Grammys: Alicia Keys Says "We Refuse the Old Systems" Amid Recording Academy Turmoil

"We want to be respected and safe in our diversity. We want to be shifting to realness and inclusivity," said the host while addressing the audience from her piano.

Many who tuned into Sunday's Grammy Awards did so with anticipation to see how music's biggest night would handle the scandal that has embroiled the Recording Academy in the week leading up to its annual telecast.

With the awards show kicking off only hours after the tragic news that NBA legend Kobe Bryant — along with his 13-yeard-old daughter Gianna, and seven others — had died in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, Alicia Keys opened the ceremony with an emotional tribute to the 41-year-old former Los Angeles Lakers star while standing in "the house that he built," Staples Center.

After a touching, somber and inspiring opening monologue, the returning Grammys host and 15-time winner took a seat onstage at the piano, where Keys continued to push her message that music is love and has the power to heal through an original medley. Her serenade included a further message about Bryant ("I know how much he loved music. So we’ve got to make this a celebration in his honor") and knocked President Donald Trump and the impeachment news cycle ("Commander in chief, ya’ll get out / Let’s bring Cardi B in ... It’s just too many lies / Too much hate, too much spin / It’s when good people do nothing that the bad guys win").

Keys also addressed the issues plaguing the Recording Academy when she pushed another message about inclusivity.

"I feel the energy of all the beautiful artists in this room," she said from the Grammys stage. "It’s going to be an amazing night. Because it’s a new decade. It’s time for newness. And we refuse the negative energy. We refuse the old systems." In response to cheers from the audience at that thinly veiled line, Keys added, "Feel me on that!"

She continued, "We want to be respected and safe in our diversity. We want to be shifting to realness and inclusivity. So tonight, we want to celebrate the people. The artists that put themselves on the line and share their truth with us."

Keys then called out three of the night's biggest female artists: nominated singers and performers Billie Eilish, Lizzo and Ariana Grande.

"You see us? We’re unstoppable," said Keys. "We get to be who we want to be. We get to be different, we get to be unique, we get to be everything. Right now."

Later in the night when presenting the award for best new artist, Keys' co-presenter Dua Lipa echoed the message: "There are so many stellar female producers, artists, songwriters, engineers. And if you're in the business and you're hiring, raise your sights to the amazing, talented women out there. Because we all deserve a seat at every table."

When closing out the show, Keys said, "We got a lot to change, we got a lot to do. Keep speaking the truth."

Ahead of the Grammy Awards, Deborah Dugan — the suspended chief of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, which puts on the annual music show — on Tuesday filed an explosive 46-page complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the academy after being placed on administrative leave. Her complaint exposed music's biggest night as being allegedly rigged and accused the organization of being a "boys club," and also included claims that she experienced gender bias and sexual harassment throughout her brief tenure.

Dugan doubled down on her claims with back-to-back TV appearances during the week and over the weekend, while her attorneys called for her to be reinstated and for interim CEO and board chair Harvey Mason to step down if the organization is serious about reform. Earlier Sunday, Mason sent a memo to the Academy’s 25,000 members where he stressed the need for change and outlined specific directions that the Academy was taking, including five initiatives based on recommendations from the Diversity Task Force.

Despite her allegations, Dugan said during her visit on Thursday to ABC's Good Morning America that she still planned to tune into Sunday's show and, like Keys, wanted viewers to celebrate the music.

"I'm saying that the system should be transparent and that there are incidents, conflicts of interest, that taint the results," Dugan told host George Stephanopoulos about her claims of a manipulated nominations process. "I hate that I'm in this situation, because I'd much rather be here talking about the artists and the music, but I can't help but say there are conflicts of interest going on."

She then added of her plans to watch: "I worked very hard on the show, and I love the artists that are going to be performing, and I love all those that are nominated that don't get the honor of being on the show."

The 62nd annual Grammy Awards aired live on CBS from Staples Center in Los Angeles.