Grammy performances: the high and lows

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As it should be, the music was wall to wall at the Grammys Sunday night. Here's an opinionated look at the performances:

Most original concept from 20 years ago: Taylor Swift, taking a page from Madonna, Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears, with the whole ringmaster shtick on show-opener "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," a song that wouldn't seem to have much to do with bunnies, acrobats and people playing with fire. Well, maybe not the last part.

Best way to frustrate teenage girls: Have Elton John snatch a verse and chorus away from Ed Sheeran on "The A Team," but even though Elton sounded a bit rough (and had to read the lyrics), it was a sweet torch passing from a legendary British hitmaker to a young pup.

Best reason to call the Police: Bruno Mars acknowledging that he's singing just like Sting on "Locked Out of Heaven" by bringing Sting up to sing it with him.

Scariest wardrobe malfunction: Right in the middle of her performance, Carrie Underwood's dress seemed to come alive, but she refused to be upstaged by this other-worldly occurrence, doing one of her typically winning vocal performances.

Weirdest urban contemporary sea shanty: New York band fun. failing to live up to its name while wailing like drunken sailors in the rain on "Carry On."

First use of the phrase "Is there anything else on?": The snoozy Miranda Lambert/Dierks Bentley duet and, by the way, the only country dudes who should make that mid-song walk-on entrance have or had names like Johnny, Willie or Waylon.

Dopest duet: Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z with a classy Cotton Club-looking "Suit & Tie." It's great to have Justin back, although when he was dancing I kept thinking about him as the Homelessville Cup-of-Soup in the SNL skit.

Second dopest duet: Black-and-white-suited Wiz Khalifa and Miguel looking thrilled to be there on a joyous and soulful "Adorn."

Best duet of worst song: Alicia Keys and Adam Levine generating sparks on "This Girl Is on Fire," part of combo with the better "Daylight."

Most sultry (and yet boring) performance: Rihanna setting aside her usual sizzle to show her vocal chops on the subdued "Stay."

Arcade Fire for Dummies: Mumford & Sons pounding the stadium-folk formula with a teeth-clenched "I Will Wait."

Frankly Flat: Frank Ocean doing a quivering "Forrest Gump" that made no case for him as a Best New Artist nominee.

Sweetest salutes: The star-studded tribute to the late great Levon Helm with Elton, Mumford, Mavis Staples and more, and Ziggy and Damian Marley honoring their beloved dad, Bob Marley, with Bruno, Rihanna and Sting on board for "Could You Be Loved."

Funkiest white dudes: The Black Keys taking "Lonely Boy" to the Big Easy for a raucous celebration with the Preservation Hall Jazz and Dr. John that could barely rein in the swing.

Even funkier White dude: Jack White, in a sequined outfit stolen from Elvis (or was it Jimmy Page?), stole the show playing nice with his all-girl band and then shredding with the boys.

music

Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg, Blog: www.post-gazette.com/popnoise.


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