#20. Brothers Osborne, Maren Morris, & Eric Church – Route 91 Harvest Festival tribute
I applaud the emotional and genuine nature of this performance, although it would have been nice for Manchester to get some love too. That being said, the performance was kind of messy; I don’t find their voices meshed well together and Maren surprisingly struggled to stay in her key throughout the performance. There were also slight technical issues with the mics, it wasn’t amazing.
#19. Sting & Shaggy, “Englishman In New York”
I don’t really get the point of this performance. I get that the two legends have a collaborative album releasing soon, but why not perform a single from the album? Why sing a 31-year-old song? This was a completely unnecessary performance.
#18. Elton John & Miley Cyrus, “Tiny Dancer”
I would’ve loved a performance of “Bad Mood” or “Love Someone” from Miley, but instead, we got “Tiny Dancer.” This year wasn’t a landmark anniversary year for the song, so I don’t really get why this happened. It wasn’t that good either.
#17. U2, “Get Out of Your Own Way”
This was obviously meant to be a political statement; the message was clear and poignant, but I think Camila’s introductory speech was enough. Did U2 need to feature in Kendrick’s performance, have a solo performance, and present the biggest award of the year? I don’t know. The song is great though.
#16. Little Big Town, “Better Man”
I love Little Big Town and I love this song. This wasn’t their best rendition of the song but it was still adequate, their harmonies were on point, though!
#15. Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee, “Despacito”
After shockingly being shut out and losing of all their nominations, Fonsi and Yankee still took to the stage to perform their enduring smash. The performance was kind of low energy but the backup dancers and stage design were great!
#14. Logic, Alessia Cara, & Khalid, “1-800-273-8255”
This definitely did live up to the VMAs rendition, but it was still powerful, especially Logic’s speech at the end. Alessia gave a markedly tired and lazy vocal performance and Khalid felt unnecessary. Overall the staging was kind of genius and worked well with the concept of the song.
#13. Sam Smith, “Pray”
I’m still confused as to what Sam’s second single is. He seems to be nursing a dual smash of “Palace” and “One Last Song,” but he slowed the momentum with “Pray.” The performance was adequate and sometimes the notes seemed out of reach. The choir is always a perfect touch, though!
#12. Lady Gaga & Mark Ronson, “Joanne / Million Reasons”
This started off really well. “Joanne” was an incredibly emotional performance and the vocal was very moving. Then the songs switched. I understand “Million Reasons” was nominated for a Grammy, but my god she has performed this song EVERYWHERE for almost TWO YEARS. It also didn’t help that Gaga sounded like a fire engine on her final note of the performance.
#11. Chris Stapleton & Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty tribute
This was a very pleasant performance. Chris and Emmylou had great chemistry and they delivered one of the strongest vocal performances of the night. On a side note, Chris won three Grammys last night, he deserved a solo spot.
#10. P!NK, “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken”
A performance with P!NK standing on the ground and not in the air is like finding a four-leaf clover. This time P!NK delivered an outstanding vocal performance, it was a bit pitchy in the final chorus, but it was full of raw emotion and vocal talent. I think there was a sign language interpreter present on stage, but the camera angles sucked so they seemed out of place.
#9. Gary Clark Jr. & Jon Batiste, Chuck Berry & Fats Domino tribute
Gary Clark Jr. performances should be mandatory at every award show. He and Batiste brought so much energy and vigor to the show, I almost forgot we weren’t a dive bar.
#8. Ben Platt, “Somewhere”
Pitch perfect. Platt shut every pop star on the stage down with his powerful pipes. Enough said.
#7. Kesha (with Camila Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Julia Michaels, Andra Day, and Bebe Rexha), “Praying”
This was a beautifully moving and powerful performance. Kesha gave a raptured vocal performance that was rough around the edges but filled with conviction and emotion. Now, I understand that the inclusion of the five other female artists was meant as a sign of solidarity, but they were kind of useless. Between the choir and Kesha’s own resonant voice, you couldn’t really hear the other women.
#6. Bruno Mars & Cardi B, “Finesse / Bartier Cardi”
This may have been the worst I’ve heard Bruno sing in a while, but there was so much energy and choreography that it made up for it. Cardi B is just a bundle of charisma and she was a complete natural on that stage, the quick snippet of “Bartier Cardi” was a great addition. Bruno’s extended dance break was absolutely incredible, he is the greatest male performer alive.
#5. DJ Khaled with Rihanna & Bryson Tiller, “Wild Thoughts”
It’s been a minute since Rihanna has performed on American T.V. and this performance was a fitting comeback. Not only did Rih attend after the Grammys ignored her magnum opus, ANTI, she also gifted them the nights most colorful and her best performance in recent memory. The Gatsby-esque staging and incorporation of South African choreography brought “Wild Thoughts” to a new level. Bryson Tiller was remarkedly impressive, he exhibited great energy and breath control. My one critique is simply a wish for DJ Khaled to stop talking.
#4. SZA, “Broken Clocks”
SZA brought Ctrl to church with this rendition of her latest single. She snapped. This was SZA’s strongest performance yet, and her vocal and breath control improvement is extremely impressive. The choir, the mini rap breakdown, and the live arrangement work in perfect unison. She may have gone home empty-handed but she was still a winner last night.
#3. Patti LuPone, “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina”
The fact that Patti LuPone can still deliver a vocal performance of this caliber at near 70 years old is astounding. Patti’s performance was not only a tribute to Broadway but also a case study on proper vocal nourishment and pedagogy. She served all the drama and class this classic needed, and she brought down the house.
#2. Kendrick Lamar, U2, & Dave Chapelle, “XXX. / DNA. / New Freezer / King’s Dead”
By far the most interestingly arranged performance of the night, Kendrick delivered the usual: powerful and political works of performance art. The biting combination of rap, rock, and comedy/satire brought a new texture to his DAMN. and Black Panther cuts.
#1. Childish Gambino, “Terrified”
Clearly, there is nothing Childish Gambino cannot do. His jaw-droppingly awe-inspiring performance of “Terrified” was pitch perfect and bursting with sensuality. Glover will be playing Simba in the upcoming 2019 Lion King remake alongside Beyoncé; he brought up the actor playing young Simba, JD McCrary, and he served vocals that put the majority of the night’s performers to shame. They murdered the stage.