In the aftermath of Whitney Houston’s death Saturday afternoon in her Beverly Hills hotel suite, I fully expected Grammy producers to open their 2012 award ceremony with a triubute to the fallen pop icon. Strangely enough, though, Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson’s sublime cover of Houston’s most iconic ballad, “I Will Always Love You,” didn’t happen until the 2:42 mark, casting a shadow of “Where’s the Whitney tribute?” over much of what preceded it. Nevertheless, the decidedly backloaded telecast had some memorable musical moments, and here’s our countdown of the Top 5 (neither of which include Chris Brown’s two dubious appearances) along with the list of major winners:
5 – tie) Bruno Mars performs “Runaway Baby” | “Get off your rich asses,” Bruno commanded the Grammy crowd during his wickedly energetic set. And while those fuddy-duddys didn’t really heed his call, I suspect there were plenty of viewers at home doing some enthusiastic couch dancing. And for that, we give thanks.
5 – tie) Taylor Swift performs “Mean” | Not sure about the set and costumes pilfered from a storage closet marked O Brother, Where Art Thou, but I don’t think Taylor’s ever sounded better live, and that little zinger toward the end — “some day I’ll be singin’ this at the Grammys/ and all you’re ever gonna be is mean” — was apt to the max.
4) The Civil Wars peform a snippet of “Barton Hollow” | “It’s not about what goes on in a computer, it’s about what goes on in here and here,” said Dave Grohl, pointing to his heart and his head, while collecting the Foo Fighters’ statuette for Best Rock Performance. And no other act drove home that point better than the Civil Wars, who got 60 seconds to make a musical impression before introducing their pal Taylor Swift. Here’s hoping the awesome simplicity of their swampy good sound results in a huge sales surge come Monday morning.
3) Glen Campbell performs with The Band Perry and Blake Shelton | On a night featuring a sweet Beach Boys reunion (with Maroon 5 and Foster the People), and two performances by Sir Paul McCartney (I vastly preferred the second one), it was an homage to the country star — who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year — that proved most musically satisfying. The Band Perry’s “Gentle on My Mind” was as welcome as a summer breeze, Shelton captured the wistful drawl of “Southern Nights,” and Cambell himself remained in incredibly fine voice on “Rhinestone Cowboy.”
2) Adele performs “Rolling in the Deep” | What’s better than hearing Grammy’s Song of the Year and Record of the Year performed by a vocalist whose only “gimmicks” are astonishing soul and emotional depth? Not much! Bonus points for Adele’s cheeky “You could have had this all” with an accompanying “boy look at this body” hand gesture. The explosive reaction of the Grammy audience said it all.
1) Jennifer Hudson peforms “I Will Always Love You” | It was no small task to celebrate Houston’s colossal voice while simultaneously filling the emotional void created by the troubled diva’s passing at the age of 48. But with an awe-inspiring a capella intro and pitch perfection right to the very last note, a clearly emotional J.Hud did exactly that.
Album of the Year, 21, Adele
Record of the Year “Rolling In The Deep,” Adele
Song of the Year “Rolling In the Deep,” Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth, songwriters (Adele)
Best Rock Album Wasting Light, Foo Fighters
Best Rap Album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West
Best R&B Album, F.A.M.E. Chris Brown
Best Country Album, Own The Night, Lady Antebellum
Best Pop Vocal Album 21, Adele
Best New Artist, Bon Iver
What did you think of the 2012 Grammys? What were your favorite moments? Sound off in the comments!