On May 5, 2018, Childish Gambino dropped what quickly became his signature song and visual accompaniment, a protest tune called “This Is America” whose video blended iconic dance moves and maniacal stares with senseless violence. It was a melange of the country that birthed it.
The song got huge, so huge that it ended up nominated for four Grammy awards — Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Rap/Sung Performance, Best Music Video. Sunday night (February 10), it won them all. But the man at the center of its creation, Donald Glover, wasn’t around to access any of the awards. He skipped out on the ceremony altogether.
Grammys host Alicia Keys and presenter John Mayer accepted Song of the Year (one of the so-called Big Four awards) on his behalf earlier in the night. But when it came time to celebrate for Record of the Year (another Big Four category, one that honors the song in all its technical, behind-the-scenes assembly), co-writer Ludwig Göransson stepped up to the mic to share a few thoughts.
“Creating music with Childish Gambino has been one of the greatest joys of my life,” he said. “As a kid growing up in Sweden, loving American music, I always dreamed of migrating here, work with brilliant artists like Donald Glover. I really wish he was here with us right now because this is truly his vision and he deserves this credit.”
“No matter where you’re born or what country you’re from, you connect with ‘This Is America,'” Göransson continued. “It speaks to people. It connects right to your soul. It calls out injustice, celebrates life, and reunites us all at the same time.”
He also took time to thank 21 Savage, a two-time nominee who was absent from the Grammys due to being detained by ICE agents last week, and said he “should be here tonight.”
But it was Glover’s absence from the show itself that felt intentional — perhaps as a statement of protest, like the way Drake accepted Best Rap Song by calling into question the very notion of the Grammys as an institution. Or perhaps he was just busy.
As Pitchfork points out, “This Is America” is the first hip-hop song in history to win Song of the Year, a fact that pairs nicely with Cardi B’s milestone as the first solo female rapper to take home Best Rap Album.
The statues don’t lie: “This Is America” took home half of the Grammys’ Big Four awards on Sunday night, even if Glover wasn’t there to accept them. At least we got to see him dancing on a commercial during the telecast. Watch that clip below, then maybe go watch “This Is America” again. After all, it’s still time to celebrate.