Welcome to the latest TGJ Roundtable!
Over the years, That Grape Juice has established a distinguished voice that – whether loved or loathed – sparks discussion, debate, and on occasion drama!
Though comprised of seasoned writers who share a similar outlook on Urban Pop culture, the idiosyncrasies of the TGJ team members often lend for quite heated debates “behind the scenes” about the hottest topics.
Now, we give you a front row seat to the show. In a format similar to ‘The View’ or ‘The Real’, TGJ editors – Sam, David, Rashad, and Joe – get real in a very candid way.
Today’s roundtable topic asks each anchor their thoughts on the…
Grammy Awards 2018
For a show that ran for 3-and-a-half hours and celebrated a milestone anniversary, the 60th Annual Grammy Awards dropped the ball by being one of the most boring award broadcasts in recent memory. And problematically predictable too.
But before delving into why, let’s first unpack…
Bruno Mars and Cardi B brought hyper heat with their live offering of ‘Finesse.’ Stage slayage is a given with Mr Mars, but I was on edge to see how Cardi delivered in such a high-pressure setting. Needless to say, she impressed and alongside Bruno proved an arresting watch. Hands down the most enjoyable moment of the night.
Elsewhere, Kendrick Lamar reminded why he’s deserving of the acclaim he’s receiving. He’s pouring a lot of his artistic resource into performance; something, I’m just going to be honest and say that not enough rappers do.
Lady Gaga was also one of the few highlights. Sure, I long to throw my paws up and “ra ra oh la la” like it’s 2009 again, but I appreciate her adamance this era to spotlight her vocal talent.
The rest of the show veered from mediocre meh to “what am I watching?”
I haven’t the slightest clue why Rihanna opted to waste her comeback momentum on a performance that, while not awful, didn’t feel like a must-see moment. Anyone who’s followed her trajectory has to admit that she’s come leaps and bounds on the live front. And her staging is slowly but surely becoming stellar too. Still, none of that is enough to distract from the pitchy, winded vocals she routinely blew into that mic. Again, not terrible, but not necessarily needed either.
Wrong song choices plagued Pink and SZA, who I feel would have served themselves (and viewers) better had they performed the more familiar songs they were nominated for.
I, like millions the world over, empathize with Kesha. But I don’t see myself ever watching her live offering of ‘Praying’ again. Joined by the likes of Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello and Bebe Rexha in a timely sisterly showing of solidarity (see: #MeToo), it’s clear this was designed to be a “moment.” However, in calling a spade a spade, the vocals were excruciating. It’ll no doubt be passed off as emotion (which I’m sure elements of it were), but it begs the question of how effective this ultimately was. Because, for me, the vocals took away from what could have been a powerful performance.
As for the actual awards won, the narratives that played out were, for the most part, oh so predictable. Hence, wins were male dominated with a heavy lean towards those whose releases appealed to the “middle mass” and were least controversial. Case in point, Bruno sweeping the board and Ed Sheeran besting the likes of Gaga in a Pop VOCAL category. Like, really?!
We’re sold the story of Kendrick, who has been serially snubbed in previous years, somehow being “triumphant” this year with his most socially and politically charged project. But that’s not enough to distract me from the fact he’s still yet to bag anything in the BIG categories. Note all of his his wins – sans one – were Rap specific. Catch that.
The SZA snub hurt too. Five nominations and nothing to show for it. She was bested by Bruno in most of the R&B categories and then lost out to Alessia Cara for Best New Artist. Things that make you go hmm.
Then there’s JAY-Z.
8 nominations and no wins? Not even…one?! No matter which way it’s diced or sliced, it’s a woeful outcome and one I feel may impact The Carters presence at future shows. Especially after what went down with Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ last year.
There’s talk of split votes between Jigga and K.Dot essentially benefitting Bruno. And there’s also murmurs of Jay’s decision not to perform potentially impacting his chances. Because, while it’s largely votes that decide winners, there is a presiding panel that can override the tally and have final say.
It’s worth mentioning that I actually prefer Bruno’s project over everyone’s and under normal circumstances should be elated at his six wins. But the Jay snub and Kendrick low-key being ‘Lemonade-ed’ has left a sour taste. I just feel like the distribution of awards was hella uneven.
Holistically, the 2018 Grammys was a dismal disappointment.
Last night had several highs but some disappointing lies.
Let’s start with the positive.
On a line-up front the show offered viewers a brilliant group of live performers who-for the most part- delivered brilliant performances.
From Cardi B and Bruno, Kendrick and Bono to Kesha and her all-star choir, the event’s musical showcases were a ten.
The highlight for me? Kendrick.
For, while some of his peers seek to address social issues in ways which are self-serving, Lamar’s performance was a reminder that he remains committed to using his platform and art to tell powerful stories with a level of creativity I’d say he doesn’t get enough credit.
Now for the lows.
‘Lemonade’-related drama aside, Jay-Z’s ‘4:44’ is a poignant body of work deserving of all the acclaim it has received.
With its brilliant storytelling and unforgettable videos in mind, I was sure that it’d bag at least one of the eight awards it was up for. I was wrong and this morning I’m disappointed.
Not because I feel Jay’s work and impact is diminished in any way by the snub, but because I think the snub speaks to problems some members of the committee may have with he and Beyonce now that they have decided to address issues they may have shied away from in the past.
Anyway, let’s head back to the positive. Rihanna.
As it’s been a while since the performer has rocked out on a platform as big as the Grammys I forgot how awesome she is on stage.
Armed with new energy, sweet staging and South African-inspired choreography, Rihanna soared with ‘Wild Thoughts‘ and saved it from whatever DJ Khaled threatened to turn it into with his yelling.
All in all, it was a great night and I look forward to seeing how next year’s ceremony celebrates the plethora of exciting releases due this year.
Before I even get started, am I the only one who is slightly annoyed when acts who tribute a genre are often more awarded than full-time practitioners of said genre? No shade to Bruno, whom I love. As the Grammy nominations confirmed, 2017 was easily one of the worst (worst = most boring) years in recent Pop history. Sadly, last night, the Grammy wins reiterated the fact.
Possibly due to the pressures of last year’s backlash (and the sociopolitical climate overall regarding women and people of color) [click here to read more], it seems the Recording Academy thought it best to lure viewers with the guise of the spectacle’s leading nominees being all people of color only to have them all shut out at showtime…just like last year.
As we reported here, SZA led the night’s nominees among women, but left empty handed and Jay-Z led the overall tally, but left with zero wins.
But, in hindsight I wonder how much of an uproar there would have been had ‘4:44’ won Album Of The Year, but ‘Lemonade’ did not. Now, I am not going to act like ‘4:44’ was groundbreaking or even Jay-Z’s best work, but it’s really the principle of the matter. Then, Ed Sheehan – the only male in the ‘Pop Solo Performance’ category – walks away with the award. What gives?
On the performance front, the show was an overall snoozefest. Standouts always come courtesy of Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, and Kendrick Lamar as all three very rarely let down when it comes to their award show performances. Rihanna gave her usual shaky vocals, but overall rendered an enjoyable performance alongside Bryson Tiller and DJ Khaled. Everyone else, from where I was watching, either looked like they either prepared for their performances at the last minute or just didn’t care.
I will start by saying that although I feel Jay-Z got snubbed, Bruno Mars and Kendrick Lamar deserved everything they went home with. Just as much as he did. Still, the whole situation seems a bit “weird” – especially after reports that he refused to perform at the ceremony.
To be honest, I’m more concerned about SZA not swooping anything as her debut LP is amongst my favorite releases of 2017 and I feel like what she brings to the table is unparalleled. Even when compared to the amazing competition she had in the Best New Artist category. Perhaps it just wasn’t her time, but I feel her “moment” coming. For sure.
Kendrick’s opening performance was nothing short of stellar and it was also great seeing Gaga slow things down with a beautiful medley. She really turned the tables around for the ‘Joanne’ over the course of last year into this year and it was warming to see her back on the Grammy stage as a premium act.
Elsewhere, it seems Rihanna has finessed the art of winning Grammys as a feature-act. No one’s mad at that. While her vocals were pitchy to say the least, I enjoyed seeing her back on stage in full-on Pop-star mode performing her latest classic ‘Wild Thoughts.’
Could yesterday mark the complete transition of Cardi B into a mainstay act? It certainly looked that way to these eyes. With incredible energy, she turned a fantastic performance by Bruno Mars into an even bigger celebration. Kudos to him for gifting her enough room to shine (see: ‘Bartier Cardi’ verse). It seems like the only way is up for the Bronx belle who has been making all the right moves over the past few months. I get a feeling we’ll see her again on that very stage a year from now, don’t you?
Also a huge shout out to Camila Cabello’s management team for somehow making her the center of attention for a good 10 mins (Kesha performance, #Dreamers speech and L’Oreal commercial immediate). Homegirl had no song nominated, but showed up as the big star they’re pushing her to be. I guess that’s what a #1 song and album will do to your status… Do you, Mila.
For better and for worse, the Grammys remain the biggest night in music, so it will be interesting witnessing the aftermath of this year’s ceremony. Both chart-wise and on a strategic note for artists such as Jay-Z and wife Beyonce.
Do you agree with our picks? Who was spot on? Let us know your thoughts on the latest TGJ Roundtable and your thoughts on the 2018 Grammys.