meta-scriptInside The Visual World Of Billie Eilish's 'Happier Than Ever,' A Testament To Her "Brilliant" Creative Vision |
Inside The Visual World Of Billie Eilish's 'Happier Than Ever,' A Testament To Her "Brilliant" Creative Vision
Billie Eilish

SOURCE PHOTOS (CLOCKWISE, L-R): Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic; Kevin Mazur/MG21/Getty Images For The Met Museum/Vogue; Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation


Inside The Visual World Of Billie Eilish's 'Happier Than Ever,' A Testament To Her "Brilliant" Creative Vision

After years of longing to take creative control, Billie Eilish is finally at the helm of her visual output. As she celebrates GRAMMY nods for Best Music Video and Best Music Film, her collaborators detail how her 'Happier Than Ever' vision came to life.

GRAMMYs/Mar 31, 2022 - 12:11 am

There's a moment early on in the 2021 Apple TV+ documentary film, The World's A Little Blurry, where Billie Eilish stakes her claim as the ringleader of her own creative circus — one where what she says goes.

In the scene, a then 16-year-old Eilish maps out her visual ideation for the "When The Party's Over" music video. Explaining in fine detail how she envisions her now-iconic black ink tears coming to life, Eilish has very specific instructions for director Carlos López Estrada.

"Don't zoom," Eilish demands in a video message to Estrada, filmed at a replica set in her backyard. "Don't do anything these bozo f***ing filmmakers do when they try to have it not be boring."

At the actual video shoot, the blue-haired singer bounces between the set and the monitor to ensure that her vision — born from a "beautiful piece of art from a fan" — is being properly executed. When they wrap, she makes a quiet declaration with loud determination: "For the rest of the videos, I'm directing them all myself."

It's an aspiration Eilish has had since she started releasing music at age 14, but an opportunity she only had a few times before taking the reins with 2019's "Xanny." "Since the beginning of my career I wanted to direct videos," she told The Guardian in 2019. "I told everybody that immediately and they were like: 'Well, you don't have any experience and you don't have the time.'

"They really didn't want a 14-year-old girl to direct a music video," she continued. "But I knew I wanted to and I convinced them, I got their trust, and from here on out I want to do my own videos, and I eventually want to make a movie. I've wanted to direct my whole life. I love cinematography, the camera angles, the visuals."

Now, the singer is in the midst of building a world around her second album, Happier Than Ever, which earned Eilish seven nominations at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards. Though she's no stranger to GRAMMYs — in 2020, she became the youngest artist (and only second ever) to sweep all four General Field categories — this year spawned perhaps Eilish's most meaningful nomination yet: Best Music Video. Earning the nod was the visual for the album's title track, one of Eilish's self-directed masterpieces that features the star experiencing a cathartic release of emotion by way of a rain-induced flood.

One of six videos Eilish directed for the album, "Happier Than Ever" — which is nominated for both Record and Song of the Year, as well as Best Pop Solo Performance — is just a sliver of the visual universe the singer created. With the release of a philharmonic-backed concert film (the Disney+ special Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter To Los Angeles, nominated for Best Music Film) and multiple aesthetically pleasing live performances, Eilish displays a transformation at work — one helmed by an artist set on having full creative control.

As that fateful scene in The World's A Little Blurry indicates, the documentary's director R.J. Cutler saw the genius within Eilish as they worked together. "It was important to me to illustrate the fact that in terms of all other aspects of her work, her career, her business, her art and her image — whatever it might be, she is the final word," Cutler tells "It should be no surprise to anybody that a brilliant visionary director who has an incredible instinct and a very specific visual sensibility is in command of the camera."

That sense of visual awareness is integral to pop stardom — particularly for women artists, who have historically been held to a higher standard than their male counterparts. Knowing this, Eilish launched the Happier Than Ever era with an aesthetic rebranding that swapped her trademark neon green roots for an Old Hollywood-style blonde cut. "I couldn't go anywhere with that hair because it was so obviously me," she told Elle last year. "I wanted anonymity."

Her compromised sense of security is a major theme across Happier Than Ever — and rightfully so, considering she came of age in the public eye. Though Eilish had never fully lost authority of her narrative, building a world around such a personal record offered an opportunity to regain control in more ways than one.

Visualizing Happier Than Ever

Eilish's self-directed visual world began to truly take shape with the music video for "Your Power," a damning examination of abuse and its consequences — or lack thereof. Nearly camouflaged against the earthy tones of Simi Valley's mountainside, the singer steeps in her lyrical vulnerability while a green anaconda envelops her body. "Your Power" served as the follow up to "Therefore I Am," a final send-off to Eilish's old signature green-rooted hair.

Within her own visual direction, Eilish often errs on the side of solitude. She builds narratives through the use of distinct locations and dramatic accessories, rather than acting out elaborate scenes with other people — whether she's having a real tarantula crawl out of her mouth for early career cut "You Should See Me In A Crown," walking down the middle of a street in the path of cars racing in all directions for "NDA," or performing in a torrential flood for "Happier Than Ever."

In the official "Male Fantasy" music video, which Eilish directed and edited, she conveys cold and brooding emotions with acute power within isolation. She moves from the quiet space of a living room back to her bed, then in and out of the refrigerator before once again returning to the security of the blankets. It's the exact opposite parallel to the lively slumber party she directed for "Lost Cause," which played into the same neutral color palette, but did so with a carefree air of spontaneity.

Crafting Intimate Live Performances

In July 2021, Eilish kicked off a four-part live performance video series that saw the singer scale back the avant-garde ideas often executed in her music videos for a more intimate setting. For the first release in the series, she leaves behind the slithering snake of "Your Power" and reimagines the song at Los Angeles' Biltmore Hotel.

Opening with an Old Hollywood film title card, the video places Eilish and Finneas against graceful orange curtains at the end of a long corridor at the hotel. The famed designs of the location are obscured with focus locked on the acoustic performance itself, a subtle visual narrative that develops over the course of the series. The historic 1930s hotel plays into the presence of Los Angeles as a character in Eilish's world, somewhere she often champions and revisits through song and video. Her constant call-backs add weight to the depth of the pivotal moment in "Happier Than Ever" where she cries out: "I'd never treat me this shitty, you made me hate this city."

"We had a good, long conversation with their team early on about [wanting] to create this as Billie not only enters this new phase of her musical career, but as she becomes an adult starting to tackle bigger themes — as you can clearly hear on the album," says Micah Bickham, executive producer of content production at Vevo. "We wanted to create this world that was elevated and took it to that same sort of place, exploring these more iconic and maybe more adult themes."

For "Male Fantasy," Eilish settles on the edge of a gold-blanketed bed in a torn cream sweater as she ruminates on the same notions of the male gaze and desire that she later explores in A Love Letter to Los Angeles. "All of that was by design," Bickham explains. "Her and Finneas in a simple hotel room just having a conversation with her fans in a way that blaring concert lights and large bands [couldn't]."

He adds: "We were just trying to create a bit of a paradox, if you will, between these softer environments and then take Billie into those worlds, who is basically, either vocally or performatively, creating a bit of a contrast. If you think about some of the songs, some of the lyrics juxtaposed to the world that she's sitting in, it's a really interesting simple expression of contrast. That was a really important part of it."

Completing Another Visual Journey

In the Vevo live performance series videos, there's a sense of emotional release that mirrors the intensity embedded within the lyrics. But Happier Than Ever is shaped through Old Hollywood regality, which displays the power of performance even in the absence of theatrics. "Lost Cause" and the simmering, rhythmic "Billie Bossa Nova" are delivered in the Biltmore Hotel's famed Crystal Ballroom, using the location as a point of entry to the alluring tone of each track. As the final installation of the video series, "Billie Bossa Nova" places Eilish in the center of the ballroom in front of a trio of luxurious ceiling-high windows.

"It's like, how do we create vignettes and spaces for each of these conversations to take place so that when you watch them individually, they stand on their own two legs — but if you were to watch them as a collection, you see the evolution of those performances from song to song," Bickham says.

The series is a significant example of Eilish driving the narrative of Happier Than Ever forward through the use of hyper-specific tones and color palettes. The singer, who has synesthesia, established the visual and tonal range executed through wardrobe choices and set designs. The muted pinks, pops of blue, and array of neutral selections — juxtaposed to the gold regality of the hotel — correspond with the Eilish's own synesthetic perceptions of each song.

"There are not that many artists who create a world around the album that they're making. They're not just performing singles, they're creating a character and that character is operating inside a world and the visuals that you're seeing are built inside that world," Bickham says. "Some people think they want endless possibilities, but it's important to have someone like Billie define what the parameters are and give us that thing that we can color inside the lines of, and help extend and build that world."

Reimagining The Concert Film

Amid the rollout of Vevo performances, Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter To Los Angeles arrived in September. The hour-long special brought more stunning live performances, doubling as a tribute to Eilish's hometown. Filmed over a week at the Hollywood Bowl, Love Letter reconfigures the typical concert film formula — particularly thanks to her 2D animated avatar, which threads a visual storyline through the streets of California.

When Eilish first approached animator Patrick Osborne and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez to co-direct the Disney+ feature, she — in very Billie fashion — had a specific vision for how the film would look.

"The first interaction we had, she was sending all of these reference images of blonde animated characters from '80s cartoons," Obsorne explains, recalling Ralph Bakshi and Jessica Rabbit-esque sources of inspiration. "Billie, from the beginning, [wanted to have] an animated alter-ego version of herself that was kind of idealized and something she isn't."

Working under a tight deadline, animators in London, Los Angeles and Sydney created a landscape for the blonde avatar to explore Eilish's hometown. The avatar has freedom that the real Eilish lacks, though billboards promoting Happier Than Ever appear throughout, reinforcing the ironclad inescapability of fame.

During "Not My Responsibility," Eilish tackles the conversation surrounding her body, while the avatar's silhouette saunters through shallow waters. She drives through rare traffic-less streets in a top-down convertible, making pit stops to take in the city from the rooftop of the Roosevelt Hotel and to dine alone at a quaint restaurant. Later, she arrives at a movie premiere under the shine of flashing lights. The avatar detours through Echo Park and Highland Park (the singer's longtime home until stalkers and security breaches made relocation imperative) before arriving at the Hollywood Bowl.

"If I was to dig into the psychology of the animated character, these '80s animated characters that she's referencing are really idealized from a male perspective," Osborne says, calling back to Eilish championing bodily autonomy and desire on Happier Than Ever itself.

"She has such a cool aesthetic eye that certain things feel like her," he adds. "She had an angle on this and that, then it was up to me and Robert to shape it into some kind of achievable story."

Capturing A Precious Moment In Time

The unrestricted adventures of Eilish's 2D avatar are a call back to life before When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and the massive influx of notoriety that followed. Having captured that moment in The World's A Little Blurry, R.J. Cutler recalls a recent conversation with Eilish's mother, Maggie Baird, about the change.

"Maggie said to me recently that she didn't expect that this would be one of the reasons she is so grateful for the film," he says. "But she now recognizes that it captured a moment in their lives that in some instances no longer exists."

At the pinnacle moment in A Love Letter to Los Angeles, the 2D character appears as the venue's sole audience. She watches the real Eilish perform an exceptional record of their shared experiences, backed by Finneas, the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, guitarist Romero Lubambo and drummer Andrew Marshall. The artist's ongoing theme of solitude, and the autonomy found within that, reaches a pointed height and speaks to the one consistency between where Eilish has been and where she's headed: herself.

"These films are a dialogue between the moment that they capture, and the moment that they're viewed," Cutler adds, noting the comparison between the 16-year-old girl in the Apple TV+ documentary and the now 20-year-old GRAMMY-winning musician currently embarking on a sold-out international arena tour.

By presenting the complex emotions of change in a tangible form, Eilish has constructed a living gallery of artistic growth. Surely she'll continue to evolve, but her Happier Than Ever era will always serve as an important statement piece of where she's been and where she's going — with her artistic identity at its center.

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(L-R) Doja Cat and SZA at the 2022 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy


GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Doja Cat & SZA Tearfully Accept Their First GRAMMYs For "Kiss Me More"

Relive the moment the pair's hit "Kiss Me More" took home Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, which marked the first GRAMMY win of their careers.

GRAMMYs/Mar 1, 2024 - 06:11 pm

As Doja Cat put it herself, the 2022 GRAMMYs were a "big deal" for her and SZA.

Doja Cat walked in with eight nominations, while SZA entered the ceremony with five. Three of those respective nods were for their 2021 smash "Kiss Me More," which ultimately helped the superstars win their first GRAMMYs.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit the night SZA and Doja Cat accepted the golden gramophone for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance — a milestone moment that Doja Cat almost missed.

"Listen. I have never taken such a fast piss in my whole life," Doja Cat quipped after beelining to the stage. "Thank you to everybody — my family, my team. I wouldn't be here without you, and I wouldn't be here without my fans."

Before passing the mic to SZA, Doja also gave a message of appreciation to the "Kill Bill" singer: "You are everything to me. You are incredible. You are the epitome of talent. You're a lyricist. You're everything."

SZA began listing her praises for her mother, God, her supporters, and, of course, Doja Cat. "I love you! Thank you, Doja. I'm glad you made it back in time!" she teased.

"I like to downplay a lot of s— but this is a big deal," Doja tearfully concluded. "Thank you, everybody."

Press play on the video above to hear Doja Cat and SZA's complete acceptance speech for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards, and check back to for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

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Baby Keem (left) at the 2022 GRAMMYs.

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GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Baby Keem Celebrate "Family Ties" During Best Rap Performance Win In 2022

Revisit the moment budding rapper Baby Keem won his first-ever gramophone for Best Rap Performance at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards for his Kendrick Lamar collab "Family Ties."

GRAMMYs/Feb 23, 2024 - 05:50 pm

For Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar, The Melodic Blue was a family affair. The two cousins collaborated on three tracks from Keem's 2021 debut LP, "Range Brothers," "Vent," and "Family Ties." And in 2022, the latter helped the pair celebrate a GRAMMY victory.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, turn the clock back to the night Baby Keem accepted Best Rap Performance for "Family Ties," marking the first GRAMMY win of his career.

"Wow, nothing could prepare me for this moment," Baby Keem said at the start of his speech.

He began listing praise for his "supporting system," including his family and "the women that raised me and shaped me to become the man I am."

Before heading off the stage, he acknowledged his team, who "helped shape everything we have going on behind the scenes," including Lamar. "Thank you everybody. This is a dream."

Baby Keem received four nominations in total at the 2022 GRAMMYs. He was also up for Best New Artist, Best Rap Song, and Album Of The Year as a featured artist on Kanye West's Donda.

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I Was A Trophy Holder At The 2024 GRAMMYs Premiere Ceremony
GRAMMY U Representative Rachel Owen


I Was A Trophy Holder At The 2024 GRAMMYs Premiere Ceremony

During the 66th GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony, four GRAMMY U Representatives presented golden gramophones to Billie Eilish, boygenius, Tyla, and others. Read on to learn how GRAMMY U Reps were able to grace the stage on Music's Biggest Night.

GRAMMYs/Feb 8, 2024 - 07:33 pm

From lighting technicians to audio engineers to writers, hundreds of people make the GRAMMYs possible. Whether these professionals are on stage or working behind the curtain, all of these vital roles help produce Music’s Biggest Night.

Another vital role on GRAMMY night is that of trophy holder, where one is tasked with bringing out the physical golden gramphones and winner envelopes to presenters. Trophy holders then usher the award recipient off the stage after their speech. Representatives from GRAMMY U’s Atlanta (Jasmine Gordon), Texas (Pierson Livingston), Pacific Northwest (Chloe Sarmiento), and Chicago (Rachel Owen) Chapters were selected to be trophy holders at the 2024 GRAMMYs Premiere Ceremony, and went behind the scenes.

The real preparation actually commences before the show lands on screens back home. Prior to GRAMMY Sunday, the four representatives visited the Peacock Theater to get the rundown on stage positions, proper handling of the GRAMMY Award, proper attire for the event, and various other subtle details that would normally go unnoticed.

On the day of the show, trophy holders arrived for their 10 a.m. call time, receiving a final rehearsal of the show with the backing music and stage lights. Post-rehearsal, they headed into hair and makeup for final touch-ups to become camera-ready. From then, focus shifts to getting into place and calming restless nerves before the show kicks off at noon.

"At first there were so many nerves taking over my body," said Jasmine Gordon, Atlanta Chapter Rep. "But, as soon as I walked on stage there was a rush of excitement and happiness that took over."

This year, following an opening performance from Pentatonix, Jordin Sparks, Larkin Poe, J. Ivy, and Sheila E., host Justin Tranter introduced the GRAMMY U Representatives as they lined up on the stage. From there, the show commenced and winners were announced.

Before trophy holders take the stage, the envelopes are meticulously triple-checked to make sure they are representing the right category and a GRAMMY is placed in their hands. The envelope is given to the presenter to announce the winner. 

As the audience applauds and the winner makes their way to the stage from their seat, the presenter trades the envelope for the golden gramophone which they give to the winner. While the trophy holder typically stands in the shadows to the side of a presenter like Jimmy Jam or Natalia Lafourcade, they occupy a very important and visible place on the GRAMMY stage.

After an approximately 45-second acceptance speech, trophy holders escort the winner backstage for photos and media.  The trophy holders rinsed and repeated that routine dozens of times,handing off golden gramophones and escorting artists such as Billie Eilish, boygenius, and Tyla

Chicago GRAMMY U Rep Rachel Owen shared that one of her favorite moments included being on the side stage, standing right next to music icon Joni Mitchell when she won the GRAMMY for Best Folk Album.

"I’ll never ever forget the moment Joni Mitchell won for Best Folk Album. Everyone was cheering her on and she just got so happy, I feel so lucky to have witnessed that moment," Owen says. "I hadn’t realized before how close I would be to the winners; it was a great surprise."

Reflecting on the ceremony, the GRAMMY U Representatives shared how surreal the entire experience was for them and their professional development.

"Being right with artists as they win or right after they won was such a surreal experience," says Owen. "The overwhelming joy I got to witness from so many artists was contagious, I simply had an amazing time."

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Annie Lennox performs during the 66th GRAMMY Awards

Photos: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy


Watch All The Performances From The 2024 GRAMMYs: Tracy Chapman & Luke Combs, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo & More

The 66th GRAMMY Awards were full of memorable moments and incredible performances. Relive Music's Biggest Night with performance videos from Joni Mitchell, Annie Lennox, Gaby Moreno & David Aguilar, and more.

GRAMMYs/Feb 7, 2024 - 12:57 am

The 2024 GRAMMYs were marked by record-breaking wins, moving speeches and viral moments both on- and offstage. But what truly tied together Music's Biggest Night — beyond artistic excellence — was its slate of stunning and emotional performances.

From Dua Lipa's opening act and new song, to Joni Mitchell's first-ever performance on the GRAMMY stage and the tearjerking-yet-thrilling tribute to lost icons, the 66th GRAMMY Awards were a showcase of the best of the business. 

Press play on the videos below and relive the most exciting performances from the 66th GRAMMY Awards

Dua Lipa opened the 66th GRAMMY Awards with a medley of the first two singles from her upcoming album. Tracks "Houdini" and "Training Season" are the first two singles off Dua Lipa’s forthcoming third studio record, which follows her GRAMMY-winning 2020 LP Future Nostalgia. The 2024 GRAMMYs were a sneak peek of "Training Season," as the track officially arrives Feb. 15.

In a full-circle moment, Luke Combs perform his GRAMMY-nominated cover of "Fast Car" — with a suprise appearance from Tracy Chapman. "Fast Car" earned Chapman a GRAMMY for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance in 1989, when she took home the trophy. On the GRAMMY stage, the otherwise reclusive Chapman beamed as she strummed an acoustic guitar and duetted with Combs.

"Tracy is such an icon and, I mean, one of the best songwriters that I think any of us will ever be around to see," Combs said in the video introducing his performance.

Miley Cyrus had only performed "Flowers" twice before taking the GRAMMY-winning song to stage on Music’s Biggest Night. And while the hit track off Endless Summer Vacation was sure to be a showstopper, Cyrus’ performance was made even more special by winning her first GRAMMY moments before. After  eight nominations and many years in the industry, the singer’s exclamations of excitment were felt by everyone watching.

After winning the GRAMMY Award for Best Song Written For Visual Media at the Premiere Ceremony, Billie Eilish and brother FINNEAS performed the existential pop ballad from Barbie on the GRAMMY stage. "What Was I Made For?" would go on to win Song Of The Year, showing the world that Eilish certainly knows what she was made for.

Eighty-year-old icon ad 2022 MusiCares Person Of The Year Joni Mitchell performed for the first time at the GRAMMY Awrds — and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. Seated in an elegant chair and surrounded by chandeliers, Mitchell offered an emotional performance of her 1969 hit "Both Sides Now." The legened was backed by Brandi Carlile, Allison Russell, Sistastrings, Lucius, Jacob Collier, and Blake Mills; earlier in the day, "Both Sides" took home the golden gramophone for Best Folk Album.

SZA went into the 2024 GRAMMYs as the most-nominated artist and took home awards for  Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best R&B Song. She then gave back to the audience, performing the GRAMMY-winning "Snooze," clad in a leather duster and wide-brimmed hat.

Olivia Rodrigo may not have taken home a golden gramophone, but she still left her all on the GRAMMYs stage. Donning an appropriately hued dress and just a dash of "blood" on her face, Rodrigo performed "vampire" as red liquid seeped from the walls behind her.

Billy Joel performed twice at the 66th GRAMMY Awards, treating audiences to one familiar tune and one brand-new track. Joel shared his newest offering, "Turn the Lights Back On," just before Album Of The Year was announced. His first release since 2007, "Turn the Lights Back On" marked his first time playing on the GRAMMYs stage in more than 20 years.

Burna Boy brought a piece of his homeland to the GRAMMYs, dancing among throngs of colorfully-dressed performers and equally colorful buildings. The Nigerian Afrobeats star performed "On Form," "City Boys" and "Sitting On Top Of The World," iwth special appearances by Brandy and 21 Savage.

U2 took the GRAMMY audience on a quick trip to Las Vegas, performing "Atomic City" live from the Sphere. The swirling, psychedelic and high-tech performance was the first live broadcast from Sin City venue, which the 22-time GRAMMY winners are currently doing a residency.

During the moving In Memoriam segment of the 2024 GRAMMYs, Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox was joined by Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman to pay tribute to Sinead O'Connor. Together, they offered an emotional cover of the late Irish pioneer's "Nothing Compares 2 U."

Further honoring the lives of incredible individuals that the music world lost in 2023, Fantasia Barrino made Tina Turner proud with a high-energy performance of "Proud Mary." The performance and tribute were introduced by Oprah Winfrey, who called Turner "a towering figure. She is our forever goddess of rock and roll who inspired millions, a moving symbol of grace and grit, soul and power…And as those big wheels of time keep on turnin’, Tina’s voice continues to speak to all of us." 

Continuing the In Memoriam tribute, Global Impact Award honoree Lenny Kravitz paid respect to Clarence Avant as the "Godfather of Black Music" with a tribute that included a performance of "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Lean on Me" by Album Of The Year nominee Jon Batiste.

During the Premiere Ceremony, Gaby Moreno & El David Aguilar performed a harmonious and haunting “Luna de Xelaju.” Their take on the popular Guatemalan waltz composed by Paco Pérez was set against a video of falling rose petals, highlighting the romanticism of the duo’s voices.

The Premiere Ceremony kicked off the 2024 GRAMMYs with an exciting performance from Pentatonix, Jordin Sparks, Larkin Poe, J. Ivy, and Sheila E., who welcomed audiences to a day-long celebration of musical excellence.

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