It’s a bad night to be a Beyoncé fan.
Despite leading this year’s nominations with nine, the elusive superstar is sadly not slated to perform at Sunday’s Grammy Awards. Beyoncé has wowed at past Grammys with showstopping performances, most recently in 2017, when she did a regal, levitating “Lemonade” medley while pregnant with twins Sir and Rumi, now 3.
But there’s still plenty to love at the 2021 Grammys, airing live on CBS from Los Angeles, where artists are performing on safely distant stages while adhering to COVID safety protocols. Here are the best and worst musical moments from the show.
Harry Styles, ‘Watermelon Sugar’
After a shaky start, Styles let loose for a sultry performance of his funky No. 1 hit “Watermelon Sugar, donning a green feather boa and open leather jacket.
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Billie Eilish, ‘Everything I Wanted’
A subdued but gorgeous rendition of her record-of-the-year-nominated “Everything I Wanted,” recreating the song’s music video as she performed on top of a partially submerged, fog-covered car.
Haim, ‘The Steps’
An early highlight of the night, as the Haim sisters brought piercing guitar and warm ‘70s-style rock to the Grammys stage.
Black Pumas, ‘Colors’
A soulful, charismatic surprise from psych-rock newcomer Black Pumas, led by thrilling vocals from singer Eric Burton.
Dababy feat. Roddy Ricch, ‘Rockstar’
Points for trying something different. Dababy turned his No. 1 hit on its head by bringing in an elderly gospel choir and violinist for a dramatic performance.
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Bad Baby feat. Jhay Cortez, ‘Dákiti’
Wandering inside a giant light-up eye, the artists’ low-key showing sounded fantastic, but lacked the spectacle and spirit of other performers.
Dua Lipa, ‘Levitating’ / ‘Don’t Start Now’
Dua Lipa never disappoints. The British pop star turned heads with multiple sparkly costumes, athletic choreography and an eye-popping disco aesthetic in her medley of hits “Levitating” and “Don’t Start Now.”
Silk Sonic, ‘Leave the Door Open’
This performance should’ve come with a stroke warning. Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak, the duo behind Silk Sonic, sounded pitch-perfect in this sizzling retro throwback, but the colossal screen of flashing lights and vintage filters gave us a headache. We much preferred Bruno’s electrifying, spot-on take on Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” during the in memoriam segment, paying tribute to the late rock ‘n’ roll icon.
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Taylor Swift, ‘Cardigan’ / ‘August’ / ‘Willow’
Swift went full woodland fairy for her mystical, moss-covered medley of three “Folklore” and “Evermore” tracks. While we enjoyed her ebullient “August” and witchy “Willow,” the undeniable highlight was when she sat and sang the emotional back half of “Cardigan” from the roof of a cabin.
Brittany Howard and Chris Martin, ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’
Brandi Carlile and Lionel Richie paid reverent homage to John Prine and Kenny Rogers, respectively, with in memoriam performances. The segment culminated in a hauntingly powerful cover of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard, who commanded the stage with an assist from Coldplay’s Chris Martin on piano.
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Mickey Guyton, ‘Black Like Me’
Guyton looked incredible and sounded better performing this stirring, gospel-tinged song about her struggles and Black pride.
Miranda Lambert, ‘Bluebird’
Although we love the song and her album “Wildcard,” Miranda lacked enthusiasm and stage presence, especially coming right after Mickey.
Megan Thee Stallion, ‘Body’ / ‘Savage’
Megan transformed the Grammys stage into a swank, old-timey nightclub with tuxedo-clad dancers, a diamond-studded leotard and … tap dancers? It was an unexpected and twerktastic coronation for newly crowned best new artist winner.
Cardi B, ‘Up’ / ‘WAP’
The TV performance debut of last year’s culture-rocking “WAP” was colorful, cheeky and totally chaotic. Cardi and Megan at times got lost in the massive set pieces – which included a giant bed and stiletto heel, which doubled as a stripper pole – and we wish we could unhear the awkward banter between host Trevor Noah and Cardi before cutting to commercial.
Lil Baby, ‘The Bigger Picture’
Lil Baby had the most timely performance of the night, taking to the streets for a sprawling and incendiary showing as he came face to face with dancers in police uniforms and riot gear, recreating protest scenes as he rapped about George Floyd.
Doja Cat, ‘Say So’
In a futuristic getup reminiscent of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” favorite Gotmiik, Doja channeled a robot for her irresistible “Say So.” But after so many live performances of her breakthrough hit past year, even Doja looked tired during the dance-heavy staging.