Grammys 2021 Live Updates: Beyoncé Breaks a Record, Taylor Swift and the Latest

Grammys 2021 Live Updates: Beyoncé Breaks a Record, Taylor Swift and the Latest

Grammys 2021 Live Updates: Beyoncé Breaks a Record, Taylor Swift and the Latest

Billie Eilish

Wins record of the year for “Everything I Wanted.”

Taylor Swift broke a record with her album of the year win for “Folklore.”
Credit…Chris Pizzello/Invision, via Associated Press

Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” won album of the year on Sunday, making the singer and songwriter the first woman to win the prize three times, following her victories for “Fearless” in 2010 and “1989” in 2016. Swift tied Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon as the only artists with three career best album trophies. (The mastering engineer Tom Coyne has won four, including one for “1989.”)

“You guys met us in this imaginary world that we created,” Swift said during her acceptance speech, flanked by her collaborators Aaron Dessner, Jack Antonoff, Laura Sisk and Jonathan Low. Dessner, who collaborated remotely with Swift on the pandemic album, called her “one the greatest living songwriters, who somehow put trust in me.”

A surprise release in July, “Folklore” represented Swift’s foray into more acoustic sounds and indie-rock textures following years of pop bombast. She was nominated six times in all on Sunday, but lost in five other categories before taking home album of the year.

“Evermore,” the “sister record” to “Folklore” and Swift’s second secret pandemic release, came out in December, meaning it could be nominated at next year’s Grammys and represents her fourth potential album win.

Beyoncé had a record-breaking night and now holds the most Grammy wins by a female artist.
Credit…CBS

Beyoncé not only showed up at the Grammys (surprise!) — she won two (and counting?), broke a record, and then got onstage to offer gracious remarks on a night when she was nominated nine times but did not perform.

More than two hours into the telecast, viewers were surprised to see a camera show Beyoncé seated at the award ceremony. Minutes later she would win best rap song with Megan Thee Stallion, who gushed about her collaborator in her acceptance speech.

“I definitely want to say thank you to Beyoncé,” she said. “If you know me, you have to know that ever since I was little, I was like, ‘You know what, one day I’m going to grow up, I’m going to be like the rap Beyoncé.’ That was definitely my goal.”

Then Beyoncé herself won another Grammy for best R&B performance for “Black Parade” and gave her own acceptance speech.

“It’s been such a difficult time, so I wanted to uplift, encourage, celebrate all of the beautiful Black queens and kings that continue to inspire me and inspire the whole world,” she said. “This is so overwhelming. I’ve been working my whole life — since 9 years old — and I can’t believe this happened.”

With those two awards under her belt, Beyoncé broke the record for most Grammy wins ever by a female artist.

“History!” the host, Trevor Noah, exclaimed. “Give it up for Beyoncé. This is history right now!”

Credit…Kevin Winter/Getty Images For The Recording Academy

The Atlanta rapper Lil Baby released “The Bigger Picture,” a stream-of-consciousness, autobiographical protest song, less than three weeks after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis last summer, amid nationwide Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

On Sunday at the Grammys, he conjured that energy once again, opening his performance of the track with a voice-over from James Baldwin and alluding to the police killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, during a ceremony that underlined and elevated the music industry’s reaction to police killings of Black people and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed.

Lil Baby was joined onstage by the activist Tamika Mallory, who helped to organize the 2017 Women’s March, the rapper and community leader Killer Mike of Run the Jewels and the actor Kendrick Sampson, who was also active in Black Lives Matter protests.

“President Biden we demand justice, equity, policy,” Mallory said during her portion of the performance, “and everything else that freedom encompasses.”

Killer Mike, inserting part of his verse from the Run the Jewels song “Walking in the Snow,” added pointedly: “All of us serve the same masters, all of us nothin’ but slaves/never forget in the story of Jesus, the hero was killed by the state.”

Lil Baby’s performance was just one of many Grammys moments that centered Black artists after years of persistent questions about the awards show’s commitment to diversity and its handling of hip-hop.

Earlier in the show, DaBaby and Roddy Ricch performed “Rockstar,” a song with an official “Black Lives Matter Remix,” joined by a choir of older white people in what looked like judge’s robes. DaBaby added an extra verse to the song: “Right now I’m performing at the Grammys/I’ll probably get profiled before leavin’,” he rapped. “Don’t be in denial like we all even now/‘cause if you’re in the projects or a mansion/you’re still a Black man when you leave the house/them’s the facts.”

Mickey Guyton, the first solo Black woman to be nominated in a country category, performed “Black Like Me,” also making her the first Black woman in country to take the Grammys’ stage as a performer. (“Black Like Me” lost the award to “When My Amy Prays” by Vince Gill.)

Three awards presented during the telecast also went to protest songs: “Lockdown,” released by Anderson .Paak on Juneteeth and inspired the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, won for best melodic rap performance. “I Can’t Breathe,” by H.E.R., won song of the year. And “Black Parade,” Beyoncé’s own Juneteeth release, from her “Black Is King” film, won best R&B performance.

“It’s been such a difficult time,” Beyoncé said in her acceptance speech, “so I wanted to uplift, encourage and celebrate all of the beautiful Black queens and kings that inspire me.”

H.E.R., left, and Tiara Thomas accept the song of the year Grammy for “I Can’t Breathe.”
Credit…Kevin Winter/Getty Images For The Recording Academy

The award for song of the year went to the R&B singer H.E.R. and her collaborators for “I Can’t Breathe,” an emotional protest song written during the surge of activism following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

Alongside the singer-songwriter Tiara Thomas, who co-wrote the song, H.E.R. said that they wrote “I Can’t Breathe” over FaceTime and that she recorded it in her bedroom in her mother’s house — a detail that underscored how dramatically the pandemic impacted the creative process for artists over the past year. Dernst Emile II is also credited with the win.

H.E.R., who is 23, was nominated for three Grammys this year, and hers was not the only protest song to win: “Lockdown,” released by Anderson .Paak on Juneteenth and inspired by the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, won for best melodic rap performance. And “Black Parade,” Beyoncé’s own Juneteenth release, won best R&B performance.

“I didn’t imagine that my fear and that my pain would turn into impact and that it would possibly turn into change,” H.E.R. said in her acceptance speech.

She ended with a kind of call to action to the protesters who filled the streets in cities across America over the summer: “The fight that we had in us the summer of 2020 — keep that same energy.”

Taylor Swift’s first and (possibly) only award of the night is the big one, album of the year. “Folklore” didn’t have any wins in the genre categories (it lost pop record to Dua Lipa’s “Future Nostalgia”) but I think there was some overall confusion as to what genre it was, so this win makes sense to me. Also, from the stage, Swift says to her absent Bon Iver duet partner: “Justin Vernon, I’m so excited to meet you someday!” If that doesn’t sum up collaboration in the quarantine era I don’t know what does.

Taylor Swift

Wins album of the year for “Folklore.”

Well, she didn’t even need record of the year to break the record! With her best R&B performance win, Beyoncé is now the most winning female artist in Grammy history. It can sometimes feel like Beyoncé exists somewhere beyond such mortal concerns as Grammy wins, but she seemed genuinely moved by her achievement. Trevor Noah’s repeated reminders that she’s making history are a bit much, though! We get it! And shouldn’t that be HERstory, anyway?

Beyoncé

Wins best R&B performance for “Black Parade.”

Credit…Kevin Winter/Getty Images For The Recording Academy

If you needed any more evidence that Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion remain unbowed by the conservative pearl-clutching that followed the release of their raunchy duet “WAP,” the Grammys had it.

In Sunday’s performance of “WAP” — their first ever on television — Cardi B pole danced on the heel of a giant stiletto and the rappers, wearing silver armor-like leotards, crawled around and executed intricate choreography on a massive bed. The women twerked triumphantly in several different positions, and although the song’s trademark line was sanitized to “wet, wet, wet,” much of the original lyricism made it to the prime-time program.

When the “WAP” music video debuted in August, it set the internet ablaze with its R-rated lyrics and even more suggestive choreography (Cardi and Megan splashing around in fishnets). The song topped the charts for weeks, inspired myriad TikTok memes and debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

Megan Thee Stallion, who won best new artist earlier in the show, opened the brief set with two of her hits, “Body” and “Savage,” which is nominated for record of the year. She wore a glimmering leotard and tall white feathers on her head, which, along with the tap dancers, gave the performance a Roaring Twenties feel. Then Cardi B hit the stage in a bubble-gum pink pixie cut to perform her latest single “Up,” before the rappers teamed up for the crowd pleaser.

There’s not likely to be a more charged performance tonight than Lil Baby’s rendition of “The Bigger Picture,” with included a face-off with the police, a Molotov cocktail tossed at a building, a speech by Tamika Mallory directed at President Biden, and a new verse from Killer Mike of Run the Jewels.

A strange byproduct of a masked Grammy ceremony is that the losers have to work extra hard to communicate their graciousness entirely through their eyes!

Dua Lipa

Wins best pop vocal album for “Future Nostalgia.”

So, given Beyoncé’s somewhat-surprise appearance, and the Grammys’ apparent self-satisfaction in letting her know she could potentially break the record for most Grammys won by a female artist, I’m definitely predicting a record of the year win for “Black Parade.”

Is Post Malone performing “Hollywood’s Bleeding” or performing a séance? Unclear.

The best recurring narrative of the night is the thread of Megan Thee Stallion reactions. For all of our critical talk about the diminished meaning of the Grammys, and about the organization’s many controversies, it’s refreshing to see someone so clearly jazzed at the experience of attending the show, performing on it and winning awards.

“I have so much respect for you,” Beyoncé says to an awed Megan Thee Stallion, as they accept their award for best rap song. Compliments don’t get much better than that.

Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyoncé

Wins best rap song for “Savage.”

Maybe it’s the fact that none of us have seen live music in over a year, but I’ve never cared less about an award show having such a low award-to-performance ratio.

The 75% of “WAP” that Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B performed — a performance rounded out with bleeps — was randy fun. Both women did mini-medleys of their recent hits — Cardi’s was a technicolor raunchscape, and Megan’s was a stern lesson in tough talk. As for the staging and choreography, the foreheads of CBS employees are likely wet with agonized sweat.

Best new artist Megan Thee Stallion performs a triumphant medley summing up her breakout year, and here comes Cardi B to perform … a song that will have to be heavily bleeped on CBS!

Beyoncé and Jay-Z are there?!

H.E.R.

Wins song of the year for “I Can’t Breathe.”

Guyton’s performance served as a reminder of the challenges that artists of color face.
Credit…Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Mickey Guyton, the only Black female country singer signed to a major label, performed her striking, personal song “Black Like Me” at the Grammys Sunday night, sending a not-so-subtle reminder to the music industry writ large and country music in particular about the challenges still faced by artists of color.

Guyton, the first Black female artist to be nominated for best country solo performance, released “Black Like Me” just days after the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

She also spoke out last month after a video of the country star Morgan Wallen using a racial slur surfaced online, writing on Twitter: “The hate runs deep.”

Her efforts, along with those of other, mostly female, artists — who host Trevor Noah called out during the telecast for their excellence — have helped push the country music industry to begin confronting issues of racism and bias.

And on Sunday, Guyton delivered a stirring performance on a simple, dark set. With spotlights all trained on her, millions of television views got to hear her carefully chosen lyrics about trying to fit in:

It’s a hard life on easy street
Just white painted picket fences far as you can see
If you think we live in the land of the free
You should try to be Black like me

Best Latin Pop or Urban Album

Bad Bunny

Wins best Latin pop or urban album for “YHLQMDLG.”

Best Melodic Rap Performance

Anderson .Paak

Wins best melodic rap performance for “Lockdown.”

Can someone tell me why this segment of country’s most badass female artists (Mickey Guyton, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris) was crashed by … John Mayer?

Mickey Guyton is one hell of a singer — it’s not any more complicated than that. “Black Like Me” made her the first Black woman solo artist nominated for a country music Grammy award, and this performance was tautly controlled and just this side of ferocious.

Credit…Francis Specker/CBS//Agence France-Presse, via Getty Images

The music industry has been hit hard by Covid-19, losing numerous artists and producers in the first year of the pandemic.

The Grammys took an extended beat to recognize those we’ve lost to the coronavirus and other causes, pairing its annual display of names and photos with performances of songs by four musicians who died in the past year: Little Richard, Kenny Rogers, John Prine and Gerry Marsden.

Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak performed a tribute to Little Richard, who died of bone cancer in May, singing two of the rock ’n’ roll pioneer’s biggest hits, “Long Tall Sally” and “Good Golly, Miss Molly.” Lionel Richie sang “Lady,” his 1980 song that was first recorded by Kenny Rogers, who died last March.

Brandi Carlile performed John Prine’s “I Remember Everything”; the country-folk singer died of coronavirus complications in April. And with Chris Martin on the piano, Brittany Howard sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” a song from the musical “Carousel” that was covered by the Liverpool rock band Gerry and the Pacemakers; the band’s leader Gerry Marsden died in January (the song had seen a surge of popularity in the U.K. at the beginning of the coronavirus lockdown).

This year’s segment paid tribute to Charley Pride, country music’s first Black superstar, who died from coronavirus complications at age 86; Adam Schlesinger, an acclaimed singer-songwriter for the bands Fountains of Wayne and Ivy, who died from the disease at age 52; and Ellis Marsalis, a pianist and a guiding force behind a late-20th-century resurgence in jazz, who died at 85.

The list of those lost included nearly 1,000 people and could not be included in full in the program but was posted online.

The guitarist Eddie Van Halen died of cancer in October. Bill Withers, the influential singer of “Lean on Me” and “Ain’t No Sunshine,” died in April. The producer and performer Sophie died in January at 34. Johnny Pacheco, the Dominican-born bandleader and songwriter who helped bring salsa to the world, died last month.

The death of the masked rapper MF Doom at 49 was disclosed on New Year’s Eve but was said to have occurred months earlier. Helen Reddy, whose 1972 hit song “I Am Woman” became the feminist anthem of the decade, died in September. And the 20-year-old rapper Pop Smoke was shot in a home invasion, ending his life as his career was ascending.

Taylor Swift performs atop a cottage set in a magical forest.
Credit…TAS Rights Management, via Getty Images

Taylor Swift, who was nominated for six Grammys at Sunday’s show, performed a three-song medley from her two pandemic albums, “Folklore” and “Evermore,” atop — and then within — a makeshift cottage set in a magical forest.

Swift was joined for the understated renditions by her two chief songwriting and production collaborators on those albums, Aaron Dessner of the National and Jack Antonoff, moving through abbreviated versions of “Cardigan,” “August” and “Willow.”

“Folklore,” released as a surprise in July, was responsible for five of Swift’s six nominations tonight — she was also up for a song she wrote for the film “Cats,” but lost to Billie Eilish in the preshow event — and would bring Swift her third career album of the year win, should she end up victorious. “Cardigan,” which hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, is also nominated for song of the year.

The song “Willow” came from Swift’s second surprise album of the pandemic, “Evermore,” which was released in December, well after the Grammys deadline on Aug. 31, and would be eligible at next year’s show.

I need an hour’s break and maybe a therapy session to process the enormity of this In Memoriam. Just a gutting year of loss.

I am relieved the tribute to Eddie Van Halen was just a solitary guitar and that no one came out to play it. Sometimes the best award-show tribute of all is admitting that no one in attendance is worthy of paying proper tribute!

Makes you think: the computer program that’s going to fuel the artificial-intelligence bot that’s going to pay tribute to Bruno Mars at the Grammys someday maybe hasn’t even been written yet.

Harry Styles beating Dua Lipa AND (ahem!) Taylor Swift for best pop solo performance feels like the night’s first upset.

Best Pop Solo Performance

Harry Styles

Wins best pop solo performance for “Watermelon Sugar.”

Despite having a surplus of new Taylor Swift songs in 2020, we didn’t have much of an opportunity to see her play any of her new material live — I believe the only other performance she’s given of a “Folklore” song was her stripped-down solo rendition of “Betty” at the CMAs. I preferred that performance to this one, which felt a little over-staged.

Taylor’s re-creation of the circumstances of creating her last two albums was a stroke of immersive theater in a night so far lacking in it, but it was also, like the songs themselves, a bit damp.

Taylor Swift giving us a “Folklore”/“Evermore” medley in … an enchanted forest?

Miranda Lambert

Wins best country album for “Wildcard.”

Earlier in the show, Black Pumas delivered extremely temperate rock-soul, as the other performers in the round nodded with purpose, perhaps wondering in what world that group was successful enough in to merit a stage of this size. And now, in a pretaped performance, Silk Sonic — the union of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak — delivered pitch-perfect ’70s harmony-soul revivalism. Both performances feed the same need — for Grammy voters to have music they feel personally and often generationally connected to, which is why the Grammys so often feel like they’ve been planned and handed out by your grandparents. Your cool grandparents, but still.

An hour into the telecast and we’re averaging … one award per hour!

Silk Sonic is on. Yes, wide pants are back.

I see the “big four” awards potentially going one of two ways: A split-big-night for Beyoncé, Megan and Taylor Swift — or a Dua Lipa sweep in record, song and album of the year. We’ll see!

A sharply choreographed and well-delivered medley of military-industrial-complex disco from Dua Lipa, who appears to be easing into comfort with her role as the leading contender for global pop diva of tomorrow.

Bad Bunny and Jhay Cortez performing “Dakiti” is emblematic of what the Grammys could benefit from having more of — artists unencumbered by the need to compromise the essence of the music they make in service of an imaginary audience member who needs it to be translated, figuratively and literally.

Never forget that Bad Bunny refers to this night as “the gringo Grammys.”

Megan Thee Stallion won one of the “big four” categories at the Grammys, best new artist.
Credit…Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

The Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion won the Grammy for best new artist on Sunday, taking home the first trophy presented on the official telecast. She also won an award during the preshow — best rap performance for “Savage,” a song that is nominated twice more tonight (for best rap song and record of the year).

“I don’t want to cry,” Megan Thee Stallion said, already teary-eyed, in a brief speech. “It’s been a hell of a year, but we made it.”

She becomes the first female rapper to be named best new artist since Lauryn Hill in 1999, and only the third solo rapper ever, following Chance the Rapper in 2017. (The hip-hop group Arrested Development took home the award in 1993.)

Megan Thee Stallion started releasing mixtapes on SoundCloud in 2016, while in college for health administration, but first broke through with muscular, confident freestyles that went viral online. In 2019, singles like “Hot Girl Summer” and “Cash ___” put her into regular radio rotation and the next year, she hit No. 1 twice — first with “Savage,” which featured Beyoncé on its remix, and then as a featured guest on Cardi B’s “WAP.”

The best new artist award capped what had been an emotional rise for Megan Thee Stallion, whose success was interrupted last summer when she said she was shot in the feet by the rapper Tory Lanez after a disagreement. Lanez, who denied shooting her, was charged with assault in the incident, which led Megan to become a vocal defender of — and advocate for — Black women.

Noah begins the show in front of the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Credit…CBS

The television host and comedian Trevor Noah opened the 63rd annual Grammy Awards on Sunday night with a monologue that delicately joked about holding an awards show during a pandemic, nodded to the power of music and offered a hopeful words about the year ahead.

Sunday marked Noah’s debut as the master of ceremonies for the Grammys, a role he has said he was nervous to take on but could not pass up. He is himself a Grammy nominee, having earned a nod for best comedy album just last year.

In announcing his selection as host last November, officials with the Recording Academy and CBS praised Noah’s energy and ability to keep an audience engaged. Noah had suggested he would let the musical performances do much of the work powering the show.

But in his opening remarks, the spotlight was squarely on Noah. He used his time in part to lay out the complicated logistics around how the night’s performances would take place, but also to try to build excitement for the hours ahead.

“This is not a zoom background, this is real,” he said. “Tonight we’re going to celebrate some of the fantastic music that has touched our lives and saved our souls over this unprecedented year.”

Megan Thee Stallion arrives at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards.
Credit…Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

It’s been awhile since we’ve actually seen the strutting, preening, over-the-top fashion show that is an awards season red carpet. After all, even before the pandemic hit, there was some rethinking going on, as female performers in particular started demanding not to be simply reduced to what they wore. So when the Grammy powers that be announced they were going to figure out how to bring the whole shebang back — well, it was not entirely clear what that would mean.

At least until the E! hosts provided the answer. “Drama!” shrieked Brad Goreski. “Epic!” said Lilly Singh. “A traffic jam of glam!” said Guiliana Rancic.

Exclamation points aside, they weren’t that far off. The first quasi-live mega-awards red carpet since Covid-19 began was like a fashion primal scream. It was also kind of fun. Who wants restraint when we’ve all been constrained? Doja Cat summed it up when she showed off a Roberto Cavalli gown that involved a leather motorcycle jacket unzipped to the waist and then somehow spliced into a showgirl skirt of neon green and black feathers.

“I like something that’s kind of out there,” she said in her red carpet interview. “I feel like I’ve been kind of toned down before this.”

Credit…Jordan Strauss/Invision, via Associated Press
Credit…Jordan Strauss/Invision, via Associated Press
Credit…E!

“Toned-down” was not a word anyone would have used (BTS in hip monochrome Louis Vuitton suiting aside). Phoebe Bridgers came as a bejeweled Thom Browne skeleton, with a full set of bones embroidered on a black gown. Noah Cyrus was a walking tower of whipped cream in exploding ivory Schiaparelli couture. Cynthia Erivo did her best imitation of liquid mercury in Vuitton sequins. Dua Lipa was a crystal Versace butterflyMegan Thee Stallion channeled a gigantic neon orange supernova in a strapless Dolce & Gabbana column with a steroid-fueled bow on the back, complete with train.

“I wanted to look like a Grammy,” she said, of the dress. “I manifested this.”

She wasn’t the only one. Suddenly, costumes that once might have provoked eye rolls and cynicism seemed like a courageous refusal to let the last year win. And the red carpet, which was increasingly dismissed as a mere marketing tool, has a whole new role.

Credit…Photographs by Phillip Faraone/WireImage; David M. Benett/WireImage; Attitude Magazine/Getty Images

When the Grammys lists its “big four” general field categories, the top award is not technically album of the year — which typically closes the show — but one given right before that, to a single, zeitgeist-capturing track: the record of the year.

The award — which, as opposed to songwriting, honors an artist’s performance and the contributions of producers, audio engineers and mixers — has gone in recent ceremonies to inescapable records like “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish, “This Is America” by Childish Gambino and “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars.

Video

transcript

transcript

Diary of a Song Breaks Down the Grammys

Beyoncé, Megan Thee Stallion, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa and more will face off this weekend for record of the year. In this special Diary of a Song episode, The New York Times’ pop music team dissects the award show’s premier category.

When you look at this category, Record of The Year, how do you feel? “Sad.” “What the hell were they thinking?” “It feels like what 50-year-olds think popular music was like.” “It feels like 2020 in that it’s kind of unsatisfying.” “Record of The Year is the culture category. Where in the culture was this music in 2020?” “But it should be good. It should be the song that’s good enough to represent the year, not just the song that was zeitgeisty enough.” Singing: “Mother land, mother land, mother land, mother land drip on me.” Do you like this song? “I do like this song.” “I do like this song.” “It’s fine.” “I like Black Parade a lot, actually.” “It’s very textured and layered and it gets more and more interesting the more you listen to it.” “There’s the flute. There’s the African choir. There’s the fact that she’s being very topical, talking about Black Lives Matter protests.” “Is it like the banger from Beyoncé I want to hear every day? Not necessarily.” “And we are talking about one of pop music’s Olympic gods. This is a mortal song. She does probably win.” “And I think it might have an inside track, because they keep snubbing Beyoncé.” “She’s the queen of nominations and then the non-queen of winning, especially in the major categories.” “But she’s even better on ‘Savage.’” We’ll get to ‘Savage.’ Singing: “With all my favorite colors.” What is this song? “Every time it comes on I’m like, maybe this is going to be the time where I think it’s deeper than it actually is. But it really isn’t. It’s very simple.” “It’s a song that exists for the Grammys.” “The Grammys appreciate that kind of musicianship.” “There’s good guitar work on that song. Organ on that song is really strong. The vocal is good.” Singing: “I’ll be shaded by the trees.” “But what it’s missing for me is the punch or drama. I mean, it is for people in major Starbucks attendance withdrawal is what it is.” One of the things that hit me about this category is that a lot of them are guitar songs. Even the rap song is a guitar song. “Right. But they’re guitar songs, but they are guitar songs. It’s funny because the next one we’re going to talk about is DaBaby, which is definitely a guitar song.” Singing: “You even met a real rockstar. This ain’t no guitar, bitch, it’s a glock.” “Of every song in this category, it’s the best writing. The guitar part is so pretty, I feel like you almost aren’t catching everything that he’s saying.” Singing: “PTSD. I’m always waking up with cold sweats like I got the flu. My daughter a G. She show me kill a [inaudible] before the age of two. And I’d kill another [inaudible] too.” “I doubt it can win. Historically, the Grammys don’t do well with stuff like this.” “I also don’t think they want to give a Grammy to two Black men. They just don’t. Outkast was the last time that’s going to happen for a long time in the major categories.” Singing: “I’d let you had I known it. Why don’t you say so?” Doja Cat, “Say So,” produced by a man named Tyson Trax. Have you ever heard of this guy, Tyson Trax? “Isn’t that a pseudonym for somebody who maybe has a kind of a bad reputation?” “Oh wait, it’s not Dr. Luke?” Yeah. It’s Dr. Luke. “He used a pen name, for real?” Yeah — Tyson Trax. “Ew. That’s disgusting.” “The number of people in the nominating process or the voting process who know that this is a pseudonym for Dr. Luke, I have to imagine is less than 1 percent.” Do you like “Say So?” “No. Actually, I don’t. It’s disco without the luxury. Everything about disco and twirling around in furs under a disco ball. And this song kind of sounds like a sad person dancing under a single light bulb to me.” “It’s more like, hey.” Yeah. It’s Uber music. “Hey, everybody.” It’s music for the Uber. “It’s Uber music. That’s it.” Singing: “I got everything I wanted.” “This is typical Grammy stuff. Hey that worked. Let’s do it again.” Would it be too soon for Billie Eilish to win again? “Yes.” Singing: “Don’t show up. Don’t come out. Don’t start caring about me now.” Dua Lipa, “Don’t Start Now.” “Yes.” “Is this the record of the year?” “Yes. Disco strings, baseline of the year.” Singing: “Don’t show up. Don’t show up. Don’t —” “It’s a kiss off to an ex who’s trying to make a comeback.” “It’s kind of the opposite of Robyn’s ‘Dancing On My Own.’” Singing: “I’m in the corner watching you kiss her.” “Dua’s like, don’t come watch me be in the club with somebody else, because I’m going out now and I’m over you.” “‘Don’t Start Now’ is a disco banger.” “It sounds like makeup.” Singing: “Run away, but we’re running in circles.” “The idea that this person also did ‘White Iverson.’” Singing: “I got me some braids and I got me some hoes.” “It is fascinating to think that those are the same artist.” This is not a rap song? “No.” “I don’t even know what this song is.” “You know what? This was the Post Malone song that convinced me. I was like, OK, you’re a songwriter. This is a really good song.” “I don’t dislike it, because it’s almost like structurally impossible to dislike.” But you also wouldn’t vote for it? “No, I wouldn’t.” Singing: “I’m a savage. OK Classy, bougie, ratchet, OK Sassy —” Is this the record of the year? “Yes it is.” “A major streaming hit. A huge TikTok hit and dance trend before Beyoncé ever shows up. Beyoncé shows up because of all that. But Megan Thee Stallion, she’s like a C.E.O.” Right. “She’s a great rapper about transaction. It isn’t only about capitalism. But it is also about orgasm, and pleasure, and body fluids.” “Do you think that this is a bigger TikTok song than ‘WAP?’” That’s a good question. ‘WAP’ obviously could have been in this category. Cardi B. reportedly did not submit it for nominations because she wants to save it for the next Grammys. But Beyoncé is Beyoncé. So, you know — “Yeah. Yeah.” “Beyoncé on this song is that big steak that the Flintstones get at the end of every episode and it tips the whole car over. Beyoncé is that steak. She can’t help it. And if you’re Megan Thee Stallion, what are you going to say?” Is this the song to beat in the category? “Yeah. I think it’s between this and Dua.” Flat out, what’s going to win this category? “I think ‘Black Parade.’” “I’m picking ‘Black Parade.’” “‘Savage’ or Billie Eilish.” “I’m going to say, Dua. I think she should win, and I think she will win.” And who should win? “I’m giving it to Beyoncé and ‘Black Parade’ again.” “The Dua Lipa song and ‘Savage’ are my favorite two.” “My vote’s ‘Rockstar.’” And what do you miss in this category? What should be here? “‘Watermelon Sugar.’” Singing: “High.” “It’s a classic no-brainer record of the year. I can’t believe it’s not here. And ‘Blinding Lights’ is the other song.” Right. Singing: “When I’m like this, you’re the one I trust.” “‘Cardigan’ by Taylor Swift is not there.” Singing: “You put me on and said I was your favorite.” “That’s a cozy, old-fashioned subliminally catchy song.” “My heart will always be with that Dua song because I think it’s crisp and perfect. But, if Beyoncé came to the awards, and gave an acceptance speech, and if she would take the Grammys to task for it taking so long for her to be properly honored, the potential of the ‘Black Parade’ win is the most interesting one.” Singing: “Black parade.” “That presumes I think the Grammys are valid.” Sure. “So let’s start with that. That’s a dubious proposition. Start there.” [vocalizing] “I just had this idea that I wanted it to bounce.” Singing: “I got the horses in the back.” [vocalizing] Singing: “Man, what’s the deal? Man, I’m coming through. It’s your girl Lizzo.”

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Beyoncé, Megan Thee Stallion, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa and more will face off this weekend for record of the year. In this special Diary of a Song episode, The New York Times’ pop music team dissects the award show’s premier category.CreditCredit…Photographs by Phillip Faraone/WireImage; David M. Benett/WireImage; Attitude Magazine/Getty Images

This year, Beyoncé appears in the category twice — for her song “Black Parade” and “Savage (Remix)” with Megan Thee Stallion — alongside “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa, “Rockstar” by DaBaby featuring Roddy Ricch, “Say So” by Doja Cat, “Everything I Wanted” by Billie Eilish, “Circles” by Post Malone and “Colors” by Black Pumas.

It’s an eclectic mix, telling a variety of stories about the industry through disparate sounds. To understand the premier category, The New York Times’ pop music team gathered remotely to discuss the nominees in a special “Diary of a Song” spinoff episode. Watch the breakdown above.

And check out the rest of the behind-the-scenes making-of videos — including appearances by Lipa, Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers and Olivia Rodrigo, a Grammys hopeful for next year — at our YouTube channel. Subscribe to never miss an episode.

Credit…Chris Pizzello/Invision, via Associated Press

At only 9 years old, Beyoncé’s oldest daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, is already starting to follow in her parents’ footsteps, winning her first Grammy for her role in the music video for “Brown Skin Girl.”

The mother-daughter duo and their collaborators won in the best music video category, where they were up against videos featuring Future, Anderson .Paak, Harry Styles and Woodkid. “Brown Skin Girl” was part of Beyoncé’s “Black Is King,” a musical film and visual album that Jon Pareles, the chief pop critic of The Times, called a “grand statement of African-diaspora unity, pride and creative power.”

“Brown Skin Girl,” a celebratory anthem filled with familiar faces — including Lupita Nyong’o and Kelly Rowland — is replete with imagery of loving relationships between Black women: mothers and daughters, sisters, friends. Blue Ivy appears at the beginning, with a shot of her playing a hand clapping game with her mother. She later appears all dolled up like a debutante, wearing a string of pearls and white gloves.

In the song’s outro, Blue Ivy echoes her mother, singing, “Brown skin girl/Your skin just like pearls.” Also credited for the award is the Nigerian singer-songwriter Wizkid.

The award was given out in the earlier Grammys ceremony that started at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Beyoncé has a big night ahead of her: She has nine nominations in eight categories, the most of any artist. Also included on the winners’ list for best music video is one of the directors, Jenn Nkiru, and the video producers: Astrid Edwards, Aya Kaida, Jean Mougin, Nathan Scherrer and Erinn Williams.

The Dallas thrash band Power Trip’s frontman Riley Gale died last August. The band was nominated for best metal performance.
Credit…Vivien Killilea/Getty Images For Adult Swim

A majority of attention at the Grammys goes to nominees in the biggest categories, but there are scores of interesting musicians throughout the ballot. Here are a few that stand out:

Best Metal Performance
Power Trip, “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe) — Live”

Riley Gale, the frontman and moral compass of the Dallas thrash band Power Trip, died last August. This nod, for a song from the outstanding concert recording “Live in Seattle: 05.28.2018,” is a reflection of not only the band’s stomping potency and Gale’s charisma, but also an implicit acknowledgment that the group’s ascent to the stratosphere was an inevitability. JON CARAMANICA

Best Contemporary Instrumental Album
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, “Axiom”

It’s a Grammy mystery that “Axiom” is nominated for best contemporary instrumental album — usually a category for pop-jazz and acoustic Americana — when it’s clearly jazz, though Adjuah prefers the term “creative improvised music.” (Meanwhile, Adjuah’s trumpet solo in one track, “Guinnevere,” is nominated for best improvised jazz solo.) Recorded at the Blue Note in Greenwich Village in the last days before the club closed for the pandemic, the music has a now-or-never immediacy: declamatory, percussive, intent on tapping communal power. JON PARELES

Best Regional Roots Music Album
Nā Wai Ehā, “Lovely Sunrise”

The Hawaiian entry in this category, which is an umbrella for traditional and regional American styles, comes from Nā Wai Ehā, a robust, deeply skilled band made up of two sets of brothers devoted to time-honored Hawaiian music that also pays homage to the crisp, harmony-rich pop of the 1960s. CARAMANICA

Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album
Lido Pimienta, “Miss Colombia”

Born in Colombia and living in Canada, Lido Pimienta sings about finding her own path as she forges deep musical connections. She fuses Colombian rhythms and traditions with 21st-century possibilities: electronics, rock guitars, horn sections and choirs of her own clear, guileless voice. PARELES

Best Bluegrass Album
Billy Strings, “Home” (Winner!)

One of the most adventurous guitar players in bluegrass, Billy Strings has been inching toward recognition beyond the walls of the typically cloistered genre. (He recently released a song with country kingpin Luke Combs.) “Home,” his second solo album, is both lustrous and curious, a full-throated arrival of a wicked talent. CARAMANICA

Best Dance/Electronic Album
Arca, “KiCk i”
Baauer, “Planet’s Mad”

In a year of empty dance floors and shuttered clubs, the dance/electronic category looked well beyond typical big-room bangers. “KiCk i” by Arca is a jolting, disorienting, whipsawing album — sometimes confrontational, sometimes whimsical, sometimes yearning, sometimes manic — with guest vocals from Björk and Rosalía along with Arca’s own rapping and singing. “Planet’s Mad” by Baauer, whose 2012 “Harlem Shake” started a video dance craze, is a loud, nutty, overstuffed concept album envisioning the destruction of Earth in an interplanetary collision, hopscotching through assorted international beats on the way to immolation. PARELES

Best Americana Album
Courtney Marie Andrews, “Old Flowers”
Sarah Jarosz, “World on the Ground” (Winner!)

The Americana category includes two pristine, thoughtful, largely acoustic albums suffused with quiet grace. Courtney Marie Andrews’s “Old Flowers” addresses a breakup and its aftermath in sparse, gorgeously sung ballads: heartsick but cleareyed. Sarah Jarosz’s “World on the Ground” envisions a homecoming to small-town Texas to contemplate memories, expectations, disillusion and resilience. PARELES

Clive Davis’s annual pre-Grammys party is a must-attend bash for people in the industry looking to schmooze.
Credit…Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

The Grammys in a pandemic means no dancing crowds, no cutaways to Taylor Swift in the front row, no shouts into the rafters of the Staples Center.

It also robs the music industry of its most epic annual schmooze.

Traditionally, the week leading up to the Grammys is packed with charity events, brunches, showcase performances and boozy parties. Gossip trickles out, chests are puffed and campaigns for the next year are seeded. Important business is conducted. Journalists (cough cough) exploit the atmosphere to corner executives who don’t return their calls.

This year, that is gone. There have still been some virtual events, but without the clinking of cocktail glasses and the Los Angeles sunshine, it’s just not the same.

The cruelest absence is Clive Davis’s annual gala, which he has been hosting since 1976. Besides the year’s big artist nominees, the event, planned for the night before the awards, usually has national V.I.P.’s like Nancy Pelosi and Tim Cook. One year I witnessed gasps as Sylvester Stallone arrived. (He was astonishingly orange.)

Davis, the 88-year-old industry eminence who signed Janis Joplin, Whitney Houston and Alicia Keys, had intended to hold a virtual version of his show, but postponed it because he has been suffering from Bell’s palsy; Davis reportedly intends to hold a rescheduled event in May. That might still be fun, but I will miss everybody’s ironclad predictions that their client will totally win.




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