Grammys: 14 Most Memorable Moments

10:26 PM 2/10/2019

by Alexandra Del Rosario and Abbey White

Moving speeches, vibrant performances and a controversial Motown tribute were just some of the night's most memorable moments.

From left: Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton, Drake and Jennifer Lopez
From left: Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton, Drake and Jennifer Lopez
Getty Images

The 2019 Grammy Awards celebrated this year's best and brightest musicians while also spotlighting the new talent and legends of the music industry. And amid the melodious performances, golden Grammy presentations and acceptance speeches were some of the night's most memorable moments.

Some of the evening's highlights included an empowering opening with host Alicia Keys and surprise guest Michelle Obama, Lady Gaga's acceptance speech spotlighting mental health, a star-studded Dolly Parton tribute, Jennifer Lopez's Motown tribute, history-making wins from Cardi B and (an absent) Childish Gambino, and much more.

Read on for all the memorable moments from the 2019 Grammy Awards.

  • Lady Gaga, Michelle Obama, Jennifer Lopez and Jada Pinkett Smith Help Alicia Keys Open the Show

    2019 Grammy Awards host Alicia Keys brought along some notable ladies to help her open the show and bring the Grammy audience to its feet.

    Joining the multi-Grammy winner were Lady Gaga, Jada Pinkett Smith, Jennifer Lopez and Michelle Obama. Each of the guests shared her connection with music and how it holds an important place in her life.

    "Music is what we cry to, it's what we march to … it's what we make love to," said Keys, beginning the segment. "When you want to say something, you say it with a song."

    Lady Gaga stated how music encouraged her to continue with her career as it also led her to believe in herself. Jennifer Lopez said that music allows her to feel connected to her personal background as it also takes her to new places.

    Before starting her part, Obama received resounding cheers from the Staples Center audience. "We have a show to do," the former first lady joked, trying to silence the crowd.

    "Music has always helped me tell my story, and I'm sure that's true for everybody here," she said. "Music helps us share ourselves. … It allows us to hear one another."

  • Lady Gaga's "Shallow"

    Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

    Accepting the best pop duo/group performance Grammy for her Star Is Born duet "Shallow," Lady Gaga began her speech by thanking God and her co-star and director Bradley Cooper. Gaga revealed he was absent because he was in London attending the BAFTA Awards.

    The pop star, who remained emotional throughout her speech, then went on to highlight how the film presented an opportunity to illustrate the mental health issues some entertainers face. 

    “I’m so proud to be part of a movie that addresses mental health issues,” she said. “A lot of artists deal with that. And we got to take care of each other.”

    After lauding A Star Is Born as a positive moment for onscreen representation, she encouraged the audience to support one another and take care of themselves. "If you see something don’t look away,” she said. 

  • Janelle Monáe's Energetic "Make Me Feel" Performance

    Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

    Janelle Monáe took to the Grammys stage for the second time in her career, performing a colorful and energetic rendition of “Make Me Feel” off the singer’s Grammy-nominated Dirty Computer album. Monáe, whose style was consistent with her signature black-and-white ensembles, began the song bathed in an aura of purple light and a group of similarly dressed dancers.

    The over-four-minute performance was a mix of tight choreography and suggestive physicality. It took Monáe around the triangle-shaped stage, eventually ending in the crowd, where Monáe sang in line with a group of brass instrumentalists. But before leaving the stage’s purple-tinted cloud of smoke, she grooved with her growing collection of dancers, including a handful of whom wore pants reminiscent of those in the artist’s “Pynk” music video. 

  • The Star-Studded Dolly Parton Tribute

    Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

    Music's brightest including Kacey Musgraves, Miley Cyrus and more took to the Staples Center stage with some Southern charm for the Dolly Parton tribute.

    Parton, who is this year's MusiCares Person of the Year, performed her own hits on the Grammys stage. 

    The tribute began with Katy Perry and Musgraves donning matching red outfits. Parton then joined her goddaughter Cyrus to perform "Jolene."

    After singing along with other stars, Parton closed out the tribute performing alongside Jimi Westbrook, Karen Fairchild and the other stars with "9 to 5."

  • Alicia Keys Celebrates Songs She Wishes She Wrote

    Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

    The host brought the show back from a commercial break with a generous display of her piano skills.

    First she played Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" on two different pianos — a feat she said she'd always wanted to perform. "I've been thinking so much about the people and the music that have inspired me," she said, "and I want to give a shout-out to [the late jazz pianist] Hazel Scott, because I always wanted to play two pianos."

    After the introduction, Keys started playing the familiar tunes of songs she said she wished she wrote. Some of these songs included Robert Flack's "Killing Me Softly," Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody" and Lauryn HIll's "Doo Wop (That Thing)."

    Keys also performed stripped-down renditions of Drake's "In My Feelings" and other songs before transitioning into the song she did write, her hit with Jay-Z, "Empire State of Mind."

  • Drake's Powerful Acceptance Speech Cut Short by Commercial Break

    Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

    While accepting the award for best rap song for “Gods Plan,” Drake used his speech to address aspiring musicians, kids and his peers, whom he described as making music from the heart and doing things that tell the truth. The Grammy winner started by characterizing music industry awards as "an opinion-based sport, not a factual-based sport."

    He went on to differentiate the night's wins from success in arenas like the NBA where at the end of the year you earn a trophy because “you made the right decisions or won the games.”

    Continuing, Drake emphasized that walking away with a Grammy is not indicative of an artist’s success. Instead, it’s the “people who are singing your songs word for word, if you’re a hero in your hometown.” If that's the case, he said about the Grammys trophy, "You don't need this right here, I promise you. You already won."

    Toward the end of his speech, the rapper took a pause and was then seemingly cut off before finishing. (A backstage source said he was offered to continue his speech after the break, but said he was done). 

  • Diana Ross Tribute

    Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

    Diana Ross' tribute began with a short but sweet introduction from the music legend's grandson, Raif.

    “She is amazing. Young people like me can look up to her,” Raif said of his grandmother. “She has shown the world that nothing is beyond reach.”

    Diana Ross began her tribute singing "The Best Years (Of My Life)," donning a flowy red gown. She then transitioned into "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)," where she asked audience members to wave their hands in the air.

    The tribute comes about a month before the singer's 75th birthday. Ross ended her tribute saying happy birthday to herself. 

  • Lady Gaga Rocks Her "Shallow" Performance

    Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

    Lady Gaga brought a little bit of A Star Is Born to the 2019 Grammys stage with her solo performance of the film's hit song "Shallow."

    The actress and musician put a slow rock twist on the moving song. She performed both hers and Bradley Cooper's parts. Cooper, she noted earlier in the evening, was unable to make it to the music awards show because he had attended the BAFTA Awards in the U.K. earlier that day.

  • Jennifer Lopez's Controversial Motown Tribute

    Kevin Winter/Getty Images

    During a night of performances and tributes, Jennifer Lopez's Motown tribute sparked some backlash

    Lopez danced across the Staples Center stage while singing some of the hits from the Motown era, like "Dancing in the Street" and "Please Mr. Postman." However, her performance was met with criticism online questioning the fact that a black artist wasn't chosen to perform the tribute. 

    Just a few days after the 2019 Grammy Awards, another star-studded celebration of Motown and its artists will take place at Los Angeles' Microsoft Theater. 

  • Cardi B Gets Emotional After Her Historic Win

    Getty Images

    Cardi B brought her husband, Offset, onstage with her to accept the award for best rap album. The winner was visibly nervous and took a few moments to ready herself, beginning her 2019 Grammys acceptance speech by acknowledging her anxiety.

    “The nerves are so bad. Maybe I need to start smoking weed,” joked Cardi B, the first solo female artist to win best rap album at the Grammys.

    Her speech turned from funny to sentimental when she added her daughter to the list of people who helped her make her album. That thank-you was ultimately an acknowledgment of the conditions she had to work under in order to complete her album while pregnant.

    “When I found out I was pregnant, my album was not complete,” Cardi told the crowd. “I had like three songs I was for sure having. And then, you know. You know how it was. We was like, ‘We have to get this album done, so I can shoot these videos while I’m still not showing.’ It was very long nights.”  

    In other history-making news, Childish Gambino (aka Donald Glover) made history in two categories, though he didn't attend the show. His "This Is America" became the first rap song to win best record and best song of the year. Ahead of the show, it was reported that Glover turned down an offer to perform and was unlikely to attend, likely due to the Grammys' long-standing hip-hop problem. Ludwig Göransson, who produced "This Is America," accepted the Grammy on his behalf.

  • Dua Lipa Hints at Grammy President's Sexist Comment

    Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

    After performing side by side with St. Vincent, Dua Lipa received the 2019 Grammy for best new artist.

    Her acceptance speech consisted of the traditional elements like thanking producers, fellow artist, friends and family. However, the "New Rules" and "One Kiss" singer took the chance to refer to Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow's sexist 2018 comment about female artists. 

    The other nominees for best new artist included many female musicians like sister duo Chloe x Halle, H.E.R., Margo Price, Bebe Rexha and Jorja Smith. 

    “I guess this year, we really stepped up," Dua Lipa said on being nominated with fellow female artists during a record year for gender inclusivity.

  • Alessia Cara and Bob Newhart Poke Fun at His Age

    Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

    Last year's best new artist winner Alessia Cara and legendary comedian and Hollywood icon Bob Newhart shared the stage to present the award for best new artist at the 2019 Grammys. 

    Their monologue, which was one continuous joke, played on the duo's age gap, adding a little humor to a largely serious but celebratory night. After Newhart congratulated Cara on her win last year, the younger entertainer reminded the crowd that Newhart had also won best new artist in 1961 for his comedy album. 

    Cara then shared that her grandmother had all of Newhart's comedy records, before playfully correcting herself. "I think it was my great-grandmother."

    Newhart said to thank both women before Cara tried to correct herself again, to which Newhart jokingly responded, "All right, all right!" before they went on to present the award.

  • Grammy President Neil Portnow Addresses Importance of Female Artists

    Lester Cohen/Getty Images

    Nearly a year after stating that female artists need to "step up" in order to be considered for Grammy nominations and awards, Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow said Sunday night that having female artists is crucial to help address issues. 

    "To me that only feels right because this past year I have been reminded that if coming face-to-face with an issue opens your eyes wide enough, it makes you more committed than ever to help address those issues," he said. "We must seize this unique moment to bring change within our own industry to ensure that there is diversity and inclusion in all that we do."

    After the speech, Portnow introduced the ceremony's In Memoriam segment.

  • Aretha Franklin Tribute

    Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

    Nearly six months after the Queen of Soul died, Fantasia, Andra Day and Yolanda Adams celebrated the work and life of Aretha Franklin at the 2019 Grammy Awards.

    Following the annual In Memoriam segment of the music awards ceremony, Fantasia started singing Franklin's memorable number "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." As the song progressed, she was joined by Day and Adams.