Female performers including Beyoncé and Taylor Swift had a record-making night at the 2021 Grammy Awards, a jam-packed but socially distanced show highlighted by live music sorely absent during the pandemic era.
Four female acts won the top four prizes Sunday, including Swift, who became the first female performer to win album of the year three times. Beyoncé — with her 28th win — became the most decorated woman in Grammy history.
H.E.R. won song of the year and Billie Eilish picked up her second consecutive record of the year honour, telling the audience that best new artist winner Megan Thee Stallion deserved the award.
Though women have won all top four awards in the past — including Eilish’s sweep last year — it marked the first time four separate and solo women won the top four honours.
“I feel like there’s been a lot of female empowerment and lots of women winning awards tonight. And so it’s been absolutely amazing to just be alongside all that, to feel that energy,” Dua Lipa, who won best pop vocal album, said backstage.
Swift won the top prize with folklore, the folky, alternative album she released as a surprise last year. She previously won album of the year with her albums Fearless and 1989.
Beyoncé made history by surpassing Alison Krauss to become the most decorated female act in Grammy history.
Beyoncé walked into the show with 24 wins and picked up four honours, including best R&B performance for Black Parade, best music video for Brown Skin Girl as well as best rap performance and best rap song for Savage, with Megan Thee Stallion.
“As an artist I believe it’s my job, and all of our jobs, to reflect time and it’s been such a difficult time,” Beyoncé said onstage as she won best R&B performance for Black Parade, which was released on Juneteenth.
She went on to say she created the song to honour the “beautiful Black kings and queens” in the world.
Beyoncé is now tied with producer and multi-instrumentalist Quincy Jones for the second most Grammy wins. The late conductor Georg Solti is the most decorated Grammy winner with 31 wins.
The royal family of music all won honours Sunday: Jay-Z shared the best rap song win since he co-wrote Savage and nine-year-old Blue Ivy Carter — who won best music video alongside her mother — became the second youngest act to win a Grammy in show’s 63-year history. Leah Peasall was eight when The Peasall Sisters won album of the year at the 2002 show for their appearance on the T Bone Burnett-produced O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.
Megan Thee Stallion, who won three honours, also made history and became the first female rapper to best rap song. She’s also the fifth rap-based act to win best new artist.
Beyoncé didn’t perform but Swift did.
She sang cardigan and august from folklore, as well as willow from evermore, and was joined by the collaborators who helped her make the albums, Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, who both won album of the year with Swift.
Other performers included Billie Eilish, Cardi B, Bad Bunny, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Harry Styles, who won best pop solo performance for the hit Watermelon Sugar.
Host Trevor Noah kicked off the show telling jokes about the coronavirus pandemic and the year that was 2020. He was live from downtown Los Angeles, with attendees wearing masks and sitting, socially distanced, at small round tables.
Other double winners include Fiona Apple, Kaytranada and late performers John Prine and Chick Corea.
Montreal-based DJ Kaytranada lived up to his reputation as one of Canada’s respected, but stealth, music producers as he swept through the Grammy Awards on Sunday with a double win that needed little fanfare.
Kaytranada picked up best dance recording for his song 10%, featuring Kali Uchis, and best dance or electronic album for Bubba in a matter of minutes.
And it all happened at the outset of a streaming ceremony, before the television broadcast, where most of the awards were handed out.
“This is crazy. This is insane,” Kaytranada, born Louis Celestin, said in a remote video feed as he accepted the second of his two awards.
“I’m taking this one back to Montreal.”
His blink-and-you’ll-miss him appearance helped set the tone for a night of speedy celebrations that culminated with the physically distanced broadcast show from downtown Los Angeles, where a select group of nominees attended in person.
Celestin lost the third of his nominations for best new artist to Megan Thee Stallion.
Justin Bieber became the owner of a country Grammy, the latest twist in his pursuit of being considered an R&B singer, rather than a pop star.
The Stratford, Ont.-raised musician won best country duo or group performance for 10,000 Hours, a hit single recorded with country pair Dan and Shay.
Bieber had expressed displeasure ahead of the Grammys over seeing his music nominated in pop categories when he felt it was R&B music.
Other early Canadian winners included Shawn Everett, raised in Bragg Creek, Alta., who won a Grammy for best engineered album, non-classical for Beck’s Hyperspace. Everett shares the award with a team of fellow engineers who worked on the album.
Everett said in a year when so many have faced hardship because of COVID-19, lamenting the loss of a traditional Grammy gathering seems like a low priority. But he felt the absence of his parents on awards night as his nominations often served as a reason for the family to visit.
“For me, it’s a celebration of my parents and how much I’ve loved them and they’ve helped me,” he said. “I wasn’t able to be there with them, that’s the biggest bummer.”
Jim (Kimo) West, the Toronto-born guitarist for “Weird Al” Yankovic, grabbed the best new age album Grammy for his solo work More Guitar Stories.
Viewers couldn’t hear his acceptance speech, so producers quickly shuffled on to the next category leaving West without a chance to thank the fellow artists who collaborated on his Hawaiian slack-key guitar album. But the Los Angeles-based musician maintained his sense of humour about the gaffe.
A musical adaptation of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill won best musical theatre album for the main vocalists and producers involved in the project.
Record of the year: Everything I Wanted, Billie Eilish.
Album of the year: folklore, Taylor Swift.
Best R&B performance: Black Parade, Beyoncé.
Best pop vocal album: Future Nostalgia, Dua Lipa.
Best rap song: Savage, Megan Thee Stallion, featuring Beyoncé.
Song of the year (songwriter’s award): I Can’t Breathe, H.E.R., Dernst Emile II and Tiara Thomas.
Best pop solo performance: Watermelon Sugar, Harry Styles.
Best country album: Wildcard, Miranda Lambert.
Best new artist: Megan Thee Stallion.
Best traditional pop vocal album: American Standard, James Taylor.
Best dance/electronic album: Bubba, Kaytranada.
Best rock album: The New Abnormal, the Strokes.
Best alternative music album: Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple.
Best progressive R&B album: It Is What It Is, Thundercat.
Best R&B album: Bigger Love, John Legend.
Best rap album: King’s Disease, Nas.
Best jazz vocal album: Secrets Are the Best Stories, Kurt Elling featuring Danilo Perez.
Best jazz instrumental album: Trilogy 2,Chick Corea, Christian McBride and Brian Blade.
Best gospel album: Gospel According to PJ, PJ Morton.
Best contemporary Christian music album: Jesus Is King, Kanye West.
Best Latin rock or alternative album: La Conquista del Espacio, Fito Paez
Best reggae album: Got to Be Tough, Toots and the Maytals.
Best spoken word album: Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth, Rachel Maddow.
Best comedy album: Black Mitzvah, Tiffany Haddish.
Best compilation soundtrack for visual media: Jojo Rabbit.
Best score soundtrack for visual media: Joker.
Producer of the year, non-classical: Andrew Watt.
Best music video: Brown Skin Girl, Beyonce with Blue Ivy.
Best music film: Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, Linda Ronstadt