meta-scriptMiley Cyrus' Road To 'Endless Summer Vacation': How Hannah Montana, Artistic Reinvention & Heartbreak Led To Her Most Self-Assured Album Yet | GRAMMY.com
Miley Cyrus' Road To 'Endless Summer Vacation': How Hannah Montana, Artistic Reinvention & Heartbreak Led To Her Most Self-Assured Album Yet
Miley Cyrus performing in New York City in May 2022.

Photo: Charles Sykes/NBCUniversal/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

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Miley Cyrus' Road To 'Endless Summer Vacation': How Hannah Montana, Artistic Reinvention & Heartbreak Led To Her Most Self-Assured Album Yet

As Miley Cyrus releases her eighth studio album, she's riding high on her biggest hit to date with "Flowers" — and it's all a culmination of an experimental creative and personal journey that's helped her become the truest version of herself.

GRAMMYs/Mar 10, 2023 - 03:44 pm

In the frigid depths of January, Miley Cyrus pronounced an Endless Summer Vacation was on its way. But it wasn't just the promise of perennial sunshine and lazy days by the pool in the near future — it was the title of her eighth studio album.

Cyrus has always been a musical shapeshifter, dating all the way back to her days as a Disney star. In fact, to call her a chameleon is something of an understatement. More than any of her contemporaries in the Disney Channel class of the late 2000s, the superstar has zigzagged wildly from genre to genre, and aesthetic to aesthetic, across more than 15 years in the business. 

Of course, before Cyrus became a pop star in her own right, she was known to an entire generation as Hannah Montana, the titular character of the hit Disney Channel sitcom that ran from 2006 to 2011. Portraying Hannah gave the then-child star her first taste of life as a (fictional) music sensation, one who lived in the "Best of Both Worlds" and could put her fame on like a costume by adopting a stage persona and new look. 

When looking at Cyrus' wide-spanning career, it could be argued that the foundational experience of playing Hannah Montana informed the way a young Miley approached her own identity as a pop star, shifting from one style to the next — and yet, having each of them feel entirely authentic to her talent and point of view.

Despite the sometimes drastic stylistic changes from one album to the next, Cyrus has always insisted her music is rooted in personal truth and reflective of her current moment. "Everyone that I've been — whether you are thinking about Hannah Montana or the music I made in the past — all of it has always been the truth," she said in a 2017 interview with NPR. "So I think people are saying 'the new Miley' or 'the more honest Miley' — I've always been that. But I've been honest for who that person was then."

The singer first started breaking away from her Hannah Montana character long before the kid-friendly series finished airing in 2011. Establishing her own identity happened in fits and starts, even as her persona as Hannah grew larger than life. In 2007, she released Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus — a part soundtrack/part double album to introduce fans to the budding artist underneath Hannah's blonde wig. The project earned Cyrus her very first top 10 hit in the form of "See You Again."

In the years that followed, she essentially lived parallel lives as both Miley and Hannah. Breakout, her second studio album, arrived in 2008 with singles "7 Things" and "Fly on the Wall," and yet Hannah was still making appearances on her Best Of Both Worlds Tour. "I think having Hannah come up on stage gives it a cool vibe," she explained to MTV News at the time. "And it shows, like, one girl but definitely two sides and I like that you get both tastes of music, and I think it's just really fun."

That dichotomy continued the following year when her alter ego made the leap to to the big screen in Hannah Montana: The Movie. And yet, Hannah's big break also gave Miley the perfect platform to debut "The Climb," the soundtrack offering that rose all the way to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became her highest-charting single at the time. 

As with many child stars before her, the time eventually came for Cyrus to grow up, and as she pushed against the constraints of her kid-friendly image, controversy came calling. First, there was the pearl-clutching over "Party in the U.S.A.," with Miley's short shorts and playful pole dancing at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards; nearly a year later, her cheekily titled third album, 2010's Can't Be Tamed, sparked minor outrage over the themes and title, as well as the slight raciness of the title track's music video.

However, if the road to autonomy started out a tad bit bumpy, Cyrus burned the bridge to her tween idol past to cinders with her fourth album, 2013's Bangerz.

As its brash title suggests, the studio set is indeed a collection of banger after banger — and a provocative swerve into party-ready hip-hop and electro-pop, including a tracklist filled with all-star guest features like Britney Spears (the fan favorite "SMS (Bangerz)"), Nelly (the country-fried stomp of "4x4"), Big Sean (the blurred-out "Love Money Party"), Future (Ben E. King-sampling highlight "My Darlin'") and more. And stylistically, Miley had traded in both her long brunette waves and Hannah's signature blonde wig for a platinum pixie cut, bold red lip and rotating wardrobe of barely-there bodysuits made from latex and the pelts of abandoned teddy bears.

In retrospect, the album is unequivocally part of the defining soundtrack to the early 2010s. While the most indelible image from the Bangerz era was Miley swinging naked and free atop a giant wrecking ball, lead single "We Can't Stop" became the hedonistic anthem for a then-rising generation of young millennials coming of age in the post-recession years of Obama's second term — Cyrus included. 

And for as much scandal as Miley gleefully courted during the era — whether over her appropriation of hip-hop and Black culture, that unforgettable VMAs performance with Robin Thicke, all the twerking, or the constantly stuck-out tongue of it all — the album also earned the singer her first, and so far lone, solo GRAMMY nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album. Still, even Miley can admit all these years later that she'll pretty much "never live down that I licked a sledgehammer."

Following a project like Bangerz, most pop stars might perform something of a label exec-encouraged course correction into less provocative territory. But Miley isn't just any pop star. So, instead, she took her antics, and her music, even further down the rabbit hole with Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz in 2015.

Enlisting a trusted pair of Bangerz producers, Mike WiLL Made-It and Oren Yoel, the singer added a psychedelic bent to her existing oeuvre by teaming with Wayne Coyne and the rest of the Flaming Lips. The resulting project — which opened with the discordant declaration, "Yeah I smoke pot, yeah I love peace/ But I don't give a f—, I ain't no hippie!" — was so experimental and decidedly noncommercial that it was originally released independently, available to stream for free on Soundcloud. (While it didn't count towards her multi-album deal with RCA, the album was later added to traditional streaming services by the label, but never made a mark on the Billboard 200 or any other official chart.)

"I created my surroundings, my own world. What seems like fantasy or trippy, it's not to me. It's my actual reality," the star explained in a profile in the New York Times about the oddball release, and argued that despite its lack of traditional, well, bangers, it was actually an innate progression from its pop-heavy predecessor.

"When I made Bangerz, it was as true to me then as this record is now," she told the NYT. "It just happened naturally in my head. It's like anything — styles just change…I literally can do whatever I want. It's insane. This music was not meant to be a rebellion. It was meant to be a gift."

For his part, Miley's trusty right-hand man Mike WiLL Made-It saw her evolution through much the same lens, declaring to the NYT, "Why would she drop another Bangerz? Miley is the new Madonna."

Of course, there's only so far off the yellow brick road you can go before risking losing your fanbase to woozy fields of poppies. No matter how delayed, the course correction was bound to come — "what goes up must come down," as the saying goes and all that — but like every other step of her evolution, Miley veered back to the middle of the road entirely on her own terms.

Not only was Younger Now, her fifth album from 2017, a sonic shift to rootsy country pop (led by the downtempo, dreamy "Malibu"), it was also the first time Cyrus laid bare her approach to personal and artistic reinvention in song. "Feels like I just woke up/ Like all this time I've been asleep/ Even though it's not who I am/ I'm not afraid of who I used to be," she intoned on the opening title track, decked out in her best rockabilly cosplay before preaching, "No one stays the same/ Know what goes up must come down/ Change is a thing you can count on/ I feel so much younger now."

The album cycle was also marked by seismic changes in Cyrus' personal life. In 2016, she reconciled with longtime on-and-off boyfriend Liam Hemsworth and by the time Younger Now was released into the world, the pair were engaged to be married. The romance had gone through many different stages, breakups and reconciliations since the duo met filming The Last Song in 2009, but Cyrus had no idea at the time just how impactful it would turn out to be in the years to come.

At the time she dropped Younger Now, the superstar actually confessed her enthusiasm had already waned for her singer/songwriter phase — one natural drawback to her need for constant creative reinvention. "I'm over this now," she said during a promotional visit from BBC Radio 1 at her home studio in Malibu two full weeks before the album debuted at a career low of No. 5 on the Billboard 200. "I want to figure out what I want to do next."

If her 2019 EP She Is Coming is any indication, what Miley originally had planned was a full-circle return to her role as pop provocateur. The seven-track sampling came across as a sort of Bangerz 2.0, trading the debauchery of "We Can't Stop" for the unabashed political message of lead single "Mother's Daughter." 

The EP was meant to be the first in a trilogy that would eventually make up a full-length record, but the idea was scrapped when another metaphorical wrecking ball came crashing through the pop star's life: In August of that year, she announced her separation from Hemsworth after just eight months of marriage. Two weeks later, the actor officially filed for divorce. But even before he'd filed the papers, Cyrus had released standalone single "Slide Away" to eloquently and powerfully tell her side of the story.

"Once upon a time it was paradise/ Once upon a time I was paralyzed/ Think I'm gonna miss these harbor lights/ But it's time to let it go," she reflected, cutting her losses before bluntly telling her ex, "Move on, we're not 17/ I'm not who I used to be/ You say that everything's changed/ You're right, we're grown now."

Although it had spanned more than a decade of her life, Miley had never been so autobiographical about her relationship in her music up to that point — and the emotional vulnerability seemed to crack open a door she still has yet to close. 

In fact, it's easy to see the throughline connecting "Slide Away" to cuts like "Midnight Sky," "WTF Do I Know" and "Never Be Me" off her excellent 80s-inspired seventh album Plastic Hearts, even through the glam rock sheen and covers of Blondie, Metallica and the Cranberries

By the time Plastic Hearts was ready to be unwrapped in late 2020, Miley had also made peace with all the versions of herself that had come before. "I discredited myself for what I had been almost every step of the way," she said in a Rolling Stone cover story. "During Dead Petz, discrediting Bangerz. During Bangerz, discrediting Hannah Montana. During "Malibu," discrediting Bangerz. It's almost like when I have evolved, I've then become shameful of who I was before. What makes you an adult, I think, is being OK with who you've been before."

That personal reckoning is part of what makes "Flowers," the lead single off Endless Summer Vacation, feel like such a victorious culmination of what makes Miley Cyrus a superstar. The disco-inspired track is a testament of self-determination and hard-won independence, and has already become the biggest hit of her career by a long mile before the rest of the album even drops. She's broken colossal streaming records set by the likes of Adele not just once but twice over and spent six consecutive weeks at No. 1 on charts across the globe. 

The rest of Endless Summer Vacation is divided into two sides — A.M. and P.M. — representing different acts of a complete story. But even before fans heard the new album, it was clear Cyrus had already arrived at the most fully-formed version of herself yet. 

"I hope this show is a representation of you never need[ing] to choose who you want to be. And you don't need to fit into any boundaries or into any boxes," she told the rapt crowd at the 2022 Super Bowl Music Fest, which was recorded for her live album ATTENTION: MILEY LIVE ahead of Endless Summer Vacation's arrival. "You can be anything and everything that you've ever wanted to be all at the same time." 

The singer knows that better than just about anyone. After all, she's just being Miley.

Listen To GRAMMY.com's Women's History Month 2023 Playlist: Swim In The Divine Feminine With These 40 Songs By Rihanna, SZA, Miley Cyrus, BLACKPINK & More

Listen: Miley Cyrus & Pharrell Reunite For New Song "Doctor (Work It Out)"
Miley Cyrus performs at the 2024 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Listen: Miley Cyrus & Pharrell Reunite For New Song "Doctor (Work It Out)"

Ten years after their first funky single, Miley Cyrus and Pharrell Williams strike again with "Doctor (Work It Out)," which arrived on March 1. Hear the new track and watch the spirited music video here.

GRAMMYs/Mar 1, 2024 - 04:31 pm

On the heels of her first GRAMMY wins, Miley Cyrus is feeling good — and she's ready to be your cure.

The pop superstar unveiled her new single, a lustful, funky dance track titled "Doctor (Work It Out)," on March 1. The track is her latest collaboration with Pharrell, and their first in 10 years.

Over a pulsating bass guitar-driven beat, Cyrus opens with the punchy chorus (“I could be your doctor/ And I could be your nurse/ I think I see the problem/ It's only gon' get worse/ A midnight medication/ Just show me where it hurts," she sings) before erupting into a dance break as she declares, "Let me work it out… Imma work it out…”

So far, 2024 is feelin' fine for Cyrus. At the 2024 GRAMMYs, her 2023 smash, "Flowers," took home two awards, for Best Pop Solo Performance and Record Of The Year. Following her first win, she delivered a knockout performance featuring the unforgettable ad lib, "I started to cry and then I remembered I… just won my first GRAMMY!" 

Less than a month later, "Doctor (Work It Out)" serves as another groovy celebration of Cyrus' achievements in life and music so far.

The song's music video is reminiscent of her 2024 GRAMMYs performance, too. Not only is she wearing a similar shimmery fringe dress, but the entire video is a jubilant, blissful solo dance party.

Though Cyrus first teased "Doctor (Work It Out)" just a few days before the song's arrival, Pharrell first gave a sneak peek in January, at his American Western themed Fall/Winter 2024 Louis Vuitton Men's fashion show in Paris. It was Pharrell's third collection for the luxury house, and the bouncy single served as a fitting soundtrack. 

The song marks Cyrus' first release in 2024, and her first collab with Pharrell since 2014's "Come Get It Bae" from his album G I R L'; Pharrell also co-wrote and produced four tracks on the deluxe version of Cyrus' 2013 album, Bangerz.

Watch the "Doctor (Work It Out)" video above, and stay tuned to GRAMMY.com for more Miley Cyrus news.

Miley Cyrus' Big GRAMMYs Night: Why Her Two Wins Were Monumental

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

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

Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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

The 2024 GRAMMYs were momentous in a myriad of ways, including major firsts. Here's a rundown of big first wins by Paramore, Zach Bryan, Tyla and others.

GRAMMYs/Feb 6, 2024 - 01:07 am

That's a wrap for Music's Biggest Night! The 2024 GRAMMYs were extraordinarily stuffed with incredible moments, from performances to historic wins to unforgettable surprises.

Several of the most memorable moments came from first-time winners. In fact, there were 126 at the 66th GRAMMY Awards, spanning a wide array of talent across genres. From Colombian songstress Karol G to indie rock supergroup boygenius and country singer Brandy Clark, take a look at some of the biggest acts that took home their very first golden gramophones.

Miley Cyrus Celebrated Her First Wins With A Pumped-Up Performance

Miley Cyrus may have taken home the coveted Record Of The Year for "Flowers," but a different Category may have been the biggest achievement. Just before her performance on the GRAMMY stage, Cyrus won her first-ever golden gramophone for Best Pop Solo Performance.

"This award is amazing, but I really hope it doesn't change anything, because my life was beautiful yesterday," Cyrus said while accepting her first award.

"Flowers" is featured on Cyrus' 2023 album Endless Summer Vacation. "Flowers" was also nominated for GRAMMYs for Song Of The Year.

Karol G's First GRAMMYs Resulted In Her First GRAMMY

Karol G has had a meteoric rise over the past several years, and that continued unabated at Music's Biggest Night.

At the 2024 GRAMMYs Premiere Ceremony, Karol G won the GRAMMY for Best Música Urbana Album, for her 2023 LP Mañana Será Bonito. (She'd previously been nominated at the 2022 GRAMMYs, for the same category, for KG0516.

"Hello everybody, my name is Karol G. I am from Medellín, Colombia. This is my first time at the GRAMMYs, and this is my first time holding my own GRAMMY," she said, utterly concisely.

Victoria Monét Completed A Lifelong Goal…

Victoria Monét won big at the GRAMMYs, including taking home the award for Best New Artist. The singer also took home golden gramophones for Best R&B Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical for Jaguar II.

Monét has been nominated for 10 GRAMMYs over her career as both a solo act and songwriter. When accepting the GRAMMY Award for Best New Artist, Monét compared herself to a plant growing from soil. 

"My roots have been growing underneath ground, unseen, for so long, and I feel like today I'm sprouting, finally above ground," she said.

…And So Did Coco Jones

Monét’s fellow R&B nominee — and one-time collaborator — Coco Jones also turned a nearly 15-year journey into GRAMMY success, winning Best R&B Performance for her song "ICU."

Tyla, Me'shell NdegeOcello & Kylie Minogue Won In First-Time Categories

At the 2024 GRAMMYs, there were three new Categories — which meant three inaugural winners. South African singer/songwriter Tyla took home her first GRAMMY with her win for Best African Music Performance for her smash hit "Water," while Me'shell NdegeOcello and Kylie Minogue notched their second wins each, in the new Best Alternative Jazz Album and Best Pop Dance Recording Categories, respectively.

After 16 Years, Paramore Got GRAMMY Gold 

Myspace-era alt wizards Paramore enjoyed a stunning resurgence with their 2023 album This Is Why. They'd been nominated in past ceremonies — their first nominations coming in 2008 — but at the 2024 GRAMMYs, they nabbed the trophy for the prestigious Best Rock Album Category. And with their first win, they made GRAMMY history: Paramore is the first female-fronted rock band to win Best Rock Album.

Lainey Wilson Continued A Massive Year With A GRAMMY

Much like Tyla, country star Lainey Wilson nailed it on the first try — as far as the Recording Academy goes. She was nominated twice at the 2024 GRAMMYs, and took home a golden gramophone for Best Country Album, for Bell Bottom Country.

Clearly, the phenomenon of a first-time GRAMMY nominee taking it home transcends genres and continents.

Second Time Was A Charm For Zach Bryan

Country great Zach Bryan's been nominated before — at the 2023 GRAMMYs, for Best Country Solo Performance, for "Something in the Orange."

This time, he brought home the golden gramophone for Best Country Duo/Group Performance, for "I Remember Everything." Bryan was also nominated for Best Country Album (Zach Bryan) and Best Country Song, also for "I Remember Everything."

First-Time Nominees Boygenius Won Three Times

Women dominated the 2024 GRAMMYs, which certainly applies to boygenius — who consist of three women, and cleaned up at the ceremony. And, they too were first-time nominees

Boygenius took home three GRAMMYs revolving around 2023's the record, including Best Alternative Music Album, Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance — both for the stirring, gender-flipped "Not Strong Enough."

Peso Pluma Went From First-Time Nominee To First-Time Winner

Música Mexicana, stand up! Upstart Peso Pluma took home the GRAMMY for Best Música Mexicana Album (Including Tejano), for his tremendous album GÉNESIS.

As the status of Mexico on the global stage continues to swell, take Pluma's win as a sign to keep your ear to the ground.

Brandy Clark Left A Winner

Roots-heavy singer Brandy Clark's been nominated for 17 GRAMMYs over the years, but never gave up.

At the 2024 GRAMMYs, she won for Best Americana Performance for "Dear Insecurity" — and she played a corker of a version at the Premiere Ceremony with the string duo SistaStrings.

Fred again.. Proved To Be Dance Music’s Latest Hero

2022 saw Fred again.. rise as one of dance music's most promising new stars with the release of his compilation album, USB, and his third studio album, Actual Life 3 — and both helped him win his first pair of GRAMMYs in 2024. USB's "Rumble" (a collaboration with Skrillex and Four Tet) scored Best Dance/Electronic Recording, and Actual Life 3 took home Best Dance/Electronic Music Album.

Taylor Swift & Kacey Musgraves Celebrated Historic Firsts

While winning a GRAMMY was nothing new to 2024 winners Taylor Swift and Kacey Musgraves, they both had feats that marked big firsts in GRAMMY history. Swift became the first artist to be awarded Album Of The Year four times with her win for Midnights, while Musgraves' win for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for her Zach Bryan collaboration "I Remember Everything" made her the first artist to win in all four Country Field Categories.

Keep checking GRAMMY.com for stories about the 2024 GRAMMYs — and the Recording Academy thanks you for tuning into Music's Biggest Night! If you missed it, stream it on Paramount+ for maximum musical glory.

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Winners & Nominees List

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