All told the Grammys turned in a pretty respectable night last night. The performances ranged from the mind-melting theatrics of Beyonce to the largely forgettable duet between Lukas Graham and Kelsea Ballerini, but no one was outright bad and the show was largely enjoyable overall. You can’t go around spouting off mild and vague positivity on the internet, though. Ours is a land where nothing makes sense until it’s been broken down, categorized and ranked. So with that in mind, here’s a rundown of the best performances of last night’s ceremony, starting with the “meh” and going on to the performances everyone will be discussing for at least the next week.
Check it out below:
16. Lukas Graham and Kelsea Ballerini – “Peter Pan” and “7 Years”
This mash-up performance — side note: we’re still doing those? — failed to be memorable, through no fault of Kelsea Ballerini’s. Lukas Graham’s “7 Years” racked up plenty of nominations, but that doesn’t stop it from being bland aural wallpaper and a cartoonishly cynical grab for the same backwards-reaching Millennials who made the 21 Pilots’ superior “Stressed Out” a mega-hit. So, it’s fair that more people will be talking about that group’s acceptance speech than will remember this performance. We all owe this great country upstart an apology.
15. The Weeknd and Daft Punk – “I Feel It Coming”
Who knew cocaine could be so boring?
The Weeknd’s performance of “I Feel It Coming” was aided by a laser light show and Daft Punk but it left our decidedly less-addled minds as soon as the performance was over. Maybe they should have played “Starboy” instead of going for the fake out?
14. Adele – “Hello”
No microphone troubles this time. Adele kicked off the 2017 Grammys with a song that we’ve been hearing since 2015. But given Adele’s ability to transcend such silly human measuring sticks like years and typical album sales, it made a strange sort of sense. And fans off music should never pass up an opportunity to hear Adele blow the roof off with her pipes.
But undeniable technical skill aside, Adele’s performance was pretty dry. Just a few minutes of standing and singing and nowhere near big enough for the biggest night in music. So, it comes in toward the bottom.
13. The BeeGees Tribute
All due respect to Demi Lovato (and so much respect to the Brothers Gibb) but this star-studded look-back celebrating 40 years of the Saturday Night Fever is the third least-remarkable tribute of the night.
12. Keith Urban & Carrie Underwood – “The Fighter”
Keith and Carrie’s duet from inside the cover artwork of a Joy Division album wouldn’t be recognizable as country music to any time travelers who landed in the Grammys audience, but that’s okay because what it was was a whole lot of fun. Urban’s voice was a little rough in the beginning, but Carrie saved this performance of their hit duet “The Fighter” when she came roaring out onto their set cribbed straight from The 1975’s most-excellent video.
11. Ed Sheeran – “Shape Of You”
It shouldn’t be possible to hold this audience with so little equipment and set design. But Ed Sheeran took the entirety of the Grammys to an open mic night while he looped his way through his new song “Shape Of You.” Like most of his gambles, it worked.
10. Katy Perry – “Chained To The Rhythm”
Who knew that Katy Perry could be so political? Well, anyone who actually listened to her sneakily dystopian new track for one. Sure, you don’t go looking for politics in songs featuring a member of the Marley clan (Bob’s grandson, Skip) that are debuted via disco balls, but its there if you open your ears. Perry made the isolation of the song’s white picket fences extremely literal while a series of projections kept things interesting. And given the content of the song, we shouldn’t have been surprised when those projections switched from crashing waves to a larger-than-life version of the U.S. Constitution while Perry shouted “No hate!”
9. William Bell And Gary Clark Jr. – “Born Under a Bad Sign”
Gary Clark Jr. is probably one of the top three coolest MF-ers on the planet. And watching this performance of the classic blues track “Born Under A Bad Sign”, it’s clear that he learned it from watching Bell. That this performance came on the night when Bell finally took home a Grammy after 50 years in the music business only made this brief throwback intermission sweeter.
8. Adele – “Fast Love” (George Michael Tribute)
As crass and candid as he was known to be, George Michael probably would have loved that Adele started off her tribute to the him by swearing on broadcast TV. Adele re-started her performance of “Fast Love” when those pesky sound issues reared their head and you could genuinely feel her desire to do right by her fellow British icon. Sure, fans would have liked to hear “Freedom ’90” or “Faith.” And the producers could have kept some of the big and somber feeling if they landed on “Father Figure.” But Adele did an amazing job with a song no one was expecting.
7.Metallica ft. Lady Gaga – “Moth Into Flame”
James Hetfield might have had to find a working mic before this pyrotechnic-filled rendition of “Moth Into Flame” could really take off. But Lady Gaga’s impressive classic rock wail was strong enough to carry the song until the Master of Yeeeaahs got could join. And it’s going to be years before we see another mosh-pit or stage dive at the Grammys. Her performance at the Super Bowl might have been more of a spectacle, but their joint performance just ruled so much harder.
6. Bruno Mars – “That’s What I Like”
Bruno Mars is the most reliably consistent performer currently working. He never fails to slay every stage that he’s put on and his 24K Magic album was sneakily one of the best albums released last year. The Grammys gave him a chance to show-off why he’s the world’s premiere retro stylist (before letting him actually become Prince later in the night) and he made the most of it, ending the smooth-as-hell segment with an impressive bit of harmonizing.
5. Sturgill Simpson and The Dap-Kings – “All Around You”
The Dap-Kings suffered through the unimaginable when they lost their frontwoman Sharon Jones late last year. But bands as good as the Dap-Kings won’t stay down for long and they teamed up with the similarly unstoppable Sturgill Simpson to tear through an appropriate cut on weathering the storm from Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide To Earth. And everybody brought it, morphing this performance into a subtle tribute to the electrifying stage presence of a late legend.
4. Chance The Rapper – “How Great” and “All We Got”
Chance The Rapper always sounds rough on big stages. Any time he’s put in front of a huge audience, he allows himself to get overwhelmed with excitement that he’s there and he loses control of his voice. It should be a detriment, but it just ends up making him more endearing. And it didn’t hurt that during his performance of “How Great” and “All We Got” he had the unwavering voices of Tamela Mann and Kirk Franklin’s choir to back him up. Yet again, Chance took us to church. It never stops being special.
3. Beyonce – “Sandcastles” and “Love Drought”
What can I say that hasn’t already been said by the entirety of the internet? Beyonce’s meeting with the goddess/performance managed to celebrate the very large and inclusive ideas of femininity and motherhood while also being a very singular celebration of Beyonce’s music, her world-stopping aura and her particular brand of flawlessness. Yes, we all have mothers but only three little people will get to call Beyonce “mom.” And she’s the only one who could pull off a spectacle like the one she did here.
2. Prince Tribute ft. Bruno Mars and The Time
Okay, so maybe I’m letting my own peculiar fandoms cloud my judgement but two Ice Cream Castles cuts got played right on the TV last night. Two! As soon as Morris Day and the Time kicked into “Jungle Love”, I thought ‘Please, God, let them play ‘The Bird’.’ And they did and He saw that it was good.
Bruno Mars and the producers seemingly learned their lesson from the somber tributes earlier in the night and they let the singer tear through “Let’s Go Crazy” instead of saddling him with “Sometimes It Snows In April” or “The Cross.” Overall, this tribute was exactly what a tribute to Prince should be. Namely, a hell of a lot of fun.
1. A Tribe Called Quest – “We The People”/”Award Tour”/”Movin’ Backwards”
How weird was it to see A Tribe Called Quest taking over the Grammys stage? It might be like 20 years too late, but Tribe finally got their chance to shine and — much like their stunner of a comeback album — they made the most of it. With helping hands from Anderson .Paak and Busta Rhymes, the group ran through new songs “We The People” and “Movin’ Backwards” while still finding time to shout-out their classics like “Award Tour” and “Can I Kick It?”
The set was also the most overtly political of the night, with Busta sending a shout-out to “President Agent Orange” and all the “evil he’s perpetuating.” And Q-Tip ended the performance by repeatedly imploring everyone within the sound of his voice to resist. Given what the country’s going through, a ceremony without an explicit political statement would have felt like a cop-out. And we’re glad that Tribe weren’t afraid to do it during the best performance of the night.