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"I can't mess this up for him": Adele restarts her Grammys tribute to George Michael

Adele refused to sour George Michael's memory with a mediocre Grammys tribute.

The 59th GRAMMY Awards - Roaming Show Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS
Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

Last year, Adele’s live Grammys performance was notoriously derailed by technical difficulties and the challenge of singing live in a sound-rich environment.

When a similar fate threatened her this year, however, she wasn’t having it — because the technical difficulties came during her tribute to the late George Michael.

Adele restarts her tribute to George Michael at the 2017 Grammy Awards due to technical problems.

“I can’t mess this up for him,” Adele blurted about a minute into the tribute, a slow rendition of Michael’s song “Fastlove.” Adele’s attempt to reimagine the tune as an Adele-ish torch ballad was waylaid by sound problems similar to the ones the singer experienced at the 2016 Grammys, when she encountered a glitchy sound feed, a faulty microphone, and audibly out-of-tune piano keys.

But the chanteuse clearly wasn’t about to let disaster befall her in the middle of an emotional tribute to the British pop legend. As Michael’s image filled the screen behind her, she went further and further off-key until she finally aborted the performance and demanded to restart the number.

“I can’t do it again like last year,” she said, apologizing profusely and repeatedly to the audience for restarting the number — and for swearing briefly in a moment censored by CBS. Though Adele seemed shaken, the audience was supportive, and after she started over, she turned the cover into a gorgeously moving rendition of one of Michael’s most revealing songs.

Adele’s restarted performance of George Michael’s “Fastlove” earned massive applause at the Grammys.

The crowd responded with a lengthy ovation. Some people in the audience cried. Adele cried. You cried.

Grammys host James Corden had prefaced Adele’s tribute by noting that Michael had “an incredible ability to make you feel that whatever you were feeling, you weren’t alone.” Adele’s determination to do justice to Michael’s artistry was a reminder of just how much Michael’s death late last year has impacted us all.

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