Adele's sweep was a foregone conclusion. In the past year, the singer achieved a rare combination of blockbuster sales, critical acclaim and industry support. But that doesn't mean the 54th annual Grammy Awards didn't have its share of surprises.
Chris Brown took Best R&B Album for F.A.M.E. It was Brown's first Grammy, and it came just three years after Brown's heavily publicized assault of his then-girlfriend Rihanna on the eve of the 2009 Grammys. The album was a solid hit, especially with Brown's core R&B fans, but it's still remarkable how Brown has gotten his career back on track so quickly. Fans (and Grammy voters, too) are forgiving. No boos were heard when he performed or when he won. In his acceptance speech, Brown thanked the Grammys for letting him back on the show, though he didn't reference the incident with Rihanna.
Alternative star Bon Iver somewhat surprisingly beat rapper Nicki Minaj and the country trio The Band Perry for Best New Artist. This is the second year in a row that a red-hot rapper has been turned back in the New Artist category. Last year, Drake was bested by Esperanza Spalding. Grammy voters tend to steer clear of rap in the leading categories. After three decades, just two hip-hop artists have won Best New Artist: Arrested Development and Lauryn Hill.
Bon Iver's Bon Iver also beat Radiohead's The King Of Limbs and Foster The People's Torches for Best Alternative Music Album. Radiohead had won three times in that category, making this at least a minor upset.
Foo Fighters won five Grammys, including Best Rock Album for Wasting Light and Best Long Form Music Video for Foo Fighters: Back And Forth. Foo Fighters is only the third rock band to win five Grammys in one night. The Dave Grohl-led band follows Santana (which won eight awards in 2000) and U2 (five awards in 2006). Butch Vig produced Wasting Light, which the band recorded in Grohl's garage. The album marked a reunion between Grohl and Vig, who co-produced Nirvana's landmark 1991 album Nevermind.
Kanye West won four Grammys, including Best Rap Album for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This brings West's career tally of Grammys to 18, which is more than any other rapper in Grammy history. He and Jay-Z won Best Rap Performance for "Otis," which contained a sample of Otis Redding's 1966 hit "Try A Little Tenderness." West also won Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "All Of The Lights," his collabo with Rihanna, Kid Cudi and Fergie.
Paul Epworth, who worked on Adele's album, also won four Grammys, including Producer of the Year (Non-Classical).
Jordan Strauss/WireImage Hot DJ Skrillex (real name: Sonny Moore) won three Grammys: Best Dance/Electronica Album for the hit EP, Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites, Best Dance Recording for the title track and Best Remixed Recording (Non-Classical) for remixing Benny Benassi's "Cinema."
Lady Antebellum's Own The Night won for Best Country Album, beating a pair of powerhouse albums, Taylor Swift's Speak Now and Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party. This is the second year in a row that Lady A has won in this category.
Alison Krauss & Union Station's Paper Airplane was voted Best Bluegrass Album. This brings Krauss' Grammy collection to a staggering 27, which puts her in a tie with Quincy Jones for the lead among non-classical artists.
Other artists who moved up the list of all-time top Grammy winners include Pat Metheny (from 18 to 19), Chick Corea (from 16 to 18), Kanye West (from 14 to 17), Tony Bennett (from 14 to 16), Paul McCartney (from 14 to 15), Jay-Z (from 13 to 14), Foo Fighters (from six to 11) and Alan Menken (from 10 to 11).
John Shearer/WireImage Tony Bennett, 85, won Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Duets II. It's Bennett's record-extending 11th win in that category. Bennett's duet with Amy Winehouse, "Body And Soul" (which was Winehouse's last recording before she died in July), won for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. It had been locked in a tough race with another collabo, "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera. Given Bennett's Grammy track record, and sympathy for the fallen Winehouse, this can't really be called a surprise, but it's noteworthy that a tune that stalled at #87 on the Hot 100 beat a song that spent four weeks at #1. Grammy officials often say sales aren't the barometer. They could point to this as Exhibit A.
All four judges from NBC's The Voice were Grammy nominees this year. Only Cee Lo Green walked away with an award. Green shared Grammys for Best R&B Song and Best Traditional R&B Performance, both for "Fool For You."
Taylor Swift also won two Grammys: Best Country Song and Best Country Solo Performance for "Mean," which she reportedly wrote in response to a mean-spirited blog account of a sub-par TV performance.
The Civil Wars won Best Folk Album for Barton Hallow and Best Country Duo/Group Performance for the title track. Jazz man Chick Corea and gospel great Kirk Franklin also won two awards.
Betty White won her first Grammy to go along with her five Emmys and countless other awards. If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won't) was voted Best Spoken Word Album. (White, 90, isn't the oldest Grammy winner. Blues musician Pinetop Perkins was 97 when he won his second Grammy. Comedian George Burns was 95 when he won his first.)
Boardwalk Empire: Volume 1 was voted Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media. This marks the first time that the soundtrack to a TV series has won this award. The album beat Tangled, though a song from that hit movie ("I See The Light") won as Best Song Written For Visual Media.
Deluxe reissues of three classic rock albums from the 1970s won Grammys this year. Paul McCartney won Best Historical Album for producing a deluxe edition of Wings' 1973 album Band On The Run. The "Super Deluxe Edition" of Derek and the Dominos' 1970 classic Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs won as Best Surround Sound Album. The Promise: The Darkness On The Edge Of Town Story, about the making of Bruce Springsteen's classic 1978 album, won as Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package (an art director's award).
Adele also won Best Pop Vocal Album for 21. Adele is the third female artist from the U.K. to win in that category in the past five years. She follows Duffy and the late Amy Winehouse. Adele won two Grammys, including Best New Artist, three years ago.
Judith Sherman won as Producer of the Year, Classical for the third time. Sherman is the first woman to win three times in this category. Joanna Nickrenz has won twice. Elaine L. Martone has one once. (No woman has ever won for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical.)
Neil Portnow, President and CEO of the Recording Academy, said in the pre-telecast portion of the awards that there were 775 individual nominees spread across 78 categories this year. (I'll take his word for it on the former count!) So even though the academy did some serious cutting this year (from 109 categories last year), there are still a lot of contenders.