This year at the Grammy awards, the Madison Square Garden stage was home to impressive sets from Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga, Kesha, U2, and more. Throughout the years, the Grammys have been a place for artists to collaborate, celebrate, perform theatrical numbers and stripped-down ballads, and even make political statements. In honor of the 60th annual Grammy Awards this past Sunday, we wanted to take a look back on some of the most iconic performances from Grammys past.
1. Michael Jackson – “The Way You Make Me Feel” & “Man in the Mirror”
In 1988, the King of Pop gave a 10-minute long performance of two of his greatest hits. He broke out some of his iconic dance movies and was joined by a gospel choir, and it was truly legendary.
2. Eric Clapton – “Tears in Heaven”
Just two years after the tragic death of his 4-year-old son, Eric Clapton took the Grammy stage in 1993 to perform “Tears in Heaven,” a song written in tribute for his son. He put on a moving performance of the emotional song, and his voice and simple guitar strumming resonated throughout the auditorium. That night, Clapton took home six awards, three of which were for “Tears in Heaven.” This year, in 2018, Eric Church, Maren Morris, and Brothers Osbourne sang the song again in memory of the victims from recent concert tragedies.
3. Tina Turner and Beyoncé- “Proud Mary”
In 2008, Queen B shared the stage with none other than musical icon, Tina Turner. Beyoncé began the set with a performance of “Déjà Vu,” honoring female artists such as Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, and Diana Ross. Then, she introduced the “Queen” Tina Turner and the two pop and R&B sensations gave an exciting duet rendition of Turner’s popular song, “Proud Mary.”
4. P!nk – “Glitter in the Air”
Inspired by the track’s name, Pink wowed the audience when she performed “Glitter in the Air” suspended in mid-air. She sang high above the crowd with a dramatic acrobatic routine, and water flew off her body while spinning through the air. Even while turning upside down, the singer never missed a note.
5. Jennifer Hudson – “I Will Always Love You”
In 2012, the music industry lost a legend when Whitney Houston died the day before the Grammy Awards. The producers quickly added Jennifer Hudson to the lineup, who performed an emotional tribute with Houston’s iconic song, “I Will Always Love You” that moved audience members and received a well-deserved standing ovation.
6. Adele – “Rolling in the Deep”
The 2012 Grammys marked the year for another iconic performance, this time by Adele. After the artist had throat surgery on her vocal cords in 2011, some fans questioned whether or not she would be able to sing again. But, with a soulful performance, she proved herself to be back, and better than ever.
7. Bruno Mars, Sting, Ziggy Marley and Rihanna – “Could You Be Loved”
This 2013 set started with Bruno singing his recent hit, “Locked Out of Heaven” with Sting by his side, but it morphed into a tribute to Bob Marley when Rihanna and Ziggy Marley joined them on stage.
8. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis – “Same Love”
In 2014, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were joined by Madonna, Mary Lambert, and Trombone Shorty to promote marriage equality and perform a mass wedding ceremony for 33 gay couples. With Queen Latifah as the officiant, this performance was not only important for the newlyweds, but also to the world as critically acclaimed artists showed their support to the LGBT community and celebrated that love shows no boundaries.
9. Kendrick Lamar – “The Blacker the Berry” & “Alright”
After the release of his sophomore album, To Pimp a Butterfly, Kenrick Lamar took the Grammy stage for one of the most striking performances of all time. He began the set walking out as part of a chain gang to perform “The Blacker the Berry,” and then “Alright” in front of a giant bonfire. He then transitioned into a brand new song before ending the set with the word “Compton” over a map of Africa. The performance served as a moving message about the black experience in America, and Lamar continues to use his platform to release politically-charged music today.
10. Kesha – “Praying”
Arguably the most powerful performance of the night, Kesha took the stage accompanied by a number of other female singers including Cyndi Lauper, Camila Cabello, Andra Day, Julia Michaels and Bebe Rexha to perform her single, “Praying” off her new album, Rainbow. Janelle Monáe introduced the song by declaring that “time’s up” for abuse of women in the entertainment industry. It was obvious that this was an emotional performance not only for all women, but especially for Kesha after her legal battle and sexual assualt from music producer, Dr. Luke. She wrote the anthem, “Praying” specifically about her experience being put “through hell” and ultimately finding peace in forgiving the man who hurt her. Understandably, Kesha started to cry when the performance was over, but she was quickly surrounded by hugs from her fellow female performers. The audience erupted in a standing ovation, and it was clear more than ever that the music industry, especially the women, are loyally by her side.
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