Let’s be honest: The Grammys are hardly about awards anymore.
In recent years, only nine of the Grammys’ more than 80 honors were handed out during the 3½-hour ceremony on CBS, with most of the awards given at a non-televised event beforehand. Instead, the telecast is primarily devoted to performances. A slew of A-list artists are lined up for Sunday’s show on CBS and Paramount+ (8 EST/5 PST), including Harry Styles, Lizzo, Bad Bunny, Brandi Carlile and Mary J. Blige.
Last year’s ceremony featured spectacular performances from Billie Eilish and BTS. We look back at more of the best music moments from Grammys past:
Tina Turner, ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It’ (1985)
With just a spotlight, a sparkling red dress and a microphone, Turner brought her boundless charisma to this simple yet soulful performance of this 1984 hit from her “Private Dancer” album. As she slinked up a staircase at the end of the number, the entire crowd leapt to its feet in admiration.
Michael Jackson, ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ / ‘Man in the Mirror’ (1988)
Although his 1987 classic “Bad” lost album of the year to U2’s “The Joshua Tree,” Jackson still won the night with this epic 10-minute medley. Alone and dancing center-stage for most of the performance, the dynamic MJ proved that all he needs is a mic and a moonwalk to captivate a crowd.
Eric Clapton, ‘Tears in Heaven’ (1993)
Two years after the tragic accidental death of his 4-year-old son, Conor, the guitar icon performed this heartbreaking tribute at the 1993 Grammys. “I want to thank my son for the love he gave me and the song he gave me,” Clapton said during the show, where the elegiac “Tears” won record and song of the year.
Whitney Houston, ‘I Will Always Love You’ (1994)
Houston opened the 1994 ceremony with a flawless and thrilling rendition of her signature “The Bodyguard” anthem, which picked up record of the year. Jennifer Hudson would later perform the track at the 2012 Grammys, movingly honoring the late legend just a day after her death.
Madonna, ‘Hung Up’ (2006)
We dare you not to smile watching this genius medley of Gorillaz’s “Feel Good Inc.” and Madonna’s ABBA-sampling hit “Hung Up.” It’s easily one of the Queen of Pop’s most vibrant and joyful performances in years.
Amy Winehouse, ‘You Know I’m No Good’ / ‘Rehab’ (2008)
Undergoing treatment for drug addiction at the time, Winehouse delivered a bewitching performance via satellite from a London soundstage, which was made to look like a posh jazz nightclub. The singular young star, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011 at age 27, went on to receive five Grammy Awards that night, including best new artist.
Beyoncé, ‘If I Were a Boy’ (2010)
This list could be filled entirely by Queen B performances, from her electrifying 2004 team-up with Prince to her divine, gravity-defying spectacle at the 2017 show. But instead, we’d like to spotlight her powerhouse pipes doing “If I Were a Boy” at the 2010 Grammys, which she effortlessly mashed up with Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.”
Pink, ‘Glitter in the Air’ (2010)
Honestly, still the most breathtaking thing we’ve ever seen on an awards show and proof that Pink is an actual superhuman. The pop star hung from the ceiling and belted vulnerable ballad “Glitter in the Air,” flying over the audience with aerial silks, and spinning and singing upside down all while soaking wet.
Lady Gaga, ‘Born This Way’ (2011)
In typically avant-garde fashion, Gaga arrived at the 2011 Grammys in a giant egg-shaped vessel, which she claimed to have stayed in for 72 hours. After being carried down the red carpet, she “hatched” on stage for a dance-heavy spin on her LGBTQ anthem “Born This Way,” which she performed in a yolk-colored latex ensemble.
Daft Punk, ‘Get Lucky’ (2014)
Where else can you get Daft Punk, Stevie Wonder, Nile Rodgers and Pharrell Williams all on one stage? Together, they played a groovy, neon-soaked mashup of “Get Lucky,” “Another Star” and “Le Freak” that had the whole audience on their feet. Come for the crowd shots of Yoko Ono and Paul McCartney boogying, stay for the bittersweet reminder that our favorite French robot DJs are no longer together.
Daft Punk, Grammy-winning electronic music duo, break up after 28 years
Elton John and Miley Cyrus, ‘Tiny Dancer’ (2018)
Disney Channel fans of a certain age might remember when “Hannah Montana: The Movie” co-stars Cyrus and Taylor Swift sang the latter’s “Fifteen” at the 2009 Grammys. But we’re partial to Cyrus’ ballgown-clad duet of “Tiny Dancer” with John in 2018, when the cross-generational talents charmingly played off each other while serving impressive vocals.
Kendrick Lamar, ‘XXX’ / ‘DNA’ / ‘New Freezer’ / ‘King’s Dead’ (2018)
Featuring a musical assist from Bono and The Edge, as well as cutting interludes from comedian Dave Chappelle, Lamar opened the Grammys with an explosive medley about racism in America, which ended with red-hooded dancers falling to the stage amid the sounds of gunfire.
St. Vincent and Dua Lipa, ‘Masseduction / One Kiss’ (2019)
Is this the hottest thing that has ever happened on TV? The pairing of Dua Lipa and alt-rock singer/guitarist Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) might’ve seemed strange on paper, but it immediately works thanks to their intense chemistry and Clark’s blistering guitar.
Demi Lovato, ‘Anyone’ (2020)
Lovato, delivering her first major performance since she was hospitalized after a drug overdose in 2018, earned a standing ovation for her raw rendition of “Anyone,” which she wrote four days before the incident. Tears streamed down her face as she effortlessly belted through its demanding vocal gymnastics. In case you forgot that Lovato is one of our most extraordinary vocalists, all you need to do is watch “Anyone.”
Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Ben Platt and Rachel Zegler, In Memoriam (2022)
A trio of Tony winners – joined by “West Side Story” breakout Zegler – harmonized gorgeously on this elegant and deeply affecting medley of songs by late Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, who died in November. By the time they all congregated on stage to perform the wistful “Somewhere” from “West Side,” we could hardly see the TV screen through our tears.
Story Credit: usatoday.com