It’s almost time for the Grammys again, which means lots of snubs, disappointments, questionable moments, and Adele. That’s why everyone is going to watch, right? The award ceremony has been panned for the past couple of years for being bland and boring, but along with its low moments are tons of high moments. It’s still known for some of the most iconic and memorable performances in music. So before we start predicting when exactly Kanye is going to crash the stage, lets look back on some of the best performances from the Grammys.
“Stan” – Eminem & Elton John (2001)
Though Eminem made a joke about the Grammys in his song “The Real Slim Shady,” he’s been no stranger to them since his massive album The Marshall Mathers LP. This is the time when the rapper was most controversial garnering the anger of groups like GLAAD, who claimed he was homophobic. To shut up his critics once and for all, Eminem delivered a powerful performance of “Stan” with Elton John singing the chorus. At the song’s end, the two embraced and held hands in a victory pose. It’s not only one of the best Grammy moments of all time, but one of the best Eminem moments ever.
“American Idiot” – Green Day (2005)
Eyeliner, creepers, red ties, and lots of pyro. American Idiot era Green Day was on the rise thanks to their massive concept album. Not only was it a big winner at the 2005 Grammys, they also delivered a performance of the title track that was unforgettable. Instead of being cut and dry, the band brought their snotty attitude, slaying guitars, and their love of fire with them. As usual the band sounded great and wowed the crowd with fire shooting up at all the right moments. The band made sure to light a fire under the asses of the stiff academy. This is just one of a number of amazing performances from the year of American Idiot.
“The Way You Make Me Feel/Man in the Mirror” – Michael Jackson (1988)
Michael Jackson didn’t grace award show stages that much during his life, but whenever he did it brought the fucking house down. This 1988 performance starts out pretty standard: Jackson blows away the crowd with his dancing and singing. But it’s not until we get to “Man in the Mirror” where the show really starts. As he continues to sing, he gets more into the song until he’s falling on his knees, near tears, demanding everyone to “make that change.” The best part are the last five minutes where he seems to go off the record and just feels the music and gets everyone to stand up. He’s possessed by the song as he spins and collapses while a choir backs him up. It’s one of those moments that’s so stunning you remain quiet during the whole thing. It shows why there will never be another performer with the fire, passion, and moves like Jackson.
“Where It’s At” – Beck (1997)
There’s always one year where Beck sweeps the award shows and makes some people question “Who the hell is Beck?” During the 1997 Grammys, he performed his hit single “Where It’s At” from Odeley, which was up for several awards that night. The thing that makes the performance so great is Beck’s unbridled energy. He has all the moves and swagger of a rapper and even pulls some awkward, yet entertaining dance moves at the end. His monotone vocals matched with his wild movements makes Beck hypnotizing to watch on stage. It ends on a high note, literally with Beck pulling off some scratchy falsetto. After the performance he won a Grammy for Best Rock Male Vocal. And similar to last year’s ceremony, many were left wondering who the hell this guy was.
“Runaway” – Bruno Mars (2012)
I wouldn’t call myself a huge Bruno Mars fan, but his performance from the 2012 Grammys blew me away. Is it his upbeat energy? Yes. Is it his style? Yes. Is it him commanding people to get off their “rich asses?” Yes. He sounds great and pulls off some awesome dance moves, but what makes this performance so memorable is the set up. It looks like an old school soul performance complete with matching gold suits, Temptation style dance moves, and Bruno’s pompadour with some added James Brown for flavor. He’s such a charismatic performer that he makes any award shows, or Super Bowl, exciting.
“I Put a Spell on You” – Annie Lennox & Hozier (2015)
What started out as a performance from Hozier featuring Annie Lennox turned into the Eurythmics singer taking over the stage. She came out to join Hozier on “Take Me to Church,” but as soon as she started “I Put A Spell on You” everyone forgot he was on stage. Her soulful delivery is powerful and she commands the stage while singing and swinging her hips. All Hozier could do and stand back and nervously smile. The way she belted out those notes gave you chills. It was so amazing it’s all people could talk about the next day. Sorry, Hozier. Good try, though.
“I Will Always Love You” – Whitney Houston (1994)
At the 36th Grammys Whitney Houston blew everyone away this performance of her hit single “I Will Always Love You.” She starts out by performing the first verse acapella, which is enough to stir you. She really gets in her element when the music starts up and she continues singing in her elegant white gown. The best is when the drum pounds and she holds the note while she sings the chorus one more time. Watching it again over 20 years later, it still gives you goosebumps when she hits that note. It’s a reminder of what a wonderful performer Houston was and a sad reminder of what we’ve lost.
“One” – Metallica (1989)
Everyone knows the story of Metallica losing the Best Heavy Metal album to Jethro Tull in 1989. Though they didn’t win, and yeah they should’ve of, they delivered a blazing performance of “One” from their …And Justice for All album. Things start out kind of shaky with the vocals, once the band gets in the groove of things, they take over the stage and set fire to the Grammys. The performance is intense, brutal, and heavy as if reminding the committee why they should’ve won in the first place. Luckily, the academy realized they were wrong and gave the band best Metal Performance for the same song the following year. The band revisited the song at the 2014 ceremony with pianist Land Lang accompanying them.
“Feel Good Inc/Hung Up” – Madonna & Gorillaz (2006)
Madonna and Gorillaz seems like a collaboration that would never happen, but oddly enough it works. This performance features the animated band as 3D holograms singing, gyrating, and looking bored in general. When De La Soul comes out 2-D checks his phone while leaning on the mic. Then Madonna pops up on screen, also a hologram, and teases the band. After that she appears on stage in the purple leotard first seen in the “Hung Up” video. The entire performance is fun, innovative, creative, and unforgettable. Though Madonna’s rendition of “Living for Love” was also good, this one is more memorable and creative.
“Rolling in the Deep” – Adele (2012)
You knew she was going to pop up here sooner or later. The performance is simple; no fancy effects, tricks, or collaborations. Just Adele, her singers, and her band. Her voice is so powerful and beautiful, you can close your eyes and let it wash over you. Even if you don’t play her heartbreaking songs on repeat after seeing this performance you had to acknowledge that she’s one of the best modern singers. There are plenty of people who can’t wait to see what the singer will do at this year’s ceremony. Actually, it’s probably the only reason anyone will tune in.
“Glitter in the Air” – Pink (2010)
When Pink came out on stage to perform “Glitter in the Air” no one at home or in the crowd expected to see her twirling through the air. She comes out in a hooded shroud, looking beautiful and elegant. Just when you think she’s going to stand there and sing, she reveals a nude leotard and joins a group of aerial acrobats that lift her in the air. She strikes various poses and even pulls off an impressive spin and she’s still singing. She never misses a beat. By the end everyone was stunned and in awe. It’s a trick she’s pulled off a few more times for later Grammy performances, but no one will ever forget the first time she did it here.
“Seven Nation Army/Death Letter” – The White Stripes (2004)
The White Stripes managed to make a lot of noise at the 2004 ceremony. The performance starts out with the popular “Seven Nation Army,” but ends with a chaotic seizure educing rendition of “Death Letter.” It’s here where Jack White lets loose and plays with fire and fury. He stumbles around the stage, motion towards Meg White, and ends the song with a unchained solo. The performance is also great due to the weird introduction by Beck who references “Children of God” before introducing the duo. Well, it is Beck after all.
“La Copa de la Vida (Cup of Life)” – Ricky Martin (1999)
This performance will forever be burned in my memory. Why? Because my mom and I were glued to the screen, wondering who this hot new guy was and how fast could we get his album. Ricky Martin was at the forefront of the Latin explosion of the late 90s. He cemented his popularity at the time with this performance at the 41st Grammy Awards. After this performance aired, Martin was a household name and everyone wanted to live “la vida loca.” Sorry, I had to.
“Lady Marmalade” – Pink, Christina Aguilera, Mya, Lil’ Kim ft. Missy Elliot & Patti LaBelle (2002)
It was hard to escape this song in the early 2000s and though the group of ladies performed the song at various award shows throughout the year, this one is the best. All of the singers sound on point and Aguilera finally shed the gigantic poodle wig she was obsessed with. What made this performance so memorable from the others, is the original Lady Marmalade, Patti LaBelle, joined the group on stage. While she didn’t get to sing much she did enough to show she still had the chops and even though this cover was pretty good, nothing could outshine the original.
Which Grammy performance is your favorite? Is there one that I missed? Let me know in the comments.