LOS ANGELES – R&B singer Lizzo and country rapper Lil Nas X got off to a winning start at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, taking home two early awards apiece as the highest honors in the music industry kicked off under a cloud after the death basketball star Kobe Bryant.
Teen sensation Billie Eilish, 18, won the first of six potential awards for her pop album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” beating Taylor Swift’s “Lover,” while her older brother Finneas was named producer of the year.
“This award belong to my sister Billie for her trust and her vision,” Finneas said, accepting the Grammy ahead of the main telecast later on Sunday.
Lizzo, the body positive newcomer who walked the red carpet with painted number 8s on her nails in a nod to her leading eight nominations, won best urban contemporary album for “Cuz I Love You” and for her performance of single “Jerome.”
Eilish and Lizzo are going head to head for the top prizes – album, record, song of the year and best new artist.
The Grammy Awards show was taking place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the home of Bryant’s team the Los Angeles Lakers.
“It’s devastating,” singer DJ Khaled said on the red carpet, “It’s hard to catch a vibe right now but we’re gonna do it.”
Harvey Mason Jr, the interim Recording Academy chief, opened proceedings before the main show telecast with a call for a moment of silence.
“Since we are in his house, I would ask you to join me in a moment of silence,” Mason said.
Lil Nas X and country singer Billy Ray Cyrus were named best pop duo for their viral collaboration “Old Town Road,” which also won the best music video Grammy.
The song, which spent 17 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts last year, is to get a special tribute performance later from K-Pop stars BTS, making their debut performance at the Grammys, and other musicians.
Slain rapper Nipsey Hussle, 33, who was gunned down in his Los Angeles neighborhood last year, won best rap performance for “Racks in the Middle,” and will also get a separate tribute later on Sunday.
Other highlights of the 3 1/2 hour live show are expected to include country singer Shelton and his fiancee Gwen Stefani debuting their new romantic duet “Nobody But You.”
“He saved my entire life,” said Stefani, praising her boyfriend on the red carpet.
The Grammy winners are chosen by members of the Recording Academy, which is currently embroiled in a dispute over the departure of its new chief executive Deborah Dugan and her allegations of conflicts of interest in the nominations process. The Recording Academy has denied the allegations.