Taylor Swift and Madonna: Why their performance demonstrates what's best about awards shows

Swift and Madonna performed together at the iHeartRadio awards show in a pairing critics called 'genius' and 'brilliant.' When done right, musicians teaming up can provide the best moments at music awards shows.

Madonna and Taylor Swift got pop-culture aficionados cheering by performing together at the iHeartRadio Awards, which aired on March 29.

At the awards ceremony, where Swift took the Artist of the Year prize, Madonna sang her song “Ghosttown” while Swift played guitar with her. Many media critics found it to be the perfect match-up.

“Madonna and Taylor Swift [blew] the lid off the iHeartRadio Awards,” Vanity Fair writer Joanna Robinson wrote, while Washington Post writer Emily Yahr called the team-up a “genius PR move… [it] proved to be brilliant… well played, all around.”

Billboard writer Cathy Applefeld Olson agreed. 

“In a night that belonged to Taylor Swift, she hit her highest note at Sunday's iHeartRadio Awards alongside new BFF Madonna,” Olson wrote. “[It was] the awards show’s best performance… she and Swift shared the stage with the ease of kindred spirits.” (Check out the video above of Swift and Madonna performing together.) 

The pair-up shows that two – or more – stars doing a song together can be one of the best parts of awards shows. This is even the case for non-musical programs. At the 2014 Oscars, much of the novelty of that selfie heard ‘round the world, in which celebrities including Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence were pictured, was that all the celebrities were in the same place. When host Ellen DeGeneres ordered pizza, Pitt helped hand out plates while actor Harrison Ford asked DeGeneres for napkins. Seeing stars all in the same room, interacting, is fun for pop-culture fans. 

That cool factor increases when it comes to two musicians doing what they do best together. One awards show that has figured this out is the Grammy Awards, widely regarded as one of the biggest nights in music. For this past year’s awards show, Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and Gwen Stefani (who also appear together on NBC’s reality singing competition “The Voice”) teamed up to sing the Maroon 5 song “My Heart Is Open.” “This is how you perform a ballad at the Grammys,” TV Guide wrote. “[Stefani] harmonizes perfectly with Levine.” And the publication wrote that having singer Mary J. Blige perform Sam Smith’s hit song “Stay With Me” with Smith “really elevates it to the next level…. a perfect pairing.” Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly singled out Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney performing their song “FourFiveSeconds” as one of the best numbers of the night, giving it an A grade. 

Singer match-ups at awards don't always soar. People can seem out of sync together on stage, or sound a little off. But often, musician pairings – the more unexpected, the better ­– are what keep viewers glued to the TV.

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