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From Adele to Chris Brown, we rate the night in music

1 of 17 Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.com

Best opening

Is there a better way to start things off than The Boss? Accompanied by strings and the always reliable E Street Band, Bruce Springsteen delivered a raw, charged and inspiring performance of "We Take Care of Our Own." And hey for, 62, Springsteen can do the stage jumps with the best of them! Grade: B+
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Most underappreciatedBruno Mars and his poofiest pompadour tried to get Grammy-goers going with the big, brassy, James Brown-happy "Runaway Baby." "Get off your rich asses and have some fun!"he instructed. Thankfully, he kept doing his delightful doo-wop thing, taking no heed of the still-sitting ingrates in the audience. Grade: B+
3 of 17 John Shearer/WireImage.com

Best odd couple

Whitney was the big name on everyone's lips, but Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt teamed up to pay fitting tribute to another fallen singer – Etta James. Armed with a keyboard and a guitar, respectively, the R&B songstress and country superstar meshed perfectly for a stripped-down, but powerful rendition of "I Want a Sunday Kind of Love." Grade: A-
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Weirdest standing ovationSo, um, yeah, that was really… geometric? Chris Brown's performance of "Turn Up the Music" and "Beautiful People" transformed the Staples stage into a PG-rated nightclub, which is about as much as we'd expect from Justin Bieber. Not sure why the generic dancing, not to mention tunes, earned him a standing O. You guys in the audience didn't even stand for Bruce. Grade: C-
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Worst cover-up

Producers managed to find enough time – see what we did there? – to cart big clockwork gears onstage for Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson's duet of "Don't You Wanna Stay," but they couldn't check the equipment? Even worse are Kelly's horrible improv skills – when Aldean's mic suddenly went out, she stopped singing instead of sharing her mic. Did live TV teach you nothing, girl? Grade: C-
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Most welcome headbangingMaybe all Grammy performances should happen outside in a tent in front of fans without seats. "Walk" might have been a fireworks-free, run-of-the-mill concert performance for the Foo Fighters, but watching fans go berserk at a rock show is kind of exactly what a three-hours-plus awards show needs. Grade: A-
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Biggest letdown

After Rihanna's heavily choreographed and highly energized performance of "We Found Love," her melodramatic duet with Chris Martin was OK, but it's Coldplay's performance of "Paradise" that was, well, anything but. They may have glowed in the dark, thanks to some very talented street artist stagehands, but Martin's whiny, off-key vocals hardly glowed. Grade: C-
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Most frightening (sounding) collaborationOn paper, it's hard to imagine worse than the shrill voices of Adam Levine and Foster the People's Mark Foster joining forces (hide your dogs!). Mercifully, they sang their odes to the Beach Boys ("Little Surfer Girl" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice") separately and then let the reunited Beach Boys fly mostly solo on "Good Vibrations." We think the pop vets could've -- and should've -- handled the whole thing alone. Grade: B-
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Most depressing valentine

How exactly did Sir Paul get upgraded to OG status by LL Cool J? Whatever it was, we didn't see it in this lackadaisical performance of "My Valentine," which included dark lighting, a ho-hum string orchestra – The Boss did it better! – and Paul sitting on a stool, in front of the audience, asking them to love him despite this dreadful tune. Grade: F
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Honky tonkiest kiss-offYou don't wanna see Taylor Swift when she's angreeee. No, really, we didn't need to see it. The 22-year-old sang her Grammy-winning ditty "Mean," about how one day she's going to show up her nemesis when she's livin in a big ol' city, while wearing her granny's nightie, banjo in hand. Yeah! And stay off her lawn, too! Grade: C
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Worst replacement for Lady GagaThe truth is Katy Perry has (only) one really good song in her arsenal – her collaboration with Kanye West about alien sex, "E.T." So, yes, we feel your horror. To hear the first 20 seconds of that song only to have it cut off and replaced by ""Part of Me," the umpteenth Dr. Luke-Max Martin bit of radio pandering? Ugh. Oh, and her hair was blue. Who cares. Grade: F
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Best comeback

After weeks of hype following her vocal surgery, Adele let her powerful pipes do all the talking in the opening lines of "Rolling in the Deep." Even though it's a song we've heard so many times – probably too many times before – the richness in her vocals and the conviction in her performance made it sound all new again and reminded us why we fell in love the first time. Now this is what standing ovations are for. Grade: A
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Best good times tributeCan we just hang out with The Band Perry and Blake Shelton while they sit around singing selections from the Glen Campbell catalogue? Even if you don't know who Glen Campbell is, chances are his songs -- "Gentle on My Mind," "Southern Nights" and, Campbell's biggest hit "Rhinestone Cowboy" – spell good times for you, too. Grade: B+
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Worst odd couple

Tony Bennett, much like Sir Paul, gets a free pass at the Grammys just for making it onstage, but he delivered smoothly and effortlessly, like he always does. Surprisingly, it was the much younger Carrie Underwood who infused the classic "It Had to Be You" with a little too much life and way too much of her own style. Grade: D-
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Most poignant tributeJust hours after Whitney Houston had been found dead, Jennifer Hudson was pulled in to prepare a tribute to one of her heroes. The result? A restrained yet striking take on Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," the song made even more famous by Houston's own powerful pipes on the soundtrack for The Bodyguard. In short: It was beautiful. Grade: A
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Slightly better pretender to the Lady Gaga throneNicki Minaj arrived at the Grammys escorted by a priest and dressed in scarlet, oversized nunwear. On stage, she confessed her sins, got exorcised and levitated above dancing clergymen to "Roman's Revenge." Do we wish she sang one of her better songs? Yes. Was she trying too hard? Perhaps. But we award brownie points for trying, misguided or not. Grade: C
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This is why we have the Grammys

Beatle or not, at first it seemed superfluous, and a little sadistic, to invite Paul McCartney back onstage at the end after his uninspired first attempt. However, a soul-stirring performance of the fab four classic "Golden Slumbers/Carry Your Weight," followed a rocking group guitar performance featuring Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, Rusty Anderson, Brian Ray and Joe Walsh, among others, showed why the Grammys matter even if they only hand out five awards per telecast. But why was the show on a respirator for the first three and a half hours?Grade: A+