Rap luminary Kendrick Lamar was the big winner at the 58th Grammy Awards on Monday night, but he was denied an album of the year trophy by Taylor Swift, who prevailed for her smash hit “1989.”
Swift and Kendrick were competitors in this year’s Grammy race but also collaborators who shared the best music video award for “Bad Blood.”
Accepting the top award for her late-2014 album, Swift noted that she is the lone woman to receive the honor twice; she collected the trophy for “Fearless” in 2010. Echoing the focus across the entertainment industry on diversity and inclusion, Swift struck a feminist note, urging young female artists to focus on hard work and pursuing goals without allowing others to “take credit” or discourage them.
“Someday when you get where you’re going, you’ll look around and know that it was you and the people who loved you who put you there,” Swift said. Her remarks were widely interpreted as a response to Kanye West. West’s newly released album “The Life of Pablo” includes the song “Famous,” which posits that he helped make her famous with his much talked-about interruption of her acceptance speech at MTV’s 2009 VMA Awards.
Earlier in the day, during the Grammys’ pre-telecast Premiere Ceremony, “1989” also received kudos as best pop vocal album.
Lamar drew a total of five statuettes. He swept up four awards (including the collaboration with Swift) at the afternoon ceremony, and continued his roll with the first award of the night, reaping best rap album for his widely lauded collection “To Pimp a Butterfly.”
The rapper – whose statuette was presented by Compton homeboy Ice Cube and son O’Shea Jackson Jr. (who played his father in the N.W.A biopic “Straight Outta Compton”) — thanked his family and fellow rappers, declaring, “This for hip-hop.”
However, the loss of Lamar’s widely acclaimed album “To Pimp a Butterfly” to Swift’s bestselling pop opus will likely re-awaken criticism of the Recording Academy’s voting membership, which has consistently declined to hand top honors uncompromising rap in the general-field categories.
Producer-musician Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” the radio ubiquity featuring singer Bruno Mars, was named record of the year. The award was shared by a platoon of producers and engineers that included Jeff Bhasker, who also drew non-classical producer of the year honors.
Meghan Trainor tearfully accepted the best new artist award. Her album “Title” reached No. 1 in 2015, and contained four hit singles, including her breakthrough “All About That Bass,” nominated for Grammys as record and song of the year in 2015. She attained success as a performer after working as a songwriter in her teens.
English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran was the dark-horse winner for song of the year with “Thinking Out Loud,” co-written with Amy Wadge. At the afternoon ceremony, former best new artist nominee Sheeran – who noted he had come up empty at the Grammys the previous three years – won best pop solo performance for the same number.
Chris Stapleton, 2015’s breakthrough country artist, followed up his afternoon win for best country performance by receiving the best country album trophy for his album “Traveller.” Stapleton came into his own last year after paying dues as a hit-crafting songwriter and working with the bluegrass band the Steeldrivers, who also collected a Grammy on Monday.
Alabama Shakes succeeded two afternoon wins by receiving the award for best rock performance, for “Don’t Wanna Fight,” which they also performed during the ceremony. The number earlier was recognized as best rock song, while the group’s sophomore set “Sound & Color” scored the best alternative music album trophy.
Even by past standards, this year’s Grammys ceremony, hosted by LL Cool J at Staples Center, was performance-heavy and awards-light: Only eight of the 83 awards were handed out during the nighttime show, an all-time low. The rest were dispensed at the early afternoon ceremony held at the Nokia Theatre.
Tribute programming abounded in the wake of a spate of recent music-biz mortalities. Saluting the late Glenn Frey, who died in January, surviving Eagles members Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Joe Walsh, Steuart Smith and Timothy B. Schmitt were joined by the band’s longtime friend and collaborator Jackson Browne. The ensemble performed the group’s first single and hit “Take It Easy,” co-authored by Browne and Frey.
Taking the stage with a crimson coiffure inspired by David Bowie’s early look, Lady Gaga – an Oscar nominee for best original song this year — paid splashy homage to the many incarnations of Bowie, another January passing, with a medley of 10 of his best-known songs. She was joined by guitarist-producer Nile Rodgers, producer of Bowie’s 1983 album “Let’s Dance.”
Stevie Wonder and a cappella unit Pentatonix saluted Earth, Wind & Fire leader Maurice White with a rendition of the group’s signature song “That’s the Way of the World.” EWF – whose surviving members presented the album of the year trophy — was honored with a 2016 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, announced before White’s death on Feb. 4.
The debut TV appearance by Hollywood Vampires (the collective featuring Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp, Guns ‘N Roses’ Duff McKagan and Matt Sorum and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry) was capped by a noisy slice of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”; the English band’s front man Lemmy Kilmister died on Dec. 28. Introducing the performance, the ubiquitous Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters paid tribute to Lemmy and his recently deceased band mate Phil Taylor, saying, “Lemmy was rock ‘n’ roll.”
Pop/R&B luminary Lionel Richie, this year’s MusiCares Person of the Year honoree, received a cross-genre tribute in a medley featuring Trainor, John Legend, Demi Lovato, Luke Bryan, Tyrese Gibson. Richie himself stepped from the audience and joined the ensemble for his “All Night Long.”
The top nominees all garnered tube time. Swift opened the show with her “1989” track “Out of the Woods,” stepping into the middle of the audience for an in-the-round climax on a small circular stage. Pop/R&B star the Weeknd sang a medley of his hits “Can’t Feel My Face” and “In the Night.” On a jailhouse set, and later in front of an enormous onstage bonfire, Lamar did a highly theatrical, show-stopping reading of the “To Pimp a Butterfly” tracks “The Blacker the Berry” and “Alright.”
Stapleton, who was also up for album of the year, joined Bonnie Raitt and Texas blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr. for “The Thrill is Gone,” in tribute to blues legend B.B. King, who died last May.
Brit pop vocalist Adele, a likely big winner at next year’s ceremony, returned to the Grammys stage to perform “All I Ask,” a track from her mega-hit album “25,” which has sold more than 8 million units since its November release. The singer, who performed a fans-only show at the Wiltern Theatre on Feb. 12, visibly struggled to hit some of her notes as she also grappled with a microphone glitch at the outset of her performance. She has sold out six August shows at Staples Center.
During the telecast, CBS late-night host (and two-time Grammy winner) Stephen Colbert introduced a number from the hit musical “Hamilton,” performed live on the stage of New York’s Richard Rodgers Theatre and remote-aired. Later in the show, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s historical tuner collected the trophy for best musical theater album; the network cut to a live presentation at the Gotham theater.
Rihanna, scheduled for an on-stage performance, cancelled at the last minute. A statement from the singer’s physician said she had been prescribed 48 hours of vocal rest after her rehearsal on Monday afternoon and was at risk of hemorrhaging her vocal cords.
In an only-in-LA mishap, hip-hop star Lauryn Hill had been expected to perform with the Weeknd on the telecast but didn’t get back to the downtown L.A. venue in time for the show. Hill’s representatives issued a statement asserting that the artist never confirmed her appearance on the telecast, but that was challenged during the backstage remarks by Recording Academy chief Neil Portnow.
“She came to dress rehearsal this morning, left the building and then did not make it back in time to make the show,” Portnow said. “It was unfortunate for us, unfortunate for her. We were ready up until the moment of the downbeat of that performance to have her on the show.”
Andrew Barker contributed to this report.