Oscars Performances: 10 Best Academy-Awards Music Moments
When the Oscars roll out the red carpet this Sunday (Feb. 22), it will be a show whose musical oomph is heavy. This year's awards will be packed with performances by Common, John Legend, Lady Gaga, Maroon 5 and more.
As the Oscars are celebrating with live musical performances, Billboard.com is too, by looking back at the 10 best live music moments the Academy Awards have ever broadcast. The Oscars simply would not have been the same without Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson's a battle of the "Dreamgirls" divas, Michael Jackson's teenage serenade to "Ben," or Madonna's homage to Marilyn Monroe.
U2 - "The Hands That Built America" 2003
As fellow Irishman and Oscar presenter Colin Farrell put it, U2's "The Hands That Built America" honors "new Americans who left Ireland in search of a better life, willing to fight for it at any expense." Written for Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York," the song ultimately lost out to Eminem's "Lose Yourself" but provided a rocking awards show performance nonetheless. Footage of immigrants entering Ellis Island splashed across the stage's backdrop while Bono belted "Hallelujah," creating an Oscar moment of epic proportions as only he can.
Björk - "I've Seen It All" 2001
Most people remember Bjork's 2001 Oscar appearance for her infamous "swan dress," but the quirky Icelandic vocalist also performed at the ceremony. After a mushy introduction from superfan Winona Ryder, Bjork graced the stage with a riveting performance of "I've Seen It All," the "Best Original Song"-nominated tune from "Dancer in the Dark." Bjork plays a single mother grappling with the loss of her eyesight in the film, and the song -- performed here without duet partner Thom Yorke -- shifts between swelling orchestral arrangements and minimalist drum patterns. Her outfit may have cemented her place in Oscar lore, but Bjork's performance was just as memorable, and refreshingly unconventional.
Bon Jovi - "Blaze of Glory" 1991
From his magnificently teased hair to his tight vest and pants, Jon Bon Jovi and his band of Jersey rockers made the '91 Oscars something to remember. Bon Jovi performed "Blaze of Glory," the high-octane ballad written for "Young Guns II" that ultimately lost "Best Original Song" to the Stephen Sondheim-penned, Madonna-performed song "Sooner or Later" (from "Dick Tracy"). The performance was electric, as Bon Jovi poured his heart soul into the epic lyrics: "I don't know where I'm going/ Only God knows where I've been/ I'm a devil on the run." Blazing, indeed.
Madonna - "Sooner Or Later" 1991
At the '91 Oscars, Billy Crystal introduced Madonna's performance of the "Dick Tracy" song "Sooner or Later" as "the NC-17 portion of our really big show." Turns out the number wasn't nearly as risqué as some of Madonna's other award-show routines, but as usual, she commanded everyone's attention with a sultry, full-stage romp. Donning a Marilyn Monroe-inspired gown, fur boa, gleaming baubles and bleached-blonde curls, Madonna gave a performance that took us back to the glamorous days of old Hollywood.
Michael Jackson - "Ben" 1973
At just 14 years old, Michael Jackson stole the 1973 Oscar show with his performance of "Ben," a heartfelt ballad about a boy's friendship with a rat from the movie of the same name. Audience members appeared breathless while they watched the future King of Pop sing in such an impressive range. It may have lost the "Best Original Song" award that year, but "Ben" was Jackson's first No. 1 hit without the Jackson 5, and the beginning of a history-making solo career.
Adele - "Skyfall" 2013
The Oscars... Adele couldn't have picked a grander scene for her first live performance of "Skyfall," the title track from the last Bond film. About 30 minutes before winning best original song, the British dynamo led a large scale run of the track.
With hair down and gold sequined black dress shimmering, Adele did her trademark stand-and-sway and this-big hand gestures as a full chorus and massive backing band (complete with a 15-plus orchestra) brought the layered, building track home. After, she smiled and gazed at the upper tier of the Dolby Theater as Hollywood's a-list applauded.
Jennifer Hudson & Beyonce - "Dreamgirls" Medley 2007
When "Dreamgirls" co-stars Beyoncé and Jennifer Hudson took the stage at the 2007 Academy Awards, all anyone wanted to know was which diva would come out on top. The performance turned out be mostly a draw, as Beyoncé and Hudson both had their moments to shine during "Love You I Do," "Listen" and "Patience." Unfortunately, none of the songs won that night, but Hudson enjoyed a sweeter victory with her Best Supporting Actress Oscar win. Take that, Simon Cowell!
Bruce Springsteen - "Streets of Philadelphia" 1994
It was Bruce Springsteen's first stab at writing a song for a film, and it sure turned out well. The veteran rocker won a "Best Original Song" Oscar in 1994 for "Streets of Philadelphia," penned for the essential, Tom Hanks-starring AIDS drama "Philadelphia." " I was bruised and battered and I couldn't tell what I felt/I was unrecognizable to myself," Springsteen sang poignantly during his live performance, demonstrating how his emotional ballad drove straight to the heart of the film's subject matter. Looking polished in an elegant suit, Springsteen summoned the waterworks with this one.
Celine Dion - "My Heart Will Go On" 1998
Anyone who lived through 1998 knows that it was the year of "Titanic." The James Cameron-helmed epic made box office history and walked away with nearly all of the top Academy Awards -- including "Best Original Song," of course, for Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On." The beloved Canadian songstress performed the winning ballad with a full backing orchestra and appropriately dramatic fog. Dion wore a Heart of the Ocean-lookalike necklace that would make Rose jealous, and her impassioned glory notes satisfied every "Titanic" fan's desire for a blockbuster-caliber performance.
Three 6 Mafia - "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp" 2006
Few artists are as incongruous with the Academy Awards as Three 6 Mafia -- and yet there they were, front and center at the 2006 Oscars. The Southern rappers performed their "Hustle & Flow" song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," backed up by the movie's co-star Taraj P. Henson and about a dozen extras who helped recreate the movie's rough-and-tumble setting. The only thing more surprising than the fact that "Pimp" went on to win "Best Original Song"? The fact that Three 6 Mafia made it through this performance without being interrupted by network censors.