Olivia Rodrigo, Silk Sonic and jazz musician Jon Batiste have shared the top honours at the 64th Grammy Awards.
Batiste’s uplifting soul record We Are won album of the year, while Rodrigo won best new artist and best pop album.
Silk Sonic’s soul throwback anthem Leave The Door Open took home both the record and song of the year prizes.
Apart from the awards, the ceremony saw a tribute to Foo Fighters star Taylor Hawkins, and a video plea from Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky.
In a pre-taped message, he urged musicians to “fill the silence” left by Russian bombs “with your music”.
“Tell our story. Tell the truth about the war on your social networks and TV. But not silence.”
His speech was followed by a performance by John Legend, accompanied by Ukrainian musicians Siuzanna Iglidan and Mika Newton; and poet Lyuba Yakimchuk.
The ceremony, held at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, also saw energetic performances from Lil Nas X, Billie Eilish and BTS, while folk icon Joni Mitchell made a rare on-stage appearance to introduce Brandi Carlile.
This year’s Grammys presented one of the most open fields in years, with the “big four” categories expanded to include 10 nominees each.
But the Recording Academy tends to favour artists who acknowledge their musical heritage – a factor that undoubtedly helped Silk Sonic and Jon Batiste win their respective categories
Batiste’s album, We Are, is rooted in black music tradition, from the New Orleans jazz he grew up with, to the classic soul of Al Green, via modern R&B.
The title track was written in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 – and the album’s themes of positivity and intergenerational wisdom made it a favourite with voters, who awarded Batiste 11 nominations heading into this year’s Grammys.
Jon Batiste also picked up awards for his work on the soundtrack to the Pixar film, Soul
Silk Sonic, a joint project between Bruno Mars and rapper/drummer Anderson .Paak, plough a similar furrow. Their sumptuous ballad Leave The Door Open is steeped in the 70s soul sounds of acts like The Chi-Lites and Earth, Wind & Fire, delivered with a knowing wink to modern sensibilities.
The duo were clearly delighted with their double victory in song of the year and record of the year.
“We are really trying our hardest to remain humble at this point,” said Paak, “but in the industry, we call that ‘a clean sweep’.
“To all the other nominees… the drinks is on Silk Sonic tonight.”
The songcraft of both acts is impeccable, but they leave the Grammys with a headache.
Neither act could be considered the defining sound of 2021. In fact, Batiste’s album failed to chart in the UK and only reached number 86 in the US.
Worse than that, their victories meant that younger, forward-thinking acts like Lil Nas X and Billie Eilish were overlooked – with neither collecting a trophy, despite multiple nominations.
Silk Sonic gave a Vegas-themed performance to open the show
Thank goodness, then, for Olivia Rodrigo – who was recognised for a stellar debut year that saw her score a global hit with the break-up ballad Drivers License, then top it with the whiplash-inducing pop-punk of Good 4 U.
As well as best new artist, she also picked up best pop solo performance and best pop album.
The 19-year-old dedicated the latter to her parents, saying the award was “for you guys and because of you guys”.
“When I was nine years old, I told my mom I was going to be an Olympic gymnast, even though I could barely do a cartwheel,” she recalled. “The next week, when I told her I was gonna win a Grammy, she was very supportive, even though I’m sure she thought it was just a little kid pipe dream.
“I want to thank my mom for being supportive of all of my dreams, no matter how crazy; and I want to thank my mom and my dad for being equally as proud of me for winning a Grammy as they were when I learned how to do a back walkover.”
There were also three awards for Foo Fighters, a little more than a week after drummer Taylor Hawkins was found dead in his Colombia hotel room at the age of 50.
Presenter Jimmy Jam accepted the prizes in the band’s absence, “with prayers to their loved ones”.