Let’s face it, the Grammys aren’t as good as they used to be. Ratings show this and people all across the internet proclaim it. Though the ceremony may not be what it used to be, it’s still responsible for some of music’s biggest and weirdest moments. Performances from Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Adele, Celine Dion, and Shania Twain are considered the best in Grammy history. But the Grammys don’t always get it right. Sometimes they have some real stinkers. With the Grammys a month away, let’s take a break from remembering the awesome performances and look at some of the worst Grammy performances instead.
“Pants on the Ground” – General Larry Platt (2010)
Remember in 2010 when one man stumbled on the American Idol stage and sang “Pants on the Ground?” It was funny for about a week. But E! and the Grammys thought the odd song was so funny, they invited General Larry Platt to perform on the red carpet. And it’s…something. I don’t know what’s worse seeing General Platt struggling to come up with more lyrics on the spot or the random Rock Band drumset in the background. Watching him hop on one foot while holding a handful of belts, you realize this is the end of the weird phenomenon. Even the people on the red carpet look confused, not knowing what to make of the performance. It’s like watching someone make “Chocolate Rain” jokes in 2017. Hopefully, he didn’t spend all his earnings on more belts.
“Same Love” – Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert, and Madonna (2014)
The Grammys are constantly struggling to stay relevant. They’re still getting off on the unexpected collaborations idea, which leads to great and questionable performances. In 2014, they decided to invite Macklemore and Ryan Lewis to perform “Same Love,” which has a well meaning message of tolerance. But instead of just letting Roger Klotz rap, they decided to wed 33 couples live on stage with Queen Latifah leading the service. There are so many questions with the biggest one being why? When did Queen Latifah get ordained to wed people? Why is Madonna lazily singing “Open Your Heart?” Why the fuck did 33 people just get married at the Grammys? The spectacle is strange, bizarre, and seems more like a ploy for high ratings rather than taking a stand. But I guess the Grammys got what they wanted; it’s something you won’t ever forget.
“Synthesizer Showdown” – Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Howard Jones, and Thomas Dolby (1985)
Back in the 80s, music made entirely with synthesizers was a wild crazy trend. Since it was new at the time the 1985 Grammys dedicated a performance to it. But rather than invite one of the many pioneers of synth music to perform, they threw a bunch of them together for a massive, puzzling performance. Howard Jones, Thomas Dolby, Herbie Hancock, and Stevie Wonder perform bits and pieces of songs you recognize while the rest of it is hard to make it. It starts okay at first with groovy synth beats with an odd robotic voice asking everyone to introduce themselves. But when the track transitions to the upbeat, pop-infused “Go Home” things fall apart. Everything starts to clash and sound sour and Dolby awkwardly moves on stage wondering if he’s even plugged in. He then starts playing the part of wacky conductor as the group finishes, oddly, with “America the Beautiful.” The entire thing is so cringy to sit through. It’s great that the Grammys wanted to recognize synth musicians at a time when no else wanted to, but making them all play together was clearly a bad idea.
“Girl You Know It’s True” – Milli Vanilli (1990)
Milli Vanilli is one of those groups you can’t believe is real. They look like some bad creation from a comedy show. And, yes, they won a Grammy showing that the award show hasn’t known what good music for over 20 years. Though this isn’t the duo’s infamous performance when they were outed for lip synching, this one is pretty terrible. The two do nothing but hop around stage and shuffle their feet in what’s supposed to be dance moves. And if you watch carefully, it’s clear they’re not actually singing. Plus, the song is fucking terrible. As everyone knows, shortly after their questionable Grammy win, they had to give it back when the world found out they were lying. What’s funny about this incident is everyone thinks they got in trouble for lip synching, which is an accepted practice today. But what really got them in hot water was the fact it wasn’t their voices at all. The two could barely speak English, so the record company enlisted Charles Shaw to handle vocals. The duo never recovered from the incident and in 1998 Rob Pilatus died of an accidental drug overdose. A pretty sad end to a pretty terrible band.
“Numb, Encore, & Yesterday” – Jay -Z, Linkin Park, and Paul McCartney (2006)
When Linkin Park and Jay-Z reminded the world that rock and rap mashup to create some pretty kick ass music, everyone flipped. Their collaborative effort, Collision Course, has sold 2 million copies to date. So of course, the Grammys wanted to show them some love. What’s sad about this performance is it’s actually pretty good. Jay-Z and Linkin Park surprisingly sound great together and their performance is strong. It’s when they decide to include the Beatles when things go wrong. Chester Bennington starts singing “Yesterday” and prompts Paul McCartney to step out and join him. And man, does it fucking suck. The two are completely off key and end up clashing notes. It’s almost enough to make your ears bleed. Jay-Z even seems to take a jab at the collab ending the performance by saying “Doesn’t it sound like beautiful music?” No, no it doesn’t.
“Across The Universe” – Slash, Bono, Billie Joe Armstrong, Norah Jones, Brian Wilson, Tim McGraw, Alicia Keys, and Steven Tyler (2005)
Allstar collaborations seem to only work on a massive scale. Look at “We Are the World” and “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” for successful examples. But it rarely works when it’s ten different artists from various genres for a sloppy tribute. Look at this 2005 performance for reference. As a tribute to John Lennon, a bunch of A-list musicians get together and perform “Across the Universe.” And it’s hard to tolerate. Individually they sound pretty good, when they’re not flubbing the lyrics. But once they start “harmonizing” together, it all goes to shit. Everyone starts singing in different keys while obviously looking at a teleprompter for reference. While Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, and Steven Tyler are off in their own world, Billie Joe Armstrong and Norah Jones look downright uncomfortable. They probably knew what a shit show this would be.
“Forget You” – Cee-Lo and Gwenyth Paltrow (2011)
Remember in 2011 when America’s most hated actor Gwyneth Paltrow tried to be a singer for a bit? Everyone realized how horrible it was, except for the Grammys. As if Cee Lo performing the smash hit “Forget You” in a peacock outfit surrounded by muppets wasn’t weird enough, he invites Paltrow on stage. Not only does she have zero singing talent, she awkwardly delivers out of place lines like “I’m tired of yo ass.” It’s hard to sit through the entire thing without cringing. It turned into one of the most talked about moments just because of how awful it was. The Grammys may be all about unimaginable collaborations, but this is one they should’ve passed on.
“The Exorcism of Roman” – Nicki Minaj (2012)
Nicki Minaj has a reputation for being a bit strange, but no one could predict what she would do at the 2012 Grammys. Debuting the new song “Roman Holiday” Minaj went full on exorcist for the performance. It starts with her growling at a priest and ends with her levitating in the air. In between is a bizarre short film where Minaj skitters up the wall in attempts to be scary. Instead, she looks like a raving maniac on stage. Sure, this may have been the point, but rather than being fun, campy, and theatrical the performance comes off as awkward and bad, like a painful b-horror movie. And since it featured religious themes, you know it pissed off the Catholic church. Even the producer of the Grammys hated the performance. Maybe if Minaj didn’t take the performance so seriously it could’ve worked. Otherwise, it’s painful to watch.
“Whaddup” – LL Cool J, Chuck D, Travis Barker, and Tom Morello (2013)
Hey, why don’t we get LL Cool J to perform at the Grammys? If this was the 80s or 90s then it wouldn’t sound so bad. But having LL Cool J rap on the 2013 ceremony isn’t desirable in the least. They even paired him with Chuck D, Travis Barker, and Tom Morlleo and the performance still sucked. The rapper struts across the stage, trying to own the place when clearly, the rap world has moved on without him. They even slapped on a lazy tribute to late Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, which was just as lame as the rest of the performance. Cool J is a lame host, why did they think he’d bring an A-game performance?
“Hey Ya” – Outkast (2004)
Remember when “Hey Ya” was so popular even Andrew 3000 got sick of it? So of course the Grammys wanted 3000 to perform the track during the 2004 ceremony. The performance would’ve been another ordinary moments in Grammy history if it wasn’t for one thing: the fucking costumes. For some reason Andre 3000 saw no issue with dressing himself and everyone on stage in stereotypical Native American gear. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they turn the “hey ya” hook into a pseudo Native American chant while the dancers creep out of the smoke filled hut. Everything about this performance is cringy. You just shake your head throughout the entire thing. Rightly so, 3000 didn’t get away with getup forcing CBS to apologize. Somehow this still hasn’t taught celebrities that this isn’t a good idea.
Lemmy Tribute – Hollywood Vampires (2016)
A supergroup featuring Duff Mckagan, Alice Cooper, and Joe Perry sounds rad as all hell. Having Johnny Depp in the band? Eh, that could be cool. So how did they manage to deliver one of the dullest Grammy performances? They took the stage last year and it was one of the low points of the ceremony. Playing “As Bad As I Am” and “Ace of Spades” in tribute to Lemmy Kilmister, they didn’t sound all that bad. But watching them shamble across the stage and hearing Cooper growl the lyrics with little enthusiasm, it seemed like they didn’t want to be there. It’s actually kind of sad to watch. They look like a bunch of old guys trying desperately to hang on to their youth. And what the hell is up with Depp’s mumbling spoken word part? It left plenty of people confused, including Bruno Mars in the crowd, who didn’t seem to understand what was going on. It was a stinker of a television debut and reminds us why supergroups are rarely a good idea.
David Bowie Tribute – Lady Gaga (2016)
Never has a tribute performance drawn as much ire as Lady Gaga’s tribute to David Bowie at the 2016 Grammy Awards. Many felt the performance was underwhelming or just downright cheesy. Gaga, dressed as what’s supposed to be Bowie but looks more like ginger Elvis, performs a medley of the late singer’s hits. While things start out okay, it eventually turns into a terrible impression of Bowie. She hops around stage trying to sound like him in the most awkward way possible. It’s still baffling why Gaga was chosen to provide the tribute. Bowie has tons of peers that would’ve been more than happy to come together with a tribute. Instead, Lady Gaga carries the torch. It doesn’t make any sense. The performance was so bad even Bowie’s son and former drummer hated it. Let’s hope they do something more tasteful for the Prince tribute.
Which Grammy performances do you think are the worst? Let me know which ones I missed in the comments!