Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
10 Must-See Moments From The 2021 GRAMMY Awards Show, From Anderson .Paak To BTS To Megan Thee Stallion
Music's Biggest Night more than lived up to that tagline last night at the 63rd GRAMMY Awards, broadcast from downtown Los Angeles. An elegantly scaled-back event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the GRAMMYs still managed to seem as big and celebratory as they've ever been.
From Harry Styles’ delightful opening performance to Cardi B's and Megan Thee Stallion’s captivating combination to South Korea's always-engaging BTS, the GRAMMYs exemplified the special power of music. For a few lively hours, it transported viewers to another plane and provided a reprieve from the pandemic.
Trevor Noah Kept Things Jovial
The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah was a charming GRAMMYs host. Noah balanced his terrific sense of humor with his deep love of music and appreciation of artistry, keeping the show's tone upbeat and fun after a tough year. Noah said the last year has felt like a decade due to the coronavirus in his opening monologue.
Acknowledging our world gone Zoom, Noah joked that the Staples Center behind him was real—not a Zoom background.
Noah ended his short but sweet opening monologue on a hopeful note. "We're hoping that this is all about what 2021 can be, you know," he said. "Full of joy, new beginnings and coming together, never forgetting what happened in 2020, but full of hope for what is to come. So, let's do this, people."
Three Sisters, One Classic Sound
Los Angeles natives HAIM performed their GRAMMY-nominated rock song "The Steps" from their GRAMMY-nominated record Women in Music, Pt. III. Billie Eilish, FINNEAS and Harry Styles looked on and grooved along with the high-energy, lovable sisters.
With Danielle on drums, Este on bass (on her birthday, to boot!), and Alana on guitar, the sisters were effortlessly rock-cool, their voices blending seamlessly. Haim quickly demonstrated their musical versatility, switching it up on the song's second verse, where Danielle took over on guitar and Alana played drums.
Black Pumas Brought The Soul
Multiple GRAMMY-nominated Austin band Black Pumas performed their soulful song "Colors." In a short film introducing the duo, singer Eric Burton recalled moving from New Mexico to Los Angeles in 2014, where he had to take two trains and two buses to busk at the Santa Monica Pier.
Burton said he had a love-hate relationship with street performing. Yet he always performed as if he was on the GRAMMYs stage, which he dreamed about as a little kid. With backup singers, wailing guitars, and smooth vocals, the dynamic performance—replete with a screeching yowl or two—gave the night some essential groove.
Multiple GRAMMY-nominated rapper DaBaby performed the GRAMMY-nominated "Rockstar" with multiple GRAMMY nominee Roddy Ricch and a guest appearance by Anthony Hamilton. Backed by a gospel choir of older folks dressed as judges in robes, DaBaby kicked off his performance with his back to the audience, facing the choir and waving a conducting baton.
When Ricch and Hamilton took the mic, DaBaby turned around and conducted the choir. DaBaby added lyrics to the original version of "Rockstar," rapping about his GRAMMYs performance right then and there. "My skin don't look the same, so I get singled out/ Right now, I'm performing at the GRAMMYs; I’ll probably get profiled before leaving out."
Rounding out the ensemble was violinist MAPY. DaBaby then joined GRAMMY winner Dua Lipa for the disco-infused "Levitating."
Introducing… Silk Sonic!
Anderson .Paak, who won a GRAMMY for Best Melodic Rap Performance, and Bruno Mars debuted their new R&B project Silk Sonic. The performance followed a playful campaign on Twitter during GRAMMY week. They tweeted at the Recording Academy that they are "two out of work musicians" who would love to perform, a request that was happily obliged.
Performing their '70s soul-infused first single "Leave the Door Open" from their forthcoming record An Evening with Silk Sonic in throwback suits and shades, the pair delivered a smooth, crowd-pleasing performance.
They even caught the eyes and ears of Halle Berry, who tweeted "Ima leave the door ooopen!"
A Touching In Memoriam
During a year in which we lost over 500,000 American lives to the pandemic, the In Memoriam tribute was even more poignant. Noah introduced the segment, explaining that because of the number of people we tragically lost in the last year, not all the names would appear, but they'd all be online after the show.
The segment opened with footage of GRAMMY-winner Bill Withers, who died in March, performing his GRAMMY-winning song "Ain't No Sunshine." Then, Bruno Mars (on vocals) and Anderson .Paak (on drums) honored rock and roll pioneer Little Richard, who died in May, with "Good Golly Miss Molly" and "Long Tall Sally."
Lionel Richie, who wrote Kenny Rogers' hit song "Lady," performed the song in a touching tribute to the country legend and Richie's longtime friend who died last March. After his performance, an emotional Richie said, "I miss you, Kenny. I miss you, man."
There was also footage of country legend Charley Pride, who died in December from complications of coronavirus, singing his GRAMMY-winning song "Kiss an Angel Good Morning," and multiple GRAMMY-winner Italian composer Ennio Morricone, who died last summer, conducting the score to "Cinema Paradiso."
Brandi Carlile paid tribute to her friend, the GRAMMY-winning singer/songwriter John Prine, who died in April from complications related to the coronavirus, with a stirring performance of his song "I Remember Everything." At the end of her performance, Carlile said, "We all thank you, John. For everything."
Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard took the stage with Coldplay's Chris Martin accompanying her on the piano. They performed a powerful rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone," originally written by Rodgers and Hammerstein and a hit song in the 1960s for Gerry and the Pacemakers, whose lead singer Gerry Marsden died in January.
The segment ended with a tribute to Walter C. Miller, a longtime veteran director of the GRAMMY Awards, Tonys, Emmys, and CMAs who died last year.
Country's Leading Lights Shone Bright
Country artist Mickey Guyton, who Noah introduced as the first Black female solo artist ever nominated in the country category, performed her gorgeous GRAMMY-nominated song "Black Like Me," giving an especially stirring and goosebumps-inducing performance with a backing gospel choir. Vibrant GRAMMY-winner Miranda Lambert performed her catchy country GRAMMY-nominated hit "Bluebird."
GRAMMY-nominated Maren Morris performed her hit GRAMMY-nominated song "Bones" accompanied by John Mayer on guitar. With Morris wearing a red gown and diamond choker and Mayer dressed casually in a blazer, white t-shirt and jeans, the pair looked at odds with each other. Still, they had powerful chemistry and seemed to be having a good time, with Mayer smiling broadly at Morris.
Post Malone Took Us To Church
A multiple-GRAMMY nominated Post Malone performed his poignant GRAMMY-nominated song "Hollywood's Bleeding." Opening with a robed choir holding candles in the darkness, Malone emerged on stage dressed entirely in leather covered in crosses with a giant cross hanging around his neck. Kneeling over in complete darkness, which became illuminated by purple lighting, Malone gave a focused and vibrant performance surrounded by dry ice.
BTS Made A Joyful Sound
South Korea's BTS, who made their GRAMMY debut last year performing alongside Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, Diplo, and Nas, were first-time GRAMMY nominees this year. The seven-member boy band closed out the show from Seoul, Korea, on a set resembling the GRAMMYs in downtown Los Angeles.
Looking sharp in their colorful suits, they performed their GRAMMY-nominated smash hit "Dynamite." The slick choreography took the seven members on a journey from a rose-festooned stage to a red carpet with fireworks to a rooftop with strobe lights.
Lil Baby Raised His Voice
Multiple GRAMMY-nominated rapper Lil Baby took on police brutality with his highly charged performance of his GRAMMY-nominated song "The Bigger Picture." The performance opened with pulling over actor Kendrick Sampson and removing him from his car. As a quote by writer and activist James Baldwin was piped in, the police opened fire.
Activist Tamika Mallory appeared on stage, putting a call out to President Biden, saying, "President Biden, we demand justice, equity, policy and everything else that freedom encompasses."
Later, Killer Mike made a surprise appearance rapping a verse from RTJ4's "Walking in the Snow." Lil Baby ended his moving performance standing on a police cruiser as fireworks are set off, his face turned toward the sky as he holds one arm high above his head.