Following an introduction by La La Land co-stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, John Legend’s melancholy vocals washed over the Dolby Theatre as the 89th Academy Awards surpassed the two-hour mark.
At first, the stage was recreated to reflect scenes from the film, but within moments Legend was left alone with nothing but his piano while he sang the Oscar-nominated “City of Stars.” As the song reached its impassioned peak, dancers returned both to the stage and above it, suspended by invisible wires in front of a (fitting) starry backdrop.
Earlier on the red carpet, Legend revealed his nerves and said he had never practiced piano so much for a performance considering he typically plays a song of his own. The nerves were seemingly absent once he sang his first note, though — for good reason. “City of Stars” went on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song moments after Legend’s performance.