Grammys: Jennifer Hudson's Whitney Houston Tribute Tops the Show's 5 Best Moments

jennifer hudson grammysIn the aftermath of Whitney Houston’s death Saturday afternoon in her Beverly Hills hotel suite, I fully expected Grammy producers to open their 2012 award ceremony with a triubute to the fallen pop icon. Strangely enough, though, Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson’s sublime cover of Houston’s most iconic ballad, “I Will Always Love You,” didn’t happen until the 2:42 mark, casting a shadow of “Where’s the Whitney tribute?” over much of what preceded it. Nevertheless, the decidedly backloaded telecast had some memorable musical moments, and here’s our countdown of the Top 5 (neither of which include Chris Brown’s two dubious appearances) along with the list of major winners:

5 – tie) Bruno Mars performs “Runaway Baby” | “Get off your rich asses,” Bruno commanded the Grammy crowd during his wickedly energetic set. And while those fuddy-duddys didn’t really heed his call, I suspect there were plenty of viewers at home doing some enthusiastic couch dancing. And for that, we give thanks.

5 – tie) Taylor Swift performs “Mean” | Not sure about the set and costumes pilfered from a storage closet marked O Brother, Where Art Thou, but I don’t think Taylor’s ever sounded better live, and that little zinger toward the end — “some day I’ll be singin’ this at the Grammys/ and all you’re ever gonna be is mean” — was apt to the max.

4) The Civil Wars peform a snippet of “Barton Hollow” | “It’s not about what goes on in a computer, it’s about what goes on in here and here,” said Dave Grohl, pointing to his heart and his head,  while collecting the Foo Fighters’ statuette for Best Rock Performance. And no other act drove home that point better than the Civil Wars, who got 60 seconds to make a musical impression before introducing their pal Taylor Swift. Here’s hoping the awesome simplicity of their swampy good sound results in a huge sales surge come Monday morning.

3) Glen Campbell performs with The Band Perry and Blake Shelton | On a night featuring a sweet Beach Boys reunion (with Maroon 5 and Foster the People), and two performances by Sir Paul McCartney (I vastly preferred the second one), it was an homage to the country star — who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last year — that proved most musically satisfying. The Band Perry’s “Gentle on My Mind” was as welcome as a summer breeze, Shelton captured the wistful drawl of “Southern Nights,” and Cambell himself remained in incredibly fine voice on “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

2) Adele performs “Rolling in the Deep” What’s better than hearing Grammy’s Song of the Year and Record of the Year performed by a vocalist whose only “gimmicks” are astonishing soul and emotional depth? Not much! Bonus points for Adele’s cheeky “You could have had this all” with an accompanying “boy look at this body” hand gesture. The explosive reaction of the Grammy audience said it all.

1) Jennifer Hudson peforms “I Will Always Love You” | It was no small task to celebrate Houston’s colossal voice while simultaneously filling the emotional void created by the troubled diva’s passing at the age of 48. But with an awe-inspiring a capella intro and pitch perfection right to the very last note, a clearly emotional J.Hud did exactly that.


21221222396 by YardieGoals

Major Winners
Album of the Year, 21, Adele
Record of the Year 
“Rolling In The Deep,” Adele
Song of the Year 
“Rolling In the Deep,” Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth, songwriters (Adele)
Best Rock Album
 Wasting Light, Foo Fighters
Best Rap Album, 
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West
Best R&B Album, F.A.M.E. Chris Brown
Best Country Album, 
Own The Night, Lady Antebellum
Best Pop Vocal Album
 21, Adele
Best New Artist, Bon Iver

What did you think of the 2012 Grammys? What were your favorite moments? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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132 Comments
  1. ggny says:

    I get it Whitney died and you got to give her tribute #1 but Adele was way better then Jennifer Hudson

    • Taylor says:

      I disagree. Adele was amazing, and it was great to hear her again, but the emotional punch that Jennifer packed with her beautiful vocal put it over the top.

      • ggny says:

        really i was watching it thinking this is the best they could do for Whitney? I like Jennifer Hudson and i get they had 1 day but dam

        • Saint Alicia says:

          Sadly, I agree. At so last minute I don’t know who/how it could’ve been done better, but it just seems that Whitney deserved “more,” you know? :\

        • Jim says:

          I don’t think they meant to have people sing Whitney’s songs – too soon for covers. This was just a perfect way to tell Whitney we love her. It was tasteful and Jennifer was amazing. I’ve heard her sing the entire song with all the big notes but this was not the time for it. It was a simple good-bye.

        • Michael says:

          What would you have preferred, a too-soon posthumous grammy? The song was tastefully done, somber instead of over-the-top. It was a perfect tribute to the woman. There is plenty of time to “do it up” in tribute.

        • Amy says:

          What more did you want them to do Ggny? I’m a huge fan of Whitney, but it was the Grammy’s not a Whitney Houston tribute show.

    • Naomi D says:

      Adele was great, and I love her. BUT, Jennifer Hudson got the call last night asking her to sing. She did it with very little preparation and sang it beautifully, while being emotional and under lots of pressure. That demands respect. Adele, while great and under the pressure of coming back after surgery, had practice, was singing a song she has been singing for over a yr and didn’t have the shadow of a legend like Whitney having perfected it.

      • GMom says:

        I totally agree, Naomi and Taylor! She sang it beautifully, but you could tell that it was hard for her to do because she was so emotional. Awesome job!

      • Susan says:

        Very well said, Naomi. I agree that Adele sounded in fine form, she always does, but she’s had a long time to perfect her hit single. You only had to look at Jennifer Hudson to know the depth of emotion she in fact was restraining, simply because its too soon.I too felt like it was a perfect moment, not heavy-handed the way it could have been at such a huge over-the-top night of performances by others.

      • Velvet says:

        I thought Chaka Kahn was supposed to sing. I was hoping to hear her perform.

    • jake says:

      Man, ggny, can’t they both be great? Geez, you are really some piece of work. Jennifer Hudson had no prep and hit it out of the ballpark and adele swept the grammys and gave a great performance.

    • JudyVee says:

      Has anyone noticed that the montage of people who died this past year did NOT include Etta James? WHAT ABOUT ETTA JAMES?, I was yelling in my living room – had to go back and watch the whole thing twice to make sure I was right – I couldn’t be right, could I? But I was? she wasn’t there! Whitney, yes – but Etta, too!!!!!!!

      • Jess N says:

        I agree that she should have been there, but maybe they thought that they had properly remembered her by having Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt sing in memorium of her at the beginning of the show?

      • Susan says:

        In the first quarter of the show, Bonnie Raitt and Alicia Keys did a great cover of an Etta James song, I believe.I’m pretty sure its safe to say that Whitney Houston’s sudden and untimely death the day before overshadowed a lot of the planned performances on Grammy night.

        • Nicole says:

          There has been speculation that the Alicia Keys’ and Bonnie Raitt’s performance was supposed to be bigger and later in the show as a tribute to Etta James but since Whitney Houstson died the day before, it was cut in length and moved to earlier in the show to make room for a tribute to Whitney Houston.

      • Frankie says:

        Etta James wasn’t included in the ‘In Memorium’ segment and neither was Don Cornelius. I knew the grammys was gonna snub somebody. Yeah each of them were recognized oputside of the segment but they still could’ve added their pictures. They deserve it too.

        • Angela says:

          I noticed the lack of mention of Don Cornelius, but wow, I totally forgot that Etta wasn’t in the “In Memoriam” segment. Yeah. She should’ve been. I know they did a bit of a tribute to her from Alicia and Bonnie, but still, strange she wasn’t in there.

      • Goob says:

        Etta James was in last year’s In memoriam.

    • Skeet says:

      Adele deserved to be the story, not a possible overdose by another millionaire who wastes their life on drugs.
      Adele is and was #1

    • Tarc says:

      It was Adele for the win – despite her not being able to push as much as she normally does. Don’t get me wrong, Hudson was moving, but she was barely holding it together. It made it all the more moving (and I love her for it), but it wasn’t a superior vocal to Adele.

    • guest says:

      I agree, Adele’s voice is better. But Jennifer did a great job here.

  2. Stacie says:

    There is no other person that could have done a better job, in such a short time to honor Whitney Houston than Jennifer Hudson. You could see how incredibly emotional she was, but she hit those notes with as much power and emotion that was needed. Really no other moment of the night comes close to that one.

  3. Joy says:

    For me
    #1 Adele
    #2 JHud
    Everything else was crap…

    • God says:

      fcking FAIL, sir paul mccarntey was the best tonight

      • Tarc says:

        Goodness love him, and this songs were good, but McCartney isn’t going to be bringing down the house with his songs. He can still write like nobody’s business, though.

      • Devil says:

        You sir Sleazak are amiss because besides Jen’s tasteful tribute to Whitney,
        Sir Paul towered over every other “performance” that evening.
        Fail.

  4. NEMO says:

    ??? OOps? Taylor is very talented. But in NO WAY was her performance a Top-5 moment tonight. I’d put Carrie & Tony Bennett over that, and the grand finale with all that Rock Royalty even higher- THAT was a moment and great fun to see Springsteen, McCartney, Grohl, etc all on stage at once.

    • Nancy says:

      Couldn’t agree with you more, Nemo!!!
      (Except that I think Taylor Swift is overrated. The rest of what you said is right on!)

    • Guy says:

      I 100% agree. She is a brilliant song writer but her singing isn’t any good. Its weak and shallow.
      Overall it was a fantastic show and Adele is just amazing. Other highlights were the Whitney tribute and i loved Katy Perry but Paul McCartney and the opener was horrible if you ask me. 25s into the opening of the show i found myself muting it because i couldn’t stand the voices. They are wannabe has beens.

  5. Terry says:

    I love that talent won out over gimmicks. Adel’s Grammys were well deserved as was Bon Iver’s.

  6. matthew c says:

    um; where was Chaka Khan? she was WIDELY reported to be part of the tribute. what gives?

  7. Tanya says:

    Very excited for all of Adele’s wins. The woman proves that you can’t beat true talent. Also excited for Bon Iver win, although he was the best new artist a few years back when his first album came out…but I guess nice of Grammy’s to catch up.

  8. Micah says:

    To be fair, it’s best “moments”, not necessarily performances. By about any metric, Jennifer Hudson’s simple rendition of “I Will Always Love You” was the best moment of the night.

  9. Jran1017 says:

    Loved the Civil Wars! Glad they will be getting the recognition they deserve after tonight. I wish they had performed longer!

    • Elizabeth says:

      THIS! They’re AMAZING…could teach those auto tuners a thing or two.

    • khasterial says:

      I agree! I really wish we could have heard more of Barton Hallow last night. Not only did they sound amazing, but they actually had some personality with John Paul White’s comment about their ‘opening acts.’

    • Sg.Grant says:

      I had the show on in the background and looked at the tv and thought, “WTF is Johnny Depp doing at the Grammy’s with a guitar?”

  10. PFitz says:

    Agree completely on the musical numbers!

  11. ggny says:

    also the civil wars 60 seconds before Taylor was better then most of the performances

  12. KJ says:

    Adele wins six well-deserved Grammy’s, but Whitney Houston only won six Grammy’s in her lifetime? How did Whitney not win more than six over the years?

    • flutiefan says:

      i was stunned by that, as well.

    • love bug says:

      Stunning. THen again, back in the day, Whitney had legit competition. Adele, in comparison, has none. (I mean, Rihanna, Gaga, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars vs Adele? Seriously.)

    • Joseph says:

      Whitney had issues , drugs being the main one that hurt her ability to perform , but think it has more to do with her getting a ton of nominations and not winning due to so many other amazing artists putting out content.
      1986 – 3 Nominations and lost to Whitney Houston, Phil Collins and Aretha Franklin
      1987 – 1 Nomination and lost to Steve Winwood
      1988 – 3 Nominations and lost to Whitney Houston, U2, Aretha Franklin
      1989 – 1 Nomination and lost to Tracy Chapman
      1990 – 1 Nomination and lost to Soul II Soul
      1991 – 1 Nomination and lost to Mariah Carey
      1992 – 1 Nomination and lost to Bonnie Raitt
      1993 – 1 Nomination and lost to Chaka Khan
      1994 – 4 Nominations and 3 WINS , lost only 1 to Toni Braxton
      1997 – 4 Nominations , Lost to Celine Dion, Natalie Cole, Toni Braxton, Diane Warren
      1998 – 2 Nominations , lost to Erykah Badu in both R&B categories
      2000 – 4 Nominations , 1 Win , lost to TLC twice both in R&B and Santana in Vocal Collab once that year

    • Tarc says:

      Because the competition was way, WAY stiffer back then. She had to share with so many of the greats, including Michael Jackson, Janet, Madonna, Prince, McCartney (round three), Elton John (round two), etc.

  13. rob60990 says:

    Nicki Minaj’s performance was a big trainwreck!

    • Ruby says:

      It was absolutely embarrassing after the other great performances of the night. She tries SO HARD to be Gaga and fails miserably. Maybe now people will realize she has no real talent and she can finally go away.

    • JudyVee says:

      I’m not Catholic or even particularly religious, but did anybody else think this whole thing was pretty ghastly and hmmmm….. what’s the right word? Tasteless?

  14. Alex says:

    Not going to lie, I feel that tribute was a little short. But Jennifer was absolutely perfect and it didn’t really look like she could have gone through with the entire song. She did an amazing job with the little bit of time she had to honor Whitney.

  15. Michelle says:

    Was the Foo Fighters comment about real musical jab at the “performers” they took the stage with in the dance collaboration..?

    • Mark S says:

      I think he was referring to the people who use autotune rather than the club scene. He was definitely singing live while the guy I will now call “someone on acid watching Mickey” was doing his thing.

  16. flutiefan says:

    #1 ADELE
    the end.

  17. JOsh says:

    Jennifer Hudson was great but I think she proved she is definitely not Whitney Hudson…I think the woman made one hell of a mess of her life but damn, listening to her version of this song…you can’t deny that she was amazing

    • Nat says:

      Jennifer is no Whitney, but I heard her hit those notes before. But today, she wanted to make it emotional, heartfelt and not about a comparison to Whitney and she succeed. Job, well done Jennifer!!

  18. Roland says:

    Adele was amazing, she deserved all six Grammys … although I was hoping for Bon Iver getting one for Holocene (an amazing song).

  19. Daisyj says:

    I really hate that the Grammys do the west-coast-time-delay thing; I feel like I’m spending the whole show three hours behind the party. (Speaking of time delays, did that Rhianna performance just teleport in from 1989?) But I’m glad enough to know what to look forward to, and when to change the channel away from having to watch Chris Brown. (Westminster Dog Show, here I come!)

  20. Rolfe says:

    So happy that Adele got to expand her audience tonight. Brilliant!

  21. LoveBug says:

    Taylor Swift may have sounded better, but that isn’t saying much. She is still not a great live singer. And those costumes were ridiculous. Adele wore the same dress to perform in and accept her trophies in because people with raw talent don’t need gimmicks.
    The Guitar off at the end was so much fun in an otherwise slow and dragging show – and was definitely top five. Loved it…

    • Tarc says:

      Adelen arrived in a very classic solid black dress, and performed in a different dress (with the sheer top with dark polka dots). The first was very 50′s and the second, very 60′s.

  22. Tom says:

    It was an excellent show, I thought. Sure, there were a few clunkers, but overall I could hear the talent shine. I loved that there was a mix of current and old-school artists – it really felt like a celebration of music. And J. Hud… girl, we all know how hard it was for you to sing when the shock is still so fresh for all of us, but you were perfect. You made Whitney and her fans proud. It was simple, but it was resounding. And Adele’s triumphant return to the stage really topped it off. One of the best Grammys in recent memory. I wouldn’t have expected it, especially not after yesterday’s tragedy, but it was just a fantastic night. Bravo to all involved, and congratulations to the winners!

  23. Saint Alicia says:

    Fav performances: “Barton Hollow” snippet by the Civil Wars, “Sunday Kind of Love” collab by Alicia Keys and Bonnie Rait, “Don’t You Wanna Stay” by Jason Aldean ft. Kelly Clarkson, and “We Found Love”/”Paradise” performance by Rihanna and Coldplay.
    Unfortunately J. Hudson’s and Adele’s performances lacked “oomph” to me (though understandable considering the circumstances–recent terrible event, Adele’s illness).

  24. kelly says:

    #1 Adele

  25. Mandy says:

    My favorite moments were seeing Adele sing and win all of her well deserved Grammys, and Jennifer Hudson singing I Will Always Love You. She did an awesome job, especially considering how emotional it was and that she did it accapello.

  26. Leah says:

    So glad The Civil Wars made the list! But I agree the raw talent and power of Adele and Jennifer Hudson deserve 1 and 2. Also, did anyone enjoy Coldplay and NOT Rhianna. Her side of their duet felt like a trainwreck.

    • Angela says:

      Eh, it wasn’t too bad, I don’t think. I liked the idea of doing “Princess Of China” acoustically. But yes, Coldplay were definitely my favorite half of that whole thing.
      Can’t really argue with the list up above, too, of the top moments. The Bruno Mars song was excellent, I really liked that one. Adele was fantastic, and Jennifer’s performance brought a tear to my eye. They only had a short time, so I’m not too surprised there wasn’t a bigger tribute (and some artists did give shoutouts to her throughout the show, too, plus the “In Memoriam” segment, so there was that as well).
      I liked seeing Paul McCartney in the crowd dancing and singing along to “Rhinestone Cowboy”. That was fun.

  27. Lia says:

    About Taylor’s performance, that scenario is how “Mean” is sang at her concert.

  28. Liz says:

    of all the songs taylor could have chose to sing, she chose “mean” in my opinion she had so many better hits off that album to sing.

    • flutiefan says:

      um, it was the song that was nominated for (and won) Grammys. why would she sing something else?
      (i agree about better songs, but that was the one singled out by Grammy voters. it’s appropriate for her to perform it.)

  29. Kate says:

    Taylor was not good. Rihanna was terrible like always. Nicki was terrible. Paul was great. JHud was amazing. Brown did great, but I wasn’t feeling his second time. He didn’t make your list, so why even mention him? You did not mention all the others who did not make your list.

    • Tarc says:

      Let’s be fair – Rihanna’s hair was terrible, but she was actually in tune and did a good job (for a change). Chris Brown’s number was a trainwreck (though not even a fraction as much as Minaj); he was boring and the dancing/performance was incredibly sloppy and lazy.

  30. john says:

    Jennifer Hudson should be rank number one to me. She gave the borring show life. Her performance was just too short. I did not like Nikki M performance at all.

  31. anon says:

    she doesn’t have the power what. so. ever. of whitney. i find this depressing actually. her too-deep register and strained transitions. i wish a peer of whitneys (in era too) did this. someone who really was around for whitney’s fame. let down.

  32. Richard says:

    And WHERe was Miss ETTJAMES in their glowing tribute to our fallen? NOWHERE!

    • JudyVee says:

      Thank you for noticing! I was beginning to think that my husband and I were the only 2 people on the face of the earth that noticed this HUGE omission!!!!!!!!!

  33. Nancy says:

    Are you kidding me?
    Paul McCartney’s closing number(s), band and all didn’t make it in the top 5 for tonight??!!
    Shocking.

  34. liz says:

    I find it appalling that you put Taylor Swift’s performance on your top 5 – that girl can’t sing! I guess you all had to do that so she doesn’t write “Mean 2″!

  35. jill says:

    Chaka Khan tweeted that she lost a sister. Not a time to sing, it was a time to mourn

  36. bayne says:

    Taylor is freaking amazing. Glad she won 2 grammys tonight!

  37. Caramia says:

    Chris Brown beats women and shouldn’t be allowed to preform.

    • Tusk says:

      He didn’t even perform…who goes to the Grammy’s and lip syncs?
      He even won a Grammy…I just don’t get what he’s done to deserve anything on top of being a woman beater :P
      BTW, one of the perks to west coast viewing, I was warned ahead of time at how atrocious the Nicki Minaj performance was so was able to mute and go do something else…Don’t get her appeal either.
      That was some kind of Jammin’ at the end…had to laugh at the Boss providing the energy and not the expertise in solo’s the others had. That was the way to end the Grammy’s. Overall a very entertaining show.

  38. Margo says:

    JHud, Adele, and Bruno were my three fav performances of the night but I wish the Whitney tribute was longer. Either way, JHud pulled off that tribute amazingly well! R.I.P Whitney!

  39. Kathy says:

    I thought Bruno Mars really rocked the house!

  40. VLKinNC says:

    That finale by the legends of rock was so much better than the Glen Campbell set. Adele is wonderful, and Jennifer Hudson did a remarkable job, especially given that she had only a couple hours to prepare. If a movie is ever made of Whitney Houston’s life, Jennifer Hudson is a front-runner in my mind to play the part of Whitney.

  41. Jerred says:

    Umm, Where were you when Alicia Keys and Bonnie Rait(?) performed an Etta James song to tribute her passing?

    • JudyVee says:

      If you’re talking to those of us who have complained about Etta being missing, we’re talking about the in memoriam photo montage of all the people who died this past year in which Etta James was MIA.

      • Susan says:

        JUdyVee- they performed an entire song for the late Etta James, rather than a three-second clip of her image in a long montage of the recently-departed they did for everyone else in the music industry.Why single out Etta James so much for her contribution to an era of music when so many others have died?The In Memorium would go on for hours in and of itself if they chose to honor each of them with a performance.Nice thought, but not very realistic for a live awards show.

  42. Jerred says:

    Umm, where were you when Alicia Keys and Bonnie Raitt sang one of Etta James’ song as a tribute to her?

  43. Jerred says:

    A seperate “special” tribute wasn’t enough? Geesh what did you want people wailing over a mock casket with a giant image of the poor lady on the big screen? She was singled out because of her many contributions. It had been planned for weeks. Whitney was last minute.

  44. jennifer says:

    I agree i kept waiting and waiting to see etta james they totally forgot her!!!! Ur not alone she wasnt on there and i was shocked at such a hideous error!

  45. jennifer says:

    Judy is right the montage …just as last minute as whitney was added on ..etta should have been on it along like whitney with the tribute.

  46. Jerred says:

    At least Etta James got her own tribute. Don Cornelius and Jani Lane weren’t even listed. Oh wait Don got a shot out by LL Cool J.

  47. jennifer says:

    Agreed judy it was tasteless to leave such a memorable singer off of the photo montage. Jerred if whitney could be added to the photo montage last minute so could have etta james and not in a casket u idiot….shheeessh

  48. Jerred says:

    By the way they weren’t left out, well according to the Academy:
    “Re: Etta James tribute was by Bonnie Raitt & @AliciaKeys at the top of the telecast & @Questlove gave special attn to Don Cornelius,” read a message posted on the Grammys’ official Twitter account on Sunday night.

  49. jennifer says:

    Yes those two were totally forgotten. Go ll cool j! He did greaat at hosting! :) i hated nickis performance loved hearing adele getting her voice back. Yay

  50. Jerred says:

    Wow Jennifer resorting to name calling. Thanks for keeping it classy. They didn’t forget it was intentional according to the Academy.
    So Jen, what’s your excuse for Jani Lane and Don C.?

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