The greatest award show performances of 2015

12.22.15 3 years ago

You might think there are too many awards shows. You'd be wrong. Because if they constantly turn out performances like the ten below, we should have a new awards telecast every single day. Here are the ten best awards show performances of 2015. 

10. Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake at the Country Music Association Awards, “Tennessee Whiskey”

Chris Stapleton is undoubtedly the year's breakout country music star, and he even has a shot at Album of the Year at the upcoming Grammy Awards. This duet with Justin Timberlake was inspired, rad, and a pulsing, soulful version of a bona fide smash.

9. Kelly Clarkson at the Billboard Music Awards, “Invincible”

With the possible exception of the #2 artist on this list, Kelly Clarkson is perhaps our most trusted live pop performer. “Invincible” gave Clarkson a chance to belt, endear us with her casual vulnerability, and wow us with some closing notes worthy of another “American Idol” crown.

8. Sydney Lucas at the Tony Awards, “Ring Of Keys”

How many 11-year-olds have wowed us with longing ballads about burgeoning lesbian desire? Not many, is the answer. Sydney Lucas, who plays young Alison Bechdel in the Tony-winning musical “Fun Home,” took just three minutes in this performance to articulate the crucial moment of adolescence when sexuality comes to be. She may have lost her own Tony to “The King & I” chanteuse Ruthie Ann Miles, but this performance will be remembered as the most emotional Broadway showing of 2015.

7. Beck (with Nate Ruess) at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, “Satellite of Love”

Beck and Lou Reed don't seem like obviously similar tastes, but the “Morning Phase” singer blew the crowd away at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony with a reverent, cool take on “Satellite of Love.” 

6. Hozier and Annie Lennox at the Grammys, “Take Me to Church”/”I Put a Spell on You”

This started out well and ended up superb: Hozier began by booming in with a spooky performance of the signature hit “Take Me to Church,” but explosive soul legend Annie Lennox upped the gravitas with her vocals. Then, in an electric rendition of the old Screamin' Jay Hawkins tune “I Put a Spell on You,” Lennox elevated the entire Grammys ceremony with thundering command.

5. Lady Gaga at the Academy Awards, “The Sound of Music (Medley)”

Who could properly toast a legend like Julie Andrews? The answer is apparently Lady Gaga, who brought operatic flair and commitment to standards from “The Sound of Music.” 

4. John Legend and Common at the Academy Awards, “Glory”

Ava DuVernay may have been spared a nomination for her searing Martin Luther King drama “Selma,” but Common and John Legend walked away with an Oscar for their empowered, hymnal anthem “Glory.” The gorgeous staging here only adds to the intense, unforgettable performance.

3. Kanye West ft. Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom & Paul McCartney at the BRIT Awards, “All Day”

Kanye West saved his most provocative awards show work for that gigantic VMA Vanguard Award speech, but his truly finest performance of the year was at the BRIT Awards. Note the serious awe that creeps across onetime foe Taylor Swift's face. It's a dynamic, incendiary performance that star-power of Paul McCartney couldn't even overwhelm. 

2. Celine Dion at the American Music Awards, “Hymne l'Amour”

Tribute performances often seem calculated and expected, but nothing was staid about Celine Dion's testament to October's Paris massacre. With unfailing clarity and emotional resonance, Dion recalled the power of Edith Piaf as she chanted one of her signature tunes. 

1. Kendrick Lamar at the BET Awards, “Alright”

Game, set, and match. This is everything an awards show performance should be: flashy, provocative, arresting, and ovation-worthy. Kendrick Lamar wastes no time drawing you into the message of “Alright,” and the audience immediately reacts with fervor. 

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