2021 Grammys: Highlights & Navigating COVID-19

Photo Credit: Getty Images for The Recording Academy (All Photos)

The 2021 Grammy’s were one to remember. During the COVID-19 pandemic, award shows like the Oscars, Emmys, and Golden Globes were struggling to adapt to a blend of in-person and virtual acceptances, and pulled off their respective shows with varying degrees of success. The Grammys have been surrounded by controversy recently for their secretive voting practices and apparent whitewashing of award nominees. In a year punctuated by diversity and equality concerns, the Grammys promised to be different. The new executive producer, Ben Winston, faced the unusual challenge of designing a show that was both inclusive and COVID safe.

To do this, the 22 performers were broken up into two groups – those who had pre-recorded performances and those who did not (which helped explain how they had so many different sets done so quickly). Everyone involved in the show was tested every 48 hours, no eating or drinking, social distancing enforced, and all traffic is directed to flow in one direction in order to make the show compliant with CDC guidelines. The planning paid off and delivered an incredible 3 hours including broken records and a star-studded lineup.

Opening the Grammys, everyone’s fangirl crush Harry Styles single-handedly brought back feather boas as he sang a jazzed-up version of his hit song “Watermelon Sugar.” Besides bringing back a trend that we all thought was left in the early 2000s, Styles broke the Internet with footage of his dance moves during a short instrumental break in the song. Styles later took home his first Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance for the song later in the evening.

Other notable performances were Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B performing “WAP” live for the first time, with sexy choreography that embodied the song in a way the clean version couldn’t. Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner collaborated on a medley that included her two latest singles, “cardigan”, and “willow”, along with fan-favorite, “august” atop a moss-covered cabin. Bruno Mars and Anderson Paak. also did a live debut of their new R&B/Soul duo, Silk Sonic. The harmonies between the two were as smooth and powerful as you could imagine. Closing out the night, the K-pop phenomenon BTS performed from a rooftop in Seoul on an LED video stage.

Along with the “WAP” performance, Lil Baby performed his nominated song, “The Bigger Picture.” The most politically charged moment of the night came in the beginning, with a choreographed reenactment of the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks, who was killed at a Wendy’s in Atlanta. As the Grammys look to become a more inclusive organization, giving freedom to artists to perform their songs in a way that feels authentic to the song and situation is a step in the right direction.

The four “biggest awards” of the night are the ones awarded in the general field, meaning that anyone can be nominated regardless of genre. These include Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist, and Record of the Year (not necessarily in that order). Song of the Year went to H.E.R. for “I Can’t Breathe”, and Billie Eilish took home her second Record of the Year award in a row for “Everything I Wanted.” Eilish was not one to celebrate her own success, and dedicated her win to Megan Thee Stallion, whom Eilish believed deserved the award to begin with. Megan Thee Stallion took home her third Grammy of the night after winning Best New Artist, beating out competition such as Phoebe Bridgers, Noah Cyrus, and Doja Cat. And finally, after not winning a Grammy since 2016, Taylor Swift was awarded Album of the Year for folklore. Her win in the category makes Swift the third artist in history and first female artist to win the award three times. Speaking of records broken, Beyonce also took home four Grammys for “BLACK PARADE” and “Savage (Remix)” with Meg Thee Stallion. Her record-breaking win gave her the most wins (28!) out of any female artist in history.

The 2021 Grammys come to a close of a pandemic that’s slowly declining across the U.S. as vaccination efforts increase and cases continue to drop. The creativity of the team behind the show was shone throughout the ceremony and accurately paid tribute to the amount of music that was released in these times of turmoil. Spotlighting independent venues highlighted the fact that the music industry has some ways to go until things return to normal, but also gave hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Written by: Darby VanDeVeen

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