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The 61st annual Grammy Awards on Sunday worked to right the wrongs of the past few years’ ceremonies, where the leading narrative was tension over a lack of diversity and poor representation for the most influential young artists in music.
Big stars still stayed home — and one of the biggest got cut off mid-speech — but the show corralled a former first lady and delivered many messages of inspirational uplift.
Her first appearance, to perform her song “Rainbow,” betrayed some nerves. let loose more expansive, ever more soulful melismas.
As part of the Dolly Parton tribute, Musgraves’s hair had gotten bigger but she was still muscled over by a vocally pushy Katy Perry on “Here You Come Again.” By the time she took center stage to accept the show’s final award, though, having won best country album and then beaten out pop stars like Drake, Cardi B and Kendrick Lamar for the top all-genre prize, the Grammys had come to her, and Musgraves delivered a simple, effective moment of gratitude that showed just how easy she is to root for. R., the shades-wearing singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who won the Grammy for best R&B album, summoned echoes of Prince and “Purple Rain” with reverberating chords from her electric guitar as she sang “Hard Place.” Singers and a string section gathered onstage as the song moved into a gospel-charged crescendo and H. She wasn’t done until she had flaunted some wailing lead guitar and then eased the song back down, with poised dynamics at every moment — the kind of real-time musicianship the Grammys still hope to reward.
In a room used to having the air sucked out of it by all sorts of try-hards and egomaniacs, Musgraves just let it breathe. PARELESLet’s say up front that Jennifer Lopez is a genuinely versatile talent — a spectacular dancer, an underrated actress, a person who sings.
There are numerous ways she could have enlivened any number of parts of the Grammys this year, or any other year. COSCARELLISome Grammy performances have little to do with music in itself.
Her performance of “The Joke,” a defiant anthem about tolerance, was genuinely startling (and vastly superior to the album version).
Carlile’s vocals were robust, ragged, full of sneer and hope.
Lopez did not appear to be singing live at any point during her six-minute-plus performance, to the chagrin of many online, and perhaps also to any of the dozens of R&B singers who could have handled these songs with verve and power. Cyrus came to play on Sunday, joining Shawn Mendes to make an unnecessary (sleeveless) duet a true power ballad, and then appearing again for a tribute to her godmother, Dolly Parton. 1 hits, turns 75 in March and is still touring this year.
Her set of plush banquets evoked vintage glitz, but 20 dancers doing floor work, four more waving large fans and a flamboyant pianist — Chloe Flower — couldn’t steal attention from the main attraction.
When she returned to the stage to accept the award for best rap album, she had switched modes: from swagger to heart.
But she still ended the show on a note of grander uplift: “Let’s keep listening and loving each other.” CARYN GANZ[Flanked by younger admirers for a patchwork tribute, Dolly Parton easily held her own, with her voice still twangy, feathery and persuasive.
The start was shaky: Kacey Musgraves too tentative and Katy Perry too vehement before Parton righted the tone of “Here You Come Again.” Miley Cyrus made an admiring rival in “Jolene,” and Cyrus shared three-part a cappella harmony with Parton and Maren Morris in “After the Gold Rush,” a Neil Young song Parton has recorded with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris.