A lot went down Sunday night (Feb. 10) at the 61st annual Grammy Awards, but even if you had your eyes glued to your TV screen for the nearly four-hour broadcast, there was a lot that happened behind the scenes that you might have missed. Billboard was positioned on the red carpet, in the Staples Center seats and backstage in the press room to bring you all the stories behind the telecast.
(All times in local PT.)
12:36 p.m. PT: The Grammys Premiere Ceremony — where 75 of the night’s 84 Golden Gramophones will be given out — begins at the Microsoft Theatre, just across the street from the Staples Center, where the main event goes down in a mere four and a half hours.
1:15 p.m.: Tori Kelly wins her first Grammy of the night — and her first overall — when “Never Alone,” featuring Kirk Franklin, takes the prize for best gospel performance/song. “You’re all winners to me,” Kelly says onstage of her fellow nominees. “I literally grew up listening to you guys and I just love gospel music.” Kelly ends up taking home best gospel album for Hiding Place a few minutes later. She leaves the stage by telling the crowd, “OK, I’m going to go freak out now.”
1:17 p.m.: Lauren Daigle also picks up a pair of awards — but for a minute, it seems like she’s not in the building. She frantically makes her way to the stage in a kaleidoscopic dress and matching multicolored hair. “I love that music gives us the opportunity to look up,” she says from the stage. “Y’all have a fun night — I know I will! Woo!”
1:25 p.m.: “Weird Al” Yankovic talks to reporters backstage in the press room after his win for best boxed or special limited edition packaging for Squeeze Box: The Complete Works of “Weird Al” Yankovic. Al is joined by his fellow art directors, Annie Stoll and Meghan Foley, who says they were “inspired by our muse” on the project, Yankovic himself.
2:54 p.m.: When “This Is America” director Hiro Murai talks about making the transition from shooting Childish Gambino in music videos to directing Donald Glover on Atlanta, he quips, “The toughest thing is I had no idea how to make a TV show.” Fellow music video producer and Atlanta writer Ibra Ake addresses the elephant in the room when asked about the recently delayed next season of the FX show. “We’re just taking our time, trying to do it with TLC,” he says. “Obviously, a lot of us have been busy. We just want to give you guys the best expression of ourselves, so we want to take our time.”
3:02 p.m.: Did Rashida Jones ever imagine she might have her very own Grammy to match dad Quincy Jones‘ 28 trophies? She did not, but “it’s so nice I get to share this with my dad,” she says of the best music film win for Quincy. “Our whole filmmaking team gets to share this with my dad.”
“To be honest it didn’t feel real…it still doesn’t feel real!” pic.twitter.com/S4WrcphKYy
— billboard (@billboard) February 10, 2019
3:58 p.m.: After PJ Morton wins best traditional R&B performance for “How Deep Is Your Love,” featuring Yebba, he fields questions from reporters backstage about his other gig as keyboardist for Maroon 5. After the fact, how does Morton feel about the band’s decision to take the polarizing Super Bowl halftime gig last weekend. “I’m actually happy we did it,” he says. “…The reason we do this is to make people happy and to play music. … It was an honor.”
4:14 p.m.: “This just only the beginning for me, man,” Jay Rock tells reporters after his best rap performance win alongside Kendrick Lamar, Future and James Blake for “King’s Dead” from Black Panther. Rock was especially happy to share the prize with Anderson .Paak, who tied in the same category for “Bubblin’.” “That’s my dude right there.”
4:31 p.m.: Oh, and did we mention that best traditional R&B performance also ended in a tie? Morton shares the trophy with Leon Bridges for “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand” — but Bridges isn’t complaining. “That’s cuz right there,” he says of his R&B peer.
— billboard (@billboard) February 11, 2019
— billboard (@billboard) February 11, 2019
6:27 p.m.: Grammys Premiere Ceremony host and best reggae album winner Shaggy talks with reporters backstage just after it was announced that Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” had won song of the year — the first-ever rap track to win the prize. “You just gotta keep breaking down barriers,” says Shaggy, who won his latest trophy for 44/876, his joint album with Sting. “It’s the same thing with reggae. … It’s baby steps, and it’s a big win for them tonight.”
6:29 p.m.: The biggest reaction of the night from the otherwise-reserved press room is when the camera cuts to Offset in the crowd during Cardi B‘s lusty performance only to find him with his tongue literally wagging.
6:53 p.m.: You all saw Drake‘s acceptance speech get cut off after he won best rap song for “God’s Plan,” but what viewers at home didn’t see is that the rapper’s mic was also cut off inside Staples Center. So anything he planned to say after that “but” got drowned out in-house by the Grammys promo leading into a commercial and then Drake exited the stage. Will he win another award and be able to continue that thought?
7:04 p.m.: Two of the biggest backstage laughs of the night come from Diana Ross‘ onstage quips. First, when she urges people to keep swaying their arms by saying “don’t be lazy!” And then, when she wraps up her performance with a joyful “Happy birthday to me!”
7:10 p.m.: After performing their breakthrough hit “Tequila,” country duo Dan + Shay presented Drake with his best rap song trophy. So reporters wanted to know if they could hear what he had to say after the mic got cut off. “He said, ‘I voted for you guys,'” Shay Mooney joked as he held the pair’s first Grammy for best country duo/group performance.
7:14 p.m.: Following her rock ‘n’ roll performance of “Shallow,” Lady Gaga and her band get in a line and wave at the audience while taking a bow — an appropriate finale for her rock-band version of the A Star Is Born anthem.
7:16 p.m.: As “This Is America” songwriter/producer Ludwig Göransson talks about the song’s many collaborators backstage, he takes time to acknowledge one of the featured artists in particular who couldn’t be at the show: “21 Savage, who should be here right now, but unfortunately is not because he’s detained.” 21 Savage was arrested last weekend in Atlanta and remains in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
7:22 p.m.: Ushers inside Staples Center ask everyone to clear the aisles because “a phenomenal secret” is about to happen. A few minutes later, dozens of club kids come running down the aisle to form a mosh pit outside Travis Scott‘s epic fenced-in stage.
7:56 p.m.: As the standing ovation continues for Brandi Carlile‘s emotional performance of “The Joke,” the singer/songwriter jumps up and down in excitement over the overwhelming response.
8:48 p.m.: Dua Lipa‘s best new artist speech was also cut off during the telecast, so reporter in the backstage press room got a chance to ask her to tell us who she hadn’t yet thanked. In addition to her team, her family and friends, and artist who inspired her, she wanted to make sure to include “my fans, who I have to thank over and over again because they’ve really gotten the word out and gotten me where I am today.” She also reveals that she’s “almost done” with her sophomore album.
9:05 p.m.: When asked backstage whether her four Grammy wins for Golden Hour — including the night’s biggest prize, album of the year — might help her music get played on the radio, Kacey Musgraves seems unbothered. “It doesn’t really matter where someone hears your music; it’s if they connect or not,” she says.
9:12 p.m.: Brandi Carlile had some initial nerves when she took the stage to perform “The Joke,” but she tells reporters that her anxiety slipped away when she locked eyes with a tranquil Janelle Monae in the crowd. “I sang it to her,” Carlile says.
9:16 p.m.: Musgraves returns to the press room after some technical difficulties cut her first trip to the stage short. When asked about being part of a wave of successful female artists, she states what should be the obvious: “I think that women have a really necessary perspective to art, to music.”
9:26 p.m.: Holding her first two Grammys — for best R&B album (H.E.R.) and best R&B performance (“Best Part,” featuring Daniel Caesar) — H.E.R. tells reporters, “This is proof that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.”
–Additional reporting by Dan Rys, Melinda Newman and Gail Mitchell