He was the outsider with the most Grammy nominations of all: eleven, in categories from pop, jazz and classical to roots. American singer Jon Batiste went home with five gold gramophones at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards. Pop star Lenny Kravitz gave him the top award (album of the year) for We Are: not a bestseller, but a star that fuses the musical roots and traditions of black America. The title refers to the track Batiste released last year around Black Lives Matter and the protest he organized. Also his songs ‘Freedom’ and ‘Cry’ and his contribution to the movie soul won. Batiste from New Orleans has jazz as his first love, but on We Are he took a new path, with influences of soul and pop.
In disbelief, Batiste hugged one of the co-nominees last night, singer Billie Eilish. Batiste’s seriously ill wife, writer Suleika Jaouad, was unable to attend the ceremony. In his speech, he recalled that he sees music not as entertainment, but as a “spiritual” affair.
Also read the interview with Jon Batiste: ‘I don’t classify myself under a genre, I make social music’
The Grammys were presented Sunday night in Las Vegas, for the first time in two years to a packed house and live on television. The more than three-hour show also offered a tribute to singer Joni Mitchell (78), who is normally rarely present at these kinds of party nights. And so the evening of the performances sparkled. In addition, the show was also more inclusive than ever: there were more black artists in the show, presentation and nominations (Jon Batiste, Nas, Doja Cat, Lenny Kravitz, Megan Thee Stallion), several queer artists (Lil Nas X, Brandi Carlile, TJ Osborne ) and a role for non-English music (BTS, J Balvin and Maria Becerra). The criticism of the (too little) diversity at the Grammys has been strong for years.
Honey sweet soul
Host Trevor Noah was careful not to speak harshly about anyone in the room. In his opening, he brushed past the embarrassing moment at the Oscars, when actor Will Smith punched comedian Chris Rock: “We’re definitely not going to put anyone’s name in their mouth tonight.” Comedian Nate Bargate wore a helmet at the pre-ceremony show – where the bulk of the winners in 70 categories across 30 genres receive prizes. For example, the public had already been warned to “keep hands with them”.
Other major cross-genre awards (Record of the year, Song of the Year) won Silk Sonic, the honey-sweet vintage soul pact of drummer-rapper Anderson .Paak and vocalist Bruno Mars. They danced on stage. ‘Leave The Door Open’ defeated Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo. The 19-year-old Rodrigo became ‘best new artist’.
Jazz awards went posthumously to Chick Corea and Lyle Mays, who passed away last year. Esperanza Spalding was the best jazz vocalist. Dutch nominees – composer Louis Andriessen (1939-2021) and DJs Afrojack and Tiësto – did not win, unlike Dutch producers Roselilah and Outtatown with ‘Family Ties’ (for Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar: ‘best rap performance’). Dutch producer Tearce Kizzo did contribute to Jon Batiste’s hit ‘I Need You’.
Also read the report from the previous Grammys: Grammys this year dominated by women
Ukrainian President Zelensky addressed the audience in a pre-recorded video. “Our musicians wear bulletproof vests instead of tuxedos,” he said. “We are fighting against Russia, which brings a terrible silence with its bombs. Dead silence. Fill the silence with your music.” John Legend then sang ‘Free’, together with Ukrainian performers.
Traditionally, it has continued to rain down tributes, including to composer Stephen Sondheim, who died in November and to 95-year-old Tony Bennett – honored with a jazzy performance by Lady Gaga, with whom he won two awards for their second album together, Love for Sale† Bennett, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, no longer sings. Towards the end of the ballad ‘Do I love You?’ Gaga, with a special Bennett tattoo on her shoulder, was overcome with emotion.
Three awards (Best Rock Album, Rock Song and Rock Performance) went to the Foo Fighters, but frontman Dave Grohl and his band were not in attendance. Their drummer Taylor Hawkins, who died last week, was commemorated in a video compilation.
Billie Eilish didn’t cash in on any of her seven nominations, but did put on a spectacular performance. First she sang the quiet part of ‘Happier Than Ever’ in a flooded house. Then she rocked with brother Finneas, who is also her producer, on the roof of that house, surrounded by pouring rain.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on April 5, 2022
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of April 5, 2022