Grammys recap: Adele shocks Beyonce to win Album of the Year
The look on Adele’s face said everything.
When her blockbuster album 25 was awarded Album of the Year at Sunday’s Grammy Awards, her expression melted into a sob of disbelief. Her eyes caught the camera, and you saw it all: Shock. Joy. Embarrassment. Even a little bit of horror.
For in that moment, she knew she had beaten Beyonce. And no one, not even Adele, was prepared to handle that.
“I can’t possibly accept this award,” Adele said through tears as Beyonce, standing in the front row, smiled through a stream of her own. “I’m very humbled and I’m very grateful and gracious, but my artist of my life is Beyonce, and this album to me, the Lemonade album, is just so monumental. Beyonce, it’s so monumental and so well thought out, and so beautiful and soul-bearing, and we all got to see another side to you that you don’t always let us see, and we appreciate it. All us artists here adore you; you are our light, and the way that you make me and my friends feel, the way you make my black friends feel, is empowering, and you make them stand up for themselves, and I love you, I always have, and I always will.”
Where, oh where, was Kanye West when we needed him?
You might have heard how West, Drake, Frank Ocean and Justin Bieber boycotted this year’s Grammys out of protest that the awards had grown stale and misrepresentative of the music industry at large. Adele’s Album of the Year win over Beyonce – to say nothing of her Record and Song of the Year wins for Hello over Beyonce’s Formation – is just more fuel for their fire.
This makes nine straight years where Album of the Year has gone to a white artist, with Adele and Taylor Swift each winning two of those crowns, and Beyonce losing three. This loss for Lemonade – her most personal, inventive and culturally resonant work yet – might hurt more than all the rest.
To be fair, 25 is a deserving enough champion. How quickly we forget that it, too, was once a cultural phenomenon, setting sales records that might never be broken. The stunning ballad Hello, Adele said while accepting one of her five awards Sunday night, is “my favorite song I’ve ever done,” and that’s saying something. It deserved the three Grammys it got.
But curtain to curtain, didn’t this just feel like Bey’s night? Resplendently pregnant with twins, with adorably tux-clad daughter Blue Ivy swiping scenes left and right in the front row – OMIGOD CAN YOU EVEN DEAL WITH HER CRASHING JAMES’ CORDEN’S ALL-STAR CARPOOL KARAOKE BIT – Beyonce won a couple of other trophies on Sunday, including Best Urban Contemporary Album, bumping her into the top 10 for most all time (nudging out, among others, her hubby Jay Z and notorious awards-show defender West). Even her sister, Solange, nabbed a trophy.
Beyonce also delivered an instantly iconic performance that put all other “Grammy moments” to shame. Decked in gold and flanked by an army of willowy pastel dancers, Beyonce turned a medley of Love Drought and Sandcastles into a work of highly choreographed and color-coded performance art, complete with video integration and disembodied spoken word. It was breathtaking, mesmerizing, unforgettable … and also (*glances around nervously*) kind of self-indulgent, so lavish and opulent and unapologetically ME-ME-ME that it made the rest of the show feel chintzy by comparison.
Adele, meanwhile, went a mere 1-for-2 on the night, delivering a typically flawless rendition of Hello to start the show, but flubbing up a later tribute to George Michael, to the point where she dropped an F-bomb and asked to restart the song. Adele being Adele, she bounced back with resilience, earning a roaring ovation for her teary recovery.
That’s one thing about this year's Grammys – in stark contrast to last year’s dour, tribute-laden ceremony, this affair felt more off-the-cuff than usual. There were upset wins by fresh artists like Maren Morris, Twenty One Pilots and Best New Artist (and Best Rap Album) winner Chance the Rapper. There were live-wire performances like an electric Prince tribute by the Time and Bruno Mars, and an unlikely but supercharged pairing of Lady Gaga and Metallica. It wasn’t Hollywood perfection – a flubbed song here, a missed cue there – but it added up to a ceremony that felt lively and unpredictable.
David Bowie’s posthumous win for Best Rock Song for Blackstar was actually his fifth Grammy of the night, proving all the more that had his album of the same name been nominated for Album of the Year, it would’ve had a real chance at winning. (Bowie, it should be noted, was not the night’s only posthumous winner: Husband-and-wife duo Joey + Rory, featuring the late Joey Feek, won for Best Roots Gospel Album for Hymns.)
Most of the nontelevised genre wins – Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth for Best Country Album, Cage the Elephant’s Tell Me I’m Pretty for Best Rock Album, Flume’s Skin for Best Dance/Electronic Album – were impressively new-school, although a couple of categories saw the Grammys old-fogey instincts kicking in.
Beyonce's Formation did win Best Music Video, but Lemonade's lush longform "visual album" somehow lost Best Music Film to Ron Howard's The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years. And in a divine stroke of irony considering his protest of the Grammys’ stodgy ways, Drake won Best Rap Song for Hotline Bling, a song which, near as I can tell, features no actual rapping.
The best acceptance speech of the night came from Twenty One Pilots, the Ohio alternative duo whose Stressed Out pulled off an upset to win Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Upon hearing their names, Tyler Joseph and Joshua Dun stripped off their pants and walked on stage, explaining that they once promised each other that if they ever won a Grammy, they'd accept it in their undies.
“Not only is this amazing, but I want everyone who’s watching at home to know that you could be next,” said Joseph. “So watch out, because anyone from anywhere can do anything. And this is that.”
The one thing the night didn’t have much of, curiously, was politics. While Katy Perry and Paris Jackson offered mild sentiments on the Constitution and Dakota Access Pipeline, only A Tribe Called Quest, Anderson Paak and Busta Rhymes got fully militant with a performance dedicated to “President Agent Orange," filling the stage with what appeared to be immigrants from all nations.
“Resist! Resist! Resist!” shouted Q-Tip.
But in the end, this will go down as the Grammys where Adele beat Beyonce, and a lot of the world couldn’t handle it.
“My dream, and my idol, is Queen B, and I adore you,” Adele said during her acceptance speech for the night’s penultimate award, Record of the Year. “You move my soul every single day, and you have done (it) for nearly 17 years, and I adore you, and I want you to be my mommy.”
Everyone laughed, including Beyonce, because it felt like the night’s final prize was still hers to lose. But in the end, should we have expected any other outcome? This is the Grammys, and Grammys gonna Grammy. If Adele and Beyonce can’t change the way they shake out, what hope has the rest of the world?
-- Jay Cridlin