The 62nd Annual Grammy Awards are almost upon us, and queer performers are being represented throughout the ceremony. Between Lil Nas X, Brandi Carlile and Jesse Saint John, the big four categories feature a slew of queer talent, along with major nominations for LGBTQ performers like Brittany Howard, Tyler, the Creator, The Internet’s Steve Lacy and more.
But before we jump headlong into Sunday night’s (Jan. 26) ceremony, Billboard Pride decided to take a look back at some queer moments throughout the history of the Grammys. Here are five of our favorites.
Elton John Becomes the First Openly Queer Artist to Win the Grammy Legend Award (1999)
No one can deny that Elton John is a legend. The then-four-time Grammy winner became the first openly gay man to accept the Legend Award at the 41st Annual Grammy Awards, an award that had previously been bestowed on stars like Michael Jackson, Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin and Billy Joel, who presented the legend with the award. In presenting, Joel made a crack for John when he said “Now he is a knight, and in the United Kingdom he should be addressed as Sir Elton, but here in the good ol’ USA his friends can still call him Sharon.”
Melissa Etheridge Performs Post Cancer Treatment (2005)
When Melissa Etheridge was asked to pay tribute to Janis Joplin for her posthumous lifetime achievement award at the 2005 Grammys, she said yes — even though she had just undergone serious breast cancer treatment. Taking to the stage with a fully bald head, the star nailed her performance of “Piece of My Heart” alongside Joss Stone, giving Janis the tribute that she deserved.
Queen Latifah Weds 33 Couples as Macklemore, Madonna and Mary Lambert Perform “Same Love” & “Open Your Heart” (2014)
It’s one of the most unforgettably queer moments in Grammys history. With “Same Love” up for song of the year, Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert were set to give a performance of the call for marriage equality. But in the middle of the performance, none other than Queen Latifah appeared, and introduced the world to 33 couples, both same and opposite sex, whom she wed on the spot. As if the moment couldn’t be more touching, queer icon Madonna emerged as soon as they were married to perform a stripped-down rendition of “Open Your Heart.”
Sam Smith Takes Home Four Grammys, Thanks Their Ex-Partner in Speech (2015)
While many still remember the 2015 Grammys as the year that Beck managed to beat out Beyoncé for album of the year, the 57th Annual Grammys were also the year where Sam Smith walked away with four Grammys, one of which (for best pop vocal album) they became the first openly gay person to win. But it was in Smith’s acceptance speech for record of the year that they made sure to give proper thanks where it was due — the star thanked their ex-boyfriend, saying “Thank you so much for breaking my heart, because you got me four Grammys.”
Janelle Monáe’s Stunning “Make Me Feel” Performance (2019)
Less than a year after publicly coming out as queer, Janelle Monáe took to the Grammys stage in 2019 to perform her bisexual anthem “Make Me Feel,” and she certainly did not disappoint. Complete with an all-female dance crew, Monáe crooned and flirted her way through the anthem, and even featured her now-famous “vagina pants” as two dancers walked out wearing them toward the performance’s climax. To make the sexual fluidity of the song even clearer, she strutted out onto the catwalk before the song’s end, switching back and forth between “Girl you make me feel” and “boy you make me feel.” All of us knew exactly what to feel.