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Here were some of the top moments from the Grammys

Taylor Swift reacts as she is announced as winner of the award for album of the year for "folklore" at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards at the Los Angeles Convention Center on Sunday.Chris Pizzello

The Grammy Awards returned on Sunday night to celebrate the music that has emerged — and in some cases, came to define — a trying year for most, marked by both the coronavirus pandemic and tumult on the national stage.

But the 63rd annual ceremony managed to create a relatively intimate experience for viewers, a task other awards shows have struggled with, highlighting both the accomplishments of women — who managed to sweep all the major categories — and the Black Lives Matter protests in the process.

Here’s a look at some of the evening’s more memorable moments.

Women won all the night’s major awards

Four different women won the four most prestigious Grammys.


Taylor Swift’s quiet surprise, “folklore,” was album of the year; Billie Eilish’s “Everything I Wanted” was her second consecutive record of the year winner; H.E.R.’s topical “I Can’t Breathe” won song of the year, and Megan Thee Stallion was named best new artist.

Though women have won all top four awards in the past, including a sweep by Eilish last year, it marked the first time four separate and solo women won the top four honors.

H.E.R won song of the year — and called on people to continue their activism from over the summer

In an upset, the singer-songwriter known as H.E.R. won song of the year — beating Beyoncé, Eilish, Swift, and Dua Lipa — for “I Can’t Breathe,” an anthem for Black Lives Matter, with lines like “Stripped of bloodlines, whipped and confined/This is the American pride.”

“We wrote this song over FaceTime,” H.E.R. said, accepting the award, “and I didn’t imagine that my fear and that my pain would turn into impact, and that it would possibly turn into change.”

The song is a reference to Black people like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor who have died at the hands of police, and was one of several songs and performances featured throughout the night that recalled last summer’s social unrest.


“The fight that we had in us in the summer of 2020 — keep that energy,” H.E.R. said.

H.E.R. shared the award with cowriters Dernst Emile II and Tiare Thomas. She has previously won Grammys for best R&B performance and best R&B album.

Megan Thee Stallion was named best new artist

Megan Thee Stallion, the Houston rapper who described her young ambition as to become “the rap Beyoncé,” took best new artist.

The 26-year-old became just the fifth rapper to win the award, which she accepted in person on the outdoor stage Sunday night, tearing up before she even began talking. She is also the first female rapper to have won in the category since Lauryn Hill in 1999.

She beat out fellow nominees Ingrid Andress, Phoebe Bridgers, Chika, Noah Cyrus, D Smoke, Doja Cat, and Kaytranada.

Megan Thee Stallion had a monster musical year that also brought unwanted attention when she was shot in the foot. Rapper Tory Lanez has pleaded not guilty to charges related to the shooting.

“It’s been a hell of a year, but we made it,” Megan Thee Stallion said when accepting best new artist, while downtown traffic roared.

Her song “Savage” — which featured Beyoncé as a guest — won for best rap performance and for best rap song. She is the first female rapper to win best rap song.

Several moments highlighted Black protest, pride, and anger

Lil Baby performed his song “The Bigger Picture” as a dramatic showdown with riot police, and featuring a speech in which activist Tamika Mallory said: “President Biden, we demand justice.”


The performance included an elaborately choreographed scene recreating the police shooting of Rayshard Brooks and subsequent unrest, narration by James Baldwin, and imagery from Black Lives Matter protests.

Country singer Mickey Guyton – the first Black woman nominated for best country solo performance – sang her song “Black Like Me,” which she released last year as police brutality continued to devastate Black families and the coronavirus disproportionately ravished Black America.

And rapper DaBaby, in a glittery white suit and Chanel brooches, sang “Rockstar,” another protest anthem, while conducting a choir of older white singers who danced along.

Beyoncé made Grammy’s history

Beyoncé — with her 28th win — became the most decorated woman in Grammy history. She broke the record with her victory Sunday night for best R&B performance for “Black Parade,” surpassing the 27 Grammys won by Alison Krauss.

Beyoncé walked into the show with 24 wins and picked up four honors, including best R&B performance for “Black Parade,” best music video for “Brown Skin Girl,” as well as best rap performance and best rap song for “Savage,” with Megan Thee Stallion.

“As an artist I believe it’s my job, and all of our jobs, to reflect time and it’s been such a difficult time,” Beyoncé said onstage as she won best R&B performance for “Black Parade,” which was released on Juneteenth.

She went on to say she created the song to honor the “beautiful Black kings and queens” in the world.

She added: “I have been working my whole life ... This is such a magical night.”


Beyoncé now ties producer and multi-instrumentalist Quincy Jones for second place among all Grammy winners. She is only behind the late conductor Georg Solti, who is the most decorated Grammy winner with 31 wins.

Further crowding the family trophy case is husband Jay-Z, whose songwriting on “Savage” earned him his 23rd Grammy on Sunday, and even their 9-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, who won best music video together with mom.

Taylor Swift became the first woman to win album of the year three times

Taylor Swift won album of the year for “folklore,” the folksy, alternative album she released as a surprise last year, and which she made entirely in quarantine.

Swift, who also found time during the pandemic to make another album and rerecord one of her old ones, became the first woman to win the award for the third time. Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, and Frank Sinatra also have done it.

She previously won album of the year with “Fearless” and “1989.” (She lost each of the five other awards she was nominated for this year.)

Accepting the award, Swift said, “we just want to thank the fans, you guys met us in this imaginary world that we created, and we can’t tell you how honored we are forever.”

She also thanked her collaborators, Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner, as well as her boyfriend, Joe Alwyn, saying he turned writing songs during a pandemic into fun.

Swift also sang a medley of three songs on the Grammys, “cardigan” and “august” from “folklore” and “willow” from its follow-up disc, “evermore.”


Billie Eilish won record of the year — but gave a speech about how Megan Thee Stallion earned it

Billie Eilish, the 19-year-old who swept the awards last year, took record of the year for “Everything I Wanted,” and told Megan Thee Stallion: “You deserve this.”

It was her second straight year winning the award, following her hit “Bad Guy.” After her sweep last year, Eilish became only the third artist to win back-to-back record of the year Grammys. Roberta Flack won in 1973 for “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” and in 1974 for “Killing Me Softly With His Song,” while U2 won in 2001 and 2002 for “Beautiful Day” and “Walk On.”

Eilish appeared genuinely stunned accepting the award, saying, “This is really embarrassing for me.” When Eilish and her collaborator-brother Finneas accepted the award, she almost gave it away. She brought Megan Thee Stallion to tears by saying the rapper deserved the Grammy for “Savage.”

She told her: “Megan, girl, I was going to write a speech about how you deserve this, but then I was like ‘There was no way they’re going to choose me.’”

Eilish added: “Genuinely, this goes to her. Can we just cheer for Megan Thee Stallion, please?”

The moment was reminiscent for many on social media of previous awards shows — and not in a good way. The Recording Academy has faced scrutiny previously for appearing to pass over Black artists for the top award.

Adele, for instance, praised Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” when she won album of the year for “25″ in 2017, and rapper Macklemore did the same to Kendrick Lamar after he beat him out for the accolade in 2014.

Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.

Shannon Larson can be reached at shannon.larson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shannonlarson98.