As host of the 2020 Grammy Awards, Alicia Keys was determined to find a suitable way to pay tribute to Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, after news broke that they were among the nine people killed in a helicopter crash just hours before the ceremony.
Keys said Wednesday on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” that the evening felt especially poignant because the Grammys were held at the Staples Center, where Bryant had played for much of his two-decade career with the Los Angeles Lakers.
“It was definitely a crazy feeling, because literally minutes before, we were going to do something else,” Keys said. “We had to really figure out how could we properly honor him in his house on this night ... we had to properly do that.”
In the end, Keys and Boyz II Men opened the show with an a cappella rendition of “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” which they dedicated to Bryant. Other artists, including Lizzo and Lil Nas X, also offered tributes throughout the night.
“We pulled it together, and it was just beautiful. It was that magic that happens when it’s necessary,” Keys said. “I was very honored to be able to share that moment with all of us, with the entire world ― that we could go through something that hurt so bad together.”
Keys wrapped her “Ellen” appearance on a brighter note, performing a tender version of her latest single, “Underdog.”
“Some people may think of the word ‘underdog’ as a negative word, but I see it as a powerful word representing people who may be underestimated and yet still rise to the challenge and exceed expectations,” she told Rolling Stone. The song will be featured on her seventh album, “Alicia,” due out in March.
“I love this song so much because it’s about real life and real people and our experiences,” she added. “We’ve all been in a place in our lives where we’ve had to defy the odds. It’s never easy.”