Don’t get us wrong, we double-heart Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett — on their own and in their current duo incarnation. But the “Paparazzi” singer’s painful mugging for the cameras as CBS cut to commercial break reminded us that we’re glad she hasn’t attempted to translate her singing stardom into an acting career.
MOST DRAMATIC PERFORMANCE BY A DIVA’S EYE MAKEUP
Good luck hearing Ariana Grande’s rendition of “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart” over the booming noise of her lashes and eye shadow. Maybe she wasn’t born with it, but her makeup artist definitely didn’t skimp on the Maybelline.
BEST BRIDGE OVER THE PROVERBIAL GENERATIONAL GAP
As they combined forces for a gorgeous, sparsely produced rendition of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,'” septuagenarian Tom Jones seemed as youthful and relevant as ever, while twentysomething Jessie J brought the vocals and presence of a classic diva of yesteryear. All we want to know now is, “When and where is the encore taking place?”
HARDEST ROCKER WHO PROBABLY WON’T BE LABELED ACCORDINGLY
On a night where AC/DC and Chris Martin were on the bill, Miranda Lambert’s “Little Red Wagon” provided the crispest, stinging-est slap of rock-and-roll bravado. As the country superstar sidled up to her guitar player and hissed, “You can’t step to this backyard swagger,” we doubt there was a soul in the audience who’d have challenged her.
“YES, BETCH, YOU BETTER GO TO THE GYM TOMORROW” INSPIRATIONAL TROPHY
Madonna’s 56-year-old gams brought more boom-boom-pow to the proceedings than body parts of people young enough to be her grandchildren. Combined with a hook-a-licious new single, some horned hunks straight outta American Horror Story: FarmVille and a rousing Gospel choir, we’re once again bowing/curtseying to the Queen of Pop.
THEY’RE JUST HERE FOR THE MUSIC
Ed Sheeran — along with John Mayer, Herbie Hancock, Adam Blackstone — didn’t give us the ol’ razzle dazzle, but their love of their craft shone through on a rousing rendition of “Thinking Out Loud” — and proved to be one of the more quietly lovely moments of the telecast.
CAN’T A LEGEND JUST GET LOST IN THE MUSIC ANYMORE?
The night’s biggest feel-bad moment? CBS’ cameras bearing down on living legend Paul McCartney as he rose to his feet and boogied down to a medley of “Evil Woman” and “Mr. Blue Sky” by Jeff Lynne’s ELO. Eventually, Sir Paul looked into the lens, gave self-conscious “OK, I give up” expression and returned to his seat, defeated. Yeah, Grammy producers, you got your shot — but you killed the groove in the process. No me gusta!
DUETTING ARTISTS WHO QUITE LITERALLY BROUGHT THEIR SONG TITLES TO LIFE
Yes, Hozier, you and your luscious locks and soulful charisma most certainly did “Take Us to Church.” And Annie Lennox’s “I Put a Spell on You”? That’s exactly what her transcendent vocals and crazy-lady magnetism accomplished! Without dipping into overwrought superlatives, this was hands-down the performance of the night.
Pharrell’s far-from-upbeat, spoken-word “Happy” at times felt positively ominous — especially when pianist Lang Lang replaced the chorus with dramatic keyboard bang-age. Just as the hoodie-clad dancers and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” choreography got us wondering about a deeper political message, though, the melody kicked back in, and we were clapping along, feeling like a room without a roof.
“BUT WAIT, WHERE’S THE WHIPPED-CREAM SHOOTING BRASSIERE?”
Katy Perry may not be best-known for her live vocal performances, but her raw, beautifully real rendition of “By the Grace of God” — preceded by a PSA about domestic violence and rape from President Barack Obama — was undeniably riveting (and perhaps signaled a next step in Perry’s artistic path?).
CAN’T A LEGEND JUST GET HEARD IN THE MUSIC ANYMORE?
There’s no denying Rihanna delivered rock-star fierceness along with Kanye West and Paul McCartney on their catchy new single “FourFiveSeconds,” but we couldn’t help but wonder if someone forgot to turn on the Beatles singer’s microphone? I mean, seriously, did anyone even hear the slightest hint of his unmistakeable voice in the mix?
Sam Smith and Mary J. Blige did nothing wrong with their cover of the ubiquitous “Stay With Me” — but when you’ve got two powerhouses soul singers colliding on the same stage, shouldn’t it all feel a little less buttoned-up and by-the-numbers? (Yeah, we were sort of hoping for a “No More Drama”-level exorcism.)
BEST FACIAL EXPRESSION/POLITICAL COMMENTARY COMBO
Prince delivered RuPaul’s Drag Race-level side-eye in response to the audience’s rapturous ovation, but it was his Album of the Year podium banter — “Like books and black lives, albums still matter” — that left us saying, “Mmm-hmmm.”
You know when Sia’s performing it’s going to be some combination of “Yessss!”/Mess/Excess. But as the Australian pop powerhouse turned and faced the wall (as is her wont) during “Chandelier,” we were nevertheless shocked to see SNL alum Kristen Wiig join Sia’s regular muse (Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler) in bringing to life the story of a party girl in an emotional freefall. We’re pretty sure we saw dance moves signifying suicidal ideation and an inner child being reborn in the afterlife — but you’re welcome to post your alternate interpretations in the TVLine comments section. (Fret not: It’s a judgment-free zone!)
MOST UNDERSTATED (WHILE SERVING “ANGEL COME DOWN FROM HEAVEN” FIERCENESS)
Beyoncé’s “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” was delivered gorgeously, passionately and without a whole lot of choreography or pyrotechnics. We can’t argue with those who feel Selma cast member (and fellow Grammy nominess) Ledesi should’ve done the honors, but it’s hard to argue with The Lady Knowles’ rendition on its own merits.
MOST STIRRINGLY CINEMATIC
John Legend and Common had no shortage of help from Grammy producers when it came to their telecast-closing performance of “Glory” — the dazzling lighting and orchestral army made for a visual feast — but the duo’s flawless rendition of their Oscar-nominated ditty also underscored both artists’ copious talents, and perhaps thumbed a nose at the Oscars for snubbing Selma in a number of major categories, to boot.