The 63rd Grammy Awards recap: Women are honored, but there is much work to be done

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@theestallion

Britni Dunn, Executive Editor

On Sunday, Mar. 14, The 63rd Grammy Awards were held in Los Angeles after being put off due to COVID-19 concerns, with several precautions in place and a mission to entertain despite the ongoing pandemic.

Hosted by Trevor Noah, who began the awards show by eloquently stating that it was about “bringing us together, as only music can,” the show commenced– safety regulations, virtual calls and all.

Since the music and arts industries have been completely upended this year, the Grammy Awards made sure  to spotlight several live music venues across the country and the importance of keeping live music going.

The Grammy Awards are consistently shrouded in controversy, and this year was no exception, but the show did celebrate women in a way that it never has before.

The audience consisted of nominees sat at socially distanced tables, adorned with designer face masks. Indoors, there was a performance area where only a few performers went in at a time to watch performances and wait for their own turn to perform.

The area was golden with a plethora of stunning florals, setting the mood for upcoming breathtaking performances.

In an urgent display of the current struggles facing the music and entertainment industries, the awards highlighted struggling venues that once held live concerts and shows.

The people who own, work and perform at such venues took to the stage to express how the last year has absolutely turned their worlds upside-down, leaving them in economic distress.

Incredibly important historical venues like the Station Inn in Nashville, the Troubadour and the Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles, the Apollo Theater in Harlem were shown, giving viewers a reminder that although they are getting to enjoy music that evening, the industry and people working in it are in distress and economic danger.

This year, each Record of the Year nominee was highlighted in a video shown before each star’s performance. These intimate looks into the creation of the records were another positive outcome of hosting the award show during this ongoing pandemic. The videos gave insight into the ambitions and processes of the artist, the Grammy Awards even offered extended editions on their website.

The first performance of the night came from Harry Styles. Styles’ performance of “Watermelon Sugar” was a smooth, groovy and jazzy rendition of the well-loved bop.

He wore a full leather outfit with a light purple feather boa that was ripped off mid-performance in one of the most memorable moments of the night. Later in the evening, Styles received his first Grammy Award ever for Best Pop Solo Performance for “Watermelon Sugar.”

University sophomore Arianna Baricelli said, “Personally, I loved watching the Grammys this year! Not only were most of my favorites going to be there but they were also performing! In the age of COVID-19, they worked out masks and social distancing in a stylish way as best as they probably could. The performances were the only real reason to watch. With Harry Styles having a fantastic opening, to Taylor Swift coming out of hiding to perform and everything in between, I really enjoyed watching.”

The next performer was Billie Eilish, along with her brother and co-writer/producer, Finneas, performing “everything i wanted.”

The set for the performance was haunting and highlighted the raw emotion behind the song. On stage, a car was presented half underwater, matching the lyrics: “I tried to scream/But my head was underwater/They called me weak/Like I’m not just somebody’s daughter.”

The young trailblazer and winner of five Grammy Awards last year, including Best New Artist and Album of the Year, reminded viewers why she is so favored by the awards, displaying her effortless delivery, unforgettable vocals and thoughtful lyricism.

The star sang atop the sinking car, adorned in jewels from head-to-toe, as Finneas played piano behind her. Eilish ended the performance next to her brother, a testament to the song they wrote together as a coping mechanism.

HAIM, a band of three sisters, gave their first-ever Grammy performance in the middle of the venue; just them and their instruments.

They performed “The Steps,” from their Album of the Year nominated “Women in Music Pt. III” in a stripped-down state. Danielle Haim led vocals and pounded on drums while Este and Alana wailed on the guitar and bass and rocked around the drum kit.

The three performed insane and ethereal harmonies while showing how much of rock stars they are. The high-energy performance could make anyone a fan of the coolest trio of sisters.

Black Pumas, who described the beginning of their career in their Record of the Year highlight as a very difficult experience in street performing, then gave a captivating and soulful performance.

Eric Burton, one of two members, said he “moved to California from New Mexico in about 2014. I would take like two trains and two buses to Santa Monica Pier, I would be performing in the street. But in my mind, I was performing on a stage at the Grammys.”

With a large screen displaying their band name and a large black puma behind them, the four-time Grammy-nominated duo performed their psychedelic hit, “Colors.” Burton and Adrian Quesada made their mark on the Grammy stage by bringing their Austin rock to the stage and electrifying viewers.

Soon after, Bad Bunny, the most-streamed artist of 2020, performed “DÁKITI” from his album “El Último Tour del Mundo.”

The performance offered striking neon lights that made up one of the star’s trademark symbols, an eye.

In his Grammy stage debut, Bad Bunny gave an energetic and unforgettable performance in a glittering sweater, making for a visually and musically outstanding performance.

Bad Bunny won Best Latin Pop or Urban Album for “YHLQMDLG,” which topped the charts and continues to remain one of the most-streamed albums.

In her Record of the Year spotlight, Dua Lipa explained that the album “Future Nostalgia” is inspired by memories she has had since she was a child, and has always loved music but “doing music was a pipe dream.”

It was clear that the pop superstar has come leaps and bounds and is loved by the Recording Academy.

In 2019, she took home Best New Artist and her career has continued to skyrocket ever since. And this year, up against Lady Gaga’s “Chromatica,” Harry Styles’ “Fine Line,” Taylor Swift’s Album of the Year winner “folklore,” and Justin Bieber’s “Changes,” Dua Lipa’s “Future Nostalgia” won the award for Best Pop Vocal Album, surprising many fans, but giving credit to a piece of work that has brought many people joy throughout quarantine.

The artist performed her hit song “Levitating,” alongside rapper DaBaby followed by a show-stopping performance of “Don’t Start Now.”

She transported viewers to her Studio 2054 roots and allowed people to be reminded of how great it will be to dance at a club to these songs that people have only gotten to hear in quarantine.

The performance began with an opening shot showing the singer in front of a screen, with purple clouds seeming to be in the middle of the stage just for her.

Dua Lipa waltzed out in a gigantic magenta pink gown that perfectly coordinated with the strobe lights behind her.

Dababy then came out with dancers wearing Barbie-like pink mini-dresses that completed Dababy’s pure white suit look.

She then came out to meet Dababy on a huge set of stairs dressed in a sparkling pink blazer that soon revealed a glittering two-piece bubblegum pink bikini set. Dua Lipa’s disco influences were very present in this radiant all-out pop princess performance that viewers couldn’t help but smile along with.

In an odd turn of events, after begging to join on social media, Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak under their new team name Silk Sonic performed their single “Leave the Door Open.”

The two wore matching orange-burgundy suits with twinkling stars in the backgrounds, reminiscent of soul music of the 70’s. This was their first performance together as their new collaborative project, making for a very memorable beginning. The pair also performed during the In Memoriam section.

This year, the In Memoriam section of the broadcast was especially heavy and steeped in the pain and sadness people have endured in the past year while offering a testament to the strength of people and art.

This section highlighted many people in the entertainment industry who tragically passed within the last year, including stars like Bill Withers, Little Richard, Eddie Van Halen, Kenny Rogers, SOPHIE, John Prine, Bonnie Pointer and many others.

Grammy performers performed alongside photos of those who passed, honoring their life with a cover of their songs, including Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak, Lionel Richie and Brandy Carlile.

The most moving piece came from Brittany Howard, who won Best Rock Song earlier in the night for “Stay High,” alongside Coldplay’s Chris Martin.

The pair performed a cover of Gerry Marsden’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” making for a heavy and emotional moment, highlighting the talent of Howard’s vocal ability.

One of the most important things to come from the category this year was the magnificently talented Mickey Guyton. She made history this year as the only Black woman to have ever been nominated as a solo country artist.

Despite not winning the award for Best Country Solo Performance, she offered a poignant performance of her single “Black Like Me.”

In a dazzling golden dress with a gorgeous voice to match, Guyton gave a performance that will certainly live in the minds of viewers for years to come. In a genre that has been historically white-dominated, it is important to see this representation on this level.

In one of the most triumphant and significant moments of the evening, H.E.R. won the coveted Song of the Year award for her track “I Can’t Breathe.”

The artist was visibly shocked by her win and was given a standing ovation by the crowd of nominees. H.E.R. took to the microphone and explained that the song was written over FaceTime and recorded in her bedroom at her mother’s house.

The inspirational and multi-Grammy-winning artist stated in her speech that the song was about injustice and changing the world: “We are the change we wish to see and that fight we had in us summer of 2020 …” she emphasized, “Keep that same energy.”

Lil Baby offered one of the most significant performances of the evening with “The Bigger Picture,” a protest anthem released only three weeks after the murder of George Floyd.

The song was released on the same day that Rayshard Brooks was murdered by police in his home of Atlanta. To honor Brooks, Lil Baby had actor and activist Kendrick Sampson reenact the brutal events of that evening, before coming out to give a charged performance of the track.

This political and social message being displayed on the Grammy stage, which is known to have upheld traditions of racist institutions, was striking.

The performance included many more reenactments of the racial injustices occurring in America each day and was a testament to Lil Baby’s anger, persistence and art.

Megan Thee Stallion was the star of the Grammy Awards, taking home her first three Grammy Awards and giving one of the most show-stopping and unbelievable performances in Grammy history.

The rapper took home the award for Best New Artist, a category stacked with talent including Chika, Phoebe Bridgers, Noah Cyrus, Doja Cat, Kaytranada, D Smoke and Ingrid Andress.

The Houston native has been one of, if not the, most influential artists of the past couple years. Despite not being nominated for Best New Artist the year prior when many fans believed she should have from her release of “Hot Girl Summer,” she was nominated after a year releasing two incredible projects: her EP “Suga,” and her debut full-length album, “Good News.”

When Lizzo announced Megan Thee Stallion’s award for Best New Artist, the now-Grammy-winner sat shocked in her gorgeous bright orange Dolce & Gabbana gown with a long slit in the legs and wrapped up with a huge bow on her back.

In her speech, her shock shone through as she held back tears and stood in awe at the microphone before recognizing everyone else that was nominated.

It was a truly moving moment in which someone who had brought so much joy throughout the year to the world was recognized for her work.

Megan Thee Stallion later performed a brief version of her mega-hit “Body” on a Roaring-Twenties-themed stage.

Dancers were clad in flappers and feathers while Megan hit the stage in a sheer bodysuit dripping with jewels that spun and swayed as she danced.

She then performed “Savage (Remix),” which Beyoncé sadly did not join her for, but was still delivered with intense and immaculate dance breaks.

Her jazzy rendition of the rap was a fantastic move, featuring glimmering theatrics, making for a unique and perfect performance for the young rapper to bring home the fact that it was her night.

One of the most visually stunning, powerful, sexy and talked-about performances in Grammy history came from Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, performing their smash hit, “WAP.”

Critics, like conservative talk show hosts, writers, and suburban parents all around, were outraged by the immaculate display of femininity, sexuality and performance art, only reaffirming how historic the performance was.

The set of the performance was the best and most over-the-top of the evening, featuring a gigantic high heel, in which the heel is used as a pole for Cardi to pole dance on.

The performance also featured the two women in an immense bed where the two twerked and rubbed on each other, making for some now-famous and consistently used gifs.

The frisky and empowering performance was a fantastic highlight of the artistry of Black women on a stage that frequently disregards them.

Best Rap Song of the Year also went to Megan Thee Stallion for her smash hit “Savage (Remix),” featuring Beyoncé. The artist sat in stunned silence again for a moment before joining Beyoncé on stage.

The pair offered the most priceless and magical moments of the evening. Megan Thee Stallion’s love and appreciation for Beyoncé was so prevalent on the stage as she stood in shock, then pointing to Beyoncé, widening her mouth and eyes as if to ask the audience: “Can you believe this?”

In a year where women were highlighted, it was still clear that the Grammy Awards have leaps and bounds of work to do when it comes to creating a space of equality and celebration of all music.

One of the biggest examples of this is the Grammy Awards treatment of Beyoncé. After giving an acceptance speech with Megan Thee Stallion, Trevor Noah stopped Beyoncé in what made for a famous meme, but a deeply uncomfortable moment.

Noah let the star know she had just tied for the most wins for a woman in Grammy history in an uncomfortably long way that felt belabored like the Grammys was making up for something.

Beyoncé, despite being the woman with the highest number of Grammy Awards, has not won in the main four categories since 2010. Despite revolutionizing music, the artist has rarely been recognized in the top awards.

When she won the Grammy for Best R&B Performance for her immaculate tribute to Black culture, “Black Parade,” she became the record-holder for the woman with the most Grammy Awards with 28 wins.

In her speech, she congratulated her daughter, Blue Ivy, for winning a Grammy earlier in the night for her work in the “Brown Skin Girl” music video.

Pop star Doja Cat stated in her Record of the Year highlight, “I haven’t been waiting for this my whole life, I’ve been preparing,” explaining that she was meant for the Grammy stage. The show-stopping artist performed “Say So,” in a futuristic, robot outfit.

Strobe lights were everywhere and women were in glass boxes, making for an intriguing and exhilarating performance. Despite getting three nominations, the star did not receive a Grammy Award, but definitely made her mark through her performance.

BTS also celebrated their first Grammy nominations with an electrifying and unbelievable performance of their hit “Dynamite,” all the way from Seoul, South Korea.

The group moved through a faux-Grammy Awards with intense and fantastic choreography. Eventually, BTS took to a rooftop, giving what will certainly be an unforgettable performance.

After years of a mixed relationship with the Recording Academy, Taylor Swift took home a Grammy for the first time since 2016.

Swift won Album of the Year for the third time in her career, making her the only woman to do so. Her whimsical, piano-based seventh studio album, “folklore,” has become the soundtrack to a year of isolation through the pandemic.

The album was written and recorded entirely at home in quarantine and makes up some of the most imaginative and vulnerable works of Swift’s catalogue.

The cozy, woodsy fairytale aesthetic Swift has created for her 2020 albums “folklore” and “evermore” translated perfectly onto the Grammy stage.

Swift appeared first in a witchy, romantic sliver-and-royal-blue custom Etro dress, laying down in the grass.

The shot then widened to reveal that the star was laying on the roof of an ivy and grass-covered cabin, complete with a forest backdrop and floating sparkles all around.

Co-creators Aaron Dessner and Jack Antonoff joined the performance within the cabin, making for an even more enchanting and unique experience that fans have craved since the album’s conception.

The artist performed a mash-up of “cardigan,” which was nominated for Song of the Year as well as Best Pop Solo Performance, “august,” and unexpectedly, “willow,” from her album “evermore.” The cottage-like set with signature “folklore” woods made for one of the most anticipated visual, as well as musical, moments of the evening.

In the moment everyone had waited for, people we reminded of the leaps and bounds the Grammy Awards need to come in creating a fair and inclusive Award Show.

Billie Eilish and Finneas won the final Grammy, Record of the Year, for “everything i wanted.”

Eilish immediately began her acceptance speech with: “This is really embarrassing for me.” The young star, who won for “No Time To Die” earlier in the evening, continued: “Megan, I was gonna write a speech about how you deserve this and then I was like there’s no way they’re gonna choose me. I was like, it’s her. You deserve this. You had a year that I think is unstoppable; you are a queen. I want to cry thinking about how much I love you. You’re so beautiful. You’re so talented… genuinely this goes to her.”

Eilish proceeded to ask the audience to cheer for Megan and offered her thanks to her team and brother. It was hard to imagine Megan Thee Stallion not winning Record of the Year with the remarkable impact she has had on the music industry, but the moment was reminiscent of Adele telling Beyoncé she deserved the Grammy for “Lemonade.”

University junior and Arts and Entertainment Management major Michael DeAngelis said it was “unbelievable that Billie Eilish won Record of the Year when Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion were nominated.” They continued, “Megan Thee Stallion had a year that was unlike any other and her impact on music deserved that recognition. Beyoncé also created one of the most important songs of the year and became the woman with the most Grammys and didn’t win.”

This year’s Grammy Awards arrived out of one of the darkest points in history, certainly within the music industry, but also a time where creativity has been at a height and artists deserve all of the recognition possible.

Women were highlighted in a way the world had not previously seen on this stage, Black women were given the forefront they had long been neglected and the pain and struggle that has come out of this past year that Americans have faced were focused on as well.

After a year without live music, if anything, it was refreshing to see some of the world’s most inspiring artists perform to bring joy to those of us watching from home.