Five stories from the 2024 Grammys - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
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The 66th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony, which aired last night on CBS, was a mixed bag filled with standout performances and deserved winners, yet remained predictably rooted in an often-retrograde mindset playing to nostalgic tendencies.

Nearly all of the show’s highlights stemmed from women artists, including a show-stopping SZA performance of “Kill Bill” and “Snooze” and a poignant Annie Lennox cover of “Nothing Compares to U” in tribute to Sinead O’Connor. Stevie Wonder also honored the loss of his former duet partner Tony Bennett by singing “For Once in My Life” and “The Best is Yet to Come.” In an effort to honor a more eclectic range of albums, The Grammys added some new categories this year such as Best African Album, won by breakout star Tyla, and Best Alternative Jazz Album, awarded to legendary bassist Meshell Ndegeocello.

Still, the nominees in categories such as Best Alternative Album were almost entirely made up of older acts. Respect for musical trailblazers is undoubtedly necessary, but glaring blindspots regarding contemporary artists remain a hallmark of the ceremony. Some of the night’s best performances were nonetheless reminders of the ceremony’s ability deliver great moments; many of those stand out artists have been heard on WXPN throughout the year. Here are four of the night’s best moments and a reflection on the show’s mix of orthodoxy and progress.

Big Wins for Boygenius

The singer-songwriter supergroup trio boygenius has dealt with unexpected rock stardom on their own terms, receiving both critical acclaim and huge popularity with young listeners. Julien Baker, Lucy Daucus, and Phoebe Bridgers are all beloved and talented musicians on their own, but their second project as a group, the record, brought them even more widespread popularity — including sold-out shows at the Mann Center and Madison Square Garden. The band just announced an indefinite but understandable hiatus and also has a local connection: until just recently, Daucus lived in Philly. Last night, Bridgers was the most decorated musician of the evening, walking away with four wins. Boygenius collected trophies for Best Alternative Album, as well as Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance for the track “Not Strong Enough.” “Ghost in the Machine”, a duet with the R&B superstar SZA, earned Bridgers a fourth award: Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. The band made headlines for statements about former Grammys president Neil Portnow, who had responded to criticisms regarding a lack of women nominees by saying “women who have the creativity in their hearts and souls… [need] to step up.” Bridgers reacted to Portnow’s misogynistic comments and sexual assault allegations by replying “to him I’d like to say: I know you’re not dead yet, but when you are, I hope you rot in piss.”

BOYGENIUS Wins Best Rock Performance For 'NOT STRONG ENOUGH' | 2024 GRAMMYs Acceptance Speech

WXPN Artist to Watch Laufey Gets Her First Grammy

In November of last year, we named the Chinese/Icelandic songstress Laufey an Artist to Watch. The Grammys followed in the footsteps of WXPN last night, awarding her 2023 release Bewitched Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album over Bruce Springsteen and the a capella group Pentatonix. The genre designation may sound both broad and specific but it sort of works as a description of Laufey’s sound, which WXPN writer Izabella Patrizio called a “unique blend of atmospheric lo-fi jazz-pop.” While studying at the Berklee School of Music, she immersed herself in jazz and classical music and strengthened her skills as an accomplished pianist and cellist. Bewitched represented all of Laufey’s varied talents and influences, bridging bossa nova with contemporary lyrics about her lovesick life experiences on songs such as “From the Start” (watch Laufey perform it at the Grammys below). In November, Laufey sold out Philly’s TLA and returns to the city in May for another sold-out show – this time at the much larger Met.

A Grammy First For Joni Mitchell

Folk icon Joni Mitchell looked truly regal during her first-ever Grammys performance. Sitting in a throne-like chair as she held her cane, the legend sang “Both Sides, Now” from her 1969 album Clouds. Several musicians accompanied her including frequent collaborator Brandi Carlile, wizardly multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier, Canadian folk singer Allison Russell, fiddler group SistaStrings, guitarist Blake Mills, and indie-pop group Lucius. Mitchell also won Best Folk Album for the live-album version of her 2022 Newport Folk Festival performance, Joni Mitchell at Newport. It was her 10th Grammy win, coming just after her recent announcement of the returning “Joni Jam” at the Hollywood Bowl this October. Watch a video of her performing the classic “A Case of You” at Newport here.

Joni Mitchell Wins Best Folk Album | 2024 GRAMMYs

Tracy Chapman Returns to the Stage with a Standing Ovation

In the most moving musical performance of the night, the legendary but elusive Tracy Chapman took the stage to perform her iconic hit “Fast Car.” She was joined by country superstar Luke Combs, whose cover of the song was a smash success last year. Chapman has not toured since 2009 but sounded incredible on stage, playing acoustic guitar with a huge smile as she received a reverential look from Combs. His version was nominated for a Grammy last night and peaked at the number 2 spot on the Hot 100 Chart. Before the performance, he noted the song “was my favorite song before I even knew what a favorite song was. It can be felt and related to by all kinds of people around the world.” In 1989, Chapman earned the best female pop vocal performance award for the track, which flew to the top of the streaming charts after last night’s performance. Watch the performance here.

Huge wins for women artists – and a long way to go

In a sign of slow-moving but powerful progress, the Grammy’s four biggest awards went to women last night. Record of the Year was awarded to first-time winner Miley Cyrus for “Flowers.” R&B powerhouse Victoria Monet collected the Best New Artist statue. Billie Eilish earned Song of the Year for the Barbie soundtrack single “What Am I Made Of?” Finally, Album of the Year was presented to Taylor Swift, winning for her Midnights album. That marks her fourth album of the year win – an all-time record for a single artist. The prize is another achievement for a global superstar who reached new levels of popularity with last year’s inescapable Eras tour and has also battled endless misogyny including recent AI attacks, angry NFL fans, and MAGA conspiracists.

The list of winners represented a positive step towards highlighting the incredible dominance of women in pop music, but the Grammys continue to miss the mark in myriad ways. Many predicted SZA would win album of the year for SOS, her chart-topping fusion of pop, soul, and rap. Instead, this boundary-breaking black woman once again lost to a white pop star. While collecting the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, Jay-Z called out the awards committee saying “We want y’all to get it right. At least getting close to right.” He noted that Beyonce has won more Grammys than any other artist yet has shockingly never been awarded album of the year. Last night’s awards ceremony certainly had its highlights but tellingly even many of its standout performances were rooted in the past. The Grammys remain an institution that always produces entertaining performances, but remains far from an accurate representation of the modern musical landscape.

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