The Grammys were opened by a powerful speech from Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Michelle Obama, Jada Pinkett-Smith and host Alicia Keys.
“Music has always been the one place we can all feel truly free,” Gaga said, recalling how she was referred to as “weird” when she first emerged in the industry.
Jada Pinkett Smith said: “Every voice we hear deserves to be honoured and respected.”
“From the Motown records I wore out from the southside… music has always helped me tell my story and I know that’s true for everybody here, whether we like country or rap or rock,” Michelle Obama said, ”Music helps us share ourselves, our hopes and joys… to invite each other in. Music shows that it all matters, with every story, with a different voice… is that right, ladies?”
“Tonight we celebrate the greatest in each other, through all of us, through music,” Alicia Keys, before adding: “Who runs the world?”
There is considerable pressure on this year’s Grammys ceremony to get it right, following a disappointing result in 2018 where just one woman won a prize on-screen.
Last year Lorde, the only woman nominated for Album of the Year in 2018, was not offered a solo performance slot. Following an outcry over the lack of female winners, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said that women needed to “step up” if they wanted to be recognised the following year
In response, the Recording Academy appointed a task force led by Tina Tchen, a former chief of staff to Michelle Obama, to “identify the various barriers and unconscious biases faced by underrepresented communities” at the academy.
In 2019, more women than men are nominated for the Album of the Year category, which has been expanded, along with the other four main groups, from five nominees to eight.