This year’s Grammys was a night to remember where social justice, the power of music, Black excellence, and LGBTQIA+ representation took center stage.
On a night that saw Global Citizen artists like Lizzo, Beyoncé, TEMS, and Kendrick Lamar rake in the honors, we take a look at the moments that made the night, from historic wins for Black musicians, to queer representation, and stars using the platform to honor marginalized communities.
1. The anthem of Iran’s protests won Best Song for Social Change.
Social justice and the power of music were put center stage when Iranian singer Shervin Hajipour was awarded the new Best Song for Social Change for his powerful song "Baraye", which became the anthem of the Mahsa Jina Amini protests in Iran.
The song went viral after Hajipour, 25, shared it on his Instagram page and was viewed 40 million times worldwide last year. The song was inspired by tweets by Iranians after the tragic news that Mahsa Jina Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, had died after being arrested and allegedly beaten by the so-called morality police in Tehran.
Announcing the award, US First Lady Jill Biden described the song as a “powerful and poetic call for freedom and women's rights.”
Hajipour was unable to attend the ceremony as he is currently out on bail awaiting trial on charges that can carry as many as six years in prison and banned from leaving Iran.
2. Viola Davis took EGOT status.
It’s impossible not to mention Viola Davis in the same breath as Black excellence in Hollywood, an actor who has advocated for diversity in film at every turn.
At this year’s Grammys, The Woman King star officially became part of the “EGOT” club, an acronym for those who have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony.
This was Davis’ first Grammy win and it was awarded for the audiobook of her memoir Finding Me, in the Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording category.
3. Beyoncé shouted out the queer community.
Throughout her career, Beyoncé has used her music and her platform to advocate for women and girls through songs of female empowerment like “Run the world (girls).”
But during her heartwarming acceptance speech at the Grammys, it was the queer community the Renaissance singer paid homage to and their contributions to the house, dance, and electronic genres.
“I would like to thank the queer community,” said the performer, “for your love and for inventing the genre. God bless you.”
The pop icon collaborated with and sampled a plethora of queer artists on the album such as Big Freedia, Syd, Honey Dijon, Ts Madison, Moi Renee, and Kevin Aviance.
Renaissance also made history for trans visibility when Cozy, which samples Madison’s viral video “Bitch I’m Black” and features production from Dijon, charted in the US top 40, making them the first Black trans women to do so.
4. Beyoncé made history with the most lifetime Grammys ever.
Not only did Beyoncé use her acceptance speech to thank a marginalized community, but she was also making history while she did.
With 32 Grammys now under her belt, the R&B singer and pop superstar has become the artist with the most lifetime Grammy wins in history, surpassing the late classical conductor Georg Solti, who won 31 Grammys.
5. Lizzo became the first Black woman to win Record of the Year this century.
Black History happened on our TV screens at this year’s Grammys when Lizzo took home Record of the Year, becoming the first Black woman to win the award this century. Whitney Houston won for her rendition of "I Will Always Love You" in 1994. What a way to kick off the US and Canada's Black History Month!
6. Kim Petras and Sam Smith became the first transgender woman and non-binary artist to win.
Another history-making moment was made at this year’s Grammys for LGBTQIA+ representation and contribution to the music industry, as Kim Petras and Sam Smith accepted the award for Best Pop Duo/Group Collaboration for their song, “Unholy,” — making Petras the first-ever transgender woman to win a Grammy in this category.
The artists, wearing show-stopping red outfits, walked hand in hand onstage together, but Smith then stood behind Petras and handed her the mic. ”Sam graciously wanted me to accept this award because I’m the first transgender woman to win this award,” Petras said.
Petras used her acceptance speech to thank transgender artists who paved the way for her and paid tribute to the late Grammy-nominated producer Sophie, who died in 2020.
“I just want to thank all the incredible transgender legends before me who kicked these doors open for me so I couldn’t be here tonight,” she said.
7. Trevor Noah highlighted the power of music to transcend division.
The “host with the most” returned to host the Grammys for the third time on Sunday night — and he did not disappoint.
As well as cracking jokes and introducing Adele and Dwayne Johnson to each other after finding out they’re both big fans of one another, Trevor Noah took a moment to talk about the power of music to unite people despite their differences, in the darkest of times.
“It’s Black kids and white kids rejecting segregation in the 1950s, and instead, blending R&B, country, and even gospel into rock and roll,” the comedian said. “In the 1980s, a young Black rapper from Queens and a Jewish white kid in his NYU dorm came together to make some of the greatest hip-hop of all time. They made a powerful new sound together because they were different.”
He continued: “Music isn’t just the harmony of sound. It’s the harmony of human beings of different races, genders, religions, identities, sexual orientations … rejecting division to find moments of joy and unity and harmony, and that’s what music is all about.”
8. It was a historic night for African music.
Heading into the 65th Grammy Awards, Africa had already celebrated the nine artists who had been nominated for the prestigious music awards. However, the awards saw four artists take home a Grammy in their respective categories, which had the continent continuing the celebrations.
Global Citizen and Nigerian singer TEMS won in the Best Melodic Rap Performance category for her contribution to the hit song “Wait for U” — a collaboration of musicians Future and Drake.
South African artists Zakes Bantwini, Nomcebo Zikode, and Wouter Kellerman also took home a Grammy for Best Global Music Performance for their collaboration song "Bayethe".
9. Kendrick Lamar won Rap Album of the Year.
Kendrick Lamar won the 2023 Grammy Award for Best Rap Album with Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.
The most-nominated male artist at the 2023 Grammy Awards, the rapper was presented the award by Cardi B.
Featuring tracks such as “Mother I Sober” and “Auntie Diaries,” the album touches on many social issues such as domestic violence, race, gender, and addiction.
10. Hip-Hop received an epic tribute.
Featuring the Roots, Run-D.M.C., Queen Latifah, and many, many more, the Grammys celebrated 50 years of hip-hop with a historic segment showcasing the genre's rich history and continued global influence.
"For five decades, hip-hop has not only been a defining force in music, but a major influence on our culture," said Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy. "Its contributions to art, fashion, sport, politics, and society cannot be overstated."