The 2023 Grammy Awards was a record-setting show in many aspects, yet lacked any real differentiation from the 2021 and 2020 Grammys. Trevor Noah hosted for the third year in a row with his typical fangirling and name-dropping of notable celebrities, while the Recording Academy’s choices remained blatantly predictable and mainstream. After a debatably too long intro, Bad Bunny’s opening set of exclusively songs in Spanish was truly one of the most well-executed and high-energy performances of the entire night. The two songs he played off of his most recently released album, Un Verano Sin Ti, compelled the entire floor section of celebrities to stand up and dance with the dozens of dancers he brought on stage with him. Few other acts were able to top this opening performance.
The first transgender woman and non-binary individual to win a Grammy in the Best Pop Duo Performance category was awarded to Kim Petras alongside Sam Smith for their hit song Unholy. Their subsequent hellscape-themed performance adorned in plastic devil horns received a plethora of both conservative and Satanist backlash. In a recent interview with TMZ, David Harris, the magister for the Church of Satan, voiced his opinion that Kim and Sam’s performance was “alright” and “nothing particularly special,” while Ted Cruz tweeted live that the performance was “evil”. Another historic achievement was Beyoncé shattering the record for most Grammys with her recent album Renaissance winning best Dance/Electronic Album. In her acceptance speech, she thanked the queer community on the verge of tears for creating and shaping the genre, a tribute that also comes across throughout the album. Although she now possesses a total of 32 Grammys, only one of those awards was won in one of the Big Four categories, with Single Ladies taking 2010 Song of the Year. Fans viewed Beyoncé’s loss in the Album of the Year category to Harry Styles as a major snub from the Recording Academy. Famous screenwriter Spike Lee shared his thoughts on the matter saying, “I’m not the male president of the Bey Hive, but I love and support Beyoncé. Her album is amazing. I know she’s won multiple Grammys, but four times nominated for album of the year and she’s lost every time? There’s a history of great Black artists who come up for these awards and don’t win”. While accepting the Album of the Year award for Harry’s House, Styles stated, “This doesn’t happen to people like me very often. This is so so nice.”
Winner of Song of the Year, one of the most anticipated awards each year, went to Bonnie Raitt for Just Like That. She opened her speech by admitting her surprise, a feeling shared by many audience members, and tributed the award to organ donors, her inspiration for the song. Lizzo took Record of the Year for About Damn Time and shared her journey with creating positive music and preaching body positivity. The Best New Artist award went to jazz sensation Samara Joy, a legitimate rising star instead of the established artists nominated in recent years. Unfortunately, performances from any of the Best New Artist nominees were not included in the show, which was extremely disappointing because these performances have historically benefitted young artists with wider exposure. Kendrick Lamar won Best Rap Album for Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, which was extremely well-deserved.
The In Memoriam montage was both so stunning and heartbreaking. Quavo performed a tribute to his nephew and bandmate Takeoff backed by gospel choir Maverick City Music’s beautiful vocals beside an empty chair holding the late rapper’s chain. Dr. Dre won his own inaugural award, the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, and announced that this year actually marks the 50th anniversary of hip hop. After a long history of not recognizing the influence of rap artist’s careers, the Recording Academy has definitely made efforts towards progress this year. The greatest performance of the night was undeniably the 15-minute hip hop mashup curated by Questlove, even with its questionable transitions to over 2 dozen rappers like Busta Rhymes, Public Enemy, OutKast, Scarface, Missy Elliot, Wutang clan, Queen Latifah, Lil Uzi Vert, and more. Seeing the history of an entire genre played out on stage with a pass of the mic with artists celebrating each other was inspiring. Another notable moment was Steve Lacy’s adorable performance of Bad Habit with Thundercat. Later, Jay-z returned to the Grammy stage for the first time since 2014 alongside DJ Khaled, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and John Legend to perform God Did in front of a table decorated as the last supper. This stacked lineup for the finale performance hyped the crowd, but couldn’t save the Grammys from criticism over their numerous left-field picks, snubs, and disappointing performances of the night.