Coming quick on the heels of the untimely death of iconic pop singer and film star Whitney Houston was last night's subdued and largely somber 2012 Grammy Awards telecast which had a definite focus on three soulful leading ladies in particular: Whitney, Jennifer Hudson and Adele, the latter being the night's across-the-board big winner. Begun on the completely wrong foot with an awkward and inappropriate religious tribute to Houston by charismatic but ineffectual host LL Cool J, the rest of the Grammy show managed to have sporadic moments of entertainment - the best and brightest being Bruno Mars, Foo Fighters, Tony Bennett & Carrie Underwood, as well as the button-pushing performance by rap/pop notable Nicki Minaj and some polished country stars. Pushing boundaries with an exorcism-themed theatrical spectacular, complete with a Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim sample from WEST SIDE STORY in the form of "I Feel Pretty", surely Nicki Minaj made many fans - and more than a few enemies, no doubt - with her expressive and eccentric production number, "Roman Holiday" - complete with priests, fire pits, confessional booths and levitations! The Grammys definitely had many lows and a few memorable highs beyond Minaj's exorcism, though, for the night was a veritable wake for Houston and a celebration of her musical legacy. The highlight of the night was Oscar-winning DREAMGIRLS star Jennifer Hudson giving Ms. Houston a truly tasteful and respectful tribute to mark the occasion.
Rolling In The Deep
Perhaps the most unforgettable instant in a night with few surprises and populated by a number of older performers who have seen far, far better days onstage was Jennifer Hudson's impassioned and distinguished "I Will Always Love You" at the end of the In Memoriam segment, with the final line changed to honor the unseen leading lady of the evening, Ms. Houston. The impact of Whitney Houston on the music industry is immeasurable and last night's Grammy telecast and those that were awarded and celebrated have mighty big shoes to fill in her passing. What will this generation of music stars bring to the table? The vocals were strained in more instances than not, yet Bruno Mars made "Runaway Baby" from his multi-nominated smash hit DOO WOPS & HOOLIGANS a runaway audience-pleaser, as did Bonnie Raitt, Foo Fighters, the aforementioned Nicki Minaj, and, of course, Tony Bennett & Carrie Underwood's spirited throwback duet. Unfortunately, The Beach Boys reunited and Sir Paul McCartney showed their age more than their experience, but Bruce Springsteen and Glen Campbell brought commitment that came off quite a bit better, while all displayed an unmistakable showmanship in their moments onstage, whatever the subsequent results. As far as Broadway fans are concerned, THE BOOK OF MORMAN took the prize for best cast recording, Tony Bennett won traditional pop vocal album and Alan Menken and Glenn Slater took top honors for their TANGLED film song score work.
Undoubtedly, the overall Grammy show was dominated by the leading ladies Adele, Hudson, and, of course, Houston, despite the very best efforts by the males concerned - none the least being Bruno Mars, Foo Fighters, David Guetta and controversial R&B category winner Chris Brown.
The unfortunate passing of Ms. Houston cast a distinct depressive pallor on the entire affair, but some moments exhibiting the transcendent power of music in times of sadness made the night worth watching, all in all.