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Adele sweep keeps Grammys more celebratory than somber

for Journal Register Newspapers

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A fallen star was warmly remembered, but it was a rising star that dominated the 54th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday night, Feb. 12, in Los Angeles.

Adele came into the night a logistical and sentimental favorite -- the latter after throat surgery threatened to derail her promising career. Instead the British singer, who won a pair of Grammys in 2009, swept all six of her nominations this year, including Best album for "21" and Record and Song of the Year for "Rolling in the Deep."

She also delivered one of the ceremony's most exciting performances, a rendition of "Rolling in the Deep" that she started a capella to dispel any doubts about her recovery.

"This is ridiculous," Adele shouted after winning Record of the Year, and by the time Motown legend Diana Ross presented her with Album of the Year she was a happily sobbing mess, thanking her "mum" back in England and talking about the past "vast, life-changing year." She also thanked the doctors who "brought my voice back."

It was also a good night for "21" co-producer Paul Epworth, who was named Producer of the Year (Non Classical) and tweeted about being high-fived by Paul McCartney -- presumably better than having Grammy host LL Cool J give him a "big up" from the stage.

Weird Al Yankovic, who was up against Adele in the Best Short Form Video category, put it well: I lost to Adele -- like most of the people here today."

Adele's sweep was one of several factors that rescued what could have been a decidedly somber Grammy ceremony after the shocking death of Whitney Houston on Saturday, Feb. 11, from so-far undisclosed causes. Houston was clearly on the minds of all the nominees as they walked the red carpet into the show, and LL Cool J addressed it early on, offering a prayer before the hushed audience. But the Grammys quickly kicked into a typically celebratory gear thanks to energetic and occasionally spectacular performances and a spirit of honoring the departed by commemorating the music.

In fact, there was a good two hours of the show when it seemed that, momentarily, everyone had forgotten about Houston and the tragedy, only remembering during the annual memoriam section, when Jennifer Hudson sang Houston's hit version of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," changing the final lyrics to say farewell to her -- and many others' -- idols.

None of the other performances were quite so somber, however. Bruce Springsteen and a string section-augmented E Street Band charged through his latest single, "We Take Care of Our Own," while Bruno Mars channeled James Brown into his slamming rendition of "Runaway Baby." Foo Fighters delivered a typically bombastic "Walk" and then were part of an electrifying electronic music segment that also included deadmau5, David Guetta, Chris Brown and Lil Wayne -- the kind of polarizing set-up that certainly had older music fans (who should have been in bed by then, anyway) scratching their heads.

Brown, still under the cloud of his assault of girlfriend Rihanna before the 2009 Grammys, made a redemption attempt with a slickly choreographed medley of "Turn Up the Music" and "Beautiful People," as well as a winning the Best R&B Album, but social media commentary indicated there are still decidedly mixed feelings about him.

Also n the winning side of the Grammy equation were Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson's recreation of their duet "Don't You Wanna Stay," Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt's brief tribute to Etta James with "A Sunday Kind of Love" and Tony Bennett and Carrie Underwood's finger-snapping "It Had to Be You." Blake Shelton and the Band Perry took part in a sweet tribute to Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Glen Campbell who, despite battling alzheimer's disease, credibly delivered "Rhinestone Cowboys." The reunited Beach Boys', meanwhile, rocked through "Good Vibrations" after Maroon5's versions of "Surfer Girl" and Foster the People's "Wouldn't It Be Nice." Katy Perry, meanwhile, delivered a genuinely fiery "Part of Me" that clearly sent out daggers to estranged husband Russell Brand.

And if Paul McCartney's new "My Valentine," with Diana Krall on piano and Joe Walsh on acoustic guitar, was a bit subdued, he made up for it with a show-closing medley of the Beatles' "Golden Slumbers," "Carry That Weight" and "The End," adding a guitar army of Springsteen, Walsh and Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl for the latter.

Less successful? that would be the messy theatrics of Nicki Minaj's "Roman Holiday" and the purported Rihanna-Coldplay team-up that was actually Rihanna and frontman Chris Martin only, which felt like a bit of a cheat.

On the awards end, Adele was not the only one walking home happy. Foo Fighters stayed on her heels all night with five Grammys, as was Kanye West, who split five trophies between his own "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" and his "Watch the Throne" team-up with Jay-Z. Electronic DJ Skrillex was a three-time winner, and double Grammy recipients included Taylor Swift, Bon Iver, the Civil Wars, gospel star Kirk Franklin and Tony Bennett.

Bon Iver (aka Justin Vernon) told the crowd he was "a little uncomfortable" receiving the Grammy for Best New Artist but added that "with that discomfort is a sense of gratitude." Lady Antebellum was so surprised to win Best Country Album that the group's Charles Kelly walked over and hugged a clearly surprised Swift, who was the favorite in the category and looked non too happy with the result.

The most emotional moment, however, came during the pre-show ceremony, when Bennett and the late Amy Winehouse were honored with the Best Pop Duo or Group Performance for their version of "Body and Soul." Bennett brought Winehouse's parents on stage, and her father Mitch said that "We shouldn't be here. Our darling daughter should be here," concluding "Long live Whitney Houston. Long live Amy Winehouse. Long live Etta James. What can I say -- there's a beautiful girl band up there in heaven."

A full list of Grammy Award winners can be found at www.grammy.com

Web Site: www.grammy.com

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