Adele swept the top categories at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards, taking home five top awards including Album of the Year for her blockbuster smash 21, Record and Song of the Year for “Rolling in the Deep” and Pop Solo Performance for “Someone Like You.” The British singer also won for Pop Vocal Album and returned to the stage after months of medical issues for a rousing, vibrant rendition of “Rolling in the Deep.” Paul Epworth, producer of 21, also won for Producer of the Year.
While it was very much Adele’s night, Whitney Houston’s death yesterday cast a shadow over the entire ceremony, with host LL Cool J opening the show by offering a brief prayer for the late superstar. “There’s no way around this,” the rapper and actor said. “We’ve had a death in the family.” Later in the show, Jennifer Hudson paid tribute to Houston by performing her own rendition of “I Will Always Love You,” the singer’s signature hit.
Houston wasn’t the only music legend being mourned at the ceremony. Bonnie Raitt and Alicia Keys paid homage to Etta James with a cover of her hit “A Sunday Kind of Love,” and Questlove honored Don Cornelius before Foo Fighters, Deadmau5, David Guetta and Lil Wayne performed a tribute to electronic dance music. The Band Perry and Blake Shelton paid tribute to the still-living Glenn Campbell, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, but nevertheless hit the stage for a flawless rendition of his classic “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
Bon Iver took home awards for Alternative Album and Best New Artist, beating out stiff competition from Nicki Minaj, Skrillex and the Band Perry. “It’s really hard to accept this award,” said Bon Iver songwriter Justin Vernon. “When I started to make songs, I did it for the inherent reward of making songs.” He did, in fact, accept the award.
Other big winners were Foo Fighters, who swept the rock categories and took home Rock Album for Wasting Light, and Kanye West, who won for Rap Album for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, took two awards for the single “All of the Lights” and shared Rap Performance with Jay-Z for “Otis.” Neither West or Jay-Z were on hand to accept their honors. Skrillex may have been shut out for Best New Artist, but cleaned up in the electronic dance categories with Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites.
The show included several memorable performances, including an over-the-top production of Nicki Minaj’s new track “Roman Holiday” that relied heavily on Catholic iconography, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s energetic run through their new hit “We Take Care of Our Own,” a collaboration between Coldplay and Rihanna on the song “Princess of China,” and the debut of a new song by Katy Perry in which she slams her ex-husband Russell Brand after what had seemed like amicable divorce agreement.
The Civil Wars made the most of a brief spot before Taylor Swift’s elaborate production number for “Mean” with a truncated version of their song “Barton Hollow,” and the Foo Fighters ripped through a no-frills rendition of their Grammy-winning hit “Walk” on an outdoor stage. Paul McCartney played “My Valentine,” a newly written song in the style of a pop standard, midway through the show, and closed the night with an energetic run through the closing medley of the Beatles’ Abbey Road featuring Dave Grohl and Bruce Springsteen.
The strangest performance of the night was no doubt the Beach Boys reunion, which began with Maroon 5 and Foster the People running through pitchy takes on “Surfer Girl” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” before assisting the newly reunited band on “Good Vibrations.” Maroon 5’s Adam Levine and Foster the People’s Mark Foster seemed to be overjoyed by this opportunity, but Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson appeared to be totally befuddled by the situation, giving confused, vaguely horrified looks to the camera, and shuffling off stage as soon as the song ended.