The 2023 Grammy Awards ended on a divisive (and familiar) note, with Beyoncé once again losing out on Album of the Year, which instead went to Harry Styles. But that doesn’t change the fact that last night’s ceremony was an historic event, particularly for Black women and members of the LGBTQ community who shattered records and etched new milestones.
Queen Bey still went home with four new Grammys, becoming the most awarded artist of all time in the process, while others like Kim Petras, Sam Smith, and Viola Davis also made history with their own victories.
Beyoncé breaks the record for most Grammy wins
Throughout her career, Beyoncé has amassed 88 Grammy nominations, tying her husband, Jay-Z, for most lifetime nods. She also led this year’s field with nine nominations, most of which were for Renaissance, her dance album that pays homage to Black and queer pioneers of the disco and house musical genres.
Beyoncé added four more Grammy awards to her trophy case on Sunday night, and her win for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album brought her career total to 32 Grammys, the most of any artist in history. She surpassed the previous record holder Georg Solti, a Hungarian-British conductor who won 31 awards between 1963 and 1988.
“I’m trying not to be too emotional. I’m trying to just receive this night,” Beyoncé said during her acceptance speech, adding: “I’d like to thank the queer community for your love and for inventing the genre. God bless you.” She also thanked her late uncle Jonny, who died of complications from HIV and who she has repeatedly credited with helping inspire Renaissance.
Beyoncé also collected awards for:
- Best R&B Song: “Cuff It”
- Best Dance/Electronic Recording: “Break My Soul”
- Best Traditional R&B Performance: “Plastic Off the Sofa”
Kim Petras and Sam Smith make LGBTQ history
Kim Petras and Sam Smith continued to blaze new trails for the LGBTQ community with their Grammy award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Unholy.” Petras became the first openly transgender artist and Smith the first non-binary artist to win a Grammy award.
“I just want to thank all the incredible transgender legends before me, who kicked these doors open for me so I could be here tonight,” Petras said during her acceptance speech. She also thanked Madonna and the late transgender music producer Sophie, who died in 2021.
With “Unholy,” Petras and Smith were also the first publicly transgender and non-binary musicians, respectively, to release a song that reached No. 1 at the Billboard Hot 100. The duo delivered a memorable performance of “Unholy” during the Grammys ceremony, with Smith donning a red top hat and devil horns, as Petras performed inside a cage surrounded by dancers with whips.
Petras, who said she “grew up next to a highway in nowhere Germany,” also thanked her mother, who she said “believed me, that I was a girl, and I wouldn’t be here without her and her support.” Later that night, she expressed her disbelief on Twitter:
Viola Davis becomes an EGOT winner
It wasn’t only singers and musicians making history on Sunday. Viola Davis, who many felt was snubbed for an Oscar nomination this year for her role in The Woman King, earned an even more distinguished honor as she became only the 18th person to become an EGOT winner.
Having already won Emmy, Oscar, and Tony awards, Davis received her first Grammy for Best Audio Book, Narration & Storytelling Recording for narrating her memoir, Finding Me, which was released this past April.
She is the third Black woman to receive the coveted EGOT designation, along with Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Hudson. Davis previously won two Tony Awards, an Oscar for her performance in the 2017 film Fences, and an Emmy for her role in the television series How To Get Away with Murder.
“I wrote this book to honor the six-year-old Viola,” Davis said during her Grammy acceptance speech. “To honor her life, her joy, her trauma, everything. And, it has just been such a journey. I just EGOT!”
Other historic Grammy moments
- Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti was the first Spanish-language album ever nominated for Album of the Year. The Puerto Rican rapper and singer opened the Grammys ceremony with an all-Spanish medley of songs from the album.
- The Grammys paid homage to hip-hop music with a 50th anniversary celebration of the genre, which includes performances from Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott, Nelly, LL Cool J, Ice-T, Questlove, Run-DMC, and Salt-N-Pepa.
- First Lady Jill Biden presented the inaugural Best Song for Social Change, a new special merit award, to Iranian singer/songwriter Shervin Hajipour for his protest song “Baraye.” Biden called the song “a powerful and poetic call for freedom and women’s rights,” and said a video performance on Hajipour’s Instagram racked up more than 40 million times in less than 48 hours.
Colin McEvoy joined the Biography.com staff in 2023, and before that had spent 16 years as a journalist, writer, and communications professional. He is the author of two true crime books: Love Me or Else and Fatal Jealousy. He is also an avid film buff, reader, and lover of great stories.