Adele emerges as night’s big winner
For the second Sunday night in a row, it was all about Lady Gaga. Without even being nominated for anything, she absolutely owned the Grammys, and with a performance that was a million miles from her Super Bowl LI spectacle.
Even with the technical glitch that killed part of James Hetfield’s vocal, Gaga’s duet with Metallica on “Moth into Flame” was wild, edgy, spontaneous and rocking — everything that the rest of the three-hour awards show usually wasn’t.
Until that moment, which kicked off the Grammys’ third hour, the only real suspense was whether dueling divas Adele and Beyonce would take home more awards. As it turns out Adele shut Beyonce down, winning the night’s big awards for Album and Record of the Year, but she paid high honors to Beyonce, telling her, “I adore you. You move my soul every day,” in her acceptance speech.
But both divas had less-than-peak moments onstage. Adele was charming as always when she opened the show with “Hello,” but returned to salute George Michael on “Fastlove.”
It was fair that she insisted on starting again when it wasn’t working, but the number was so earnest and teary that it missed the essence of Michael, who was sexier and slyer than that.
That still beats Beyonce, whose live number (including “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles”) was essentially a CGI-heavy, performance-art tribute to the fact that Beyonce is pregnant. Flanked by worshipful dancers, it was full of weighty spoken bits and heroic shots of her pregnant form. Early in the show it was teased as “the Beyonce song that the world will be talking about tomorrow.” Unfortunately a lot of the world will be saying, “Wow, that was really tacky.”
The best musical moments were the less-hyped ones. Sturgill Simpson did a graceful, funky tribute to Sharon Jones, and soul legend William Bell turned up to sing his classic “Born Under a Bad Sign.” The duet between Alicia Keys and breakout country star Maren Morris was lovely, not least for Morris’ visibly awestruck glances at her singing partner.
And you can never go wrong with Morris Day fronting The Time on “The Bird.” With Bruno Mars channeling the master “Let’s Go Crazy,” the Prince tribute was suitably rousing and respectful. It beat the Bee Gees tribute by a mile, as that drew only from the Bee Gees’ disco years and ignored their earlier, far better catalogue.
Politics were mostly soft-pedaled through the show: Host James Cordon threw a couple softballs at President Trump and Katy Perry showed a newfound awareness on her new song “Chained to the Rhythm” (which ended with a cry of “Persist!”)
But then A Tribe Called Quest came along. While paying tribute to fallen brother Phife Dawg, they got down to business on “We the People,” calling out “President Agent Orange and his unsuccessful Muslim ban,” while one member kicked through a wall in their stage set. That, after all, is why you watch the Grammys, in case somebody will go off-script and really say something.