It was with a heavy heart that guests sat down at the Staples Center Sunday night for the 2020 Grammys. Shortly after the untimely death of basketball star Kobe Bryant, the mood was somber in “the house that Kobe built,” as host Alicia Keys said in her opening speech. Several performances throughout the night echoed the tone, from Camila Cabello’s tear-jerking rendition of “First Man,” dedicated to her father (who was sitting in the front row), to a ballad by Demi Lovato that marked her return to music after an uphill battle with addiction and depression. Billie Eilish—an artist admired equally for her give-no-fucks ethos and hushed, vulnerable ballads (she gave a haunting, whispery performance of “when the party’s over,” glittering in head-to-toe Gucci in her signature oversized silhouette)—won big, the youngest artist and the first woman to win all four major awards in one sweep. By the time Eilish headed up for her final award with her brother and producer Finneas O’Connell, she had no words. “We wrote an album about depression and suicidal thoughts and climate change and being the bad guy—whatever that means—and we stand up here confused and grateful,” Finneas said onstage when accepting the Album of the Year award.
But with the darkness of the night came several explosions of light. A soulful medley by DJ Khaled, John Legend, and Meek Mill, among others, paid tribute to the late rapper Nipsey Hussle, while FKA twigs did pliés alongside a pelvis-thrusting Usher in a rollicking ode to Prince. (If Usher’s Hustlers cameo didn’t signal an impending Renaissance for our boo, then this is certainly a harbinger.) Lizzo did her thing on the flute; Tyler, the Creator set the stage on fire (with an army of pink-suited Creators, no less); and Ariana Grande reminded us that she has not one, not two, but seven rings. (But this year, no Grammys). Aerosmith, who were honored Friday as the MusiCares Person of the Year, reunited with RUN-D.M.C. for a rendition of “Walk This Way” that reminded us that that at age 71, Steven Tyler will never stop humping the mic. But perhaps the most epic collab came about for the inarguable anthem of 2020, “Old Town Road.” Lil Nas X, who arrived on the red carpet in full neon pink cowboy form, was joined by each artist who remixed his song—BTS, Mason Ramsey (also known as Yodel Boy), Diplo, and none other than Billy Ray Cyrus. (Nas, too.)
The awards themselves were only a piece of the Grammy gold pie; a host of record label after-parties sent the stars scattering after the awards from the Crazy Girls strip club for Lizzo’s bash to Rolling Greens Nursery for the Universal Music Group label party. On Saturday, to kick off Grammy weekend, Bulova, a main sponsor of the Grammys, hosted a brunch with The Recording Academy at the GRAMMY Museum that featured a performance by the emerging pop star and drunk text connoisseur Fletcher. For one song, a heart-wrenching rendition of Lewis Capaldi’s Grammy-nominated ballad “Someone You Loved,” Fletcher was joined by the British singer-songwriter Calum Scott. Afterward, industry elites swung their hips to the drums of Madame Gandhi, a fluorescent yellow-haired artist and DJ based only a few blocks from the museum in Downtown LA.
But the most unforgettable moment of Grammy night was undoubtedly one that didn’t have much to do with the awards at all. Upon exiting the Staples Center and trickling out to after-parties, guests entered a crowd gathered (many in Lakers jerseys) to pay tribute to an LA icon. The mood was surreal, but more than anything, it was a reminder that the greatest heroes unite, not divide.
To take us through a night that ran the emotional gamut, we consulted Tayla Parx, the Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter who helped make Ariana Grande‘s thank u next one of the year’s defining albums. Parx bounced parties and bumped elbows with Billie Eilish. What did you do Sunday night? —SARAH NECHAMKIN
1. Name this group.
2. MS Eilish in the flesh 😍
3. Flaming Hot Fittings for my Grammy red carpet look.
4. Flames glasses ✅
5. One button at a time.
6. The dream team.
7. Billboard Awards with the parents.
8. Missed the chair but got this cool photo instead.
9. I call this outfit “Orange rabbit-kicking tiger.”
10. Welcome to 3020.
11. No nip slips allowed.
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