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8 Unforgettable Moments from the 2024 Grammys

Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel, Tracy Chapman and Celine shine at the music industry’s top awards show

spinner image Celebrities at the 66th Grammy Awards
Photo Collage AARP; (Source: Getty Images)

It tells you everything you need to know about this year’s Grammy Awards show on Feb. 4 that at one point during the broadcast, the websites of both 34-year-old Taylor Swift and 80-year-old Joni Mitchell were down from too much internet traffic. The 66th Grammy Awards were that kind of intergenerational lovefest (and saw nearly every major award go to a woman as well). Swift won album of the year for Midnights, becoming the first artist in history to win that category four times.

spinner image Joni Mitchell and Brandi Carlile perform together at the 66th annual Grammy Awards
Joni Mitchell, left, and Brandi Carlile perform "Both Sides Now" during the 66th Grammy Awards.
Chris Pizzello/AP Photo

Joni Mitchell brings the audience to tears

But the true star of the night was Joni Mitchell, who won the best folk album award for Joni Mitchell at Newport (Live). That was Mitchell’s 10th Grammy overall, for a 2023 record that represented her return to performing after 20 years away. She was ebullient accepting the award in a nontelevised ceremony before the Grammy show. “It’s a very joyous record because of the people I played with,” she said. “The spirit of the occasion was very high, and it went onto the record. Even the audience sounds like music.”

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Mitchell’s performance during the broadcast singing her 1969 hit “Both Sides Now,” made some viewers cry, though she finished it with a smile. Brandi Carlile introduced Mitchell, saying, “She redefined the very purpose of a song to reflect the contents of a person’s soul. Before she took this leap, the popular song was observational. The exhilarating risks that we all now take by turning ourselves inside out for all the world to see started, as far as I can tell, with Joni Mitchell doing it first. She’s like the first person to strip down at the skinny-dipping party and take that awkward, terrifying leap before everybody else eventually joyfully follows.”

Carlile also noted the brain aneurysm that almost ended Mitchell’s life nine years ago, and said that, since she’d had polio as a child, “Joni has had to learn to walk three times.” Mitchell sang a beautiful, jazz-inspired rendition of her famous ballad, using her cane as a percussion device. It was a demonstration of an artist aging with grace while retaining her edge. It brought everyone from Swift to Beyoncé, from Jay Z to Meryl Streep, from Oprah to 20-year-old Olivia Rodrigo, to their feet for a rousing standing ovation.

spinner image Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs perform at the 66th annual Grammy Awards
Tracy Chapman, left, and Luke Combs perform "Fast Car."
Chris Pizzello/AP Photo

Tracy Chapman roared back into the spotlight

The only moment close to as affecting as Mitchell’s was when country sensation Luke Combs, 33, brought out Tracy Chapman to sing her 1988 song “Fast Car.” Combs had a huge 2023 hit with the tune, but Sunday saw the gray-haired Chapman, 59, performing it with Combs as a duet. Chapman had only played in public three times since concluding her last tour in 2009, and the duet was exactly the kind of special moment that Grammy viewers dream of. Combs said the song was “already iconic before you even get to the chorus,” and that was true of this performance.

spinner image Annie Lennox performs on stage during the 66th Annual Grammy Awards
Scottish singer-songwriter Annie Lennox, left, performs onstage during the 66th Grammy Awards.
Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images

The memorial segment was overpoweringly memorable

The Grammys’ memorial segment has become the show’s centerpiece. This year it ran for 25 minutes, beautifully honoring a hundred music figures who died in 2023 (plus some, like the MC5’s Wayne Kramer, who passed away two days before the broadcast). The segment honored Gordon Lightfoot, Jimmy Buffett, Harry Belafonte, Burt Bacharach and others. Stevie Wonder, 73, sang “For Once in My Life,” in a duet with a video of the late Tony Bennett, Oprah Winfrey, 70, honored Tina Turner, and Annie Lennox, 69, brought down the house doing the Prince song “Nothing Compares 2 U” in honor of Sinéad O’Connor, who died in 2023 at 56. Lennox was backed by the duo of Wendy and Lisa, who had often played with Prince.

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spinner image Taylor Swift at the 66th annual Grammy Awards
Taylor Swift, center, at the 66th Grammy Awards.
Chris Pizzello/AP Photo

Swifties got two wins and a new album

Taylor Swift won the biggest award of all, album of the year, and the pop vocal album award, but despite being the most-nominated songwriter in Grammy history, she failed to win song of the year — the one category she has never won. She used her pop vocal acceptance speech to announce her new album, The Tortured Poets Department, due April 19, thus breaking the internet for a moment. Some criticized her for plugging an album on the show, but it’s good for the music industry, since it will make fans stampede to buy it. And she seemed as delighted by other stars of the evening as she was by her own wins. Chapman’s performance got her up on her feet with joy.

spinner image Celine Dion presents the Album of the Year award at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards
Canadian singer Celine Dion presents the Album of the Year award.
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Celine’s heart will go on

When Swift collected her album of the year award, the presenter was a big surprise: quintuple Grammy winner Celine Dion, 55, who’s been mostly out of the spotlight since 2022, when she stopped performing after a diagnosis of stiff person syndrome, a rare neurological disorder that causes muscle spasms that make it hard to walk or sing. "When I say that I’m happy to be here, I really mean it from my heart,” Dion said, to an immense standing ovation. She chronicles her battle with SPS in the upcoming documentary I Am: Celine Dion, on Amazon’s Prime Video later this year.

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spinner image Meryl Streep and Mark Ronson presents the award for record of the year at the 66th annual Grammy Awards
Meryl Streep, left, and Mark Ronson presents the award for Record of the Year.
Chris Pizzello/AP Photo

Meryl Streep and her son-in-law

Producer Mark Ronson, best known for working with Adele, recently married Meryl Streep’s daughter Grace Gummer. Ronson and mother-in-law Streep, 74, were presenters for the record of the year category, doing a funny bit where she teased him for losing best song (he was nominated for “Dance the Night” from the Barbie movie). She got him to explain to her — and perhaps to many viewers — that record of the year is not the same as album of the year.

“It’s an award that recognizes all the things that go into making a great record, the producers, the recording engineer and the artists,” he told her. “It’s the best!” she said. So is she. Host Trevor Noah quipped that since 21-time Academy Award nominee Streep was there, the Grammys were now going to win an Oscar.

spinner image Jay-Z accepts the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award alongside his daughter Blue Ivy at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards
Jay-Z, left, accepts the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award alongside his daughter Blue Ivy.
Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images

Jay-Z gave the Grammys a stinging rebuke

When Jay-Z, 54, hip-hop’s first billionaire, accepted the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, he seized the opportunity to lecture the Grammys about how to do better — such as by honoring his superstar wife, Beyoncé. “I don't want to embarrass this young lady, but she has more Grammys than everyone [32] and never won album of the year … that doesn’t work.” he said. Beyoncé has been nominated four times for album of the year and has yet to get the top award.

"Some of you are gonna go home tonight and feel like you’ve been robbed,” said the 24-time Grammy winner and mogul. “Some of you may get robbed.” He added, “When I get nervous, I tell the truth.”

spinner image Billy Joel sitting at a piano performing onstage at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards
Billy Joel performs onstage during the 66th Grammy Awards.
Valerie Macon/AFP via Getty Images

The return of the piano man

The telecast also featured the first Grammys performance by Billy Joel, 74, in 22 years, and his first new song in 30 years. The ballad, “Turn the Lights Back On,” fit in well with his previous catalog — it sounds like it could be a deep cut from an old album — and also showed his typical spunk. “Why did I stop?” he said about his long break from songwriting. “Because I wanted to.” The new tune’s lyrics were appropriate for the night’s climactic comeback performance: “I’m late, but I’m here right now/And I’m trying to find the magic/That we lost somehow/Maybe I was blind/But I see you now.” Joel played the festivities to a close with a rousing rendition of his 1980 hit “You May Be Right.” Indeed, the piano man got us feeling all right.

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