Sure, there were some awards handed out at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards, but what everybody really tuned into the three-and-a-half-hour show for were the star-studded performances, including those “Grammy Moments” that you don’t get to see on any other award show. Here’s a look at who blew the roof off the Staples Center on Sunday night:
Taylor Swift opened the show with a huge extravaganza of a performance for “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” It was a circus-themed number with Taylor all in white as the ringmaster, plus fire, tricycles, a guy dressed as a rabbit, people with umbrellas dangling from the ceiling and all manner of odd characters. When she reached the spoken part of the song, where she says, “So he calls me up and he’s like, ‘I still love you,’” she used a British accent, perhaps in reference to her ex-boyfriend Harry Styles of One Direction. Then, she added, “And I’m like ‘Sorry, I’m busy opening up the Grammys…and we are never getting back together!’”
As part of a tribute to reggae legend Bob Marley, Bruno Mars and Sting teamed up to perform Bruno’s hit “Locked Out of Heaven,” and then segued to Sting’s Police hit “Walking on the Moon.” Then Rihanna and two of Marley’s sons, including Ziggy, came out for a big group performance of Marley’s classic “Could You Be Loved.”
Maroon 5 and Alicia Keys teamed up for a duet of their respective hits “Daylight” and “Girl on Fire.” Maroon 5 started off with “Daylight,” then Alicia chimed in with “Girl on Fire,” and then they blended the two songs together, with Adam Levine singing the chorus of “Girl on Fire,” and Alicia singing a few lines of “Daylight.”
Justin Timberlake returned to the Grammys for the first time since 2009 with a show-stopping performance of his single “Suit & Tie.” Filmed in both sepia and in color, Timberlake was backed up by what looked like a big band from the swing era, who were dubbed “JT & the Tennessee Kids,” and Jay-Z, who came out of the audience to deliver his verse on the tune. Then, Justin segued into “Pusher Love Girl,” a brand-new song from his upcoming album “The 20/20 Experience.” After the Grammys, Timberlake left to do a headlining concert at the Hollywood Palladium.
A tribute to the late Levon Helm, drummer and singer for Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The Band, featured a dream team of Elton John, country star Zac Brown, soul legend Mavis Staples, Mumford & Sons, producer and guitarist T Bone Burnett and Brittany Howard of alt-rockers Alabama Shakes. Sir Elton dedicated the performance of The Band’s song “The Weight” to the victims of the Sandy Hook school massacre.
Sir Elton also did a duet with Ed Sheeran on his song “The A Team,” which was nominated for Song of the Year. Sheeran correctly predicted he’d lose the category to Fun.’s “We Are Young.”
Carrie Underwood performed her hit “Blown Away” while wearing a huge silver gown, and once she segued into her current single “Two Black Cadillacs,” the audience realized why her gown was so big: it became a “screen” onto which various images were projected, ranging from roses to butterflies to fireworks.
Jack White performed a mellow version of his song “Love Interruption” at the piano, surrounded by his female band members, and then absolutely brought the house down with a ferocious rendition of “Freedom at 21″ featuring both his female and male band members. According to The Hollywood Reporter, while it was initially thought that White had used the “F” word during “Love Interruption,” CBS censors ruled that he’d actually sung “fight.”
The Black Keys performed a roof-raising rendition of “Lonely Boy” accompanied by legendary New Orleans artist Dr. John — wearing a bizarre feathered headdress — and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Frank Ocean’s performance of his song “Forrest Gump” was visually arresting: He sang it in front of a backdrop of mountains, standing up in front of a keyboard that had a video panel in the front. Through a combination of the backdrop and the video panel, he appeared to be running down a mountain road while singing, and being followed by a whole group of people, just like the character of Forrest Gump in the movie of the same name.
Kelly Clarkson saluted two Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winners — Patti Page and Carole King — by performing two of their signature tunes: “Tennessee Waltz” and “(You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman,” respectively.
Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert teamed up for a double duet on her song “Over You” and his song “Home.”
None other than Johnny Depp introduced Mumford & Sons, whom he called “Sublime.” They performed their nominated song “I Will Wait.”
Rihanna proved that yes, she can actually sing, by performing a lovely version of her ballad “Stay,” with guest vocalist Mikky Ekko.
Fun. performed their current single “Carry On” while buckets and buckets of water rained down on them, yet strangely, they were not electrocuted.
Miguel performed a brief version of his nominated song “Adorn” with some help from Wiz Khalifa, and it was enough to make Kelly Clarkson call it “the sexiest damn thing I’ve ever seen!”
Grammy host LL Cool J closed the show by rocking the microphone with Chuck D of Public Enemy, plus Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello on guitar, Travis Barker of Blink-182 on drums and DJ Z-Trip on turntables. They performed a song called “Whaddup,” from a project that LL is currently working on with Z-Trip. In the middle of the song, Chuck and LL gave a shout-out to the late Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys, briefly performing a bit of that group’s hit “No Sleep ’til Brooklyn.”