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The Grammys Persist Despite the Pandemic, by Cecelia Johanni

A skyscraper-sized high heel, tap-dancing and cat ear helmets graced the stage at this year’s Grammy Awards. The Recording Academy’s 63rd annual award show took place Sunday at 8 p.m. Though COVID-19 guidelines were in place, live recordings of performances were shown throughout the evening.


Artists who attended the show were required to test negative for the virus, wear masks when not on stage and keep distance from each other. The creative solution of pre-recorded performances allowed for an enjoyable show and sense of normalcy that many music fanatics have been craving. Enjoy this recap of the night’s most memorable performances.


Harry Styles opened the Grammys with his hit Watermelon Sugar. The stage was simple with Styles upfront and a jazz band in the background. Dressed in leather flares and a leather suit jacket, Styles also boasted a green boa for a pop of color. Styles stayed true to the care-free attitude of the song and even treated viewers to a bit of a quirky dance.


Next up, Billie Eilish sang her recent single everything i wanted. Her brother, FINNEAS, accompanied on piano. The stage was adorned with fog and a car which appeared to be sunken in water. The highlight of this performance was the sincere emotion conveyed through Eilish’s smooth vocals.


The last of the opening performances was the band Hiam, who performed The Steps. Though not a classic party anthem, the confident stage presence of Hiam was unmistakable. The four sisters circled their drum kit slowly while they sang. Hiam awed audiences with their many talents as they switched between instruments throughout the performance. Though not a classic party anthem, the confident stage presence of Hiam was unmistakable.


DaBaby and Roddy Ricch teamed up for an unexpected reinedition of their viral hit ROCKSTAR. While the vocals were spot on, it was the execution of the song that made it a worthwhile watch. Featuring grannies in choir robes, this performance was sure to captivate viewers. His band also included a violinist who played her heart out. DaBaby took on the role of conductor as he directed the choir with a baton.


One of the most anticipated performances of the night was Taylor Swift’s set. The performance began with Swift on the roof of a mossy cabin in a forest. After cardigan, the lead single from Album of the Year winner folklore, Swift sang a medley of august and willow. For the set, fellow songwriters Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner played guitar and piano respectively. With this performance, Swift has proved that her vocal abilities have matured with her career. Swift perfectly captured the wistful essence of folklore through this graceful performance.


As the night progressed, Megan Thee Stallion performed a mashup of Body and Savage. Megan Thee Stallion wore a sheer, bedazzled bodysuit while her backup dancers donned showgirl-esque flapper dresses. The Las Vegas theme and added a fun element to the performance. During “Savage,” a team of dancers showcased a tap routine, the icing on the cake for the energetic number.


Then, it was time for the long-awaited first live performance of WAP. With bright, colorful visuals in the backdrop to captivate audiences, Cardi B sang a shorter version of Up. After this, she moved to a larger set for “WAP.” Though Cardi’s armor-like bikini was questionable, her backup dancers also raised some eyebrows. They appeared to be painted blue with bodycon outfits and wigs of various colors, raising confusion about the set’s theme. The stage was set with a larger-than-life high-heeled shoe and bed, which added to the confusion.


The first Black female country artist to perform at the Grammys, Mickey Guyton, delivered an empowering set. She gave a strong performance of Black Like Me, a song about the struggle of being Black in America. Though not the only social justice–inspired performance of the evening, Guyton’s robust voice conveyed the gravity of the issues the country faces. Sets like hers prove how touching music is when used to deliver a message.


Doja Cat, a first-time Grammy performer, sang her smash hit Say So. As expected, the number was full of enthusiasm and complex dance moves. Doja Cat’s stylistic choice for the set deviated from her usual pink and bubbly themes. Dressed in a Catwoman-inspired bodysuit, she chose a more daring motif While her background dancers also wore all black and cat ear helmets—a nod to the singer’s stage name. While executed well, a lighter color pallet would have made more sense given the upbeat-pop sounds of Say So.


The final performance of the night was BTS, a successful K-pop band, who sang Dynamite. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the group could not travel to the United States. To solve this problem, a set identical to the Grammys stage was created in Seoul, Korea. The recording followed BTS as they moved from the original stage to a stairwell. Cameras zoomed in on one member at a time while the others climbed up. Not only were the boys dressed in eye-catching, colorful suits, but they also managed to dance with ease while wearing them. BTS ended the song on top of a building, Seoul’s skyline lit behind them.


Award shows are a unique pop-culture experience with the power to connect people through music. Despite a year full of disengagement and loneliness, the Grammy Awards offered respite from the anxiety-inducing headlines. Take a break from the pandemic and watch the full performances here.

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