For viewers, attendees, and performers alike, the performances at the Grammys are some of the most anticipated events of the year. Sunday night’s acts lived up to the hype with exciting performances, with many made notable by undertones of civil rights and social activism.
British singers Tom Jones and Jessie J did a duet early on in the night, with “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’,” The Righteous Brothers’ 1964 classic.
Industry-veteran Madonna performed “Living for Love,” the lead single off her 13th album, Rebel Heart. She was clad in red and black lingerie, and was joined by 20 rhinestone-covered dancers wearing bull horns.
NBC’s “The Voice” co-stars Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and Gwen Stefani of No Doubt teamed up for their performance of “My Heart is Open,” off Maroon 5’s newest album, V.
Halfway through the show, President Barack Obama was shown on a pre-taped piece, delivering an eloquent speech urging the audience of one of television’s most watched events to help stop domestic violence with the ItsOnUs.org campaign. His address was followed by a personal story by domestic abuse survivor Brooke Axtell. Pop artist Katy Perry wrapped the segment up with a performance of her song “By the Grace of God.”
It was followed by a duet by pop icon Lady Gaga and jazz legend Tony Bennett, doing their version of Irving Berlin’s 1935 song “Cheek to Cheek,” from their 2014 collaboration album of the same name.
Rapper Kanye West performed twice in the night, first with his song “Only One,” then later joining Sir Paul McCartney and Rihanna for “FourFiveSeconds,” standing out with a simple performance on a stark, white backdrop.
Pharrell Williams traded his iconic hat from last year’s Grammy’s for a bellboy’s cap. His performance of his hit song “Happy,” off the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, was hotel-themed. He was joined on stage by film-composer Hans Zimmer, Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang, and 20 choir members. The performance alluded to the recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, with his dancers dress in black hoodie sweatshirts and “hands up, don’t shoot” gestures embedded in the choreography.
Australian singer-songwriter Sia performed her song “Chandelier,” with a recreation of the music video starring teen dancer Maddie Ziegler and comedienne Kristen Wiig in a dance-off.
The evening’s performances wrapped up with R&B queen Beyoncé’s rendition of “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” and crooner John Legend and rapper Common’s duet of “Glory,” their Oscar-nominated song off the soundtrack of the Martin Luther King Jr. biopic, Selma.