Despite pre-show controversy from acts such as The Weeknd and Zayn Malik who complained about the fairness and transparency of the nominating process, the broadcast of The Recording Academy’s 63rd annual Grammy Awards was still a relatively diverse and inclusive affair.
Hosted by The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah in a socially distanced and COVID-19 friendly mix of outdoor award presentations and audience-free indoor performances, the CBS broadcast demonstrated just how eclectic and multicultural popular music has become in recent years.
The big winner of the night, according to Daniel Arkin of NBC News was Beyonce Knowles. “Queen Bey” won her 28th Grammy, becoming the most honored woman in the history of the awards, he reported.
“The song drew wide acclaim for its powerful lyrics laced with allusions to Black history and activism,” said Arkin.
The former Destiny’s Child lead also won for Best Music Video/Film, a win that helped her daughter Blue Ivy Carter become the award’s second-youngest honoree ever at the age of just 9.
“I’ve been working my whole life, since 9 years old,” Knowles said during her acceptance speech. “I can’t believe this happened. It’s such a magical night.”
Beyonce was also the featured performer on Megan Thee Stallion’s track “Savage (Remix),” which won Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song.
Megan Thee Stallion also came away with one of the biggest honors of the night: Best New Artist. The category (one of the “Big Four” general field categories not restricted to a genre) has been fairly good to Black female performers in the past, with the award going to artists like Natalie Cole, Sade, Jody Watley, Tracy Chapman, Mariah Carey, Toni Braxton, Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys and Esperanza Spalding in previous years.
In a fitting win, the Grammy for Song of the Year went to H.E.R. for “I Can’t Breathe,” which was inspired by the tragic murder of George Floyd.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight following her award acceptance, H.E.R. recalled writing the song with co-writer Tiara Thomas over FaceTime from her mother’s house.
“It was a conversation, we were just talking and literally everything that we said were the lyrics,” she said. “I had my guitar and it just happened, because that’s how powerful that time was.”
Reflecting on the song’s place in pop culture, H.E.R. added, “It’s been the soundtrack to a movement … one of many songs and I’m just happy to be a part of history now.”
In a night with relatively few male wins in the biggest categories, women also dominated the Record and Album of the year categories.
Billie Eilish, last year’s big winner, captured Record of The Year again for her song “Everything I Wanted.” In 2020, she became the youngest and first woman to sweep the Big Four categories in one night. This year, Eilish became the first female artist to win Record of the Year two years in a row.
In her acceptance speech, Eilish stated she wished the award would have gone to Megan Thee Stallion instead of her, saying: “This is really embarrassing for me. Megan, girl… I was gonna write a speech about how you deserve this but then I was like, ‘There’s no way they’re going to choose me.’ I was like, ‘It’s hers.’ You deserve this. You had a year that I think is unstoppable. You are a queen — I want to cry thinking about how much I love you … You deserve everything in the world, I think about you constantly … You deserve it.”
And following a uber productive year in which she recorded two original albums and began re-recording previous albums so that she could own their new master recordings, country-turned-pop singer Taylor Swift won Album of the Year for Folklore. Swift becomes the first woman to win Album of the Year three times.
Other notable winners of the evening included:
– Haitian-Canadian DJ and record producer Kaytranada who won Best Dance Recording and Best Dance/Electronic Album — the first Black winner of the category since its introduction in 2005.
– Fiona Apple who won Best Rock Performance for “Shameika” and Best Alternative Music Album for Fetch the Bolt Cutters — two categories typically dominated by men. Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes edged out Apple to win Best Rock Song for “Stay High.”
– Kanye West, who diverted away from his hip hop origins, won Best Contemporary Christian Music Album for Jesus is King.
– Actor Tiffany Haddish won Best Comedy Album for Black Mitzvah — only the second Black female comic to win the award since Whoopi Goldberg’s win in 1986.
– LGBTQ newscaster Rachel Maddow won Best Spoken Word Album for the audiobook recording of her book Blowout, which details how the oil and gas industry has weakened democracies in developed and developing countries.