From the four-band opening mash-up featuring Maroon 5, the Black Eyed Peas, Los Lonely Boys, and Franz Ferdinand to Usher’s dance-off with James Brown, this year’s Grammys were all about bridging genres and generations. But the awards were merely the climax of a week full of events showcasing cool collaborations. Here are the best performances you didn’t see.
Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammy party — held this year at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Feb. 12 — is a star-studded institution. So who stole the show from the likes of Alicia Keys, Carlos Santana, Jamie Foxx, and Usher? An American Idol, baby. Fantasia’s electrifying, scat-singing duet with Chaka Khan on ”Summertime” transported the jaded industry crowd to church — and converted all nonbelievers.
Later at Davis’ bash, Maroon 5 busted out an impressively faithful rendition of Pharrell and Jay-Z’s ”Frontin’,” joined by Neptune Chad Hugo on keys and rapper Mos Def on a revamped rhyme section. Jigga himself seemed to approve, nodding appreciatively to the beat.
At a tsunami benefit hosted by Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.I.Am at the Avalon Hollywood on Feb. 11, Justin Timberlake joined James Brown for a rousing rendition of ”Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” that easily rivaled Usher’s duet with the Godfather of Soul two nights later.
Alanis Morissette and her heir apparent in female angst Avril Lavigne shared the same stage during the elder’s Feb. 11 gig (part of a pre-Grammy concert series held at the House of Blues Sunset Strip). Trading off lines on Morissette’s signature sing-along ”Ironic,” the pop pairing provided yet another reason to love our neighbors to the north. Later, Dermot Mulroney inexplicably showed up to play cello (!) on ”Uninvited.”
Also on Feb. 11, Recording Academy charity organization MusiCares honored Brian Wilson, who provided the emotional highlight of his own tribute gala. At the Hollywood Palladium ceremony, Wilson joined R&B crooner India.Arie for a poignant rendition of ”God Only Knows.”