The Grammy Awards learned its lesson after last year — and boy, the future sounds female.
After last year’s show saw only one female performer winning a major solo award — Alessia Cara for best new artist — and limited recognition for hip-hop artists, the Recording Academy did its best to recognize diversity Sunday night.
Bronx native Cardi B became the first woman to win best rap album as a solo artist for her “Invasion of Privacy” album, while Kacey Musgraves took home the album of the year award for “Golden Hour.” British singer Dua Lipa (best new artist), H.E.R. (best R&B album), Lady Gaga (best pop solo performance) and Brandi Carlile all contributed to a celebration of female musicians.
Childish Gambino, who didn’t even show up for the ceremony, made history when “This Is America” became the first rap song to win song of the year. The rapper also won best music video, record of the year and best rap/sung performance.
Women power broke out early in the evening when former First Lady Michelle Obama took the stage with other female powerhouses Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith and Jennifer Lopez and host Alicia Keys to celebrate how music had changed their lives.
“From the Motown records I wore out on the South Side to the ‘who run the world’ songs that fueled me through this last decade, music has always helped me tell my story,” Obama, dressed a glimmering gray pantsuit, said over a standing ovation.
After 2018’s male-dominated award show, Recording Academy President Neil Portnow worsened matters by advising female performers to “step up” if they want to see their name in lights.
In a transparent attempt to make amends, Portnow recognized the “remarkable and diverse group, including some of the most thrilling new and legendary female voices of our times” in a speech toward the end of the show at Staple Center in Los Angeles on Sunday.
“And to me, that only feels right, because this past year, I’ve been reminded that if coming face to face with an issue opens your eyes wide enough, it makes you more committed than ever to help address those issues,” he said.
“And so, we must seize this unique moment to bring change within our own industry, to ensure that there is diversity and inclusion in all that we do. And we will.”
The hip-hop community had its own issues with the Grammys as Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino all refused to perform after JAY-Z and Lamar were snubbed last year.
On stage Sunday, Drake called out the Academy’s track record with non-white performers while accepting his award for best rap song for “God’s Plan.”
“This is a business where sometimes it’s up to a bunch of people who might not understand what a mixed race kid from Canada has to say or a fly Spanish girl from New York or anybody else, or a brother from Houston right there, my brother Travis (Scott),” he said.
“But my point is you’ve already won if you have people singing your songs word for word, if you’re a hero in your hometown. Look, if there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this right here. I promise you, you already won.”