Top 20 Most Amazing Grammy Performances of All Time

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Top 20 Most Amazing Grammy Performances of All Time

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Jonathan Alexander
These musical performances will blow your mind! For this list, we'll be looking at show-stopping numbers at this annual awards show that were so iconic they deserve their own ceremony. Our countdown includes The White Stripes, Beyoncé, Eminem & Elton John, Kendrick Lamar, Adele, and more!
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Top 20 Most Amazing Grammy Performances of All Time


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Most Amazing Grammy Performances of All Time.

For this list, we’ll be looking at show-stopping numbers at this annual awards show that were so iconic they deserve their own ceremony.

Let us know in the comments what your favorite Grammy performances are!

#20: Shania Twain

“Man! I Feel Like A Woman!”
The best part of performing at the Grammys is the prerogative to have a little fun - and this prominent country artist did just that. Rocking a striking outfit and plenty of personality, Twain boasts an arresting control of the stage that has the audience in an uproar before the song even hits the chorus. With an assist from an equally energetic band and an impossibly catchy tune, there’s simply no denying this number’s pure, stylish fun. It’s also an incredibly fitting song choice for a ceremony dubbed the "Grammy Year of Women,” since every artist nominated for “Album of the Year” was female. Twain herself was up for the prestigious award, and after a showing like this, we see why.

#19: The White Stripes

“Seven Nation Army/Death Letter”
It’s impossible not to tap your toe to the legendary opening riff of this musical duo’s trademark anthem, but the song itself isn’t even the best part of this bold act. While the seamless transition into the heavier “Death Letter” is also a highlight, what really steals the show is when the lyrics fade out entirely. In an unforgettable sequence, the garage-rock band treats us to a guitar and drum duet that’s up there with some of the greatest rock-and-roll performances of all time. It's a head-banging number that rests not just on the excellent songs, but the musical talents of its artists.

#18: Gorillaz, Madonna, & De La Soul

“Feel Good Inc.” / “Hung Up”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the Queen of Pop always delivers. But when you back her up with the virtual band Gorillaz, and throw in rap trio De La Soul for good measure, you have the recipe for an iconic performance. Madonna struts the stage like she owns it, and the stellar mashup of her ABBA-inspired hit with “Feel Good Inc.” matches her electric enthusiasm. It’s impossible to look away as the pop icon gives it her all, dancing first amid the virtual projections then live dancers.

#17: Amy Winehouse

"You Know I'm No Good" / "Rehab"
Before she’d take home “Record of the Year” later in the evening, this soulful singer delivered a combo of her iconic hits without the benefit of the official Grammy’s stage. Broadcasting live from London didn’t seem to slow her down one bit though, and her signature vocal flair proved she was worthy of her future honor. There’s an authentic quality to Winehouse’s delivery that elevates any of her performances, although in this case the snazzy costumes and jazz aesthetic didn’t hurt, either. It seems she didn’t need the Grammy audience to hype her up, although we’d expect nothing less from someone with this much talent.

#16: Beyoncé

“Love Drought” / “Sandcastles”
To call this nine-minute sensory spectacle memorable would be a major understatement. Dazzling costumes, powerful direction, and Beyoncé’s unmatched vocals are just the start. There’s an undeniable cinematic quality here that single handedly raised the bar for what a musical performance could be. If all that wasn’t impressive enough, she accomplished all of this while pregnant with twins. The focus on motherhood is inspiring, especially given her candid costume and intimate expression of love. It’s ambitious in every sense of the word, and we may never see anything quite like it grace the Grammy stage ever again.

#15: Christina Aguilera

“It's a Man's Man's Man's World”
Once the fog clears on Aguilera’s entrance, there’s a refreshing simplicity to the proceedings - no dancing, no elaborate lighting, just Aguilera, her voice, and a spectacular tribute to the legendary James Brown. There’s no need for anything else when her physicality and commanding vocals fill up the auditorium. Matching the intense power of Brown’s hit single, it’s clear even before she falls to her knees that Aguilera is giving it her all. “Powerful” is the word that comes to mind here, especially for the final note that takes “bringing the house down” to new heights.

#14: Prince & Beyoncé

“Purple Rain” / “Baby I'm a Star” / “Let's Go Crazy” / “Crazy in Love”
It’s a treat any time either of these legendary artists take the stage, but that’s nothing compared to when you put them together. Their collaboration at the 2004 ceremony is everything we wanted and more, with all the style, flair and personality befitting a union of two of the industry’s top players. Their harmonies at the end of “Purple Rain” are iconic enough, but amazingly the number continues to top itself again and again with each transition before culminating in a final stretch that’s downright cathartic. The medley is an excellent blend of each artists’ style, but with this much raw stage power, we would’ve been happy even if they sang “Happy Birthday.”

#13: Mariah Carey

“If It's Over”
The 1992 Grammys showcased this acclaimed five-octave singer at her absolute best. Her expert navigation of each riff, breath and belt is a masterclass of musical technique. But beyond the impressive technical aspects lies an emotionally charged expression that has weight behind each note and movement. There’s an impeccable buildup and release that rests solely on Carey’s shoulders, but she proved up to the task with a staggering display of talent and skill. This is more than just a vocally complex number, it’s a true performance, and in under four minutes manages to encompass why Carey is one of the greats.

#12: Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl & Elvis Costello

"London Calling"
When a monumentally influential artist dies, it sends ripples through the music world, but it also unites people in the industry. When The Clash's Joe Strummer died, the punk world lost a giant, but when it came time to honor him the result was intense. With the ferocity of fellow Brit Elvis Costello, the youthful energy of Dave Grohl and passionate delivery by Bruce Springsteen, the performance had enough grit and attitude to make the late Strummer proud. Springsteen's appearance made the tribute all the more touching as he was both heavily inspired and admired by the late Strummer, making Springsteen the ideal artist to give this grandfather of punk a final send-off.

#11: Eric Clapton

“Tears In Heaven”
Most would take the Grammys as an opportunity to take a live show to the next level, but in a night full of bombastic performances it's the reserved ones that truly stand out. Letting the music speak for itself, Clapton and company sit solemnly, playing with the brutal sadness the song deserves. Clapton decidedly avoids any stage antics that would take away from the emotional weight of the song, especially considering the many preceding losses in Clapton's life that inspired it. Always the epitome of class, the tuxedo-clad Clapton nails every note and ends the song with a quick little bow, skipping the usual accolades – which although deserved would damage the effect of the performance.

#10: Beyoncé & Tina Turner

"Proud Mary"
It would be pretty hard to top a live performance dancing with your husband but a duet with your idol might just do the trick. After giving a tribute to all the talented women that inspired her career, Beyoncé introduces Turner as the magical woman who embodied everything they stood for. Returning the favor, Turner calls her back on stage to duet on "Proud Mary" with a contagious sense of fun flowing from the stage. Looking on like a proud mother, Turner belts her heart out as Beyoncé does all she can to impress her. Thanks to some epic dance moves and an over-the-top back-and-forth performance with the pair perfectly in sync from top to bottom, this showstopper was a perfect passing of the torch.

#9: Kanye West & Daft Punk

“Stronger” / “Hey Mama”
Say what you will about his ego, but when it comes to putting on a performance, few can hold a candle to Kanye West. West starts his set on a somber note, performing a barebones rendition of "Hey Mama" in tribute to his recently deceased mother. After wiping away the tears West switches to party mode going right into "Stronger" but this version has a twist. Instead of just rapping over his original sample, West does one better, getting the real Daft Punk to perform alongside him instead, with their tour pyramid along for the ride. The club-style neon lighting and West's glow-in-dark-inspired attire made this a complete package worthy of Grammy history.

#8: Radiohead

"15 Step"
It's impressive what some bands can do with access to just a little extra production value. When it came time to perform "15 Step," Radiohead didn't go for theatrics or parlor tricks to take their set to the next level. Instead they decided to enhance the song itself. Enlisting the help of a college marching band for a drum-line, brass and additional vocals, they took a simple song and fleshed it out to make it something unbelievably brilliant. With some creepy yet hypnotic dance moves from Thom Yorke, impressive choreography by the already busy musicians and a set that kept the sound at the forefront, this performance let Radiohead show what they can do with some musical assistance.

#7: Kendrick Lamar

"The Blacker The Berry” / “Alright” / “Untitled 3”
Kendrick Lamar is no stranger to shocking Grammy performances so when he wanted to send a message across the country, he knew where to do it. When Lamar shuffled on stage in rags it was clear something distinctly different was happening. Lamar starts his medley in a prison scene chained along with his inmates and band playing from their cells, immediately making his message loud and clear. Telling the African-American story, the performance is blunt and visceral, going from prison to a tribal bonfire. Every line echoes with the pain in Lamar's heart and he spits each verse with reckless abandon, closing on a picture of Compton written on a map of Africa, leaving viewers with a lot to think about.

#6: Daft Punk, Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers

"Get Lucky"
Daft Punk are about as mysterious as it comes, but it still seemed a little strange when they didn't show up on stage for their second TV performance ever. But after a groovy opening by Pharrell, Stevie Wonder and Nile Rodgers, the robots appear from behind the veil to carry the song into its next chorus, dropping samples from throughout their career along the way. The set switches to a party when they start mixing in Rodger's track "Le Freak" and Wonder's "Another Star," turning it into the most impassioned jam session between artists ever to see the stage. Thanks to the contagiously fun collaboration and musicianship, the track was one that got everyone dancing from Beyoncé to the Beatles.

#5: Pink

“Glitter in the Air”
Even for an artist known for pushing the envelope, we think she outdid herself here. What begins as a stirring ballad soon grows into an empowering, innovative anthem as P!nk strips nearly naked and hangs from the ceiling. Impressively, she maintains smooth vocals even as she’s dipped in water and is left spinning in mid-air. As technically impressive as it is captivating to behold, this act is a testament to the artist’s unwavering creative spirit that defines why she’s so popular to this day. Lyrical, dazzling, and historic, it's safe to say no one ever has, or will, dangle and sing as well as this.

#4: Eminem & Elton John

“Stan”
Some collaborations don't have to make sense, they just work. Eminem's dark and disturbing "Stan" had enough story and visual lyrics alone to make it notable, but some artists are never satisfied. Eminem's performance mixes music video recreations with theatrics to make the song come to life in a whole new way. He doesn't stop there, though. At the first chorus, right where the Dido sample should come in, a curtain comes up revealing Elton John at the piano both playing the instrumental and singing the vocals. It made for a show-stopping performance from a collaboration that no one expected; outdoing the original song in one swoop.

#3: Adele

“Rolling In The Deep”
If you have one of the most recognizable singles in decades, it's sometimes best to just give the crowd what they want. Hitting the stage in style, Adele turned back time and gave a performance like a classic crooner. Opening on a beautiful a cappella intro, the lights drop before revealing a full band and backup singers to fill out the sound on an already huge track. Adele stays center-stage behind her mic stand the entire song but doesn't let that stop her from commanding the crowd and putting every ounce of emotion into the performance, nailing every note along the way.

#2: Whitney Houston

“I Will Always Love You”
We could fill a whole list of Houston’s Grammy appearances alone. But if we had to choose just one, there’s no question which is the greatest. In a performance nothing less than extraordinary, Houston’s enchanting voice makes it seem like the song was written for her. Just when you think she’s at the edge of her range, she effortlessly belts out another chorus with enough conviction to leave your jaw clean on the floor. But the song only continues to swell, and even after all these years, the mesmerizing finale never fails to give us chills. After a performance like that, a standing ovation doesn’t feel like enough.

#1: Michael Jackson

“The Way You Make Me Feel” / “Man In The Mirror”
Leave it to the King of pop to deliver the best show the stage has seen for decades to come. Opening on his infamous dance moves to a swung version of "The Way You Make Me Feel," Jackson doesn't stop moving, using the entire stage, often all by himself. After a moonwalking solo that blows his fellow dancers out of the water, Jackson switches to a seemingly minimalist rendition of "Man In The Mirror." But when Michael arrives at the key-change, the song hits its climax as a full gospel choir joins in and Jackson delivers one last memorable moment, falling to his knees and belting out the remainder of this 10-minute-long epic, cementing him in Grammy history.
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