For a night that was billed as a coin flip between two superstars — Beyoncé and Adele — it was Adele who took home the top honors, winning Album of the Year for 25 and Song and Record of the Year for “Hello” at the 2017 Grammy Awards. In total, the British singer won five Grammys on the night — adding Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Solo Performance — as she repeated her feat from 2012, when 21 and its single “Rolling in the Deep” swept the top three honors as well.
Beyoncé began the night as the most-nominated artist of 2017 with nine across four genres, but ultimately wound up with two wins on the night: Best Music Video for “Formation” and Best Urban Contemporary Album for Lemonade, giving her 22 Grammys in total throughout her career. But she shined brightly in her meaningful performance of “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles,” both from Lemonade, in a display that seemed dedicated to the concepts of motherhood (she was introduced by her own mother, Tina Knowles), rebirth and healing — and doubled as her first public appearance since announcing earlier this year that she’s pregnant with twins.
Outside the two icons battling it out for the highest honors, Chance the Rapper nabbed an early win for Best New Artist and delivered a joyful penultimate performance of “How Great” and “All We Got” that bookended a huge night for the Chicago MC, which also included wins for Best Rap Album for Coloring Book and Best Rap Performance for “No Problem” feat. Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz. David Bowie also picked up five awards — surprisingly, his first music-related Grammys ever — while Bruno Mars earned a deserved ovation for channeling Prince during a fantastic tribute performance of “Let’s Go Crazy.” (Who knew Bruno Mars could shred on the guitar?)
But it’s Adele who will dominate the headlines after becoming the first artist ever to run the table with the top three awards in the same year two different times. She opened the show with an emotional and powerful performance of “Hello,” and later was tapped to helm a tribute to George Michael with a performance of his song “Fastlove.” But after a rocky, seemingly off-key start she abruptly stopped the song after about 30 seconds. “I f–ked up, I can’t do it again like last year,” she said nervously, in reference to the tech issues that plagued her performance of “All I Ask” at last year’s Grammys — then she apologized again for swearing on live TV before re-starting the song, adding, “I can’t mess this up for him.” The end result was better and earned her a standing ovation from a forgiving Grammys crowd, even as she stood on stage clearly upset with herself over the situation.
In one early memorable moment, Twenty One Pilots won Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Stressed Out” — and took off their pants to accept their award in their underwear. By way of explanation, front man Tyler Joseph told a fairly touching story about the two of them watching the Grammys years ago with friends in their underwear and making a pact to accept a Grammy without pants if they ever got the opportunity. (Never stop dreaming, kids.) Not to be outdone, Grammys host James Corden — taking over after five years of LL Cool J — then introduced Ed Sheeran without pants, as well.
With 17 performances that pushed the show’s run time to just shy of four hours, several individual acts stood out, with a particularly good night for soaring vocalists — The Weeknd flexed his silky falsetto for “I Feel It Coming” alongside the twin robots of Daft Punk; Maren Morris and Alicia Keys both stunned with a powerful (and glittery) rendition of Morris’ song “Once”; and Demi Lovato (“Stayin’ Alive”), Tori Kelly (“Tragedy”), Little Big Town (“How Deep Is Your Love”) and Andra Day (“Night Fever”) honored the Bee Gees, joining forces to collectively reprise “Stayin’ Alive” at its conclusion. Ed Sheeran built “Shape of You” from the ground up by himself using a looping machine, delivering a stripped-down rendition of his latest hit, while Sturgill Simpson, fronting the late Sharon Jones‘ backing band The Dap Kings, delivered a standout performance of “All Around You” that was made vital by the band’s ambitious horn section. (Lady Gaga‘s performance with Metallica, a curiosity before the show, was undermined by front man James Hetfield’s microphone not functioning during the song.)
In some sort of combination of promotion for his show Carpool Karaoke and his own spin on Ellen Degeneres’ famous Oscars selfie from a few years ago, Corden went into the audience to lead a rendition of Neil Diamond‘s “Sweet Caroline” along with Diamond himself, Jennifer Lopez, John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill and even little Blue Ivy Carter, who wandered over to join the fun. That prefaced Bruno Mars’ first slot — Corden called him “one of the greatest live performers in the world,” which is tough to argue — in which he played a glitzy version of “That’s What I Like” with an excellent, extended breakdown.
The highly-anticipated Prince tribute was tackled with vigor by Morris Day and The Time, referencing the film Purple Rain by performing “Jungle Love” — complete with a quick check of a mirror, as made famous in the film — and “The Bird” before Mars, decked out in the same purple regalia from the movie, let loose with “Let’s Go Crazy.” It was a fitting honor for one of the most individually talented icons of his generation.
And though it was relatively subdued compared to other recent awards shows, there were several noticeably political flash points throughout the show as well. A Tribe Called Quest, after dedicating their set to the late Phife Dawg, brought out Busta Rhymes and Consequence for the politically-charged “We the People” — Busta sarcastically thanked “President Agent Orange” — that sent a powerful message and closed with Q-Tip shouting, “RESIST!” Katy Perry ran through her new single, “Chained to the Rhythm,” on a stage setup that almost looked like a Snapchat filter come to life, and delivered a performance that built in intensity as it went along, peaking with Skip Marley’s verse and backup dancers taking apart a white picket fence (symbolism, anyone?) to reveal a backdrop of the U.S. Constitution. And Recording Academy president Neil Portnow called out Trump and Congress specifically, urging them to protect music education.
By the time Adele was called on stage to accept the final two awards, Record of the Year and then Album of the Year, her record-breaking night was in the history books. She has not lost a Grammy she has been nominated for since 2010 and has earned 15 so far in her career, including all of the big four categories (she won Best New Artist in 2009). In her teary acceptance speech for Album of the Year, she spent much of it thanking Beyoncé and describing Lemonade as “monumental” and deserving of the prize. But with her victories, Adele is entering monumental territory in her own way.