This past Monday, the biggest names in music gathered under the Staples Center roof in Los Angeles for what is arguably the biggest night in the industry: the 58th Annual Grammy Awards.
The show opened with Taylor Swift standing in a sparkling blue body suit belting the lyrics to her single “Out of the Woods” in her new pop style. Other performances included Adele singing “All I Ask,” which she wrote in conjunction with nominee Bruno Mars; a beautifully orchestrated duet by Best New Artist nominees James Bay and Tori Kelly; and an appearance by Justin Bieber, Diplo and Skrillex, all of whom won Best Dance Recording earlier in the evening for “Where Are Ü Now.”
The standout performance of the evening began, in stark contrast to the upbeat Lionel Richie tribute by John Legend, Demi Lovato, Meghan Trainor, Luke Bryan and Tyrese, when Kendrick Lamar powerfully appeared center stage. Lamar, who held 11 – the most – nominations, performed with unmatched energy that was profoundly artistic and personal. Chains, fire, jail cells and, above all, his sharp, poignant lyrics accompanied his performance.
“I’m African American, I’m African / I’m black as the moon, heritage of a small village,” rapped Lamar from his song, “The Blacker the Berry,” off the album To Pimp a Butterfly. In light of all that America has been facing in terms of race relations in the past years, Lamar’s performance appeared more poignant than ever.
In between the numerous performances, the deserving winners claimed their prizes. Album of the Year ultimately went to Taylor Swift for 1989. Upon accepting her award, and as the first woman to win Album of the Year twice, Swift reached out to young women, urging them not to be stopped on the road to success by those who try to undercut them.
Finally, Record of the Year went to Bruno Mars for “Uptown Funk,” Song of the Year to Ed Sheeran for “Thinking Out Loud” and Best New Artist to Meghan Trainor among numerous other awards presented throughout the evening. Though no Kanye-style drama occurred apart from Adele’s microphone pitch problems, the night was still fairly entertaining.
Anyone can easily see that the music industry is changing dramatically in response to the changing culture that informs writers, producers and everyone in between. Above all, music still continues to do one simple thing: it brings people together.