It was a big night for artists with Seattle ties at the 61st Grammy Awards, as Brandi Carlile took home three awards, the Seattle Symphony won two, and Chris Cornell and Quincy Jones each won one.
It was a huge night for Brandi Carlile and other Seattle artists at the 61st Grammy Awards show Sunday. Even though the homegrown star didn’t win any of the three most prestigious awards she was up for, Carlile — who still took home three Grammys — gave one of the show’s most memorable performances.
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Carlile and longtime bandmates twins Phil and Tim Hanseroth, crushed it on the biggest stage of their careers, delivering a standout performance of “The Joke,” their monstrous folk-rock ballad for anyone feeling marginalized. Armed with an acoustic guitar and a piercing voice that could cut down a dead evergreen, Carlile brought some welcome grit and emotional rawness to a show often heavy on glitz and glam. Much of the crowd was already on its feet by the time an overjoyed Carlile took her well-deserved bow. Regardless of whether or not she would add to her gramophone collection, that moment felt like a win, at least on this side of the screen.
Carlile wasn’t the only artist with Seattle ties to come away with a few new mantelpiece trophies, as Seattle Symphony, Chris Cornell and Quincy Jones also won awards.
As this year’s most nominated woman, Carlile helped lead the charge amid a big year for women at the Grammys. Following backlash over a dearth of female winners in recent years, women commanded the spotlight in 2019, with knockout performances from pop-funk android Janelle Monáe and best R&B album and performance winner H.E.R., plus a sterling duet from Miley Cyrus and Dolly Parton during a tribute medley to the country great. Notably, one of the evening’s few dudes-only slots pairing Red Hot Chili Peppers and Post Malone — a combo no one was clamoring for — fell flattest.
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Carlile’s “The Joke” lost in the record and song of the year categories to Childish Gambino’s “This is America,” making him the first rapper to win the awards despite the genre’s pop-culture dominance. The Grammys’ rocky relationship with hip-hop probably wasn’t helped by cutting off Drake — who along with Gambino and Kendrick Lamar declined invitations to perform — during his acceptance speech in which he encouraged other artists to not seek validation from an institution that may not understand them. Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour” won album of the year, which Carlile’s “By the Way, I Forgive You” was also up for.
Before the primary awards show at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Carlile and the Hanseroth twins swept the three genre awards they were up for during the sparsely attended, nontelevised portion held at a smaller theater across the street. Their critically acclaimed “By the Way, I Forgive You” earned the best Americana album award, while its standout single “The Joke” won best American roots song and best American roots performance.
“Americana music is the island of the misfit toys. I am such a misfit,” said Carlile, flanked by the twins while accepting their second award during the Premiere Ceremony, which was livestreamed at Grammy.com. “It is this music that has shaped my life and made me who I am and even given me my family, Tim and Phil. I came out of the closet at 15 years old when I was in high school and I can assure you that I was never invited to any parties, and never got to attend a dance. To be embraced by this enduring and loving community has been the dance of a lifetime. Thank you for being my island.”
Before this year, Carlile’s only other nomination as an artist came in 2016 when her previous record, “The Firewatcher’s Daughter,” was up for best Americana album.
The Seattle Symphony — this year’s most nominated orchestra — went two for three, winning best contemporary classical composition for “Kernis: Violin Concerto” and best classical instrumental solo for violinist James Ehnes’ performance in the piece composed by Aaron Jay Kernis. “I have to say, this is a golden age of composing,” Kernis said, shouting out his peers in his acceptance speech.
Chris Cornell also earned his first award as a solo artist, with his posthumous single “When Bad Does Good” winning best rock performance. Two of his children accepted the award for their father, with their mother, Vicky Cornell, standing silently on stage.
“I never thought we’d be standing here without my dad,” said Cornell’s son, Christopher. “I’m sure he’d be proud and honored. … While he touched the hearts of millions, the most important thing he is known for to us is for being the greatest father and our hero.”
It was the second year in a row Cornell was nominated in the category, having lost to another late great, Leonard Cohen, last year. The previously unreleased “When Bad Does Good” was the main single off a self-titled compilation album and box set, spanning his work with Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog and as a solo artist.
Unfortunately, his grunge brethren Alice in Chains would see their winless streak at the Grammys extended, as the hard rockers were bested by polarizing Led Zeppelin imitators Greta Van Fleet for best rock album. It was the ninth nomination for the veteran Seattle band.
Meanwhile, Quincy Jones picked up his 28th Grammy Award for the Netflix documentary “Quincy,” co-directed by his daughter Rashida Jones. Quincy Jones trails only the late Hungarian conductor Georg Solti (31) for the most Grammy wins of all time.