2012 Grammy Awards: Adele sweeps, Bon Iver surprises and Kanye West missing in action

As anyone and their mother could have (and, ahem, did) predicted, it was Adele's show at last night's 54th Grammy Awards. The singer, who absolutely swept the awards, took home six Grammys -- meaning she won in every category in which she was nominated, including the big three: Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Album of the Year. Other notable winners included Bon Iver, who scored an upset as Best New Artist over Nicki Minaj; Foo Fighters, for all of the rock-related awards; and Kanye West, who nabbed all the rap Grammys.

The awards show itself, though, wasn't about the awards. It was about the performance, the (few) acceptance speeches and the absence of past members of "the Grammy family," as host LL Cool J dubbed it -- namely Whitney Houston and Etta James, both of whom saw some form of tribute within the first half hour of the show.

Following Bruce Springsteen's forgetful opening performance of his new song, "We Take Care Of Our Own," LL Cool J began his master of ceremonies duties with a prayer: "Heavenly Father, we thank you for sharing our sister Whitney with us... Although she is gone too soon, we remain truly blessed to have been touched by her beautiful spirit..."Touching yes, but you can't help but wonder what the Grammys had to cut to fit in air time to honor Houston's sudden death on Saturday.

It was Jennifer Hudson's beautiful performance of "I Will Always Love You" that won over the most hearts, though. Dressed in full Whitney garb -- a gown and a Whitney 'do, both done in tasteful tribute, intentionally or not -- Hudson reminded us that Whitney Houston's voice will go unrivaled, but also that if Hudson plays her cards right, her own singing career could follow a similar path of success. Hudson was an excellent choice to pay tribute to the late singer.

Too bad the same can't be said for the Etta James tribute by Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt, who performed James's "Sunday Kinda Love" that was merely average. The pair's stage chemistry was palpable, but the mismatched voices and stylings were too polarized to come together in the name of Etta.

Bruno Mars's early performance of "Runaway Baby" was a nice change of pace, upbeat and fun -- not colored by death or any form of tribute. It was doo-wop and '60s-style stage antics, as if The Drifters had met up with The Time and formed a super group led by Mars. The campiness was forgivable if only because Mars and company looked too good in their gold-accented suits -- that, and because it wasn't "Grenade."

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Other performers included a teleporting Katy Perry ("Part Of Me"), a weird-ass Nicki Minaj ("Roman's Holiday"), Maroon 5/Foster The People/The Beach Boys ("Surfer Girl/Wouldn't It Be Nice/Good Vibrations"), Foo Fighters ("Walk"), Foo Fighters + David Guetta/deadmau5/Chris Brown ("Random Dance Music Tribute"), Paul McCartney and Paul McCartney and old-guy friends (Joe Walsh, Springsteen and others).

Yet the performance of the evening was Adele's "Rolling In The Deep." Proving that her vocal surgery had been successful, the woman who is on top of the world gave us four minutes of proof as to why. Her confidence went unmatched by any of the performers last night, and it was that sort of openly playful but emotionally bruised swagger that made Adele so successful in the first place. She reminded us that while Mars's gold suits, Minaj's Catholic imagery and even Perry's stage pyrotechnics may be nice gimmicks, at the end of the day, the Grammys should be about the music. And for four beautiful minutes, that's exactly what they were.

Adele's acceptance speeches were similarly enjoyable, but it was her tear-stained speech for Record Of The Year that saw her really soak it all in, and let us in, too. Why the Grammy producers did not end the show on that note will forever be a mystery, because the following performance, the final one of the night, saw Paul McCartney and other rocker dudes indulge in what could be considered an on-stage mid-life crisis a la the TV show Men Of A Certain Age -- all the while playing a medley, which made it all the more awkward. That's not say the music didn't sound good -- it did -- but watching them create it was just uncomfortable.

Equal awkwardness came from Bon Iver, who collected the Best New Artist Grammy. His acceptance speech, in which he said he did not on the stage -- a self-deprecating pot-shot to his refusal to perform during the show -- was overshadowed by his burly beard and hideous tie, causing many a music fan to wonder whom exactly "Bonny Bear" is and why the guy deserved the award in the first place. Side note: When Bon Iver mentioned the acts that weren't there, while we're sure he wasn't, he just as easily could've been talking about...

Kanye West, who collected a total of four awards, one for "Otis" with Jay-Z from Watch The Throne and two for "All Of The Lights" and one for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, was oddly absent from the awards show, giving Taylor Swift much room to breathe and enjoy her win for Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song for "Mean." Swift also performed "Mean" last night live, charmingly changing the lyrics of the song from "Some day I'll be living in a big old city" to "Some day I'll be singing this at the Grammys" -- wherever West was, you know Swift was directing that to him (and any other guy who broke her heart or crushed her dreams in the past 20 years).

A special props are due to Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, who snagged a Album Of The Year Grammy for his work on Adele's 21> and Brian Joseph, who picked up a Best Alternative Album Grammy for his engineering work on Bon Iver's self-titled second album.

Here is a list of winners for the major categories (and a full list can be found at the Grammys website):

Record Of The Year "Rolling in The Deep" by Adele

Album Of The Year 21 by Adele

Song Of The Year "Rolling In The Deep" by Adele

Best New Artist Bon Iver

Best Pop Solo Performance "Someone Like You" by Adele

Best Pop Vocal Album 21 by Adele

Best Dance Recording "Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites" by Skrillex

Best Dance/Electronica Album Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites

Best Rock Performance "Walk" by Foo Fighters

Best Rock Song "Walk" by Foo Fighters

Best Rock Album Wasting Light by Foo Fighters

Best R&B Album F.A.M.E. by Chris Brown

Best Rap Performance "Otis" by Jay-Z & Kanye West

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration "All Of The Lights" by Kanye West feat. Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie

Best Rap Song "All Of The Lights" by Kanye West

Best Rap Album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West

[video clips via idolator]

See Also:

- Video: Chipotle's Grammy commercial with Willie Nelson doing Coldplay: What'd ya think?

- 2012 Grammy Awards: Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic wins, as does Brian Joseph. Go CO!

Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music

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