There’s a reason the Grammy Awards are called Music’s Biggest Night. Since the first ceremony in 1959, musicians, singers, songwriters, producers, recording engineers, executives and more have united annually to celebrate and recognize outstanding achievements in the industry.
Although it’s the awards that bring everyone together, the Recording Academy’s annual ceremony has grown to become a major musical showcase of its own. Now, performances can be just as headline-making as winners — especially when two or more acts take the stage for a surprise team-up. For instance, Prince and Beyoncé stole the show in 2004 when they performed a medley of hits that included “Purple Rain” and “Crazy In Love.” Elton John and Eminem’s performance of “Stan” at the 2001 Grammys still has people talking today. And back in 1980, Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond stole the show by singing “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” live for the first time together.
With over half a century of show-stopping sets, there are likely dozens of acts you may not remember having taken the stage together. Some pairings are more surprising than others (Metallica and Lady Gaga’s 2017 team-up surely had heads turning), but all of them captivated audiences, bringing together artists both old and new to make history live on stage.
Ahead of the 2023 Grammy Awards on Sunday (Feb. 5) — which will feature performances from Harry Styles, Bad Bunny, Mary J. Blige, Stevie Wonder, Brandi Carlile, Luke Combs, Steve Lacy, Lizzo, Kim Petras and Sam Smith and more — Billboard rounds up 11 epic duets and collaborations you may have forgotten about, in no particular order, below.
Imagine Dragons & Kendrick Lamar, “Radioactive”/“m.A.A.d City” (2014)
Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar joined forces for a surprising mash-up at the 2014 awards. The rock band’s frontman Dan Reynolds opened the set with the first line of “Radioactive” before Lamar rolled in with his trademark “m.A.A.d City” bars. As the song built and brought the audience (including Taylor Swift, Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Steven Tyler) to their feet, the artists’ all-white outfits turned red amid a puff of smoke at the performance’s epic close.
Metallica & Lady Gaga, “Moth Into Flame” (2017)
Metallica and Lady Gaga literally brought the heat for their 2017 Grammys team-up. The acts performed a duet rendition of the heavy metal band’s “Moth Into Flame” off their album Hardwired… to Self-Destruct, which was nominated for best rock album the following year. And in true metal fashion, the stage was ablaze during this hard-charging pairing.
Tina Turner & Beyoncé, “Proud Mary” (2008)
“Stand on your feet and give it up for the queen,” Beyoncé said at the top of Tina Turner’s medley at the 50th Grammys. Following solo performances of “What’s Love Got to Do with It” and “Better Be Good to Me,” Turner brought Bey back to the stage for “Proud Mary.” Wearing coordinated silver threads for the medley’s concluding duet, the duo gave their all with back-up dancers and full choreo.
Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Sting & The Marleys, Bob Marley Tribute (2013)
Only Bob Marley’s music could bring together Bruno Mars, Rihanna and Sting. Mars opened the set with “Locked Out of Heaven” before Sting came out for a rendition of The Police’s U.K. No. 1 “Walking on the Moon.” Rihanna and Ziggy Marley then joined for a duet on Bob Marley and the Wailers’ “Could You Be Loved,” before Damian Marley closed the set with his 2002 track “And Be Loved” alongside the rest. The medley coincided with the release of Marley, the 2012 documentary chronicling the life and career of the late reggae legend.
Usher & James Brown, “Caught Up”/“Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” (2005)
You couldn’t help but want to dance along to Usher and James Brown’s set at the 2005 Grammys. At first, it was just Usher, wearing his then-signature fedora and bringing his smooth moves to “Caught Up.” Just as the song concluded, James Brown ran on stage in a shimmery red suit to join the Confessions singer for a duet version of “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine” that featured an eye-popping, electric dance battle between the two.
Taylor Swift & Stevie Nicks, “Rhiannon”/“You Belong With Me” (2010)
Right after performing her song “Today Was A Fairytale” from Valentine’s Day (the romantic comedy she also appeared in), Taylor Swift brought out Stevie Nicks for a once-in-a-lifetime rendition of “Rhiannon” at the 2010 ceremony. A then-21-year-old Swift busted out her best harmonies alongside the Fleetwood Mac singer, before the two transitioned into a duet of one of Swift’s biggest hits, “You Belong With Me.”
Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt, Elvis Costello & Dave Grohl, “London Calling” (2003)
Bruce Springsteen, E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt, Elvis Costello and Dave Grohl formed a one-night-only supergroup in memory of Joe Strummer, who died just months prior to the 2003 awards. The quartet, each equipped with their own guitar, stood in a line center stage taking turns belting Strummer’s lyrics to The Clash’s punk classic “London Calling,” with backing from No Doubt’s Tony Kanal and drum pro Pete Thomas.
Shawn Mendes & Miley Cyrus, “In My Blood” (2019)
A surprise entrance from Miley Cyrus was exactly what Shawn Mendes needed for his 2019 Grammy performance of “In My Blood.” Just Mendes and a grand piano kicked things off on a side stage before he traded the keys for a guitar, strutted to the main stage and introduced Cyrus for a climactic rendition of the chorus. Her signature rasp uniquely blended with his soft vocals atop an impressive string section, while showers of fireworks brought the song to an exhilarating close.
Gorillaz, De La Soul & Madonna, "Feel Good Inc."/"Hung Up" (2006)
Gorillaz opened the 2006 Grammys with a bang as holograms of the group took over the big screens for a performance of “Feel Good Inc.” — with an IRL De La Soul joining in for a verse that was coordinated perfectly with the virtual band. The holograms played out De La Soul to introduce the next half of the set: a virtual Madonna kicking off “Hung Up” before the pop star arrived on stage wearing the same lavender leotard as her digital counterpart.
Mumford & Sons, Bob Dylan & The Avett Brothers, “The Cave”/“Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise”/“Maggie’s Farm” (2011)
Three folk acts from different generations came together for a collaboration that brought the genre to center stage at the 2011 Grammys. Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers opened the set with “The Cave” and “Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise,” respectively, before introducing Bob Dylan to the stage for a massive team-up on his 1965 classic “Maggie’s Farm.”
Hozier & Annie Lennox, “Take Me To Church”/“I Put A Spell On You” (2015)
A single spotlight on a dim stage hit Hozier as he began his biggest Hot 100 hit (No. 2 peak) at the 2015 show. Before rocking out the final chorus, he surprised the audience with singer-songwriter Annie Lennox, who took the audience to church with her heavenly harmonies. The duo then performed “I Put A Spell On You,” which she covered in 2014 — this time with Lennox taking the lead and stealing the show.