Somber tributes alternated with high-octane performances at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards as music’s biggest stars remembered Kobe Bryant while members of pop music’s new guard—Billie Eilish, Lizzo and Tyler, the Creator—racked up their first-ever honors.
Ms. Eilish, the alternative-pop phenomenon, swept the night, winning the four most prestigious awards. She claimed album of the year, record of the year and best new artist. In winning song of the year—for “Bad Guy”—she beat Taylor Swift, Lizzo, Lady Gaga, Lana Del Rey and others. Ms. Eilish also won for best pop vocal album.
At 18 years old, Ms. Eilish is the youngest artist in Grammy history to win album of the year, edging out Ms. Swift, who was 20 when she won for her album, “Fearless.”
Lizzo, the pop-R&B singer and rapper, opened the show with a medley of “Truth Hurts” and “Cuz I Love You,” and then went on to win best pop solo performance for her No. 1 hit “Truth Hurts.”
It was Lizzo’s third award of the evening—two other awards were handed out before the show began. For best pop solo performance, she beat Ms. Eilish along with established heavyweights Ms. Swift, Ariana Grande and Beyoncé. Lizzo was nominated for eight awards, the most of any artist at the Grammys.
Throughout the night, performers paid tribute to Mr. Bryant, including in rock band Aerosmith’s reunion with rap pioneers Run-DMC. In an homage to the late Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle, the Recording Academy managed to assemble a video image pairing Messrs. Bryant and Hussle.
Stirring vocal performances included songs from Ms. Eilish and singing powerhouse Demi Lovato. One of the night’s biggest surprises was country-rapper Lil Nas X’s pairing with hip-hop elder statesman Nas on the young breakout artist’s song “Rodeo.”
There were brief moments of controversy. A celebration of Prince, who died in 2016, that united Usher, R&B singer FKA twigs and Prince collaborator Sheila E. drew criticism: FKA twigs didn’t sing during the performance, echoing past missteps where the Grammys ceremony excluded women artists like Lorde from performances. “Of course, I wanted to sing,” FKA twigs said on Twitter after the performance. “I wasn’t asked this time.”
Tyler, the Creator won his first-ever Grammy, for Best Rap Album but later made comments to the media criticizing the music industry for its use of the term “urban” to describe black or hip-hop artists and for relegating genre-bending artists like him to the “rap” category.
Host Alicia Keys performed at the Grammy Awards, saying the evening would be a testament to music’s ability to uplift.
Matt Sayles/Invision/Associated Press
The vast majority of the 84 honors were presented Sunday afternoon. During that separate, earlier ceremony, veteran country artist Tanya Tucker received, at age 61, her first Grammys ever. Blues-rocker Gary Clark Jr. nabbed three awards in the rock and blues categories. Billie Eilish and Lizzo both won pre-telecast awards, setting the stage for the night’s biggest face-off during the evening ceremony.
News of the death of Mr. Bryant, the basketball superstar, as well as the Grammy organization’s bitter fight with suspended Chief Executive Deborah Dugan loomed over the proceedings. “Tonight is for Kobe,” Lizzo said during her opening number.
Mr. Bryant, who had played for the Los Angeles Lakers; his 13-year-old daughter and seven others died in a helicopter crash Sunday. Fans gathered at the Staples Center, the location of the televised Grammys, and the arena where Mr. Bryant’s former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, play. The awards ceremony was hosted by 15-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys, who joined Boyz II Men in a tribute to Mr. Bryant with a rendition of the R&B group’s cover of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” “We’re all feeling crazy sadness right now,” Ms. Keys said.
Before the Grammy organization’s dispute with Ms. Dugan became public 10 days ago, the large number of nominations won by music’s new guard was seen as a sign that the Recording Academy, which runs the show, was starting to address concerns about a lack of diversity and inclusion that have dogged it for years.
Write to Neil Shah at firstname.lastname@example.org
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