Silk Sonic, Jon Batiste lead eclectic 2022 Grammy Awards

Jon Batiste, Olivia Rodrigo and Silk Sonic each took home big prizes at the 64th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, an upbeat and drama-free ceremony after the chaos of the Academy Awards last week.

Batiste, 35, the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” bandleader and most-nominated artist of the year, won five awards out of his 11 nods, including album of the year for “We Are.”

“I believe this to my core that there is no best musician, no best artist,” he said from the stage at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. “The creative arts are subjective and they reach people at a point in their lives when they need it most.”

The throwback funk/R&B duo Silk Sonic, from Grammy favorite Bruno Mars and Oxnard’s Anderson .Paak, notched wins for song and record of the year for their sultry “Leave the Door Open.” Rodrigo, the 19-year-old, Southern California-raised breakout star of 2021, took home prizes for best new artist, pop vocal album and pop solo performance on the strength of her epic slice of teen melodrama, “Drivers License,” and her debut album of zippy pop-punk and pleading piano ballads, “Sour.”

The top winners were notable for their multi-racial bonhomie: Black, Filipino, Puerto Rican and Jewish heritages were all represented in big wins.

Batiste took home the most Grammys on Sunday, winning five. Silk Sonic won four, and Rodrigo, country star Chris Stapleton and gospel singer CeCe Winans won three apiece.

In an awards season still releasing from Will Smith’s shocking onstage slap of presenter Chris Rock last Sunday, the Grammys affirmed its aspirational, music-heals-all values. “We’re gonna be dancing, we’re gonna be singing, and we’re gonna be keeping peoples’ names out of our mouths,” host Trevor Noah joked in a light allusion to the Oscars.

Pop music’s wild card, album of the year nominee Kanye West, did not perform or attend. West won two Grammys earlier in the afternoon at the Premiere Ceremony, for rap song and melodic rap performance.

The evening’s biggest surprise came from a pre-taped message from a beleaguered-sounding Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who asked the audience, “What’s the opposite of music?… Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals.” He implored the Grammy crowd to do more to help his country against Russia’s invasion, asking, “Support us in any way you can, but not with your silence.” John Legend, performing a new song “Free” with Ukrainian musicians and poets Siuzanna Iglidan, Mika Newton and Lyuba Yakimchuck, drove the point across.

Forced to move to Las Vegas from its January 31 date at LA’s Arena following this winter’s Omicron surge, the award-winning ceremony, chart-topping young pop acts like Rodrigo alongside legends like 95-year-old Tony Bennett, whose album of Cole Porter standards with Lady Gaga, “Love for Sale,” won for traditional pop album, making him the second-oldest Grammy winner in history. (Blues pianist Pinetop Perkins won a Grammy at age 97.) Bennett, who has Alzheimer’s disease, was unable to attend the ceremony.

Jon Batiste performs at the 64th Grammy Awards. Batiste won five Grammys, including album of the year.

(Valerie Macon/AFP, via Getty Images)

In 2021, COVID-19 upended the show, which was held for the first time without an audience. This year, the Grammys returned to its old virtues. With Noah returning as host, the telecast crowned Batiste as is uplifting virtuoso, Silk Sonic as its stylish throwback and Rodrigo as Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish’s heir apparent. Some big names, however, went home empty handed: Justin Bieber lost all eight of his nominations; Eilish, who swept the 2020 Grammys’ top four categories, went zero for seven; and Lil Nas X, nominated for four Grammys, was likewise shut out.

Early in the night, Noah brought out Eilish’s production manager Nicole Massey to introduce Eilish’s fiery performance of “Happier Than Ever” with her brother and fellow nominee Finneas. Massey was one of several tour managers and other road vets acknowledged onstage in the telecast, a sharp contrast to the Oscars, which cut many below-the-line awards during its show. “I left my job and the whole touring family” for two years during the pandemic, Massey said. On Sunday, she was onstage introducing Eilish, “the best 20-year-old boss in the world.”

Silk Sonic kicked off the show with a spangle- and wig-bedecked performance of “777,” while Rodrigo sang a regal rendition of “Drivers License.” The K-pop group BTS, one of the most popular live acts on the planet, played their zesty Hot 100 topper “Butter” (with a memorable dip into the crowd from the group’s Kim Tae-hyung to chat up Rodrigo).

It was also a notable year for gay male artists in atypical genres at the Grammys. Lil Nas X carried the gleefully subversive sensibility of his video for “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” into “Dead Right Now” and “Industry Baby,” with Jack Harlow. “He raps, he sings, he definitely upsets the hell out of your homophobic uncle,” Noah said of Lil Nas X. Show-closing country duo The Brothers Osborne, whose TJ Osborne came out as gay last year, won for country duo/ group performance, the first openly gay artist to win that award.

The Grammys tried — if sometimes in vain — to acknowledge global pop. BTS and Nigerian singer Wizkid lost out in their big nominations, though Puerto Rican superstar Bad Bunny continued his three-albums-in-a-year victory lap with a win for “El Último Tour Del Mundo” in the música urbana album category.

Drake dinged the rap categories when the superstar withdrew his album “Certified Lover Boy” from contention this year. But LA favorite Tyler, the Creator again won the genre’s top prize for rap album, for his hard-hitting “Call Me If You Get Lost,” and Baby Keem’s win for rap performance (with a guest verse from cousin Kendrick Lamar) acknowledged the youthful energy of contemporary hip-hop.

Olivia Rodrigo.

Olivia Rodrigo accepts the best new artist award.

(Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s documentary “Summer of Soul,” about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, continued its awards-season sweep with a Grammy win for music film about the “Black Woodstock.” “Summer of Soul” was also a winner last week at the Oscars, though Questlove had the cursed luck of immediately following Smith’s slap of Rock.

Jazmine Sullivan won for R&B album, praising the tradition as “a safe space for Black women to tell our stories, to learn from each other and not be exploited… shout out to all Black women who are just living their lives and being beautiful.” Batiste played a raucous, candy-hued version of “Freedom,” and Doja Cat’s tearful, racing-back-from-the restroom acceptance speech for pop duo/group performance with SZA, “Kiss Me More,” charmed the room.

Some stars had pathbreaking nominations but near-misses on Sunday night. Mickey Guyton, whose “Remember Her Name” continued her streak of incendiary singles during an ascendant year for Black women in country music, lost country album, song and solo performance to Grammy favorite Chris Stapleton.

Underneath the genial back-to-normal veneer, the ceremony had currents of loss, notably of Foo Fighters’ beloved drummer Taylor Hawkins, who died on March 25 at age 50. The band, which pulled out of performing at the telecast after Hawkins’ death, won three Grammys, for rock performance, song and album for “Medicine at Midnight.”

The Grammys played a Hawkins video montage to begin the In Memoriam segment; Earlier in the evening, Eilish wore a t-shirt with Hawkins’ face on it during her performance of “Happier Than Ever.” An array of Broadway stars, including Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Ben Platt, and Rachel Zegler paid tribute to late composer Stephen Sondheim during the In Memoriam section, performing his songs “Not a Day Goes By,” “Send in the Clowns” and “Somewhere.”

Slain SoCal rapper Drakeo the Ruler was omitted from the In Memoriam montage.

Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt.

Joni Mitchell, left, and Bonnie Raitt present a performance by Brandi Carlile at the 64th Grammy Awards.

(Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Joni Mitchell, this year’s MusiCares Person of the Year honoree, presented Brandi Carlile onstage in the telecast with Bonnie Raitt — one of Mitchell’s first on-stage appearances since suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015.

This year’s awards weren’t controversy-free. The disgraced comedian Louis CK won for comedy album after admitting to a lengthy record of sexual misconduct. West, who was barred from performing at the Grammys after making threats on social media, won rap song for “Jail,’ which he co-wrote with alleged sexual assaulter Marilyn Manson.

Last year’s Grammys were an elegy for a lost year in live music, with several performances filmed at then-shuttered clubs like the Troubadour and Hotel Cafe. Most acts in 2022 looked relieved to be back onstage in a relatively normal Grammys setting. None more so than Recording Academy chief executive Harvey Mason Jr., who acknowledged the gig workers, tour managers, producers and others that kept live music going through its most troubled time.

“We’re here because music serves the world,” he said. “Tonight, we’ve not only seen great artists, but some of the people behind those great artists.”

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