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Kacey Musgraves won album of the year at the Grammy Awards, the music industry’s most prestigious prize, for her critically acclaimed “Golden Hour.”
Dua Lipa, a singer-songwriter with major hits like “New Rules” who has a higher profile in the U.K. than the U.S., was named best new artist.
Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” won record and song of the year, the first time in Grammy history a rap song has won either award. He also won best music video and best rap/sung performance. The artist, whose real name is Donald Glover, wasn’t in attendance at the ceremony.
“I would have nothing without songs,” Ms. Musgraves said during her acceptance speech. “To me it’s just all about songs.”
She was one of many women who were front and center throughout the evening, as the music industry attempted to address the criticism it has faced over how few female artists it has honored.
Ms. Musgraves and the singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile racked up multiple awards early on. Ms. Carlile won best Americana album, best American roots song and best American roots performance, while Ms. Musgraves, in addition to album of the year, won for best country song, best country solo performance and best country album. Lady Gaga also won multiple awards, including best pop duo/group performance for her “A Star Is Born” hit “Shallow.”
Alicia Keys, a 15-time Grammy winner, kept the mood celebratory at the Los Angeles awards ceremony. The event’s first female host since Queen Latifah in 2005, Ms. Keys kicked it off by bringing to the stage former First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Jennifer Lopez, actress Jada Pinkett Smith and Lady Gaga.
“Music helps us share ourselves,” said Mrs. Obama, in a surprise appearance. “It allows us to hear one another, to invite each other in.”
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Women dominated the performances, including a show-opening number of “Havana,” by Camila Cabello, J Balvin, Young Thug and trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, that celebrated the growth of Latin music. During the performance, in one of the show’s few politically charged moments, a man could be seen reading a newspaper whose headline read “Build Bridges Not Walls.”
Ms. Carlile, Ms. Musgraves, rapper Cardi B and up-and-coming R&B artist H.E.R.—each nominated for album of the year—delivered solo performances. That was in contrast with last year, when Lorde, the only woman nominated in the album of the year category, was the only one who wasn’t invited to perform solo during the telecast.
The Grammys paid tribute to country pioneer Dolly Parton with a star-studded, stage-filling medley of songs featuring Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Little Big Town and Ms. Musgraves. Diana Ross, another recipient of a Grammy tribute who will be 75 years old in March, was introduced by her 9-year-old grandson for a performance she starred in.
The night wasn’t free of a few sour moments. The rapper Drake, whose “God’s Plan” was the most streamed song in the U.S. last year but who has butted heads with the awards show, made a surprise appearance when he won best rap song.
During his speech, he appeared to get cut off, sparking discussion on Twitter. “You’ve already won if you have people singing your songs word for word,” he said.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Among the four highest-profile awards—album, record and song of year, in addition to best new artist—about two-thirds of the nominees were female artists or collaborations featuring women, a sign of support among the more than 13,000 voters at the Recording Academy, which organizes the show.
Last year, there were relatively few women nominated in those categories and only one, best new artist Alessia Cara, who received a solo award during the telecast. Asked about the lack of female honorees afterward, Neil Portnow, the Recording Academy’s president, suggested women needed to “step up” in the industry, prompting further criticism.
In response, the Recording Academy launched several initiatives, including inviting more women, people of color and younger people to join its voting pool and diversifying its influential nomination-review committees. It expanded the number of nominees for its top categories to eight, from five—a change that diversified the slate of nominees.
On Sunday, Mr. Portnow, who ends his term as president this summer, spoke of the “new and legendary female voices of our times” and the need to make the music business more diverse and inclusive.
During her acceptance speech after winning best new artist, Dua Lipa said: “I guess this year we’ve really stepped up.”
Write to Neil Shah at [email protected]