By Madison Vain
February 15, 2016 at 12:00 PM EST
Kevin Winter/WireImage

Country quartet Little Big Town took the stage Monday night, an hour into the Grammy broadcast, to perform their sexy, somber, award-winning single “Girl Crush.”

As was also the case at the 2015 ACM and CMA Awards, the group gave a stunning trip through the song, with the welcome addition of string section to accompany their vocal harmonies.

“Girl Crush” earned the group three nominations heading into this year’s Grammy Awards ceremony: Song of the Year, Best Country Group/Duo Performance, and Best Country Song (and winners in the latter two categories before the broadcast even began). Their stellar 2014 album, Pain Killer, earned a nod for Best Country Album. (“Girl Crush” previously won Song and Single of the Year at last fall’s CMA Awards.)

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Little Big Town released “Girl Crush” as the second single off Pain Killer in December of 2014. It sold well digitally, but the gorgeously burnt jealousy ballad struggled to take off at radio, hovering around No.30 on the genre’s airplay charts months after release. By the following spring, it found itself in the center of a mild controversy — reports surfaced that part of its struggle at country radio was due to listeners calling in to complain about Fairchild’s line, “I want to taste her lips/ Yeah, ‘cause they taste like you,” reportedly upset by what they perceived to be gay content.

Despite the fact that the time of the reports, 139 of 145 stations that report airplay to Nielson confirmed to have “Girl Crush” in their rotations, the buzz worked out well for the group: The song was catapulted to No.18 on the Hot 100 and No.3 on the Country Airplay Charts, and after an invitation to perform on Fallon, No.1 on the iTunes download chart— which is just fine with us. The song is one of the best-penned accounts of envy in recent memory.

Last summer, Little Big Town was forced to cancel tour dates to break for co-lead Jimi Westbrook’s vocal cord surgery. When EW spoke with Karen Fairchild after the Grammy nominations were announced in December, she said this of her husband and bandmate’s recovery: “He’s got range that he hasn’t had in probably 15 years. He’s got all this falsetto—it’s like you go back to your childhood days with fresh chords.”

While their track tonight isn’t the best display for Westbrook, instead favoring Fairchild’s smokey vocals and Kimberly Schlapman’s delicate harmonies, Fairchild promises fans will get a peak on the next LBT record. “We’re writing some things that I think showcase it,” she says. “I mean, why not? We always want to do things we’ve never done before.”

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