It’s hard to pick exactly who was the ultimate MVP of the Grammy Awards, which rolled through the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, January 26, 2020. It’s easy to argue that it was Billie Eilish, who wrote an album with her brother in her childhood bedroom and ended up taking home five awards, including record of the year, best new artist, and song of the year. Meanwhile, the rest of us are breathing easy knowing our teenage MySpace recordings have probably been dissolved into the endless depths the Internet forever.
Aside from Eilish’s massive sweep, Demo Lovato made a teary-eyed return to the stage. Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus, who won their first ever Grammy Awards, shared the stage with BTS, Mason Ramsey, Diplo, and Nas. The latter cameo made us question whether or not the world might actually explode because two separate timelines have finally discovered the other exists. We also have to give an honorable mention to Lizzo saying "welcome to the Grammys b***h" on live TV and, of course, Lizzo’s flute.
Despite the sheer star power and the fact that the two holy trinities of pop culture were in attendance — the JoBros and the J Sisters — the 2020 Grammy Awards were overshadowed by massive controversy. Here’s what you didn’t see on TV.
The Recording Academy ousted its new president before the broadcast
For a short while, it almost looked like the Grammys were going to escape 2020 without a stitch of controversy, and that says a lot considering the awards show has been plagued with drama for the last couple of years. Anyone else remember when former Recording Academy president Neil Portnow told women to "step up" after Alessia Cara was the sole woman to win a televised award for a solo performance in 2018? What about when Ariana Grande backed out of her performance over creative differences in 2019? The 2020 ceremony almost made it the live broadcast without a head-shaking headline, but alas, things devolved in the final inning.
Following Portnow’s questionable comments, the Recording Academy hired its first female president and CEO, Deborah Dugan. Dugan vowed to make diversity a priority, and by all accounts, she’s stuck to her word; however, any good PR the Grammys finally had was overshadowed when the Academy placed her on administrative leave 10 days before the ceremony following a "formal allegation of misconduct by a senior female member," according to The New York Times. Per the report, the allegation was filed by Portnow’s former assistant, who temporarily worked for Dugan and claimed the executive had a "bullying management style." The Academy also alleged that Dugan "sought a $22 million payout to go quietly," which the executive denied. Behind the scenes, the lawyer-turned-CEO had already been preparing to fire back with a slew of eye-opening complaints.
Deborah Dugan’s dismissal evolved into a full-on scandal
Deborah Dugan’s lawyer ominously responded to news of her leave by telling The New York Times, "When our ability to speak is not restrained by a 28-page contract and legal threats, we will expose what happens when you ‘step up’ at the Recording Academy." Expose, they did. According to Vox, Dugan filed a lengthy complaint with the Lost Angeles Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that she was suspended for "uncovering misconduct and corruption" within the organization, that former Recording Academy president Neil Portnow had been accused of sexual assault by an artist (which he denied), and that the nomination process was, essentially, rigged.
According to the complaint (via The New York Times), Dugan also received "unwanted sexual advances" from Grammys attorney Joel Katz. He denied the claims, but Dugan allegedly continued to report Katz for additional inappropriate behavior following the first incident.
The complaint also uncovered shocking conflicts of interest that allegedly plague the Academy, which has been labeled a "boys’ club" in recent years. Per the complaint, an anonymous artist — who sat on the nomination committee and was represented by a member of the board — allegedly received a "Song of the Year" nomination even though they were only ranked 18 out of 20 in the category. According to Pitchfork, attorneys representing the Academy also represent news outlets that profit off leaking the Academy’s confidential information. As of this writing, there’s been no resolution.
Ne-Yo weighed in on potential Grammys vote-rigging
Deborah Dugan might have blown the perfectly auto-tuned whistle on the Recording Academy’s alleged boys’ club, but she’s not the only one possibly disgraced by the organization’s alleged behavior. According to TMZ, Ne-Yo — a three time Grammy winner — spoke out about the reported vote-rigging and how he thought it could be a very real possibility.
"To be completely honest with you, I wouldn’t be shocked if it was true because there’s a lot of things about this industry that are, you know, smoke and mirrors, so to speak," he told the tabloid. "It wouldn’t surprise me, but at the same time, yeah it does kind of cheapen it a little bit, especially considering that fact that I’ve won three times."
Ne-Yo admitted that he hoped he would’ve won on his own "merit" — let’s be real, "Miss Independent" slays — but some people do have friends in high places. Aside from the airport interview, the star was most recently spotted at the Roc Nation brunch alongside superstars like Diddy and Jay-Z. Ne-Yo previously won two Grammys for his hit single "Miss Independent" and a third for his 2008 album Because of You.
Aerosmith was sued by its drummer
Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer didn’t want to miss a thing at the 2020 Grammy Awards. According to Rolling Stone, the drummer filed a lawsuit against his band, who he’s been working with for 50 years, after he was barred from playing in their televised performance with Run-DMC. Kramer, who’s a founding member, was initially forced to take a leave following a minor injury around the start of the band’s Las Vegas residency, but according to the lawsuit, he was not welcomed back with open arms. Instead, he was forced to re-audition by playing to a solo "click track," and the band reportedly thought he was lacking energy (sitting alone in a room with a metronome will do that).
"I did everything they asked — jumped through hoops and made both a recording of playing along solo to a recent live recording of the band — one I had never heard before," Kramer said in a statement (via Rolling Stone), adding, "But I did it, and I did it well. … No other [Aerosmith] member has ever been subjected to this scrutiny let alone be asked to audition for his own job!"
Aerosmith publicly responded to Kramer’s accusations. In a statement (via Rolling Stone), they claimed he "waited until the last moment" to accept their invitation back, and they didn’t have enough time to rehearse. Kramer ultimately joined the band on stage while accepting their 2020 MusiCares Person of the Year award but did not perform.
Did Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello break up before the 2020 Grammys?
Though music fans had to grapple with far more serious controversies surrounding the awards ceremony, you can’t put an emotional price on matters of the heart. Frequent collaborators and resident sloppy kissers Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes had fans crying in the club when they did not appear with each other on the red carpet despite being nominated together for best pop duo performance. Sound the alarm. What the heck is going on?
According to E! News, Mendes arrived without his senorita and posed solo in a cranberry colored Louis Vuitton suit. People reports that the former Fifth Harmony star ditched her boyfriend (sort of) and brought her father as her plus-one. She later dedicated her emotional performance of "First Man" to her dad, who was brought to tears (at least we weren’t the only ones).
Though rumors are certainly flying, it looks like the couple may have just opted for a little space — or a carefully calculated PR stunt — during music’s biggest night. Ahead of the show, Cabello told Radio.com that if she and her boyfriend won, they’d "walk onstage in [their] underwear like Twenty One Pilots did" in 2017. My oh my! Sadly, they lost out to Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus, but either way, they’re clearly still a thing unless they broke up in the last week. How dare they scare us like that!
YG was arrested right before his 2020 Grammys performance
YG almost didn’t make it the 2020 Grammys, where he was scheduled to perform alongside DJ Khaled and John Legend. The "Go Loko" singer’s management must have actually gone loco when the rapper was arrested two days before the ceremony in an early morning raid.
According to TMZ, police arrived at YG’s San Fernando Valley home around 4 a.m. and cuffed the singer "on suspicion of robbery" in connection to an ongoing investigation. Things weren’t looking good, but if Young Thug could pull off a pre-Grammy arrest, how hard could it be? The rapper enlisted star attorney Joe Tacopina, paid his $250,000 bail, and made it out in time to perform a touching tribute to both Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant, the latter of whom died alongside his 13-year-old daughter and seven others in a tragic helicopter accident.
It’s unclear if YG’s arrest has anything to with the murder case involving his Escalade. TMZ reports that his SUV was "involved in a high speed chase" where someone shot and killed "a 65-year-old man on a bicycle." At the time, YG told the tabloid he was recording in Hollywood and wasn’t anywhere near the crime scene. Following the shooting, a property leased by the singer in Hollywood was also raided, but YG was not home. Someone else was arrested for a weapons charge.
Demi Lovato revealed the sad truth behind her emotional 2020 Grammys performance
During Sunday’s ceremony, Demi Lovato made her triumphant return to the stage with a tear-filled debut of her new song, "Anyone" — but this was so much more than a regular Grammys gig. Anyone who’s ever seen the songstress slay knows she could sweep the Grammy’s stage with her eyes closed, but this marked the singer’s first performance since she was hospitalized in 2018 following an apparent overdose.
In an interview with Zane Lowe for Beats 1, Lovato revealed that the song was both the cry for help that she didn’t hear but also a source of strength. She recorded the vocals just four days before her hospitalization. "I almost listen back and hear these lyrics as a cry for help," she said, adding, "I even think that I was recording it in a state of mind where I felt like I was okay, but clearly I wasn’t. And I even listened back to it and I’m like, ‘Gosh, I wish I could go back in time and help that version of myself.’"
Lovato also revealed that she listened to her new songs in the hospital when she finally woke up, and that’s when she decided "if there’s ever a moment where I get to come back from this, I want to sing this song." Though Lovato choked up with tears during her performance, "Anyone" got a standing ovation.
DaBaby threw a house party to celebrate his nominations
DaBaby might not have won any of his nominations, but the rapper certainly enjoyed his moment in the spotlight. According to TMZ, the "Suge" singer hosted a star-studded Grammy nomination house party, which he soundtracked with no other than DaBaby. Honestly, is there a better soundtrack to your own party than yourself?
Per the tabloid’s report, DaBaby partied alongside Casanova, YFN, Lucci, Scott Storch, and record execs Steve Lobel and AE. Despite his superstar status, it was a relatively low key affair catered with ham, cheese, and veggies. Those aren’t exactly the most A-list of snacks, but they’re still major vibez and he made sure to offer rap star staples like Ciroc and Hennessy.
Ultimately, DaBaby’s whole party wrapped up around 8 p.m. proving that you can, indeed, be a platinum selling rap star and still tuck yourself into bed before nine. DaBaby is truly living the dream.
Taylor Swift bowed out of a secret Grammys performance
Just days ahead of the premiere of her Netflix documentary, Taylor Swift didn’t make an appearance at the 2020 Grammy Awards despite her three nominations. Nonetheless, it doesn’t seem all that strange on the surface. The "Lover" singer has already racked up 10 wins among her dozens of nominations, so what’s another? She also famously inflicted a total media blackout during her Reputation album cycle, so we already know she can go into stealth mode if necessary. Didn’t she hide in a suitcase to avoid paparazzi or was that a cheeky rumor?
This time around, though, things are a bit different. Swift has been creeping back into the public eye and whatever bad reputation caused her to write Reputation wasn’t because she flakes on performances, so why did she reportedly bow out of her secret Grammy performance at the last minute? According to Variety, Swift’s possible appearance was kept under wraps and it was never actually confirmed in any concrete way. Talks were reportedly reaching the end zone and rehearsal schedules for the live taping included a "TBA" artist, which was purportedly the "Me" singer.
It’s unclear exactly why Swift decided to skip out, but Variety speculated that it could have something to do with the recent scandals involving the Recording Academy. She also previously revealed to Variety that she’s focused on spending more time with her family amidst her mother’s cancer diagnosis.
Nick Jonas revealed what was stuck in his teeth
On this sad day in 2020, Nick Jonas suffered a shot to his ego far greater than the Jonas Brothers losing their nomination to Lil Nas X. Really, "Sucker" was great but it did not have a music video with an animated Keanu Reeves doing a Naruto run towards Area 51. What did he expect?
No, in this tragic moment in music history, Nick felt the true betrayal of his brethren, his bandmates, his blood. Both Kevin and Joe abandoned their younger brother by letting him take the stage on live television with something in his teeth. Even Priyanka Chopra didn’t have her man’s back. Today, Nick Jonas rides alone (though we’re sure Lil Nas X has an extra horse in the back and probably a toothpick).
Fans were quick to notice that Nick had something in his teeth during his performance of the JoBros’ latest single "What a Man Gotta Do." One fan even went as far as saying she was "jealous" of whatever was lodged in there. Nick later took to Twitter to confirm what we were all wondering. Yes, he had some greens stuck in teeth. He didn’t get into specifics. We don’t know if it was some basic romaine, some utilitarian spinach, or the ever-trendy kale. We’ll probably never know, but can someone get this guy a toothbrush? Is it really that hard?
Ariana Grande’s 2020 Grammys gown made her stylist cry
Seven rings is nothing when you’ve got 20 feet of tulle. Ariana Grande absolutely shut down the red carpet with her massive, three-tiered, grey Giambattista Valli ball gown. According to E! News, the stunning dress was a rare custom piece from the designer, who normally doesn’t do custom dresses, but you might as well go grande or go home. The dress is reportedly 20 feet in diameter, which is a whole lot considering the pop star reportedly stands at just over five feet.
When it came to actually choosing her red carpet look, Grande allegedly relied on the emotional reaction from her stylist, Law Roach. During E!’s live Grammys coverage, journalist Zanna Roberts Rassi revealed that Roach told her he "burst into tears" the moment the pop star tried on the gown. That’s when Grande said, "Well, this is the dress then."
That’s not to say the singer remained in the undoubtedly heavy garment all night. She eventually said thank you, next, and slipped on a Schiaparelli crop top and skirt with a similar color palette about halfway through the red carpet. According to People, the star told CBS that she just "couldn’t decide." She wants it, she got it.