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2021 Grammy Awards: Beyoncé Makes History, Billie Eilish Wins 2 Big Awards

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Singers Beyonce and Taylor Swift made history last night at the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards, which was, of course, socially distanced. Four of the top awards went to women. NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: In winning the award for best R&B performance, Beyonce set a new record for the most Grammy wins of any woman and any singer. During the telecast at the LA Convention Center, she accepted her 28th Grammy for "Black Parade," a song she released on Juneteenth during last summer's Black Lives Matter protests of police brutality.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLACK PARADE")

BEYONCE: (Singing) We got rhythm, we got rhythm. We got pride, we got pride. We birth kings, we birth kings. We birth tribes, we birth tribes.

(SOUNDBITE OF "63RD ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS")

BEYONCE: As an artist, I believe it's my job and all of our jobs to reflect the times. And it's been such a difficult time. So I wanted to uplift, encourage and celebrate all of the beautiful Black queens and kings that continue to inspire me and inspire the whole world.

DEL BARCO: Beyonce gave a shout out to her 9-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, who became the second youngest Grammy winner. They shared the award for Best Music Video, "Brown Skin Girl."

(SOUNDBITE OF "63RD ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS")

BEYONCE: I'm so proud of you.

DEL BARCO: Taylor Swift also made history as the first female performer to win Album of the Year three times. She took off the flowery face mask that matched her dress and accepted her award before tables of socially distanced nominees under a tent. Swift thanked her fans and her collaborators on her album "Folklore."

(SOUNDBITE OF "63RD ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS")

TAYLOR SWIFT: I had the best time writing songs with you in quarantine. But mostly, we just want to thank the fans. You guys met us in this imaginary world that we created. And we can't tell you how honored we are forever by this. Thank you so much.

DEL BARCO: The award for Song of the Year went to "I Can't Breathe."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I CAN'T BREATHE")

HER: (Singing) If we all agree that we're equal as people, then why can't we see what is evil? I can't breathe. You're taking my life from me. I can't breathe.

DEL BARCO: The song "I Can't Breathe" was named for three words uttered repeatedly by George Floyd, whose death helped spark the Black Lives Matter protests around the world. In accepting her Grammy, the artist H.E.R. said her song was meant as a call to action.

(SOUNDBITE OF "63RD ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS")

HER: We are the change that we wish to see. And, you know, that fight that we had in us the summer of 2020, keep that same energy. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE BIGGER PICTURE")

LIL BABY: (Rapping) The police will shoot you and know that you dead but still tell you to freeze.

DEL BARCO: During the telecast, rapper Lil Baby addressed police brutality with his song "The Bigger Picture." He gave a powerful performance that included reenacting a police shooting and surprise appearances from fellow rapper Killer Mike and activist Tamika Mallory.

(SOUNDBITE OF "63RD ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS")

TAMIKA MALLORY: President Biden, we demand justice, equity, policy and everything else that freedom encompasses.

DEL BARCO: The telecast was hosted by TV's Trevor Noah and featured performances by BTS, Doja Cat, Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak and others. The night ended with former Beatle's Ringo Starr announcing the Record of the Year, "Everything I Wanted."

(SOUNDBITE OF "63RD ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS")

RINGO STARR: Well done, Billie. Peace and love.

DEL BARCO: But the Record of the Year apparently wasn't everything Billie Eilish wanted.

(SOUNDBITE OF "63RD ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS")

BILLIE EILISH: This is really embarrassing for me. Megan, girl.

DEL BARCO: Eilish spent most of her time lavishing praise onto this year's Best New Artist winner Megan Thee Stallion.

(SOUNDBITE OF "63RD ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS")

EILISH: You deserve it, honestly. Genuinely, this goes to her. Can we just cheer for Megan Thee Stallion, please (laughter)?

(APPLAUSE)

DEL BARCO: During the telecast, Megan Thee Stallion gave a jaw-dropping performance with Cardi B. And every time she won a Grammy, she seemed stunned.

(SOUNDBITE OF "63RD ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS")

MEGAN THEE STALLION: You know, it's been a hell of a year. But we made it.

DEL BARCO: But we made it - could be another slogan for the year.

Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "EVERYTHING I WANTED")

EILISH: (Singing) And you say, as long as I'm here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.