There’s only one Grammys event that can pack Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Super Bowl LIII MVP Julian Edelman and Apple CEO Tim Cook into a room alongside music legends like Barbra Streisand and Quincy Jones and hot young stars including Travis Scott and Ella Mai.
Traditionally the biggest Grammys-weekend party led by one of music’s most legendary names, Clive Davis and the Recording Academy’s pre-Grammys gala takes place every year on the night before the awards. Stars descended on the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles Saturday to pose on the red carpet, watch the night’s performances – with a trio of sets paying tribute to Aretha Franklin – and celebrate music industry veteran Clarence Avant as 2019’s Grammy Salute to Industry Icons honoree.
And yet, the event didn’t feel quite as essential as it has in previous years, whether it was the lack of big-name performers or the absence of young stars in attendance – or the fact that another high-profile event earlier in the day may have stolen its thunder.
Read on for the most notable aspects of 2019’s Clive Davis gala, ahead of Sunday’s Grammys, which broadcast live on CBS beginning at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.
Grammys 2019: Everything you need to know about the 61st annual show
Travis Scott chose the Clive Davis party over ‘Spongebob and Stormi’
Scott kicked off the evening with performances of his hits “Goosebumps” and “Sicko Mode,” addressing the crowd in between songs in an attempt to get people on their feet.
“I could’ve just stayed in the crib and watched Spongebob with Stormi all night,” he said, referencing his and Kylie Jenner’s baby daughter. “But I chose to come and party with y’all tonight, so I just wanna rage.”
His efforts paid off somewhat, as the black-tie attendees responded more energetically to his second song, with Scott meeting them halfway with a more subdued version of his normally-explosive live performance style.
Nancy Pelosi got a standing ovation
The one constant at Davis’ galas is his lengthy shout-outs of luminaries in the audience, which often unfold over the course of several minutes in between performances. His first introduction of the gala was greeted with one of the night’s biggest reactions, as he greeted Nancy Pelosi, calling her a political figure who’s “front and center like never before,” as the crowd stood and applauded her after.
Davis’ speeches are seemingly his way of playing the role of a good host by giving the night’s celebrity attendees flattering welcomes, while also simultaneously reminding audience members of his prodigious influence in the industry, that he’s powerful enough to recruit the night’s biggest names. His sometimes-meandering commentary doesn’t make the gala any easier to sit through, regressing from being entertaining in the night’s first few hours to just seeming exhausting towards the end.
The Time reunited to honor Clarence Avant
Fans of the iconic funk group The Time were in for a surprise, with Morris Day, Jerome Benton, Terry Lewis, Jimmy Jam and other members of the seminal Minneapolis group taking the stage to honor Avant, known as the “Godfather Of Black Music.”
Avant’s tributes also included a speech by Quincy Jones and a short documentary featuring kind words from personalities ranging from Snoop Dogg to Barack Obama and Kamala Harris.
Aretha Franklin got a strange tribute
The Queen of Soul deserved better Saturday night than the string of incohesive performances that were supposed to represent her legacy. The fault lies squarely on the shoulders of the gala’s organizers, who inexplicably split the tribute up into three separate sets and scheduled them for the very end of the show, giving Davis plenty of time to talk in between each segment.
As a result, the considerably-strong performances from the three acts tapped for the tributes – Jazmine Sullivan and Rob Thomas, Ledici and Chloe x Halle – never could gain any momentum, with the already-tired crowd streaming out of the ballroom in between, and well into, each set. Chloe x Halle got the worst treatment, soldiering through the night’s final performance as audience members ran from their seats to their Ubers, delivering what may have been the strongest performance of all the Aretha singers.
Many stars attended Roc Nation’s party while skipping Clive Davis
Perhaps the gala would’ve had more buzzy moments, particularly when it came to younger artists and more contemporary genres, had it boasted the guest list of the Roc Nation brunch party held earlier Saturday.
Beyonce, Jay-Z, DJ Khaled, Usher, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Normani and Khalid were among the many stars who attended the Roc Nation event but were not spotted at the Clive Davis party, though Robin Thicke was seen at both.
Grammys 2019: Dolly Parton compares her tribute concert to watching porn