Sunday's Grammy Awards highlighted something that's often buried by laser lights and crazy hairstyles.
In the aftermath of Whitney Houston's death, the show fit a complex set of emotions into a single melody. There were no elaborate costumes, no flashing backdrops, no dramatic backup dancers -- just a voice (Jennifer Hudson) and a song ("I Will Always Love You").
At its best moments, the ceremony reminded us of music's ability to speak to a listener's soul without visual enhancements. Adele, the night's top winner, performed without gimmicks and used the word "snot" in an acceptance speech.
So yes, Sunday's ceremony had moments of poignant simplicity. And then there was this:
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Even amid the night's somber tone, we saw the usual eclectic assortment of red carpet fashions. Among the most memorable styles? Nicki Minaj showed up in a red getup accompanied by a pope. We assumed she was dressed up as a cardinal. No, not the bird.
Here's a full recap of the ceremony.
8 p.m. - The show kicks off with a performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. They perform “We Take Care Of Our Own."
8:05 - Host LL Cool J takes the stage. "How do we speak to this time, to this day?" he says. "There is no way around this...we've had a death in our family." He starts the show with a prayer, noting that the world was "blessed to have been touched by (Whitney Houston's) beautiful spirit."
We see a clip of Whitney performing "I Will Always Love You" at the Grammys. Such a great voice. LL Cool J says, "The power of music is what brings us all here." He highlights some of the night's noteworthy attendees.
8:11 - Bruno Mars performs "Runaway Baby." I love the sparkly, retro feel of the performance. He mentions Whitney Houston during the performance.
8:20 - Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt sing "A Sunday Kind of Love" to honor Etta James. Beautiful performance. They also honor Whitney Houston while introducing the song.
8:23 - Best Pop Solo Performance goes to Adele for "Someone Like You." She gets a standing ovation. Short acceptance speech.
8:25 - Chris Brown performs "Turn Up the Music" and "Beautiful People." There's some serious lip-syncing happening right now. Given Chris Brown's past, this performance generated a serious discussion in our living room: If someone is truly sorry, asks for forgiveness and repents...do you forgive him/her and move on?" Discuss. NOW.
8:35 - Best Rap Performance goes to "Otis" by Jay-Z and Kanye West. They aren't at the ceremony.
8:37 - Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson perform "Don't You Wanna Stay." I know this song is getting a bit old...but I still think they sound great.
8:46 - Did we really need to see Jack Black?
8:47 - Foo Fighters perform "Walk" outside the Staples Center.
8:56 - I love how Blake and Miranda got stuck sitting next to Lady Gaga.
8:57 - Rihanna takes the stage and sings "We Found Love." She changed up the melody a bit but the song keeps its dance feel. Man, I am loving Rihanna's look tonight...leather shorts and all. Rihanna gives Whitney Houston a shout-out during her performance. After that, Rihanna joins Coldplay for "Princess of China." Then, Coldplay performs "Paradise." I loved this portion of the show.
9:11 - Willie Nelson covers a Coldplay song during a Chipotle commercial with a pretty deep message...I think it beat all the Super Bowl ads combined
9:12 - Best Rock Performance goes to Foo Fighters for "Walk."
9:16 - Beach Boys time! Maroon 5 starts things off with "Surfer Girl." Then, the musicians from Foster the People sing "Wouldn't It Be Nice." And finally...the Beach Boys sing "Good Vibrations." Suddenly, I'm wishing this was part of a "Full House" episode. Come on, you know which one I'm talking about.
9:31 - Stevie Wonder is in the house! He gives a Whitney shout-out and introduces a performance by Paul McCartney.
9:33 - Paul McCartney sings "My Valentine."
9:37 - Best R&B Album goes to Chris Brown for "F.A.M.E." He's noticeably nervous on stage and gives a Team Breezy shout-out. Very short acceptance speech. Props to the Grammy producers for not zooming in on Rihanna right now.
9:38 - The Civil Wars sing briefly before introducing a performance by Taylor Swift.
9:40 - Taylor Swift sings "Mean." The performance has a very barn-inspired feel. I'm seeing lots of "Grapes to Wrath" references on Twitter. Valid.
9:50 - Song of the Year goes to "Rolling in the Deep." Well-deserved.
9:54 - Katy Perry performs. She starts with "E.T.," then goes into a new song, "Part of Me." It's very much a female empowerment anthem. "Part of Me" = "Take That, Russell Brand." Katy sports a weird metallic getup and blue hair. There is fire in the background. Bottom line? This is one of those songs that I will pretend to hate publicly, but later listen to while jogging on the treadmill. Deal with it.
9:57 - Best Country Album goes to Lady Antebellum for "Own the Night." Kind of a shock, huh? Especially since Taylor Swift and Blake Shelton were nominated, too.
10:05 - Gwyneth Paltrow introduces a performance by Adele. No, Gwen is not singing tonight.
10:06 - Adele performs "Rolling in the Deep." AWESOME. AWESOME. AWESOME. I love how there are no cheap gimmicks involved...just a great voice. Really amazing. Standing ovation.
10:16 - Glen Campbell tribute! I love this guy. The Band Perry kicks things off with "Gentle on My Mind." Blake Shelton sings "Southern Nights." Wow, Blake looks especially dreamy tonight. And...here's Glen Campbell!! He sings "Rhinestone Cowboy." Of course. I really want to be at this dance party right now. Standing ovation...well, except for two random audience members who are sitting, playing with their phones. Seriously?!?
10:31 - Carrie Underwood and Tony Bennett duet on "It Had to be You."
10:33 - Best New Artist is Bon Iver. This guy is so awkward and I love him.
10:39 - "In Memoriam" montage
10:43 - Whitney Houston tribute. Jennifer Hudson sings "I Will Always Love You." Beautiful...perfect way to honor a legendary voice. Flawless.
10:53 - Time for the dance music extravaganza, also known as a time to watch performers we've already seen tonight. Did we really need more performances from Foo Fighters and Chris Brown? Yawn.
11:05 - Nicki Minaj performs "Roman's Holiday." She continues the religious theme she showcased on the red carpet and starts the performance in confession. Then, we get some pre-taped footage of an exorcism. Then, the exorcism continues on stage. Then, monks and a priest enter the stage amid "O Come, All Ye Faithful." Then, Nicki Minaj is levitating. No, I could not have explained that better.
11:10 - Record of the Year goes to Adele's "Rolling in the Deep."
11:18 - This show was supposed to end at 11 p.m.
11:19 - Album of the Year goes to Adele's "21." Well-deserved. Adele cries on stage, talks about bad relationships and even points out her own snot. I love this girl.
11:23 - We end the show with another performance by Paul McCartney. He closes the show with "Golden Slumbers" and "The End." I was going to complain about the fact that Paul McCartney performed a second time, but this somehow seems like the perfect way to end the show. Well done.
11:30 - We're done! What did you think?