Trippy shoutout to women, odd Eminem drop-in: the Oscar performances

4 min

Hollywood (United States) (AFP)

Janelle Monae, Elton John, Randy Newman, Billie Eilish and... Eminem?

Sunday's 92nd Academy Awards featured a wide-ranging, at times puzzling slate of performances -- including a surprise visit from the rapper who won an Oscar for "Lose Yourself" in 2003, but refused to stage it at the time.

Here's a round-up of the night's notable musical performances:

- Storytelling with song -

Funky pop futurist Monae delivered a jaunty, surreal performance to open the show, including an ode to the year's women directors, who were snubbed in the nominations.

"We celebrate all the women who directed phenomenal films and I'm so proud to stand here as a black, queer artist, telling stories," she said.

Monae sported a Mister Rogers-style red cardigan and black trousers to sing the theme from the children's television show that inspired this year's film "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" starring Tom Hanks.

She then swapped the sweater for a wearable floral bouquet inspired by the folk horror film "Midsommar," and danced with a troupe of Jokers wearing the comic book villain's signature suit.

"Happy Black History month," she belted out during the performance that had the star-studded audience vibing to the music before rising to its feet.

"Pose" star Billy Porter rocked the stage in a glittering gold cape, red jumpsuit and sparkling platform boots as he sang Elton John's "I'm Still Standing" before a mirrored grand piano that belonged to Liberace.

It was a quirky opening number for the Academy Awards ceremony, which is often accused of triggering yawns.

- 'Another shot, another opportunity' -

Eminem, fresh off the release of his 11th studio album, left the audience nonplussed with a surprise performance of his hit "Lose Yourself" from the 2002 semi-autobiographical drama "8 Mile," in which he starred.

The rapper who built his brand on stoking controversy had refused to perform the song during the gala that made him an Oscar winner nearly two decades ago, because the Academy told him it would have to be censored.

There were several bleeps on the network broadcast during Sunday's performance.

"Look, if you had another shot, another opportunity... Thanks for having me @TheAcademy," he tweeted, along with a video of Barbra Streisand presenting him with his Oscar in 2003, a ceremony he did not attend.

"Sorry it took me 18 years to get here."

- Still standing -

Sir Elton -- who took home the award for best original song for "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again from the musical biopic about his life, "Rocketman" -- gave a rollicking performance of the tune backed by a full band.

The British icon donned a purple jacket with a rocket pinned to the lapel as he smashed the keys of a bright red piano.

He shared the Oscar with his longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin for the song, the only original composition from the "Rocketman" soundtrack.

"This is a dream for us," a visibly moved John said on the Oscar stage.

- Regal Erivo, plenty of Elsas -

Cynthia Erivo, nominated for best actress for her role in "Harriet," performed "Stand Up" -- the song she co-wrote for the film -- wearing a regal, futuristic gold gown that resembled an Oscar itself.

Erivo, who was flanked by a gospel-style choir, was this year's only non-white acting nominee.

Idina Menzel graced the stage for a rendition of "Into the Unknown" from Disney's animated feature "Frozen II."

Menzel was joined by a coterie of singers who play Queen Elsa in foreign versions of the film, and delivered verses of the song in a variety of languages.

The Irish-born composer-conductor Eimear Noone became the first female to conduct the in-house orchestra in a medley of music from the nominees for best original score.

Troubadour Randy Newman, a perennial Oscars darling, returned to his spot at the piano after recovering from hip surgery, performing the nominated "I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away," from "Toy Story 4."

- Eilish reigns -

Music's artist of the moment Billie Eilish -- who swept the Grammys two weeks ago, winning in all four top categories -- performed a smoky, soulful rendition of "Yesterday" by the Beatles in tribute to the artists lost over the past year.

The "In Memoriam" performance was particularly notable in light of the recent deaths of Kobe Bryant and Kirk Douglas. It also honored the careers of French director Agnes Varda and actress-singer Doris Day, among others.

"Honored to be performing during the In memoriam segment for the Oscars tonight covering a song I've always loved," the 18-year-old Eilish -- soon to perform the new James Bond title song -- wrote on Instagram just before Sunday's show.