Adele's Grammy Performance: A Reminder of the Scary Power of an Honest, Gorgeous Song
Adele performing "Rolling in the Deep" at the 2012 Grammy Awards.
Every once in a while, you come across a performance that reaches into your body, grabs your soul with two hands, and shakes you back into full awareness of the seriously insane power of music.
There will be plenty of things to remember about this year's Grammys, including Adele making off with seemingly all of them. But in terms of rewarding artistry, these industry awards are just one level above total bullshit. Complaining about who got them or didn't get them is fun, although useless. But despite the arbitrariness and artifice, the Grammys pageant occasionally manages to honor -- or air -- a performance that exhibits the mysterious, almost scary sway that music at its best has.
Yesterday, Adele took a relatively unadorned stage in the same black dress she wore all night, and sang her record-breaking hit, the now-universal "Rolling in the Deep," as well as it could possibly be sung. Her voice worked at an elemental level, wielding every drop of anguish and broken hope than the lyrics, which are addressed to the other partner in a failed relationship, relate. She seemed to be singing for everyone, belting a tumult of human loss and regret out to the world with a grace that felt, above all, superhuman. The singer's composure never wavered, but I know many watching felt stirred to their core.
Of course, Adele is not superhuman. When the song finished, you could see in her eyes a mix of exhaustion -- not only from the physical act of singing, but from braving the song's emotional storm once again -- and gratitude. The applause went on and on.
And so, on a night of pomp and artifice, Adele shook the world with the simple strength of an honest song. The medium is much abused and debased, but when used right, music has a frightening power. It's worth taking a pause to appreciate when someone like Adele reminds us of that.