Teenage pop singer Billy Eilish creates Grammy history with wins in major categories

Teenage singer-songwriter Billie Eilish is the youngest to make a clean sweep of all the top categories at the Grammy Awards. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - With teenage singer-songwriter Billie Eilish's historic wins at the Grammys on Sunday (Jan 26), the United States' Recording Academy is sitting up and giving credit to young artists and first-time nominees making a big impact in the contemporary music world today.

The 18-year-old American is the youngest to make a clean sweep of all the top categories - Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year for her hit single Bad Guy, and Album Of The Year for debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?.

She also won Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Album - nabbing five of the six categories she was nominated in at the 62nd edition of the award show that is often referred to as "music's biggest night".

Eilish, who crafts and records her songs with her producer brother Finneas in a bedroom in their parents' house in Los Angeles, is not the youngest artist to ever win a Grammy - that record goes to country singer Leah Peasall, who was eight when the album that she sang in, the O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack, won Album of the Year back in 2002.

The only award Eilish lost, Best Pop Solo Performance, went to Lizzo, the singer, rapper and flautist who came into the awards with the most number of nominations - eight.

The 31-year-old won only two other awards - Best Urban Contemporary Album for her third album Cuz I Love You and Best Traditional R&B Performance for her song Jerome.

Still, the body positivity icon injected plenty of energy into the awards show with a fiery opening performance in which belted high notes, rapped high-velocity rhymes and busted out a wicked solo on the flute.

Genre-bending rapper and recent breakout star Lil Nas X, 20, ended up as one of the biggest losers, winning only Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Music Video out of six nominations.

His live performance featured several remixes of his viral hit tune Old Town Road, and included a bevy of guest stars such as K-pop juggernauts BTS and country star Billy Ray Cyrus.

The wins for first-time nominees Eilish, Lizzo, Lil Nas X and also 19-year-old Jamaican singer Koffee, who won Best Reggae Album, can be seen as the Academy making a play at keeping the winner's list fresh and relevant to younger audiences.

The Grammys have long been plagued by accusations of having a lack of diversity among voting members and the winners, as well as pandering to legacy acts while giving the snub to newer artists.

This year's ceremony was also shrouded in fresh controversy as just a few days before, former chief executive office Deborah Dugan alleged that the Grammy nominations process were rigged. The organisers have called the claims "categorically false and misleading".

But if there is one thing that the Grammys do well, it is in honouring fallen heroes.

The ceremony kicked off on a sombre note as returning host Alicia Keys gave a eulogy for basketball star Kobe Bryant who tragically died in a helicopter crash with his 13-year-old daughter just hours before the ceremony.

There were several last-minute tributes - including Keys singing It's So Hard To Say Goodbye To Yesterday with Boyz II Men - which were especially apt since the awards was held at Staples Center, an arena that is home ground to Bryant's team the Los Angeles Lakers.

"We're literally standing here, heartbroken, in the house that Kobe Bryant built," Keys said, while performers such as rap veterans Run DMC held up the basketball icon's jerseys.

There were also several tributes to late rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was fatally shot at the age of 33 in 2019. He was awarded two posthumous prizes - his first Grammy wins, for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap/Sung Performance.

DJ Khaled and John Legend led Hussle's proteges such as YG and Roddy Ricch in a live performance that included the late artist rapping in a video backdrop.

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