The Grammys aren’t until Sunday, but the festivities leading up the main event are already in full swing. For the fourth year in a row — okay, technically the last one was in December of 2016 — Jack Antonoff rounded up his musician pals and famous friends for the Ally Coalition Talent Show, which raises money to help homeless LGBTQ youth (you can donate here). With one-off covers, rare collaborations, and acoustic reinterpretations of artists’ biggest hits, it’s a chance to see your favorite musicians as you’d never see them on tour — right down to the cheesy Christmas lights. Here’s what you missed at New York City’s Town Hall theater.
Lorde ran away with Carly Rae Jepsen
Lorde has great taste in cover songs: In the past year she’s taken on Robyn, Phil Collins, the 1975, and Bruce Springsteen, and she once planned to cover Rihanna’s “Umbrella” with Charli XCX and Tove Lo at a festival that was ultimately rained out. At the Ally Coalition Talent Show, she continued her hot streak by covering — cue the sax solo! — Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Run Away With Me,” joined by Antonoff on the piano. Judging by the gasps that broke out throughout the room, it was the evening’s true OMG moment. (The pair also covered Roy Orbison’s “You Got It,” but honorable mention for Best Cover Song of the Night goes to members of Spoon, who performed a rendition of “Isolation” from John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.)
Kacey Musgraves previewed new music
When Kacey Musgraves announced her upcoming album, Golden Hour, in EW’s First Look issue last year, she revealed that the album includes a fan-favorite track she’s played live for years but never officially released. Now we know the deal: When the country singer introduced the album cut “Rainbow,” she mentioned that she wrote it about five years ago (there are YouTube videos of her performing it throughout the years) and added that it was one of her grandmother’s favorite songs. Dressed in sparkling black bell-bottoms — perhaps a nod to the disco influences she says are on the record — Musgraves also sang the Golden Hour track “Butterflies” and her 2013 song “Follow Your Arrow,” which featured a fitting message of LGBTQ inclusion: “Make lots of noise/Kiss lots of boys/Or kiss lots of girls/If that’s something you’re into.”
Bleachers paid tribute to the Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan
Bleachers have a special connection to the Cranberries, whose front woman, Dolores O’Riordan, died earlier this month at the age of 46: Bleachers guitarist Mikey Hart toured with the band, and Bleachers have also covered the Irish group’s “Dreams” several times before (most notably, at Lollapalooza in 2014). In her honor, they revived their cover of the 1992 track, though the evening’s version was, fittingly, more somber and bare-bones.
Lorde got her ‘Green Light’ — and expertly handled a heckler
“Green Light” is one of the most kinetic tracks on Melodrama (EW’s No. 1 album of 2017!), but it works equally well stripped down — and that’s not necessarily a given, considering all the overlapping vocal parts and Antonoff’s quirky production. Yet Lorde proved she didn’t need much more than a piano to capture the song’s anthemic energy, letting the audience handle the massive hook — “I’m waiting for it, that green light, I want it!” — while she got up and danced around the stage. The moment was almost derailed, however: As she thanked the crowd for their friendliness, an audience heckler shouted “In Israel, they’re nice too!” in reference to her recent decision to cancel a concert in Tel Aviv. Lorde responded kindly, though Antonoff was more fired up: “F— that negativity!”
Bleachers gave a new song its live debut
Musgraves wasn’t the only one playing new music: Antonoff’s Bleachers set toward the end of the evening included the first live performance of “Alfie’s Song,” from the upcoming Love, Simon soundtrack, which Antonoff is curating. (In addition to new music from Antonoff, the set will also feature new tunes from Khalid, Fifth Harmony’s Normani Kordei, MØ, and Troye Sivan when it drops March 16.) The other Bleachers highlight? An acoustic version of “I Wanna Get Better,” which was pin-drop quiet during the verses but became a moving singalong during the chorus.
Comedians kept the mood light
The Talent Show wasn’t all about music — it also featured comedy sets from Aparna Nancherla, whose musings about New York winters and anxiety you can find bits and pieces of here; Jacqueline Novak, whose riveting monologue about french fries will probably change the way you share food with your friends if you ever get to hear it; 2 Dope Queens podcast co-host Phoebe Robinson, who devoted several minutes of her set to the absurdities of the Kingsman: Secret Service; and Mike Birbiglia, who, while discussing his bumpy path to fatherhood, somehow made talk of sperm and pornography sound sorta wholesome. (Still, that didn’t stop him from repeatedly apologizing to young audience member in attendance.)
Everyone sang along to Fleetwood Mac
It’s tradition for Antonoff to close out the Ally Coalition Talent Show with a cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” — and this year was no different. (And it had nothing to do, he clarified, with the fact that Fleetwood Mac are being honored at the annual pre-Grammys MusiCares Person of the Year concert later this week). He also invited all the performers out — many of whom sat in the corners of the stage throughout the night, watching each other’s sets — to join him on stage and sing along. Kacey Musgraves and Phoebe Robinson belting along to Fleetwood Mac? What do we have to do to get an invite to that karaoke session of our dreams?