Sunday night was Sam Smith’s night. Throughout the 57th Grammy Awards, Smith won 4 awards, including three of the “Big 4”—new artist, best album, record, and song (losing in Best Album to Beck). The singer gave a show stopping duet performance with Mary J. Blige of his Grammy winning song “Stay With Me,” and concluded his time on stage by giving a cheeky thank you while accepting the award for Record of the Year saying “I want to thank the man who this record is about who I fell in love with last year. Thank you so much for breaking my heart because you got me four Grammys.” While many watched for the awards, the show’s strongest aspect was arguably the plethora of artists performing a great deal of this year’s biggest hits. Described by TIME Magazine as “an endless concert where they also handed out a few awards,” the Grammys were packed with 23 electrifying performances including the highly anticipated Rihanna, Kanye, and Paul McCartney “FourFiveSeconds” as well as AC/DC’s polarizing show opener, which has left many talking. While every artist brought their best, there were several who delivered unforgettable performances that deserve to be discussed further.
First, in one of the more political moments of the show, a call to action against domestic violence was followed by a polished yet honest performance from Katy Perry of one of her newer Prism tracks “By the Grace of God.” Clothed in white, against a white backdrop, Perry delivered a clean and uncharacteristically reserved performance worthy of the Grammy stage. However, it was arguably overshadowed by the memory of her Super Bowl halftime extravaganza.
One of the best “Grammy Moments” (a newer addition to the show in which two rather different artists are paired together to perform live) was Hozier and Annie Lennox. What began as a solo “Take Me to Church” performance by Hozier quickly shifted to Lennox entering, stealing his thunder. and belting out an incredible rendition of the 1956 “I Put a Spell On You” (backed by Hozier), which resulted in a standing ovation. Their powerful voices together indeed created a memorable Grammy Moment that brought Lennox into the forefront of a younger generation’s mind.
A more surprising pairing was found in Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, who chose to perform the titular track to their jazz duet album Cheek to Cheek. While many were surprised about Gaga’s choice to go jazz, the audiences both live and those watching from home were given a pleasant surprise as the duo performed a near flawless rendition of “Cheek to Cheek,” which arguably relied heavily the jazz training as well as monster-level fame of Stefani Germonatta—a.k.a. Lady Gaga.
The most dramatic performance of the night, and perhaps my favorite in terms of entertainment value, came in the form of Sia’s electrifying performance of her hit “Chandelier.” The live performance featured the back of Sia’s head—as she will not show her face while performing—and the lyrical dancing from her muse Maddie Ziegler. Sia’s vocals were rich and powerful as usual, but the focus was placed on the dancers—and rightly so. Sia surprised fans by incorporating SNL alum Kristen Wiig as Ziegler’s dancing partner. The brilliance of Wiig as a dancer was found in her ability to bring the energy and physicality from her SNL characters to a serious stage performance while still being entertaining, and incredibly impressive.
The night’s big winner Sam Smith performed with the legendary Mary J. Blige, referenced earlier, and not only brought the house down, but also united two artists who couldn’t be better suited for each other’s vocal styles. Both vocal powerhouses, Smith and Blige’s careful attention to musical detail and honest interpretation of a broken-heart song left jaws dropped and ears pleased.
Finally, my personal favorite performance in recent Grammy history closed this year’s show: Common and John Legend’s “Glory” from this year’s film Selma. The incorporation of a gospel choir elevated their performance further and left me with goose bumps. Legend’s soulful voice shone bright and was the perfect compliment to Common’s poignant rap lyrics. Their performance gave a classy ending to an arguably tamer-than-normal Grammys show.
This year’s performances recognized the unforgettable music of 2014, and grew excitement for what is to come in 2015. Per usual, controversy was present, both in awards and performances, such as the decision to allow Beyonce to perform the Selma-featured classic gospel piece “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” as well as the shocking Album of the Year win by Beck for his Morning Phase. But, while everyone has their own opinion regarding awards snubs and right decisions, we can agree that the performances this year were memorable and will inspire young artists to continue furthering their craft.