From behind-the-scenes moments at Madison Square Garden to the weekend's biggest parties
With a ceremony that lasted almost three-and-a-half hours, the 2018 Grammys weren’t exactly light on programming. But with so much happening on stage, there were plenty of off-stage moments that didn’t make it to the final broadcast, from celebrity interactions on the floor to all the star-studded events leading up to Sunday’s telecast. Here’s a rundown of the moments you didn’t see on screen:
1. The pre-show soundtrack was solid. As audience members and celebs filed into Madison Square Garden, they were greeted by a playlist of songs by this year’s Grammy-nominated artists, including big hits (Little Big Town’s “Better Man,” Imagine Dragons’ “Thunder”) and deep album cuts (Kesha’s “Rainbow,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Go High”). Once the show started, producers filled commercial breaks with archival footage of old Grammys performances, including Rihanna and Bruno Mars’ Bob Marley tribute from 2013, and Kendrick Lamar’s powerful 2016 set.
2. The pit crew got an early start. Ever wish you could be within arms’ reach of your favorite stars in the Grammys’ audience pits? Well, be prepared for an exhausting night — producers started filling up the two standing-room-only zones about 45 minutes before the show started. Considering the telecast stretched well past the three-hour mark, that’s a long time to stay on your feet in an enclosed space.
3. A-listers schmoozed all night. At music awards shows, the biggest stars tend to slip into their seats just before the start of the ceremonies. But at this year’s Grammys, some artists took their places with 20-30 minutes to spare, and killed time by mingling with other stars. Best New Artist nominee Khalid said hello to Childish Gambino — both were easy to spot thanks to their ultra-pale pink and white suits, respectively — while Cardi B snapped selfies and took in a receiving line that included DJ Khaled and Janelle Monáe. During the commercial breaks, Chrissy Teigen and John Legend said hi to JAY-Z and Beyoncé, the Chainsmokers’ Drew Taggart congratulated Best New Artist winner Alessia Cara on her win, and Lorde visited with Sam Smith, Camila Cabello, and Julia Michaels.
4. Ken Ehrlich had a special message. Moments before the show’s kick-off, executive producer Ken Ehrlich popped up on stage for a little housekeeping. In addition to the usual reminder to keep acceptance speeches short, he also promised the audience that the evening’s programming would speak to the times. “This show in so many ways reflects what’s going on in the world,” he said. “You’re going to be proud to be a part of an industry that is so reflective … that does care.”
5. Kendrick Lamar brought the heat — literally. The rapper’s stunning opening number was just as impressive onscreen as it was IRL. His medley of DAMN. tracks and guest verses was a multi-sensory experience inside MSG thanks to some choice pyrotechnics: Audience members could actually feel the warmth whenever flames shot out of the stage.
6. Performing stars got help from teleprompters. James Corden and the presenters weren’t the only ones that needed a teleprompter to remember their lines — so did many of the artists performing. Sam Smith, Patti LuPone, Chris Stapleton, and Emmylou Harris were just some of the names that had the lyrics to their songs scrolling on a screen near the back of the arena, just in case they forgot a line.
7. There was a lot of waiting around. The Grammys’ stage is set up in two parts: While an artist performs on one side, the production crew is setting up or tearing down the other side for the next performer. As a result, it was common to catch performers just… hanging out. Luis Fonsi’s backup dancers ran through their choreography just before their “Despacito” performance, while Bruno Mars and his band goofed around behind the partition before launching into “Finesse.” Anybody performing on the smaller b-stage in the middle of the room was usually in place well before the camera cut to them, which meant the whole arena got to watch Donald Glover watch the “Despacito” performance. (He seemed moderately into it — though definitely not as excited about it as Chrissy Teigen, who danced and fist-pumped a few rows from the front.)
8. DJ Khaled had personal cheerleaders. If DJ Khaled had somehow lost his nerve during his performance of “Wild Thoughts” with Rihanna and Bryson Tiller, he wouldn’t have had to look far for moral support: Khaled’s fiancée, Nicole Tuck, bounced their one-year-old son, Asahd, in her arms while dancing along in the aisles. (Not that Khaled needed any help — within seconds of kicking off the song, he had almost the entire floor on its feet.)
9. Announcers gave somber instructions. Awards shows are often full of reminders for the audience to clap whenever the program returns from a commercial break. At this year’s Grammys, the opposite occurred. Before Maren Morris, Eric Church, and Brothers Osborne performed a cover of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” to honor the victims of last year’s Las Vegas shooting, an announcer asked attendees to hold their introductory applause given the heavy, mournful tone of the performance. An audible wave of recognition and awwwws swept the room when the crowd first recognized the cover, and it wasn’t uncommon to hear audience members sniffling during the emotional tribute.
10. Celebrities took a phone break during U2. In addition to performing with Kendrick Lamar and presenting Album of the Year, U2 also played “Get Out of Your Own Way” from their most recent album, Songs of Experience. Because the performance was pre-taped on a barge in New York Harbor, it only played on screens inside Madison Square Garden, prompting a number of VIPs to spend time on their phones. That more or less happened during every commercial break, but because the lights on the floor were turned off for the performance, the glowing screens were easy to spot in the arena. Busted!
11.Pre- and post-performance huddles. Before taking the stage with Cyndi Lauper, Bebe Rexha, Andra Day, Camila Cabello, and Julia Michaels to deliver a powerful performance of her song “Praying,” Kesha huddled with members of her band behind the stage barrier for what looked like either a pre-show prayer or group pep talk. After the song’s completion, her bandmates and members of her backing chorus cheered and hugged and hollered as they left the stage. Their celebrations didn’t get picked up by the telecast mics, but their unamplified voices were hard to miss inside the arena — they almost drowned out part of Cabello’s U2 introduction.
12. James Corden snuck in family time. Because the Grammys took place in New York instead of Los Angeles, James Corden’s wife and three kids stayed behind on the West Coast. “We just had a daughter and it feels a little soon to try and travel as a family,” he told People earlier this month. To make up for his time away, he FaceTimed with his children between segments, a backstage source tells EW.
13. Political moments got the strongest reactions. The biggest roars of the night weren’t for the performances or the awards — they were for references to the news cycle. First, Hillary Clinton’s surprise appearance during a pre-taped segment about celebrities “auditioning” to narrate the audiobook version of Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury got the loudest applause of the entire evening. Later, Logic fired back at Donald Trump’s alleged comments about “s—hole” countries by closing out a performance of his suicide-prevention anthem “1-800-273-8255” with this mic drop: “To all the beautiful countries filled with culture, diversity, and thousands of years of history, you are not s—holes.”
14. Jack Antonoff and Lorde got Grammy week started. Sunday’s ceremony was only a small part of the Grammys action — label parties and showcases and black-tie galas in the days leading up to the show had just as much going on. For the fourth annual Ally Coalition Talent Show, which took place on the Wednesday before the Grammys and raised money to support homeless LGBTQ youth, Antonoff recruited famous musician pals and comedians for a night of intimate performances. He and Lorde covered Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Run Away With Me,” Kacey Musgraves previewed tracks from her upcoming Golden Hour LP, and Bleachers paid tribute to the late Cranberries frontwoman Dolores O’Riordan with a cover of the Irish band’s hit “Dreams.” Read EW’s full recap of the event here.
15. Cardi B made early money moves. At the Warner Music Group pre-Grammy party on Thursday, the breakout MC performed a quick set that included her chart-topping hit “Bodak Yellow” — along with some endearing stage banter. “Everybody look rich so I’mma watch what I say,” she joked with the well-dressed crowd, which included Rita Ora, Kelly Clarkson, Bebe Rexha, Janelle Monáe, and Troye Sivan. Cardi also met up with one of her idols, Missy Elliott.
16. Stevie Nicks remembered Tom Petty. Lorde, Haim, Little Big Town, and more paid tribute to Fleetwood Mac during Friday’s MusiCares Person of the Year benefit, but Stevie Nicks used part of her speech before the band’s performance to pay tribute to someone else: Tom Petty. “The loss of Tom Petty has just about broken my heart,” she said. “He was not only a good man to go ‘down the river’ with, as Johnny Cash said, but he was a great father and a great friend. He was one of my best friends. My heart will never get over this.” Read EW’s full recap of the event here.
17. UMG hosted a very lit brunch. “It’s always fun to do a little Latin music at 11 in the morning,” Luis Fonsi told those assembled at Lucian Grainge’s Universal Music Group showcase on Saturday before launching into his omnipresent hit “Despacito.” Fonsi’s statement wasn’t totally accurate — he kicked off the event’s music portion at around 12:45 p.m. — but his point stood all the same. But the assembled acts made the most of the early call time, from Julia Michaels’ ebullient performances of “Uh Huh” and “Issues” to Logic’s unstoppable renditions of “Everybody” and “1-800-273-8255.” The afternoon’s most impressive moment, however, came when Kacey Musgraves busted out more Golden Hour tunes, including a plaintive ballad titled “Space Cowboy.”
18. JAY-Z got a trophy after all. Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy gala on Saturday featured performances worthy of the actual telecast: Alicia Keys delivered a career-spanning medley of JAY-Z hits to honor the rapper, who received the Grammy Salute to Industry Icons award. (It’s the only award he received that weekend, as JAY-Z ultimately lost in all eight of the categories he was nominated for this year.) Later in the show, Jennifer Hudson paid tribute to Aretha Franklin, who has hand-picked Hudson to play her in the Queen of Soul’s in-the-works biopic, according to Davis. The evening also proved to be a warm-up stage for Sunday’s main event: Luis Fonsi, Ben Platt, Logic, and Khalid all performed during the gala ahead of their Grammys appearances. Read EW’s full recap of the event here.
19. Erykah Badu kept the night going. Just as Grammy Week starts well before the main awards show, it also doesn’t end when the broadcast is over. At the Universal Music Group after-party gathering in Tribeca, Erykah Badu wore a towering top hat while DJing for a laid-back crowd that included Lorde, Dua Lipa, Eve, and Trevor Noah.