A Prayer for Whitney
After an opening number by Bruce Springsteen, the evening took the melancholy turn we all knew it would, with LL Cool J leading the assembled guests in a prayer for Whitney Houston, saying, “We’ve had a death in our family.” The current pantheon of pop artists—Lady Gaga, Cee Lo Green, Katy Perry, and countless others who have been influenced by Houston—bowed their heads for the fallen idol.
Showing ‘Love’ for Etta
The somber tone continued with Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt paying tribute to Etta James, who passed away in January, with a lovely duet of “A Sunday Kind of Love.” While music is certainly not hurting for vivacious female powerhouses at the moment, it’s still disheartening to think about how many song sirens were lost in the past year.
It’s All About Adele
Speaking of vivacious female powerhouses, the evening perked right up when Adele mounted the stage to claim the first of her many trophies, this one for Best Pop Solo Performance for “Someone Like You.” The British songbird thanked the doctors “who brought my voice back.”
Viva la Rihanna
One of the buzziest performances of the night was the inspired mashup of Rihanna and Coldplay, who mixed R & B and rock in their first live duet. (For comparison’s sake, it’s worth pointing out that the Q*bertesque performance by Rihanna’s ex Chris Brown inspired #womanbeater to become a worldwide trending topic on Twitter.)
Good, Good, Good, Good Vibrations
Maroon 5 and Foster the People certainly did their best to pay tribute to the Beach Boys, but they couldn’t hold a candle to the original surfer dudes themselves, who reunited to give a fantastic live performance, their first in more than two decades.
Adele’s Still Rolling
And the moment of truth arrived: how were Adele’s golden pipes holding up postsurgery? Verdict: she sounded fantastic!
The Rhinestone Cowboy Makes Music Gold
Also sounding fantastic was Glen Campbell, who, despite being 75 and suffering from Alzheimer’s, gave a rendition of his iconic “Rhinestone Cowboy” that was more spirited than some performances by men half his age (we’re looking at you, Blake Shelton).
Bon Iver’s Adorkable Win
Indie darling Bon Iver beat out Nicki Minaj and Skrillex to snag Best New Artist. “When I started to make songs, I did it for the inherent reward of making songs,” he said. “So I’m a little bit uncomfortable up here.”
Fitting Tribute to a Diva, by a Diva
In what was easily the highlight of the night, Jennifer Hudson expertly evoked a delicate balance between joy and sorrow in her chill-inducing rendition of “I Will Always Love You,” the Dolly Parton song Whitney Houston made unforgettable.
If you decide to stage a shock performance that’s a little bit religion-tweaking and a lot crazy, you’d damn well better be able to back it up with the vocal chops and pop hooks of, say, Madonna or Lady Gaga. Otherwise, you wind up with a muddled, manic-panic mess like Nicki Minaj’s exorcism-inspired performance of “Roman in Moscow.”
‘Bit of Snot!’
Adele wrapped up her Grammys sweep with a well-deserved award for Album of the Year. She proved that everything sounds better in a British accent, considering she still managed to sound classy when, brimming with emotion, she said, “Oh, I’ve got a bit of snot!”
Paul Gets By With a Little Help From His Friends
Though colored throughout with somber moments, the Grammys came to a close on a joyful note, as Paul McCartney took the stage with Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen, and more for an Abbey Road medley. Can’t think of a better way to end the night.