Compared to the Oscars, the Grammys have always felt like the younger sibling who doesn’t warrant quite the same level of attention. Airing just a week after the Oscars was always going to be a tough act to follow, but after a week of Slap Discourse, the Grammys were practically begging us to notice them as if they came home with a lip ring, neon hair, and a significant other twice their age. nothing short of Olivia Rodrigo pantsing Joni Mitchell could have made Music’s Biggest Night feel as out-of-control and zeitgeist-conquering.
Plus, even by normal Grammy standards, the 64th edition of the award show felt particularly staid. Trevor Noah returned to host, and did a solid, unremarkable job–cracking wise about NFTs, the pandemic, and “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” Few of the presenters did anything worth remembering, save for Dua Lipa and Megan Thee Stallion’s funny wardrobe bit (aided by Donatella Versace) and Ludacris throwing a little lighthearted shade at Noah for not having a better afro, and Jared Leto listing the nominees for Best Pop Album as if he was reading a list of mythical Greek gods.
Expanding the nominees in Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist led to some fun, wonky inclusions–Glass Animals earning a BNA nod nearly eight years after their debut LP, for instance–but didn’t really manifest in any big upsets. Alas, we were never meant to live in a world where Abba won ROTY for “I Still Have Faith in You.”
Here are the moments you should know about, including the performances worth rewatching, the big wins, and eye-opening controversies.
Predictable Grammy safe choices took home the major awards, though there were a few fun surprises along the way.
“We’re trying to remain humble,” Anderson .Paak joked when he and Bruno Mars accepted their fourth Grammy, this time for Record of the Year. But anyone who knew the usual predilections of the Recording Academy could have guessed that Silk Sonic would end the night with multiple big awards–they make the exact sort of music the show loves to celebrate.
“Leave the Door Open” is a classic Grammy track–and not just because it features Bruno Mars, who has now won ROTY three times since 2016. It’s slick, nostalgic and feels indebted to the quiet storm soul of the ‘70s—. Mars is one of our foremost repackagers of nostalgia. Giving Silk Sonic the night’s biggest individual song prizes was the aural equivalent of The Shape of Water beating Get Out, Call Me By Your Name, Lady Bird, and Phantom Thread for Best Picture in 2018.
Now this isn’t the case where the Grammys give a major award to a song that didn’t really have an impact in the pop culture consciousness—”Leave the Door Open” was a massive hit, one of the 10 biggest songs of 2021. But with so much exciting new stuff happening in music–the arrival of Olivia Rodrigo, the genre-defying success of Lil Nas X, the superstar transformation of Doja Cat–it just feels like an exceptionally safe choice.