Hours after news broke of Kobe Bryant’s death, the Recording Academy paid tribute to the NBA legend on the Grammys stage. Boyz II Men then joined her in a surprise performance of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” in honor of Bryant. The pre-show also included a brief moment of silence for Bryant, led by Interim Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. R.I.P. Kobe Byrant & Gianna Maria, as well as the other victims on board.
Faced with the uncomfortable task of being the face of the Grammys in a week when ugly accusations of sexism and voting irregularities dominated, Keys turned attention on the people who make music, instead of the people who exploit it.
In one of the early segments of the Grammys, she sat and sang how “it’s been a really serious week,” a somewhat oblique reference to the turmoil surrounding the Recording Academy’s politics.
She also delved into real politics, giving an admonition against President Donald Trump, and remembered Kobe Bryant.
“I’m proud to be here. And I’m proud to be here and feel the energy of the artists,” Keys said. “It’s a new decade. We can reuse the negative energy. We refuse the old system, we want to be respected in our diversity.”
She shifted that argument toward the power of music. “Tonight we want to celebrate the people, the artists who put themselves on the line.” She then gave shout-outs to Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Ariana Grande and several others, ending with, “You see her. You see us. We’re unstoppable. Celebrating the music, because I know how much Kobe loved music. So we’ve got to make this a celebration in his honor. He would want us to keep the vibrations hot.”
She ended with, “We unite in spite of what went on this week. Music changes the world. It’s when people do nothing that the bad guys win.”