This Is What It's Really Like to Be a Guest at the Grammys

Inside Grammys - LEAD
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

It’s music’s biggest night, with the flashiest red carpet and the most jaw-dropping superstar performances, so we couldn’t wait to strap on our heels and experience the Grammy vibes firsthand on Monday night. The awards show at the Staples Center in downtown L.A. was one of Grammy’s greats: Taylor Swift, Adele, and Lady Gaga (who gave a David Bowie tribute that had the entire audience on its feet) were among the A-list performers. From our seats with a straight view of the stage, we eyed T-Swift hugging her squad all night, noted who earned the loudest applause, and watched eagerly for commercial break mingling that could kickstart the next big musical collaboration. From the arrivals to the on-stage antics, here’s what it was like to be a guest inside the event, and what you didn’t see at home.

3:30 p.m.: We bypassed the famous red carpet (which spans a full block—with temps in the 80s, we can only imagine how many blotting papers the celebs out there used!) and arrived at the Staples Center to massive lines of Grammy-goers waiting for the ceremony doors to open. After saying hello to our friends from Gucci, who passed by in a parallel line, we people-watched for a minute. Women in sequined gowns and men in suits scarfed Wetzel's Pretzels and snapped photos in front of McDonalds as they waited for access to their seats. (The main floor of Staples, usually home to sporting events and concerts, is filled with concession stands, making it feel more like we were attending an average arena show instead of the Grammys at first). We grabbed bottles of water and headed inside.

4:50 p.m.: When you arrive one and a half hours before the show begins (car drop-offs, crowds, and security require early arrivals) you’re forced to entertain yourself by scouring Snapchat and Instagram. We checked in with our red carpet reporter who snagged an interview with a mullet-rocking Zendaya. Meanwhile, we saw that our friend at Snapchat discovered that Elle King lost her diamond bracelet on the red carpet, eek! Inside, as the show was about to begin, producer Ken Ehrlich asked everyone to take their seats and clear the aisles, name checking John Legend and Chrissy Teigen (even celebs get called out by the teacher sometimes!).

5:00 p.m.: On the dot, the rubber bracelets we were given upon entrance lit up in electric blue and Taylor Swift emerged on stage, opening the show with Out of the Woods, shouting, “Right now, it’s 1989—put your hands up!” She slayed it, of course, and we knew, it’s going to be that kind of night. We were a little sad to watch Swift’s tree-filled set come down when host LL Cool J took the stage, but not for long. Ice Cube and O'Shea Jackson presented the award for best rap album, and the crowd lit up again when Kendrick Lamar’s name was called. As the lights dimmed we spotted Cube put his arm around his son and give him a fatherly squeeze.

5:33 p.m.: Too many amazing performances to handle! The fans behind us screamed something about 50 Shades of Grey as Ellie Goulding sang "Love Me Like You Do" alongside Andra Day.

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5:40 p.m.: Yaaas. Chris Stapleton took home best country album for "Traveler" and thanked Taylor Swift for glitter-bombing him—those sitting close enough to the main stage had glitter rain down on them after Swift’s opening act!

5:42 p.m.: During the commercial break it’s snack time. The awards last more than three hours and we quickly understood why pretzels and burgers were being consumed so freely pre-show. Luckily we had a granola bar stashed for just such an emergency. During the breaks we also watched montages of previous Grammy performances and remembered some of our fave match-ups: Beyoncé and Prince, Gaga and Elton John. We’re prompted to applaud as the show returns. John Legend kicked off a tribute to MusiCares Person of the Year honoree, Lionel Richie with a killer rendition of the Commodores’ "Easy" and we saw Legend’s adorably pregnant wife Teigen proudly watching her hubby from the audience.

6:01 p.m.: Taylor watch continued all night: Swift briefly returned to her front row seat in her red carpet ensemble, snapping pics and chatting with her neighbors. We can spot that blonde bob anywhere!

6:10 p.m.: "Thinking Out Loud" won song of the year and Swift freaked out for her friend Ed Sheeran. But it was an awkward moment when the show cut off Sheeran’s co-writer Amy Wadge during her acceptance speech. The audience booed loudly but was largely ignored—the show must go on!

6:43 p.m.: The entire front section, chock full of stars, was up on its feet when 11-time nominee Kendrick Lamar took the stage for his Broadway-worthy, politically charged performance.

7:11 p.m.: Justin Bieber took center stage with just his guitar for "Love Yourself" and garnered giddy shrieks from the audience. We were stunned by how good he was without any bells and whistles, and also by his Olympic-size leap off the center platform before he sprinted to the main stage to join Diplo and Skrillex for "Where Are U Now." After their performance, as the lights dimmed, Biebs hugged every single member of his band. Swoon.

7:26 p.m.: Lady Gaga did Bowie proud with a montage of his greatest hits ("Rebel Rebel," "Fashion," "Fame" and more). And she did it all in a Bowie-tastic ensemble for more than 5 minutes.

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7:32 p.m.: Adele took her opportunity during a break to hug Bruno Mars and Lionel Richie, who were seated next to each other.

8:06 p.m.: Swift was MIA for a large chunk of the night but reappeared just before the presentation of album of the year, saying hi to Bruno Mars and giving him a kiss on the cheek on her way back to her seat.

8:17 p.m.: The Weeknd and Ed Sheeran had a chat (that’s a collab we’d like to see!), and hugs were going around the star-studded crowd but were suddenly cut short as everyone raced back to their seats and the countdown began again, signaling the broadcast. This time around, album of the year was presented to ... Taylor Swift! The artist jumped up and down and hugged her squad then headed up to the stage to give her #girlpower speech. We were thrilled with her empowering statements.

8:24 p.m.: Queen Beyoncé stepped out in a gorgeous white number to present record of the year. Bruno Mars shouted out to her: “Come on, Beyoncé, let’s do this!” and, what do you know, it was "Uptown Funk" for the win.

The night ended with Pitbull closing down the house—with a hilarious cameo by Sofía Vergara in a toy taxi! We scurried through the crowd to catch our ride out of the Staples Center and couldn’t decide who was the surprise best live: Demi Lovato? Little Big Town? Tori Kelly? Johnny Depp (yep, he performed, too)? With so many stellar acts, it was impossible to decide but this is for sure: we’ll be downloading all of the winning songs and playing them on repeat for weeks to come.

Updated by Janelle Grodsky
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