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Caution: the 2023 Grammys

A rousing opening by Bad Bunny, a powerful speech by Kim Petras and hip-hop celebrating its half-century anniversary made Sunday night a night to remember. (Almost) everyone won an award, but there were questions about the winners….

Bad Bunny, who has grown into a bona fide superstar in just a few years, evoked the energy of traditional Puerto Rican parades and festivals when he began his opening performance by parading through the audience, followed by a parade of plena dancers and musicians. The stage was filled with dozens of merengue dancers and Dominican instrumentalists from the Dahian El Apechao band, while cabezudos (giant-headed figures) mingled with the crowd, representing icons such as Tego Calderón and Ismael Rivera. The performance was the most energetic show of the night, and showed Bad Bunny’s cultural character that has increasingly defined his career album after album, culminating in the record-breaking “Un Verano Sin Ti”. The critical and audience favourite made history by becoming the first non-English language album ever nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys. The not-so-unimaginable win would have certainly broken down a major barrier for Latinos and other non-English speaking artists. Out of his three nominations, he eventually took home the award for Best Album “Música Urbana”.

Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” was the album most expected to win the award, but despite the critical acclaim, the Academy voters for the fourth time rejected the singer’s bid to win the Grammy’s top honour, Album of the Year. Regardless, it can be said that Beyoncé has now won the most Grammy Awards in history, and that in itself is a fact worth celebrating. Best (Traditional) R&B Performance for “Plastic Off the Sofa”, Best Dance Recording for “Break My Soul”, Best R&B Song for “Cuff It”, and finally Best Dance/Electronic Album for “Renaissance” won the artist her 32nd (!) trophy.

But now let’s talk about Harry Styles! Because it was he who finally triumphed with his third solo album, “Harry’s House”. In addition to the ones already mentioned, he had to beat out Adele’s “30”, Kendrick Lamar’s “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers”, and Lizzo’s “Special”, among others. Of his six other nominations, Styles was finally able to win the Best Pop Vocal Album category, and during the ceremony he also delighted (?) the audience with his hit “As It Was”. It wasn’t the best performance of the singer’s life, his rigorous touring schedule left him tired and let’s just say he had a problem with his sound.

About Damn Time! What endeared us to Lizzo a few years ago was the positive outlook on life so characteristic of her songs. So, we can only be delighted with the other main prize of the evening, the winner of Record of the Year! Her award was dedicated to the late Prince. “When we lost Prince, I decided to dedicate my life to making positive music. I was like, “I don’t care if my positivity bothers you – what’s wrong with you?”. Positive and feel-good music was not mainstream at the time and I felt very misunderstood. I felt like an outsider, but I stayed true to myself because I wanted to make the world a better place”.

All in all, while the Academy is cautious and not even the least bit objective (see The Weeknd’s outrageous snub two years ago), there is one award to be happy about. And that is the Grammy Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for the club hit “Unholy” by Sam Smith and Kim Petras. Smith, who has been honoured four times before, graciously took the stage with his collaborator Petras, but allowed her to do all the talking, and she was very moved that “she is the first transgender woman to win this award”, and thanked Sophie, the transgender Scottish musician who died in 2021.