Let’s take a page from Olivia Rodrigo and get brutal.
The seven-time Grammy nominee is one of nearly two dozen artists performing on Sunday’s Grammy Awards telecast, including Billie Eilish, Jon Baptiste, Brandi Carlile, Lady Gaga, Lil Nas X and Silk Sonic. . The musicians – who are vying for all the top prizes this year – take to the stage at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, after the awards show was delayed and moved from Los Angeles to Sin City due to COVID-19.
While it’s hard to top the highs (watermelon sugar) from when Harry Styles and BTS took the stage last year, here are the best (and worst) performances from the ceremony:
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Osborne Brothers, ‘Dead Man’s Curve’
The siblings won a well-deserved Grammy for Best Country Duo/Group Performance earlier Sunday night for “Younger Me,” which was inspired by singer TJ Osborne’s experience as gay. So it’s somewhat confusing that they chose to perform the less punchy and overly brief “Dead Man’s Curve”, which closed the ceremony with a groan rather than a bang.
Carrie Underwood, “Ghost Story”
Underwood’s tousled train and wind machines nearly stole the show during “Ghost Story,” a revenge anthem with evocative and dramatic lyrics from his forthcoming studio album. The country star’s powerful vocals and impassioned delivery helped sell the somewhat forgettable track, which was saddled with an unwanted slot at the end of the night.
HER with Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Travis Barker and Lenny Kravitz, medley
Like Eilish, the Oscar-winning and Grammy-winning breakout brought a refreshing hard rock vibe to Sunday’s festivities, performing a catchy medley of songs with drummer Travis Barker and guitarist Lenny Kravitz. It was a well-deserved jolt as the show dragged viewers into its third hour, with some seriously enviable (and scintillating) combinations of HER and Kravitz.
Justin Bieber with Daniel Caesar and Giveon, ‘Peaches’
Bieber’s silky smooth topper “Peaches” is one of the biggest earworms of the past year. But the stilted Grammys performance lost much of what makes it such an enjoyable bop by starting with an overly long, overworked piano intro, before Bieber joined star performers Daniel Caesar and Giveon. Even then, the lyrics were so loudly beeped that it was more distracting than delightful.
Jon Batiste, ‘Freedom’
If you weren’t already a Batiste fan before Sunday night, it’s almost impossible not to be after his rousing performance of record-breaking nominee “Freedom.” The jazz/R&B singer was effortlessly charismatic and exuberant throughout the stunning display: delivering expert choreography and climbing tables while getting the audience to their feet.
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Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Ben Platt and Rachel Zegler, In Memoriam
After the uncomfortably upbeat and tone-deaf “In Memoriam” tribute to the Oscars, the Grammys showed everyone how it should be done with an elegant, tasteful and deeply touching performance. The trio of Tony winners – joined by dazzling rising star Zegler (“West Side Story”) – harmonized beautifully as they sang a medley of songs by the late Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, who died last November. As they all gathered on stage to perform the melancholy “Somewhere” from “West Side,” we could barely see the TV screen through our tears.
Lady Gaga, “Love for Sale”, “Do I Love You”
After her heartwarming Best Picture Oscar presentation with Liza Minnelli last month, Gaga has once again proven herself to be one of the classiest performers around. Playing without longtime friend and “Love For Sale” duo partner Tony Bennett, who announced his Alzheimer’s diagnosis last year, the pop star kicked off with a flippant version of the album’s title track, before taking a seat on the steps of the stage for a touching rendition of Cole Porter’s “Do I Love You.” Singing against a video backdrop of her and Bennett in the studio together, Gaga appeared visually emotional, stopping near the end of the number as the crowd cheered her name.
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John Legend, ‘Free’
After a recorded introduction from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Legend took the stage to perform his moving new single “Free.” Although the lyrics of the song were fitting – even if they were on the nose – given Russia’s continued attack on Ukraine (“Rain down Freedom, rain down / ’til we’re all free” ), we would have preferred the Recording Academy to cede the spotlight entirely to the Ukrainian artists who accompanied Legend on stage, including Siuzanna Iglidan, Mika Newton and poet Lyuba Yakimchuk.
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Chris Stapleton, “Cold”
Stapleton brought his gritty vocals and bluesy guitar to the searing “Cold”, calling a bad lover on the mournful chorus (“Why you gotta go cut me like a knife?”). Few artists sound heartbreak better than this soulful crooner, who won Best Country Album Grammy (for “Starting Over”) earlier in the night.
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Nas sent him back to some of his previous hits including “Made You Look” and “One Mic” with his career-spanning medley, bringing out a horn section for the mythical “Rare” from “King’s Disease II” by Last year. It was an assured but unsurprising performance, which could have used a dose of adrenaline from guests on his latest album, Eminem or Ms. Lauryn Hill.
Brandi Carlile, “Right on Time”
Carlile’s performance of the inspirational single “The Joke” at the 2019 Grammys is instant heartbreak, and her soulful take on the latest anthem “Right on Time” also gave us chills. Dressed in a ball-chic disco blazer and flanked by flashing rainbow-colored lights, the Americana singer-songwriter showed off her dexterity skills on both piano and guitar , though her most perfect instrument was her authoritative voice, as she delivered the song’s heartfelt message (“It wasn’t right/But it was just in time”).
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Billie Eilish, “happier than ever”
“Happier Than Ever” is without a doubt one of the most exciting songs by a mainstream pop artist in years, with a fierce vocals, heartbreaking personal lyrics and a stunning third verse. Eilish’s Grammys performance of the song – the title track from her second album – did not disappoint, as it recreated the clip’s flooded house and rain-soaked finish. His tribute T-shirt to the late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins added an extra layer of poignancy to the already intense number.
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Lil Nas X with Jack Harlow, “Dead Right Now”, “Montero”, “Industry Baby”
After deliciously provocative turns on “Saturday Night Live” and the MTV VMAs, the genre-bending escapist “Old Town Road” played it oddly tame on the Grammys stage, running through hits such as “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and “Industry Baby” with Jack Harlow. But aside from some clever choreography and a slew of costume changes — including a stellar diamond-encrusted crop top — Nas X was sadly overshadowed by flashier performances. earlier in the night.
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Could BTS be more contagious? The K-pop prodigies oozed charm as they delivered an exuberant take on “Butter,” gliding across the stage in black tuxedos and paying homage to everything from “Ocean’s Eleven” to “Mission: Impossible.” playing cards and dodging lasers. suave Las Vegas style. And we couldn’t help but swoon as Member V had fun with Rodrigo at the top of the number.
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J Balvin and Maria Becerra, ‘Qué Más Pues?’ and ‘In da Getto’
Rodrigo is a tough act to follow, but Balvin more than held his own with a sexy take on his “Jose” album track “Que Mas Pues?” with Argentine singer Maria Becerra. Particular props should be given to the illuminated staircase and neon-drenched back-up dancers, which gave us one of the most compelling spellings this side of Madonna’s “Vogue.”
Olivia Rodrigo, ‘Driver’s License’
The 19-year-old pop-punk breakout is already a Grammy winner ahead of Sunday’s TV show, winning her first award for Best Pop Solo Performance (for lead single “Driver’s License”) hours before the show. Supported by an all-female band and sporting glittery eyeliner and fishnet stockings, Rodrigo looked terrific as she delivered a haunting rendition of her emotional breakup anthem while driving through a lively suburban setting, complete with a Mercedes DMV approved.
Sonic Silk, ‘777’
The R&B crew of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, who released their joint nine-song effort last November, opened the show with the album’s electrifying opener, followed by the remarkable “777.” Throwing back to the ’70s in sleek white jumpsuits – adorned with playing card iconography on the sleeves – the dynamic pair checked out the Sin City name in exuberant, funky fashion, singing “I’m about to buy Las Vegas after this roll.” Call us gambling men, but it’s going to be hard to top the energy of this dynamic duo.