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Female acts, rap songs win big at the Grammy Awards

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  • LOS ANGELES — Women and rap triumphed at the Grammys on Sunday as female acts took home top prizes including album of the year and best new artist, and Childish Gambino made history when his hit “This Is America” became the first rap-based track to win record and song of the year.

    Kacey Musgraves’ country-pop release “Golden Hour” won album of the year, and British singer Dua Lipa won best new artist — a year after female voices were somewhat muted at the 2018 ceremony and the Grammys were criticized for the low number of female nominees.

    Six women were nominated for best new artist, and five of the eight album-of-the-year nominees were women, including Brandi Carlile, who described herself as “a kid from the ’90s from Lilith Fair.”

    “Those women were just dominating those platforms. They were dominating those arena and amphitheatre stages. They were getting record deals. They were becoming record executives themselves,” Carlile said. But watching those gains “backslide for the last 20 years has been heartbreaking.”

    “Tonight gives me hope as a mother of two young daughters,” said Carlile, who won three honours in the Americana category and was the most nominated women with six.

    Musgraves and Gambino were the night’s top winners, taking home four awards each. “This Is America” also won best music video and best rap/sung performance.

    Ludwig Goransson, who co-wrote and produced Gambino’s song, said he was surprised a rap song had never won in the past.

    “If you listen to the radio or if just you watch our culture or look at the most downloaded and streamed artists and bought albums, you see what’s at the top and what people listen to and you see what people get inspired by. It’s about time something like this happened,” he said backstage.

    Gambino’s historic win comes years after rappers have struggled to win in the top categories, including Jay-Z, Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar. Drake, who has lost in the big four categories over the years, told the room of musicians that winning awards isn’t necessary if you have real fans attending your concerts and singing your songs.

    “Look, if there are people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain and the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this right here. I promise you. You already won,” said Drake, who won best rap song for “God’s Plan.”

    He tried to continue speaking but was cut off as the ceremony suddenly went to a commercial.

    The last time a rapper won album of the year was in 2004 with Outkast. Only a handful of rappers have won best new artist. Cardi B also made history as the first solo female to win best rap album (Lauryn Hill won as a member of the Fugees at the 1997 Grammys).

    She was shaking onstage as she tried to give a thank-you speech with her rapper-husband Offset holding her arm.

    “The nerves are so bad. Maybe I need to start smoking weed,” she said as the audience laughed. “I just want to say thank you everybody that was involved … I want to thank my daughter.”

    At the 2018 Grammys, male acts dominated in nominations, and the only woman competing for the top award, Lorde, did not get a chance to perform onstage.

    Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow, who last year said women need to “step up” and later acknowledged that it was a “poor choice of words,” seemed to address his 2018 comments during Sunday’s show.

    “This past year I’ve been reminded that if coming face to face with an issue opens your eyes wide enough, it makes you more committed than ever to help address those issues. The need for social change has been the hallmark of the American experience, from the founding of our country to the complex times we live in today,” said Portnow, who did not seek a renewal on his contract, which ends this year.

    Lipa alluded to Portnow’s 2018 words when she won best new artist: “I guess this year we’ve really stepped up.”

    The Grammys kicked off with a group of powerful women, including Michelle Obama, describing the role of music in their lives.

    “Music has always helped me tell my story,” said Obama, who surprised the audience with her appearance. “Whether we like country or rap or rock, music helps us share ourselves. It allows us to hear one another.”

    Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith and Jennifer Lopez also spoke and stood in solidary with Obama, Gaga and Alicia Keys, who hosted the show.

    “Yes, ladies,” Keys said. “There’s nothing better than this.”

    Gaga won three Grammys, including best pop duo/group performance for the Oscar-nominated hit “Shallow,” a win she shared with Bradley Cooper. Gaga performed the song solo since Cooper was in London for the British Academy Film Awards.

    Dolly Parton was honoured and performed alongside Miley Cyrus, Musgraves, Maren Morris and Katy Perry. But the country music icon truly shined when she sang “Red Shoes” with country foursome Little Big Town providing background vocals.

    Yolanda Adams, Fantasia and Andra Day teamed up for a stirring performance of “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” in honour Aretha Franklin, who died last year.

    Diana Ross earned a standing ovation when she emerged onstage in a bright red dress to perform “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand)” and “The Best Years of My Life.” She celebrated her 75th birthday early with the performance, saying afterward, “Happy birthday to me!” Her actual birthday is March 26.

    R&B singer H.E.R., who won two R&B awards, stunned as she played her guitar and sang. Chloe x Halle, nominated for two awards, impressed when they sang Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack’s “Where Is the Love.”

    Ariana Grande won her first Grammy in the same week that she publicly blasted Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich and accused him of lying about why she was no longer performing at the show.

    Beck was a double winner during the pre-telecast, taking home best alternative music album and best engineered album (non-classical) for “Colours.” Emily Lazar, one of the engineers who worked on the album and won alongside Beck, was the first female mastering engineer to win in the latter category.

    Beyonce, Jay-Z, Ella Mai, Pharrell Williams, Hugh Jackman, Sting, Shaggy, Dave Chappelle, “Weird Al” Yankovic, the late Chris Cornell, Greta Van Fleet and even former President Jimmy Carter also picked up early awards ahead of the live show.

    ___

    AP Entertainment Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. contributed to this report.

    ___

    Online: https://www.grammy.com/

    Mesfin Fekadu, The Associated Press




















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    National Entertainment

    Avenatti says he has new video evidence against R. Kelly

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  • CHICAGO — Attorney Michael Avenatti said Thursday that he has given Chicago prosecutors new video evidence of R&B star R. Kelly having sex with an underage girl.

    Avenatti said the video is not the same evidence used in Kelly’s 2008 trial, when he was acquitted on child pornography charges. CNN, which said it had viewed the footage, reported that the nearly 45-minute VHS tape shows a man who appears to be Kelly performing sex acts with a girl who refers to her body parts as 14 years old.

    Tandra Simonton, spokeswoman for Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx, would not confirm or deny that the office is investigating.

    Kelly and his attorney have for years denied allegations of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls. His attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday on the latest allegations.

    Avenatti is best known for representing porn star Stormy Daniels in a lawsuit against President Donald Trump. He said his office was retained in April 2018 by multiple people regarding allegations of sexual assault of minors by Kelly, whose legal name is Robert Kelly.

    Avenatti said the video surfaced during a 10-month investigation that included witness interviews and examination of documents and evidence throughout the U.S. He told The Associated Press the person who provided the tape knew both Kelly and the female in the video. He also said he did not know where the person had kept the video or why it had not previously been provided to law enforcement.

    Both Kelly and the victim are “clearly visible” throughout the recording, as is an identifying mole on Kelly’s back, and both of them refer multiple times to the girl being 14, Avenatti said in a statement.

    Kelly can be heard on the tape directing the girl to perform sex acts, the statement said. The singer also “takes great pains” to adjust the camera to ensure that the acts are recorded “with specificity and at a limited distance,” according to the statement.

    Foxx asked potential victims to come forward last month after Lifetime aired the documentary “Surviving R. Kelly,” which revisited the allegations against Kelly and put a spotlight on new ones.

    Activists from the #MeToo and #MuteRKelly social media movements used the renewed attention to call for streaming services to drop Kelly’s music and promoters not to book any more concerts. They also held protests outside Kelly’s Chicago studio.

    Kelly denied all the allegations, and his lawyer, Steve Greenberg, said Kelly was the victim of a TV hit piece . He said Kelly “never knowingly had sex with an underage woman, he never forced anyone to do anything, he never held anyone captive, he never abused anyone.”

    Avenatti said his office is co-operating with Foxx’s office. He called Kelly a predator who has preyed on “young, vulnerable girls” for too long.

    “The time has come for him to finally be held accountable for his actions,” he said.

    Avenatti did not say when the video was recorded but said the acts depicted in it are within the Illinois statute of limitations for criminal charges.

    Illinois lawmakers in 2017 eliminated all time limits for felony criminal sexual assault and sexual abuse crimes against children. The new law was prompted in part by decades-old sex abuse allegations against former Rep. Dennis Hastert, who was charged with banking violations because under Illinois law victims of sex abuse had 20 years from their 18th birthday to report the crime so it could be prosecuted.

    ___

    More of The Associated Press’ coverage of the investigations into R. Kelly can be found at: https://www.apnews.com/RKelly .

    Sara Burnett, The Associated Press


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    National Entertainment

    Film academy issues statement amid backlash to changes

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  • LOS ANGELES — Responding to widespread backlash to the fact that four Oscars will be presented during commercial breaks at the 91st Academy Awards, the film academy has issued a statement saying that all Academy Award winners will still be included in the broadcast on Feb. 24.

    A joint statement from the film academy’s board of governors on Wednesday criticized “inaccurate reporting” and social media posts for what they described as a “chain of misinformation” that has angered film academy members. Critics of the changes include directors Alfonso Cuaron, Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese.

    The cinematography, film editing, makeup and hairstyling and live-action shorts awards will be presented during the commercial breaks this year in an effort to shorten the broadcast to three hours. Their speeches will be edited into the show.

    The Associated Press


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