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Every Grammy performance, ranked

Annie Lennox and Hozier perform at the 2015 Grammys
Annie Lennox and Hozier perform at the 2015 Grammys
Kevin Winter/Getty

In recent years, the Grammys have become less and less about the awards. In fact more than 60 awards were given out before the live broadcast even started at this year's awards. Instead, the Grammys try to put the biggest names in the recording industry on the same stage at the same time. The performances increasingly are the show.

Here are all of the performances from the 2015 Grammy Awards, ranked:

1) Hozier/Annie Lenox

This duet was, hands down, the best performance of the night. Andrew Hozier-Bryne kicked off the set with a solo rendition of his Grammy-nominated song, "Take Me to Church." From the moment the lights came up, he looked like a star. Lit from behind, he strummed his guitar in near-silhouette, his unruly hair dominating his image.

Initially, Hozier's music seemed poorly mixed, and his voice lost in the sounds of his guitar, but it soon became obvious why his microphone was turned down when Annie Lennox, wearing a black sequined suit that matched Hozier's guitar, joined him to sing.

Lennox immediately commanded the stage, segueing into "I Put a Spell on You." Her charismatic rendition offered incredible depth. As my colleague Alex Abad-Santos wrote ""Spell" is one of those songs that takes guts to perform, because it'll always be compared to Nina Simone's definitive cover. And Lennox's performance was stellar — she hit notes that made it feel like your heart was unraveling. She commanded and bent the song to her will."

2) Sia

Sia has made a career recently of finding ways to perform her songs without ever performing herself. She never allows her image to be used, and frequently subs out Maddie Ziegler, the young girl who dances in Sia's music videos, in a blonde wig. In this performance of "Chandelier," set amid a cluttered set, Ziegler was joined by comedian and actress Kristin Wiig and the two danced beautifully. Sia, meanwhile, faced the back of the set and sang.

The spiraling, meticulously constructed performance featured camera angles that spun as quickly as Ziegler. The biggest surprise was Wiig. Who knew that the actress was also such a terrific dancer?

3) Rihanna/Kanye West/Paul McCartney

Rihanna performed "FourFiveSeconds" the first single from her new album with Kanye West and Paul McCartney. The performance was perfectly set up to play to Rihanna's chief strength as a performer: her stage presence. She may not be Top 40's strongest singer or dancer, but Rihanna's personality radiates.

That personality overcame a muddy technical performance, where McCartney's microphone never seemed to be turned on. Still, the song worked. It's a tribute to Rihanna's charisma.

4) Beyoncé/ John Legend/ Common

After the final award of the night was handed to Sam Smith, Beyoncé took the stage dressed in all white, backlit like an angel. She had just lost Album of the Year to Beck. Several talented female vocalists had already performed, but that all washed away when she opened her mouth to sing the hymn "Precious Lord, Take My Hand." Even after a night filled with great vocal performances, Beyoncé's voice rose above, trembling with depth.

After she finished, John Legend and Common performed "Glory" from Selma, complete with full choir. If Beyoncé's performance lacked somewhat in energy, Legend and Common more than made up for it. It was a moving and eloquent way to end the night.

5) Madonna

This performance makes the top five by a hair because of what an incredible dancer Madonna still is. Okay, yes, her choreography did look more blocked-out and programmatic than it did in the past, and she obviously wasn't singing.

But you don't watch Madonna for vocals. You watch her for stunts, and on that level, she completely delivered. At the end of "Love Lift Me Up," Madonna was literally lifted by a thread up into the air, as if daring all young pretenders to her throne to fly up and catch her.

6) Sam Smith / Mary J. Blige

"Stay with Me" was the most honored song of the night, and Sam Smith's rendition of it with R&B legend Mary J. Blige was beautifully done. Blige seemed to couch her vocal strength, though, sticking to a low alto and avoiding belting. She may have done this to make room for Sam Smith to shine, which he did. This was the night's most unexpectedly pleasant pairing.

7) Pharrell with Hans Zimmer

The opening sequence of this performance was as beautiful as it was confusing. Pharrell emerged on the stage wearing a bellhop uniform, speaking the opening lines to "Happy," his Grammy-winning mega-hit. The chorus began, but instead of the up-beat earworm that infiltrated American culture for much of 2014, Williams dropped the song into a minor key and add a bit of syncopation to make it more than a little eerie.

And then, suddenly, he swerved back to positivity. Every time you thought you knew where this was going, Pharrell switched it up. Pharrell cried, there was a beautiful piano solo midway, and the whole thing ended with Pharrell stating that, "As you can see, I'm at your service, Lord!" It was a confusing performance, but an entrancing one.

8) Juanes

The Colombian rock star performed a song from the upcoming sports film McFarland, USA. Wearing jeans and holding a Fender guitar, Juanes looked 100 percent more comfortable than anyone else on stage all night, making him a joy to watch, even with the seemingly out of place synthesizer.

9) Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett are 60 years apart in age and somehow still managed to project a friskily sexy vibe during their rendition of "Cheek to Cheek." Though their version wasn't as iconic as Fred Astaire's original, Gaga in a full black sparkly dress with feather train and Bennett's deep stoic voice did the song justice.

10) Usher and Stevie Wonder

The night's tribute to Stevie Wonder, performed by Usher and a harpist, would have fallen much lower on this list if not for the arrival of Wonder himself at the performance's end. Usher is a good R&B singer, and he certainly has style, but this set didn't use his talents to their best advantage. Instead of dancing, Usher stayed still. Instead of using his movement to create a presence, Usher had to use his voice. His range and depth were stronger than they normally are, but this was still a performance that, without Stevie, would have fallen a little flat.

11) Kanye West

This performance, in theory, shouldn't have worked at all. Kanye West performed "Only One," the first single from his new album, which was produced with Paul McCartney. They song relies heavily on the use of voice manipulators to give West the range he needs to keep the melody. That could have made for a seemingly bad choice for a live performance, but West pulled it off. In a velour jumpsuit and dancing around atop a spotlight on the ground, West managed to turn a gentle and subtle song into something that was still interesting to watch.

12) Beck and Chris Martin

Beck and Chris Martin boast a wealth of musical talent and careers that span decades. They also both lean heavily on crutches. For Martin, that means grabbing the microphone with both hands and swaying in a way that is meant to feel powerful, but eventually comes to feel like lazy performing. Beck, meanwhile, tries to make himself small on stage, hiding behind his guitar, the mic stand, and pretty much anything else. Together, they gave a performance that was full of talent, but weirdly closed off.

13) Ariana Grande

After saying she was nervous on the red carpet, Grande took a comfortable position behind the microphone and didn't move from it. This was a welcome departure from her previous attempts to perform at big events. Grande is not a good dancer, and when she tries, her vocals suffer for it. She sang "Just a Little Bit of Your Heart" off sophomore album My Everything and chose to focus on her vocal performance, which was outstanding. The 12-piece string set didn't hurt.

14) Katy Perry

Katy Perry took the opposite approach of her Super Bowl halftime show. Instead of gimmicky props and left sharks, Perry chose to focus on her vocals, emerging in a white dress with a cape to stand in front of a giant screen that magnified two giant shadows dancing behind her. Perry had to perform directly after a message about domestic violence. She chose to sing "By the Grace of God," which is maybe the least Katy Perry song the singer has ever allowed onto one of her albums. It meshed well with the preceding moment, but it was still a little dull.

15) Adam Levine / Gwen Stefani

Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani's duet was pegged as a "Grammy moment," but it proved incredibly forgettable. Both Stefani and Levine may be vocal coaches on The Voice, but only Levine managed to stay on the beat and in the right key. Stefani, instead, stood and swayed behind her microphone and failed to keep her voice in line. Sadly, the performance had placed its bets on the vocal capabilities of its performers and not necessarily their charisma or movement, so when that foundation crumbled, so did the entire performance.

16) Ed Sheeran /John Mayer /ELO

This was a total dud. Ed Sheeran played "Thinking Out Loud," one of the best songs off of his Grammy-nominated X. Not even Questlove on drums and Herbie Hancock on piano could save this performance from the lack of charisma on stage. Nothing terrible happened in this performance. It was just hugely boring.

They were then joined by Jeffrey Lynne and ELO to play "Evil Woman" and "Mr. Blue Sky." It was a strange match-up. Nothing about the performance seemed cohesive, with every performer maintaining separation from each other but failing to do anything with the added space.

17) The Imagine Dragons unofficial Target Performance

This wasn't even a real Grammy performance. It was shown during a commercial break, featuring Imagine Dragons on a red circle stage in Las Vegas, surrounded by a screaming legion of fans, with strange editing and camerawork that kept cutting far too quickly.

That said, it was still better than the rest of these.

18) Jessie J / Tom Jones

Jessie J's very first note was off-key in this duet on "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling." The singers' chemistry was dry, and Jessie J continued to over-sing the entire set. The problems were a shame, since the songs was meant to honor Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, one of the most successful songwriting teams of all time.

19) Miranda Lambert

Typically a powerhouse vocalist, Lambert was let down by "Little Red Wagon," a song too slow for the high-energy movements she tried out a couple of times. The arrangement also seemed to sit just outside of Lambert's vocal range, which made for an uncomfortable listen.

20) AC/DC

Legendary rock band AC/DC opened the show with back-to-back songs. Adding to the excitement was the fact that Chris Slade, the former drummer for AC/DC returned to complete the band. Yet the group sounded like a recorded version of itself, which is to say it lacked verve.

Even though the audience had been handed glowing devil horns, no one wore them. AC/DC looked well past their glory days on a night when several other older stars shone. The only person in the audience who really seemed to enjoy the performance was fellow rocker Dave Grohl.

21) Eric Church and Brandy Clark

Eric Church's The Outsiders is a masterfully crafted album with a lot of heart, but not even the solid transition into Brandy Clark singing "Hold My Hand," could save this performance. Church wore sunglasses on stage, making him totally unapproachable, and he managed to sing off-key and consistently miss notes. Images of children were projected behind him, while fog came out of the ground. It was a memorable performance, sure, but mostly for how bad it was.