Sunday night marked a major entertainment event: a brand new Taylor Swift album announcement ... oh, and also some trophies were handed out.
Yes, Taylor Swift continued her reign of dominance, not just by winning two more trophies but also by sending the internet into a tizzy with a new album reveal. But there was plenty more worth going wild for at the Grammys, between noteworthy performances and all the big winners – from Phoebe Bridgers' night-topping four trophies to Miley Cyrus' first-ever Grammy wins and Billie Eilish claiming another win, this time for "Barbie."
But who REALLY won the night? And who REALLY lost? And who REALLY (*whispers*) thinks "The Tortured Poets Department" is kind of a dopey album name?
Before that statement forces me to change my identity, burn off my fingerprints and moves into the woods, let's go through the real winners and losers from Grammys night.
We're a long ways away from 2018 and then-Grammys president Neil Portnow telling women to "step up" if they want to be recognized by the awards show. Indeed, women continued to stomp all over those condescending and stupid comments (from a man most recently in the news for sexual assault allegations), stepping up and onto the stage over and over on Sunday night.
For the third time since Portnow's comments, women swept all four major categories: Record ("Flowers" by Miley Cyrus), Album ("Midnights" by Taylor Swift) and Song of the Year ("What Was I Made For?" from Billie Eilish), as well as Best New Artist (Victoria Monet). Elsewhere Phoebe Bridgers scored the most trophies on the night with four – combining both her solo work and with the indie super-group Boygenius – while Paramore became the first female-fronted band to win Best Rock Album and Hayley Williams became the first woman period to win the award since Sheryl Crow in 1999.
Even before a single shiny megaphone was handed out Sunday night, women made their statement with only one male artist – Jon Bastiste – nabbing a nomination across Album, Record and Song of the Year. And the memorable moments of the night? Yep, pretty much all women – from Taylor's record-breaking win and internet-breaking reveal to the remarkable performances from Tracy Chapman and Joni Mitchell, and the final reveal of Celine Dion to hand out the evening's final award.
With all this deserved domination, looks like men are the ones needing to do the stepping up these days.
I share approximately nothing in common with Meryl Streep and Taylor Swift, other than the basic human need for oxygen to live. OK, actually two things: We show up to things a little late, hoping no one would notice only to totally get outed in front of everyone. Celebrities: They're just like us!
Yes, some of the world's most famous people treated the Grammys like a Dodgers game, showing up late ... and unfortunately right in the middle of Trevor Noah's traditional eager opening rollcall of all the famous folks in his eyeline, making it only more obvious that they were scrambling in tardy. Turns out the answer to "Is there nothing Meryl or Taylor can't do?" is "judge traffic." (But hey, when you're one of our greatest living actors and one of our greatest global economic forces, complete with a killer pop soundtrack, you can have your own time zone.)
But speaking of these two icons ...
Winner: Taylor Swift
Bad news for people tired of 2023 being the Year of Taylor Swift: Sure looks like 2024 will ALSO be the Year of Taylor Swift! (JUST LIKE THE CIA PLANNED, SHEEPLE!)
Yes, Taylor's encore to her blockbuster year is off to a great start, winning two trophies on Sunday night including the night's final prize for Album of the Year with "Midnights" – not just a regular win but a historic one at that, becoming the first artist to earn that particular prestigious award four times. And in case it wasn't enough to win on stage, Swift also won the night off the stage, sending the internet into its usual frenzy after revealing her latest album: no, not "Reputation (Taylor's Version)" as expected but instead a surprise all-new album that she's apparently had the time to create in between putting on the world's biggest tour, releasing the world's biggest concert movie and turning into the world's most overanalyzed Chiefs fan. And on that note, unlike during NFL games or in past Grammy broadcasts, the show did a good job of spacing out its Swift coverage.
So with all that, no one (besides maybe the person sitting behind her traditional constant standing) would have anything to complain or grump about, right?
Loser: Taylor Swift
HAHAHAHAHA! People not being extra about Taylor Swift ... that's a good one.
This is going to sound CrAzY, but the internet found ways to be hyperbolic about Taylor Swift last night – most notably when she won Album of the Year and EGREGIOUSLY SNUBBED surprise presenter Celine Dion on stage. You'd think she practically shoved Dion away from the microphone and off the stage before saying in her speech that she hopes Dion's stiff person syndrome gets worse ... which was all ridiculous even before a photo came out showing Dion and Swift embracing offstage. It's almost as though, in a thrilling moment of achievement and recognition, a person was in an excited overwhelmed hurry and was maybe a tiny bit absent-minded. TO THE HAGUE, OBVIOUSLY!
That being said ... (*looks around to make sure it's safe, whispers*) ... bringing a clearly reluctant Lana Del Rey up on stage after her fellow nominee had LITERALLY JUST finding out she'd lost is a kind of thoughtless move, right? OK, that too can be blamed on earnest tunnel-vision of the moment. But ... (*checks phone for wiretaps, whispers again*) ... using your first awards speech to announce your new album is kind of tacky. Like, no one will argue with the business savvy of it all (it was even tied in with her win number 13!) and it's not like the Grammys are sacred ground ... but it feels a little like taking an honor and using it as an ad. Also, and I say this as somebody literally listening to "Anti-Hero" as I write this sentence: "The Tortured Poets Department" is a silly, portentous, teenage melodrama album title.
And with that, I'm off to apply for the witness protection program.
Winner: Meryl Streep
2024 marks the rare year where Meryl Streep's not nominated for an Oscar – so I guess she decided to dominate a different awards show!
Sure, she didn't win her category (Best Audio Book, Narration & Storytelling Recording for "Big Tree") but she won the rest of the night, giving the Grammys their first fun moment racing to her chair for Noah's intro bit and then killing it on stage presenting Record of the Year alongside super-producer Mark Ronson. Not only were the two quite funny together, but Streep was actually very helpful, role-playing everyone watching the awards asking the same question: What does Record of the Year ACTUALLY MEAN?
But really, those two should present and explain an award every year at the Grammys. They've got great chemistry together, almost like they're somehow related to each othWHAAAAAAAAT!?
I'm sad to report that U2 did another disappointing thing last night at the Grammys.
No, they didn't surprise drop an album on your iPhone without asking this time – they just merely delivered one of the least memorable performances of the night, playing their new song "Atomic City" from their current hub at The Sphere in Vegas. Or more like "playing" because it was clearly – from all the swirling camera moves and hyper-editing – a pre-recorded and assembled segment, making the whole thing feel more like an ad for the shiny new planet venue and less like an exciting Grammy MomentTM. And to make matters worse, it wasn't even a GOOD ad for the shiny new planet venue, rarely sitting still long enough to give viewers a chance to appreciate the one-of-a-kind immersive venue.
Thankfully, the segment was relatively short-lived, and The Sphere was quickly eclipsed by Taylor Swift's first win/album reveal of the night – so at least we weren't stuck in a moment that you couldn't get out of.
Winner: Tracy Chapman
Thanks to country star Luke Combs' crossover cover, Chapman's late '80s hit was everywhere this past year. The singer-songwriter herself, however, wasn't – until Sunday night, that is, when 35 years after she won Best New Artist and two other trophies, Chapman took a well-deserved victory lap with a rare live performance on the Grammys stage that unassumingly stunned every audience watching into silence.
Ostensibly this was a duet with Combs – but even Combs seemed to know and respectfully acknowledge that no one cared about him on stage. It was about the other artist in the spotlight, one seemingly left behind and underappreciated by pop culture whose words and art – soft-spoken and simple yet searing and soulful – were proven just too undeniable to stay that way.
Loser: Folding chairs
As soon as Playboi Carti came out Travis Scott started hitting the steel chair like prime Mick Foley pic.twitter.com/SnFFW73R3B — Ahmed/The Ears/IG: BigBizTheGod ð¸ð´ (@big_business_) February 5, 2024
Travis Scott's mid-show medley of "My Eyes," "I Know?" and "Fe!n" (just once, for a change of pace) was fairly hit-or-miss, moody bordering on meh-inducing. That is, until the end, when it became hit-and-hit-and-hit-and-hit-and-hit-and-hit-and-hit – all misses – with a stack of unassuming folding chairs on stage. For his closing moments, in a pale attempt at recreating the chaos of his live shows, the rapper handed performing duties over to a masked Playboi Carti while he unimpressively smashed the furniture apart over and over again, in a folding chair massacre not seen since the glory days of the WWE. Not sure what the stage seating did to earn Travis Scott's rampage. Maybe he thought they were Grammy voters, who once again left him empty-handed after his ninth career nomination?
Winner: Joni Mitchell
When it came to the awards on Sunday night, there wasn't much for shocks. In fact, beyond finding out Meryl Streep and Mark Ronson are related, the biggest shock of the night came when everyone discovered singer-songwriter icon Joni Mitchell, despite winning multiple Grammys including a Lifetime Achievemnt honor, had never performed on the music industry's biggest stage. She made quite the impact with her first, though, putting on a rare public post-aneurysm recovery performance of "Both Sides, Now."
What an epic performance by the legendary @jonimitchell tonight. I honestly felt she had everyone not only in the audience, but everyone watching at home worldwide completely mesmerized and hanging on her every word. She had everyone’s heart in her hands. Simply Beautiful ðð» pic.twitter.com/IYoJsgeYtt — Spring-Nuts (@SpringNuts_) February 5, 2024
Even without the theatrics of most Grammys showcases – simply seated on stage accompanied by Brandi Carlile, Milwaukee's own SistaStrings and more – Mitchell's performance was remarkable and moving. The lyrics may be well more than 50 years old but they're still captivating and capture so much wisdom and melancholy emotion, and even if Mitchell's voice isn't as powerful as in the past, her presence – the life, years and experience behind the words – has become even more so. The song was a showstopper moment in a night fairly saturated with them.
Loser: 2022 winners
Just two years ago, Jon Batiste and Olivia Rodrigo were the belles of the ball at the Grammys, earning a combined eight trophies at the 2022 ceremony – including Album of the Year for the former and Best New Artist for the latter. This time around, though, despite a combined dozen nominations – six each – the Grammys pulled a Nathan Fielder on the two stars:
Indeed, Batiste got blanked on the night across his six nominations while the Grammys treated Olivia Rodrigo like a vampire treats garlic this year, similarly earning a big goose egg for the evening. All in all, nobody was nominated for more – and lost more without a single win – than these two former winners. And to make matters worse for the "Guts" superstar, Rodrigo's performance was one of the few that kind of failed to register on the night – even with the help of an oozing blood pack in her hand to add some drama to her rendition of the tell-off ballad "vampire." The one leaky squib, though, was too small to make much of an impact either on stage or on screen. Next time, I nominate she goes full "Robocop" boardroom scene.
Winner: The Tina Turner tributes
The queen of rock 'n' roll may have passed away last spring, but her spirit lived on vibrantly Sunday night with the aid of two strong tribute performances.
First Miley Cyrus turned her live take on her Grammy-winning hit "Flowers" into an equally winning Turner tribute, busting out all the icon's signature moves in a way that combined old and new nicely and won over the crowd. Then the show gave its own proper Turner tribute during the In Memoriam block, with Fantasia Barrino given the honor (and the uneviable task) of trying to harness the late legend's energetic on-stage fury on "Proud Mary" – and mostly succeeding, conjuring the star's vocal soul and getting everyone on their feet. (As a nice bonus nod, the song was Barrino's breakout back in her original "American Idol" audition.)
There's no replacing Tina Turner, who could probably still have out-hot-stepped both Miley and Fantasia on her deathbed, but the two modern stars did their damnedest making Proud Mary proud.
Loser: "Bob Marley: One Love" product placement
I will admit: I am not optimistic for the upcoming Bob Marley biopic coming out in a week, one that looks like it's potentially from the "Walk Hard" school of biopic cliches. But it HAS to be better than the clumsy mid-show attempt at marketing Sunday night, as Trevor Noah awkwardly tried (and failed) to converse with Ziggy Marley and the movie's star Kingsley Ben-Adir at their table. Whether the three couldn't understand each other as a comedic bit or they genuinely couldn't understand each other, the result was clunky and not exactly the livewire moment that will get viewers marching to the movie theater in a week. But hey, still better than "Bohemian Rhapsody." (I SAID WHAT I SAID!)
Winner: Victoria Monet
Every year at the Grammys, a lesser-known talent seizes the night and catapaults from a miscellaneous name on a nominee list to someone you're searching for on Spotify mid-show. This year, that artist was Victoria Monet – and not even just because she won the coveted Best New Artist trophy. Sure, that was a win – but the real winning moment was her speech, heartfelt and genuine as she thanked those who got her to this long-awaited moment, chronicled her more-than-decade-long journey to the Grammys spotlight and battled the dreaded play-off music to re-define "best" for the rest of her worthy nominees. But really, the moment I knew Monet ruled was when she opened the speech with thanking the champagne waiters. That is a person with priorities.
Between the charming speech and her three wins, Sunday night seemed to mark the start of something exciting for Victoria Monet – and for her daughter, who broke the record for youngest Grammy nominee at just two years old. Slacker, amirite?
Loser: People watching for the awards
Every year we have the Grammys ... and every year people complain about how there's seemingly no actual awards handed out during this awards show.
Oh yeah, they hand out awards. They hand out SO MANY AWARDS. Check out the full list of Grammy categories; it's horrifying. If they tried handing all of those things out, the show would still exhaustingly be going on into the early morning like a "The Bachelor" premiere – and while I'd be fascinated to see a room full of celebs interacting either half-drunk hungover or bleary-eyed at 5 in the morning, somehow I think the ratings wouldn't be great – especially for obscure categories like Best Recording Package or Best Classical Compendium. And do you want to lose moments like Joni Mitchell's performance or the extended In Memoriam tribute for them?
I thought not. Being disappointed that the Grammys don't give out a ton of awards during the show is like being disappointed that the Cowboys lost in the playoffs: It's what they do, and honestly it's better for everyone that they do.
Remember when Michael Jordan got inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame and took a large part of the moment to air out some personal grievances, grumbles and hot takes? Jay-Z's Dr. Dre Global Impact Award was like the low-key version of that – and frankly, it was a hoot.
Working it appeared without a script, the rap superstar started standard enough, giving out nods to the award's namesake, those who came before him and the Black Music Collective. But then he veered into talking about the Grammys themselves, casually pinging the Grammys' history of ignoring Black musicians and rap music – and even pinging their own half-hearted attempts at boycotting the show – before pulling a Kanye "Imma let y'all finish" at the mic, pointing out that Beyonce has the most Grammys of all time yet never the top prize of Album of the Year. (Underappreciated part of this whole segment: chiding the audience that they don't have to applaud everything. Somewhere, someone was thinking, "Well, jeez, Miley told us we weren't doing ENOUGH!") Then he topped the whole thing off by saying that some of the nominees don't belong in the category – maybe referencing category fraud, maybe referencing the quality of the nominated acts – before quickly doubling back by saying "when I get nervous, I tell the truth."
In this era of micromanaged public personas and marketing, it was a refreshingly entertaining, off-the-cuff and not entirely off-the-mark speech from someone famous enough to have no effs to give but plenty of opinions. And in case that wasn't clear:
See, THIS is why you broadcast your honorary awards instead of shunting them to a random off-camera secondary ceremony. And on that note ...
Loser: The Oscars
Every year, commentators insist that the Oscars need to start acting more like the Grammys – nevermind that the Oscars are still the more prestigious award (just ask Homer Simpson) and still the most watched broadcast that's not football, trouncing the music awards even though the Grammys have much more inherently lively, production-friendly material to work with.
There is one way, though, that the Academy Awards should emulate the Grammys: maybe, uh, act like you like the stuff you're honoring?
Even considering most of the live performances were more on the moody, melancholy side, the Grammys were just a joy to watch on Sunday night, with the show's enthusiasm for every winner, every speech, every category and every performer contagious through the screen. I know returning host Trevor Noah's "oh wow, look, a famous person!" approach wears thin on some viewers, but I appreciate just how much respect and admiration he conveys for all of their nominated, honored selections. You don't regularly hear him groaning about how they HAVE to talk about country music or that they HAD to listen to SZA this past year.
Compare that to the Oscars, where the host each year sounds so apologetic for taking up your time and so annoyed that they had to watch THE MOVIES THEY'RE ABOUT TO REWARD. We're already bracing ourselves for the "Ugh, 'Oppenheimer,' so long amirite? Maybe I'll finally finish watching it next year! The Academy: so disconnected!" jokes next month – nevermind that the Nolan movie is the most nominated of the night, and one of the most popular films of the year. Yes, with even general audiences! Respect the movies and respect your viewers!
The Oscars sigh when they have to bring out their international film category; meanwhile the Grammys eagerly shined a spotlight on their more niche international nominees, presenting Best Música Urbana Album on air and handing the stage over to Burna Boy. The Oscars constantly threaten to cut categories from their broadcast, even the ones that are inherent and essential to the cinematic art form; meanwhile the Grammys' vibe is sharing as much love as possible, whether in awards or performances, across its airtime without apology. And look at how many of the Grammys' major moments Sunday night came from honoring their past – Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel. Jay-Z's honorary recipient speech wouldn't have happened at the Oscars, which have moved their Honorary Oscar winners to a separate ceremony from the broadcast since 2009. But then again, who would find speeches from recent winners like Samuel L. Jackson, Elaine May and Mel Brooks entertaining?
The Grammys put on a good show because they treat their night as a celebration. The Oscars, on the other hand, treat it like an obligation – and if they keep doing that next month, they'll keep ending up in the same company as Travis Scott's million busted folding chairs, a loser for a completely different awards show.
As much as it is a gigantic cliché to say that one has always had a passion for film, Matt Mueller has always had a passion for film. Whether it was bringing in the latest movie reviews for his first grade show-and-tell or writing film reviews for the St. Norbert College Times as a high school student, Matt is way too obsessed with movies for his own good.
When he's not writing about the latest blockbuster or talking much too glowingly about "Piranha 3D," Matt can probably be found watching literally any sport (minus cricket) or working at - get this - a local movie theater. Or watching a movie. Yeah, he's probably watching a movie.