Grammys 2015: Performances From Worst To Best

Grammys 2015: Performances From Worst To Best

Hey, it’s over! We made it through! Sam Smith won everything! Iggy Azalea didn’t win anything! Beck busted through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man! Kanye, for a glorious split second, threatened to turn this into an interesting show! And amid all the drama, there were so, so many performances. Almost everyone brought an orchestra, or a gospel choir, or an orchestra and a gospel choir, and most of them had Very Serious Things to say about something or other. Precious few people seemed to be having fun on the Grammys stage, and only a select few seized their moment. We’ve got the definitive subjective rankings of last night’s Grammys telecast performances, not counting weird things like LL Cool J rapping a couple of bars of “Going Back To Cali” or that commercial break that Target, for no good reason, dedicated to an Imagine Dragons performance. Click through the slideshow to see the list.

Maverick and Goose had the good sense to stop their needless "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" cover after one chorus.
It was weak enough that she made a video with all those Yeezus-tour bull-mask dancers. But bringing them out onstage immediately after Kanye? That was just irredeemably lame.
I have no idea why this needed to exist. Absolutely nothing happened. And shouldn't CBS actively be trying not to plug The Voice? Gwen looks good, though.
Get the fuck out of here with this performance art bullshit. Kristen Wiig deserves better.
I don't know why all these regularly dynamic performers look at the phrase "Grammys performance" and think "be boring," but that's what happens. Usher can be so exciting onstage, but not when he's up there with a fucking harp. The vocals were smooth as hell, of course, but that's not enough.
Do I count this as two performances or one performance or what? I'm going with one. Yo, John Mayer is looking good in his Buddy Holly Halloween costume! Other than that, Sheeran's solo performance was a give-me-back-my-four-minutes affair. And ELO's layered-up orch-pop has never really spoken to me, but it was vaguely cool to see them accomplish it in real time. I laughed really hard at the extended Paul McCartney reaction shot because I am a horrible ageist.
She sang in Elsa's ice palace from Frozen! She made sure her in-ear monitor was gem-encrusted! She applied eye makeup via bazooka! I really like Ariana Grande. This performance was a big, sweet, puffy nothing, except for the big money notes toward the end, which would've had Simon Cowell jumping up out of his chair. It was nice! And I immediately forgot about it the second it was over.
Her shadow is doing different things from her actual body! Just like Daffy Duck! Except Daffy Duck's shadow was never three shadows doing an interpretive dance! I liked Perry's benevolent Star Trek alien costume, but Grammys Issues Performances need to go away forever.
Annie Lennox is an impressive human being. I don't know about this Hozier guy, though.
Common wearing a suit and rapping into a mic stand like Pitbull if Pitbull was very concerned about racism.
Someone had to go and tell the rear-projection guy that "Give Me Back My Hometown" is a song about, like, poverty and riots and racial unrest. It's really a song about seeing your ex around town and being bummed out about it. It's better that way! Ease up, rear-projection guy! The song bangs, though.
This was a weird choice for show-opening band, and "In Rock We Trust" was a weird choice for party-starter. Have we learned nothing from all the teams who hit the court to "Thunderstruck"? But we still got "Highway To Hell." And the sight of Angus Young doing his drooling-gimp-as-schoolboy-as-guitar-hero act will never not make me happy, and it's nice to see "Thunderstruck"-era bald bull Chris Slade back on drums as Phil Rudd deals with his, um, legal issues. Lady Gaga made a big show of enjoying it, but in the crowd reaction shots, only Blake Shelton seemed to be enjoying this band in proper drunk-dad fashion. I remain amped for Coachella.
Mary holding back here, and not just eating Sam Smith alive, was an almost indescribable act of mercy.
So: Pharrell dresses like the bellhop kid from The Grand Budapest Hotel. He recites head-blown slam poetry and then lurches into an overblown gothed-out film-music version of "Happy" with dancing violinists. Lang Lang plays a solo for no reason. Hans Zimmer, in his tuxedo, plays his axe. There was a Ferguson tribute in there, I guess? None of it makes any sense at all! The song isn't remotely built to accommodate this absurdity! And yet the trainwreck appeal is real.
Juanes is a very handsome man.
Fun fact: Clark and Yoakam were the opening acts on the tour that Eric Church just finished. On this show, he opened for them, and it seemed somehow fitting. Clark can write a hell of a song, and "added gravity" is just about the best-possible use of Yoakam unless you're making a Panic Room prequel. If the Grammys are going to be all slow songs and nothing else, they could use more of that low-key elegance.
Not mad at Beck and Chris Martin doing Simon/Garfunkel harmonies. Sort of mad at Martin's slight shoulder-shimmies, though. You could just tell that he wanted to break into goofy Coldplay-dance mode. Don't clip this bird's wings, Grammys! Let him soar free!
An amazing weird backwoods Mick Jagger bug-out with more verve and intensity than virtually anything else on the show. Lambert actually seemed to be happy to be on that stage performing, excited about it, which is more than I can say about just about anyone else. Also, I like her fireworks, and the way her old-ass backing guitarist lowered his sunglasses to look at her.
Simple and beautiful and understated. I know it's cliche for Stereogum to say nice things about Kanye, but I dread the day that "Only One" does not knock me absolutely dead.
This year's Grammys was choked with slow, stately ballads and Very Important Moments that were vaguely addressing some issue or whatever. The world does not need more of that. But when the performer is this powerful, we can shut the fuck up and pay attention for a couple of minutes. Last year's "Drunk In Love" show opener was better, but this was still something.
Whoever scheduled this one to go directly after the two country-music ballads is a genius, since this is pretty much a country-music ballad, too. West and McCartney were window dressing for this. This was Rihanna stepping out and annihilating everything else on the show, bringing a presence and intensity and command that nobody else could come anywhere near touching. Has Rihanna ever sang like that before?

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