Cabello, who was accompanied by J Balvin, Ricky Martin, Arturo Sandoval, and Young Thug, performed her hit "Havana," which was released at the end of 2017 and made its greatest impact the first quarter of last year. The entire world has pretty much moved on from the track, and Cabello has yet to prove she has another major hit in her arsenal. ("Never Be the Same" sort of rode her initial wave, but later singles have failed to make any real impression.)
The opening number probably should've gone to pop's reigning queen, Ariana Grande, but that didn't happen because of her fallout with the show's producer, Ken Ehrlich. Grande lashed out on social media after saying he misrepresented the reason she pulled out of the show.
Grande's biggest point of contention was she wanted to perform "7 Rings," her latest hit, but Ehrlich asked her to present two other songs, probably
However, other artists with Miami connections fared better. Jazz vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant took home the award for Best Jazz Vocal Album for The Window, and John Daversa, who is chair of studio music and jazz at the University of Miami's Frost School of Music, won Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for his work in the John Daversa Big Band for the album American Dreamers: Voices of Hope, Music of Freedom.
Otherwise, the Grammy show, as always, was a mishmash of odd performances and even more awkward banter. Alicia Keys hosted this year's ceremony but lacked the charisma to make all the talk between the performances and award presentations natural. After Cabello's performance, Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Michelle Obama joined Keys to give a speech full of long pauses and stories with unclear messages.
When it came to the performances, women seemed to fare better than their male counterparts. Highlights included Janelle Monáe, Kacey Musgraves, and the Dolly Parton tribute featuring the 73-year-old singer-songwriter herself. And with a perfect rendition of "Hard Place," H.E.R., whose star has seemingly risen overnight, made her broadcast debut to the broader audience that still watches TV.
But it will be Diana Ross' performance that drag queens will imitate for decades to come. It possessed the perfect amount of mess and diva attitude. Only Ross could close out a performance by wishing herself happy birthday. Lady Gaga, on the other hand, left her character Ally from A Star Is Born at home during her solo performance of "Shallow" and instead delivered her typical theatrics without an assist from the track's
Another missed opportunity to engage with younger listeners came during the "In Memoriam" segment, which highlighted late musicians such as Mac Miller and Avicii but left out controversial rapper XXXTentacion. Whether the decision was based on the artist's purported crimes or the fact he was never nominated for a Grammy is unclear. However, fans on Twitter definitely noted the omission.
But in the end, it's all about the awards, and except for Dua Lipa's win over acts such as H.E.R. for Best New Artist, there were no major surprises. Record of the Year went to Childish Gambino's "This Is America," which is bolstered by its great visuals but probably not more deserving than Cardi B's "I Like It," Drake's "God's Plan," or Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's "Shallow." Kacey Musgraves' win for Album of the Year might have surprised many, but Golden Hour was arguably one of the best releases of 2018.
Still, by not connecting with the way today's listeners engage with music, the Grammys are on a path to obsolescence. Not helping the Recording Academy are critical comments by influential artists such as Drake and Ariana Grande, who believe the Grammys are an outdated and unimportant pageant that means little to musicians compared with YouTube and Twitter metrics. With the imminent departure of the Academy's president, Neil Portnow, who was criticized last year for his assertion that women should "step up," much change is happening. One can only hope it's for the better.