Analysis: The 61st Grammys marked the beginning of the end for a one-sided music industry

Lorraine Ali, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

The 3 1/2-hour show opened with the Latin music number "Havana" led by Camila Cabello and featuring Colombian rapper J Balvin and Ricky Martin.

But it was clear the show had a female empowerment theme when Keys opened things alongside Michelle Obama, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga, who shared what music meant to them. They kicked off one of the more spontaneous ceremonies in memory, which included 20-plus performances by artists ranging from Dolly Parton with Miley Cyrus to best new artist winner Dua Lipa with St. Vincent.

Not everyone, however, appeared comfortable. And after Janelle Monae's bombastic performance of "Django Jane" -- in which she shouted the lyric, "Let the vagina have a monologue!" -- there was no way the agro funk of the Red Hot Chili Peppers could look anything but out of place.

The major artists who didn't show spoke volumes with their silence, but the effort to make the Grammys relevant and representative of the artists it's supposed to honor might have been better served if, say, Donald Glover (aka Gambino) had been there to take the mike. His winning number, "This is America," speaks for itself, as does the "Black Panther" soundtrack by Lamar.

In film and TV, it took outspoken actors and behind-the-scenes folks speaking out against a white, patriarchal system -- at the ceremonies that had overlooked them for so long -- to finally crack open the doors. The Emmys and Golden Globes were the latest proof. Music isn't there yet. Just take a look at a University of Southern California Annenberg study that showed there's a long way for women to go in the record business. But Sunday night looked like the beginning of the end for a tradition that's woefully out of touch with the medium it's meant to honor.

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