Bowling Green-based rock band Cage the Elephant won the second Grammy award of its career Sunday, taking home the best rock album prize for its 2019 release “Social Cues.”
Cage the Elephant previously won a Grammy in the same category in 2017 for its album “Tell Me I’m Pretty,” and it was nominated in the best alternative album category in 2015 for “Melophobia.”
“I wanna just want to say this is one of the hardest years that we’ve went through as a band, and it’s just so incredibly touching that we’re able to take so many negative things that happened to us and turn it into such a positive thing,” guitarist Brad Shultz said in accepting the award onstage at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Meanwhile, singer Billie Eilish, who gave voice to young people struggling with depression on a do-it-yourself album she made at home with her older brother, made history. Not only did she become the youngest person to win one of Grammy’s top awards – record, song and album of the year, and best new artist – Eilish is the first artist to sweep all four since Christopher Cross in 1981.
Her triumph came on a night made somber by the death of former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant. It also ended a tumultuous week for the Recording Academy that included its ousted CEO accusing the Grammys nominations process of being rigged, and Diddy calling out the organization for not giving enough respect to R&B and hip-hop.
Eilish’s “When We all Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” also won best pop vocal album. Her brother Finneas O’Connell also won awards for engineering and producing the album.
“The music I listened to when I was growing up, maybe 7, 8, 9 or 10, 13, that was the most important music to me forever,” Finneas said backstage after the ceremony. “Anytime a person that age comes up to either one of us and says (it is their favorite), I know how much that means to them. That’s why it means so much to me. I hope they’re celebrating. This is all because of them.”
He said that they never thought that an album that addresses depression, suicidal thoughts and climate change would be up for a Grammy.
Eilish noted that they made the album in a bedroom of the Los Angeles-area home where they grew up in.
“It’s like anything is possible,” she said.
In accepting her awards, Eilish noted that she had grown up listening to many of the artists at the ceremony in the Staples Center. She also said she thought Ariana Grande deserved album of the year, an onstage moment that recalled Adele saying the same thing about Beyoncé the same year Adele triumphed.
The success of a young, white girl came on a night the Recording Academy seemingly went out of its way to highlight diversity. Lizzo offered a powerhouse opening performance, and there were tributes to Prince and the late rapper Nipsey Hussle. Tyler, the Creator offered an incendiary version of “Earfquake” with Boyz II Men. Lil’ Nas X sang his omnipresent “Old Town Road.” Grande sang, as did H.E.R., host Alicia Keys and Gary Clark Jr. with the Roots.
Tyler, the Creator said later that the rap album Grammy was a backhanded compliment.
While he’s grateful to be acknowledged, “it also sucks whenever we, I mean guys that look like me, do anything that’s genre bending, they always put it in an urban rapper category,” he said. “I don’t like that urban word. It’s just a politically correct way to say the N-word to me.”
Earlier in the show, Keys sat at a piano to sing a rewrite of Lewis Capaldi’s song, “Someone You Loved” that name-checked many of the nominated artists but also included a few pointed lines about respect.
“I’m gonna be honest with y’all,” she said. “It’s been a helluva week.”
Keys also had the delicate task of addressing the shock of Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash, while onstage at the same arena where the former Laker won championships.
She sang “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” with Boyz II Men. References to Bryant abounded – a Lakers jersey held up by Run-DMC during their performance of “Walk This Way” with Aerosmith, and adorning a couch on a set where Lil Nas X began “Old Town Road.”
“We’re all feeling crazy sadness right now,” said Keys, who received praise online for how she handled it.
“Alicia, you’ve been lighting this awards show up,” rapper Common said onstage. “Thank you.”
Besides her big opening, Lizzo took home three Grammys, including best pop solo performance for “Truth Hurts” and two R&B awards. She also seemed noticeably affected by Bryant’s death.
“We need to continue to reach out,” she told her fellow artists. “This is the beginning of making music that moves people again.”
Clark’s pointed “This Land” also won for best rock song and rock performance, and he won a third for contemporary blues album.