Biggest moments from the 2021 Grammys, from Beyonce’s record to Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘WAP’
Like a breath of fresh air after a long winter inside, the Grammys returned Sunday on CBS for a musical celebration after a terrible pandemic year.
Thanks to COVID precautions, the 2021 Grammys were unusual, to say the least, but an entertaining and exciting production nonetheless. The laid-back awards show toggled between awards presented outdoors, intimate performances, pre-recorded songs and spotlights on struggling independent music venues around the country. The night was full of sweet and shocking moments, and a few that felt something close to normal.
Harry Styles wore a feather boa (and later, a few others) and won a Grammy for “Watermelon Sugar.” Lizzo brought her energy (and an expletive). And the drummer from a little band called The Beatles, Ringo Starr, handed out the night’s top prize, to a surprised winner. And it was all done with masks, tables spaced six feet apart and a few nominees on Zoom.
From a beautiful and heartbreaking In Memoriam segment to Trevor Noah as a casual emcee to Lil Baby’s powerful performance, here are the Top 7 moments from this year’s Grammys ceremony.
Trevor Noah keeps it short and sweet
“The Daily Show” host lent his relaxed style of comedy to the proceedings, offering up rapid-fire jokes about the pandemic, politics and the socially-distanced version of the Grammys. The hosts of music’s biggest night rarely have as much time to fill as those who preside over the Oscars or Golden Globes, but Noah managed to show up just often enough to be memorable without overstaying his welcome.
A moving memorial
Most awards shows include an “In Memoriam” segment honoring luminaries in their fields who have died in the past year, and they run the gamut from somber to offensive (for their frequent glaring omissions). But the Grammys producers found a new and deeply emotional way to incorporate the segment into Sunday’s ceremony. The traditional montage was occasionally interrupted by live performances offering musical tributes: Lionel Richie sang Kenny Rogers’ “Lady,” and Brandi Carlisle offered an acoustic rendition of John Prine’s “I Remember Everything.” In an especially tragic year, it was a fitting and beautiful moment.
Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B bring ‘WAP’ to life
Megan Thee Stallion won three Grammys, including best new artist, and was nearly bowled over by Beyonce’s unexpected appearance to help her accept the award for best rap song for “Savage.” But she really stole the show with Cardi B for a live, electrifying performance of their hit “WAP” that featured backup dancers painted blue, a giant platform heel, a giant bed and dance moves that defied gravity.
Lil Baby performs ‘The Bigger Picture,’ calls out Biden, police brutality
Lil Baby and Killer Mike’s fiery performance of “Bigger Picture” included a staged police shooting of a Black man (played by Kendrick Sampson), imagery from Black Lives Matter protests, a direct callout to President Biden by activist Tamika Mallory, and narration by James Baldwin, capped by a haunting fireworks display. On a night with a generally relaxed, uncontroversial vibe, it was by far the most openly political performance.
Beyoncé makes Grammys history
Although her appearance at the Grammys was a surprise to fans who thought she and husband Jay Z would skip the night, Beyoncé was a welcome presence, and made history twice in the space of an hour, tying – and then breaking – the record for most-winning female artist, and the most winning singer, male or female, in the Grammys’ 63-year history.
After her final win of the night, the singer took time to congratulate her daughter Blue Ivy Carter, 9, now a Grammy winner, too. “I know my daughter is watching,” she said. “Blue, congratulations – she won a Grammy tonight. I’m so proud of you. I’m so honored to be your mommy, all of your mommies. Ya’ll are my babies.”
Taylor Swift is the first woman to three-peat
Taking home album of the year for her chill and woodsy “Folklore,” Taylor Swift made her own Grammy history by becoming the first woman to win that category three times. Swift first won in 2010 for “Fearless” and again for “1989” in 2016. The singer thanked her fans, collaborators Laura Sisk, Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner and boyfriend Joe Alwyn, “the first person that I play every single song that I write.” (Alwyn is credited on “Folkore” under a pseudonym, William Bowery.)
Swift added, “I had the best time writing songs with you during quarantine.”
Billie Eilish wins record of the year … but thinks Megan Thee Stallion should have
In the final award of the night, Billie Eilish took home record of the year, one of the top prizes, for her single “Everything I Wanted.” But when she took to the stage, Eilish dedicated the win to fellow nominee Megan Thee Stallion, a moment that harkened back to Adele praising Beyonce’s “Lemonade” after winning Album of the Year for “25” in 2017. Then as now, the Recording Academy faced scrutiny after passing over Black women for the industry’s top award.
“This is really embarrassing for me. Megan, girl. I was going to write a speech about how you deserve this, but then I was like, ‘There’s no way they are going to choose me,'” Eilish said. “Genuinely, this goes to her. Can we just cheer for Megan Thee Stallion, please?”