Midway into the 2019 Grammy Awards, the show’s host, Alicia Keys, sang a medley of songs that she wished she’d written. She kicked it off by playing Scott Joplin’s “The Maple Leaf Rag” on two grand pianos, one black, one white, sitting between them on a stool. “I wanna welcome you to Club Keys,” she said.
“I’ve been thinking so much about the people and the music that have inspired me, and I want to give a shout out to Hazel Scott because I always wanted to play two pianos. But back to the music. You know those songs that live inside of you and live inside of me, and you just love it so much, because it was done so well that you wish you wrote it. That’s how I feel about these songs. I wish I wrote ’em.”
Then she dug into her pianos’ keys. “When I think about heartache and heartbreak, I think about this song,” she said before singing, Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.” “Or when it’s time to move on, this is the song,” she said, before singing Juice Wrld’s “Lucid Dreams,” which transitioned into Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable.” Travis Scott and Kylie Jenner nodded along. “Now who didn’t wish they wrote this song? I know I do,” before singing Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody.” A band joined her in on her rendition of Drake’s “In My Feelings.” And then she flipped over to the white piano for Lauren Hill’s “Doo-Wop (That Thing),” saying she wished she’d written the whole album. “Then finally, you write the song that you wish you wrote,” she said before singing “Empire State of Mind.” “For the music that lives in us all,” she said at the end, before bowing and blowing a kiss at the audience.
When it comes to hits, though, Keys doesn’t have much to complain about. Over the course of her career, she’s been nominated for 29 Grammys, and she’s won 15 of them. In 2001, her first year of eligibility, she won five, including Best New Artist, three for the song “Fallin’” and one for Best R&B Album, Songs in A Minor. She won four in 2004, two in 2007 and on it has gone. Her most recent win was for Best R&B Album in 2013 for Girl on Fire. Her most recent nomination was in 2014, when she was an Album of the Year contender for her contributions to Pharrell Williams’ Girl, but it lost to Beck’s Morning Phase.
Keys was the ceremony’s first female host since 2005, when Queen Latifah handled the honors. Prior to the broadcast Keys said she was honored to host the show. “I feel like we are truly part of a celebration, bringing the light, bringing the energy and continuing to make the statement that music is such an important part of all of our lives,” she said. “Sunday is going to absolutely reflect that light, that love. We feel this Grammys is going to be different and bigger and better than any other.”
She also said that she was genuinely excited to see who would win. “I have been so blessed to have been on this stage before, multiple times, and understand what it is, what it feels like, what the artists are going through,” she said. “That’s what makes me excited to celebrate so many amazing nominees, particularly women nominees, so many who are my friends. There is a sense of true music community I can bring to the stage and I love the ability to lift each other up. It feels like it’s the right thing.”