While we couldn’t be on site at the 2021 Grammy Awards on Sunday (March 14), given COVID-19 restrictions, Billboard still got a behind-the-scenes view of Music’s Biggest Night thanks to the virtual press room.
It wasn’t too far removed from the regular backstage press room — reporters still had to “raise their hands” to ask a question, albeit via Zoom, and there was still the whiplash of going from the winner of a dance category to the winner of best boxed or special limited edition package — and we still kept track of all the big moments you didn’t see during the primetime telecast to keep you in the loop.
Below, follow along with Billboard’s virtual day with the stars (all times in local PT).
Noon PT: The Grammy Premiere Ceremony kicks off with a virtual collaborative cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology),” featuring Camilo, Alexandre Desplat, Sarah Jarosz, Ledici, PJ Morton and more of the night’s nominees.
12:09 p.m.: The first Grammy of the night goes to Kaytranada’s “10%,” featuring Kali Uchis, for best dance recording. His Bubba also wins best dance/electronic album, and he’ll be up for best new artist at the primetime telecast.
— KAYTRA (@KAYTRANADA) March 14, 2021
12:15 p.m.: Album of the year nominee Jacob Collier wins best arrangement, instruments and vocals for “He Won’t Hold You,” featuring Rapsody.
I won a Grammy for He Won’t Hold You!!!!! Two more nominations to go. On way to the main ceremony 🙂 pic.twitter.com/l5tjOJapCm
— Jacob Collier (@jacobcollier) March 14, 2021
12:17 p.m.: Nine-time nominee Beyoncé nabs her first win of the night: best music video for “Brown Skin Girl.” The win is especially meaningful because she shares it with 9-year-old daughter Blue Ivy.
12:29 p.m.: Kanye West wins his 22nd Grammy Award and his first in the best contemporary Christian music album category for Jesus Is King. Unfortunately for Premiere Ceremony viewers, West is unavailable to collect his award live.
12:39 p.m.: The first winner of the night pops into the Grammys virtual press room: Michael League, whose group Snarky Puppy won best contemporary instrumental album for Live at the Royal Albert Hall. “This award is for a live album that we made, and we’re in a global pandemic in which we haven’t had live music in over a year,” League tells reporters. “It’s definitely poignant for that reason.”
We are so humbled to receive this award from the @RecordingAcad ❤️
Our album “Live at The Royal Albert Hall” embodies all facets of the music industry: From the energy of the audience to the band as performers to our label @groundupmusicny and our partners @LHN_Recording… pic.twitter.com/8VMw3VjGsK
— Snarky Puppy (@RealSnarkyPuppy) March 14, 2021
12:47 p.m.: When new age album winner Jim “Kimo” West is asked in the press room about his process, he says, “I really record music for myself. … I feel if it’s something I like, I don’t have really obscure taste, so I think, ‘If I like it, maybe other people will too.'” Well, looks like he was right with his winning album More Guitar Stories.
12:56 p.m.: When best boxed or special limited edition package winner Lawrence Azerrad saw that he was up against Sir Paul McCartney in the category, he was understandably nervous. But “I’m a big believer in ‘a high tide raises all boats,'” he tells the press room of all the great nominees, adding that his pop-up packaging for Wilco’s Ode to Joy represented a fresh direction. “I’m just glad that people supported something new and different and bold and adventurous. But I was nervous about Paul, because people know that name.”
1:02 p.m.: Last year’s Grammy darlings Billie Eilish and Finneas are back in the winners’ circle, taking home best song written for visual media for their James Bond theme “No Time to Die.” Now for the movie to come out…
1:04 p.m.: Zach Williams enlisted Dolly Parton for his song “There Was Jesus,” and now he’s a Grammy winner for best contemporary Christian music performance/song. In the press room, Williams reflected on being in the studio with the country legend. “She was asking me: ‘How can I make this better?’ She was really there to serve the song.”
— Dolly Parton (@DollyParton) March 14, 2021
1:10 p.m.: PJ Morton has been nominated for pop Grammys as part of Maroon 5 and has picked up a couple of R&B prizes for his solo work, and now he has his first gospel Grammy for Gospel According to PJ. He tells reporters it’s a full-circle moment: “Gospel music gave me my start, just as a preacher’s kid growing up in New Orleans.”
1:42 p.m.: After the outpouring of love for John Prine’s two posthumous Grammy wins for “I Remember Everything,” Fiona Whelan Prine tells reporters, “It just confirms what we knew to be true about John, that he was absolutely lovable. Even at his most irritating, he was lovable,” she laughs.
1:51 p.m.: Megan Thee Stallion is now Megan Thee Grammy Winner, taking home best rap performance for “Savage,” featuring Beyoncé. It could be one of many prizes for the rapper, who is also up for best new artist.
1:52 p.m.: With her win for best score soundtrack for visual media for her work on Joker, Hildur Guðnadóttir is happy to serve as a representative for women in a male-dominated field — “to be visible for other women and girls to see this as an option, because we’re so used to seeing men in this line of work.”
2:09 p.m.: Andrew Watt wins the final early Grammy of the Premiere Ceremony for producer of the year, non-classical, thanks to his work with Dua Lipa, Post Malone, Miley Cyrus and more.
2:29 p.m.: When Billy Strings imagined what his first Grammy win might be like, he definitely didn’t picture this. “Man, it’s so weird,” the best bluegrass album winner for Home tells Billboard. “I never thought I’d be going to the Grammys period, but I never thought the day of the Grammys, I’d be out on my boat fishing and then taking a nap about an hour before I accept the award. So how do we celebrate? We’re just going to order some Postmates and try to watch Post Malone’s performance and just hang out and chill.” Strings also shared a behind-the-scenes perspective of winning during the Grammy Premiere Ceremony on his Twitter account:
— Billy Strings (@BillyStrings) March 14, 2021
2:33 p.m.: Sarah Jarosz has now won Grammys in back-to-back years – for her collaborative song “Call My Name” in 2020 and now best Americana album for her solo project World on the Ground. “It’s crazy to have this be two years in a row,” she tells reporters. “When we won that Grammy last year, we had no idea how the world was going to change.”
2:42 p.m.: Best children’s music album winner Joanie Leeds wasn’t going to miss her moment to shine just because of this year’s socially distanced circumstances. “It was my first nomination, and when I performed in the ‘before times,’ I’m always into fancy dresses and sequins and sparkles. So just because we’re virtual this year, I wasn’t going to just wear my hoodie sweatshirt,” Leeds tells reporters, wearing her pop-art-inspired sequined Nicole Miller dress. She even set up her own step-and-repeat at home in New York and took red carpet snaps.
3:04 p.m.: First-time nominee and winner Tom Kitt for best musical theater album talked about collaborating with Alanis Morissette on the Jagged Little Pill musical and how the narrative led the way. “It’s about really cracking the story and figuring out the way the music is going to follow that story,” he says in the press room. “Alanis was incredibly collaborative and instrumental.” Kitt also lamented winning for a Broadway musical when Broadway has been dark for a full year. But he’s hopeful things will rebound soon. “It’s a lot of emotion today.”
3:12 p.m.: Best traditional blues album winner Bobby Rush is happy to pass the blues torch to a new generation, but he’s not done making music just yet. “I want to do all I can while I can,” the 87-year-old tells reporters, adding, “I hope the young guys don’t lose the root of what I’m talking about.”
3:25 p.m.: After his fourth Grammy win ever – best R&B song for “Better Than I Imagined” – Robert Glasper pays tribute to one of his heroes, the late Chick Corea. “Chick’s contribution is unmeasured,” Glasper says of the jazz great, who also took home two posthumous Grammys on Sunday. “Chick Corea was really one of my first jazz inspirations. I had one of his albums on a tape when I was in seventh grade.”
3:43 p.m.: Thundercat may have won best progressive R&B album for It Is What It Is, but he wasn’t really thinking about what genre his project would fit into when making it. “I guess that’s what you would call it,” he tells reporters of the new category. “I just make music and I always hope and believe that it’s really good music.”
HOLY SHIT I WON!!!!!
— ashy daddy (@Thundercat) March 14, 2021
3:49 p.m.: Dan + Shay are 3-for-3 at the Grammys, winning best country duo/group performance for the third year in a row. And speaking of threes, the duo shares the “10,000 Hours” honor with a third artist. “To be on this song with a buddy of ours, Justin Bieber, is just incredible,” Shay Mooney tells Billboard. “He’s such a talented guy. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. … Getting him on this song and him finishing it and putting the final touches on it and making it what it is now, that was crazy that that happened to begin with. And we never truly got to celebrate this song going No. 1 together. It’s going to be an amazing day whenever we get to celebrate with him in person.”
— Dan + Shay (@DanAndShay) March 15, 2021
3:57 p.m.: Two decades into their career, The Strokes earn their first-ever Grammy win (from their first nomination), taking home best rock album for The New Abnormal. But when their name was announced at the Grammy Premiere Ceremony, they almost missed out. “The connection got cut!” Fabrizio Moretti tells reporters. “All we heard was the nominees and then we heard, ‘Say something!'” Julian Casablancas chimes in: “We didn’t want to have a Zoolander moment,” he says referencing the Ben Stiller comedy. “A ‘confused idiot steals the award’ moment.” Watch the moment below:
we did it. thanks Rick, Jason and everyone who helped us make this album. pic.twitter.com/ESI3qaAXSm
— The Strokes (@thestrokes) March 15, 2021
4:36 p.m.: Watt is thrilled not just to win producer of the year, non-classical, but also to still be alive and healthy. “I had COVID pretty bad, so to be able to come back from that and be sitting here with everyone, it’s just wonderful,” he says. “I’m so thankful.”
4:40 p.m.: Burna Boy teamed up with Diddy on his best global music album winner Twice as Tall, and the Nigerian artist said working with the producer showed that he’s on the right track. “He basically saw a lot of himself in me,” Burna tells the press room.
— Burna Boy (@burnaboy) March 14, 2021
5 p.m.: Host Trevor Noah kicks off the primetime telecast outside the show’s typical Staples Center home before heading into the Los Angeles Convention Center for a trio of performances.
5:50 p.m.: Two-time winner Kaytranada hits the press room – the first artist to join from the actual awards show site – after missing out on the best new artist prize to Megan Thee Stallion. When asked about the inspiration behind his Bubba project, he says: “This album was made to pay tribute to real house music. … This album really inspired me to create something that was electronic and dance but very soulful and Black, unapologetically.”
6:25 p.m.: Miranda Lambert is now a two-time winner in the best country album category, winning for Wildcard, and she tells Billboard why it was especially meaningful for her to win for her 2019 release. “I still make albums. I think everybody in the category does. We still romanticize having a full project to represent where we are in life and where we are creatively. I needed it in my life at the time when we made it, and obviously it feels amazing to celebrate that. I love all the people in the category with me,” she adds about Ingrid Andress, Brandy Clark, Ashley McBryde and Little Big Town. “We’re family. I feel like I’m bringing it home for all of us.”
— Miranda Lambert (@mirandalambert) March 15, 2021
7:40 p.m.: Minutes after winning her first Big Four Grammy – song of the year for “I Can’t Breathe” – H.E.R. recalls to reporters how the powerful track came to be in a tumultuous year. “When we wrote this song, it came from a conversation,” H.E.R. says, standing next to co-writer Tiara Thomas. “It came from the perspective of our own personal feelings, and then it became part of a movement.” Thomas adds: “It’s relevant this year, it’s relevant last year, it’s relevant five years ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, until we see a lasting change.”
— H.E.R. (@HERMusicx) March 15, 2021
8:20 p.m.: Harry Styles hits the virtual press room to give a sort-of second acceptance speech for best pop solo performance, which he won for “Watermelon Sugar.” “I just want to say thank you to the Grammys and everyone who voted,” he says, offering a statement to reporters but declining to take questions. “I feel incredibly lucky to get to work in music and make music as my job every day. This is an incredibly sweet icing on the cake of what I get to do every day, so thank you so much. I want to thank my fans for giving me an environment to be free to make the music that I want to make and supporting me on the way over the last 10 years. And everyone who made this record with me. And my label and my managers and everyone who supports me and everything, all of it, thank you so much. I feel very, very lucky tonight. Thank you.”
8:34 p.m.: Jacob Collier has been a longtime Grammy favorite – earning four awards before Sunday night, and collecting his fifth at the Premiere Ceremony – but this year, he moved up to the big leagues with his out-of-left-field album of the year nomination. “I was thrilled to be part of that main ceremony,” Collier tells reporters. “There’s something so special about communal celebration, especially after this period of silence.” He also calls taking home his fifth Grammy (best arrangement, instruments and vocals for “He Won’t Hold You,” featuring Rapsody) “very surreal.”
9:14 p.m.: The last star of the night to pop into the virtual press room is Dua Lipa, whose Future Nostalgia took home best pop vocal album. And she was hardly the only woman to win big on Sunday night, with all the Big Four prizes going to fellow female artists: Megan Thee Stallion (best new artist), H.E.R. (song of the year), Taylor Swift (album of the year) and Billie Eilish (record of the year). “I feel like there’s been a lot of female empowerment and lots of women winning awards tonight, and so it’s been absolutely amazing to just be alongside all that, to feel that energy,” Lipa tells reporters. “And for an album that means so much to me, I’m just so proud to be standing here with this award. It’s unmatched, the feeling.”