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Grammys 2017: 20 Best and Worst Moments

Highlights and lowlights, including Beyoncé, Adele and A Tribe Called Quest

At the 59th iteration of Music's Biggest Night, Beyoncé performed a dreamy meditation on motherhood, Adele performed an emotional tribute to George Michael and MetalliGaga performed through technical errors and bad ideas. Here's the best and worst of a night where A Tribe Called Quest took on the president and Twenty One Pilots took off their pants.

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Worst: Metallica and Lady Gaga Self-Destruct

Of all last night's Grammy pairings, MetalliGaga was the one that seemed to have the best shot at actual awesomeness – a chance for pop's most metal-friendly superstar to bare her teeth alongside true giants of the genre. That their version of Metallica's Hardwired … to Self-Destruct rager "Moth Into Flame" (maybe the band's most Gaga-apt song given its perils-of-fame theme) turned out to be a complete clusterfuck was only about half the performers' fault. Goofy onstage faux-moshers and gratuitous pyro set a cheesy Rock of Ages tone right from the start. James Hetfield suffered complete mic failure, turning his and Gaga's line-trading duet into a nonsensical half-song. From that point, it was a mad sprint to the finish, with Hetfield knocking over his mic stand in frustration, and Gaga doing her best to pick up the slack via desperate vocal histrionics and an ill-conceived mid-song annoying of Lars Ulrich. As Hetfield disgustedly tossed his guitar offstage at the conclusion, you had to sympathize: A band that already suffered one infamous Grammy indignity (that Jethro Tull loss) found itself once again at serious risk of mockery.

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Best: Bruno Mars Humps Around

Bruno Mars is made for primetime award shows like envelopes and Taylor Swift reaction shots. For yet another of his reliably incredible performances, this one-man New Edition miniseries and his razor-sharp band blew through "That's What I Like" with the effortless electricity that's become familiar but never boring. Dressed like the Force M.D.s with bright white sneakers, Bruno and his crew of retromaniacs were crammed on a tiny glowing triangle. Instead of exploding across the stage, the limitations made them dance by contorting their bodies like funky worms. They broke the fourth wall (er, third wall?) of the triangle stage and landed in front of the audience to sing a more stripped-down coda and thrusted the air like classic Bobby Brown. Before launching into some silky harmonies, Bruno Mars asked, "Can I break it down," like both a question and a demand. Jennifer Lopez, transfixed, was nodding an affirmative.

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Best: Adele Says a Powerful “Hello”

Adele opened the Grammy ceremony that she would ultimately dominate, singing an explosive "Hello" before accepting the first of five awards, rounding out her total wins to 15. Met with cheers, the British hit maker glimmered like a stained glass window in Givenchy, her voice careening lithely across the Staples Center without a hitch. This was a mighty bounce back from last year's performance of "All I Ask," which was plagued by an audio issue. Adele would later win the Grammy for Album of the Year, reluctantly accepting the award while wearing a lemon-shaped brooch – a show of respect to her formidable competitor, Beyoncé. 

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Worst: Greg Kurstin Played Off

Chance the Rapper may have talked right through the dreaded Grammy play-off music last night, but Greg Kurstin didn't even get the chance to do that following his Song of the Year win. Co-writer of a little ditty you may have heard of called "Hello," a record-smashing juggernaut whose YouTube play count is currently sitting at 1.8 billion, Kurstin barely got, "Thank you to my mom and dad," out before being swallowed up completely. A rare chorus of bona fide Grammy boos ensued, clashing surreally with Solange's A Tribe Called Quest intro. Thankfully Adele righted the wrong when the pair took the stage again for their Record of the Year win, only sort of mock-snarling, "You cut him off last time!"

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Best: Katy Perry Breaks Free of Suburbia

Katy Perry's new single "Chained to the Rhythm" is a blockbuster – writing credits from Max Martin and Sia, a cameo appearance from Marley royalty. Having released the jittery, reggae-tinged track via a network of stereo-equipped disco balls last week, she gave the song its TV debut Sunday night, mirroring the unease expressed in its lyrics ("Living our lives through a lens/Trapped in our white picket fence/Like ornaments/So comfortable, we live in a bubble"), performing it amidst a suburban tableau that she was initially trapped by. She wobbled around while sporting a white casual-Friday look that included an Elizabeth Warren-honoring PERSIST armband. The fence that had been trapping Perry eventually broke up into a dance troupe, giving Perry's uneasy comeback single a happy-on-the-surface ending that belied some "wake up, sheeple" lyrics.

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Best: Chance the Rapper Counts His Blessings

At the tail end of a wildly successful night – winning not only his first three Grammys, but the first Grammys ever for a streaming-only album – the 23-year-old Chicagoan capped his victory with an explosive, spiritual performance, featuring Grammy-winning gospel singers Kirk Franklin and Tamela Mann, plus Francis and the Lights and a rapturous church choir. "It seems like blessings keep falling in my lap," Chance warbled before delivering a rousing sermon to his fans. Earlier in the evening, he shouted out his hometown, Atlanta legend DJ Drama and Soundcloud for his successes – but at the end of the day, rap music's Rookie of the Year claimed no greater patron than God. "I claim the victory in the name of the Lord," he yelled.

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Best: The Weeknd and Daft Punk Are Much Too Cool for These Grammys

In case the introduction by Paris "We could really use this kind of excitement at a pipeline protest, guys" Jackson wasn't cool enough, the Weeknd and Daft Punk brought a different kind of chill to their mashed-up performance of "Starboy" and "I Feel It Coming." Poised atop a ginormous ice cliff, the enigmatic French duo surfaced for their first performance since their 2014 Grammys, tepidly bobbing their signature helmets. The Weeknd, however, mustered up some jazz hands and served a flawless vocal performance on the rocks. 

Kevin Wint

Worst: Night Catches Fever With Weak Bee Gees Tribute

Even Barry Gibb looked perplexed at the haphazardly collected assortment of "stars" coming through to honor the 40th anniversary of the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack. The situation already began to look suspect from the moment John Travolta took the stage an hour before the tribute to introduce a different performance as opposed to offering some meaningful words as the star of the film. From there, Demi Lovato ignored the graceful falsetto of "Stayin' Alive" for a much harsher delivery than the song can handle before Tori Kelly's blasé take on "Tragedy." Little Big Town seemed well-matched for the tender harmonies of "How Deep Is Your Love" while the very talented Andra Day gave a good but forgettable take on "Night Fever."

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Best: Alicia Keys and Maren Morris Triumph in Volcanic Duet

Decorated Grammy veteran Alicia Keys and young gun Maren Morris are two of the earthiest divas you could ever hope to meet. Having already undertaken a genre-spanning collaboration in a 2016 episode of CMT Crossroads, the singer-songwriters reunited – and effortlessly rocked – a live rendition of "Once," off Morris' Grammy-nominated debut, Hero. Decked in killer jumpsuits, pipes ablaze and chemistry off the charts, Keys and Morris exemplified the golden standard of duets. 

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Worst: Kelsea Ballerini and Lukas Graham Live Like They’re Young

A few years back, the National Recording Academy of Arts and Sciences got wind of the mash-up trend, which they've used to their ratings advantage: It's not only "cool," but pairing two non-huge artists speeds up the show. These mashups have often been strained at best, but few plumbed the depths like the pairing between country ingénue Kelsea Ballerini and Danish pop-soulster Lukas Graham. Ballerini's "Peter Pan" is a gently wounded ballad about a guy whose refusal to grow up means that she has to give him the heave-ho; Lukas Graham's "7 Years" is a plodding whinge about feeling old while in one's mid-20s, dragged along by a lumbering fiddling-on-the-piano. The two songs could be in dialogue with each other – Ballerini pushing Lukas Graham frontman Lukas Forchhammer to grow up already, while Forchhammer bangs on about smoking weed as a kid – but the disastrous staging of the two tracks on Sunday night resulted in a mess. Ballerini's feather-light rebuke was lost amidst Forchhammer's "remember when" sulking.

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Best: Twenty-One Pilots Take Off Their Pants and Collect It

Upon winning the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance Grammy for their anxiety-plagued mega-hit "Stressed Out," Ohio duo Twenty One Pilots did what many people in their situation might: They partially disrobed, hitting the stage with a "business up front, party down below" look that showed off their boxer briefs. According to vocalist-keyboardist Tyler Joseph, the plan had been brewing for years. "It was a few years ago, and it was before Josh and I were able to make money playing music," Joseph recalled. He invited bandmate Josh Dun over for a Grammy viewing party that happened to be full of people shooting – and feeling – the breeze. "As we were watching, we noticed that every single one of us was in our underwear," Joseph said. "Josh turned to me and said, 'You know, if we ever go to the Grammys – if we ever win a Grammy – we should receive it just like this.'" Don't ever give up on your dreams, kids.

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Worst: Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood Want Their MTV

Two of the biggest names in country made bold moves in a performance of "The Fighter," the ambitious, club-friendly, crossover-ready single from Keith Urban's Grammy-nominated LP, Ripcord. Backed by a dizzying light display, Urban and Carrie Underwood recalled the swagger of Eighties dream team Womack & Womack, laced with New Romantic synths and the down-home feel of a banjo. What the pair lost in the abysmal live sound quality was recouped in their enthusiastic harmonies; still, their electro-country didn't quite pop with the audience. With a nod to his role in Grease, John Travolta heralded the pair as "the most dynamic duo since Danny and Sandy." We're thinking more "three drinks in at the 25-year reunion."

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Best: William Bell and Gary Clark Jr. Muscle Through “Born Under a Bad Sign”

Gary Clark Jr. has become the big awards shows' on-call shredder, and we're not complaining. Clark may be an underwhelming songwriter, but as a guitarist and wingman, he's lethal, a fact demonstrated last night alongside Stax survivor William Bell, who had taken home a Best Americana Album trophy earlier in the day for 2016 comeback LP This Is Where I Live. Clark was more than happy to play a supporting role here, tossing out stinging leads on his yellow SG as the 77-year-old Bell growled through a version of his immortal blues classic "Born Under a Bad Sign," made famous by Albert King. In a night plagued by contrived, awkward team-ups, this one felt sleek and natural, a virtuoso display courtesy of a young gun and an industry vet finally getting his turn in the spotlight.

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Best: Sturgill Simpson and the Dap-Kings Class Up the Joint

Last night's show was heavy on high-concept set pieces – Katy Perry's cubist suburban home, Beyoncé's trippy avant–dinner party – so the understated old-school class of Sturgill Simpson's performance was all the more welcome. Teaming with the Dap-Kings, there to honor their late, great front-marvel Sharon Jones, who died just months ago, Simpson turned in a gripping rendition of "All Around You," his Sailor's Guide to Earth tale of uplift in the face of adversity. The result was big, brassy Americana at its finest, like The Last Waltz gone Grand Ole Opry, and a reminder that timeless elegance always plays better on TV than gimmicky bombast.

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