Canadian Artists Made a Big Splash at the 2024 Grammy Awards
Superstar Celine Dion made a surprise appearance at last night's Grammys, while legendary singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell made her performance debut at the annual awards ceremony. Here's all the Canadian moments.
There were some legendary Canadians at this year's Grammy Awards. While iconic singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell had been previously announced as a performer, five-time Grammy winner Celine Dion made a surprise appearance to present Album of the Year. The superstar singer from Quebec and the influential poet from Saskatchewan both received standing ovations from the star-studded crowd at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
Dion's appearance was especially poignant given her 2022 diagnosis with Stiff Person Syndrome, which has prevented the icon from being able to perform.
"I love you right back," Dion told the cheering audience. "When I say that I'm happy to be here, I really mean it, from my heart," she added, before presenting the last award of the evening to Taylor Swift, who became the first person to win Album of the Year four times thanks to her 2022 smash Midnights. (Though some online thought Swift snubbed Dion when accepting the award in a rush, a backstage photo shows Swift with her arm around the singer.) Dion's appearance follows the recent announcement of an upcoming documentary detailing her health battle, I Am: Celine Dion.
Dion closed out a Grammys ceremony notable for uncommon appearances: singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman joined Luke Combs for a rare performance of her 1988 classic "Fast Car," which Combs had a big hit with last year.
Mitchell, meanwhile, made her Grammy performance debut. Following a brain aneurysm in 2015, Mitchell had also stopped performing, but in 2022 she made a triumphant comeback at the Newport Folk Festival, bringing her living room jam sessions — Joni Jams — to the festival stage. Since then, Mitchell has performed headlining shows at the Seattle Gorge and recently announced Hollywood Bowl dates for this October. Last night, she took the stage at the Grammys, accompanied by frequent collaborator Brandi Carlile, cello and violin duo SistaStrings, and Canadian Allison Russell on clarinet.
The group performed a powerful rendition of Mitchell's "Both Sides Now," dispensing with some of the loose improvisational feeling of previous Joni Jams. Here, the focus was squarely on Mitchell, commanding the crowd from a regal chair with her husky voice. Mitchell altered a lyric in the song to add in her name — "but now old friends they're acting strange / they shake their heads and say, "Joni, you've changed," — giving the performance an added sense of Mitchell's journey, from folk artist to jazz experimentalist to living legend, surrounded by friends and admirers, seated in her throne.
Mitchell also took home the Grammy for Best Folk Album, for the live recording of her 2022 Newport set, Joni Mitchell At Newport (Live). "It's a very joyous record, because of the people that I played with, and the spirit of the occasion was very high" Mitchell said in her acceptance speech. "Even the audience sounds like music."
Mitchell collaborator, Montreal's Allison Russell, took home her own award last night, in the Best American Roots Performance category for her song "Eve Was Black," off of 2023'sThe Returner. Russell had picked up three previous nominations for her 2021 solo debut Outside Child — and had three other nominations last night — but this marked her first Grammy win. "Eve Was Black" is a high-energy Americana song powered by Russell's banjo, that takes aim at racism and slavery, comparing them to original sin.
In her speech, Russell shouted out her Rainbow Coalition bandmates SistaStrings, as well as Carlile, who she thanked for making space in the industry for artists like her. "I love our community, all Americana, all of us, all colours all ages all abilities all orientations all genders, it's for everybody."
Toronto instrumental group BADBADNOTGOOD were also in attendance, nominated for their remix of Turnstile's "Alien Love Call," though they lost to Wet Leg's remix of "Wagging Tongue" by Depeche Mode. Other nominated Canadians like Drake and Alvvays also went home empty-handed. (Drake is not a fan of the Grammys, as an Insta story post showed).
But Montrealers had a pretty good showing at the awards. Audio engineer Serban Ghenea, who grew up in Montreal, took home a Grammy for his work on Swift's Midnights. Swift gave him a shoutout when accepting the award for Album of the Year. He was actually the most nominated Canadian this year, so that quick mention was very notable.
Montreal conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin won a Grammy in the Best Opera Recording category, for Blanchard: Champion.
The day before the Grammys, on Feb. 3, the Recording Academy also presented their Special Merit Awards. Somali-Canadian artist K'naan was this year's recipient of the Best Song for Social Change Award, for his 2023 single "Refugee." Accepting the award, he explained that the Somali word for home is derived from the word for mother. "I would like to dedicate this award to my home — my mother," K'naan said.
See the full list of Grammy winners here.