meta-scriptMeet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: GAYLE On The Real-Life Pain Behind "abcdefu," Nashville Beginnings And Taylor Swift | GRAMMY.com
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: GAYLE On The Real-Life Pain Behind "abcdefu," Nashville Beginnings And Taylor Swift
GAYLE

Photo: Acacia Evans

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Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: GAYLE On The Real-Life Pain Behind "abcdefu," Nashville Beginnings And Taylor Swift

GAYLE’s very first label release became a viral smash and landed her a GRAMMY nomination for Song Of The Year. Now, the teenage star is ready for her next chapter, including a debut album and tour with Taylor Swift.

GRAMMYs/Jan 16, 2023 - 05:00 pm

If you've had an issue with an ex in the past 18 months, GAYLE has probably provided some catharsis for you.

Born Taylor Gayle Rutherford, she's the singer behind 'abcdefu,' a kiss-off anthem that offers both deep emotion and inherent irreverence. And just as much as the song offered release for many listeners, it did for GAYLE herself, too.

The pop smash was based on a real-life relationship and subsequent heartbreak GAYLE would later refer to as toxic — making the breakup tune a powerful call for independence as well as an outright display of both anger and the strength of moving on. 

"abcdefu" was also a depiction of teenage angst, as GAYLE was just 16 when she co-wrote the song as a fledgling artist in Nashville. Two years later, the song helped the now 18-year-old GAYLE earn her first GRAMMY nomination, and a coveted one at that: Song Of The Year. 

The nomination comes on the heels of monumental commercial success for the young singer, with her hit going triple platinum, topping Billboard’s Global 200 chart and garnering more than a billion streams. Along the way, she’s released her first two EPS (the aptly-titled A Study of the Human Experience, Volumes One and Two). And just recently, Taylor Swift invited her to open several dates on the superstar’s highly anticipated (and Ticketmaster-breaking) Eras Tour, which kicks off in March.

Ahead of the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, GAYLE gets candid about the song that changed her life, the creative community in Nashville and what’s next. 

Tell me about the genesis of "abcdefu" — where were you when it came together?

We were in Nashville, Tennessee. It was me and [co-writer] Dave Pittenger, along with Sara Davis, who I [have been] writing with since I was 12 and she was 15. Me and Sara were two young girls in Nashville who thought, We can curse in our songs and our moms won’t get mad at us? This is cool

We’d write songs in my bedroom, but after a couple years of writing with each other, we started teaming up with producers and writing with guitars and pianos. We started writing with Dave, who had a lot of success with country music and less so pop, so we’d just write songs on a guitar. 

Normally I come in with a vision, because I feel it’s your job as an artist to lead writers where you want to go. But it was in the middle of COVID, and this was my first in-person write in a long time. I said, "I have to be honest, I have no ideas. I really hate being that person." Dave laughed and he said, "Well, I have a bunch." Thank God for him. 

For his first idea, he looked at us, looked back down and looked at us again and was like, "ABCD F— Off!" and me and Sara just burst out laughing. I had never heard that phrase.

The song centers on a breakup where you want nothing to do with your ex. Was there a real inspiration behind that?

My actual ex and my best friend hated each other; they had beef the whole entire time [my ex and I dated]. They never really hung out and I kept them very separated. I was also in a very self-deprecating place the whole entire relationship. 

So you had all of this bottled-up energy you brought into the song?

I had written a million songs about this person, but I was really angry at him and was angry at the people who enabled him and his behavior. One of the reasons why he treats people improperly is because he was treated improperly. So I was mad at him and everyone who enabled him.

Did he actually have a dog?

He does have a dog! It’s a Shih-Poo.

Does this person know the song is about him, and have you heard from him?

I have not heard from him. I blocked him in February 2021, after hitting a point where I said, "I have to be done." It was a very specific moment in time, and I hope he has a happy life. I just want to be as far away from him as possible. I also don’t get any validation from him thinking anything I’m doing is impressive, even if he looked at the charts. 

When did you realize your life was going to change thanks to the success of "abcdefu?"

The first moment I knew something was happening was when it started to hit the Shazam charts in other countries, like Poland or South Korea. That meant it was playing in random places and people were wondering what the song was. I think it was in the top five in Mexico, and it was weird to be in Nashville and know that it was playing somewhere else in a random coffeeshop.

[When a song is rising like that,] whenever it does one thing you hope it does another thing. If it gets on a playlist, you hope it goes higher up on that playlist. So for a while I was playing that game. 

I remember the day it hit the Spotify playlist Today’s Top Hits. I was on tour with the band Winnetka Bowling League as their opener in small clubs. We were just jumping up and down backstage, so excited that it would reach that. But when it hit the radio, I knew that things were going to be different.

You’re also 18 years old experiencing all of this, but at the same time have been working at it for a while. Can you tell me about growing up with these dreams and creative goals, which you’re now experiencing the materialization of?

It’s interesting; why you get into music at 10 is a very different reason why you stay in it at 18. I’m very aware that I’m living my dreams and getting to do all the things I wanted to do as a kid, but at the same time, it’s very real, and there are difficulties that come with those things that I guess I didn’t always expect. [My success] has changed my life and benefited me in so many ways, but it also gave me new difficulties that I have to deal with. 

After this past year, what I’m grateful for is that nobody can make me do something I don’t want to do. The music that I’m making, and the things that I’m doing, I really love and stand behind. I’m trying to appreciate things that happen in the moment and not be too scared for my future as well. I know I have time. 

I just happened to put out my first song through a label that did what it did, and that is amazing. Now I want to build a career that I can stick with. So it’s very exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe, but I’m very hopeful for the next year. 

You’ve said in the past that you feel kind of like an underdog in the sense that you’re a pop artist coming from Nashville, which is so known for its country scene. Can you elaborate on that?

It’s interesting because there is a lot of pop music in Nashville, and now more than ever, the lines are being blurred on genres. But one thing I really appreciate about the city is how the community really loves you if you’re developing and have nothing. I’ve never felt like I had more of a family than when I was up-and-coming here. I came to Nashville when I was 12, and found people I felt so connected to because we had this unexplainable and undying love and passion for music — [and we] couldn’t help but be a crazy person and move here. 

Also, Nashville for a 12 year old is very different than LA for a 12 year old. In LA, people would always tell me who I was — "You’re this, you’re that." But any meeting I ever had in Nashville was, "Tell me who you are." I needed to find out who I was there in order to work in other places. It’s a community of writers who want to collaborate with each other, and that’s something really beautiful about the Nashville scene. 

You’re now about to join Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour as an opener, one of the most culturally significant tours in many years. What does that mean to you, both personally and as an artist?

She’s been in the music industry for 15 years, so I was 3 when she got her start. As a young, female pop songwriter in Nashville, it means the absolute world that she’d believe in me enough to put me on that tour. 

She’s been such an inspiration my entire time in Nashville, especially since I started out in country music and moved over to pop. I didn’t even know that was a possibility until I saw Taylor do that very successfully. I don’t know if my mom would have even moved me to Nashville if she didn’t see Taylor Swift’s parents do it first. 

Has she ever given you advice?

It’s never been straightforward advice, but more about just the struggles beginning in music. When I met her, I genuinely was just so happy to have the opportunity to thank her for everything she’s done in the Nashville scene, and the writing community there as an iconic representative. 

I barely know what I’m doing and I feel no guarantees about my future. I’m trying to work on having a stable career. I’ve been in the music industry for a year and I’m making my first album. So it’s like, "I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m really scared and tired" and she’s like "It’s okay, baby." She is the biggest star in the world, and [she understands] that is a double-edged sword. 

She knows what it's like to be a young, up-and-coming woman in the industry with social media; it’s an exciting and terrifying time where the highs are really high and the lows are really low. For her to just take me under her wing in any way with belief, hope and inspiration and kindness [is amazing]. Because when all is said and done, [she sees] I’m just a teenage girl who really loves music. 

A Look At The Nominees For Song Of The Year At The 2023 GRAMMY Awards

How The 2024 GRAMMYs Saw The Return Of Music Heroes & Birthed New Icons
Victoria Monét backstage at the 2024 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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How The 2024 GRAMMYs Saw The Return Of Music Heroes & Birthed New Icons

Between an emotional first-time performance from Joni Mitchell and a slew of major first-time winners like Karol G and Victoria Monét, the 2024 GRAMMYs were unforgettably special. Revisit all of the ways both legends and rising stars were honored.

GRAMMYs/Feb 9, 2024 - 09:02 pm

After Dua Lipa kicked off the 2024 GRAMMYs with an awe-inspiring medley of her two new songs, country star Luke Combs followed with a performance that spawned one of the most memorable moments of the night — and one that exemplified the magic of the 66th GRAMMY Awards.

Combs was joined by Tracy Chapman, whose return to the stage marked her first public performance in 15 years. The two teamed up for her GRAMMY-winning hit "Fast Car," which earned another GRAMMY nomination this year thanks to Combs' true-to-form cover that was up for Best Country Solo Performance. The audience went wild upon seeing a resplendent, smiling Chapman strum her guitar, and it was evident that Combs felt the same excitement singing along beside her.

Chapman and Combs' duet was a powerful display of what the 2024 GRAMMYs offered: veteran musicians being honored and new stars being born.

Another celebrated musician who made a triumphant return was Joni Mitchell. Though the folk icon had won 10 GRAMMYs to date — including one for Best Folk Album at this year's Premiere Ceremony — she had never performed on the GRAMMYs stage until the 2024 GRAMMYs. Backed by a band that included Brandi Carlile, Allison Russell, Blake Mills, Jacob Collier, and other accomplished musicians, the 80-year-old singer/songwriter delivered a stirring (and tear-inducing) rendition of her classic song "Both Sides Now," singing from an ornate chair that added an element of regality.

Later in the show, Billy Joel, the legendary rock star who began his GRAMMY career in 1979 when "Just the Way You Are" won Record and Song Of The Year, used the evening to publicly debut his first single in 17 years, "Turn the Lights Back On." (He also closed out the show with his 1980 classic, "You May Be Right.") It was the latest event in Joel's long history at the show; past performances range from a 1994 rendition of "River of Dreams" to a 2022 duet of "New York State of Mind" with Tony Bennett. The crooner, who died in 2023, was featured in the telecast's In Memoriam section, where Stevie Wonder dueted with archival footage of Bennett. And Annie Lennox, currently in semi-retirement, paid tribute to Sinéad O'Connor, singing "Nothing Compares 2 You" and calling for peace.

Career-peak stars also furthered their own legends, none more so than Taylor Swift. The pop star made history at the 2024 GRAMMYs, claiming the record for most Album Of The Year wins by a single artist. The historic moment also marked another icon's return, as Celine Dion made an ovation-prompting surprise appearance to present the award. (Earlier in the night, Swift also won Best Pop Vocal Album for Midnights, announcing a new album in her acceptance speech. To date, Swift has 14 GRAMMYs and 52 nominations.)

24-time GRAMMY winner Jay-Z expanded his dominance by taking home the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, which he accepted alongside daughter Blue Ivy. And just before Miley Cyrus took the stage to perform "Flowers," the smash single helped the pop star earn her first-ever GRAMMY, which also later nabbed Record Of The Year.

Alongside the longtime and current legends, brand-new talents emerged as well. Victoria Monét took home two GRAMMYs before triumphing in the Best New Artist category, delivering a tearful speech in which she looked back on 15 years working her way up through the industry. Last year's Best New Artist winner, Samara Joy, continued to show her promise in the jazz world, as she won Best Jazz Performance for "Tight"; she's now 3 for 3, after also taking home Best Jazz Vocal Album for Linger Awhile last year.

First-time nominee Tyla became a first-time winner — and surprised everyone, including herself — when the South African starlet won the first-ever Best African Music Performance GRAMMY for her hit "Water." boygenius, Karol G and Lainey Wilson were among the many other first-time GRAMMY winners that capped off major years with a golden gramophone (or three, in boygenius' case).

All throughout GRAMMY Week 2024, rising and emerging artists were even more of a theme in the lead-up to the show. GRAMMY House 2024 hosted performances from future stars, including Teezo Touchdown and Tiana Major9 at the Beats and Blooms Emerging Artist Showcase and Blaqbonez and Romy at the #GRAMMYsNextGen Party.

Gatherings such as A Celebration of Women in the Mix, Academy Proud: Celebrating LGBTQIA+ Voices, and the Growing Wild Independent Music Community Panel showcased traditionally marginalized voices and communities, while Halle Bailey delivered a GRAMMY U Masterclass for aspiring artists. And Clive Davis hosted his Pre-2024 GRAMMYs Gala, where stars new and old mingled ahead of the main event. 

From established, veteran artists to aspiring up-and-comers, the 2024 GRAMMYs were a night of gold and glory that honored the breadth of talent and creativity throughout the music industry, perfectly exemplifying the Recording Academy's goal to "honor music's past while investing in its future." If this year's proceedings were any indication, the future of the music industry is bright indeed. 

10 Must-See Moments From The 2024 GRAMMYs: Taylor Swift Makes History, Billy Joel & Tracy Chapman Return, Boygenius Manifest Childhood Dreams

10 Acceptance Speeches That Made Us Laugh, Cry, & Smile At The 2024 GRAMMYs
Killer Mike accepts the GRAMMY for Best Rap Song for "Scientists & Engineers" at the 2024 GRAMMYs,

Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images

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10 Acceptance Speeches That Made Us Laugh, Cry, & Smile At The 2024 GRAMMYs

From Taylor Swift's record-shattering Album Of The Year win, to Killer Mike and boygenius category sweeps, these are the emotional GRAMMY winning moments that made up Music's Biggest Night.

GRAMMYs/Feb 6, 2024 - 11:22 pm

Glitz, glamor, and great performances from legendary musicians are only part of what make the GRAMMYs Music’s Biggest Night. It’s also an occasion to honor the music industry’s best and brightest, highlight their greatest achievements from the past year, and watch them soak up the glory. 

Some of the night’s biggest moments came when artists accepted their GRAMMY trophies, from Taylor Swift announcing her next album to teary-eyed moments from SZA and Best New Artist Victoria Monét. Here are a few of our favorite acceptance speeches from the 2024 GRAMMYs. 

Killer Mike Sweeps With Three GRAMMYs In A Row

Atlanta rapper Killer Mike had already given a moving speech upon winning Best Rap Performance for “Scientists & Engineers,” saying “I want to thank everyone who dares to believe that art can change the world.” But his third and final win, Best Rap Album for Michael, sent him into another dimension: “It’s a sweep! Atlanta, it’s a sweep!” 

Tyla Was Shocked To Win Best African Performance

Although her hit song “Water” has dominated the charts, even Tyla was caught off guard by her Best African Music Performance win – the first ever awarded in this category – exclaiming “What the heck?!” The South African star continued "This is crazy, I never thought I’d say I won a GRAMMY at 22 years old."

Boygenius Sweep The Rock Categories

Boygenius already had something to celebrate when Phoebe Bridgers won a GRAMMY for her collab with SZA. They went on to win three categories during the Premiere Ceremony – Best Rock Song, Best Rock Performance, and Best Rock Album – enabling each member of the trio to give a separate speech. “We were all delusional enough as kids to think this might happen someday,” Lucy Dacus said. 

Miley Cyrus Was A Class Act

Accepting the prize for Best Pop Solo Performance for “Flowers,” Miley Cyrus took to the stage to strike a pose with presenter Mariah Carey – “This M.C. is gonna stand by this M.C.” — before launching into a story about a boy who tries desperately to catch a butterfly, before nabbing one when they least expect it. “This song ‘Flowers’ is my butterfly,” she concluded. 

SZA Runs From Backstage To Accept Award

Changing backstage after her GRAMMYs performance, SZA was caught off guard when “Snooze” won Best R&B Song. She embraced friend and presenter Lizzo before giving an emotional, funny speech. “I can’t believe this is happening, and it feels very fake,” she said. “I love you, I’m not an attractive cryer, have a good evening.” 

Taylor Swift Announces New Album

When the pop mega-star took to the stage to accept her lucky 13th overall GRAMMY for Best Pop Vocal Album (Midnights), she decided to use the moment to give her fans the ultimate gift, announcing her 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, will release on April 19. “I want to say thank you by telling you a secret that I've been keeping from you for the past two years,” she said. 

Billie Eilish Didn’t Know What To Say

After delivering a lovely performance of her Barbie movie ballad “What Was I Made For?,” Billie Eilish wasn’t exactly at a loss for words when the track won Song of the Year. The words that came out of her mouth were a bit less than rehearsed, however: “Whoa, whoops, yikes, whoa my goodness! Damn, that’s stupid guys!” she said. “I don’t even know what to say, I’m shocked out of my balls.” 

Victoria Monét Delivers Tearful, Eloquent Speech

Through tears of joy, Best New Artist winner Victoria Monét gave a speech worthy of an artist who spent years writing for others before striking out on her own. “This award was a 15-year pursuit,” she said, going on to compare herself to a plant growing in the soil of the music industry. “My roots have been growing underneath ground, unseen, for so long, and I feel like today I’m sprouting, finally above ground.” 

Miley Cyrus Makes An Even Wilder Record of the Year Speech

Cyrus returned to the stage twice after her first GRAMMY win, first to perform her award-winning song, and then once more to accept a second golden gramophone for Record of the Year. “This award is amazing, but I really hope it doesn’t change anything, because my life was beautiful yesterday,” she said. Then she ended the speech by saying “I don’t think I’ve forgotten anyone, but I might’ve forgotten underwear!”

Taylor Swift’s Record-Shattering Album of the Year

Lightning struck twice for Taylor Swift, as the evening ended with her taking home a record-breaking fourth GRAMMY for Album of the Year (Midnights), more than any other artist in GRAMMY history. Flanked by producer Jack Antonoff and friend and collaborator Lana Del Rey, she gave a speech that highlighted her passion for music-making, saying  “For me the award is the work. All I wanna do is keep being able to do this. I love it so much, it makes me so happy." As happy as Swift was, her fans probably left even happier. 

9 Ways Women Dominated The 2024 GRAMMYs

13 Moments From The 2024 GRAMMYs You Might Have Missed
Flavor Flav and Miley Cyrus attend the 66th GRAMMY Awards at Crypto.com Arena on February 04, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

PHOTO: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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13 Moments From The 2024 GRAMMYs You Might Have Missed

From Killer Mike's trifecta to excitement about Beyoncé, the 66th GRAMMY Awards candid moments between music’s biggest stars.

GRAMMYs/Feb 6, 2024 - 06:35 pm

The 2024 GRAMMYs have come and gone, but viewers haven’t stopped talking about their favorite highlights from the show. But between backstage, the red carpet and on the show floor itself, there were plenty of candid moments between music’s biggest stars that rival the biggest performances. 

The internet has already taken off running with some of the night’s best underseen GRAMMY moments —  from Miley Cyrus’ red carpet randomness to Flavor Flav linking up with boygenius and Dua Lipa bringing her dad as her date. Here are a few of our favorite GRAMMY moments you might have missed.

Taylor Swift & Jack Antonoff Linked Up With Boygenius Backstage

Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff with boygenius backstage 2024 GRAMMYs

The boys were big at the GRAMMYs, winning three trophies, and fellow winners Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff had to join in on the fun! The group posed with their golden gramophones backstage. 

…And So Did Flavor Flav?

The Public Enemy rapper posed for photos with boygenius, writing "Getting educated on the genius of Boy Genius." He wasn’t the only one coming to class — Troye Sivan snuck in for the photo op too.

Miley's iPhone Confusion On the Red Carpet

"iPhones? What the hell?!" Before winning two GRAMMYs later that night, including Record of the Year, Miley’s surprise at cell phone photographers on the red carpet immediately went viral. What can we say, she’s just being Miley! 

Noah Kahan Brought His Mom

How sweet is Noah Kahan?The Best New Artist nominee decided to bring his own mother as his GRAMMYs date. If there was a GRAMMY for best son, he’d take it home easily. 

Tyla’s Parents Almost Upstaged Her

Kahan wasn’t the only GRAMMY nominee with parents in tow. After 22-year-old Tyla won Best African Performance, she told journalists backstage "My father already told me that it’s going in his room." Now that’s one proud papa! 

Killer Mike Celebrates A GRAMMY Trifecta

"Atlanta it’s a sweep! Atlanta it’s a sweep!!" Killer Mike couldn’t help but hide his excitement as he collected not one, not two, but three GRAMMYs during the Premiere Ceremony. 

Taylor Swift Fixes Lana Del Rey’s Hair On Red Carpet

Hours before paying tribute to her friend and collaborator in her Album Of The Year acceptance speech, Taylor Swift wanted to make sure Lana Del Rey’s beautiful black ensemble was just right on the red carpet. Giving Goth Loretta Lynn realness is easier with a bestie by your side!  

Ice Spice Meets Jay-Z And Beyoncé

She’s really In Ha Mood! The pop-rap princess and Best New Artist nominee was totally fangirling upon meeting Queen Bey herself, resplendent in a white wig and cowboy hat. A dream come true! 

Terry Crews And Jon Batiste Chop It Up

A late night pro and a former football star may seem like an odd couple, but Jon Batiste and actor Terry Crews got along pretty well. Batiste, a previous Album Of The Year winner and a nominee this year, also performed during the ceremony

Jay-Z Sips Cognac From His Global Impact Award

So much for a gold sippy cup! With Blue Ivy nearly grown, Jay-Z was able to keep his Dr. Dre Global Impact Award all to himself. He was seen sipping D’Ussé from the special black gramophone in celebration. 

Joni Mitchell Wins Best Folk Album

Before giving an astonishing, first-ever GRAMMYs performance during the GRAMMYs TV ceremony, Joni Mitchell collected a golden gramophone of her own, winning Best Folk Album during the Premiere Ceremony — 50 years after her first win. 

Lil Uzi Vert Hangs With Jay And Bey

As music’s most famous couple attempted to make a stylish exit, Lil Uzi Vert decided to join them! The Philly rapper could be seen sauntering between Hov and daughter Blue Ivy Carter as the Carter-Knowles clan left the arena. 

Celine Dion Makes A Bold Entrance Backstage

Even for a night filled with icons, none were so legendary as Celine Dion. The singer looked resplendent as she arrived backstage ahead of presenting the GRAMMY for Album Of The Year

Big First Wins At The 2024 GRAMMYs: Karol G, Lainey Wilson, Victoria Monét & More

9 Ways Women Dominated The 2024 GRAMMYs
Taylor Swift, SZA and Lizzo attend the 66th GRAMMY Awards at Crypto.com Arena on February 04, 2024 in Los Angeles, California.

Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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9 Ways Women Dominated The 2024 GRAMMYs

From Taylor Swift and Tyla's historic wins, to Miley Cyrus' first GRAMMYs and Joni Mitchell's first performance, the 66th GRAMMY Awards put ladies first.

GRAMMYs/Feb 6, 2024 - 12:01 am

Women shined particularly bright at Music's Biggest Night this year. As Trevor Noah put it in his monologue: "There’s a band that has already won today called boygenius, it’s three women. That’s how good a year it is for women."

Beyond boygenius' first GRAMMY wins, the conversation about female artists' legacy at the 2024 GRAMMYs had been building since the nominations were announced, when it was revealed that seven of the eight nominees for Album Of The Year were women. The majority of the performers for the 66th GRAMMY Awards were also women, including the legendary Joni Mitchell, Billie Eilish, SZA, and Dua Lipa. And several female artists were on the precipice of making history (chief among them, Taylor Swift, who later became the first ever four-time winner of Album Of The Year.

The results of the ceremony were no less centered on the ladies. At the Premiere Ceremony, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus won three of the six Rock Categories for their work as boygenius. Lainey Wilson nabbed Best Country Album, Joni Mitchell won Best Folk Album, and Victoria Monét won Best R&B Album and Best New Artist. Gaby Moreno, Karol G and Tyla nabbed trophies as well.

As the night went on, that tally continued. In fact, other than Producer Of The Year and Songwriter Of Year, a woman won every category in the General Field, including Billie Eilish's "What Was I Made For?" winning Song of the Year and Taylor Swift's Midnights pulling off the big fourth Album Of The Year win.

From every corner of the room, Music’s Biggest Night was filled with powerful women taking the spotlight. Here are eight moments where women ruled the 2024 GRAMMYs — with no sign of this reign ending.

Taylor Swift Hits Lucky Number 13 (And 14, Too)

While it’s true that Taylor Swift’s name has been at the center of what feels like 98 percent of music in the past year, and that continued at the 2024 GRAMMYs. Much speculation ahead of the 66th GRAMMY Awards came down to whether she would make history by winning her fourth Album Of The Year award.

Adding to the excitement, the iconic Celine Dion surprised the world and took the stage to announce the winner for the night’s final award, and it happened: "Taylor Swift."

Rather than bask in her own glory, Swift seemed shocked, fumbling to get a high-five and hug connected with close friend and uber-producer Jack Antonoff. And her acceptance speech made it clear that while she appreciated and was honored by the award, she wasn’t about to rest on any laurels, no matter how massive they may be.

"I would love to tell you that this is the best moment of my life, but I feel this happy when I finish a song, or when I crack the code to a bridge I love, or when I'm shot-listing a music video, or when I'm rehearsing with my dancers or my band, or getting ready to go to Tokyo to play a show," she said. "For me the award is the work. All I wanna do is keep being able to do this. I love it so much, it makes me so happy."

True to that word, the evening also featured Swift announcing a new album — after Midnights won Best Pop Vocal Album (her lucky number 13th GRAMMY) earlier in the night, Swift made the surprise announcement that she’d be releasing her 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, on April 19.

There was something inspiring, too, about the way Swift got to the stage — practically yanking Lana Del Rey from her seat at the same table, demanding she join her onstage. "I think so many female artists would not be where they are and would not have the inspiration they have if it weren’t for the work that she’s done," Swift told the assembly. "She’s a legacy artist, a legend in her prime right now."

Always a booster of other women in the industry, of course she had to share the spotlight even with her history-making fourth Album Of The Year award in hand.

Tracy Chapman Returns To The GRAMMY Stage

Sure, it was Luke Combs nominated for Best Country Solo Performance, but he made it crystal clear that he was there because of Tracy Chapman.

"That was my favorite song before I even knew what a favorite song was," he said in a video package prior to his performance, evocatively describing trips in his dad’s pickup truck, Chapman’s self-titled debut on the cassette player. Combs loved the song so much, he explained, that he wanted to put a cover of it on his 2023 album, Gettin' Old.

He went on to laud its universal appeal, the way Chapman’s chorus gets full-throated sing-alongs no matter the listener’s background — a powerful message, considering that Combs’ recording winning the Country Music Awards' Song Of The Year award made Chapman the first Black woman to receive that honor. "To be associated with her in any way is super humbling for me," Combs said.

The show transitioned from that heartfelt praise directly to Chapman’s hand on her guitar neck, picking out that iconic acoustic riff. Thirty-five years after its initial release, there was Chapman again on the GRAMMYs stage, this time dueting with a country star clearly in awe of sharing her space, mouthing along with the lines he wasn’t singing. It was an unforgettable performance, astonishing in its ability to pull us all out of our bodies and into the spirit of music.

The Endless Allure Of SZA

"Nobody got more nominations this year than SZA," Trevor Noah announced during his opening monologue — and that was after the experimental R&B artist born Solana Rowe had already won two GRAMMYs at the Premiere Ceremony earlier in the evening.

SZA had many more special moments left in the night. She performed a section of the GRAMMY-nominated "Snooze" in a black trenchcoat and hat, and the blade-wielding rebuke triggered the transition to another smash hit from 2022’s SOS: "Kill Bill". The cinematic performance featured a squad of leather-clad woman assassins slicing and dicing a series of men in suits, as SZA effortlessly walked the stage to deliver the world’s sweetest anthem centered on homicide. (For the record, the sight of Phoebe Bridgers’ outright glee at the sight of a sword-wielding dancer standing on her table at the song’s outset has to go down as one of the night’s best moments.)

Later, she would take home the GRAMMY for Best R&B Song for "Snooze" — her tally of three awards tying for the second largest of any artist at the 66th GRAMMY Awards. SZA was handed the golden gramophone by Lizzo, the two women clearly sharing a special moment.

"Lizzo and I have been friends since 2013 when we were both on a tiny Red Bull tour, opening up in small rooms for like 100 people. And to be on the stage with her is so amazing, I’m so grateful," SZA said after sprinting onstage, having just changed out of her performance attire. The tearful, brief acceptance speech that followed showed the incredibly honest and passionate person — and performer — that she is.

Boygenius Win Their First GRAMMY Awards

For a trio of badasses like boygenius, one or two GRAMMYs just wouldn’t do. They needed an award apiece: Best Rock Performance, Best Alternative Music Album, and Best Rock Song (all handed to them by queer icon Rufus Wainwright, no less). Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus sprinted down the aisle in their matching white suits at the Premiere Ceremony, giddy, shocked, together.

Befitting the trio’s history — both together and separately — as brilliant writers and lyricists, each had their own memorable line. 

"Music saved my life. Everyone can be in a band, this band is my family," Baker said, beaming after they won the Best Rock Performance award. "We were all delusional enough as kids to think that this might happen to us one day," Dacus said with a laugh. But just two days after the public announcement that the band was going on hiatus to focus on their own solo projects, it was this quick aside from Bridgers during their acceptance for Best Rock Song that brought the warmth: "I owe these boys everything. I love you guys so much." 

Tyla Makes Africa Proud

Trevor Noah may have been the host, but he wasn't the only one bringing South African flavor to the 2024 GRAMMYs.

"What the heck!?" Tyla said earlier in the evening at the Premiere Ceremony, grinning as her Johannesburg accent dripping with gleeful shock. At just 22 years old and a month out from even releasing her debut studio album, the viral pop star was nominated in the stacked inaugural Category of Best African Music Performance, including Asake & Olamide, Burna Boy, Davido and Musa Keys, and Ayra Starr. But it was Tyla’s "Water" — an amapiano-driven pop instant classic — that took home the award.

The song had already made history, as the first South African single to reach the Billboard Hot 100 since jazz legend Hugh Masekela achieved that feat in 1968, not to mention that the song reaching number seven made Tyla the highest-charting African female solo musician in Billboard history. 

"If you don’t know me, my name is Tyla, I’m from South Africa, and last year God decided to change my whole life," she said, the glow of the GRAMMY gold radiating on her face.

Annie Lennox Knows We Are Never Forgotten

The In Memoriam segment inevitably provides some of the most touching moments of any GRAMMY Awards. But every once in a while, a truly special performance will stand out amidst the heartache. Such was the case with Annie Lenox’s tear-stained performance of "Nothing Compares 2 U" from the late Sinéad O’Connor. The Eurythmics vocalist sat piano-side, a tear-like streak of glitter applied below her left eye, delivering the Irish legend’s best-loved song with every ounce of gravitas the moment demanded — and then some.

"Nothing compares/ Nothing compares to you," she sang with her eyes gazing skyward, before clenching them tight, her lips quivering. And as the song rounded to a finish, Lenox raised a fist, and spoke a simple, direct sentence that the outspoken activist O'Connor surely would have appreciated: "Artists for ceasefire, peace in the world."

Joni Mitchell Proves It's Never Too Late For Firsts

When word got out that Joni Mitchell would be making her first performance at the GRAMMYs, the global anticipation for the ceremony seemed to hit a boiling point. Since recovering from a brain aneurysm in 2015, Mitchell has been stepping into the spotlight more in recent years, but the thought of her onstage at the 66th GRAMMY Awards still felt miraculous.

But then there was Brandi Carlile, extolling Mitchell’s many virtues before introducing one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time. "Joni just turned 80 my friends, but we all know she’s timeless," Carlile smiled, noting as well that "the matriarch of imagination" had already won a GRAMMY that same evening for Best Folk Album. 

And then the lights came up on Joni, seated in a gold-framed armchair, clutching a cane with a silver cat’s head on its hilt, singing the first lines of the all-time classic "Both Sides Now." Backed by a band of GRAMMY-winning heroes in their own right (Carlile, along with SistaStrings, Blake Mills, Lucius, Allison Russell, and Jacob Collier), it seems impossible that any eye in the room could have remained dry, let alone focused anywhere except right on Mitchell, with her beating heart and sky-scraping lyricism. Even Carlile, seated at her left, couldn’t stop looking up from her guitar to smile in awe.

"Well something's lost, but something's gained/ In living every day," she sang with a soft hint of a smile, before the well of strings, clarinet, guitars, and piano brought the final chorus in. 

Miley Finally Gets Her Flowers 

With what appeared to be four outfit changes between the red carpet and the stage and a sky-high, Dolly Parton-inspired brown bouffant, pop superstar Miley Cyrus delivered her fair share of memorable moments throughout the evening. Cyrus arrived at the 66th GRAMMY Awards without any GRAMMYs to her name, despite two previous nominations, a slew of hit albums, and 11 Top 10 singles dating back 17 years — which made her two wins even more noteworthy.

The GRAMMY drought ended thanks to smash single “Flowers,"which won Best Pop Solo Performance and Record Of The Year, solidifying Cyrus’ place both in GRAMMY history and as one of the year’s most celebrated pop stars. 

The former teen star took the stage at the 66th GRAMMY Awards as well, delivering “Flowers” to a star-studded — a daunting task for anyone, even a seasoned star. But it should have come as no surprise that Cyrus would be comfortable in that spotlight, as evidenced by her joking question for the entire room (and, it seemed, viewers at home, too): "Why are you acting like you don't know this song?" 

Despite her glowing near-speechlessness at finally earning a GRAMMY, the comfortable quips didn’t stop there. "I don't think I forgot anyone, but I might've forgotten underwear... bye!" she exclaimed before zipping offstage with her brand new GRAMMY hardware.

Celine & Mariah: Presenters Make History, Too

Even when just presenting awards, powerful women were at the forefront at the 66th GRAMMY Awards. The evening’s first presenter was Mariah Carey, onstage just three days after receiving the Impact Award from the Recording Academy’s Black Music Collective. The five-time GRAMMY-winner received the honor for her art’s influence and her inspirational legacy of service — and considering the ovation in the room, that impact was felt by her peers as well as the fans watching along at home.

Carey was presenting for Best Pop Solo Performance, and used her inimitable falsetto to deliver the ecstatic announcement: "And yes, this year all five nominees are women!" The sight of Carey handing Miley Cyrus her first GRAMMY (in honor of disco-tinged bop "Flowers") was, as Miley aptly put it, "too iconic."

While that opening set the stage for women dominating the show, the other bookend to the evening’s awards proved perhaps even more tear-jerking. At the end of 2023, the update came that Celine Dion’s battle with the rare neurological disorder "stiff person syndrome" had left the legendary vocalist without full control of her muscles, sometimes causing trouble walking or even using her vocal cords. As such, the sight of her walking down the golden tunnel and up to the microphone to announce the nominees for Album Of The Year felt like a special honor in and of itself.

"When I say that I’m happy to be here, I really mean it from my heart," she said. "Those who have been blessed enough to be here at the GRAMMY Awards must never take for granted the tremendous love and joy that music brings to our lives and to people all around the world."

Dion offering those lines — that positivity and beauty in the face of unprecedented difficulty — before presenting the award that would make history for Taylor Swift felt so fitting, emblematic of the powerful women who made the evening what it was.

Check Out The Full Winners & Nominees List For The 2024 GRAMMYs