When Grammy performances turn out to be unprecedented spectacles, they are more likely to be remembered.
Among top moments of Grammy’s past are P!nk flying over the audience, twirling in giant ribbons hanging from the ceiling as she sang “Glitter in the Air” in 2010 and Kanye West marching on stage dressed as a bandleader to perform “Gold Digger” in 2006.
Of the many artists that took the stage at the 58th annual Grammy Awards Monday night, it was once again the show-stopping, elaborate performances that made the show memorable, and the acts that played it safe were easily forgettable.
The Weeknd’s choice to keep his performance simple and classic relied on his ability to command the stage solo, but he couldn’t quite deliver on his own.
The Weeknd sang “Can’t Feel My Face” in front of a backdrop of changing lights while dressed in a tuxedo, an unlikely attire for the singer who usually dons black leather and sneakers on stage. He then transitioned into a stripped-down version of “In the Night,” a lacking rendition that failed to do the distinctly upbeat pop song justice.
Perhaps the absence of Lauryn Hill, who was present at a dress rehearsal for a surprise duet with The Weeknd but cancelled due to the performance’s last-minute nature, could be a reason for The Weeknd’s rather humdrum performance. Without an exciting backdrop or a guest performer to help him, watching The Weeknd sing on stage felt like something, or someone, was missing.
Kendrick Lamar’s performance captured the dynamics of a theatrical number to bring the social message of his lyrics to life.
Lamar, with his hands in chains, dragged his feet to the microphone to rap “The Blacker the Berry,” with prison cells in the background. He then performed the anthem “Alright” surrounded by dancers in tribal wear with an enormous fire ablaze on stage.
The camerawork of quick changing, close-up angles on Lamar as he rapped a never-before heard verse only added to the charged statements like “This is modern day slavery.” He ended his performance with an image of the map of Africa, with his hometown name of “Compton” written in the center.
Lamar’s performance could have easily been executed with flashy staginess, but instead he crafted a striking performance, embodying his candid, powerful lyrics that tell of the struggles of black Americans today.
Lady Gaga’s tribute to David Bowie included psychedelic colors, glitter eyeshadow and a giant computer-generated spider crawling across an image of her face on the screen – all elements of an eccentric homage to the late artist.
Sporting Bowie’s signature red hairstyle, Gaga performed a medley of nine of Bowie’s famous hits, including “Space Oddity,” “Changes” and “Heroes.”
Avoiding a typical, emotional tribute, Gaga created an exciting celebration of Bowie’s career that was just the right amount of weirdness to capture Bowie’s spirit and Grammy viewers.
The theatrical influences of the night were most prominent in the performance of the opening number of the broadway musical “Hamilton,” filmed live in the Richard Rodgers Theatre in New York City.
The dramatic ensemble number included actors rapping directly to the camera, the talented cast’s impressive choral belts and the dancers’ interpretative-style movement on stage captured by wide camera shots.
The sheer rarity of seeing middle-aged men rap in eighteenth-century garb was an entertaining break from performances by mainstream artists on the Staples Center stage.
Adele’s highly anticipated performance of “All I Ask,” a song co-written with Bruno Mars, disappointingly fell short.
Though Adele can hold an audience without the need of any fancy stage set up or backup dancers, the simplicity of her performance highlighted an overt audio glitch. Sound malfunctions in the beginning of the performance muted some of her vocals and created awkward guitar strums that overpowered the piano ballad. This error caused Adele’s belting notes to fall flat for the rest of the song.
Though her performance suffered from setbacks and a harsh golden backlight that made her image blurry, Adele’s subpar performance was still better than most of the other artists in the room.
– Alexa Gonzales