“Here we are, together, on music’s biggest night, celebrating the artists that do it best,” she said. “But to be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now because earlier today, Los Angeles, America, and the whole wide world lost a hero and we’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.”
She continued: “Right now Kobe and his daughter Gianna, and all those who have been tragically lost today, they’re in our hearts, in our prayers, they’re in this building.” Then Keys implored “everybody take a moment and hold them inside of you and share our strength and support with their families.”
“We never imagined in a million years that we’d have to start the show like this,” Keys said. “So we wanted to do something that could describe a tiny bit how we all feel right now.”
She began to sing. “It’s so hard to say goodbye to what we had,” Key crooned, as three members of Boyz II Men joined in, singing several lines from their classic “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”
“We love you, Kobe,” Keys said at the end.
It was a fitting tribute, especially because Boyz II Men hail from Philadelphia, the same city as Bryant.
Before the show began, the Staples Center illuminated Bryant’s numbers, 24 and 8 (which the camera lingered on after Keys’s performance), and several musicians canceled red carpet interviews in light of the news. DJ Khaled said the Grammys tribute to late Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle would also honor Bryant.
“The news is devastating. Tonight, we’re definitely going to paying homage to Nipsey and Kobe Bryant and Gianna,” the entertainer told CBS’s Kevin Frazier. “To be honest, no disrespect, it’s even hard to do an interview right now.”
“That’s why it’s emotional,” he added. “It’s hard to catch a vibe in this moment.”