The 91st Academy Awards were handed out tonight (Feb. 24) in Los Angeles, California. For the first time in Oscars history, the live ceremony took place without a host. Despite that, a star-studded list of presenters kept the evening flowing along nicely, as the winners were revealed in 24 categories.
Among these winners, Lady Gaga and her co-writing team of Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt won the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born” and Ludwig Goransson took home the Best Original Score Oscar for “Black Panther.”
In keeping with tradition, an impressive roster of music superstars hit the stage to perform this year’s Oscar-nominated songs (except for “All the Stars” from “Black Panther”) and as promised, Queen and Adam Lambert delivered an explosive two-song set to open the show.
While all the artists did an amazing job this year, we’ve put together an AXS ranking of some of the best musical performances at the 91st Academy Awards below.
5. David Rawlings and Gillian Welch “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”
David Rawlings and Gillian Welch are a well-known Nashville-based singer-songwriting duo. The pair co-wrote the Oscar-nominated song “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” for the Coen Brothers’ film “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” Welch had previously worked with the Coens on “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” as an associate producer and performer on two of that soundtrack’s songs.
Recent Album of the Year Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves introduced the Americana-bluegrass duo at the Oscars this year. Their sparse, simple performance was set against a scenic backdrop depicting a starry night sky across an open frontier. They wore matching embroidered Western outfits and their harmonies were lovely on the rather dark ballad that mirrors the heart of the film.
4. Jennifer Hudson “I’ll Fight” from “RBG”
Jennifer Hudson only had to sing a few opening notes to remind us why she took home her own Oscar Award for Best Supporting Actress for her stunning work in “Dreamgirls” in 2006. The former “American Idol” finalist has a powerful and emotive vocal range which fit the emphatic, empowering message of the Diane Warren-penned song from “RBG” like a glove.
Several giant pillars filled an LED screen behind Hudson as she sang, representing the Supreme Court. Hudson's performance was flawless and overall, she exuded a kind of bold inner strength in her delivery that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was known for.
3. Bette Midler “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from “Mary Poppins Returns”
Bette Midler is a true music legend and all-around epic entertainer. Actor-comedian Keegan-Michael Key gave her the kind of grand introduction she deserved as he floated down from the ceiling Mary Poppins-style holding an umbrella.
The Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe and Tony-winning actress was billed as the “surprise guest” to sing “The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Walt Disney Studios' “Mary Poppins Returns.” Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman co-wrote the song for the film and Shaiman accompanied Midler on piano. Her beautiful, sweeping performance of the sentimental song earned an audience-wide standing ovation and truly was a standout moment in the show.
2. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born”
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's live duet was probably one of the most anticipated moments of the night. As the main love theme for “A Star Is Born,” Gaga and Cooper's onscreen duet of "Shallow" marked the start of a life-changing love affair between their characters that drove the film's story. The song already won Golden Globe, Grammy and Critics Choice Awards heading into the ceremony, and ultimately won the Oscar for Best Original Song.
The co-stars and friends had previously performed "Shallow" for a live audience at one of Lady Gaga’s shows in Las Vegas. Performing it on the scale of the Oscars stage, though, was an entirely different thing. They performed a sweet and subtle rendition of it, with Gaga looking lovely in an elegant black gown at the piano and Cooper in a tux. Gaga's power when belting the climatic chorus was breathtaking and the audience loved it.
Overall, Bradley Cooper deserves huge props as he was arguably way out of his element in a room full of his acting and directing peers. If he was nervous, it didn’t show. He eventually took a seat next to Gaga to close the song and the smile they gave each other when they were finished was priceless.
The Queen-Freddie Mercury biopic film “Bohemian Rhapsody” was up for five Oscars and it took home four, including a heavily-predicted Best Actor win for Rami Malek for his captivating portrayal of Freddie Mercury. No one even cared that the ceremony didn’t have a host when Queen’s Brian May and Roger Taylor hit the stage to open the Oscars with their longtime touring frontman Adam Lambert.
They performed “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions” and properly hyped up the crowd. Audience members were stomping their feet, clapping, and swaying in true Queen concert fashion. Glenn Close, Amy Adams, Queen Latifah, and more were rocking out to the songs in the audience and a picture of Mercury on a giant screen at the end of the set paid a sweet tribute to the incomparable, iconic superstar. It was the perfect way to kick off a glamorous night and earns our ranking for the No. 1 performance of the 2019 Oscars.