The Good, The Bad and The Painful Performances of the 2016 Grammys

Gregory E. Miller
Grammys Gaga Bowie
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

If you weathered all three-and-a-half hours of Monday night's Grammys, congratulations, you are a strong person. For the rest of you, we've done the dirty work and broken down all 21 performances, ranking them from the ear-bleedingly bad to the ones worthy of a standing ovation. Let's go:

Hollywood Vampires
A so-called super-group comprised of the decaying bodies of Alice Cooper and Joe Perry along with Mortdecai star Johnny Depp, the Hollywood Vampires… No, just no. Moving on.

Stevie Wonder and Pentatonix
Remember when kids who liked a capella had to hide it, otherwise they’d get beaten up and shoved into lockers? Pentatonix makes a good case for bringing those days back. They paired up with Wonder for a quick tribute to Earth, Wind and Fire with a cover of “That’s The Way of the World.” Wonder should have refused. Maybe no one told him who he was standing with? Ba-dum tssh.

Joey Alexander
Cool, a kid that can play piano. Schroeder did it just as well, while also fending off Lucy.

Justin Bieber, Skrillex and Diplo
Bieber began with a bizarrely rearranged “Love Yourself,” an already stripped-down acoustic song that did not need touching. Not content to destroy one chart-topper, he then brought out his Jack U pals to suck the joy out of the otherwise wonderful “Where Are U Now.” Some (most?) things are better left alone.

Chris Stapleton, Gary Clark Jr. and Bonnie Raitt
The three stars paid tribute to B.B. King, and we can’t even finish this sentence because zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Eagles (Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, Timothy B. Schmit and Joe Walsh) with Jackson Browne
It was a tribute to Glenn Frey in the form of “Take It Easy,” so that’s nice, but it was also a bunch of old white dudes being boring, so that’s not.

Miguel
For a few seconds, Miguel paid tribute to Michael Jackson because… Spike Lee recently made a documentary about him? Pass.

John Legend, Demi Lovato, Luke Bryan and Meghan Trainor with Lionel Richie
Hilariously, Lionel Richie revealed in the red carpet pre-show that he didn’t have anything to do with the artist selection for this tribute to him. Apparently neither did anyone with an awareness of Meghan Trainor’s vocal abilities. She eeked out a tepid version of “You Are” while country music embarrassment Luke Bryan tried to translate his talk-singing into “Penny Lover.” John Legend’s “Easy Like Sunday Morning” and Tyrese’s “Brick House” were inoffensive, and Richie’s own “All Night Long” was fine. But the only thing worth giving a second thought was Demi Lovato’s “Hello.” The B-level pop star's strong showing was a good way to get the Academy to take note. Had she performed alone, she’d be much higher on this list. 

Adele
Looking at the night’s line-up, Adele seemed a sure thing. But from the minute she stepped onto the Grammys stage, something was not right. Audio issues were revealed immediately, followed by an overwrought lighting design and more than a few notes sung off-key. There was also a strange guitar sound that the singer blamed on piano mikes falling. So, RIP Adele’s career. (Kidding—she’s still going to win every single award next year for her album 25 and single “Hello,” which arrived too late for this year’s nominations.) 

2016 Grammys - The Weeknd

Cliff Lipson/CBS

The Weeknd performs at the Grammys

The Weeknd
The Weeknd began with a brief intro of his hit “I Can’t Feel My Face” before seguing into the less popular “I Don’t Mind.” He’s often been heralded as the reincarnation of Michael Jackson, but with vocals tonight that have been far better and a major lack of energy, yeah, maybe not.

2016 Grammys - Taylor Swift

Cliff Lipson/CBS

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift
Talk about underwhelming. Swift had the opening slot, and she used it for a highly under-produced performance of her latest single, “Out of the Woods.” Sure, she sang it fine—better even, than in most of her past Grammy outings—but we’ve come to expect much more from the biggest pop star in the world. A glitter bodysuit, a couple of trees and Jack Antonoff on back-up don’t quite cut it. However, she gets points for not pandering to the Internet with some sort kind of cheeky response to Kanye West’s recent misogynistic baiting, instead addressing that in a very classy acceptance speech for, ahem, album of the year. Hey-o!

Alabama Shakes
Sure, fine.

Tori Kelly and James Bay
The two rising stars gangbanged one another’s hits, “Let it Go” and “Hollow,” and their voices meshed together well enough. But the combination seemed to mute each song’s power, rather than double up on strength.

Sam Hunt and Carrie Underwood
Sam Hunt is a very, very, very beautiful man. Carrie Underwood is a very, very, very beautiful woman. So why was there so little passion between the two of them in this mix of their respective songs, “Take Your Time” and “Heartbeat”? It almost seemed like they were avoiding eye contact, lest they be tempted. Weird as that was, the song was one of few genuine mash-ups of the night, and it moved seamlessly.

Andra Day and Ellie Goulding
One of these musicians is a powerhouse. The other has a song on the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack. There’s no way this pairing should have worked, yet here we are.

The Cast of Hamilton
For those of us who haven’t seen the Broadway musical (and don’t have a couple grand to throw down for tickets anytime soon), something was probably lost in this remote staging of “Alexander Hamilton” at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in NYC. But for concept alone, it was an intriguing breath of fresh air in an otherwise repetitive evening.

Gwen Stefani
Okay, so Stefani didn’t so much perform at the Grammys as she did lip sync her new single “Make Me Like You” live for a music video that doubled as a commercial for Target. Ignore how terribly 2016 that is, and this was actually a lot of fun! Costume changes! Roller skates! Colors!

Lady Gaga
You have to give it to Gaga: girl knows how to put on a show. Taking a very literal approach to embodying David Bowie, she gave us more tribute than any tribute has ever tributed. When the proverbial Effie Trinket arrived, Gaga bum-rushed the stage to volunteer as tribute and win the Hunger Games before they even began. Maybe this metaphor has gone too far, and maybe so did this spectacle. But something had to be number four on this list.

Pitbull, Travis Barker, Joe Perry and Robin Thicke
Hate on Mr. Worldwide all you want, but there's a reason he closed out the show. In a night void of much jubilee, a line of women selling their dignity in leotards was a welcome change of pace. And that was before Pitbull even brought out his trump card: Sofia Vergara wearing a taxi costume. Unfortunately CBS cared more about getting off the air at 11:30 than actually finishing the show, as the credits began rolling half-way through, covering up most of the screen and sparing us whatever his pals were planning to beat over our head.

Kendrick Lamar
The rapper’s powerful one-two punch of “The Blacker the Berry” and “Alright” was a mesmerizing display of poetry and politics in action. Plus, in the show’s first hour and forty minutes, it was the only time the mainstage saw any real choreography.

Little Big Town
The four-piece trotted out “Girl Crush,” the most (pointlessly) controversial country song in years, for what must have been the 984th time on an awards show. But with a new arrangement backed by an orchestra, Karen Fairchild breathed beautiful new life into what’s sure to one day be a classic song.