Adele on Sunday triumphed once again at the Grammys with five awards for her latest blockbuster album of ballads, but she paid glowing tribute to her rival Beyonce, calling her an idol.
The English balladeer swept up the top prizes of the night at the music industry’s biggest night—Album, Record and Song of the Year. Beyonce walked away with two trophies. And in a sentimental homage to late rock icon David Bowie, his final album Blackstar earned five awards, including four posthumous prizes for the singer.
Adele, who has stood by her winning style of heart-wrenching ballads, became the first act ever to sweep the three key categories in two different years. She won Record of the Year, which recognizes overall song, and Song of the Year, which looks at songwriting, for her ubiquitous hit “Hello” and Album of the Year for 25.
Adele made a similar sweep in 2012 with her last album 21—which remains the only album to have outsold 25 in the past decade.
Fighting back tears, Adele took the podium and paid tribute to Beyonce, who had led the night’s nominations with nine for her politically edgy Lemonade. “My idol is Queen Bey and I adore you. You move my soul every day,” Adele said as she looked at Beyonce, who was making her first public appearance since announcing she was pregnant with twins.
It was a happy ending to a night that included a major embarrassment as Adele—using an expletive that was cut from the television broadcast—insisted on starting over her tribute to late pop icon George Michael. It was the second straight year of hiccups for Adele after a microphone fell on the piano during her Grammy performance a year ago.
Shortly afterward on Sunday, Metallica frontman James Hetfield discovered that his microphone was off as the band played with Lady Gaga—who transformed into a metal head, dancing ferociously before stage-diving.
Beyonce won only for Best Urban Contemporary Album for Lemonade and Best Music Video for “Formation.” The video marked the most political statement of Beyonce’s career as she rallied behind the Black Lives Matter movement with imagery of police officers surrendering as if under arrest.
Reflecting her increasingly experimental side, Beyonce’s Grammy performance was a New Age-inspired celebration of motherhood. She showed her exposed belly underneath a bra on a projection on stage—before the real-life 35-year-old singer took the stage with a golden crown and cape.
With hints of India and ancient Egypt, Beyonce sang two new songs as dozens of female dancers surrounded her with flowers and a spoken word incantation lauded the power of women.
Accepting one of her awards, Beyonce said Lemonade and the accompanying film were meant “to create a body of work that will give a voice to our pain, our struggles, our darkness and our history—to confront issues that make us uncomfortable.”
“It’s important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror—first through their own families, as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House and the Grammys—and see themselves,” Beyonce said, in one of the night’s more subtle political comments.
The evening saw its most forceful statement as rapper Busta Rhymes took the stage with hip-hop pioneers A Tribe Called Quest and emerging artist Anderson Paak. Denouncing U.S. President Donald Trump for his efforts to curtail immigration, Busta Rhymes mocked “President Agent Orange” and shouted, “We come together! We the people!” as performers knocked through a wall.
Paris Jackson, the 18-year-old daughter of King of Pop Michael Jackson, voiced hope when she saw the enthusiastic crowd in the Staples Center in Los Angeles—the scene eight years earlier of her father’s memorial service. “We can really use this kind of excitement at a pipeline protest, guys,” she said to cheers.
Blackstar—the final album of Bowie, who always enjoyed more recognition in his native Britain—won in all five categories for which it was nominated, including Best Rock Song and Best Alternative Music Album. Bowie had won only one Grammy in his lifetime before Sunday.
And Blackstar, which he released two days before his death last year from an undisclosed battle with cancer, was controversially passed over for Album of the Year honors.
Bowie showed himself innovative to the end by collaborating with the avant-garde jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin. While not predicting how Bowie would have felt, McCaslin told reporters: “When the press was hearing the album before it came out, I could see it meant a lot to him.”
Chance the Rapper, 23, picked up three prizes including the closely watched Best New Artist award for his gospel-infused hip-hop. The Chicago artist benefited from updated rules that now consider streaming exclusives.
Bruno Mars electrified the crowd with a tribute to Prince, uncannily channeling the late pop icon by donning a purple jacket and playing a guitar solo to “Let’s Go Crazy.” The performance marked a new commercial effort by the estate of Prince—who famously rejected music industry conventions—with his classic albums on Sunday returning to major streaming sites.
Winners in key categories
Album of the year: Adele, 25
Record of the year (for best overall song): Adele, “Hello”
Song of the year (for songwriting): Adele and Greg Kurstin, “Hello”
Best Pop Vocal Album: Adele, 25
Best Pop Solo Performance: Adele, “Hello”
Best New Artist: Chance the Rapper
Best Rap Album: Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book
Best Rap Performance: Chance the Rapper featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, “No Problem”
Best Rap Song: Drake, “Hotline Bling”
Best Rock Album: Cage the Elephant, Tell Me I’m Pretty
Best Rock Song: David Bowie, Blackstar
Best Rock Performance: David Bowie, Blackstar
Best Alternative Rock Album: David Bowie, Blackstar
Best Urban Contemporary Album: Beyonce, Lemonade
Best Music Video: Beyonce, “Formation”
Best Country Album: Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth