13 February 2012
On an evening overshadowed by the shocking death of a singer who was once one of pop music’s most radiant young stars, the pop stratosphere’s latest bright light, 23-year-old British R&B-soul singer Adele, was showered Sunday night with six Grammy Awards for cathartic music she channeled out of her own pain and despair.
The Houston and Adele stories also combined to steal some thunder from the Foo Fighters, the long-running alt-rock band that went five for six on the night, ceding only the album-of-the-year honor to Adele.
Adele's six wins Sunday night included album, record and song of the year. The record previously held by Beyonce came during the 2010 Awards Show.
Adele was shaking as she won album of the year for "21", an album which has sold more than six million copies in the U.S. alone. She was almost in tears as she held the award, screaming "Thank you so much!"
Coming on the day after the sad and shocking death of R&B singer Whitney Houston, the ceremony had the difficult task of celebrating music's best while mourning the loss of one of the associations former winners.
Houston's death on the eve of the awards forced a delicate balance between the exuberance of the show's winners and performances with the loss.
Adele’s blockbuster success with music that reaches broadly across age, racial and stylistic differences made her an ideal candidate for multiple Grammys, handed out annually by the Recording Academy, the music industry organization whose membership includes musicians, producers, engineers, managers, record company officials and other industry people.
Adele was also triumphant in her first performance since vocal chord surgery forced the cancellation of a tour. She followed that with months of vocal rest and vocal therapy. Her performance of her hit "Rolling in the Deep" received a standing ovation from the crowd and she was in perfect pitch, though she looked admittedly nervous.
"I can't believe I'm getting emotional already," she said. "And seeing as it's a vocal performance, I need to thank my doctors, I suppose, who brought my voice back."
The Foo Fighters, noted that they recorded "Wasting Light" in a garage. All hail rock music's true roots.
"This is a special record for our band. Rather than go to the best studio in Hollywood … we made this in my garage with a microphone and a tape machine…. This award shows the human element of making music is the most important thing.”
"To me this award means a lot because it shows that the human element of making music is what's most important. Singing into a microphone, learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that's the most important thing for people to do," he said as the band accepted their best rock performance trophy for "Walk." "It's not about being perfect. It's not about sounding absolutely correct. It's not about what goes on in a computer. It's about what goes on in here (your heart) and what goes on here (your head). ... Long live rock `n' roll!"
British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, another recent pop music tragedy, was given a posthumous Grammy for her duet with Tony Bennett on the pop standard “Body and Soul,” from his “Duets II” album, which took a second award for Bennett as traditional pop vocal album.
Indie rocker Bon Iver was named best new artist over country’s the Band Perry, rappers J. Cole and Nicki Minaj and Skrillex.
Featured among the evening's performances was a dance-heavy number by Chris Brown, and wonderful performances by Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen. Springsteen kicked off the show by performing his new song "We Take Care of Our Own," a politically charged and rousing song that references the current troubles of the United States.
But Houston's death remained on everyone's minds. A somber LL Cool J, the show's host, appeared in black at the opening of the show and told the audience: "There is no way around this. We've had a death in our family."
He then led the audience in prayer..
"Heavenly father, we thank you for sharing our sister Whitney with us," he said, as the camera captured performers Lady Gaga and Miranda Lambert bowed in prayer. "Though she is gone too soon, we remain truly blessed to have been touched by her beautiful spirit."
He introduced a clip of a glowing Houston singing one of her best-known songs, "I Will Always Love You," and added "Whitney, we will always love you."
In his performance of "Runaway Baby," Bruno Mars also mentioned Houston's death. "Tonight we're celebrating. Tonight we're celebrating the beautiful Miss Whitney Houston."
Houston died on the eve of the Grammys at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where she was preparing to attend a pre-Grammy party. Before the death of one of pop music's most important figures, the pre-Grammy buzz focused on whether Adele -- 2011's top-selling artist and set to make her first public performance on the show since having vocal cord surgery -- would be the queen of the Grammys. Although Kanye West led all performers with seven nominations, while Adele, Bruno Mars and the Foo Fighters garnered with six nominations, Adele was the favorite to sweep the awards presentations.
Still, while Houston's death cast a shadow over the night's winners, it did not obscure them. Among them was Chris Brown, who was performing on the stage for the first time since he dropped out of 2009's broadcast; his attack on Rihanna the night before led to both their absences, an assault charge for Brown and a career low.
But 2011 marked an amazing comeback for Brown and he was rewarded with two planned performances during the show, the first time he and Rihanna had performed at the same event since the attack (she sang solo and with Coldplay during the ceremony).
Brown also won best R&B album: "First and foremost, I gotta thank God, and thank the Grammys for letting me get on this stage and do my thing," he said "All my fans, I love you. We got one. Thank you."
The Grammys did their best to keep a tone that balanced the many moods of the night: The Foo Fighters performed in a tent outside the Staples Center, where the awards were being held, amid a large contingent of adoring fans.
Also noted -- Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt paid tribute to Etta James, the legend who passed away in January.
This year's Grammy winner for Best Country Duo/Group Performance and Best Folk Album was The Civil Wars.
Joy Williams and John Paul White, the duo that performs as the Civil Wars, praised Taylor Swift for previously winning two awards, Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance for "Mean."
"It's our great honor to welcome a two-time winner already tonight, our friend Taylor Swift," they said before the singer took the stage to perform with them.
The video for Taylor and the Civil Wars' "Hunger Games" song "Safe & Sound" will premiere on "MTV First: Taylor Swift" on Monday at 7:54 p.m. ET on MTV, followed by an exclusive chat with Swift.
There was also a tribute to the recently reunited Beach Boys that featured Maroon 5, Foster the People and Mike Love, Al Jardine and Brian Wilson, the three remaining members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, all pitch-perfect as they brought the groups California rock sound and harmonies back to life.
Glen Campbell, who announced his retirement last year after disclosing he had Alzheimer's disease, also performed.