The Grammy Awards is the biggest, most glamorous night in the music calendar each year — a star-studded evening of some unforgettable performances… and others that fall flat.
Monday’s gala in Los Angeles was no different. While Kendrick Lamar and Lady Gaga lit up the stage, others including Adele — who admitted to technical difficulties — and Taylor Swift were underwhelming.
Here is a look at the show-stopping acts — and some of the more cringeworthy turns:
– Kendrick on fire –
Lamar may not have won any of the top prizes, but he certainly won the night in terms of sheer star power.
The rapper, who has emerged as a voice of the Black Lives Matter movement, offered up an intense, politically charged performance that took him from a prison — in shackles, no less — to a joyous bonfire in Africa with dancers in traditional dress.
The 28-year-old started out in chains and a prison uniform, with strobes flashing on the jailhouse set, as he treated the audience to a jazz-rock version of “The Blacker The Berry.”
He then shifted into “Alright,” the unofficial anthem of the movement against police abuse targeting African Americans.
His rapid-fire delivery of lyrics ignited the audience, which gave him a standing ovation.
– Gaga to the rescue –
Another of the night’s top moments came when the inimitable Lady Gaga appeared for her David Bowie tribute in a nuclear-orange wig — and with a giant projected spider crawling across her face.
The number was not short on song titles — she sang bits of 10 hits, from “Space Oddity” and “Ziggy Stardust” to “Let’s Dance” and “Heroes.”
It was a messy, chaotic performance that prioritized sight over sound and ended up being a tribute more to Bowie’s showmanship than to his musical accomplishments.
The flawed-but-fun performance however had the audience on their feet, and Gaga was worthy of the long standing ovation she received — both for her stamina and for eclipsing the dreary ballads that started the evening.
– A cappella Wonder –
Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix wowed the Staples Center with a tribute to Maurice White, the funk legend founder of Earth, Wind and Fire who died 10 days ago.
The impromptu a cappella performance, reportedly put together at the last minute, had the audience on their feet as the Texan warblers beatboxed to Wonder’s rendition of “That’s the Way of the World.”
“Too often lately, we’ve experienced painful losses in our musical family. But time and time again, we find solace in the healing power of music,” Wonder told the crowd.
– Hello again, Lionel Richie –
John Legend, Demi Lovato, Meghan Trainor, Tyrese Gibson and Luke Bryan delivered a smoother-than-silk tribute to four-time Grammy winner Lionel Richie, who was the Person of the Year for MusiCares, the charity arm of the Grammys.
Legend opened with a velvety rendition of “Easy Like Sunday Morning” before Lovato took over with a powerful “Hello” that had Richie nodding along in his seat.
The crooner got up on stage to help out as they rounded off with crowd-pleaser “All Night Long,” with several celebs including Beck looking visibly moved and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl rocking out in his seat.
– Shake It Off –
Taylor Swift opened the show sporting a short bob and sheer black jumpsuit studded with crystals for a not-so-sparkly performance of her smash hit “Out of the Woods” on a stage surrounded by appropriately lifeless looking trees.
The show then plodded its way through several more ballads, with Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt mashing up their hits “Take Your Time” and “Heartbeat” and The Weeknd offering a medley of “Can’t Feel My Face” and “In the Night.”
– Adele and the (bad) mic –
Backlit beside a grand piano, 10-time Grammy winner Adele looked her usual sultry self — but she sounded anything but.
The British songstress belted out power ballad “All I Ask” during a performance beset by technical problems. At times, the singer sounded out of tune.
Viewers at home took to Twitter to complain about the poor sound quality after it cut out midway through the song, with some accusing the guitarist of playing out of key.
The problems appeared to push Adele off kilter, as she too began to lose concentration with an uncharacteristically off-key performance.
Later, she tweeted, “The piano mics fell on to the piano strings, that’s what the guitar sound was. It made it sound out of tune. Shit happens.”
But she sounded upbeat, saying she was treating herself to a burger from fast food chain In-N-Out over the mishap and adding: “So maybe it was worth it.”