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The start was shaky: Kacey Musgraves too tentative and Katy Perry too vehement before Parton righted the tone of “Here You Come Again.” Miley Cyrus made an admiring rival in “Jolene,” and Cyrus shared three-part a cappella harmony with Parton and Maren Morris in “After the Gold Rush,” a Neil Young song Parton has recorded with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris.
Little Big Town gave Parton an arena-country buildup in the story-song “Red Shoes,” from the 2018 “Dumplin’” soundtrack, before the female-solidarity finale, “9 to 5,” in which Parton made sure to praise her recent songwriting collaborator and producer, Linda Perry, who was leading the band. JON PARELESFor a show that has traditionally shunted aside Latin music (leaving it to the Latin Grammys, a separate event altogether) — and has yet to really acknowledge the rising urbano wave — Camila Cabello’s opening number covered a lot of ground. 1 pop hit, but Cabello’s Cuba-via-Miami roots shone through, and she also managed to ground a performance that featured both Young Thug Ricky Martin.
But when she appeared on the Grammys stage, things became clear.
Her performance of “The Joke,” a defiant anthem about tolerance, was genuinely startling (and vastly superior to the album version).
Drake was not seen at the Grammys again, and given how hard it was to get him there in the first place, he might not be for a while. “This is love, this is life, this is living, this is light, and all because of music.” She brought out Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, Michelle Obama and Jennifer Lopez to speak about music as a vessel for empowerment and empathy. She joked around with John Mayer and harmonized with Smokey Robinson.
(Kendrick Lamar and Drake, the most nominated artists of the night, also declined to perform; the “This Is America” producer Ludwig Goransson accepted the second award.)But the first no-show led to an awkward dead-air moment as the presenters, Alicia Keys and John Mayer, shuffled around the stage, trying to figure out what to do next.
One of Childish Gambino’s managers tweeted a shrug emoji.
JON CARAMANICADrake, who pointedly did not perform on Sunday night, claimed just his fourth Grammy in 42 tries — best rap song for “God’s Plan” — and he deigned to show up to accept it, taking the winner’s podium for the first time.
(His previous awards were not televised, and he’s even clowned the show for giving “Hotline Bling” the best rap song trophy in 2017 “maybe because I’ve rapped in the past or because I’m black,” he said.) This time, he pulled a Fiona Apple and told the world it didn’t matter: “We play in an opinion-based sport, not a factual-based sport,” he said, seemingly legitimately nervous.