The real winners and losers of the 2020 Grammys
Amidst controversy and tragedy, the world took a few hours (and then some) to decompress and have some fun with the 62nd annual Grammys. Billie Eilish, along with her brother and producer Finneas, scored the most wins on Sunday night – but we all know the real winners of the night aren't found in any envelope but everywhere else on Grammy night, from the stage to the red carpet to social media to honestly just about anywhere but the winners' podium.
So who actually won Sunday night's show? Who actually lost? And who knows how I can get me one of Billy Porter's hats with the retractable blinds for checking in and out of conversations in the most glamorous way possible?
"come out of ur room"— Jahkara J Smith✨ (@SlaylerJ) January 27, 2020
"we ordered food"
While I work on that last part, here are the real winners and losers from the 2020 Grammys.
Loser: The Grammys
These guys were locked into the losers column before the night even began. They could've had a special award dedicated to me, complete with a ten-minute performance in my honor, sung by all my favorite artists alive and dead, that concluded with my childhood dog Bailey being brought back to life happy and healthy ... and I'd still have to plug them in as a loser considering the train wreck of a lead-up to this year's awards. (And also the show was already going long, so that Matt Mueller tribute would've just bogged things down.)
After just five months at the helm, Recording Academy president and CEO Deborah Dugan – the first woman ever appointed to that position – was abruptly removed from the position this month due to accusations of bullying an assistant. Dugan retorted by burning it all down, going on "Good Morning America" last week to detail sexism and corruption inside the awards voting and nomination process, a bombshell report that caused prime performer Taylor Swift to drop out in protest of her treatment. And so, an award that was already considered a besides-the-point part of the show and an uneven barometer of quality lost even more of its considerably diminished luster.
And with that backdrop and pregame show ... uh, on with the awards?
In retrospect, it's amazing Sunday night's show went on as well as it did with such a cloud weighing over the event – even before the rest of Sunday's terrible news.
Winner: Billie Eilish
Surprise: The big winner of the night qualifies as a winner! Indeed, the "Bad Guy" singer had a great night, topping off her breakout year with five wins, including the four big awards of the night – Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Album of the Year and Song of the Year – and only losing once all evening: Best Pop Solo Performance to Lizzo's "Truth Hurts."
Her top category sweep puts in in pretty exclusive company as only the second person to ever pull off the feat. The other musician to do it? Soft rock singer Christopher Cross in 1981. Here's to Eilish having a better post-Grammys career than him. Admittedly not difficult – and also not hard to see considering her mesmerizingly moody performance of "When the Party's Over" during the show, which showed she's capable of much more than just "Bad Guy."
Oh, and here's a fun fact: She's accomplished all of this – topping global music charts, becoming a music sensation and now making history at the industry's biggest night – and she's just turned 18 years old.
When I turned 18, I celebrated by playing video games and grabbing tickets to "The Incredible Hulk." When she turned 18, she celebrated by playing the Staples Center and grabbing five Grammy awards. Excuse me while I walk into Lake Michigan.
This is no slight against Eilish, who was a very deserving winner in each of the night's four major categories ... but did she NEED to win all of them? In a year in which Lizzo and Lil Nas X had equally gigantic years, it would've been nice to share the love between all of them as opposed to letting one person dominate (especially considering the Grammys' rather notorious history of ignoring black musicians, notably in Album of the Year where there's been one winner of color in a decade). Both Lizzo and Lil Nas X still came away with gold – three and two wins, respectively – but none in the night's big four categories.
Plus, as simply a TV show, it wasn't exactly riveting television as Eilish and producer-brother Finneas clearly ran out of things to say on stage, culminating in the night's big climactic moment: the two looking rather embarrassed at each other before walking back on stage, saying "thank you" for Record of the Year and immediately leaving. Not exactly a thrilling end to a long night – but maybe an exhausted ending is exactly what an emotionally exhausting day deserved.
Winner: Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys is by no means the most polished host – just ask the Best New Artist portion of the night, in which you could hear her murmuring to fellow presenter Dua Lipa to move closer to the mic and looking awkwardly uncertain while the previous performance was still clearing the center stage. (You could also hear her whisper "vibes, vibes, vibes," a word Keys used Sunday night the way most people use periods or the word "the.")
But she was the host the Grammys – and the Los Angeles crowd – needed Sunday night, gathered in the house where Kobe Bryant reigned supreme mere hours after the shocking news that the basketball legend and L.A. icon died alongside his daughter and seven others in a helicopter crash. From her opening tribute, performing "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday" with Boyz II Men, Keys' stoner mom aura went from a little uncomfortable and odd to the warm emotional blanket of a pep talk everyone needed to help move on with their day, even just for a few hours, and enjoy a night originally made for celebration. On any other night, Keys' constant talk of vibrations, piano interludes and general vibe of wanting everyone to just relax and chill, man, could've got tiring – especially with a show going long. Instead, it was just the calming presence Sunday night called for, a bit of therapy to go with the theatrics.
Loser: Whoever decided Best Comedy Album needed to make the cut
The Grammys are truly an awards show in name only, as it's more like a concert with intermittent trophy breaks so people can quick run to the bathroom. A bunch of Grammys are tossed out well before the show like a sidenote, and then only a handful of awards make it to the actual broadcast. So it's odd that one of the categories that made it to the primetime edit was Best Comedy Album – a minor-key award that the winner, David Chappelle for "Sticks & Stones," wasn't even there to accept. As a result, one of the evening's few podium moments was spent with the presenters boringly accepting the trophy on his behalf. I'm all for spreading the love across as many genres as possible during the show, but if even the winner figured he had better things to do with his time, maybe the broadcast could've too.
Winner: Demi Lovato
It's never a good sign for your tear ducts when the performer is in tears before the song even starts. Indeed, in the midst of a highly emotional night, Demi Lovato belted out the most emotional moment of the evening with her gut-punching performance of her wrenching new song, "Anyone" – her first new song since her almost-fatal overdose in 2018.
Audiences expecting a feel-good affirmational return ... did not get that. Instead, Lovato offered something far more painful but far more powerful: a brutally honest confession of hopelessness, written before her overdose, singing about how she felt nothing – her music, her faith, her vices – could save her and crying out for someone to genuinely listen. I'm tearing up right now just typing about it now (picked the wrong day to write in public!) so one can only imagine how hard Lovato's song hit in action, a stunningly raw and searing desperate gasp for air amongst an entertainment industry still far too happy to ignore difficult problems and cling to pat resolutions. She may have had to start the song over (not that anyone would blame her) but the impact was by no means lessened – a cry to be heard that everyone certainly did Sunday night.
Loser: Ariana Grande
"7 Rings" but no trophies for the pop star on Sunday night as, despite going into the night tied for the fourth most nominations with five nods, Ariana Grande went home empty-handed, losing out to Billie Eilish, Lizzo and Lil Nas X. At least she was a genuinely swell sport about it.
Unfortunately, her performance, featuring a medley of hits, was kind of a zero as well. Grande's still not the world's most natural live performer, sometimes coming off chilly, and that's what happened Sunday night, never quite connecting – though some of that was the chunky blocking, which divided the gig in two with an awkwardly stiff transition in the middle that didn't seem to go right. Some of it was also the pink-drenched second half of the performance which, at least on my TV, looked so color-saturated that you couldn't make out faces underneath an attack of Bubble Yum – but with no pop.
Oh, and also I spent the entire night concerned her giant puffy dress was going to eat someone. Others thought of "Bridesmaids" – and I'm no fashion expert, but when people are thinking about pooping when they see your outfit, your night could've gone better.
Winner: A future "Wicked" movie
We were supposed to get a "Wicked" film adaptation this past Christmas. Instead, we got "Cats" and nightmares about furries, cats with human hands and Rebel Wilson eating marching man-roaches. Bad trade – though maybe Universal is just waiting for the perfect cast, which in that case, may I (and the internet) propose:
Glinda and Elphaba meeting at Shiz 🤩 pic.twitter.com/Mm95ewv5Wy— Alex Rocca (@AlexDRocca) January 27, 2020
Actually, this is a bad idea. Dump it. Trash it. Do not do this.
Why the Grammys great 'til they gotta be great?
Leading the night with eight nominations, the "Truth Hurts" pop star seemed set to top off her breakout 2019 with an awards show coronation. Hell, she was even the night's opening act, a prime slot that she utterly owned with a "Phantom of the Opera"-esque medley of "Cuz I Love You" and "Truth Hurts," seemingly signifying a big night ahead. Most predicted that she'd split the major four awards with Billie Eilish – but the night had other plans as Eilish won all four and Lizzo, despite still winning three trophies, must've left the arena feeling a little scorned. Again, in a year where both she and Eilish had monster years, it's a little sad that only one got significant recognition at the end of the night.
In fairness, though, it's just the Grammys. You tried to break her heart? That probably breaks her heart – that you thought you ever had it; no, you ain't from the start.
Winner: Camila Cabello
How to cry in 51 seconds. Camila Cabello stole the show with this soft, raw, beautiful, performance. Sometimes simplicity really is key. A perfect demonstration that you don't have to belt notes to make a statement. #Grammys pic.twitter.com/XwGLiekc0X— Bryan (@wheresmyromance) January 27, 2020
The buzz going into Cabello's solo performance was that she was dedicating it to a special man in her life, from the voiceover teases before commercial breaks to even Jim Gaffigan's intro preparing the audience "a love song to someone very special in her life." So there we all were, putting duct-tape around our eyes so they wouldn't roll out of our heads when her romance with Shawn Mendes got trotted out on stage like the meticulously manicured show pony it is.
But instead of tearing up from all the gagging about their manager-approved love story, audience's eyes were watering from genuine emotion as the song, "First Man," ended up as a tribute to Cabello's father – complete with the singer performing the song directly to him, welling up in the front row. An excellent performance – and an even better trolling.
Loser: The "Fame" tribute
Three hours in, it sure felt about the right time to put a long show – and an even longer day – behind us. The Grammys thought otherwise, though, and decided to put on ... a tribute to "Fame"? Technically it was a convoluted tribute to Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich, who instead of wanting a tribute to himself wanted a tribute to music education. And instead of getting that, he got "I Sing the Body Electric" as performed by a bunch of randomly selected musicians – John Legend ... again! Camila Cabello ... also again! Joshua Bell? Sure! – and some ballet dancing for good measure. Because when you can put Misty Copeland on stage, you put Misty Copeland on stage.
Still, even with all of the talent involved, it was the kind of random pointless grab-bag half-hearted performance that the show had generally thus far avoided. Even Usher's Prince tribute, while unnecessary and out of nowhere, was at least enthusiastically performed whereas here many were on their second number of the night – and it showed. Apparently they'd saved the least for last. "Fame": I'm gonna live forever ... but the show didn't have to go on forever, too.
Big night for the audience not getting to hear things as whoever was in control of the bleep button for CBS's broadcast had a very excitable trigger finger. Drop an F-bomb? Bleeped. Vaguely criticize something? Bleeped. Describing what you had for lunch? BLEEPED. CBS went full CBS when it came to making sure nobody got offended by anything said or sung at the Grammys, deserved or not – yet I was far more offended by having to watch the ads for all 14 versions of "NCIS." In the process, the constant bleeping was intrusive, distracting and ended up drawing far more attention to what didn't make it to air than what did.
Each year, somebody has to be stuck with the (dis)honor of the worst performance of the night, and while Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani threatened to claim that title, their dull duet's greatest sin was mainly just being forgettable. Aerosmith, on the other hand, was too loud and messy to be simply ignored as they drunkenly clunked through "Livin' on the Edge" before Run-DMC came out to perform their "Walk This Way" collaboration for the 471th time on an awards show. At least the latter brought some energy, but the transition between the two songs clunked, and at one point, Steven Tyler appeared to pull two random women out of the mosh pit to awkwardly dance on stage with him. It was sad. In the end, pariah drummer Joey Kramer had to be pretty pumped he wasn't allowed on stage for all of ... that.
Winner: Tyler the Creator
The rap star had every moment you could possibly want Sunday night. Scoring a big win – complete with celebrating with your gleeful mother on stage? Check. Putting on a wild and, no matter if you liked it or not, memorable performance that stood out from the crowd? Check. Getting to call out the Grammys for their restriction of black artists and success to the rap and "urban" categories backstage? Check. Tyler the Creator got a trophy, sure, but even more so, he got to go on CBS and hold onto his reputation as one of the most unapologetically honest and idiosyncratic musicians working right now.
I FAVORITED THIS 9 YEARS AGO JUST FOR THE MOMENT TO TELL YOU I GOT ONE. YES IM PETTY AS FUCK, GOOD DAY MARK. https://t.co/WfU85JeHEj— Tyler, The Creator (@tylerthecreator) January 27, 2020
Sorry, Mark. You have to delete your Twitter now. Them's the rules.
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