A Great, Strange Dream: Grammys Recap
I want to remember every part of this day forever. It’s rare to wake up and know that you are about to have one of the best days of your life. The nervous excitement, the possibility of what’s to come, the gratitude you feel, is unfathomable until you’re living and breathing it.
I started off the day with a trip to see Ray. I had picked out the hairstyle a couple days before, and knew that I couldn’t trust anyone else to bring it to life. As I sat in his chair and let him do his thing, it still didn’t feel real. I was getting my hair done to go to the f*cking Grammys.
I’d be lying if I said that I never in my wildest dreams imagined this day would come. The truth is, I had dreamed it, and the proof is living on a bucket list on my iPhone. I just never knew how quickly it would arrive. In my mind, I thought I would have had to truly earn this day, to snag an invite somehow. To have won a contest to be a seatfiller? That sounded to me like more of pipe dream than what I had in mind. I think that’s why so many people that I told immediately shared my excitement. The unexpectedness of it all, the serendipity — it was a true fairytale.
I felt bad for rushing Ray, but the time was ticking and this girl had a makeup appointment to get to! I quickly thanked him for everything and dashed out of there, on to get my makeup done professionally for the first time since prom.
Megan, the girl who did my makeup at Chanel was incredible and took me right away. Everyone around me was getting glammed up for the Grammys too, because, #LA
I was thrilled with my makeup. I don’t think I’ve ever been so satisfied with how well it turned out. And how quickly — I was no longer in a rush. Meg agreed to come zip my dress (single girl problems) and play paparazzi because she’s the best. I have never felt so glamorous and despite being fully ready at this point, I still wasn’t sure if it was real. I put on my fancy shoes (seriously, I’m obsessed), and I was off.
I called my parents on the way and I think they were just as excited as I was. They were all prepped to watch it on TV. Mom has never made it through a full awards show telecast in her life, but she was going to watch this one. All of her friends knew too.
When I got there I quickly checked in, and left my phone with the crew so I could have it in the venue afterwards. I looked for the one person I knew would be there but couldn’t find him because neither of us had phones. So I joined the line and waited. Maybe I’d make new friends.
My favorite part about events like this is seeing the people who come together for them. I was now standing amongst this group of 350 people from all around the country who probably were also having one of the best days of their lives. Who will all live to tell a similar story one day, through their own eyes. We had nothing in common yet everything in common at the same time. People who love music. People who enter silly contests on the internet without any expectations. You can’t win if you never enter, right?
I was in line, and asked the girl in front me for the time. I’m not sure of her name, but she was tall, from New York and worked at a music studio. She was talking to a guy named Theo, also from the New York/Philly. The three of us would separate and reunite throughout the night.
As we waited patiently to make it into Staples Center right before the show started, I began to get to know the people around me. Theo was 19, went to school at Drexel and was low key trying to become a music manager. He represents 5 artists, two of them in Australia, he said. ‘Could I be in the presence of the next Scooter Braun?’ I thought. Next was a girl named Michelle — she worked as an engineer in San Diego. Then there was Josh, he was also a student, and aspired to be a photographer/videographer.
These people now had names and faces that I’d probably remember for a long time. They came from all different backgrounds and career paths and were just as awestruck as me. The night ahead wound bind us, regardless of whether we ever met again. That’s the beauty of nights like this. We were all briefly part of the same story.
After a long wait and trying to figure out which group of us was going to snag the prized seats at the front of the floor, we finally made our way in. I was about to have the best game of musical chairs in my life, and it started off in the 6th row, stage right. I couldn’t believe my luck! But of course, minutes later, I had to move because the rightful owners of those seats had arrived. I quickly said bye to my new friends and hustled to find another seat. Trusting in the process had gotten me to that front seat in the first place, so I stayed calm and snagged another one in what I would soon find out was the producer’s extra row. And then seconds later we were live, and the one and only Adele was opening the show right in front of my eyes. This is why I got moved. I was now able to watch her from 20 feet away, with zero obstructions. She crushed it, naturally.
Every once in a while, in the midst of a moment that is truly exceptional, I’m overcome with gratitude. This was that moment, and I hadn’t had one this big in a while. I sat there watching Adele in all of her glory and my eyes welled up. I couldn’t believe how blessed I was to have been given this opportunity. I closed my eyes tight and just listened, pressing ‘save as’ in my brain. I felt happy and alive and like anything and everything was possible. Searching for these moments is what I live for.
After her performance the queen stepped off her stage and proved that she was just as mortal as any of us. She immediately traded her heels for flats in the aisle beside me and scurried on away. I bonded in that moment with the woman sitting next to me. She too was just an observer, invited by a friend who produced the show. She let me in on scoop of the area and told me that it was James Corden’s parents that were sitting behind us and that they would be part of a bit later that night. What was life!!
I was rushed out of that seat just as quickly as I had placed myself in it. And for the next hour or so, I’d live my best seatfiller life — the adrenaline rushing through me as I hurried to figure out where I’d find a seat next. It was a thrill — not knowing who I’d sit next to, or how long I’d be there for or which performances I’d get to enjoy. I danced along to Bruno’s ‘That’s what I like’ (one of my favorite performances of the night) with the row behind me from one seat, chatted about which song Ed Sheeran was likely to perform while in another, sang Sweet Caroline during a giant rendition of Carpool Karaoke with all of Staples Center from a third, and explained many times the purpose of a seatfiller from others. All the while enjoying music’s biggest night, without my cell phone.
I loved that I didn’t have my phone. Sure there were moments I wished I could photograph, but I have never felt so present and so mesmerized in my life. I got to watch legends do what they do best in pure awe, without the pressure of having to capture the perfect instagram or caption a sick Snapchat. I people watched, I chatted with my neighbors and lived out a true fantasy without missing a beat.
After a couple of quick seat changes, I found myself in the back of the seatfiller holding area. I watched the other royalty of the night, Beyonce, sadly, from the back of the floor. Though I saw it from far away, the artistry of her performance was evident, and everything you would expect from Beyonce. She had me scared out of my mind when she pulled that chair stunt though.
Knowing I’d have to hustle to get myself back to the front, I took every opportunity I could to latch on to a group that was making their way in that direction.
I learned that to succeed as a seatfiller you have to be aggressive (perhaps I bigger life lesson in there somehow). There was no time to waste.
Eventually, the night came full circle and I ended up back in the very row from which I was quickly moved out of at the start of the show. Since many people had left at this point, I hoped I was here to stay. It was fun AF to bounce around the floor all night, but we were getting to the big awards soon and I wanted to be near the action.
Right before I sat down, I was waiting to walk into the row with a big fat smile on my face. I looked towards Keith Urban and he smiled back and said “hi!”. This was shocking and random, but I responded cheerfully. He didn’t have to say anything at all.
I took my seat and absorbed my surroundings. I was reunited with my seatfiller friends, in the same row as Lukas Graham, directly behind Adele’s manager and Ryan Tedder, two rows behind Adele, 3 behind Chrissy and John and 4 behind JLo. I was grinning from ear to ear. And then, one after the other big moments descended upon the stage. Gina Rodriguez, Metallica & Lady Gaga, A Tribe Called Quest. That was probably my favorite performance of the night. You were having a great time, dancing along and then all of a sudden you realized you were being handed one of the most powerful political moments of the show. It was well thought out and poignant and beautiful. To witness it from that close was all the more meaningful.
In my mind, this award show treated the current political climate with the perfect amount of balance. Artists and performances addressed it without taking away the lightness and celebration of the evening. Statements were made and themes of persistence demonstrated, but it never once overshadowed what everyone was there for. The message remained strong — that music is the true universal language, a source for connection with those all around us.
Chance the Rapper also blew me away. And then of course there was Adele’s George Michael tribute. Everyone knew she was fumbling through it though no one said anything, and then she did what only Adele could do. She stopped the damn show and demanded to start again. She sweared, she cried and she received a standing ovation. She showed that she’s not untouchable, not free from making mistakes. She knew she had a big job to do and wanted to make sure she honored it to the best of her ability. And then she picked herself up again and delivered a flawless performance. It makes me so happy that someone like that has the platform that she does — in that moment, she was the best kind of role model for the millions watching at home.
Moments later she took her seat, only to get back up again to win her first big award of the evening, Song of the Year. I loved sitting in her section because it meant we were part of the celebration. We stood up for now a third time, cheered with everyone around us and I watched as one by one people came to congratulate her during the commercial break. An epic moment between her and Jay Z, between her and Chrissy, and between her and husband and team. What a celebration to bear witness to.
In the final moments of the show, before they announced the last two awards, John Legend sang through the In Memoriam tribute with what was perhaps one of the most beautiful renditions of ‘God Only Knows’ that I’ve ever heard. I wanted to listen to it on loop, forever. But alas, his performance ended and I knew that soon, the night would come to a close. The tiredness had definitely set in, but I could have gone on for eternity.
Adele of course went on to score the last two big awards of the night, Record and Album of the Year. She dedicated Album of the Year to Beyonce, who most of the audience knew was the rightful owner of that prize. The exchange was gracious and real, and you were happier for Adele because of it. If Bey had to lose to anyone, there was no better candidate. Of course, what her win meant for me was that I was surrounded by celebration — of pure art and of a well deserved and well executed comeback. For a moment I forgot I was merely an observer in this story and couldn’t help myself — I congratulated her manager!
And just like that, with the same swiftness with which it started, the night came to a close and James Corden wished everyone a good night. I went back to join my seatfiller friends to get our phones back and snap a few pictures before being ushered out. We all could not believe what we had just experienced. In that moment, I met a girl from NYU who was about to graduate school this Spring.
It was surreal, as if my past and present were intertwining. She had everything to look forward to and in that moment I realized, so did I.
I left the venue on the wrong side of the stadium, which meant that making it back to my car would be a difficult endeavor. But in a happy coincidence, the only way to get there was to walk with the crowd through the tent where the red carpet had taken place. I got my red carpet moment after all, snapped a quick selfie, changed my heels into my socks and the scurried away in search of the parking garage. I drove straight to McDonald’s for a well-deserved Big Mac and then went home so I could re-watch and relish in the night that I felt was truly one of the best Grammys of all time. I played back my favorite moments on TV, somehow still wondering whether it was all a dream.
I think the answer to that lies in realizing that our dreams and reality are one in the same. I don’t think I’ll ever watch an award show in the same way, or without remembering this day each time. That’s the beauty of having a once-in-a-lifetime experience like this, it becomes a part of you. It’s the constant gentle reminder than anything in life is possible, and just because it once existed only in your wildest imagination doesn’t mean that it can’t be real.