The music industry’s biggest awards night has been overshadowed by the sudden death of NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, who was killed along with eight others including his 13-year-old daughter Gianna in a helicopter crash in Calabasis, California.
The show kicked off with a touching and emotional tribute by host Alicia Keys, who was joined on stage by Boyz II Men to sing an acapella version of It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday at the Staples Centre.
“Here we are together on music’s biggest night celebrating the artists that do it best, but to be honest with you we are all feeling crazy sadness right now,” Keys said as she entered the stage, adding that “Los Angeles, America and the world-wide world lost a hero.”
Keys, 39, wearing an off-the-shoulder stunning silver sequin gown said the audience was “heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
“Right now Kobe and his daughter Gianna … are in our spirits, they’re in our hearts, they’re in prayers, they’re in this building,” she added. “Take a moment and hold them inside of you and share our strength and our support with their families.”
She sat at the piano, and with a captivated audience, told them “we’re going to sing together, we’re going to cry together”.
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The 62nd Grammy Awards show was held at the STAPLES Centre in Los Angeles, also the home of Bryant’s team the Los Angeles Lakers, where hundreds gathered to pay tribute throughout the day on Sunday local time.
Harvey Mason Jr, the interim Recording Academy chief, opened proceedings before the main show telecast with a call for a moment of silence.
News of Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash in Calabasis, about 65 kilometres northeast of Los Angeles, had broken about an hour earlier.
“Since we are in his house, I would ask you to join me in a moment of silence,” Mr Mason said.
Before the show officially honoured Bryant, Lizzo performed the songs Truth Hurts and Cuz I Love You, saying at the top of the show: “Tonight is for Kobe.”
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Lizzo was among the mix of newcomers and well-known acts who reached their goals of winning their first-ever Grammy Awards, which also included Tanya Tucker, J Cole, Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X and late rapper Nipsey Hussle.
Eilish took home the coveted song of the year Grammy for her 2019 hit Bad Guy.
She accepted the award with her “best friend,” collaborator and brother, Finneas, both of whom appeared stunned by their win.
“Wow, wow, wow, wow,” Eilish began her speech. “So many other songs deserved this, I’m sorry.”
Coming into the ceremony, Eilish scored six nominations, tying with fellow Gen Z phenom Lil Nas X for the second-most nominations after Lizzo’s eight. Her anti-pop earworm Bad Guy nabbed three nods for record, song and pop solo performance.
When she was 17, she became the youngest artist in history to receive nominations in all top four categories: best new artist, song, record and album.
She’s also the youngest to have ever been recognised for album of the year for her chart-topping debut, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
And Beyonce, the most nominated woman in the history of the Grammys, won her 24th award.
The music video for the viral hit Old Town Road by Lil Nas X with Billy Ray Cyrus took home a Grammy, along with Beyonce’s Homecoming which won for best music film.
Lady Gaga won two for her work on movie A Star is Born, while slain rapper Nipsey Hussle won best rap performance for Racks in the Middle.
Michelle Obama, Sara Bareilles, Rosalia and 21 Savage also became official Grammy winners when the show handed out trophies during its pre-telecast ceremony.
Finneas, who co-wrote, produced and engineered his sister’s debut album won best engineered album (non-classical), best pop vocal album (shared with his sister) and non-classical producer of the year.
“My heart is beating so fast right now,” Finneas said. “This award belongs to my sister Billie for her trust and vision.”
Mourners gather outside STAPLES Centre
Hundreds gathered outside of the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon to mourn the Lakers legend amid chants of “Kobe! Kobe!” breaking out spontaneously.
A black-and-white photo of Bryant populated screens featuring the message “In Loving Memory of Kobe Bryant, 1978-2020,” which was displayed outside the Staples Center and Microsoft Theater, while thethe Grammys were under way inside on Sunday night local time.
At a news conference Sunday, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said nine people were on board the helicopter, including Bryant and his daughter Gianna, 13. The identities of the other passengers have not yet been released. There were no survivors.
Bryant was travelling via private helicopter when it crashed in Calabasas, a suburb of Los Angeles. His 13-year-old daughter Gianna was among the deceased. The helicopter was said to be en route to her basketball game in Thousand Oaks.