.

After guest starring in Kesha’s ovation-worthy performance of “Praying” (don’t worry, we’ll get there) Camilla Cabello, a Cuban-Mexican immigrant, comes out with a message about the Dreamers before introducing U2, who performed “Get Out of Your Own Way” on the Hudson River, in front of the statue of liberty. Even Donald Trump, a man lacking any sense of nuance, should be able to pick up on the message here.

Elton John stars in a tribute to himself alongside Miley Cyrus, a natural pairing that nobody questioned. Let it be said that Miley looks so good. Turns out all you need to get your life together is to have constant access to sex with Liam Hemsworth, who knew? Though I will say the longing looks she kept throwing Elton’s way made me uncomfortable. Like, she couldn’t twerk on Elton John so I guess she had to settle for biting her lip and looking at him with bedroom eyes while he played the piano, completely unfazed.

Miley Cyrus

Beyoncé and Elton John are two of only three people who can get away with wearing sunglasses indoors at the Grammys. The third is obviously Rihanna, who can do literally anything she likes.

After hearing that they were a little out of touch with the times, the Recording Academy thought it was a good idea to throw some Broadway performances into an already staggeringly long broadcast. I would say this failed except that Ben Platt is an absolute gem and I would literally watch Patti Lupone read a grocery list, so I guess it worked. Remember when Ben was just the nerdy magic guy in Pitch Perfect? Wow. What a glow up.

SZA’s performance of “Broken Clocks” erred on the side of subdued, probably because she just sat through three hours of being snubbed for every award she was nominated for. I wouldn’t really be in the mood to perform either.

The night ended with Alessia Cara, Khalid, and Logic taking the stage, which annoyed me until Logic went off script and started talking about equality and giving a much deserved shout-out to the “shithole countries” out there.

If you made it to the end of the broadcast you deserve an award, like reading this recap that was almost as long as the actual show. Pro-tip for next year Grammys: more Rihanna and Cardi B, less old, white rock stars who haven’t released a new song in 20 years. Thanks.

The Full List Of Grammy Award Winners

Record of the Year: 24K Magic by Bruno Mars

Album of the Year: 24K Magic by Bruno Mars

Song of the Year: ”That’s What I Like” — Christopher Brody Brown, James Fauntleroy, Philip Lawrence, Bruno Mars, Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus & Jonathan Yip, songwriters (Bruno Mars)

Best New Artist: Alessia Cara

Best Pop Solo Performance: “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Tony Bennett Celebrates 90, (Various Artists) Dae Bennett, Producer

Best Pop Vocal Album: (Divide) by Ed Sheeran

Best Dance Recording: “Tonite” by LCD Soundsystem

Best Dance/Electronic Album: 3-D The Catalogue by Kraftwerk

Best Contemporary Instrumental Album: Prototype by Jeff Lorber Fusion

Best Rock Performance: “You Want It Darker” by Leonard Cohen

Best Metal Performance: “Sultan’s Curse” by Mastodon

Best Rock Song: “Run” by Foo Fighters

Best Rock Album: A Deeper Understanding by The War On Drugs

Best Alternative Music Album: Sleep Well Beast by The National

Best R&B Performance: “That’s What I Like” by Bruno Mars

Best Traditional R&B Performance: “Redbone” by Childish Gambino

Best R&B Song: “That’s What I Like” — Christopher Brody Brown, James Fauntleroy, Philip Lawrence, Bruno Mars, Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus & Jonathan Yip, songwriters (Bruno Mars)

Best Urban Contemporary Album: Starboy by The Weeknd

Best R&B Album: 24K Magic by Bruno Mars

Best Rap Performance: “HUMBLE.” by Kendrick Lamar

Best Rap/Sung Performance: “LOYALTY.” by Kendrick Lamar featuring Rihanna

Best Rap Song: “HUMBLE.” — Duckworth, Asheton Hogan & M. Williams II, songwriters (Kendrick Lamar)

Best Rap Album: DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar

Best Country Solo Performance: “Either Way” by Chris Stapleton

Best Country Duo/Group Performance: “Better Man” by Little Big Town

Best Country Song: “Broken Halos” by Mike Henderson & Chris Stapleton, songwriters (Chris Stapleton)

Best Country Album: From a Room: Volume 1 by Chris Stapleton

Best New Age Album: Dancing On Water by Peter Kater

Best Improvised Jazz Solo: “Miles Beyond” by John McLaughlin, soloist

Best Jazz Vocal Album: Dreams and Daggers by Cécile McLorin Salvant

Best Jazz Instrumental Album: Rebirth by Billy Childs

Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: Bringin’ It by Christian McBride Big Band

Best Latin Jazz Album: Jazz Tango by Pablo Ziegler Trio

Best Gospel Performance/Song: “Never Have To Be Alone” by CeCe Winans

Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song: “What A Beautiful Name” by Hillsong Worship

Best Gospel Album: Let Them Fall in Love by CeCe Winans

Best Contemporary Christian Music Album: Chain Breaker by Zach Williams

Best Roots Gospel Album: Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope by Reba McEntire

Best Latin Pop Album: El Dorado by Shakira

Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album: Residente by Residente

Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano): Arriero Somos Versiones Acústicas by Aida Cuevas

Best Tropical Latin Album: Salsa Big Band by Rubén Blades Con Roberto Delgado & Orquesta

Best American Roots Performance: “Killer Diller Blues” by Alabama Shakes

Best American Roots Song: “If We Were Vampires” by Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit

Best Americana Album: The Nashville Sound by Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit

Best Bluegrass Album: Laws Of Gravity by The Infamous Stringdusters tied with All The Rage – In Concert Volume One [Live] by Rhonda Vincent And The Rage

Best Traditional Blues Album: Blue & Lonesome by The Rolling Stones

Best Contemporary Blues Album: TajMo by Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo’

Best Folk Album: Mental Illness by Aimee Mann

Best Regional Roots Music Album: Kalenda by Lost Bayou Ramblers

Best Reggae Album: Stony Hill, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley

Best World Music Album: Shaka Zulu Revisited: 30th Anniversary Celebration by Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Best Children’s Album: Feel What U Feel by Lisa Loeb

Best Spoken Word Album (Includes Poetry, Audio Books & Storytelling): The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Best Comedy Album: The Age Of Spin & Deep In The Heart Of Texas by Dave Chappelle

Best Musical Theater Album: Dear Evan Hansen — Ben Platt, principal soloist; Alex Lacamoire, Stacey Mindich, Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, producers; Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, composers/lyricists (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media: La La Land by Various Artists

Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media: La La Land by Justin Hurwitz, composer

Best Song Written For Visual Media: “How Far I’ll Go” — Lin-Manuel Miranda, songwriter (Auli’i Cravalho)

Best Instrumental Composition: “Three Revolutions” — Arturo O’Farrill, composer (Arturo O’Farrill & Chucho Valdés)

Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella: “Escapades For Alto Saxophone And Orchestra From Catch Me If You Can” — John Williams, arranger

Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals: “Putin” — Randy Newman, arranger

Best Recording Package: El Orisha De La Rosa by Claudio Roncoli & Cactus Taller, art directors (Magín Díaz) tied with Pure Comedy (Deluxe Edition) by Sasha Barr, Ed Steed & Josh Tillman, art directors (Father John Misty)

Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package: The Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition — Lawrence Azerrad, Timothy Daly & David Pescovitz

Best Album Notes: Live At The Whisky A Go Go: The Complete Recordings — Lynell George, album notes writer (Otis Redding)

Best Historical Album: Leonard Bernstein – The Composer — Robert Russ, compilation producer; Martin Kistner & Andreas K. Meyer, mastering engineers

Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical: 24K Magic — Serban Ghenea, John Hanes & Charles Moniz, engineers; Tom Coyne, mastering engineer (Bruno Mars)

Producer Of the Year, Non-Classical: Greg Kurstin

Best Remixed Recording: “You Move (Latroit Remix)” — Dennis White, remixer (Depeche Mode)

Best Surround Sound Album: Early Americans — Jim Anderson, surround mix engineer; Darcy Proper, surround mastering engineer; Jim Anderson & Jane Ira Bloom, surround producers (Jane Ira Bloom)

Best Engineered Album, Classical: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5; Barber: Adagio — Mark Donahue, engineer (Manfred Honeck & Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)

Producer of the Year, Classical: David Frost

Best Orchestral Performance: Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5; Barber: Adagio — Manfred Honeck, conductor (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)

Best Opera Recording: Berg: Wozzeck — Hans Graf, conductor; Anne Schwanewilms & Roman Trekel; Hans Graf, producer (Houston Symphony; Chorus Of Students And Alumni, Shepherd School Of Music, Rice University & Houston Grand Opera Children’s Chorus)

Best Choral Performance: Bryars: The Fifth Century — Donald Nally, conductor (PRISM Quartet; The Crossing)

Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance: Death & The Maiden — Patricia Kopatchinskaja & The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra

Best Classical Instrumental Solo: Transcendental — Daniil Trifonov

Best Classical Solo Vocal Album: Crazy Girl Crazy – Music By Gershwin, Berg & Berio — Barbara Hannigan (Orchestra Ludwig)

Best Classical Compendium: Higdon: All Things Majestic, Viola Concerto & Oboe Concerto — Giancarlo Guerrero, conductor; Tim Handley, producer

Best Contemporary Classical Composition: Higdon: Viola Concerto — Jennifer Higdon, composer (Roberto Díaz, Giancarlo Guerrero & Nashville Symphony)

Best Music Video: “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar

Best Music Film: The Defiant Ones by (Various Artists)