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We grade the Grammy night performances from Lorde to Sir Paul McCartney

Shaun Harrison
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1 of 20 Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Best Chemistry

Beyoncé is always full of surprises — see the unannounced release of her latest studio album in December — and she didn't disappoint during the ceremony's opening number. Ditching her normal army of back-up dancers and long hair (which she, sadly, didn't have time to dry before showtime), B. seriously sexed up the already sultry "Drunk in Love" thanks to some of the best chair dancing we've seen since Flashdance. Even better than those moves was a rare duet by the singer and her husband, Jay Z, who oozed love and affection throughout their performance. Grade: A-

2 of 20 Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Best Grammy Debut

Four-time nominee Lorde offered a subdued, goth-leaning take on her ubiquitous hit "Royals," complete with "Thriller"-esque twitchy dance moves and strange claw-like finger extensions. Atop a platform with just a drummer and a keyboard player backing her, the 17-year-old chanteuse proved that her vocal range is nothing to scoff at as she infused the song with more of a hip-hop feel than the recorded version. And she also cemented herself as a Grammy darling, winning Best Pop Solo Performance about an hour after her performance. Grade: A-

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Most Muddled Message

Country upstart Hunter Hayes' new song "Invisible" was as earnest as his face-wrenching performance. And while we support his anti-bullying message, we're kind of scratching our heads about the inspirational quotes that floated above him that equated John Lennon with Johnny Depp. Just because this performance was for "the kids," does not mean you have to condescend to them. Captain Jack Sparrow only inspires us to copy his smoky eye shadow. Hayes earned a Best New Artist nomination last year, and it's clear that he still has a way to go before coming into his own. Grade: C

4 of 20 Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Most Spellbinding

In the wake of the evening's many simplistic performances, Katy Perry's showmanship was an especially welcome breath of fresh air. Performing her latest single, "Dark Horse," Perry embraced the song’s "magic" theme and mesmerized viewers at home with her entrance (via a crystal ball), fog effects and some fake levitation. Oh, and did we mention the impressive pole-dancing on witches' brooms? Our only disappointment? That her beau John Mayer didn't pop out of that light-up horse. #missedopportunity Grade: B+

5 of 20 Kevin Winter/WireImage

Best Throwback

Robin Thicke may have had one of the biggest hits of 2013 with "Blurred Lines," but the debate surrounding the allegedly misogynistic lyrics really put a damper on things. Thicke curried favor by sharing the stage alongside a reunited Chicago for lively renditions of their biggest hits like "Saturday in the Park" and "Beginnings." Naturally, Thicke saved the controversial "Blurred Lines" for last, and we have to admit, the soulful tune sounded great with the added horn section courtesy of Chicago. And the absence of a twerking Miley Cyrus obviously didn't hurt. Grade: B-

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Most Competitive Guitar Duel

A newly shorn Keith Urban was joined by first-time winner Gary Clark Jr. on the ballad "Cop Car." The American Idol judge proved that he's got a few lessons to teach to the young'uns. The performance was on point, especially Urban and Clark's guitar jam toward the end. Also, is there a more country line than "fell in love in the back of a cop car"? Grade: B-

7 of 20 Lester Cohen/WireImage

Sexiest Piano Playing

John Legend seduced the audience with a simple rendition of his sweetly lyrical ballad "All of Me" as he sat down at the piano in a white suit. No bells, whistles or witches' brooms needed to command attention. His little flourish at the end just confirmed his utter confidence and competence. Dude, can you bottle that stuff? Grade: A

8 of 20 Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Most Improved Performance

Taylor Swift's live performances can be hit or miss, but this year the Grammy favorite knocked it out of the park with the piano ballad "All Too Well." The song went off the rails slightly with Swift's -head-banging moves once the full band kicked in — although we're pretty impressed by the fact that her hair stayed flawlessly in place throughout the whole ordeal. The soulful backing singers were also a nice touch and took the song to new heights. Bravo, Taylor! Grade: A-

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Best Landing

There is no doubt that Pink has some serious aerial-aerobatic skills, but after delivering a similarly uplifting (see what we did there?) performance in 2010, her air antics felt a tad stale. It was, ironically, right when Pink was grounded for the second half of "Try" that her performance really took off, thanks to some dramatic and artistic choreography. Thankfully, Pink kept her feet firmly planted on the stage for her duet with fun.'s Nate Ruess on "Just Give Me a Reason," a song so moving and emotional, no death-defying stunts rerequired. Grade: B+

10 of 20 Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Best Retrospective

As the 50th anniversary of the Beatles' debut on the Ed Sullivan Show looms, we're lucky enough to have both Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney at the Grammys. Starr took to the stage to sing "Photograph" as he swayed back and forth jubilantly (who needs elaborate boy band moves?) and old photos of himself and with the Beatles displayed onscreen. Thanks for the memories, Ringo. Grade: B

11 of 20 Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Best Odd Couple

Now this is how you head-bang, Taylor Swift. A collaboration between rock band Imagine Dragons and hip-hop newcomer Kendrick Lamar might not seem like it would work, but their powerful mash-up of Lamar's "M.A.A.D. City" and Dragons' "Radioactive" built to a satisfying conclusion. With the exception of an overly effective fog machine, which made the band barely visible at times, the operatic combination of the songs was powerful enough to get artists like Swift on their feet almost two hours into the show, which is no small feat at a marathon like the Grammys. Grade: A-

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Oddest Segue

After Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar's intense, visually schizophrenic performance, transitioning to Kacey Musgraves' Western-themed "set" made her performance of "Follow Your Arrow" land with a whimper rather than a bang, to say the least. The country crooner's LED boots were the lone bright spot (literally) in this serviceable number, which was so straightforward and uninventive that it was ultimately a dud. We're glad she won for Best Country Album because otherwise we're afraid that her talent would be overlooked based on this performance alone. Grade: C-

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Best Reunion

Sir Paul McCartney continued the trip down Beatles Memory Lane by sitting behind the actual piano from the Magical Mystery Tour to sing his new song, "Queenie Eye," which lyrically and melodically felt like a song from the band's heyday. With Ringo Starr right were he belonged on drums, the song definitely got our toes tapping. (Yoko's too!) Grade: B+

14 of 20 Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

Get the Party Started Award

A charming, pretention-free group performance of "Okie From Muscogee," featuring Original Highwaymen Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson (plus Merle Haggard and the always jovial Blake Shelton) paid proper tribute to country's role as one of America's roots musical tradition. Plus: It was a lot of fun! Grade: B

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Most Dance-Worthy Collaboration

Stevie Wonder joins Pharrell and Daft Punk for "Get Lucky," with snippets of Daft Punk's "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" and Chic's "Le Freak" woven in. Helmet-clad Daft Punk phoned in their deejay performance in a set that resembled a makeshift recording studio, but the energy from Pharrell &madash; who ditched his Canadian Mountie hat for one befitting a park ranger — Wonder and Niles Rodgers more than salvaged the performance. And nine months after its initial release, "Get Lucky" still has the power to get people out of their seats. Grade: A+

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Best Piano Duel

Legendary singer-songwriter Carole King and Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles gave the fog machines and laser beams a rest for this striking (and confidence-boosting) vocal mash-up of King's "Beautiful" and Bareilles' "Brave." The blending of the thematically linked songs was a nice touch, and their fierce piano playing wasn't too shabby either. However, we're docking a few points for King's strained vocals toward the end. Grade: C+

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Most Face-Melting Performance

They may have collaborated with a symphony before, but it's safe to say that Metallica has never given a performance like this version of "One" with Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang. If anyone can match Kirk Hammett's insane guitar-shredding, it's Lang's whirling-dervish piano-playing — but unfortunately, his key-twinkling seemed out of sync with the song at times. Disturbing background images and plenty of strobe lights helped to drive the song's anti-war message home. Hammett's Lou Reed shirt was also a nice touch. Grade: B+

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Most Upstaging Wedding Singer

To illustrate Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' song of tolerance "Same Love" (featuring the flawless vocal stylings of Mary Lambert), 33 couples of varying sexual orientations and backgrounds gathered on stage to exchange rings. And in the midst of history being made, Madonna arrived to sing a slow rendition of her hit "Open Your Heart." While we support the sentiment, we really wish that she didn't steal their thunder on their special day. Then again, not many people can boast that Madonna was their wedding singer, so there's that. Mazel tov! Grade: B-

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Best Tribute

Pianist Lang Lang started out the "In Memoriam" tribute with a touching piece, but it was Miranda Lambert and Billie Joe Armstrong's simple, moving performance of "When Will I Be Loved," dedicated to Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers, that really turned heads. Lambert's twang and Armstrong's clear vocals created a fitting harmonic tribute to the Everlys.

Grade: B

20 of 20 Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Rudest Interruption

Grammys, we understand that you're on a schedule and must service your sponsors, but when you line up more face-melting for the closing act, you do not cut away to ads. Following Nine Inch Nails's "Copy of A" with Lindsey Buckingham on guitar, Queens of the Stone Age and Dave Grohl on drums launched into "My God Is the Sun," but just as the song was building, the telecast switched to ads for Hilton, Delta and then most unforgivably, the closing credits. Next time, spend less time on Taylor Swift tweeting a selfie, Grammys. Kthxbai. Grade: B-