Las Vegas (AFP) – The star-studded Grammys kicked off Sunday with showstopping performances as pop phenom Olivia Rodrigo and jazzman Jon Batiste jumped out of the gate with a handful of awards each.
The US gambling capital is hosting the ceremony for the first time ever, after organizers postponed the original January 31 event over a surge in Covid-19 cases and then moved it out of Los Angeles.
Silk Sonic performed to open the show before winning the prestigious prize for Song of the Year, which celebrates songwriting, for their single “Leave The Door Open.”
The win means Rodrigo can no longer sweep the top four categories in one night, which would have made her only the third artist to do so after Billie Eilish did in 2020 and Christopher Cross in 1981.
But the 19-year-old, who arrived on the carpet in cleavage-baring Vivienne Westwood, won her first Grammys ever — two of them, the coveted Best New Artist prize and the award for Best Pop Solo Performance for “drivers license.”
She performed that hit in a full 90s get-up of fishnets, platform boots and a white slip dress with tiered ruffle skirt, staged in a white Mercedes on a set made to look like a dark, stormy suburban street.
And Lil Nas X delivered an unabashed celebration of sexuality and queerness, performing a medley of his hits “Dead Right Now,” “Industry Baby” and “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” which is up for awards including Record of the Year.
The timing of the Grammys just one week after Will Smith stunned the world by slapping Chris Rock on stage at the Oscars has added an extra layer of unpredictability to what is already usually one of the edgier nights on the showbiz awards circuit.
Host Trevor Noah used the incident for a gentle zing alluding to Smith’s words to Rock: “We’re going to be keeping people’s names out of our mouths.”
Billie Eilish staged a stormy rendition of “Happier Than Ever” with her brother Finneas on guitar, backed by lightning bolt strikes and a finale of pouring rain.
Eilish wore a shirt in homage to the late Taylor Hawkins, the Foo Fighters drummer who died unexpectedly just over a week ago.
In the pre-show, the Foo Fighters won all three Grammys they were nominated for, but it was unclear if any of the band members would make an appearance at the gala.
Music’s chaos agent Kanye West also did not appear to be in attendance even as he won two Grammys, one of which he shares with Jay Z.
But in the competitive Best Rap Album category, it was Tyler, the Creator who won for “Call Me If You Get Lost.”
Batiste, a 35-year-old born into a prominent New Orleans musical dynasty, made good on his status as the top nominated artist with 11 nods, winning four awards so far including one for Best Music Video.
“I am so grateful for the gifts that God has given me, and the ability to share that for the love of humankind,” Batiste said onstage, wearing a flashy sequined suit that matched his megawatt smile.
He is vying for Record of the Year and Album of the Year, which he’ll compete for against big-budget pop juggernauts including Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber along with Rodrigo and Eilish.
Joni in the house
Silk Sonic wrapped up the Song of the Year award but the rest of the Grammys field for the main prizes is wide open — especially after the Recording Academy expanded those top four categories yet again, this time to include 10 nominees, in a bid to improve diversity.
The expansion resulted in one of the most eclectic crops of Best New Artist nominees in recent memory, even if Rodrigo took the prize.
The Brooklyn-based Pakistani vocalist Arooj Aftab, who won her first Grammy ever for Best Global Music Performance for “Mohabbat,” was also nominated for Best New Artist.
“I am beyond thrilled,” the artist told journalists backstage at the pre-gala ceremony, at which the vast majority of awards are handed out. “It feels great.”
The Recording Academy will also include a special segment on Ukraine, in partnership with Global Citizen, encouraging awareness of the war as well as fundraising efforts for humanitarian aid.
Among Sunday’s presenters was folk icon Joni Mitchell, who was honored at a moving tribute gala Friday.
She won an award for Best Historical Album, appearing onstage in a red leather beret, sunglasses and floral pants, her long blonde hair in pigtails.