The Biggest Winners, Losers, And Surprises At The 2021 Grammys

At every Grammy Awards ceremony, there are winners and losers.

Here, though, “loser” is a relative term. If you’re an artist who is doing so well that you’re at the Grammys at all, it’s hard to imagine that you’re anything but a winner. That said, if you’re particularly confrontational, “loser” might be what you call somebody who was nominated for an award and did not win that award. On the flip side, you could say that some artists didn’t lose: they won the right to keep their title of nominee (at the cost of not getting promoted to winner).

Then there are cases where you don’t need to glass-half-full the truth to declare somebody was a winner, whether they went home with a trophy or two or otherwise excelled during music’s biggest night. Last night’s Grammys ceremony was full of people who had different levels of success, so let’s get into who thrived and who didn’t quite do that, as well as who offered some of the evening’s biggest surprises.

Winner: Megan Thee Stallion

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Meg had one of the best winning percentages of the night, taking home three of the four Grammys for which she was nominated — she won Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song (both for “Savage”), and Best New Artist, but didn’t claim Record Of The Year.

Outside of the awards themselves, Meg was notary-like with how she put her stamp on the evening. She and Cardi B made more modest-minded music admirers mad with a performance of “WAP” (more on that in a second). Even the Grammy Meg didn’t win, she kind of did win it. While Billie Eilish accepted the Record Of The Year trophy, she got behind the podium and mostly spoke about how Meg should have won it instead of her.

Loser: The structural integrity of “WAP”

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It’s true that “WAP” was probably the biggest song of 2020. It’s also true that it wasn’t made for TV (or for any audible medium at all, according to Ben Shapiro). So, when it was revealed that Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion would be performing the hit during the Grammys broadcast, fans were ready to see a non-insignificant portion of the song left on the cutting room floor. That was true to the extreme. The lyric sheet for this version of the track looked like a brand new Madlibs book. I’m sure Cardi and Meg did all they could to bring “WAP” to the Grammys and they still delivered an entertaining few minutes of television, but the performance came across like they didn’t secure the rights to the song, so they got as close to actually performing it as they could without getting into legal trouble.

Loser: Jhené Aiko

As is tradition, the Grammys took a very long time. Even before the actual ceremony, there was the also-lengthy Grammy premiere ceremony, which the Recording Academy roped Aiko into hosting. Between that and the actual show, it was a long, grueling day for Aiko and she didn’t even end up winning any of the three Grammys for which she was nominated.

Thankfully, Aiko is an optimist. The hosting gig was a personal triumph for Aiko, as she wrote on Twitter, “i conquered a major fear of public speaking today by hosting the freaking Grammy Premiere Ceremony!!” She was even cool with not taking home a trophy, as she tweeted, “i know what its like to lose… do u? do u?! lol,” later adding, “what a crazy day! but its all good. love you all so much.”

Surprise: HER

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In some ways, the Grammys are a popularity contest: If some no-name (not Noname) from the middle of nowhere made one of the year’s best songs, they’re probably not going to win a Grammy for it. The Recording Academy further proved that with their pick for Song Of The Year, as HER took home the prize over people like Beyonce, Roddy Ricch, Taylor Swift, Post Malone, Dua Lipa, and Billie Eilish. While HER is certainly a successful artist and “I Can’t Breathe” is an impactful song built on meaningful social justice themes, she’s not exactly a household name and her victory certainly left many viewers feeling like Michael Bluth:

Winners: Fans of normalcy

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Over the past year-plus, pretty much every aspect has been entirely different than it was pre-pandemic. That includes The Grammys, but the fact that the ceremony even happened at all is a grounding force. Yes, the show wasn’t really like previous broadcasts in any way, but it was also as close to normal as any sort of live music event has been since early 2020. Considering the circumstances, the Recording Academy excelled with their broadcast. Delayed ceremony aside, one thing music fans have been able to count on towards the start of the year is finding out what music and artists the Recording Academy “secret commitees” deserve to be honored, for better or worse.

Losers: Fans of normalcy

That said, the whole thing was a bit weird, right? During performances, there were probably too many cuts to Trevor Noah and other artists in the room to forcefully drive home the point that everybody was actually there IRL. Those shots just hit different when it’s just one or two people side-stage instead of a big seated audience. Then, when the performances were done, the golf-level applause didn’t make the Grammys seem as epic as they usually do. Going the NBA route and piping in artificial fan noise wouldn’t have been a bad move.

The Recording Academy faced an impossible problem, but they still managed to put on a functional and entertaining show that offered plenty of highlights and made you forget this is an atypical Grammy year. Ultimately, though, it often felt less than grand, which, again, is really nobody’s fault.

Winner: Performance aesthetics

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Sure, let’s flip this topic of Grammy normalcy around one more time. Usually, artists and their crews only have a few minutes to get an elaborate performance set-up onto the singular Grammy stage at the Staples Center. This year, though, the set-up made things different, arguably better. The multiple stages on-site allowed for performers to get their own look going in their own space, all with minimal time between performances. In an aesthetic highlight, Taylor Swift, Jack Antonoff, and Aaron Dessner were all able to take to a mini cabin in a mystical-looking forest, for example, it feels like that something that gorgeous may not have been possible in a traditional Grammy year. Lil Baby’s cinematic performance that addressed police brutality definitely wouldn’t have been an eighth as impactful on a traditional stage.

Surprise: Jojo Rabbit

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Taika Waititi himself would agree with this pick, as it seemed like he didn’t really expect the Jojo Rabbit soundtrack to win Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media over films like Frozen 2 and Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga. Waititi offered a simple “Lol wtfffff” on Twitter in reaction to the news, and during his acceptance speech, he noted, “I guess they’re just giving Grammys to anyone now! I’ll take it, thank you.” He went on, “It was so long ago, I can barely remember anything about making that movie — but it seems like it’s never going to go away, and I’m happy about that.”

So, if you don’t remember the Jojo Rabbit soundtrack, it’s OK because Waititi probably doesn’t either.

Winner/Loser: Masks

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Whether this is a winner or loser is a matter of perspective. Audience shots at awards shows are usually the most fruitful vine from which to pluck plump, dank memes of celebrities who didn’t expect the camera to be on them at a share-worthy moment. In that regard, music fans and internet jokesters lose. Masks could be seen as a major victory for artists who didn’t pick up a trophy, though, considering a wearable specifically made to cover the lower half of your face makes it a heck of a lot easier to hide your disappointment when you come away from a category empty-handed. Frustrated cursing no longer has to be under your breath!

Winner: The entire Carter family

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The Beyhive would never let me hear the end of it if I declared Beyonce a loser, so thankfully, she had an amazing night. For years, she has been climbing up the all-time Grammy wins list, and she made history this year by picking up more trophies to become the woman and singer with the most Grammy victories.

That would have been enough to get her on this list, but that was just one aspect of a multi-pronged night for Bey. She and Megan Thee Stallion became the first women to win Best Rap Performance with “Savage,” and on top of that, her daughter Blue Ivy managed to become one of the youngest Grammy winners ever. Jay-Z was the only member of his immediate family to not directly win a Grammy this year, except even that’s not quite true since he has a writing credit on the “Savage” remix.

So, in what was perhaps the least surprising takeaway from the evening (or from any day, really), the Carter family is doing quite well.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.