Three and a half hours and twenty-three performances sound like a lot. That’s because it is, and made this year’s Grammys more tedious and boring than usual. Still there were some notable moments sprinkled through the wash of musical saturation (seriously, where were the awards). Some were truly great, others were truly not.
Since there were, once again, 23 damn performances, I won’t rank all of them, but here are the best and worst of Grammy night (in my humble opinion of course), top to bottom.
Beyoncé – “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”
There was quite a bit of controversy regarding Beyoncé performing this Mahalia Jackson song, featured in the Oscar-nominated Selma. However, once the diva stepped onstage and started singing, any doubts were pretty much erased for me. Beyoncé is an effortless vocalist, but there was something transcendent about this performance. It was easily the vocal of the night, and maybe one of the best live performances of her career.
Hozier and Annie Lennox – “Take Me To Church/I Put A Spell On You”
Hozier and Annie Lennox aren’t two artists I would put together, but thank God the Grammy producers aren’t me. Hozier has one of the best male voices in pop today, so he was surely going to be great. However, when Annie Lennox came on stage, it was a completely different ballgame. Lennox tore the Staples Center to shreds with her take on “I Put A Spell On You” and injected some much-needed life into a very dry show.
Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney – “FourFiveSeconds”
It took me awhile to warm up to this strangely acoustic collaboration, but this performance really brought the song to life. Rihanna’s voice has always been a point of contention, but she has vastly improved, delivering an unexpectedly explosive vocal. It takes a lot to upstage Paul McCartney and Kanye, but Rihanna did it with just her voice. Welcome to 2015, everyone.
Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga – “Cheek to Cheek”
The most joyous showing of the night. The jazz crooner and pop diva have been defying the absurdity of their union with top-notch performances, and last night was no different. Dressed to the nines, the two looked like they were having a ball, and their passion was infectious.
Ed Sheeran and Friends – “Thinking Out Loud”
Another song I was lukewarm about from the beginning, Ed Sheeran did a great job interpreting his new biggest hit for the Grammys. Culling together colleagues including John Mayer and Questlove, Sheeran gave his ballad a nice pulse that was the night’s first real standout.
Gwen Stefani and Adam Levine – “My Heart is Open”
This could’ve been easily cut from the leaked setlist. I actually like the studio version of the Sia-penned ballad, but it was borderline awful live. And considering that neither had a reason to be there anyway, ultimately pointless.
Jessie J and Tom Jones – “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”
Clearly no one told these two that Tony and Gaga would be filling this quota in a hour or two. Another performance that didn’t really make any sense, especially considering the song choice. It would’ve been something if the two had performed “Bang Bang”.
Pharrell – “Happy”
Political statement aside, this Grand Budapest Hotel-inspired hodge-podge was an inexplicable mess that nearly ruined a great song. I actually busted out laughing during the performance; if that was the point, then maybe he deserves more credit than I’m giving you, but I doubt it.
Katy Perry – “By The Grace Of God”
There really isn’t much to say beyond noting how badly Katy Perry needs Rihanna’s vocal coach to help her. There’s a really good voice there, but it was buried underneath all of the useless acrobatics.
Madonna – “Living for Love”
Madonna is all about the performance, which made her lifeless delivery of new single “Living for Love” so shocking. Aside from her now-trademark squat down and jump back up, the queen of pop pretty much walked back and forth atop of a platform with masked bull men dancing around her. It was reminiscent of Britney Spears’s infamous non-performance at the VMAs. Luckily for her, the song was good enough to shine through the murkiness and hit a nerve with the public. We’ll just chock this up to a bad day. I mean, she is 56 after all, and looks damn good.