The tragic death of NBA legend Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash, alongside his 13-year-old daughter and 7 other people, cast a somber mood over Sunday night’s 62nd Grammy Awards ceremony. A breathtaking opening number by host and multiple Grammy-winner Alicia Keys and members of Boys II Men paid tribute to the basketball superstar, setting the stage for an evening which was peppered with speeches and performances dedicated to Bryant’s memory.
The passing of Bryant was not the only shadow hanging over the evening, however. With this week’s news of the signing into law by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee of his state’s controversial measure allowing adoption agencies to deny service to same-sex couples on the basis of “religious freedom,” the resurgent specter of anti-LGBTQ discrimination also haunted the proceedings, made all the more glaring by a lack of any mention in a presentation that included several wins by out LGBTQ artists.
For her remix of Madonna’s “I Rise,” DJ Tracy Young picked up the Best Remixed Recording Grammy, becoming both the first woman and the first lesbian to win this category. Tyler, The Creator, who has been public about having relationships with both men and women, took home the Grammy in Best Rap Album for “Igor.”
Brandi Carlile, who came out as lesbian in 2002, picked up a Grammy for Best Country Song as one of the writers of Tanya Tucker’s “Bring My Flowers Now.” She and Tucker performed the song during the show.
Lil Nas X continued his juggernaut trip through the year’s music awards by winning for both Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Music Video for “Old Town Road” with Billy Ray Cyrus. Nas and Cyrus also performed the song, alongside BTS, Diplo, and Mason Ramsey, who had all been featured on previous remixes of the recording.
Other notable LGBTQ-relevant moments at the presentation were the wins by Lady Gaga (Best Song Written for Visual Media, “I’ll Never Love Again” from “A Star is Born”) and Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media (“A Star is Born,” Original Soundtrack), and the return of Demi Lovato to the Grammy stage for a performance of her song, “Anyone.” Lizzo was also a big winner, for Best Pop Solo Performance (“Truth Hurts”), Best Traditional R&B Performance (“Jerome”), and Best Urban Contemporary Album (“Cuz I Love You” [Deluxe]).
Also on hand was out singer Brittany Howard, who joined Keys for her performance, and out actor/singer Ben Platt, who introduced a performance by Ariana Grande. Platt returned to the stage later to sing “I Sing the Body Electric” (from the film “Fame”) in a tribute to musical education in schools.
In light of the strong inclusion of LGBTQ and allied artist at this year’s Grammys, GLAAD Head of Talent Anthony Ramos took to the red carpet before the show to speak with artists about the legal situation in Tennessee, which in addition to the new anti-LGBTQ adoption law has an upcoming slate that includes several pieces of anti-LGBTQ legislation.
Among the artists Ramos asked for reactions was Billy Ray Cyrus, who responded by saying, “A human being is a human being. You treat everybody right, live by the law of what is right, and always try to do the right thing. All people are created equal in His eyes, and that’s just the way it is.”
Brandi Carlile, interviewed beside collaborator and country music legend Tanya Tucker, told Ramos, “As a woman in a same-sex marriage with two daughters, I can tell you that we’re fabulous parents.”
“I can vouch for that,” Tucker interjected assertively.
Carlile went on to say she couldn’t boycott the state, “because there are LGBTQ people in Tennessee, and I need to go there and be their friend,” but she encouraged others to explore the option as a means to exert economic pressure against the anti-LGBTQ policies. She concluded by saying, “Let’s just hope it doesn’t catch on.”
Alabama Shakes singer and solo artist Brittany Howard may have summed up the most popular point of view for many when Ramos asked her what she would say to a person who thinks LGBTQ people should have different rights than everyone else.
“I guess we have nothing to talk about,” said Howard. “You either get out of the way, or we’ll walk over you.”