Rapper Megan Thee Stallion and R&B singer-songwriter H.E.R. won the first two key Grammy Awards on Sunday during a stripped-down ceremony, setting the tone for a night that’s expected to be dominated by female artists.
Megan Thee Stallion, a rapper from Houston who scored a No. 1 hit with “Savage” last year, won the statuette for best new artist, one of four major Grammy awards that will be handed out. H.E.R. took song-of-the-year honors for “I Can’t Breathe,” the title of which is a callout to one of the defining chants of the modern civil rights movement.
“We are the change we wish to see,” H.E.R. said when accepting the award. “That fight we had in us the summer of 2020, keep that same energy.”
The 63rd annual Grammys, held in Los Angeles by the Recording Academy and broadcast on CBS, had to reinvent the format to account for health and safety protocols. Emcee Trevor Noah hosted the show from a podium outside the Staples Center, the show’s usual site, while artists performed in an enclosed space nearby.
The Grammys have faced criticism in the past for failing to nominate and showcase female talent and people of color -- something it’s sought to address in recent years.
In 2018, the Recording Academy nominated just one woman -- Lorde -- for album of the year, and didn’t invite her to perform on her own. When asked about the imbalance, Recording Academy chief Neil Portnow told women to “step up,” further inflaming critics. Portnow has since stepped down.
The Grammys have struggled in the past to book acts that appealed to the show’s aging audience. The producers made little attempt to do that this year, booking a who’s who of young stars, including Megan Thee Stallion, Dua Lipa and Post Malone.
The Covid-19 accommodative made for some awkward moments. Because the awards were accepted outside, the sound of a car driving by interrupted Megan Thee Stallion’s acceptance speech.
In other categories, Miranda Lambert picked up the Grammy for best country album for “Wildcard” and Harry Styles won best pop solo performance for “Watermelon Sugar.”
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