Grammys 2018: Bruno Mars wins big as U2 perform in front of Statue of Liberty

Singer Kesha’s emotional performance was a big talking point of the night

 

U2 have an uncanny ability to insert themselves into the heart of big cultural and political moments and so it proved at the 2018 Grammys as the Dubliners emerged as one of the evening’s unlikely connective tissues.

Bono popped up at the start of Kendrick Lamar’s epic performance and he and The Edge were the unlikely baton-passers chosen to announce Bruno Mars as album of the year winner for 24K Magic.

“Peak U2” was meanwhile achieved when the group bashed out agreeable-ish new single Get Out Of Your Own Way from a floating barge with the Statue of Liberty as an understated backdrop.

As The Edge’s tightly-wrapped scarf and Adam Clayton’s world’s largest parka attested it was obviously freezing out in the middle of the Hudson, though Bono gamely attempted to raise the temperature by yelling into a red, white and blue megaphone.

“Blessed are the s***hole countries, for they gave us the American Dream” he said - a reference to US president Donald Trump’s “s***hole countries” slur. Alas, the power of the moment was diminished somewhat by the fact that Bono was clearly freezing his unmentionables off. Quick, get this rock god a hotwater bottle and a mug of something steamy.

Back at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles - a bonus “well done” to U2 for getting from the East to West Coast so quickly - the big talking point was Kesha’s rendition of Praying, a heartstring-puller partly inspired by her struggle to free herself from what she has alleged was the toxic influence of her one-time producer and mentor Dr Luke.

Dressed in suffragette white and backed by an ensemble that included Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello, Julia Michaels, Bebe Rexha, and Andra Day, Kesha fought the tears as she sang about personal and political emancipation.

It was a powerful interlude, even if the Grammys’ performative acknowledgement of the #TimesUp movement did ring a bit hollow given that Lorde, the solitary female album of the year nominee, was also the only of the five candidates not invited to reprise a track from her shortlisted record.

Instead, she had been asked to participate in a tribute to the late Tom Petty, an offer she respectfully declined.

The task of honouring Petty and the other pop stars who had passed instead fell to Chris Stapleton and Emmylou Harris.

Over their shoulders the screen flashed the names of musicians lost in the past 12 months, a grim roll-call that included Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries.

Politics was a running theme of the acceptance speeches with Cuban artist Cabello praising the “dreamers” who came to America hoping for a better future. However, the endless Trump bashing did leave the awards open to the charge of hypocrisy.

It was all very well wheeling out Hillary Clinton for a heavy-handed sketch in which she read aloud from Michael Wolff’s Trump-is-insane tell all Fire and Fury.

But why then give album of the year nod to the milquetoast Mars rather than Kendrick Lamar and the incendiary, truth-speaking Damn? It was, moreover, a shame the event didn’t have the courage of its convictions and have someone other than pasty-faced safe pair of hands James Corden host.

“Guys like me and you, we’re hood forever,” the privately-educated Buckinghamshire native “shouted out” to Jay Z and you wanted to hide behind the nearest cushion.

The Grammys made a song and dance of wrapping itself in the flag of diversity. Yet the closer you looked - at the ubiquitous U2, the inoffensive Mars, the absent Lorde - the clearer it was that this was really just show-business as usual.

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