he Grammys may technically be an "awards show," but last night, in between the handing out of golden gramophones, viewers got the chance to enjoy the real reason they tune in: The performances. As the year's biggest music show, the Grammys play host to some of the best, buzziest, and strangest musical performances the year has to offer — and the 2013 ceremony, which aired last night on CBS, was no exception. (See the full list of winners at the official Grammy website.)
Check out the best and worst performances from the 55th annual Grammy Awards:
Classiest comeback: Justin Timberlake
With the release of his album The 20/20 Experience just a little over a month away, Justin Timberlake made a very convincing case for his comeback. A suit-and-tie wearing Timberlake commanded the stage with his animated, '40s-inspired performance of new single "Suit and Tie," which reached its climax when Jay-Z came out for his guest verse. Is it March 19 yet?
Best tribute: Elton John, Mavis Staples, Zac Brown, Mumford and Sons, and Brittany Howard honor Levon Helm
The Grammys are notorious for half-baked tributes to recently deceased artists. But the rousing rendition of "The Weight" performed by an ecliptic series of artists including Elton John, Mavis Staples, Zac Brown, Mumford and Sons, and Brittany Howard winningly paid tribute to The Band's Levon Helm. Indeed, Mavis Staples nearly brought down the house with her booming solos.
Most confounding performance: Taylor Swift
We are never ever ever going to understand what Taylor Swift was thinking with her opening performance of "We Are Never Getting Back Together," which featured an inexplicable Cirque-du-Soleil-meets-Alice-in-Wonderland motif. Over the course of the performance, Swift strutted past a series of oddities including (but not limited to) a headbanging white rabbit and a clown riding a flaming tricycle. Really.
Worst production gimmick: Carrie Underwood
Props to Carrie Underwood for trying something different, but the decision to project butterflies and roses all over her gown as she sang "Blown Away" was the worst kind of Grammy gimmick — silly, distracting, and generally out of sync with the song she was performing.
Sexiest performance: Miguel
The rising R&B crooner donned a black-and-white striped suit and gave off some major Prince vibes when he wowed the audience with a rendition of his best single, "Adorn." And even though he had to share the spotlight with Wiz Khalifa, Miguel "still sang the ever-loving s--t" out of the song, "showing absolutely dangerous levels of smooth," said Tom Brelhan at Stereogum.
Biggest disappointment: Frank Ocean
Ocean's Grammy performance was one of the most anticipated of the night, and perhaps that's one of the reasons it failed to deliver. The buzzy R&B singer had a big 2012: He released his highly acclaimed debut, Channel Orange, and broke free of hip-hop conventions when he revealed in a Tumblr confessional that his first love was a man. While Ocean made the admirably bold choice to perform "Forrest Gump," the song on Channel Orange that perhaps most explicitly refers to his love for a man, his vocals wavered and stayed slightly out of pitch for most of the song. Although it wasn't a total disaster, the performance likely did little to appeal to new fans, and left his current ones attempting to justify this misstep.
Best rock 'n roll moments: The Black Keys with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and Jack White
The Keys powered through a rollicking performance of "Lonely Boy" with the help of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and a wildly dressed Dr. John. And separately, White Stripes frontman Jack White showed off both his soulful side and his inner rock star when he transitioned from "Love Interruption" to a feedback-filled performance of "Freedom at 21."
The Black Keys:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why China's Communist Party is headed for collapse
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why Texas Republicans may want to cool the anti-Obama land-grab talk
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- Why the poor's investment of choice is so alarming
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- How to make perfect fried rice in 6 easy steps
- Why atheism doesn't have the upper hand over religion
- Obama doesn't have a manhood problem — but conservatives certainly do
- Why we need a maximum wage
Subscribe to the Week