Emblazoned in capital letters and shading the background of the tickets to the 2020 Grammy Awards is the event's official slogan: EXPECT EVERYTHING UNEXPECTED.
Tragically, however, the world was shocked Sunday when, just minutes before doors opened for the Grammys ceremony, it was reported that basketball great Kobe Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna were killed in a helicopter crash just miles away in Calabasas, Calif. There were nine people on board, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department announced at a 5 p.m. ET news conference.
Word quickly spread inside the Grammy site: the Staples Center — the very venue where the 18-time All-Star and five-time NBA champion played his illustrious career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
And there was indeed a gray cloud hanging over the events of music's biggest night, which turned into a makeshift memorial for the longtime Lakers favorite.
Outside, the downtown Los Angeles sporting and entertainment landmark drew hundreds of purple-and-yellow-clad mourners to the scene — ignoring pleas from local authorities asking them to stay away — creating heavy foot traffic as Grammys attendees in black ties and ball gowns simultaneously arrived for the event.
Inside, between rehearsal sets from Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish, crews scrambled in the rafters above the stage. The myriad other banners, commemorating the Lakers’ championships and other Hall of Fame players, were covered, while both of Bryant’s retired jersey numbers, 8 and 24, were moved side by side, and highlighted in spotlight.
Moments later, the non-televised portion of the ceremony began somberly. “Since we are in his house, I would ask you to join me in a moment of silence,” said the Recording Academy’s interim CEO, Harvey Mason Jr.
John Legend and Chrissy Teigen get scolded
Ten minutes before the televised portion was set to begin, longtime Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich, who is stepping down after the show after 40 years, came out and, channeling his best kindergarten teacher voice, begged the crowd to clear the aisles and sit down. “If you don’t sit down, I’ll come and find you,” he said, calling out scofflaws John Legend and Chrissy Teigen by name. With Kobe’s death dominating the conversation in the hall — everyone is shell-shocked — the official promised to pay proper tribute. “Believe me, we feel your grief.”
When Alicia Keys first mentioned Bryan at the outset of the show, scattered K-O-B-E chants broke out through the auditorium. But then the Staples Center grew eerily quiet as the host broke out into in an a cappella rendition of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye“ with Boyz II Men.
If you ever wondered what the audience watches during commercials, it’s footage of vintage Grammy moments, like Kendrick Lamar’s literally fiery performance of “Alright,” Prince and Beyoncé dueting on “Purple Rain” and the Clash, Bruce Springsteen and Dave Grohl uniting for “London Calling.”
Better Live Than on TV
Although Twitter lit up with complaints about how bad the performance sounded on the show’s telecast, Aerosmith and Run-DMC brought down the house with their rapturous performance of their rock-rap hit “Walk This Way.” While most of the performances to that point were relatively restrained — especially in terms of reaction in the arena — “Walk This Way” got everyone up out of their seats and dancing in the aisles of the Staples Center.
Fun fact? The Grammys are a largely dry event. Concessions stands with booze are open until 30 minutes before showtime, then everything closed. They reopened 15 minutes after the show starts, but only serving water. And caramel corn. We were lucky to score a bag of caramel corn.
Lil Nas X is highly visible
The night’s biggest ovation goes to...
Demi Lovato’s performance of her new song, “Anyone,” landed as poignantly as advertised. Even the chattiest sections of the arena quieted down for it, and she got a lengthy standing ovation that ran through the commercial break.
Still, it was was tough to gauge which winning artist received the loudest reception. Ultimately, we think it was Lizzo who scored the night’s first trophy, Best Pop Solo Performance, followed by Billie Eilish for Best Song, Best New Artist, Best Album and then finally for Record of the Year. There was a lot of love in the air for Lizzo, who drew big cheers every time her name was announced. Sounded like the Staples crowd wanted to see a couple trophies go in Lizzo’s direction.
After Eilish and her brother, Finneas, accepted the night’s final trophy, Record of the Year for “Bad Guy,” with a simple “thank you,” the crowd cleared out, heading to the afterparties.
Outside Staples, however, Lakers fans remained, holding their vigil for Kobe.
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