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Posted at 12:05 PM ET, 02/ 9/2011

Lists: The top five most unexpectedly great Grammy performances of the past 25 years

By Allison Stewart

christina aguileraChristina Aguilera's 2007 tribute to James Brown was a highlight of that year's show.

Heaven knows, we at Click Track have whiled away many happy hours making fun of the Grammys. This is not hard to do, because the Grammys are awful.

But what about the show's rare moments of non-awfulness, we wondered? Surely they must exist. We combed through 25 years of YouTube archives, on the hunt for the Grammys' greatest moments. We've limited our focus to the past 25 years and, as you'll see, we've focused on the unexpectedly sublime. (For example, Radiohead being awesome doesn't count).

5. Christina Aguilera's tribute to James Brown , 2007

There aren't enough superlatives to describe her scorching, fearless, fog-filled rendition of Brown's hit "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." It's one of the few times her over-singing has ever come in handy and, after her Super Bowl debacle, a welcome reminder of how great she can be.

4. Coldplay and Jay-Z, 2009

Hova's habit of making every song he features on about him (e.g. "Crazy in Love") drives us insane. And "Lost," a delicate ballad that's probably Coldplay's best song ever, barely survives his ... Jay-Z-ness. But live, this cross-genre pairing works, and it's precisely the
type of thing the Grammys do well.

(What do Springsteen and the guy from No Doubt have in common? Probably just one thing, which we'll tell you after the jump.)

elton eminemThis unlikely collaboration turned out to be fantastic.

3. Joe Strummer tribute, 2003

Several months after the Clash frontman's death, a strange, and strangely moving, assortment of rockers paid tribute, including Elvis Costello (the Clash's onetime peer, it's easy to forget), Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl and No Doubt's Tony Kanal.

2. Janet Jackson, 1987

She went home empty-handed that year, but this performance -- smart, assured, eventually iconic -- is what we think about when we think about Janet.

1. Elton John and Eminem, 2001

A jaw-dropper of a performance, this was the pop cultural equivalent of the SALT talks, if those had happened between gay pop stars (Elton) and people who hate gay pop stars (Eminem). We now know that John isn't that picky about who he associates with, but at the time, this was a big deal.

By Allison Stewart  | February 9, 2011; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  Grammys, Lists  | Tags:  Bruce Springsteen, Christina Aguilera, Dave Grohl, Elton John, Elvis Costello, Eminem, Grammys, James Brown, Janet Jackson, Joe Strummer, No Doubt, The Clash, Tony Kanal  
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Comments

The best Grammy performance I've seen was when a relatively unknown Ricky Martin performed and blew the crowd away to the point of getting a standing ovation at the end of his song. There were dancers and drummers in the aisles and great energy and visuals. I don't know the year, but that night launched him from a latino star to a worldwide phenomenon.

Posted by: macman3 | February 13, 2011 7:45 PM | Report abuse

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