Creating one of the most buzzed-about moments of the broadcast, the Best New Artist winners shared their time onstage with Madonna and Queen Latifah, the latter of whom performed a wedding ceremony for 34 same-sex and straight couples.
“I still have chills now,” Lewis told reporters backstage after the show, calling the whole experience the “pinnacle” of their careers. “I’m excited to watch it back.” Macklemore, meanwhile, thanked the Grammys for giving them the platform to spread their message.
“It is a message of equality. It is a message of tolerance, compassion, to end homophobia, bigotry, fear, hatred that has been an institution here in America and make one step closer to the change in terms of following your heart, loving who you want to love,” he said. “Ten years ago, I don’t think a song like ‘Same Love’ would have been embraced by any mainstream media. The fact that radio got behind it and the fact that television and awards shows got behind it and it is a testament to where we are headed in this country.”
Among the couples exchanging vows on Sunday were Lewis’ sister and a pair of Latifah’s close friends, making the moment extremely “personal” for all involved.
“It really hit home,” Latifah said. “This is their night. This is not all about TV and ratings, this is someone’s commitment to someone for life. This was something real for me. I’m excited [and] I’m really happy to have been a part of it.”
Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said the organization is “very proud of what we did tonight,” brushing off questions about how the performance might resonate with conservative audiences.
“We have a very divided country in terms of opinions on just about everything. I point you to our nations capital as the best example of that,” he said. “We don’t put on a musical show to do political commentary, we put on a musical show to showcase the art of creative people. There will be those who think this is fantastic and there will be those who don’t. We don’t take that into consideration.”
In addition to Best New Artist, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis ended their night with awards for Best Rap Album for The Heist, Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance for “Thrift Shop.”
“It’s incredible,” Macklemore said of the wins. “You don’t have a record label to thank, we can just thank ourselves. It’s awesome.”