The Worst And Weirdest Grammy Performances Of All Time

Billy Johnson, Jr.
Stop The Presses!

With the 55th Grammy Awards upon us, it feels fitting to not only review some of the highlight performances of years past, but some of the low moments as well, and there are plenty. We revisit Nicki Minaj’s televised exorcism, Bob Dylan’s unplanned background dancer, Milli Vanilli’s ultimate lip-synch and more.

Nicki Minaj “Roman Holiday” (2012) - When Nicki Minaj arrived to last year’s Grammy awards in a red cape and escorted by a man dressed like the pope, viewers were put on notice that new American Idol judge had something unusual planned for her Grammy performance. There would be no singing and rapping of her mega pop hit “Super Bass.” Instead, Minaj staged an exorcism to the musical backdrop of her song “Roman Holiday.” Her show included a skit modeled after a scene from The Exorcist, a Catholic confession session gone awry, background dancers dressed as monks and levitation. The elaborate production left the audience in shock, and media reports called the set Satanic. Minaj later dismissed the criticism, describing the routine as an excerpt from a movie script she had written.

Bob Dylan and Michael Portnoy “Love Sick” (1998) - Years before Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s Video Music Awards acceptance speech, a man with the words Soy Bomb painted on his chest stormed Bob Dylan’s performance of “Love Sick” at the 1998 Grammys. The consummate showman, a visibly concerned Dylan continued to play and sing as the uninvited guest, who is an actual legitimate performance artist named Michael Portnoy, offered his eerie unsolicited dance moves. It took event security a long 40 seconds to contain Soy Bomb and remove him from the stage. It seems unfair to include a sabotaged show on a list of the Worst and Weirdest Grammy Performances, but this one was too creepy to ignore.

All-Star Beatles Tribute “Across The Universe” (2006) - This star-studded live cover of The Beatles “Across The Universe” had the potential to be as impactful as other teaming’s of its caliber – USA For Africa’s “We Are The World” and Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” But unfortunately, something went terribly wrong. The lineup included Slash, Bono, Stevie Wonder, Norah Jones, Brian Wilson, Alicia Keys, Scott Weiland, Billie Joe, Tim McGraw, Steven Tyler, Allison Kraus (violin), Dave Kushner (guitar), Matt Sorum (drums), and Duff McKagen (bass). Based on the outcome – a series of way too lackadaisical vocal deliveries that failed to blend well together or even stay in tune – caused an unpleasant listening experience. Maybe more rehearsals, if any, next time?

OutKast’s Andre 3000 “Hey Ya” (2004) - Fans of Andre 3000 have long looked past his often uncomfortably eccentric stage costumes because, honestly, he’s one of the best MCs to ever lay hands on a mic. But this 2004 Grammy performance of his massive hit “Hey Ya” was too much. He’s lucky the Native American theme didn’t get him in the hot water No Doubt encountered last year when they released their “Looking Hot” video. Potential offensiveness aside, was lime green really the best color for his and his gyrating background dancers’s ensembles? While the wild choreography kept their garment fringes flapping in sync with the music and his “shake like a Polaroid picture” lyric, it also took away from the song. The weird, psychedelic intro from Jack Black’s floating head in space did not help things one bit.

Thomas Dolby, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder and Howard Jones Synthesizer Medley (1985) - If there was a website called this clip would be featured on the launch page. In theory, it was a good idea to get synthesizer pioneers Herbie Hancock, Thomas Dolby, Howard Jones and Stevie Wonder on stage together for an electronic jam session, but the sound was as muddled as static. It felt like a deleted party scene from Revenge Of The Nerds. One blogger humorously notes that Dolby inadvertently steals the show when his instrument fails him in the middle of his solo at the 1:55 mark. Is it wrong to laugh as he frantically pounds the buttons as his counterparts fail to even notice?

Milli Vanilli “Girl You Know It’s True” (1990) - In hindsight, no one should have been surprised when Milli Vanilli was exposed by their producer Frank Farian for not singing the vocals for their music. All the proof the public needed was in their Grammy performance of “Girl You Know It’s True.” Even by lip-synch standards, this was unconvincing. There are moments during the routine when the vocals of the audio track are playing and the group members are not holding their mics near their mouths. The scandal prompted the Grammys organization to ask the group to return their award in November 1990. In a recent interview with Yahoo!, surviving member Fab Morvan said that while he and late member Rob Pilatus, who died of an overdose in 1998, were not proud of what happened, he feels they were scrutinized for something that has become commonplace in music.

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