1. 2014 – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis with Mary Lambert, Madonna and Queen Latifah
Whilst Beyoncé may have given them a run for their money with her sexy as hell performance of “Drunk In Love,” the performance with the most punch at last year’s awards was definitely this power-fivesome’s rendition of the slightly patronizing, but mostly amazing, “Same Love.”
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis may have had a problematic evening, scooping Best New Artist and three awards in the Rap category, leading to a storm of accusations of cultural appropriation and an entirely cringeworthy (not to mention totally self-serving) text to Kendrick Lamar, but no one’s done more for the progression of gay rights in hip-hop than the Seattle born artist. Enlisting the help of featured artist Mary Lambert, eternal gay rights activist Madonna and rapper-turned-TV personality Queen Latifah, the “Thrift Shop” stars really put their money where their mouth was and brought the house down with a mash-up of “Same Love” and Madge’s ’80s classic “Open Your Heart” which featured a mass wedding of gay and straight couples alike. Truly moving.
2. 2012 – Adele
2012’s most memorable performance may well have been Nicki Minaj’s tribute to The Exorcist (which show producer Ken Ehrlich recently revealed was one of his least favourite Grammy performances) but there’s no doubt that the 54th Grammy Awards were all about Adele.
Walking away with a record-matching six trophies, including three of the big four, Adele very firmly cemented her 2011 domination of the music industry and so, obviously, took to the stage to perform the multi-platinum break-up anthem, “Rolling In The Deep.” The performance lacked the bells and whistles of most other performances of the evening – with no huge production, no special guests and no theatrics, Adele proved that she didn’t want or need to play by anyone else’s rules. Her vocals were on point following throat surgery only three months before and the performance was the picture of grace and elegance.
3. 2010 – Lady Gaga and Elton John
Ah, for the simpler times of 2010. “Bad Romance” was on the radio, the Monster Ball had just kicked off and Lady Gaga was the biggest star in the world. It should come as no surprise then that her performance at the 2010 Grammys was one of the best of the night.
Whilst Gaga’s exploits with a giant egg and some Blond Ambition wigs in 2011 might be Gaga’s more memorable Grammy escapade, her performance with Elton John the year before is undoubtedly far better. Mashing up her mega-hit “Poker Face” with ‘The Fame Monster’ cut “Speechless” and Elton John’s signature number “Your Song,” the still reasonably fresh Lady Gaga showed us why she deserved her two wins that night. With the huge production she was already known for and predictably killer vocals, the “Just Dance” hitmaker managed to outshine Elton John – no easy feat, I’m sure you’ll agree. The performance was a fantastic mix of drama, ridiculousness and real emotion and still stands as Gaga’s best award show moment.
4. 2010 – Pink
Whilst Gaga and Elton definitely had a strong showing, no one could top Pink’s career defining, gravity defying rendition of “Glitter in the Air.” Showing the world her gymnastic prowess that the “So What” star had typically reserved for her outstanding arena tours, Pink well and truly stole the show and made the fact that she’d only picked up one solo-Grammy even less explicable.
Don’t let the simple start fool you, once Pink took to those silks and the aerial work began, there was no doubt in anyone’s minds that the self-confessed outcast of pop music was a far more outstanding performer than anyone had ever given her credit for. Being submerged in water and then spinning at an actually quite alarming speed over an audience of her peers has to have been difficult enough, but to do all that and still out-sing pretty much all the competition? Legendary. The performance also spawned this extremely entertaining interview with Oprah the following day, which is fantastic viewing if you want to watch Oprah totally fangirling over Pink.
5. 2008 – Beyoncé and Tina Turner
Even by 2008, Beyoncé had proven herself to be a staple of the Grammy awards and although she didn’t pick up either of the awards she was nominated for on the night, Queen Bey reigned supreme with this tribute to Tina Turner and the other great women of soul and R&B.
Beginning with a very ‘Beyoncé’ self-referential ode to her inspirations, the performance didn’t really hit iconic status until Miss Tuner invited Bey back on stage with her to take on Tina’s seminal hit, “Proud Mary.” Undoubtedly the former child of destiny did the legendary soul singer proud, and whilst not everyone was best pleased by the performance, it brought the house down. With two of the strongest voices in R&B history and two generations colliding, this performance certainly stands out and is probably Beyoncé’s finest Grammy offering.
6. 2006 – Gorillaz, De La Soul and Madonna
The Grammys are known for throwing together some seemingly odd collaborations – sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. One of the best examples of a bizarre pairing done well is Madge and Gorillaz’ 2006 interpretation of “Feel Good Inc.” and M’s 2005 smash “Hung Up.”
The fact that Madonna is the only artist to make more than one appearance in our list probably bodes well for her performance tonight, and she really stole the show back in 2006. Beginning with a holographic presentation of animated band Gorillaz, which might look dated now but blew everyone’s minds almost ten years ago, segueing into an acoustic version of “Hung Up,” you’d be forgiven for not seeing the fuss about this one. However, cut ahead to halfway through the performance when the un-animated Madge pops up and you’ll see why this was such an outstanding Grammy event. Although her vocals were definitely not the best we’ve ever heard them, Madonna danced her way through her tried and tested “Hung Up” set with such power and ferocity, it’s a wonder Guy Ritchie ever plucked up the courage to leave her.
Who knows what we’ll see from tonight’s collection of artists who are all undoubtedly putting the finishing touches on their respective performances as we speak? What we do know is that whether they end up being brilliant, boring or abysmal, we’ll be checking for them and you’ll be able to catch all the drama right here on BreatheHeavy.
What was YOUR favourite Grammy performance from the last decade and who are you most looking forward to seeing tonight?