A Grammy pre-telecast “premiere ceremony” had most of the day’s awards being given out hours before the kickoff to the prime-time telecast, but left plenty of suspense about what would happen on the air, as all of the front-runners lost at least one award in the early going, and upsets ruled the afternoon.
Meanwhile, some of the leading contenders for the big nighttime awards — Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa and Beyonce — all fell short of winning in at least one already-announced category, making those forthcoming top honors still difficult to predict.
Beyonce did win two in the afternoon, though — including for best rap performance for “Savage (Remix),” an honor she shared with Megan Thee Stallion, who showed up for a virtual acceptance speech in a state best described as beyond ecstatic.
“Thank you, Lord. God is the first person I want to thank,” said Megan, flush with excitement as screams were heard in the background. “Grandma, thank you,” she said, “for making me stop music to finish school.”
Although Beyonce is not attending, close attention will be paid to which awards she does and doesn’t pick up Sunday, as she is in line to become the most awarded female artist in Grammy history if she picks up wins from a majority of her nine nominations. In the afternoon portion, she went two for four — winning for music video (for “Brown Skin Girl”) as well as for rap-sung collaboration with Megan. She lost music film (to “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice”) and R&B song (to Robert Glasper and H.E.R. for “Better Than I Imagined”).
Apple, who did not show up virtually to accept her awards, won in two of the three categories where she was nominated, alternative album (“Fetch the Bolt Cutters”) and rock performance (“Shameika”). Apple did lose for best rock song, which went to a visibly flustered and delighted Brittany Howard.
A friend of Apple posted an Instagram video on her behalf earlier about why the singer would not be attending, saying, ““It’s not because I’m trying to protest, even though I have problems with the Grammys… It’s just really because I don’t want to be on national television. I’m just not made for that kind of stuff anymore. I want to stay sober and I can’t do that sober. It doesn’t feel safe to me, to be in that kind of exposure, scrutiny, comparison to people.” Her account later posted a message congratulating everyone who worked on “Bolt Cutters” with her.
(For a complete list of winners and nominees, click here.)
The Strokes seemed like the most blase winners of the afternoon, when they first came on screen to accept an award for best rock album. Soon, though, it became evident that, in their pool room, they hadn’t actually heard the winner announced. “Who won? Did we win?” they asked after many seconds flew by. At that point, a champagne cork flew, even as they admitted, in winning for their “The New Abnormal” album, that “I feel like we could have won based on the name alone.”
The Strokes were not the only ones to suffer from technical difficulties, as some of the winners’ speeches, like Snarky Puppy’s, came through with heavy electronic distortion, and others’, like Brandi Carlile, were somewhat broken up. These snafus were counterbalanced by the greater joy heard in the background of many of these speeches than is usually experienced when the pre-telecast winners step up to accept in person at a largely empty L.A. Convention Center hall.
An upset occurred in two out of three country categories. Vince Gill, who did not appear, won best country solo performance for “When My Amy Prays” over a crop of more widely favored women. The Highwomen’s Brandi Carlile accepted for her and Natalie Hemby’s “completely astounding” win for best country song for “Crowded Table,” in a category where another member of the group, Maren Morris, had also been up as a solo artist for “The Bones.”
Less unexpected was the big score in the country duo/group category by Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber, with the former duo accepting for “10,000 Hours” while protesting that they were literally shaking from the honor.
Ice-T, in accepting the metal award for his group Body Count, admitted that Grammy importance is something you brush off… until your name is called. “No no no!” he exulted. “We always say, ‘Grammys — whatever.’ (Then) I’m nominated? Oh God, wow. We won!”
Swift and Lipa were both nominated in the pop duo/group category — as was BTS. Yet the award went to Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande, whose “Rain on Me” was otherwise stiffed for nominations, which could explain why they prevailed. here. Neither performer showed up to accept the award. Presenter Jimmy Jam stumbled over Grande’s name, then said, “Lord A Jesus! When I get her name right, I will go give this to her.”
Jam also promised to be a personal delivery service for another award, John Legend’s for best R&B album. “He actually lives right around the corner from me, so I’ll drop it off at his house… socially distanced of course,” Jam said.
Winning for contemporary blues, Fantastic Negrito was among the very few to refer to the pandemic. “I’m just thankful to be alive. This has been a rough rough time for everyone out here,” he said, asking for “a moment of silence for the half million that have passed” in America and millions more internationally. But he didn’t actually pause for any silence, lest the video team cut him off.
The first cuss word of the night came, just as you’d expect, at the hands of a bluegrass artist. “Holy shit,” blurted Billy Strings, the fastest rising young star of the genre.
Prine posthumously won in both American roots categories, performance and song, for his last recorded number, “I Remember Everything.” “To the fans, you span several generations now,” said Fiona, wife of the beloved singer/songwriter who died from COVID-19 last April, just a few months after getting a lifetime achievement salute on the previous Grammys. “Thank you for continuing to support John’s words and music in the world.” “We love and miss you, Dad,” added Jack Prine.
Another late legend who was expected to be a contender, Leonard Cohen, lost out for a posthumous release in the folk category to Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings.
Burna Boy might have won the award for most enthusiastic speech, as a crowd of supporters could be heard blowing out his microphone even from another room. Accepting for best global music album, he said, “This is a big win for my generation of Africans all over the world. No matter where you are, what you plan to do, you can achieve it, because you are a king. Look at me now… Grammy award winner Burna Boy.”
Winning in the musical theater album category for his arrangements of Alanis Morissette’s music for “Jagged Little Pill,” Tom Kitt spoke for the Broadway community in saying, “I can’t wait to be back on our stages with you again.”
Billie Eilish and Finneas made history for picking up the first song from visual media award given to a tune from a movie that has not been released yet. “No Time to Die” was also only the second James Bond theme song to win in that category, following Adele’s “Skyfall.” “It was a dream to make this,” Eilish said. “I have no words. I can’t believe this is real. I couldn’t believe it was real then.” Admitting that he was trying to come in under the 30-second speech limit, Finneas said, “Thank you Billie for writing this song with me. I feel lucky to be your brother.”
Producer of the year went to Andrew Watt, who worked on albums by Dua Lipa and Post Malone.
The multiply nominated Jacob Collier picked up one early award, for arrangement with instruments and vocals.
Secular performers had a big presence in the Christian/gospel categories. Kanye West won his first Grammy for his religious material — and his first at all in eight years — in the contemporary Christian division for “Jesus Is King.” Dolly Parton shared in an award for gospel performance with Jonathan McReynolds and Mali Music. And PJ Morton, of Maroon 5, picked up gospel album. The Fisk Jubilee Singers prevailed in the roots gospel category.
Hip-hop veteran Nas won for best rap album. Though this was widely expected, as far lesser known performers rounded out a category that didn’t include any of today’s top hip-hop stars, it was still Nas’ first Grammy ever.
Just moments after John Prine won his two posthumous awards, his family, appearing in the virtual press room, hinted at a celebration of his life once the pandemic is over. “There is more to come,” said Fiona Whelan Prine.
The family said they were touched by the outpouring of love and congratulations the late artist received on social media after the bittersweet win. “I think it confirms what we knew to be true about John, that he was absolutely lovable,” said Fiona. “Even at his most irritating, John was lovable. and he had this remarkable unique talent, and those songs are a testimony to the man. I often tell people if you want to know the story of John Prine, start reading the lyrics of the first song and go all the way to ‘I Remember Everything.’ We are so grateful to the fans.”
Prine died last year at the age of 73 of complications due to COVID-19. He won a lifetime achievement award last year, and will be a part of tonight’s “In Memoriam” segment on the CBS Broadcast.
For a complete list of winners so far — which will be updated during the telecast, which begins at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS — click here.