Backstage at the Grammys: Sam Smith on his big night and Beck's win over Beyonce
With 83 golden gramophones handed out in total, there were more than a few winners at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards. But after snagging four major awards—including Song of the Year and Best New Artist—Sam Smith arguably won the whole thing. Well, Sam Smith and Prince’s side-eye, that is.
Instead of letting the whole “I just won four Grammys” thing get to his head Sunday night, the affable “Stay With Me” singer not only took questions from press, but did it with warmth and enthusiasm—even after a full day of interviews.
When asked to embellish on his Best Pop Vocal album acceptance speech, Smith said, “I struggle every day with trying to be myself. I think everyone does. I had my first manager when I was 12 years old and I had a very warped idea of what I had to do to be heard and to be successful and to be a pop star, so I started losing loads of weight and I started wearing crazy clothes and I used to put loads of makeup on—and by the way, that works for people, and I get that. But for me, it was when I started not caring about that and just being myself and started eating loads of In-n-Out burgers that it started to go well.
“What’s beautiful about this record for me is that I don’t play a character, so I don’t have to work really, really hard to do what I’ve done again,” he continued. “Because it’s me just being me, and I’m living my life, and I just spoke about it through music. And I’m going to do the same again—and if no one likes it, it’s not really in my control.”
Earlier in the night, Smith had thanked his ex-boyfriend for breaking his heart and, in turn, inspiring a Grammy-winning album. He revealed backstage that while he hadn’t gotten the chance to call him yet, he will: “I’ll be seeing him soon so I can let him touch the Grammys. Once.”
Given that Smith’s love for Beyonce is well documented, he was also asked about Beck’s Album of the Year upset. Smith admitted he was “very shocked,” but maintained, “I think that Beck really, really deserved it.”
Another standout moment of the night: Katy Perry’s poignant performance of “By the Grace of God,” which followed a speech from domestic violence activist Brooke Axtell.
Axtell, who spoke ahead of Perry’s performance, called the opportunity an “honor and a privilege,” saying, “My hope is that it will translate to those in abusive relationships seeking help, and those who have been through this feeling the freedom to voice their own experience.”
She was also asked how she felt about Chris Brown being in the crowd during her speech, given his highly publicized 2009 assault on then-girlfriend and 2015 Grammy performer Rihanna. During Axtell’s speech and President Obama’s domestic violence PSA, viewers were quick to point out that both Brown and R. Kelly, who has been accused of sexual assault, were nominated for Grammys.
“I think that we’re at a stage where in the movement for social justice we are in desperate need of having male allies, and part of that is confronting in our own communities, in a powerful and honest way, when violence occurs—and making sure that we are providing interventions for those who have abused and those who have been abused,” Axtell responded. “I actually think that it’s an important part of the conversation. It doesn’t help to stigmatize somebody for their own struggle around this issue, but we have to have accountability, and we have to have a platform to speak the truth.”
National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences president Neil Portnow was asked if Rihanna was told about the Academy’s plans to include a segment on domestic violence. He defended his decision not to discuss the PSA and Axtell’s appearance with Rihanna ahead of time, saying: “Not everybody’s going to be comfortable or agree with the creative content, but that’s what makes it a great show.
“That’s what great about live television… you don’t know what’s going to happen,” Portnow continued. “You want to see it; you want to be a part of it. Whatever happens is part of the culture of the people in the room. We have a lot of creative people. They do all kinds of things that they want to do. That turned out to be a fun moment at the end of the day.”
Here’s some of the other standout quotes from backstage Sunday night:
Lecrae on finding mainstream success as a Christian rapper: “It’s a beautiful thing to be able to stand firm… I’m a testament to hip-hop as well that you can have morals, faith, and we’re not a homogenous group—we’re full of texture and color and I’m glad to represent that.”
Weird Al Yankovic on why he’s never parodied Prince: “If he wants to hang, I’m certainly open for that. I don’t know if there’s any song right now that I’d want to do of Prince’s. In the ’80s, I had half a dozen ideas at the time, but I don’t have anything on my mind right now for Prince. But, you know, he’s like the one guy who’s always said no to parodies, and I’m a big fan of Prince’s. So if he wants to go bowling or something or play Parcheesi with me, I’m certainly open to that. “
Clean Bandit on “Rather Be” and the intersection of classical music and dance music: “Live strings give dance music a human element that allows it to kind of be elevated to a different level. I think that’s definitely the story of ‘Rather Be.’ I think without the classical element, it wouldn’t be the record that it is.”
Juanes on being the first to sing in Spanish at the Grammys in over a decade: “For me, it was such a big honor to sing for you tonight in Spanish, and the Grammys prove that the Academy gives a lot of respect for our culture.”