How Alessia Cara and The Weeknd made history at this year's Grammys

The Canadians who won big at the 2018 Grammy Awards.
Recording artist Alessia Cara accepts Best New Artist onstage during the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards in January 28 2018 in New York City. Cara was the first Canadian-born musician to take home the best new artist award. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

It was pop star Bruno Mars and rapper Kendrick Lamar's night at the 2018 Grammy Awards, as they took home six and five trophies, respectively. Ed Sheeran and Chris Stapleton were amongst the other artists who won multiple Grammys. Rapper Jay-Z led with eight nominations this year for his album 4:44, but went home empty-handed.

The evening marked a shift for the Grammys, one that strived to embrace and highlight more diverse voices, from its inclusion of more hip-hop and R&B artists in major categories (this was the first year in Grammys history that no white men were nominated for album of the year) to the attendees wearing white roses in support of the women's Time's Up movement. Although the Grammys still have a long way to go — for example, women are still underrepresented in many major categories as well as specific genres — these are the first of many steps awards shows are taking to celebrate a wider range of artists.

On the Canadian front, four artists won this year. Take a look below to see Canada's biggest achievements of the night.

Grammys history was made by this year's youngest Canadian nominee

Two young Canadian stars, Daniel Caesar and Alessia Cara, went into the evening as first-time nominees with two and four nominations, respectively.

R&B singer Caesar lost in both his categories, during the pre-show ceremony, to pop star Bruno Mars, but Cara won big during the televised event, taking home the best new artist prize. Beating out SZA, Khalid, Julia Michaels and Lil Uzi Vert, Cara's win made her the first Canadian-born artist ever to win that award.

During her acceptance speech, the Brampton, Ont. native admitted that she used to "pretend winning Grammys" as a kid. Now an actual winner, Cara used her brief time onstage to urge people to support real up-and-coming artists.

In her speech, she says, "There are some incredible artists out there that are making increible music that deserve to be acknowledged that don't always get to be acknowledged because of popularity contests or numbers games and that's kind of unfortunate so I just wanted to encourage everyone to support real music and real artists because everyone deserves the same shot."

Backstage, she joked about her win, adding that she "probably won't process this for another seven years or something."

Leonard Cohen posthumously honoured

The late Leonard Cohen's "You Want it Darker," off of his 2016 album of the same name, won the award for best rock performance this year during the pre-show ceremony. "Steer Your Way," another track off of his final album, was up for best American roots performance, but rock band Alabama Shakes won with their cover of the '40s blues song, "Killer Diller Blues."

Barbara Hannigan scored a win in classical category

In another untelevised moment, Canadian soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan won the award for best classical solo vocal album for her 2017 release, Crazy Girl Crazy. (Hannigan both performed and conducted the music on the album.) "We did it!!!! Bravi tutti and so much love to all involved!" Hannigan tweeted. When CBC Music spoke to Hannigan shortly after her nomination back in December, she discussed Crazy Girl Crazy, explaining that the title was her way of trying to "reclaim that word on many, many levels because referring to women as crazy is also a way of undermining their authority."

The Weeknd earned another Grammy

R&B star the Weeknd had an explosive 2016 at the Grammys with seven nominations and two wins and while he only got one nomination this year, he did come out victorious. His 2016 album Starboy won for best urban contemporary album, making The Weeknd the only artist to ever win in this category twice. This also marks his third overall Grammy win. Like his Canadian contemporaries, Drake and Justin Bieber, The Weeknd was not in attendance at this year's ceremony.


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