Biggest moments from the 2021 Grammys, from Beyonce’s record to Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘WAP’

Like a breath of fresh air after a long winter inside, the Grammys returned Sunday on CBS for a musical celebration after a terrible pandemic year. 

Thanks to COVID precautions, the 2021 Grammys were unusual, to say the least, but an entertaining and exciting production nonetheless. The laid-back awards show toggled between awards presented outdoors, intimate performances, pre-recorded songs and spotlights on struggling independent music venues around the country. The night was full of sweet and shocking moments, and a few that felt something close to normal. 

Harry Styles wore a feather boa (and later, a few others) and won a Grammy  for “Watermelon Sugar.” Lizzo brought her energy (and an expletive). And the drummer from a little band called The Beatles, Ringo Starr, handed out the night’s top prize, to a surprised winner. And it was all done with masks, tables spaced six feet apart and a few nominees on Zoom. 

From a beautiful and heartbreaking In Memoriam segment to Trevor Noah as a casual emcee to Lil Baby’s powerful performance, here are the Top 7 moments from this year’s Grammys ceremony. 

Trevor Noah keeps it short and sweet

“The Daily Show” host lent his relaxed style of comedy to the proceedings, offering up rapid-fire jokes about the pandemic, politics and the socially-distanced version of the Grammys. The hosts of music’s biggest night rarely have as much time to fill as those who preside over the Oscars or Golden Globes, but Noah managed to show up just often enough to be memorable without overstaying his welcome. 

Chris Martin and Brittany Howard perform "You'll Never Walk Alone" during the In Memoriam section of the show. (Photo: Kevin Winter, Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

A moving memorial 

Most awards shows include an “In Memoriam” segment honoring luminaries in their fields who have died in the past year, and they run the gamut from somber to offensive (for their frequent glaring omissions). But the Grammys producers found a new and deeply emotional way to incorporate the segment into Sunday’s ceremony. The traditional montage was occasionally interrupted by live performances offering musical tributes: Lionel Richie sang Kenny Rogers’ “Lady,” and Brandi Carlisle offered an acoustic rendition of John Prine’s “I Remember Everything.” In an especially tragic year, it was a fitting and beautiful moment. 

Cardi B and her fellow rapper, Megan Thee Stallion, bring "WAP" to the stage. (Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B bring ‘WAP’ to life

Megan Thee Stallion won three Grammys, including best new artist, and was nearly bowled over by Beyonce’s unexpected appearance to help her accept the award for best rap song for “Savage.” But she really stole the show with Cardi B for a live, electrifying performance of their hit “WAP” that featured backup dancers painted blue, a giant platform heel, a giant bed and dance moves that defied gravity. 

Lil Baby performs "The Bigger Picture". (Photo: Kevin Winter, Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Lil Baby performs ‘The Bigger Picture,’ calls out Biden, police brutality

Lil Baby and Killer Mike’s fiery performance of “Bigger Picture” included a staged police shooting of a Black man (played by Kendrick Sampson), imagery from Black Lives Matter protests, a direct callout to President Biden by activist Tamika Mallory, and narration by James Baldwin, capped by a haunting fireworks display. On a night with a generally relaxed, uncontroversial vibe, it was by far the most openly political performance. 

Beyoncé makes Grammys history

Although her appearance at the Grammys was a surprise to fans who thought she and husband Jay Z would skip the night, Beyoncé was a welcome presence, and made history twice in the space of an hour, tying – and then breaking – the record for most-winning female artist, and the most winning singer, male or female, in the Grammys’ 63-year history. 

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