Tracy Chapman, Joni Mitchell on stage, an award-winning rapper arrested a few minutes later, a touch of afrobeat: beyond the inevitable Taylor Swift, the Grammy Awards, awards of the American music industry, had some surprises in store Sunday evening in Los Angeles.
In the midst of SZA, Olivia Rodrigo and Miley Cyrus, one of the musical highlights of the evening was the rare appearance of Tracy Chapman to perform her classic, Fast Car (1988), in a duet with country crooner Luke Combs. Long, slightly graying braids, guitar slung over her shoulder and voice as soft and pure as ever, the singer from Cleveland received a standing ovation, while many fans shared their emotion on social networks.
Fast Car was one of Chapman's first hits, which she made popular by performing it at the famous Wembley concert against apartheid in South Africa and for the 70th birthday of Nelson Mandela, at the time imprisoned. The song got a second life thanks to Luke Combs' cover this year. And since its Grammy performance, it has held the top spot in downloads on Apple Music.
At 80, the legendary Joni Mitchell, symbol of the Woodstock generation, won the 10th Grammy of her career, for her album Joni Mitchell at Newport, a concert which marked her return to the stage after a ruptured aneurysm. On the stage of the crypto.com arena, seated on a throne, black beret and cane in hand, she offered a poignant rendition of her song “Both Sides Now”.
Among the tributes, Annie Lennox sang, with tears in her eyes, Nothing Compares 2 U by Irishwoman Sinead O'Connor, who died in 2023, before launching: “Artists for a ceasefire” in the band from Gaza. One of the rare political interventions of the evening.
Diminished by a rare neurological pathology, stiff person syndrome, Céline Dion made a brief surprise appearance to present the most prestigious award of the evening, album of the year, to Taylor Swift. “When I say I’m happy to be here, I really mean it, with all my heart,” she said. “Those who were fortunate enough to attend the Grammy Awards should never take for granted the immense love and joy that music brings to our lives and to people around the world,” she continued. The Quebec star, 16 times nominated for the Grammys (5 wins), has not been on stage since a concert in Newark (United States) in March 2020. A few days ago, Prime Video announced the upcoming release of a documentary on the 55-year-old singer, I Am: Céline Dion, in which she wants to “raise awareness” about her illness.
Winning three Grammy Awards and leaving the party in handcuffs is not something common. Yet that’s what happened to rapper Killer Mike on Sunday night. Star of the evening in the hip-hop category, he won three gramophones, including best rap album for Michael, and best rap song, for Scientists
Rewarded with an award for his entire career in hip-hop, another rapper Jay-Z, threw a chill in the audience, by resurrecting the controversy surrounding his wife Beyoncé, which the Grammy Awards have always ignored for the queen award for best album. A paradox, because “Queen B” is the most awarded artist in the history of the ceremony, with 32 gramophones. “Think about it, more Grammys, not once album of the year, something is wrong,” he said, his wife present in the room.
Beyoncé became the most successful artist of all time at the Grammy Awards last year, but the award for album of the year had slipped away from her in favor of British popstar Harry Styles. In 2017, the Recording Academy also snubbed her for preferring the diva Adele, fueling criticism against the lack of diversity at the Grammy Awards. A criticism that Jay-Z obviously wanted to put back on the table on Sunday evening.
World afrobeat star, Nigerian Burna Boy ignited the evening by taking the stage for a musical performance, soon joined by singer Brandy and rapper 21 Savage. A way, for the American high mass, to offer its letters of nobility to the genre which has been flooding the African airwaves for a decade and now those of the whole world. For the first time in their history, the Grammy Awards included “best African musical performance” among its categories on Sunday. It was won by South African singer Tyla for her song Water.