The Best, Worst, and Most Shocking Moments of the 2023 Grammys
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 05: (FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Beyoncé accepts the Best Dance/Electronic Music Album award for “Renaissance” onstage during the 65th GRAMMY Awards at Crypto.com Arena on February 05, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by JC Olivera/WireImage) Credit - WireImage—2023 WireImage
The 65th annual Grammy Awards took place Sunday night at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. In the lead-up to the awards ceremony, all eyes were on Beyoncé, who came in with nine nominations, to see if she would break the record for the most awarded artist in Grammy history—and she did. After winning four awards, she now has 32 under her belt, beating the previous record holder, the late conductor Georg Solti, who had held the record since 1997 with 31 wins. Beyoncé made history after being awarded the Grammy for Best Dance/Electronic Album and delivered a tearful speech in which she thanked the queer community and her Uncle Johnny, who heavily inspired her 2022 album Renaissance, as well as her husband Jay-Z and their children. The moment was deflated somewhat by the Recording Academy awarding Album of the Year to Harry Styles for Harry’s House, with many criticizing the institution for failing to award the prize to Beyoncé all four times she’s been up for it.
The night was not just about the big wins and disappointments: there were high-energy performances throughout the show, including from Bad Bunny, who opened the ceremony with “El Apagón” and the merengue/bomba banger “Despues de la Playa” and brought Caribbean rhythm to the Grammys stage. Other highlights from the night included Brandi Carlile, Mary J. Blige, a moving in memoriam tribute that featured Kacey Musgraves, Quavo, Maverick City Music, Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt, and Mick Fleetwood, and a hip-hop anniversary tribute that was a who’s who of the genre (minus more than a few notables).
There were many who won their first awards tonight, including Viola Davis, who achieved EGOT status after winning an Grammy for Best Audiobook, Narration & Storytelling and further made history becoming the third Black woman to attain the most coveted status in the entertainment industry. Nigerian artist Tems received her first statue tonight for her feature on Future’s “WAIT FOR U,” which won Best Melodic Rap performance. Kim Petras made history as the first openly transgender woman to win in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance Award, for “Unholy” with collaborator Sam Smith.
omg i’m a tranny with a grammy …
— kim petras (@kimpetras) February 6, 2023
Throughout the night, there were many sweet moments (like Brandi Carlile’s wife and kids introducing her), some uncomfortable ones (more than a few of host Trevor Noah’s jokes), and many truly surprising ones. Here are the best, worst, weirdest, and most shocking—and there legitimately were several of those—moments at the 65th annual Grammy Awards.
Most Shocking: Harry Styles wins Album of the Year
The moment @Harry_Styles #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/6ysBpdrBZv
— MTV (@MTV) February 6, 2023
Before Harry Styles was announced as the winner of the coveted Album of the Year award, the entire arena was silent for a moment. Then host Trevor Noah opened the envelope and had one of Styles’ fans read his name. Styles appeared just as shocked as everyone else when he took the stage to accept his award. “I’ve been so so inspired by every artist in this category with me at a lot of different times in my life,” he said in his speech. “I’m so so grateful.” It was one of the most shocking moments of the night as people across social media expected Beyoncé to win the night’s biggest award for Renaissance after being snubbed in the past. This was her fourth nomination for Album of the Year and the fourth time she’s lost in this category, though the night was certainly not a bust for Bey…
Read More: Beyoncé’s Album of the Year Snub Fits Into the Grammys’ Long History of Overlooking Black Women
Best: Beyoncé becomes the most awarded artist in Grammy history
Beyoncé gives acceptance speech at the #Grammys for Renaissance: "I'd like to thank the queer community for your love and for inventing the genre." pic.twitter.com/t6t4Jk5r7x
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) February 6, 2023
Give her all of the awards because she deserves them. The Recording Academy really wanted to rectify its past mistakes, though her loss in Album of the Year invited just as much criticism for the institution as gratitude. At last night’s awards ceremony, Beyoncé made history as the world got to witness her win her 32nd Grammy award during the televised portion of the ceremony, where she won for Best R&B Song for “Cuff It” (though she had not yet arrived to accept it) and Best Dance/Electronic Album. The latter award was presented by James Corden, who acknowledged the historic moment. When she accepted the award, she said “I’d like to thank the queer community for your love and for inventing the genre.”
Best: Bad Bunny’s high-energy opening performance
After Noah opened the show, he kicked things over to Bad Bunny, who immediately set the standard for performances. He brought out a group of dancers who cajoled all of the celebrities to their feet as he sang part of the anthemic “El Apagón.” They paraded through the aisles as they made their way to the main stage, where he serenaded the audience with “Despues de la Playa.” As if the performance couldn’t get more dynamic, the stage was filled to the brim with a full band, a beach setting, and an even bigger crowd of dancers. Bad Bunny shouted out his home country of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.
During his performance, viewers watching with closed captions noticed that they were having a hard time keeping up with the Spanish lyrics as the words “Singing in Non-English” appeared on-screen:
— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) February 6, 2023
Worst: Trevor Noah’s Jokes
Trevor Noah asks Taylor Swift if she can have the Swifties change the price of eggs #GRAMMYs pic.twitter.com/PaXMdodJXX
— Marvin | 3/17 GLENDALE BIRTHDAY SHOW (@marvintran76) February 6, 2023
This is Noah’s third time hosting, and his jokes have been better. Many of them reached for low-hanging fruit like the Chinese balloon incident, Trump learning Spanish because of Bad Bunny’s album, and the Crypto.com arena having an escape plan to the Bahamas. To be fair, hosting is a tough gig. But maybe it’s time to do as the Golden Globes did with Jerrod Carmichael and try out some new talent.
Best: Kim Petras’ historic win as an openly transgender woman
Sam Smith and Kim Petras were presented with a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group performance for their collaboration, “Unholy.” Smith, already a Grammy winner, gave Petras the stage to accept the award on their behalf. “Sam graciously wanted me to accept this award, because I’m the first transgender woman to win this award,” Petras said. “I just want to thank all the incredible transgender legends before me who kicked these doors open.” She dedicated the award to Sophie, the Scottish producer and musician who died in 2023 and who, she said, “told me this would happen and always believed in me.”
Weirdest: Fans argue over who should get Album of the Year
The biggest criticism of any awards show is almost always their duration and penchant for running over time, and the unnecessary filler that’s often the cause. This year, the Grammys decided to enlist mega fans of each Album of the Year nominee to make the case for their favorite artist. Fans of Beyoncé, Bad Bunny, and Harry Styles were introduced in the first part of the segment, and each one made a passionate, personal case for the artist they wanted to win. I didn’t even need to watch the rest of the segment to know it would end up my least favorite part of tonight’s festivities. While we can see what the producers were going for, the focus group vibe felt very forced and, if we’re being honest, a waste of time at an awards show that is already three and a half hours.
Why is the Grammys focus-grouping Best Album?
— Jen Chaney (@chaneyj) February 6, 2023
Weirdest: Lizzo and Harry Styles’ song choices
These two artists have so much talent as performers and have delivered at previous award shows. In 2021, Styles dripped with sensuality and had impeccable rhythm as he performed “Watermelon Sugar.” Lizzo’s killer vocals and bodacious dance moves paired with memorable visuals were on display at her BET Awards Performance back in June 2022. But tonight’s performances were lackluster by comparison, even with Styles’ shimmering ensemble. He performed “As It Was” and the whole thing just felt dull and pitchy. The show felt like a deviation from the electrifying performances he’s been giving during his 15-show residencies at Madison Square Garden in New York City and the Forum in Los Angeles. The song Lizzo chose to perform, her album’s title track “Special,” did not excite in the way it was intended to. Her voice is magnificent and she, along with Harry, could have chosen songs that were more suited to the occasion—”About Damn Time,” played out as it is, for Lizzo, and “Satellite” for Harry.
Best: The Grammys highlights the history of hip-hop
To celebrate 50 years of hip-hop, the Recording Academy gathered many of the biggest names in the genre’s history. The medley brought together everyone from Blackthought, Run DMC, LL Cool J, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Salt-n-Pepa, Flava Flav, Ice-T, Queen Latifah, Method Man, Big Boi, Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, and Nelly to GloRilla and Lil Uzi Vert. Each performer had their time to shine and play snippets of their most memorable songs. Some of the most indelible performances came from artists like Queen Latifah, who performed her iconic 1993 single, “U.N.I.T.Y.,” Nelly, with “Hot in Here,” and Missy Elliot, who of course performed “Get Ur Freak On.” The segment did receive some criticism for not including a number of notable women in the genre like Lil Kim, Nicki Minaj, Eve, Trina, and Megan Thee Stallion.
Read More: Why Bonnie Raitt’s ‘Just Like That’ Deserved Song of the Year
Most Shocking: Bonnie Raitt and Samara Joy win major awards
Even Bonnie herself was shocked and when First Lady Dr. Jill Biden announced her as the winner for Song of the Year for “Just Like That.” It took her a second to process the fact that she had beaten out the biggest pop stars of the 21st century: Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Adele, Kendrick Lamar, and Lizzo. Raitt, whose last win was in 2012, kept her acceptance speech brief, explaining the inspiration behind the song and mentioning John Prine, whose beloved “Angel From Montgomery” she famously covered, as an inspiration. Jazz singer Samara Joy’s win also came as a welcome surprise when she won the award for Best New Artist, beating out popular artists including Anitta, Omar Apollo, Wet Leg, and Måneskin.
when you give them something to talk about pic.twitter.com/nUGdmHFAts
— aleksander chan (@aleksnotalex) February 6, 2023
Correction, Feb. 6
The original version of this story listed A Tribe Called Quest as performers in the Grammys hip-hop tribute. They did not perform.