Kendrick Lamar performing at a festival. Lamar is wearing a black sweatshirt with Frankenstein on it and is holding a mic up in front of purple strobe lights.
Kendrick Lamar performing at Øyafestivalen in 2013. Jørund Føreland Pedersen/Wikimedia Commons.

With the 2020 Grammy Awards quickly approaching, it’s always a good time to look back at the performances that represent a formative time in some of our favorite artists’ careers. 

There are the obvious ones many often revisit. Take Michael Jackson’s dazzling 1988 showcase of “The Way You Make Me Feel” and “Man In the Mirror,” Eric Clapton’s emotional performance of “Tears In Heaven” in 1993, or even the time Beyoncé lit up the stage with “Proud Mary” alongside Tina Turner, one of her musical heroes, in 2008. All of these, and plenty more not mentioned, brought something special to the show’s long history.

In no particular order, here are five other incredible performances to kick off your YouTube watching rabbit hole before music’s biggest night airs on Sunday, Jan. 26.

Janet Jackson“What Have You Done For Me Lately/Nasty” (1987)

When the classic line, “gimme a beat,” echoes across the stage, you know it’s about to be one of the funkiest performances the show’s ever seen—and that is all you need to know about Ms. Jackson’s debut Grammys performance.

Instead of doing the typical album versions of both singles, Jackson switched it up with a different arrangement—backed by no other than a few legendary members of The Time, which elevated the essence of the “Control” album and soon became a fan favorite. There’s nothing better than the combination of Jackson’s effortless strut, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis’ keytar choreography and the extra ad-libs fans can recite at the drop of a hat.

Alanis Morissette“You Oughta Know” (1996)

Arguably one of the most lyrically memorable songs of the ‘90s, Morissette’s stripped-down interpretation of the anthem opts for a haunting orchestra—landing its focus on the boldness of the words themselves. 

“You Oughta Know” is the perfect song to lash out to, as seen in its music video. But in this particular performance, Morissette simply sits on a stool with a blank stare, holds her arms and showcases her unique voice. After watching the performance, it’s no surprise that this monumental song won both Best Rock Song and Best Female Rock Performance that night.

Mariah Carey“We Belong Together/Fly Like A Bird” (2006)

Any of Carey’s performances could’ve been included in this list, but 2006 was an especially memorable one. At the time, Carey was returning to the Grammys stage for the first time in 10 years and due to the major success of “The Emancipation of Mimi,” it was only right that she would make a triumphant arrival.

Although the “We Belong Together” portion was wonderful, what stands out the most is the transition to the unexpected album track, “Fly Like A Bird.” Carey’s passion kicks into overdrive as she gives us the entire vocal book—high notes, growls, all of it. It’s always a treat when we get to see a vocalist like Carey get lost in the spirit of a song and the accompanying gospel choir takes it even higher.

P!nk“Glitter In the Air” (2010)

“Glitter In the Air,” the emotional ballad from P!nk’s “Funhouse” album, talks about taking a leap of faith and there was no better way to personify the song than this performance.

Always the risk-taker, the singer incorporates her love of acrobatics in the most epic way possible—being lifted from a tank of water, twirling up in the air with silks all while singing at the same time. And yes, if you were wondering, her mic was on. Shortly after the performance, she told Oprah she thought she sang better upside down. Either way, the standing ovation was more than deserving for this awe-inspiring moment.

Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons“Radioactive/m.A.A.d city” (2014)

The Grammys are well-known for bringing different artists on the same stage and it’s even better when you have unexpected duos come together for an epic collaboration. Much like Jay-Z, Linkin Park and Paul McCartney did in 2006, Lamar and Imagine Dragons took on the rock and hip-hop mash-up effortlessly—making it easily one of the most memorable in recent years.

From the dramatic smoke to the pounding of the massive drums, the sheer energy shared between both the artists and the audience is a sight to see. Although Lamar has had a plethora of profound moments on stage, 2014 set the tone for the excellence of his future Grammy performances in 2016 and 2018—proving that his stage presence isn’t anything to question, much like his lyrical prowess.

Rylee Jackson can be reached at, or on Twitter @rybyjackson.