Adele’s rendition of “Hello” to open the 59th Grammys show was a little shaky at first, a case of performance nerves. But the fear combined with sadness and disgust as Adele heard from her seat at the Staples Center that she had won for Song of the Year was different. I know what Adele was feeling at that moment as the left corner of her mouth pulled wide in fear, and simultaneously downward in a display of sadness and disgust. On the other hand, I can’t say for sure what she was thinking.
But given how the Grammys imitate the Oscars in favoring one big annual winner, Adele may well have known what might follow. She might, and did, go on to be declared the winner for Record of the Year before capping off her triumph with Album of the Year.
Adele is far, far more a singer than a (fake) actress. She shows how she authentically feels. Bowing to a gracious Beyonce seated in the front row before her, Adele was, as everyone could witness, remarkably candid. Claiming “I can’t possibly accept” the Album of the Year award, Adele then called Beyonce’s more stunning Lemonade album “monumental.” I only wish the Recording Academy’s voters had felt so equally shaken in denying Beyonce the evening’s big prize.
After a history of 62 Grammy nominations and only one big win, she had to be feeling personal disappointment.
For her part, Beyonce went from a wince, to a concerned, worry wrinkle between her eyebrows upon experiencing Adele’s raw feelings, to a tear in her eyes by the end of Adele’s respectful speech. Those signs of sadness by Beyonce were completely and poignantly understandable. After a history of 62 Grammy nominations and only one big win, she had to be feeling personal disappointment. And in the bigger picture, Beyonce stayed in the realm of sadness rather than anger or disgust in knowing that the Recording Academy has in the past five years overlooked Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar and herself in awarding the top prize to a slew of white musical acts: Mumford & Sons, Daft Punk, Beck, Taylor Swift, and now Adele.
It became a real show-stopper within the staged show: a gracious Beyonce and a fervent, distraught Adele making more than just eye contact. A beautiful demonstration of empathy, mutual respect and support united the two women, even as the stage behind the British diva filled with songwriters and producers from Adele’s nearly all white, male team.