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MUSIC'S BIGGEST NIGHT: THE MOMENTS

James Corden revealed during his red carpet interview that the show would open with U2's Bono and Edge, Kendrick Lamar and Dave Chappelle. A clearly political opening with a waving flag and synchronized "troops." For the irony-impaired: A supertitle reading "This Is a Satire by Kendrick Lamar." Bono and Edge walk through and then KL kicks into overdrive. Then the music stops dead and there's Chappelle. "The only thing more frightening than watching a black man being honest in America is being a black man being honest in America. Sorry for the interruption." Then back to Lamar, and more Greek chorus from Chappelle. And then a  powerful  reenactment of a mass shooting. Damn, indeed.

We don't envy James Corden having to follow that. After a brief intro he brings out Lady Gaga, who performs "Joanne," with obvious emotion, at the piano. After uttering "time's up," she segues into "Million Reasons." She can't stay seated long. A typically strong performance, but one wonders about the pacing.

Tony Bennett and John Legend give us a little "New York, New York" before giving out the Rap/Sung Performance trophy. Which seems incongruous, but pass the vape. Kendrick takes it.

Apple snags the first commercial slot with not one but two snazzy-looking ads. Take that, Spotify.

Corden talks up Jay-Z coming out of the break, then gets monologue-y. 

Sam Smith takes the stage in what looks like a cross between an unstructured blazer and a London Fog. The requisite gospel choir gets cooking behind him as the performance of "Pray" builds, with Sam alternating between his silky falsetto and assertive midrange.

In the first big surprise of the night, Alessia Cara takes Best New Artist. Hey, we've been big fans since 2015.

Next comes Little Big Town, with a soulful take on Taylor Swift's "Better Man," which won them a Country Group/Duo Performance trophy.

A tease for the Maren Morris-Zedd Target spot.

Gary Clark Jr. and Jon Batiste bring the funk to the "In Memoriam" tribute to Fats Domino and Chuck Berry, with photos of numerous departed luminaries as the backdrop. But wait—we're out of the segment and into Pop Solo performance, which goes to Ed Sheeran, who "couldn't be here tonight." He must've had a more pressing commitment, possibly dinner and a show with Justin Timberlake

Here's "Despacito," (Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee but no Biebs) and the crowd ripples with pleasure. There are gyrating dancers everywhere, and when the big chorus kicks in the audience is singing and selfie-ing and clapping. The parade of scantily clad women would seem to fly in the face of the #metoo theme just a bit. "That's a catchy song; I hadn't heard that before," quips Corden.

Childish Gambino, in a white suit, channels '71-era Funkadelic and a bit of Prince with "Terrified." He's joined by nine-year-old vocal marvel JD McCrary, who trades melismatic runs with Childish. It goes right into Apple's singing-emoji spot with "Redbone." It's soooooooo trippy, dude.

Shout-out to the Bronx as Corden introduces the Music Educator of the Year.

Chappelle introduces Rap Album, which goes to...Kendrick—leading everyone to wonder what this win means in terms of Album of the Year. KL's five for five so far; with each minute that passes, this feels more and more like his night.

P!nk is dressed down with no acrobatics for a performance of "Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken," but reminds us why she doesn't need bells and whistles. She's a freakin' powerhouse. Still, one wonders about the preponderance of ballads tonight. 

A comedy bit on the subway with Corden, Sting and collaborator Shaggy that includes Corden getting punched in the face. Wha? (And was doing "It Wasn't Me" a considered choice, given the aforementioned #metoo moment?)

Out come Bruno Mars and Cardi B and we're in a New Jack throwback. The tonal shifts on this show could give you the bends.

And now, recorded comedy's biggest TV moment since Bob Newhart, as Dave Chappelle grabs a statuette, presented by Trevor Noah. Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Gaffigan and Sarah Silverman get consolation puppies. By the by, this category belongs to Netflix, which backed comedy specials by all the nominees that are the basis for their albums. 

Sting's "An Englishman in New York" isn't exactly timely but is location-appropriate. Then out comes Shaggy for a grafted-on piece of their duet.

SZA leads a pack of young artists in a Master Card spot. Julia Michaels in an Uber spot. Not winning Best New Artist will not necessarily harm your bank balance. Then we get The Pixies for Citi. You can just run them and run them and run them and they give and give and give.

DJ Khaled hosts a production number featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller, intermittently demanding that the crowd to put their hands up, as if he were in the DEA.

Chris Stapleton takes Country Album, his third win so far.  He shares the podium with producer Dave Cobb. We go right into a somber tribute to the victims of terror attacks, with Brothers Osborne, Maren Morris and Eric Church singing "Tears in Heaven." Victims names glow in the background. The choice of song is puzzling.

Janelle Monae stands up to make the #MeToo speech, fully two hours into the show. She's a poised and pointed speaker, and addresses that depth and breadth of the problem before introducing Kesha's "Praying." The song, with a choral backdrop (with Julia Michaels, Camila Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Bebe Rexha and Andra Day lending vocal assistance), packs a wallop. Then an emotional clinch at the end. That was a Grammy moment.

Camila Cabello salutes the Dreamers, and underscores how much immigration has brought vibrant music into the American fabric. She introduces U2, who perform "Get Out of Your Own Way" with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

And here's Camila on a L'Oreal ad. Ah, 2018.

We now have one of the biggies: Song of the Year...which goes to Bruno for "That's What I Like." Like Kendrick, he's snagging everything in his path. Could we be looking at a Kenrick-Bruno showdown for Album?

A political moment ensues, as several stars read from Fire and Fury in a taped segment, topped off by, yup, Hillary Clinton. That worked. 

Elton, in valedictory mode, sings his beloved classic "Tiny Dancer" with Miley Cyrus in a well-chosen Ehrlich combo package. Hey, there's Davey Johnstone on the double-neck electric.

Another commercial specially made for the occasion: The Target spot with Maren Morris and Zedd, including a brief cameo from The Weeknd. This one goes down as Berman's big moment of the evening.

Dear Evan Hanson star Ben Platt sings "Somewhere." But stand by for yet more Broadway. Patti LuPone revisits "Evita." How many viewers think she's covering Madonna?

And the Record of the Year Grammy goes to—whoa—Bruno, for "24K Magic." "Turn it up," he requests as the music plays behind him. "Too many ballads tonight."

Following the yearly address by Neil Portnow, Chris Stapleton and Emmylou Harris pay tribute to Tom Petty with a lovely "Wildflowers" for the In Memoriam segment. 

Out of the darkness comes Logic to sing his suicide-hotline smash, joined by Alessia Cara and Khalid and a throng of survivors. Logic preaches against racism and sexual predators and in favor of countries around the world that are "not shitholes." A hopeful moment, for certain.

 

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