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The 66th Grammy Awards: A Much Needed Debrief Print-ready version

by Olivia Miller
Colgate News (Colgate U)
February 9, 2024

AP Photo / Richard Shotwell

The 66th Annual Grammy Awards was a whirlwind of stellar performances, shocking announcements and the occasional snub. The highlights include a first and second Grammy - including "Record of the Year" - for Miley Cyrus, an album announcement by Taylor Swift, the return of Billy Joel and a beautiful performance by Joni Mitchell.

Trevor Noah hosted and opened with some great pop culture references, poking fun at politics and controversies, from "the Kelly Clarkson effect" and the Ozempic phenomenon to the widely-acknowledged broadcasting of Taylor Swift's attendance at NFL games.

First, Mariah Carey presented "Best Pop Solo Performance," of which all nominees were women. Despite some intense competition, Miley Cyrus took home the trophy. This was followed by a moving performance by Luke Combs and Tracy Chapman as they sang "Fast Car," a song by Chapman that Combs covered earlier this year. SZA performed "Snooze" and "Kill Bill" and stunned audiences with her display of feminine power through dystopian visuals.

Junior Kayla Mistica was impressed by SZA's action-packed performance.

"Her live vocals are amazing," Mistica said. "I liked the action sequence during her 'Kill Bill' performance."

Billie Eilish sang "What Was I Made For?", which many fans felt was snubbed at the Golden Globes. Her vocals are consistently incredible live, and she quietly asserts her talent and hard work as the reason for her success in the music industry.

First-year Amanda Ariunzaya admired Eilish's passion when performing.

"It was very vulnerable," Ariunzaya said. "The song promotes healing."

First-year Grace Zhang agreed and felt impacted by the song.

"[It] was so soulful," Zhang said.

Later in the show, Miley Cyrus sang "Flowers." Her performance was flirty and youthful, yet sexy and intense. Alone on stage, she commanded everyone's attention through her powerful vocals and ad-libbing throughout the performance.

"Don't pretend you don't know this song," Cyrus told the audience.

First-year Grace Zhang admired Cyrus' magnetism.

"The performance that stood out to me the most was Miley Cyrus'. Her stage presence was unmatched. Despite not having any backup dancers or dramatic stage props, she filled the stage with so much joy," Zhang said. "Also, I can't believe this was only her first Grammy!"

Lainey Wilson won "Best Country Album" and received the award from superstar Kacey Musgraves. Lizzo presented SZA with "Best R&B Song" for "Snooze." In addition, Olivia Rodrigo belted her song "Vampire" in a gorgeous vermillion dress, as the walls dripped red behind her. Rodrigo sang with emotion and power. Notably, for the first time on television, a live performance from inside the Sphere in Las Vegas was broadcast to audiences around the world. U2 performed their hit "Atomic City" and then presented "Best Pop Vocal Album" to Taylor Swift - her 13th Grammy.

At this point, Taylor Swift stole the show. Her subtle social media takeover had fans certain that she would announce "Reputation (Taylor's Version)" on live television that night, and her black-and-white outfit was perceived as a confirmation of the coming news. However, Swift shocked everyone when she announced her 11th original album, "The Tortured Poets Department," after winning the "Best Pop Vocal Album" award. By the end of the show, her Instagram post announcing the album on social media had 7.7 million likes. Some viewers, like first-year Martyn Dahl, were left with many questions.

"What era is this going to fall into? What does this mean? Is she going blank slate? Is she going to keep building off of the story she's been telling?" Dahl asked. "What does this mean about her relationship? If she's been working on this for two years, the songs aren't about Travis [Kelce]. This is about her. She's focusing on herself."

The "In Memoriam" tribute that followed seemed disjointed, with a number of starkly different performances. Stevie Wonder sang with a recording of Tony Bennet. Annie Lenox rendered "Nothing Compares 2 U," which could not compare to Sinead O'Connor's original. Fantasia Barrino sang a fantastic Tina Turner tribute that redeemed the performance. The singing and dancing were energetic and joyful, reminding us why we love music. Barrino's talents earned the largest ovation of the night. Jay-Z was later honored with the "Dr. Dre Global Impact Award." On stage, while holding hands with his daughter, Blue Ivy, he thanked the black musicians who came before him. Then, addressing the award show itself, he made some controversial statements regarding mistakes he believes the Recording Academy has made in their award nominations.

"We love y'all; we want y'all to get it right. It's obviously subjective because it's music and it's opinion based. I don't want to embarrass this young lady [Beyoncé], but she has more Grammys than anyone and never won album of the year," Jay-Z said.

Siblings Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell also received recognition. Lionel Richie presented the "Song of the Year" award to Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell for "What Was I Made For?" The song was featured in the movie "Barbie," which was immensely popular this past year. Eilish thanked her brother O'Connell, whom she called her "best friend," in her acceptance speech. She also thanked Greta Gerwig, the director of "Barbie," for making "the best movie of the year."

Afterward, Brandi Carlile welcomed 80-year-old Joni Mitchell to the stage, whose emotional performance humbled even the most famous celebrities in attendance. Carlile called Mitchell "a true Renaissance woman." Mitchell's beauty and grace took our breath away as she sang "Both Sides Now." Mitchell won a Grammy earlier that night for "Best Folk Album."

Switching genres, Travis Scott graciously thanked his fans before performing "FE!N." Despite a poor censoring job that stilted the performance (not an uncommon issue at the Grammys), Scott pulled off an energetic and alluring show. His performance was complete with pyrotechnics, strobe lights, smoke, an appearance by Playboi Carti and a temper tantrum - for lack of better words - to describe his decision to slam folded chairs against the ground during his performance.

The Grammys paused to acknowledge music as a uniting force in times of conflict. A string quartet with players of Israeli, Palestinian and Arab descent was featured in a hopeful and somber moment.

Additionally, a performance by Burna Boy, 21 Savage and Brandy was short but sweet and marked the first Afrobeats performance in the history of the award show - an important step in representing a wider range of music.

To follow, Victoria Monét won the "Best New Artist" award and spoke about her music journey, which began in Los Angeles in 2009. She likened herself to a plant that was sprouting that night. "Record of the Year" was then presented by Meryl Streep and Mark Ronson to Miley Cyrus for "Flowers," cementing her status as a pop star. Superstar Celine Dion followed as the surprise presenter of "Album of the Year." She won the very same award 27 years earlier.

"We must never take for granted the love and joy that music brings to our lives and to people all around the world," Dion said.

Taylor Swift then became the first person to win four "Album of the Year" awards. She gushed about how happy her career had made her. "Midnights," in my opinion, was probably not the best in the line-up of nominees, or even a Grammy-worthy album. However, it topped the charts and broke records, with Swift becoming the first musician to hold all "Top 10" spots on the Billboard Hot 100 in the same week.

Phoebe Bridgers left with the most Grammys of all. She earned three for her work in the band boygenius, alongside Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, and another for her feature in SZA's "Ghost in the Machine."

Overall, the night was dominated by the wonderful women in the industry: Miley Cyrus, SZA, Phoebe Bridgers, Taylor Swift, Karol G, Billie Eilish and Joni Mitchell. The live music was some of the best we've seen yet, with a stronger focus on vocals and technique than in the past few years. The Grammys may be a controversial, often discredited award show, but it reminds us all to celebrate the gift of music and cherish the soundtracks of our lives.

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Added to Library on February 9, 2024. (298)

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