The 2024 edition of the Grammys is in the books, and just like we all predicted, we’re talking about Taylor Swift—just not entirely for the reasons we suspected. The reigning queen of the pop-culture universe made history (and a big announcement) on Sunday, but that wasn’t all that happened. Let’s break down the winners and losers (plus a few WTF moments) from the evening’s festivities.
Winner: Taylor Swift, New Record Holder and New-Album Announcer
It’s hard to imagine a world in which Taylor Swift left the 66th Grammy Awards a loser. When did she even take her last L? When Evermore lost Album of the Year in 2022? The fact that it was nominated at all was already kind of a W considering it was essentially just Folklore B-sides. When Reputation didn’t garner any major-category nominations in 2019? She spun that into a moment of adversity (she, of course, overcame) in the 2020 documentary Miss Americana. Something before that involving a famous rapper and a famous reality star feels pathetic to even bring up anymore.
The truth is, it didn’t even matter what name Celine Dion (who was making a rare public appearance since being diagnosed with stiff-person syndrome) read off that Album of the Year card. Taylor was a winner the moment the phrase The Tortured Poets Department entered our lives. She used her win for Best Pop Vocal Album to announce her upcoming 11th studio album, due out in April, and it hung over the rest of the ceremony to the point where becoming the first artist in history to win four Album of the Year Grammy awards just felt like a victory lap.
Part of the post-show discourse centered on Swift’s supposed snub of Dion (though a backstage photo-op seemed to dispel any notion of, uh, bad blood) and Taylor seemingly dragging Lana Del Rey to the stage after the AOTY announcement. (Lana hid off to the side, but Taylor called her out as a “legend in her prime.”) But none of that is enough to slow this train. She’s got a new album to conquer the world—and possibly extend her Grammy record—with, and that’s before the Super Bowl next Sunday, where her boyfriend will star and she’ll likely command some amount of screen time. From the Eras tour to the many Taylor’s Versions to her relationship with Travis Kelce, we’ve been living in her world for several years now. The Tortured Poets Department—and its announcement from the Grammys stage—ensures that won’t change anytime soon. Taylor may not be actually writing books, but if there’s one thing she knows how to do, it’s control the narrative.
Loser: The Recording Academy Shutting Out SZA (and for that matter, Beyoncé)
SZA entered the night as the most-nominated artist, with nine nods, on the heels of a beloved album and her first no. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. We did get to see her make a lovely acceptance speech (relatable as ever, declaring, “I’m not an attractive cryer”) after winning Best R&B Song for “Snooze,” but she was shut out of the general field categories. Sound familiar?
After Jay-Z used his speech for the Global Impact Award to remind us that Beyoncé “has more Grammys than everyone and never won Album of the Year,” it was hard not to draw a comparison between the two. The Grammys did a lot of patting itself on the back during the ceremony for its majority-women nominees, but a Black woman still hasn’t won Album of the Year since 1999’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. It felt like this was SZA’s year, but instead the Grammys ended with the feeling that nothing’s really changed after all.
Winner: Being Late
Trevor Noah kicked off his fourth round of Grammys hosting duty by … hyping up people who weren’t there yet. During his opening monologue, he stood over the empty chair of Meryl Streep (who showed up with her son-in-law, Barbie soundtrack producer Mark Ronson—who knew?) and assured us that she’d soon be sitting in it. Sure enough, she walked up just as he was wrapping up that bit. Same with Taylor Swift, who could be seen walking to her seat with Jack Antonoff and Co. right as Noah promised her arrival. “I say the names, and they pop out!” he claimed, though the same couldn’t be said for Beyoncé, who arrived at least an hour after Noah said her appearance was imminent as well. (The Queen’s late arrival has become as much a tradition as the Recording Academy’s insistence on snubbing her.)
But these fashionably late arrivals did little to dull Noah’s enthusiasm. Was it too much? Well, unless you believe Ed Sheeran is “one of the greatest performers of all time” and that Doja Cat’s Scarlet is up there with the Mona Lisa and Romeo & Juliet as “one of the best pieces of work that’s ever been put out,” then probably. But after Jo Koy’s disastrous Golden Globes appearance last month and hearing the same jokes every year at the Oscars about how movies are too long, is it so bad to see an awards show host who seems to actually like the art that’s being awarded? Count how many jabs there are at the three-plus-hour runtimes of Oppenheimer and Killers of the Flower Moon at the Oscars next month and get back to me.
Loser: James Dolan’s Sphere Commercial
Quick question: How is the Sphere planning to turn a profit? In November, it was reported that the venue was operating at a nearly $100 million loss after opening last September. The only musical act that has performed there is U2, and that didn’t change tonight as the band streamed a performance from what I can only assume is now their home to the Grammys telecast. The sleek (but motion sickness-inducing) performance looked pretty indistinguishable from a tech company advertisement.
The only other artists currently scheduled to perform at the venue are Phish and Dead & Company, with the Darren Aronofsky film Postcard From Earth (shot specifically for the venue) screening intermittently in between. Maybe jam bands and the like can keep the $2 billion structure afloat for a while, but if that well runs dry, it doesn’t seem like a place artists would stop at on their tours (since they’d likely have to design a new show utilizing the Sphere’s capabilities). At a capacity of 18,000 to 20,000, it’s also too small for A-listers who are known for elaborate shows, like Beyoncé and Taylor Swift. And after tonight, it doesn’t seem likely that Sphere CEO James Dolan attracted any new takers. Unless he starts charging U2 rent, no amount of LED screens is making the Sphere’s future look bright.
Winner: Billie Eilish’s Oscar chances
Billie and Finneas already took home a Golden Globe for their Barbie ballad “What Was I Made For?” last month, and the brother-sister duo’s Song of the Year win on Sunday pushed the momentum forward for Eilish to take home her second Oscar next month. Already a -550 betting favorite, “What Was I Made For?” seems primed to join songs like “Moon River,” “The Way We Were,” and “My Heart Will Go On” that won both a Best Original Song Oscar and a Song of the Year Grammy in the same awards season. And let me reiterate, this will already be Eilish’s second Oscar! Between that and sweeping the Grammys back in 2020, she’s already become one of the most decorated artists of her generation at just 22 years old. For context, Taylor Swift had only one general-field Grammy (Album of the Year for Fearless) until 2016, and she’s still never won Record or Song of the Year. Not to mention she’s never even been nominated for an Oscar (and not for lack of trying). Don’t be surprised if one day we’re seeing Billie break many of the records Taylor is setting now.
Loser: Olivia Rodrigo, Would-Be Grammy Darling
Rodrigo turned in one of the night’s standout performances as she belted out her hit ballad “Vampire” with red “blood” smeared on her face (once a theater kid, always a theater kid). But on the podium, it was another quiet Grammys for Rodrigo. It’s somewhat shocking considering the way she’s captured the hearts of generations young and slightly less young. It seems as though she should be raking in awards the way Eilish is. But to date, the only major Grammy she’s won has been Best New Artist in 2022—which itself felt like a letdown, as she was favored to sweep the general field that year. Of course, she’s still just 20 years old, she’s on only her second album, and she did take home a couple of awards in the pop categories last time around. But it feels significant that she was completely shut out this year. Even her producer Dan Nigro, who was also nominated for his work with Chappell Roan and Caroline Polachek, lost out on Producer of the Year, Non-Classical to the prolific Jack Antonoff, who won the award for the third year in a row. I’m not sure why there seems to be a disconnect between Rodrigo’s music and Grammy voters, but it’s certainly odd to see her go home empty-handed.
Winner: Miley Cyrus, Underwear Forgetter
After having only one prior solo nomination and no wins, Miley came up big on Grammys night. Her smash “Flowers” was deemed the Record of the Year, and whether you agree with that decision or not, watching her giddily jump around in her Barbarella hair looking genuinely excited was pretty heartwarming. It’s always nice to see someone actually have some fun at these things! Even if it came with a little TMI.
Loser: Travis Scott, Going Door to Door to Shock People
After receiving only one nomination—Best Rap Album—for his 2023 record, Utopia, it was surprising that Scott was given a performance slot at all at this year’s Grammys ceremony. What wasn’t surprising is that he trotted out the same diet-Yeezus schtick he’s been doing for the better part of a decade now, dressed like a Mad Max extra as he smashed chairs among controlled pyrotechnics.
As soon as Playboi Carti came out Travis Scott started hitting the steel chair like prime Mick Foley pic.twitter.com/SnFFW73R3B— Ahmed/The Ears/IG: BigBizTheGod (@big_business_) February 5, 2024
Even worse was that the performance from Scott, who headlined the severely overcrowded Astroworld Festival in 2021 that resulted in 10 deaths, immediately preceded a speech by Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. about violence at concerts. (That there were real political calls to action during and around the same ceremony made the speech fall even flatter.) During an overall pretty entertaining show, these lowlights were just made all the more obvious.
Winner: Tracy Chapman’s and Joni Mitchell’s Returns to the Stage
Much has been said of country star Luke Combs’s cover of the seminal Tracy Chapman hit “Fast Car”—Combs’s version hit no. 2 on the Hot 100 last summer—but it ultimately culminated in pretty indisputable Ws for Chapman herself. After raking in royalties and Country Music Awards for the cover, Chapman made a triumphant return to television after nine years, performing “Fast Car” alongside Combs while also reminding us that it was never in danger of becoming someone else’s song. And what do you know, the original version shot to the top of iTunes following the performance—after probably blowing the minds of anyone who was familiar with only the cover.
Joni Mitchell’s first performance on the Grammys stage also felt monumental, as she delivered a stunning rendition of 1966’s “Both Sides Now.” The 80-year-old Mitchell just performed her first headlining show in over 20 years last summer, and last week she announced her first Los Angeles show in just as long, after she largely retreated from public life following a brain aneurysm in 2015. It’s wonderful to see Mitchell back out playing shows, and if this Grammys performance is any indication, her live performances will be just as staggering as ever.
Loser: Nicki Minaj (but Only After She Thought She Won)
After engaging in a pretty embarrassing one-sided feud with Megan Thee Stallion last week, Minaj took another L after the Recording Academy’s Twitter account falsely announced that “Barbie World,” her Barbie soundtrack collaboration with Ice Spice, won Best Rap Song. The category didn’t air on the Grammys telecast, but the actual winner was Killer Mike (who was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge near the ceremony after winning three awards) for “Scientists & Engineers.” The tweet was promptly deleted, but considering how much time Minaj has spent online posting about Megan (and Ben Shapiro?), you know she must have seen it. No word yet on whether she’ll plan a diss track, but if it’s anything like “Big Foot,” the Recording Academy has nothing to worry about.