5 Grammy Performances That Will Redeem Your Faith in the Damn Show

Psyched for the Grammys on Sunday? I bet you aren't. Perhaps you'll live-Tweet it with the rest of us (including me!), but you're probably not looking forward to the indignity of hearing Katy Perry's name announced as an Album of the Year nominee. To redeem our faith in this ceremony before the big night, let's revisit five towering Grammy performances that make this schmaltzfest worth it.

Michael Jackson, "The Way You Make Me Feel"/"Man in the Mirror" (1988)

MJ loved epics, and this ten-minute marathon of Bad hits is the War and Peace of Grammy splendor. "Man in the Mirror" gets godly very fast.

Alanis Morissette, "You Oughta Know" (1996)

Grammy Queen '96 Alanis Morissette took the telecast as opportunity to reveal the backbone of her smash hit "You Oughta Know." Stripped-down and aided with keyboards and strings, "You Oughta Know" took on a sadder, more poignant tone than its vitriolic radio version. It's an unforgettable moment for one of the few artists of the '90s who truly earned Album of the Year. (Yes, you count too, Lauryn Hill).

Aretha Franklin, "Nessun Dorma" (1998)

In one night, Aretha Franklin became the best pinch-hitter since Manny Mota. The rock/soul/gospel/everything legend stepped in for the ill Luciano Pavarotti and performed the hell out of this swelling operatic gem. Each note is devastating, piercing, and perfect. It's one of the few times in Grammy history where a performance has been almost unbearably moving.

Moby, Jill Scott, and Blue Man Group, "Natural Blues" (2001)

The Grammys are nothing without their unexpected collaborations, and Moby's duet with future No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency star Jill Scott and rogue mime troupe Blue Man Group was one of the coolest of the decade. Though the self-important spectacle of Eminem and Elton John's duet later in the telecast overshadowed this, the ingenuity and soul of this performance is undeniable.

Prince and Beyonce, "Purple Rain"/"Crazy in Love" (2004)

For the twenty-year anniversary of Prince's Purple Rain (which inexplicably lost Album of the Year to Lionel Richie's Can't Slow Down), the Sometimes-Fuchsia One whipped out the love-symbol guitar for a rendition of the title track and a seriously funked-up version of Beyonce's "Crazy in Love." Pardon the grainy video, but the fire here has to be seen to be believed.


  • J.R. says:

    How about when Melissa Etheridge covered Janis Joplin. She was recovering from chemo and still rocked it out.

  • Louis Virtel says:

    Oh, I'd say that's a good one too!

  • orlando says:

    As maligned as she's been recently, I think Aguilera's tribute to James Brown deserves a spot. It was jawbreakingly terrific.

  • Skimpyshorts says:

    I'll second that. I was blown away.

  • Strawberry Pain says:

    Wow. Amazing. Thanks, Louis. And you very nearly did it--almost made me want to watch on Sunday. But instead, I think I'll just sit back and watch Robert Preston musicals and wait for you all to do the work for me on ML.

  • Shane says:

    I would also add Mary J. Blige's 2007 performance of "Be Without You."

  • tashawnda price says:

    I did not see the original airing of the 98 Grammy's but caught the repeat. I'll admit I wasn't sure the Queen Of Soul could pull off a live OPERA performance, but I was moved to tears! Just last night I went on YouTube and watched the performance again and before it even loaded I began to cry. The power of music is simply breath taking.
    Now Miss Christina Aguilera's performance was another shocker! I knew she could blow but had no idea she would out sing the Godfather Of Soul! When I watched on TV, they didn't show the audience reaction but I finally saw her receive the thunderous applause on YouTube- thanks so much for that.