Alicia Keys kicked off the 2020 Grammys with a tribute to Kobe Bryant. “We never imagined in a million years that we’d have to start the show like this,” Keys said in reference to Bryant’s passing earlier that day. “We are literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built,” Keys said in reference to the Staples Center, where the lifelong Laker played his entire 20-year career and where the Grammys are being held.
Keys then asked to take a moment to pay tribute to the Lakers player and his 13-year-old daughter Gigi, who also died in the plane crash earlier that day. She started singing an acapella version of Boyz II Men’s “It’s So Hard To Say Goodbye” and was joined by the three members of the group.
After the commercial break, Keys sat at the piano and tried to share some “good vibes” with the crowd. She admitted this week had been a tough one, which felt like a reference to allegations made by ousted Recording Academy CEO and president Deborah Dugan that the awards are rigged.
“Real talk: there’s a lot going on,” she said as she began to serenade the crowd. “I’m proud to be standing here,” she said. “I’m proud to be here as an artist for the artist with the people. I feel the energy of all the beautiful artists in this room.” Since it’s a new decade, Keys asked for “newness” and for everyone to “refuse the negative energy. We refuse the old systems.”
Keys made it clear that the Grammys is about love and respect. “We want to be respected and safe in our diversity. We’re shifting to realness and inclusivity tonight,” she said. “We want to celebrate the people, the artists who put themselves on the line.”
Keys then shouted out Billie Eilish, Lizzo, and Ariana Grande for being the future of the Grammys. “We get to be different,” she said. “We get to be unique, we get to be everything right now.”
Keys then paid tribute to Bryant again. “He would want us to keep the vibrations high,” she said. “Music the one language we can all speak, we can all understand it.”
She then broke into a song about the Grammys that used Lewis Capaldi’s melody and called out this year’s biggest artists like Lil Nas X and BTS. She also supported Cardi B for president and asked everyone to keep the speeches short. This night is a celebration, Keys won’t have it any other way.