On Sunday night, the Grammy Awards culminated, predictably enough, in adding to Taylor Swift’s growing list of chart records and industry milestones. Previously, she was the fourth artist in Grammy history to win Album of the Year three times (for 2008’s Fearless, 2014’s 1989, and 2020’s Folklore), alongside Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra, and Stevie Wonder. Now, after taking another Album of the Year for Midnights, she is the only artist in history to win music’s most coveted award four times.
Earlier in her career, Swift had been skewered for seeming surprised to win awards so often that naysayers thought it was insincere. However, her surprise at the Album of the Year win on Sunday appeared to be legit. She used her acceptance speech for Best Pop Vocal Album to reveal that she’s releasing a new album, The Tortured Poet’s Department, in April (she did the same thing at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards to announce Midnights).
Swift wasn’t the only artist who used their Grammys platform to plug new music. Minutes after Kacey Musgraves presented the Best Country Album, CBS aired a commercial featuring a snippet of a new Musgraves song, singing the words “My Saturn has returned,” to announce her forthcoming fifth album. SZA also premiered a new song, called “Saturn,” as part of a 3-minute Mastercard commercial.
Earlier in the day, Midnights producer Jack Antonoff made history of his own. He became the second person to win Producer of the Year, Non-Classical three times in a row, matching Babyface’s run from 1996 to 1998. Del Rey was also up for three awards, including Album of the Year, and lost all of them, bringing her Grammy career total to 11 nominations and zero wins.
When Celine Dion, making a rare public appearance since being diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder in 2022, announced the Album of the Year. Swift, who excitedly sang along with Dion’s hit “The Power of Love” while the Canadian diva took the stage, didn’t visibly acknowledge the presenter when accepting the award, stirring online outrage that Swift had “snubbed” Dion. Later in the night, a photo of Swift and Dion smiling together was posted online, prompting accusations of calculated damage control.
After her win was announced, Swift insisted on bringing her friend Lana Del Rey, another Album of the Year nominee and the only guest artist on Midnights, up to the stage. As Swift made her speech, Del Rey stood quietly off to the side, while Swift showered her with compliments during her speech. “Lana Del Rey, who is hiding, but I think so many female artists would not be where they are and would not have the inspiration they have if it weren’t for the work she’s done,” Swift said. “I think she’s a legacy artist, a legend in her prime right now, I’m so lucky to be your friend.”
This year’s “big four” general field awards (Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best New Artist) were dominated by women on Sunday like never before. Jon Batiste was the only man nominated for Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year. Best New Artist was closer to a 50/50 gender balance four male artists nominated. This state of affairs was a sharp contrast to male-dominated Grammys of the 20th century, although as recently as 2013, only male artists were nominated for Album of the Year.
In addition to Swift’s historic victory, Victoria Monet won Best New Artist, Billie Eilish won Song of the Year, and Miley Cyrus won Record of the Year. This was only the third time that women won all four general awards. The first time was Billie Eilish’s 2020 sweep, followed a year later when Eilish, Swift, H.E.R. and Megan Thee Stallion took home the major awards. Women won just about every competitive Grammy given out during the CBS broadcast, although some brought male collaborators onstage (Swift with Antonoff, Eilish with her brother Finneas O’Connell). It would be facile to call 2024 “the year of the woman,” but it certainly seems like we’re in a decade of women dominating the Grammys. “Yes, this year all five nominees are women,” Mariah Carey noted with delight, hitting a whistle note on the last word, as she presented Best Pop Performance.
Winners and Losers
The last man standing in the major categories, Jon Batiste, came up empty on Sunday. His six nominations this year felt like the Recording Academy simply keeping Batiste in the club after winning five Grammys, including an Album of the Year upset, in 2022. Then and now, Batiste was by far the lowest-selling nominee for the award. World Music Radio, a hokey concept album about “an interstellar traveler griot named Billy Bob Bo Bob,” barely made a blip in the world outside Recording Academy ballots, peaking at No. 104 on the Billboard 200 (every other Album of the Year nominee debuted in the chart’s top 20).
The #Barbenheimer phenomenon that ruled the box office last summer also thrived at the Grammys. Ludwig Goransson won Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media for Oppenheimer. Although SZA was the most nominated artist of the night with nine nods, Barbie: The Album and songs on the soundtrack were up for a whopping 12 awards – for perspective, that’s the same number of awards Michael Jackson was nominated for in 1984 after Thriller. The Barbie team took home three awards in all, including Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media as well as two awards for Eilish’s Oscar favorite “What Was I Made For?”
The show’s most nominated artist, SZA, took home three awards and provided an assist to the biggest winner of the night, Phoebe Bridgers, who collected four Grammys in total. Bridgers won three awards with Boygenius, as well as Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for her SZA collaboration “Ghost in the Machine.” Killer Mike and Victoria Monet were the only other artists to win three Grammys on Sunday.
This year’s Grammys largely stuck to a formula that’s worked in recent years, with Trevor Noah hosting for the fourth consecutive time. It was also the Grammys’ 21st year at the Crypto.com Arena (formerly known as the Staples Center), which Noah quipped was “the only thing connected to crypto that’s not in prison yet.” The Recording Academy, however, added three new categories to this year’s festivities. Kylie Minogue won the first Best Pop Dance Recording for “Padam Padam,” her first Grammy in 20 years. Meshell Ndegeocello won the first Best Alternative Jazz Album award. South African singer Tyla won the first Best African Music Performance for “Water,” also her first Grammy ever.
Monet, who’d previously been nominated for her songwriting work for Ariana Grande and Chloe x Halle, became a Grammy winner with her Best New Artist and Best R&B Album win, while Lainey Wilson won her first Grammy for Best Country Album. Both Monet and Wilson, a self-proclaimed “fifth-generation farmer’s daughter,” gave acceptance speeches focused on metaphors of “planting seeds,” which flowered into their Grammy night success only after years of putting in hard work every day. Monet’s two-year-old daughter Hazel had become the youngest Grammy nominee ever for her appearance on Monet’s “Hollywood,” but the song lost Best Traditional R&B Performance to PJ Morton.
In general, it was a great night for newer artists. Boygenius, Lil Durk, Zach Bryan, Coco Jones, Fred Again.., and Gaby Moreno all won their first Grammys, often beating out established artists. Even someone as seasoned as Miley Cyrus, a multi-platinum star since 2007 and a Grammy nominee since 2015, got caught up in the excitement of joining the club, shouting “I just won my first Grammy!” in the middle of her performance of “Flowers.”
The first mild controversy of the day occurred when Killer Mike won Best Rap Song, but the Recording Academy’s official social media accounts mistakenly announced that the award had gone to Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice for “Barbie World.” The error was particularly unfortunate for Minaj, who has never won a Grammy despite 12 nominations throughout her career, which had become a talking point in her recent feud with Grammy-winner Megan Thee Stallion. Brian McKnight and Snoop Dogg have each been nominated for 17 Grammys with no wins, the current record. Norwegian engineer and producer Morten Lindberg was nominated for 20 Grammys before winning his first in 2020.
Killer Mike won all three awards he was nominated for in quick succession during the Premiere Ceremony. That afternoon event, hosted this year by songwriter Justin Tranter, was held at L.A.’s Peacock Theater, where most of the awards were handed out before the primetime broadcast. Each of the Run the Jewels rapper’s three acceptance speeches was a little more animated than the last as he built momentum. “You cannot tell me that you get too old, you can’t tell me it’s too late, you can’t tell me. Dreams come true!” Killer Ike yelled while accepting Best Rap Album for Michael alongside one of the album’s producers, Three 6 Mafia’s DJ Paul. “It is a sweep!” Within minutes, his album’s title was changed to Michael (Rap Album of the Year) on Spotify.
Hours after his trio of Grammy wins, however, Killer Mike was spotted in handcuffs, being walked out of the Crypto.com Arena by police officers. TMZ later reported that the Run the Jewels rapper was booked on a misdemeanor battery charge after an alleged altercation with a security guard at the event.
Accepting a lifetime achievement recognition, the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, Jay-Z gave a pointed speech. At times, the Brooklyn rap icon chided the Recording Academy for the contradiction of his wife, Beyonce, being the most awarded woman in Grammy history without ever winning Album of the Year. He also mentioned DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince winning the first rap Grammy in 1989, but boycotting the ceremony because the award wasn’t televised. Jay-Z didn’t explicitly point out, but was perhaps aware, that none of the competitive rap awards were being televised this year, and that he was the only rapper receiving an award during the broadcast.
Lizzo, who’s endured a torrent of bad publicity since three dancers filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against her last August, appeared onstage in high spirits to present Best R&B Song to SZA for “Snooze.” “Lizzo and I have been friends since 2013,” SZA said in her acceptance speech. “To be on this stage with her is so amazing, I’m so grateful.”
Dua Lipa opened the Grammys this year in style with a tightly choreographed medley of her 2023 singles “Dance the Night” and “Houdini” and an as-yet-unreleased new song, “Training Season.”
The biggest new feature of the 2024 Grammys telecast was a series of slickly produced video packages featuring animated graphics interviews with artists that preceded their performances, including Cyrus, SZA, Luke Combs and Travis Scott.
Last year, country star Luke Combs made his Grammy debut with a performance of “Going, Going, Gone,” a song that he said was inspired by Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” A couple of months later, Combs released a cover of “Fast Car,” which quickly became the biggest hit of his career, as well as the first #1 country song written by a Black woman. In her first public appearance in years, Chapman joined Combs to sing “Fast Car” together for the first time. During Chapman’s verses, Combs grinned and mouthed along with her lyrics, while artists like Swift and Jelly Roll stood up and sang along in the audience, the most pure feel-good moment of the night. Chapman had previously performed “Fast Car” solo at the 1989 Grammys, the year she won three awards including Best New Artist.
In addition to Chapman, two superstars made splashy comebacks on Sunday night. Billy Joel performed “Turn the Lights Back On,” his first new single in decades. A few minutes later, he returned to close out the show with an uptempo but anticlimactic oldie, 1980’s “You May Be Right.” Joni Mitchell, performing at the Grammys for the first time, was a far more momentous presence. The 80-year-old legend performed her classic “Both Sides Now” with a large supporting cast that included Blake Mills, Lucius, and Allison Russell. Mitchell won Best Folk Album on Sunday, her 10th Grammy, for Joni Mitchell At Newport, a recording of a 2022 concert that had been her first public performance in over seven years.
Cyrus’s TV debut of her megahit “Flowers” included a playful but heartfelt nod to Tina Turner, who she called one of her idols in the video intro, gripping her mic stand like Turner in a “Proud Mary”-style uptempo outro. An hour later, however, Fantasia Barrino gave a truly jaw-dropping “Proud Mary” performance during the In Memoriam segment, which also featured Stevie Wonder performing a virtual duet with the late Tony Bennett.
Annie Lennox sang “Nothing Compares 2 U” in tribute to Sinead O’Connor. Honoring O’Connor’s history of seizing the moment on big stages to take a stand, as well as O’Connor’s support for Palestine, Lennox proclaimed “Artists for ceasefire, peace in the world!” at the end of the song. On a night when even the most unscripted remarks felt predictable and inconsequential, it was a rare moment when it felt like someone finally spoke from the heart, and said something about the world beyond the glitz and glamor of an awards show red carpet.