Live Blog: 2018 Grammy Awards

Jan 28, 2018
Originally published on January 28, 2018 8:28 pm

This is NPR Music's live blog of the 2018 Grammy Awards. The telecast of the awards show is scheduled to run from 7:30 until 11:00 p.m. ET. We'll be here the whole time, updating this post with every award or performance.


11:08 p.m. Bruno Mars upsets, well, pretty much everybody, winning the night's final award, Album of the Year, in a category that would've been a history-making win for either the favored Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z or Childish Gambino. Instead, the drought continues for hip-hop, with only Lauryn Hill and OutKast previously walking away with the coveted award. An admittedly tipsy Mars gave props to Lamar, Jay and Gambino (Lorde was also nominated), before giving an acceptance speech that included personal recollections to his early showbiz start as a 15-year-old kid opening in a show called "The Magic of Polynesia" in Hawaii.

By the numbers, it's hard to be disappointed for Lamar, who walked away with a total of five awards, or Jay Z, who's won nearly two dozen Grammys over his career. But in a year in which the Academy seemed dead-set on correcting its lackluster record of recognition regarding hip-hop, this feels a lot like more of the same. That said, hip-hop and R&B, together, make up Nielsen's ranking as the most-consumed genre. And Mars is squarely in the tradition of the R&B legends and major influences he paid respects to in his speech, including Babyface, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Teddy Riley. Even in choosing to play it safe, the Academy still reflected the pulse of pop to a small degree. But, as tradition has it, the show's final notes were familiar, and tone deaf. --Rodney Carmichael

10:58 p.m. It's a bad decision to follow the In Memoriam segment with a song about suicide. Let's get that out of the way. Nonetheless, rapper Logic and Best New Artist winner Alessia Cara make the most of it, pouring their hearts into a genuinely authentic moment: a song that speaks deeply to young people who hold fast to their right to express themselves, but who also doubt themselves, sometimes up to the point of crisis. Logic and many others onstage wear shirts inscribed with the number for a suicide prevention hotline, and at the song's end, Logic delivers a powerful speech encompassing immigration rights, women's rights and the hopeful vision of his generation. Grammys, meet the milllennials. They're here to stay. --Ann Powers

10:45 p.m. It's not that Bruno Mars isn't deserving of this Record of the Year win. But in a year where "Despacito" tied for the longest-running Billboard 100 chart-topper while soundtracking the nation's debates over immigration reform, a win in this category would've resonated far beyond the Grammy stage. Still, it says something that the five nominated songs were all performed by men of color, with Jay-Z's "Story of O.J.," Childish Gambino's "Redbone" and Kendrick Lamar's "Humble" rounding it out. They played it safe, predictably so. But Grammys gonna Grammy. --Rodney Carmichael

10:35 p.m. Even though she was deprived of her hardware at the ceremony, SZA holds her head high and slays her performance of the deep cut "Broken Clocks" off her 2017 debut album Ctrl. The First Lady of TDE starts her song in an LED box with her band and a set of seated back up singer. In some signature cut up denim and a skillfully-tattered and glittery school uniform (a possible shout out to her Maplewood, N.J. roots?) Numeral graphics flash across her frame as she riffs on the bridge, but as she steps out of her box, she's showing she won't be caught up in the matrix of fear, f*** boys and unattainable expectations. --Sidney Madden

10:20 p.m. Here's the thing: Leonard Bernstein's legacy as a composer, conductor, educator, speaker and Man About Town remains titanic, and a lot of performers and institutions are getting audiences in their seats this season — all year long and beyond — by celebrating his work in this, the 100th anniversary of his birth. The Grammys recruited Broadway and movie actor Ben Platt ("Dear Evan Hansen" and "Pitch Perfect" to deliver one of Bernstein's most sturdy songs, "Somewhere" from West Side Story. It's a song that — like, say, Bach's The Art of Fugue or "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" — is still transporting in even the most quotidian performance.

But boy, did the Grammys bury the lede in tonight's Tony segment: Patti LuPone, performing "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina," from Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita! --Anastasia Tsioulcas

10:05 p.m. Winning the special Grammy Award for best white rose placement (okay not really) is Elton John, who laid one across his Yamaha grand piano for a special tribute to .... himself. The pop titan, who recently announced his sort-of-imminent retirement, is all smiles as he sings his El Lay rock classic "Tiny Dancer" in a relatively subdued spangly tuxedo and matching sneakers and mirror shades. Halfway through, he's joined by Miley Cyrus in a grand red gown. She hits all the notes and obviously wants to jump on top of the piano and right into a beaming Elton's arms. Instead they harmonize on this tribute to a rock wife ("seamstress for the band") that's not exactly the perfect song for this year's political mood, but which warms everyone's hearts anyway. --Ann Powers

10:00 p.m. While Carrie Fisher's The Princess Diarist audiobook won the 2018 Grammy for best spoken word album, James Corden reminds the audience that past presidents like Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama have also won the award; a perfect moment to jest the nation's current president. Corden predicts that next year's winner will be the book Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump White House and that he's already been fielding castings for who will read the audiobook. Cut to a clip of famous faces including Cher, Cardi B, Snoop Dogg and John Legend reading from the book with varied reactions but it's not until we heard the voice of Hillary Clinton that the laughter actually bubbles up. --Sidney Madden

9:55 p.m. Bruno Mars wins Song of the Year for "That's What I Like" and acknowledges his songwriting homies for surviving a testy industry as they climbed their way up the success ladder. The audience response seemed a little tepid, as he beat out much more politically- and culturally-resonant songs, including Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito," Jay-Z's infidelity confessional feat. Beyonce, "4:44," Julia Michaels' "Issues" and Logic's suicide hotline song feat. Alessia Cara and Khalid, "1-800-273-8255." --Rodney Carmichael

9:44 p.m. Camila Cabello sharing her personal story of immigration to the U.S. might be the best segue U2 could hope for after the waterworks that Kesha's "Praying" performance induced. Luckily, the budding pop star played off the transition like a pro and went from taking a stand for #TimesUp to busking for DREAMers. The crowd was then transported to New York Harbor. U2 performs "Get Out Of Your Own Way" against the backdrop of the Statue of Liberty. Bono grabs an American flag megaphone at the end of the set to belt out the song's last few lines. --Sidney Madden

9:35 p.m. Until Janelle Monae takes the mic to introduce Kesha's much-anticipated performance, the Grammys have felt disappointingly disconnected from the powerful political moment that #TimesUp represents. Monae's introduction — a true expression of intersectionality and a passionate call for the music industry to take stock of itself — electrified the room and turned the night's mood. Then the spotlight turned to a phalanx of white-clad women — the sight brings to mind the interstellar heroines of Ava DuVernay's upcoming version of A Wrinkle In Time — and Kesha, in the Nudie suit she's been wearing throughout her triumphant tour — delivered a totally unfettered, honest, spot-on version of her anthem "Praying." The moment this most powerfully recalls is the Dixie Chicks' win for "Not Ready To Make Nice," another song that openly expressed women's determination to speak their truths, no matter what the patriarchs of the music industry prefer. Not an eye in the house is dry after Kesha's moment. --Ann Powers

9:30 p.m. Of course, the Grammy ceremony had — *had* — to include a deeply felt musical tribute to the victims and survivors of the shooting in Las Vegas last October (and Maren Morris mentioned the Manchester Arena attack as well), with a backdrop of names and messages to the killed blazing behind a country quartet. But Eric Church, Morris and The Brothers Osborne chose an unfortunately hackneyed song: Eric Clapton's "Tears from Heaven." (Isn't country music brimming with songs of death and mourning?) It was made more unfortunate by a bad start: TJ Osborne consistently sang flat, which was grating rather than moving. --Anastasia Tsioulcas

9:21 p.m. "We're gettin' country right now," says Donnie Wahlberg and Hailee Steinfeld, donning corny cowboy hats, before giving Chris Stapleton his well-deserved Country Album of the Year award for From A Room Vol. 1. It's a corny move, behind the times — Stapleton (who accepted his prize hat-free) may be the burly embodiment of a certain Southern ideal, but he's also an eclectic, forward-thinking artist whose album spans blues, soul and rock, defeating that cowboy cliche. Stapleton, along with fellow Grammy winner Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson (his partner in a fiery Saturday Night Live performance last night), proves that country can go deep musically — his rise is helping take the genre beyond the bro moment of songs about painted-on jeans and pickup trucks. No jokes necessary. --Ann Powers

9:15 p.m. In a tropical, vibrant setting with just a little too much going (something of a Havana-Nights-scene-meets-French-salon-meets-jungle-safari), Rihanna, DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller sashay their way through "Wild Thoughts," the No.1 hit off Khaled's 2017 album Grateful. It's almost impressive how a song can be so sultry but come across so dry in live performance. Luckily, Khaled cutting a rug will serve as the gif-able moment of the performance. --Sidney Madden

9:08 p.m. So far tonight, the Grammys have been a feel-good celebration of pop's current stylistic diversity, with a spirited version of "Despacito" — minus Justin Bieber — taking the prize for most enjoyable and politically resonant moment. Yet the issue that many thought would dominate — sexual harassment and gender inequity, via the #metoo and #timesup movements — has barely been noted. Many musicians are wearing white (or white roses), in a protest organized by record executives Meg Harkins and Karen Rait; but only Lady Gaga has uttered the words "Times up," and then only as an aside. One wonders if the music industry is yet able to face this issue fully and without a certain nervous dismissiveness. We're still waiting for that Kesha performance. --Ann Powers

9:04 p.m. If the Recording Academy televised the Best Comedy Album award in an attempt to give a nudge to some political commentary onstage, winner Dave Chappelle decided not to bite. He beat out Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Gaffigan, Sarah Silverman and Kevin Hart in the category, but it was award announcer Trevor Noah who nodded to President Trump's tweet to Jay Z earlier today, suggesting he's responsible for a record-low black unemployment rate after seeing Jay criticize his presidency during his interview on Van Jones' new CNN show last night.

Chappelle, who's received plenty of criticism himself this year over transphobic material in his recent Netflix specials, keep his acceptance super short. Guess he used his best political material tonight during Lamar's opening set. --Rodney Carmichael

9:00 p.m. Preceded by an awkwardly long New York-themed mini skit of "Carpool Karaoke" starring Sting, Shaggy and James Corden, the night's host, Bruno Mars and Cardi B revive the show's energy with their performance of "Finesse." Bruno proudly rocks his curly fro and drips in Cross Colors for the vigorous sing-and-dance routine. There's ever a brief choreo breakdown to House of Pain's "Jump Around." Hip-hop Cinderella Cardi B joins Bruno onstage in her own two piece ensemble.

Cardi lost out on Grammy gold earlier tonight to Kendrick Lamar in the categories of best rap performance and best rap song. Bruno's 24K Magic meanwhile is racking up gramophones — he's already won for best R&B album — and is still up for Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Song of the Year. — Sidney Madden

8:48 p.m. How does Dave Chappelle set up the biggest award of the night in the hip-hop category? By acknowledging the one group overlooked in the nomination process: A Tribe Called Quest. Q-Tip took to Instagram with some bitter words for the Recording Academy last November after the group's final album We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, completed after the death of Phife Dawg, failed to pick up any nods. The week of the album's premiere, Chappelle tag-teamed group members, hosting SNL while they performed.

And, in what's shaping up to be a sweep, Kendrick Lamar walks away with the trophy for Best Rap Album over fellow nominees Jay-Z, Rapsody, Tyler, the Creator and Migos. But he accepts it by tipping his hat to all of his influences — including Jay, Nas and Diddy (a.k.a. Love) — and the culture at large, before putting his win in perspective. "It's about expressing yourself and putting paint on the canvas for the world to evolve for the next listener and the next generation. Hip-hop has done that for me," he said. "This trophy's for hip-hop; that's real talk. Jay for president!" --Rodney Carmichael

8:40 p.m. Pink has made her mark at awards shows with astounding acrobatic acts, but for her performance of the nominated ballad "Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken," she kept her feet firmly on the ground. Dressed in a simple white t-shirt and jeans, she delivered the piano-driven power ballad with characteristic dignity and grace — a throwback, in a way, to her tear-inducing 2010 masterpiece "F*****' Perfect — adding only one theatrical flourish: a moment of sharing the spotlight with the song's ASL interpreter. Her lovely performance earned a standing ovation from many, including her young daughter, in the audience with her husband Carey Hart. --Ann Powers

8:32 p.m. Donald Glover, a.k.a. Childish Gambino, is a rapper, except when he's not. Like tonight, when he performed "Terrified" from his hit album Awaken, My Love. Looking every bit like the young Lando Calrissian — the role first portrayed in Star Wars by Billy Dee Williams — he dripped honeyed falsettos all over the stage. Despite Awaken being a funk album, he's still being considered as one of the many rap artists nominated across categories tonight. He was joined onstage by a young crooner. We'll call him Lando Calrissian III for now. --Rodney Carmichael

8:25 p.m. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee are beaming on that Grammys stage during their performance of "Despacito" — and not just because Daddy Yankee's chains are blinding. The Puerto Rican singer and rapper take over the Garden with a gang of multicultural dancers, proving that the Spanish-language smash hit truly has global appeal. Mid-performance, the duo are joined onstage by Puerto Rican beauty queen Zuleyka Rivera, who adds an extra shot of sexiness to the set.

"Despacito" is up for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year. If the track wins in either category it will make history as the first Spanish-language track that win in the coveted "general field" categories. Dedos cruzados. --Sidney Madden

8:22 p.m. After performing, Batiste and Clark present Best Pop Solo Performance, which goes to Ed Sheeran for "Shape of You." Ed's not there to accept the award, which is probably just as well — if he'd had to give a speech, we'd probably have spent the whole time wondering what any of the four women he beat (Kesha, Kelly Clarkson, P!nk or Lady Gaga) would have said. --Jacob Ganz

8:18 p.m. In 2018, the Grammys are a long way from rock and roll's foundations, but two major losses this year led producer Ken Ehrlich to shine a spotlight on those early days. Uniting New Orleans jazzman (and Stephen Colbert Show bandleader) Jon Batiste with Texas blues wizard Gary Clark, Jr., a brief medley paid respect to Fats Domino, who died in October, and Chuck Berry, who passed in March. Quick and a little dirty — Batiste slightly flubbed the lyrics to Domino's "Ain't That A Shame" — the moment reminded us that rock and roll and its immediate source, rhythm and blues, can be just as fun when the spectacle's dialed down and its players have just plain fun. --Ann Powers

8:12 p.m. Following Alessia Cara's Best New Artist win, Terrence "Punch" Henderson, Top Dawg Entertainment's president and SZA's manager, threw a measured amount of Twitter shade.

"Hmmm. I seen this before. A few years ago. Then I also seen what happened after," Punch tweeted, alluding to the fact that SZA's labelmate Kendrick Lamar, lost in the same category back in 2014 to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. --Sidney Madden

8:08 p.m. Momentarily, it seemed like country superstar quartet Little Big Town was actually on top of the Empire State Building — Karen Fairchild's stilettos seemed like a particularly brave choice. It was just a set, though, apparently lifted from one of the recent Spiderman movies. That distraction didn't detract from a typically passionate performance from Fairchild, with her bandmates holding down the harmonies in typically classy fashion. Maybe now people beyond Nashville will recognize that "Better Man" — which won a Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group performance — is one of Swift's best recent songs, a tender but uncompromising call-out to a male wrongdoer that, in some subtle way, helped set the stage for this year's #metoo movement. --Ann Powers

8:05 p.m. Among an eclectic group of new faces, Alessia Cara, who dropped her debut album Four Pink Walls in 2015, is awarded best new artists, beating out Julia Michels, SZA, Lil Uzi Vert and Khalid. The 21-year-old Def Jam darling is known for her safe, self-accepting radio hits (think "Scars to Your Beautiful" and "Here") and will be performing "1-800-273-8255" with Logic and Khalid later in the evening.

In her acceptance speech, the cute and flustered Cara thanked the Recording Academy for not being about "popularity contests and number games," saying "everyone deserves the same shot." SZA was robbed. --Sidney Madden

7:58 p.m. I guess Sam Smith went for a white lab coat rather than a white rose? Also, he gets the Sings With Gospel Choir "Grammy Moment" tonight, to telegraph Soul. But let's not forget that Sam Smith is a Recording Academy — and commercial — favorite. His first album won four Grammys. But there is a serious lack of engagement with the cameras, and I'm guessing with the live audience at MSG, too. Who exactly was that performance for? --Anastasia Tsioulcas

7:54 p.m. Biggest Jay-Z highlight of the night? Unless he wins a big award as expected, we may have just seen it. Host James Corden recognized him from the stage for winning the pre-show Industry Icon Award. Jay notably turned down the offer to perform from his deeply personal 4:44 tonight, despite being heavily courted by the Recording Academy, according to the L.A. Times. Apparently, there were even plans to trace rap's legacy with a tribute starting with"Rapper's Delight" and ending with Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind." Instead, we got him chilling and smiling from the rows. --Rodney Carmichael

7:50 p.m. Kendrick Lamar and Rihanna claim the first (televised) award of the evening in the category best rap/sung performance for "Loyalty," off the rapper's DAMN. album. "She gassed me on my own song," Kendrick joked, giving a nod to RiRi. "This award is really for her." As of now, this puts Lamar's 2018 Grammy talley at four: He's already won for Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song and Best Music Video. --Sidney Madden

7:44 p.m. Take a shot if you made the "Bjork wants her swan dress back" joke the minute the lights went up on Lady Gaga's avian piano. What Gaga wants is your attention back: Having just released a new, subdued, stunning version of the title track to Joanne, she reminded people of the power of that song's message of compassion — sharing a few somber bars — before medley-izing into "A Million Reasons." Classy, not quite a total tearjerker but a classy moment from a pop star who deserves all the accolades for her musicianship. --Ann Powers

7:37 p.m. Surrounded by marching paratroopers, Kendrick Lamar opens the 60th Grammy Awards with an electrifying performance. Partway through, "This is a satire By Kendrick Lamar" flashes on a screen behind him, as Bono enters singing the hook to "XXX." from DAMN. Then Dave Chappelle interrupts the performance with some pointed commentary: "The only thing more frightening than watching a black man be honest in America, is being a black man in America." Then Kung-Fu Kenny does what he does best by killing, literally, the rest of his set. --Rodney Carmichael

7:30 p.m. As usual, the vast majority of the awards (75 out of 84) at this year's Grammys were handed out during an afternoon ceremony. NPR Music's team — that's me, Sidney Madden, Ann Powers, Rodney Carmichael and Anastasia Tsioulcas — will share updates on the nine awards, and all the performances, that are telecast on the prime time awards. --Jacob Ganz

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