Silk Sonic and Jon Batiste Triumph, Zelensky Appears at a Posh Grammy Awards

This year’s Grammys saw big wins from new artists, a handful of top-notch, well-produced performances, and heartfelt tributes to artists who passed away this year — plus a surprise message from Ukraine’s president.

And host Trevor Noah limited himself to a single Will Smith joke.

Here’s CBC News’ roundup of highlights.

Jon Batiste, Silk Sonic and Olivia Rodrigo clean up

Anderson .Paak, left, and Bruno Mars of Silk Sonic win Record of the Year for Leave The Door Open at the 64th Grammy Awards on Sunday in Las Vegas. After four wins, .Paak joked that the superduo were trying “really hard” to stay humble. (Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Trevor Noah started the evening with a nod to last week’s Oscars debacle between Will Smith and Chris Rock. During his opening monologue, the comedian said, “We’re going to listen to music, we’re going to dance, we’re going to sing, we’re going to keep people’s names out of our mouths.”

Music, song, dance, check. And several names remained quite popular throughout the show.

Silk Sonic, a super funk duo of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, was one of the big winners of the night. The group won four statues for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best R&B Performance, and Best R&B Song.

This is the first year that Mars and .Paak have taken part in the Grammys as Silk Sonic since announcing their self-titled album in early 2021. After winning record of the year, .Paak took to the stage in joking: “We’re really doing our best to stay humble at this point. But in the industry, we call it a clean sweep!”

Jon Batiste, a multi-instrumentalist who rose to prominence as bandleader of the band Stay Human and was musical director for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, had his moment tonight. The artist adds five trophies to his collection, including album of the year for We are and best music video for Freedom.

Olivia Rodrigo has won three healthy awards this year, defending herself against Grammy heavyweights like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande and Mars in multiple categories. The 19-year-old singer became pop’s sweetheart last year with the release of her album Acid and his best single, Driving license. Rodrigo was crowned Best New Artist and received the trophies for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Solo Performance.

Top notch performances from Lil Nas X, BTS

Lil Nas X performs at Sunday’s Grammy Awards. (Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Truly inspired performances – all of different scale and style – punctuated the awards night. From Lil Nas X to BTS, high-octane musical ensembles were framed by intricate set design.

Moody pop diva Billie Eilish performed her song happy endings, first appearing in a scene resembling a living room with furniture hanging from the ceiling and water flooding the floors. She then moved to the “roof of the set”, joining her brother and producer Finneas as he shredded on guitar, rain falling on the stage.

Rap provocateur Lil Nas X gave an energetic medley of songs from his debut studio album Montero, stunning with athletic choreography and a giant bust of his head on stage behind him and a swarm of dancers. He was briefly joined by rapper Jack Harlow to perform their hit song Industry baby.

But K-pop group BTS caused a stir with their performance of Butter, which began with members sitting in the audience: V was seen chatting with Olivia Rodrigo, while fan favorite Jung-kook descended from the rafters. They staged a performance of their song inspired by a high-tech spy thriller Butterexpertly navigating the laser tripwires to deliver a memorable sight.

Pre-recorded message from Zelensky, Ukrainian artists perform

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks on a screen, asking for help. (Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

In a sobering moment, Ukrainian President Vlodimir Zolensky appeared in a pre-recorded message to the Grammy audience, trying to shore up support for the nation as it endures a war with Russia. The Grammys partnered with Global Citizen for its “Stand Up for Ukraine” campaign, dedicating part of the show to the country.

“What is more opposed to music? The silence of ruined cities and slain people,” Zolensky said in his speech. “Our musicians wear bulletproof vests instead of tuxedos. They sing for the wounded in the hospitals, even for those who can’t hear them. But the music will break through anyway.” He asked the public not to be silent and to “support us in any way possible”.

After the message, singer John Legend took the stage for a performance of his new song, Free. He was joined by Ukrainian poet and refugee Lyuba Yakimchuk, as well as Ukrainian musicians Siuzanna Iglidan and Mika Newton.

Canadians at the Grammys

Joni Mitchell was this year’s MusiCares Honoree of the Year at the Grammys. She went on to win the first-ever Best Historical Album. Above, she appears with singer-songwriter Bonnie Raitt. (Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Drake and The Weeknd continued their boycott of the Grammys this year, but Canadians were still well represented at the awards.

Despite his cold relationship with the Recording Academy, The Weeknd won a Grammy during the show’s pre-television portion. The Toronto singer has rejected the Grammys since his album blinding lights was excluded from the nominations last year.

Justin Bieber attended the ceremony with his wife Hailey Baldwin. The Stratford, Ont.-born artist performed his three-time nominated song Peaches with fellow Canadian singer Daniel Caesar, originally from Oshawa, Ontario, and singer Giveon. In Belleville, Ontario, rocker Avril Lavigne presented the award for Best Pop Duo Performance to Doja Cat and Sza.

Legendary songbird Joni Mitchell was honored as MusiCares Person of the Year earlier this month, but accepted a Grammy during the pre-show for a new category called Best Historical Album (his album Joni Mitchell Archives, Vol. 1: The early years (1963-1967) received the award). It also featured a performance by singer Brandi Carlisle alongside her longtime friend, ’70s singer-songwriter Bonnie Raitt.

Taylor Hawkins, Stephen Sondheim remember

From left, Ben Platt, Rachel Zegler, Cynthia Erivo and Leslie Odom Jr. pay tribute to the late Stephen Sondheim. (Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy)

Rock band foo fighters received three bittersweet wins for their songs Make a fire and Waiting for a warfrom the album medicine at midnight, which won Best Rock Album. The band’s drummer, Taylor Hawkins, died this week at the age of 50. While the longtime band was originally supposed to perform at the Grammys, they canceled their set when Hawkins died.

A tribute to Hawkins (and admiration from artists like Billie Eilish, who wore a t-shirt with Hawkins’ face on it during her performance) preceded the in-memoriam segment. Biz Markie, Betty Davis, Charlie Watts, Meat Loaf, Ronnie Spector and Tom Parker were among those who died this year.

The in-memoriam was accompanied by a rendition of songs by the late Stephen Sondheim. A giant of 20th-century musical theatre, several works by Sondheim — including Somewhere from West Side Story and send the clowns from A little night music — were performed by Ben Platt, Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr. and Rachel Zegler, all of whom have stage roots.