Adele, the English queen of pop heartbreak and redemption, scored a perfect five for five Sunday at the 59th Grammy Awards, sweeping the top categories of album, record and song of the year in a triumphant return to the spotlight following a long, trying hiatus.
She also won points for humility and grace, restarting a tribute to George Michael that she began off-key and paying homage, in the evening’s final moments, to the artist considered her key rival for the top awards.
As she accepted the album of the year award for the blockbuster “25,” the singer, born Adele Adkins, paid homage to Beyoncé.
“The ‘Lemonade’ album is monumental, so monumental, so well-thought-out, so beautiful and soul-baring,” Adele said as Beyoncé looked on from her seat in Staples Center and mouthed the words “Thank you.”
Adele’s hit single “Hello” also collected the song award, which recognizes songwriting, and record of the year, which factors in vocal performance and record production. In addition, she won the awards for pop vocal album and solo performance.
Beyonce, who received the the most nominations this year, won two of her nine categories; “Lemonade” won for urban contemporary album, and “Formation” won the music video award.
David Bowie’s final album “Blackstar” also picked up five Grammy Awards for alternative music album, rock song, rock performance, engineered nonclassical album and recording package.
Not surprisingly given the mood of the country, the ceremony featured several moments of political commentary, ranging from calls for unity to blatant criticism.
In accepting the urban contemporary album award, Beyoncé said, “My intention for the film and album was to create a body of work that will give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness and our history, to confront issues that make us uncomfortable.
“It's important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty,” she continued, “so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror, first through their own families, as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House and the Grammys, and see themselves. And have no doubt that they're beautiful, intelligent and capable.
Far more direct was the call-out to “President Agent Orange” from hip-hop collective A Tribe Called Quest.
The group performed a medley of songs that included its rap “We the People” with a chorus that states: “All you black folks, you must go / All you Mexicans, you must go, / And all you poor folks, you must go, / Muslims and gays, boy, we hate your ways, / So all you bad folks, you must go.”
The music was choreographed with people taking the stage in burkas and other attire representing a variety of ethnicities and genders.
The changing times were also represented by Chance the Rapper, who also had a big night with three Grammys. In the first award handed out Sunday night, he was crowned best new artist, solidifying the industry’s broader definition of “record” and “album.”
Because Chance the Rapper’s debut “Coloring Book” was available only as a free stream, the academy altered the long-standing requirement that music considered for awards be available in physical form, an acknowledgement of the shifting tide of consumers’ preferred way to listen.
Before the telecast, the Chicago rapper raced to the stage to collect his first Grammy, in the rap performance category, for the track “No Problem,” featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz.
Beyoncé was not the only artist with a wide nomination/win gap. Rihanna, Drake and Kanye West had eight nominations each, yet only Drake scored Grammys; his single “Hotline Bling,” won for rap/sung performance and rap song. Given the multiple awards to Adele and Bowie, the Recording Academy could open itself to complaints along the line of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.
In the pre-show ceremony, comedy album winner Patton Oswalt, nominee and award presenter Margaret Cho and sibling pop duo Jesse & Joy, who won the Latin pop album Grammy for “Un Besito Mas,” also referenced social and political issues.
“We are so proud to be Mexican Americans,” said Joy Huerta, accompanied by her brother, Jesse. “This goes to all the Hispanics in this country, to every minority group. We are with you, we stand with you.”
And in the ceremony preceding the telecast, roots country artist Sturgill Simpson, the long-shot overall album-of-the-year nominee for his boundary-pushing effort, “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth,” won the country album category over works by veterans Loretta Lynn and Keith Urban and relative newcomers Brandy Clark and Maren Morris.
“I guess the revolution won’t be televised,” he quipped.
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