NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bruno Mars and Kendrick Lamar stormed ahead at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, winning three statuettes apiece in the pre-show prizes while Jay-Z, who had the most nominations, was left empty-handed in the early awards.
Lamar beat Jay-Z in all of his three wins – best rap song, performance and music video for “Humble.”
Mars scored for R&B performance and song for “That’s What I Like” and best R&B album for “24K Magic.” The album also was named best engineered album, which recognizes the work of sound engineers.
British singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, who was snubbed in the top album, record and song of the year categories, won a pop vocal album Grammy for 2017’s best-seller “Divide” but did not attend Sunday’s ceremony.
Childish Gambino, the alter ego of actor Donald Glover, won his first ever Grammy for “Redbone” which was named best traditional R&B performance.
The awards were given out before the three-hour televised show got under way, as celebrities including Lady Gaga, Elton John and Lana del Rey made their way down the red carpet in New York.
Country singer Reba McEntire and Americana music band The Mavericks were among those wearing white roses as a symbol of solidarity with victims of sexual harassment, as the Time’s Up movement spread from Hollywood to the music industry.
Lamar is expected to open Sunday’s show which will also feature live performances by U2, Cardi B, Pink, Miley Cyrus, Sting, Sam Smith and many others.
Jay-Z went into the show with a leading eight nominations, mostly from his soul-baring “4:44” album. He is competing against Lamar, Mars, Childish Gambino and New Zealand-born singer-songwriter Lorde for album of the year in a test of whether hip-hop can break a 14-year dry spell and win that top prize.
Kesha, a best pop vocal album nominee who has been battling her former record producer Dr. Luke for years in U.S. courts over allegations of emotional and sexual abuse, is expected to perform her emotional single “Praying” with Cyndi Lauper, Julia Michaels and a full choir.
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Dr. Luke has repeatedly denied Kesha’s allegations.
Grammy nominees Alessia Cara, Khalid and Logic will take the stage with a group of suicide survivors to perform their song “1-800-273-8255,” the telephone number of the National Suicide Prevention hotline.
And country artists Brothers Osborne, Eric Church and Maren Morris, who appeared at the Las Vegas country music festival where 51 people were killed and more than 500 were wounded last October, will mark the victims of gun violence and extremist attacks at music events.
Mars, Jay-Z, Lamar and Gambino are also nominated for record of the year but so too is Latin dance hit “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and featuring Justin Bieber. The single last summer broke records as the most-streamed global track of all time, with more than 4.6 billion plays across leading platforms.
Ahead of the show, Ross Scarano, vice president of content at Billboard magazine, gave “Despacito” the edge.
“It appealed to a lot of people. It also speaks to the more global sound of pop this year, the emphasis on Latin music,” Scarano told Reuters.
Additional reporting by Alicia Powell; Editing by Cynthia Osterman