The 54th Annual Grammy Awards were held Sunday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.  Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band opened the show with a gritty down-home performance of Bruce’s new single “We Take Care of Our Own,” proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that The Boss has still got it.

The only thing missing was the signature saxophone stylings of his beloved friend and band-mate Clarence Clemens, who passed away in June of last year.

What would otherwise be an over-the-top night of festivity turned out to be more of a mixed bag of emotions during this year’s Grammys.  How do you handle the tragic death of a musical icon like Whitney Houston, after all? Everyone is still reeling from the news of her death, and many found it difficult to separate their grief from the promise of a celebratory evening.

Host LL Cool J actually did a decent job of addressing it right up front.  “There’s no way around this.  We’ve had a death in our family,” he said.  The rapper/actor then led the audience in a prayer for “our fallen sister.”  It felt like the right thing to do.

The evening had plenty of highlights, so we’ve come up with a list (in no particular order) of those we feel are worth a mention..

Adele – Wow, what a night for this one.  It was a clean sweep for the singer, who took home awards in all the major categories and had five major wins with Album of the Year for 21, Record and Song of the Year for “Rolling in the Deep,” and Pop Solo performance for “Someone Like You.” She also won for Pop Vocal Album.  There was a lot of buzz about her before the show since she was performing for the first time since her highly publicized throat surgery, so when she took the stage to perform, you could hear a pin drop.  Not for long though.  She delivered one of her best vocals ever for “Rolling in the Deep” and was visibly relieved when the song was over (also highly publicized is her frequent bouts with stage-fright).  Afterward, she received a  standing ovation that went well into the commercial break.  Not one for lengthy acceptance speeches, she had only a few simple words upon grabbing the Grammy for Best Solo Performance for “Someone Like You.” “My life changed when I wrote this song,” she said.

Bruno Mars –  Bruno proved once again that he’s The Go-to guy for lifting up a crowd and getting them off their cushy velvet chairs.  His performance was a throwback to Motown – complete with gold blazers, Temptations-esque dance maneuvers and Elvis-like pelvic thrusts.  Throw in some of James Brown‘s fancy foot work and a plea to the audience by Bruno himself (“C’mon, get up off your rich asses and dance!”) and Presto, everyone was on their feet.

Bonnie Raitt and Alicia Keys – We simply have to mention these two legends who performed a tribute to the late Etta James With a cover of her classic “A Sunday Kind of Love.”  Beautiful!

The Beach Boys –  The long-estranged group reunited for a song or two, but not without a little help (at first) from Maroon 5‘s Adam Levine and Foster the People’s Mark Foster.  The legendary band actually sounded pretty amazing, but founder Brian Wilson was clearly not feelin’ The Good Vibrations.  In fact, he looked like he’d rather be engaged in an emergency root canal then be sitting behind his keyboard, and quickly exited the stage following The Band‘s performance.

Sir Paul McCartney – I think we kinda fell in love with him all over again tonight.  He has aged like a fine wine and now has set a new romantic standard with his song “My Valentine.” He can also rock with the best of ‘em…  and did.  Bruce Springsteen, Joe Walsh and David Grohl joined Sir Paul in the show’s finale.  The guitar heroes jammed to “Abbey Road,” “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” and “The End,” taking us back to a time when it was ok to enjoy the most basic elements of music.

Chris Brown – Aside from thanking God and the Grammys for his Best R&B album F.A.M.E., Chris made not one, but two performance appearances – one of which involved him dancing high atop a glow-in-the-dark Rubik’s cube.  More than a few folks were unhappy about the fact that he was asked to perform at all, much less twice.  (Just check Twitter if you don’t believe us).

Katy Perry – Wow! One minute you think she’s coming out with one of her standard party-song dance jams then POW, she launches into a feisty new diddy called “Part of Me” which is clearly a not-so-nice shout-out to ex-husband Russell Brand.  Rock it out, girl!

Glen Campbell – Glen is one of the true heroes of country music, and is now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  After a tribute by Band Perry and Blake Shelton (“Gentle on my Mind” by Band Perry, “Southern Nights” by Blake Shelton), Glen delivered a stellar rendition of  “Rhinestone Cowboy.”  The real highlight here is when the camera kept panning to Paul McCartney, who was singing to every word and clapping along with the song like he was Glen’s #1 fan.  Priceless stuff there!

Jennifer Hudson – Jennifer had what was perhaps the toughest job of the night.  None of us envied her, and few if any, could have pulled it off.  But she did.  Her rendition of Whitney Houston‘s “I Will Always Love You” was haunting, heart-wrenching, and packed with emotion, yet Jennifer was somehow able to keep in check until the end of the song.  It was a stand-still, stand-out moment that had us holding our breath.  This one will have a special place in the Grammy archives.

Nicki Minaj – In contrast to Jennifer’s divine-ness, was Nicki’s clumsy attempt at performance art with her new single “Roman Holiday.” Sorry, but the whole Linda Blair/Exorcist thing kind of freaked people out and whatever message she was trying to get across seems to have gotten lost in translation.  It was disturbing, confusing, and over-contrived.

Foo Fighters – They pretty much swept the rock category, taking Best Rock Album for Wasting Light.  The Band‘s leader David Grohl raised a few eye brows when he took a pot-shot at computerized music production, recalling how they recorded the record in their garage.  “It’s not about what goes on in a computer,” he said.  “It’s what goes on here (pointing to his heart) and in here (pointing to his head).”

Don Cornelius – We’re going to mention him because the Grammys didn’t.  For some reason, the Soul Train pioneer was left off the list of dearly departed.  With the exception of a very small homage by Questlove, Cornelius name was not even brought up.


General Field

Song Of The Year: Rolling in the Deep, Adele

Record Of The Year: Rolling in the Deep, Adele

Album Of The Year: 21, Adele

Best New Artist: Bon Iver

Pop Field

Pop Performance by a Duo or Group: Body and Soul, Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse

Pop Vocal Album: 21, Adele

Pop Solo Performance: Adele, Someone Like You

Alternative Album: Bon Iver, Bon Iver

Rock Field

Rock Song: Walk, Foo Fighters

Rock Album: Wasting Light, Foo Fighters

Hard Rock/Metal Performance: White Limo, Foo Fighters

Best Rock Performance: Walk, Foo Fighters

R&B Field

R&B Song: Fool For You, Cee Lo Green, Melanie Hallim & Jack Splash

R&B Performance: Is This Love, Corrine Bailey Rae

Traditional R&B Vocal Performance: Fool For You, Cee Lo Green & Melanie Fiona

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

Rap Field

Rap Album: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West

Rap Song: All Of The Lights, Jeff Bhasker, Stacy Ferguson, Malik Jones, Warren Trotter & Kanye West

Best Rap Performance: KanyeWest, Jay-Z for Otis

Rap/Sung Collaboration: All of the Lights, Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie

Country Field

Country Solo Performance: Mean, Taylor Swift

Country Performance by a Duo or Group: Barton Hollow, The Civil Wars

Country Song: Mean, Taylor Swift

Best Country Album: Own The Night, Lady Antebellum

Jazz Field

Jazz Vocal Album: The Mosaic Project, Terri Lyne Carrington & various artists

Jazz Instrumental Album: Forever, Corea, Clark & White

Improvised Jazz Solo: 500 Miles High, Chick Corea

Large Ensemble Jazz Album: The Good Feeling, Christian McBride Big Band

Other Awards:

Dance Recording: Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, Skrillex

Dance/Electronica Album: Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, Skrillex

Musical Theater Album: The Book Of Mormon, Robert Lopez, Trey Parker & Matt Stone

World Music Album: Tassili, Tinariwen

Latin Pop Rock, Rock or Urban Album: Drama y Luz, Mana

Tropical Latin Album: Last Mambo, Cachao

Banda or Norteno Album: Los Tigres Del Norte and Friends, Los Tigres Del Norte

Regional Mexican or Tejano Album: Bicentenario, Pepe Aguilar

Blues Album: Revelator, Tedeschi Trucks Band

Folk Album: Barton Hollow, The Civil Wars

Pop Instrumental Album: The Road From Memphis, Booker T Jones

Bluegrass Album: Paper Airplane, Alison Krauss & Union Station

Americana Album: Ramble at the Ryman, Levon Helm

Reggae Album: Revelation Pt. 1: The Root of Life, Stephen Marley

New Age Album: What’s It All About, Pat Metheny

Children’s Album: All About Bullies… Big and Small, various artists

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical: Paul Epworth

Remixed Recording, Non-Classical: Cinema (Skrillex remix), Sonny Moore

Gospel Song: Hello Fear, Kirk Franklin

Gospel/Contemporary Christian Performance: Jesus, L’Andria Johnson

Gospel Album: Hello Fear, Kirk Franklin

Choral Performance: Light & Gold, Eric Whitacre

Classical Contemporary Composition: Elmer Gantry, Robert Aldridge & Herschel Garfein

Producer of the Year, Classical: Judith Sherman

Orchestral Performance: Brahms: Symphony No. 4, Gustavo Dudamel

Opera Recording: Adams: Doctor Atomic, Alan Gilbert, conductor

Spoken Word Album: If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t), Betty White

Comedy Album: Hilarious, Louis CK

Compilation Soundtrack Album For Visual Media: Boardwalk Empire, various artists

Score Soundtrack Album For Visual Media: The King’s Speech, Alexandre Desplat

Song Written For Visual Media: I See the Light, Alan Menken & Glenn Slater

Historical Album: Band on the Run (Paul McCartney Archive Collection – Deluxe Edition), Paul McCartney

Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists: Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me), Jorge Calandrelli

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