ANALYSIS: 5 takeaways from the 65th Grammy Awards

The 65th annual Grammy Awards, held Sunday in Los Angeles, proved historic for Beyoncé, solidified Harry Styles as a pop favorite and brought the house down with an all-star hip-hop extravaganza.

Music’s biggest night clocked in at nearly four hours, but the ceremony was not short on entertainment, diversity or upsets. Here are five takeaways.

1. Beyoncé makes Grammy history

After surpassing Alison Krauss in 2020 to become the woman with the most career Grammy wins (28), Beyoncé overtook the late classical conductor George Solti for the most wins by anyone in Grammy history (32). It seems fitting that Beyoncé's dance-heavy “Renaissance,” an embrace of the LGBTQ community in honor of her late uncle, would be the album that gave her the crowning achievement of her stellar career thus far. Instead of returning to what might have felt comfortable musically or stylistically, “Renaissance” illuminates Queen Bey’s ability to defy norms and carve her own path.

2. Surprises are still possible

The Recording Academy expanding nominees in the general field (Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist) to 10 continues to open the door for vote-splitting and upsets. Album of the Year frontrunners Adele and Beyoncé lost to Styles, who also won Best Pop Vocal Album. Lizzo took home Record of the Year for “About Damn Time,” a pleasant surprise among stiff competition. The legendary Bonnie Raitt came out of nowhere to win Song of the Year for her John Prine-inspired ballad “Just Like That,” the biggest upset of the night. Jazz singer Samara Joy followed Esperanza Spalding as a rare jazz artist to win Best New Artist. Assessing the general field, it is puzzling that Beyoncé has yet to win Album of the Year, which seems to indicate ongoing resistance to her brand within the Academy. In particular no Black woman has won Album of the Year since Lauryn Hill in 1999. There is still work to be done.

3. Dave Chappelle wins for controversial ‘Closer’

Credit: Gemunu Amarasinghe

Credit: Gemunu Amarasinghe

During the pre-ceremony, Dave Chappelle won Best Comedy Album for “The Closer.” In 2021 “The Closer” was criticized for what many viewers felt were transphobic and homophobic remarks. Netflix employees were so enraged by the special they staged a walkout, resulting in a confrontation between supporters of the trans community and supporters of Chappelle. The comedian has won four Grammys in this category, tied with Peter Schickele and Robin Williams. Also notable in the pre-ceremony: Viola Davis winning Best Audio Book, Narration and Storytelling Recording for “Finding Me” and joining the exclusive club of 18 prestigious EGOT winners.

4. In Memoriam provides lovely balance

In a very unrushed and respectful fashion, the In Memoriam segment fluidly crossed genres, allowing artists within certain fields to poignantly honor their own. Kacey Musgraves (“Coal Miner’s Daughter,” tribute to Loretta Lynn), Quavo with Maverick City Music (“See You Again,” tribute to Takeoff), and Sheryl Crow, Mick Fleetwood and Bonnie Raitt (“Songbird,” tribute to Christine McVie) all offered heartfelt renditions. However, since the ceremony was already overstuffed, it’s unfortunate the producers didn’t stretch this meaningful segment, which would’ve allowed more deceased artists to be recognized such as four-time Grammy winner Olivia Newton-John, the 1975 Record of the Year recipient (“I Honestly Love You”).

5. Showstopping hip-hop celebration

Bad Bunny’s exuberant opener, Mary J. Blige’s emotional “Good Morning Gorgeous” and Sam Smith and Kim Petra’s devilish “Unholy” were among the many standout performances. Early in the evening, a tribute to Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson included a fantastic medley of “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” “The Tears of a Clown” and “Higher Ground” performed by Stevie Wonder, Chris Stapleton and Robinson. But the singular musical moment that will go down in Grammy history was the showstopping celebration of hip-hop, saluting 50 years of the game-changing sound and culture that began in April 1973 in the Bronx. Curated by Questlove of The Roots, the outstanding sequence of greatest hits featured Grandmaster Flash, Run-DMC, LL Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, Ice-T, Busta Rhymes, Queen Latifah, Public Enemy, Missy Elliott, Nelly, and Lil Baby among many others. There’s no denying hip-hop’s influence around the globe and the Grammys tapped into its cross-generational appeal with rousing success. After all, when it comes to the hip-hop community, Latifah said it best. It’s about U.N.I.T.Y.

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