Jon Batiste and Olivia Rodrigo shine at the 64th Grammy Awards

NYU alums, former students and faculty also took home Grammys on April 3.

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The 64th Grammy Awards were held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on April 3. (Staff Illustration by Susan Behrends Valenzuela)

Yas Akdag, Music Editor

Casinos. Fountain shows. A replica of the Eiffel Tower. That’s right — this year, Las Vegas hosted the Grammy Awards for the first time ever. The show, originally planned for Jan. 31 in Los Angeles, was postponed in early January over concerns surrounding the omicron variant and moved to Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena.

This wasn’t the only notable change to the 2022 Grammys. During the nominations livestream on Nov. 23, Academy President and CEO Harvey Mason Jr. announced that this year’s nominations would be decided solely by the Academy’s voting membership instead of their anonymous review committee. In April 2021, the Academy voted to eliminate the committee — which used to have the final say on nominations — following allegations of corruption. 

Some things stayed consistent, though, with Trevor Noah returning to host for the second year in a row. Though Noah’s jokes were a little cookie-cutter, at least he didn’t provoke a nominee to slap him. 

As always, the Big Four — record of the year, song of the year, album of the year and best new artist — were hypercompetitive, especially since the Academy decided to expand the categories to fit 10 nominations instead of eight. Jon Batiste led total nominations with 11, winning five, including album of the year. Meanwhile, newcomer Olivia Rodrigo earned seven nominations, with three of those turning into wins. Rodrigo was the only artist to earn nominations in all Big Four categories, following in Billie Eilish’s 2020 footsteps. However, unlike Eilish, Rodrigo only won best new artist out of the Big Four.

This year, Eilish herself was nominated for three Big Four categories, as was rapper Lil Nas X. Had Eilish won record of the year again, she’d have become the first female artist to win the award three times. Silk Sonic, comprising Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, won both song of the year and record of the year with “Leave The Door Open.” Nevertheless, Rodrigo’s, Eilish’s and Lil Nas X’s nominations prove that Gen Z is making noise in the music industry — and the Academy is paying attention.

NYU alumni and former students were also among the winners and nominees. Lady Gaga picked up five nominations for her duet album with Tony Bennett, winning best traditional pop vocal album. Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music alumni Denzel Baptiste and David Biral, a duo also known as Take A Daytrip, were nominated for their work on Lil Nas X’s album “MONTERO,” as were John Cunningham and Jasper Scheff, and former students Jasper Harris and Blake Slatkin. Clive Davis alum Raul Cubina won best rap song for his contributions to Kanye West’s “Jail.” The songwriter was also nominated for his work on “Justice (Triple Chucks Deluxe)” — Justin Bieber’s sixth album — as was former Clive Davis student Andrew Wotman.

Current Clive Davis Artist-in-Residence Jack Antonoff won producer of the year, non-classical. Clive Davis professors were also recognized at the Grammys, with Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson — who just won an Oscar for best documentary feature — winning best music film and Jim Anderson being nominated for best immersive audio album. On Friday, after nearly 20 years at Clive Davis, Anderson had announced he would be retiring from his role as a full-time faculty member.

While Kanye West was banned from performing due to his “concerning online behavior,” there were plenty of stellar performances spanning the likes of Brandi Carlile, BTS and Lil Nas X, who was joined by Jack Harlow. In the Academy’s attempt to highlight people working behind the scenes, touring crew members announced certain acts, including Eilish.

Eilish’s performance of “Happier Than Ever” was particularly stunning. She performed the first half in an upside-down living room — where she walked through a shallow pool of water — before belting the second half from atop an upside-down house as rain poured down on her and her band. 

During her performance, the 20-year-old also donned a Taylor Hawkins T-shirt in a tribute to the late Foo Fighters drummer. Just over a week since his death, the Foo Fighters won big at the Grammys, winning best rock performance, best rock song and best rock album. The Academy took a moment to celebrate Hawkins before honoring figures in music who had passed away this year. 

In a similar move to the Oscars, the Grammys also touched on the Russia-Ukraine war. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for peace in a video message that prefaced John Legend’s performance, in which Legend was accompanied by two Ukrainian musicians and one poet. 

The Academy only announced nine of the categories live, leaving more room for performances. While this was visually and sonically entertaining, the Grammys is still an awards show — only presenting nine categories live was somewhat disappointing. The reasoning behind this decision was likely similar to the Oscars’ choice to cut eight categories from the live show this year in hopes of regaining viewership. Hopefully, next year the Academy will find a sweet spot where they maintain a compelling show without skimping on awards presentations.

Read the full list of winners and nominees here.

Contact Yas Akdag at [email protected]