17 Iconic Grammy Award Performances to Watch Before This Weekend’s Show
Who can forget Beyoncé's 2017 show-stopper?
The Grammy Awards is the music industry’s biggest night. The show’s performances are almost guaranteed to leave our jaws on the floor and provide plenty of water cooler talk for the next day. There have been some seriously iconic Grammy performances in the past that this year’s artists will have to live up to—but we have faith that they can pull it off.
Hosted by Trevor Noah and featuring performances by musicians including Bad Bunny, Cardi B, and Taylor Swift, the 2021 show will surely be a must-watch. And hopefully, the performances will measure up to those of years past. It’s hard to narrow down the most iconic performances of the Grammys’ 60-plus-year history, so the performances below are just a taste, but they’re a good place to start to get you in the awards show mood.
1. Lady Gaga, 2011
Lady Gaga “walked” the red carpet of the 2011 Grammys in a device that was a cross between a pod and an egg. She then “hatched” onstage to sing her song about self-acceptance.
2. Adele, 2012
Adele’s triumphant return to the stage after her 2011 vocal cord surgery was a success not just on the stage, but off the stage as well, as she took home all six awards she was nominated for that night.
3. Pink, 2010
This is the performance that cemented Pink as a tour de force in the pop world. Her stunning live vocals were no match for her sequined, nude bodysuit and Cirque Du Soleil-style aerial silk performance.
4. Eminem and Elton John, 2001
Before the 2001 Grammys, rapper Eminem was branded as homophobic and otherwise problematic. Because of this, he decided to team up with music legend Elton John to sing the hook on his track about a fan gone too far.
5. Jennifer Hudson, 2012
Whitney Houston tragically died the night before the 2012 Grammy Awards. With less than twenty-four hours’ notice, singer Jennifer Hudson stepped in to perform a beautiful tribute using Houston’s most iconic song.
6. Carrie Underwood, 2013
Carrie Underwood is a country music superstar, and her performance was transcendent. The skirt of her custom-designed Theia dress showed projections of various images, including butterflies, during the performance.
7. Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z, 2013
Justin Timberlake made his return to music and the Grammys after a six-year hiatus to sing his latest song, “Suit & Tie.” The overall performance felt like a throwback to the Rat Pack era.
8. Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney, 2015
This performance had a lot of younger audience members confused because many of them praised West for “discovering” Paul McCartney, an artist who has more accolades than West has years of life.
9. Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton, 2016
The groundbreaking musical was the first Grammy performance to be broadcast live from a Broadway theater. The cast later took home the Grammy for “Best Musical Theater Album,” of course.
10. Logic, Alessia Cara, and Khalid, 2018
Logic took the stage in 2018 to sing “1-800-273-8255.” Alisha Cara and Khalid later joined to provide their own renditions to the song. While Logic didn’t win a Grammy that evening, this performance will forever be known as one of the best, simply because of the message he provided at the end.
11. Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert, Madonna, and Queen Latifah, 2014
Macklemore and his partner, Ryan Lewis, along with Mary Lambert, took to the Grammy stage to perform Macklemore’s song about same-sex marriage. Madonna joined in with a rendition of her 1986 song “Open Your Heart” and Queen Latifah officiated a group wedding of 33 couples. Casual.
12. Ricky Martin, 1999
Relatively unknown as a solo artist (he was a member of the Latin boyband Menudo in the late ’80s), Martin became a global superstar with the performance of his World Cup anthem, which helped ushered in a new wave of Latin music acts.
13. Christina Aguilera, 2007
In a simple white suit backed by a majestic orchestra, Aguilera slayed James Brown’s hit song in a way that only a woman could.
14. Kendrick Lamar, U2, and Dave Chappelle, 2016
Lamar’s powerful performance highlighted songs from his critically acclaimed album, To Pimp a Butterfly. Not only did U2 join the stage, but Dave Chappelle brought the house down with a quick appearance. This is a performance you’ll never forget.
15. Beyoncé, 2017
It would be considered blasphemy if we didn’t include Beyoncé’s 2017 performance—after all, she literally looked like a goddess.
16. Billie Eilish, 2020
While the biggest news of the night was Billie Eilish winning five Grammys for her album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, her performance of “When The Party’s Over” was hauntingly beautiful to watch.
17. Lizzo, 2020
When Lizzo performs, she gives it her all—and at the 2020 Grammys, it was no exception. Not only did she sing “Cuz I Love You” with an intro shoutout to Kobe Bryant, who’d passed away earlier that day, but she also danced her heart out while singing “Truth Hurts.”