Sunday night’s 55th annual Grammy Awards were as much about the performances as it was the actual statues handed out.
The evening saw some powerful collaborations among artists, and all eyes were on one controversial performer. Here are the top 5 moments of the night:
1) Killer performances
Take your pick. From a spirited performance of “The Weight” by an all-star group including Sir Elton John, T Bone Burnett, the Zac Brown Band, Mavis Staples, Mumford & Sons and Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes, to the many duets like R&B crooner Miguel with Wiz Khalifa and Miranda Lambert with fellow country artist Dierks Bentley, it was all thrilling.
Fun. reminded us as to why we loved them when they performed “Carry On.” But they won a big award of the night, song of the year, for their hit “We Are Young.” And the stars in the audience were grooving along during a tribute to Bob Marley led by Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Sting, Ziggy and Damian Marley.
Even Taylor Swift won us over when she took to the stage dressed as a ringmaster and surrounded by circus/carnival types to kick off the ceremony with her hit “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”
But one of the most eagerly awaited performances was:
2) The return of Justin Timberlake to the stage
The Grammys went sepia-toned for Timberlake’s performance of his new single “Suit and Tie,” which offered plenty of homage to the Rat Pack era with Timberlake in a tux with a bow tie and a big band with similarly suited backup singers billed as “JT and the Tennessee Kids.”
Jay-Z left his seat in the audience to run up on stage for his rap portion of the song. And Timberlake was cooler than cool as he segued into his new single “Pusher Love Girl.” The performance marked the return of Timberlake to music since he took a four-year break to focus on acting.
Welcome home JT.
3) LL Cool J pulls triple duty
Sure, he’s a big acting star now, but don’t forget that LL, aka James Todd Smith, got his start in the hip hop game.
So it felt right when the Grammy host donned a knit cap, a black T-shirt and some subtle bling to perform alongside Chuck D, Travis Barker, Tom Morello and DJ Z-Trip. They closed out the show with “Welcome to the Terrordome” and shouted out the late Beastie Boy, Adam “MCA” Yauch, with a “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” chant.
He also kept the audience informed of what folks were saying on social media, reading tweets and responding to some. The Grammys got its monies worth with him.
4) Adele didn’t wear black
You cannot love her as she sings like an angel, is hilarious and just seems so normal.
But just like you can always count on a practically flawless performance when she grabs the mic, we thought she was also a sure bet to show up in a black frock. It’s kind of been like her thing.
But no. When Adele took to the stage to claim the first award of the night, best pop solo performance for “Set Fire to the Rain,” she was wearing a flowery, red and black Valentino dress.
New life as a mom and clearly new fashion choices: It was almost as surprising as Prince showing up to present Gotye and Kimbra the record of the year award for “Somebody That I Used To Know.
5) The somewhat anticlimactic appearance of Chris Brown with Rihanna
Despite a few cutaways of the pair sitting together in the audience and Brown standing and clapping following her performance, seeing the two together was not as big a deal as the run up felt like it should be.
Friday marked the fourth anniversary of Brown’s assault on Rihanna, which occurred before that year’s Grammy ceremony.
The pair had been a huge focus of this year’s Grammys as fans waited to see if they would arrive at the ceremony together and how much “togetherness” they would exhibit.
But in the end it felt like really no big deal.
More surprising was six-time nominee Frank Ocean not winning any of the big awards he was up for.
Ocean scored best urban contemporary album and shared best rap collaboration with Kanye West and Jay-Z for “No Church in the Wild,” but lost best new artist to Fun. and album of the year to Mumford & Sons.
It was also more fun checking to see which artists ignored the reported Grammys memo asking them to cover up (we are looking at you and your rather exposed bosom Katy Perry). Jennifer Lopez even joked about it while presenting.
“As you can see I read the memo,” Lopez said, wearing a black dress cut extremely high and fully exposing one leg.