There was a shadow over the Grammy Awards this year. Whether this was due to the very recent passing of basketball legend Kobe Bryant or the various controversies surrounding the show, is not certain.
Still, it is indisputable that the performances are one of the most anticipated parts of the Grammys, and that remained the case this year. The actual awards are never indicative of future success, but a particularly memorable performance –– good or bad –– can live on forever.
Here are the highlights (and lowlights) from the stage of pop music’s biggest night.
#3 - Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, BTS, Mason Ramsey, Nas and Diplo - “Old Town Road” & “Rodeo”
Honestly, it would have been pretty hard to mess this one up. Hot off the cowboy boot heels of the longest-running Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 song ever, Lil Nas X delivered a star-studded performance with a variety of high-profile guests.
It is hard to ignore that Lil Nas X’s performance mostly relied on its combined starpower and innovative moving-house set. It’s also hard to ignore that Lil Nas X’s performance was a bit pitchy. In terms of entertainment though, it more than delivered. Plus, bringing out Nas to help with “Rodeo” was a welcome surprise.
#2 - Billie Eilish and FINNEAS - “when the party’s over”
The 62nd Annual Grammy Awards were Billie Eilish’s Grammy Awards. Not only did she win five awards and become the youngest person to ever receive Album of the Year, she also is the first woman in the history of the awards to win all four major categories (and seem horrified while accepting it).
Billie could have coasted through her performance with a high-octane rendition of “bad guy,” and no one would have batted an eye. But she and her brother Finneas decided on a minimal ballad instead, showcasing the full range of her voice and the talent the two siblings have for making music together.
While it was nowhere near the flashiest moment of the night, it didn’t seem to matter. There wasn’t a single note out of place and any doubters of her award-worthiness can refer to this immaculate and emotional performance.
#1 - Tyler the Creator, Charlie Wilson and Boyz II Men - “Earfquake” and “New Magic Wand”
As one of the most controversial “alternative-hip hop” artists of the modern day, Tyler’s spot performing at the Grammy’s could have been a moment to dispel those notions. For a moment, it seemed like that was going to be the case, as Tyler and Boyz II Men began a soulful rendition of IGOR highlight “Earfquake.”
But that all ended once “New Magic Wand,” one of the loudest and brashest tracks from the album, began. A sea of “Igors” took the stage and Tyler screamed his brains out in front of the audience. If there were people in the audience not aware of Tyler before the performance, by the end they definitely were.
It was a daring showcase from one of the most talented artists working today and if he hadn’t received a Grammy after that performance, it would have confused the whole room.
#3 - Jonas Brothers - “Five More Minutes” and “What a Man Gotta Do”
From the moment they took the stage, it was obvious the Jonas Brothers were performing on an off night. The chemistry wasn’t there, the vocals lacked energy and new song “Five More Minutes” failed to land.
While the energy gradually picked up as the performance went on, the occasional bum-note from the usually talented brothers created a sour moment in the early section of the awards show.
#2 - Brandi Carlile and Tanya Tucker - “Bring my Flowers Now”
While it is great to see Tanya Tucker finally win a Grammy 47 years after being nominated for the first time, it did not lead to a great performance. There are always a few performances each year that make the general audience go “why is this here,” and none were stronger this year than this performance.
From a musical standpoint, Tucker can still sing and Brandi Carlile did her job on piano, but overall, it ended up being a mercifully short snoozefest.
#1 Aerosmith & Run-DMC - “Livin’ on the Edge” and “Walk This Way”
Boring performances and bum-notes are regular occurrences at the Grammys; it’s an inevitability with live shows, too. But it is hard to remember the last time there was a spectacular failure like Aerosmith and Run DMC taking the stage this year.
Everything seemed off with this performance. Joe Perry’s guitar playing felt miles away from the rest of the group, Steven Tyler’s voice is nowhere near where it used to be and the overall performance felt like a totally random moment in an awards show that mostly looked towards pop’s future, not past.
Run-DMC does not deserve to take most of the flak for this performance, as the group performed fine. But the moment the on-stage “wall” prop came crashing down to reveal the duo standing behind it is in the running for top-10 lamest Grammy moments of all time.
Alex Whetham is the senior arts editor and can be reached at Alex.Whetham@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @Alexo774.
Alex Whetham is an asst. arts editor for The Spectrum.