Every year, the Grammy Awards lean heavily on performances during its marathon telecast, and with a lineup including Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Shawn Mendes, Janelle Monae, Cardi B and Katy Perry, the 61st annual ceremony was primed to dazzle.
But at the three-hour Premiere Ceremony when the majority of the awards are unveiled - 75 of the 84 categories – it quickly became clear that women and Georgians would have a robust year.
Brandi Carlile, the most nominated female artist this year with six, won her first trio of awards, for best American roots performance and best American roots song for “The Joke” and best Americana album for “By the Way, I Forgive You.”
“I’m violently shaking right now,” she said after receiving the first trophy. Carlile spoke endearingly about Americana music being “the island of the misfit toys.”
“I am this misfit. It is this music that shaped my life and has given me my family,” she said. “I came out of the closet at 15 years old, when I was in high school, and I can assure you I was never invited to any parties. I never got to attend a dance. To be embraced by this enduring and loving community has been the dance of a lifetime. Thank you for being my island.”
Also during the early ceremony, Lady Gaga picked up her first pair of trophies, garnering early attention for her “A Star is Born” power ballad with Bradley Cooper, “Shallow” (best song written for visual media), as well as her pre-movie career life with “Joanne (Where Do You Think You’re Goin’?)” (best pop solo performance).
Country darling Kacey Musgraves, nominated for four Grammys, was crowned with two early wins for best country song (“Space Cowboy”) and best country solo performance (“Butterflies”). Musgraves is among the eight nominees for the prestigious album of the year, which would be awarded late Sunday night.
In the Georgia spotlight, former President Jimmy Carter earned a nod for best spoken word album for “Faith – A Journey for All.” Carter is now the only former president to score three Grammys (Bill Clinton and Barack Obama each have two). He also competed with a diverse lineup of nominees - Courtney B. Vance, David Sedaris, Questlove and Tiffany Haddish.
The revered humanitarian was not in attendance at the ceremony, which is held at the Los Angeles Convention Center, adjacent to the Staples Center where the televised awards take place.
Atlanta resident and Morehouse College graduate PJ Morton triumphed in the best traditional R&B performance with “How Deep is Your Love,” featuring Yebba.
Morton, who juggles a solo career with playing keyboards in Maroon 5, said backstage that in hindsight, he’s pleased the band decided to play the Super Bowl halftime show.
“The reason we do this and do music is to make people happy and play music. I think that’s the only time I’ll be able to play in front of 100 million people at one time. And I’m glad we did the work in order to make it happen,” he said.
Childish Gambino (aka Stone Mountain native Donald Glover), won best rap/sung performance for “This is America” and factored in award for best music video for the song’s visceral visual accompaniment.
Gambino’s victory in the rap/sung category meant a loss for fellow Atlantan 21 Savage, who was also nominated with Post Malone (“Rockstar”). The young rapper wouldn’t have been able to attend the ceremony since being jailed after his arrest last weekend for allegedly being in the U.S. illegally.
21 Savage and Post Malone were also nominated for record of the year, to be awarded later in the show.
Also representing the state, Atlanta rapper Future scored a nod with Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock and James Blake in the best rap performance category for “King’s Dead.”
And the John Daversa Big Band, featuring DACA artists with strong connections to Georgia, won all three of its nominated categories.
The selection “Stars and Stripes Forever” won for best arrangement, instrument or a capella; “Don’t Fence Me In” for best improvised jazz solo; and “American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom,” for best large jazz ensemble album.
Daversa, a jazz musician, composer and chairman of the Studio Music and Jazz Department at the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, thanked Atlanta-based Kabir Sehgal, who co-produced and played bass on the album.
Backstage, Daversa expounded on their collaboration.
“I had been wanting to make music that has deep purpose and meaning. As a musician, I know how to make music. Kabir and I have been talking about doing a project together and this issue was something I was reading about in the newspaper and it was on his mind as well,” Daversa said. “It seemed a natural fit to see if we could create a poetic statement that could bring the spotlight to this issue.”
Atlanta’s William Ferris, April and Steven Lance Ledbetter and Michael Graves won best historical album for “Voices of the Mississippi: Artists and Musicians Documented.”
Ferris explained the genesis of the project: “I grew up on a farm in Mississippi. My family were the only whites there and as a child, I started going to a black church and learned the hymns. (As) I grew older, I realized there were no hymns in the church and when the families were gone, the music would be gone…We created what I believe are the crown jewels of my career.”