The Grammy Awards are on this Sunday! Ever since I first watched the Grammy Awards back in 2000, I have always looked forward to music’s biggest night. Before Late Late Show host James Corden takes the Staples Center stage on Sunday, I picked out some of the best Grammy moments for the past 16 years.
It is hard to believe that Whitney Houston’s final performance on the Grammy stage was 17 years ago! “The Queen of the Night” singer produced a remarkable segment when she performed a medley of “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay” and “I Learned from the Best.” After she had performed, Whitney was rewarded the Best Female R&B Vocal Grammy for “It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay.”
Britney Spears’ Grammy Debut (2000)
In my humble opinion, Britney Spears is the Princess of Pop! Sadly, the Grammys gave her only one chance to perform. She started her performance with a few bars of “From the Bottom of My Broken Heart” and kicked things into turbo with “…Baby One More Time,” which reminded me of a mechanical version of high school dance party.
Sir Elton John is one of my all-time favorite music heroes! Several of his past Grammy Award appearances involved duets with rising artists who have become household names. He performed “Philadelphia Freedom” with the Backstreet Boys in 2000, while his 2001 performance with Eminem caused controversy when GLAAD and other LGBT activists protested outside the Staples Center that year. In 2010, he performed a mash-up of “Speechless” and “Your Song” with kindred spirit Lady Gaga and rounded out his duets with Ed Sheeran in 2013, when they sang “The A-Team.”
When the Grammy Awards returned to the Big Apple in 2003, show officials invited Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel to perform at Madison Square Garden. While performers who were half their age use pyrotechnics and an army of dancers for their performances, the two singer-songwriters played their haunting song: “The Sound of Silence” and the entire assembled audience listened to their great tune.
Probably the greatest rock performance in modern day Grammy history belongs to Melissa Etheridge. Back in October 2004, my fellow Kansasn was diagnosed with breast cancer and was doing chemotherapy when she performed “Piece of My Heart” with Joss Stone to honor one of her rock heroes: Janis Joplin. She soared to new heights, gave me chills, and let the world know that “Cancer would not get the best of her!”
I have been a fan of Christina Aguilera since my childhood friend, Taylor Curry, gave me her CD as a birthday present. However, I became enamored with the future Voice USA coach when she delivered a vocal defying tribute to the Godfather of Soul at the 2007 Grammy Awards. Ten years later, this performance remains one of the greatest moments in Grammy history! I hope that Xtina returns to the Grammy Awards in the future.
Tina Turner returned to the world stage on February 10, 2008, for the Grammys’ 50th-anniversary party! She joined one of her biggest acolytes and fans, Beyonce, for a rousing rendition of “Proud Mary.” This was not only the highlight of the evening, but it was one of the greatest “Passing the Torch” moment in television history.
Michael Jackson tribute (2010)
The world was stunned when they learned of Michael Jackson’s sudden passing in June 2009. At the 2010 Grammy Awards, five of the most diverse vocalists of all-time (Celine Dion, Smokey Robinson, Usher, Carrie Underwood, and Jennifer Hudson) paid homage to the King of Pop as they performed Michael Jackson’s 1996 hit: “Earth Song.” As the quintet “performed” with Michael, 3-D footage from Michael Jackson’s This is It was played all around the Staples Center.
I can exactly remember when I found out about Whitney Houston’s death. I was talking to my brother, Aaron, who attended the University of Arizona and my mom, Gloria, came in and told me that Whitney Houston died. In shock, I hung up on my brother, turned on CNN and wrote my tribute to the superstar. One day later, the Grammys asked one of Ms. Houston’s greatest protégés, Grammy and Oscar-winning singer Jennifer Hudson, perform at last minute. This was a tear-jerking performance as The Voice UK coach paid homage to the woman who inspired her to pursue music.
While the dark cloud of Whitney’s death surrounded the 54th Grammy Awards, Adele brought excitement into the telecast with her fiery performance of her monster hit off her 2011 album, 21: “Rollin’ in the Deep.” In addition to her masterclass performance, the singer-songwriter scored six Grammy Awards that night.
If I had to give out an award for the Best Performance of the Grammy Awards of the 2010s, it would probably go to Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers, and Stevie Wonder. All three of these artists represent different musical genres: electronic (Daft Punk), hip-hop (Pharrell), funk (Nile Rodgers), and soul (Stevie Wonder), and together they united the Staples Center crowd when they mixed “Get Lucky” with “Freak Out” and “Another Star.” Also, when is the last time you saw Beyonce, Jay-Z, Marc Anthony, Steven Tyler, Katy Perry, Sir Paul McCartney, and Yoko Ono thoroughly enjoy a Grammy performance?
Lionel Richie tribute (2016)
Last year, Lionel Richie was honored by the Recording Academy as the MusiCares Person of the Year. During the main telecast, a diverse array of recording artists came together to pay homage to the “Dancing on the Ceiling” singer-songwriter. John Legend kicked off the tribute with “Easy,” while Demi Lovato blew the audience away with her interpretation of “Hello.” Luke Bryan followed up with “Penny Lover,” Meghan Trainor performed “You Are,” and Tyrese Gibson finished the solo round with “Brick House.” Luke Bryan and John Legend escorted Lionel on stage to sing “All Night Long” to conclude the tribute.
At that same ceremony, one of my favorite A cappella groups (Pentatonix) teamed up with another one of all-time favorite music heroes (Stevie Wonder) for an unforgettable moment. The sextet performed Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Way of the World” as an homage to the late Maurice White, who passed away just a few days before the ceremony. Of all the performances from that night, this one stood out to me the most because it proved that the power of the human voice is more comparable than a flashy presentation.
All of the footage that is featured in this article belongs to CBS & The Recording Academy.