Clive Davis, Alicia Keys Honor Jay-Z at Pre-Grammys Gala
Veteran record executive Clive Davis attempted a complex balancing act at his annual pre-Grammy Gala Saturday night at the Sheraton Hotel in Times Square: how to celebrate the vintage sounds of bygone pop eras with current superstars side by side.
The evening seesawed frequently and sometimes incongruously between these two poles. Barry Manilow sang standards; Migos rapped a gruff, hyper-modern hit. Throwback Broadway pomp collided with a more recent global phenomenon: Luis Fonsi’s lithe, smacking reggaeton, sung almost entirely in Spanish. Gladys Knight performed “Stand By Me,” a song that’s old, wise and rich; in contrast, a perpetually smiling Khalid chose to perform his pop hit “Young Dumb & Broke.”
If there was one constant across these zig-zags, it was Jay-Z, who was on-hand to receive the “Grammy Salute to Industry Icons Award.” He was barely on stage for five minutes, but he kept popping up throughout the night. Logic cited the rapper as an inspiration before performing his Record of the Year-nominated single, “1-800-273-8255.” The dressed-to-the-nines, star-filled crowd, which included Beyoncé, Diddy, Tina Fey, Mariah Carey, John Legend and Chrissy Teigen among many others, broke into an impromptu chant of “Hova, Hova,” a reference to Jay-Z’s exalted nickname. (At one point, comedian John Oliver threw up the Roc symbol, a nod to Jay-Z’s old label, Roc-A-Fella Records.) But it was Alicia Keys who delivered the night’s highlight, a boisterous, career-spanning medley of Jay-Z’s hits that was both swinging and jubilant.
The other source of cohesive force at the gala was, of course, Davis, who served as the night’s cheerful host and cheerleader-in-chief. In between performers, he introduced famous audience members as if he were running a trivia night at a local bar, heaping clues but refusing to reveal a name until the last possible moment: “For nearly two decades, this man has been one of music’s most innovative, Grammy-award winning producers… for Missy Elliott, for Justin Timberlake, for Beyoncé, for Michael Jackson, for Jay-Z, he’s always at the cutting edge and the top of the charts… Timbaland is here!” Davis stacked superlatives in yearbook-worthy heaps – “the peerless, the incomparable, the fabulous!” And he reeled off numbers like an overeager statistician: records sold,…