The 2016 Grammys ran for over three hours, allowing the Recording Academy to pack the stage with diverse talent, touching tributes, shooting flames, and glitter showers, all while handing out a handful of awards to the music industry’s biggest names. Viewers got to see artists in rare form, with some performers teaming up with fellow musicians they might otherwise never collaborate with and others covering songs by music legends. It made for a fun, over-the-top event, capped off with yet another installment in the ongoing Taylor Swift-Kanye West war of words.
Swift strikes back
It was a big night for Taylor Swift, from opening the show in a sparkly black catsuit to capturing the coveted Album of the Year Award for the second time. She became the first woman to ever win the award twice, and she used her time at the mic to subtly respond to controversial comments made by Kanye West in his new song, Famous … and this time, he wasn’t there to steal the spotlight from her. West claims through his lyrics that he’s responsible for Swift’s fame, so when all eyes were on her, she took the opportunity to speak out. She said not to allow the people who try to “undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame” sidetrack you. She didn’t name West, but the allusion was clear.
Lamar lights up the stage
Nominated for 11 awards, Kendrick Lamar brought home five, including Best Rap Album. What sparked the most buzz, however, was his powerful performance. He took the stage in shackles at the head of a chain gang and rapped about the black experience in America, starting with The Blacker the Berry and transitioning into Alright. Behind him were jail cells followed by a massive bonfire, both of which served to amplify his lyrics.
The music industry lost numerous notable players since last year’s show, so the artists got their due during Monday’s show. Lady Gaga channeled David Bowie during her colorful tribute, and Stevie Wonder teamed up with Pentatonix to honor Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire, among other performances. Surviving members of the Eagles took the stage and played their hit song Take It Easy in memory of the recently departed Glenn Frey.
On a more upbeat note was Lionel Richie’s tribute, given that the man himself was able to join in after letting John Legend, Demi Lovato, Luke Bryan, Meghan Trainor, and Tyrese Gibson take a shot at his songs.
Trainor breaks down
In addition to sharing the stage with Richie, Meghan Trainor earned her first award, and it was immediately clear that she was greatly affected as she cried on her way to the stage, where the tears continued flowing. The singer wasn’t alone, though; her father was equally touched by her win, and he also opened the waterworks.
Viewers get schooled
Let the record show that TV can be educational. During the event, Stevie Wonder teased the audience by flashing the winner of Song of the Year — written in braille. He made a strong case for the need for equal access for those with disabilities. Later in the show, Neil Portnow and Common also spoke about an important issue, highlighting the importance of valuing music and supporting musicians by paying to enjoy their art.
As many performances as there were, one was MIA and another was apparently altered. Rihanna wasn’t able to use her vocal cords at music’s biggest event because she’s been coping with bronchitis, according to TMZ. She did, however, tweet her apologies on Monday night.
#NAVY so sorry I couldn’t be there ….. Thanks Grammys and CBS for your support tonight.
— Rihanna (@rihanna) February 16, 2016
Lauryn Hill, on the other hand, had hoped to surprise viewers by joining The Weeknd, according to a statement from her representatives to Vox, but apparently she didn’t have enough time to prepare and opted not to attend.
The show must go on, of course, and go on it did: The performers who did take the stage made the 2016 Grammys memorable.