All thoughts were with Whitney Houston on music’s biggest night. First time Grammys host, LL Cool J, began with a prayer for the recently departed singer, saying “We’ve had a death in the family” before introducing a clip of Houston’s spell-bounding performance of “I Will Always Love You” from a previous Grammys’ ceremony.
The biggest winner of the night was Adele, with a record-tying six statues. She tied with Beyonce for most wins by a solo female performer. Her awards included Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Short Form Music Video for “Rolling in the Deep,” Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album with 21, and Best Pop Solo Performance for “Someone Like You.” She also had a big performance, her first since recently having throat surgery, singing her award-winning “Rolling in the Deep” to a standing ovation.
Other big winners were the Foo Fighters with five wins including Best Rock Band and Taylor Swift with two wins for “Mean,” Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance. Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Otis” won for Best Rap Performance, Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy won for Best Rap Album, and Chris Brown’s “F.A.M.E” won for Best R&B Album.
The late Amy Winehouse’s parents accepted her award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for her duet “Body and Soul” with Tony Bennett. The biggest surprise wins were Lady Antebellum over Taylor Swift for Best Country Album for Own the Night and Bon Iver beating out the favored Nicki Minaj for Best New Artist.
For the Grammys though, it was all about the performances. Bruce Springsteen, with Scialfa and Van Zandt, kicked off the show by singing “We Take Care of Our Own,” off of his new album Wrecking Ball. The next performance of the night was from Bruno Mars who sang a rousing rendition of “Runaway Baby.” Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt followed with a touching tribute to another late, great singer, Etta James, who died in January.
With his first performance of the night, Chris Brown performed “Turn Up the Music” complete with a thrilling dance number. He followed later on in the show by joining David Guetta and Lil’ Wayne in performing Guetta’s “I Can Only Imagine.” Next up, Kelly Clarkson and Jason Aldean sang their Best Country Duo/Group Performance nominated number, “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” Less action-packed than Brown’s previous routine, it was more about the voice than the spectacle.
Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters, introduced by actor Jack Black, took the stage next proving they’ve still got it and performing “Walk” off their new album, Wasting Light. They made a return later on with a performance of “Rope,” complete with a laser show. DeadMau5 joined them on stage with a rambunctious dance number.
Rihanna and Coldplay’s Chris Martin collaborated on-stage– Rihanna mixing it up with her impressive dance moves with Martin singing “Princess of China.” The rest of Coldplay joined them soon after to perform their Best Rock Performance nominated hit, “Paradise.”
In one of the most joyous moments of the night, Maroon 5 and Foster the People came together to commemorate the Beach Boys reunion. They led in with a rendition of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” before all of the band members, including Al Jardin, Bruce Johnson, Mike Love, David Marks, and Brian Wilson took the stage for their 50th Anniversary. They sang a powerful version of their hit “Good Vibrations.”
Stevie Wonder came on stage next, dedicating his lead in of “Love Me Do” to Whitney Houston, before introducing Sir Paul McCartney. McCartney’s first performance was from his new album, Kisses on the Bottom, “My Valentine.” He took the stage a second time later on in the night to perform “Golden Slumbers” and “Carry That Weight.” Next up came Taylor Swift for her multi-nominated song, “Mean,” in a simple performance, complete with a banjo.
A tribute to all of the talent that died in the past year followed, those highlighted include Whitney Houston, Etta James, Amy Winehouse, Clarence Clemence, and Steve Jobs. In a special, personal, and emotional moment, Jennifer Hudson came onto the darkened stage to sing a breathtaking rendition of Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” It was simple, but stunning, truly emphasizing the magnitude of Houston’s sudden loss over the night.
Nicki Minaj performed her “Roman’s Revenge” in all the high fashion expected of the Best New Artist nominated singer. A multitude of the night’s best performers came back on stage, including Springsteen, Grohl, McCartney, and Joe Walsh to end a well-done, but slightly somber affair.