Last Sunday, some of the world’s biggest music artists performed at the Grammys, the recording industry’s biggest night. It was generally lackluster night, filled with bland and, in some cases, inexplicable displays of the past twelve months of music. By far, the most electrifying performance was given by Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons, while Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” was the most fun.
But were there really any unforgettable Grammy moments, the moments that we have to run to YouTube to re-watch years later? I’m not sure there were, even with all of the collaborations and fireworks and weddings.
So of course, I did what any pop culture lover would do; I went to YouTube and scoured for some of the most iconic Grammy performances of all time. Now I am not so much of a narcissist to think my list is the be-all, end-all, but these performances stand out as powerful moments in the ceremony’s history that justify it’s existence. I would love it if you share your favorite performances (if they aren’t here) in the comments. if you haven’t seen any of these, prepare to be amazed.
Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You (1994)
In 1994, Whitney Houston was practically untouchable, and everyone accepted that the songbird would be the “queen of the night”. The pop titan opened the 1994 show with her iconic hit “I Will Always Love You,” delivering a powerhouse performance that set the tone for her sweep of that night’s awards, including Record and Album of the Year. Whitney has always been a reliable Grammy performer, and this was her crowning achievement.
Michael Jackson – The Way You Make Me Feel/Man in the Mirror (1988)
Michael Jackson was known for putting on a jaw-dropping spectacle of a performance. But he was pretty jaw-dropping when it was just him and a choir on stage. At the 1988 ceremony, he gave one of his greatest performances ever, singing “Man in the Mirror”. By the time he broke out into his last signature spin of the night, it was clear why he would eventually be declared the “King of Pop”.
Neil Diamond & Barbra Streisand – You Don’t Bring Me Flowers (1980)
You might recognize this performance from the opening clips in this year’s ceremony. There’s a reason why. 33 years later, the two’s magnetic chemistry on this heartbreaking duet can still take your breath away.
Eminem & Elton John – Stan (2001)
The Grammys often paired unexpected artists together, but none could have been less expected than Eminem and Elton, especially after the controversy surrounding Eminem’s homophobic lyrics. Maybe it was because of the controversy, or in spite of it, but it made for a compelling television moment and an unforgettable performance.
Aretha Franklin – Nessun Dorma (1998)
In 1998, Aretha Franklin stepped in for an ill Luciano Pavarotti and sang his standard “Nessun Dorma”. I’ve seen opera purists balk at Aretha’s soulful interpretation, and that’s fine. Aretha never claimed to be an opera singer. Her performance, however, was powerful and passionate that still inspires awe.