It was, however, up to Grammys host Alicia Keys to fully acknowledge—and attempt to disperse—the dark cloud hanging over the Staples Center.
"To be honest with you," Keys said after Lizzo's show-opening performance (of “Cuz I Love You” and “Truth Hurts"), "we're all feeling crazy sadness right now. Because earlier today, Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero. And we're literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built."
She continued, "Right now, all of those that have been tragically lost today are in our spirit, our prayers, and in this building... Take a moment and just hold them inside of you and share our strength and our support with their families. We never imagined in a million years that we'd have to start the show like this."
To provide some catharsis, Boyz II Men (who were already scheduled to perform "Earfquake" with Tyler, the Creator) joined Keys on stage for a special performance of "It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday."
Bryant's spirit was ever-present throughout the evening. Lil Nas X added a Bryant 24 jersey to his living room set during "Old Town Road"; Run DMC held one aloft throughout their performance of "Walk This Way" with Aerosmith. And DJ Khaled gave Bryant a shoutout at the end of his performance of "Higher" with John Legend, Meek Mill, Roddy Ricch, YG and Kirk Franklin. Originally intended as a tribute to Nipsey Hussle, Bryant's image was projected next to the "Double Up" rapper's at the end of the song.
Kirk Franklin, talking on the red carpet before the awards began, noted in regards to both Hussle and Bryant: "Life is more valuable than trophies. We take life sometimes in such a passive way… We should feel this tragedy." Later, while accepting the award for best rap/sung performance, Legend noted: "We’ve seen so much tragedy today—and last year. Let’s love each other, love our families and hold each other tight."
Lizzo alluded to Bryant once more as she accepted the award for best pop solo performance. "This whole week, I’ve been lost in my problems, stressed out," she said. "And then, in an instant, all of that can go away and your priorities can really shift. And today, all of my little problems that I thought were big as the world, were gone."
"It's been a hell of a week," Alicia Keys acknowledged early in the evening. "I know how much Kobe loved music, so we've gotta make this a celebration in his honor."