Brutally honest reviews of every 2023 Grammys performance, including Harry Styles, Sam Smith and Stevie Wonder
Another Grammy Awards, another appalling upset.
After making history Sunday night as the most Grammy-winning artist of all time, Beyoncé was egregiously passed over for album of the year for "Renaissance" in favor of Harry Styles' "Harry's House." The snub put a dark cloud over an otherwise happy occasion, as the Recording Academy spread the awards love between A-list artists Adele, Lizzo and Bonnie Raitt.
And with a few exceptions, the stacked performance lineup was also uniformly strong, even as the Trevor Noah-hosted telecast crept toward a fourth hour. Here are the best and worst musical moments from this year’s show:
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12. Luke Combs, 'Going, Going, Gone'
After the adrenaline high of the all-star hip-hop tribute, Combs brought the Grammys back down to earth with his tender rendition of his "Growin' Up" album single, delivering gravelly vocals and evocative lyrics against the backdrop of a night sky. It was a solid Grammys debut for the country artist, who unfortunately got seated with a third-hour time slot as viewers' attention spans wore thin.
11. Harry Styles, 'As It Was'
Fresh off a win for best pop vocal album for "Harry’s House," the British heartthrob commendably powered through his long-reigning No. 1 hit "As It Was" on the Grammys stage. Styles swapped his eye-popping jumpsuit from the red carpet for a frilly, metallic ensemble, hopping and darting across a giant turntable with his street clothes-clad backup dancers. The crooner sounded understandably tired, given his rigorous tour schedule this past year, and was further saddled by sound issues.
10. Sam Smith and Kim Petras, 'Unholy'
After her history-making Grammy win and an introduction from Madonna, Petras slinked onto the stage with Smith to perform their titillating chart-topper "Unholy." Smith gyrated downstage in a devil horn-adorned top hat, but it was Petras who stole the show with a red-hot pyrotechnic display, mugging for the camera from inside a steel cage.
9. DJ Khaled, 'God Did'
If that’s the last time we see Jay-Z on the Grammys, he certainly went out in style. The rap virtuoso closed out the ceremony just minutes after wife Beyoncé was shafted once more for the album of the year award, rapping DJ Khaled's "God Did" alongside John Legend, Lil Wayne, Rick Ross and Fridayy in a Last Supper-inspired setup. Even Jay knew he ran away with the otherwise lukewarm performance, raising a glass at the end of his five-minute verse saying, "You’re welcome!"
8. Brandi Carlile, 'Broken Horses'
After a sweet introduction from her wife, Catherine Shepherd, and two daughters, the Americana singer gave an electrifying performance of her "In These Silent Days" single. With just strobe lights and a backing band, Carlile let her thrilling voice do the heavy lifting – unleashing a truly incendiary guitar solo midsong and earning a standing ovation from Taylor Swift.
7. Lizzo, 'About Damn Time' and 'Special'
Lizzo continually brings first-rate showmanship to awards show performances, and Sunday's Grammys presentation was no exception. Wearing a short black dress and bejeweled cross necklace, the R&B/pop hitmaker made the Crypto.com Arena her church with a soulful gospel choir as she belted through her affirmation-filled "Special" songs.
6. Quavo, Kacey Musgraves and Bonnie Raitt, In Memoriam
Musgraves kicked off the "In Memoriam" performance with an elegant, crystalline take on the late Loretta Lynn's "Coal Miner’s Daughter," strumming an acoustic guitar with a bed of flowers at her bare feet. Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow also paid haunting tribute to Christine McVie, gorgeously harmonizing as Mick Fleetwood softly played the talking drum next to them. But the most emotional moment came from Quavo and Maverick City Music, who honored Migos member Takeoff with a heartbreaking mashup of "Without You" and "See You Again." The memorial montage wasn't without its issues, though, as Twitter users complained that Aaron Carter and Gangsta Boo were omitted from the tribute.
5. Steve Lacy, 'Bad Habit'
The TikTok sensation brought his funky-smooth viral hit "Bad Habit" to the Grammys telecast, radiating easy charm and suave stage presence as Kendrick Lamar and Machine Gun Kelly mouthed along lyrics from the crowd.
4. Bad Bunny, 'El Apagón,' 'Después de la Playa'
The Puerto Rican rapper proved why he's one of the biggest stars in the world right now with his vibrant, infectious opening number. Bad Bunny paraded to the stage flanked by dancers, brass players and giant-sized puppets of Puerto Rican icons Tego Calderón and Andy Montañez. After a somewhat sluggish start, a red curtain lifted and revealed a stunning sunset backdrop, complete with palm trees and bongo drummers. The charismatic singer, clad in a baseball cap and jeans, proceeded to get the entire audience on its feet, with artists including Jack Harlow and Mary J. Blige dancing along.
3. Mary J. Blige, 'Good Morning Gorgeous'
The Queen of R&B looked and sounded flawless singing the sumptuous title track from her 14th studio album, performing vocal acrobatics as she stood atop a pyramidal platform in a wide-brimmed hat and diamond-studded dress. In a night filled with massive set pieces, Blige proved that all you need to captivate a crowd is a stage, some strings and a spectacular voice.
2. LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Black Thought and more, Hip Hop 50
Nearly three hours into an awards show, a production number this long and nostalgia-heavy shouldn't work as well as it did. But thanks to seamless transitions, and the palpable excitement of the more than two dozen artists on stage, the Grammys' 50th-anniversary hip-hop tribute was an undeniable highlight. Standouts of the history-spanning set included Salt-N-Pepa, LL Cool J, Black Thought, Queen Latifah, and Busta Rhymes, whose lightning-fast "Look at Me Now" verse started trending on Twitter almost immediately after.
1. Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and WanMor, Motown Medley
Leave it to the legendary Wonder to give the performance of the night not even an hour into the show. Performing a medley of Motown hits to honor Smokey Robinson and Berry Gordy, Wonder kicked things off with the Temptations' joyous "The Way You Do the Things You Do," trading off vocals with R&B group WanMor. He then dueted with Robinson on "The Tears of a Clown," before blowing the roof off with his own "Higher Ground," which featured blazing guitar riffs from country artist Chris Stapleton. The delighted audience ecstatically stood and grooved from their seats, with the likes of Jay-Z singing along.
In case you missed out on the Grammys fun:
History is made! Beyoncé is now officially queen of the Grammys, breaks record for all-time wins
More history made: Viola Davis joins EGOT club with first Grammy win
A night of firsts: Kim Petras becomes first transgender woman to win pop duo Grammy award for Sam Smith hit
Most over-the-top looks on the 2023 Grammys red carpet: Harry Styles, Doja Cat, Sam Smith, more
The best moments of the 2023 Grammy Awards, from Harry Styles' superfan to a stunned Lizzo
Oh no: Grammys in memoriam segment honors Takeoff, Loretta Lynn, Christine McVie – and snubs others
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Grammys 2023: All the best (and worst) performances, ranked