If you went into Sunday’s 61st Annual Grammy Awards telecast with no prior knowledge of the global music industry, you might have come away from it believing that Neil Portnow was the biggest star in attendance. While surprise guest Michelle Obama had to share the spotlight with Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jennifer Lopez and host Alicia Keys at the top of the show, Portnow—the outgoing Recording Academy president and CEO—took the stage just before its scheduled conclusion. His appearance was preceded by a video thanking him for his work, with testimonials from such artists as John Legend, Céline Dion and Andra Day. Despite the time crunch, his unhurried valedictory speech proceeded without interruption. Winners Drake and Dua Lipa, both of whom made comments critical of the Academy, weren’t afforded the same courtesy.
In the context of recent Grammy drama, Portnow’s victory lap—in which he proclaimed his support for “diversity and inclusion”—might’ve felt more like a final insult. The Academy has routinely faced criticism for failing to honor black artists; even the Best Rap Album category tends to favor white artists, with Eminem taking the trophy seven times and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s cloying The Heist beating out superior releases from Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Kanye West in a notoriously bad call from 2014. Three years later, even Adele was disappointed when her 25 beat out Beyoncé’s opus on black womanhood, Lemonade, for Album of the Year. When viewers called out the lack of awards for women last year, Portnow replied: “I think [change] has to begin with women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls, who want to be musicians, who want to be engineers, who want to be producers, who want to be part of the industry on the executive level to step up.” (“I guess this year we really stepped up,” Best New Artist Lipa quipped on Sunday, just before an abrupt cut to commercial.) In 2019, the Grammys finally felt the wrath of all the superstars the Academy had alienated over the years.
The telecast certainly had its high points. In an evening when women artists—and openly queer women in particular—finally took the spotlight, Janelle Monáe, Cardi B, Diana Ross, Brandi Carlile, Lady Gaga, newcomer H.E.R. and the surprisingly dynamic duo of Lipa and St. Vincent all gave triumphant performances. Icons Aretha Franklin and Dolly Parton got their due …
Source:: Time – Entertainment