In recent years, the Grammys have prided themselves on offering unique performances, to the point that the original purpose of the ceremony, to hand out awards, often gets lost in the midst. Only nine awards were presented during the three and a half hour long live broadcast, and winners often found themselves cued off of the stage by ominous music. But amongst the 23 live performances there were plenty of debuts, unlikely duets, special guests, and even a few surprises.
Ed Sheeran was the unlikely MVP of the night, headlining in not one but two memorable performances. He teamed up with John Mayer, Herbie Hancock, and Questlove for a jazz-infused version of “Thinking Out Loud” that actually improved upon the original. He also later showed up to duet with Jeff Lynne on the ELO classic “Mr. Blue Sky”.
Jeff Lynne’s take on “Evil Woman” delighted the audience and prompted Paul McCartney to sing along.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t hear Paul McCartney during his much-hyped “FourFiveSeconds” performance with Rhianna and Kanye West. Rhianna, previously known for robotic dance anthems and the occasional pitch-black ballad, pulled off the most engaging performance of her career.
Annie Lennox completely outshined Hozier on stage. She livened up the last minute or so of his haunting “Take Me to Church”, and totally stole the show with her mesmerizing “I Put a Spell on You”—complete with kooky mouth noises.
Beyoncé sang the gospel standard “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” in a vast departure (and improvement!) over last year’s performance.
John Legend and Common closed out the show with an impassioned performance of the Oscar-nominated “Glory”.
The commercial break teaser promised an Ariana Grande performance “like you’ve never seen before”, a claim that really overhypes her simple “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart”. Surrounded by blue and purple lights in a Frozen-esque ice castle, she reminded viewers that she’s capable of more than just “Bang Bang” bombastics.
Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Album of the Year winner Beck’s voices blended together nicely on their “Heart Is a Drum”.
Usher and Stevie Wonder strolled through “If It’s Magic”.
Lady Gaga vamped and Tony Bennett chuckled throughout their “Cheek to Cheek” duet.
The night’s big winner, Sam Smith, duetted with Mary J. Blige on a classical-styled “Stay with Me”.
Newcomer Brandy Clark teamed up with Dwight Yoakam for an acoustic cover of “Hold My Hand”.
Katy Perry often struggles to hit the high notes during live performances, but tonight her vocals were flawless. The shadow-screened dancers behind her were too distracting, however.
A cheerful Juanes delivered “Juntos (Together)”. Although it lacked in onstage theatrics and special effects, it had a straightforward charm to it.
In an attempt for the Grammys to shed their stuffy, middle-of-the-road image, classic rockers AC/DC opened the show. The audience clearly wasn’t as receptive to “Rock Or Bust” as their smoke-filled, red tinted “Highway to Hell”. Bonus points for whoever had the idea to pass out devil horns to the first few rows.
Jessy J and Tom Jones paid tribute to Trustee award winners Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil with a traditional take of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”. Their voices didn’t really mesh together well, but that did help play into the song’s theme.
Pharrell’s usually-exuberant “Happy” was nearly derailed by an over-serious opening and instrumental interruptions by Lang Lang.
Kanye West’s “Only One”, a song written from his late mother’s perspective, has touching lyrics, but suffers from some Auto-Tuned vocals.
The Voice judges Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani’s duet of “My Heart Is Open” was vocally strong but visually flat.
Madonna brought the weirdness with her troupe of bull-horned dancers and odd narration at the beginning of her “Living for Love” performance. The addition of a gospel choir towards the end lifted things up a little.
Sia had the most elaborately decorated set, but she definitely lacked stage presence, spending her entire “Chandelier” performance literally facing a wall. Technically, you have to give more credit to dancers Kristen Wiig and Maddie Ziegler, who were the true performers here.
And finally, Eric Church’s “Give Me Back My Hometown” gets the distinction of being the night’s most mediocre performance: not because of his vocals, but because of the oddly incongruent, sepia-tinted news footage that played behind him throughout the entire song.
// Moving Pixels
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