2019 Grammys: Nobody laughs at Brandi Carlile’s triumphant performance of ‘The Joke’

Brandi Carlile performs "The Joke" at the 61st Grammy Awards on Sunday,
(Matt Sayles / Invision / Associated Press)

Brandi Carlile sent a powerful message at the Grammy Awards on Sunday: Sometimes less really is more.

On a cavernous stage filled with just her band and the softest of spotlights, the Americana darling brandished an acoustic guitar for an unvarnished version of “The Joke,” which was up for song of the year and still in the running for record. Its accompanying album, “By the Way, I Forgive You,” is also up for album of the year and scored Carlile three awards in the Americana categories in the pre-telecast ceremony.

For “The Joke,” Carlile kept the focus on what made her the most nominated female artist going into tonight’s ceremony. Her lyrics, and her staggering emotional connection to them, stood in stark relief in her performance.


Full coverage: 2019 Grammy Awards »

Brandi Carlile, right, and wife Catherine Shepherd during the arrivals at Sunday’s Grammys.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Flanked by longtime collaborators (and twin brothers) Tim and Phil Hanseroth, Carlile burrowed into the song’s chorus about accepting — and celebrating — what makes us unique.

“Let ‘em laugh while they can/ Let ‘em spin, let ‘em scatter in the wind/ I have been to the movies, I’ve seen how it ends/ And the joke’s on them,” she sang.

Just as it does on the studio recording of the song, Carlile’s voice soared and cracked, revealing the vulnerability of her sentiments. (She even got the highly coveted head nod of approval from Post Malone. So there’s that.)

“I hoped that song would strike a nerve the way it has,” Carlile told The Times in December. “Part of who I am is that I have a need to be understood by people. I hoped that people would understand what I was saying in ‘The Joke.’”


Follow me on Twitter @jreedwrites.