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The 16 Best and Worst Moments of the 2024 Grammys Print-ready version

Joni Mitchell, Tracy Chapman, and SZA were some of the highlights of a surprisingly good telecast, but there were some lows and some moments that were absolutely none of our business.

by Anna Gaca
February 5, 2024

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The 66th Annual Grammy Awards - the Recording Academy's perplexing annual combination of light comedy, rock doc, corporate bash, and stadium concert - returned this year to Los Angeles' Arena. At the ceremony, a few facts were made abundantly clear: Taylor Swift is the new record-holder for most Album of the Year wins, clinching her fourth for Midnights, and Mark Ronson's mother-in-law is Meryl Streep.

As far as Grammys telecasts go, it was actually quite good: Music's longest night came in under four hours, and a sometimes-interminable show felt snappier thanks to powerhouse performers like SZA and Billy Joel, plus rare appearances by Tracy Chapman and Joni Mitchell. And Mariah! And Celine Dion! And... Oprah!

The music industry isn't all sunshine right now - host Trevor Noah cracked a joke about UMG's TikTok beef - but overall the show struck an uplifting note that may conflict with your take on the winners of this year's headlining awards: a well-earned Best New Artist for Victoria Monét, and less exciting picks for Record of the Year (Miley Cyrus' "Flowers") and Song of the Year (Billie Eilish's sleepy Barbie ballad "What Was I Made For?").

And while some of us are just going to have to watch the premiere of Curb Your Enthusiasm tonight, here are the highs, lows, and the moments that are absolutely none of our business from the pretty, pretty good 2024 Grammys.

The Best

Dua Lipa Can Hang

Dua Lipa's show-opening performance felt like a flash forward to Grammys 2025, barely blinking at this year's nominated Barbie song "Dance the Night" in order to debut a brand-new single, "Training Season," alongside "Houdini" in a preview for an anticipated new album. Let's be real: The backup dancers were carrying the choreo, but Lipa nevertheless has the star power to generate clip-worthy moments dangling from a cube of steel scaffolding and lying at the center of a giant glowing steel jaw. The you-heard-it-here-first needle drop helped set the tone for a telecast that felt a little more newsworthy than usual. - Anna Gaca

Joni Mitchell's Endless Wisdom

Imagine writing anything as timeless as "Both Sides Now," which Joni Mitchell did at 21. When the camera pulled back to reveal the 80-year-old folk icon at last night's stupendously overdue first-time Grammys performance, the rest of the crowd literally faded into the background. Seated in the plush Victorian armchair and surrounded by the Brandi Carlile-led group of accompanists who've supported her journey back to the stage after a 2015 brain aneurysm, Mitchell's quiet confidence held the room spellbound as she added a deliberate personal touch to a climactic line that rings truer than ever: "Joni, you've changed/Well, something's lost, but something's gained/In living every day." - Anna Gaca

Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs Bring the House Down Right Away

What a smart move for the Grammys to kick off the first part of the show with a performance so good, so unimpeachable that they can coast on that goodwill for the next seven and a half hours. Tracy Chapman - sounding amazing and looking deathless - showed up on the Grammys stage for the first time in 35 years to sing "Fast Car" (for the first time in 15 years) alongside Luke Combs, whose 2023 cover of the song raised its profile considerably and reached No. 2 on the Billboard charts. Taylor Swift was on her feet within seconds. Chapman had a magnetic stillness on stage, only occasionally exchanging glances as she traded bars with Combs. I'm not saying we should do this, but I wonder how far a "'Fast Car'" write-in campaign could take this country in November. - Jeremy D. Larson

SZA Goes Full Wuxia

Turns out having wire-fu sword fights and a body count of terrible exes on stage is way more interesting than the American Idol-style power balladry and crowd shots of celebs clapping along that usually fills these award shows. SZA brought the theatrics and action-packed violence to go with "Kill Bill," her pitch-black smash hit that pays homage to the Tarantino movie. She sang well, I guess, but I was mostly distracted by everything else. Everything else included: The outfit she wore to sing "Snooze" (wide-brim hat, long coat) that made her look like The Undertaker; when Phoebe Bridgers freaked out as one of the dancers hopped on her table to do sword tricks; all the slain men lying on the ground at the end while SZA stood over them, dressed like Lara Croft. No better way to take advantage of leading the pack with nine nominations than to use her performance time to just do some cool shit. - Alphonse Pierre

Lana Del Rey's Funeral-Chic Attire

Hey, chilling at the Grammys, fitted like you're about to go throw a rose on Vito Corleone's casket, is a flex. - Alphonse Pierre

Jay-Z More Like Jay-Zing.

It may take a lifetime achievement-type award to get Jay-Z to show up to the Grammys these days, a show he once boycotted because DMX didn't get nominated. But during his acceptance speech for the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, Jay-Z took the opportunity to throw some chin music at the Recording Academy. "Some of you will feel like you were robbed. Some of you will get robbed. Some of you don't belong in the category," he said, also alluding to the fact that Beyoncé holds the record for most Grammy wins without a single one for Album of the Year. "Even by your own metrics it doesn't work," he added. Later in the show, Taylor Swift won her fourth Album of the Year statue for Midnights, setting a new record just above Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra, and Paul Simon. - Jeremy D. Larson

Annie Lennox Remembers Sinéad O'Connor

With a single glittery black tear streaked down her cheek, Annie Lennox honored the late Sinéad O'Connor by singing the song that became her breakthrough hit, Prince's "Nothing Compares 2 U," during the evening's multi-part In Memorium segment. Though Prince and O'Connor weren't friendly (as the Irish singer recalled in her memoir), the presence of the Revolution's Wendy and Lisa as Lennox's backing band lent its own kind of historical authenticity. Certainly nothing felt as true to O'Connor's legacy of bold public activism as Lennox's closing call of "Artists for Ceasefire" in Palestine. - Anna Gaca

The Worst:

We Can't Stop Never Stopping

It's lonely out here in "Miley Cyrus' 'Flowers' isn't a very good song" country, but at least it's an honest living. With voluminous hair and a sparkly outfit, Cyrus' performance aimed for the charmingly over-the-top glitz of godmother Dolly Parton, but the vibe was more sweaty Vegas spectacle than '80s rhinestone kitsch. And - sorry, Academy voters - "Flowers" just isn't all that. What this performance was missing is better material. I'm tired of saying it! - Anna Gaca

Travis Scott Still Can't Explain What Utopia Is

When Travis Scott talks it kind of just sounds like the teacher-speak in Peanuts. At least that's what it was like when he attempted to define Utopia before his performance. Blah blah blah, something about his imagination or whatever. When he got the chance to show us it wasn't any more clear: Flames, big speakers, steel chairs. Apparently Utopia is just a knockoff ECW pay-per-view.

There was music, too, not that it's ever that important with him. He did some glacial and boring 808s & Heartbreaks swagger-jacking, and then followed that up with a robotic staging of "Fe!n" that was nowhere near as punk as he wanted it to be. Not even Playboi Carti, masked like Hannibal Lecter, could raise the cool factor all that much. Apparently, at recent live shows, Travis has been playing "Fe!n" up to 10 times in a row. Credit to the Grammys: They only let him play it once, more than enough. After the performance, Travis revealed what all this fuss was really for when the broadcast quickly cut to a commercial for his new shoe. - Alphonse Pierre

Trevor Noah, Again

The Grammys are infatuated with Trevor Noah. This is his fourth year in a row hosting the show and I somewhat understand why: He's safe and inoffensive and good at filling dead air with his voice. Too bad his toothless jokes are so forgettable, he could be using the same material every year and I don't think anyone would notice. Does he even like music? Four years in, and he's rarely ever had an interaction with an artist where it doesn't feel like he's being fed lines through an earpiece. It's hard to believe that this is who the Daily Show is having such a hard time replacing. Well, see you next year, Trev. - Alphonse Pierre

None of My Business:

Something Something U2, Sphere, and Vertigo Joke TK

I don't know when I'll get to the Sphere to have my rods and cones rearranged by a huge ocular LCD screen in Las Vegas, but watching the camera whip around the orb while U2 performed that 2023 song we all know and love, "Atomic City," in some sort of pre-recorded montage made me feel like I was about to throw up in a tilt-a-whirl. And that's just from listening to the music! No, I'm kidding, U2 sounded just fine. - Jeremy D. Larson

We May Be Right, We May Be Crazy for This One

After 17 years, Billy Joel is back. Is it weird to miss the old-style Grammys that would have insisted on Joel and Olivia Rodrigo singing a long, emotional ballad also involving, like, Billie Eilish, Justin Bieber, and Sting? OK, yeah, probably. But Joel's bittersweet new groove - the product of a long-awaited creative breakthrough, he's said - felt a bit neglected near the back of a three-and-a-half-hour show, when some long-awaiting fans have already called it a night. (He and Rodrigo apparently did sit at the same table during the ceremony.) - Anna Gaca

What Is Even Going on with This Bob Marley Movie?

Several times during commercial breaks I saw an ad for the upcoming film Bob Marley: One Love and each time it looked more unintentionally hilarious. I have no idea how Kingsley Ben-Adir landed the gig to play the reggae legend but every time I see him I think of a Tweet that I can no longer find that joked that he was actually Navy Blue. Even the locs look off, closer to Anthony Anderson in Scary Movie 3 than any Marley family member. It got even weirder when Trevor Noah sat down for an extremely awkward interview with Ben-Adir and Ziggy Marley. Ziggy, doing a bit, barely said anything, while Ben-Adir and Noah ribbed on his Jamaican accent. It's an odd way of convincing us to pay real money to watch Ben-Adir mope around in a bad wig for two hours, but then again, the flick doesn't seem to have much to flaunt. - Alphonse Pierre

SZA Gets the Mastercard Bag

I'm getting up from my couch to grab a glass of water and then I hear SZA singing a new song. She's got a microphone on, she's in some kind of sylvan Midsummer Night's Dream scenario, there's that live rippin' R&B guitar playing, so I don't know, is this part of the show? I check in with my colleagues and no, it's part of the commercial break. Then SZA announces she has teamed up with Mastercard for something or another. The song's called "Saturn." Congrats on the new pool, SZA! - Jeremy D. Larson

Together, Music Can Bring Us Together

Harvey Mason Jr.'s annual monologue - an overly earnest mea culpa and/or plea for unity that always feverishly sends us into hour three of the ceremony - this year was soundtracked by a string quartet that made it sound like he was delivering an in-memorium for the show itself. His CEO at an all-hands speech always seems like a relic of some bygone era, and yet there's that little part of me that's like, music does bring people together. He's not wrong. Look at all these famous people. - Jeremy D. Larson

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Added to Library on February 5, 2024. (477)


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