BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
LOS ANGELES – While Adele, Carrie Underwood, Katy Perry, CeeLo Green, Thomas Rhett, Cage the Elephant and Jill Scott trotted the red carpet on their way into the Staples Center for the 59th annual Grammy Awards, the majority of this year’s nominees sat anxiously in the adjoining Los Angeles Convention Center for the “Premiere Ceremony.”
Margaret Cho hosted the three-hour trophy-fest, recently renamed the “Premiere Ceremony,” during which 75 of the 84 Grammy categories were presented. Jimmy Jam, Rene Marie, For King & Country and former Atlantan Lauren Daigle doled out some of the awards.
“I love that we can be from all over the world and still be a part of the Grammys,” Daigle said.
The contemporary Christian singer, now based in Nashville, lost in her category of best contemporary Christian music performance/song to Hillary Scott & The Scott Family – the side project of Lady Antebellum singer Scott – with “Thy Will” (the family group also bested Atlanta’s Crowder in the best contemporary Christian music album category).
However, Stax mainstay William Bell, long an Atlanta resident, scored his first-ever Grammy for “This is Where I Live” (best Americana album). He was also up for best traditional R&B performance, but lost to Lalah Hathaway’s “Angel.”
While accepting his award, the 77-year-old musician, sporting shades and a black fedora, seemed genuinely surprised at winning in a competitive category that included work from Kris Kristofferson and The Avett Brothers.
“I am glad to be here after all these years and still viable in the industry,” Bell said. “I’m back at Stax (Records) after 40 years…it’s always good to come home.”
David Bowie’s career was also finally acknowledged with his first music-centric Grammys.
“Blackstar,” the final album on the groundbreaking artist’s resume – released two days prior to his death from liver cancer in January 2016 – earned five nominations, but was shunned in some of the higher-profile slots, such as album of the year.
During the Premiere Ceremony, the album won four awards, including best rock performance, best alternative music album and best engineered album, non-classical.
Kevin Killen, the engineer on the record, said backstage that “Blackstar” was recorded from January through May 2015.
“We were aware from day one of the record of David’s condition, but it did not impede (anything),” Killen said. “He was really determined to make this record on his own terms. It was an inspiration for us to see him do that.”
Bowie’s only previous Grammy came in 1985 for the “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean” video.
In another first, Megadeth won the initial Grammy of its three-decade-plus career for best metal performance (“Dystopia”).
Chance the Rapper, who is nominated for seven awards for his streaming-only album, picked up an early trophy for best rap performance (“No Problem”), which includes features from Lil Wayne and Atlanta’s 2 Chainz (this is the first award for the College Park native).
A touching moment during the pre-show came when Rory Feek, whose wife and musical partner Joey died in March of cervical cancer, won for “Hymns That Are Important to Us” (best roots gospel album).
An emotional Rory recalled watching last year’s ceremony with an illness-weakened Joey who said, “If we get nominated, promise me you will come…and if we win, I will know before you do.”