Kendrick Lamar misses out on major Grammy prizes

Recording artist Kendrick Lamar (right) recieves the award for the Best Rap Album, To Pimp A Butterfly.
Recording artist Kendrick Lamar (right) recieves the award for the Best Rap Album, To Pimp A Butterfly.PHOTO: AFP

African-American rap artist Kendrick Lamar, acclaimed for his complex and politically charged music, won five out of the 11 nominations he received at the 58th Grammy Awards.

But when it came to the major gongs, the chart-topping pop hits by white artists Taylor Swift and Mark Ronson still ruled at what is touted as music's biggest night, held at at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday (US time).

Still, it was not entirely a case of #grammystoowhite.

Uptown Funk, which won Record of the Year, is Ronson's single with singer Bruno Mars, who is of Puerto Rican-Filipino descent.

And Swift's win for Album of the Year with 1989 - beating Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, among others - avoids that other criticism aimed at the Academy Awards that it is too male-dominated.

Before the show, Lamar's multiple nominations were hailed as an example of how the Grammys are more inclusive than the upcoming Oscars, which has been criticised for the lack of non-white nominees.

Unfortunately, the big categories were out of reach for artists like him, with the organisers, the United States' National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences instead awarding him accolades in niche categories such as Best Rap Album, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song.

Aptly, in a segment reminiscent of Beyonce's recent pro-black power Super Bowl performance, Lamar put on a fiery live performance that addressed race issues with his hands bound in chains amid a mock-prison set-up. His medley included Alright, the unofficial anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement, which lost in Song of the Year - another major category - to Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud.

Lamar also shared the Best Music Video prize with Swift for Bad Blood, a song taken off her 1989 album that featured Lamar rapping.

But the actual bad blood is between Swift and rapper Kanye West. In his new album released only a few days ago, West took credit for Swift's popularity.

 
 
 
 

Without specifically mentioning his name, during her acceptance speech for Album of the Year, Swift retorted: "As the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammys twice, I want to say to all the young women out there, there will be people along the way who will try to undercut your success, or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame."

As expected there were live performances galore, many dedicated to the significant artists who had died in the past year.

Lady Gaga led the way with a flashy, effects-laden David Bowie tribute, running through 10 of his signature songs including Space Oddity, Ziggy Stardust and Heroes in a six-minute medley. Bowie died last month.

The Eagles were joined by fellow American veteran Jackson Browne in their hits as the backdrop displayed portraits of founding member Glenn Frey, who, too, died last month.

In a meeting between acts old and new, Stevie Wonder performed with rising a cappella stars Pentatonix in a tribute to Earth, Wind and Fire's Maurice White, who died less than two weeks ago.

Chris Stapleton, winner of Country Album of the Year and Best Country Solo Performance, joined Bonnie Raitt and Gary Clark Jr in honouring blues legend B.B. King, who died last year, in one of his most loved songs, The Thrill Is Gone.

The biggest snafu of the night would be Adele's pitchy singing and the overall bad sound during her live performance of All I Ask, a song off her recent blockbuster album 25. She later took to Twitter to blame microphones that had fallen over for marring the performance.

In a bizzare choice for the closing act, rapper Pitbull, whose album Dale won Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album, sang with Robin Thicke, who not only has no nominations, but also has not released anything significant of late.

Perhaps a performance by Rihanna would have been a more apt to round up the ceremony. It is a shame that the singer, who at least has a recent album out, had to pull out her Grammy slot at the last minute due to an illness.

While the telecast ran over three hours long, the awards given out on stage were few and far between. Many were awarded before the live telecast started, including Best Pop Vocal Album for Swift's 1989, Best R&B Performance for Earned It and Best Urban Contemporary Album for Beauty Behind the Madness, both by The Weeknd.

Justin Bieber also won his first Grammy pre-show for Best Dance Recording for Where Are Ü Now, his song with Skrillex and Diplo .

Unlike other award shows like the MTV VMAs, the stars were pretty much at their best behaviour, with no meme-worthy moments like stage invasions or celebrities falling over.

Kanye, where are you when we need you to spice things up?