The 2023 GRAMMYs marked a triumphant — and historic — return to Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena, where modern superstars and living legends came together for a memorable celebration of music in all its forms.
A wide, uplifting tapestry of sounds was saluted and rewarded during the 2023 GRAMMYs. The telecast’s pluralistic approach delivered a view of the present as a time of musical splendor while also celebrating its past — from hip-hop’s legacy, to Latin’s cultural influence, to pop’s boundary-pushing stars.
Between history-making wins from Beyoncé and Kim Petras, a major victory by a young jazz sensation, and celebratory performances honoring greats, there was plenty to be reveled both on and off the GRAMMY stage. Below, take a look at the highlights of another memorable edition of Music’s Biggest Night.
Bad Bunny Sticks Close To His Caribbean Roots
After global star Bad Bunny celebrated a year of extraordinary achievements — both artistic and commercial — the Puerto Rican tastemaker used his GRAMMYs performance to celebrate his Caribbean roots.
Benito could have picked an obvious selection, like the crowd-pleasing single “Tití Me Preguntó.” Instead, he focused on the soulful roots of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic by performing electrifying renditions of “El Apagón” and “Después de la Playa.”
Bad Bunny has demonstrated time and again a gift for reinventing Latin genres. And yet, “Después de la Playa” kept its insanely syncopated beats and feverish brass section faithful to traditional merengue. The late Dominican icon Johnny Ventura would have been proud.
The Fans Receive A Much-Deserved Spotlight
The awards, record deals and critical raves are indispensable elements of stardom. But in the end, it is the contributions of average fans that sustain a career. With that in mind, the GRAMMYs organized a roundtable with 10 studious fans, each making a case for their favorite performer to win the Album Of The Year award.
To their delight — and genuine surprise — host Trevor Noah invited them on stage for the coveted award, asking one of the most devoted fans in Harry Styles‘ pack to announce his win. The two shared a joyous embrace before she handed him his golden gramophone, serving as a touching closing reminder that the fans mean everything.
The Magic Of Motown Becomes Transformational
A brisk tribute to Motown co-founder Berry Gordy and musical genius Smokey Robinson — three songs, augmented by an inspired Stevie Wonder — proved that words will never be enough to capture the label’s contribution to pop culture. A factory of beautiful dreams, Motown gave us a string of timeless hits that combine aural poetry with propulsive rhythms, honeyed hooks and virtuoso arrangements. Seeing the 82 year-old Robinson perform the 1967 classic “The Tears of a Clown” was one of the evening’s most dazzling moments. (The performance also featured Wonder’s rendition of the Temptations‘ “The Way You Do The Things You Do” and a duet with country singer Chris Stapleton on Wonder’s own “Higher Ground.”)
Honoring The Past Shows The Future Is Bright
2022 was a year of artistic triumph, but also of tremendous loss. The In Memoriam segment of the telecast was sobering, also honoring performers who are lesser known in the United States but definitely worthy of a mention — such as Brazil’s Erasmo Carlos and Argentina’s Marciano Cantero.
It began with a stately rendition of “Coal Miner’s Daughter” by Kacey Musgraves in tribute to country legend Loretta Lynn, then continued with Quavo and Maverick City Music honoring Migos‘ Takeoff, ending with an homage to Fleetwood Mac‘s Christine McVie from Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt and Mick Fleetwood. Many artists were lost during the past 12 months, but their music lives on.
A Queen Breaks Records — To A Disco Beat
Beyoncé was allegedly stuck in traffic when she won her third GRAMMY of the evening — Best R&B Song for the joyful single “CUFF IT” — which, as Trevor Noah noted, put her one win away from making GRAMMY history. Luckily, by the time her name was announced for that record-setting feat, she was in attendance — and very much in shock.
Her seventh studio LP, RENAISSANCE, won Best Dance/Electronic Album. The win put her GRAMMY total at 32, marking the most wins of all time. Visibly emotional, Beyoncé first took a deep breath and said “I’m trying to just receive this night”; before heading off stage, she made sure to honor the queer dance pioneers who inspired the album, an exuberant tribute to classic dance format.
Hip-Hop Shines As A National Treasure
2023 marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop — so, naturally, the GRAMMYs put together perhaps the most legendary celebration possible. Featuring the Roots, Run-DMC, Queen Latifah, and many, many more, the nearly 15-minute performance highlighted the genre’s influence from past to present.
The parade of legends tracing the history of the genre was breathtaking. From Grandmaster Flash (“The Message”) and De La Soul (“Buddy”) to Missy Elliott (“Lose Control”) and Lil Uzi Vert (“Just Wanna Rock”), the extensive medley gave hip-hop its rightful place of honor as the most compelling musical movement of the past 50 years.
The Art Of Songwriting Stands The Test Of Time
One of the show’s most endearing images was the utter shock on Bonnie Raitt‘s face when she was announced as the winner of the Song Of The Year GRAMMY — perhaps because her competition featured the likes of Beyoncé, Adele and Harry Styles. “This is an unreal moment,” she said. “The Academy has given me so much support, and appreciates the art of songwriting as much as I do.”
In retrospect, Raitt’s win shouldn’t surprise anyone who is aware of her superb musicianship — and her 15 GRAMMYs to show for it. A rootsy, vulnerable song, “Just Like That” is the title track of her eighteenth studio album; the song also took home the GRAMMY for Best American Roots Song earlier in the evening.
Lizzo Dedicates Her Grammy Win to Prince (And Beyoncé)
By the time Record Of The Year was announced, the prodigiously gifted Lizzo had already brought the GRAMMY house down with rousing performances of the funky “About Damn Time” and the anthemic “Special.” But clearly the best was yet to come, as the former track took home one of the night’s biggest honors.
As Lizzo began her speech, she paid homage to Prince, who both served as an idol and a mentor to the star. “When we lost Prince, I decided to dedicate my life to making positive music,” she said, going on to explain that while she first felt misunderstood for her relentless positivity, mainstream music has begun to accept it — as evidenced by her win for “About Damn Time.”
Before leaving the stage, she made sure to give one more idol a shout-out: Beyoncé. “You changed my life,” Lizzo said, reflecting on seeing the “BREAK MY SOUL” singer when she was in 5th grade. “You sang that gospel medley, and the way you made me feel, I was like, ‘I wanna make people feel this way with my music.’ So thank you so much.”
Contrary To Popular Belief, Jazz Proves It’s Far From Dead
It only takes one listen to the wondrous voice of young Bronx singer Samara Joy to understand that she follows the same path once walked by Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. Joy’s second album, Linger Awhile, includes atmospheric versions of such classic nuggets as “Misty,” “‘Round Midnight” and “Someone To Watch Over Me.”
The rising star was already a winner going into the telecast, as Joy took home the golden gramophone for Best Jazz Vocal Album in the Premiere Ceremony. But when she beat out mainstream hitmakers like Latto, Anitta and Måneskin for the coveted Best New Artist GRAMMY, Joy not only set her place in the jazz firmament — it hinted that the genre may be ripe for a revival.
The Pop Concept Album Lives On
It’s not only the stunning beauty of its melodies, and the pristine warmth of the production. Harry’s House is a special album partly because of its vaguely conceptual sheen — the pervasive feeling that the 13 songs within are interconnected, an intimate journey into the singer’s creative soul.
At the telecast, Styles performed an ethereal reading of his luminous mega-hit “As It Was.” His well-deserved win for Album Of The Year confirmed that it’s perfectly valid to mix accessible pop with a sophisticated unifying theme — and if you do it really right, you may just win a GRAMMY.