In one of the most diverse (and longest) Grammy ceremonies in years, the mesh of performers old and new was the perfect recipe for a star-studded show — so much so, the numbers seemed to overshadow many of the awards themselves. There were so many memorable moments during the three-and-a-half-hour show, but here are some of the highlights from one of music’s biggest nights.
The performances were top notch this year, including back-to-back sets from Kanye West and The Matador (er, Madonna). AC/DC kicked off the show with a set, including a slower-paced “Highway to Hell” that got the entire crowd on its feet and adorned in red devil horns.
Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett brought a bit of glamour to the ceremony with a performance of their jazz album title track “Cheek to Cheek.” Ed Sheeran took the stage with a band including John Mayer, Herbie Hancock and Questlove (of The Roots) for “Thinking Out Loud” and later Jeff Lynne’s ELO for “Evil Woman” and “Mr. Blue Sky.”
Hozier and Annie Lennox brought the house down with a medley of “Take Me To Church” and “I Put A Spell On You,” creating a powerful vocal vortex that absolutely stole the show.
Other notable collaborations of the night included Rihanna, West and Paul McCartney, who premiered “FourFiveSeconds” to a standing ovation, and Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani, who sang “My Heart Is Open” from Maroon 5’s latest record.
In terms of trophies, it was clearly the year of Sam Smith. The soulful singer racked up four Grammys, including Best New Artist, Best Pop Vocal Album, Song of the Year and Record of the Year. He later shared his standout single “Stay With Me” with Mary J. Blige, marking another one of the night’s top performances.
Pharrell Williams bested the likes of Taylor Swift and Sia for Best Pop Solo Performance before channeling his inner “Grand Budapest Hotel” bellhop for the most minor-keyed version of “Happy” ever heard, thanks to the inclusion of “Interstellar” composer Hans Zimmer.
The biggest surprise of the night came when Beck won Album of the Year, beating Smith, Williams and Beyoncé. The biggest laugh of the night (arguably) came when West started to take the stage during Beck’s speech but returned to his seat shortly after. A play on his infamous mic-grabbing stunt during Taylor Swift’s speech at the 2009 Video Music Awards? Oh, Kanye, you’re so clever.
Another surprise was Kristen Wiig donning a platinum wig and nude leotard to dance during Sia’s “Chandelier” alongside the video’s star, Maddie Ziegler. All of these moments made the awards show seem like more of a performance-based ceremony, with fewer breaks, shorter acceptance speeches and more dynamic musical exhibitions.
Closing out the show was Queen Bey herself with a spiritual song that led into Common and John Legend’s Oscar-nominated “Glory.” The emotional finale was a strong ending to a show that very rarely lost this writer’s attention. The diversity of nominees and performers alike made the ceremony interesting, intriguing, and most importantly, entertaining.
Who were your favorite winners and performers? Tweet your thoughts @AlyssaVHolcomb.
[A version of this story ran on page 10 on 2/12/2015 under the headline “Trophy hunting: Top-notch performances at Grammys"]