Kendrick Lamar began his collaboration with Imagine Dragons wearing a spotless white hoodie, but by the end of it he was covered in splatters of red from the smoky explosions around him. But those puffs of smoke didn’t just come from the stage; they were exhaled from the lips of Taylor Swift, who danced in the front row, from Queen Latifah who sang along with Imagine Dragons, from Lorde who wore a wide smile and from Robin Thicke who put his arms in the air.
The unusual pairing of Lamar and Imagine Dragons – who combined their songs “m.A.A.d City” and this year’s Best Rock Performance “Radioactive,” respectively – made for one of the evenings most jaw-dropping performances, just because of the sheer energy they combusted. As front-Dragon Dan Reynolds sang, “Welcome to the New Age,” the musicians all seemed to give a glimpse of just that, as they pounded on giant drums and Lamar took a couple minutes to spit out a mile-a-minute rap as the pink smoke began exploding from the stage. Even one of the masterminds behind Rap Rock 1.0, Steven Tyler, couldn’t help but smile and sing along.
Imagine Dragons were up for a pair of awards — Record of the Year and Best Rock Performance, both for “Radioactive” — but singer Dan Reynolds wasn’t optimistic about the band’s chances. “We are definitely not going into this thinking we’re going to win a Grammy,” Reynolds told Rolling Stone recently. “We’re up for Record of the Year, and ‘Radioactive’ was a big song. But songs like ‘Blurred Lines’ were huge. If I were a voter, I’d be like, ‘Robin Thicke was at the VMAs with his pin-striped suit, and Lorde is cute — and who are Imagine Dragons? I have no idea what those dudes even look like!’ When that’s the take, you know you’re not going to win that award.”
Lamar’s nominations included Best New Artist and Album of the Year and Best Rap Album for good kid, m.A.A.d city. Also, “Swimming Pools (Drank)” was up for Best Rap Performance, “Fuckin’ Problems” (with A$AP Rocky and 2 Chainz) got a nod for Best Rap Song, “Now or Never” (with Mary J. Blige) was nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and “How Many Drinks?” (Miguel’s song featuring Lamar) was in the running for Best R&B Performance.