Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys stole the show, finally bringing some music worth hearing after so many performances that bled into each other, each sounding the same. Wonder was awarded the show’s Icon Award, first given to Neil Diamond last year. He had some help from the beautiful Alicia Keys, who narrated a touching look through photos and audio throughout Stevie’s illustrious career.
“I’m here tonight to say thank you, Stevie. Thank you for bringing us so much soul,” Keys said. The two launched into a duet of “Higher Ground,” which was spirited, rousing and easily the best performance of the night. They continued on to sing “Overjoyed” as cell phones lit up the MGM Grand’s arena.
The two singers’ interaction was comfortable and teasing, always a pleasure to see in an awards show, which tends to feel overproduced and devoid of truly raw, unrehearsed moments. Wonder announced that all he wants for his birthday, which took place a week ago, was for Keys to perform “Empire State of Mind” a cappella. It didn’t make complete sense, given that the show was held in Las Vegas and that Stevie was being honored, but it was his night and that’s what he wanted.
“I wanted to say to all of you—Alicia, all who are watching—my fans, family, friends and loved ones, musician friends, every single person…” Wonder said, accepting the award. “This really belongs to you and most of all, it belongs to almighty God because all of it is possible for me because my prayers came true. So I must also say to all of you, we are in a place in life where we have to commit ourselves to one thing, and that is to love. I truly believe that love always will rule over hate, and peace over war.” Wonder closed his speech asking for everyone to come together “to change the world by being as one,” launching into his final song, “Superstition,” which played out while the credits rolled. While the night’s close felt somewhat abrupt, going out with Stevie Wonder is never a bad way to end.