Any way you cut it, Sunday night's Grammys were huge for Adele, the Foo Fighters and Kanye West. All three artists came away with an armload of golden gramophones at a ceremony that artfully managed to celebrate the vibrancy of contemporary music while finding just the right way to pay tribute to fallen diva Whitney Houston.
Adele swept the night's major categories, taking Song, Record and Album of the Year on the way to putting a check beside all six of her nominations, with the Foos just behind with five wins and an absent Kanye nabbing four. But who really stole the spotlight at the show and who managed to win without nabbing any hardware?
Let's take a look at the true winners and losers at the ceremony.
Winner: LL Cool J
Not only did Uncle L get some serious prime-time exposure and represent for hip-hop on music's biggest night, but he opened the show with a thoughtful, perfectly measured prayer for Houston that set the tone for the entire evening.
Winner: Jennifer Hudson
Note to any singer thinking about tackling "I Will Always Love You"
ever again: Don't bother. Hudson's spine-tingling, perfectly pitched tribute to Whitney was a show-stopping cover of the trickiest, biggest song in the late singer's repertoire that nearly stole the night. It was made all the more dramatic by the feeling that avowed superfan Hudson was legitimately on the verge of tears throughout the performance.
Loser: Nicki Minaj
Though it had plenty of energy, Nicki's confusing, all-over-the-place "Exorcist"-meets-sexy-gothic/horror religious allegory was Grammy night's most polarizing performance. Parts of "Roman's Holiday" felt ripped right from the Madonna and Lady Gaga handbook of outrage — fitting, since Gaga's former right-hand woman/choreographer, Laurieann Gibson, was Nicki's collaborator — but some hip-hop purists felt she was reaching for the pop brass ring too hard.
Loser: Anyone who thought they were going to win a major award As if there had been any question going into the night who would take the three biggies, it became clear, despite some tough competition from Best New Artist Bon Iver, Bruno Mars, the Foo Fighters, Gaga and Kanye, that this would be Adele's night.
See above. Her comeback performance and well-deserved win were a shot in the arm to the recording industry and a win for the Academy for recognizing new talent.
Winner: Foo Fighters
The nice-guy Grammy-bait band had a big night and two high-energy performances that cemented their status as their generation's most consistent, hard-working rock act. Plus, they pulled off that mashup with deadmau5 while totally keeping their dignity intact.
As if the millions of rave-happy kids across the planet needed the validation, Sunday night was the global coming-out party for the electronic dance music genre. Skrillex nabbed three awards, and the tribute segment featuring deadmau5 and David Guetta was one of the night's most unexpected surprises.
Loser: Lady Gaga
Used to being the center of attention, Gaga kept her seat all night as she tried to look comfortable in a netted mask, metallic outfit and oversized golden cane.
Winner: Chris Brown
Making his return to the show three years after he scratched following his assault on then-girlfriend Rihanna, Brown commanded the stage with an acrobatic performance. More importantly, while accepting the Best R&B Album award for F.A.M.E., he kept it brief and thanked the two constituencies that paved his road to redemption: his fans and the Recording Academy.