The Grammys are all about celebrating the best and brightest in music, but in another sense, it’s about picking winners… and therefore losers (or non-winners if you want to soften the blow of that descriptor). While there’s a general formula to an awards show like this, there’s always room for the unexpected to happen, whether that’s an award win nobody saw coming (those definitely happened at last night’s 2022 ceremony) or an especially noteworthy performance (ditto).
When it comes to winners, losers, and surprises, some stand out more than others, so let’s run through some of the evening’s biggest figures and moments in those three categories. (Also, in case you missed it, check out the full list of last night’s winners here.)
Winner: Jon Batiste
The Late Show bandleader’s run as one of the biggest winners of the 2022 Grammys actually started in 2021, when it was revealed he had racked up an amazing 11 nominations. Batiste’s nominations in R&B, jazz, American roots, soundtrack, contemporary classical, and visual categories tied him for the second-most Grammy nominations in a single year, with Kendrick Lamar’s 11 in 2016 and behind Michael Jackson and Babyface’s 12 in 1984 and 1997, respectively. Even if Batiste ended up not winning a single one of those awards, what he achieved still would have been phenomenal. With as many chances as Batiste had, though, he of course managed to pick up at least a couple trophies: Before the actual ceremony even started, he won four Grammys.
Of course, he also put on perhaps the evening’s most dynamic, feel-good, and exciting performance with “Freedom.” But wait, there’s more…
Surprise: Jon Batiste
I write this with all due respect to Batiste’s extraordinary abilities as a musician and entertainer, but his 2021 LP We Are won the Grammy for Album Of The Year and there’s just no way that should have happened.
I don’t think Batiste would even take exception to me saying that: In the moment his victory was announced, nobody in the room showed more visible confusion than Batiste, who held a perplexed expression and uncertain shrug for a good ten seconds before making his way to the stage. Feigning shock is a common reaction to winning a major award like that, but if he wasn’t as genuinely dumbfounded as he looked, he should get an Oscar, too.
The Grammys are not meant to be a popularity contest, so the Recording Academy says, but rather, the aim is to honor the best in music. That said, if We Are truly was the best album of the past year, few people were aware of it; We Are was nominated against works by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Doja Cat, Billie Eilish, HER, Lil Nas X, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift, and Kanye West, and Batiste’s LP is really the only nominated work that wasn’t a part of the mainstream pop culture conversation when it was released.
Loser: Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish had an unbelievable first year at the Grammys in 2020, when she swept the four major categories and ended up winning five of her six total nominations. Converting at that high of a rate was an aberration, though, and since then, there’s been a clear regression toward the mean, especially after last night.
At the 2021 Grammys, she still did well, winning two of the four awards for which she was nominated. This year, though, things were different. Eilish was one of 2022’s most-nominated artists, with seven total nods (a personal best for her), including nominations in three of the four major categories (not Best New Artist for obvious reasons). When the night was over, Eilish didn’t have to worry about dropping any Grammys like Olivia Rodrigo did because she didn’t win a single one.
Overall, though, Eilish is still doing quite well over her Grammy career, as her lifetime total sits at 7 wins out of 17 nominations. She’s also probably not too upset about how yesterday went considering she put on one of the show’s most thrilling music performances and was seen smiling and having a heck of a time throughout the broadcast.
Surprise: Everything about Doja Cat and SZA’s acceptance speech
Doja Cat and SZA picked up the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance with “Kiss Me More,” and even before it started, their acceptance speech was an affair, no element of which could have been predicted. After the victory was announced, SZA struggled to walk to the stage as she contended with her crutches. Shortly after she made it up there, Doja came rushing in from another part of the venue. Doja, out of breath and adjusting her clothing, declared, “I’ve never taken such a fast piss in my whole life.”
That bathroom sprint would have been enough to make this moment noteworthy, but almost immediately after she started speaking, she got so emotional that she could hardly keep it together as she expressed how important the award was to her. This carries extra weight given that she has in recent days insisted she plans on quitting the music industry. There was a lot going on here, but a takeaway to consider is that perhaps this recognition will make Doja consider sticking around the music biz. At the very least, it illustrates how meaningful her work is to her.
Surprise: Olivia Rodrigo
— 진 💜 (@sawok_2minn) April 4, 2022
Olivia Rodrigo has been focusing primarily on music lately, which makes sense given that she’s become a global superstar over the past year. She apparently didn’t want us to forget that she’s also an actor by trade, so she went full thespian for a surprise appearance during BTS’ Grammy performance of “Butter.” BTS went super theatrical with their rendition, opening with basically a live-action spy movie, in which she flexed her emotional range, showing off happiness, shock, and intrigue in a matter of seconds. BTS’ shtick would have been fine without Rodrigo, sure, but her cameo was fun and the kind of small touch that pushes moments over the top.
Meanwhile, in not-so-surprising Rodrigo news, she also won the Grammy for Best New Artist.
Loser: Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X has come a long way since he was a potential one-hit-wonder with “Old Town Road,” which won him his first two Grammys back in 2020. He didn’t do so hot this year, though, as he earned five nominations (including three in the major categories) but didn’t win a single won, bringing his lifetime Grammys record to two wins out of 11 nominations.
Another way to look at it, though: If you’re of the school that it really is an honor just to be nominated, then Lil Nas X is one of the most decorated artists of the past few years. He also put on a pretty killer performance that’s sure to ruffle some feathers, a favorite Lil Nas X pastime. So, all in all, despite the losses, it was still a pretty good night for him.
Save for being a footnote in the most infamous pop culture moment of 2022 so far, Questlove has had himself a terrific week. Immediately after Will Smith went ahead and smacked Chris Rock on stage at the Academy Awards, Rock gathered himself and gave Questlove the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, for Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised). While that moment (which Quest made a quick joke about while presenting) was overshadowed by shenanigans, Questlove’s victory for Best Music Film wasn’t. His movie earned yet another major award, and this time, Questlove actually got to enjoy his deserved spotlight, distraction-free.
Surprise: Baby Keem
Baby Keem is a capable rapper: His 2021 debut album The Melodic Blue was top-5 in the US and its standout single, the Kendrick Lamar-featuring “Family Ties,” was top-20 and platinum-certified. Now, with that said, if you list his name alongside Cardi B, J. Cole, Drake, and Megan Thee Stallion, which one of that group feels like the odd man out? Without a doubt, based on fame and success and no disrespect, it’s Keem.
So, some hip-hop fans certainly had at least one eyebrow raised when “Family Ties” won the Best Rap Performance Grammy over those aforementioned rap icons (although the Lamar bump surely helped). I’m not necessarily saying Keem isn’t deserving of the honor, more so just pointing this out: I tried finding the Vegas betting odds for the category and wasn’t successful, but I’d have to imagine Keem would have been in last. So, congrats on the upset, Keem.
Loser: J. Cole
Over the years, J. Cole has had an up-and-down relationship with the Grammys: Up in the sense that he’s earned an impressive 16 nominations since his first (for Best New Artist) in 2012, but down in the sense that he’s only managed to win one: Best Rap Song for “A Lot” in 2020. That includes last night, where his luck didn’t change: He was up for Best Rap Performance, Best Melodic Rap Performance, Best Rap Song, and Best Rap Album but lost to Baby Keem, Kanye West, Kanye West again, and Tyler The Creator, respectively. Given that The Off-Season was a well-received No. 1 album and Ye isn’t in what most people would consider the peak of his music career, those losses especially have to sting.
Winner: Taylor Hawkins
The Foo Fighters drummer had a big night at this year’s ceremony, but as the music world knows by now, sadly, he was not able to enjoy it himself after his recent death. In the days leading up to the big night, the Recording Academy said they were working on some sort of way to honor Hawkins and his presence was certainly felt. He got a nice video tribute separate from the in memoriam segment, replacing Foo Fighters’ canceled performance slot. He also got a major shout-out from Billie Eilish, who wore a shirt with his face on it during her show-stopping performance of “Happier Than Ever.”
On top of that, Foo Fighters won a few Grammys, giving Hawkins some posthumous awards: Best Rock Album, Best Rock Song, and Best Rock Performance. While it is awful to have to say goodbye to one of the most beloved drummers of the past couple decades, last night was a fitting farewell.
Find the full list of this year’s Grammy nominees and winners here.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.