A recap of the night and a reminder of what all this pomp and circumstance is truly all about
“Wait … it’s the Grammys?”
When the Grammys’ sultry red carpet unfurled, this seemed to be social media’s overwhelming question. I mean what a shocking surprise. And indeed, it seems that the award show is getting less and less relevant each year.
With major artists questioning its legitimacy — Drake, Frank Ocean, and The Weeknd are among the big names who no longer submit their work for consideration, citing their exasperation over the industry’s dismissal of Black art — the Grammys have been struggling to entice viewers. The 2021 Grammys ceremony was the least-watched in years, drawing record low numbers.
What used to be music’s biggest night kinda felt just like … Sunday.
Do the Grammys Even Matter?
The 2022 ceremony — finally unfettered from pandemic restrictions that made 2021 a tad awkward — aimed for a dramatic comeback with a slate of young performers like Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, and Lil Nas X in hopes of gaining a larger viewership.
Yet, because the Omicron surge pushed the ceremony from its original February date, this year’s ceremony came as a surprise to everyone. There we were, obsessing about the Oscars drama when suddenly the Grammys were upon us.
Since most things start as they continue, the night felt pretty much as forgettable as the date itself. While the Grammy Awards have landed a not-so-favorable reputation — yes, disappointing, yes, downright boring — the past two years have stepped it up a little by being just … okay.
The performances were good, Trevor Noah hosted again — though he lacked the sharp, pointed commentary we all love on The Daily Show. Although after last week’s distasteful jokes and turmoil, who could blame him for playing it a tad safe. And most of the wins felt deserved. Yet, it still felt, may I say milquetoast and unremarkable, despite the Vegas venue.
Overall, the show was fine. The bar was low, and they didn’t fall beneath it, thankfully. But people are tired of seeing the same celebrities win — or not win — the same damn awards while there’s so much more going on in the world. True, there were references to current events but at the end of the day, how much does an award show truly matter anymore?
While the Academy fights for relevancy, we’ll still be here, watching the Grammys until they die out. And, despite the general lackluster vibe of the night, there were some really nice moments worth remembering.
Best Moments from the 2022 Grammys
For one, there was the chills-inducing spotlight on Ukraine. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky had reportedly wanted to speak at the Oscars, but didn’t get the chance. At the Grammys, his pre-recorded video urged people to raise awareness about the truth of the war and crisis in Ukraine. The video segment was a reminder of the world beyond celebrity, but also a celebration of the power of art and music to empower and communicate. Zelensky said: “Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded … Russia brings horrible silence with its bombs. Fill the silence with your music.” It was followed by John Legend’s song “Free” Legend performed alongside several Ukrainian artists and musicians—bandura player Siuzanna Iglidan, singer Mika Newton, poet Lyuba Yakimchuk.
There were heartwarming tributes to musicians throughout the night. The Foo Fighters, who recently lost their drummer Taylor Hawkins, swept in every category they were nominated for. Billie Eilish wore a t-shirt with Taylor Hawkins’ face on it as a small tribute to him as she performed one of the hottest performances of the night. Another powerful tribute was Lady Gaga’s emotional tribute to her duet partner Tony Bennett, who retired from performing due to Alzheimer’s.
These genuinely touching moments were worth all the awkward jokes, the lulls, and the snubs. The best moments were the ones that felt the most earnest. Namely, some of the wins and speeches that made us say awwww.
Say what you want about the Grammys, but they don’t have the best track record for reflecting the culture in their picks for the top prizes. Remember when Macklemore beat out Kendrick Lamar for Best Rap Album in 2014? Or when Beyonce’s Lemonade was snubbed in 2016? And, one of the most laughable, Fun. winning Best New Artist in 2013 over Frank Ocean. Frank Ocean. Fun. I’m sorry … has anyone even thought of Fun. Since 2013? I can’t discuss it.
Anyway, though there were some upsets and surprises this year, there were a number of first wins from some super deserving artists. Younger and more innovative artists took home a lot of the hardware, and their earnest responses were serious reminders of what all the commotion is actually about.
Here are some of our favorite wins from the night:
Olivia Rodrigo, one of the most exciting young performers of her generation, swept the world with her single “drivers license” and her debut album SOUR. She’s one of the most acclaimed young singer-songwriters right now, so it felt right that she came home with the Best New Artist prize. In her speech, she said this was a “dream come true.”
SZA and Doja Cat
SZA and Doja Cat also took home their first awards for the song of the summer, “Kiss Me More.” This infectious pop song was a viral hit, a radio hit, and a dance floor hit so its win for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance is so well deserved. The only problem with the win: Doja was in the bathroom. Classic Doja, she made it on stage while Lady Gaga was helping SZA — who was on crutches — with her dress. All of this was already both hilarious and endearing, but their speech was the cherry on top. “I like to downplay a lot of sh-t,” Doja said, “but this is, uh, it’s a big deal.”
Jazmine Sullivan, who has been a vocal powerhouse in the industry for years — YEARS, PEOPLE — finally got some gold last night. And she did not disappoint with her outfit or her speech. Winning Best R&B album for her album HEAUX TALES, she said: "I wrote this project to deal with my own shame and unforgiveness around some of the decisions that I made in my 20s that weren't favorable. What it ended up being was a safe space for Black women to tell their stories — for us to learn from each other, laugh with each other, and not be exploited at the same time — that's what I'm grateful for … Shout-out to all Black women who are just living their lives and being beautiful. I love you all." If you didn’t love her before, you better get with the program and love her now.
One of the biggest winners of the night was Jon Batiste, who seemingly came out of nowhere this year. Batiste has been around for ages before starting his solo career. He was raised in a family of New Orleans musicians and rose through the ranks of the jazz world for his versatile piano skills. He soon became the band leader for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, and released his album We Are in 2021. The album seamlessly blends music styles, which Batiste showcased with his medley performance of “Freedom”. He won Album of the Year, the most coveted prize of the night. Batiste’s speech showed his humility: “I believe this to my core: there is no ‘best’ musician… No best artist, best dancer, best actor. The creative arts are subjective…It’s like a song or an album is made and it has a radar to find a person when they need it the most.”
In an almost retributive gesture, Baby Keem — whose cousin is none other than Kendrick Lamar himself — won the award for Best Rap Performance for the song “family ties” featuring his cousin Kendrick. The song appeared on DONDA, the highly controversial Kanye West album. Though West himself was banned from the ceremony for his “concerning online behavior,” DONDA took home its fair share of awards. The Weeknd, who has boycotted submitting his own work, even took home an award for Best Melodic Rap Performance for his track on DONDA … though he wasn’t at the ceremony to collect it. Baby Keem, however, took the stage to accept his first Grammy and won the hearts of anyone who wasn’t already a fan. The 21 year old rapper thanked his team, his collaborators, but most importantly, “the women who raised [him]” in a speech that was so genuine and beautiful to watch. If anything could redeem the Grammys in my eyes, that was it.