During a period in our nation's history in which people are constantly reminded about the political and social issues that can divide us, the 59th GRAMMY Awards served as a convincing testament to the undeniable unifying power of music.
Adele, whose voice is a powerful force unto itself, emerged the top winner of the night, taking home five GRAMMYs: Best Pop Vocal Album and Album Of The Year for 25 and Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance for "Hello." The now-15-time winner also made GRAMMY history by becoming the first artist to sweep Record, Album and Song Of The Year twice in her career.
Fittingly, it was Adele who ushered in Music's Biggest Night with a mesmerizing performance of her smash "Hello." A stark black backdrop provided a blank canvas over which the British singer/songwriter painted an aural masterpiece, her potent vocals reverberating throughout Los Angeles' Staples Center.
The mercurial David Bowie, who died just days before releasing his album Blackstar on Jan. 8, 2016, won four posthumous GRAMMYs, including Best Alternative Music Album. Greg Kurstin, Adele's producer and songwriting partner, also won four awards, including Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical.
Chance The Rapper earned three awards, including Best New Artist, making him the first streaming-exclusive artist to win a GRAMMY. "This is for every indie artist who's been doing this mixtape stuff for a long-a** time," the Chicagoan said during his acceptance for Best Rap Album for Coloring Book. He punctuated his GRAMMY debut with a feel-good performance medley of "How Great" and "All We Got," with his cousin Nicole and 59th GRAMMY winners Kirk Franklin and Tamela Mann adding soulful flourishes.
As presenter Celine Dion so eloquently quoted the legendary Stevie Wonder, "Music, at its essence, is what gives us memories." In addition to crowning recipients in 84 GRAMMY categories, the 59th GRAMMYs created many new memories in the form of signature GRAMMY Moments that spanned several genres.
Equal parts music, theater and spoken word poetry, a golden-clad Beyoncé radiated during her medley of "Love Drought" and "Sandcastles," two songs from her Best Urban Contemporary Album-winning opus, Lemonade. The trance-inducing performance, which was themed around the celebration of motherhood, featured her own mother, Tina Knowles, and daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, and closed on a poignant note with the pregnant Beyoncé reciting a line from a Warsan Shire poem: "If we're going to heal, let it be glorious/1,000 girls raise their arms."
Bruno Mars dazzled with his seductive "That's What I Like." Commanding the stage with aplomb, showcasing graceful dance moves and flaunting his rich tenor, Mars once again proved the breadth of his 24-karat talent.
Ed Sheeran turned in arguably the most energy-efficient performance of the evening. Armed with an acoustic guitar, synthesizer and a pedalboard that doubled as a looping device, Sheeran proved a veritable one-man band in multitasking his romantic ode "Shape Of You."
The Weeknd teamed with fellow GRAMMY winners Daft Punk for a medley of "Starboy" and "I Feel It Coming." The duo's trademark synthesizer soundscapes set the tone for a sci-fi inspired set, with The Weeknd's velvety voice drifting into space.
Katy Perry returned to the GRAMMY stage to debut her brand-new single, "Chained To The Rhythm," with reggae artist Skip Marley. Perry — who wore an armband emblazoned with the word "Resist" — earnestly delivered her new socially conscious anthem, which she closed by declaring "No hate!"
Best New Artist nominee Anderson .Paak and rappers Busta Rhymes, Consequence and A Tribe Called Quest joined for a politically charged medley of "Award Tour," "Movin Backwards" and "We The People." The latter song, A Tribe Called Quest's anthem addressing topics such as racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and misogyny, proved timely given the recent political climate. A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip put an exclamation point on the performance by shouting, "Resist! Resist! Resist!"
Metallica and Lady Gaga turned the volume up to 10 with a driving performance of the band's "Moth Into Flame." Despite a brief technical glitch with Metallica frontman James Hetfield's mic, the heat generated — stoked by pyrotechnics, headbanging and a stage dive from Gaga — set off a genre-bending explosion.
Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood went toe-to-toe for their love-affirming duet "The Fighter." GRAMMY-nominated newcomers Kelsea Ballerini and Lukas Graham joined together for a seamless mashup of her "Peter Pan" and their "7 Years," which was up for Song Of The Year. R&B/soul legend William Bell, who earlier won his first career GRAMMY, teamed with guitar slinger Gary Clark Jr. for a gritty "Born Under A Bad Sign."
First-time GRAMMY host James Corden got into the musical act as well. During his opening skit, Corden delivered a free-style rap that name-dropped everyone from President Donald Trump to Drake, Rihanna and Sturgill Simpson. "The Late Late Show" host also sped through a hilarious impromptu GRAMMY edition of Carpool Karaoke. Driving a cardboard cutout vehicle, Corden was flanked by Jennifer Lopez, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Keith Urban, Ryan Tedder, John Legend, Blue Ivy, Jason Derulo, and Neil Diamond for a singalong of the latter's classic "Sweet Caroline."
In addition to Corden's bits, Twenty One Pilots provided some unexpected comic relief when they accepted their first career GRAMMY for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for "Stressed Out" in their underwear. Underneath the humor, the duo from Columbus, Ohio, conveyed an important message to musicians of all stripes. "Anyone from anywhere can do anything," said Pilots singer/songwriter Tyler Joseph.
It was also a night of firsts for breakout country star Maren Morris. Not only did she make her GRAMMY performance debut with "Once" alongside Alicia Keys, she won her first GRAMMY for Best Country Solo Performance for "My Church," making her the first GRAMMY Camp alumnus to win a GRAMMY.
Music's Biggest Night also provided moments of reflection in the form of tributes.
An all-star troupe paid homage to five-time GRAMMY winners the Bee Gees, who will be celebrated this spring via the CBS TV special "Stayin' Alive: A GRAMMY Salute To The Music Of The Bee Gees." Demi Lovato glided through "Stayin' Alive" while Tori Kelly showcased her impressive singing and guitar chops on "Tragedy." Little Big Town were in perfect harmony for "How Deep Is Your Love" and Andra Day bottled the essence of Studio 54 during "Night Fever." The group closed with a vibrant "Stayin' Alive" coda, with Barry Gibb looking on in delight.
Sturgill Simpson and the Dap-Kings convened for "All Around You," a song from Simpson's Best Country Album-winning A Sailor's Guide To Earth. During his introduction, Dwight Yoakam lauded the late singer Sharon Jones, who worked with the Dap-Kings throughout her career.
In recognition of George Michael, who died Dec. 25, 2016, Adele returned to the stage for a dramatic, orchestrated version of "Fastlove," the final Top 10 hit of Michael's career. The tribute paused abruptly as Adele stopped mid-song, feeling that her performance was not up to par. "I can't mess this up for him," she confided to the audience. Adele reset herself and delivered a moving memorial. The audience obliged with a standing ovation.
Morris Day and the Time did the honors in introducing a special GRAMMY tribute to the late Prince. A true showman, Day bobbed and weaved the band through the Time's funky "Jungle Love" and "The Bird." Mars then returned to the stage for a regal reimagining of "Let's Go Crazy." Armed with a Purple Rain-inspired suit, makeup and white guitar, Mars channeled vintage '80s-era Prince, right down to his authentic take on the song's spectacular unaccompanied guitar cadenza.
The In Memoriam segment featured John Legend and GRAMMY-winning "The Color Purple" cast member Cynthia Erivo delivering a rendition of the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows," which served as a solemn musical prayer to many other individuals the music community lost during the past year.
The GRAMMY show was also marked by heartfelt, if unexpected, tributes to fellow nominees. In her final acceptance speech of the evening for Album Of The Year, a visibly moved Adele used her platform to acknowledge and thank fellow nominee Beyoncé.
"My artist of my life is Beyoncé," Adele said as a tearful Beyoncé looked on. "The Lemonade album was just so monumental and so well-thought out and so beautiful and soul-bearing. … All us artists here, we f***ing adore you. You are our light.
Music's Biggest Night beamed into the homes of more than 26 million viewers, representing a 4 percent year-over-year increase and the highest viewership since 2014. The luster extended well after the Sunday telecast, with several winners, nominees and performers benefiting from the GRAMMY Effect.
Digital sales of songs performed on the show saw a 140 percent increase in download sales, with Urban and Underwood's "The Fighter" experiencing a 574 percent gain. On-demand streams (audio and video combined) of songs performed rose 30 percent, including Mars' "That's What I Like" spiking 99 percent. Adele's 25 returned to the Top 10, rising to No. 6 with a 137 percent sales increase. Combined with the other Album Of The Year nominees (Beyoncé's Lemonade, Justin Bieber's Purpose, Drake's Views, and Sturgill Simpson's A Sailor's Guide To Earth), all five albums saw a collective 91 percent increase in equivalent album sales. Following his GRAMMY performance with Perry, Skip Marley became the first member of the Marley family to score a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
More than just impressive statistics, these sizable GRAMMY Effect gains give additional credence to the 59th GRAMMY Awards telecast remarks of Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow, who during his impassioned speech delivered to the new administration an important unified message on behalf of the music community.
"The Recording Academy, together with America's music makers, call on the president and Congress to help keep the music playing by updating music laws, protecting music education and renewing America's commitment to the arts," said Portnow. "It's our collective responsibility to preserve what binds us and to ensure that the whole world continues to benefit from one of our most unique [and] economically and spiritually important assets — and exports: American music."