Compared to past Grammy Awards, this year’s show felt as dull-vanilla as the Super Bowl. Women took center stage, with Alicia Keys hosting, Dolly Parton and Aretha Franklin receiving tributes, and Janelle Monae performing “Django Jane” (featuring the Eve Ensler-esque lyric, “Let the vagina have a monologue”).
Last year was supposedly “the year of the woman,” but the entertainment industry is still trying to coast on female empowerment as if constantly recognizing your “sisters” makes for an interesting awards show.
Along with the performative feminism, and the sad rap-rock duo that was Post Malone and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a few political moments stood out.
1. Michelle Obama headlines
Accompanying Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jennifer Lopez, and host Alicia Keys, the former first lady made a surprise appearance. In what became the standout performance of the otherwise humdrum night, Obama barely spoke a few words before she was drowned out by cheers. “From the Motown records I wore out on the south side — 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,” Obama said, “music has always helped me tell my story.”
2. The song of the year makes history
Childish Gambino made rap history by winning both song and record of the year, as well as best music video, for “This is America.” When it came out last spring, the song generated controversy for its music video, which satirizes racism, gun violence, and the entertainment industry’s complicity in it.
3. Cardi B performs “Money”
Although she’s made headlines for speaking out about what’s going on in Washington ( the government shutdown, for example), Cardi B kept it apolitical during her Grammy appearance. While her performance was one of the most energetic of the evening, her song “Money” recalls some of the more serious things she’s had to say about fiscal responsibility in the past. In an Instagram video last March, the rapper went viral for asking where all of her money was going. “Uncle Sam, I want to know what you’re doing with my….tax money,” she said. “I want to know. I want receipts.”