How will we remember the 2017 Grammys? A lot of it will have to do with what Adele won and what Beyoncé didn’t win. As for everything within the power of the night’s two leading ladies, both absolutely crushed it, delivering riveting performances that highlighted both their godly greatness and their earthbound humanity.
And lots of other people were there, too! Through the tributes, the team-ups, the WTF moments — we bring you the 2017 Grammys, condensed into 10 best and worst moments.
1. A Tribe Called Quest Vs. “President Agent Orange”
From Neil Portnow’s speech to the Constitution showing up with Katy Perry, the evening contained numerous political guest spots. But if anything captured the direness of living in Trump’s America, it was A Tribe Called Quest’s otherworldly performance. There was Q-Tip saluting Phife Dawg. There was Anderson .Paak on drums. There was Busta Rhymes ripping apart “President Agent Orange.” And there was 2016 single “We the People,” coming to life with representatives of a melting pot of ethnicities walking down the aisles. Q-Tip ended it all with one word: “RESIST.” Point taken.
2. Chance the Rapper’s Coronation
And let’s hear it for Chance the Rapper. The secret of his stardom has been out for a while, but watching him tear through his Coloring Book medley just after grabbing a pair of televised awards (Best Rap Album and Best New Artist) was the sort of inspirational high that can make you — yes, you! — believe in scoring major endorsement deals and a Big Four Grammy without a record label’s backing. But it wasn’t like he hogged the spotlight. A gospel choir cranked up the grandiosity and guest spots from Tamela Mann, Kirk Franklin and his cousin Nicole (the star of “How Great’s” iPhone-shot video) made the coronation of Chance the Rapper complete.
3. Beyoncé’s Strength
Beyoncé didn’t come away with Album of the Year. “Formation” was shut out for Song and Record of the Year. But for everything actually in her own power, Bey was her own spellbinding self. Looking absolutely regal and showing off her double baby bump proudly, she delivered glowing, sincere renditions of “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles.” These were two of the less-championed Lemonade tracks, yet they took on a new purpose as Beyoncé delivered them alongside her mother Tina, Blue Ivy, Jay Z and her soon-to-be family members.
4. Bruno Mars Plays Prince
It’s impossible to replace Prince, but Bruno Mars did his best. Following The Time’s performance, the similarly-diminutive showman soared beyond his stature and replicated the Purple One’s onstage swagger over a standout “Let’s Go Crazy” cover.
5. Lady Gag-tallica
The Grammys are a big production, and when you have big productions on live television with people singing into microphones, it’s a good idea to, you know, make sure the mics work. Lady Gag-tallica got off to an awkward start, but once it kicked in, we all knew Gaga could’ve killed it as a metal frontwoman in some alternate universe where “Heavy Metal Lover” was more than a footnote in her sneakily genre-defiant catalog (who else could hold their own alongside Metallica and Tony Bennett?) And let’s not forget the band, either. Metallica tearing through its 2016 single “Moth Into Flame” with blistering precision is nothing new, but James Hetfield working through microphone difficulties while going toe-to-toe with Gaga at the mic certainly was. Was it schmaltzy? It contained choreographed moshing, so yes, but for the sort of genre-blending, only-at-the-Grammys fare the Recording Academy so clearly craves, Gaga and Metallica delivered. And seriously — how could Gaga and post-Black Album Metallica be their best selves without hamming it up?
6. Let’s Hear It For Activism
Tribe, Perry and others who turned their political messages into high-profile performances will dominate the post-Grammy conversation, but let’s not forget the smaller bits of activism that made their way into the evening. Paris Jackson protested the Dakota Access Pipeline and Laverne Cox called out #StandWithGavin, support for 17-year-old Gavin Grimm in an upcoming Supreme Court Case on transgender rights.
— Challenger (@bakedinapie) February 13, 2017
7. James Corden’s Opening Monologue
After five straight years of LL Cool J as Grammy host, many yearned for a change of flow. Unfortunately, it came via the flow of James Corden’s bars, a clunky set of eye roll-inducing clunkers and clichés (“With President Trump, we don’t know what comes next”) that made us brace for the worst. The new host eventually settled in — and provided some genuinely funny moments — but this was certainly not one of them.
8. Travolta Strikes Again
John Travolta has had some awkward awards show moments before. This one wasn’t quite as painful as Idina Menzel’s name at the 2014 Oscars, but hey, maybe not everyone’s cut out for presenting at major televised events. In introducing Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood’s performance, Travolta struggled with the TelePrompter, then stumbled to painful ice breakers: “I know what you’re thinking — where did he get all the bling he’s got on?” To be fair, he was wearing three chains, but viewers were more focused on trying to decipher the impenetrable comedic timing.
To cap it off, Urban and Underwood followed with one of the night’s most forgettable, charisma-lacking collaborations.
9. Poor Neil Diamond
About midway through the show, Corden went to the bread and butter — a little bit of Carpool Karaoke, Grammys edition. Out came Neil Diamond, followed by grab bag of other nearby stars — Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and more. Unfortunately, a big part of karaoke is knowing the words to what you’re singing. Aside from Diamond himself, it seemed like no one inside Corden’s pretend car was very familiar with the verses to “Sweet Caroline.”
10. Pentatonix Performs a Motown Classic… for Some Reason
The Jackson 5’s “ABC” is a great song. Pentatonix can do really incredible things with a cappella. But the Grammys’ final-hour peak was not the time for it.