Lady Gaga's Tribute to David Bowie
After walking the red carpet in Bowie-esque red hair and a blue satin floor-length jacket over a sequined leotard, Lady Gaga’s full tribute to the late David Bowie comprised nine of his hit songs and spared no sparkle. As Gaga opened the act, singing “Space Oddity,” she was filmed close up, her eyes closed while a light effect made it look like molten gold dripped down her forehead and a spider crawled down her face. She stepped across the stage and transitioned into “Changes,” after which she tore off her long white cloak to reveal a glittering white jumpsuit. She sang “Ziggy Stardust” into “Suffragette City” into “Rebel Rebel,” all while the screen behind her showed stars and lightning and dancing astronauts. She was joined by backup dancers for “Fashion,” which she transitioned into “Fame” and then “Under Pressure.” Next up was “Let’s Dance,” after which the stage went dark and she appeared to be finished — until she launched into a soaring rendition of “Heroes,” while stars sparkled behind her onscreen.
The cast of Hamilton performs
In the Grammys’ fourth-ever live performance broadcast via satellite (and one of the most highly anticipated moments of the night), the cast of the Broadway smash Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s historical hip-hop musical that’s blowing up the Great White Way, performed the opening number from the show. Stephen Colbert introduced the performance from New York’s Richard Rodgers Theatre. “This is a New York story,” he said of the show (which is sold out until this fall). “This is an American story; this is nothing like you’ve ever experienced.” Later in the show, after Hamilton won the Grammy for Best Musical Theater album, Miranda accepted the award from New York, in costume, rapping his acceptance speech. The man is non-stop!
Kendrick Lamar Performs
Lamar led the pack this year with 11 nominations, and he proved why with this powerful, political mid-telecast performance. Weighed down by chains, he opened with “Blacker the Berry” before dragging himself across the stage to rap “Alright” in front of a huge blazing fire and surrounded by energetic dancers. He finished with a new song, after which he stood triumphant on the stage, backlit by a map of Africa labeled “Compton.” Having successfully delivered one of the most defining moments of the night, Lamar received an extending standing ovation from the audience.
Lionel Richie Tribute
The Grammys’ tribute to Lionel Richie, this year’s MusiCares Person of the Year, made up for its low-key effects and wardrobe with major star power and enthusiasm. John Legend opened the tag-teamed performance, crooning “Easy” at a piano before introducing Demi Lovato, whose powerful performance of “Hello” was cheered on by Richie himself in the audience. Luke Bryan followed Lovato with “Penny Lover,” then introduced Best New Artist winner Meghan Trainor, who sang “You Are” before Tyrese came out to deliver “Brick House.” After the five singers performed, Richie himself, wearing a sparkly gunmetal blazer, joined them onstage for an ebullient performance of “All Night Long,” which they sang against a backdrop of the word LIONEL flashing in huge letters.
Glenn Frey Tribute
Jackson Browne joined with past and present Eagles members Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Joe Walsh, and Tim Schmidt to honor Glenn Frey, one of the group’s founding members, who passed away Jan. 18. The tribute performance consisted of the band’s beloved song “Take It Easy,” which Browne co-wrote. An image of Frey smiled from the wall behind them, and the performance got an enthusiastic standing ovation from the audience.
Andra Day and Ellie Goulding
Following an introduction from Selena Gomez, Andra Day stepped into her performance space, a circular platform surrounded by flowered panels, in a spectacular floor-length white coat. After singing a few bars of her nominated song “Rise Up,” she called out “my new friend” Goulding, who came out in a sparkly black dress and sang part of “Love Me Like You Do,” which was nominated for two Grammys. Day joined her on the chorus, and the pair switched back and forth between the two songs. As noted live-tweeter Anna Kendrick observed, “Whoever thought to put those two voices together — well done.”
Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix Honor Maurice White
In another tribute to a legendary musician who died this year, Stevie Wonder teamed with Pentatonix to honor Maurice White of Earth, Wind, and Fire, who passed away on Feb. 4. “Time and time again, we find solace in the healing power of music,” Wonder said before performing “That’s the Way of the World” with the a cappella group. Then, before presenting the award for Song of the Year (to Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”), he teased the singers behind him for being unable to read the braille on the card in the envelope and added, addressing the audience, “We need to make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability.” The room exploded in cheers.
Sam Hunt and Carrie Underwood Team Up
Nominees Sam Hunt and Carrie Underwood teamed up for a romantic, country-powered duet early in the show. Both wearing white and black, they mashed up Underwood’s “Heartbeat” with Hunt’s “Take Your Time.” The Twitterverse approved, though we couldn’t help but notice similarities to another recent live TV event…
Taylor Swift's Big Night
Swift, who was nominated for seven Grammys this year, swapped out the red crop top and voluminous pink skirt she rocked on the red carpet for a sleek, sparkly black jumpsuit. She wore the getup to open the ceremony with a performance of “Out of the Woods,” the most recent single off 1989. Singing against a backdrop of twisty trees that looked like the setting of a dark fairy tale, Swift addressed a few lines to Jack Antonoff, who co-wrote and produced the song and played guitar for the performance. “Welcome to the 2016 Grammy Awards,” Swift cried in a break in the song, “but right now, it’s 1989!”
At the end of the show, 1989 won Album of the Year — making Swift the first woman to ever receive the honor twice. In her acceptance speech, Swift said, “There are going to be people along the way who are going to try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame” (she may or may not have been talking about Kanye West). “But if you just focus on the work and you don’t let those people sidetrack you,” Swift continued, “someday, when you get where you’re going, you’ll look around and know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there. And that will be the greatest feeling in the world.”
The Weeknd Takes the Stage
The Weeknd, who was nominated for seven Grammys, gave a soulful performance early in the show of two singles off his nominated album Beauty Behind the Madness. He opened with “Can’t Feel My Face,” during which he stood by himself in a darkened box onstage, surrounded by colorful flashing lights. He stepped out of it and walked down to the main stage for a mournful, stripped-down version of “In the Night,” accompanied by a pianist and a cellist. And as if seven nominations wasn’t enough of an honor, the singer got a standing ovation from Adele following his performance.
Joey Alexander Stuns
Late in the show, 12-year-old jazz prodigy Joey Alexander took the stage for a breathtaking piano performance that proved why he deserved the honor of being one of the youngest Grammy nominees in history. After his performance, Common and Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow spoke earnestly about the importance of compensating artists in the music industry. “We have to ensure that the work of these gifted artists is truly valued,” Portnow said, “so that our industry not only survives, but thrives for our next generation.”