Imagine the first Zeppelin flight that took place post-Hindenburg or the the next trans-Atlantic voyage after the Titanic. Happening just one week after Will Smith shockingly slapped comedian Chris Rock on stage at this year’s Academy Awards, all the Recording Academy had to do Sunday night was to avoid a scandal for its Grammys to be deemed a success by comparison.
The 64th annual Grammys was delayed by three months because of COVID-19 concerns and moved to MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas from its traditional home in Los Angeles. The first statuette went to retro-pop duo Silk Sonic for Song of the Year (a songwriters award, for Leave the Door Open, which also took Record of the Year, a performance and production honor). The final award, Album of the Year, was won by Jon Batiste for We Are (Batiste, the night’s big winner, also took home four other trophies). In between, the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, delivered a powerful pre-recorded address.
What follows are the best moments and the unfortunate ones, along with notable quotes, and achievements by Canadians.
Viva Las Vegas: Retro pop duo Silk Sonic, made up of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, celebrated Sin City with an electric opening performance that included seventies Elvis-style white suits, a full horn section and the dice-rolling song 777.
Putting the extra in extravaganza: When host Trevor Noah of The Daily Show said early on that the broadcast would be a “concert where we’re giving out awards,” he wasn’t lying. The show began with three straight performances before the first award was handed out, moving from Silk Sonic to Olivia Rodrigo’s melodramatic hit single Drivers License to a spectacle from Colombian singer J Balvin. K-pop sensation BTS, a majestic Lil Nas X and dynamic Billie Eilish also hit the stage before the broadcast was an hour old. Later, Jon Batiste’s ecstatic appearance was an evening highlight.
Thanks for the memories: After the Oscars last week presented a weirdly upbeat in-memoriam segment that included the song Spirit in the Sky, the Grammys’ presentation, in contrast, was moving and poignant. After an extended tribute to Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, who died last month, respect was shown to musical luminaries including Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, singer Ronnie Spector and Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim. All were remembered in song by Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Ben Platt and Rachel Zegler.
She wore it well: Pop superstar Eilish wore a Taylor Hawkins t-shirt in honour of the late drummer.
She brought her heart for Tony Bennett: A vision in seafoam green, the begowned Lady Gaga saluted her duet partner Bennett with a classy big band rendition of Cole Porter’s Do I Love You. The song is off Love for Sale, which won for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
Posthumous recognition:: Legendary keyboardist Chick Corea, who died in 2021 from a rare form of cancer, won two awards (including Best Improvised Jazz Solo for his work on the album Akoustic Band Live). Corea also received two posthumous Grammys a year ago..
Hats off to Justin Bieber, please: He led the Canadian award hopefuls with eight nominations, but the singer looked less-than-distinguished wearing a pink toque. For his partially censored performance of the song Peaches with fellow Canadian Daniel Caesar, Bieber wore a baseball cap backward.
No joke: The career of American stand-up comic Louis C.K. took a hit after he admitted to sexual misconduct in 2017, but he took home the award for Best Comedy Album on Sunday. Grammy head Harvey Mason Jr. said in a statement prior to the ceremony that the Recording Academy wouldn’t restrict the artists who can submit their material for consideration, saying “We won’t look back at people’s history, we won’t look at their criminal record.”
Jared Leto’s overly effusive introduction: Naming the nominated albums for the year’s top pop vocal album, the actor-musician praised the works as having “affected people deeply, affected culture greatly and ultimately made the world a richer place.” With all due respect to the mentioned LPs, they are not ground-breaking works of music. Leto’s speech was disconnected from the moment at hand.
Host Trevor Noah: “Everybody wants to win. But please remember guys, tonight is not just about winning,” said host Noah. “Remember, at the end of the day, you have something that not everybody has: money.”
A warzone address: “The war,” Ukraine’s President Zelensky said, opening his pre-taped speech. “What’s more opposite than music?”
Bathroom humour by Doja Cat: “I have never taken a faster piss in my life,” after rushing to the stage to accept her win for the song Kiss Me More with SZA.
Best American Roots Song co-winner Steve McEwan: “These things really aren’t important – until you win one.”
Joni Mitchell: Fifty-three years after winning her first Grammy, the Alberta-born singer-songwriter won the Best Historical Album statuette for Joni Mitchell Archives – Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963–1967). Mitchell, 78, was feted on Friday at the annual MusiCares fundraising gala and, on Sunday evening alongside Bonnie Raitt, introduced a performance by Brandi Carlisle.
Other winners: Cuban-born, British Columbia-based Alex Cuba in the Latin Pop Album category for Mendo; The Weeknd in the Melodic Rap Performance category for his featured role on the Kanye West song Hurricane; and Montreal conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra in the Orchestral Performance category for Florence Price: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 3.
Justin Bieber: The pop star failed to convert any of his eight nominations into awards.