04/10/2022

Music ae Amor

The Impeccable Music

Brutally honest reviews of every Grammys 2022 performance, including Justin Bieber and BTS

8 min read
Brutally honest reviews of every Grammys 2022 performance, including Justin Bieber and BTS

Let’s take a page from Olivia Rodrigo and get brutal.

The newly minted three-time Grammy winner was one of more than two dozen artists who performed during Sunday’s Grammy Awards telecast, including album of the year honoree Jon Batiste and R&B duo Silk Sonic, who surprised with wins for record and song of the year (“Leave the Door Open”).

The ceremony, hosted by Trevor Noah and held in Las Vegas for the first time, featured a wide array of industry veterans as well as up-and-comers, with glimpses of performances by Aymée Nuviola, Maverick City Music and Billy Strings throughout the 3½-hour broadcast.

Here are the best and worst musical moments from the show.

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17. Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon, ‘Peaches’

Giveon, left, and Justin Bieber perform "Peaches" at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, April 3, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Giveon, left, and Justin Bieber perform “Peaches” at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, April 3, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Bieber’s silky smooth chart-topper “Peaches” is one of the biggest earworms of the past year. But the stilted Grammys performance lost much of what makes it such a feel-good bop by beginning with an overlong, overwrought introduction on piano before Bieber joined featured artists Caesar and Giveon. Even then, the lyrics were so heavily bleeped that it was more distracting than delectable.

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16. Brothers Osborne, ‘Dead Man’s Curve’

The siblings won a much-deserved Grammy for best country duo/group performance earlier Sunday night for “Younger Me,” which was inspired by singer T.J. Osborne’s experience coming out as gay. So it’s somewhat puzzling that they chose to perform the less impactful and too-brief “Dead Man’s Curve,” which closed out the ceremony with a whimper rather than a bang.

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15. John Legend, ‘Free’

After a taped introduction from Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Legend took the stage to perform his moving new single “Free.” Although the song’s lyrics were fitting – if on the nose – given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (“Rain down freedom, rain down / ‘til we’re all free”), we would have preferred if the Recording Academy ceded the spotlight entirely to the Ukrainian artists who accompanied Legend onstage, including Siuzanna Iglidan, Mika Newton and poet Lyuba Yakimchuk.

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14. Lil Nas X with Jack Harlow, ‘Dead Right Now,’ ‘Montero,’ ‘Industry Baby’

After delightfully provocative turns on “Saturday Night Live” and the MTV VMAs, the genre-bending “Old Town Road” breakout played it curiously tame on the Grammys stage, running through hits including “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and “Industry Baby” featuring Harlow. Aside from some slick moves and a slew of costume changes – including a stellar, diamond-encrusted crop top – Nas X was unfortunately overshadowed by flashier performances throughout the telecast.

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13. Carrie Underwood, ‘Ghost Story’

Underwood’s ruffled train and wind machines nearly stole the show during “Ghost Story,” a lyrically evocative and dramatic revenge anthem from her upcoming studio album. The country star’s powerhouse vocals and impassioned delivery helped sell the somewhat forgettable track, which was saddled with an undesirable slot at the end of the night.

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12. Nas, medley

Nas threw it back to some of his earlier hits, including “Made You Look” and “One Mic,” with his career-spanning medley, bringing out a horns section for the myth-making “Rare” from last year’s “King’s Disease II.” It was a self-assured if unsurprising performance, which could have used a shot of adrenaline from his latter album’s guests Eminem or Ms. Lauryn Hill.

11. J Balvin and Maria Becerra, ‘Qué Más Pues?’ and ‘In da Getto’

Silk Sonic and Rodrigo are tough acts to follow, but Balvin more than held his own early in the ceremony with sexy renditions of his “Jose” album tracks “In Da Getto” and “Qué Más Pues?” featuring Argentine singer Maria Becerra. Particular props should be given to the light-up staircase and neon-drenched backup dancers, who gave us some of the most mesmerizing hand-ography this side of Madonna’s “Vogue.”

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10. Silk Sonic, ‘777’

Anderson .Paak, left, and Bruno Mars of Silk Sonic perform "777" at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, April 3, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Anderson .Paak, left, and Bruno Mars of Silk Sonic perform “777” at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, April 3, 2022, in Las Vegas.

The R&B team-up of Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, who released their nine-song joint effort last November, opened the show with the album’s electrifying intro track, followed by standout “777.” Throwing back to the ‘70s in sleek white jumpsuits – bejeweled with playing card iconography on the sleeves – the dynamic pair name-checked Sin City in rollicking, funky fashion, singing, “I’m ‘bout to buy Las Vegas after this roll.”

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9. Chris Stapleton, ‘Cold’

Stapleton brought his signature gravelly vocals and bluesy guitar to the searing “Cold,” calling out a bad lover on the mournful chorus (“Why you got to go and cut me like a knife?”). Few artists make heartbreak sound better than this soulful crooner, who took home the best country album Grammy (for “Starting Over”) this year.

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8. H.E.R. featuring Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Travis Barker and Lenny Kravitz, medley

The Oscar- and Grammy-winning breakout brought a refreshing hard-rock edge to Sunday’s festivities, performing a rousing medley of songs with drummer Travis Barker and guitarist Lenny Kravitz. It was a much-needed jolt as the show dragged viewers into its third hour, with some seriously enviable (and glittery) jumpsuits from H.E.R. and Kravitz.

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7. Olivia Rodrigo, ‘Drivers License’

The 19-year-old pop-punk breakout was already a Grammy winner going into Sunday’s telecast, picking up her first award for best pop solo performance (for debut single “Drivers License”) hours before the show. (She ended the night with a trio of trophies.) Backed by an all-female band, and sporting glitter eyeliner and fishnet stockings, Rodrigo sounded tremendous as she delivered a soaring rendition of her emotional breakup ballad while darting across a vivid suburban backdrop, complete with a DMV-approved Mercedes.

6. Jon Batiste, ‘Freedom’

If you weren’t already a fan of Batiste before Sunday night, it’s near-impossible not to be after his vibrant performance of record of the year nominee “Freedom.” The jazz/R&B singer was effortlessly charismatic and exuberant throughout the eye-popping display, delivering expert choreography and climbing on tables as he got the audience on its feet.

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5. Lady Gaga, ‘Love for Sale,’ ‘Do I Love You’

After her heartwarming presentation of the best picture Oscar with Liza Minnelli last month, Gaga proved yet again that she’s one of the classiest acts around. Performing without her longtime friend and “Love For Sale” duet partner Tony Bennett, who announced his Alzheimer’s diagnosis last year, the pop star launched with a jaunty take on the album’s title track before sitting on the stairs of the stage for a touching rendition of Cole Porter’s “Do I Love You.” Singing to a video backdrop of she and Bennett in the studio together, Gaga appeared visually emotional, pausing toward the end of the number as the crowd cheered his name.

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4. Brandi Carlile, ‘Right on Time’

Carlile’s performance of inspiring single “The Joke” at the 2019 Grammys is an instant tear-jerker, and her stirring take on latest anthem “Right on Time” similarly gave us chills. Donning a disco ball-chic blazer and flanked by flashing rainbow-colored lights, the Americana singer/songwriter showcased her dexterous skills on piano and guitar, although her most flawless instrument was her commanding voice as she delivered the song’s heartfelt message (“It wasn’t right / but it was right on time”).

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3. BTS, ‘Butter’

BTS performs "Butter" at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, April 3, 2022, in Las Vegas.

BTS performs “Butter” at the 64th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, April 3, 2022, in Las Vegas.

Could BTS be any more infectious? The K-pop superstars oozed charm as they delivered an ebullient take on “Butter,” gliding across the stage in black tuxedos and paying homage to everything from “Ocean’s Eleven” to “Mission: Impossible” as they flicked playing cards and evaded lasers in suave Vegas style. And we couldn’t help but swoon as member V playfully cozied up to Rodrigo at the top of the number.

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2. Billie Eilish, ‘Happier Than Ever’

“Happier Than Ever” is without a doubt one of the most thrilling songs released by a mainstream pop artist in years, with ferocious vocals, heartachingly personal lyrics and a blistering, head-banging third verse. Eilish’s Grammys performance of the song – the title track from her second album – did not disappoint as she re-created the music video’s flooded house and rain-soaked finish. Her T-shirt tribute to late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins added an extra layer of poignancy to the already intense moment.

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1. Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Ben Platt and Rachel Zegler, In Memoriam

Coming off the uncomfortably upbeat and tone-deaf In Memoriam tribute at the Oscars, the Grammys showed everyone how it should be done with a performance that was elegant, tasteful and deeply affecting. The trio of Tony winners – joined by dazzling star on the rise Zegler (“West Side Story”) – harmonized gorgeously as they sang a medley of songs by late Broadway composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, who died in November. By the time they all congregated on stage to perform the wistful “Somewhere” from “West Side,” we could hardly see the TV screen through our tears.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Grammys 2022: All the best (and worst) performances, ranked

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