2022 Grammys: The 10 Best Performances

The 64th Grammy Awards showed up two months late on Sunday, bringing Music’s Biggest Night to the Las Vegas Strip’s MGM Grand Garden Arena for the very first time, and de-emphasizing the awards themselves more than ever before. The vast majority of last night’s big winners were announced in the online-only pre-show, and the remaining awards felt almost incidental, outnumbered by a swarm of elaborately staged A-list performances from many of the evening’s foremost nominees. The Olivia Rodrigo coronation we had envisioned surprisingly did not come to pass, but the Sour star delivered one of the night’s first and most memorable performances, singing “drivers license” alongside an actual car. Billie Eilish went home empty-handed for the first time in her Grammys career, despite seven nominations, but brought the house down with a dynamic rendition of her Happier Than Ever title track, paying tribute to the late Taylor Hawkins in the process. BTS reminded us all why they’re global pop juggernauts, Lil Nas X and Nas shared a bill as well as a name, and Bruno Mars’ and Anderson .Paak’s Silk Sonic feted Sin City in the city itself. So while we’ll certainly be debating the 64th Grammy Awards’ substance in the days and weeks to come, there was no denying its style and spectacle. Celebrate the Paste Music team’s 10 favorite performances from the show below. (The Recording Academy hasn’t posted footage of any just yet, but we’ll be sure to share it once they do.)

Billie Eilish: “Happier Than Ever”


This year’s edition of music’s biggest night had plenty of divisive performances, but it was hard to find anyone with a critical word to say about Billie Eilish’s show-stopping rendition of “Happier Than Ever.” She might’ve performed the title track from her sophomore record on a mobile home set in the fake pouring rain, but the sheer force of emotion she put into the song was anything but pretend. Grinning and thrashing her way through the performance with her brother Finneas, Eilish clearly felt she was walking away from the ceremony victorious, even if she was shut out in every category in which she earned a nomination. Though the spotlight was on her, she made sure to share it with those who couldn’t be at the ceremony, donning a T-shirt with an image of the late, great Taylor Hawkins, making for one of the night’s most touching tributes to the Foo Fighters drummer. —Elise Soutar

BTS: “Butter”


For the second Grammys in a row, K-pop sensation BTS put on an absolutely bulletproof performance, reminding viewers why they don’t need the Recording Academy to rubber-stamp their planet-spanning success. To hear the internet tell it, the highlight of the night, let alone BTS’ rendition of their nominated hit “Butter,” was V’s flirty moment with Olivia Rodrigo, but that was just the beginning of the kind of elaborate spectacle that is pop music at its best. From Jungkook descending from the ceiling Mission: Impossible-style to the band dodging lasers and doing card tricks, the suave, yet acrobatic performance gave each member of BTS a chance to shine, but highlighted their seamless cohesion as a unit above all. —Scott Russell

Brandi Carlile: “Right on Time”


After an introduction by no less a pair of music legends than Joni Mitchell and Bonnie Raitt, Brandi Carlile took the MGM Grand Garden Arena stage, continuing her tradition of standing out on Music’s Biggest Night. Her rendition of In These Silent Dayssingle “Right on Time,” a Song of the Year nominee, needed only one killer high note to make waves, but her rich vocals impressed throughout the cinematic, slow-building song, as she moved from piano to guitar and earned a standing ovation. —Scott Russell

Chris Stapleton: “Cold”


If one of Sunday night’s shows felt like an honest-to-God concert, as opposed to an awards show set, it was Chris Stapleton’s, despite it being only one song long. That song, the country star’s Starting Over standout “Cold,” was one of the only ones performed at the show to win an award, for Best Country Song. Backed by little except your standard rock show smoke and lasers, Stapleton belted the ballad so well, you had no choice but to forgive the song not playing to his strengths as a performer, his raw, meat-and-potatoes musicianship overriding all else. Even Trevor Noah was impressed afterward, offering a genuine-seeming, “That was amazing.” —Scott Russell

J Balvin: “Qué Más Pues?” (with María Becerra) & “In da Getto”


If you tuned in late, you may have missed J Balvin’s blockbuster performance of “Que Mas Pues?” with Maria Becerra and his electrifying Skrillex collaboration “In da Getto.” Balvin, who is one of the world’s most popular musicians, brought the heat to the Grammys with his magnetic reggaeton as part of a rising class of Spanish-speaking artists, such as Rosalia and Bad Bunny, proving that dancing is a universal language. —Jade Gomez

Lady Gaga: “Love for Sale” & “Do I Love You?”


Before you all start throwing tomatoes, hear us out on this one. We know what Lady Gaga is capable of at this stage in the game. We’ve seen the infamous theatrical performances she’s delivered at prior awards shows, and we know she goes big, often yielding boundary-pushing, consistently entertaining results. Her first performance back at the Grammys in three years was a tribute to her frequent duet partner, Tony Bennett, who has officially retired at the age of 95 after a staggering, decades-long career. Now, there’s no question that said performance came off as a culmination of bold choices, including a jarring, put-on jazz affectation that Gaga seemed to really push for, rather than fall naturally into, like we know she can. But her solo take on the tracks she performed with Bennett for their album Love For Sale (which won for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album) made for one of the few genuinely emotional moments of the night amongst several well-intentioned but forced efforts from other nominees. Once you let yourself be wooed by the drama of the big band and the photo montage of Gaga and Bennett over the years, it’s hard not to appreciate a great performer having fun and paying tearful tribute to her dear collaborator. Isn’t that what we love Gaga for, putting a high-camp, unexpected spin on something that anyone else would probably phone in? —Elise Soutar

Lil Nas X: “Dead Right Now,” “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” & “Industry Baby” (with Jack Harlow)


Lil Nas X is one of the most innovative pop stars of the past decade, and his over-the-top visuals have made headlines over the years as he pushes the boundaries to yield great results. His explosive Grammys performance was no different, featuring singles from his hit album Montero. His performance addressed the media uproar over his “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” video, in which the singer gave the devil a lapdance, flashing social media comments and headlines onscreen before he triumphantly emerged in one of several dazzling costumes. Alongside performances of other hits such as “Industry Baby” with Jack Harlow and “Dead Right Now,” Lil Nas X used the Grammys stage to make a clear statement: He’s not going anywhere. —Jade Gomez

Nas: “I Can,” “Made You Look,” “One Mic” & “Rare”


Legendary rapper Nas’ King’s Disease II was up for Best Rap Album at the Grammys and, while he lost, his career-spanning medley showed off his exceptional talent that has lasted for almost 30 years. Nas began the performance with a young avatar of himself rapping “I Can,” before running off the stage to reveal the rapper himself with a full band that included Robert Glasper. He dove into classics such as “Made You Look” and “One Mic,” as well as 2021’s “Rare.” Nas still possesses the rugged, boyish charm that first captured audiences with Illmatic, and his legacy continues on strong. —Jade Gomez

Olivia Rodrigo: “drivers license”


2021 was the year of O-Rod, the dawn of the Rodrigossance (?), and what better way to celebrate how far the 19-year old singer/songwriter has come in a year’s time than an impressive performance of the record-breaking song that started it all? Rodrigo took to the stage armed only with her prop car and raw heartbreak to deliver a moving version of her breakout Sour single “drivers license.” If you weren’t already sold on Rodrigo’s reign as the teen pop vanguard of the moment, her time onstage last night solidified her right to carry the torch on from her pop predecessors in attendance. It’s true that she didn’t quite sweep every major category like we originally predicted she would. Still, after such a strong live showing near the beginning of the show, her wins for Best New Artist, Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Pop Vocal Albums just felt like victory laps. —Elise Soutar

Silk Sonic: “777”


Before Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars could walk away with four Grammys (Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, and a tie for Best R&B Performance), they opened the show with an energetic rendition of An Evening With Silk Sonic track “777.” It felt like a fitting introduction to the first Grammys outside of L.A., especially since the duo kicked off their Vegas residency last month and have adopted the city as their temporary home. Though sexy ‘70s throwback “Leave The Door Open” was the track to bring all the gold home for them, “777” was the correct choice to kick off the show, playing us into what turned out to be a long night in style. It was also highlight-worthy for introducing us to the real winner of the night (.Paak’s wig) nice and early. What a way to hook us in. —Elise Soutar

See the complete list of winners at the 64th Grammy Awards here.