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The Margin: The Grammy Awards get off to lively (and slap-free) start

At the start of this year’s Grammy Awards, host Trevor Noah made it clear: The show would steer clear of the drama that marked last weekend’s Oscar ceremony.

“We’re going to be keeping people’s names out of our mouths,” said Noah, referring to the now infamous moment when Will Smith confronted Chris Rock for a joke made about the actor’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith. In addition to slapping the comic, Will Smith said, “Keep my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth.”

Not that the music-industry ceremony, televised on CBS, isn’t capable of providing its own moments of controversy and intrigue. The event had originally been scheduled for Jan. 31, but was moved to Sunday because of fears earlier in the year about the fast-spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus. And the Grammys grabbed headlines when it banned Kanye West, aka Ye, from performing because of his recent “concerning online behavior.”

The show also needed to prove it could again find an audience. A record-low viewership of 8.8 million watched the ceremony last year — a decline of 53% from the audience in 2020. 

The event got off to a lively start, with a performance by Silk Sonic, the R&B duo of Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak. Silk Sonic was also the first big winner of the night when its song, “Leave the Door Open,” was named song of the year.

Other artists featured during the early portion of the ceremony included singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo and K-pop sensations BTS.

Numerous winners were also announced before the televised ceremony. The Foo Fighters, who were inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame last year, won awards for best rock album (“Medicine at Midnight”) and best rock song (“Waiting on a War”). The honors likely carried special meaning for the group, since its drummer, Taylor Hawkins, recently died. (The Foo Fighters had been scheduled to perform at this year’s ceremony, but canceled following Hawkins’ death.)

Another multiple honoree: Jon Batiste, the singer and bandleader, who was named the recipient of a handful of awards, including one for best music video (“Freedom”), prior to the televised ceremony. Batiste entered the night as the most nominated artist, with 11 nods in all. He is vying in the evening’s big categories — album of the year and record of the year.

Batiste’s competition in the album category includes such artists as Justin Bieber, Doja Cat, Taylor Swift and the duo of Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. 

Aside from Noah’s opening remarks about the Oscars, the Will Smith-Chris Rock incident was mostly ignored. If anything, presenters and recipients focused on the music itself.

Still, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, the recording artist who presented the award for song of the year, jokingly remarked, “I trust that you people will stay 500 feet away from me.”

The comment carried special weight since Questlove was fresh off winning the Oscar for best documentary for his film “Summer of Soul” — the very category that Rock presented during the Oscars.

This year’s show is taking place for the first time in its 64-year history in Las Vegas. The ceremony is being produced by film and television director Ben Winston, who shared his thoughts on Twitter just hours prior to the event. 

“Proud to be producing the Grammy today. Heck of a lineup,” he said.

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