In one of the more touching moments of the Grammys broadcast, Kanye West sang the sentimental ballad he wrote for his daughter, “Only One,” which originally featured Paul McCartney. Dressed in a red hoodie and sweats, the artist made his first Grammys performance in six years – without McCartney – by singing over a smoky white light. As he sang about North, he closed his eyes, making for an especially intimate performance by the time he snuck offstage and the piano notes faded away.
West wrote the song, which came out on New Year’s Day, from the perspective of his late mother, Donda. “Remember how I’d say one day, he sings at one point. “You’ll be the man you always knew you would be.” In a statement, the rapper explained, “My mom was singing to me, and through me to my daughter.”
West premiered the video for the song in late January on Ellen. The Spike Jonze-directed clip showed the rapper walking down a rural road on a rainy day until meeting with North. He talks to her, and she looks at him adoringly.
While on the show, the rapper also reflected on how marriage and fatherhood have made him “a better person.” “I was going through my version of the Terrible Twos,” he said. “My daughter, she wants to express herself but she just doesn’t have the words for it. For me, there’s so many things I want to do with film and clothing and I just didn’t have the words or the resources or the backing or the perception that I could do it being a rapper.”
The song marks the first publicly available collaboration between West and McCartney. The tune began in what a statement described as “a brainstorm” between the two musicians in Los Angeles, as the former Beatle improvised on a keyboard while West worked on lyrics. The writing pair also worked out the song “FourFiveSeconds,” which they recorded and released with Rihanna. The trio are also set to perform that song at the Grammys.
West was up for two Grammys at this year’s awards show – Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, both for “Bound 2” – but lost in both categories.