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Grammys 2017: 30 Most Memorable Performances, From Whitney Houston And Michael Jackson To Lady Gaga And Adele

Which is your favourite?

08/02/2017 17:20

Every year, the Grammys dishes out awards to the year’s biggest artists, and heralds the most important musical offerings of the past 12 months.

However, what get us most excited are the A-list performances, with huge names from the world of music gracing the stage to deliver memorable, impactful and, at times, outrageous renditions of their hits, in the hopes of being the stand-out star of the evening.

Ahead of this year’s event on Sunday night in LA, from Madonna, Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston to Kanye West, Beyoncé and Adele, here are 30 of the Grammys performances that have stuck in our minds long after those all-important golden envelopes have been opened...

  • Whitney Houston - Saving All My Love For You (1986)
    For many, this performance at the Grammys will have been their first time hearing the unmistakeable and incomparable live vocals of Whitney Houston.
  • Michael Jackson - 'The Way You Make Me Feel' (1988)
    Some pop icons' performances are remembered for their elaborate sets, outrageous costumes or surprising guest stars.

    All the King Of Pop needed, though, was a beat to dance to, and he could still bring the house down, as this amazing rendition of 'The Way You Make Me Feel' proved.
  • Eric Clapton - 'Tears In Heaven' (1993)
    Eric Clapton's live performance of 'Tears In Heaven' could have even the most stoic of viewers in tears, and that's before taking into account the incredibly emotional back story of losing his four-year-old son.

    That night, 'Tears In Heaven' was also named Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year, while Eric Clapton was awarded Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
  • Whitney Houston - 'I Will Always Love You' (1994)
    What is there to say?

    In 1994 (and, actually, the years that followed) there was no escaping this song, but there's no beating it in its flawless live form.
  • Aretha Franklin - 'Nessun Dorma' (1998)
    The story behind this performance makes it even more impressive.

    Luciano Pavarotti had initially been scheduled to perform, but pulled out at the last minute on doctors' orders, leaving his friend Aretha Franklin to step in instead, completely flooring everyone with her talent in the process.

    It's a rendition that shouldn't work on any level, yet there's absolutely no denying those vocals.
  • Ricky Martin - 'La Copa De La Vide' (1999)
    A performance of the World Cup song that helped kick-start a resurgence of Latin American in mainstream music.

    Leather trousers and a sweatshirt isn't a combination that anyone could pull off, but Ricky Martin just about managed it.
  • Madonna - 'Nothing Really Matters' (1999)
    'Ray Of Light' helped kickstart Madonna's career after a few years of projects that were met with a lukewarm reception.

    After being met with critical acclaim and huge chart success, the cherry on top was winning her first ever Grammy for her music, as well as this stunning and surprisingly sombre performance.
  • Eminem and Elton John - 'Stan' (2001)
    A combination of two people that no one saw coming, Eminem and Elton John made headlines the world over when the 'Your Song' singer stepped in to replace Dido's parts on 'Stan'.

    The performance was considered by many to be a response to critics who panned Eminem's homophobic lyrics, particularly as the two stood together in solidarity at the end.
  • Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mya, Lil Kim, Missy Elliott and Pattie LaBelle - 'Lady Marmalade' (2002)
    This performance allowed each of the track's four performers to enjoy their time in the spotlight - complete with all the sequins, feathers and big hair it's become synonymous with - before being joined by Missy Elliott and Patti LaBelle.

    Seriously. What. A. Performance.
  • Prince and Beyoncé - 'Purple Rain'/'Baby, I'm A Star'/'Let's Go Crazy'/'Crazy In Love' (2004)
    We all know Prince had the best eye for up-and-coming stars, so it's no surprise that right at the beginning of Beyoncé's solo career, he chose her to perform with him at the Grammys.
  • Kanye West - 'Jesus Walks' (2005)
    The fact of the matter is that Kanye West is probably better known these days for his outrageous behaviour than his musical offerings.

    That's a bit of a shame really, as when he pulls it out of the bag, as he did with this religious-themed performance in 2005, there are few who can touch him in terms of showmanship.
  • Gorillaz, De La Soul and Madonna - 'Feel Good Inc'/'Hung Up' (2006)
    Listen, we all know Madonna as a great popstar, but it's not unfair to say that her sense of humour is something she's... less associated with.

    That's why it was so great to see her interacting with the Gorillaz at the Grammys in 2006, first crashing their performance of 'Feel Good Inc' before launching into an energetic version of her hit, 'Hung Up'.
  • Amy Winehouse - 'You Know I'm No Good'/'Rehab' (2008)
    By the time of Amy Winehouse's Grammys performance, the sad truth was that everyone was talking about her, but it was rarely in conjunction with her songwriting or amazing vocal abilities.

    In fact, her Grammys performance was aired live over satellite link, as she wasn't allowed a visa to travel to the US for the ceremony.

    Still, she managed to silence all of her critics, and remind everyone why she had become one of the world's most famous people in the first place.
  • Kanye West - 'Hey Mama' (2008)
    Kanye was struck by tragedy just months before his emotional performance at the Grammys, when his beloved mother, Donda, died during surgery.

    To commemorate her life, he performed a sombre version of his 2005 track, 'Hey Mama', though he wrote the song years earlier, as a thank you to all his mother had done for him in her life.
  • Beyoncé and Tina Turner - 'Déjà Vu'/'Proud Mary' (2008)
    And as if duetting with Prince wasn't enough, four years later Beyoncé was tasked with introducing the legendary Tina Turner, only for the two of them to perform the classic 'Proud Mary' together.

    Tina looked totally thrilled to be sharing the stage with Beyoncé, while the Queen Bey truly held her own next to one of her idols, while managing not to outshine her.

    The stuff legendary duets are made of.
  • M.I.A., T.I., Kanye West, Jay Z and Lil Wayne - 'Paper Planes'/'Swagga Like Us' (2009)
    What happens when you round up the world's biggest rappers, and throw them all on stage together? Oh, and one of them is nine months pregnant?

    Well... this, actually.
  • Lady Gaga and Elton John - 'Poker Face'/'Speechless'/'Your Game' (2010)
    By the time she made her debut at the Grammys, Lady Gaga had already become the biggest star in the world, so the stakes were pretty high for her first ever performance.

    Did she manage to pull it off?

    Well, let's see. Ridiculous OTT introduction. Giant sets. Multiple songs. Amazing outfit. Casually performing with a legend, as if they were contemporaries.

    We'd have to say yes.
  • Pink - 'Glitter In The Air' (2010)
    Pink's fans had long been aware of quite how much she put into her live performances prior to her solo performance at the Grammys, but in 2010, she made sure the world knew about it.

    Singing the haunting ballad, 'Glitter In The Air', Pink first walked out into the crowd, before performing air aerobics while hanging from the ceiling, all while belting along with the track.
  • Jennifer Hudson - 'I Will Always Love You' (2012)
    Throughout her career, Whitney performed at the Grammys on multiple occasions, each time bringing the house down with her powerhouse vocals.

    Her death in 2012 came just 24 hours before that year's ceremony, and it was clear that someone was going to have to perform a tribute.

    It was decided that Jennifer Hudson was the star with the vocal capabilities of doing Whitney justice, and with less than a day to prepare, we can't imagine how she could possibly have bettered this stirring performance.
  • Nicki Minaj - 'Roman's Revenge'/'I Feel Pretty'/'Roman Holiday' (2012)
    Undeniably one of the most shocking shows ever to grace the Grammys stage, Nicki Minaj certainly raised eyebrows with her debut performance at the awards show.

    Having already arrived at the show on the arm of a man dressed as the pope, she began her set with a rap in a confessional booth.

    After a brief short film, she then staged an exorcism live on stage, culminating in her levitating to the roof, all in character as alter-ego, Roman Zolanski.
  • Adele - 'Rolling In The Deep' (2012)
    Another performance that hits even harder when you know the context behind it, the Grammys in 2012 marked Adele's first live performance after undergoing throat surgery.

    The world hadn't heard her sing in a long time, and fears began to rise about whether she'd ever be able to match her old vocal offerings. We needn't have worried.
  • Beyoncé and Jay Z - 'Drunk In Love' (2014)
    The music world was still reeling from the shock release of her self-titled visual album when Beyoncé took to the stage at the Grammys in 2014.

    This time, she wasn't there as a member of Destiny's Child, she wasn't promoting a song from a film, she wasn't anyone's special guest.

    She was standing on her own two feet, and it felt like after years of being one of the world's most famous singers, she'd really cemented her place as a superstar.
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert, Trombone Shorty, Madonna and Queen Latifah - 'Same Love' (2014)
    At a time when the debate around gay marriage was still raging on in America, Macklemore decided to use his slot at the Grammys to make a bold statement.

    During his song 'Same Love', 33 same- and opposite-sex couples tied the knot, before Madonna appeared in full cowboy attire to sing 'Open Your Heart' with a gospel choir.

    While on paper it sounds like a clunky and even arguably insincere stunt, we struggle to hold back tears every time we we re-watch this clip.
  • Kendrick Lamar - 'The Blacker The Berry'/'Alright' (2016)
    And talking about making a political statement on the Grammys stage... wow.

    While that year's decision to award Taylor Swift Album Of The Year over Kendrick Lamar may have been controversial, his was the performance that had everyone talking that year. Just watch it to see what we mean.
  • Lady Gaga - David Bowie tribute (2016)
    Lady Gaga managed to squeeze in a whopping 10 of Bowie's iconic hits into her tribute, a performance that divided opinion.

    Some felt it reminded viewers of Bowie's greatness and influence on pop music, while others - including his son - argued that Gaga's performance was more about her than the man she was honouring.
The Most Memorable Grammys Looks Of All Time
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