Everyone knows the Grammy Awards are all about the live performances, which is why we got excited when earlier this week it was announced that Kanye West, Rihanna, and Paul McCartney will be performing their new single, “FourFiveSeconds,” on this Sunday’s broadcast. When the three super-friends take the stage, it’ll be the latest chapter in the Grammys’ storied history of getting a wide range of artists on stage together for some pretty memorable, once-in-a-lifetime performances. Here are ten of the best.
Radiohead and USC Marching Band perform “15 Step,” 2009
Radiohead can perform with Fisher Price instruments in a public bathroom and they’d still be one of the most transcendent bands on the planet. Put them on the Grammy stage backed by the entire USC marching band and well, this.
Gorillaz, Madonna, De La Soul perform “Hung Up/Feel Good Inc.,” 2006
What starts out as a wonderfully eccentric duet between high-tech pranksters Gorillaz and hip-hop iconoclasts De La Soul takes an electric turn when Madonna herself rises from the stage like a glittering phoenix, and proceeds to bring the house down like only she can.
Kanye West and Daft Punk perform “Stronger,” 2008
This was one of our first glimpses at the intense, animalistic stage presence that would come to define Kanye as a performer—and one of our only glimpses at the reclusive Daft Punk, who rarely made public appearances at the time. Anything for Yeezus, though.
Eminem and Elton John perform “Stan,” 2001
In 2001, Eminem was the biggest star in music. He was also the most controversial. Thanks to lyrics many considered homophobic, the rapper attracted the attention of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, who picketed outside before the ceremony. But inside, Marshall Mathers sent a message of his own by having Elton John sing the chorus to his monster hit, “Stan.” Not only was the performance powerful, but it helped transform Eminem from a cartoon character to a complicated, conflicted artist.
T.I., Jay Z, Kanye West, M.I.A., Lil Wayne perform “Swagga Like Us,” 2009
The four biggest rap stars on the planet on the same stage performing the year’s biggest banger—awesome. But a nine-months pregnant M.I.A. upstaging them all? Legendary.
Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mya, and Lil Kim perform “Lady Marmalade,” 2002
Oh, 2002. The year when Pink still had pink hair, Lil Kim still had her face, Mya still had a career, and Christina Aguilera was a force of nature. We miss you. Come back.
Beyonce and Tina Turner perform “Proud Mary,” 2008
Introducing her as “The Queen” (something that irked Aretha Franklin), Beyonce brought out Tina Turner to the Grammy stage for her first live performance in seven years. Show. Stopped. The two divas go note for note in what very much felt like a passing of the crown.
Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone perform “Piece of My Heart,” 2005
The Grammys are really great at getting a bunch of artists to pay tribute to one that is no longer with us. Case in point, this Janis Joplin tribute featuring two of our most soulful singers. The performance was made even more remarkable by the fact that Etheridge, in the throes of battling breast cancer, showed up on stage with her head completely bald. By the time the standing ovation came, you could tell the audience was applauding more than just the performance.
Lady Gaga and Elton John perform “Poker Face/Speechless,” 2010
Lady Gaga loves to remind us that behind all the synthesized beats, jerky dance moves, and state-of-the-art production, all she really needs is a piano to blow us all away. So after she’s through with the fame monster schtick, Gaga parks herself in front of the ivories and is joined by Sir Elton—who went from sharing the stage with a gay pariah to sharing one with a gay icon—for a dueling-piano rendition of Gaga’s soaring broken-heart ballad.
Jay Z, Linkin Park, and Paul McCartney perform “Numb/Encore/Yesterday,” 2006
Full disclosure: we only included this performance as a reminder that we live in a world where Linkin Park once shared the stage with Jay Z and a Beatle. That is all.