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Grammys 2016: Why did Adele sound so awful?

The direction was gorgeous, but the singer's voice fell flat.

Emily St. James was a senior correspondent for Vox, covering American identities. Before she joined Vox in 2014, she was the first TV editor of the A.V. Club.

Adele's voice can channel many different sides of the singer. The heartbreaker. The sultry soul songstress. The chanteuse.

But at the 2016 Grammys, her voice sounded like it rarely does: mortal.

Her performance of "All I Ask," from her most recent album, 25, was flat throughout. At one point, her voice even gave out in a guttural gasp. She recovered nicely on the next phrase, but the damage was already done.

The explanation seemed simple: The singer was let down by the evening's poor sound quality, best exemplified by the moment early in her performance when her microphone simply dropped out. As a solution, she tried to blast her way past it, and that's rarely a good idea, even for singers with a voice as amazing and impeccable as hers.

Occasionally someone gets away with it, but Adele simply over-sang the conditions in Los Angeles's cavernous Staples Center. By performance's end, it was easy to tell she was deeply frustrated with what was supposed to be a triumphant return to the stage where she won seven Grammys in 2012, for her album 21.

However, one thing about the performance was absolutely gorgeous — the images.

Adele at the Grammys.
Adele looks almost like a ghost.

Lit from behind by a massive light, Adele appeared in a ghostly silhouette filmed from a distance, and when the camera cut to a close-up, the light seemed to create a halo around her, her golden curls picking it up and accentuating it.

It was exactly the kind of haunting visual the song deserved. Too bad the program's sound wasn't up to the task.

Adele at the Grammys CBS

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