The 58th annual GRAMMY Awards hit the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday, Feb. 15 for more than three-and-a-half hours of musical mayhem. Taylor Swift opened the show with a strong performance of “Out of the Woods”; from there, things quickly jumped from hip-hop (Best Rap Album, where Kendrick Lamar grabbed the night’s first award) to country (a lovely duet from Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt).
The first non-genre prize, Song of the Year, went to Ed Sheeran (who won his first GRAMMY shortly pre-telecast) and co-writer Amy Wadge for “Thinking Out Loud” (Swift, also nominated, was psyched out of her mind). Stevie Wonder did the honors, flipping open the envelope and teasing the crowd that only a Braille-speaker would be able to read it.
Taking home the rest of the biggies were T-Swift’s 1989 for Album of the Year, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” for Record of the Year and Meghan Trainor, who tearfully gave the most emotional speech of the night while accepting her Best New Artist award.
Live collaborations characterized much of the night; in addition to Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt’s, you had: Justin Bieber, Diplo and Skrillex wilding out with a bunch of live instrumentation; Demi Lovato, Tyrese, John Legend, Meghan Trainor and Luke Bryan teaming up to honor Lionel Richie (who himself popped up for a bit); Pentatonix joining Stevie Wonder for some a cappella fun; Jackson Browne and The Eagles remembering the recently deceased Glenn Frey; Tori Kelly and James strumming along with each other; Chris Stapleton, Gary Clark Jr. and Bonnie Raitt paying homage to B.B. King; Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp and Aerosmith’s Joe Perry reminding us they’re in a supergroup called The Hollywood Vampires; and Pitbull, Travis Barker and Robin Thicke festively closing out the night with some help from actress Sofía Vergara.
The cast of Broadway’s Hamilton made history by broadcasting live from Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City—and by getting the entire GRAMMYs audience to actually unanimously enjoy something. The seemingly impossible-to-follow performance was met by an equally theatrical and grand appearance by Kendrick Lamar. Other onstage highlights included Adele, Alabama Shakes and, of course, Lady Gaga’s pitch-perfect David Bowie medley. Rihanna canceled her previously publicized performance.
Did Taylor Swift rob Kendrick? Was The Weeknd’s performance actually your fave? Are you watching the GRAMMYs again next year? Tell us in the comments.
Full review of each performance!
FORCE OF NATURE
Performer: Taylor Swift
Song: Out of the Woods
Performance Video: Taylor Swift Performance
Recap: Looking fierce in a glittering, painted-on catsuit, Swift stalked a set that evoked a stark, futuristic forest. In close-up, you could see her blue-gray eyes blazing as she belted the tune from 1989, recreating its thumping, near-industrial drama.
A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY, A LITTLE BIT SEXY
Performers: Sam Hunt and Carrie Underwood
Songs:Take Your Time, Heartbeat
Recap: Dressed down in a T-shirt, best new artist nominee Hunt rapped the first lyrics of his country hit, and later segued into a sultry duet with Underwood on her Heartbeat. The singers looked intensely at each other, Underwood’s voice steamy and creamy, his cooler and grainier. Hot stuff.
EARNING IT, TENDERLY
Performer: The Weeknd
Songs:Can’t Feel My Face, In the Night
Performance Video: The Weeknd Performance
Recap: The gifted, boyish-looking singer/songwriter seemed a little nervous, his limpid tenor bleating a bit as he reached for higher and more sustained notes on In the Night. But his earnestness was as endearing as his dapper tuxedo, and served the raw melancholy of the song’s lyric.
Performers: Andra Day and Ellie Goulding
Songs: Rise Up, Love Me Like You Do
Performance Video: Andra Day & Ellie Goulding Performance
Recap: Visions in fluffy white (Day) and sparkling black (Goulding) the rising American R&B singer and the soul-influenced British diva established an easy rapport, Goulding’s quivering soprano blending well with Day’s duskier, textured singing. The post-performance hug was a sweet touch.
Performers: John Legend, Demi Lovato, Luke Bryan, Meghan Trainor and Tyrese Gibson
Song: Lionel Richie medley
Performance Video: John Legend Demi Lovato Luke Bryan Meghan Trainor Tyrese Gibson Performance
Recap: You knew no one would top Legend, opening at the piano with a breezy, ebullient Easy. The others, in comparison, seemed to try too hard; there was Lovato’s showy (but crowd-pleasing) Hello and Tyrese’s less-than-sturdy Brick House. Everyone appeared to have fun, though, particularly after Richie himself joined for a few cheerful bars of All Night Long.
Performer: Little Big Town
Recap: After opening with warm a cappella harmonies, the band was joined by a string section that added strains of tension and pathos. But Karen Fairchild’s lead vocal sustained an understated, healing vibe to the end.
REMEMBERING A SHINING STAR
Performers: Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix
Song: That’s the Way of the World
Recap: Pentatonix earned its stripes with a heavenly, and suitably groovy, a cappella tribute to the recently departed genius Maurice White. Granted, they had the great good luck to have a living legend (Wonder) lead them in this all-too-brief rendition of an Earth, Wind & Fire classic, which could have had us dancing all night.
Performers: Jackson Browne, Don Henley, Timothy B. Schmit, Joe Walsh
Song:Take It Easy
Recap: The late Glenn Frey’s old colleague Browne clearly didn’t intend to raise the roof in paying tribute to Frey, who died last month. But Eagles fans surely found an elegiac tenderness in the relatively subdued performance.
Performers: Tori Kelly and James Bay
Songs:Hollow, Let It Go
Performance Video: Tori Kelly & James Bay Performance
Recap: Proving that rivals in a key category needn’t be contentious, new artist nominees Kelly and Bay joined acoustic guitars and voices most harmoniously. She overdid it on the melisma a bit, but, of course, the crowd ate it up.
BELIEVE THE HYPE
Performers: The cast of Broadway’s Hamilton
Song: Alexander Hamilton
Recap: OK, so it didn’t — it couldn’t — capture the thrilling experience of seeing the groundbreaking musical live. But with this pulsing opening number, Hamilton’s lavishly talented actor/singer/dancers did, with the help of some savvy camerawork, give those who haven’t been lucky enough to see it a sense of what the fuss is about. Viva Broadway!
Performer: Kendrick Lamar
Songs: The Blacker the Berry, Alright
Performance Video: Kendrick Lamar Performance
Recap: Throwing caution and subtlety to the wind, Lamar blended the dissonant jazz accents that inform his genre-blending To Pimp A Butterfly with stark imagery. Dressed as a prisoner, he launched his set with a chain wrapped around his mic as musicians played behind bars. A fiery sequence followed, but the raw power of Lamar’s rapping and his sheer expressiveness were never overshadowed.
FOR MICHAEL, FROM MIGUEL
Song:She’s Out of My Life
Recap: Miguel sang sweetly, and stayed pretty true to the original arrangement, in singing a few bars of this aching ballad from Off the Wall — which is all anyone could have wanted or expected.
Song: All I Ask
Performance Video: Adele Performance
Recap: Standing alone beside a piano, the current queen of pop offered no frills, just full-throated, bare-bones belting. If a few notes fell slightly flat, technically speaking — sound problems were also cited — the texture and emotion of her singing never fell short.
BIEBS GETS REAL, GETS HIS GROOVE ON
Performers: Justin Bieber and Jack Ü
Songs: Love Yourself, Where Are Ü Now
Performance Video: Justin Bieber Performance
Recap: Nothing screams credibility like standing onstage alone, strumming a guitar, right? The Biebs got through that part well enough (that tortured last note notwithstanding) before the full, very hip-looking band kicked in, at which point he was called on to emote and jump around. No harm done in either endeavor.
WHAM, BAM, THANK YOU, MA’AM!
Performer: Lady Gaga
Songs: David Bowie tribute
Performance Video: Lady Gaga Performance
Recap: More visually busy than sonically stunning, and sometimes flat-out awkward, Gaga’s tribute to pop music’s most influential chameleon was nonetheless endearing in its sheer eagerness to cover as many bases as possible (from Space Oddity to Let’s Dance). And the supporting musicians, among them Bowie collaborator Nile Rodgers, managed to bring the funk, and reference a few of the other elements that made Bowie and his music defy genre.
A THRILL RECALLED
Performers: Chris Stapleton, Gary Clark Jr. and Bonnie Raitt
Song:The Thrill Is Gone
Recap: Country star Stapleton proved his blues chops (and reminded us of the great common ground between the genres) teaming with Clark and Raitt, on vocals and guitar, in a soulful tribute to B.B. King, who made such exquisitely sweet, stinging sounds with both instruments.
KEEPING THE PEACE
Performer: Alabama Shakes
Song:Don’t Wanna Fight
Performance Video: Alabama Shakes Performance
Recap: Brittany Howard proved one of the ceremony’s most striking figures, with her cream-colored gown and cape, sea-green guitar and urgent vocal, which started with a scream and didn’t lose momentum. The backing singers helped her make sure the rock band’s R&B-inflected vibe never waned.
Performers: Hollywood Vampires with Duff McKagan
Songs: As Bad As I Am, Ace of Spades
Recap: It might have been a movie set, with all the flames and the makeup and, above all, longtime musician Johnny Depp, who forms the Vampires with rock vets Joe Perry and Alice Cooper. And the rocking here was fast and furious, in homage to the late Lemmy, who loomed above in a photo and spirit as they played Motorhead’s Ace of Spades.
GOOD NIGHT/BUENAS NOCHES
Performers: Pitbull, Travis Barker, Joe Perry and Robin Thicke
Songs:El Taxi, Bad Man
Recap: TV audiences had to contend with the credits rolling during a good chunk of this exuberant closing performance, but surely no one missed Sofia Vergara’s dancing cameo — or the significance of having a Cuban-American superstar with cross-cultural appeal wrap the proceedings (with a little help from some famous friends).