Music’s biggest night is back! Sunday evening marked the 65th Annual Grammy Awards, hosted by Trevor Noah in downtown Los Angeles. Nearly all of the industry’s biggest stars filled Crypto.com Arena, hoping to be honored by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for their songs and albums released between Oct. 1, 2021 and Sept. 30, 2022. But how did LGBTQ+ music fare at the show overall?
Kim Petras made history as the first openly transgender woman to win Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for her chart-topping collaboration with Sam Smith, “Unholy.” She gave one of the night’s most moving acceptance speeches as Smith ceded the microphone for their costar’s momentous feat. Petras expressed gratitude to the late transgender artist SOPHIE, her idol Madonna, and her mother for encouraging her to succeed despite her upbringing in remote Germany.
Perhaps the most controversial moment of the broadcast came midway through the show, when Smith and Petras delivered a delectably devilish demonstration of “Unholy.” Introduced by longtime LGBTQ+ ally and controversy-courting Madonna, the performance featured Smith clad in shimmering red latex, sporting a top hat with devil horns and surrounded by a flurry of crimson-dressed dancers. Meanwhile, Petras was trapped inside a cage on the main stage, gyrating against a backdrop of fire — a fitting symbol for the event’s spiciest moment.
Another highlight of the nearly four-hour show was a rousing rendition of “Broken Horses,” a song off of Brandi Carlile’s acclaimed 2021 LP “In These Silent Days.” Performed by the lesbian singer-songwriter with all the grit and gumption of classic rock-and-roll, the track earned her trophies for both Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance; she also took home Best Americana album for the LP. With three victories out of her seven total nominations, Carlile was the queer artist with both the most wins and nominations at the ceremony.
Not all nominated LGBTQ+ artists emerged victorious on Sunday night or even attended the star-studded ceremony. Bisexual songstress Lady Gaga was absent, and both nods for her contributions to the “Top Gun: Maverick” soundtrack were passed over in favor of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work on the music for Disney’s “Encanto.” Likewise, indie rock band Big Thief (led by queer singer-songwriter Adrianne Lenker) was defeated in the two Alternative music categories, which were awarded instead to British band Wet Leg.
Several LGBTQ+ nominees came up short in the race for Best New Artist, including Brazilian bisexual pop star Anitta, Italian band Måneskin, and queer singer-songwriter Omar Apollo. Instead, 23-year-old jazz vocalist Samara Joy was crowned as the brightest new talent. It’s difficult to feel disappointed in this victory, though. Joy gave such a gracious acceptance speech and her performance of her song “Can’t Get Out of This Mood” during the pre-broadcast livestream on YouTube was one of the day’s best musical moments.
One of the biggest success stories of the evening was that of longtime ally Beyoncé. The singer took home four trophies for her lauded LP “RENAISSANCE,” an album that explicitly honors and incorporates Black queer culture through a blend of house, disco, and R&B sounds. Beyoncé’s four wins make her the most-awarded person in Grammy history, totaling 32 trophies since her first victories with Destiny’s Child in 2001. In her acceptance speech for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album, the icon fought back tears as she thanked her late queer Uncle Jonny, amongst her other relatives, for his impact on her artistic journey.
Allies of the LGBTQ+ community also fared well at this year’s celebration in new categories. One of this year’s brand new awards was Songwriter of the Year, Non-Classical, which was presented to Tobias Jesso Jr. His portfolio includes recent collaborations with LGBTQ+ artists like King Princess, Omar Apollo, and Orville Peck.
This Grammy season, no singular act managed a clean sweep of all of the marquee fields. Notable industry names like Taylor Swift (four nominations), Lizzo (five nominations), and Adele (seven nominations) each took home only one trophy: Swift for Best Music Video (for “All Too Well: The Short Film”); Lizzo for Record of the Year (for “About Damn Time”); and Adele for Best Pop Solo Performance (for “Easy on Me”). Similarly, Harry Styles won two awards from six nominations, presented with Best Pop Vocal Album and Album of the Year for his latest full-length project, “Harry’s House.”
Overall, while the music of LGBTQ+ musicians and longtime community allies may not have dominated the program, the 65th Grammy Awards were generally kind to the music that has uplifted the queer community in the past year. From Beyoncé’s record-breaking night to Petras’ historic win for the trans community, this ceremony reminded viewers of the immense joy and unity brought by music of all genres, especially those championed by the irrepressible resilience and dynamism of the LGBTQ+ community.
Author: Reid Sperisen (He/Him)
Copy Editors: Michel (He/They), Bella (She/They)