The 62nd Annual Grammy Awards were held on the 26th January, as always in the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Grammys, although they do have their detractors and critics, have long been the most prestigious event in the music industry, and are an important focal point to witness the workings of the music medium. The ceremony was understandably overshadowed by the developing news that basketball legend Kobe Bryant had been killed in a helicopter crash just hours before, as well as his daughter Brianna, and seven others travelling with them. Alicia Keys, with her role as host, led a sombre and highly moving impromptu performance alongside Boys II Men.
The live performances of the Grammys are often some of the most talked about aspects of the whole ceremony. Lil Nas X, still riding high on the ever present Old Town Road, which won him a couple of Grammys on the night, performed the song with a slew of other artists, including BTS and Nas. BTS brought their trademark energy and undeniable dedication to the performance, and made their own omission from any Grammy nominations all the more perplexing, especially as their 2018 album Love Yourself: Tear became the first Korean album to top the Billboard 200 Charts. The combination of the relentless corporatism of the Korean pop industry and the almost hypnotic charm of the biggest boy band in the world should’ve been a shoe in for a slew of nominations for the Grammys, thus raising important questions about the issues of diversity and inclusivity in the music industry.
Billie Eilish was the standout star of the Grammys this year, and for good reason; her rise to fame and international stardom has been nothing short of meteoric, and her debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Is a daringly original direction for the modern musical landscape, heralding a new brand of introspective and unnerving pop music for a newer generation. Eilish took home both Record and Song of the Year for the infectious ‘Bad Guy’, while her album also won Album of the Year. Eilish also won the highly coveted Best New Artist award for good measure. Her brother and collaborator Finneas also won his own Grammy for producing Eilish’s album, and while other producers in the category such as Jack Antonoff contributed to some great work this year, the album is undeniably extremely well produced, and with the buzz Eilish created throughout 2019, it was only fair that the producer gets his dues as well. By the end of the night it was clear that the Grammys’ infatuation with Billie was almost boundless, and the hope for her to keep on existing as a standout figure in the music industry will only grow with these wins.
The exceptionally talented Rosalia won her first Grammy on the night, taking home the award for best Latin Alternative Album for her wonderfully romantic and powerful El Mal Querer. Rosalia’s talent is a true landmark in the Latin music industry, and hopefully her win will allow more recognition at the Grammys for some of the fantastic music emerging from the Spanish-speaking world.
Legendary U.K. dance act The Chemical Brothers brought two Grammys back to Blighty for their record No Geography, and the lead single from said album, “Got to Keep On”. While the record doesn’t have the same levels of dynamism and energy which characterised their work in the 90s and 00s, it is still great to see one of the most prominent acts in the dance music scene get their recognition.
Tyler, the Creator also took home his first Grammy for his frankly exceptional album Igor, which proved that an extremely inventive and creative record, drawing from a diverse range of styles and influences could garner both critical praise and commercial success. However, Igor is not a rap album; although it draws heavily from hip-hop influences, for the record to win in the rap category is at best rather disingenuous and dismissive of the amazing work put into the record. It also raises an important question as to where the Grammys sees the value of popular black artists in the modern musical landscape; do black artists need to produce only rap albums to be successful?
Obviously, there is far more that could be said about the 2020 Grammys in this piece, but to conclude, the 2020 Grammys were a positive move in the right direction for the music industry; women were dominant throughout the performances and the awards, and it is always good to see music originating from the non-English-speaking world getting its long overdue recognition. Hopefully these Grammys will be a herald for positive change in the music industry in the 2020s, however I remain only tentatively optimistic.