Grammys 2015: Highlights, winners and best moments

By Liam McGurl

[Image courtesy of cartoondollemporium.com]

The 57th annual Grammy Awards were a night full of glamour, performances and surprises — like Sam Smith tying Beyoncé with six nominations. As expected, LL Cool J opened the show wearing his signature beret for his fourth consecutive year.

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[Image courtesy of zap2it.com]

The early 70s rock band AC/DC opened the show performing their hit “Highway to Hell.”  From the get-go, it was clear that the night would be entertaining for everyone, young and old.

The night was full of similarly shocking performances, as Madonna performed a matador and bull themed rendition of “Living for Love.”  This performance was definitely the most controversial of the night as it featured an entourage of men dressed in bull horns and face masks alongside choir singers performing in gospel fashion.

Aside from Madonna’s sexually-charged performance, the night was full of fairly solemn acoustics – much different than the over-the-top nature of many past Grammy’s.

One of the most emotional solo performances of the night was Beyoncé’s soulful rendition of Thomas A. Dorsey’s gospel tune “Take My Hand, Precious Lord.”  Dressed in all white, surrounded by a choir of men in white tuxedos, Beyoncé effortlessly belted out the tune, earning her a standing ovation.  While Beyoncé’s singing brought tears to viewers’ eyes, winning “Best R&B Performance” for her Jay-Z collaboration “Drunk in Love” almost brought a few tears to her eyes.

Beyonce performs "Take My Hand" at the 57th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles

[Image courtesy of hellogiggles.com]

Katy Perry’s rendition of “By the Grace of God” was equally touching.  After listening to an introduction from President Barack Obama, followed by a speech from a survivor of domestic abuse, Perry delivered an emotional performance.  Full of smoke, shadow art and serious messages, Perry was the star of what might be the most memorable performance of the night.

Among these powerful performances were Ariana Grande’s production of “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart,” Kanye West’s surprisingly somber, and rap-lacking, performance of “Only One” and Sia’s slightly more upbeat theatrical production of “Chandelier” featuring actress and comedian Kristen Wigg as a Sia doppelganger.

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[Image courtesy of ew.com]

Maybe it was all of these emotional vocals, but even Pharrell’s “Happy” didn’t seem too happy. Regardless, whether or not Pharrell’s popular tune didn’t sound quite as cheerful, it’s a safe bet that he was after walking away with the Grammy for “Best Pop Solo Performance.”

While some may like the usual theatrical nature of the annual Grammy’s celebration, many appreciated this year’s focus on simplistic sets and tremendous vocals.  When it comes to these vocals, there is nothing better than a power-duet. Luckily, these were not in short supply this year.

Sam Smith and Mary J. Blige teamed up for an epic “Stay With Me” collaboration.  Even though the performance was met with an outstanding number of bravos, it’s a safe bet that the highlight of Smith’s night was walking away with four Grammy’s, including “Best New Artist,” “Best Pop Vocal Album,” “Song of the Year” and the coveted “Record of The Year” award.  One could say that Smith ran the Grammy’s— but that’s not much of a surprise to anyone.

While they might not have snagged any awards, Hozier and Annie Lennox joined forces for a mash up of Hozier’s “Take Me To Church” and Lennox’s “I Put a Spell on You.”  Hozier’s soulful voice could have jerked a few tears while Lennox’s power ballad provided a successful comeback for this 80s performer.

Lennox wasn’t the only shocking comeback of the night, though.  Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga took to the stage to perform their hit Cheek To Cheek, which helped them to win the award for “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.”  It was nice to see Gaga on stage since she has been out of the public eye for the past few months.

Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani collaborated on an electrifying performance of “My Heart Is Open.”  Much like Lennox and Gaga, Stefani was a pleasant surprise as her career had been in limbo for a few years.

For the ladies, Ed Sheeran and John Mayer’s “Thinking out Loud” collaboration was a crowd pleaser.  For the older folks, Sheeran and the Electric Light Orchestra’s rendition of “Mr. Blue Sky” was a highlight.

Overall, there were not many surprises, with the exception of not so well-known vocalist Beck snagging “Album of the Year” and Paramore’s Hailey Williams taking home the award for “Best Rock Song.”

As for the expected winners, the Clean Bandit and Jess Glyne collaboration “Rather Be” took home the Grammy for “Best Dance Recording,” A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera’s group effort “Say Something” took home the award for “Best Pop Duo/ Group Performance,” and Miranda Lambert received the Grammy for “Best Country Album.”

Sunday night brought about lots of laughs, tears and great performances — but we’re still wondering if Sam Smith struggled to carry all of those trophies on his way out.

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Probably not.

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