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From Ariana Grande’s Fairytale Fantasy to Madonna Taking Us There: The 8 Best Met Gala Performances to Date

Ariana Grande performing during the 2024 Met Gala. Photo: Getty Images

Ariana Grande performing during the 2024 Met Gala. Photo: Getty Images

It can be easy to forget that the Met Gala is, first and foremost, a prodigious charity fundraiser. Like other events of its kind, it includes a cocktail hour followed by a seated dinner and then a performance. The Met being the Met, however, this capstone moment usually takes on epic proportions. Historically orchestrated in coordination with visionary maestro Baz Luhrmann, Met Gala performances have ranged from the cast of Billy Elliot swanning at the barre to Bruno Mars smashing it with pitch-perfect sincerity and Diana Ross serenading guests in a strapless feather contraption. On the Met stage, musical artists have collaborated, debuted new albums, and performed one-off songs never heard before or since. It’s a relief that, given where the show takes place, nobody has literally brought the house down. (Not yet, at least.) Here, some of the best Met performances to date.

Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo

Photo: Getty Images

In her truly stunning medley at the 2024 Met Gala, Ariana Grande managed to combine “Once Upon a Dream,” from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty, with a string of her most infectious pop hits—both new (“Yes, And”) and long-established (“Seven Rings”). Bringing it all home? A tear-jerking rendition of “When You Believe” with her Wicked co-star Cynthia Erivo. Oh, and did we mention the 30 dancers, 40-person choir, and two different Maison Margiela Artisanal looks?

Lizzo

Lizzo performs on a table during the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating “Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty.” Photo: Kevin Mazur/MG23/Getty Images

For her performance at the Temple of Dendur in 2023, Lizzo appeared in a Fendi coat covered in glittering mirrored paillettes, worn over a silvery Yitty body suit and boots from Piferi—to say nothing of her Fendi bangles, Swarovski rings, and vintage Saint Laurent earrings. From the stage, or, indeed, the table, she performed a dynamic set list, inflected with her characteristic energy and charisma. Befitting the theme, Lizzo mixed classical music with more up-to-the-minute pop, starting with an interlude from Mozart’s The Magic Flute before moving on to some of her own biggest hits: “Truth Hurts,” “Cuz I Love You,” and “Good as Hell.”

Kacey Musgraves and Lenny Kravitz

Photo: Getty Images

After defaulting to a virtual celebration in 2020 and delaying the party until September in 2021, the Met Gala returned to the First Monday in May in 2022, and what a thrill it was. In honor of that year’s exhibition, “In America: An Anthology of Fashion,” two American icons rocked out at the Temple of Dendur: Kacey Musgraves, who performed her swoon-worthy cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” from the soundtrack to Elvis, and Lenny Kravitz, who made the Met feel more like the MetLife Stadium with rousing versions of “Are You Gonna Go My Way,” “Fly Away,” and—what else?—“American Woman.”

Madonna

For the 2018 Met Gala, marking the opening of “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” the one and only Madonna treated guests to spirited renditions of her 1989 hit “Like a Prayer” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” transforming the Great Hall’s dramatic staircase (and information desk!) into her stage for the evening.

The Weeknd and Nas

In 2016, Abel Tesfaye performed a litany of his top songs just as his album Beauty Behind the Madness was reaching a pop-culture fever pitch. At the crescendo of his set, Grandmaster Flash, who was serving as DJ that night, threw the show to Nas, who genuinely surprised guests by performing his ’90s hits—a rare thing indeed, given the crowd.

Rihanna

Photographed by Kevin Tachman

After storming the Met steps in the kind of exceedingly rare dress that deserves to be called a gown, Rihanna claimed the 2015 Met Gala as her own when, during her performance, she stomped her way down the center dinner table where Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Alessandro Michele, and Jessica Chastain were all sitting (or by this point, standing). It seemed only appropriate that she was singing “Bitch Better Have My Money” along the way.

Florence and the Machine

Florence Welch has the rare ability to shrink stadiums—seeing her live is like seeing a private show. So when Flo took to the Temple of Dendur at the 2011 Met Gala, which that year marked the debut of “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty,” all she needed was her fire-red hair, some good lighting, and that hauntingly resonant voice to move the audience to their feet (and maybe even to their tiptoes).

Lady Gaga

Photographed by Hanna Thomson

The original monster’s Met Gala spectacle—“Alejandro” dancers, a white grand piano, a rumored pre-show therapy session with Oprah backstage—not only marked the crest of her fame tsunami in 2010, it was also the biggest Met production to date, marking a point of no return for future performers.

This article was originally published on Vogue.com

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