Going into the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards Sunday night, it was hard to know what to expect. The entire city of Los Angeles was reeling from the sudden death of Kobe Bryant, and apart from that the Recording Academy itself was already in a state of turmoil. Ousted CEO Deborah Dugan filed a lawsuit Tuesday, alleging that the Recording Academy operates like a boys’ club and allows conflicts of interest to pervade its voting and nomination processes. Taylor Swift had already reportedly canceled her own unannounced Grammys gig by Friday. And so, going into the ceremony Sunday, it was hard not to wonder what other artists might have to say—if anything.
This year’s Grammys host Alicia Keys kept the focus on Kobe Bryant’s death at first, but soon began to pivot, discussing the basketball player’s love of music before doing a quick riff on current events. But then her language began to sound a little more pointed—and her audience began to seem a little more precise. “I feel the energy of all the beautiful artists in this room,” she said, per The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s going to be an amazing night. Because it’s a new decade. It’s a time for newness.”
“We refuse the negative energy,” she continued. “We refuse the old systems.”