Music

The biggest takeaways from the Grammys 2020

#1. As usual, Billy Porter's red carpet excellence showed everyone else up

As the Grammys rolled around was, there was one major question in the air: does anyone still care? The awards ceremony is doing a bad job of staying culturally relevant as it struggles to reconcile demands for greater diversity from fans and artists alike with the music industry’s general toxicity. 

In particular, recent years have seen the awards ceremony come under scrutiny due to a series of scandals amongst its senior leadership. In 2018, a former Grammys president claimed women had to “step up” in the music industry when questioned why only one female solo artist received an award. This year, his successor Deborah Duggan was abruptly dismissed amidst sexual harassment allegations after claiming that the Recording Academy was a “boys’ club”. 

Moreover, the lack of recognition for female artists has been a regular subject of critique, as has the fact that albums by Black artists are continually overlooked in favour of lacklustre releases from white contemporaries (case-in-point being Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange losing out to an album by…Mumford and Sons). 

For 2020, the academy made some effort to address this culture by announcing a new diversity initiative hours before the ceremony. However, this did little to correct the overall atmosphere of the event, where red carpet looks on display seriously outshone the significance of the awards being handed out. 

If you still haven’t given up on the Grammys, we’ve got a cheat sheet of the night’s major takeaways below.

1. Billy Porter deserves an award for his scene-stealing red carpet look

Let’s be honest, Billy Porter has given a whole new lease of life to awards season. Regardless of the occasion, his outfit is probably going to be the main event and the Grammys 2020 were no exception. With a motorised, fringed hat, glittering turquoise jumpsuit and contrasting silver and blue makeup, his ensemble was the night’s most important revelation.

2. Usher and FKA Twigs’ Prince tribute divided audiences 

Amongst a night of star-studded musical performances – including Ariana Grande, Lil Nas X and Tyler, the Creator – Usher’s homage to the late Prince was by far the most talked about. Performing a medley of the artist’s songs, he was joined on stage by British auteur FKA Twigs and Sheila E. Despite later clarifying that she was never asked to sing, the general Twitter consensus was that Twigs’ talents were under-utilised throughout the performance, provoking pointed criticism and making us long for the day that we get a solo performance by her on the Grammys stage. 

3. Billie Eilish won, like, a lot of prizes

Bedecked in head-to-toe custom Gucci (including a manicure featuring those iconic interlocking Gs) Billie Eilish cleaned up, collecting a total of five awards for song of the year, record of the year, album of the year, best new artist and pop vocal album of the year. Another big winner was Lizzo, who walked away with pop solo performance of the year, urban contemporary album of the year and traditional R&B performance of the year.

4. The Grammys needs to do better by Black artists

Finally winning a Grammy after making some of the most boundary-pushing music out there, Tyler, The Creator used the opportunity to deliver an important message about the racist ways that Black artists are often typecast as working within rap, hip-hop or “urban” genres. Speaking to the press after winning rap album of the year, he said; “I’m very grateful that what I make can be acknowledged in a world like this, but also it sucks that whenever we – and I mean guys that look like me – do anything that’s genre-bending, they always put it in the rap or urban category.”

The conversation around the 2020 Grammys and its disservice to Black artists actually began a day before the ceremony, at the annual Clive Davis pre-Grammy gala. There, delivering a speech as the event’s guest of honour, Sean Combs critiqued the Recording Academy’s tendency to under-appreciate Black hip hop artists, saying; “Truth be told hip hop has never been respected by the Grammys. Black music has never been respected by the Grammys to the point that it should be.”

27 January 2020