The best (and worst) moments from the 2020 Grammy Awards
Best: Alicia Keys honors Kobe Bryant
Music’s biggest night is always full of highs and lows, but after news broke earlier in the day that Lakers legend Kobe Bryant had suddenly died in a helicopter crash alongside his daughter, it left many wondering how the ceremony taking place in L.A.'s Staples Center would go off. It's odd to call what followed a "best" moment when the reason behind it was so tragic, but host Alicia Keys touched on the tragedy in the show’s opening moments, saying, “We’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.” After a heartfelt speech, Keys brought Boyz II Men out for an a capella tribute, singing their song “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.” They cut to the sight of Bryant’s retired jersey numbers “8” and “24” hanging side by side, reminding us that Bryant’s legacy and impact will live on.
Best: Truth doesn’t hurt — Lizzo rocks
It’s impossible not to smile while watching Lizzo do her thing, so there was no better way to kick off a night steeped in tragedy than with a joyous performance from the Grammy Award winner. “Tonight is for Kobe,” she proclaimed before launching into two of her biggest hits, “Because I Love You” and “Truth Hurts.” Lizzo slayed her way through several wardrobe changes, including a neon light-up, sheer jumpsuit, and a knockout flute solo. Lizzo is 100% the star of her show, but she also made space for an incredible orchestra and some killer backup dancers who even delivered ballet moves in full-on tutus. Talk being about on point.
Worst: Alicia Keys is inadvertently ironic
Alicia Keys’ piano monologues have a certain charm to them, but it was profoundly ironic to hear her sing “keep the speeches short” in what felt like a 10-minute monologue that would never end. Read the room.
Best: Prince tribute
In advance of their "Let’s Go Crazy: The Grammy Salute to Prince" concert later this month, the Grammys included an on-air tribute to The Purple One from Usher, frequent Prince collaborator Sheila E, and FKA twigs. With a medley of hits that included “Little Red Corvette,” “When Doves Cry,” and “Kiss,” the trio nailed a show-stopping moment full of plenty of the showmanship Prince was known for. Not only were the vocals stellar, but Usher and backup dancers delivered some slick moves, only enhanced by Usher’s Prince-worthy ensemble and FKA twigs’ incredible athleticism displayed in her pole dancing. Usher even substituted HBO series Insecure for Dynasty in the “Kiss” lyrics, a cherry on top of this sundae. This is one where we’d have been fine with some extra time.
Worst: Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani are not #goals
People love Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton as a couple, but the two were not #couplegoals while taking to the Grammys stage to perform “Nobody But You.” They were both off-key throughout, and Stefani inexplicably wore a dress that felt vaguely culturally appropriative with its iconography and headdress (this wouldn’t be the first time for her). Perhaps they should just stick to flirting on The Voice and releasing charming holiday singles?
Best: Tyler, the Creator’s unexpectedly sweet acceptance speech
Tyler, the Creator is known for his out-of-the-box, genre-defying (and often edgy) music, but his acceptance speech for Best Rap Album was as earnest as you can get. He brought his teary-eyed mom up alongside him, introducing her and kicking off his speech by saying, “To my mother, you did a great job raising this guy.” He also had a heartfelt message for Pharrell Williams. “I really want to thank Pharrell Williams,” he said. “That man has allowed me to be comfortable with myself and has opened up doors you cannot imagine.” Tyler, the Creator? More like Tyler, the Wonderfully Sentimental.
Worst: Camila Cabello fake-out
The Grammys kept teasing Camila Cabello’s performance by saying she’d be singing to “a man she truly loved.” Those hungry for gossip might have expected it was going to be a declaration of love to Shawn Mendes, who Cabello has hinted her album Romance is largely about. Cabello instead sang “First Man” to her father, a moment that felt more forced than sentimental, especially after the icky “tune-in” ploy suggesting it would be about Mendes. Though as it went on, it was hard to resist the pure love between her and her dad. No shade to Cabello's performance or the genuine emotion there, but we really question the way this was teased and presented.
Best: Demi Lovato makes a powerful return
Demi Lovato made an incredibly moving return to public performance with the debut of her new single “Anyone,” which she wrote only days before her 2018 overdose. So overcome by emotion, Lovato had to start the song over, and the intense weight of the song was palpable in her voice throughout. It’s heartbreaking lyrics, “Nobody’s listening to me,” particularly in the context of when she wrote these words, sunk in as Lovato delivered one of the most emotional performances of the night that earned her a standing ovation. Her poise and grace under fire were unrivaled in a night full of emotional moments. Welcome back, Demi. We hope you’re here to stay.
Worst: Aerosmith is less dream on, more nightmare
Following their Friday night MusiCares tribute, Aerosmith hit the Grammys stage with Run-D.M.C. to perform “Livin' on the Edge” and “Walk This Way.” The whole performance was a chaotic mess that had us wishing we could walk the other way. There were some highlights — another appearance of Kobe Bryant’s jersey, Steven Tyler yelling, “Lizzo, I f---ing love you — but on the whole, the tribute was just a sad reminder of the band’s former glory. It was so bad it was almost good — or at least, offered up a much needed laugh.
Best: Nipsey Hussle tribute
Going into the night, there was much expectation that Nipsey Hussle’s tribute would be one of the most emotional moments of the night. Even in the midst of a fresh tragedy, that held true with a wide range of entertainers — including Ava DuVernay, Meek Mill, DJ Khaled, and John Legend — taking to the stage to honor the rapper who was fatally shot in spring 2019. The additions of video footage of Hussle rapping, a gospel choir, and a final side-by-side shot of Hussle and Kobe Bryant combined to make the tribute both uplifting and utterly heartbreaking.
Best: Smokey Robinson and Little Big Town make us feel some kind of way
When Smokey Robinson and Little Big Town hit the Grammys stage to present Song of the Year, they brought an unexpected performance of the Temptations’ classic “My Girl.” Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild kicked it off with a riff of “I’ve got sunshine,” before Robinson took a lick and then the quartet plus Robinson joined in stunning harmony. It’s funny to say one of the night’s most memorable performances was a short riff on a 56-year-old song, but it’s true. On an epically metaphorically cloudy day, it brought a little sunshine to all of our lives.
Worst: All the f---ing bleeps
On average, every awards show has at least one or two moments that get bleeped out when whatever the presenter or winner says is too explicit for FCC standards. But the 2020 Grammy Awards felt like they were trying to set a record. At a certain point, they should’ve just installed a counter for all the f-bombs in the bottom corner of the screen. Either artists need to stop swearing or we should loosen these restrictions. After all, we give a word far more power by making it taboo, so like, wtf Grammys?
Best: 'I Sing the Body Electric'
Retiring executive producer Ken Erhlich opted for a special musical performance rather than any direct tribute to his work. It came in the form of “I Sing the Body Electric” from 1980 musical movie Fame, and it featured many groundbreaking Grammy performers, including Camila Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Gary Clark Jr., Ben Platt, Common, and members of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy. Ballet dancer Misty Copeland made her Grammy debut, making a strong final argument for the dancers being the true heroes in the night’s musical performances. It was a perfect tribute to multiple musical art forms and an ideal capper for the night.