While not all the nominees for best original song at the 2016 Oscars actually performed on Sunday night, the Feb. 28 ceremony did feature four memorable performances from four A-list artists.
Here’s our ranking of the Oscars performances.
4. Sam Smith, “Writing’s on the Wall” from Spectre
Sam Smith‘s performance of “Writing’s on the Wall” from James Bond flick Specter was an understated affair. Smith rocked back and forth with his mic, looking a bit nervous, and his voice was mostly in key. There was, however, a moment during the falsetto that his voice was, as Randy Jackson would say, “A bit pitchy.” Still, he walked away with the best original song Oscar, so it was a good night for Smith.
3. The Weeknd, “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)” from Fifty Shades of Grey
The Weeknd brought the opulence for his performance at the Oscars, wearing a suave suit and tie while lithe dancers in lingerie gyrated around the stage, and an aerialist (a la P!nk) contorted above him. The stage was lit by street lamps and chandeliers while Abel Tesfaye crooned the hit single, hitting all the right notes for a brief, elegant performance (from a movie that most wouldn’t exactly describe as “elegant”).
2. Dave Grohl, “Blackbird” for In Memoriam
Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl went solo at the 2016 Oscars, performing the Beatles’ gorgeously simply “Blackbird” to soundtrack the In Memoriam segment. While we were sad to miss Abe Vigoda during the montage, we loved Bowie’s Zoolander cameo representing his varied film career. As for the performance, Grohl gave some beautiful gravitas to the song written by former collaborator Paul McCartney as images of departed stars and artists played behind him.
1. Lady Gaga, “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground
Joe Biden, the primary author of the Violence Against Women Act in the ’90s, introduced Lady Gaga‘s stunning performance of “Til It Happens to You,” her song from documentary The Hunting Ground about sexual assault on college campuses. After Biden directed people to go to ItsOnUs.org, Gaga — seated behind a white Yamaha dressed in all white — started her performance. There were tears in her eyes even as she started, a deeply personal song she co-wrote with Diane Warren. A backing band and string section kicked in midway, after which Gaga turned up the volume of her performance, slapping the piano and belting out the lyrics to her rallying cry. Dozens of survivors of sexual assault marched out onstage for the finale of the song, easily making this the most moving moment of the night. Kate Winslet, Rachel McAdams and Warren all had tears in their eyes, and Gaga earned a standing ovation for her performance.