The Grammy producers every year tout some of their most anticipated performances as “Grammy Moments” – but some of this year’s most memorable moments weren’t planned at all.
It was Adele’s night to shine, and her sweep of the top Grammy categories – best song, record and album – even surprised the singer, who was embarrassed enough by her good fortune (and Beyonce’s loss) to accidentally break one of her trophies at the end of the night. Adele opened the show with a dramatic rendering of her smash hit “Hello,” earning a standing ovation, which perhaps foretold the single’s success later in the evening.
But Adele’s George Michael tribute will probably be the best remembered moment from the 59th Grammy Awards. As Adele launched into a slow version of George Michael’s 1996 hit “Fastlove,” it was clear something was off – she was a bit flat, and perhaps an octave too low. She stopped the song and yelled, “I f*cked this up!” She then apologized to producer Ken Ehrlich for swearing – and launched into a proper version. It saved the performance. What was conceived as a bit of a downer (why not celebrate George Michael’s life with something more upbeat?) turned into a triumph, ironically, because of that mistake. By the time she was done, Adele was in tears – and had some of the audience misty-eyed as well.
Another unscripted moment happened earlier in the evening when Twenty One Pilots won the Grammy for best pop duo and took the stage sans pants. “This story starts in Columbus, Ohio, and it was a few years ago,” the duo’s Tyler Joseph began, explaining how he and bandmate Josh Dun once watched the Grammys in their skivvies — and made a promise that they would take the stage in their underwear if they ever actually won the award.
Host James Corden had fun with that moment shortly afterward, taking to the stage without his pants as well. Corden, who replaced LL Cool J as Grammy host this year, was the right amount of emcee – he came in with some quick jokes and bits, but didn’t overstay his welcome or overshadow the artists’ performances. His “Carpool Karaoke” bit was brief, a segment with his parents (who sat with Nick Jonas and Heidi Klum) was cute, and he even quietly played a cameo as a longhaired member of DNCE. Corden also got a touch political, making fun of “fake news” by showcasing mean tweets targeting him.
But the real champion of the political resistance this year went to A Tribe Called Quest and Katy Perry, both of who used the opportunity to mix music with a message. Both broke down walls — and both implored the audience to “resist.”
The weakest moments of the night may have been the tributes – besides Adele honoring George Michael with a low-key take on one of his songs, Bruno Mars’ Prince moment was too short – just one song, and dominated by a bit too much of The Time. (Did “Jungle Love” really honor the Purple one? Why didn’t we see Bruno and Morris Day perform Prince classics together?) But if Mars was going to perform one song, “Let’s Go Crazy” was the proper choice. It was actually the second triumph of the night for Bruno Mars, who also got the crowd on its feet for “That’s What I Like.”
Ultimately, Adele was the victor, but Mars may have been the night’s MVP, as his guitar lick on “Let’s Go Crazy” would have made Prince proud.
Above, check out a gallery of highlights from this year’s Grammys, held Sunday night at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.