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Live Blog: The 2019 Grammy Awards

Originally published on February 10, 2019 9:54 pm

This is NPR Music's live blog of the 2019 Grammy Awards. The telecast of the awards show is scheduled to run from 8:00 until 11:30 p.m. ET. We'll be here the whole time, updating this post with every award or performance.


11:44 p.m. And, in the night's final moments, Kacey Musgraves wins the night's top honor, Album of the Year — her fourth trophy of the evening — for Golden Hour. There was some speculation that Brandi Carlile's nomination for album By The Way, I Forgive You might cause a vote split between the two roots-rooted artists, but Musgraves' idiosyncratic work seems to have elevated her above some formidable competition, including the Kendrick Lamar-curated Black Panther: The Album, Janelle Monáe's visionary Dirty Computer and Cardi B's breakout Invasion of Privacy. Musgraves seems more shocked than anyone. --Andrew Flanagan

11:42 p.m. It's beginning to sink in just how shocked America still is by Childish Gambino's "This Is America" — because he's swept three categories, including one of the night's biggest prizes in Record of the Year, in what really is a surprise to me. His producer Ludwig Gorannson accepts on his behalf, saying the song "calls out injustice, celebrates life and reunites us all at the same time." Then, in the spirit of the song, he shouts out the name of one of the many contributors, 21 Savage, who remains under dentention at the hands of ICE since his arrest one week ago in Atlanta. "You should be here tonight," Gorannson says in reference to 21. It's just a reminder that everything at the heart of that song is and remains the state of America.

Goransson, himself a big winner tonight, won Grammys in association with "This Is America" as well as his score for Black Panther. --Rodney Carmichael

11:35 p.m. For a lot of folks in music, 2018 was the Year of Aretha. So it's no surprise that three singers — Yolanda Adams, Fantasia, and Andra Day — are paying tribute to her on the Grammy telecast. (Both Adams and Fantasia sang at Franklin's extraordinary homegoing service in Detroit in August.) Singing "Natural Woman," the three are stadning on a small platform away from the main stage as images of Franklin flash by. How is this so much smaller, and lesser, than Diana Ross' birthday bash? --Anastasia Tsioulcas

11:32 p.m. Among those remembered during this year's In Memoriam tribute: James Ingram, Roy Clark, Nancy Wilson, Charles Aznavour, Vic Damone, Carol Channing, Joe Jackson, James Wright, Gary Burden, Avicii, Ed King, John Perry Barlow, Tony Joe White, Mac Miller, Roy Hargrove, Cecil Taylor, Bill Watrous, Geoff Emerick, Yvonne Staples, Randy Scruggs, Roger Clark, Charles Neville and — of course — Aretha Franklin. --Andrew Flanagan

11:29 p.m. Neil Portnow, in his comments as outgoing president & CEO of the Recording Academy (formerly known as NARAS, or the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences), makes a big point of saluting women and that he's learned from this past year. He announces that he will be leaving the organization this July, when his contract expires. He's been leading the Academy since 2002. --Anastasia Tsioulcas

11:24 p.m. Best New Artist was a crowded field this year — literally. It's one of the awards that was widened from five to eight nominees... and the majority of them were female this year. Dua Lipa, who, in a Grammy telecast tradition of sorts, has just stepped off from performing "Masseduction" with St. Vincent, almost starts off her speech by saying, "I guess this year, we've really stepped up," in reference to Neil Portnow's infamous comments a year ago. She also makes a point of referencing her personal background as the England-born daughter of immigrants from Kosovo. But she's cut off before she can finish her comments. --Anastasia Tsioulcas

11:16 p.m. Dua Lipa and St. Vincent, introduced by Wilmer Valderrama for some reason, delivered a "hashtag-Grammy-moment" with a mashup of St. Vincent's song "Masseduction" (for which she won Best Rock Song and, less excitingly, Best Recording Package her album of the same name) and Dua Lipa's single "One Kiss" — a performance that was entirely dominated by St. Vincent, her innate intensity and guitar virtuosity. Hard to blame the onstage cameraman for momentarily losing his balance for a second there. --Andrew Flanagan

11:12 p.m. Well, after a lot of rap wrongs, the Grammy's got this one right at least. Cardi's win for Rap Album of the Year comes in a category stacked solid with men as her competition. Her acceptance speech is really highlighting the sacrifices she had to make as a woman who became a mother-to-be at the same time that the spotlight and industry pressure were on her to follow up her No. 1 hit "Bodak Yellow" with an album. That she came through with Invasion of Privacy, a well-crafted album that maximizes everything fans love about Cardi without turning her into a caricature, is a real breakthrough. She became a serious artist with this album. --Rodney Carmichael

11:10 p.m. "Babe, I can't breathe," Cardi B said to husband Offset — who she tongued on the red carpet earlier — as she was accepting the award for Best Rap Album. It was a rare example of the quickly risen star failing to find words. (You can find some deep background on Cardi's fast success right here.) --Andrew Flanagan

11:02 p.m. A lot more people will be talking about Chloe x Halle — the sister duo signed by Beyonce — after this performance of Donny Hathaway's "Where Is The Love." And deservedly so. --Rodney Carmichael

10:54 p.m. Brandi Carlile does what she does, which is absolutely slay songs that are inspirational and heartfelt, tiptoeing right up to the edge of maudlin. If you hadn't been keeping track of the pre-telecast winners, you might not know that Carlile's already having a big night, with three awards in the roots and Americana categories for "The Joke," the song she played with her longtime collaborators Tim and Phil Hanseroth, and the album it comes from, By the Way, I Forgive You. She has a shot at two more tonight, and they're both big ones: Record and Album of the Year. --Jacob Ganz

10:49 p.m. Best R&B Album goes to H.E.R. for her self-titled album — her song "Best Part," featuring Daniel Caesar, also won Best R&B Performance earlier tonight. H.E.R., born Gabi Wilson, told the audience that she's been signed since she was 14 years old — which would have been in 2011. Feel old yet? (By the way that was BTS, the biggest K-pop group in the world, who presented her the award. They reached the top 10 of the Hot 100 for the first time last year — something H.E.R. has yet to do.) --Andrew Flanagan

10:40 p.m. The Recording Academy would very much like the public to know that they're staging a Motown tribute in April. A very sweet little moment — in which Alicia Keys duets with Smokey Robinson — turns into a strange, jukebox-musical traversal of Motown's many eras, featuring an entertainer whom I've *never* associated with Detroit: Jennifer Lopez, who courses through at least three outfits. And then Jenny from the block performs some impressively acrobatic salsa to the strains of Ne-Yo. --Anastasia Tsioulcas

10:32 p.m. Travis Scott opens his performance — the ONLY main hip-hop performance of the night — with James Blake and Earth Wind & Fire members, before transitioning into the Grammys' awkward attempt at the MTV Awards. Scott performs "No Bystanders" in a cage before surfing a seemingly hired crowd. After seeing that and Drake's acceptance speech, I'd love to see what an overcorrection on hip-hop would look like from the Grammy's next year. (Interesting to note that Scott was also one of the performers at last weekend's Super Bowl, amid a lot of controversy and a lot of rap acts declining the invitation. He played the exact same role under the exact same circumstances tonight.) --Rodney Carmichael

10:19 p.m. Lady Gaga brought to "Shallow" a '90s alterna-rock interpretation, complete with Alice-In-Chains-ian acoustic guitar tone. She perhaps oversold her energy during the opener, before the song arrived at its Oscar-worthy anthemic energy. It's a strange sort of meta-cultural exercise to see Lady Gaga, an actual pop star, bringing such energy to the performance of a song that was written for her portrayal of a fake pop star within a movie about the vagaries and pitfalls of... pop stardom. Regardless, the song won for best song written for visual media and Best Pop Duo/Group performance earlier tonight. She also picked up a prize for Best Pop Solo Performance for "Joanne (Where Do You Think You're Going)." --Andrew Flanagan

10:12 p.m. While we're enjoying Gaga's Cooperless performance of "Shallow," I'll direct anyone who might have been confused by Diana Ross exclaiming "Happy Birthday to me!" at the end of her set to the Twitter feed of NPR Music's pop critic Ann Powers (watching the show even though she's on leave), who notes that occasion won't actually occur until March 26. --Jacob Ganz

10:04 p.m. Alicia Keys introduces Diana Ross ahead of her 75th birthday celebration in March, with a string that includes 42 No. 1 songs, paired with Ross' 9-year-old grandson, Raif-Henok. (His appearance feels like that of a young princeling being introduced to society.) Ross — wearing blazing red tulle — belts out "The Best Years of My Life." While the voice is a bit ragged, there's no denying her queenliness. She then invites the crowd to "move the energy in the room" while she runs through "Reach Out And Touch (Somebody's Hand)." Before crowing, "Happy birthday to me!" --Anastasia Tsioulcas

9:54 p.m. Drake wins Best Rap Song for "God's Plan," and surprises everybody by actually being in attendance "I definitely did not think I was winning anything," Drake says before giving a speech that speaks directly to the huge disconnect between institutions like the Grammys and hip-hop artists like Travis Scott, Cardi B and others, whom he references during his acceptance. It's a speech that the Recording Academy and many watching at home needed to hear, but apparently the Academy didn't want to. They cut Drake off without even the benefit of playing wrap-it-up music, after he said, "You don't need this," speaking to his peers and striving musicians. It was a direct reference to the trophy he was holding in his hand, one he said he was surprised to collect — which is surprising in itself considering Drake's outsized success. That might have stung the Grammys, the the move to end the speech will be read like more disrespect in the historic gulf between The Grammys and The Culture. That speech, and the Grammys allowing him to have his say in full, might have gone a long way in righting some historic wrongs. --Rodney Carmichael

9:50 p.m. You might not be familiar with rising country-pop duo Dan + Shay, who just performed their highest-charting single, "Tequila," for which they won the best country duo/group performance award tonight. Beginning as Nashville songwriters, the pair released their first album, Where It All Began, in 2014 and have released two since, including last year's self-titled album that contained that winning single. --Andrew Flanagan

9:45 p.m. When show host Alicia Keys has to fill up an extended set with covers ranging from Nat King Cole to Ella Mai, it just underlines how many big-name nominees turned down the opportunity to perform this year. That race toward irrelevance — the Grammy's are winning it. Despite it all, she sounded great as she straddled a piano stool rotating between two grand pianos. It felt like a classic Grammy mashup — mixing the old with the new. --Rodney Carmichael

9:33 p.m. It's been nearly an hour since our last trophy was given out — even by Grammy standards, that was quite a while. Regardless, we have our winner for best country album: Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour, which she accepted winged by album producers Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk. She's now won three statues so far tonight. --Andrew Flanagan

9:30 p.m. Cardi B's lip synch for "Money" was a little asynchronous — but her charisma, in service of a naughty Marlene Dietrich'd cabaret performance that recalled the song's video, was minimally affected. She's still up for Best Rap Album, Album of the Year and Record of the Year. Earlier in the night, she lost pop duo/group performance to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's "Shallow" and best rap performance to Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future and James Blake's "King's Dead" and Anderson .Paak's "Bubblin." --Andrew Flanagan

9:21 p.m. H.E.R., already a winner in the category of Best R&B Performance, gives a super confident performance. Even knowing her Disney history it's been amazing to see how seasoned she is as she's emerged over the past few years. She's also nominated for a total of five awards, including Best New Artist and Album of the Year. For those who thought her nominations were premature, she proved otherwise with that performance. --Rodney Carmichael

9:10 p.m. As if the world couldn't get more plasticine, we had Childish Gambino as an computer-generated avatar reprising his "This Is America" dance moves in an earlier advertisement for a new Google phone. Not to be outdone, Ariana Grande stumped during a commercial break for Apple and their animoji thingamajigs. Neither, it should be noted, are in attendance at the actual award show happening tonight, despite the fact that they've both won awards. --Andrew Flanagan

9:08 p.m. The Dolly Parton tribute/performance was a mixed bag, from the costumes to the singing — it was clearly meant as a Big Moment, but was less than that. Katy Perry struggled with rhythm. Kacey Musgraves' light was dimmed in comparison to Parton's own wattage. But when Miley Cyrus (Parton's goddaughter) and Maren Morris joined Parton for another trio, things got much, much better as they sang in some really lovely close harmonies. And Little Big Town seemed thrilled just to be sharing the stage with Parton, along with the great Linda Perry — one of the few female producers working in the business — playing guitar in her band, but Parton seemed most sparkling when performing a new song, "Red Shoes" while wearing, of course... red heels.. --Anastasia Tsioulcas

8:53 p.m. Post Malone, accompanied at first by naught but a guitar and spangles for the opening bars of "Stay," then pivoted to his hit "Rockstar" and sung it quite ably, no doubt to the surprise of many. Anthony Kiedis, singing the Red Hot Chili Peppers song "Dark Necessities," perhaps less so. (For what it's worth, "Rockstar" is up for one of the night's top prizes, Record of the Year. The featured artist on that release, 21 Savage, is currently sitting in an ICE detention center in Georgia.) --Andrew Flanagan

8:45 p.m. In a shock (to my system at least), Childish Gambino takes away Song of the Year for "This Is America" — which also won Best Music Video having racked up 482 million views. The field was crowded with nominees including Ella Mai, Drake, Kendrick Lamar & SZA .... And the win, though surprising, is interesting from a songwriting perspective. Gambino — a.k.a. Donald Glover — was not present to receive the award. He's one of many top nominees on the hip-hop side especially — Kendrick Lamar and Drake also included — who are not in attendance tonight. It feels less like a protest on their part than just being fed up with investing so much into an institution that tends to invest so little into hip-hop. --Rodney Carmichael

8:35 p.m. In a performance of "Make Me Feel" that would've made her former mentor Prince blush with pride, Janelle Monae just took Black Girl Magic to epic levels with choreographed dancing from her backing chorus, some well-placed air humps, floor crawls and a mic drop. --Rodney Carmichael

8:29 p.m. I saw Kacey Musgraves perform in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago — and was taken with her coolness and poise. She's got a vibe that's somehow super-1970s but very current as well — there was a lot of talk about how (relatively) diverse her fanbase is, for a country artist — and this simple, but beautiful performance of her song "Rainbow" felt very authentic to those ideals. --Anastasia Tsioulcas

8:25 p.m. Nina Dobrev's appearance to introduce Kacey Musgraves might be the closest, by association, that we get to Drake being onstage this evening — she co-starred with Drake in the show Degrassi: The Next Generation (and the Degrassi-checking music video for "I'm Upset.") --Andrew Flanagan

8:22 p.m. The award for best pop/duo performance went to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's song "Shallow," from the film — oh you know what it's called. The song already won best song written for visual media earlier this evening. "I'm so proud to be part of a movie that addresses mental health issues — they're so important. A lot of artists deal with that, and we've got to take care of each other. So if you see somebody who's hurting, don't look away." --Andrew Flanagan

8:19 p.m. Shawn Mendes performed his modest hit "In My Blood" alongside Miley Cyrus. The song, which is up for song of the year — spent 23 weeks on the Hot 100 songs chart, topping out at No. 11. Mendes lost the trophy for best pop vocal album earlier tonight to Ariana Grande's Sweetener. --Andrew Flanagan

8:15 p.m. Those five mostly talked about how much music means to them, not really about women, or the place of women in the business... even though *that* was the story of last year's Grammys. In the days & weeks after last year's awards, the Grammy organizers — particularly Neil Portnow, the president & CEO of the Recording Academy, and the telecast producer Ken Ehrlich, were the focus of outrage after both men made public statements that many interpreted as belittling women in the music industry. But perhaps the visuals of these five powerful, self-possessed women on stage are enough of a message... until Keys said, in a nod to an immortal Beyonce line: "Who runs the world?" --Anastasia Tsioulcas

8:13 p.m. The Grammys waste no time acknowledging the elephant in the room as host Alicia Keys kicks off the show by introducing "some of [her] sisters" to the stage: Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jennifer Lopez and Michelle Obama — met with raucous applause — take turns extolling the value of music. "Music helps us share ourselves, our dignity and sorrows, our hopes and joys," Obama says as the five women end the opening in a embrace. --Rodney Carmichael

8:06 p.m. In the sclerotic world of the Grammys, it's a big move to have an overtly Latinx opening act — Camila Cabello with J Balvin, Ricky Martin, Young Thug and Arturo Sandoval. The performance definitely feels like a statement, even though the set (which, in a pre-show interview with Ryan Seacrest, Cabello said was supposed to evoke a family home — her grandmother's, I think) felt a little Broadway. --Anastasia Tsioulcas

7:59 p.m. The somewhat shambolic, or at least far less buttoned-up, pre-show wrapped up around 6:50 p.m. ET. Notable winners included:

Brandi Carlile, who's already taken home three trophies, for best American roots performance and best American roots song for "The Joke," as well as best Americana album for By The Way, I Forgive You. The song and album is also up for record of the year and album of the year, respectively. (Read our chief critic Ann Powers take on "The Joke" here.)

Ariana Grande — who had a public falling out with the night's executive producer, Ken Ehrlich, earlier this week over her choice of song, a year after Lorde was denied the opportunity to perform during the telecast — won best pop vocal album for Sweetener.

Kacey Musgraves has won two golden gramophones so far: "Space Cowboy" was voted best country song by the Recording Academy, while "Butterflies" won best country solo performance. She's also nominated for Album of the Year.

Lady Gaga — who will be performing tonight without Bradley Cooper, who is in Britain, attending the BAFTAs — won best song written for visual media for, of course, "Shallow" from A Star Is Born. Other cinema winners included Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future and James Blake for their Black Panther song "King's Dead" (shared with Anderson .Paak and his song "Bubblin"); Hugh Jackman (and various other artists) for The Greatest Showman's compilation soundtrack; and Ludwig Göransson, who composed the score soundtrack for the visual media of Black Panther; and Terence Blanchard won best instrumental composition for "Blut Und Boden (Blood and Soil)," which you may recognize as the main theme to Spike Lee's film BlacKkKKlansman.

The Carters' Everything Is Love for best urban contemporary album (shockingly, they weren't present to accept their statue).

Chris Cornell's children accepted an award on his behalf, for best rock performance of "When Bad Does Good."

Unsurprisingly and well-deservedly, Childish Gambino was given best music video for "This Is America."

Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet won best chamber music/small ensemble performance for Landfallread our coverage here.

Elder jazz statesman Wayne Shorter and his Quartet's Emanon won for best jazz instrumental album. (We reviewed the monumental piece of work.)

Former Tiny Desk Contest winner Fantastic Negrito's Please Don't Be Dead won best contemporary blues album.

The Soweto Gospel Choir, who've visited the Tiny Desk before, won best world music album for Freedom.

Widely panned up-and-coming retro-rock group Greta Van Fleet took best rock album.

St. Vincent won best rock song for "Masseduction," with producer Jack Antonoff by her side.

Matt Pike from the fairly underground metal band High On Fire, who likely didn't ever expect to be ascending to the stage during the Grammys, accepted an award for best metal performance behind Electric Messiah.

Dave Chappelle's Equanimity & The Bird Revelation won best comedy album. --Andrew Flanagan

7:55 p.m. Out of 84 total awards, here are the nine that will be awarded during the telecast tonight:
Best country album
Best rap album
Best rap song
Best R&B album
Best pop duo/group performance
Best new artist
Song of the year
Album of the year
Record of year
--Andrew Flanagan

7:50 p.m. Welcome to NPR's live blog for the 61st annual Grammy Awards, where you'll find commentary, context and pithy quips from our team. Going into the main show — with but nine awards left to give out — here are some things to keep in mind and look forward to:

The night is, mostly, all about the performances. There will be awkward moments, but a planned tribute to Aretha Franklin, which will be performed by Yolanda Adams, Fantasia and Andra Day, had better be one to remember.

What will the final speech from Neil Portnow — who caused more than a little consternation last year when he said women needed to "step up" in order to secure broader inclusion — contain? The executive is resigning as president of the Recording Academy this year.

Whether the Recording Academy's task force — set up in the wake of Portnow's comments and a severely lopsided number of female winners last year — has been successful in its aims to broaden not only the Academy's membership but also those it honors.

Who doesn't show up: Kendrick Lamar, Drake Childish Gambino, Ariana Grande, Jay-Z and Beyonce and a host of others are expected to skip this year. (As is Record of the Year nominee 21 Savage, who wasn't given the choice of attending after being taken into custody by ICE exactly one week ago today.) How many of music's biggest stars can skip the form's "biggest night" before it begins to wither? --Andrew Flanagan

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