While the Oscars are the Gay Superbowl, the Grammys have not always been the queerest awards show. They’re definitely queer-adjacent, but just don’t always induce gay screaming as much as the other letters in EGOT.
But that’s not to say there aren’t several moments where the G in Grammys stood for “Gay AF.” Yes, in its decades-long history, there are several memorable moments where artists queered the Recording Acaedmy's stage. Here’s a celebration of moments where the Grammys made us say, “Yaaass!”
Reprising her role as the eponymous heroine of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita, Patti Lupone left everyone at the 2018 Grammys shook when she belted out a perfect rendition of the musical’s signature song, “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina.” The moment was part of a Grammys tribute to Broadway that included Ben Platt singing “Somewhere” from West Side Story. But a music industry-Broadway crossover starring the Broadway legend was too much for most people to handle. In a night that birthed the hashtag #GrammysSoMale, Lupone’s standout performance was a welcome relief.
When Eminem took the stage at the 2001 Grammys, he was at the center of a maelstrom of controversy. Though he was up for several awards that night, including album of the year for The Marshall Mathers LP, his often homophobic and misogynistic lyrics cast a long shadow over his nominations.
What ended up happening became not only one of the Grammys gayest moments, but one of the most iconic moments in music history. Eminem performed his hit “Stan” alongside music legend Elton John, who took over the singing part from Dido. After the two performed side by side, they embraced and held hands in front of the entire audience. After that, Eminem threw the crowd the middle finger.
Annie Lennox’s androgynous look combined with the Eurythmics' sound made her a gay icon in the 1980s. She played off her androgynous looks at the 1984 Grammys when she appeared in full drag and performed the Eurythmics’ iconic song “Sweet Dreams.”
Lennox’s drag was so convincing in her mutton chops and suit that producers couldn’t find her when it was her time to perform. “It was almost like being a fly on the wall for awhile,” Lennox said, according to Yahoo. When Lennox did take the stage, the audience wasn’t even aware it was her.
Is there any stage Prince can’t make 100% more queer? That’s exactly what he did as he closed the 1985 Grammys. Toward the end of a riveting performance of “Baby I’m a Star,” Prince began to strip. He took off his shirt and exited through the audience, hands raised to the sky in triumph. People began to follow the singer, because everyone wanted to be that damn cool.
OK, this moment isn’t exactly on the Grammys stage, nor is it exactly queer, but it is iconic and truly felt like a subversion of the show. How can we at home be expected to cheer when Rihanna can’t even get through the show without having to sip from her decked-out flask?
In what is supposed to be music’s most prestigious night, Rihanna reminded us all that we’re just supposed to be having fun. And that’s a philosophy we could all internalize.
There was a time in Lady Gaga’s career where it seemed like every time she walked out of the house, she had to top her last outfit or stunt in some way. Gaga upped the ante in 2011 when she arrived to the Grammys ceremony in an egg — excuse me, a “vessel” — and eventually hatched. Once outside of her egg, she performed her massive hit “Born This Way,” itself an LGBTQ anthem at the time. Gaga has since claimed that she spent three days in the egg and that it was temperature controlled.
OK, OK. Are you ready for this one? Take two gay icons (Queen Latifah and Madonna), an out lesbian singer (Mary Lambert), and add in a song about marriage equality (“Same Love”). Then, set the performance against a backdrop of dozens of queer and straight couples getting married. You know what that makes? Yes, it does sound like gay mad libs, but it’s also one of the most heartwarming, and gay, Grammy moments in history.
For a moment, “Lady Marmalade” was the gay national anthem and on the night of the Grammys, the iconic foursome finally came together to perform the Moulin Rouge! number alongside the song’s original chanteuse, Patti Labelle. This moment alone was no doubt responsible for thousands of people coming out.
Rocking out alongside Joss Stone, Melissa Etheridge sang a tribute to late singer Janis Joplin. Etheridge appeared onstage bald, having just finished chemo treatment for breast cancer. She thought she’d have to sit this Grammys out, but her return to stage reminded everyone of the lesbian singer’s raw talent and her amazing tenacity.
Feminist rocker Helen Reddy caused a huge controversy when she appeared onstage at the 1973 Grammys to accept the award for best female pop vocal performance and thanked God because “she makes everything possible.” Her speech riled up conservatives who had tuned in, but honestly, it sounds like it was worth it. Also, who knew that she set the stage for Ariana Grande’s “God Is a Woman?”
Sadly, no video of the speech is available online, but here’s her Grammys performance of “I Am Woman.”