Reuniting legends, creating unparalleled GRAMMY Moments and giving new artists a global platform are all part of what makes the GRAMMYs a truly unique celebration of music. But this year the GRAMMY stage served as an opportunity to display music's power to unleash "whoever we are and whoever we dream about being," as host LL Cool J said in his opening remarks.
Following a steamy performance of "Drunk In Love" by power couple Beyoncé and Jay Z, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis made their first appearance on the GRAMMY stage to accept the first award of the night for Best New Artist. After catching their collective breath, Macklemore thanked their fans, "the people that got us on this stage," while acknowledging their independent roots.
"We made this album without a record label," said Macklemore. "And we appreciate all the support."
The Seattle rap duo ended their GRAMMY debut on top, garnering a total of four trophies. The duo were later joined by singer/songwriter Mary Lambert and Trombone Shorty for a performance of their GRAMMY-nominated anthem of equality, "Same Love." The performance marked a historic moment for the GRAMMY Awards as Queen Latifah took the stage mid-set to officiate a live marriage ceremony for 33 diverse couples, which was capped with an appearance by Madonna. Madge gave new meaning to the chorus to her "Open Your Heart," proving that while music unleashes independence, it also promotes harmony.
"When we say music has the power to bring people together at the GRAMMYs, we mean it," said Latifah.
Fellow GRAMMY newcomer Lorde performed her hit "Royals," which took Song Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance. The 17-year-old singer/songwriter was clearly shocked: "This is the one thing that I did not expect the most about tonight," she said while accepting the latter award.
Further demonstrating music's power to unleash individuality, Hunter Hayes debuted his new single "Invisible." The inspirational piano-driven ballad was colored with several onscreen quotes, including one by John Lennon: "You don't need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are."
Country singer/songwriter Kacey Musgraves nabbed the first two GRAMMYs of her career for Best Country Song for "Merry Go 'Round" with Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne, and Best Country Album for Same Trailer Different Park. Musgraves made her individual mark on the GRAMMYs when she brightened the stage for a performance of "Follow Your Arrow," a song about doing "whatever you want."
One of the most talked about — and tweeted — performances of the night was the teaming of Imagine Dragons, who won their first GRAMMY for Best Rock Performance for "Radioactive," with rising rapper Kendrick Lamar. On a smoke-filled stage, the collective delivered a colorful mashup of "Radioactive" and Lamar's "m.A.A.d city" — an appropriate welcome to a new generation of GRAMMY performers.
But being in with the new does not mean out with the old — or in this case, legendary. Newly minted Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard were accompanied by Blake Shelton for a medley of classics such as "Okie From Muskogee" and "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" that had everyone from Musgraves to Jay Z and Beyoncé swaying in the audience. Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams — both of whom also topped the winners list with four each, including Album Of The Year for Random Access Memories and a Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical win for Williams — teamed with Nile Rodgers and Stevie Wonder for a mashup of the Chic classic "Le Freak" and "Get Lucky." The latter earned Rodgers two of his first three career GRAMMYs for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Record Of The Year.
Additionally, Jay Z and Justin Timberlake won Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Holy Grail," which Jay Z accepted on their behalf and dedicated to his daughter Blue Ivy. Bruno Mars took home Best Pop Vocal Album honors for Unorthodox Jukebox, which he dedicated to his late mother Bernadette, who died in June 2013.
On a satellite stage, 2014 MusiCares Person of the Year honoree Carole King and Sara Bareilles went head-to-head on piano for a performance of Bareilles' "Brave" and King's "Beautiful." More all-star collaborations ensued. Robin Thicke joined Chicago to perform the latter's "Beginnings," "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?" and "Saturday In The Park" and his "Blurred Lines," which earned Thicke his first nominations as an artist. GRAMMY winner Keith Urban and first-time winner Gary Clark Jr. joined for a performance of Urban's "Cop Car" that showed off each individual's guitar prowess. Pink made sure no one forgot her high-flying acrobatic skills as she took to the air to perform "Try" before Fun.'s Nate Ruess joined to deliver their GRAMMY-nominated hit "Just Give Me A Reason."
The spotlight was on John Legend as he took a seat behind the piano for a soulful performance of his romantic ballad "All Of Me," which appeared to be dedicated to his new bride, Chrissy Teigen. Taylor Swift went for a no-frills performance, looking glamorous at the piano for her "All Too Well." Meanwhile, fellow singer/songwriter Katy Perry proved she has a dark side, opening encased in a crystal ball for an enchanting performance of her hit single about playing with magic, "Dark Horse," featuring Juicy J.
Though the evening was highlighted by new artists taking home their first GRAMMY gold, as Dave Grohl remarked while accepting the award for Best Rock Song for "Cut Me Some Slack" with Paul McCartney and former Nirvana bandmates Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear, "If it wasn't for the Beatles, we wouldn't be here." Celebrating the 50th anniversary of their U.S. debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" this year, remaining Beatles McCartney and Ringo Starr took the stage, likely reminding some of the younger artists in the audience why they chose their individual paths. After a solo performance by Starr of his chestnut "Photograph," the drummer joined McCartney for the latter's new "Queenie Eye." (Two weeks later, the pair would team again for the successful tribute "The Beatles: The Night That Changed America — A GRAMMY Salute," which celebrated their historic performance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" 50 years ago.)
From one surprise teaming to another, Metallica took the stage with the GRAMMY Cultural Ambassador to China, pianist Lang Lang. Following an introduction from Oscar winner Jared Leto, who cited Metallica as a "great rock band who have stayed true to themselves," the group delivered a unique performance of their past GRAMMY winner "One" that had frontman James Hetfield going guitar-to-piano with Lang Lang. The pianist returned shortly after to pay tribute to the late Van Cliburn during the In Memoriam segment, which also featured Miranda Lambert and Billie Joe Armstrong teaming for a tribute to the late Phil Everly with the Everly Brothers' "When Will I Be Loved."
The 56th telecast took its final bow with one last memorable GRAMMY Moment that literally rocked. Fleetwood Mac guitar master Lindsey Buckingham and Grohl joined Nine Inch Nails and Queens Of The Stone Age for NIN's "Copy Of A" and QOTSA's "My God Is The Sun."