Grammy Awards beat the odds in Las Vegas with Jon Batiste and Silk Sonic the night’s biggest winners
Murrieta-born singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo was also a multiple winner at the telecast, which included a stirring long-distance speech by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Jon Batiste and Olivia Rodrigo were the king and queen of the night at the 64th annual Grammy Awards Sunday in Las Vegas, while Soul Sonic has an unexpectedly strong showing.
New Orleans native Batiste, 35, had a field-leading 11 nominations and won five Grammys, including Album of the Year for “We Are,” Best Music Video for “Freedom,” and Bet American Roots Performance and Best American Roots Song, both for “Cry.”
Like the city he grew up in, Batiste’s music is a gumbo of funk, jazz, blues, soul, gospel and other styles. His rousing performance of “Freedom” near the conclusion of the show reflected his multifaceted approach.
“My focus was to really give feeling and some good old Black joy to the world,” Batiste said backstage after his Album of the Year win. “Tonight was a good night.”
Asked if he was surprised to win for Album of the Year, a category few predicted he would prevail in, Batiste said: “I really don’t do it for the awards. I really believe that music is so subjective. But I was just having a good time. I was with my family — my grandfather was there — (and I) had just performed. It was surreal because of the moment, and the lead-up to it. And seeing Uncle Lenny (Kravitz perform with H.E.R.) up there was like a whole vibe. It was far out.”
Rodrigo, 19, also had an evening to remember.
The Murrieta-born, Temecula-raised Disney TV star-turned-edgy-pop-vocal-star took home the honors for Best New Artist, Pop Vocal Album for “Sour” and Pop Solo Performance for “Driver’s License, which she performed with impressive poise shortly after the start of the 3 ½-hour telecast.
“This is my biggest dream come true,” Rodrigo told the audience at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Her debut concert tour kicks off Tuesday and includes a sold-out San Diego show at The Shell in May.
Rodrigo was not the only multiple winner of the night, nor did she win the most awards. That distinction went to Batiste, who is best known as the band leader and musical director on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Silk Sonic, the retro funk and soul band co-led by Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak was close behind with four wins.
The bright showings for Batiste and Rodrigo were not surprising, even if many anticipated her winning for Album of the Year, not Batiste, and even if almost no one anticipated Silk Sonic scoring upset wins for Song of the Year and Record of the Year.
Both victories came for the unabashedly romantic “Leave the Door Open,” a Silk Sonic song that sounds like it could have easily been recorded and released in 1972, not 2022.
Indeed, even the most experienced odds-makers would have had a hard time making the spread on a betting-line for the 2022 edition of the Grammys, starting with its location.
The star-studded, performance-fueled show was held in Las Vegas for the first time in the event’s history. The move came after a winter surge of the COVID-19 Omicron variant led to the cancelation of the originally scheduled Jan. 31 Los Angeles telecast.
No masks were visible on the performers or the audience at the 16,800-capacity venue. However, the nominees were seated in groups of four at round tables near the stage, a move that may have been a form of social distancing.
Trevor Noah, who ably hosted the Grammys for the second consecutive year, alluded to the pandemic several times. However, he did not mention that a number of Sunday’s performers had previously disclosed that they had contracted COVID-19, including Eilish, rapper Nas, Colombian reggaeton superstar J Balvin (who duetted with Maria Becerra) and Ben Platt (who shared in a victory Sunday for best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media for “Dear Evan Hansen” and performed during the show’s in memoriam segment).
Eilish, the queen of the 2020 Grammy Awards with wins in all four major categories, was shut out Sunday after entering the night with seven nominations. Rapper Lil Nas X, who had five nominations, also went home empty-handed. So did Justin Bieber, despite having eight nominations.
The unexpected wins for Batiste and Silk Sonic are less surprising when one considers that a good number of the 11,000 voting members of the Recording Academy — under whose auspices the Grammys are presented — have long had a soft spot for new music that sounds vintage.
But the voters also got some things very right, including the two wins for veteran R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan. She earned the Best R&B Performance trophy for “Pick Up Your Feelings” and tied with Silk Sonic for Best R&B Album for “Heaux Tales.” Sullivan had previously been nominated 12 times with no wins.
“I’m overwhelmed,” she said backstage. “After losing so many times, I kind of gave up.”
There were 16 performances, with standouts including Batiste, Brandi Carlile, Nas, Chris Stapleton, Silk Sonic and Eilish. Some acts were clearly lip-syncing — take a bow BTS, Lil Nas X and J Balvin — with an emphasis on big, glitzy production numbers well-suited to an eye-popping Las Vegas revue.
But coming in the wake of a COVID pandemic that saw live performances vanish overnight for more than a year, the razzle dazzle felt welcome.
Or as Best Country Album-winner Chris Stapleton noted backstage: “Five hundred and three days, (that’s how long) we didn’t play a show.”
To reinforce that point, the telecast featured performance introductions by several tour and production managers, all of them women.
Equally notable were the moving tributes to musicians who were lost over the past year. They included Broadway legend Stephen Sondheim and Sunday’s triple-winning Foo Fighters, whose drummer Taylor Hawkins died nine days ago while on a tour of South America with the band.
Billie Eilish wore a Hawkins T-shirt for her performance during the telecast, which took on an especially solemn tone during a pre-recorded video message by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. It immediately preceded a stirring rendition of the ballad “Free” by John Legend, who teamed up with three Ukrainian artists — Suizanna Iglidan, who played a lute-like bandura, singer Mika Newton and poet Lyuba Yakimchuk.
“What is more opposite to music? The silence of ruined cities and killed people,” Zelenskyy said in his video appearance.
“Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos. They sing to the wounded in hospitals. Even to those who can’t hear them. But the music will break through anyway. We defend our freedom. To live. To love. To sound.
“On our land, we are fighting Russia, which brings horrible silence with its bombs. The dead silence ... Fill the silence with your music. Fill it today, to tell our story. Support us in any way you can. Any, but not silence. And then peace will come.”
The winners in all but nine of the 86 Grammy categories were announced Sunday afternoon during the online-only Premier Ceremony.
Both it and the telecast were preceded by Friday night’s Grammy-sponsored MusiCares all-star fundraising concert, which this year honored Joni Mitchell. The Canadian-born songwriting legend — who suffered a near fatal aneurysm in 2015 — took to the stage Sunday with new Lifetime Achievement winner Bonnie Raitt and was accorded a standing ovation.
Mitchell, 78, won her latest Grammy during the pre-telecast portion of the show. Her win came in the Best Historical Album category for “Joni Mitchell Archives, Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967).”
“I didn’t expect this!” said Mitchell as she accepted her trophy. She looked as tickled to be on stage as the audience was to see her.
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