The Academy Awards are as much about spectacle as they are about films.
Year 87 for the celebrated awards show was no different: Host Neil Patrick Harris appeared in his underwear; supporting-actress winner Patricia Arquette used her acceptance speech to take a stand on women’s rights; and John Travolta provided an awkward Oscars moment for the second year running (remember “Adele Dazeem”?) by giving Scarlett Johansson a slightly creepy peck on the cheek.
Still, let’s face it: Part of why we watch the Oscars are the musical acts, who through the decades have entertained, shocked, and inspired audiences the world over.
Here are some of the most memorable performers to take the stage in recent years for Hollywood’s biggest night:
2015: Lady Gaga, “The Sound of Music” medley
Why not start with the present? The Grammy hit maker took everyone’s breath away this year when she celebrated the 50th anniversary of “The Sound of Music” in a stunning medley of songs from the 1965 musical film.
Her performance – which consisted of the title track, “Do Re Mi,” “Edelweiss,” and “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” – won her a standing ovation from the audience and wide praise across the Twittersphere.
The “Poker Face” singer also earned approval from the most important person of all: Dame Julie Andrews.
“Dear Lady Gaga,” said Ms. Andrews, went onstage after the performance, “thank you for that wonderful tribute. Oh my God. It really warmed my heart, it really did.”
2015: John Legend and Common, “Glory”
While Gaga’s rendition of well-loved classics was undoubtedly stellar, it wasn’t the only performance that brought down the house this year.
John Legend and Common hit the stage with their song, “Glory,” off the film “Selma,” which commemorated the iconic march that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led from the city of Selma to Montgomery, Ala. in 1965.
Their pair’s act moved several audience members – including actor David Oyelowo, who played Dr. King in the movie – to tears.
Minutes later, “Glory” was awarded Best Original Song in a moment that not only highlighted the award show’s lack of diversity but which also served as an opportunity for Mr. Legend to address inequality in America.
“We live in the most incarcerated country in the world,” the Grammy winner said in his post-performance speech. “There are more black men under correctional control today than there were under slavery in 1850."
2013: Adele, “Skyfall”
When it comes to a powerful set of lungs, British singer Adele is right up there with the best of them. Her performance of the title track of the James Bond film “Skyfall” during the 2013 Academy Awards was the first time she sang the song live, and Adele didn’t hesitate to go larger than life.
Dressed in a glittering black gown and accompanied by a full chorus, orchestra, and light display, the “Someone Like You” star gave her audience chills with every note she sang.
Half an hour later, “Skyfall” won Best Original Song.
2007: Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson, “Dreamgirls” medley
Few people can match Queen B note for note during a live performance, but Jennifer Hudson went there in 2007, when the two sang a medley from the 2006 musical, “Dreamgirls.”
The diva duo kicked it off with the high-energy number “Love You I Do,” followed by a rousing rendition of the ballad “Listen.” They were joined by their cast mates Keith Robinson and Anika Rose for “Patience” to wrap up the performance.
All three songs were nominated for Best Original Song that year, but were trounced by Melissa Etheridge’s “I Need To Wake Up.”
2009: Hugh Jackman, Opening number
Divas aren’t the only ones who can command an audience: As host of the 81st Academy Awards, actor Hugh Jackman flexed his musical muscles in a lively tribute to the 2009 nominees.
“Due to cutbacks, the Academy said they didn’t have enough money for an opening number,” Mr. Jackman quipped. “You know what? I’m gonna do one anyway.”
The “X-Men” star took playful musical digs at “Slumdog Millionaire,” “The Dark Knight,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” and Craigslist before pulling Anne Hathaway out of the audience to join him in a duet.
Jackman was out of breath by the end of the rather ridiculous (even he was laughing as he sang some of the songs), six-minute-long performance, but the audience cheered their appreciation anyway.