On a night heavy with the thoughts of late firebrand Whitney Houston, the 54th annual Grammy Awards Sunday were appropriately owned by a rare young singer who can hit and hold the same flammable notes: British soul singer Adele, who scored six awards, including album of the year for No. 1 smash 21 and song of the year and record of the year for Rolling in the Deep.
In her first public gig in five months, a tabloid-fodder delay due to vocal cord surgery, Adele unloaded the opening of Rolling in the Deep in a cappella fashion, a showoff solo moment in L.A.'s Staples Center.
In a refreshing, well-deserved surprise, the Foo Fighters collected five awards, including best rock album for Wasting Light. "Long live rock 'n' roll!" chief Foo Dave Grohl screamed as a production dope drowned him out with LMFAO's dance-clubber Sexy and I Know It.
The Grammys have wisely realized that having rock stars give acceptance speeches is usually far less sexy than rock stars strutting their stuff, so the show is now all about performances and very little about trophies. Here are a few highlights:
"Are you alive out there!" With that, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (alas, sans the Big Man, Clarence Clemons) opened "music's biggest night," playing We Take Care of Our Own from upcoming album Wrecking Ball, due March 6.
Milquetoast but slobberingly earnest show host LL Cool J then jumped all over that segue, offering the first of many Houston shout-outs: "There's no way around this: We've had a death in our family."
Later, Jennifer Hudson gave a restrained reading of I Will Always Love You, never venturing into the song's upper reaches out of respect for Houston's signature version.
Make that two deaths, LL Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt honored feisty soul sister Etta James, who passed a few weeks ago at the age of 73, with a smoldery reading of her A Sunday Kind of Love. Nice touch.
Somewhere, Phyllis Diller is cold and bald Sporting an electric-socket blond 'do, Rihanna yelped out We Found Love with a dancing cast of dozens, then joined heart-sleeved saddoes Coldplay for the admittedly lovely Princess of China. It was at that point the Grammys started to cook.
Good, if not great, vibrations For the 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys, Maroon 5 (Surfer Girl) and Foster the People (Wouldn't It Be Nice) struggled with those harmonies. Even with Brian Wilson back in the band, the Boys themselves didn't do much better on Good Vibrations. That said, it was the Grammys at their captivating, strange-bedfellows best.
It's the Taylor Swift "wonder gaze"! After she performed Mean, which took the award for best country song, the 22-year-old gawked wide-eyed at the praising crowd as if she had never heard applause before.
Yawn Katy Perry trying to make her divorce with Russell Brand a storyline. Lady Antebellum winning best country album over Blake Shelton's superior Red River Blue. That rave mash-up was a mess; at the very least, it should have come much earlier. Same goes for Nicki Minaj's demonic Maria Von Tramp impression.
Yeehaw Suffering from Alzheimer's disease, Glen Campbell took to the stage for a go-round of Rhinestone Cowboy. It was both uplifting and uncomfortable.
Repeat after me, USF: "It's a pleasure just to be nominated!" Singers from the school performed on a Grammy-nominated performance of Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45, which ultimately lost in the category of best choral performance.