Beyonce, Megan Thee Stallion win early Grammys ahead of main gala

Maggy Donaldson - Agence France-Presse
Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion
Beyoncé and Megan Thee Stallion accept the Best Rap Performance award for 'Savage' onstage during the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards at Los Angeles Convention Center on March 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California.
Getty Images for The Recording Academy / Kevin Winter via AFP

NEW YORK, United States — The Grammys kicked off on Sunday with two early prizes for leading nominee Beyonce, one thanks to her collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion, the rap sensation who captured her first prize at the music industry's top awards show.

The mostly virtual ceremony falls nearly a year to the day after Covid-19 grounded tours and forced performance venues to close, as the music world tries to move past a crushing 2020 with a celebration of its biggest stars.

The early ceremony preceding the main broadcast offered a hint at what the evening's gala will look like, with a mix of live and pre-taped performances in keeping with restrictions now commonplace in the coronavirus era.

Beyonce captured her first trophy of the day for Best Music Video, an award she shared with her eldest daughter, Blue Ivy, who was in the clip for "Brown Skin Girl."

The megastar did not Zoom in to accept the prize from the Recording Academy that many say has failed her in the past, with repeated snubs in past years for critically acclaimed work.

But Billie Eilish and her brother and collaborator Finneas did appear to accept an award for "No Time To Die," the theme from the forthcoming James Bond film of the same name.

Beyonce snagged her second prize for her collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion, and has four more chances to win.

"Imma cry!" said Megan via video chat to accept the award for Best Rap Performance for "Savage," fanning her eyes as she thanked Beyonce along with her late mother.

"Thank you Mama for pushing me and knowing that I was gonna be here," the superstar rapper said. 

"Thank you hotties, thank you Houston!" she continued, referring to her adoring fans and home city.

Beyonce's sweeping "Black Parade" — released in June amid explosive nationwide anti-racism protests after another spate of deadly police violence targeting Black Americans — has her up for the coveted Record and Song of the Year awards that will be doled out near the gala's end.

Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa and Roddy Ricch each earned six nominations.

Swift and Lipa both lost in the field for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, however, which went to Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande's "Rain On Me."

South Korean phenomenon BTS was also up for that prize; their loss dashed hopes for a historic win for Asian pop music from the Los Angeles-based Academy.

Many critics favor the overall chances of Lipa, who took a big risk in dropping a sparkly disco ball of a dance album just as the pandemic took hold — a bet that paid off.

Swift — a onetime Grammys darling who hasn't won in five years — bagged her nominations for releasing her surprise quarantine album "folklore," a commercial and critical hit.

And rapper Ricch — who won a trophy last year for his collaboration with the late artist Nipsey Hussle — is a strong contender, including for Song of the Year, which honors songwriting, for his hit "The Box."

Nas, Strokes first-time winners

Brittany Howard — known for fronting the band Alabama Shakes — won Best Rock Song, as Fiona Apple scored two awards for her album "Fetch The Bolt Cutters", which many critics hailed as a masterpiece.

The notoriously reclusive Apple said on Instagram she would not be attending the ceremony, explaining she was not up for the scrutiny attending such a show entails.

Though most of the rock fields were unprecedentedly dominated by women, The Strokes won for Best Rock Album for "The New Abnormal," their first Grammy ever.

Rap legend Nas also won for the first time after 14 nominations, with his "King's Disease" winning Best Rap Album.

Nigerian superstar Burna Boy was also a first-time winner for Best Global Music Album, ecstatically accepting the prize which he said "is a big win for my generation of Africans all over the world."

Megan Thee Stallion has three more chances to win, including for Best New Artist.

But it wouldn't be the Grammys without controversy.

The Weeknd has pledged to stop submitting music for awards consideration after he surprisingly received no nominations, despite a big year commercially.

'An honor'

Grammys organizers are plugging performances as a reason to tune in Sunday night, bringing in heavyweights including Cardi B, Swift, Eilish, Lipa, Harry Styles, BTS and rapper DaBaby to light up screens.

Megan Thee Stallion hinted that she and Cardi might perform their mega-hit "WAP" — a bawdy summer smash that celebrates female sexuality, and whose performance would almost certainly require censoring — during the main event.

"I can't wait for everyone to see us kill it Tonight" Megan tweeted, after her fellow rapper congratulated her on her win.

Latin trap superstar Bad Bunny will also appear, as well as country stars Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris and Mickey Guyton — who was the first Black woman ever nominated in the country category, but lost to Vince Gill.

"Although I didn't win this Grammy, it truly is an honor and I will forever be a Grammy nominated artist. I love you guys," the artist tweeted.

Comedian Trevor Noah is set to host Sunday's show, which the Academy has dedicated to the resilience of the music industry as well as frontline workers combatting the spread of Covid-19. — Laurent Banguet in Los Angeles

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