Today’s Grammy Awards saw musicians managing to gather to celebrate their achievements, the ceremony originally being postponed due to the ongoing pandemic. Prior to the awards ceremony, Kaytranada swept the dance and electronic music categories, winning the award for Best Dance Recording for his single “10%” featuring Kali Uchis and Best Dance/Electronic Album for Bubba. His acceptance speech took place via Zoom, giving an insight into how the Grammy’s would operate with some slight differences from regular years due to the pandemic.
Kamasi Washington, Grace Potter, Gregory Porter and kicked off the Premiere Ceremony to pay tribute to Marvin Gaye to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his album What’s Going On. They were joined by twenty other artists, each performing in their own studios, the screen panning to each artist as they sang a portion of the song. The AR-style video saw artists performing in cut shapes forming into the Grammy logo, Washington steadily playing his saxophone. The cover kept with the aura of the original, introducing the grandness of the Grammys.
Billie Eilish’s James Bond theme “No Time to Die” won the award for Best Song Written for Visual Media, while John Prine received two posthumous awards for his song “I Remember Everything,” the track winning Best American Roots Performance and Best American Roots Song. Toots Hibbert also won a posthumous award in the Best Reggae Album category for the Toots & the Maytals album Got to Be Tough. Best Rap Album was given to Nas for King’s Disease, and Kanye West took home the award for Best Contemporary Christian Album with his album Jesus Is King, tying with Jay-Z for most wins by a hip-hop artist.
Poppy took the stage to deliver a dark and heavy performance of her new single “Eat.” Her band donned masks as they played, introducing how performances would adhere to the state’s required social-distancing guidelines.
After Poppy’s performance, Jhene Aiko presented the awards for Best Rock Performance, Best Metal Performance, Best Rock Song and Best Rock Album. Fiona Apple took home the award for Best Rock Performance with her song “Shameika,” as well as winning the Best Alternative Music Album for Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Body Count won the award for Best Metal Performance with their track “Bum-Rush,” which marked Ice-T’s first Grammy win in 30 years, while Brittany Howard won Best Rock Song with her single “Stay High” and The Strokes won Best Rock Album with “The New Abnormal.”
Trevor Noah opened the ceremony by joking that the past year felt like ten, pointing towards the Staples Center and declaring that it is real, and not a Zoom background. The Grammys took place outside in order to comply with COVID guidelines, with all audience members donning masks. Walking down the red carpet, Noah led viewers to the separate location where the performances will take place in order to ensure social-distancing.
The setup allowed those nominated to sit at tables under a tent as they waited for the winners to be announced. Decorated with floral arrangements, each nominee sat at their own table with their single guest, while Noah walked along a red carpet to show the performance hall for the artists.
Noah introduced Black Pumas, HAIM, Billie Eilish and Harry Styles, who all sat socially distanced within the auditorium where they would be performing. Styles kicked off the performances, his soft voice dancing over the saxophones beside him, a green boa scarf wrapped around his neck. Starting off with his hit single “Watermelon Sugar,” he delivered a slightly jazzier performance from the track’s original, the backup vocalists complimenting his performance as a smooth bass took over.
Billie Eilish began her performance next, standing on top of an old muscle car. She and her brother Finneas stood amidst a dark glow, her soft vocals grooving over the thumping bass. She performed her single “everything i wanted,” which had been nominated for Song of the Year and Record of the Year. The synths bounced over, Eilish closing her eyes during the performance as she lost herself in the groove. The lights matched her green and black aesthetic, the projector behind her and Finnease displaying green mist as she and Finneas smiled and sang to one another.
HAIM launched into their rollicking performance, the three sisters waltzing around one another as they sang “The Steps.” Standing towards each other during their performance, the track delivering a slight twang as they smiled and enjoyed their set. The other performers behind them danced and grooved during their performance, HAIM’s infectious energy spreading through the room as they strut and sang.
Following HAIM’s performance, the camera returned to the tent to announce the winner for Best New Artist. Lizzo presented the award, which included the nominees Phoebe Bridgers, Chika, Noah Cyrus, D Smoke, Doja Cat, Katranada and Megan Thee Stallion. Struggling to open the envelope, Lizzo announced Megan Thee Stallion as the winner, the rapper sitting at her table in shock for a moment before moving to accept the award. Mouth agape into the microphone, Megan Thee Stallion was at a loss for words, trying not to cry as she began her speech, honoring each of the other nominees.
Noah then introduced Black Pumas, who gave a smooth and bluesy performance of their song “Colors.” The sparkling guitar strums and low bass matched the funky performance, the camera panning to Harry Styles singing along as the band launched into a wicked electric guitar solo. Their popping performance highlighted Black Pumas’ talent, their intimate performance highlighting the band’s beginnings.
Da Baby Then launched into an epic performance of “Rockstar,” fit with strings, the deep chorus humming behind him. His quick verses flowed over the grand instrumentals, heightening the track’s original sound as the baritone swelled through the room. Roddy Rich walked onto the stage, Da Baby turning to conduct his choir. Immersing gospel with rap, the song took on more illustrious tones, highlighting Da Baby’s expertise.
Noah then introduced Bad Bunny, who walked along the futuristic set as deep synths reverberated through the room. Singing “Dákiti,” the bass thumped as the electronic instrumentals swelled as Bad Bunny was joined by Jhay Cortez. Their energetic performance matched the electric track, the set designed like an eye as they moved through, the track returning to the club.
Dua Lipa then took the stage for her single “Levitating,” the set behind her reflecting a purple sky. The instrumentals played behind her as she sang alone on stage, her pink dress matching the set behind her. Da Baby then returned to the stage to join her for the performance, dancers with sequined masks waltzing around him. She highlighted her disco aesthetic, changing into a glittery pink blazer as she returned to the stage. Another wardrobe change matched her performance of “Don’t Start Now,” Lipa bounding around her pink set. The strings danced beneath the steady beat of her track, Lipa dancing and leading the choreography.
Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak then made their live debut as Silk Sonic, singing their recent single “Leave The Door Open.” The set behind them was pitch black before stars shined behind them, both delivering their heartfelt vocals. They put their all into the performance, wearing burnt orange suits of the disco era, their outfits matching the timeless track. Anderson .Paak hummed as Bruno Mars belted, highlighting each other throughout their set.
Noah introduced who would be presenting the next award, highlighting the independent venues that have been closed due to the ongoing pandemic. The Nashville music venue, the Station Inn, presented the award for Best Country Album, which had been taken home by Miranda Lambert for her album Wildcard.
Taylor Swift was the next performer, with Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner joining her. She laid on a mossy ground, her elegant dress evoking forest nymph imagery to match her recent albums folklore and evermore. She gave a soft and heartfelt performance of “cardigan,” smiling through her set as the camera panned to show that she had been sitting atop a grassy wooden cabin hosting Antonoff and Dessner. Joining them in the red-glowing cabin, she began a smiling performance of “august,” joy clear on Swift’s face throughout her set. Fairy lights danced around her cottage-core set, her dress glowing gold while she switched into “willow” and swayed through the set, her voice softly matching her change in sound.
Noah introduced the venue that would be presenting the award for Best Pop Solo Performance. The Recording Academy Los Angeles’ The Troubador presented the award, which went to Harry Styles for “Water Melon Sugar,” who shyly accepted the award.
Noah then honored those in the music community who lost their lives this year, including Bill Withers, Betty Wright, K.T. Oslin, Tony Rice and Little Richard. Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak paid tribute to Little Richard, Mars embodying Little Richard during his set. A guitar stood in the center of an empty stage as Eddie Van Halen’s awe-inspiring talent flashed across the screen, countless other names following behind him. Lionel Richie then paid tribute to Kenny Rogers, lending a heartfelt performance. Chick Corea, Ellis Marsalis, Jan Howard, Johnny Nash, Sophie, Charley Pride, Toots Hibbert and John Prine were also honored. Brandi Carline took the stage to pay tribute to the late John Prine, performing his final song “I Remember Everything” and thanking him for all that he had done for the genre.
Brittany Howard and Chris Martin then joined to pay tribute to all the other artists who passed, Howard belting “You’ll never Walk Alone” as Martin focused on the piano. Her emotional performance honored each of the late musicians, the Recording Academy paying tribute to 1,000 artists.
Mickey Guyton shared a stunning performance of “Black Like Me,” which made history as Guyton became the first Black woman to be nominated in a country music category. After her performance, Guyton introduced Miranda Lambert, who performed a twangy performance of “Bluebird” Lambert then introduced John Mayer and Maren Morris, who shared a heartfelt performance of “The Bones,” Morris serenading Mayer during their set. Mayer then began a smooth guitar solo, Morris returning to her soft serenade.
Noah then presented the award for Song of the Year, which included nominees Beyonce, Roddy Rich, Taylor Swift, Post Malone, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, H.E.R and JP Saxe and Julia Michaels. The camera panned over each of the nominees, H.E.R. taking home the award for her single “I Can’t Breathe.” She described when she first wrote the song, in her bedroom at her mother’s house.
Megan Thee Stallion then took the stage to perform “Body,” a symphony joining her as she and her dancers dressed as flappers. The opening lines of “Savage” began, Megan Thee Stallion’s flow filling the room as Beyoncé’s backup vocals came through the speakers. Beyoncé did not join Megan Thee Stallion on stage, the young rapper dancing through Beyoncé’s verse. Dancers donning tap shoes then dove into an impressive performance, the lights going dark as Cardi B entered the stage. Her visuals created an impressive look, transporting Cardi B to walk atop animated hands while she rapped “Up.” Megan thee Stallion then strut on stage as “WAP” whispered underneath, the pair delivering the first performance of the track. Much of the lyrics had to be adjusted in order to become family-friendly for the performance, Cardi B and her dancers turning the set into a sci-fi fantasy. The two delivered a sultry performance of the track, Cardi B rolling around a large bed.
The next venue to present an award was Harlem’s Apollo Theater, Billy Mitchell highlighting the venue. He told the story of how he got started at the theater, James Brown motivating him to go to college in order to run the theater. He presented the award for Best Rap Song, the award going to Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé for “Savage.” She and Beyoncé took the stage, holding hands as Megan Thee Stallion emotionally accepted the award while Beyoncé encouraged her. She explained how Beyoncé had always been a tremendous influence throughout her life and career, Megan Thee Stallion talking of how she always looked up to the singer, the two sending love to their hometown of Houston. The win also made history as Beyoncé’s Grammy total hit 27 awards, marking her as tied for the most total awards.
Post Malone then began his performance, taking the stage for “Hollywood’s Bleeding.” The chorus hummed through his intro, creating a dark ambiance. Dressed in a long cape, Post Malone shyly performed the track as fog covered the floor of the stage, neon lights flashing across the stage while the robed chorus circled around him. Crouching over himself, Post Malone delivered a strong performance of the track.
Noah then introduced who would be presenting the award for Best Pop Vocal Album. The nominees included Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Dua Lipa, Harry Styles and Taylor Swift. The Grammy went to Dua Lipa for Future Nostalgia, the singer taking the stage to accept her award.
Lil Baby began an evocative performance of “The Bigger Picture,” beginning with the arrest and slaying of a Black man. His performance reflected all of the injustice that American citizens have been fighting against over the past year, the pandemic and killing of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and countless others spurring a summer of protests. Tamika Mallory demanded Joe Biden put more effort toward racial equality, The performers joining Lil Baby held up signs in protest as they stood against the police, the set taking place on the street outside the stadium. A voice-over from James Baldwin joined him, as well as Killer Mike and Kendrick Sampson. The performance served as a pointed protest against police brutality, Lil Baby standing up against the police as fires grew behind him.
“My performance is important to me and I had to make sure it was right,” Lil Baby said in a press statement. “Nominations aside, actually performing ‘The Bigger Picture’ means the most to me. I paint pictures with my songs and wanted to performance to bring that picture to life. Just like with the song, this performance had to reflect the real. No sugar-coating. My family, my fans and my city know who I do this for.”
Baby Face and Jimmy Jam presented the award for Best R&B Performance, with Beyoncé officially breaking the record for most awards held by a female artist. Now holding 28 awards, she won the award for her single “Black Parade,” thanking her three children during her acceptance speech and telling them the award is theirs, too.
Doja Cat then took the stage for “Say So,” taking on a robotic outfit for the performance. Along with her dancers, they weaved around lasers, looking as though they may have entered the Matrix. An electric guitar joined her on the track, Doja Cat belting the lyrics.
The next venue to be highlighted during the awards ceremony was Los Angeles’ Hotel Cafe, which presented the award for Best Album of the Year. The award went to Taylor Swift for fokelore. She took the stage with many who helped her, Swift emotionally taking each of her collaborators. She joked to Justin Vernon that she is “so excited to meet [him] one day,” as Swift wrote the album under quarantine.
BTS then took the stage to perform their song “Dynamite,” delivering a captivating performance as they danced around one another. BTS danced in sync, each member wearing sharp-cut suits and quickly moving throughout the stage. The track popped beneath them, BTS taking to the stairwell as they ran around the venue. Making their way to the roof of the building, they began to dance on a lit-up stage, atop a skyrise.
Roddy Ricch wrapped up the performances, singing as he sat at his piano. He then ran across the performance hall to launch into his hit song “The Box,” statues of titans lying across the stage as the band delivered jazzy instrumentals.
Ringo Starr presented Record of the Year, the final award of the night. Billie Eilish snagged the award for “everything i wanted,” the pop superstar taking the stage with her brother. Telling Megan Thee Stallion that she deserved the award over her, Eilish said she hadn’t written a speech because she believed Megan Thee Stallion deserved the award and thanked the rapper for her work. She then thanked the Recording Academy for the award.
Grammy Award Winners
Record Of The Year – “everything i wanted,” Billie Eilish
Album Of The Year – folklore, Taylor Swift
Song Of The Year – “I Can’t Breathe,” H.E.R.
Best New Artist – Megan Thee Stallion
Best Pop Solo Performance – “Watermelon Sugar,” Harry Styles
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance – Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande
Best Pop Vocal Album – Future Nostalgia, Dua Lipa
Best Dance Recording – “10%,” Kaytranada feat. Kali Uchis
Best Dance/Electronic Album – Bubba, Kaytranada
Best Rock Performance – “Shameika,” Fiona Apple
Best Metal Performance – “Bum-Rush,” Body Count
Best Rock Song – “Stay High,” Brittany Howard
Best Rock Album – The New Abnormal, The Strokes
Best Alternative Music Album – Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Fionna Apple
Best R&B Performance – “Black Parade,” Beyoncé
Best R&B Song – “Better Than I Imagined,” Robert Glasper feat. H.E.R. & Meshell Ndegeocello
Best Progressive R&B Album – It Is What It Is, Thundercat
Best R&B Album – Bigger Love, John Legend
Best Rap Performance – “Savage,” Megan Thee Stallion feat. Beyoncé
Best Rap Song – “Savage,” Megan Thee Stallion feat. Beyoncé
Best Rap Album – King’s Disease, Nas
Best Country Song – “Crowded Table,” Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemy & Lori McKenna
Best Country Album – Wildcard, Miranda Lambert
Best American Roots Performance – “I Remember Everything,” John Prine
Best American Roots Song – “I Remember Everything,” Pat McLaughlin & John Prine
Best Folk Album – All The Good Times, Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
Best Reggae Album – Got To Be Tough, Toots & The Maytals
Best Written Song For Visual Media – “No Time To Die,” Billie Eilish & Finneas
Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical – Andrew Watt
Photo credit: Boston Lynn Schulz