Delayed by virus, Grammy Awards celebrate music industry’s return
By Ben Sisario
As the lucrative concert industry tries to rebound from the pandemic, the larger music community gathered in Las Vegas on Sunday for the 64th annual Grammy Awards — the first time the ceremony has been held with an audience, and with full-scale performances, in two years.
The show opened with a rapid-fire carousel of contemporary pop, in the kind of elaborate stagings that were absent from last year’s stripped-down show.
Silk Sonic, the retro soul-funk project of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, played “777,” about the high-rolling, Sin City side of Las Vegas. Olivia Rodrigo, the 19-year-old pop sensation, sang her hit “Drivers License” on a set like a suburban street, her voice swelling to emotional peaks and then breaking as it fell. Latin pop superstar J Balvin sang “Qué Más Pues?” with Maria Becerra, and his song “In da Getto” in front of masked dancers arrayed in stadium seating.
Moments later, Silk Sonic won song of the year for “Leave the Door Open,” a throwback to smooth early ’70s soul, and the K-pop stars BTS, looking like “Oceans 11” characters, began a performance of their song “Butter.”
“Better late than never,” the host, Trevor Noah, said as the CBS telecast began of the Grammys ceremony. Initially planned for Jan. 31 in Los Angeles, it was delayed nine weeks by the spread of the omicron variant and moved to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
“We’re in Vegas,” he said. “Look at this. You know, people are doing shots. I mean, last year, people were doing shots, but it was more Moderna and Pfizer.”
Lil Nas X, the rapper, singer and meme master, performed a high-concept medley of his songs “Dead Right Now,” “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” and “Industry Baby,” featuring Jack Harlow, interspersed with a montage of overheated media commentators.
A series of complications in recent days challenged Grammy producers. Kanye West was barred from performing and Taylor Hawkins of Foo Fighters, which had been scheduled to play, died while on tour. Two members of BTS, the K-pop phenomenon, announced that they had tested positive for the coronavirus.
As the touring industry tries to return to full capacity, the music industry brought together some of its biggest stars for a high-decibel ceremony, with a series of segments intended to honor crew members for stars who were nominated for major awards and set to embark on tours this year.
In awards given early in the day during a nontelevised ceremony — more high-energy than usual, filled with speeches about togetherness and unity — Jon Batiste, the bandleader of “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” who had 11 nominations, more than any other artist this year, took the lead with four wins, including one tie.
Rodrigo, whose song “Drivers License” was a blockbuster last year, won best pop vocal performance and best new artist. She was nominated for all four major awards — album, record and song of the year, as well as best new artist.
Foo Fighters won all three awards they were nominated for: rock performance (“Making a Fire”), rock song (“Waiting on a War”) and rock album (“Medicine at Midnight”). Voting by Recording Academy members ended in January, long before Hawkins’ death.
Country star Chris Stapleton won two awards, as did jazz keyboardist Chick Corea, who died last year.
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga’s album “Love for Sale,” a collection of Cole Porter songs, won best traditional pop vocal album, a category that Bennett, 95, has now won 14 times. “Love for Sale” also took best engineered album, nonclassical, with the prize going to Dae Bennett, one of the singer’s sons, and to Josh Coleman and Billy Cumella.
“Love for Sale” is also up for album of the year, and its title track for record of the year.
Joni Mitchell, the iconic singer-songwriter, who was set to appear as a presenter during the show, won best historical album for her “Joni Mitchell Archives Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967),” sharing the award with Patrick Mulligan, her fellow compilation producer.
The Grammy ceremony honors music released during a 13-month period, from Sept. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30, 2021. Winners were chosen by more than 11,000 voting members of the Recording Academy, who qualify by gaining recommendations from fellow music professionals.
Speeches from early winners and presenters highlighted personal triumphs, social ills and the power of music to serve as a balm in troubled times.
Accepting the award for best country duo/group performance, T.J. Osborne, of the group Brothers Osborne, said their song “Younger Me” was written about his coming out as gay — a risk given Nashville’s largely conservative music business.
“I never thought that I’d be able to do this professionally because of my sexuality,” he said, “and I certainly never thought I would be here on this stage accepting a Grammy after having done something I felt like was going to be life-changing, potentially in a very negative way.”
Comedian Louis C.K., who has faced accusations of sexual misconduct, won for best comedy album (“Sincerely Louis C.K.”).
Tammy Hurt, the chair of the board of the Recording Academy, the organization behind the Grammys, saluted the year’s nominees and spoke of music’s power to unite amid the war in Ukraine: “To all music creators, please continue to create lyrics of peace, songs of promise, and music that unites all of us as one in every corner of this planet.”