He later acknowledged that it was a "poor choice of words", and it forced the academy to launch a new task force focused on inclusion and diversity.
She also won the first award of the night, best pop duo/group performance, for "Shallow", which she performed with Bradley Cooper.
The artiste's win is his first in a major Grammy category and fourth overall, after his hit Redbone won the prize for Best Traditional R&B Performance previous year. "I'm not gonna be able to wear any makeup tonight".
Cardi B, who was to perform later on Sunday, could break that trend and take home not only her first Grammy, but potentially become the first rapper since 2004 to win the coveted album of the year award for her "Invasion of Privacy".
Janelle Monae channeled some Prince and melded it with alien flair on "Make Me Feel", which only underlined the power of her latest album, "Dirty Computer".
As he accepted his Grammy, Drake added that working in the music industry is like "playing in an opinion-based sport, not a factual based sport".
The song was included in a box set of his work released a year ago.
In the Best New Artist category, six of the eight nominees are women.
The band was excited to see H.E.R., Lady Gaga, and Travis Scott take the stage on Sunday night and were caught on camera jamming along to "Jolene" during the Dolly Parton tribute performance that featured Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, Kacey Musgraves and Parton herself.
"And to Mike Pence, who thinks it's acceptable that his wife works at a school that bans LGBTQ: you're wrong", Gaga said. Mayer joined Keys to present this year's award in the same category.
"Shallow" is still up in three other categories, including Record of the Year.
A true diva, Ross owned the room and concluded her moment with an enthusiastic declaration: "Happy birthday to me!"
Carlile told the AP she stands "behind Ariana Grande's decision to stand up for herself and her art".
Lamar leads all artists with eight nominations, followed by Drake (7), Carlile (6), producer Boi-1da (6), Cardi B (5) and Childish Gambino (5). Yolanda Adams, Fantasia and Andra Day will honor the late Aretha Franklin with a performance.