Spoiler alert: The winners and best moments of Sunday's Grammy Awards
Los Angeles • While Adele was the big winner Sunday night at the 54th annual Grammy Awards at the STAPLES Center, the Saturday death of 48-year-old Whitney Houston cast a pall over the event, usually dedicated to celebrating the best and brightest luminaries in the music industry lighting our way to the future.
Many artists on what is called Music's Biggest Night referenced Houston -- who has delivered numerous show-stopping Grammy moments in her too-short career -- in their victory speeches. Melanie Fiona, who won two Grammys for her "Fool for You" collaboration with Cee Lo Green, said Houston was her first musical memory, and later, when it came for Fiona to sing for the first time, it was a Houston song she sang. Fiona acknowledged the mixed feelings of adrenaline from winning Grammys to a "heavy-weighted feeling in my heart" because of Houston's death.
Opera singer Joyce DiDonato, who won the Grammy for Best Classical Vocal Solo, too mentioned Houston in her acceptance speech. Later, she said that as a "child of the 80's," she remembers singing Houston's "I Will Always Love You" any time she got a chance to sing karaoke. "Good singing is good singing," DiDonato said. "She was one of the first examples of great singing."
After Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band opened the night with "We Take Care Of Our Own," host LL Cool J quickly noted Houston's passing. "There is no way around it," he told the silent crowd. "We've had a death in the family." He then led the crowd through a prayer, a unique but poignant gesture that set the bittersweet tone for the evening.
The event was sweet for Adele, who won Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Song of the Year, the three most important awards of the Grammys, in addition to Best Pop Solo Performance for "Someone Like You," Best Short Form Music Video for "Rolling in the Deep" and Best Pop Vocal Album for "21." In addition, Adele made a return to the concert stage for the first time in nearly five months after undergoing vocal cord surgery late last year. Sunday's rendition of "Rolling In the Deep" was flawless and inspired the longest applause of the night.
"This is ridiculous," Adele said at one point during the awards show, showing her giggly 23-year-old side that belies her emotional, soulful singing of lost love.
As usual, the three-and-one-half-hour show was full of fun, memorable moments despite repeated eulogies of Houston. With Maroon 5 and Foster the People backing them up, the Beach Boys reunited and performed together for the first time in decades. "It's the 50th anniversary of the Beach Boys, so it makes sense to come together," Mike Love said. "It's a thrill for me," Brian Wilson added.
Glen Campbell, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer's, led The Band Perry, Blake Shelton and the crowd through a rollicking, fist-pumping version of his signature song "Rhinestone Cowboy" that was another highlight. Paul McCartney, in the first row, was among the most energetic fans, singing along to every word with his new bride.
The youth movement also didn't disappoint. Dance music was given the spotlight, and Chris Brown, David Guetta, Lil Wayne, Foo Fighters and deadmau5 took advantage of the rare opportunity and woke the crowd up. Nicki Minaj also used "West Side Story," "The Exorcism" and Christmas carols to inspire a fun visual extravaganza that was absent from many other pop stars' sets.
Besides Adele, other big winners included Bon Iver, a surprise winner for Best New Artist; Foo Fighters, who picked up five trophies; Kanye West, who sweet the rap awards by collecting four trophies (but was a curious no-show); and Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars, who each picked up two Grammys. Lady Antebellum, in Utah on Valentine's Day, won the Grammy for Best Country Album. And dance-music maverick Skrillex won three trophies.
All three Grammy nominees with Utah ties lost their bids for Grammys.
Jenny Oaks Baker, nominated for Best Pop Instrumental Album for her Kurt Bestor-produced album "Wish Upon a Star" on Utah-based Shadow Mountain Records, lost to Booker T., a past winner of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
After the pre-telecast Grammy ceremony, in which the Best Pop Instrumental Album award was awarded, Baker said she was "disappointed" but still thrilled to be on her first trip to the Grammys. "I'm grateful," she said. "I still have a beautiful life." Her day wasn't over, however. Baker was invited to walk the red carpet before the televised ceremony, and promised to "rock my white dress."
Two students at Southern Utah University, Taliah Johnson and Geneil Perkins, were part of an ensemble nominated for Best Choral Performance, but their nominated piece "Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem" lost to Eric Whitacre's "Light & Gold," featuring the King's Singers.
"It's a little disappointing," said Johnson after the pre-telecast ceremony. "But it's not super-disappointing. Eric Whitacre is a pretty big name in choral music. I knew who were up against. I never even thought I would be nominated in my whole life."
Although not a Utah production, the Broadway musical "The Book of Mormon" won Best Musical Theater Album, with producer Trey Parker exclaiming, "Mormons are having a great year!" In the media center later, he said that the musical would likely come to Utah during its second national tour. "Mormons love the show," Parker said. "For a lot of Mormons, it's like their 'Fiddler on the Roof.'"
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