The 2021 Grammys Attempted To Make Amends, But Only Made the Ceremony Feel Less Significant

Go girl, give us nothing!

Over the years, the Grammys have been a lot of things—unjust, surprising, sometimes just plain embarrassing. This year, music’s biggest night felt more chaotic than usual. In recent years, the awards show has been a little more than shady with their handling of behind-the-scenes drama, if not openly misogynistic. This year, the scrutiny came mostly from the artists—not just those snubbed, but also some who were nominated. Fiona Apple called out the nomination of Dr. Luke under a pseudonym, and many artists posted on behalf of The Weeknd—who unarguably dominated 2020—for not being recognized by the Grammys at all. 

It’s no surprise that the distribution of these golden gramophones is entirely subjective, and that the notion of presenting institutional objectivity won’t make everyone happy. Thus, the actual job requirements for giving out the awards seem to get smaller and smaller with every televised ceremony (there’s only a handful of awards given out during the four-hour show). Really what most viewers seem to care about is the performances; this is where the entertainment happens, which this year, was also extremely chaotic.

There were plenty of (probably unintentional) nods to Lady Gaga’s Chomatica, with Cardi B and Doja Cat’s use of chrome pink costumes and out-of-this-world visuals. ’70s lighting seemed to be a big hit with Dua Lipa’s heavily choreographed performance as well as in that of the swooning, baby-making performance of Silk Sonic, the new collaboration between Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak. Beyoncé made a sudden appearance, which then pivoted the show to bowing at the Queen’s feet as she broke the record for most Grammy wins ever. This felt underwhelming, to say the least, and too many years too late to appreciate one of the hardest working people in the industry. Although there was some course correction for the major institution, the night still felt out of step. I mean, even Billie Eilish, who received the final award of the night, was embarrassed by her win and noted that Megan Thee Stallion was the true recipient.

As a result of the pandemic, the show was socially distanced. On a rooftop across from the Staples Center, Trevor Noah cracked jokes to a lukewarm response in front of various small tables that were set up like a wedding reception. The performances took place across the street, resulting in some tender or endearing reactions from fellow artists as they looked on. The only glaring absence was an adoring audience, which is perhaps what made the performances feel stale. Honestly, everyone sounded great—some performed more dance moves than others, but maybe the fact that the world’s reality has changed so drastically and tragically in a year made watching a polished awards show seem all the more bullshit. 

Regardless, there were plenty of interesting and/or viral tidbits that were frankly too chaotic to try and connect into linear thought. Here’s a quick rundown of the night’s most notable moments: 

Harry Styles opened the show with a pretty alright performance as far as openers go. Sartorially, though? He brought out the big guns, which included three different colored furry boas and a leather suit that would make Suzi Quatro proud.

 

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A post shared by Harry Lambert (@harry_lambert)

Indie Icon Dev Hynes performed with Harry Styles.

 

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A post shared by Molly Hawkins (@mollyjane_x)

Este Haim marching in place is the only motivational video I will need for a long time. 

Many of the responses to performers were either awkward or endearing. Arguably the best was Bad Bunny watching Dua Lipa.

Lizzo continued to be one of the greatest humans, presenting an award to another of the greatest humans, Megan Thee Stallion. 

DaBaby’s choir of old white women for his performance of “Rockstar” with Roddy Ricch. He also added the lyric, “Right now I’m performing at the Grammys / I’ll probably get profiled before leavin’.”

Kaytranada won.

Beyoncé reigns: Trevor Noah awkwardly broke the news to her after Megan Thee Stallion and her win for Best Rap Song. Several minutes later, she would break her own record with 28 Grammy wins—the most for any performer. 

Bruno Mars continues to be an amazing performer and crushed his tribute, a performance with Anderson .Paak honoring Little Richard. 

The round of country performances was really stunning. Mickey Guyton gave one of the most unforgettable performances of the night. 

In the weirdest turn of events, the in-memoriam section was possibly the best part of the whole night. 

Aaron Dessner gave a thank you speech with Taylor Swift for Folklore winning Album of the Year.

Also, Swift gave an enchanting performance with collaborators Dessner and Jack Antonoff with the track “Cardigan,” “August,” and “Willow.” And this tweet about it. 

Styles said “fucking massive” during his Grammy acceptance speech for Best Pop Solo Performance. 

Although it was weird to hear moderate applause during Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B’s otherworldly performance of “WAP,” the duo did the notorious track justice. There was a dancing pole connected to a giant stripper shoe. The two also performed incredible choreography

This weird speech by Ringo Starr, who has been to the Grammys many times as he points out, giving us embarrassing-speech-from-an-estranged-uncle-at-a-wedding vibes.

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