Madonna

Playlist: Remembering Prince

April 21, 2016, the world lost one of music’s iconic and talented musicians, Prince. He was truly a legend who left a huge impression on music with his style, songs, and vision. He was a versatile artist who constantly pushed boundaries and challenged perceived notions of music. Since he was bigger than life, even though he only stood 5’3, you don’t picture him working with a lot of other artists or even performing covers. His music is so good, why should he play other people’s songs? But, surprisingly, Prince extended himself to various musicians and created memorable, yet underrated duets. At the same time, he also put his funky, sexy spin on songs you’d never guess he’d play. So let’s remember the late Prince by looking back at some of his most notable duets and covers.

“Love Song” – Madonna + Prince

When listening to Madonna’s landmark album Like a Prayer it’s easy to gloss over this smoldering track. The sexy ballad features the two music icons being seductive with one another. It’s a smooth, sexy track meant to put you in the loving mood. So how did the two end up working together? “We were friends and talked about working together, so I went to Minneapolis to write some stuff with him, but the only thing I really dug was ‘Love Song’ […]” With its funky groove and steamy lyrics, it’s more of a Prince song. It sounds like something that belongs on one of his albums and doesn’t mesh well with the pure pop of the rest of the album. You would think a song featuring two of the biggest acts of the 80s would get more attention. But the track couldn’t really compete with massive singles “Like a Prayer” and “Dear Jessie.”

“Creep” – Radiohead

You don’t expect someone like Prince to do too many covers, especially considering how many hits he has in his catalog. But during his headlining set at 2008 Coachella, he pulled out a number of them. He played The Beatles’ “Come Together,” Santana’s “Soul Sacrifice,” The B-52’s “Rock Lobster,” and Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.” But the most talked about moment was his blazing cover of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Though the elements of the original are there, he turns the track into something completely his own. When he pulls out the extended solos and falsetto vocals, it doesn’t even sound like the same song. It’s amazing to listen to especially since he never played any of the band’s songs before. But of course, Prince wasn’t happy when footage of the cover went live online. He ordered the video to be taken down, which Radiohead reverted since it’s their own song.

“Waiting Room” – No Doubt + Prince

This is another unexpected Prince collaboration. Found on No Doubt’s Rock Steady, it’s got a bit of groove, it’s kind of soulful with a dash of synth and pop. Thanks to Prince’s work on the track, it sounds nothing like the band’s previous or later material. Apparently, Prince agreed to work on the track as a favor to the band since Gwen Stefani appeared on his track “So Far, So Pleased.” They sent him the track and he completely rewrote it. His influence can be heard all over the song. If it wasn’t for Stefani’s lead vocals, you would swear it’s a Prince song. It’s one of the weirder, yet satisfying options from No Doubt’s 2001 album.

“Best of You” – Foo Fighters

Prince’s 2007 Super Bowl Half-Time performance was the first time I realized just how versatile and insanely talented he was. We know how hard Prince rock’s his own material, but not too many other songs. That changed when he busted out renditions of “Proud Mary,” “All Along the Watch Tower,” and Foo Fighter‘s “Best of You.” You wouldn’t expect to hear falsetto shrills in a Foo Fighters song, but Prince truly made that track along with the others he featured all his own. He infused them with his attitude, flair, and a healthy dose of soul like no one else ever could. Though some people didn’t think he was worthy of handling the show, his performance is still hailed as one of the best in Superbowl history. Watching it now, it still gives you chills, especially when he busts out “Purple Rain” during an epic downpour.

“A Love Bizzare” – Shelia E + Prince

Prince was so unique and had a style unlike any other that his essence pours out of every song he writes. This duet with his protégé Shelia E, features the Purple One on background vocals and on bass. But even though Shelia E is the focus of the song, it’s undeniably a Prince song. With its upbeat funky groove, irresistible hook, and sultry lyrics it could’ve come from any of his albums. Though his contribution is kind of downplayed on the studio version, the live version has his flamboyance all over it. Like so many of his tracks, this one is fun, energetic, and sexy. Then again, what Prince song isn’t sexy?

“Every Day is a Winding Road” Sheryl Crow + Prince

Any artist collaborating with Prince should know once he makes an appearance, he steals the show. That’s what happened during this live collaboration with Sheryl Crow. The two performed a hard-edge version of her hit “Every Day is a Winding Road.” Prince does backup vocals and shreds away on his iconic guitar. Shortly after this performance, Prince recorded his own version of the track for this 1999 album Rav Un2 The Joy Fantastic. If you’re lucky enough to find this version, you’ll find a completely different song. It’s funky, slinky, and downright sexy, which you don’t expect from a Crow song. It’s soulful and makes you want to dance. The cover is so good, Crow should hand it over to Prince to be rightfully his. On the same album, the two collaborate on the track “Baby Knows,” which has this cool rock, funk swing to it. If you want to hear it, you better pick up the record; they’re impossible to find online.

“Why Should I Love You?” – Kate Bush + Prince

Kate Bush is an iconic figure in alt rock. Her music is often dreamy, otherworldly, and elegant. So it’s a bit unexpected to learn she worked with Prince. The song, which appeared on her comeback album The Red Shoes, starts out with an air of whimsy and airy and quickly turns into a Prince jam. Seems to be the usual pattern with Prince collaborations. Apparently, Bush sent him the track back in 1991 so he could add background vocals. He not only added vocals but a lot of instrumentation. Since it sounded so different, Bush wasn’t sure what to do with it. They worked on it for two years trying to make it fit Bush’s sound. Clearly, it didn’t work.

“A Case of You” – Joni Mitchell

Prince is known for his sexy, funky style, but on this Joni Mitchell, we get to hear a different side. While it still has an air of sensuality, the track is absolutely gorgeous. It’s an intimate moment with Prince and a piano that’s unforgettable. Hearing his soaring falsetto vocals and the classy tinkling piano keys leave you in awe. We all know Prince was such an amazing guitar player, it’s often easy to forget what a versatile musician he was. This cover shows the beauty and elegance he could add to songs, whether they were his or not. This version is a stark difference from Mitchell’s original folk stylings.

“Love is a Losing Game” – Amy Winehouse + Prince

This haunting and somber track from Amy Winehouse’s final album Back to Black, received the Prince treatment several times live. Footage of this is difficult to find, but luckily, the two eventually teamed up for a powerful rendition of the song. Winehouse joined Prince onstage in 2007 during his final show at London’s O2 Arena. He leaves her to take care of the vocals while he tears it up on guitar. In case you forgot what a badass he is on guitar, you’re quickly reminded on this track. It’s an unforgettable collaboration, though you can’t help but feel a little sad since both musicians passed on unexpectedly.

“Honky Tonk Woman” – Rolling Stones

Prince started performing this song live in 1993, but his version was never officially released. Previously, it could only be found on the Japanese version of The Undertaker. The cover received a wider release when Warner Bros. shared rehearsal footage of Prince performing the track shortly after his death. He turns the song into a scorching number with meaty guitars and a bad ass solo. If you needed more proof of what a genius Prince was at playing guitar, just watch this video where he shreds away with an “I make this look good” look on his face.

“Give Em What they Love” – Janelle Monae + Prince

Prince doesn’t easily hand out compliments and didn’t hide it when he didn’t like someone. But he did admire Janelle Monae, who looked up to him. Luckily, the two worked together for this track from Monae’s second album, The Electric Lady. Not only does Prince play guitar, he also provides co-lead vocals on the track. The song is already is already hot with Monae’s passionate vocals and seductive demeanor. But having Prince sing his signature falsetto makes the track even sexier. Plus, it’s funny to hear Prince utter the term “chicken head.” It’s funky, has a healthy dose of attitude, and makes you feel sexy as hell.

“One of Us” – Joan Osbourne

Prince covered Osbourne’s sole hit for his 1996 album, Emancipation and played it live in concert. With this track, he takes you to church. His soulful delivery, cries for the crowd to join him, and his passionate singing makes it feel like you’re in the middle of a sermon. You want to close your eyes, sway your arm in the air, and shout “preach!” as he’s singing. While there’s nothing wrong with the original, Prince’s version is superior especially with the fiery guitar solo that gives it an extra edge. He even uses the track to take a dig at his former label, Warner Bros. by changing the line “Just a slob like one of us” to “Just a slave like one of us.” This shows if Prince had a problem with you, he’d let you know it in the sassiest way.

“Shhh” – Tevin Campbell

There’s no question about it; Prince was a sexy mother. Just about everything he did dripped with sex. He does the impossible on this Tevin Campbell cover; inject a song that’s about getting in on and make it 100 times dirtier. No, he doesn’t change any lyrics or anything like that. It’s all in his over the top delivery. Hearing his falsetto cries of pleasure you’d swear he was having sex while recording the song. If that wasn’t enough to get you hot and bothered, the blazing guitar solo will do the trick. He takes a typical 90s slow jam and turns it into a sex romp. Only Prince could somehow make a sexy song even sexier.

“Crimson and Clover” – Tommy James and the Shondells 

If you thought Joan Jett made this song rock, you haven’t heard Prince’s version. For the most part, it’s a straightforward cover with Prince being playfully coy during the breakdown of “I think I love you” and blowing kisses into the mic. It’s not until the solo where he makes this song sizzle. In case you needed a reminder what an awesome guitar player he was, Prince make sure you remember with this performance. He makes the guitar burn and blaze like he’s Jimi Hendrix. It leaves you stunned the way he makes the guitar whine, scream, and trill. The cover appeared on his album LOtUSFLOW3R, but it’s his performance of the track on Ellen that gets a nod here.

Which ones of these Prince covers/duets is your favorite? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Playlist: Worst Grammy Performances

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!

Bedtime Stories – Madonna

Release Year: 1994

Rating: 8.5/10

The mid-90s were a rough time for Madonna. She received a public backlash after the release of her controversial book Sex and companion album Erotica. She decided to tone down her image with this album. Instead of having tongue in cheek lyrics about the joys of sex, she remains down to earth and even gets personal on a couple of the songs. The shift away from the explicit and the new musical direction makes this her most compelling release.

What’s interesting about the album is the title. With a name like Bedtime Stories and the image of her laying on a bed looking gorgeous makes you think she’s up to her old sexual tricks. But there’s actually nothing explicit on the record itself. The closest it gets is on “Inside of Me.” Not only does the title sound sexual, but the song begins with Madonna moaning and she sings breathlessly. But one look at the lyrics show this is actually about not being able to let go of a lover: “I will always have you, inside of me/Even though you’re gone/Love still carries on.” It seems to be based on a personal experience since she mentions how she tries to look happy in the public eye.

Another track where she gets personal is “Survival.” On this catchy song Madonna notes how she’ll never be an angel or a saint, which seems to be a response to how the public viewed her. The song is kind of simple and repetitive, but it seems to be saying she’s just trying to do what she can to get by. Though the singer did indeed tone things down for this record on “Human Nature” shows she’s still a badass. This has always been one of my favorite songs because she’s fierce and kicks ass. It’s actually a response to the media that lambasted her. She’s basically saying she’s not sorry for her past behavior and she has no regrets. It’s all about expressing yourself and not holding back (hmmm sounds like another one of her songs). It’s a great song that shows Madonna is not a pushover.

Aside from the lack of controversy surrounding this album, another thing that’s interesting about it is the musical direction. Her previous efforts focused on her dance-pop centered sound. Here, the music takes influence from R&B and New Jack Swing, which can be heard on almost all the tracks. “Love Tried to Welcome Me” may begin with swelling strings, but it eventually leads into an R&B groove. This same groove can be found on “Don’t Stop” and the sensual “Forbidden Love.” “I’d Rather Be Your Lover” has this sleepy, dragging groove to it that’s mixed with some hip hop flavor. There’s even a rap by Meshell Ndegeocello during the bridge. It’s not until the last two tracks that we depart from the R&B sound.

Bedtime Story” is a weird track that has more of an electronic sound and feel. It’s no surprise that Bjork was one of the song’s writers. It’s very ambient with lots of different noises swirling around your head. On the surface, it seems to be about the joys of the unconscious realm, but there have been several write-ups claiming it goes deeper than that. It’s a bit too complicated to get into here, so I’ll leave the link to the Wikipedia page. “Take a Bow,” on the other hand, is classic Madonna all the way. It has that sweet, soft, pretty music that sets up the sad mood. What’s clever about this track is the running motif that compares this relationship to a play. She actually sounds heartbroken; she knows it’s time to say goodbye. Listening to the whole thing again will almost bring you to tears. It’s amazing how it still resonates after all these years.

The album overall is pretty mellow. There are the standard Madonna ballads, but the other tracks are related to R&B and hip hop instead of her typical dance music. It’s yet another reinvention for the singer and one that works quite well. If anything these songs show that Madonna doesn’t rely on controversy and sexual tricks to be successful. She’s talented enough to tone things down and look at her own life for influence. The songs may not be explicit, but her attitude and apologetic nature still makes this a classic Madonna album.

Playlist: Best Grammy Award Performances

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.

 

2015: The Year of Redemption

As 2015 comes to a close, the internet is flooded with list counting down the best albums of the year. I shifted through everything new I heard this year, thinking which album deserved this title when I realized how many artists made great comebacks: Madonna, Marilyn Manson, Bullet For My Valentine, and Muse. I don’t mean they came back to music after a lengthy absence. What I’m talking about it a return to form and creating albums that proved better than their previous efforts.

With all the artists I mentioned, their previous LP’s didn’t so well: people hated MDNA, Temper Temper lacked brutality, The 2nd Law was a little too ambitious, and Manson’s last few releases made people lose faith in the rocker (not counting his 2012 effort). All these artists came back stronger and harder this year to show fans and critics the fire hadn’t burned out of them yet. They weren’t perfect and I wouldn’t call any of them album of the year, but they helped redeem each artist in a way.

Rebel Heart showed that so far into her career Madonna still has it going on. Rather than trying to follow trends as she did on MDNA, she followed her own path to create one of her strongest albums since 2007’s Confessions on a Dancefloor. There were still some problems with it, but it made people think twice about writing off the Queen of Pop. Muse’s Drones had a poor concept behind it, but when you just look at the songs it’s classic, hard hitting Muse all the way. They scaled back on the overblown nature of their last few releases and went back to their rock roots for an exciting LP. It featured everything fans felt was missing from The 2nd Law, including Bellamy’s sweet soaring vocals.

When reading interviews Bullet For My Valentine seemed immensely disappointed by the reception of Temper Temper. They kept promising fans the next effort would be heavier and return to their beloved brutality. They kept their word with the excellent Venom. Finally, here were the songs that punched you in the face and never stopped to apologize. They still kept some of the rock influences from their last album, but they mixed it with their older sound rather than abandoning it completely. Even Children of Bodom had a great comeback with I Worship Chaos, which was miles better than Halo of Blood.

But perhaps the biggest comeback belongs to Marilyn Manson. Ever since the mid-2000s his career has been suffering. Since Eat Me, Drink Me he’s spent years searching for a sound that was right for him. He tried to continue his angry at everything, shock rock shtick, but it was clear it wasn’t working anymore. Rather than sounding clever and intelligent, his songs became boring and sounded like a Goth trying to hard to be disturbing. He finally bounced back with 2012’s Born Villain, but the damage was done. No one paid attention to the album; they thought he was the sad rock star. With The Pale Emperor, he finally found his groove in slow burning songs influenced by the blues. Sure, maybe the tracks aren’t as intense or insane as his earlier work, but he’s in a different place now. Things have changed and he’s finally found his voice for where he’s at in his career and critics took notice. Rolling Stone even called the best metal album of 2015.

While I wouldn’t call any of these albums the best of the year, they’re still impressive. Each one showed an artist bouncing back from a misstep and hitting the music scene with even more force than before. They had to show critics and fans they could still make good music despite some setbacks. They met expectations and in some cases exceeded them with the music they made this year. It goes to show a bad album isn’t the end. In some cases, it’s only the beginning.