The emotional climax of Sunday night's Grammy Awards, critics agree, was Jennifer Hudson's stirring, reverent performance of "I Will Always Love You" — a tribute to Whitney Houston, who passed away just one night before. The telecast earned 40 million viewers, making it the second-highest-rated Grammys of all time. Sunday's massive audience was likely fueled by grieving music fans eager to see how the awards show would pay tribute to Houston. And yet, after opening with a brief moment of silence, the three-and-a-half-hour ceremony only honored Houston with Hudson's performance, tacked onto the In Memoriam segment in the second half of the telecast. Though it was the "evening's most coherent performance," says The Washington Post, "it wasn't enough to make the entire night… not feel like a missed opportunity." Should the Grammys have done more to honor Houston?
Houston deserved better: "One song simply wasn't enough of a tribute for this singer who defined a generation," says Jarett Wieselman at The Insider. Chris Brown and the Foo Fighters each performed twice. One of those slots could easily have been sacrificed for another Whitney cover. Lady Gaga was already on hand, and could have "slayed 'The Greatest Love of All.'" Presenter Reba McEntire would have done a brilliant "Saving All My Love For You." "And don't even get me started on the fact that Alicia Keys, Alison Krauss, Cyndi Lauper, and Diana Ross were in the building" and weren't drafted for a "magical medley of 'I'm Every Woman!'"
"Was the Grammys short on Whitney tributes?"
Maybe. But what we got was nearly perfect: The producers clearly did their best, given the time constraints, says Spencer Kornhaber at The Atlantic. The typically flashy show opened uncharacteristically, yet fittingly: "Heads down, hands clasped, lights dimmed." Hudson's performance was also "stark and appropriate." I can see why grieving viewers would demand more of a tribute, but remember: Grammy producers had no time. "What they provided was moving," and we all should all be thankful for that.
"The reverent, ridiculous Grammys"
Take a step back. The entire night was a tribute: On its face, the actual tribute to Houston was "limited and restrained," says James Poniewozik at TIME. But in reality, the entire ceremony honored the late singer. The telecast "showcased the forceful women who dominated the year in music" — Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Adele, Kelly Clarkson. The whole night was "a statement of how central female voices were to pop music in the last year," showcasing a roster of women who were undeniably influenced by the late singer. That was the "biggest nod to Houston's legacy."
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