(CBS) -- Singer and actress Janelle Monae told the audience at Madison Square Garden that "time's up" for discrimination and harassment, as she introduced a song by Grammy nominee Kesha.
Kesha's been battling her former record producer for years over allegations of emotional and sexual abuse. Backed by an all-star female chorus, Kesha sang her empowerment ballad "Praying."
It was a sentiment echoed backstage by best new artist Alessia Cara.
"Things are uneven and unequal and they need to be talked about and they need to be changed," she said.
The other eight awards were given to men, including the night's biggest winner, Bruno Mars.
Other parts of the awards show took aim at President Trump.
A comedy sketch showed auditions for the audiobook of the White House expose "Fire and Fury." The segment was criticized by some conservatives including UN Ambassador Nikki Haley who tweeted: "Some of us love music without the politics thrown in it."
U2 performed with the statue of liberty as the backdrop, and Cuban-born singer Camila Cabello had a message about immigration.
"Just like the dreamers, my parents brought me to this country with nothing in their pockets but hope," she said.
And multiple Grammy winner Kendrick Lamar ended his performance with images of violence against African Americans.