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Best Grammy Performances 2019

The 2019 Grammys showed up. While a few big names like Beyonce, Grande, and Swift didn’t even set foot in Staples Center in Los Angeles, there were some memorable moments from a wide range of performances.

1. Dolly Parton, Kasey Musgraves, Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus and more Dolly Parton tribute

Musgraves and Katy Perry kicked things off in bedazzled red jumpsuits for “Here You Come Again,” while Parton strolled out stage, glowing in white. “Thank you, Katy, thank you, Kacey, appreciate that,” Parton said, with her brand of southern charm polite, as her goddaughter Miley Cyrus arrived in sparkly gold for “Jolene,” which she has been covering for years. Miley Cyrus knows her Jolene. This fully gets Miley the props she deserves. Little Big Town emerged next for Parton’s new song for the “Dumplin’” soundtrack, “Red Shoes,” giving her a few minutes to show off just how strong her voice still is. Parton had the entire audience out of air chairs in a feel-good sing-along-long with the energy of a full-on gospel -revival, It was an absolutely fitting and celebratory ending to her performance. With a host of other artists, along with Dolly herself (in red shoes), the Grammys’ Dolly Parton tribute did not disappoint.

2. Alicia Keys Killing Me Softly, Unforgettable, Use Somebody, New York and more

Alicia Keys should just cover everyone else’s songs for the rest of the night. Did we expect a performance from her at a made-up piano bar called “Club Keys?” No, we did not see this coming. But we’re glad it came. She plays two pianos at one time. She wears a Carmen San Diego hat. What can’t the host of the 61st Grammys do? Alicia Keys’ love of music was radiant and one highlight of the show, not to mention her music itself.  Keys started off by playing two pianos at once — that immediately got our attention — and then covered a bunch of songs. “You know those songs that just live inside you?” she said, “that you wish you wrote?”  She performed snippets of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly”; Juice WRLD’s “Lucid Dreams (Forget Me)”; Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable”; Coldplay’s “Clocks”; King of Leon’s “Use Somebody”; Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up” (which was a shock to Mai, who sat flabbergasted in the audience); and Lauryn Hill’s “Doo-Wop (That Thing).” When she finally sang her own song, even though she had already left us craving an entire cover album from her, Empire State of Mind reminded us how fitting it is that she makes the top of this list.

Alicia Keys. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images for the Recording Academy)

3. Cardi B-Money

Yes, the girl who plays piano for Cardi B and whose name everyone wants to know now (Chloe Flower). That look right into the camera like she was some kind of piano mass murderer ready to slay you with the note she was about to play. Chills. Grammy-winning Cardi B (for Best Rap Album) the actual main act tore up a stage padded with purple straight out of an underground jazz club. Then she saluted Wakanda. Forever.  She also was genuinely humbled and shaken by the magnitude of her winning Rap Album of the Year. Her vulnerability, comedic outbursts of frankness and overall badassery- just take our money, Cardi!

 

4. Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson — Shallow

Gaga was in rockstar mode, not the pop princess Gaga but full on rockstar mode starting with that glittery jumpsuit. Without her singing partner Bradley Cooper (he was at the BAFTAs), Gaga was solo for the Oscar-nominated Shallow, the song that featured in the Oscar-nominated A Star Is Born and that won her Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at this year’s Grammys. Experimental dance moves to spare, Gaga writhed around with a microphone, making some wild gestures and engaging in intense staredowns with co-writer Mark Ronson as she roamed and stalked the stage next to him. Her talent runs deep and her rock star status was clear on stage, which she shared with equally up-for-it British DJ Mark Ronson.

5. H.E.R. Hard Place

Sparkly disco ball suit, a cool translucent clear guitar, and John Lennon round sunnies Do you not know H.E.R.? You will now. Already having won earlier in the night for best R&B performance for “Best Part,” the 21-year-old singer showed an easy command of the Grammy main stage with “Hard Place,” giving us a wow-she-can-sing moment. The spotlight shined only on her during the first part of her performance before the lights slowly came up, showing jeans-wearing violinists and backup singers (which, thank you, it’s nice to see performers dressed comfortably for work for a change). Her smooth vocals were reminiscent of Alicia Keys, who lovingly introduced her, and then H.E.R. let a solo effortlessly rip on a transparent guitar. As she closed, singing “I’m caught between your love,” she took a big pause, and we heard “sing it, girl” from the audience — one of the few unscripted, honest responses we heard during the performances — before she expertly finished, “and a hard place.”

 

5. Brandi Carlile

While many of the night’s performances doubled as showcases for eye-popping sets and complex choreography, Brandi Carlile took a more no-frills approach to perform her anthem “The Joke.” Contrasting with the razzle-dazzle, Brandi Carlile went lower key, bringing all the compassion with a song about the misrepresented out there. She recently said it’s “an important song and I think the song’s success says more about our nation’s willingness to receive it than it does actually what I’m saying and what I’m doing.” The most-nominated woman at the 61st Grammys delivered head-shaking goodness. Even Post Malone approved. Take a bow.

Brandi Carlile 2019 Grammys

6. St. Vincent, Dua Lipa — Masseducation Respect, One Kiss

When Dua Lipa crept out from the back of the stage to join St. Vincent out front, it made a perfect duo. Matching bob cuts and black-and-white outfits are all you need, apparently. Their interpretation of Aretha Franklin’s Respect was a highlight, along with St. Vincent’s guitar solo. The two were perfectly in sync, even if Dua Lipa, newly awarded Grammy winner for Best New Artist, needed bobby pins to hold up her dress. The indie rocker and pop singer teamed up for the steamiest performance of the night, performing ‘Masseducation’ and ‘One Kiss’ while white strobes cut through the fog. The two women swirled around each other as they performed — reminding the audience at a fairly sexless award show of music’s sensual side.

Best Grammys Performance 2019 St.Vincent Dua LipaSt. Vincent, left, and Dua Lipa. (Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

7. Aretha Franklin tribute-Yolanda Adams, Fantasia, Andra Day

The Grammys booked the right trio to honor Aretha Franklin, who died in August at 76. Gospel singer Yolanda Adams and Fantasia, who both performed at Franklin’s funeral, and Andra Day, did the Queen of Soul justice with their take on “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” The song came seamlessly after the regular In Memoriam montage, with the three singers standing in the middle of the audience on a small stage. They definitely brought the goods, belting out the lyrics and taking us all to church. But it was too short; has everyone tired of Franklin tributes already? If only the Grammy telecast had blocked off more time for a Franklin send-off.

8. Janelle Monae

Here comes Janelle Monáe to wake us back up. Known as a performer with very deliberate aesthetic choices, she sang “Make Me Feel” co-written by Prince and while backed by a bunch of dancers dressed like sexy Stormtroopers and others wearing her famous vagina pants. If anyone watching at home zoned out, her line from “Django Jane” to “let the vagina have a monologue!” probably got their attention. And there was her own trademark, infectiously joyful dancing while channeling some Prince vibes. Heck, she even moonwalked. Prince would have been proud.

9. Dan + Shay

Poor Dan + Shay (the country duo of Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney) had to follow Alicia Keys’s incredible acoustic piano medley, but they more than held their own with a pitch-perfect version of their smash hit “Tequila,” which earlier in the night won best country duo-group performance. There was no denying Mooney’s vocal power as he skillfully belted out that final “we get it, you can sing” high note.

Dan + Shay 2019 Grammys
Dan + Shay (Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

10. Diana Ross

The Detroit-born singer famous for The Supremes is one of the most successful Motown singers of all time. Introduced by her grandson, she burst onto the stage in a redder-than-red dress. Diana Ross, who turns 75 on March 26, did what only Diana Ross can do: She just publicly celebrated her own birthday six weeks early in a performance that can only be pulled off like a true diva. Right to the end, she’s given us the best years of our lives. She couldn’t hold the tears back. Also, how can she be 74? Happy birthday!

Diana Ross 2019 Grammys
Diana Ross (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

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