A somber mood hung over the 62nd annual Grammy Awards Sunday night.
The event was held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where NBA star Kobe Bryant captained the Lakers for 20 years before dying in a helicopter crash Sunday at age 41.
“Here we are together on music’s biggest night, but to be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now because earlier today, Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero,” host Alicia Keys said. “We’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
Keys next joined Boyz II Men to sing “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” as tears fell in the audience and the camera showed Kobe’s retired jerseys in the rafters.
“I’m Alicia Keys and I’m going to get you through,” Keys promised at the piano.
Thus, the show was an attempted escape from the day’s tragic news.
Lizzo kicked off the show shouting, “Tonight is for Kobe!” While Lizzo won Best Pop Solo Performance for “Truth Hurts,” she was shut out from wins in the major categories despite a leading eight nominations.
Instead, all the hardware went to youth favorite Billie Eilish, who entered the night as the youngest artist ever nominated in the top four categories. She won all four: Record of the Year (“Bad Guy”), Album of the Year (“When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”), Song of the Year (“Bad Guy”) and Best New Artist.
“I feel like I joke around a lot and I never take anything seriously at these kind of things, but I genuinely want to say I’m so grateful,” Eilish said.
Live performances included the Jonas Brothers, Gwen Stefani with Blake Shelton, Tanya Tucker with Brandi Carlile, H.E.R., Tyler The Creator, Ariana Grande, Bonnie Raitt and Gary Clark Jr.
The best performance came from Camila Cabello, who sang “First Man” to her teary-eyed father in the audience, singing, “You were the first man who really loved me.”
Equally emotional was Demi Lovato, who cried singing “Anyone,” which she wrote just days before her drug overdose last summer.
The most disappointing performance came from Lil Nas X, who appeared to lip sync through “Old Town Road.” The song deserved better after topping the Billboard charts for 17 straight weeks, breaking the record of “One Sweet Day” (Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men) and “Despacito” (Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Bieber). Together, Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus won Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
The show also included special tributes to Prince and rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was murdered last year. Hussle posthumously won Best Rap/Sung Performance for his DJ Khaled and John Legend hit “Higher,” as well as Best Rap Performance for “Racks in the Middle,” featuring Roddy Ricch & Hit-Boy. Tyler The Creator won Best Rap Album for “Igor,” while 21 Savage won Best Rap Song for his J. Cole duet “A Lot.”
On the R&B side, Anderson .Paak won Best R&B album for “Ventura,” as well as Best R&B Performance for his Andre 3000 collaboration “Came Home.” PJ Morton won Best R&B Song for his JoJo duet “Say So,” while Lizzo won Best Traditional R&B Performance for “Jerome.”
On the country side, Dan + Shay won Best Country Duo/Group Performance for “Speechless,” while Tanya Tucker won Best Country Song for “Bring My Flowers Now” and Best Country Album for “While I’m Livin’.” Willie Nelson won Best Country Solo Performance for “Ride Me Back Home.”
In the rock ranks, Gary Clark Jr. won Best Rock Song, Best Rock Performance and Best Contemporary Blues Album for his social commentary “This Land,” while Cage the Elephant took Best Rock Album for “Social Cues.”
Fans of all genres enjoyed Aerosmith and Run DMC performing “Walk This Way,” the song that broke down the wall between rock and hip-hop forever. It was fitting for Aerosmith, who was named the Grammys’ 2020 MusiCares Person of the Year.
Not included in the broadcast was Sean “Diddy” Combs, who received the Industry Icon Honor at the annual Pre-Grammy Gala on Saturday. Combs slammed the voting process, citing classic albums that didn’t win the top prize: Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall,” Prince’s “1999,” Beyoncé’s “Lemonade,” Missy Elliott’s “Da Real World,” Snoop Dogg’s “Doggystyle,” Kanye West’s “Graduation” and Nas’ “Illmatic.”
“So I say this with love to the Grammys, because you really need to know this, every year y’all be killing us man,” Combs said. “Man, I’m talking about the pain. I’m speaking for all these artists here, the producers, the executives. The amount of time it takes to make these records, to pour your heart into it, and you just want an even playing field.”
He was referring to behind-the-scenes turmoil leading up to the event. Just 10 days prior, Recording Academy C.E.O. Deborah Dugan was ousted for misconduct, causing Dugan to fire back with claims that the awards show is rigged with conflicts of interest.
You could see similar frustration from Keys after the Eilish sweep on Sunday.
“We must do better,” Keys said as the program left the air.