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Adele Sweeps Top Grammys as Houston Death Mutes Awards Show

Singer Adele accepts the Best Pop Solo Performance Award for 'Someone Like You' from Bonnie Raitt onstage at the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards held at Staples Center on February 12, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. Photograph: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Adele won six Grammy awards, sweeping the major categories of song, record and album of the year, on a night the music industry mourned the loss of singer Whitney Houston.

Adele’s “21” was named album of the year, and “Rolling in the Deep” won song and record of the year at the 54th Grammy Awards, telecast by CBS Corp. last night from Los Angeles. Foo Fighters won five awards including best rock album, and Kanye West took home four including best rap album for “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.”

Houston’s death at 48 on Feb. 11 in Beverly Hills, California, sent a shock through the music industry and muted the celebratory nature of the year’s biggest awards show. Artists honored her from the stage, and Jennifer Hudson performed a simple tribute with “I Will Always Love You” on a stage darkened except for a soft spotlight.

“We have had a death in our family,” host LL Cool J said at the program’s outset. “The only thing that feels right is to begin with a prayer, for a woman who we loved, for our fallen sister, Whitney Houston.”

Adele, the British singer-songwriter whose last name is Adkins, tied Beyonce’s record for most Grammy wins in one night by a female artist, according to the Recording Academy website. She also won best pop vocal album for “21,” and was honored with best pop solo performance for “Someone Like You.” The artist records for XL Recordings, which is distributed by Sony Corp.’s Columbia Records.

“This record is really inspired by what just about everyone has gone through,” Adele said after “21” was named album of the year. “A rubbish relationship.”

Vocal Cords

On the show, Adele sang “Rolling in the Deep,” her first performance since undergoing vocal cord surgery last year. She credited her co-writer, producer Paul Epworth, saying, “he brought me out of my skin to write this record.”

“I’m getting real emotional,” Adele said. “I should thank my doctors, since they did bring my voice back.”

Last night’s telecast attracted 39.9 million U.S. TV viewers, the second-most ever for the show and an increase of 50 percent from last year, according to updated Nielsen data released by CBS. The largest Grammy audience of 51.7 million was recorded in 1984, when Michael Jackson captured many of the top honors for the album “Thriller.”

Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band opened the show with the single “We Take Care of Our Own,” from the album “Wrecking Ball,” scheduled to go on sale March 6 in the U.S.

Beach Boys

The surviving Beach Boys, reunited for a 50th anniversary tour, played “Good Vibrations.” Two other Southern California bands, Maroon 5 and Foster the People, played “Surfer Girl” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice.” Paul McCartney played “My Valentine” from his new album, “Kisses on the Bottom.”

Hudson’s tribute to Houston came near the end of the three-hour show. Houston, who made “I Will Always Love You” famous playing the role of a pop diva in “The Bodyguard,” earned three 1993 Grammys for the movie soundtrack, including album of the year.

Houston’s first Grammy came for her 1985 vocal performance of “Saving All My Love for You.” She won the same award for 1987’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me).” She received a Grammy for best female R&B vocal performance for 1999’s “It’s Not Right But It’s Okay.”

Houston won six Grammys in a career slowed by drugs and alcohol. She was found unresponsive Feb. 11 in her room at the Beverly Hilton hotel, where she was planning to attend the annual pre-Grammys party held by Clive Davis, the Arista Records founder.

Album Sales

Sales of her albums have soared with her death. “Whitney - - The Greatest Hits” was the top album at Apple Inc.’s iTunes online store. Two others were in the top 10.

Chris Brown’s “F.A.M.E.” was named best R&B album. Lady Antebellum’s “Own the Night” won best country album. Bon Iver was named best new artist.

In addition to West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” distributed by Vivendi SA’s Universal Music Group, he and Jay-Z won the best rap performance Grammy for “Otis” from “Watch the Throne.”

West, a previous winner of 14 Grammys, also won the best rap song and best rap/sung collaboration for “All of The Lights.”

As West dominated rap, Foo Fighters, who are signed to Sony’s RCA record label, swept major rock categories. “Wasting Light” was named best rock album, and the band, formed by former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, took best rock song and best rock performance for “Walk,” and best hard rock/metal performance for “White Limo.”

L.A. Philharmonic

The Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel, won for best orchestral performance for its recording of Brahms’s 4th symphony. “Adams: Doctor Atomic” by the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus was chosen as best opera recording.

The Recording Academy lowered the number of awards this year to 78 from 109 a year ago.

Albums and tracks by Grammy winners and performers often spike after the telecast. The day after last year’s show, nine of the 10 best-selling albums on iTunes were from artists who had won or performed. Last year’s show drew the most viewers since 2001, according to data from Nielsen.

Adele has already had an impact on record sales. U.S. music sales rose 6.9 percent last year as consumer purchases of albums increased for the first time since 2004, according to Nielsen and Billboard magazine. Sales of digital albums climbed 20 percent, fueled by demand for “21,” the year’s best-selling album with 5.8 million copies sold in all formats.

Record of the year recognizes a track’s artists, engineers and producers, while song of the year credits songwriters.

Recording artists who released albums between Oct. 1, 2010, and Sept. 30, 2011, were eligible.

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