LAS VEGAS (Updated 10:24 a.m.) — Olivia Rodrigo, the teenage singer of heartbreak ballad “drivers license,” was crowned best new artist on Sunday at a Grammy awards ceremony that featured a surprise appeal for support from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
The 19-year-old Rodrigo, who performed her signature hit while seated on the hood of a white Mercedes on the Grammys stage, triumphed over Saweetie, Glass Animals and others to win the new artist accolade at the televised ceremony in Las Vegas.
“This is my biggest dream come true. Thank you so much!” she said as she held her trophy.
Midway through the ceremony, Zelenskiy appeared via video and discussed the impact of Russia’s invasion of his country.
“What is more opposite to music? The silence of ruined cities and killed people,” Zelenskiy, wearing a green t-shirt, said in a hoarse voice.
“Fill the silence with your music,” he added. “Support us in any way you can. Any, but not silence.”
Rodrigo was nominated for the top four Grammys: best new artist and song, record and album of the year.
But she lost out on at least one of those categories when song of the year went to Silk Sonic’s 1970s-inspired R&B song “Leave the Door Open.” The group, the duo of Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak, performed the hit on stage to open awards show and returned minutes later to accept their trophy.
“Because of you guys, me and Andy are going to be singing this song forever,” Mars said.
The highest honors in music were postponed from January during a spike in COVID-19 cases and moved from Los Angeles to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Thousands of spectators packed the venue, a contrast to last year’s scaled-down outdoor event.
Host Trevor Noah urged the audience to think of the evening as “a concert where we are handing out awards.”
“We are going to be keeping people’s names out of our mouths,” Noah added, a jab about last Sunday’s Oscars slap by actor Will Smith, who told comedian Chris Rock not to mention his wife’s name.
Jon Batiste, a multi-genre artist who went into the day with a leading 11 nominations, landed four early awards. They included best music video for “Freedom,” a vibrantly colored tribute to New Orleans, and best American roots performance for “Cry.”
“I am so grateful for the gifts God has given me and the ability to share that for the love of humankind,” Batiste said during an untelevised segment before the broadcast.
Winners were chosen by some 11,000 voting members of the Recording Academy.
—Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Las Vegas; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Diane Craft and Stephen Coates
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