With the Sunday (April 3) telecast of the 64th annual Grammy Awards back to normal after two years of the global pandemic, the performances took it up a notch in celebration of (in person) togetherness.
From Olivia Rodrigo‘s suburban ode to the song that launched her into superstardom to BTS‘ James Bond-inspired “Butter” performance, the Grammys — held this year at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas — didn’t disappoint. And while comparing them was nearly impossible, here’s how we rank the 16 performances from the evening, from worst to best.
16. Justin Bieber, Giveon & Daniel Caesar, “Peaches”
While “Peaches” was one of the biggest songs of 2021 thanks to its undeniably catchy chorus, Bieber’s decision to open the song as a piano ballad and deliver lyrics such as “I took my chick up to the North, yeah, bada– b—-” as a stripped back moment felt more silly than emotional.
15. Carrie Underwood, “Ghost Story”
While Underwood’s premiere performance of “Ghost Story” had all the ambiance to be epic — from the stunning purple gown and wind machine to the heartbreaking lyrics — the emotion felt a bit absent.
14. Silk Sonic, “777”
Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak kicked off the Grammys on a fitting note with their lucky ode to Las Vegas, “777.” And while the Elvis Presley-esque costumes and full horn band brought the energy, it was disappointing to not see the duo perform “Leave the Door Open” before it won song of the year — but they premiered the song at last year’s Grammys, in March 2021, so they had already been there, done that.
13. Lady Gaga, “Love for Sale,” “Do I Love You”
Gaga’s old Hollywood tribute to her musical collaborator Tony Bennett soared due to her unquestionably flawless vocal abilities, but Bennett’s presence was sorely missed.
12. Brothers Osborne, “Dead Man’s Curve”
While Brothers Osborne’s passionate performance of “Dead Man’s Curve” was a fun way to wrap up the Grammys, host Trevor Noah running up onstage after to wrap up the show took away from the duo’s big Grammys moment. Thankfully, Brothers Osborne walked home with the Grammy for best country/duo group performance.
11. Ben Platt, Leslie Odom Jr., Cynthia Erivo & Rachel Zegler, In Memoriam Tribute
Broadway’s best came together to mourn those we lost over the past year, while also paying tribute to the late Stephen Sondheim, who died at the age of 91 last November. The powerful quartet came together to sing “Somewhere” from West Side Story to wrap up the performance, showcasing their individual talents on a poignant level.
10. Nas, “I Can,” “One Mic,” “Rare” and “Made You Look”
Nas’ medley of career-spanning hits kicked off with a teenager portraying a younger version of himself, adding a heartwarming tone to an already inspiring performance.
9. J Balvin, “Qué Más Pues?” and “In Da Getto”
Talk about top-tier stage production. J Balvin’s flawlessly intimate “Qué Más Pues?” duet with Maria Becerra quickly turned into a a futuristic Sin City nightclub, as Balvin joined rows of synchronized dancers for a visually appealing performance of “In Da Getto.”
8. Chris Stapleton, “Cold”
Stapleton’s heartbreaking vocals backed by an orchestra for “Cold,” complete with a guitar solo, was more than enough to give us chills.
7. Jon Batiste, “Freedom”
Batiste’s mind-blowing piano musings and vocal runs, mixed with a groovy, colorful stage full of dancers dressed like stylish Dr. Seuss characters felt like a futuristic dream sequence and trippy dance party in the best way.
6. Olivia Rodrigo, “Drivers License”
Rodrigo made a great choice to keep her performance of “Drivers License” straightforward, starting off, of course, in the driver’s seat of a car before she belted the song while sauntering around a stage transformed into a suburban street. The performance’s simplicity allowed the song’s relatable emotion to shine through, reminding viewers that the best new artist winner deserved all the recognition she got.
5. Brandi Carlile, “Right On Time”
We needed nothing more than Brandi Carlile in a mirrorball-decorated suit, performing “Right On Time” on a grand piano, to be impressed by her wildly powerful vocals. She grabbed her guitar and joined her band to complete an overall solid performance.
4. Billie Eilish, “Happier Than Ever”
Wearing a T-shirt honoring late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, Eilish delivered some of her best vocals yet as she performed her sophomore album’s title track alongside her brother Finneas, with both of them laughing and looking like they were having an absolute blast.
3. Lil Nas X & Jack Harlow, “Dead Right Now,” “Montero” & “Industry Baby”
Leave it to Lil Nas X to bring the choreography, creativity and sexiness to the Grammy stage. The medley of his Montero hits felt like futuristic journey through the star’s success, from making headlines with his mischievous music videos to becoming a full blown “Industry Baby” with a “couple racks, couple Grammys on him.”
2. John Legend, “Free”
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy introduced the stirring performance by urging everyone watching to support Ukraine however they can. “The war — what is more opposite to music? The silence of ruined cities and killed people,” he said in his impassioned speech. “We defend our freedom. To live. To love. To sound. On our land, we are fighting Russia, which brings horrible silence with its bombs — the dead silence. Fill the silence with your music.”
Legend, who performed “Free” on piano, was joined by a number of Ukrainian artists including Siuzanna Iglidan, Mika Newton and poet Lyuba Yakimchuk, who fled Ukraine “just days ago.” While the performance called attention to the senseless suffering in Ukraine, it portrayed how unifying music can be.
1. BTS, “Butter”
Smooth like butter, indeed. The Grammy-nominated septet took their “criminal undercover” lyrics to a whole new level with their 007-inspired performance of their Billboard Hot 100-topping track. Jin, Jimin, V, RM, J-Hope, Suga and Jungkook dodged neon-blue lasers during a sleek choreography sequence and transformed the whole Grammys stage into a secret agent headquarters, proving that their creativity is equally as impressive as their musical talent.
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