Beyoncé, Taylor Swift triumph on historic Grammys night

Illustration by Amelia Madarang

The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards were a record-breaking night for women in the music industry. Hosted by comedian Trevor Noah at the Los Angeles Convention Center, the awards were televised on March 14. 

Adding four trophies to her collection, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter became the most awarded singer at the Grammys, with a career total of 28 wins. During her acceptance speech for Best R&B Performance, Beyoncé paid tribute to her children and to the accomplishments of Black musicians this year. 

“It’s been a difficult time, so I wanted to uplift, encourage and celebrate all the beautiful Black kings and queens who continue to inspire me and inspire the whole world,” she said. 

In a heartwarming moment between mother and daughter,    Beyoncé and her daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, won a Grammy together for Best Music Video. At nine years old, Blue Ivy is the second youngest Grammy honoree of all time, winning for her role in “Brown Skin Girl,” a song that tackles the colorism Black women and girls face. 

As Beyoncé collected another trophy, Taylor Swift clapped and nodded with gleeful enthusiasm. Swift took home the biggest award of the night, winning Album of the Year (AOTY) for her surprise chamber pop smash, “folklore.” She has become the first woman ever to win AOTY three times, joining the legendary ranks of Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra and Paul Simon. 

Written and recorded entirely over four months of quarantine, “folklore” arguably did the impossible in 2020: it made us feel less alone. In my view, its rich cast of characters — lovestruck teenagers, exhausted frontline workers, a ghost haunting her former tormentor — set “folklore” apart from its steep AOTY competition. 

Aside from Beyoncé and Swift’s historic wins, Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B brought the house down with a medley celebrating Black female sexuality. Megan Thee Stallion began their joint performance with a high-energy rendition of her hit, “Body,” flanked by masked backup dancers. With a giant purple stiletto as her show-stopping prop, Cardi B brought “WAP” to the Grammys in one of the most fun moments of the night. 

The Recording Academy also crowned Megan Thee Stallion “Best New Artist.” Her bright orange gown, complete with a matching mask, made her one of the best dressed performers of the evening as she netted three wins. 

Additionally, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande’s “Rain on Me” became the first all-female collaboration to win “Best Pop Duo / Group Performance,” while Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish and H.E.R. rounded out the list of female winners. 

In a performance of Lil Baby’s “The Big Picture,” actors portrayed an all-too-common and harrowing scene involving two white police officers shooting a Black man in the street. 

Women’s March and Black Lives Matter activist Tamika D. Mallory delivered an interlude addressed to President Biden during the song. 

“We demand justice, equity, policy and everything else that freedom encompasses,” Mallory said. “We don’t need allies; we need accomplices!” 

Although the Recording Academy’s acknowledgement of female talent this year merits praise, the Grammys continue to clumsily navigate their own history of anti-Blackness. 

Noticeably absent from Sunday’s festivities was The Weeknd and his instant synth-pop classic, “Blinding Lights,” the best-performing global single of 2020.  

One theory about the snub claims that the refusal of “After Hours” to conform to either the pop or R&B genres unfairly cost The Weeknd. Black artists are often pigeonholed into the R&B genre categories, keeping them from competing for the televised and often more prestigious pop categories. 

The Weeknd has pledged to prevent his record label from submitting his future music for Grammy nominations, alleging that “secret committees” prevented him from getting his due. Other artists of color, including Zayn Malik, Nicki Minaj and Wiz Khalifa, have spoken out about the need for more transparency from the Recording Academy. 

While Sunday’s ceremony offered some exciting evidence of incremental progress, music’s biggest night has a long way to go before truly empowering all deserving musicians. 

A full list of winners can be found at http://www.grammy.com. 

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