The 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards was a night of exhilarating performances, inspired tributes and emotional acceptance speeches. It was a night that saw the return of an injured heroine, and one steeped in the sadness of loss. Ultimately, it was an evening for the ages as nearly 40 million viewers tuned in to the telecast and more than 13 million GRAMMY-related comments reverberated through online social networks. In the end, it was Music's Biggest Night in nearly 30 years, and a show that lived up to that lofty title.
Adele emerged the big winner, not just because she reeled in a record-tying six GRAMMYs (matching Beyoncé for the most awards won by a female artist in one night), but her performance of "Rolling In The Deep" marked her first live performance since vocal-cord surgery forced her to cancel her tour in late 2011.
Meanwhile, 180 degrees away from Adele's triumph, the 54th GRAMMYs became the world’s first public opportunity to mourn the loss of the great Whitney Houston. "We've had a death in the family," said host LL Cool J of Houston, who died the day prior to the GRAMMY telecast, before offering a prayer to "our fallen sister." Before the night was through, Jennifer Hudson would step in on one-day's notice to pay tribute with a towering rendition of Houston's signature hit from The Bodyguard, "I Will Always Love You." The performance stirred the crowd at Staples Center and no doubt the millions watching at home.
Adele earned trophies for Album Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Album for 21; Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Short Form Music Video for "Rolling In The Deep"; and Best Pop Solo Performance for “Someone Like You.”
Foo Fighters won five of the six GRAMMYs for which they were nominated, including Best Rock Album for Wasting Light and Best Rock Performance for "Walk." In receiving the latter award, frontman Dave Grohl noted the "human element of making music is what’s most important … it's not about being perfect … it's about what goes on in here," he said, pointing to his heart.
Electronica artist Skrillex also had a big night, winning three awards, including Best Dance Recording for "Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites" and Best Dance/Electronica Album for the album of the same name. "This is the most surreal moment of my life," he said of his new status as a GRAMMY winner. "It means a lot, not just for me, but for the whole electronic community."
Best New Artist went to Bon Iver. The collective led by Justin Vernon also picked up Best Alternative Music Album for Bon Iver.
Adele's producer Paul Epworth earned awards for Record Of The Year for "Rolling In The Deep" and Album Of The Year for 21, as well as Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical.
Meanwhile, the GRAMMYs continued its recent theme of combining charismatic solo and band performances with opportunities for unusual and sometimes unlikely pairings.
Bruce Springsteen And The E Street Band elevated the show from the start, opening with the rousing new "We Take Care Of Our Own." Bruno Mars' exciting James Brown-inspired R&B performance also helped lift everyone's spirits. Taylor Swift managed to bring a fun flair to her anti-bullying song "Mean."
This year's show also added a touch of history. In their first live appearance together in more than 20 years, the Beach Boys' original lineup (minus late brothers Carl and Dennis Wilson) was accompanied by Foster The People and Maroon 5 for a trio of songs, including "Good Vibrations."
Another powerful moment came via a tribute to Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Glen Campbell, who last year announced he is battling Alzheimer's disease. Blake Shelton and the Band Perry joined the tribute, which closed with Campbell himself singing his gem "Rhinestone Cowboy."
Sir Paul McCartney performed his elegant new ballad, "My Valentine," joined by Diana Krall on piano and guitarist Joe Walsh. Later, he would close the show with the Beatles medley "Golden Slumbers"/"Carry That Weight"/"The End," finishing with an explosive electric guitar solo battle with Grohl, Springsteen, Walsh, and Rusty Anderson, ending an electrifying evening.
In the end, to quote McCartney, it was a night worthy of being called music's biggest.