(February 5, 2024). The 2024 Grammy Awards were filled with surprises, from unexpected appearances (Celine Dion, Wendy & Lisa of Prince & the Revolution fame), to heritage acts giving their first performances (Joni Mitchell), to a family member getting his first Grammy!
Oh, and there was the thing about Taylor Swift using the platform to make a grand announcement about a new forthcoming album while her last collection of all new songs, Midnights, made Grammy history.
All of that and more combined to make this year’s ceremony among the most memorable in recent history — or at least among the most buzz worthy.
Here are the blog’s short takes on the moments that stood out at this year’s awards (one for obvious personal reasons):
Some Family Love
First and foremost, in pre-televised proceedings, my little cousin, David “DLo” Outing, II, won his very first Grammy — for Tye Tribbett’s Best Gospel Album winner All Things New: Live in Orlando, on which the young Mr. Outing, an Orlando native btw, was a producer and songwriter.
Congrats to David! That faith, hard work and dedication are paying off, Cuz!!
An Old “Car” That Still Runs
Luke Combs’ personal tribute to the legendary Tracy Chapman, and then the two of them performing the song they both made a hit 35 years apart — in 2023 and 1988, respectively — sent chills through me.
Combs’ remake of “Fast Car,” based purely on chart numbers, became the bigger hit (No. 2 peak on the Billboard Hot 100, vs. No. 6 for Chapman), while, to many, Chapman’s original will always be the template, the quintessential version.
Yet, seeing them perform it together — as teacher and student, mentor and protégé — somehow made none of that stuff matter.
The Arrest Not Heard Around The World?
You know you’re not on top of your pop culture news game when your 70-something-year-old mother is the one who breaks the news to you about rapper (and socially conscious philosopher) Killer Mike being arrested — allegedly for an altercation, though it appears to be for something that predates the awards show — during the ceremony after winning three Grammys during the pre-telecast, including one for Best Rap Album (Michael).
It was interesting that Killer Mike won all three of the rap categories for which he was nominated, while shutting out Grammy protester Drake in all three.
Just one year after hip-hop celebrated its 50th anniversary (and had the fewest chart-topping albums in a calendar year since 2014), should we take it as a message that all the major rap categories, which Killer Mike swept, were presented in the pre-televised portion of the event and not during the main telecast?
And speaking of “killer,” did anyone else get Carrie vibes from watching Olivia Rodrigo’s performance of her No. 1 song, the heavily nominated (but non-winner) “Vampires”?
Was I in the minority for secretly hoping that the stellar “Vampires” would beat out the competition in the categories for which it was nominated?
Oh, and speaking of that competition and “killing,” SZA killed her ex, his new girlfriend, and her Grammy performance of “Kill Bill.”
No Achy Breaky Heart for Miley
I couldn’t help but smile watching Miley Cyrus (finally) receiving her “Flowers” on this Grammy night. (And yes, Miley, it did seem like you “forgot somebody” when you thanked folks after your second win for Best Record.)
Jay-Z Speaks His Truth
Quote of the night: “Even by your own metrics, that doesn’t make sense.” Jay-Z on the fact that his wife — whom he referred to as “that young lady out there” — has won more Grammys than anyone else in history but never taken one home for Album of the Year.
The silence from the crowd in response to Jay’s comment (as both Beyoncé, from her seat in the audience, and their daughter Blue Ivey, standing next to her dad, looked on nervously) was palpable.
Didn’t the fact that Jay told the “truth” on the same night that Taylor Swift won her record-breaking fourth Album of the Year (breaking a tie she held with the iconic Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder) seem foreshadowing of Taylor’s historic win later that evening?
And didn’t Jay’s monologue (given as he received the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award) also seem reminiscent of another jarring Taylor awards show moment 15 years ago involving Jay’s former duet partner Kanye West (with another perceived Beyoncé snub being at the center of it)?
Despite all of that, Jay-Z provided perhaps the night’s best moment of clarity when he explained his continued “love for the Grammys” while noting that he just wants the Academy to get it right sometimes (or come closer to getting it right), while noting its inherent subjectivity and citing previous hip-hop protests of the institution (including one for not broadcasting any of the rap categories during the telecast, like tonight’s).
A Memorial to Remember
Since I mentioned Stevie Wonder, the 20-minute “In Memoriam” segment he kicked off, which featured Annie Lennox (flanked by The Revolution’s iconic Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman) and Fantasia Barrino, was probably the best, most thoughtfully paced musical eulogy to recently deceased musicians and industry icons in recent Grammy memory.
Wonder began with a virtual video duet with the late Tony Bennett on “For Once In My Life,” a song both men famously covered.
Lennox handled the Prince composition “Nothing Compares 2 U” in a tribute to the late Sinead O’Connor. The arrangement was a blending of the song’s original style recorded by The Family, and O’Connor’s more iconic 1990 hit version.
And Fantasia gave an electric performance of Tina Turner’s famous cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary,” in honor of the rock and roll queen who died last May.
The multi-faceted tribute was punctuated by a rousing joint performance by Jon Batiste, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and gospel great Ann Nesby. I couldn’t have been the only one hoping to hear The Sounds of Blackness’ 1990 classic “Optimistic” upon hearing host Trevor Noah announce Jam & Lewis’ names followed by Nesby’s, nor could I have been the only one so spiritually moved when they performed it!
Women match a record with a seven-year streak
Were you also surprised that R&B artist Victoria Monét took the Best New Artist trophy — just one year after another surprise winner, jazz singer Samara Joy, did the same?
Monét’s win makes it seven years in a row that a woman has won Best New Artist. She follows (in reverse chronological order) Joy, Olivia Rodrigo, Megan Thee Stallion, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa and Alessia Cara. The last male to do it was Chance the Rapper in 2017.
The current seven-year streak for women winning that award is the longest but not the first. Seven consecutive women also took home Best New Artist from 1997 – 2003: LeAnn Rimes, Paula Cole, Lauryn Hill, Christina Aguilera, Shelby Lynne, Alicia Keys, and Norah Jones.
Recent Health Struggles? No Problem
Speaking of iconic women, Joni Mitchell’s performance of her classic “Both Sides Now” was riveting. It was also the first time the folk legend — long considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century — had ever performed at the Grammys.
Speaking of iconic women… Part 2: After so many very recent reports of her struggles with the rare disorder “stiff personal syndrome,” Celine Dion shocked many viewers with her surprise appearance (and she looked damn good!) while presenting the award for Best Album.
As already mentioned, that award went to Taylor Swift for her Midnights album, which also won for Best Pop Album earlier in the proceedings.
Swift and Dion made a quick, inaudible exchange before Taylor took the mic and proceeded to thank all the people who contributed to her success.
The Taylor Show? Nah, but…
Speaking of iconic women… Part 3: Taylor Swift is probably the only artist in history to win Best Album for one recording, while another of her LPs winds up being the year’s best seller — 1989 (Taylor’s Version) — which moved nearly two million units in the last two-and-a-half months of 2023.
Meanwhile, Taylor certainly seized the moment like only she can upon accepting the award for Best Pop Album earlier in the evening. She revealed a two-year “secret” she’d been keeping: the upcoming release of yet another new album, titled The Tortured Poets Department, on April 19.
That “two-year” math isn’t adding up, Taylor. It’s only been 15 months since you gifted Swifties with Midnights. Maybe it just seems like it’s been two years.
As Taylor announced what will likely become her 14th No. 1 album (and her ninth in just the past five years!) — tying her with Jay-Z, btw, barring a miracle from him — an artist who hadn’t released any new material in 30 years — 74-year-old Billy Joel — performed his long-awaited, brand new single, “Turn the Lights Back On.”
The introspective tune marked a return to nostalgic songwriting form for Joel, who recently retired from his “residency” at New York’s Madison Square Garden after having sold out a record 152 shows there.
”Turn The Lights Back On,” a waltzy, throwback ballad, seemed to be the final exclamation on a career that’s spanned nearly six decades and two hundred million records/units sold worldwide.
Keep the Jokes Coming
Speaking of singles, the lighthearted banter between actress Meryl Streep and her famous son in-law/ record producer Marc Ronson, as the two tried to navigate the differences between singles, albums, and records (and their respective Grammy categories), was fun to watch.
And finally, while one or two of his quips landed flat (for example, a late barb he made coming out of a commercial break about the show not being for Grandmas, or something like that), most of Trevor Noah’s jokes resonated favorably with the audience (including celebrities who were his targets).
The highly engaged and energized late-night talk show host/ standup comedian/ political commentator should host the Grammys again next year, and the year after that, and the year after that…
What were your thoughts on this year’s show? Feel free to comment below.
DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, disco, pop, rock and (sometimes) country genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on X (formerly Twitter) at @djrobblog and on Meta’s Threads.
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