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Artists turn Grammys into political showcase – Late pop stars Prince, George Michael saluted

Lagy Gaga (right), and James Hetfield of Metallica (left), perform ‘Moth Into Flame’ at the 59th annual Grammy Awards on Feb 12 in Los Angeles. (AP)

Bowie, who was always more recognized in his native Britain than in his adopted home the United States, was controversially passed over for Album of the Year honors at this year’s Grammys.

But “Blackstar” won in its five categories — including Best Rock Song, Best Rock Performance, Best Alternative Music Album and best engineering on a non-classical album.

“Blackstar” also won Best Recording Package, for artist Jonathan Barnbrook.

Bowie released “Blackstar” on his 69th birthday in January 2016, just two days before he died from a previously undisclosed battle with cancer.

The album showed Bowie, famous for his chameleon-like skill in adapting to new genres, to be musically innovative until the end.

He collaborated on “Blackstar” with the avant-garde jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin, whose instrument duels in the songs with Bowie’s voice.

Lady Gaga and Metallica hit the 2017 Grammys stage together on Sunday — and did not hold back.

She went full Metallica, clad in leather shorts and performing the band’s hit “Moth Into the Flame.” As she sang, side by side with Metallica’s James Hetfield, pyrotechnics flared up behind her. And at one point, she pulled a classic metal move — jumping into the crowd for a stage dive.


Technical difficulties did strike, as Hetfield’s microphone appeared to go dead. No matter for Gaga, however. She stormed right up to Hetfield and shared with him her working mic, making for an even more explosive performance.

“Don’t forget that you loved me once,” Maren Morris and Alicia Keys sang, teaming up to belt out “Once” at the 2017 Grammys on Sunday.

Keys (sporting a now-signature, makeup-free look) wore a shimmering jumpsuit that matched the sparkle of Morris’ sequined bodysuit. The two seamlessly alternated verses to the touching ballad.

Keys has won 15 Grammy awards out of 29 nominations since 2002 when she cleaned up, winning awards for best female R&B vocal performance, best R&B album, best R&B song, best new artist, and song of the year. Her favor in the Recording Academy’s eyes has kept up ever since. In 2014, Keys won best R&B album for “Girl on Fire.” And she’s clearly still on fire.

Morris, meanwhile, is a fresh face to the Grammys. Still, she came on strong by earning her first four nods this year, including best new artist. Her album, “Hero,” was also nominated for best country album.

Paris Jackson took to the stage at the Grammys, introducing a performance at Staples Center eight years after attending her father’s memorial service at the arena.

The 18-year-old wore flowers in her up do and sported a nose ring at Sunday’s show. She introduced The Weeknd featuring Daft Punk in the evening’s second performance.

It was another step in the emergence of Michael Jackson’s only daughter. She recently made the cover of Rolling Stone and gave an extended interview to the magazine. She’s dabbling in modeling and acting, and befitting a child of the King of Pop, Jackson also writes music and sings.

Jackson was a guest at Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy bash in Beverly Hills on Saturday.

A giant video projection of the US Constitution loomed over the stage at this year’s Grammys, making the music industry’s top awards show one of the most overtly political yet.

The document that defines America and famously begins with “We the People” provoked a standing ovation from the audience at the culmination of a performance by pop singer Katy Perry, who sang her newly released song, “Chained to the Rhythm.”

With a refrain of “We think we’re free,” the song’s lyrics talk about being lulled into a “comfortable bubble.” Performing on a set with a picture-perfect white picket fence, Perry was joined by Skip Marley, grandson of Jamaican reggae legend Bob Marley, whose songs often protested against oppression and social injustice.

The aftermath of November’s bitterly fought US presidential election has produced a succession of political comments by artists at awards shows, most notably actress Meryl Streep’s speech attacking US President Donald Trump during the Golden Globes Awards in January.

That spree continued on Sunday, as various artists brought up the divisive political atmosphere and the need to speak out.

“At this particular time in history, our voices are needed more than ever,” said Jennifer Lopez at the show’s start.

In a more comic vein, Grammys host James Corden launched the show with a rap: “Live it all up because this is the best, and with President Trump we don’t know what comes next.”

Perry wore an armband that said “Persist.”

Ahead of the main awards show, Chance the Rapper won a Grammy for best rap performance, wearing a black hoodie with “Obama” on the back and “thank you” on the front.

Cello virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma on Sunday won a Grammy with his Silk Road Ensemble for “Sing Me Home,” an exploration of the musical connections across Eurasia.

The French-born Chinese American cellist had previously won an impressive 17 Grammys but his latest is his first for Best World Music Album.

Ma set up The Silk Road Ensemble to bring together musicians from the historic route that connected the Middle East and Asia, in hopes both of finding artistic commonalities and furthering the cause of intercultural understanding.

“Sing Me Home” started with deliberately loose guidelines, as skilled artists from the Silk Road chose works that were personally important to them and jammed with other musicians, spontaneously finding their own form of fusion.

“We were strangers but having worked together over the past 15, 20 years has enriched our lives tremendously,” the Russian-born, New York-based violinist Jonathan Gandelsman said as he accepted the award in a ceremony before the main Grammy telecast.

The album was released to accompany a documentary on Ma’s project entitled “The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and The Silk Road Ensemble.”

He said that the ensemble sent a “powerful message of unity” as it taught the musicians — and the audiences — to respect one another’s cultures.

“In the current situation, I think we’ll keep playing more music and sharing more love,” Das said.

“Sing Me Home” won out in a category that included sitarist Anoushka Shankar’s “Land of Gold,” which reflects on the global refugee crisis, and a live album by Brazilian legends Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil.

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