Sometimes there’s so much bad news that it’s wonderful to have a reason to celebrate, and in a weekend marred by Kobe Bryant’s death, the scandal surrounding the Recording Academy’s controversial ouster of president/CEO Deborah Dugan, presidential impeachment proceedings and more depressing stuff, the music business managed to push back the clouds and throw down on Grammy night, following a week of warmup events. Read on for all the action offstage.
Meek Mill/TIDAL Party at Neuehouse
Meek Mill’s “Championships” brought the rapper his first Grammy nomination ever, after nearly two decades in the game. That achievement was celebrated Wednesday night at a party hosted by TIDAL and featuring Dolby Atmos sound technology. Meek delivered a standout set that included both new and classic cuts including his Drake-assisted hit “Going Bad,” “Uptown,” “1942 Flows,” “House Party,” and 2012’s timeless “Dreams and Nightmares.” (Shirley Ju)
BMG Party at the Troubadour
The annual BMG Pre-Grammy bash at the fabled Troubadour was enlivened by the surprise appearance of “Old Town Road” three-time-nominee Billy Ray Cyrus, who stepped onstage in the middle of Calgary country singer/songwriter Lindsay Ell’s set to perform his new version of Neil Diamond’s “I Am… I Said.” Set to be released as part of an EP, Cyrus explained it was seeing the legendary entertainer 40 years ago in concert that inspired him to pursue music rather than a career as a pro baseball player. Joking about his German accent, BMG evp repertoire and marketing Thomas Scherer served as a host for the evening, which also included short sets by the publishing/rights management company’s Grammy-nominated artists Jesse Reyez, India.Arie and the red-hot Lewis Capaldi.
Reyez, nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album, quieted the chatty crowd with her mesmerizing version of Patsy Cline’s Willie Nelson-penned “Crazy,” before delivering the powerful – and apt, considering the week’s events – “Gatekeeper,” her song about the difficulties for a young woman breaking into the music industry. Veteran Arie praised BMG for allowing her to rebound from being dropped by Motown to pursue her creative vision, underlined by a rousing gospel singalong version of the title track from “Worthy,” which also produced a Grammy nomination for “Steady Love” in the best traditional R&B performance category.
Before Cyrus, the evening’s highlight was self-effacing Scottish crooner Lewis Capaldi, who joked about his nipples and status as a one-hit wonder before breaking into that hit, a mesmerizing take on his song of the year candidate, “Someone You Loved,” as the likes of BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch, Bug Music president/BMG evp David Hirshland, attorney and author Don Passman, Cameron Crowe, Bebe Rexha, Akon, songwriter Desmond Child, Andy Grammer, Gavin Rossdale, Lindsey Stirling, Larkin Poe, “Echoes in the Canyon” director Andy Slater and songwriter Lauren Christy looked on. (Roy Trakin)
Warner Music Group Party at Hollywood Athletic Club
Seemingly every genre was represented at Warner Music Group’s pre-Grammy party on Thursday night, which attracted couples (Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani, Ashlee Simpson and Evan Ross, Ava Max and Cirkut) making a date night out of it, hip-hop heavyweights (Ty Dolla $ign and Wiz Khalifa, who blew clouds of fragrant smoke at photographers in the press room) plus Bebe Rexha and Charlie Puth. Read a full recap of the event, which featured performances by Lizzo and Burna Boy.
Rocketman Pre-Grammy Celebration at Verse
Verse, the new Toluca Lake restaurant opened by Grammy-winning mixer Manny Marroquin, played host to a celebration of the movie “Rocketman,” nominated for best compilation soundtrack for visual media. The Paramount Pictures event featured Dexter Fletcher, Giles Martin, Randy Spendlove and Diane Warren (pictured below, from left) along with Laura Leighton, songwriter Siedah Garrett, Incubus frontman Brandon Boyd and composer Pinar Toprak.
Young Thug’s YSL at Beauty & Essex
With so many Friday night party choices, Young Thug’s YSL celebration was among the most coveted Grammy Week invites. Short for the Young Stoner label, Thugger’s home to Gunna, Lil Keed, Lil Duke and more, the evening celebrated the “Grammy Family.” That included the 2020 Grammy-nominated hip-hop labels Quality Control, Nipsey Hussle’s All Money In and DaBaby’s Billion Dollar Baby Entertainment.
While the Atlanta rapper won a Grammy in 2019 for his contributions on Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” this year Thug is nominated again, for best rap/sung Performance for “The London” featuring J. Cole and Travis Scott. The song’s music video hails over 111 million views in less than one year.
The line to get into Beauty & Essex in Hollywood did not let up the entire evening, as DJ Huneycut set the vibe inside. At midnight, Future pulled up in his all-black, matte Rolls Royce truck and ran into Birdman who was heading out. Thug was joined by Gunna, Megan Thee Stallion, Kash Doll, Shy Glizzy, Casanova, London On Da Track, PnB Rock and many more throughout the evening. (Ju)
Roc Nation Brunch at Undisclosed Location
Held high above Beverly Hills, Roc Nation hosted staff, clients, family members and friends to its annual ultra-exclusive brunch. Among the most coveted invites during Grammy week, the event is meticulously curated, from the flowers to the color scheme to the food and certainly the guest list. Jay-Z and Beyonce arrived a couple hours into the event, wearing a mauve and baby blue combination and holding court from a corner banquet. Rihanna showed up late as the party was winding down, but in time to snap a photo with T.I. One particularly wonderful moment was when Kevin Hart led a champagne toast among a group of men that included Jay-Z, Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs, Dave Chappelle, DK Khaled and John Legend. Also taking in the view were Lana Del Rey, Jhené Aiko, Clarence Avant and his son Alex (pictured at top), rappers Big Sean, Chance the Rapper, Quavo, Saweetie, G-Eazy and Machine Gun Kelly, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, among others.
Jonas Brothers Citi Sound Vault Concert at Hollywood Palladium
The Wammys at Dirty Laundry
“Clive Davis is not here, but that doesn’t matter,” said Butch Walker before launching into a scorchingly cool version of Tom Petty’s “American Girl.” The Wammys is an informally festive evening of rock ‘n’ roll heaven hosted by Dark Horse Records Dhani Harrison and his manager David Zonshine, Jim Merlis and Ken Weinstein from Big Hassle Media and BMG. The annual gathering again featured Alex Levy (The Best Fest) and his Cabin Down Below Band as the house band, which paid tribute to The Traveling Wilburys, with selections by Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, ELO’s Jeff Lynne and Harrison. “They are going to crank for you for five hours,” promised Harrison.
Highlights included a surprise appearance by Richard Marx, who donned glasses and strapped on a guitar for note perfect rendering of Petty’s “Running Down a Dream,” Blur guitarist Graham Coxon breaking out The Beatles “Taxman” in honor of Harrison, singer-songwriter LP giving an absolutely heartbreaking interpretation of Orbison’s “It’s Over,” Jakob Dylan’s gritty ode to Petty’s “The Waiting,” Charlie Sexton, Lukas Nelson and harpist Danny Clinch’s bluesy “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” Perry Farrell, dressed in a dapper shirt and vest, bucked the trend with Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman” before returning to the theme with his wife, Etty Lau Farrell and taking vocals for “I Drove All Night.”
Lest you think Lynne was getting the short shrift, Harrison paid tribute to with “Wild West Hero,” a deep cut from ELO’s “Out of the Blue” album. Nelson was then called back to the stage for double duty, returning for Petty’s “You Don’t Know How it Feels,” much to the delight of the audience. But it was the man of mystery, Weird Al Yankovic, who mesmerized the crowd with a goofy and perfect “Breakdown” before cranking it with a sweetly satisfying treat of The Beatles “Savoy Truffle,” accompanied by Conan O’Brien house band leader Jimmy Vivino on guitar (“He has one more lick to play! Can he do it?” joked Yankovic on the solo).
The evening also included Heartbreaker Steve Ferrone joining Grammy-nominated sister act Larkin Poe for a bluesy “Honey Bee,” Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Elliot Easton of The Cars getting loose with Sam Stewart and vocalist Mereki for Harrison’s “Wah Wah,” Jon Russell harkening to the MTV era with “You Got Lucky,” Zelia Day nailing Orbison’s inflections for “You Got It,” and Lisa Loeb. Walker and Jewel paid tribute to Harrison with “Here Comes the Sun,” and capped off the night with the whole ensemble joining in for “Handle With Care.” (Michele Amabile Angermiller)
CAA Party at Sunset Room
Over at the CAA pre-Grammy bash at the Sunset Room in Hollywood, Beck and Leon Bridges, were seen dancing together (or at least next to each other) and Kehlani, Maggie Rogers, Ben Platt, Becky G, Benny Blanco, Lil Dicky, Este Haim, Jordin Sparks and more rocked it.
Leon Bridges and Beck dance at the CAA Grammy Party at Sunset Room in Hollywood, CA on Saturday, January 25, 2020. (photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages)
Universal Music Group Afterparty at Rolling Green
Top Grammy winner — and Variety‘s Hitmaker of the Year — Billie Eilish was obviously the evening’s top guest, and she roared through Universal’s tastefully lavish afterparty at Downtown LA’s Rolling Green (a garden store transformed into a sprawling event space), hitting the red carpet and then a VIP area and bouncing in an impressively quick and efficient visit; she and Finneas were tailed by family members, handlers and the documentary film crew that’s been following her for three years — possibly getting some last-minute footage for the doc that’s coming later this year. The relatively brevity of their visit became clear later in the evening: Sources (ahem) say the Eilish inner circle gathered for their own small but raging afterparty at a small West Hollywood club, where the honorees, their family, close friends and extended team danced and celebrated way off into the night.
Also at the Universal shindig were Beck and his 14-year-old son Cosmo Henri, Lewis Capaldi, Maggie Rogers, Hailee Steinfeld, Heidi Klum, Chvrches, Kehlani, Trombone Shorty and Yungblud; UMG chairman/CEO (and newly minted Hollywood Walk of Fame honoree) Lucian Grainge, Recording Academy Task Force leader Tina Tchen — who we did not see but certainly would have had some questions for — and so many UMG execs that we’re not going to risk offense by excluding anyone…
(Pictured below, from left: Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge, Billie Eilish comanager Danny Rukasin, Eilish, Finneas and comanager Brandon Goodman)
Including the Republic Records executives who had to leave the UMG party early to hit their own party at 1 Hotel West Hollywood, where guests included Diplo, Hailee Steinfeld, Channing Tatum, Jessie J, Ski Mask the Slump God, Marshmello, Tinashe, Machine Gun Kelly, Jeremy Zucker, Kash Doll, Madison Beer, Noah Cyrus, Rich the Kid, Flava Flav, Gallant, Cash Money Records chiefs Slim And Baby.
Sony Music Group Afterparty at Neuehouse
Further east, Lil Nas X, Camila Cabello, H.E.R. and John Legend were among the artists to hit the Sony Music Group afterparty at Neuehouse Hollywood. There, CEO Rob Stringer, ever the affable host to the all-VIP affair, held court as label heads Ron Perry (Columbia), Sylvia Rhone (Epic) and Peter Edge (RCA) mingled. (Angermiller)
Steven Tyler’s Grammy Viewing Party Raleigh Studios
Earlier in the day, across town at Raleigh Studios in Hollywood, before Aerosmith took the stage at the Grammy Awards frontman Steven Tyler stopped by his third annual Grammy viewing party, which raised more than $2.4 million for Janie’s Fund (an initiative created by the singer in partnership with Youth Villages to benefit underage victims of sexual abuse and trafficking).
Tyler took the opportunity, on the day of Bryant’s death, to get unusually philosophical to Variety. “Life is short even on the strongest day,” he said. “Today is full of a lot of sorrow and it’s also full of a lot of life that can be turned around, and miracles happen.”
But even here, the disconnect between the Bryant tragedy and the Grammy celebration seemed to cast some weird vibes. The weirdest, by far, was the complete blackout that hit the event just after 8 p.m., which meant that the attendees missed a chunk of the show. After it was clear the blackout would last longer than a few minutes, waiters served dessert in the dark while event workers handed out multi-colored glow sticks to cast some light on the dark dining room. Then to cap off the weirdness of the evening, announced headliner Pitbull was, according to reports, unable to travel to L.A., so Gavin DeGraw stepped in to save the day by performing songs such as “Chariot” and “In Love With a Girl” with help from Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt and the Struts’ Luke Spiller.
Despite the unusual bumps in the night, the event featured a lot of fun moments as well, including the hero’s reception Tyler received coming back to the party, where he helped kick off the live auction, after the Grammy performance, which not surprisingly was a hit with the crowd.
“All I can say is my heart explodes, truly,” Tyler told Variety. “I’ve written songs and played them [at the event] for an audience for the first time. I feel like this is a hell of a chorus, Janie’s Fund, and of course we get this power from being around as long as we have. It does nothing but make your heart feel so good that you can save a life” …