5. “I’ll Fight” – Jennifer Hudson
This was a bit rough. Much of the issue seemed from extremely poor mixing as Hudsons voice overpowered the orchestration behind her to the point that I found myself genuinely unsure if the vocals were in the correct key or not. She also seemed somewhat unsure and the the key and tempo were unsteady. That being said, Jennifer Hudson is a remarkable talent and a true professional who powered through these difficulties for a performance she can be proud of.
4. “The Place Where Lost Things Go” – Bette Middler
Here, we had another mixed bag, though much more on the positive side. The mix was, again, atrocious, letting Middler’s voice bully the orchestration back entirely. However, Bette’s voice was much softer and her performance was extremely heartfelt. Tonally, her voice doesn’t seem to have lost all that much over the years and considering the generally sentimental nature of the track and the film themselves, this came off as an enjoyable, if slightly flawed, interpretation of a nice song.
3. “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions” – Queen and Adam Lambert
What a way to start a show! Finding themselves without a host, the Oscars chose Queen, in their newest iteration anyway, to open the show with a flashy performance of one of the most iconic cuts in their catalog. The show was, admittedly, far more show than substance and Adam Lambert falls woefully short of Freddy Mercury’s otherworldly excellence. Overall, however, this was a fun and exciting way to open the night.
2. “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” – Gillian Welch and David Rawlings
What a pleasant surprise this was. Much like the film for which the song was written, this performance was an unflinching callback to a sound and a genre that has been absent from the cultural zeitgeist for quite sometime. Welch and Rawlings crafted an intimate experience with harmonies that were absolutely air tight. The instrumentation was subtle and melodic and the performance was one of the most overall enjoyable experiences of the night
1. “Shallow” – Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
Going into the night, it was this performance which had the most buzz surrounding it. After an odd and disappointing rendition of the song at the Grammy ceremony, Lady Gaga was set to redeem herself tonight with Bradley Cooper by her side and she did so quite admirably. Though Cooper was noticeably uncomfortable and had some pitch problems in the opening line, his harmony work was excellent and Gaga’s powerhouse voice carried the moment to one of the most memorable of the ceremony.