- Pharrell Williams – “Happy”
How do you make the most annoyingly chipper song of all time even worse? Make it terrifyingly weird.
- Madonna – “Living for Love”
Madonna’s performance was classic Madonna – no more, no less. Though this performance was less ambitious than those of her MTV heyday, “Living for Love” is her best effort in years.
- Eric Church – “Give Me Back My Hometown”
The patriotic theme of “Give Me Back My Hometown” seemed a little tired, especially when Church has so many songs that could have rocked the house.
- Usher – “If it’s Magic”
The harp on “If it’s Magic” was true to original Steve Wonder arrangement but Ushers vocal performance was a bit sullen and missed the mark. Stevie Wonder he’s not.
- Juanes – “Juntos”
Even the upbeat songs were kind of dull at this year’s Grammys. Ever since Jennifer Lopez sang in Spanish a few years back there’s been an effort to draw the Spanish-speaking audience. Since we couldn’t understand the lyrics you’ll have to make up your own mind on this one!
- Hozier, Annie Lennox “Take Me to Church/I Put a Spell on You”
Lennox’s theatrical performance and vocal virtuosity was a spot on tribute to the Screamin’ Jay Hawkin’s classic “I Put a Spell on You.” The Hozier-Lennox pairing on “Take Me to Church” was a solid effort but not the best pairing of the night.
- Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani – “My Heart is Open”
The duo was genuinely emotional in their performance, and you can’t go wrong with that many stringed instruments, can you? Maybe you can. This was a cheesefest.
- Ed Sheeran, ELO – “Evil Woman/Mr. Blue Sky”
Brit rock legends got paired with Ed Sheeran and cranked out some of the biggest hits. Not a performance anyone was expecting but it still earned a standing ovation.
- Ariana Grande – “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart”
The Grammys love making pop stars sing their album track ballads. It doesn’t always work out. Grande’s performance was… muddled. Enunciate, girl, please.
14. Jessie J, Tom Jones – “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin'”
Jones and J showcased their incredible voices on the Righteous Brothers classic. There was a nice shot of songwriters Berry Mann and Cynthia Weil, the husband and wife team who wrote the song way back in 1964, cheering in the audience.
- AC/DC – “Rock or Bust/Highway to Hell”
This was a fairly run-of-the-mill rock-n-roll Grammy performance, but a damn good one nonetheless.
- Rihanna, Kanye West, Paul McCartney – “FourFive Seconds”
Uncharacteristically acoustic was the best way to discribe the unique pairing of Rihanna, Kanye and Paul. Too bad Paul’s mic was turned off though!
11. Katy Perry – “By the Grace of God”
People forget that Katy Perry can really sing. On a ballad-heavy night, this was a standout. Perry lost in both of her categories tonight, bringing her to 0 wins out of 13 nominations. The record for nominations without a win is 16, held by Snoop Dogg and Brian McKnight.
10. Brandy Clark, Dwight Yoakam – “Hold My Hand”
Absolutely lovely. I hope this will bring Clark, who did not win on either of her nominations tonight, some much-deserved attention.
9. Ed Sheeran, Herbie Hancock, John Mayer, Questlove – “Thinking Out Loud”
The performance was somewhat understated, with solid vocals by Sheeran and great guitar chops by Mayer, thought it did feel like a “moment:” the song just might become a classic.
8. Kanye West – “Only One”
Personal, vulnerable, and well-executed, Kanye’s first Grammy performance in six years was a winner.
7. Beyoncé – “Take My Hand, Precious Lord”
SING, BEYONCÉ, SING.
6. Lady Gaga, Tony Bennett – “Cheek to Cheek”
In a charmer of a duet, Lady Gaga proved that her re-invention was no phase: she’s really a traditional pop singer with jazz chops to boot. Tony Bennett’s energy is remarkable.
5. John Legend, Common – “Glory”
Future Oscar-winning song “Glory” closed the night with an appropriately emotional performance that hit all the right notes.
4. Beck, Chris Martin – “Heart is a Drum”
Beck was fresh from his Album of the Year win when he knocked this ethereal song out of the park
3. Sia – “Chandelier”
Though the video for Chandelier has become a parody of itself, first with Jim Carey performing a in playful skit on SNL this past Halloween, and then with Kristen Wiig in on the joke during the Grammy performance, Sia’s vocals and performance were stunning, even as she faced away from the audience during the song. Sia clearly has a sense of humor – she even had Shia LaBouf read a poem before the performance!
2. Miranda Lambert – “Little Red Wagon”
She may be a country sensation, but Lambert is a also a legit rock star. Every move she makes on stage is completely on point.
1. Sam Smith, Mary J. Blige – “Stay With Me”
The night belonged to Sam Smith and, though we’ve heard the song a million times (like Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” three years ago) seeing Sam Smith performing with Mary J. Blige, back by a full orchestra, was the best of the night.