Sure, occasionally somebody gives out an award during the Grammys, but let's be honest, that's not what it's really about. The Grammys is a star-studded concert event that brings together every genre of music, and often creates unexpected pairings on stage to bring us unforgettable performances.
That's why we tune in every year, and the 60th Annual Grammy Awards proved no different. From Kendrick Lamar's stunning opening number with Bono, The Edge and Dave Chappelle to effortless vocal performances from Sam Smith and P!nk, the Grammys continued its run of one-of-a-kind musical experiences. The tradition of unexpected Grammy partnerships also continued with Shaggy hitting the stage with Sting, while Elton John partnered with Miley Cyrus.
There was a lot of great music on the night, but there were a few misfires along the way. The biggest one came from one of music's biggest stars. It's live music, baby, you never know what's going to happen, good or bad!
To help you make sense of it all, every performance on the night has been ranked from worst to first. We started at the bottom, now keep reading to see who's here!
Rihanna & DJ Khaled
(w/ Bryson Tiller)
DJ Khaled had enough energy to spare, but something was off with Rihanna's vocals through most of this performance. The stage was turned into a 1960s nightclub dance party, filled with dancers for Rihanna to perform with. Her dancing was on point, but not much else was. This was easily one of the biggest disappointments of the night, as DJ Khaled came across more annoying than anything else, while Rihanna just never quite found the right key. Bryson Tiller was on point, but with only a few lines toward the end, it was too little too late to save the performance.
Maren Morris & Eric Church & Brothers Osborne
"Tears in Heaven"
We're all for a good cover, but this one was a bit not-for-note, lacking any real passion from any of the artists. All of these artists were performers at the Las Vegas concert massacre, so this tribute speaks to them personally, and it was touching seeing the names of the victims of that tragic even behind them, but the performance itself was really lacking. Even worse, they sounded rather awful together. Eric Church seemed to be channeling Bob Dylan more than Eric Clapton, and while we applaud him stepping outside of the box, it was such a contrast to his fellow performers, it only added to the dissonance of the entire piece.
(w/ Camilla Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Julia Michaels, Andra Day)
We've heard Kesha sing this song live better than this, making me wonder if she hadn't lost her voice a bit before this take. She sounded a little raspy on the softer side, and didn't have the stronger edge to her voice and couldn't hit her higher notes. Luckily, she had plenty of help in the song that the Grammys clearly thought was the #MeToo anthem of the night. With such great songstresses accompanying her on the piece, why wouldn't Kesha have given them the chance to carry a line or two? Instead, they all just joined the choir behind her, singing in accompaniment to her disappointing vocal. The song deserved better.
(w/ Mark Ronson)
"Joanne" / "Million Reasons"
After a rollocking opening number by Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga immediately brought the mood back down with a somber piano-driven performance of "Joanne." Mark Ronson accompanied her on the acoustic guitar, bringing just enough accompaniment to help Gaga's voice soar like an angel. Appropriate, then, that her piano was tricked out with features and obnoxious wings. It was ... very typically Gaga, actually. Her voice wasn't quite as sharp toward the end of "Million Reasons," missing at least one big note, but we love that she kept it simple and focused on the music throughout. Her voice just sounded a little tired. And that makeup was a little over-fierce, wasn't it, in comparison to the rest of her look?
Little Big Town
The stage was too little for Little Big Town, so they took their Grammy-winning single to the rooftops for a live performance in the cold New York night. Or at least, that's what they wanted it to look like. This is the song that Taylor Swift co-wrote with them, so we'll totally admit we were hoping she'd make a surprise appearance to perform it with them. Taylor has performed this song in concert, so we know she's comfortable enough on a stage with it, but alas, it wasn't to be. LBT sounded flawless in their vocal performance, but the staging couldn't have been less impressive. They simply lined up and sang the song. By the end, we were starting to think about other things and look forward to who was coming up next. Is it just us, but did they look kind of bored, too?
It's one of music's most unlikely pairings, but it's not just happening for the Grammys, Sting is pairing with Shaggy on a new joint album out Apr. 20, and if this performance is any indication of what we can expect on it, it's going to be a must listen. Shaggy came out partway through Sting's performance, and their very different styles actually meshed together beautifully. Who knew? Well, apparently Sting and Shaggy did, and now it's our turn to find out. I hate to say it, but Sting was actually a little boring on his own with "Englishman in New York." If Shaggy hadn't joined him, this would have ranked much lower.
Sam Smith is one of those artists where if you're a singer you both hate him and you love him. You can't help but love how stunningly gorgeous his voice is, but you also kind of hate just how effortless he makes it look to sing like that. His body language says he's standing at the bank telling the teller how much he'd like to withdraw, but the sound coming out is the kind usually accompanied by a stank face of epic proportions. The song is typical Sam Smith fare, but his voice was flawless as ever. The choir was a nice touch, adding gravity and depth to his singular vocals. If it really is that easy, we'd love to see more stage presence and charisma from him while performing, but this is kind of what Sam Smith does. And he does it very well.
"Get Out of Your Own Way"
Apparently, U2 is too big for the Grammy stage, even though Bono and The Edge made cameo appearances during Kendrick Lamar's opener. They must have hustled after that moment to dart over to the Hudson River for their outdoor performance in front of the Statue of Liberty. With Lady Liberty looking over their shoulders, U2 sounded strong, if a little bland, while their video backdrop channeled "Orange Is the New Black," offering just a series of close-ups of eyes. But we're not sure why this needed to be outdoors. The stage was small, the performance contained, so it could have easily been done inside so the attendees could have enjoyed it as well. Just had to be different, huh?
This tribute to Leonard Bernstein started a little too tepid as Ben Platt had to start low to hit the higher notes later, but by the second verse, he was in his more confident voice, and this was a rousing and beautifully confident performance. With the simple accompaniment of a cello and acoustic guitar, Platt soared on the "West Side Story" classic with very few misfires. It was a sweet and touching tribute that skipped all of the theater elements of musical theater, to instead focus solely on the musical side.
It took SZA a few beats to find the pocket for her voice, but once she settled into it, she was ready to give a solid, if unmemorable performance. She did little more than wander back and forth on the stage, and the song lacks any real dynamism, so the performance itself felt a little subdued. The pyrotechnics toward the end came out of nowhere, and nothing in the song earned that level of enthusiasm. SZA sounded consistently solid and she's got a beautiful voice, but the performance just kind of sat there for me. Her outfit had more to say than that performance. But she's an amazing talent, so we look forward to better moments from her down the road.
Bruno Mars f. Cardi B
It's always a good time when Bruno Mars hits the stage, and the one-of-a-kind energy that Cardi B brings to everything she does elevated his doo-wop vibe to another level. Mars added like-ability and dance-ability to his vocal ability to create a true art performance piece, while Cardi B assaulted all the boys with the sheer power of her personality. She only appeared as bookends to the whole performance, but she was the perfect intro and outro to a raucous performance filled with charisma and energy and colors almost as bright as the artists themselves.
The biggest Latin song of all time, Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee held nothing back in their high energy live performance. The stage was art deco meets neon, filled with Latin dancers bringing their culture to life in every way possible. The song is a party song, and this performance was big enough to warrant both Grammy stages. We couldn't help but get emotional at how exciting this moment must be for both gentlemen, but we found ourselves worrying the song might be too big. Los Del Rio was on top of the world for a minute with "La Macarena," but that turned out to be about it for them. Here's hoping these guys fare better.
Gary Clark, Jr. & Jon Baptiste
(w/ Joe Saylor)
"Ain't That a Shame" / "Maybellene"
In a powerful tribute to Chuck Berry and Fats Domino, "Late Show" bandleader Jon Baptiste absolutely slayed it on Domino's "Ain't That a Shame." Clark took over for "Maybellene," singing and rocking out the guitar as Baptist offered rollicking piano accompaniment. These guys were on a tiny circular stage in the middle of the audience, and they brought more dynamism and excitement to their medley than some of the nominated acts did on the big stages. The Grammys are all about surprising duos, but did anyone expect this to be one of the most effective of the night? We'd buy a ticket to see these guys share the stage in concert, for sure.
Chris Stapleton & Emmylou Harris
Is there nothing Chris Stapleton can't do well? The country crooner seems able to partner with any artist and create something magical and special, and he did so again with Emmylou Harris, tackling a Tom Petty song in tribute to those lost this year. Both of them had flawless vocals, and more importantly, they harmonized beautifully. It takes very little time working together to master a good harmony, but with both of these performers having near-perfect pitch, it was probably easier than for most. I could listen to these delicious harmonies all night long. The performance was so beautiful, it almost looked like the producers forgot they were supposed to be playing the "In Memoriam" segment.
Elton John had his symbolic white rose on his piano in solidarity with #TimesUp as he proved that the years have taken nothing from his voice and skill as a performer. John has a tradition of memorable awards show performances -- he did partner with Eminem back in the day -- so it's no surprise that he shared the stage with Miley Cyrus. There are a lot of Miley Cyrus personas, but for Elton John we got all class and grace, as she brought her blues inspired voice to the second verse. Cyrus continues to impress with her versatility as a performer and artist, and this partnership was seamless and created gorgeous music. This is the kind of music we tune in to the Grammys to see; it's just a shame these moments have become rarities.
"Don't Cry for Me Argentina"
Andrew Lloyd Webber is still a legend, and so is Patti LuPone, who brought such elegance and grace and beauty to this tribute performance. At 68 years old, LuPone put a lot of these younger singers to shame with the power, polish, and control of her amazing instrument. In "Evita," the song is performed as part of a press conference, so LuPone simply stood there behind a wall of microphones, but she didn't need to do much more than that to touch our hearts. Close your eyes and this could have been a track on a cast recording of the classic musical. This piece seemed to go on forever, and yet unlike the Grammys themselves, it never felt too long. Just flawless.
(w/ Alessia Cara, Khalid)
Kesha wanted to have the anthem of the night, but that honor went to Logic instead. The stage presentation of this powerful suicide prevention epic had Logic separated from the stage and the other artists in a symbol of how alone you feel when suicidal thoughts are speaking to you. Alessia Cara lured him to the stage with her verse before Khalid completed the ensemble performance. Logic then expanded the message of his original song to add #TimesUp to his message in a powerful spoken word segment to close out the performance. That's how you close out a Grammys show!
And this is how you start a Grammys show, with an army of soldiers prepared to help get your message across. Kendrick Lamar is one of the most engaging performers today, and he certainly knew how to command the stage. Surprise cameos by Bono and The Edge for just a sheer moment couldn't even upstage him. But we absolutely loved Dave Chappelle's unexpected interruptions. "I just wanted to remind the audience that the only thing more frightening than watching a black man be honest in America is being an honest black man in America," Chappelle said, and that's just what was happening. Kendrick keeps it real, and we're all just honored to be a part of it. A lot of rap artists don't sound as crisp live, but Kendrick could be performing in the studio, he sounds so sharp and confident in his flow.
"Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken"
P!nk gave us a beautiful duet, but hers was the only voice we heard. After a few glimpses of P!nk using American Sign Language as accent for a few of the lyrics of her song, we saw that she was accompanied on the stage by a woman signing her entire performance. The two even faced one another and performed to each other for a few lines, which created a powerful moment of the power of song, even for those who can't hear. P!nk has given us some of the most crazy and unpredictable physical performances in Grammys history, but she went the complete opposite direction here, offering nothing more than a stellar vocal on a largely empty stage, save for the two performers. It was stunningly simple and unforgettable.
Donald Glover's alter ego took to the stage in a sharp white suit with his unique hybrid of r&b, rap and spoken word hip-hop. Gary Clark Jr. and Jon Baptiste may have had the tribute to the classic sounds of r&b music, but Childish Gambino channeled it naturally with his throwback sound. Even better, he invited pre-teen JD McCrary, who blew everyone away on the original recording of this song, to hit the stage with him and blow us all away again. Here's hoping Glover keeps this kid under his wing, as he looks like one to watch. Glover has grown tremendously as a musician in the relatively short time since he unleashed Gambino on the world, and this may be his most polished performance yet.