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Grammys 2016 Performances Ranked from Worst to Best: Hollywood Vampires to Kendrick Lamar

By Carolyn Menyes c.menyes@musictimes.com | Feb 16, 2016 01:17 PM EST

The Grammys primetime telecast is less of an award ceremony and more of a three-and-a-halk hour long concert. On Monday night (Feb. 15), there were 20 performances and just a handful of trophies given out. While some of the artists on music's biggest night shined bright and brought true artistry to the Grammys (Kendrick Lamar, Chris Stapleton, Alabama Shakes), other performers were less about the music and more about shameless self-promotion of sexist special guests (Hollywood Vampires, Pitbull).

Check out our ranking of the 20 Grammy performers from worst to best...

20. The Hollywood Vampires, "As Bad as I Am/Ace of Spades"

There are plenty of rock acts that are capable of paying tribute to the unmatchable Lemmy of Motorhead - but a band that is most famous for bringing featuring (the actually musically talented) Johnny Depp may not have been the right choice. Instead of honoring Lemmy and his legacy with a medley of Motorhead songs, The Hollywood Vampires opened up their set with their original song "As Bad As I Am," and while it sounded fine, it wasn't what we signed up for, and Depp should stay away from the microphone. Lemmy deserved better.

19. Pitbull, Travis Barker & Robin Thicke, "El Taxi/Bad Man"

Latin music is incredibly underrepresented at the Grammys, so it's understandable why they tried to give Latinos a big moment at the end of the show with this closing number. While it was refreshing to hear Spanish on this telecast, Pitbull always does the same performance, and the surprise cameo by Sofia Vergara in a taxi costume just felt icky and, really, why was Robin Thicke there?

18. Adele, "All I Ask"

It's painful to put Adele at the bottom of any ranking list. In theory her time on the Grammy stage could have been a top three contender. But, her performance of "All I Ask" (a true highlight from her new album 25) was marred with sound issues. She sings live and the piano player performed live. According to Adele's Twitter, the piano microphones fell on the strings, leading to an out-of-pitch guitar sound, which CBS producers could not fix. So, while Adele herself sounded flawless (and got a standing ovation), the things out of her control made this a #GrammysMoment we'd all like to move on from. Next year will be your year, girl.

17. Joey Alexander, Piano Solo

Joey Alexander is a talented kid, there's no doubt about that, and as the youngest Grammy nominee of the night, it was nice to see him get a little time to shine. But, his plight was played off as a sad one as a kid who has no future in the industry he's clearly talented in, as Grammy executives talked about why streaming is bad. Way to crush Joey's dreams, guys!!

16. Carrie Underwood & Sam Hunt, "Take Your Time/Heartbeat"

Carrie Underwood and Sam Hunt are capable of making sweet harmonies together (he does the background vocals on the studio version of "Heartbeat" after all), but they failed to connect on the Grammys stage, clashing on some of the song's sweeter chords. Plus, at five minutes, this performance was just way too long for two ballads with no choreography.

15. Miguel, "She's Out of My Life"

Miguel was nominated for two Grammys on Monday night, so why his "performance" was relegated to a Michael Jackson documentary advertisement with a 30-second vocal is a mystery to us.

14. Tori Kelly & James Bay, "Let it Go/Hollow"

For the collaborations this year, the Grammy musical director just decided to mashup two major hits, sung by their original artists, and it never quite worked correctly. And while both Tori Kelly and James Bay sounded good, the acoustic pop was just a little boring in an already three-and-a-half hour broadcast.

13. Stevie Wonder & Pentatonix, "That's the Way of the World"

Maurice White, like Lemmy, is a musical legend. And while Pentatonix and Stevie Wonder sounded great together on the Grammys stage, this stinted tribute was not nearly long enough, especially after it was quickly overshadowed by Pentatonix's glee of singing with Wonder and Ed Sheeran's Song of the Year award. Give White his moment...

12. Eagles & Jackson Browne, "Take It Easy"

This was a straightforward performance of a song done by its original band. And while the choice of his biggest hit was a sweet tribute to Glenn Frey, this performance just lacked a big moment or any excitement. It just... was.

11. Ellie Goulding & Andra Day, "Rise Up/Love Me Like You Do"

Both Ellie Goulding and Andra Day sounded spectacular on the Grammys stage, but like Bay and Kelly (and, to a lesser extent, Underwood and Hunt), this performance felt a little odd due to its weird arrangement. These women are too talented - and too different - to share the stage.

10. Little Big Town, "Girl Crush"

"Girl Crush" isn't an inherently exciting song, and while the addition of strings was a welcome one and Karen Fairchild nailed the melody of this Grammy-winning hit, there just wasn't much to pay attention to here.

09. The Weeknd, "Can't Feel My Face/In the Night"

The Weeknd can be one of the most engaging performers out there, and he kicked off his two-song setlist at the Grammys with the fiery Record of the Year nominee "Can't Feel My Face." The Weeknd should have left it there, because when he moved to his new single "In the Night," the energy from the room was immediately drained. We get it, you want to promote your new track, but don't bore us in the process.

08. Taylor Swift, "Out of the Woods"

Taylor Swift opened the Grammys with her new 1989 single "Out of the Woods," and the staging was simply spectacular. She was surrounded by pink trees, illumination courtesy of the audience and, as Chris Stapleton put it later, glitter bombs. As always, Swift put on a show, and while she flubbed a note or two, she was as engaging as ever.

07. Hamilton Cast, "Alexander Hamilton"

This year's Grammys were unique because for the first time in a long time, some of the most exciting music of the year came from Broadway with the hip-hop hit Hamilton. Beyond moving the category of Best Musical Theater Album to the main show, the Grammys celebrated Hamilton's innovation with a life performance from its theatre on the Great White Way. Though the storyline of the musical was missing, thus making the song itself feel a little confusing, there's no denying that this was a spectacle to watch, with stellar vocals from the entire cast. If you thought getting tickets to Hamilton was hard before... just you try now.

06. Justin Bieber, Skrillex and Diplo, "Love Yourself/Where Are U Now"

Justin Bieber finally won his first Grammy, and his energy from the big win was felt heavily during his performance with his Jack U collaborators Diplo and Skrillex. Bieber kicked off this set playing an acoustic guitar, performing his new chart-topping single "Love Yourself." Soon, however, he ran to the mainstage to give "Where Are U Now," typically an EDM track, a rock makeover. Skrillex returned to his From First to Last days by shredding on the guitars while Diplo murdered a drum, and Bieber was characteristically enthusiastic, offering up some Peanuts kicks like there's no tomorrow. Odd dancing aside, this performance was the sort of electric energy the Grammys desperately needed.

05. John Legend, Demi Lovato, Luke Bryan, Meghan Trainor, Tyrese & Lionel Richie, Lionel Richie Tribute Medley

If it seemed like pretty much everyone at the Grammys appeared on stage for this Lionel Richie tribute, well, you're right. This stacked performance brought out the best from John Legend, Demi Lovato and Tyrese who performed their tracks ("Easy Like Sunday Morning," "Hello" and "Brick House") like there was no tomorrow. While some of the parts of the tribute (Trainor, Bryan) played off less well, the pure joy on stage was palpable. Seeing Richie join the stage at the end for "All Night Long," added just another layer of enthusiasm to this massive celebration of Richie's discography.

04. Alabama Shakes, "Don't Wanna Fight"

From the moment Brittany Howard opened her mouth with that signature wail in "Don't Wanna Fight," you just knew this performance was going to slay. And it did. Howard kept her massive vocals gritty and big, but controlled in a way that is truly masterful on some level. Alabama Shakes had a big night with three major wins (Best Rock Song, Best Rock Performance, Best Alternative Music Album), and it was nice to see them carry that momentum to the stage with one of the best straightforward performances of the night.

03. Chris Stapleton, Gary Clark Jr. & Bonnie Raitt, "The Thrill is Gone" (B.B. King Tribute)

In case Chris Stapleton's big sweep at the CMA Awards earlier this year wasn't enough to grab your attention, his big Grammys performance (and wins) certainly will. Though the pairings at this year's Grammys were mostly off, Stapleton paired with Gary Clark Jr. and Bonnie Raitt was simply perfect. Each brought a different element of blues to the table, killing the guitar solos and vocals. As if Stapleton and Clark's intertwining guitars weren't enough to set your TV screens ablaze, when Raitt strutted onto the stage, she proved once again why she, too, is a legend. This was a fitting tribute for one of rock's greats.

02. Lady Gaga, David Bowie Tribute Medley

A lot of detractors popped up when it was announced that Lady Gaga would be the sole artist to pay tribute to David Bowie at the Grammys - but they seemed to forget that Gaga always commits to the bit. From her new Bowie tattoo to her red carpet look that honored the late rock icon, Gaga was clearly in her Bowie zone on Monday evening. She carried that through to her performance, which incorporated multiple sets, projections on Gaga's face and body and several outfit changes. Gaga also nailed the attitude of Bowie's multiple personas and, of course, the vocals. Like I said, never forget: Gaga will always commit 100 percent.

01. Kendrick Lamar, "The Blacker the Berry/Alright"

It was clear from the first visuals of Kendrick Lamar's much-hyped Grammy performance that he would be making a statement, just like he did with his Grammy-winning album To Pimp a Butterfly. Lamar used his time on stage to be unapologetically black and political. From the chain gang to his African set to his intense strobe light-infused freestyle to the last stark image of "Compton" written on Africa, this performance was not only important but executed flawlessly. Lamar, as always, was in the zone. He performed his raps and freestyles with a fervor that many other Grammy performers should have taken note of, getting completely lost in the music. He may have lost Album of the Year, but Lamar dominated the Grammys.

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