Even without Beyonce or Taylor Swift, the 2019 Grammys showed up.
While a few big names like Queen Bee and Swift didn’t even set foot in Staples Center in Los Angeles (the former saw her album with Jay-Z snubbed in the big categories and the latter didn’t show up last year either), there were some memorable moments from a, well, wide range of performances.
From dual piano-playing to Motown tributes, these are the best Grammy performances ranked in order of awards show greatness. But did they reach pregnant Beyonce levels of greatness? That’s what you should be looking for below. (Disclosure: The Grammys aired on CBS, parent company of CNET.)
1. Alicia Keys — Killing Me Softly, Unforgettable, Use Somebody, New York and more
She plays two pianos at one time. She wears a Carmen San Diego hat. What can’t the host of the 61st Grammys do? Alicia Keys’ love of music was radiant and one of the highlights of the show, not to mention her music itself. When she finally sang her own song, New York, it became … unforgettable. Fitting that she makes the top of this list.
2. Janelle Monáe — Make Me Feel
Oh we feel. Janelle Monáe head-bopped her way to the top of this list with her army of women in space-themed suits Michael Jackson would have been proud of. Those blue lights, that purple smoke, that killer song that’s all about love — “Let the vagina have a monologue.” Thank you, good night.
3. Camila Cabello, Ricky Martin, J Balvin, Young Thug, Arturo Sandoval — Havana
How to open the biggest music awards show? Take our hearts to Havana. Camila Cabello did just that, with a big dance crew and Young Thug, Ricky Martin, J Balvin and legendary Arturo Sandoval on trumpet solo playing her hit song. Check out the epic stage design involving massive colourful apartment units that need to become part of a Rear Window musical.
4. Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson — Shallow
Experimental dance moves to spare, Gaga showed us how to be happy in this modern world with Shallow, the song that featured in the Oscar-nominated A Star is Born and that won her Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at this year’s Grammys. Her talent runs deep and her rock star status was evident on stage, which she shared with equally up-for-it British DJ Mark Ronson.
5. Cardi B — Money
Yes, girl on the piano who preceded Cardi B and whose name everyone wants to know now. That look right into the camera. Chills. Grammy-winning Cardi B (for Best Rap Album) — the actual main act — tore up a stage padded with purple straight out of an underground jazz club. Then she saluted Wakanda. Forever. Take our money!
6. Brandi Carlile — The Joke
Contrasting with the razzle dazzle, Brandi Carlile went lower key, bringing all the compassion with a song about the misrepresented out there. The most-nominated woman at the 61st Grammys delivered head-shaking goodness. Even Post Malone approved. Take a bow.
7. Dolly Parton, Kasey Musgraves, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and more — Dolly Parton tribute
This gets props simply for Miley Cyrus. Miley Cyrus knows her Jolene. That’s what we’ve learned here, as if we didn’t already know. With a host of other artists, along with Dolly herself (in red shoes), the Grammys’ Dolly Parton tribute did not disappoint. Easter egg: See BTS bopping along with every word in the audience.
8. Dan + Shay — Tequila
“When I, when I, when IIIII” — how do I get that playing in the background whenever I’m feeling nostalgic? And then that last note from Shay whenever that involves heartbreak. Drink a glass for this country music duo, winners of Best Country Duo/Group Performance for their incredible song Tequila.
9. St. Vincent, Dua Lipa — Masseduction, Respect, One Kiss
When Dua Lipa crept out from the back of the stage to join St. Vincent out front, a perfect duo was made. Matching bob cuts and black-and-white outfits are all you need, apparently. Their interpretation of Aretha Franklin’s Respect was a highlight, along with St. Vincent’s guitar solo. The two were perfectly in sync, even if Dua Lipa, newly awarded Grammy winner for Best New Artist, needed bobby pins to hold up her dress.
10. Kasey Musgraves — Rainbow
Listen to these lyrics. Simple but incredibly elegant, Kasey Musgraves, Grammy winner for Best Album of the Year, filled Staples Center with her soulful rainbow of country music. “Everything is all right now.” Yes, it is.
11. Post Malone and Red Hot Chili Peppers — Stay, Rockstar, Dark Necessities
A smoky spotlight lit up Post Malone, his acoustic guitar and his gold teeth with gold mic to match. It was gold. Add RHCP. More gold.
12. Diana Ross — The Best Years of My Life, Reach Out And Touch
She turns 75 next month. The Detroit-born singer famous for The Supremes is one of the most successful Motown singers of all time. Introduced by her grandson, she burst onto the stage in a redder-than-red dress. Right to the end, she’s given us the best years of our lives. She couldn’t hold the tears back. Also, how can she be 74? Happy birthday!
13. Travis Scott — Can’t Say
Cue soulful vibrato chorus. Then cue Travis Scott in a cage — with rambunctious hip hop guys climbing up the sides, precariously over Ross’ grandson. Scott had arguably one of the most impressive stages of the night — which he ditched to crowd-surf.
14. Shaun Mendes, Miley Cyrus — In My Blood
Not just Shaun Mendes on piano, Shaun Mendes on a piano with cracks emitting golden light. With Miley Cyrus, a backing orchestra and a shower of golden rain, it’s more than a party in the USA.
15. H.E.R. — Hard Place
Sparkly disco ball suit, cool clear guitar and John Lennon round sunnies — never change, H.E.R. Having Everything Revealed represented for R&B, guitar solo included.
16. Jennifer Lopez, Smokey Robinson — Dancing in the Street, Please Mr. Postman, Money That’s What I Want, War (What is it good for) and more
What an entrance. J.Lo rose up through the floor for her Motown tribute (deemed controversial by some) and made a moment by getting everyone to sing My Girl. With an Alicia Keys cameo, Lopez was unflappable.
17. Chloe x Halle — Where is the love?
With a tribute to Donny Hathaway, the internet stars added Grammy performance to their CV, along with Beyonce opening act. And they didn’t disappoint with their singularly unique duet style.
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