2012 Grammys Performance Recap: Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, Rihanna

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(Chris Brown performs at the 2012 Grammy Awards)

There were a few memorable performances at Sunday night’s Grammy Awards, which included sets from Chris Brown, Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. Chris Brown made his official return to the awards show with an LED lit backdrop, while Rihanna threw her own dance party and sang a brief duet with Coldplay. Nicki Minaj’s performance for “Roman Holiday” was certainly one of the more interesting displays of the night. The Young Money rapper went all out, with a very theatrical set that left fans with plenty to say. Check out a recap of the three performances after the jump

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Chris Brown: When the stage lit up, Brown stood atop a collection of colorful blocks that at times resembled the 1980s arcade game “Q-Bert.” The electric-tuned, Underdogs-produced single filled Staples Center, as Brown, who was dressed in a white and gray varsity jacket, white pants and sparkling sneaks, kick-stepped up and down multiple levels of the high-rising stage prop. As the beat built, the blocks went from red to blue to yellow and green with building intensity before Brown switched gears and went into the more familiar dance single “Beautiful People” from last year’s F.A.M.E. LP. The pop star got a bit daring, jumping across the structure while his backup dancers, who wore oversize winged ponchos, followed suit in a high-flying routine. In the end, there were no innuendos or screen cuts to Breezy’s ex-flame Rihanna. Brown simply finished his number, stood triumphantly and saluted the crowd before taking a bow.

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(Nicki Minaj performs at the 2012 Grammy Awards)

Rihanna: Rihanna’s performance kicked off like a scene straight out of the thematically dark video for the track, with the Barbadian pop star leaning against a wall looking troubled under dark lighting with only a piano playing alongside her as she sang the track like a torch ballad. Looking gorgeous — and giving off a Tina Turner vibe — Rihanna rocked the blond locks she introduced recently, wearing a tight, belly-baring ensemble. The laser lights, LED screens and synths kicked up soon enough, though, and Rihanna welcomed dancers to the stage and lit into a high-energy performance of the dance smash that kept with the feel of the song, devolving into a full-on rave, with the pop star front and center. Like many other performers and presenters at the show, Rihanna took a moment to honor the late Whitney Houston, demanding the audience, “Make some noise for Whitney!”
Soon, the tempo backed down and the dancers departed, leaving Rihanna onstage with just Chris Martin strumming an acoustic guitar. The pair then started into the televised debut of their Mylo Xyloto collaboration “Princess of China.”

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(Rihanna, Coldplay perform at the 2012 Grammy Awards)

Nicki Minaj: In the show’s final act the animated rap star — who lost out to Bon Iver for “Best New Artist” — channeled her infamous alter ego Roman Zolanski onstage, leading the audience through a rap exorcism of sorts. At one point, she even levitated, while speaking in tongues and jumping around against a fiery backdrop. Minaj marched out sporting a brown ball gown and long, bleached-blond locks, and performed a skit before launching into her new single, “Roman Holiday,” from her upcoming sophomore album, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. In a pre-taped skit, Minaj was surrounded by stained glass and other religious imagery, eerily putting on lipstick, singing “I Feel Pretty.” She then climbed a wall to have an exchange with the strange Pope-like figure, a man who’s real identity remains unknown. After being strapped to a leather lab table onstage, she rapped backed by a goth-looking church choir that sang a haunting version of “Come All Ye Faithful.” At the crescendo, she was lifted by an invisible rope into the Grammy sky. Shooting flames helped to complete the fiery, head-scratching number.