Grammy Awards Urban Recap

The 55th Annual Grammy Awards took place last Sunday, February 10th, and – to put it lightly – there was a lot going on in the industry. If you didn’t tune into music’s biggest night, however, there’s no need to worry; we have got you covered with a chronological summary of what you missed in urban music:

LL Cool J hosted the evening’s show for the second year in a row, the exact reason for which wasn’t exactly understood – that is, until he spoke about how the iconic image of Michael Jackson cradling both arms full of Grammys inspired him to reach for the stars. He also heavily alluded to Whitney Houston, whose untimely passing last year forced a series of unprecedented changes in last year’s Grammy Awards. Instantly, LL Cool J brought substance to the celebration, and we were reminded that while he may not be the most relevant figure in music today, he can still be appreciated for the eloquent, charming, and hard-working stand-up guy he is.

Despite losing out in the Best New Artist, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year categories, Frank Ocean still had a great night, picking up a Grammy for his work on “No Church in the Wild,” which won for Best Rap/Song Collaboration. He also earned a Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album, his debut studio album Channel Orange beating out rival Chris Brown’s Fortune. Brown opted to clap for the winner, although recent reports of a violent brawl with Ocean outside a recording studio suggest that the whole thing is just an act. Despite apparent injuries to his fingers, Ocean, who told Billboard that he was “knee-deep” in recording his sophomore album, later engaged in a visually impressive, yet vocally “safe,” performance of “Forrest Gump.”

Miguel performed this year’s Best R&B Song, “Adorn,” with help from Wiz Khalifa. Miguel’s vocals and suave moves were enough to make it satisfactory, and – despite not really having a set – the gentlemen’s contrast-based YSL suit patterns against the red backdrop provided a visual that matched the performance’s mood exactly.

Justin Timberlake made his great return to the stage as he belted out smooth renditions of his latest singles from The 20/20 Experience, which drops on March 19th. Dressed classy as ever before his live band and back-up singers, JT was joined by Jay Z for his album’s first single, “Suit & Tie,” before reclaiming the stage for the organ-infused performance debut of his next single, “Mirrors.” Social media was abuzz with various Timberlake-related trending topics, and even the commercials were laced with JT, as he has apparently scored high-profile endorsements with both Target and Bud Light Premium. Timberlake also took over Billboard’s official star-studded Grammy after-party, which had everyone ecstatic with praise, including recording artist Kelly Rowland. “Justin Timberlake is killin RIGHT NOW!” she tweeted. “Dude ain’t playin’!” The quality of his Grammy performances begs the question of why he even went on a hiatus to begin with, and – if the hype serves as any indication – it’s apparent that we can expect great things from The 20/20 Experience.

Bruno Mars performed “Locked out of Heaven” before being joined by Sting, who sang his Police hit, “Walking on the Moon.” At some point Damian and Ziggy Marley showed up, with Bajan singer Rihanna in tow, fusing their voices into a “Could You Be Loved” tribute to their father, who would have turned 68 this month. While the performance wasn’t boring, per se, it wasn’t exactly “Grammys tribute” quality, with many on social media opining that it did, in fact, seem rushed, and that it was not even minutely representative of the legendary Bob Marley’s extensive body of work. Although Rihanna’s voice and accent naturally lend to the reggae genre, her earlier performance, a duet titled “Stay” with newcomer Mikky Ekko, was much more solid in vocal talent and grace. Taylor Swift, whose opening performance was largely lackluster despite extravagant costumes and theatrics, could take more than a few pointers from the Unapologetic star’s stage presence.

Many of the urban categories weren’t televised. Drake beat out 2 Chainz, Nas, Lupe Fiasco, The Roots, and Ricky Rozay to win Best Rap Album for his sophomore effort Take Care during the pre-show, later going on to drop the music video for his latest single, “Started From The Bottom” and also revealing that his third studio album will be titled, “Nothing Was The Same.”

Beyoncé’s “Love On Top” earned the Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Performance, and Oprah later took to Twitter – all while Bey was announcing Justin Timberlake’s legendary return – to announce that next Saturday’s episode of Oprah’s Next Chapter will feature the Queen herself. It seems Beyoncé has been everywhere lately, having performed at both President Obama’s second inauguration and Pepsi’s Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show in recent weeks, subsequently announcing her first major tour in three years, The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour 2013.

Jay Z wasn’t exactly trailing behind his honey, either. Hov showed up Bey, winning both Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for “N****s in Paris” with Kanye West, who was a no-show due to his trip down to Brazil with pregnant girlfriend Kim Kardashian. The duo also won a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “No Church in the Wild” with Frank Ocean and The-Dream during the televised portion, as mentioned above. The-Dream, who was not dressed in his best attire, was the subject of humor, as Jay Z half-jokingly thanked the “swap meet” for The-Dream’s two hats. The fact that the “time’s up” transition tunes completely halted when Jay returned to the mic, approaching to take the jab, speaks to the perception of his importance in urban music, and in the musical discourse as a whole.

What did you think about the 55th Annual Grammy Awards? Do you agree with the Academy’s decisions? Sound off and tweet us @WERS889FM. We’d love to hear your input.

By Anthony Betances

If you liked this, check out:
African American Heritage Month
Mumford & Sons Live at TD Garden


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