Lewis James offers his take on the 62nd annual recording academy ceremony
With TMZ reporting Kobe Bryant’s death to the media before his family had been informed on the morning of the 2020 Grammys awards, it sums up what is wrong with Hollywood.
The entertainment industry, when at its best, can offer a critical reflective commentary of the current day. However, with the present occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, America is facing the struggle of what value it puts on respect and decency, and its people are as divided as they were was during the Vietnam War. RIP to the family of Kobe, his daughter, and 7 other victims who were also on board the helicopter that crashed into the mountains of Calabasas – while TMZ should hang its head in shame.
It was Lizzo chosen to kick off the evening event with a stirring shout out of “Tonight is for you Kobe” before heading into her hits “Truth Hurts” and “Cuz I Love You”. The performance was strong and showed promise for a debut at the award show. Eyes will be watching closely to see what the sophomore does.
The week leading up to Sunday night was clouded by a dark reality the business has yet to address. Accusations of harassment, corruption, and conflict of interest in how the voting is conducted within the academy have come to light as a result of Deborah Dugan, former CEO & President of The Recording Academy being ousted 2 weeks before this year’s ceremony. As a result, this brave whistle-blower has landed herself in the centre of a scary, dangerous storm that is looming over the whole industry.
Dugan had been in the position less than a year after replacing Neil Portnow – who has been accused of sexually assaulting a foreign singer and academy member – according to documents filed in California. Dugan has now made the allegations that the academy has committed “voting irregularities, financial mismanagement, exorbitant, causing unnecessary’ legal bills, and conflicts of interest involving members of the academy’s board”. This comes after Dugan was put on administrative leave with accusations she was bullying Portnow’s former assistant who was still loyal to her former employer – sounds like she knows where the dead bodies are buried. As Bob Lefsetz has said – just follow the money – it becomes quickly clear who is in the wrong in this situation…
The red carpet included strong looks from Ariana Grande and the other industry stars. Britain’s own Lewis Capaldi made his Grammy debut, his normally hilarious, self-deprecating Scottish twanged “banter”, may have been lost on the bewildered US press interviewing him while on the carpet. It makes this viewer long for the days of Joan Rivers, she would have loved him – is Kathy Griffin still blacklisted? Andy Cohen needs to call her and apologise ASAP. Capaldi though should relax, he looked nervous and spoke too quickly about how his career was heading “straight down the toilet” and how he had “nothing exciting” to look forward to in the upcoming year. He also had unfortunate sweat stains and had forgotten to shave. They could have at least hired him a tux for the event. His charade is really good fun, and he has a fabulous voice – but in its current form, this is certainly not the best of British by any means. Next year let’s send Adele. Jonathan Dickins should be able to get that signed off and booked in the next couple of weeks.
In total 84 statues were given out over 48 hours. On the Sunday Gaga had won 2 by lunch time for her work on 2018’s score “A star is Born”. No surprise performance from her in the end as was rumoured after the leak of alleged new single “Stupid Love”, it takes the star’s current Grammy prize count up to 11. Also noticeably absent was Taylor Swift who was down to make a surprise performance, however, rumours suggest post-Dugan scandal her team pulled out last minute.
Beyoncé, again a no show, won her 21st Grammy for her Netflix documentary “Homecoming” taking the Best Music Film prize. It did feel as though for music’s biggest night, Sunday evening was light on the A-listers.
Demi Lovato’s set is being hailed as the best performance of the night, but it felt confusing. Having to restart her song, she went on to deliver Christina Aguilera-ish vocals, performing a song recorded days before her well-publicized overdose in 2018. The woman’s health should be her priority – and if she doesn’t want to be a pop star anymore she shouldn’t have to be. We don’t need another generation of #FreeBritney. Here’s hoping we get more of the story about what’s been going on after her national anthem slot at the Super Bowl next week.
The tributes at award shows are always hard, especially when taking someone with the magnitude that was Prince, but Usher did a fine job, while the Nipsey Hussle set was carried by John Legend’s vocals. It was Tyler, the Creator who won the night in the end; strong vocals, the incredible use of stagecraft, grit & bold energy – he is the 2020 zeitgeist.
No major surprises that the big prize winner of the night was 18-year-old Billie Eilish who for her performance did what she is very good at – sing. Eilish’s set was sandwiched between the equally messy Arianna Grande and Aerosmith, she was a welcome relief and showed that she may be capable to rise to the challenges that have been set in front of her. Winning all 5 of the major prizes and having just secured the new Bond Theme song, it’s going to be interesting to see if Eilish can continue the trend of fellow Bond theme alumni in recent years and secure the Oscar in 2021.
It’s lovely to see that the former first lady Michelle Obama, joining the other American political dynasty royals such as Hillary Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and her husband Barack Obama won Best Spoken Word Album for her 2019 memoir “Becoming”. Also special well deserved mention to Britain’s own Jacob Collier – the composer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist who picked up 2 prizes for his work on his jazz projects the Djesse series. Cage The Elephant won the prize for Best Rock Album for their album “Social Cues”, and how wonderful for music industry thoroughbred Tanya Tucker who finally won her first of 2 awards for best Country album and song after working in the business for 48 years.
The Grammy’s has its problems, and it’s easy for music industry snobs to dismiss this. But it’s not the VMA’s or BRITS – if it can get back to standing in its truth; it represents excellence and there is no reason this American institution can thrive and keep its relevance. However as Deborah Dugan is pointing out loud and clear – the time for change is now.