Adele performs Sunday at the Grammy Awards in L.A. (Reuters )
To the surprise of no one, Adele was the big winner Sunday night, taking home awards for album of the year ("21"), record and song of the year ("Rolling in the Deep") and more at the 54th Grammy Awards. Just as expectedly, the night unfolded in the shadow of the passing of Whitney Houston.
The presence of the legendary singer, who died Saturday at the age of 48, was felt on the pre-show red carpet, where Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic asked nearly everyone for their reactions to the sad news. (Alas, that included asking Billy Ray Cyrus and Paris Hilton to comment.)
It was felt as soon as the awards show began, as host LL Cool J declared that the music industry had a "death in the family" and offered a prayer in honor of Houston.
And love for the departed singer peaked with Jennifer Hudson's moving, restrained take on "I Will Always Love You." Other artists to show their support included Rihanna, Stevie Wonder and Bruno Mars (who really showed his humility by performing under a giant marquee with his name on it).
Outside the world of Whitney, the main event was Adele's highly anticipated first performance since vocal cord surgery in November, and the British singer sounded like an off-key, thin shadow of her former self. No, not really. Adele electrified with a gorgeous, full-band performance of "Rolling in the Deep" that served as a great showcase for the night's most-awarded star. On some level, it seems fitting that a show in honor of Houston would so prominently feature Adele, another singer with a stop-you-in-your-tracks voice.
Still, that only made the less-lovely moments stand out more, from Chris Brown's performances that incensed angry Twitter users to Katy Perry and some sort of blue mop on her head singing a song that rhymes "me" with "me." (Needless to say, her wobbly vocals don't even belong in the same paragraph as mentions of Houston.)
Other lowlights included Maroon 5 and Foster the People joining the Beach Boys for unknown reasons, and a supposed Don Cornelius tribute that jumped confusingly from Brown and Lil Wayne to Foo Fighters to Deadmau5. Also disappointing was Jack Black mispronouncing Bon Iver and a Rihanna dance number that transitioned awkwardly into Chris Martin, his acoustic guitar and Ri-Ri doing "Princess of China." Last but not least, Nicki Minaj freaked out a priest, cut to a video of herself as a demon and eventually exercised a flow that deserves more screen time than her exorcism.
Oh, right, there were some awards given out too. In a nutshell: Foo Fighters won every rock award, Kanye won all rap awards, Bon Iver won best new artist (hooray!) and Brown won for best R&B album. His short acceptance speech suggested he expected to be hit with a tomato if he didn't get off the stage pronto.
It's outrageous for Brown to have been on stage at all, much less three times. But Grammy 2012 will be remembered as the night of Whitney and Adele, two voices that have no trouble shining above all.
firstname.lastname@example.org | @mattpais