Everyone’s hearts were heavy going into the GRAMMYs this year, after a helicopter accident that left nine people dead, including Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gigi, as well as Gigi’s teammate Alyssa Altobelli and her parents. As host Alicia Keys astutely pointed out in her opening monologue, everyone at the Staples Center was sitting in the house Kobe built, mere hours after his tragic passing. Many of the performers paid tribute to Bryant; also in everyone’s hearts was Nipsey Hussle, who passed away in March of 2019. The 62nd GRAMMY Awards were more somber than most, but there were still many moments worth acknowledging.
The Kobe Tributes
Still reeling from the news of the fatal helicopter crash, many artists used their stage time to pay tribute to Bryant in some way.
Lizzo opened the show with “Cuz I Love You”, announcing, “Tonight is for you Kobe” before diving into her ballad. As per usual, she crushed her performance, bringing everyone some much-needed good vibes to kick things off.
Boyz II Men joined Alicia Keys onstage for a moving tribute to the deceased basketball star, when they sang “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye”. Usher sang the same song at the 2001 Super Bowl to honor Aaliyah, making the choice especially powerful.
Before beginning her planned monologue, Keys sang a medley that recounted moments of the year in music (and also took shots at Trump), saying before she sang, “I know how much Kobe loved music. He would want us to keep the vibrations high.” For the most part, the performances, presenters, and winners managed to do just that.
Run DMC held up a #24 Bryant jersey during their performance of “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith. Lil Nas X also had a Kobe jersey on the set during his performance of “Old Town Road”—his presence was really everywhere during the show.
We were all wondering how the Grammys would handle this sudden tragedy, and they paid tribute in a classy way without taking away from the reason we were all here: to celebrate music.
If the GRAMMYs give us one thing besides Sunday night insomnia, it’s plenty of performances to talk about. Some were fun, some were moving, some were unexpected, so let’s go through the more memorable ones (because there are always about 10 performances too many).
The Jonas Brothers were great but should have just given the people what they wanted and played “Burnin’ Up”. The highlight of their performance was the rogue piece of spinach stuck in Nick’s teeth and his tongue-in-cheek response to it, tbh.
And at least you all know I eat my greens. 🤪
— Nick Jonas (@nickjonas) January 27, 2020
Usher performed a medley of Prince’s hits in tribute to the late icon, and it was awesome. I definitely forget about Usher sometimes, but he reminded all of us why he’s such a star. Also, I definitely need to listen to more Prince, because all of these songs are incredible.
Lil Nas X had one of the best performances, and definitely the most fun out of anyone, when he performed a medley of his hits (yes, haters, he has more than one). He brought out the Walmart yodeling kid to join on “Old Town Road” (and Billy Ray Cyrus, but like, that was to be expected). But probably the most iconic moment was when Nas joined Lil Nas X onstage, effectively answering a question I’ve had for the past year, which is if Nas feels any type of way about Lil Nas X’s stage name. Glad to see there is nothing but love there.
After getting emotional and having to restart, Demi Lovato gave a powerful performance of “Anyone”, the heart-wrenching song she wrote four days before suffering her overdose in 2018. This was her first live performance in nearly two years, and her voice is just as stunning as ever. If you weren’t crying before, you were definitely crying watching her triumphant comeback. She’s also performing the National Anthem at the Super Bowl this weekend (casual), so I have a feeling it’s going to be a big year for Demi.
The tribute to Nipsey Hussle featuring Meek Mill, DJ Khaled, John Legend, YG, and Roddy Ricch was more than worth staying up past 10pm for, even though it should have occurred wayyyy earlier in the show. DJ Khaled and John Legend really gave Sunday Service a run for their money. I’d join their cult.
Ah yes, the GRAMMYs also has awards. This is really the only award show where the prizes feel like an afterthought, but we should still talk about them. This year, they decided to move one of the more highly-anticipated awards, Best New Artist, to the end of the show, probably because they knew everybody would take a nap if they followed what they did in years past and put it toward the beginning. I would say I’m not mad about the choice, but I am most definitely mad.
Speaking of the beginning, Lizzo won Best Pop Solo Performance, and thank god, because if Lizzo didn’t win something, and early on, the GRAMMYs wouldn’t be around for next year. She gave a touching speech about making music that liberates people and makes people feel good. She talked about the importance of reaching out to people who might be struggling, and also to reaching out to those close to you if you might be struggling. She said, “Let’s continue to hold each other down and lift each other up.” As my dad would say when trying to sound hip, I’m down for that.
Dan + Shay won a Grammy for Best Country Duo Performance and if you don’t know them, they’re the people that are on your friend’s pregame playlist that you beg to skip. The song they won for, “Speechless,” is like, the official song of engagement and wedding videos in the last year, so you probably either love it or hate it.
DJ Khaled, John Legend and Nipsey Hussle won for Best Rap/Sung Performance, which no one can argue was deserved. John Legend gave a nice tribute to Nipsey in his acceptance speech: “We’ve seen so much tragedy today and last year and so much has gone on, but let’s love each other and love our families and hold each other tight.” Overall, this was a weird night, but moments like this made it worthwhile.
And speaking of Best New Artist, Billie Eilish won that. And Song of the Year. And Record of the Year. AND Album of the Year. That’s right, it was a clean sweep. She’s only 18 years old, and none of us will ever be this accomplished in our lives. Ya hate to see it! Billie is only the second artist in history to win the big four awards in the same year, and I feel like she more or less deserves it (even if Billie herself said she wanted Ariana to win Album of the Year). If nothing else, it’s notable that the Recording Academy is willing to celebrate someone from the younger generation who’s doing something fresh and different. In the past, the GRAMMYs have been accused of only caring about old people, and that definitely wasn’t true this year.
Images: David Crotty / Getty Images; Giphy (3); nickjonas / Twitter
UPDATE: Y’all, it happened. On Monday afternoon, Billboard updated the Hot 100 chart, and “Old Town Road” is at the top for a record-breaking 17th week. Sorry Mariah, but it had to happen eventually. I have a feeling it’ll be a long time before another song spends this many weeks at the top, but either way, Lil Nas X has officially cemented his place in history. What a time to be alive. I’m happy about this, but I’m still thinking about how we’re going to explain this song to our kids in 20 years.
Well, look at that. It’s been literal months, and I still can’t stop listening to “Old Town Road.” Clearly I’m not the only one, because it’s still at the top of the Billboard Hot 100. If you’re thinking that this seems like a really long time for one song to stay at number one, that’s because it is. This week, “Old Town Road” is spending a record-tying 16th week at the top of the chart. Six months ago, none of us had even heard of Lil Nas X, and now he’s about to break a record that’s been going strong for 23 years.
If you don’t usually pay attention to the music charts, try spending a little more time on Reddit. Just kidding, don’t do it. Let’s go over a little background of what all of this actually means. The Hot 100, which is the main chart for singles in the US, dates all the way back to 1958. The formula for ranking the songs has changed a lot over the years, but now it’s a mix of three categories: airplay, sales, and streaming. Obviously Spotify didn’t exist in the ’50s, and the chart has evolved to reflect that. The current record of 16 weeks was first set in 1996 by “One Sweet Day,” a classic Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men collab. If you’re unfamiliar, go listen, that sh*t still slaps.
THANK U TO EVERYBODY WHO STREAMED OLD TOWN ROAD THIS WEEK!! IN A FEW DAYS WE FIND OUT IF WE BROKE THE RECORD!! ITS BEEN A LONG JOURNEY & WHETHER WE HIT IT OR NOT I APPRECIATE & LOVE ALL OF YOU!! ?⚡️⚡️⚡️
— nope (@LilNasX) July 26, 2019
While Mariah has kept the crown since I was literally in diapers, this isn’t the first time that someone has come close to snatching her record. In 2017, “Despacito” also spent 16 weeks at the top, before finally being dethroned by Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” (we’ll get back to Taylor Swift in a minute). Even if Mariah Carey’s 16-week record is toppled next week, she still has some other records that aren’t in danger. She’s the only artist to have her first five singles hit number one, and she’s also tied with Elvis Presley for the most number-one singles by a solo artist. She’ll be fine, and she hilariously told a paparazzi the other day that she doesn’t care about the record being broken.
Let’s get back to “Old Town Road.” One of my favorite things about Lil Nas X’s reign at the top of the charts is how many other artists he’s blocked from getting a number one. Stars who would normally expect a number-one debut have been stalled at number two for months on end, and it’s hilarious. Taylor Swift may have been the one to dethrone “Despacito,” but she’s tried and failed twice to beat “Old Town Road.” Shawn Mendes has also been blocked twice, once with Camila Cabello. Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber tried with “I Don’t Care,” but it didn’t work for them either. Most recently, Billie Eilish’s song “Bad Guy” has been stuck at number two for several weeks, and even a Justin Bieber remix wasn’t enough to push it to the top. “Old Town Road” started as a meme, but now it’s a giant killer of historic proportions.
When you ask Taylor Swift how she really feels about “Old Town Road”:
In the last few weeks, Lil Nas X’s lead over his nearest competition has been narrowing, and all good things must come to an end eventually. He’ll likely have enough Hot 100 chart points to notch a rec0rd-breaking 17th week, especially because his nearest competition—Billie Eilish—has also been losing steam on the chart. The only really big artist to drop a single last week was Taylor Swift, but by releasing “The Archer” on a Tuesday, it only had three days of tracking for the Hot 100 that will be released next Monday. Barring something unexpected (I was about to say tragedy, but that feels dramatic), the record is Lil Nas X’s to lose.
And even if Lil Nas X isn’t at the top of next week’s Hot 100, he’s already made plenty of history. He has the longest-running chart-topper for a debut single, and the longest for an openly gay artist. I was so excited when Lil Nas X came out last month, because he really does have the chance to make a positive change in both the hip hop community and the music industry in general. It doesn’t seem like this should be a big deal in 2019, but it still is.
Even if you don’t love “Old Town Road” (what are you doing with your life?), you’ve got to admit that it’s inspired some truly amazing memes. I’ve been going strong on Lil Nas X memes for months now, and honestly, I have no desire to stop any time soon.
I could literally post seven of my own memes here, but I will selflessly spread the love.
While we’ve talked a lot about the chart power of “Old Town Road,” maybe we haven’t even begun to explore its political potential? Honestly, I’m willing to explore this route. Nancy Pelosi, u up?
Maybe Lil Nas X can trick Nancy Pelosi into doing some sort of Old Town Road Impeachment remix. I'm open to try anything and he seems very powerful.
— Vinegar Mike ?️? (@VinegarMike) July 25, 2019
We all love the memes, and so does Lil Nas X. This week, he’s been having a great time getting his fans to stream the song as much as possible, retweeting sh*t like this:
Listening to Lil Nas remixes of Old Town Road so he can have the longest running song on the charts pic.twitter.com/3fOeLiFVLs
— Berry (@PinkMiruku) July 23, 2019
Honestly, where did they find this photo of me, because I feel very seen.
However you feel about “Old Town Road,” we all should applaud Lil Nas X. He’s already a queer icon, his debut single is one of the biggest songs of all time, and he’s also hilarious and humble on social media. Who knows where his career will go from here, but I have a feeling it’s going to be fun to watch, whatever happens.
Images: Getty Images; LilNasX, vinegarmike, pinkmiruku / Twitter; dylanhafer / Instagram; Giphy