Los Angeles: Women and rap triumphed at the Grammys on Sunday as female acts took home top prizes including album of the year and best new artist, and Childish Gambino made history when his hit "This Is America" became the first rap-based track to win record and song of the year.
Kacey Musgraves' country-pop release “Golden Hour" won album of the year, and British singer Dua Lipa won best new artist, a year after female voices were somewhat muted at the 2018 ceremony and the Grammys were criticised for the low number of female nominees.
Six women were nominated for best new artist and five of the eight album-of-the-year nominees were women, including Brandi Carlile, who described herself as "a kid from the '90s from Lilith Fair."
"Tonight gives me hope as a mother of two young daughters," said Carlile, who won three honours in the Americana category and was the most nominated women with six. Musgraves and Gambino were the night's top winners, taking home four awards each. "This Is America" also won best music video and best rap/sung performance.
Ludwig Goransson, who co-wrote and produced Gambino's song, said he was surprised a rap song had never won in the past. "If you listen to the radio or if just you watch our culture or look at the most downloaded and streamed artists and bought albums, you see what's at the top and what people listen to and you see what people get inspired by. It's about time something like this happened," he said backstage.
Gambino's historic win comes years after rappers have struggled to win in the top categories, including Jay-Z, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar. Drake, who has lost in the big four categories over the years, told the room of musicians that winning awards isn't necessary if you have real fans attending your concerts and singing your songs.
"Look, if there are people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain and the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don't need this right here. I promise you. You already won," said Drake, who won best rap song for “God's Plan."
The Grammys kicked off with a group of powerful women, including Michelle Obama, describing the role of music in their lives. “Music has always helped me tell my story," said Obama, who surprised the audience with her appearance. "Whether we like country or rap or rock, music helps us share ourselves. It allows us to hear one another."
Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith and Jennifer Lopez also spoke and stood in solidary with Obama, Gaga and Alicia Keys, who hosted the show. "Yes, ladies," Keys said. "There's nothing better than this."
At the 2018 Grammys, male acts dominated in nominations, and the only woman competing for the top award, Lorde, did not get a chance to perform onstage. Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow, who last year said women need to "step up" and later acknowledged that it was a "poor choice of words," seemed to address his 2018 comments during Sunday's show.
"This past year I've been reminded that if coming face to face with an issue opens your eyes wide enough, it makes you more committed than ever to help address those issues. The need for social change has been the hallmark of the American experience, from the founding of our country to the complex times we live in today," said Portnow, who did not seek a renewal on his contract, which ends this year.