LOS ANGELES — If you were watching the Grammys at home, you likely had a few takeaways: Billie Eilish is going to take over the world after her Grammys sweep; Demi Lovato is back and stronger than ever; Camila Cabello and her dad are father/daughter goals; and basketball legend Kobe Bryant and rapper Nipsey Hussle received stunning tributes.
But what if we told you there were some things you couldn't have noticed while watching from the comfort of your couch? Luckily we had a spot inside the show to bring you all the buzzy moments you couldn't see on TV (and what you can impress your friends with when you talk about it).
News of Kobe Bryant's death quickly spread
The basketball legend died on Sunday in a helicopter crash, which also killed his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven others, and Grammys excitement quickly pivoted to mourning. People in line to get into the non-televised pre-ceremony read about the news on a cell phone.
Before starting the non-televised pre-ceremony, interim Recording Academy interim CEO Harvey Mason Jr. acknowledged losing Bryant. "Since we are in his house, I ask you to join us for a moment of silence," he said in his opening remarks.
“You can still see him in the back of your head crushing people on the court," recording artist Cecil Parker told USA TODAY from the audience.
Fans mourned him outside the show, and screens blared a picture of him with the words "In Loving Memory of Kobe Bryant." Inside the Staples Center, Grammys executive producer Ken Ehrlich assured the crowd the ceremony would address Bryant's death. It didn't take long for host Alicia Keys to do so, and other artists followed suit.
Lil Nas X showed up to the pre-show
The Grammys live telecast only features a handful of awards – the show itself is mostly focused on performances – but the Grammys three-hour premiere ceremony is the inverse. The show featured a handful of performances and had to get through dozens of awards. One of these awards was best music video, which went to Lil Nas X & Billy Ray Cyrus (and producers) for "Old Town Road." The bigger stars don't always show up to the pre-show, so when Lil Nas X himself seemed to appear out of nowhere, it was extra surprising.
Also during the pre-show, cheers erupted when former first lady Michelle Obama's "Becoming" won for best spoken world album. Obama, who attended last year's Grammys, was not in attendance. "I will gladly accept this in her behalf," Grammy-winning musician Esperanza Spalding, said, which prompted laughter from the audience.
Guests were welcome to nosh on a variety of free snacks and drinks and could sit wherever they wanted, unlike the ticketed main event.
In one awkward moment, when Nipsey Hussle's family went up to accept the award for best rap performance, including his grandmother and former girlfriend Lauren London, his brother, Blacc Sam, got cut off, and an announcement for the next category started before he had a chance to finish, which he ultimately did. This moment stood in sharp contrast to the moving tribute performance during the show featuring DJ Khaled, John Legend and others.
There's a lot more going on than you can see at home
Remember when all those Tyler the Creator clones appeared onstage? Try seeing a bunch of them in the audience and not knowing what was going on — which was everyone in the audience.
The show was quite the production, with crew members working quickly to orchestrate set changes – so much so that it was hard to know where to look at any given time. Guests took the opportunity to mill about while videos of past Grammys performances played for the crowd during commercial breaks. An announcer gave a countdown to when the show would be live again and reminded everyone to applaud when it did (seriously).
In case you couldn't tell: In addition to the show's large main stage, there was a circular stage in the middle of the ground floor of the Staples Center. Large wall-like set pieces would move up and down the main stage and stood in front of musicians and special installments (like Ariana Grande's bedroom set, for example).
The circular stage rose high at one point with Alicia Keys aboard.
Ariana Grande and Lizzo chatted intently
We spotted Grande and Lizzo chatting away after RosalÍa's stunning performance, and we wish we were close enough to hear that conversation.
Here are some other random tidbits that we can confirm: Billie Eilish stood up when Lizzo won for best pop solo performance, and people looked around for Dave Chapelle when we won for best comedy album, though he wasn't there. The night may have started out appropriately somber, but that didn't mean guests didn't still let loose. The Aersomith and Run-DMC collaboration; Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road, "which some audience members appeared to sing along to; and Sharon Osbourne's pronunciation of rapper names all amped up the crowd.
Demi Lovato's heartbreaking yet empowering comeback also fueled the audience's fire.
And speaking of fire: We could feel the heat during the Hussle tribute performance, which made us wonder if the "fire" we saw elsewhere, like in Tyler the Creator's set, was some kind of trick.
Contributing: Rasha Ali, Andrea Mandell, Bryan Alexander and Carly Mallenbaum