Awards

Beyonce, Taylor Swift & Other Record Setters at the 2021 Grammys

Beyoncé won four Grammys at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards on Sunday (March 14), pushing her career total to 28. That enables her to tie Quincy Jones as the living person with the most Grammys and to pull ahead of Alison Krauss (27 Grammys) as the woman (and vocalist of either gender) with the most. Only the late classical conductor George Solti (31 Grammys) has won more Grammys than Queen Bey.

Yet critics will point out that Beyoncé was again shut out in the "Big Four" categories -- album, record and song of the year plus best new artist. After all this time, her only "Big Four" win is song of the year for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," 11 years ago.

Beyoncé took best music video for the second time with “Brown Skin Girl.” She first won in that category four years ago for “Formation.” The award also went to WizKid and Blue Ivy Carter, the nine-year-old daughter of Beyonce and Jay-Z. Blue Ivy is the second-youngest Grammy-winner in history, following eight-year old Leah Peasall (who with her sisters was featured on the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack).

Women had a stellar year at the Grammys. Female artists won for album of the year (Taylor Swift), record of the year (Billie Eilish) and best new artist (Megan Thee Stallion). In addition, two of the three writers of the song of the year winner, “I Can’t Breathe,” are women.

Swift's Folklore won album of the year. It’s her third win in the category. She’s just the fourth artist in the Grammy history – and the first woman – to win album of the year three times. She follows Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon (counting a Simon & Garfunkel album) and Stevie Wonder.

But Folklore was passed over for best pop vocal album, losing that award to Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia. Folklore is just the third album of the year winner that lost in its “home genre” category. Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs won album of the year even though it lost best alternative music album to The Black Keys’ Brothers. Mumford & Son’s Babel won album of the year even though it lost best Americana album to Bonnie Raitt’s Slipstream.

Eilish won record of the year for the second year in a row with "Everything I Wanted." She won last year for "Bad Guy." Eilish is just the third artist in Grammy history to win in this top category two years running. She follows Roberta Flack ("The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" and "Killing Me Softly With His Song") and U2 ("Beautiful Day"and "Walk On").

H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe” was a surprise winner for song of the year. It’s the second time in three years that the winner in that category has been a comment on the state of race relations in the U.S. Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” won two years ago. “I Can’t Breathe” beat another song that comments on race, Beyoncé’s “The Black Parade.” Oddly, “I Can’t Breathe” wasn’t nominated for best R&B song – though it was entered in the category. H.E.R.’s co-winners for song of the year are Dernst Emile II and Tiara Thomas.

Megan Thee Stallion and classical producer/engineer David Frost each won three Grammys on the night. Megan is the first female rapper to take best new artist since Lauryn Hill 22 years ago. She’s the first Black woman from any genre to win in the category since jazz star Esperanza Spalding 10 years ago.

Two-time winners included Fiona Apple, Billie Eilish and Finneas, H.E.R., Kaytranada, Maria Schneider and two musicians who died in the past year – John Prine and Chick Corea.

Harry Styles won his first Grammy, in or out of One Direction, for “Watermelon Sugar,” which took best pop solo performance. To win here, the sexy smash beat record and/or song of the year nominees by Doja Cat, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa and Taylor Swift. Styles’ camp didn’t enter “Watermelon Sugar” in either of those marquee categories, opting to instead enter his other big hit from last year, “Adore You.” The win here for “Watermelon Sugar” suggests that they may not have gone with Styles’ strongest contender in the top categories.

All-female collabs won for best pop duo/group performance and best rap performance, both for the first time in those categories. “Rain on Me” by Lady Gaga with Ariana Grande took the pop award. “Savage” by Meghan Thee Stallion featuring Beyoncé took the rap award. These were two of four all-female collabs to top the Hot 100 in 2020.

Dan + Shay won best country duo/group performance for the third year in a row with “10,000 Hours,” their hit collab with Justin Bieber. This is Bieber’s second Grammy and it comes in a very different category from his first – best dance recording for "Where Are Ü Now" a collab with Skrillex and Diplo as Jack Ü. Bieber is the first artist in Grammy history to win Grammys in both dance and country categories. As for Dan + Shay, they won in this category the last two years with “Tequila” and “Speechless.” This third win puts them in a tie with Little Big Town for the most wins in the category.

John Legend won best R&B album for the third time for Bigger Love. He previously won for Get Lifted (2005) and Wake Up, a collab with The Roots (2010). This ties Alicia Keys for the most wins in the category.

Beyoncé wasn’t the only artist to move up the list of all-time winners. The late Chick Corea won his 24th and 25th Grammys for best improvised jazz solo for “All Blues” and best jazz instrumental album for Trilogy 2. Jay-Z won his 23rd Grammy for best rap song for “Savage.” Vince Gill won his 22nd Grammy for best country solo performance for “When My Amy Prays.” Kanye West won his 22nd Grammy for best contemporary Christian music album for Jesus Is King.

Two music stars finally won their first Grammys after losing many, many times. Nas, with 14 career nods, finally won for best rap album for King’s Disease. Ledisi, with 13 nods, finally won for best traditional R&B performance for “Anything For You.” But mastering engineer Chris Gehringer, after losing both of his nods this year (record and album of the year for his work with Dua Lipa), is now 0-15 at the Grammys.

Brittany Howard won best rock song for “Stay High.” She’s the first woman to win in that category for writing a song without a male co-writer(s) since Alanis Morissette won 22 years ago for “Uninvited,” her song from the City of Angels soundtrack. Two years before that, Tracy Chapman won for “Give Me One Reason.” This is Howard’s second win in this category. With her former Alabama Shakes bandmates, she won five years ago for “Don’t Wanna Fight.”

Miranda Lambert took best country album for the second time with Wildcard. She first won in that category six years ago with Platinum. Lambert is the second female solo artist to win twice in that category, following Kacey Musgraves.

Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters won best alternative music album. Apple is the third female solo artist to win in that category, following Sinéad O'Connor (I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, 1990) and St. Vincent (St. Vincent, 2014). Apple also won best rock performance for “Shameika.”

James Taylor’s American Standard won for best traditional pop vocal album. Taylor won best pop vocal album 23 years ago for Hourglass. He is only the third artist to win in both of these categories. The first two were Joni Mitchell and Lady Gaga. Mitchell won best pop album for Turbulent Indigo (1995) and the trad pop award for Both Sides Now (2000). Gaga won best pop vocal album for The Fame Monster (2010) and the trad pop award for Cheek to Cheek (2014), a collab with Tony Bennett.

Jagged Little Pill, a musical based on Alanis Morissette’s classic 1995 album, won for best musical theater album. It’s the third winner in that category that was based on a classic rock album. The Who’s Tommy, the 1993 winner, was based on The Who’s 1969 album. American Idiot, the 2010 winner, was based on Green Day’s 2004 album.

Snarky Puppy became the first three-time winner for best contemporary instrumental album for Live at the Royal Albert Hall. Larry Carlton and Booker T. Jones have each won twice in the category.

David Frost won producer of the year, classical for the seventh time, tying Steven Epstein and Robert Woods for the most wins in the history of the category. Frost is the son of Thomas Frost, who won the 1986 award in the category.

Andrew Watt won producer of the year, non-classical. His production work during the year included Dua Lipa, Post Malone and Ozzy Osborne. This was the first nomination in the category for Watt, 30. Last year’s winner, Finneas, was also a first-time nominee in the category. He was even younger -- just 22 -- when he won.

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