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FIVE FOR EILISH

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When accepting the award for best new artist, Eilish recognised the fans - even other artists’ fans, who, she said, would surely be dogging her for years

Lil Nas X

The 62nd annual Grammy Awards anointed a new star in Billie Eilish, even as the mood Sunday night was darkened by the death earlier that day of basketball great Kobe Bryant, who spent much of his NBA career playing at the Staples Center, the arena where the show was held.

Eilish, an 18-year-old auteur with a moody and idiosyncratic aesthetic, won five awards, including the four most prestigious and competitive prizes – album, record and song of the year, and best new artist. She was the first artist to sweep the top awards since Christopher Cross in 1981, besting competition from Lizzo, Lil Nas X, Ariana Grande and others.

“Bad Guy”, a No 1 hit, took record and song of the year – the latter prize recognises songwriting – while “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” won album of the year as well as best pop vocal album.

When accepting the award for best new artist, Eilish recognised the fans – even other artists’ fans, who, she said, would surely be dogging her for years.

“I love all fandoms,” she said. “You guys make this worth it.”

Finneas O’Connell, her brother, accepting with her for song of the year, noted that they record together in a bedroom in their family home. “This is to all the kids that are making music in their bedroom today,” he said, holding the trophy. “You’re going to get one of these.”

Finneas, as he is known, also won producer of the year and an engineering award.

Lizzo and Alicia Keys set a mournful and celebratory tone right from the start of the show, with both addressing Bryant’s death in a helicopter crash.

“Tonight is for Kobe,” Lizzo announced as the show began, and went straight into a bold, full-throated medley of her songs “Cuz I Love You” and “Truth Hurts”, backed up by a miniorchestra and surrounded by ballerinas with otherworldly lights in their tutus.

Keys, the host for the night, then walked solemnly to the stage and said softy: “Here we are together, on music’s biggest night, celebrating the artists that do it best, but to be honest with you we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now.

“We’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built,” Keys went on to say. Keys then invited members of the group Boyz II Men to the stage and sang part of their elegiac song “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” with them.

Lizzo, a charismatic and outspoken performer who had worked in obscurity for almost a decade before her breakout last year, won three awards, but all in lesser categories. “Truth Hurts”, her breakthrough track, won best pop solo performance, while “Jerome” won traditional R&B performance and the deluxe version of her album “Cuz I Love You” took urban contemporary album.

Lil Nas X, a gleeful master of internet memes, won two for his “country-trap” hybrid “Old Town Road”: best pop duo/group performance and best music video.

Well before Bryant’s death, a degree of anxiety had hung over the Grammys, after the recent removal of the head of the Recording Academy, the organisation behind the awards – a clash that brought out accusations of vote-rigging and sexual harassment and criticisms of not enough progress on the academy’s stated goals of becoming more diverse and inclusive.

Keys seemed to obliquely allude to those issues – and more – in a speech and piano medley in which she played with the lyrics to Lewis Capaldi’s ballad “Someone You Loved” (a nominee for song of the year). “It’s been a hell of a week, damn,” she said, twinkling chords on the piano. “This is a serious one. Real talk – there’s a lot going on.”

She added: “It’s time for newness. We refuse the negative energy, we refuse the old systems.” She also took aim at President Donald Trump, saying he should be replaced by Bronx singer-rapper Cardi B.

There were other nods to Grammy controversies. After Tyler, the Creator won the trophy for best rap album for “Igor”, an ambitious and genre-defying album, he said he was grateful for the honour but that the categorising of his music as rap still felt like a “backhanded compliment”.

“Whenever we – and I mean guys that look like me – do anything that’s genre-bending or anything, they always put it in a rap or urban category,” Tyler said backstage. “When I hear that I’m like, ‘Why can’t we just be in pop?’ ”

Hours before the show, the news of Bryant’s death led to gasps in the press room at the Staples Center, where championship banners Bryant helped the Los Angeles Lakers win hang from the building’s rafters, along with his jerseys. Flags outside the arena were lowered to half-staff as preparations for the event continued.

All but nine of the Grammys’ 84 awards were given out before the broadcast, in a separate “premiere” ceremony that was plagued by celebrity absences – but also featured nonstars celebrating how a Grammy can be a career-defining moment.

Early prizes were sprinkled among Lizzo, Eilish, Lil Nas X, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. Lizzo won two prizes: urban contemporary album for the deluxe version of “Cuz I Love You” and traditional R&B performance in the song “Jerome”. (She won another, best pop solo performance for “Truth Hurts”, during the telecast.)

Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” won best pop/duo group performance in its remix with the country star Billy Ray Cyrus.

Beyoncé’s concert special “Homecoming” won best music film. Michelle Obama won best spoken word album for the audio version of her book “Becoming”. – The New York Times