The Grammys came full circle this year

Iconoclastic artists who were shut out of music’s biggest night in the past took the stage at Sunday’s award show.

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The Grammys came full circle this year


The Future. Iconoclastic artists who were shut out of music’s biggest night in the past took the stage at Sunday’s award show, proving time doesn’t just heal all wounds; it also allows change to occur at a foundational level. If the Grammys wants to stay relevant and properly honor the music of the moment, it might embrace newness and nonconformity rather than turn a deaf ear to it.

That was then

The artists who rebelled against their elders in the past became the elders of the present at the 2023 Grammys, according to the NYT.

  • Several hip-hop artists (including Salt-N-Pepa and DJ Jazzy Jeff), who boycotted the 1989 show because their category wasn’t being televised despite launching that year, appeared at this year’s event.
  • Madonna, who became a superstar in the 1980s, has never won any of the major categories. Still, she remains an enthusiastic participant in the show.
  • Jay-Z, who boycotted the Grammys in 1999 but has attended in the years since (mainly to support his wife Beyoncé), closed out this year’s ceremony with a DJ Khaled-orchestrated number.

This is now

Iconoclasts became the establishment this year, per the NYT.

  • Bad Bunny, the Puerto Rican rapper-singer whose album Un Verano Sin Ti was 2022’s most streamed LP, opened the Grammys. Un Verano Sin Ti was also the first Spanish-language album nominated for album of the year.
  • Sam Smith and Kim Petras became the first nonbinary and transgender artists, respectively, to top the charts when their track “Unholy” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in October 2022. Their collaboration also won the best pop duo/group performance this year.

Beyoncé is in a class of her own

While Queen B didn’t perform at this year’s event and hadn’t for some time (a choice that feels deliberate, according to the NYT), she became the most awarded artist in Grammys history this year — and still held on to her rebel cred.

As the Grammys become more open-minded, there might be less of a need to rebel, though. Will what was once considered “mainstream” eventually become “iconoclastic” (and vice versa)? The circle never ends…

Kait Cunniff

Kait is a Chicago-raised, LA-based writer and NYU film grad. She created an anthology TV series for Refinery29 and worked as a development executive for John Wells Productions, Jon M. Chu, and Paramount Pictures. Her favorite color is orange.


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