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Oscars 2019: Ranking Musical Performances, From Queen To Lady Gaga

Oscars 2019: Ranking Musical Performances, From Queen To Lady Gaga
Photo: Chris Pizzello, Associated Press

Oscars 2019: Ranking Musical Performances, From Queen To Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s unduly erotic duet on “Shallow” lit the internet on fire. Queen and longtime touring buddy Adam Lambert had A-listers dancing in the aisles — and plugging their ears — to the group’s stadium-sized hits. And Jennifer Hudson belted out a song about — what else? — Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Oscars has always had a difficult relationship with music. The live sets during the the 91st Academy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 24 confirmed that. Here’s how this year’s musical performances measured up, ranked from best to worst to much, much worst:

Oscars 2019: Ranking Musical Performances, From Queen To Lady Gaga

Brian May of Queen and Adam Lambert perform during the 91st annual Academy Awards.
Photo: NOEL WEST, NYT

1. Queen and Adam Lambert performing “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”

Fog machines, fingerless gloves and big hair. It could only be Queen!

“American Idol” alum Adam Lambert joined original band members guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor to open the 91st Oscars with a splash of bombast. Most of the celebrities in the audience seemed stunned by May’s unapologetic shredding and a campy medley that would have been better suited for the Super Bowl, featuring “We Will Rock You” and “We Are The Champions.” But it was exactly the wakeup call the ceremony needed after roughly 14 hours of pre-show red carpet interviews.

Bonus: Rami Malek, star of the best picture-nominated “Bohemian Rhapsody,” seemed to approve.

Oscars 2019: Ranking Musical Performances, From Queen To Lady Gaga

David Rawlings and Gillian Welch perform onstage during the 91st Annual Academy Awards.
Photo: Kevin Winter, Getty Images

2. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings performing “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings”

With a sweet introduction by Grammy album of the year winner Kacey Musgraves and a backdrop that looked like a cosmic desert sky, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings brought a touch of authenticity to the ceremony with the campfire song “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from the Coen Brothers’s “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.”

For those who make the pilgrimage to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park every year, it must have felt like a surreal moment to see these two stars of the Americana underground onstage in front of the Hollywood glitterati. For the actual Hollywood glitterati in the audience, the low-key performance probably signaled a bathroom break.

Oscars 2019 Ranking Musical Performances, From Queen To Lady Gaga

Best Original Song winner for “Shallow” from “A Star is Born” Lady Gaga poses in the press room.
Photo: FREDERIC J. BROWN, AFP / Getty Images

3. Bradly Cooper and Lady Gaga singing “Shallow”

With all the “American Idol” castoffs on the Oscars stage, it’s fair to say Bradley Cooper would have got a straight up, “It’s a little pitchy, dawg,” from Randy Jackson. Lady Gaga also seemed a little off — and it wasn’t just the strange orange glow of her skin.

But there was something to be said for their stripped-down, overly dramatic (and sultry, I guess?) performance of the best original song winner “Shallow” from “A Star is Born,” especially with the unanticipated bit of PDA between the two singers at the end that sent the gossip sites into a tailspin.

Oscars 2019: Ranking Musical Performances, From Queen To Lady Gaga

Jennifer Hudson performs “I’ll Fight” from RBG at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019.
Photo: Chris Pizzello, Associated Press

4. Jennifer Hudson performing “I’ll Fight”

Nothing says rock ‘n’ roll like a schlocky Dianne Warren-penned power ballad about a Supreme Court Justice. But let’s hand it to Jennifer Hudson — another “American Idol” veteran — for belting the heck out the limp “I’ll Fight” from the biographical documentary “RGB” about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Oscars 2019: Ranking Musical Performances, From Queen To Lady Gaga

Bette Midler performs onstage during the 91st Annual Academy Awards.
Photo: Kevin Winter, Getty Images

5. Bette Midler performing “The Place Where Lost Things Go”

“The Place Where Lost Things Go,” from the thoroughly unnecessary “Mary Poppins” sequel, er, “Mary Poppins Returns,” is the kind of string-embellished nonsense the Oscars loves. Emily Blunt sang it in the movie with a kind of amateurish charm but the song was handed off to Bette Midler on Sunday — and even the Divine Miss M’s natural sass (and low-cut dress) couldn’t salvage the wisp of a tune.

Magically transported back to 1989 with this Bette Midler performance. Shout out to all the BEACHES heads out there tonight.

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