The 2015 Grammy Awards: A Very Serious Affair

Beyonce Grammy Awards

Photo: Getty

If you were watching last night’s Grammy Awards, you probably agree that things felt a little different. While the Grammys stage is normally a spectacle of shimmery backup dancers, bright lights, cleavage, and outrageous outfits, last night’s show was much more somber and socially conscious than usual. It seemed that at every turn, a celebrity was using the show as a platform to send a serious message, whether about domestic violence, racism, or police brutality. Even most performances without a message were serious and power ballad-filled.

Here, we rounded up the most memorable, message-filled moments from last night’s awards show.

1. Pharrell Williams used his performance of “Happy” as a platform to promote a message about police brutality. Swapping jovial dancers for men in black hoodies, Pharrell and his backup dancers raised their hands in a reference to the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” protest gesture, spurred following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown last year. Watch the video of his performance below–the moment you’re looking for happens at around the one minute, 30 second point:

 

 

2. Prince was called upon to present the gong for Album of the Year, and he started off by saying, “Albums still matter. Like books and black lives, albums still matter.”

MORE: See the Most Outrageous and Amazing Outfits From the 2015 Grammy Awards

3. Beyoncé closed the serious show with a version of, “Take My Hand, Precious Lord,” a hymn that holds particular significance to the American civil rights movement throughout the 1960s. The pop star traded her usual sparkly, skin-baring costumes for an angelic white gown, and swapped booty-shaking backup dancers for a gospel choir dressed in crisp white suits.

 

4. President Barack Obama pre-recorded a public service announcement about domestic violence that aired during the ceremony. Obama said, “It’s on us, all of us, to create a culture where violence isn’t tolerated, where survivors are supported and where all our young people, men and women, can go as far as their talents and their dreams will take them.” You can watch the full message for yourself below.

 

5. Following President Obama’s message, domestic violence survivor Brooke Axtell took to the stage to introduce Katy Perry‘s live performance. Her emotional speech was was so powerful that the celebrity crowd cheered and applauded loudly throughout.

 

6. After being introduced by Axtell, Katy Perry delivered an emotional rendition of her song, “By the Grace of God,” forgoing the glitzy extras associated with her Super Bowl halftime gig for a white cape dress, and a much more pared-back, simple performance.

MORE: All the Things Rihanna’s Pink Grammys Dress Reminded Us Of

7. Common and John Legend performed “Glory,” the Oscar-nominated song that appeared in civil rights film, “Selma.” Throughout the performance Common raised his hands in the “Don’t Shoot” gesture to raise awareness of police brutality.

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