Arguably the most important night in music, the 65th Annual Grammy Awards show was packed with surprise wins, broken records, and emotional tributes. Beyoncé became the most–awarded Grammy winner, surpassing the previous record with 32 total wins. A talented team of influential hip–hop stars, including Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliot, Lil Uzi Vert, Queen Latifah, and others, took to the stage to celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip–hop. Takeoff and Loretta Lynn, both artists who died in 2022, were remembered in a heartbreaking “In Memoriam” performance. And Kim Petras, winner of Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for her collaboration with Sam Smith on “Unholy,” was the first transgender woman to win the category. But now for the moment of truth—who won?
Album of the Year: Harry's House, Harry Styles
The former One Direction member took home the biggest award of the season. His sophomore album, Harry’s House, is a bright, charismatic mix of pop and R&B. Harry Styles has won three Grammys to date, with Harry’s House winning Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album in 2023, and “Watermelon Sugar” winning Best Pop Solo Performance in 2021. Going up against big names like Adele, Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo, and Beyoncé, Styles was shocked and humbled to receive Album of the Year, stating in his acceptance speech that “it’s important for us to remember there is no such thing as ‘best’ in music.”
Styles’ win, however, was not without controversy. For one, most people expected Beyoncé, a now 32–time Grammy winner, to win with her album Renaissance. Though she’s won so many Grammys in the past, Beyoncé fans remain upset that she has never won the most coveted award, Album of the Year; every time she’s been nominated, she’s lost to a white artist. Fans took to social media to question why a Black female artist hasn’t won the category since Lauryn Hill in 1999. Additionally, Styles said in his speech “this doesn’t happen to people like me very often.” The statement seemed endearing, but coming from a white man (just one out of the whopping 32 other white men who have won this award), it came off as a bit ignorant and out of touch. Styles has since seemed to address his not well–received comment at the 2023 Brit Awards, commenting that he is “aware of his privilege” and dedicated his award to female pop stars.
Record of the Year: "About Damn Time," Lizzo
Lizzo rang in her fourth ever Grammy with her hit song “About Damn Time”, featuring a throwback disco beat behind strong, snappy vocals. Lizzo is the first female rapper to win this Grammy. According to Lizzo, the song was the final addition to the album. Before writing it, she felt the album was incomplete and wanted something uplifting to polish it off. The track began with four piano chords and took around four months to be completed. There were three years between Lizzo’s breakout 2019 album, Cuz I Love You, and the 2022 LP, Special; hence, Lizzo responded to her fans' long–awaited frenzy by naming the song “About Damn Time”. Lizzo also performed this award–winning song and “Special” at the show, proving to fans that her fierce voice and upbeat lyricism translate onto the stage.
Song of the Year: "Just Like That," Bonnie Raitt, songwriter
Bonnie Raitt, a 73–year–old American blues singer, beat out several strong contenders, including Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well” (10 Minute Version) (The Short Film), Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit,” and Adele’s “Easy on Me” for Song of the Year. Raitt’s victory came as a surprise to everyone, even herself, as “Just Like That” barely surpassed 1 million Spotify streams (for reference, Harry Styles’ nominated “As It Was" has almost 2 billion streams).
“Just Like That” tells the story of a stranger arriving at the door of a grief–ridden mother. The stranger turns out to be the recipient of her dead son’s heart transplant. “And just like that, your life can change, look what the angels send / I lay my head upon his chest and I was with my boy again,” Raitt sings. Though an unexpected victory, Raitt’s understated vocal performance and beautiful lyricism prove it was a well–deserved win for Song of the Year.
Best New Artist: Samara Joy
Samara Joy, a New York born jazz singer, won the Grammy for Best New Artist. Raised in the Bronx, Joy was raised by a gospel–singing family and was later introduced to classic jazz artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday in college. In 2021, she released her self–titled debut album, which became a hit in the American jazz community. Her second album, Linger Awhile, was released in 2022 and won her another 2023 Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album. Comparable to former Best New Artist winner in 2011, Esperanza Spalding, Samara’s sultry, sophisticated sound is full of emotion and accompanied by smooth jazz instrumentals.
Recently, there has been one favorite nominee that has been expected to win the category each year, with Olivia Rodrigo, Megan Thee Stallion, Billie Eilish, and Dua Lipa winning, to the surprise of no one. This year, however, the crowd of contenders had no clear frontrunner. Joy being named Best New Artist is a huge moment for Black female artists, with Joy herself saying, “jazz is a part of Black history and it's a part of American history. It's important music. It's great music.” Joy’s victory in this category is also a big deal for modern–day jazz, proving that the age–old genre is making a comeback.
Best Pop Solo Performance: "Easy on Me," Adele
Another talent–packed category, Grammy regular Adele ended up claiming the award for Best Pop Solo Performance. Nominated alongside Doja Cat’s “Woman," Harry Styles’ “As It Was,” Lizzo’s “About Damn Time,” and Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit,” Adele’s familiar, thrilling vocals on “Easy on Me” earned the British singer her 16th–ever Grammy. In her acceptance speech, Adele teared up and dedicated the award to her son.
Adele is no stranger to hard–hitting performances; this is her fourth time winning this category (“Someone Like You,” “Set Fire to the Rain,” and “Hello” have won in the past). A champion of this generation, Adele’s raw, powerful voice is hard to compete with; she is regarded as one of the best performers of all time, with Billboard commenting that her performances are “utterly and breathlessly spectacular.”
Best Rap Album: Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, Kendrick Lamar
Competing against DJ Khaled, Future, Jack Harlow, and Pusha T, now 17–time Grammy winner Kendrick Lamar took home the win for Best Rap Album. His seventh studio album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, is different from his previous works, taking a more subtle approach to confronting his traumas. Variety described his album as “excruciatingly personal,” with lyrics discussing therapy, infidelity, and daddy issues.
One of the songs on the album, titled “Auntie Diaries” gained heavy media attention as Lamar raps about his uncle and cousin, both of whom are transgender. To convey the story of how he grew to celebrate his family members, Lamar thinks back to an ignorant younger version of himself. But notably, this past self repeatedly drops a slur in order to demonstrate the error of his homophobia in his earlier years. Designed to illustrate his journey towards acceptance of uncle and cousin, the song went viral and polarized the LGBTQ community, with some people praising Lamar for his transparency, while others argued that Lamar unnecessarily pushed a boundary. Regardless, Lamar left with the win, making this the third time he has won Best Rap Album (To Pimp a Butterfly in 2016 and DAMN. in 2018).