Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran pose with the models at the annual Victoria's Secret fashion show at Earls Court on December 2, 2014 in London, England.
Karwai Tang—WireImage/Getty Images
By Eliza Berman
December 10, 2014

For an event that features 47 models clad in lingerie that costs more than most people’s net worth, you might expect the post-show chatter to focus on bras and the women who sported them. But the highlight of last night’s Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was undoubtedly the music — with Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, Hozier and Taylor Swift supplying the energy for the annual spectacle. Filmed a week ago in London, the show got some buzz during rehearsals when Ariana Grande got hit in the face by an angel wing and made Ed Sheeran balk at an off-color joke. But the team pulled it together for a soundtrack that had even the models lip-syncing as they flaunted their duds (and let’s be honest, the curves barely hidden by those duds).

Taylor Swift opened the show with “Blank Space,” the menacing quality of which stood in contrast to the pink pom-poms adorning the models’ stilettos. This section of the show was the innocent baby pink lace and bows segment, but Swift’s singing gave it undertones of strength and power. It’s unclear how much of the vocal track is live versus pre-recorded — but either way, the spectacle was polished and Swiftian as ever.

Ed Sheeran followed Swift, creating a more intimate ambiance with his ballad “Thinking Out Loud.” It was important for the music to get quiet here so the crowd could focus on the $4 million in precious gems waltzing down the runway on Adriana Lima and Alessandra Ambrosio. Those gems demanded attention, and they weren’t about to let Sheeran steal it. Pairing the belly dance-inspired lingerie with Sheeran’s sensitive crooning gave the impression that buying a woman bedazzled underwear is the most loving gesture a person could hope to perform. Sheeran, for his part, gave the kind of heart-on-his-sleeve performance that shows why he was the most downloaded artist on Spotify this year.

Ariana Grande was definitely singing live in her four-song medley, which included “Love Me Harder,” “Bang Bang,” “Break Free” and “Problem.” She was the only performer to get back-up dancers — mostly men whose full-coverage jumpsuits wouldn’t distract from the models — and the more active nature of her performance was fitting given that the models were sporting items from the Pink collection (which is presumably what you would wear if you were planning to exercise). Grande’s performance was spirited and energetic, and the fact that she sang the whole thing live far outweighed the moments when she lost her breath.

When Hozier sang “Amen, amen, amen” during his performance of “Take Me to the Church,” he captured the sentiment that for many, this show is a religious experience. Though the song had more than 87 million plays on Spotify this year, the Irish musician probably has the least name recognition of the performers. It was certainly the most dramatic of the evening’s numbers, and it served — perhaps unintentionally — as a reminder of the way our culture worships beautiful women.

In what was surely meant to double as a marketing ploy, Taylor Swift closed the night with her song “Style.” Singing “we never go out of style” as the models strutted down the runway, Swift left viewers with the message that this lingerie company is here to stay. With a net income of $5 billion and studies that show it to be the most popular brand in the world, Victoria’s Secret continues to be at the top of its game. Much like a certain country-singer-turned-pop-star.

The only question that remains unanswered is why Sheeran and Hozier decided not to perform — as Swift and Grande did — in lingerie.

Write to Eliza Berman at eliza.berman@time.com.

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