February was a big awards month for the music industry, with the Grammy Awards on 12 February followed by the BRIT Awards on 22 February. Paying tribute to great musical losses of 2016 and denoting the current political climate in the US were the highlights of the award nights this year.
Adele was the big winner of the 2017 Grammy Awards with back-to-back wins for album of the year and record of the year, but used her final moments on stage to salute Beyoncé and her monumental album, Lemonade. Beyoncé stunned with the night’s most talked-about performance with a spiritual performance of “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles”, dressed as a golden goddess surrounded with female dancers, dressed in white with golden tiaras. Her Grammy appearance was much-anticipated as she announced being pregnant with twins two weeks before the big night. Although Beyoncé stayed relatively still during her performance, she pulled a stunt where she sat on a chair that tilted back precariously, defying gravity. Beyoncé, the most Grammy-nominated artist, walked away with only one award – the prize for Best Urban Contemporary Album.
A number of prominent musicians skipped this year’s Grammy Awards in protest over a lack of diversity among its nominees and awardees including Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Drake, and Justin Bieber – who were all nominated for this year’s awards except Franc Ocean who didn’t even submit his 2016 albums for Grammy consideration.
However, viewership for this year’s Grammy Awards rose with an average of about 26 million viewers, about a million more than last year’s ceremony. This is attributed to the performances of Beyoncé, Adele and Bruno Mars.
The BRIT Awards
At the BRIT Awards, Adele and Beyoncé relegated to smaller roles. The late David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, took home the highest honor for the top British Album of the Year as well as British Male Solo Artist. English singer, songwriter and actor, David Bowie, died on 10 January 2016. His son, Duncan Jones, accepted the award and dedicated it to “all the kooks and all the people who make the kooks.” David Bowie also took two awards at the Grammy Awards 2017 – Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance.
Adele won the prestigious Global Success Award for her successful album 25 – which sold over 20 million copies worldwide. Since she didn’t attend the BRIT Awards, she sent a video acceptance speech. Beyoncé won International Female Solo Artist but did not attend the ceremony or provide a video message accepting the honor.
The George Michael and Prince tributes
English singer, songwriter and producer, George Michael, died at the age of 53 on Christmas Day, 25 December 2016. Both the Grammys and BRIT Awards paid tribute to the pop superstar and philanthropist who rose to fame as a member of the music duo, Wham.
At the BRIT Awards, the remaining three members of Wham took the stage and paid a tribute to the late Michael with a moving speech about their former bandmate. The speech was then followed by a musical tribute by Coldplay’s Chris Martin, who honored the late singer with a touching performance of Wham’s “A Different Corner”. The performance turned into a duet with Michael singing on a big stage screen behind Martin. Clips of Michael were displayed throughout the performance. We even get a glimpse of the late Prince in the stage’s screen. The music industry’s biggest losses in 2016 were the deaths of George Michael and Prince.
Prince Rogers Nelson was an American singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, philanthropist and record producer, who passed away on 21 April 2016. The Time and Bruno Mars honored Prince with a thrilling and funky tribute at the Grammys. It started with Prince’s protégé band the Time playing two of its own hits, “Jungle Love” and “The Bird,” songs Prince wrote with them and largely recorded himself. Then Bruno Mars arrived to play “Let’s Go Crazy” like a Prince Tribute band, with Prince’s signature costume, the purple jacket and ruffled shirt, and equipment, a white guitar with a long appendage.
At the Grammys, Adele delivered an emotionally fraught tribute to George Michael with a cover of his 1996 song, “Fastlove.” Backed by a full orchestra, Adele’s performance got off to a rocky start as the singer stopped a quarter of the way, swore, apologized and began again. On her second go, Adele delivered a stunning revamped version of “Fastlove”.
Katy Perry takes the lead on bringing politics to both the Grammys and BRIT Awards, debuting her new single, “Chained to the Rhythm”, featuring Skip Marley. At the Grammy, Hilary Clinton supporter, Katy Perry, appeared on stage with an armband that said “PERSIST”. The phrase has become common in the past few months from those opposed to President Donald Trump and his policies. Then right near the end of the performance, Perry and Skip Marley appeared with their hands raised in front of a backdrop with the words “We The People” and more from the United States constitution. The singer yelled out to the audience, “No Hate!”
At the Golden Globes, Katy Perry performed her hit new single, “Chained To The Rhythm”, and mocked US President Donald Trump. She had two giant skeletons dressed as Trump and UK Prime Minster Theresa May, parading around on stage holding hands – a clear jab at their recent meeting at the White House.
A Tribe Called Quest wasn’t nominated for a Grammy this year — its comeback album was released after the eligibility window closed. A Tribe Called Quest used their Grammy moment for a different call to action: “Resist! Resist! Resist! Resist!” Sharing the stage with Anderson Paak, Busta Rhymes and Consequence with contributing vocals of the late Phife Dawg, executed a strong and forceful performance of “We the People.” Busta called out Trump’s Muslim ban, bringing a hijabi female to the stage and referred to Trump as “President Agent Orange.” He then raised the black-power salute with everyone onstage.
There are more music awards to come with one of the biggest of them all – the Billboard Music Awards on 21 May, 2017. Let’s see if a politically-charged atmosphere will carry on!
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