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As Keys first arrived onstage, she was welcomed by a standing ovation before describing the event as “an incredible night,” full of fun and love.
After trying to placate nominees’ nerves, she turned to acknowledging both Diana Ross and Dolly Parton, who were both slated to receive special honors during the kudocast. The rest of the speech, which was interspersed with cheers from the crowd, remained upbeat and positive and even calling music a universal language.
Most notably, Keys’ opening featured appearances from several high-profile women, including fellow artists Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga, actress Jada Pinkett Smith and former first lady Michelle Obama.
Read the full transcript of Keys’ monologue, below.
Welcome to the 61st Annual Grammy Awards.
Do you feel that love in the building? This is love, this is life, this is living, this is light and all because of music. Music is so powerful. So you see, we’re gonna have an incredible time tonight, this is just the beginning.
I wanted everyone in here who might be feeling a little nervous, might be feeling a lot of energy — just let your shoulders drop, just know that I got you. I’m gonna take care of you tonight.
The audience is so sparkly and gorgeous. First of all, my sister Tracee [Ellis Ross] is right here. We’re honoring her mama, Diana, tonight. That’s gonna be so amazing. The magnificent Dolly Parton is right here. I will always love you, Dolly. I mean, it’s magnificent. Chloe and Halle are out here, my sisters. My mama is right here. My husband is right here. There’s lots of love in the building, so it is about that time.
It is so exciting to be here because music is what we all love. Music is what it’s all about. You know, everybody is out here shining and I’m so proud to bring us together, to honor this moment. Because music is what we cry to. It’s what we march to. It’s what we rock to. It’s what we make love to. It’s our shared global language, and when you really want to say something, you say it with a song, am I right? Or am I right?
So, let’s just be honest. This is a celebration, and y’all didn’t think I was coming out here by myself, did you? Please, can I bring some of my sisters out here tonight?
Tell them what it is, Gaga.
Lady Gaga: They said I was weird. That my look, my choices, my sound that it wouldn’t work. But music told me not to listen to them. Music took my ears, took my hands, my voice and my soul and it led me to all of you and to my little monsters who I love so much.
Jennifer Lopez: Back in the Bronx, music gave me a reason to dance. From hip-hop to freestyle, pop, soul and salsa. And it kept me moving and it kept me moving from the block to the big stages and even bigger screens. It reminds me where I come from, but it also reminds me of all the places I can go. Music has always been the one place we can all feel truly free.
Jada Pinkett Smith: We express our pain, power and progress through our music, whether we’re creating it or just appreciating it. But here’s what I know: Every voice we hear deserves to be honored and respected.
Michelle Obama: Amen. Amen. From the Motown records I wore out on the Southside to the ‘Who run the world’ songs that fueled me through the last decade, music has always helped me tell my story. And I know that’s true for everyone here. Whether we like country, rap or rock, music helps share ourselves. Our dignity and sorrows, our hopes and joys. It allows us to hear one another, to invite each other in. Music shows us that all of it matters. Every story within every voice, every note within every song. Is that right, ladies?
Keys: What is better than this? There’s nothing better than this. Tonight we celebrate the greatness of each other, all of us, through music! I’m takin’ it in, I’m sorry. Who runs the world? Thank you so much, ladies, for your light, your message, your love, your sisterhood. I love you so much. Give it up for these magnificent goddesses. We goin’ get this party started. Are you ready for music’s biggest night?
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