Adele isn’t the only one who scored big at the Grammy Awards Sunday night. While the British chanteuse won in all six categories in which she was eligible, ratings for the 54th-annual extravaganza delivered a stunning 39.9 million viewers. That’s the second-largest Grammy audience ever, next to 1984, when Michael Jackson swept the awards telecast, attracting 43.8 million viewers.
Despite a three-and-a-half hour show that was light on actually handing out awards and loaded with performances by such upper-demographic acts as Bruce Springsteen, the Beach Boys and Paul McCartney, the Grammys delivered a 14.1 primetime rating among adults 18-49, a 41% increase from last year.
Of course, many tuned in to ease the collective anguish from the death a day before of Whitney Houston. During the ceremony, Jennifer Hudson offered an emotive tribute performance of Houston’s iconic “I Will Always Love You,” while host LL Cool J opened the show with a prayer and Houston montage. Equally captivating was Adele’s potential sweep; the 23-year-old artist had both the No. 1 album of 2011 with 21 and single, “Rolling in the Deep.” Her performance Sunday was the first since enduring vocal-cord surgery last November.
Adele’s six-trophy win tied the singer with Beyonce’s 2010 record for most Grammys won by a female artist in one night; and Eric Clapton’s 1993 record for most by a British artist in one night. Adele also became the youngest artist to sweep the big three—Album, Record and Song of the Year—a feat that trumps former record-holders Paul Simon, Carole King and Christopher Cross, who were all 29 when they achieved the record. *