Pop superstar Beyonce on Sunday upped her chances to break the record for winning the most Grammys ever, scoring two early awards ahead of the main gala, where she appeared primed to shine.
The 41-year-old entered the day with the most chances at Grammy gold at nine, following the release of "Renaissance," her rich, layered ode to club music.
With four more victories on Sunday, she will overtake classical conductor Georg Solti for the most victories by any artist.
It seemed increasingly likely she would: she won Grammys for best dance/electronic recording and best traditional R&B performance early in the pre-ceremony. Though she was passed over for best R&B performance, she has six more chances.
In addition, the prizes for best dance album and best R&B song were moved to the night's main event – likely a move by the Recording Academy to make her accomplishment a primetime event.
Beyonce is a powerhouse contender for the night's major awards of album, record and song of the year – but the same goes for British balladeer Adele, whose introspective album "30" earned her seven nods.
The 2023 face-off has prompted obvious comparisons to 2017, when Adele swept the top prizes at the glitzy music biz gala, shutting out Queen Bey's culture-shaking "Lemonade.
Despite breaking record after record, when it comes to the big three awards, Beyonce remains something of an underdog.
She has never won Album of the Year honours and although she has the most Record of the Year nods with eight, she's never won that prize either.
She only scored Song of the Year once, for 2008's "Single Ladies."
Industry watchers including Billboard predict this will finally be Beyonce's year to take home Album of the Year honours, arguably the night's most prestigious prize.
"I sure hope so, because doesn't she deserve it?" Nile Rodgers, the co-founder of the band Chic who is credited with contributions on "Renaissance," told AFP.
Bad Bunny, Taylor Swift in the mix
Frontrunners Kendrick Lamar and Brandi Carlile also jumped to the front of the pack in the early show with two wins each, as did Wet Leg, the British Best New Artist nominee that swept the alternative music categories.
"This is amazing. Oh, I'll never be the same," said Carlile onstage. "I cut my hair and I learned how to scream and I just won a Grammy for a rock and roll song!"
And actress Viola Davis became the latest showbiz heavyweight to earn a coveted EGOT – winner of an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony – by taking the Grammy for best audio book, narration and storytelling for her memoir "Finding Me."
Harry Styles and Taylor Swift also have strong chances to take home major Grammy hardware.
The star-studded 65th annual gala, hosted once again by comedian Trevor Noah, will include performances from Styles, Bad Bunny, Lizzo and Mary J Blige.
Bad Bunny, indisputably the world's biggest commercial artist, has three Grammy chances off his major drop "Un Verano Sin Ti," also an Album of the Year contender.
It's the first time an entirely Spanish-language album has a chance at that coveted award, and it's the first time the Puerto Rican reggaeton megastar has landed a solo nomination in the major Grammy categories.
A Bad Bunny win in that field "would mean a lot to all Spanish-speaking people and our culture because it really says, 'Hey, Spanish music is just as respected as music in English and music really has no barriers," Colombian artist Sebastian Yatra told AFP.
Rosalia, whose "Motomami" was a critical hit, won the Grammy for best Latin Rock or Alternative Album on Sunday – after the Spanish superstar was snubbed in the main categories.
Industry watchers were also waiting to see whether pop juggernaut Swift could win the Song of the Year prize that has evaded her for years.
The superstar – who has been making good on a vow to re-record her first six albums to gain control of her rights to them – has a chance at the award celebrating songwriters for her 10-minute version of "All Too Well."
Best New Artists get headstart
After several Grammy years with clear Best New Artist favorites – Olivia Rodrigo, Megan Thee Stallion and Billie Eilish – Sunday's race is wide open.
The category has grown increasingly eclectic and reflective of the internet age's impact on popular music, and many of the nominees – including Brazil's Anitta, Eurovision rockers Maneskin and rapper Latto – have all found viral fame on TikTok.
And along with Wet Leg, several of the nominees jumped forward with early victories: Muni Long stole one of Beyonce's nine opportunities in taking home the award for Best R&B Performance, while Molly Tuttle won for Best Bluegrass Album.
Jazz performer Samara Joy scooped the award for Best Jazz Vocal Album.
Speaking on a pre-Grammy red carpet, the Bronx-born artist told AFP that simply earning nominations had amped up her career.
"You know, over the past few months, a lot more people started picking up the phone," she said with a laugh.