The 2017 Grammy show delivered consistently good performances – some were a few steps above greatness, and some were just a few steps below it.
Adele – “Hello”
The effortless opener by Adele became an earth-shattering moment that led to 5/5 wins for the British singer. Unlike many of the other performances, “Hello” doesn’t need a lot of theatrics to excel. All it needs is a powerhouse vocalist and a stool. Adele didn’t need to sit down during her performance though – she looked the world in the face and commanded our hearts.
Little Big Town – “Teenage Dream” (Katy Perry Cover)
Little Big Town’s interlude that led up to Katy’s performance was beautifully sung in every way possible. Nearly every Katy song could easily become a country hit once stripped down, but the two-time Grammy winning band from Alabama delivered a short but incredibly sweet “Dream” rendition. Karen and Kimberly led with the vocals while Jimi and Phillip took the chorus harmonies and delivered a vocal so good that it should be on Itunes.
John Legend and Cynthia Erivo – “God Only Knows” (The Beach Boys Cover)
Although this wasn’t a full-out performance, it’s still noteworthy enough to make the list. John and Cynthia delivered a sparse arrangement of the Beach Boys’ classic “God Only Knows” during the annual ‘In Memoriam’ tribute. Cynthia’s ‘The Color Purple’ Broadway vocals came out from the first note, leaving John with both background harmonizing and piano duties. For those unfamiliar with Cynthia, the Grammys showed that she deserves to be on the stage just as much as all the other performers.
Keith Urban (feat. Carrie Underwood) – “The Fighter”
I’ve been a newfound fan of Keith Urban since his unappreciated sleeper hit “Little Bit Of Everything”, but I’ve loved Carrie for well over ten years. Her ‘American Idol’ performance of Heart’s “Alone” is literally the moment that Carrie became a superstar, and it showed itself again during her “Fighter” performance. Keith and Carrie’s vocals blended beautifully over the weirdly arranged single, and became one of the best performances of the night.
Maren Morris (feat. Alicia Keys) – “Once”
Maren Morris gets a separate award for being the best dressed during her performance. Her performance of “Once” with Alicia Keys was a proper mainstream introduction of Maren’s vocal talents. We already knew Alicia’s vocals would compliment any song, but she sounded amazing alongside Maren’s country twang. Hopefully, Alicia’s future music will embark on this newfound sound, as her shared high-note with Maren at the pinnacle of “Once” became an unforgettable music moment in both of their catalogues.
Gary Clark Jr. (feat. William Bell) – “Born Under A Bad Sign” (Albert King Cover)
Underground R&B talent Gary Clark Jr. got an incredible platform at the 2017 Grammys and is the most underrated performance of the night. Taking on Albert King’s 1967 classic alongside Grammy winner William Bell, Clark’s simultaneous guitar playing and vocals were unmatched by any other performance. Although the performance was a segue into the Best Urban Contemporary Album reveal, their contribution to the award show was nothing short of Grammy-worthy.
The Time (feat. Bruno Mars and Morris Day) – “Jungle Love” / “The Bird” / “Let’s Go Crazy” (Prince Tribute)
Unlike the Bee Gees tribute, the tribute to Prince featured his frequent collaborators The Time and Morris Day as they powered through his hits “Jungle Love” and “The Bird”. Watching the crowd react to these classics was enough in itself, but they went wild once Bruno appeared dressed in full Prince regalia. Taking on the ‘Purple Rain’ soundtrack standout “Let’s Go Crazy”, Mars was more authentic here than during his own performance, and even showed the world his guitar skills using one of Prince’s favorite instruments.
Katy Perry (feat. Skip Marley) – “Chained To The Rhythm”
As with most Katy performances, the beginning started off rocky. It always takes Katy time to find her ground with live performances, but things got magical once the first chorus came through. Her new look is already catching fashion’s eye, but now she’s added some dance moves to her live repertoire. Despite the #picketfence inspired stage, “Rhythm” carried a loud enough message of resistance to the American public that should help in propelling the single to multi-platinum status.
The Weeknd (feat. Daft Punk) – “Starboy” / “I Feel It Coming” Medley
It’s been awhile since the Weeknd gave the American public a solid performance with just his vocals. “I Feel It Coming” was the perfect opportunity for him to showcase his singing talents to a large audience, and he did it with utmost grace. While the Weeknd sounded wonderful, Daft Punk’s influence on the overall performance visual wasn’t what an R&B crooner needed to succeed. If the Weeknd sat on a stool and belted out “Coming”, it would’ve had a more profound overall effect.
Ed Sheeran – “Shape Of You”
Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” is perfectly written and effortlessly sung live. It’s the kind of song that cements Ed’s signature melodies into your head like nothing else before. While Ed consistently delivers live, the live “Shape” performance wasn’t as exciting as some of the others. The song is great, yes, but it’s not enough to get you moving out of your seat. This is the type of performance that could’ve actually benefitted from a more theatrical set, but Ed chose to sing in the same spot only with his signature guitar.
Beyoncé – “Love Drought” / “Sandcastles” Medley
Everyone was excited to see Bey in her first public appearance since announcing her pregnancy, and she definitely played on that with her dramatic performance opening. Bey started with a too-long poem about motherhood featuring 3D graphics of Blue and about a hundred female extras. “Love Drought” live was about as dry as the song title, but at least it gave Coachella attendees an idea of what her upcoming performance would be like. “Sandcastles” came off as relatively unknown to the general public, leading to a sleepy rendition of one of her best ‘Lemonade’ deep album cuts.
Chance The Rapper (feat. Nicole Steen, Jay Electronica, Tamela Mann, Kirk Franklin, and the Chicago Children’s Choir) – “How Great” / “All We Got” Medley
I haven’t really taken the time to review Chance’s expansive catalog, but apparently the Grammy Foundation has. While I appreciate his lyrical ability, I don’t think he’s as great as other rappers currently out. However, his ability to permeate through bubbles to deliver a Christian message to the world of hip-hop is commendable. Nicole Steen and the Chicago Children’s Choir greatly assisted Chance in bringing down the (gospel) house at this year’s ceremony.
Sturgill Simpson (feat. The Dap-Kings) – “All Around You”
I’ve appreciated Sturgill Simpson for his ability to craft meaningful songs. That doesn’t always transform into an effortless live vocal for the country singer-songwriter, but he delivered the most passion of the entire night. “All Around You” is an amazing inspiration to people everywhere, but it becomes even more impactful with the late Sharon Jones’ band the Dap-Kings playing strings.
Adele – “Fastlove” (George Michael Cover)
Boasted as a new arrangement of George Michael’s “Fastlove”, Adele abruptly stopped halfway through the first verse after changing the curse word to the original lyrics. In a complete boss move, she didn’t feel it was right and made the composers start again. The redux performance was near perfect, but you could tell Adele wasn’t as into it as her groundbreaking “Hello” opener. She pulled it all-the-way together in the end, but by that time most people simply lost interest.
Bruno Mars – “That’s What I Like”
I love the fact that Bruno gives authentic soul with every performance. His ‘24K Magic’ era is finally showing that he can tone down the gimmicky 80s statement for something more modern, but it’s still apparent in his live performances. “That’s What I Like” is the result of those style blends, and makes his performance one of the best technical ones of the night. But when it comes to theatrics, the cheesiness took away from Brunos overall live showing, forcing his Temptations-style backup singers to attempt to serenade a restless Grammy audience.
Demi Lovato, Tori Kelly, Little Big Town, and Andra Day “Stayin’ Alive” / “Tragedy” / “How Deep is Your Love” / “Night Fever” (Bee Gees Tribute)
Tributes are usually incredibly hard to pull off, but this one’s failures can be blamed only on one person. While Andra, Tori, and Little Big Town took to the stage with their own genre-specific renditions of Bee Gees’ classics, Demi took every opportunity that she had to oversing “Stayin’ Alive”. Tori especially shined during the tribute, turning “Tragedy” into a rock/pop number that could compete with some of today’s best. When the four artists joined together to close out “Alive”, Demi not only sang over the others, but she oversang and proved she didn’t play nice (vocally) with others.
A Tribe Called Quest (feat. Anderson .Paak, Busta Rhymes, and Consequence) – “Can I Kick It?” / “Award Tour” / “Movin’ Backwards” / “We The People…”
First, it’s quite noticeable that Busta Rhymes dropped the hugest political statement of the night as he referred to Donald Trump as “President Agent Orange” several times throughout A Tribe Called Quest’s performance. ATCQ’s comeback disc was highly profitable, but their performance of the new material was much messier than anyone anticipated. It’s good that they were ambitious in mixing their old and new material, but the whole performance fails when they don’t mesh properly.
Lukas Graham and Kelsea Ballerini “7 Years”/”Peter Pan” Mashup
Lukas Graham’s pop/rock ballad “7 Years” stands on its own, and doesn’t really seem like the type to work well with others. This proved true during their mashup with Kelsey Ballerini’s “Peter Pan”. Kelsea could’ve opened up the Grammys with “Peter Pan” – it’s almost as impactful as “Hello” but from a country perspective. Both artists sounded great for their respective genres, but the combined result didn’t mesh as well as expected.
Pentatonix – “ABC” (Jackson 5 Cover)
Even though Pentatonix won their second Grammy in 2017, that doesn’t mean that they’re a force to be reckoned with. Their a cappella rendition of the Jackson 5 classic “ABC” didn’t really require that much vocal talent to pull off. The five of them seemed like they were having fun, but their performance came off as more of an interlude simply because they didn’t do anything new with the original arrangement.
Metallica (feat. Lady Gaga) – “Moth Into Flame”
I understand that Metallica is a heavy metal band, but that doesn’t mean that they are incapable of delivering a good performance. While everyone was trying to figure out what Gaga was doing with the backup dancers, the lead Metallica singer’s mic was off. Once Gaga made it to the stand, her vocals were so shouty that I’m pretty sure she gave the audience a headache. So what was her solution to poor singing? Jumping into the crowd with a bunch of glittery, sweaty makeup and eyeliner.