The 2021 Grammy Awards were an amalgamation of many experiences of this past year: racial injustice, fighting for equality, COVID-19, social distancing and Megan Thee Stallion. The nearly four hour ceremony marked a year of the COVID-19 pandemic and was a reflection of the impact the virus has had on music.
Megan Thee Stallion
The “WAP” singer performed her hit song with Cardi B and didn’t hold back. Perhaps fueled by her massive success throughout 2020, Megan gave a divalicious and sexually empowered performance that brought the heat. Who knows? Maybe it was the viral TikTok dances to her songs that actually ignited her.
Either way, Megan Thee Stallion carried 2020 on her back, resulting in four wins for the singer including Best New Artist. Megan is the first female rapper to win the award during this decade. She also shared Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance with Beyonce for “Savage.” They made history as the first female pair to win Best Rap Performance. The “hot girl” energy ultimately makes Megan the Stallion a mood of her own.
Queen B won four awards, bringing her grand total to 28, and tying the record for the most Grammy wins by any singer. She is now tied for runner up with record producer Quincy Jones for most Grammys ever. The current record holder is conductor and pianist Sir Georg Solti, with 31 wins. Her other wins include Best Music Video for “Brown Skin Girl,” alongside Saint Jhn, Wizkid and her 9-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy Carter. She also won Best R&B Performance for “Black Parade.” Who runs the world? Girls.
Dark pop artist Billie Eilish performed a stripped down version of the somber track “Everything I Wanted” with her brother Finneas. The song earned her the last televised award of the night — Record of the Year.
She spent most of her speech praising Megan Thee Stallion and dedicated the award to her. “Meghan, girl, I was going to write a speech about how you deserve this,” Eilish said. “But then I was like there is no way they are going to choose me. … You had a year that I think is untoppable. You are a queen.”
Harry Styles kicked off the night with a much-anticipated performance of his hit song “Watermelon Sugar,” for which he later received Best Pop Solo Performance. Save for a green floor-length fur scarf, Styles and his band displayed an all-black aesthetic that sombered out the already mellow tune. It was a big contrast from his song’s vibrant music video featuring various hues of pink, green and orange.
The darker rendition underscored the effects of the pandemic on the “summer feelin’” many have longed for. COVID-19 cast a shadow on the award ceremony, though Styles’ performance was a reminder to make the most of tough times.
Roddy Rich, DaBaby and Lil Baby
DaBaby’s performance of “Rockstar,” featuring Lil Baby, was arguably the best of the night. The rappers, whose song was nominated for three awards, didn’t hold back. Adorned in all white with a sequined glove, DaBaby started the song off directing a much older, yet lively choir dressed in black robes. The song, featuring a female violinist, was reminiscent of “Phantom of the Opera,” ultimately making it more of a hip-hopera. DaBaby even added an extra verse to the song to call out racial injustice.
Roddy Rich’s performance of his song “The Bigger Picture” heightened this sentiment with his tribute to the fight against police brutality. The reenactment of the civilians’ struggle against law enforcement included police officers, protesters and social justice advocate Tamika Mallory and rapper Killer Mike.
Mallory gave a message for President Biden: “We demand justice, equity, policy and everything else that freedom encompasses.” The social justice issue took spotlight over some fans’ complaints that DaBaby was not nominated for Best New Artist.
Miranda Lambert, decked out in a blue sequined V-neck dress with fringe, performed her twice-nominated track “Bluebird.” Lambert won Best Country Album for “Wildcard.” During her acceptance speech, she thanked her team and her family, whom she said inspired her album.
Lionel Richie was among a few artists who performed tributes to artists who have passed in the last year. Richie sang “Lady,” which he originally wrote for late country and pop star Kenny Rogers. The song went on to be one of Rogers’ greatest hits.
Other tributes included Silk Sonic’s rendition of Little Richard, Brandi Carlile’s performance for John Prine, and Brittany Howard’s and Chris Martin’s duet of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” that honored Gerry Marsden. According to host Trevor Noah, nearly 1,000 artists have been lost since the start of the pandemic, a reminder of COVID-19’s severe death toll.
Rapper Post Malone turned up on the side of the stage while watching other artists perform throughout the night. The audience’s presence may have been lacking, but Malone turned it all into his own personal concert. He lived in the moment and his hype energy didn’t go unnoticed.
Despite not winning a Grammy for any of the three nominations for his song “Circles” or album “Hollywood’s Bleeding,” he gave an even more distorted performance of the title track. Malone’s grim attire paired with his choir’s plum cult-like costumes supported the mood of the song. It was a dark performance, yet a sincere one.
Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars made their debut as Silk Sonic performing “Leave the Door Open.” The duo’s first single is part of their upcoming album “An Evening with Silk Sonic,” which they produced throughout quarantine. .Paak also won Best Melodic Rap Performance for “Lockdown.” Silk Sonic provides a much needed reminder: don’t flaunt your plans until they’ve come to fruition.
Given all of the fear, isolation and grief the last year has thrown at everyone, it would have been wise to make this the “participation trophy” year. A full list of nominees and winners, visit the Grammys’ website.