Kendrick Lamar takes early lead at Grammys

LOS ANGELES, UNITED STATES, Shaun Tandon- Kendrick Lamar, the rapper who has emerged as a voice of the Black Lives Matter movement, took the lead Monday at the Grammy Awards as he delivered an electrifying, operatic performance.
An array of artists won accolades on the music industry's biggest night, including pop superstar Taylor Swift, English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran and indie rock sensations Alabama Shakes.

But Lamar, whose song "Alright" has become an unofficial anthem for protesters against police abuse, took an early lead with five awards out of 11 nominations.
"This is for hip-hop," Lamar said as he accepted the award for Best Rap Album. "We will live forever -- believe that."
In a politically charged yet genre-spanning appearance, Lamar shuffled onto stage as part of a chain-gang as a jazz saxophone merged with a heavy guitar on "The Blacker the Berry."
As his performance transitioned to "Alright," Lamar metaphorically headed to Africa with dancers in traditional dress moving before a bonfire.
The performance closed with a map of Africa, on which was written "Compton" -- the gangsta rap capital in southern California from which he hails.
Lamar is also in contention of Album of the Year for "To Pimp a Butterfly," his experimental opus that merges rap, jazz and spoken word as he reflects on the stage of black America.
- Wins for Swift, Sheeran -
Swift, whose album "1989" was by far the best seller among those in contention, opened the live broadcast by performing her latest single "Out of the Woods."
She won two early awards -- Best Pop Vocal Album for "1989" and Best Music Video for her song "Bad Blood," an award that also went to Lamar, who appeared in the action-themed clip.
Swift, whose "1989" marked the former country prodigy's transformation into a pop superstar, leaped with joy as she lost in one category to a protege -- Sheeran.
The English singer-guitarist and his co-writer Amy Wadge won Song of the Year, which recognizes songwriting, for "Thinking Out Loud," his bare love ballad that became a viral Internet hit.
Meghan Trainor, 22, won another key award, Best New Artist, after the breakthrough success of "All About That Bass," her tongue-in-cheek doo wop take on weight struggles and self-acceptance.
Alabama Shakes, the bluesy indie rock band defined by Brittany Howard's thunderous voice, won three Grammys -- Best Alternative Music Album, Rock Song and Rock Performance.
Alabama Shakes, who are also in contention for the prestigious Album of the Year prize, hail from the small town of Athens, Alabama and played in obscurity until winning attention on a trip to New York in 2011.
"When we started this, we were in high school... and we just did it for fun. We never thought we would be getting any awards, any recognition, like this," Howard said in her thick Southern drawl.
Canadian R&B singer The Weeknd also had two wins including Best Urban Contemporary Album.
The 25-year-old singer, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, was born in Toronto to Ethiopian immigrant parents and initially performed in literal anonymity, releasing songs under his stage name over the Internet in 2010.
He became a star in the past year due to the popularity of "Can't Feel My Face," a pop R&B track that has invited comparisons to Michael Jackson.
- Lady Gaga transforms into Bowie -
The Grammys also paid tribute to a number of artists who recently died -- chief among them the rock icon David Bowie.
Lady Gaga appeared to transform on stage into Bowie, her face merging into his thunderbolt logo, against a three-dimensional backdrop of space imagery befitting the Starman.
She sang a medley of hits including "Space Oddity," "Changes" and "Let's Dance" to guitar by Nile Rodgers of Chic fame, a longtime friend and collaborator of Bowie.
Bowie died on January 10 from a publicly undisclosed battle with cancer, two days after he turned 69 and released his final album, "Blackstar."
While the experimental album also came out too late for this year's Grammys, composer Maria Schneider won a Grammy for best arrangements for one of the songs, "Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)."
Other performers included British singer Adele, whose album "25" has smashed early sales records but came out too early for Grammys contention.
Adele sang her powerful new ballad "All I Ask," although her soaring voice at times drifted out of tune.
One non-performer was the R&B superstar Rihanna, who canceled at the last minute, citing voice problems due to illness.
"So sorry I couldn't be there," she tweeted.

Tuesday, February 16th 2016
Shaun Tandon

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