Let’s face it: the Grammys are no longer about awards.
In recent years, only nine of the Grammys’ more than 80 honours have been presented during the 312 hour ceremony on CBS, with the majority of the awards being presented at a pre-televised event. Instead, the focus of the show is on the performances. A-list performers for Sunday’s show on CBS and Paramount+ (8 EST/5 PST) include Harry Styles, Lizzo, Bad Bunny, Brandy Carlile, and Mary J. Blige.
Billie Eilish and BTS performed spectacularly at last year’s ceremony. We look back at some of the best music moments from previous Grammy ceremonies:
‘What’s Love Got to Do With It?’ by Tina Turner (1985)
Turner brought her boundless charisma to this simple yet soulful performance of this 1984 hit from her “Private Dancer” album, using only a spotlight, a sparkling red dress, and a microphone. The entire audience applauded as she slinked up a staircase at the end of the number.
‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ / ‘Man in the Mirror,’ Michael Jackson (1988)
Despite losing album of the year to U2’s “The Joshua Tree” with his 1987 classic “Bad,” Jackson won the night with this epic 10-minute medley. The dynamic MJ proved that all he needs to captivate a crowd is a mic and a moonwalk by dancing center-stage for the majority of the performance.
‘Tears in Heaven,’ by Eric Clapton (1993)
Two years after the tragic accidental death of his 4-year-old son, Conor, the guitar legend delivered this heartfelt tribute at the Grammys in 1993. “I want to thank my son for the love he gave me and the song he gave me,” Clapton said at the ceremony, where the elegiac “Tears” won record and song of the year.
‘I Will Always Love You,’ Whitney Houston (1994)
Houston kicked off the 1994 ceremony with a flawless and thrilling performance of her signature “The Bodyguard” anthem, which won record of the year. Jennifer Hudson would later perform the song at the 2012 Grammy Awards, paying moving tribute to the late legend just a day after her death.
Madonna’s “Hung Up” (2006)
We dare you not to smile while listening to this brilliant medley of Gorillaz’s “Feel Good Inc.” and Madonna’s ABBA-inspired hit “Hung Up.” It’s without a doubt one of the Queen of Pop’s most vibrant and joyful performances in recent memory.
‘You Know I’m No Good’ / ‘Rehab’ by Amy Winehouse (2008)
Winehouse, who was undergoing drug treatment at the time, delivered a bewitching performance via satellite from a London soundstage designed to look like a posh jazz nightclub. The unique young star, who died of alcohol poisoning at the age of 27 in 2011, went on to win five Grammy Awards that night, including best new artist.
‘If I Were a Boy,’ by Beyoncé (2010)
This list could be entirely made up of Queen B performances, from her electrifying 2004 collaboration with Prince to her divine, gravity-defying display at the 2017 show. Instead, we’d like to highlight her powerful vocals when she performed “If I Were a Boy” at the 2010 Grammys, which she seamlessly mashed up with Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.”
‘Glitter in the Air,’ Pink (2010)
To be honest, it’s still the most stunning thing we’ve ever seen on an awards show, and proof that Pink is a true superhuman. The pop star hung from the ceiling and belted out the vulnerable ballad “Glitter in the Air,” flying over the audience with aerial silks and spinning and singing upside down while drenched.
‘Born This Way,’ Lady Gaga (2011)
Gaga arrived at the 2011 Grammy Awards in a massive egg-shaped vessel, which she claimed she had stayed in for 72 hours. She “hatched” on stage after being carried down the red carpet for a dance-heavy rendition of her LGBTQ anthem “Born This Way,” which she performed in a yolk-colored latex ensemble.
‘Get Lucky,’ Daft Punk (2014)
Where else can you see Daft Punk, Stevie Wonder, Nile Rodgers, and Pharrell Williams perform on the same stage? They performed a groovy, neon-soaked mashup of “Get Lucky,” “Another Star,” and “Le Freak” that got the entire audience up and dancing. Come for the crowd shots of Yoko Ono and Paul McCartney boogying, and stay for the heartbreaking reminder that our favourite French robot DJs are no longer together.
‘Tiny Dancer,’ by Elton John and Miley Cyrus (2018)
Disney Channel viewers of a certain age may recall Cyrus and Taylor Swift performing the latter’s “Fifteen” at the 2009 Grammy Awards. However, we prefer Cyrus’ ballgown-clad duet of “Tiny Dancer” with John in 2018, when the cross-generational performers charmingly played off each other while serving impressive vocals.