The Grammys went ahead then, and – I suppose – it would be wrong to only report on the ongoing controversy involving organiser the Recording Academy.
As noted in our report on said controversy, the main televised awards show took place following the news that former basketball player Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash. That news had an even bigger impact on the proceedings because the awards took place at the Staples Center in LA, the arena home of the LA Lakers, with whom Bryant played for his entire career.
The show opened with Lizzo performing her songs ‘Truth Hurts’ and ‘Cuz I Love You’, saying that “tonight is for Kobe”. Host Alicia Keys then also paid tribute to Bryant, before being joined by Boyz II Men to perform ‘It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye’ acapella.
“Earlier today, Los Angeles, America, and the whole wide world lost a hero”, said Keys. “And we’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built. We never imagined in a million years we’d have to start the show like this. So we wanted to do something that could describe, a tiny bit, how we all feel right now”.
After that, the lengthy prize-giving process began. Although they could have sped things up somewhat by just handing everything over to Billie Eilish at the start. She took home five prizes in total – including all of the big ones – while her brother and music-making partner Finneas O’Connell was given the Producer Of The Year (Non-Classical) trophy.
Lizzo – who started the night with the most nominations, eight in all – was the other big winner, taking home three prizes: Best Pop Solo Performance, Best Traditional R&B Performance and Best Urban Contemporary Album.
However, with the Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album awards, it was very much Billie Eilish’s night. She also becomes the youngest person to ever win the Album Of The Year prize – although while accepting it she said she thought it should have gone to Ariana Grande.
“We didn’t make this album to win a Grammy”, her brother added. “We wrote an album about depression and suicidal thoughts and climate change and being a bad guy, whatever that means. And we stand up here confused and grateful”.
Elsewhere, Tyler, The Creator won his first ever Grammy award. He took the Best Rap Album prize for his ‘Igor’ album. He later said he had mixed feelings about the win – the album not strictly being a ‘rap’ album.
“I’m half and half on it”, he reportedly told a Rolling Stone journalist. “On one side I’m very grateful that what I made can be acknowledged in a world like this. But also, it sucks that whenever we – and I mean guys that look up to me – do anything that’s genre-bending or anything, they put it in a rap or urban category”.
“I don’t like that ‘urban’ word”, he added. “It’s just a politically correct way to say the ‘n word’ to me. When I hear that, I’m like, why can’t we be pop? Half of me feels like the rap nomination was a backhanded compliment”.
Given all the controversy around the departure of Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan in the week before the awards – and the wider criticisms over the music industry organisation’s ongoing diversity issues – it was handy that the show was celebrating a year where two female artists totally dominated American pop music, and that the winners list accurately reflected that.
The controversy was also largely unacknowledged on stage, possibly because getting political in acceptance speeches might have seemed inappropriate given the sombre tone of the show’s opening. Whatever the reason, organisers will be glad to have got through their main event without their continuing war with Dugan interfering with the proceedings. Although, of course, the fallout from that controversy is far from over.
Now, here are some of the winners – for the full ridiculously long list, go to grammys.com:
Record Of The Year: Billie Eilish – Bad Guy
Song Of The Year: Billie Eilish – Bad Guy
Album Of The Year: Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Best New Artist: Billie Eilish
Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical: Finneas
Best Rap/Sung Performance: DJ Khaled Featuring Nipsey Hussle & John Legend – Higher
Best Rap Album: Tyler, The Creator – Igor
Best Pop Solo Performance: Lizzo – Truth Hurts
Best Pop Vocal Album: Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: Lil Nas X Featuring Billy Ray Cyrus – Old Town Road
Best R&B Album: Anderson.Paak – Ventura
Best Urban Contemporary Album: Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
Best Alternative Music Album: Vampire Weekend – Father Of The Bride
Best Rock Album: Cage The Elephant – Social Cues
Best Metal Performance: Tool – 7empest