Hosting an awards show is hard. But doing so in the wake of a tragedy is near impossible.
Just hours before the 2020 Grammys, the world was rocked by the devastating news that retired NBA superstar Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna Bryant and seven others died in a helicopter crash just outside of Los Angeles.
Still reeling from massive loss and shock, it was a more somber affair at the typically lively and rowdy Grammys red carpet and heading into the 62nd annual ceremony itself. But 15-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys, returning for her second time as the night's host, rose the occasion, helping to console those mourning the loss, honoring Bryant and lifting the spirits of everyone in the audience as well as viewers at home, encouraging everyone to celebrate music for its ability to connect us.
After Lizzo's lively opening number, Alicia took the stage in a one should silver gown and immediately began the show by acknowledging the devastating loss of Bryant.
"To be honest with you, we're all feeling crazy sadness right now. We are all feeling crazy sad tonight, but earlier today, Los Angeles America, the whole wide world, lost a hero, and we're literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built," she said, referring to the Staples Center, which Bryant played all 20 seasons of his historic career in with the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Right now Kobe and his daughter Gianna and all of those that have been tragically lost today are in our spirit, they're in our hearts, they're in our prayers. They're in this building," she continued. "And I would like to ask everybody to take a moment and just hold them inside of you. Hold them inside of you. And share our strength and our support with their families."
Alicia then welcomes Boyz II Men on stage to join her for a touching musical tribute, explaining, "We never imagined in a million years we would have to start the show like this. Never, never, never, never, never. But we wanted to do something that could describe a teeny bit how we all feel right now."
After their emotional performance of "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday," Keys talked about the power of music to bring people together, especially in times of need.
"We're going to sing together, we're going to laugh together. We're going to dance together. We're going to cry together," he told the audience. "We're going to bring it all together. We're going to love together and we're going to make sure that we are celebrating the most powerful energy, the most beautiful thing in the world, the one thing that has the power to bring all of us together. And that's music...it's the most healing thing in the world."
A bit later on in the show, Keys returned, bringing along her trust piano to talk to the audience, calling her seat behind the instrument her "favorite place" and said it's where she always goes whens she needs "a little energy...because let me be honest with y'all, it's been a hell of a week. Damn! It's a really, a serious one, real talk. There's a lot going on."
But she continued, "It's a new decade. It's time for newness. And we refuse the negative energy. We refuse the old system. Feel me on that. We want to be respected and safe in our diversity. We want to be shifting to realness and inclusivity. So tonight we want to celebrate the people, the artists that put themselves on the line and share their truth with us."
Keys once again talked about Bryant when she brought up "celebrating" music especially on this night, saying, "Because I know how much Kobe loved music. I know how much he loved music. So we've got to make this a celebration in his honor. He would want us to keep the...vibrations hot."
The Voice coach then performed an original song, set to Lewis Capaldi's hit song "Someone You Loved."
Some of the lyrics? "Camila liked Shawn to call her" señorita. Ariana went "Next! Tyler brought us 'Igor.' Lil' Nas rode that road ¡til he couldn't no more. It's the Grammys we're going to have a ball, and here's Alicia keys to get you through it all."
She also sang, "Tonight we must unite in spite of all the news that we're seeing. Commander in chief impeached, y'all get out! Let's bring Cardi B in cause great...Cardi, can you please show these people what to do? Music changes the world, just like Beethoven said. Old dude in a wig but I still give him some cred. There's just too many lies too much hate, too much spin; it's when good people do nothing that the bad guys win."
She ended her Grammys-themed tune with a message to the winners, singing that the show is "10,000 hours long...let's keep the speeches short."
Later on, Alicia proved to have some jokes as well when she brought on Sean "Diddy" Combs receiving the "Salute to Industry" Icon Award the previous night.
"If I were to list all of diddy's accomplishments—or just his names—we'd be here all night." Zing!
She also poked fun at herself, talking about her first time ever attending and performing at the Grammys.
"I was crazy nervous and I was crazy sick, like for real, for real, like 103 degree fever, it was ridiculous. But I still managed to pull off a performance that meant a lot to me," she said. "It was a remix of 'Fallin'' and a woman's worth with some like flamenco flavor."
And when they began to play some of her performance, she critiqued her own dancing skills, joking, "OK, we're going to call it flamenco-ish."
Finally, Alicia debuted her new song "Underdog" and was backed by Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard on acoustic guitar. Of course, Alicia ended the performance in her happy place: behind the piano.