By our count, there were 20 performances during Sunday night’s Grammys, some that we’ll be talking about for years to come and others that, well, are probably better off being forgotten. And just in case you didn’t catch every single musical moment, well, we decided to rank them for you … from worst to best.
20. Ringo Starr, “Photograph”: Now we know why the Beatles only let Ringo sing a couple of tunes. This one was pretty rough, though at least Starr broke out his best karaoke moves for the night.
19. Metallica and Lang Lang, “One”: Doomy piano and plenty of pyro, surprisingly little punch. And while we could ask what Metallica were even doing at this show, we’d rather give props to Kirk Hammett for wearing a Lou Reed Transformer shirt.
18. Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, “Queenie Eye”: Hey, at least Yoko liked it.
17. Hunter Hayes (and his new hair style), “Invisible”: You knew it was supposed to be inspirational because they had quotes from John Lennon, Lady Gaga and, uh, Johnny Depp on the screen behind him. Who knew King Joffrey was such a softie?
16. Keith Urban and Gary Clark Jr. “Cop Car”: Rootsy and gritty, though largely forgettable, save for a nice guitar rave up at the end.
15. John Legend, “All Of Me”: Straightforward and sweet, this one got a much-deserved standing ovation. Will definitely get lost in all the recap shuffle, but this one was a gem. Also, to whichever producer decided to strategically light Legend’s new wife, Chrissy Teigen, in the audience: congrats on your raise!
14. Carole King and Sara Bareillis, “Beautiful/Brave”: Neat duet between the legendary King and her newest protégé. Sort of got lost amidst all the flash of the night, but we’d pay to see an entire set from these two.
13. Billie Joe Armstrong and Miranda Lambert, “When Will I be Loved”: Armstrong and Norah Jones released an entire album’s worth of Everly Brothers covers last year, so he was a natural choice to pay tribute to the late Phil Everly on Sunday’s show. And he did an admirable job, with Lambert adding a bittersweet flourish the performance.
12. Robin Thicke and Chicago, “Saturday in the Park/Blurred Lines”: Lord knows how they dreamed up this combo, though it worked. Thicke seems like a natural bandleader, all suave and sophisticated, and backed by the legendary Chicago, you could feel his sense of relief at finally getting to perform “Blurred Lines” in a different way … and without Miley grinding up on him.
11. Katy Perry and Juicy J, “Dark Horse”: Sort of witch house meets trap house, this was Katy at her most spooky and sexual. It didn’t all work (chances are most folks will remember her light-up breastplate), though she had perhaps the flashiest stage performance of the night, all flames and macabre monsters. Juicy J also wore a suit, which probably bears mention. Oh and then Katy ended up being burned alive at the stake, sort of like Joan of Arc, only with better wardrobe.
10. Taylor Swift, “All Too Well”: No matter what Taylor does at these shows — have a good time, throw shade, etc. — she gets slammed, so for this performance, she decided to keep it simple. Seated behind a piano, she just sang from the heart, and aside from the occasional hair toss, this one was as straightforward as they come. Didn’t make it any less powerful, of course. Wonder if Jake was watching?
9. Lorde, “Royals”: Started (and stopped) shaky, giving us flashbacks to an old art-school thesis project, but when the song began to pick up steam, Lorde has us all wrapped around her (ink-stained) fingers. Sure, she could have used a shot clock, but this one still stood up. And thought she had plenty of triumphs throughout the night, this performance may have been her ultimate highlight.
8. Pink and Nate Ruess, “Try/Just Give Me a Reason”: Pink continued to risk life and limb, doing her aerial acrobatics high above an astonished audience. Sure, we’ve seen this from her before, but her moves somehow seemed a touch more dangerous tonight. The Ruess (and his mustache) showed up for “Reason,” and instantly drew comparisons to Ned Flanders and Eddie Murphy going undercover as a white guy on “SNL.” Not an easy thing to pull off.
7. Kacey Musgraves “Follow Your Arrow”: She drew the unenviable task of following Kendrick and the Dragons, yet the country upstart still delivered a twinkly and twangy version of the very-clever “Arrow.” Also, props for the neon cacti … and the light-up costumes, too. Musgraves definitely didn’t shrink from the spotlight; then again, she’s never done that in her remarkable rise.
6. Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor, Lindsey Buckingham and Josh Homme: Reznor was intense, Grohl bashed behind the kit, and Buckingham and Homme had swagger for days. Opening with NIN’s “Copy of A,” then careening into QOTSA’s “My God Is The Sun,” this one was bodacious and, above all else, bad ass. Note to Metallica: This is how you do it. Of course producers didn’t let us see the full performance, but, hey, even the Grammys gotta pay the bills.
5. Daft Punk, Pharrell, Stevie Wonder and Nile Rodgers, “Get Lucky”: From the faux recording studio set to the inclusion of Stevie, this one crackled with a retro energy unmatched throughout the show. Then the Dynamic Duo appeared — loved the matching white outfits, BTW — working touches of “Harder Better Faster” and Chic’s “Le Freak” into the mix. In that moment, this roiling performance went full boil, and had the entire audience bobbing their heads. Oh, then the ’Bots went on to win Album of the Year … and since they were silent, consider this their acceptance speech.
4. Beyoncé and Jay Z, “Drunk In Love”: Remember this one? It kicked off the show, and after roughly 73 hours of performances, acceptance speeches and whatever the heck Steven Tyler was doing up there, it still stood up as one of the night’s best. Bey started things off all smoky and sultry, served notice that Miley isn’t the only one who knows how to titillate an audience (we couldn’t keep our eyes off her fatty/link>, either). Then HOV showed up to terrify the network censors and take things to another level entirely. If Blue Ivy was watching, well, now she knows where babies come from.
3. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Madonna, “Same Love/Open Your Heart”: For all the pre-show hype, this performance still managed to shine. Macklemore speaking out against homophobia on the Grammy stage was certainly a moment, though Queen Latifah officiating the union of 33 couples — of all gender and orientation — was undoubtedly what folks will be talking about tomorrow … and hopefully for years to come (either that or Madonna’s Boss Hogg outfit). It was powerful, it was important, and, thanks to Trombone Shorty, it was also joyous. After all, we’re celebrating love, pure and simple. There’s still plenty of work to be done — like Mack rapped, “a certificate on paper isn’t gonna solve it all, but it’s a damn good place to start.”
2. Blake Shelton, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard: With half of the Highwaymen in the great Honky Tonk in the Sky, Wille and Kris recruited two new members (one of whom is 76 years old) to show all these young folks how it’s done. With no flash, and nary a light-up bodice in sight, these four delivered pure grit — not just Jimmy Webb’s “Highwayman” but Merle’s “Okie From Muskogee” and “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys,” too. It’s the kind of country that flourished before Taylor moved to town, and the kind of performance that reminds us of how this genre can still be great.
1. Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar, “Radioactive/m.A.A.d city”: Generally speaking, mashups are the kind of thing only award-show producers still think are cool. But on this night, they got it right. The unlikely combination of Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar not only tore the roof off Staples Center, but practically burned the place to the ground. From the seamless segues between songs to Kendrick’s fiery, downright possessed performance (he even found time to drop a new verse into the mix), this is how you introduce yourself to the folks watching at home. Not only the night’s best, but one of the finest, fiercest Grammy moments in recent memory. But did we need so many cutaways to Taylor?