Adele swept the 59th annual Grammy Awards with her album “25,” an enormous hit around the world, in a night that shut out Beyoncé from the major awards and also featured reverent tributes and, at times, pointed political commentary.
The night had been seen as a contest between Adele and Beyoncé, two superdivas who were up against each other in all major categories.
There was also concern in the music industry that just such an outcome — with a white woman defeating a black woman in all top awards — would feed a brewing resentment that the Grammys too often fail to recognize minority artists in the top categories.
Adele herself seemed uncomfortable with the turn of events, at first tearfully saying that she could not accept album of the year (although she did accept it).
“My album of the year was ‘Lemonade,’ so a piece of me did die inside, as a Beyoncé fan,” Adele said in the media room afterward.
In her speech for record of the year, Adele told Beyoncé, “I adore you and I want you to be my mommy.”
Her comment was a reference to Beyoncé’s performance, which along with Adele’s showed two sides of divahood. Beyoncé appeared as a goddess of femininity, while Adele endeared herself to the crowd with her humanity, flaws included. Both stole the show.
Adele opened the show singing her hit “Hello,” in a performance that was somewhat shaky at first but still showed her power as a vocalist. Later, in a tribute to George Michael, she started to sing his song “Fastlove” but stopped it abruptly, cursing into the microphone and apologizing that she needed to start over to get it right. (CBS bleeped the profanity.) After finishing, she teared up as the celebrities in the front row applauded her in support.
Then there was Beyoncé, who offered a jaw-dropping, multimedia homage to motherhood in a segment that stunned the celebrities in attendance and immediately set social media on fire. After an affectionate introduction by her own mother, Tina Knowles, Beyoncé appeared as a crowned fertility goddess with her pregnant belly highlighted for the camera; at one point, her 5-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy, ran around her.
Surrounded by dancers, and with projected images of herself in saffron robes, Beyoncé performed the songs “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles” from her album “Lemonade.” When she accepted the award minutes later for best urban contemporary album, Beyoncé read a prepared statement that sounded like a manifesto.
Explaining her ambitions for “Lemonade,” an album and film, she said, “It is important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty,” so they will “have no doubt that they are beautiful, intelligent and capable.”
She added, “This is something I want for every child of every race.”
Beyoncé, who had been nominated for nine awards this year, more than any other artist, in the end won only two: best urban contemporary album for “Lemonade” and a music video prize for the song “Formation.”