James Corden, LL Cool J, Jon Stewart, Kenny Rogers, Frank Sinatra… the list of men who have hosted the Grammy Awards is as varied as it is long. In the Grammy’s 61 years, however, only five women have ever hosted the awards, Keys being the fifth. She’s also only the third woman of colour to host. The Grammys has a spotty history with female representation, so I guess this isn’t the biggest surprise.
But Alicia Keys went out there and reinvented the Grammys. Previous hosts such as Corden and LL Cool J have relied heavily on comedy, and with such a diverse audience, that comedy often falls flat. Keys left the hoopla and jokes in 2018, and focused on the music.
Ten minutes into the show, Keys had already made headlines by bringing four of her friends out on stage. Those friends weren’t just friends: they were some of the most influential women around today. The list included Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, J Lo and Michelle Obama. All of the women said something about how music has impacted them and their lives. Michelle Obama eloquently said, “From the Motown records I wore out on the South Side, to the ‘Who Run the World’ songs that fueled me through this last decade, music has always helped me tell my story, and I know that’s true for everyone here.”
Keys’ unmatched musical talent also made her much more impressive than recent hosts. Alicia Keys and classic Motown star Smokey Robinson became the duet we never knew we needed when they sang a snippet of the classic, “Tracks of My Tears.” The moment was simple and understated, with the pair softly harmonizing before introducing Jennifer Lopez’s *interesting* Motown tribute performance.
If that wasn’t enough, she lauched into a medley of song she wished she wrote, playing two pianos at once and singing by herself up on the Grammy stage. If you missed it, here’s a clip of her seemingly impromptu performance.
Special guests and musical performances aside, Keys’ relaxing voice and chill attitude saved the Grammys. In previous years, the ceremony has been full of bad jokes and a generally fairly off level of energy from the host and presenters. Last year’s ceremony was especially bad. Keys took the Grammys down a notch by relaxing the vibe, but brought the number of total viewers and general audience satisfaction way up.