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2020 Grammy Awards – Sound & Vision Blog



January 28th, 2020

The 2020 Grammy Awards

Harking back to 2012 the year Whitney Houston died, The Grammy Awards took place with a dark cloud under the domed roof of the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The sudden death of LA LAKERS superstar Kobe Bryant and eight others in a helicopter crash earlier in the day had sent the show’s producer Ken Erlich and writer David Wild into crisis mode just hours before showtime. Once again, it was necessary to change the content of the show at the last minute, but with that, they changed its timbre. The tributes to Bryant and his family continued throughout the show brought the whole festive vibe to a more somber celebration. The fact that the broadcast was heavy in power ballads, seemed liked it was planned in advance to comfort an audience that was sad.

In the press room backstage, it was apparent the Recording Academy had dodged a bullet with the unfortunate passing of Bryant. Swirling in controversy over the abrupt dismissal of its new female CEO Deborah Dugan, and with a number accusations

Although over 200 artist received Grammy nominations for 2020, the most talked about artists of the year, Billie Eilish and Lizzo would reign as the big winners. Between them they captured Album Of The Year, Record of The Year, Song Of The Year, Best New Artist, Best Pop Solo Performance, Best Pop Vocal Album, and a handful of other Grammys.

Alicia Keys returned for the second year in a row as host. She was brought in last year to give the Recording Academy a more diverse platform, in what would become a huge year for female winners.
A brilliant musical artist, Keys should stick with music. Sorry folks – but being a TV host, is not her strongest attribute. Her delivery was an odd mix of street and sophistication, that never quite jelled as a cohesive presentation.

At times uneven, this year’s show did offer up more than enough memorable moments. In the end, it’s about the performances, isn ’t it?

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Keys opened the the show with an impromptu a cappella tribute to Bryant, joined by the legendary vocal group, Boys To Men. It was a sad and touching way to start, but shortly later when Keys prompted the audience to cheer for the Grammys asking, “Hey everyone, how ya’ll doing? Ya’ll feeling good tonight!?” The air of sincerity over the tragedy seemed gone.

Once again responding to former 2018 comment of “women have to step it up,” made by former Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnoy, the show was heavy with female representation, especially when it came to the performance segments. Bonnie Raitt, Demi Lovato, Tanya Tucker, Brandi Carlile, Ariana Grande, H.E.R, Cyndi Lauper, and of course, Eilish and Lizzo all performed. Of all the female performers, Camila Cabello was the highlight, when she gave a stunning and poignant performance of “First Man,” which she dedicated to her father in the front row.

Aerosmith seemed a little off when they started with “Living On The Edge;” which included Tyler also dropping F bombs during the performance. They pulled it together for the second half of their performance segment when they reunited the with RUN DMC for “Walk This Way.” In the end, it was a blast to watch. The same can be said for Little Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus, who performed “Old Town Road,” and “Rodeo,” with BTS, Mason Ramsey, Diplo, Young Thug and Naz

Both Bille Eilish and Lizzo started their joint domination of the Grammys early in the day in the pre-telecast portion of the show. Eilish’s album, When We Fall Sleep, Where Do We Go? which won for Best Pop Vocal Album; and Best Engineered Record Non-Classical. Her brother Finneas O’Connor, who is her collaborator , won for Producer Of The Year Non Classical. She took the stage during the telecast to perform “When The Party’s Over,” and she won a further three Grammy Awards for
Best New Artist, Song Of The Year, Album Of The Year, and Song Of The Year. A clean sweep.

Lizzo started by opening the show with a high energy version of “Cuz I Love You,” and a -powerful “Truth Hurts.” Lizzo won for in the pre-telecast for Best Traditional R&B Performance for “Jerome,” and Best Urban Contemporary Album for Cuz I Love You. She shocked the audience in the Staples center when she dropped two F Bombs on national television accepting the first award of the night for Best Pop Solo Performance.

Gary Clark Jr proved he remains red hot with Grammys in two rock categories, Best Rock Album and Best Rock Performance for This Land. His performance in the show was another highlight. He was joined by other contemporaries Vampire Weekend, Anderson Paak, Cage The Elephant, and Tool, who won Grammys in their respective categories.

There were two tributes to recent fallen musical heroes in the show: Prince and Nipsey Hussle. . Usher brought the house down with his versions of “Little Red Corvette,” “When Doves Cry,” and “Kiss.” His tribute proved to be a highlight of the show.

The same can be said about the tribute for Nipsey Hussle, who was murdered earlier this year. The Academy honored him in full Hip Hop fashion with “Letter To Nipsey” and “Higher,” performed by John Legend, DJ Khaled, Meek Mill, Roddy RIch, Kirk Franklin, and YG. As with nearly every Grammy presentation, the obligatory gospel choir prevailed. It never fails to deliver, and it did at this show as well. At the end, Hussle’s image was paired with one of Kobe Bryant. Along with the tribute, Hussle also won his first Grammy Award in the pre-telecast for Best Rap Performance, and during the show won again for Best Rap/ Sung Performance with John Legend and DJ Khaled for “Higher.”

Another milestone in this year’s Grammys: Former First Lady Michelle Obama, joined her husband Barack, as a Grammy winner. She won in the Best Spoken Word category for Becoming, the audio book of her best selling biography. On a personal note, The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra was included in the win for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Higdon: Harp Concerto.

The Grammys ends nearly a week of recording industry events that happened in Los Angeles. On Thursday, Bebe Rexha helped celebrate Grammy In The Schools with the Music Educator Of The Year winner, Mickey Smith Jr. On Friday, Universal Music’s head of Legal/ Business Affairs was honored at the Grammy Entertainment Law Initiative. That event also pays a cash prize to the best essay from the aspiring law student who proposes solutions for ongoing legal issues in the music business.

Friday night hosted the 30th Annual MusiCares Person of The Year dinner and show, which honored Aerosmith for its charitable work over the years. It included an all star cast of performers from Cheap Trick and Sammy Hagar to Gary Clarke Jr and Ashley McBryde covering Aerosmith classics. The band (with estranged drummer Joey Kramer in attendance) performed at the finale.

The next evening, the hottest ticket in LA for the week, The Clive Davis Pre-Grammy Gala Icon Award
was staged again at the Beverly Hilton. Paying tribute to Sean P-Diddy Combs, it provided
some of the best music of the week, with killer sets by Santana, Cyndi Lauper and Brandi Carlile,
Beck, and many others. The event ended with a rousing collection of Bad Boy Records artists paying tribute to Combs and the late Biggie Smalls.

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Bruce Pilato is a 40-year music industry veteran, who has covered entertainment for Variety, USA TODAY, Gannett News Service, US Weekly, Mix and others. He is president of Pilato Entertainment Marketing & Media LLC and also teaches music industry courses for The University Of Rochester’s American Institute of Popular Music and Nazareth College.



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