On Feb. 12, The Recording Academy celebrated the music’s biggest night with its 59th annual Grammy Awards. An evening when the most talented musicians faced off for music’s most important honors was hosted by actor and TV host James Corden.
Corden opened the ceremony rolling down the stage without a shoe on and then erupted into a rapping opening monologue. Famously known for his Carpool Karaoke, Corden did not miss a chance to have an epic Grammy version, where he sang “Sweet Caroline” with legends such as Neil Diamond, Jennifer Lopez, Tim McGraw and of course, Blue Ivy.
But the night was all about a major diva-off between Beyonce and Adele. With nine and five nominations respectively, these highly anticipated performers were favorites for the night’s most prestigious awards.
Adele opened the ceremony with her smash hit “Hello.” Although the songstress was a bit pitchy, she still blew the roof off and set the tone for what proved to be an incredible evening for her. Later on, Adele returned to the stage to perform a surprise tribute to the late George Michael.
She stole the show when she dropped an f-bomb and asked to restart her performance due to technical issues. “I can’t mess this up for him. I’m sorry,” said Adele as she proceeded to sing Michael’s “Fastlove.” She delivered the song with an almost palpable pain and respect in a true Grammy worthy fashion.
Beyonce’s performance was the aesthetical highlight of the night. Beyonce was introduced by her mother Tina Knowles, who proudly pointed out that both her daughters were Grammy winners that night. Solange won Best R&B Performance for “Cranes in the Sky” from her album A Seat at the Table.
Being pregnant with twins, Beyonce sang “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles” from Lemonade, accompanied by mesmerizing video holograms featuring images of many women and various symbolic patterns.
Beyonce’s performance was an eloquent ode to motherhood, femininity and diversity, which she echoed in her inspiring acceptance speech for Best Urban Contemporary Album.
“I want my children … to have no doubt that they are beautiful, intelligent and capable. This is something that I want to for every child of every race,” said Beyonce to an audience who gave her a standing ovation.
Beyonce also won the award for Best Video for “Formation,” but Adele beat her in all major categories. Song of the Year and Record of the Year went to “Hello” and Album of the Year went to 25, eventually scoring Adele victories in all five of her nominations.
The latter came as the biggest surprise and the snub of the ceremony, as everyone was expecting Beyonce’s album about feminism and the black experience to win. Even Adele herself was reluctant to accept the honor.
“But I can’t possibly accept this award,” said the singer, who continued her speech by praising Beyonce and Lemonade, calling it “monumental.”
Another big snub was Sia, who was left without any Grammys again. Nominated in two categories, 2016 was a phenomenal year for the Australian singer; the Academy has overlooked her talent for way too long. Rihanna and Kanye West became the night’s biggest losers with the most nominations without any wins—seven for Rihanna and six for West.
West and his fellow mate Justin Bieber, who also lost in all his categories, both did not attend the ceremony.
Drake did not join the Grammys either. Nevertheless, he took home two golden gramophones for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for his hit “Hotline Bling.” He lost Best Rap Album to newcomer Chance The Rapper’s The Coloring Book, who had the night of his life.
When also taking home the award for Best New Artist—becoming the first black hip hop artist to do so since 1999—Chance talked about what it meant to be an independent rapper with no label behind him and relentlessly thanked God. He then took the stage to bring the entire audience to the church with his heartfelt performance of “How Great” and “All We Got.”
Another memorable victory moment of the night belonged to band Twenty One Pilots with Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Stressed Out,” who honored its background by accepting the award pantless.
The performance that set the stage on fire was an unexpected, yet extremely satisfying duet between Metallica and Lady Gaga, singing “Moth Into Flame.” Just a week after her triumphant display at the Super Bowl, Lady Gaga proved she is the single most versatile female artist in the industry today, demonstrating that she can do metal as virtuously as she does pop and even jazz.
With a new administration and the political climate of the country, the usually apolitical Grammys became the epicenter of statements, from both presenters and performers. “With President Trump we don’t know what comes next,” was one of the lines from Corden’s opening monologue.
When presenting the first award of the night, Jennifer Lopez quoted Nobel Prize-winning Toni Morrison saying, “This is precisely the time when artists go to work,” a sentiment that was later channeled by the Academy President Neil Portnow. Portnow called for the government to embrace the arts.
Actress Laverne Cox asked the people “to google Gavin Grimm”—a transgender teenager from Virginia. Paris Jackson, the great Michael Jackson’s daughter, encouraged people to “protest pipelines, #NoDAPL.”
When performing her new single “Chained to the Rhythm” with rapper Skip Marley, Katy Perry wore a white Hillary-esque pantsuit with the word “persist” on her left arm, an allusion to Senator Elizabeth Warren, and ended her energetic number by screaming “no hate,” while featuring the U.S. Constitution in the background.
A Tribe Called Quest’s performance was less subtle. Together with Busta Rhymes, they called Trump “President Agent Orange” who spreads evil and thankfully, fails to impose his Muslim Ban in their song “We the People.”
Politics aside, the Grammys were an evening of great tributes. Demi Lovato, Tori Kelly, Little Big Town and Andra Day delivered a lively and sweet tribute to the legendary Bee Gees with their hits “Staying Alive” and “How Deep Is Your Love.” The tributes also honored the late musical giants.
Besides Adele’s moving tribute to George Michael, there was a mind-blowing and deserving homage to the great Prince. At first, the legend was honored by his long-time colleague The Time, but it was Bruno Mars who stole the show.
Belting his heart out to “Let’s Go Crazy” and dressed as the legend himself, Mars finished his performance with an electrifying guitar solo that left many jaws on the floor.
2016 took the lives of many musical greats, which made the In Memoriam section especially touching. John Legend and Broadway’s beloved Cynthia Erivo—who won the Best Musical Theatre Album Grammy for The Color Purple—performed a heartfelt duet of the Beach Boys classic “God Only Knows.”
Despite its drawbacks, 2016 brought along with it some great music, which was indeed proven by this year’s ceremony.