The splintered music world truly coalesces only one night of 365 for the Grammy Awards, and this year was united in the triumph of recovered British soul singer Adele’s trophy haul and the tragedy of Whitney Houston’s death.
After seeming almost sheepish in picking up some of the trophies (“This is ridiculous,” she said after winning record of the year), Adele’s tears flowed upon winning best album.
“This record is inspired by something that is really normal and everyone’s been through it – just a rubbish relationship,” she said. “It’s gone on to do things that I can’t tell you how I feel about them. It’s been the most life-changing year.”
The Foo Fighters won five Grammys for music that singer Dave Grohl said was made in his garage, and ceremony no-show Kanye West won four. Indie rockers Bon Iver won best new artist.
Show host LL Cool J’s neat pivot allowed the assembled industry leaders to mourn Houston while enjoying the night’s music. He offered a prayer at the outset for Houston, who died Saturday in a Beverly Hills hotel. Later Jennifer Hudson, under a portrait of the late vocalist, sang a portion of “I Will Always Love You.” Bruno Mars, Alicia Keys, Rihanna and Stevie Wonder all saluted Houston.
“This night is about something truly universal and healing,” LL Cool J said. “This night is about music.”
Paul McCartney sang a jazzy new song from his album of standards, then was joined by Springsteen, Grohl, Tom Petty and Joe Walsh on the Beatles’ “Abbey Road” closing medley.
Then there was the truly unexplainable: Nicki Minaj’s exorcism outing, ending with her levitating above the stage.
Adele was the uniting force. Her album was a critical hit and commercial powerhouse, and it would have been an upset if she hadn’t joined Eric Clapton, the Dixie Chicks, Carole King, Paul Simon and Christoper Cross among artists to sweep the three biggest awards in one night.
“It’s nice to see as music keeps evolving that something as authentic as she’s putting out can still be not just relevant but dominating,” said Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum, last year’s record of the year winners.
Adele said backstage that her victories hadn’t sunk in yet. She said she enjoyed the two months where a throat ailment forced her to keep quiet.
“I’m actually quite mouthy,” she said.
As for the subject of 21, she said, “I think he’ll be very happy for me.”
Dan Wilson, who co-wrote Adele’s “Someone Like You” and two other tracks on the disc, said he’s excited about how well Adele has done because her songs are performed simply. It’s all about the message and the emotion, he said.
“She stands up onstage and delivers them with tons of soul and heart,” he said. “It almost seems like a trick she’s doing that. She doesn’t have any, like, elephants walking with her or, you know, fire and stuff like it. It seems like she has the most amazing trick, which is she’s doing it with almost nothing, and is still blowing us away.”
Paul Epworth, who worked with Adele on the album, won a Grammy for producer of the year.
While Adele’s vocals are powerful, the singing of best new artist winner Justin Vernon of Bon Iver is often delicate, the music atmospheric. He won a competitive and diverse category with Minaj, The Band Perry, J. Cole and Skrillex. Appearing onstage in an ill-fitting suit jacket, Vernon talked about writing for the inherent reward of writing songs, not for trophies.
It doesn’t mean he wasn’t honored and grateful for the award, he said backstage later.
“At some point I got really nervous,” he said. “Maybe it was because I didn’t feel like I deserved to be here ... This is the biggest night in music but it’s also a very small Staples Center, and there’s so much music out there in the world and it’s so hard to feel like it’s collecting the whole thing.”
He gave an onstage shout-out to Eau Claire, Wis., probably a Grammy first.
Grohl shouted “long live rock ‘n’ roll” as producers played LMFAO’s “Party Rock” over the loudspeakers to get him offstage after the Foo Fighters won for best rock performance. He made a plea for musicians to recognize that the human element is what makes their art most important.
“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 and what goes on in here,” he said, pointing to his head and his heart.
Winners in selected major categories at Sunday’s 54th Annual Grammy Awards:
Album of the Year: 21, Adele
Record of the Year: “Rolling in the Deep,” Adele
Song of the Year: “Rolling in the Deep,” Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth
New Artist: Bon Iver
Pop Solo Performance: “Someone Like You,” Adele
Pop Performance by a Duo or Group: “Body and Soul,” Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse
Pop Vocal Album: 21, Adele
Alternative Album: Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Rock Song: “Walk,” Foo Fighters
Rock Album: Wasting Light, Foo Fighters
Rock Performance: “Walk,” Foo Fighters
Hard Rock/Metal Performance: “White Limo,” Foo Fighters
R&B Album: F.A.M.E., Chris Brown
R&B Song: “Fool For You,” Cee Lo Green, Melanie Hallim & Jack Splash
R&B Performance: “Is This Love,” Corrine Bailey Rae
Traditional R&B Vocal Performance: “Fool For You,” Cee Lo Green & Melanie Fiona
Rap Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West
Rap Performance: “Otis,” Jay-Z and Kanye West
Rap Song: “All of the Lights,” Jeff Bhasker, Stacy Ferguson, Malik Jones, Warren Trotter & Kanye West
Rap/Sung Collaboration: “All of the Lights,” Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie
Dance Recording: “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites,” Skrillex
Dance/Electronica Album: Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, Skrillex
Musical Theater Album: The Book of Mormon, Robert Lopez, Trey Parker & Matt Stone
World Music Album: Tassili, Tinariwen
Latin Pop Rock, Rock or Urban Album: Drama y Luz, Mana
Tropical Latin Album: Last Mambo, Cachao
Banda or Norteno Album: Los Tigres Del Norte and Friends, Los Tigres Del Norte
Regional Mexican or Tejano Album: Bicentenario, Pepe Aguilar
Country Solo Performance: “Mean,” Taylor Swift
Country Album: Own the Night, Lady Antebellum
Country Performance by a Duo or Group: “Barton Hollow,” The Civil Wars
Country Song: “Mean,” Taylor Swift
Jazz Vocal Album: The Mosaic Project, Terri Lyne Carrington & various artists
Jazz Instrumental Album: Forever, Corea, Clark & White
Improvised Jazz Solo: “500 Miles High,” Chick Corea
Large Ensemble Jazz Album: The Good Feeling, Christian McBride Big Band
Blues Album: Revelator, Tedeschi Trucks Band
Folk Album: Barton Hollow, The Civil Wars
Pop Instrumental Album: The Road From Memphis, Booker T. Jones
Bluegrass Album: Paper Airplane, Alison Krauss & Union Station
Americana Album: Ramble at the Ryman, Levon Helm
Reggae Album: Revelation Pt. 1: The Root of Life, Stephen Marley
New Age Album: What’s It All About, Pat Metheny
Children’s Album: All About Bullies... Big and Small, various artists
Producer of the Year, Non-Classical: Paul Epworth
Remixed Recording, Non-Classical: “Cinema (Skrillex remix),” Sonny Moore
Gospel Song: “Hello Fear,” Kirk Franklin
Gospel/Contemporary Christian Performance: “Jesus,” L’Andria Johnson
Gospel Album: Hello Fear, Kirk Franklin
Choral Performance: “Light & Gold,” Eric Whitacre
Classical Contemporary Composition: “Elmer Gantry,” Robert Aldridge & Herschel Garfein
Producer of the Year, Classical: Judith Sherman
Orchestral Performance: “Brahms: Symphony No. 4,” Gustavo Dudamel
Opera Recording: “Adams: Doctor Atomic,” Alan Gilbert, conductor
Spoken Word Album: If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t), Betty White
Comedy Album: Hilarious, Louis C.K.
Compilation Soundtrack Album For Visual Media: Boardwalk Empire, various artists
Score Soundtrack Album For Visual Media: The King’s Speech, Alexandre Desplat
Song Written For Visual Media: “I See the Light,” Alan Menken & Glenn Slater
Historical Album: Band on the Run (Paul McCartney Archive Collection - Deluxe Edition), Paul McCartney
Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists: “Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me),” Jorge Calandrelli