2012 Grammy Overview: Adele Sweeps, Foo Fighters Rock, Nicki Minaj Mesmerizes and Everything Else

Adele dominates an action-packed 2012 Grammy Awards show.

By , Contributor

Adele/Billboard Magazine

Last night's Grammys could easily have been another dud. With the sudden death of R&B/pop icon Whitney Houston less than 24 hours prior to the broadcast, there was bound to be a somber pallor cast over the entire production. One can only imagine the producers' mad scramble to put something meaningful together on short notice without distracting from the overall celebratory feel. From my perspective, they did a great job.

JHud's Whitney Houston Tribute

Jennifer Hudson's rendition of Houston's signature "I Will Always Love You" was perfection. Hudson delivered a haunting, reverent, goosebump-inducing performance that conveyed the mix of emotions felt both in the Grammy hall and around the world. Jennifer Hudson hit the right note while paying tribute to the late, great Whitney. Hudson's performance was everything Christina Aguilera's shameful, self-aggrandizing, masturbatory Etta James tribute was not: classy and sublime. And there were zero suspicious fluid emissions.

While Whitney Houston's death at age 48 was tragic, it was perhaps one a long time in the making. The show's producers successfully addressed the situation without letting it overshadow the show.

Adele's Comeback

The big news of the night was British singer Adele's triumphant return to the stage after undergoing throat surgery only weeks before, which forced her to cancel her tour, disappointing both Adele and her legion of fans.

The blonde beauty's performance of her massive hit "Rolling In The Deep" was undoubtedly powerful, but there was still a hint of reservation in the verses, which reminded the audience that this is a world class performer who's still in the midst of recovery. However, when she hit the chorus, she let loose and found her flow. Punctuated with a Grammy sweep of six awards (including the top three: Best Record, Best Song, Best Album) it was clearly Adele's night, and, frankly, she deserved it. Grammy voters sent out a major statement to the music community: focus on your craft, not gimmicks.

Sidenote: Lady Gaga went home empty-handed and seemed less than thrilled about it. Oh snap!

Chris Brown Can't Sing and Dance

Chris Brown was the elephant in last night's room. Just a scant three years ago, both he and then-girlfriend Rihanna missed the Grammys after a massive bloody blowout the night before the show. The aftermath has been chronicled ad nauseum. Images of a battered and bruised Rihanna were inescapable and Brown, the abuser, has had a black cloud hanging over him since. Despite passing his court-ordered community service and anger management classes with flying colors, Brown has yet to dodge his reputation as an abusive boyfriend. And boy oh boy, has he tried to re-emerge as a new, wiser, less-volatile person. Sadly, the results have been mixed.

Brown's performance on the other hand was awe-inspiring, that is if the goal was to show what a great dancer he is, and he is FABULOUS. However, the Grammy Awards is about musical performances, and Chris lip-synced the hell out of the two songs he performed. First up: "Turn Up the Music." Brown sang the first verse, and it was a bit pitchy, dawg, but the rest of the performance was a showcase of his amazing body-contorting gesticulations. He's a great performer, but is he a great singer?

Chris had another opportunity later with a multi-artist medley featuring Brown, David Guetta and Lil' Wayne, Foo Fighters and Deadmau5. It was an adrenaline-fueled highlight of the evening, but again, Brown's lip-syncing throughout was a bit off-putting. Brown did end up taking a Grammy home for Best R&B Album, so clearly someone's forgiven him.

Nicki Minaj Mesmerizes

After the show, the local news talking heads couldn't seem to wrap their minds around singer/speed-rapper extraordinaire Nicki Minaj, suggesting she was the low point of the 2012 Grammys. I have to disagree completely. While I will confess I don't entirely "get" Nicki Minaj, and sometimes her schtick borders on the ridiculous, I recognize her talent.

Minaj reminds me of a mocha version of Lady Gaga, and like her vanilla counterpart, she has a tendency to distract from her talent with outrageous outfits and media misfires. In their pursuit to be perceived as uniquely creative, they both have managed to take the focus away from their talents and put it on their personae, which at times fails to resonate.

However, last night was not a failure, but rather something altogether different. Minaj unveiled her alter ego, Roman Zolankski, in an inspired performance where The Exorcist met Madonna's "Like a Prayer." While religious-themed performance art may not be entirely unique, her performance certainly was. Minaj is as much a theatrical performer as she is a musician. Her stage presence was striking, even if she managed to offend several religious bodies in the process.

Speaking of bookends, all I have to say about Rihanna from last night's Grammys is that she has somehow descended into a beanpole version of Christina Aguilera, all pomp and circumstance with very little class. I don't know what happened to Rihanna, but these days she reminds me of something you'd find stuck to the bottom of a dive bar's bathroom floor: sticky, smelly, and covered in unmentionable substances. Where's the Purell? Yuck!

Beach Boys and Glen Campbell Tribute

Last night's show also featured two participatory tributes. First the Beach Boys, whose remaining members reunited on stage for the first time in two decades to perform a medley of some of their finest hits. Joining them to lend vocal assistance (these guys are pretty old now) were Foster the People and Maroon 5. Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine did a tremendous job on "Surfer Girl," and Foster's Mark Foster channeled Carl Wilson on "Wouldn't It Be Nice." Both singers and their bands did an amazing job harmonizing with Brian Wilson, Al Jardine, Mike Love, and near-original member Bruce Johnston. The Beach Boys themselves took center stage to end it with "Good Vibrations," and the entire performance was pretty spectacular.

The second tribute was tinged with a bit of sadness, as it featured an Alzheimer's-stricken Glen Campbell, who announced he was retiring from music due to his diagnosis. The Band Perry and Blake Shelton prepped the crowd with covers of Glen's hits "Gentle on My Mind," and "Southern Nights." The rhinestone cowboy himself took the stage to perform "Rhinestone Cowboy," of course, and while a tad wobbly, he delivered a genial and relaxed version of his most well-known hit. I was a bit misty-eyed, I must admit.

And In The End

Host LL Cool J, both glib and energetic, said goodnight to the crowd, but not goodbye as he introduced one final performance, and man, what a performance it was.

Paul McCartney, who had earlier performed "Valentine," started off beautifully with the Abbey Road medley "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End," and was joined on stage for a star-studded blazing guitar battle between Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, Joe Walsh, Paul's touring guitar/bass players Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray, and the Beatle himself.

Watch a less than high quality version of the final minutes.

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I have written and covered celebrity, entertainment and popular culture for over ten years. I also created celebrity web-site Glosslip.com as part of the Blogcritics.org network. When both sites were purchased in 2008 by Technorati.com, she joined their editorial team as Entertainment Editor and then…

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