Grammy Awards are watched by nearly 17 million viewers, the most since 2020

Taylor Swift, right, hugs and smiles with singer Celine Dion
Celine Dion, left, and Taylor Swift embrace at the 66th Grammy Awards on Sunday at Arena. (Kevin Mazur / Getty Images )

The presence of music stars from the past and present helped boost the audience for the CBS telecast of the 66th Grammy Awards.

The Sunday ceremony held at Arena in downtown Los Angeles and hosted by Trevor Noah averaged 16.9 million viewers and will likely top 17 million once out-of-home viewers are added in the final number issued by Nielsen.

The audience is 34% higher than last year and the largest since the 2020 Grammys, which was held just before the COVID-19 pandemic appeared to push the ratings for live TV awards shows off a cliff.

The Grammys are the second major awards show this year to see a big ratings increase. The revitalized Golden Globes Awards, also on CBS, saw a 50% audience lift over last year, although viewership was still down substantially from 2019.

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Live awards shows have been challenged in recent years as young viewers tend to prefer them in short clips on social media rather than a three-hour-plus broadcast on linear television. Pandemic precautions requiring masks and social distancing made the logistics of the shows difficult, driving ratings down to record lows in 2021.

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The 66th Grammy Awards had the attraction of pop superstar Taylor Swift, who did not perform but took the stage to accept two Grammy trophies for "Midnights." She became the first artist to win the album of the year award four times, topping the likes of Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon.

But the night was lined with legends whose performances generated massive chatter on social media, including Tracy Chapman's duet on her 1988 classic "Fast Car" with country star Luke Combs, who made it a hit again last year.

Joni Mitchell, now 80, moved the crowd with her regal appearance as she performed her classic song "Both Sides Now."

Songstress Celine Dion showed up to give Swift her album of the year award. Dion has been seldom seen in public since she was diagnosed with stiff person syndrome, a rare neurological disorder, in 2022.

Billy Joel finished the show with his first new song in 30 years. A star-studded In Memoriam tribute included Stevie Wonder and Annie Lennox.

Top performers included Miley Cyrus, who won record of the year for "Flowers," SZA, Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.