Remembering the Record-Breaking 2012 Grammy Awards

Grammys 2012 Adele
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Award show ratings have been on the decline for years now, with one former network president telling the Los Angeles Times last April that the televised award-fests “have got a patina like a candlestick that is 100 years old, and all the polish in the world is not going to bring it back.”

But one gleaming exception is the 2012 Grammy Awards, which still ranks as the second most-watched Grammys broadcast ever, with 39 million viewers, second only to the 1984 show. In fact, no other Grammy broadcast has even passed the 30-million mark since the ’80s.

Now, as we hit the 10-year anniversary of that ceremony—which aired on CBS on February 12, 2012—we’re looking back on what made the 54th Annual Grammy Awards so memorable.

Remembering Whitney

Grammys 2012 Whitney Houston Jennifer Hudson

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Whitney Houston died the day before the 2012 Grammys, and her legacy loomed large over the ceremony. LL Cool J—the first Grammys host in seven years—opened the show with a prayer for Houston. Alicia Keys and Rihanna gave the singer known as “The Voice” shout-outs during their performances. And, perhaps most heartbreakingly, Jennifer Hudson battled through tears in a performance of “I Will Always Love You.”

Tributes to Musical Legends

Grammys 2012 Band Perry Glen Campbell Blake Shelton

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Whitney wasn’t the only music superstar who got an on-stage tribute at the 2012 Grammys. Keys joined blues singer Bonnie Raitt to perform “A Sunday Kind of Love” in a tribute to Etta James, who had died that January. Maroon 5 and Foster the People sang a medley of Beach Boys songs, alongside the Boys themselves, in honor of the surf-rock band’s 50th anniversary. And—as seen above—Blake Shelton and The Band Perry joined Glen Campbell on the Grammys stage to perform three of the country singer’s biggest hits, the homage coming months after Campbell revealed his Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Adele’s Supremacy

With the success and acclaim of her album 21, Adele won all six of the categories in which she was nominated, tying Beyoncé’s record for most Grammys won by a female artist in one night. The Brit also became the first artist in more than three decades to win the “Big Four” categories: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist.

Better yet, Adele performed her hit “Rolling in the Deep” at the ceremony, making a comeback in her first performance since undergoing throat surgery months prior. And the singer, who was pregnant with son Angelo at the time, was wearing a custom Giorgio Armani dress that she would later call her most iconic style moment.

Kanye’s No-Show

Kanye West, the most-nominated artist of the 2012 Grammys, skipped the ceremony—perhaps because his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was shut out of the Album of the Year category, despite rave reviews from critics. West ended up winning four awards that night, but he still called out Recording Academy voters that December, telling fans not to expect him to attend the next Grammys ceremony either. He finally returned to the Grammys in person in 2015.