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Best Grammy Performances: 10 Unforgettable Awards Appearances
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List & Guides

Best Grammy Performances: 10 Unforgettable Awards Appearances

From legendary rock acts to modern-day pop firebrands, the best Grammy performances have blazed a trail and earned their place in history.

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As one of the music industry’s most prestigious awards shows, the Grammy Awards has been one of the biggest calendar events of the year since it was established in 1959. At every ceremony, the most iconic names in music take to the stage to deliver show-stopping performances, making the Grammys essential viewing for music fans across the world. Naturally, the best Grammy performances have become legendary for their musicality and showmanship, allowing artists to create memories that last a lifetime and, in some cases, make history.

From legendary collaborations to unique solo performances, there is no shortage of stunning live spectacles at the Grammys. Here, then, is our list of the best Grammys performances of all time.

Listen to our Rock Classics playlist here, and check out the best Grammy performances of all time, below.

10: Daft Punk, Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers: Get Lucky/Harder Better Faster Stronger/Around The World/Another Star (2014)

Hot off the heels of their starry-eyed team-up with Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, Daft Punk invited the Neptunes producer and the Chic guitarist to play a live Grammys performance with Motown legend Stevie Wonder in 2014. Running through a cosmic mashup of their international No.1 hit Get Lucky, along with earlier hits Harder Better Faster Stronger and Around The World, the French duo even worked in elements of Chic’s disco sensation Le Freak and Stevie Wonder’s 1977 single Another Star. Adding a suitably futuristic touch with their signature electronic beats, Daft Punk’s performance was almost like peering into a dazzling portal to a parallel universe.

9: Eric Clapton: Tears In Heaven (1993)

Eric Clapton’s rendition of Tears In Heaven at the 1993 Grammys will forever be remembered as one of the most emotional and heartfelt of the best Grammy performances. One of the world’s best guitarists, Clapton had written the song in response to the death of his four-year-old son, Conor, who had tragically fallen out of a 53rd-floor window, and this powerful live performance struck a strong chord with viewers around the world, as the grief-stricken singer fought against the urge to cry. Transforming this deeply personal song into an uplifting and moving tribute to his late son, it seemed almost impossible for anyone in attendance not to be moved.

8: Tina Turner And Beyoncé: Proud Mary (2008)

Taking to the stage for a historic performance at the 2008 Grammy Awards, Tina Turner and Beyoncé stunned audiences with their unforgettable rendition of Proud Mary. The iconic “Queen Of Rock’n’Roll” and the modern-day R&B diva lit up the stage as they joined forces for an epic show-stopping moment, turning in a powerful performance that served as a unique reminder of Turner’s impressive vocal range and her legendary stage presence. At the same time, Beyoncé’s dynamic energy and onstage charisma proved she had more than earned her status as one of the best 2000s female singers. With both women dressed to impress, they completed each other’s verses flawlessly before coming together to bring the house down with an electrifying finale.

7: Bruno Mars and Cardi B: Finesse/Bodak Yellow (2018)

A truly unique experience for the 2018 Grammys, Bruno Mars and Cardi B performed a live fusion of their new jack swing-flavoured collaboration, Finesse, and the Bronx-based rapper’s breakout single, Bodak Yellow. Dressed in gaudy sportswear straight out of the Fresh Prince Of Bel Air’s costume department, the pair pulled out some slick dance moves to capture the life-affirming swagger of 90s R&B, with the audience erupting into feverish applause throughout. A sure-fire instance of Bruno Mars and Cardi B’s undeniable stage chemistry, this is easily one of the best Grammy performances of the 21st century – and it will be remembered for years to come.

6: Eminem and Elton John: Stan (2001)

Despite being the most famous rapper in the world at the turn of the century, Eminem was a controversial figure, often facing criticism for including elements of homophobia in his lyrics. Jumping to Eminem’s defence was the LGBTQ+ icon and rock’n’roll legend Sir Elton John, who teamed up with Eminem for a live performance of Stan at the 2001 Grammys. It did wonders in rehabilitating the rapper’s negative public image and highlighted the power of music to bring together diverse audiences. In doing so, both artists reached out to new fans who may never have listened to either of them before.

5: Lady Gaga: Space Oddity/Changes/Ziggy Stardust/Suffragette City/Rebel Rebel/Fashion/Fame/Let’s Dance/“Heroes” (2016)

In the year of David Bowie’s death, at the age of 69, the 2016 Grammys saw eccentric pop star Lady Gaga pay tribute to the rock icon in undeniably extravagant fashion. Often changing costumes throughout her performance like an enthusiastic cosplayer, Gaga sang nine of the best David Bowie songs – among them Space Oddity, Changes and Let’s Dance – truly shining as she belted out each one with utter perfection. Proving how much Bowie’s work had impacted pop stars of Gaga’s generation, she truly did justice to one of the most influential musicians of all time, bringing her set to a close with with a rousing rendition of Bowie’s 1977 single “Heroes”. Heartfelt and powerful, this passionate tribute from one artist to another makes for incredibly emotional viewing among the best Grammy performances.

4: Stevie Wonder: You Haven’t Done Nothin’ (1974)

In the 70s, Stevie Wonder was at the peak of his powers, blessing Motown Records with his artistic integrity and producing a scorching run of records which rank among the best soul albums of all time. One of these was 1974’s Fulfillingness’ First Finale, which afforded Wonder the opportunity to perform his politically charged funk single You Haven’t Done Nothin’ at that year’s ceremony. Leaving the audience mesmerised from start to finish, Wonder’s talent truly shone as he launched into a timely tirade against the disgraced US President Richard Nixon. Using only his voice to amplify his discontent at the state of post-6s America, Wonder delivered an incendiary and thought-provoking tour de force that made the night truly memorable.

3: Gorillaz, Madonna and De La Soul: Feel Good Inc./Hung Up (2006)

All eyes were glued to the stage as Damon Albarn’s cartoon compadres Gorillaz appeared as virtual holograms during the 2006 Grammys, performing Feel Good Inc., from their Demon Days album, with hip-hop legends De La Soul and “Queen Of Pop” Madonna. Morphing the song into an startling rendition of Madonna’s ABBA-sampling hit Hung Up, from her disco throwback release Confessions On A Dance Floor, the performance was as much a feat of technological innovation as it was a musical one, standing out as a truly epic collaboration that spoke to a generation of internet-savvy music fans for whom the lines between genres were becoming gloriously blurred. A virtual team-up for the ages, it was nothing short of a theatrical triumph among the best Grammy performances.

2: Michael Jackson: Man In The Mirror (1988)

Busting out all his signature dance moves, the “King Of Pop”, Michael Jackson, set the 1988 Grammys ablaze with his iconic and unforgettable performance of Man In The Mirror. Quickly becoming one of his most memorable TV appearances ever, Jackson’s emotional performance culminated with him passionately delivering his message of hope and self-reflection with powerful backing from a gospel choir. A remarkable display of showmanship, Jackson’s Man In The Mirror stands the test of time as one of the best Grammys performances in history.

1: Prince and Beyoncé: Purple Rain/Baby I’m A Star/Crazy In Love/Let’s Go Crazy (2004)

From the moment Prince walked out on stage in a purple suit and clutching an Auerswald Symbol Guitar, with Beyoncé by his side, it was clear the 80s pop maverick was ready to make his 2004 Grammys performance one for the ages. Performing a short duet, the pair ran through classic Prince favourite such as Purple Rain and Baby I’m a Star, The Purple One sprinkling his magic touch over Beyoncé’s hit Crazy In Love, before tearing the roof off with an exhilarating rendition of the Purple Rain album opener, Let’s Go Crazy. One of the most talked-about moments from that year’s ceremony, Prince and Beyoncé’s collaboration was a match made in heaven that deserves nothing but praise, and that’s why it tops our list of the best Grammys performances.

Looking for more? Find out where Prince ranks among the best 80s musicians.

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