On stage to collect her best song Grammy, Adele thanks her producer Paul… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)
On an evening overshadowed by the shocking death of a singer who was once one of pop music’s most radiant young stars, the pop stratosphere’s latest bright light, 23-year-old British R&B-soul singer Adele, was showered Sunday night with six Grammy Awards for cathartic music she channeled out of her own pain and despair.
Adele delivered the biggest album of 2011 with “21,” her sophomore outing that explored various facets of a painful romantic breakup, and scored the year’s biggest single, “Rolling in the Deep.” She won in all six categories in which she was nominated, including the marquee triple crown of album, record and song for widely acclaimed songs that reach to the depths of heartache to find solace and hope.
But solace and hope ultimately eluded Whitney Houston, who died Saturday at age 48 on the eve of the Grammy show, after struggling for more than two decades with drug abuse and other issues. She died just hours before she had been scheduled to attend the annual pre-Grammy party hosted by Clive Davis, the veteran music executive who discovered and signed her to her first record contract nearly three decades ago, guiding her to superstardom with soaring hits including “I Will Always Love You,” “Saving All My Love for You” and “Greatest Love of All.”
Full Coverage: 54th annual Grammy Awards
The Houston and Adele stories also combined to steal some thunder from the Foo Fighters, the long-running alt-rock band that went five for six on the night, ceding only the album-of-the-year honor to Adele.
Host LL Cool J opened the show — after Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band played their latest single, “We Take Care of Our Own” — with a prayer for “our fallen sister,” saying it was appropriate to proceed with an award show because “the power of music is what brings us all here.”
“This is ridiculous,” the singer born Adele Laurie Blue Adkins said on accepting record of the year, and then broke into tears when “21” was announced as the album winner to cap the 3½-hour awards show.
PHOTOS: Grammy Awards red carpet
“This record is inspired by something everyone’s been through, which is a rubbish relationship,” she said. “It’s gone on to do things I can’t tell you…. It’s been a life-changing year.”
Earlier she had thanked the doctors who performed surgery on her damaged vocal cords, saying they “brought my boice back” after throat problems prompted her to cancel significant chunks of her 2011 tour.
Adele’s blockbuster success with music that reaches broadly across age, racial and stylistic differences made her an ideal candidate for multiple Grammys, handed out annually by the Recording Academy, the music industry organization whose membership includes musicians, producers, engineers, managers, record company officials and others.
PHOTOS: Grammy winners
Rapper Kanye West leads the nominations with seven and won four: rap song (“All of the Lights”), album (“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”), performance (with Jay-Z for “Otis”) and collaboration (with Rihanna). Presenting the rap performance Grammy, Marc Anthony said the hip-hop kingpins were not able to attend and, with co-presenter Fergie, accepted the statuette for them.
The Foo Fighters and Bruno Mars tied Adele at six nominations, with rapper Lil Wayne and electronica artist Skrillex right behind at five apiece. Skrillex landed a pair for dance recording and dance/electronica album, for the “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” track and album.
The Foo Fighters, who played their nominated song “Walk” outside Staples, learned they won four Grammys before the evening’s ceremony began, during the pre-show awards that cover about 90% of the winners. They took rock album, hard rock or metal performance for the track “White Limo,” rock song for “Walk” and long-form video for “Foo Fighters: Back and Forth” before adding a fifth with the rock song award for “Walk.”
PHOTOS: Quotes from the Grammys
“This is a special record for our band,” singer and lead guitarist Dave Grohl said. ”Rather than go to the best studio in Hollywood … we made this in my garage with a microphone and a tape machine…. This award shows the human element of making music is the most important thing. It’s not about being perfect or sounding absolutely correct. It’s about what goes on in here [gesturing to his chest], not what goes on in a computer.”