Beyoncé breaks all-time wins record but loses top awards at wide-open 2023 Grammys
Beyoncé was the big winner — and loser — at the 65th Grammy Awards.
The iconic singer, who led the field with nine nominations this year, won four Grammys on Sunday, giving her 32 over the course of her career, breaking the record previously held by classical conductor Georg Solti. Yet in the night's top three categories — song, record and album of the year — Beyoncé was shut out, losing those awards to veteran singer-songwriter Bonnie Raitt, pop-R&B powerhouse Lizzo and British singer Harry Styles.
In a wide open night that marked the Grammys' return to Crypto.com Arena after two years of COVID-related displacement, jazz singer Samara Joy took home the award for best new artist.
Despite her losses in the top categories, Beyoncé's four Grammy wins — for dance/electronic recording, dance/electronic album, R&B performance and R&B song — tied for the evening's most, with Christian/gospel group Maverick City Music. Kendrick Lamar, Brandi Carlile and Raitt each won three Grammys.
Lamar, nominated for eight awards, won for rap album, rap performance and rap song; Carlile took home rock song, rock performance and Americana album awards; and Raitt won song of the year, Americana performance and American roots song.
UK rock duo Wet Leg won two awards, alternative music album and alternative music performance, as did Styles, for album of the year and pop vocal album.
Adele, who earned seven nominations, won for pop music performance. Taylor Swift, nominated for four awards, won for music video. Compton's Steve Lacy won for progressive R&B album, following four noms, including record and song of the year.
R&B stalwart Mary J. Blige, nominated for six Grammys, went home empty-handed.
From the day the nominations were announced, fans wondered if Grammy voters would properly acknowledge Beyoncé's critically acclaimed "Renaissance" album, which plumbed the history of queer Black club music.
Early in the evening, host Trevor Noah said that Beyoncé, nowhere to be seen early in the show, was gridlocked on a freeway somewhere. It was illustrative of her complicated history with the Grammys: lavishly rewarded yet always facing some obstacle.
“Beyoncé means so much, she's been such an important factor especially for the academy,” Recording Academy Chief Executive Harvey Mason Jr. told The Times in an interview a few days before the ceremony. He referenced a new class of voting members, close to half of whom are from under-represented groups. ”I like to think that the work we've done on diversity over the last three years will be felt and seen and heard on the results, and hopefully on the stage. But I don't think you can measure it by one category.”
The CBS broadcast was notably inclusive. The evening's performances kicked off with Bad Bunny, the Puerto Rican rapper-singer who's the most-streamed artist on the planet. Emerging in a carnival line with a swinging merengue band behind him, he played the blistering “El Apagòn” into “Despues de la Playa” with nary a word of English or concession to Anglo audiences. He took home the música urbana Grammy for his album “Un Verano Sin Ti."
Bad Bunny was followed by Americana singer Carlile, whose rowdy performance of rock song and rock performance winner "Broken Horses" was introduced by her wife and two children.
In an embattled time for trans people and gender minorities the world over, a pop duo/group performance win for Sam Smith (the nonbinary UK singer) and Kim Petras (the German trans pop star) for their giddy “Unholy” made history, as did their potent performance. Petras thanked the late avant-garde trans producer Sophie in her acceptance speech: “I adore you and your inspiration will always be in my music.”
Some of the night’s most affecting moments came from the nods to history, especially toward soul music and hip-hop. Stevie Wonder, whose three-album run in the ’70s remains the Grammys’ ultimate winning streak, joined MusiCares co-Person of the Year Smokey Robinson, country singer Chris Stapleton and Boyz II Men’s Wanya Morris’ kids on backing vocals for a Motown medley that showcased the musical DNA of just about every artist in the room.
Grammy medleys can famously be more stultifying than entertaining, but the show’s comprehensive and ecstatic ode to five decades of hip-hop, celebrating the genre's 50th anniversary, was an emphatic endorsement of America’s most important popular art form. Just look at the roster sharing one stage tonight: Rakim, Run-DMC, Public Enemy, Jazzy Jeff, Geto Boys, Ice-T, De La Soul, Salt-N-Pepa, Missy Elliott, Queen Latifah, Method Man and a scenery-stealing Busta Rhymes, to name just some of the performers.
The In Memoriam segment offered stirring performances by Migos’ rapper Quavo, in dedication to his late bandmate Takeoff (his empty stool and necklace onstage were profoundly moving), Kacey Musgraves playing Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter” in a bed of flowers, and Sheryl Crow, Raitt and Mick Fleetwood paying tribute to Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie with a version of "Songbird."
During the afternoon's Premiere Ceremony, Tobias Jesso Jr. won the inaugural songwriter of the year award, and Jack Antonoff earned his second consecutive award for producer of the year, non-classical.
In the evening ceremony, finally extricated from her traffic tie-up, Beyoncé showed up just in time to accept the award for dance/electronic music album, which marked her record-breaking 32nd Grammy. Visibly moved, she thanked God, her Uncle Johnny (the backbone of “Renaissance’s” gay club influence) and the “queer community for inventing the genre.”
As the attendees at Crypto.com Arena and viewers at home anxiously looked on to see if Beyoncé would win the evening's final award, album of the year, and ascend her last remaining Grammy peak, the weight of history fell over the room. When Styles' name was announced, the Beyhive threw up their hands, Harry stans erupted with glee, and once again, the Grammys did what they tend to do — come so close to getting it right but leave music fans with something new to fight over.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.