While there were a lot of happy winners at Sunday's Grammy Awards, the performances always take center stage - network-defying wardrobes aside - with creative collaborations and stunning stagings. USA TODAY's
recaps some top musical moments:
Taking her best shot
Performer: Taylor Swift
Set: We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
Recap: Smashing in a blinding-white mini-suit (CBS note: no "buttocks crack" in sight) and thigh-high boots, tongue firmly in cheek, the coyly confessional diva crooned her mega-hit as some anonymous schlub - not her latest ex, Harry Styles, though perhaps that's whom she had in mind - played the unlucky dude.
Eddie and the Vet
Performers: Elton John, Ed Sheeran
Set: The A-Team
Recap: John joined fellow Brit and first-time nominee Sheeran for a simple, heartfelt rendition of the younger singer/songwriter's plaintive ballad. The old pro sat at the piano and let Sheeran, fervidly strumming his guitar, take the emotional spotlight.
Fire and rain
Set: Carry On
Recap: The latest little band that could played one of its anthemic singles, with frontman Nate Ruess looking suitably intense and making his case (if not all the notes) loud and clear. We're not sure if the downpour at the end was entirely necessary, but as the singer looked a bit sweaty, it was hopefully refreshing.
Glitter and grit
Performers: Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley
Set: Over You and Home
Recap: The country stars joined forces - Lambert glam in a sparkling dress, Bentley more casual in jeans - for their respective hits. Lambert ended raising her arm triumphantly, then draping it affectionately around her colleague.
Performers: Miguel, Wiz Khalifa
Recap: R&B star Miguel kept things relatively simple singing his nominated hit; there was the obligatory melisma, but not too much of it, and he seemed to have a swell time with guest rapper Khalifa. They even wore matching pinstriped jackets - probably the set's flashiest feature.
That old-time folk and roll
Performers: Mumford & Sons
Set: I Will Wait
Recap: The English folk-rock darlings delivered their usual energy and proficiency, with singer Marcus Mumford leading his bandmates through chugging, frenetic choruses, then keeping things lean and earnest for the verses.
Performers: Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z
Set: Suit & Tie, Pusher Love Girl
Recap: OK, the four-day tease for his recent album announcement was a bit much; but Timberlake lived up to the hype with this smooth double shot, seguing from the silky Suit to the similarly old-school-soulful Love. Guest Jay-Z added extra kick, and the guys looked very classy in their tuxes; we're sure the network approved.
Pretty boy, hot girl
Performers: Maroon 5 and Alicia Keys
Set: Daylight, Girl on Fire
Recap: After Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine emoted and showed off his perfectly coiffed hair, Keys provided a much-needed blast of heat, as her fellow performer bounced around appreciatively. (She looked fabulous, too.)
From Rihanna, a keeper
Performer: Rihanna (with Mikky Ekko)
Recap: Looking luscious in long tresses and a (tastefully) sexy black gown, the diva offered a stripped-down, surprisingly supple reading of the song - better and sultrier than the album version. Ekko, who also appears on the recording, lent fluid backing vocals.
Lonely no more
Performers: The Black Keys, Dr. John, Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Set: Lonely Boy
Recap: The Grammy-nominated rock band served up a muscular set with a little help from their friends - though John's hat proved that the term "wardrobe malfunction" needn't be limited to inappropriately revealing garb.
A natural talent
Performer: Kelly Clarkson
Set: Tennessee Waltz, (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
Recap: It's not exactly news that Clarkson is still the most gifted winner that American Idol has produced; but if anyone needed a reminder, this robust, glowing performance - brief as it was - did the trick.
Performers: Bruno Mars, Sting, Rihanna, Ziggy Marley (with brothers Steve and Damian)
Set: Locked Out of Heaven, Walking on the Moon, Could You Be Loved
Recap: The exuberant young star gave props in person to one of his obvious influences, Sting, who impressively fielded the impossible high notes of one of his Police faves. They were joined by Rihanna and the Marley brothers for another classic, bringing the crowd to its feet.
Performer: Jack White
Set: Love Interruption, Freedom at 21
Recap: The rocker may not have had a prayer to win best album for his Blunderbuss, but he still delivered these two tracks with gusto - and the band gave his punk-blues some extra bite.
Fresh, glowing faces
Performers: The Lumineers
Set: Ho Hey
Recap: The best new artist nominees were clearly revved up to perform their frisky hit, and the audience seemed to eat it up. Hey, the refrain's easy to remember, right?
Innocence and experiencePerformer: Carrie Underwood
Set: Blown Away, Two Black Cadillacs
Recap: She may have looked like a prom queen - a very lovely one, at that - but the wholesome country-pop star sounded convincingly fierce singing about love and retribution.
Performers: Elton John, Zac Brown, T-Bone Burnett, Mavis Staples, Mumford & Sons, Brittany Howard
Set: The Weight
Recap: An homage to the late jazz great Dave Brubeck was oddly brief, but Levon Helm, who also died last year, got a worthier tribute with this robustly sung all-star jam through one of The Band's most treasured tunes.
Performer: Frank Ocean
Set: Forrest Gump
Recap: The banana-flavored jacket was a questionable choice, but the man who should have taken home this year's best new artist prize (and did collect other trophies) proved he's a keeper.
Over and out
Performers: LL Cool J, Chuck D, Z-Trip, Travis Barker, Tom Morello
Recap: According to Rolling Stone, Z-Trip put this "all-star mixing of rock, rap and turntablism" together after working with LL Cool J, and assembled the team that hit the stage to close the show. Is a supergroup in the works? "One day at a time," Morello told Stone.
Elysa Gardner, USA TODAY