Bruno Mars gets six nods at the Grammys

Singer Bruno Mars holding his trophies after winning six Grammy awards, in New York on Jan 28, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

Long criticised for being stodgy and too focused on veterans past their prime, the Grammys finally turned their full attention on the urban and contemporary in its 60th outing.

Unlike last year's instalment, in which adult-contemporary fare from the likes of Adele were feted, it was bona fide pop-soul royalty Bruno Mars who ended up the biggest winner of the event, streamed live around the world from Madison Square Garden, New York on Monday morning(Jan29), Singapore time.

The 32-year-old's funk-inflected hits swept all the six awards he was nominated in, including the three biggest awards - Record Of The Year and Album Of The Year for 24K Magic, his third album released in 2016, and Song Of The Year for That's What I Like.

It was his biggest haul to date, a sweet retribution for the Grammys in 2011 when the singer-songwriter was also nominated in six awards but took home just one (Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for Just The Way You Are).

Mars is certainly a major, Top 40 star here - his upcoming two nights at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on May 6 and 7 sold out quickly after tickets went on sale last year(2017).

The swerve towards urban music would have been complete if hip-hop's most incisive rapper, Kendrick Lamar, had won the top awards though.

Despite repeating his tally from two years ago(2016), where he also won five awards, Lamar's wins were, again, almost exclusively for the rap categories.

It looks like the United States' The Recording Academy, which organises the Grammys, still have qualms about awarding the main prizes to hip-hop artists like Lamar, whose dense oeuvre often focuses on heavy, political issues.

The winners list aside, it was good to see the show itself give plenty of airtime to pertinent issues of the day, especially those that involve the entertainment industry.

While the #MeToo and Time's Up movements might not have uncovered as much perpetrators in the music world as it has in Hollywood (not yet, anyway), the call for an end to sexual misconduct rang loud and clear at the Grammys.

"To those who would dare silence us, we offer you two words, Time's up... We have the power to undo the culture that does not serve us well," said multi-Grammy nominee Janelle Monae in a stirring speech. "Let's work together, women and men, committed to creating safer work environments and equal pay."

Singer Kesha, who has long accused producer Dr. Luke of abuse and assault, made a stirring comeback with a live performance of new single Praying, flanked by an all-star cast of women singers that include both new and seasoned names like Camila Cabello and Cyndi Lauper.

In contrast to the celebrities dressed in black at the recent Golden Globes, Kesha and her crew chose to dress in white, while other prominent stars like Lady Gaga wore white roses on their outfits as a rallying cry for Time's Up.

Other hot button American issues like immigrants also got an airing, most prominently by having American-Cuban singer Cabello talk about her roots and introducing Irish rockers U2, who performed outdoors with the Statue Of Liberty in the background.

In a nod to diversity, there was also plenty of play given to Latin music in the form of sizzling performances of Despacito by Puerto Rican stars Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, as well as DJ Khaled, Rihanna and Bryson Tiller's Wild Thoughts. Fresh talents also got to highlight social issues when rapper Logic, Best New Artist winner Alessia Cara and singer Khalid sang their suicide-prevention hit, 1-800-273-8255.

It wasn't all heavy takes on politics and social issues, though.

The Grammys could not resist taking a humorous dig at US President Trump when host James Corden had artists ranging from Cher to Snoop Dogg read excerpts from Fire And Fury, the controversial new book about his presidency.

Corden's ace-in-the-hole? Getting Trump's political rival Hillary Clinton herself to be one of the narrators, a move sure to fire up the divisive president.

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