Updated: Aug 8, 2018
If you’re still watching awards shows on television, still going to concerts, or checking out artists online, you’ve probably seen your fair share of live performances. How many of them moved you? For me, I value the genuineness of a performer. Whether it’s the way they let their vocals take over the song, the arrangement, or the heart, it’s real natural, and I think anyone watching can see that. Below, I have listed 5 of my favorite performances to watch that I'd love to share with you.
1. Paramore: NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert
Paramore is one of the most consistent, talented bands out there in the business, and Hayley Williams is a voice to be reckoned with. I still to this day have not seen them live, and it is killing me! I don't even have a good reason as to why. Anyways, when this NPR concert came out for their album After Laughter, I watched it about 100 times. The arrangements are so fun, and Hayley is just on cloud nine. What really sold me was when they do a fun version of their song "Fake Happy" (8:40). Hayley plays around with the melody, and it is genius. She reads her surroundings and the arrangement, and matches her vocals to that. Did I say it was genius? I love how it almost seems like she is making the melody up on the spot, but so comfortable with it. She is one of my favorite vocalists, and they are one of my favorite bands, and I hope you can appreciate this tiny concert as much as I do!
2. Lady Gaga "Joanne/Million Reasons" Live at the 2018 Grammy's
When you look past the crazy outfits and complex hair-do's, you will find an extremely passionate and talented artist. Lady Gaga's latest album Joanne is a very personal album. It's sounds very different from her previous albums, where dance reigned supreme, but is very much the same musically. She opens her 2018 Grammy's performance with "Joanne," a beautiful song about her aunt who died very young. You can tell the audience woke up for "Million Reasons," a song they knew, not a song that came straight from something real, but maybe I'm just bitter! What really strikes my heart is when the camera gives me close-ups of her face. I see the love of singing, the loss of her aunt, and the performance fire in her eyes, and that's what moved me the most.
I had seen her documentary 'Gaga: Five Foot Two' a few months earlier, and I fell in love with her. I never realized how honest she was as a person and writer, and I have since appreciated everything she does and has done tenfold. This performance was perfectly intimate, and she did not disappoint. Her Halftime Show performance comes in at a close second, so watch that video after you read this blog.
3. Whitney Houston "I Will Always Love You" Live at the 1994 Grammy's
Whitney Houston. Hands down one of the greatest singers of our time. This song is iconic, and this has been named one of her most memorable performances. What I find amazing about that is her playfulness throughout the song. She does not play it safe. She is so adventurous, finding creative runs at the right time, exploring higher notes, and smiling at the audience, inviting them on stage with her. That is something I dare any Top 40 singer to do on stage today, if they even really sing (ouch!). Whitney sang with such grace and confidence, and I watch her live performances whenever I want to be reminded to keep singing, never walking away with a dry eye.
I want to throw in a side note here. As a wedding singer, whenever we play this song, the room gets really quiet. People know this song and how powerful it is. It becomes such a big deal for everyone in the room. It's like everyone stops being a wedding guest and starts being an audience member, staring at this singer who knows subconsciously that everything needs to be right and "perfect." This makes me love Whitney's 1994 performance even more! She sang so bravely. She flirted with us, and she was so open about it. I love thinking about that.
4. Stevie Wonder Performing "Lately" Live
This is one of my favorite songs, so I may be biased here. When Stevie sings, he is doing it with emotion. I wonder if he takes each performance as an opportunity to sing his song in a new way vocally. He sings from his soul, and does whatever comes natural, like he's on cloud nine. When he riffs, it's because he feels it, not because he wants attention. Again, I love the risks he takes with his voice. The end of this song is so big here. It's the perfect blend of musical dynamics and Stevie Wonder passion. If you do not know this song, you will know it now!
5. Justin Timberlake FutureSex/LoveShow "What Goes Around..."
Firstly, I really love the arrangement of this song. From the soft piano introduction, to the rock transformation on the last chorus. I feel so PUMPED when I watch and hear and feel this performance (starts at 43:20. I apologize for the delay in video/audio. I could not find this anywhere else! Here's another link in case: https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2mchut). Secondly, every single thing he does vocally is amazing. I love when he steps away from his falsetto and goes for those high notes. He belts his way into my soul. Justin is not that kind of singer, so for him to give me what I don't always hear, at the perfect moment, is prodigious. Lastly, JT loves what he does (as he should) and you can see that in every move he makes, especially when he pulls away from the mic to smile at his band mates. This is exactly why he is and always will be my #1 idol and inspiration.