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Grammys 2019: Women in the spotlight, hip hop makes history and tributes galore

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Female artists dominated at the Grammy awards Sunday night, with the spotlight of “music’s biggest night” firmly focused on powerhouse performances by women.   

The Recording Academy — which has been trying to address criticism around the lack of diversity at its annual celebration of music — has made some strides when it comes to nominating more diverse musicians. That was on display Sunday, as the Grammys registered several historic wins for rap artists and saw female acts triumphing with two of the night’s top trophies (album of the year, best new artist), as well as in categories including rap album, country album, R&B album and pop vocal album.

Producers of this year’s Grammy telecast chose to, for the most part, turn the show over to female artists, highlighting the talent of host Alicia Keys and honouring musical icons like Dolly Parton, Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin.

Then there was the noticeable boost in top-nominated female acts (including Kacey Musgraves, Janelle Monae, Cardi B, H.E.R., Dua Lipa and Brandi Carlile) performing — and commanding attention with their time onstage.

“I just wanted to say how honoured I am to be nominated alongside so many incredible female artists this year, because I guess this year we really stepped up,” Dua Lipa quipped upon winning best new artist, a clear retort to outgoing academy head Neil Portnow’s infamous comments backstage at last year’s telecast.

That said, the show wasn’t without mishap. Here’s a round-up of some memorable moments from the night.


Musical matchmaking

Grammy telecast producer Ken Ehrlich is simply addicted to star-studded matchups and duets. Sometimes it truly works, as with Camila Cabello’s high-energy opening performance of Havana, featuring J. Balvin, Ricky Martin, Young Thug and Arturo Sandoval.

The star-studded Parton tribute had even BTS bopping. Late in the show, St. Vincent and Dua Lipa offered a seductive performance of Masseduction.

But slamming together musical notables of different genres and generations or simply signing big names to perform yet another tribute doesn’t always pay off (more on J. Lo later).

Obama in the house

To help kick things off, Keys shared her time onstage with some major names, inviting “sisters” Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jennifer Lopez and — seemingly garnering one of the night’s biggest and longest ovations — Michelle Obama.

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

Drake’s real talk

In one of the night’s surprise appearances, Grammy-and-Juno-snubbing hip hop star Drake was actually in the house to accept the Grammy when God’s Plan won the trophy for best rap song.

“If there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain and snow, spending their hard-earned money to come to your shows, you don’t need this right here, I promise you, you already won,” Drake told fellow artists from the stage after his win.

But just when we thought perhaps his beef with award shows had ended, producers bluntly cut off his real-talk speech, sending the show to commercial at what they subsequently called a “natural pause” (with Drake apparently declining the offer to come back and finish his thought).

Well Grammys, that’s likely the last time you’ll see Champagne Papi at your show.

Historic hip hop wins

Cardi B, seen performing Money during the ceremony, is the first solo female winner of the best rap album Grammy. (Matt Sayles/Invision/Associated Press)

And speaking of no-shows, Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) made history with his blistering track This is America winning both song of the year and record of the year.

It’s the first time in Grammy history a rap song has won either category. It was an embarrassing moment for Grammy organizers that such a major winner didn’t feel compelled to attend. (The song also won best rap/sung performance and best music video)

Another historic win came when rapper Cardi B became the first solo female rapper ever to win best rap album (for Invasion of Privacy).

Motown by way of Sin City

Jennifer Lopez performed with Smokey Robinson in a tribute to Motown. The choice was controversial before the show even happened, and even more so after her performance. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

A decision that was maligned by many from the moment it was revealed was the Grammys’ decision to have Jennifer Lopez lead a tribute to Motown. A major complaint was that the tribute to the label that brought the world artists like Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Glady Knight and Stevie Wonder, should come from a black artist.

And then there was the performance question.

Though widely acknowledged for her phenomenal dancing, J.Lo has never been considered an incredibly strong vocalist, so building a multi-song tribute around her (even with the assistance of Motown legend Smokey Robinson, Grammy host Keys and R&B singer-songwriter Ne-Yo) felt inexplicable to many in the audience.

It’s not surprising that the set, which seemed to channel her Las Vegas residency, earned a significant backlash on social media — especially when a tribute to Aretha Franklin later in the show appeared to get truncated to just one of the Queen of Soul’s songs.

Host with the most

Host Alicia Keys was a major part of the show, putting on her own performances as she carried viewers through the star-studded night. (Mike Blake/Reuters)

When you land a 15-time Grammy-winner as host, you want to make the most of it — and Grammy producers definitely showcased Keys as much as they could.

She shared personal stories, offered upbeat optimism about the music industry and, delivered a terrific two-piano bit that showed that lengthy musical medleys don’t have to be stuffed with cameos to actually be enjoyable.

Coming together on the red carpet

And lest you think major moments only happen onstage, Canadian nominees Young Spirit brought the roar of the red carpet to a momentary halt and drew everyone’s attention with a Cree round dance.

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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