Before the 59th Annual Grammy Awards reached their poorly timed off-pitch crescendo – as Adele snapped her only-for-show Album of the Year award in half to figuratively feed Beyoncé scraps from the table – the lovely London lass attempted to pay tribute to the recently and dearly departed George Michael.
Michael, the sultry and soulful R&B singer-songwriter, who attained superstardom with Wham! before embarking on an acclaimed solo career, was only discovered dead in his bed last Christmas. Adele opted to pay her respects with a rendition of ‘Fastlove’, the hit single from Michael’s third album Older. Alas just like last year, when ‘All I Ask’ was briefly beset by technical difficulties, Adele’s performance became most rudely interrupted.
After reciting the first lines of the song and reaching so far as the chorus, Adele stopped, and amid curse words pleaded:
‘I know it’s live TV – I’m sorry. I can’t do it again like last year. I’m sorry for swearing and I’m sorry for starting again. Can we please start it again? I’m sorry, I can’t mess this up for him. I’m sorry, I can’t.’
What eloquence, what grace, what an impeccable display of showmanship! If only every artist had the knack for handily flubbing their lines so as to beguile and enchant the audience with their hard-won earnestness! In the spirit of generosity which came to define this awards ceremony, Adele was allowed to start over.
But did it get any better? As a tempered ode to gratuitous sex ‘Fastlove’ was a super slick dance track, but Adele had turned it into an orchestral dirge, all slowed down and mournful. Suitably funereal perhaps, yet it hardly brought out the song’s better qualities.
Some critics opined that the performance, although couched in darkness, shone a spotlight to uncover Michael’s more confessional tendencies, as in the lyrics ‘In the absence of security / I made my way into the night’. But Michael was not writing in code and the song in its original was a perfect blend of form and content. This take on ‘Fastlove’ surely had George Michael fans reaching for the tissues, if only for precisely all of the wrong reasons.