Best: Kendrick Lamar Goes Multimedia in His Virtuosic Opening Suite
Kendrick Lamar opened the Grammys with perhaps the most impressive network-TV performance of his career to date, a masterful display that mixed technical bravura and jaw-dropping showmanship. He blitzed through recent songs – including a pair from his Album of the Year nominated Damn. LP ("XXX," "DNA") and his spitfire verse on Jay Rock's "King's Dead" – and employed a steadily shifting series of backdrops. The rapper emerged in the middle of a group of dancers clad in army fatigues; they marched in place as American flags waved in the background. The jerky rhythm of their marching soon gave way to vigorous, unpredictable movements, and they crowded around Lamar, evoking Kanye West's performance of "All Day" at the Brit Awards in 2015. Later the stage emptied, leaving Lamar alone with a taiko drummer who slammed along to the beat. When the group of dancers returned, they were wearing red from head to toe. As Lamar sped through the staccato finale of his "King's Dead" verse – a long string of four- or five-syllable declarations – each dancer fell down as if shot. And that was only part of it. Bono and the Edge also showed up briefly to sing their snippet from "XXX" (they later released their own version of this song titled "American Soul"). And Lamar might be the only artist working right now who could fold two Dave Chappelle interludes into a stunning performance without losing momentum.