In a historic sweep, 18-year-old Los Angeles goth songstress Billie Eilish Sunday evening became the first artist in nearly four decades to win the top four Grammy prizes of best new artist and album, record and song of the year.
Powered by her smash album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” and the hit track “Bad Guy,” Eilish wore a path from her Staples Center seat to the stage as she collected award after award, often accompanied by her brother/collaborator/producer, Finneas O’Connell. Eilish is the first person to win The Recording Academy’s big four prizes on the same night since Christopher Cross in 1981.
By the time she made her final trip to the stage to collect the record of the year honor for “Bad Guy,” Eilish had no words left, saying only “thank you.”
She and her brother appeared genuinely surprised at their success.
“I never thought this would ever happen in my whole life,” Eilish said earlier when she accepted the song of the year honor for “Bad Guy.” “I grew up watching them (the Grammys).”
O’Connell, who also won a Grammy earlier in the day for non-classical producer of the year, said the pair didn’t make music to win awards, but to make statements about depression, climate change and other issues.
“We just make music in a bedroom together,” he said. “We still do that. … This is to all the kids who are making music in a bedroom today. You’re gonna get one of these.”
In addition to the big four, Eilish won an award earlier Sunday for best pop vocal album for “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” Her brother, meanwhile, also shared a Grammy for engineering work on the album.
Eilish and singer-rapper Lizzo were both nominated in the top four categories, the first time two artists have ever been nominated for all of the top prizes in the same year.
Lizzo entered the 62nd Grammy Awards with a leading eight nominations. She wound up winning three overall, but only one during the Grammy telecast — best pop solo performance for “Truth Hurts.”
Lizzo won two awards during the pre-telecast Premiere Ceremony at Microsoft Theater, for best traditional R&B performance for “Jerome” and best urban contemporary album for “Cuz I Love You (Deluxe).”
The Grammy ceremony — which pushed beyond its 3 1/2-hour scheduled run time — was overshadowed by the death earlier in the day of Laker legend Kobe Bryant in a Calabasas helicopter crash. Multiple artists shouted love for Bryant and his family during their performances. Rapper Lil Nas X had a Bryant Laker jersey on the set while performing his hit song “Old Town Road.”
Bryant’s retired jersey numbers, 8 and 24, were illuminated in the Staples Center rafters throughout the ceremony. Show host Alicia Keys gave a touching tribute during her opening monologue.
“We’re all feeling crazy sadness right now because earlier today, Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero,” she said. “And we’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
“Music’s Biggest Night” also featured a tribute to slain rapper Nipsey Hussle, who posthumously won a pair of Grammys. During the pre-telecast portion of the Grammys, Hussle — who was fatally shot last year in front of his South Los Angeles clothing store — won the prize for best rap performance for “Racks in the Middle,” which features Roddy Ricch and Hit-boy.
During the telecast, the Grammy for best rap/sung performance went to DJ Khaled for “Higher,” a performance featuring Hussle and John Legend. When Khaled and Legend took the stage to accept the prize, they were joined by Hussle’s family.
“This is for Nipsey Hussle,” Khaled said as he held the Grammy statuette in the air. “This is for hip hop.”
Legend also hailed the award for “lifting Nipsey’s name up.”
During the televised Grammy ceremony, Khaled and Legend took part in a musical tribute to Hussle, also featuring Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and rapper YG.
Tyler, The Creator won for best rap album for “IGOR,” and he brought his mother to the stage with him to accept the honor. He gave thanks to his fans and his record label for “trusting my crazy ideas.”
“I never fully felt accepted in rap and stuff, so for y’all to stand by me and get me here, I appreciate that,” he said.
Also among those winning Grammys Sunday was former first lady Michelle Obama, who won a prize for best spoken word album for the audio recording of her memoir “Becoming.”
The telecast featured the usual wide array of musical performances, including Brandi Carlile, Tanya Tucker, Camila Cabello, H.E.R., Common, BTS, Ariana Grande, the Jonas Brothers, Rosalia, Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato, Aerosmith, Charlie Wilson, Run-D.M.C. and Tyler, The Creator. Real-life couple Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani also performed together.
Bonnie Raitt paid tribute during the show to Lifetime Achievement Award recipient John Prine.
The ceremony punctuated a tumultuous two weeks for The Recording Academy.
Deborah Dugan, the first woman to ever serve as president/CEO of the academy, was placed on leave in mid-January over what the academy called a misconduct allegation.
Dugan, however, shot back by filing an explosive complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, alleging she was being retaliated against for raising allegations of “egregious conflicts of interest, improper self-dealing by board members and voting irregularities with respect to nominations for Grammy Awards, all made possible by the `boys’ club’ mentality and approach to governance at the academy.”
Dugan also alleged that she was subjected to sexual harassment last year by the academy’s general counsel. She also claimed that former president/CEO Neil Portnow — who came under fire in 2018 for suggesting female artists need to “step up” if they wanted more recognition at the Grammys — was actually forced out due to a rape allegation.
Portnow vehemently denied the allegation. The academy issued a statement saying Dugan only came forward with her claims after a female academy employee filed a complaint against her, and that Dugan was placed on leave only after she demanded $22 million in exchange for her resignation.
“Our loyalty will always be to the 25,000 members of the recording industry,” according to the academy. “We regret that Music’s Biggest Night is being stolen from them by Ms. Dugan’s actions and we are working to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.”
>> Want to read more stories like this? Get our Free Daily Newsletters Here!Follow us: