Ranking the Performances: The 56th Annual Grammy Awards

Was music’s biggest night worth staying up all night for? Read on to find out.

The 2014 Grammys was a night where newcomers were rewarded and legends were worshipped, where simple, intimate performances battled it out against major productions, and where there were too many flashing lights and stripper-dancing. All in all, it was three and a half hours that demanded your attention.

If you happened to miss any of the night’s performances, PopMatters has you covered. Here are videos of what went down and how great it was (or wasn’t), arranged in order from best to worst.

Chicago & Robin Thicke -- “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” / ”Only the Beginning” / ”Saturday in the Park” / ”Blurred Lines”

Here we have the extremely rare case of an unlikely duet that was surprisingly good. As it turned out, Robin Thicke actually can sing, though he might forget the original lyrics from time to time. Chicago hasn’t looked like they’ve had this much fun on television in years. And doesn’t everyone agree that horn sections are far more fun than twerking?

Paul McCartney & Ringo Starr -- “Queenie Eye”

Don’t call it a reunion. Just think of it as the world’s greatest drummer playing behind pop music’s greatest mastermind. It would have been nice it Ringo sang along, but beggars can’t be choosers, and everyone was begging for this moment.

Miranda Lambert and Billie Joe Armstrong -- “When Will I Be Loved”

If this was performed at last year’s show, I would’ve said it was the best performance of the night. Who would have expected these two to sound this good together on this specific song? As much as we all love to criticize the Grammys (and there is always plenty to complain about), every now and then they think up of something as fantastic as this.

Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers, and Stevie Wonder -- “Get Lucky”

Is it really true that Daft Punk has only performed on television twice? And if they are always wearing those helmets, how can you tell if it is really them or not? Either way, this faux recording studio session and flashing neon freak-out was entertaining.

Sara Bareillies and Carole King “Beautiful / Brave”

A lesson for the show’s producers: sometimes a duet between singers who have a lot in common makes perfect sense. Their voices blended well and they looked genuinely happy to perform together.

Pink -- “Try” and “Just Give Me a Reason” feat. Nate Ruess

It came off as a sequel to her high-flying “Glitter In The Air” performance, but Pink’s acrobatics are still impressive. After being lowered to the ground, her fight/ballet piece led to a more traditional duet in a much better outfit.

Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, and Blake Shelton -- “Highwayman”, “Okie From Muskogee”, & “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”

Country music was well represented by this gathering of the genre’s greats. The western backdrop looked generic, but the show made up for it by showing all those audience reactions. Most of the celebrities sang along (even Yoko Ono!) or clapped along if they didn’t know the words (Taylor Swift, for example).

Ringo Starr -- “Photograph”

Ringo Starr didn’t need lasers, dancers, or a new song to be memorable. He just delivered a solid performance of his 1973 hit while vintage photos of the Beatles and their fans decorated the screens in the background.

Hunter Hayes -- “Invisible”

You could tell from a few strained notes that Hayes was a little nervous, but he had no reason to be. In a night full of big messages, his anti-bullying anthem stood out. The inspirational quotes from John Lennon, Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga, and Johnny Depp were a nice touch, even if they were hard to read on most televisions.

Keith Urban and Gary Clark Jr. -- “Cop Car”

What started out as a candlelit performance of one of Fuse’s weakest tracks suddenly got a lot more interesting when Urban and Clark started up a heated jam session on their guitars. It was the most fascinating instrumental moment of the night.

Next Page

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

Winner of the 2017 Ameripolitan Music Award for Best Rockabilly Female stakes her claim with her band on accomplished new set.

Lara Hope & The Ark-Tones

Love You To Life

Label: Self-released
Release Date: 2017-08-11

Lara Hope and her band of roots rockin' country and rockabilly rabble rousers in the Ark-Tones have been the not so best kept secret of the Hudson Valley, New York music scene for awhile now.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.