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.”