What's this? A competent awards show in 2021? That's possible!?
Indeed, the Grammys pulled off what the Golden Globes infamously couldn't, throwing one enjoyable party on Sunday night ... and occasionally giving out some shiny golden gramophones in the process. Beyonce claimed the most fancy paperweights during the evening (with four), while Billie Eilish kept her winning streak from last year going with another Record of the Year win to cap off the gleeful night of live music. (Remember live music?)
But who really won the night? And who really lost? And who's really starting to wonder if they can pull off Harry Styles' feather boa look? Let's break down music's biggest night.
Winner: The Grammys
After the buggy blizzaster that was the Golden Globes, it'd be fair to tune into Grammys Sunday night a little nervous about what we might see. Zoom-call concerts? We're all desperate for live music again – but not that desperate.
Thankfully, the Grammys planned smart and put on a shockingly great awards show – one that remember that the second word should be the emphasis right now: a show. The awards were mostly tossed aside – even by the Grammys' usual standard – and from beginning to end, the night was about putting on something we haven't seen in a while: a concert. And maybe it's just thirst after a year of no live music, but boy was it a treat, not only for us watching, but also seemingly for the musicians, who seemed happy to be on stage again along with watching others break free from their pandemic hiatus.
Sure, there was no real audience like in normal times, and you didn't have the usual level of genre-blending, one-of-a-kind spectacle numbers of past years, but the music was great and seeing the musicians watching one another, vibing off of each other's art, was its own unique experience – silly and surreal but also special and almost touching, reminding the audience that they're all fans who've been craving this too. (Taylor Swift's infamous audience dancing circa 10 years ago was just a decade too late.)
From big showcase acts like BTS (who managed to recreate the Grammys set in Korea for their showcase "Dynamite" number) to smaller, more traditional performances from groups like Black Pumas and meaningful message pieces from Lil Baby, the night had plenty to offer – all a refreshing drink of something withheld for far too long.
But most of all, the Grammys were a succesful celebration of music – past, present and future. The Golden Globes weren't just a disappointment because they were a glitchy awkward mess; they were a disappointment because they seemed to have no love or interest in the movies and shows the night was allegedly honoring. It was just an insular party thrown by people nobody likes, for people who couldn't even attend.
The Grammys, on the other hand, were so gloriously different. While the Globes refused to show clips of most of its nominees, leaving audiences in the dark on what these movies were or why they should care, the Grammys showcased its artists not only on its stages but with small segments profiling the Record of the Year nominees. Instead of side-eyeing the audience for not keeping up during a year in which other things were on our minds, the Grammys encouraged discovering its nominees, telling their stories and showing off what made them special. Instead of clumsy comedy bits and awkward Zoom interactions, the Grammys used time to profile independent concert halls and stages from across the country. Sure, they only visited essentially Nashville and Los Angeles – but it served as a reminder that the music industry goes beyond the celebs and shiny awards.
And, most of all, it actually felt like an awards show that people thought about planning prior to this week. The production was fairly seamless for such a strange pandemic-mandated set-up: an outdoor stage for the awards, an indoor space for live isolated performances, save for some prerecorded numbers. It was a show exactly for these strange times – a different, distanced night than the usual party – while also a respite from them, a reflection of the bizarre year behind us as well as the joyful future almost in our grasp, all while actively celebrating the eclectic soundtrack that unites it all.
Awards season is always stupid and nonsensical, with those who follow it and host it arguing that the shows are about appreciating the art and the artists. At least this past Sunday night, the Grammys actually lived up to that.
Loser: All awards shows before and after this
Boy, how much egg do the Golden Globes have on their face (beyond the fact that Hollywood's trying to blacklist them until they fix their woeful diversity and ethics issues). Less than a month after the Hollywood Foreign Press Association put on the world's most extravagantly buggy Zoom call, the Grammys showed that awards shows could not only exist in a pandemic, but could thrive. Weird what putting in a little effort can do!
In fairness, music ironically translates better to a live awards show than movies or television as musicians can put on live performances and present something new and energetic in a way that our annual tributes to movies or television can't particularly capture. Plus, while we've had plenty of screen time this past year, concerts have been a distant memory – so putting those forward made the Grammys feel inherently fresh and enthralling, reminding us of something we haven't seen or felt since about 365 days ago.
But no matter the case, this is where the bar is set now for the Oscars. We now know what an awards show in a pandemic can feel like – aware of the outside world yet still a refuge from the chaos – glamorous and big yet intimate and scaled-back, a tribute to art big and small as well as local and global. And no, they don't always require god-forsaken glitchy Zoom calls. We've seen the far extremes of pandemic awards show entertainment; now where will the Academy Awards land? (And how much do they wish the Globes were still the most recent barometer?)
Another year, another round of awesome women musicians sticking it to former Recording Academy president Neil Portnow's crappy statement several years ago that female artists need "to step up" if they wanted to be recognized by the Grammys.
From Billie Eilish's "Everything I Wanted" winning Record of the Year to H.E.R. nabbing Song of the Year for "I Can't Breathe" to Taylor Swift earning Album of the Year for "Folklore" and Megan Thee Stallion and Dua Lipa earning Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album, respectively, just about every major award Sunday night went to a woman.
That's not even including the performances, with women stealing the show all night long. Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B stopped the show – and probably a few typical CBS audience members' hearts – with their joint concert. Maren Morris, Mickey Guyton and Miranda Lambert captivatingly demonstrated the present and future of the country genre, while Haim and Billie Eilish took the spotlight away from Harry Styles and his snazzy boa in the opening medley.
Dua Lipa's dance moves may leave something to be desired (her stage presence is currently set at Ariana Grande circa "Problem" aloofness) but her songs are too boppy and throwback fun to grumble about that too much.
Overall, if something made an impact or won an award last night, the odds are quite good it was a lady making it happen. It is Women's History Month, after all.
The envelopes did their job last night, keeping their secrets in. One problem: They had a habit of keeping the presenters out. Lizzo in particular struggled with her envelope at the start of the show, but this wasn't a specific Minnesotan malady as envelopes throughout the night were fumbled and fiddled with.
But hey, unlike some shows, at least the right envelopes were in the right people's hands for the right awards.
After last year's Grammy deluge for Billie Eilish, the awards show decided to spread the love out in Sunday's ceremony, doing its best Oprah impression. Dua Lipa: You get a significant award! Beyonce: You get a significant award! Megan Thee Stallion: You get a significant award! Billie Eilish: You get a significant award ... again! In a year that was all over the place, it makes sense that there wouldn't be a consensus winner of the night in the awards department. In fact it even added to the jovial good-time vibe of the evening, with just about everyone having something to celebrate beyond just getting to leave the house and perform again.
Loser: Billie Eilish's speech
Much like how Kanye astral projected into Adele's body in embarrassment after she won all the awards over Beyonce and "Lemonade," Adele transported into Billie Eilish's body for the final moment of the night, less an acceptance speech for Record of the Year than an awkward apology to Megan Thee Stallion for winning the award.
This isn't a slight against Billie Eilish; the speech seemed sincere and genuine; and after last year's shower of awards, it makes sense that she truly didn't think the Grammys would bother this year. The "this should be yours" speech is always well-intended; but it also always comes off weird and self-serving unless you're truly handing over the award and the mic. And even then, there's something off about it, coming off more like pity than honor.
Again, this isn't on Eilish. This is on the Grammys and their legacy of overlooking notable Black achievements in the major categories. The night was a kind of an official anointing for Megan Thee Stallion, with three wins on the night (tied for the second most), one big show-stopping performance and Beyonce by her side to even essentially knight her as the next up. Yet the Grammys couldn't seal the deal by giving her this final major award, instead falling back on an already well-served star and her solid – but not hugely special – song.
Last year's Eilish coronation made sense; this award felt like the Grammys settling. And in the end, they put their final winner in a position to lose.
Winner: Tiffany Haddish's speech
Oddly enough, the best speech of Grammys day didn't take place at the Grammys. It happened ... at a taping of "Kids Say the Darnedest Things"?
How I found out I won a Grammy while working on @KidsSayDarndest I am so Honored to share with the kids. Full situation is on my YouTube page. pic.twitter.com/pYzmt4nIgo — Tiffany Haddish (@TiffanyHaddish) March 15, 2021
Man, why bother handing the awards out at the ceremony and getting boring speeches there when these weird spontaneous versions are far more entertaining and heartfelt?! Actually, while we're on the topic ...
Loser: The awards themselves
If you were watching the Grammys to see who would win awards, you probably went to bed disappointed – and also you're probably new here because the Grammys are more music festival than awards show at this point. But honestly, why not lean into that? The artists don't even seem to care that much about the awards, they rarely get anything right anyways – even last night's otherwise joyous free-for-all found a way to muck it up – and they're the least interesting parts of the show.
At this point, maybe ditch the trophies and fully commit to turning the Grammys into an industry-wide jam session – the past, present and future across all genres celebrating one another, with no voting academies or controversies necessary. Maybe just letting the musicians play is a tribute enough.
Important note: This only applies to the Grammys. If the Oscars ditch any of their awards off-screen, rioting must ensue.
Winner: Birth rates
About once every three months, a new article comes out hand-wringing about the fact that millennials and older Gen Z-ers aren't having enough babies. Could it be because they've almost exclusively known catastrophic financial crises throughout their adult lives, making it hard to confidently support themselves much less a bonus person who isn't chipping in on rent? Or that the planet's dying, so why bring somebody aboard a sinking ship? Or possibly the simple rationale that we've been locked inside for a year during a pandemic? As it turns out, financial instability, contagious deadly germs and physical distance don't make for great turn-ons.
Or maybe, just maybe, it's because we just haven't had the right soundtrack.
Perhaps things will change, then, with Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak's new tandem act, Silk Sonic, which debuted live last night with the lead single "Leave the Door Open," a perfect '70s-drenched slow groove pastiche designed in a music lab for inspiring baby-making. It was also timed just right for a whole species about to step outside and throw a celebratory bacchanal a sad, lonely year in the making.
Either the population rate's gonna make a big return in about nine months or jumbo collars will. For fashion's sake, here's to the former.
Loser: The sound department
The performances themselves all sounded terrific, but it was the acceptance speeches that had the production crew truly on their toes as some traffic in the background accompanied Harry Styles' speech while Taylor Swift's playoff music was an airplane apparently taking its sweet time to land.
Hey, the Grammys got a lot right Sunday night, but the outdoors venue choice – while smart and safe – didn't quite stick the landing.
Yes, you can basically proclaim Beyonce a winner in just about all of life – but she in particular won Sunday night, taking home the most awards of the night with four – including Best R&B Performance, which also earned her the title of most awarded female performer in Grammys history, an honor probably overdue considering how over the show's passed her up. (Despite numerous nominations, in the three major categories – Album, Record and Song of the Year – she's only won once.) And now even Blue Ivy's starting her Grammy collection as she won as a featured performer on "Brown Skin Girl" for Best Music Video.
But, most of all, Beyonce won last night because of how few effs were clearly given, her and Jay-Z just sitting in the corner like it's just another Sunday night while also not bothering to do the interview for her Record of the Year profile segment. You can get that interview when you actually get around to giving her Record of the Year.
Loser: Bill Burr
Comedian Bill Burr has no problem riling people up with his jabbing observations about both sides of the woke aisle – but there was probably a better time than while presenting awards.
Do with the joke what you will, but what was supposed to be a moment for honoring Latin music and its artists – already relegated to the pre-primetime segment of show – instead became about the presenter.
Winner: Grandparents participating in DaBaby's performance
Excited to see the Milwaukee Bucks' Grand Dancers apparently got the background dancer gig for DaBaby's Grammy performance!
Sure, you can joke, but you have to love a bunch of Helen Mirrens putting in such a committed effort for a song and artist they almost certainly hadn't heard of until that day. Plus, I like living in a world where Ethel and Miriam are telling the their TikTok-ing grandkids at Thanksgiving that, "I performed at the Grammys with ... I believe his name was The Baby?"
Loser: Grandparents watching Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B
The Venn diagram of people who watch CBS primetime television and people who know what "WAP" stands for is usually two separate circles; but for one very special night, those circles intertwined for Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's bold and booty-ful performance at the Grammys.
Technically there was music playing through all of that, not that you could probably hear it through the echoing sound of pearls getting clutched across the nation as well as CBS's heavy hand on the censor button. (Not that it did any good; one doesn't need to be an English professor to translate "I want you to park that big Mack truck right in this little garage.")
Even gussied up with an old Hollywood glamour theme at the start, the number overall was unapologetically its performers, much to the dismay of younger viewers who probably had to explain what "WAP" meant and fetch the fainting couches for the older folks in the room.
Winner: The In Memoriam segment
The in memoriam segments of awards shows are always touching, but the Grammys' rendition Sunday night was particularly well done. For one, they smartly put the full list of departed musicians and industry icons online to cut off the inevitable blowback from forgetting someone.
But most of all, the song and tributes selected for the show were perfectly done, from Silk Sonic giving Little Richard the ferocious and fiery final salute his maniacal energy deserved; to Brandi Carlile's modest and moving version of "I Remember Everything" in honor of the late great John Prine; to Brittany Howard's howlingly heartfelt finale of "You'll Never Walk Alone"; to tip the cap to Gerry Marsden (and Johnny Walker, but I'll ignore that for now). Even "Lady" got some gravitas from Lionel Richie's soulful and solemn rendition – one even more meaningful when you remember Richie wrote the Kenny Rogers monster hit song in the first place.
Like everything Sunday night, it was the perfect balance of honoring the past, present and future, noting this particular moment while also celebrating the art.
Loser: People trying to come up with losers for their "winners and losers" Grammy recap articles
But really, usually there's a few bowser performances in the bunch or a technical issue or two – but Sunday was just all good vibes (and all good production) all night long. I can't even complain about Post Malone's number! So congrats to the Grammys for pulling off the impossible – no, not putting on an awards show during a pandemic but putting on an awards show that people couldn't really complain about too much.
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.