As 2020 draws to a close, it’s hard to believe we’ve spent the majority of the year living in a world of quarantining and social distancing. But even as the pandemic raged on, music was a constant source of entertainment, comfort and relief for people staying safe at home.
From high-profile charity fundraisers and TV specials to impromptu performances on social media, stars such as Miley Cyrus, BTS, Post Malone and Mariah Carey kept the quarantine performances coming throughout the year, giving fans as close to the live music experience as possible as venues remained closed and touring indefinitely on hold.
There were memorable talk-show moments (Chloe x Halle, Kim Petras), inventive Tiny Desk concerts (Billie Eilish) and even Ariana Grande dishing out five-part harmonies as all five Greek Muses at once!
Below, Billboard has rounded up the 12 best quarantine performances of 2020.
John Legend – #TogetherAtHome Concert Series
For his #TogetherAtHome concert in March, John Legend delivered a wide-ranging, hour-long set from the comfort of his own living room. During theshow, the crooner covered everything Stevie Wonder‘s “Love’s in Need of Love Today,” dug back into his own discography with 2004’s “Stay With You,” and even serenaded a towel-wrapped Chrissy Teigen with his 2008 single “Everybody Knows.”
Post Malone – Nirvana Tribute for World Health Organization
In April, Post Malone turned out an unforgettable medley of Nirvana hits to help raise money for the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 relief efforts, enlisting Travis Barker, bassist Brian Lee and guitarist Nick Mack to help him cover “Drain You,” “Heart-Shaped Box,” “Come As You Are” and more.
Chloe x Halle – “Do It” on Today
Chloe x Halle put their tennis court to good use during a June 16 performance on Today. Performing “Do It” — the breakout single from their 2020 sophomore album Ungodly Hour — the sister act transformed the court into an inventive DIY set using backdrops and a double dose of ingenuity.
Ariana Grande – “I Won’t Say I’m in Love” for The Disney Family Singalong
Ariana Grande has made no secret of her love for Hercules over the years, so for April’s The Disney Family Singalong, the superstar channeled both Megara and all five of the Muses for a spectacular take on “I Won’t Say I’m In Love,” complete with props, her signature high pony, and stunning five-part harmonies.
Mariah Carey – “Always Be My Baby” for iHeartRadio Living Room Concert for America
Make no mistake, Mariah Carey has kept the Lambs fed during quarantine, delivering performance after performance from her home studio over the past nine months. But perhaps none have been so impressive as her March 29 take on her iconic 1996 smash hit “Always Be My Baby” for the iHeartRadio Living Room Concert for America.
Billie Eilish – Tiny Desk (Home) Concert
Leave it to Billie Eilish to transport us straight to the NPR studios for her August Tiny Desk (Home) Concert with a markedly accurate recreation of the famously cluttered Tiny Desk. As she and Finneas ran through intimate renditions of “My Future” and “Everything I Wanted,” viewers at home were left to marvel at just how spot-on the recreation was — down to the very last detail.
Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, Andrea Bocelli, John Legends & Lang Lang – “The Prayer” for Together One World
Lady Gaga‘s One World: Together at Home concert special for Global Citizen in April was filled to the brim with performances by dozens of A-listers, but nothing topped the fundraiser’s grand finale, which saw the star joining forces with Andrea Bocelli, Céline Dion, John Legend and Lang Lang for a powerfully heartfelt version of “The Prayer.”
Kim Petras – “Malibu” on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
That’s how you make your late-night television debut! For her first-ever performance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Kim Petras delivered certified bop “Malibu” from the bottom of a swimming pool — or so it seemed as she was flanked by a pair of guitar-wielding backup dancers as they bounced along to the track’s infectious beat in July.
BTS – “Boy With Luv” on The Late Late Show With James Corden
In the pre-“Dynamite” days of quarantine, BTS converged on their studio to deliver a quarantine performance of their Map of the Soul: Persona-era hit “Boy With Luv” for The Late Late Show With James Corden in late March.
Miley Cyrus – Backyard Sessions for MTV Unplugged
For her MTV Unplugged special in October, Miley Cyrus resurrected her famous Backyard Sessions, performing everything from Britney Spears‘ “Gimme More” and Pearl Jam‘s “Just Breathe” to duetting with sister Noah Cyrus on “I Got So High That I Saw Jesus” and closing out the quarantine concert with Plastic Hearts lead single “Midnight Sky.”
Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski & Audra McDonald – “Ladies Who Lunch”
What do you get when you combine three legends in bathrobes, Zoom and a heavy pour in quarantine? This instantly iconic rendition of “Ladies Who Lunch” by Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski and Audra McDonald for composer Stephen Sondheim’s virtual 90th birthday celebration in April, that’s what.
Sam Smith – “Lay Me Down” for BBC Children in Need
For BCC Children in Need and Comic Relief’s The Big Night In special in April, Sam Smithpo dusted off his 2014 single “Lay Me Down,” combining their awe-inspiring vocals with nothing but piano for a quiet, intimate take on the heartfelt ballad.