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The 2016 Grammy Awards
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Our live coverage compiled below.

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Taylor Swift's Fraught Win

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Hip-hop’s drought in the Album of the Year category at the Grammys continues for a 12th year. Kendrick Lamar entered the night with a historic number of nominations and delivered a ceremony-saving performance, but his To Pimp a Butterfly lost out to Taylor Swift’s 1989 for the big award. Of course, it’s never a huge surprise when a strongly reviewed 5x platinum album wins out at the Grammys, especially when its genre is pop.

Swift delivered an acceptance speech with a few layers of meaning and politics to unpack. She touted the fact that she's the first woman to ever win two Albums of the Year from the Grammys, a factlet whose mention may have been an attempt to pre-empt the idea that her win is unfair or not progressive. She also told women to not worry about men who “take credit for your accomplishments or your fame,” which probably referred to Kanye West’s recent lyric saying that he’s responsible for Swift’s fame.

Beyonce then came out and awarded Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’s “Uptown Funk” the Record of the Year award. After that, Pitbull closed the show with the help of Robin Thicke, Travis Barker, Joe Perry, and Sofia Vergara dressed as a taxi.

Lady Gaga Does David Bowie, Very Fast

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

David Bowie’s music contained ache, hope, mystery, memories, foresight, experimentation, tradition, and so many other things. Lady Gaga’s version of David Bowie’s music, as seen in a frenetic medley at the Grammys, contained only energy and a gappy grin.

It opened with various bits of Bowie iconography—the Aladdin Sane thunderbolt, the third eye, a spider—projected onto Gaga’s face (thanks to technology by Intel, as laughingly self-important ads before and after the performance told viewers). Working at an unforgiving pace, mugging and twirling and hip-shimmying, she and her band then ran through snippets of  “Space Oddity,” “Changes,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “Suffragette City,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Fashion,” “Fame,” “Under Pressure,” “Let’s Dance,” and “Heroes.”

It was Bowie as a series of fragmented pop hooks and dance moves, right on the line of camp—and very, very fun to watch. If the treatment felt vaguely sacrilegious, it also seemed difficult to think of a possible Bowie tribute performance at the Grammys that wouldn’t. Gaga’s commitment certainly couldn’t be doubted, even without factoring in the Bowie tattoo.

Kendrick Lamar Saves the Grammys

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Tributes to late artists and respectable crooning from young ones were pretty much all the Grammys offered until Kendrick Lamar arrived to remind the world what music engaged with the present and unafraid of offending can achieve. He showed up as an inmate in a mock prison, and if the racial implication of the image wasn’t clear, he performed the first verse of the fiercely political confession “Blacker the Berry,” with stop-start instrumentation that somehow made the song even more intense than the version on his album.

The performance morphed into what looked like a tribal ceremony with an eye-searing bonfire, as Lamar broke into “Alright,” which is nominated for Song of the Year and has become a rallying song for Black Lives Matter. The set then shifted again as Lamar performed alone in front of the mic; quick camera cuts created a chaotic, hallucinatory effect. When the music ended, behind Lamar was a silhouette of Africa—but inscribed with the word “Compton,” the home of Lamar and a birthplace of gangsta rap.

After Beyonce’s performance at the Super Bowl a week ago, we can officially say a Black Power moment in mainstream pop has arrived.

The End of 1989?

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

“Hello and welcome to the 2016 Grammy awards,” Taylor Swift said in the midst of her show-opening performance. “But right now, it’s 1989.”

You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s actually the fall of 2014: That’s when Swift’s world-conquering synthpop album came out. But thanks to the Grammys’ strangely off-set consideration window (October 1 to September 30), it’s only up for awards nowafter its world tour has concluded, and after its run of top-10 singles seems to have ended. The song Swift performed to open the ceremony, “Out of the Woods,” was one of the two songs that the public heard before the album dropped, and its video was released on New Years Eve 2015a long time in pop.

If Swift wins Album of the Year tonight, it will be the capstone for the reign of one of the most commercially successful albums of the new millennium—and maybe the end of Swift’s quest to dominate headlines for more than a year. If she doesn’t win, Swift may take a break anyway. As for her performance tonight, it was passionate and professional. But it suffered from featuring many of the same elements that the public has grown used to seeing her with over the past 15 months: a shimmery jumpsuit, and the sight of thousands of light-up wristbands flashing from the audience.

The 2016 Grammy Winners

We’ll be updating the list of winners as the Grammys go on. Note that these are for the awards at the primetime ceremony; a number of contests were decided earlier in the night.

Best Rap Album: Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly

Best Country Album: Chris Stapleton, Traveller

Song of the Year: Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Out Loud”

Best Musical Theater Album: Hamilton

Best Rock Album: Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color

Best New Artist: Meghan Trainor

Album of the Year: Taylor Swift, 1989

Record of the Year: Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk”

Watching the Grammys

Danny Moloshok / Reuters

A couple of minutes ago on E!, one of the red carpet reporters touted her network’s “exclusive camera angles” on the musicians walking by. It’s a funny boast—right here, a successor to the Dutch tilt, discovered?!—but it’s also fitting, given how much of this award show about music can rise or fall on its visuals.

Which is another way of saying that for most folks, the performances and pageantry matter a lot more than the awards. The credibility of the Grammys when it comes to recognizing significant achievements in music is not high. But as a chance to launch conversation-starting TV moments, it is perhaps the best awards show there is. This year, there’s more suspense around those performances than usual.

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