Grammy Awards: Adele, Chance the Rapper, David Bowie Dominate on an Emotionally-Charged Night

Adele Grammys 2017
Matt Sayles/Invision/AP

Adele swept through another trifecta of top awards at the 59th Grammy Awards at Staples Center on Sunday, repeating her 2012 triumph in three of the four top categories and winning all five of her nominated slots.

The pop superstar’s third album “25,” her second consecutive release to sell more than 10 million copies, trumped Beyonce’s ambitious, widely praised “Lemonade” to collect the coveted album of the year trophy. 

Though Grammy voters showered awards on Adele’s “25,” one of the biggest-selling titles in recent years, the greatest indicator of the ongoing paradigm shift in the music business was Chance the Rapper’s win as best new artist. And even though he died 13 months ago, David Bowie cast a long shadow over the ceremony, with his final album, “Blackstar,” securing awards in five categories.

Meanwhile, two of the year’s major nominees came up empty at this year’s festivities: Both Kanye West and Rihanna, with eight nods apiece, failed to collect a single award.

Adele’s “Hello,” the No. 1 single from “25,” grabbed song of the year honors for Adele and her writing collaborator Greg Kurstin and record of the year for the singer, Kurstin and her engineering team. Kurstin also was acknowledged as non-classical producer of the year his work with Adele, Sia, Ellie Goulding and Tegan and Sara.

Adele’s repeat wins for song, record and album of the year makes her the first artist in Grammy history to sweep those three categories more than once. It was a roller-coaster night for the British singer, who dropped an f-bomb on stage and insisted that she restart her tribute performance for George Michael after experiencing technical issues. Her two other wins came earlier in day for pop solo performance, for “Hello,” and pop vocal album, for “25.”

Adele – who opened CBS’ televised ceremony with a strong performance of “Hello” – accepted her album of the year award with a salute to Beyonce, who walked away from the night with just two awards on nine nominations. Directly addressing “Queen Bey,” the tearful singer said, “The ‘Lemonade’ album was so monumental and so beautiful and so soul-baring. We f—— adore you.”

Backstage, Adele reinforced her allegiance to Beyonce and confessed her conflicted feelings about her wins. Beyonce is now 0-3 at the Grammys with her nominations for album of the year.

“A piece of my heart did die, as a Beyonce fan,” she said. “I rooted for her. I voted for her. … I thought it was her year. What the f— does she have to do to win album of the year?”

Beyonce, who is pregnant with twins, delivered the show-stopping performance of the night, however, with an elaborate presentation of “Love Drought” and “Sandcastle” that included holographic imagery and the surreal touches of her avant-garde “Lemonade” film. She was introduced by with fanfare by her mother, Tina Knowles.

Beyonce’s day began with an afternoon award for best music video, for “Formation.” Her only award of the evening show was “Lemonade’s” nod as best urban contemporary album.

The Grammys proved to be very much a family affair for the Knowles family: Beyonce’s younger sister Solange scored best R&B performance for “Cranes in the Sky,” a track from her album “A Seat at the Table.”

Chance the Rapper was also a clear audience favorite. The spiritually infused Chicago performer became the first artist in Grammy history to collect a major award without a single piece of physical product available. To date, the artist born Chancelor Bennett has released three full-length albums, solely as streams. Last year, his collection “Coloring Book” — also named as best rap album — rose to No. 8 on the national charts on the basis of streaming plays alone.

The 23-year-old musician — whose “No Problem,” a collaboration with Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, took the best rap performance trophy at the afternoon ceremony – dedicated his award in part to his violence-torn hometown, so frequently in President Donald Trump’s crosshairs in recent weeks. Late in the evening show, he performed a medley with gospel stars and fellow Grammy winners Kirk Franklin and Tamela Mann and a full choir.

Bowie’s legend was acknowledged with five posthumous awards, including all four of the categories in which he was nominated. “Blackstar,” released two days before his death in January 2016, was not nommed for album of the year, but it was recognized as best alternative album, and its title track was named best rock performance and best rock song.

The “Blackstar” album also received awards for best engineered non-classical album (given to a team that included Bowie) and best recording package (the striking black-on-black, die-cut LP design by designer Jonathan Barnbrook, the award’s official winner).

Bearing five trophies in his arms, Donny McCaslin, the saxophonist heard on “Blackstar,” said backstage, “I thought, speaking artistically, that he should have been nominated in one or more of the major categories.”

In the wake of a major toll on talent in 2016, the evening show was packed with tributes to artists lost during the past year. Most dramatically, Adele battled sound problems during her performance of Michael’s 1996 single “Fastlove.” She was in tears and visibly distraught by the time she finished on the second try.

A segment devoted to Prince by the reunited the Time and Bruno Mars made for a rousing salute to the Purple One. An extended “in memoriam” segment accompanied by a performance of “God Only Knows” by John Legend and Broadway star Cynthia Erivo tallied up other industry losses.

Late in the show, the members of a cappella group Pentatonix noted the passing earlier in the day of the jazz-inflected pop vocalist Al Jarreau. The seven-time Grammy winner was 76.

Drake’s hit “Hotline Bling” was honored as best rap/sung performance and (for the rapper and co-writer Paul Jefferies) best rap song. The Canadian-born artist, an eight-time nominee this year, had won just one Grammy coming into Sunday’s ceremony.

Though they didn’t win in their high-profile categories, a pair of emerging country singer-songwriters secured their first Grammys. Album of the year nominee Sturgill Simpson reaped the best country album award for his boundary-busting “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.” Fire-spitting singer Maren Morris, a best new artist nominee, took best country solo performance for her single “My Church.”

Another first-time winner, Ohio pop twosome Twenty One Pilots, got a rise out of the Staples audience by accepting their best pop duo/group performance for “Stressed Out” in their boxer briefs, after doffing their pants in the aisle.

For the second year in a row, Bob Dylan was acknowledged in the best historical album category, for “The Cutting Edge 1965-1966,” a comprehensive 18-CD compilation of his complete studio recordings from that period. Last year, “The Basement Tapes Complete,” his 1966-67 sessions with the Band, took the honors.

The Dylan sets’ co-producer Steve Berkowitz also shared in the award for “Miles Ahead,” Don Cheadle’s Miles Davis biopic, which spawned the best compilation soundtrack album; actor-director Cheadle, who portrayed the jazz trumpeter, was one of the three recipients in the category.

As ever, some veteran talents received belated recognition from the academy. William Bell, active since the 1960s, accepted his very first Grammy for the album “This is Where I Live,” which marked his return to the historic Stax label, where he enjoyed the first major hits of his career. Octogenarian soul blues performer Bobby Rush also caught the first Grammy of his 66-year career, for best traditional blues album (“Porcupine Meat”).

During the evening ceremony, it was announced that Keith Hancock, a choir instructor at Tesoro High School in Las Flores, Calif., was selected as the Recording Academy’s music educator of the year award.

Throughout the televised show, in what is fast becoming an awards show tradition, some of the assembled stars made subdued but uncomplimentary references to the nation’s newly installed president.

Host James Corden, who brought his “Carpool Karaoke” segment to the aisles at Staples Center, noted in his rapped opening monologue, “With President Trump, we don’t know what comes next.” In her presentation of the best new artist award, Jennifer Lopez said, “At this particular point in our history, we need our voices more than ever,” and went on to quote Nobel-winning novelist Toni Morrison.

Recording Academy prexy Neil Portnow took a dig at Trump by stating, “We are constantly reminded of the things that divide us…but what we need so desperately are more reminders of all that binds us together – our shared history, our common values, and our dedication to build for ourselves a more perfect union.” Portnow took his moment at the mic to press for a renewed commitment to the arts from the president and Congress.

The most explicit blast at the new chief executive took place during a superheated medley by rap unit A Tribe Called Quest and best new artist nominee Anderson .Paak, in which the group made reference to “President Agent Orange” and climaxed with calls to “resist!”