In an era when much of the prevailing cultural dialogue revolves around race relations and personal empowerment, the big winners at the 58th GRAMMY Awards reflected the currency of the times.
With 11 nominations, Compton, Calif., rapper Kendrick Lamar went into Music's Biggest Night as the most nominated artist since Michael Jackson and Babyface each scored 12 for 1983 and 1996, respectively. He took five GRAMMYs, including Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly, and Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song for "Alright."
Lamar's performance of "The Blacker The Berry" and "Alright," songs that became unofficial soundtracks for the Black Lives Matter movement, infused the GRAMMYs with the kind of social immediacy at which it excels, whether it's championing marriage equality or honoring late musical icons such as Whitney Houston.
Alabama Shakes, perhaps fittingly a multiracial band with a multiracial frontwoman, Brittany Howard, won three awards — Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song and Best Alternative Music Album — all based around their acclaimed sophomore album, Sound & Color. Their performance of "Don't Wanna Fight," introduced with an otherworldly scream by Howard, who looked like a high priestess of rock in a flowing white cape, was a captivating moment from a band that has helped bring back a sense of urgency to rock.
Taylor Swift took Album Of The Year for 1989 among her three awards. Pointing out she was the first woman to win that award twice, Swift was passionate about giving due credit to the contributions of women during her acceptance speech. Her show-opening performance of "Out Of The Woods" proved she's a powerful, self-assured woman.
Rising up, to paraphrase GRAMMY nominee and performer Andra Day, was the theme of the night. In addition to Lamar's wins and triumphant performance, there were other noteworthy moments.
"Glory," Common and John Legend's defiant song from Selma, the film about the 1965 Montgomery, Ala., voting rights marches, won for Best Song Written For Visual Media. Lalah Hathaway won in the Best Traditional R&B Performance category for "Little Ghetto Boy," a song about overcoming the consequences of growing up in inner-city poverty that was originally recorded by her father, Donny Hathaway.
Mexican drummer/composer Antonio Sanchez, who won Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media for Birdman, thanked GRAMMY voters specifically because he had been "eliminated by another awards show that starts with an 'O' and ends with 'scars.'" And songwriter Kendra Foster literally raised a fist and proclaimed "we're trying to rise up" when accepting the Best R&B Song award for her, D'Angelo and Gina Figueroa's "Really Love."
It was also a night of official goodbyes to musical giants, some of whom died within weeks of the GRAMMY telecast.
Lady Gaga's tribute to David Bowie was an electrifying appreciation of one of the most influential artists of our time. Bowie — who died Jan. 10 — received a Lifetime Achievement Award from The Recording Academy in 2006, and an appropriate celebration on the GRAMMY telecast with a 10-song medley wrapped by a triumphant version of "Heroes."
The band synonymous with '70s California rock came together to salute their fallen founding member, Glenn Frey, who died Jan. 18. The Eagles strummed through their first hit, the classic "Take It Easy," teaming with the song's co-writer Jackson Browne (who penned the tune with Frey in the early '70s when they lived in the same Los Angeles apartment building). The ode to letting troubles run off your shoulders and grabbing life while you can was a fitting tribute to a singer, guitarist and man who did just that.
Things revved up a few decibels when the Hollywood Vampires (Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp and Joe Perry joined by Guns N' Roses bassist Duff McKagan and drummer Matt Sorum) lit the funeral pyre for Lemmy Kilmister — hard rock's No. 1 anarchist who died Dec. 28, 2015 — with a short blast of Motörhead's "Ace Of Spades."
At the other end of the genre and attitude spectrum, Earth, Wind & Fire's deeply optimistic pan-spiritual leader Maurice White, who died Feb. 4, was feted by Stevie Wonder and vocal group Pentatonix, who performed an a cappella version of the classic "That's The Way Of The World."
Finally, Stapleton, Gary Clark Jr. and Bonnie Raitt paid tribute to one of the most noteworthy bluesmen of all time, B.B. King, who died May 14, 2015. The three artists — performing King's biggest hit, "The Thrill Is Gone" — reflected disparate generations and genres, but demonstrated that roots music is a single language often spoken with six strings.
Wrapped around these special GRAMMY Moments were additional performances that delivered musical breadth as only the GRAMMYs can.
R&B sensation The Weeknd sensitively performed his ballad "In The Night," backed by piano and cello, after teasing his hit "Can't Feel My Face." The vocal triumph scored a standing ovation.
Day was joined by Ellie Goulding for one of the night's sweetest melding of voices as they seamlessly brought their respective ballads "Rise Up" and "Love Me Like You Do" together.
Lionel Richie, the 2016 MusiCares Person of the Year honoree and a true hits king of the '80s, rightly received the royal treatment as Luke Bryan, John Legend, Demi Lovato, Meghan Trainor, and Tyrese came together for a mega-salute capped by the man himself singing his signature "All Night Long (All Night)."
Richie collaborator, the late Michael Jackson, was remembered by nominee Miguel, who delivered a smooth version of "She's Out Of My Life" backed by the song's original keyboardist Greg Phillinganes.
Little Big Town turned in a contemplative version of "Girl Crush" rich in the harmonizing of their four collective voices.
Two Best New Artist nominees, James Bay and Tori Kelly, joined forces to show off some fresh multiweapon talent as the pair of singer/songwriter/instrumentalists ran emotively through his "Let It Go" and her "Hollow."
The GRAMMYs aired its first-ever live performance from a Broadway stage by bringing the acclaimed musical "Hamilton" to a nationwide TV audience. Star/writer Lin-Manuel Miranda and his cast ran through the opening number "Alexander Hamilton" before an ecstatic audience at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York, providing a taste of its groundbreaking melding of hip-hop and traditional musical theater.
Despite some well-documented technical glitches, Adele's performance became a triumph over adversity, a testament to the fact that great talent will always shine despite the sometimes unexpected travails of live TV. To paraphrase her song "All I Ask," Adele left her heart on the stage to a standing ovation.
Justin Bieber teamed with EDM stars Skrillex and Diplo — under their Jack Ü moniker — for a rousing take on "Where Are Ü Now," which followed an acoustic solo turn by Bieber, who played his "Love Yourself." As Billboard noted, "While some previous dance performances have fallen flat in televised awards shows, there was nothing stilted about the energetic ensemble's stage show."
And on a similarly energetic note, the GRAMMYs concluded with a party thrown by one of the night's winners, Pitbull, who was joined by Travis Barker, Joe Perry, Robin Thicke, and actress Sofia Vergara, who showed off some of her best dance moves.
Between honoring our musical legacy and recognizing music's power to reflect and impact our cultural legacy, fans truly had a chance to Witness Greatness on the 58th GRAMMYs.