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Grammys 2012: Adele, Nicki Minaj, and other highs and lows

Posted by Mawuse Ziegbe  February 13, 2012 01:37 PM

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Obviously there were a bunch of actual winners at the 54th annualGrammy Awards and dozens of artists have shiny, new gramophone-shaped statuettes to prove it. However, between bold, superstar-affirming appearances and misguided performance concepts, the night as a whole was a big triumph - and a major fail - for only a select few. Check out the highs and lows of this year's show.



Months after getting her vocal chords fixed up at Massachusetts General Hospital, the songstress slayed the crowd with a straightforward version of "Rolling in the Deep" that proved her vocal might was intact. Oh, and she swept all of her categories, rolling home with six awards, including Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Album of the Year.

Jennifer Hudson

The songstress inadvertently stole the show with her tear-jerking tribute to the late Whitney Houston. Belting an abbreviated but still stunning version of Houston's signature show-stopper, "I Will Always Love You," Hudson gave her musical idol a powerful tribute, elegant in its simplicity, that got the audience on its feet and reminded fans of the scope of the loss.

Foo Fighters

The Foo Fighters not only raked in the Grammy gold, taking home five awards, but they also took the stage three times throughout the night, rocking twice from the outdoor, Grammy cage thing where all the dance music artists performed, and helping to close the show with a rock-god, riff-packed finale alongside Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, and Bob Seger. Frontman Dave Grohl even gave us a little controversy when he was cut off by that "wrap it up" awards show music after he suggested that actually playing instruments - versus, say, pressing a button marked "Auto-Tune" in a tricked-out studio - is what music is all about.

Glen Campbell

Actually, both the Recording Academy and country great Glen Campbell won by letting the singer, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, perform on the big stage. Teaming with newbies the Band Perry and hitmaker Blake Shelton, Campbell was able to engage in a tribute that honored his legacy and allowed him to do what he loves. It was a beautiful moment that demonstrates the ethos of Bruce Springsteen's show-opening song and the RIAA president Neil Portnow's mid-show speech: "We Take Care of Our Own."


Nicki Minaj

The hip-hop starlet's performance checked off all the "We don't get it" boxes. The elaborate exorcism-themed performance, which she alluded to when she arrived on the red carpet with a fellow dressed as a clergyman, came off as overproduced. After Minaj "confessed" (screamed at, really) to the priest on stage, the screen cut to a way-too-long video of Minaj as her possessed alter ego Roman Zolanski, looking like she's about to chomp into a tube of lipstick. When the camera returned to the stage, Minaj debuted her new song "Roman's Holiday," rapping in restraints on the cathedral-themed set above dancers backing it up monk robes. Three minutes later, after a choir sang "O Come All Ye Faithful" and Minaj was hoisted into the air after her pretend mental breakdown, most of the audience just seemed thankful to have survived ... whatever that was.

Foster the People

These California lads have carved out a buzzed-about career with their plucky, sunny love songs, so having the trio contribute to a Beach Boys tribute makes a ton of sense. However, that logic goes out the window when the seemingly nervous lead singer has the stiff, bug-eyed stage presence of one of those animatronic children on the "It's a Small World" ride at Disneyland.

Katy Perry

Another pop starlet who bites the "What was that?" dust. Like Minaj, Perry clearly wanted to break the mold with a game-changing performance, so she kicked things off with a decoy pop star lip-syncing to her hit "E.T." The real poptress then appeared in a giant, clear box with frizzy blue hair and some shiny latex getup that recalled a superhero who has been forced into stripping. Also like Minaj, she debuted a new song, "Part of Me," sprinting back and forth across the stage beneath sculptures of beefy male specimens as flames shot through the air. The fiery revenge track appears to rip apart her soon-to-be-ex husband, Russell Brand, but the performance made Perry look like the nut job former flame.

See more Grammy highlights here

Read more from the Boston Globe: "Big wins, big loss"

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Sarah Rodman is a staff music critic for the Boston Globe.

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Jonathan Perry is the Globe's Scene & Heard columnist, covering local music.

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