Lizzo made waves at the 2023 Grammy Awards ceremony by winning the Record of the Year for her song “About Damn Time.” The announcement came as a surprise, and the superstar herself looked shocked when the camera panned to her, still seated. Her emotional reaction and the speech that followed ended up as some of the most thrilling highlights of the evening.
While Lizzo’s moment has been covered extensively, one detail that has been overlooked is that the mastering engineer on “About Damn Time,” Emerson Mancini, has become one of the only openly transgender musicians to win a Grammy.
He may also be the first to win any of the big four prizes — Record, Song, and Album of the Year and Best New Artist — considered the most prestigious honors in the music industry.
It is widely known that the Record of the Year Grammy is awarded to the artist or artists who performed the winning song. However, there are other individuals involved who also receive a trophy. Producers of the tune and the engineers and mixers are also rewarded for their contributions. These individuals often work behind the scenes and their names are not widely known to the public.
Going into the 2023 Grammy Awards, Mancini had four chances to win, all of them in the top categories. He was up for both Record of the Year and Album of the Year twice over, competing against himself in the categories.
Mancini worked as an engineer on Lizzo’s album Special and Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, both of which were in the running for Album of the Year, though they lost to Harry Styles’ Harry’s House. Both sets had songs up for Record of the Year, and “About Damn Time” beat Lamar’s “The Heart Part 5” for the prize, as well as No. 1 hits by Adele, Beyoncé, Harry Styles, and Steve Lacy.
Mancini won his first Grammy last year as part of the team that put together Jon Batiste’s We Are, which was a shocking winner in the Album of the Year category.
Mancini is now a two-time winner and seven-time Grammy nominee, having also been up for Record of the Year in 2022 with Batiste’s “Freedom.”
Mancini wasn’t the only openly transgender Grammy winner this year.
Pop singer Kim Petras also made history as the first trans woman to win Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. The singer and her collaborator Sam Smith beat out some of the biggest names in pop music, including Doja Cat, Camila Cabello, ABBA, and even BTS.
Petras’ emotional acceptance speech received a standing ovation from the crowd of stars and made for an incredible and heartwarming moment. With Mancini and Petras’ wins, they are now included in a small group of transgender pioneers in the industry.
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!