Chris Brown and Adele both had major comebacks tonight. The superstars were the big winners at the 2012 Grammy Awards, with Brown bringing the audience to their feet with a triumphant performance of his “Turn Up the Music,” and winning the trophy for Best R&B Album for F.A.M.E. Adele will have her hands full going home with no less than six awards—a full sweep that includes Album of the Year.
Jay-Z and Kanye West also won for Best Rap Album, though they were not in attendance to accept the award. It was the fourth award of the day for West, who lead the nominations with seven. During the pre-show, he picked up Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “All of the Lights” and Best Rap Album for that track’s source, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”
The show was a seamless, low-key event befitting the mood of the music industry just one day after the death of Whitney Houston. The show began with a cold-open performance of “We Take Care of Our Own” by Bruce Springsteen, followed by a prayer led by host LL Cool J for the very recently departed pop icon. “We’ve had a death in our family,” he said moments after he took the stage. A video clip of Houston’s iconic performance of “I Will Always Love You” brought the audience to their feet, and many to tears.
Highlights of the show include a duet between Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt, in memory of the late Etta James, Rihanna performing with British pop sensation Cold Play, Nicki Minaj’s religiously-themed number and, most notably, Adele’s house-shaking performance of her hit “Rollin’ in the Deep”–her first live performance since undergoing throat surgery in November. It was a triumphant return of the year’s biggest star.
The night’s most memorable moment, however, came when Jennifer Hudson performed “I Will Always Love You” in memory of Whitney Houston. Under a single spotlight, Hudson delivered a flawless and emotional performance, her voice undoubtedly carrying all the way to the heavens. It was a perfect tribute, despite it’s obvious last-minute addition to the show.
Homage was also paid to other music luminaries los this year–Amy Winehouse, Heavy D and Gil-Scott Heron to name a few–many of whom passed too soon, like Houston. Paul McCartny wrapped up with his rendition of “The End,” a fitting conclusion to a somber show.