Bruno Mars, Kendrick Lamar and Time’s Up Movement Dominate the 2018 Grammy Awards

Airing live from New York’s Madison Square Garden, the 60th Annual Grammy Awards took place on Sunday night to a packed house of industry insiders and music fans alike. Hosted by James Corden, this year’s event was rife with extravagant performances and a diverse list of nominees. Corden made a note of this by joking about being the least diverse host amongst the most diverse lineup in Grammy history.

Kendrick Lamar opened the ceremony with a stunning melody of songs from his 2017 album “DAMN.” including “XXX.” alongside The Edge and Bono and “DNA.” As always, Lamar opened eyes with his sharp cultural critiques showing his dancers, donning red hoodies, getting shot one by one and falling to the ground. He wore a kung fu outfit, hair in a samurai bun, personifying his Kung Fu Kenny alter-ego as the crowd enjoyed brief “interruptions” from Dave Chappelle speaking words of encouragement to his creative counterpart on the other side of the stage. Lamar took his seat soon after, only to quickly return to the stage to receive the first award of the night with Best Rap/Sung Performance for he and Rihanna’s “LOYALTY.” Lamar would go on Best Rap Album, giving shouts out to MCs who came before him including Jay-Z. “Jay for President,” he shouted with a smile before leaving the stage.

Performances dominated the night. Lady Gaga gave a sentimental rendition of “Million Reasons” which went from strictly acoustic to a swelling orchestra crescendo. Sam Smith followed with an equally impressive performance with his latest single “Pray.” Adding to the multitude of performances was Childish Gambino with “Terrified.” Diverse performances continued to lead the night as Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee performed their worldwide record-breaking single “Despacito.” Rihanna and Bryson Tiller performed together for the Latin-inspired “Wild Thoughts” while DJ Khaled did what he does best, hype the crowd. Eric Church, The Brothers Osbourne and Maren Morris honored those that were killed at the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival shooting this past year by performing Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven.” After the recent announcement of his final tour, Elton John, joined by Miley Cyrus, took to the Grammy stage to perform “Tiny Dancer.”

Janelle Monae used the stage to represent the Time’s Up movement. Before demanding a fix to the absurd gender pay gap, frequent harassment and abuse of power by men in the music industry and beyond, Monae introduced Kesha. Bebe Rexha, Julia Michaels, Rihanna, Camilla Cabello and Cyndi Lauper stood by her side wearing white roses – this year’s symbol for equality – as she sang her 2017 hit “Praying.” The performance felt like a truly uniting moment for the women on-stage, as many appeared to hold back tears.

Cabello followed the performance to speak on the equally relevant issue of immigration. As she herself is a dreamer, someone hailing from Puerto Rico whose parents immigrated here illegally. Tying into the issue was her introduction to U2, a band who went on to perform “Get Out of Your Own Way” on a makeshift stage in front of the Statue of Liberty.

In sticking with political statements, Hillary Clinton made an appearance in a skit lead by Corden wherein herself, along with other celebrities, “auditioned” for the audio book voiceover gig for Michael Wolf’s shocking book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.” Though not televised, the actual award for Best Spoken Word Album went to the late Carrie Fisher for her book “The Princess Diarist.”

Rapper Logic closed down all performances with his Grammy nominated single “1-800-273-8255” with Alessia Cara and Khalid. He ended the song with an impassioned speech praising diversity and unity saying, “For together, we can build not just a better country but a world that is destined to be united.”

The highest honor of the night came with Bruno Mars’ acceptance of the Album of the Year award for “24K Magic.” The album also gave Mars the award for Record of the Year and Song of the Year for his single “That’s What I Like.” Mars also came with arguably one of the most lively performance of the evening on “Finesse” joined by newly donned rap sensation Cardi B.

The Best New Artist category saw a shocked Alessia Cara win, who said she’s been pretend-receiving Grammy Awards since she was a young girl, as she beat out Khalid, SZA and other notable newcomers.

Chris Stapleton followed in the wake of his CMA and Billboard Award wins with a Grammy for Best Country Album for “From A Room: Volume 1.” Stapleton also went on to perform a tribute to the recently deceased Tom Petty with a cover of “Wildflowers” with Emmylou Harris.

Best Comedy Album went to Dave Chappelle, the man whose comeback to the comedy scene was not only highly publicized through his numerous Netflix specials but through his ever-eager fans.

Even though they played it safe on the wins, the Grammys showed through its nominations and performances that not only are they better off by being as inclusive and diverse as possible, but the music industry as a whole will be infinitely better with more music and artists from diverse backgrounds. Dreamers, women, people of color, young artists and legends alike made this year’s Grammy event one to remember.

The 60th Annual Grammy Awards took place on Jan. 28 at Madison Square Garden in New York City and aired on CBS.