Adele’s huge night at the Grammys included a tribute to the late George Michael. Her somber performance of “Fastlove” stopped suddenly and was restarted after Adele apologized: “I’m sorry, I can’t mess this up for him.” As it turns out, the George Michael tribute segment almost looked very different. Plans were in place for Adele, Beyoncé, Rihanna, and host James Corden to perform a mash-up of some of Michael’s hits (including “Freedom” and “One More Try”), Grammy executive producer Ken Ehrlich told Billboard. The idea, pitched by Michael’s manager Michael Lippman, was scrapped when it became clear “how passionate Adele was,” Ehrlich said. “She had a vision for what she wanted to do with it.”
In the lead-up to the performance, Adele reportedly worked with Michael’s lawyers on the tribute’s visuals. Backstage at the Grammys, Adele explained that while Michael’s family initially didn’t want an award show tribute, “they came back and were very specific that it be me.” She also discussed her love for Michael:
“I found him to be one of the truest icons, because a lot of the time, with people who are at that globally known and famous, there tends to be… not a fakeness in a bad way, but they put on this massive bravado and alter-ego to protect themselves. And he was very British. No matter where his career or love life took him, he always remained true to Britain and they gave him a hard fucking time a lot of the time, but he still stayed loyal until the very end. ... I relate to that—no matter how much I try to escape Britain sometimes, my roots are there. I took great comfort in him—and the bigger my career got, in trying to remain myself. It was an honor to do it tonight.”
It’s interesting that Adele almost performed alongside Beyoncé. During her Record of the Year and Album of the Year acceptance speeches, she heaped glowing praise on Beyoncé and said that Lemonade should have won Album of the Year. Beyoncé was responsible for one of the night’s most memorable performances. Rihanna did not perform, nor did she win any Grammys.
If Ehrlich’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he’s the Grammy producer Frank Ocean slammed in a recent Tumblr post.
For more of Pitchfork’s coverage of this year’s Grammy Awards, click here. Read “Adele Macklemored Beyoncé and 7 Other Grammy Takeaways” and our list of George Michael’s 10 Best Covers on the Pitch.