A night that had been building as a celebration and coming out party for the multi-platinum artist, Adele (who had been keeping quiet after a much publicized battle to save her vocal cords), took a tragic turn on the eve of the Grammy’s when the world learned the incredibly heartbreaking news that Whitney Houston had passed at the young age of 48. Yet another life taken before her time following in the footsteps of such amazingly talented artists from Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain to Michael Jackson and Amy Winehouse. The pain and pressure of life in the spotlight apparently too great a burden to bare.
When I was a senior at Sarah Lawrence College I took singing lessons in NYC. I would take the train from Bronxville and arrive at my instructor’s apartment, take the rickety elevator up to the 7th floor praying all the way as if that would ensure my safety. I would then enter the apartment and have to fight off the mice that seemed to scatter about in the beautiful, but old historic building. Finally, I would open my sheet music and my instructor would begin playing and I would do my best to belt out the lyrics. I remember one of my favorite song’s to rehearse was Whitney Houston’s, “The Greatest Love of All.” This song brought back memories as I remembered my parents playing the original George Benson version back in the 70’s. Still nothing compared to the vocals of Ms. Houston as she reached the highest high notes and lowest baritones with such ease. I could only aspire to hold a candle to her incredible voice and her songs will forever be engrained in my mind.
Grammy night opened powerfully with Bruce Springsteen setting the tone singing the lyrics to his latest hit, “We Take Care of Our Own.” Who knew his words would ring so true as the music community came together to mourn the loss of one of their most treasured members. After eight years of having no host at the helm, rapper LL Cool J then took the stage and addressed the one thing on everybody’s mind. Going off script, he asked the audience to join him in prayer as he recounted a few words to acknowledge the life and song of their “fallen sister” Whitney Houston. After the somber note, he reminded everyone that life is full of joys and sorrows and that it was time to let the music and memories of the evening do the healing and that is exactly what happened. No one pulls it together better than the music industry and this was evident throughout the telecast as countless planned and unplanned tributes took the forefront providing a therapeutic effect for all. Here are some of our Red Carpet Manners highlights and a couple of missteps.
Host with the Most. The remarkable LL Cool J handled himself with amazing grace and poise as the night’s emcee. Under tremendous pressure and scrutiny, he struck the perfect balance able to pay homage to the late Whitney Houston and encourage celebration as each of the night’s performers took to the stage. His request to lead the audience in prayer was astute and unprecedented giving the musicians the permission to acknowledge their feelings and then move on to a celebration of music and creating memories.
Feel Good Moment. Bruno Mars got the evening started off right with a performance of his hit “Runaway” from the Doo-Wops & Hooligans album that harkened back to the 60’s, fancy footwork and all. Owning the stage in a gold blazer with his signature hairdo and flashy smile, he was able to instantaneously lighten the mood in the room and get the audience to their feet. A nice change of pace after a reverent and somber introduction.
Best Acceptance Speech. After cleaning up with countless awards for their rock album “Wasting Light,” Dave Grohl, former drummer for Nirvana, felt encouraged to share with the audience how important the human element is to making music. He was trying to make the well-deserved point that you don’t need fancy equipment and computers to make great music, all that matters is what goes on in your heart and your head. He went on to say that they recorded their album in his garage with only “some microphones and a tape machine.” What a nice change of pace considering so many acts nowadays are all about grandeur and spectacle. Nicki Minaj?
Most Rewarding Comeback. After months of silence and recuperating from vocal cord surgery, British diva Adele was back, and with a vengeance. She swept every category wining a total of six awards from the evening and then graced the stage with an honest and raw rendering of her hit “Rolling in the Deep.” Adele is a beautiful woman and we love her eloquent accent, but her demeanor seemed more reminiscent of Eliza Doolittle. We found her speeches to be slightly brusque and she appeared to be chomping on gum during a couple of them. Upon accepting the final award for Best Album, she mentioned “a bit of snot” that was coming out of her nose then proceeded to thank “all of you lot.” Rewarding yes. Refined, not so much.
Most Moving Rendition. Not a dry eye was in sight when Jennifer Hudson took the stage. Called at the eleventh hour to pay tribute to one of her childhood idols, she stepped in stronger than ever. In a controlled and personal performance with only a piano to support her, Jennifer’s interpretation of Whitney’s hit, “I Will Always Love You” was felt deep and wide. Her absolutely flawless rendition served to solidify her position as one of the strongest performers in today’s music. Here’s the link in the event you did not have the opportunity to view it http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2012/02/jennifer-hudson-tribute-to-whitney-houston-the-must-see-video.html
Insanely Inappropriate Performance. In contrast to Jennifer Hudson’s completely enveloping and appropriate tribute, Nicki Minaj’s insanely ridiculous and scary performance of what looked like an exorcism was beyond inappropriate, not to mention, horribly distasteful. That “Exorcist” movie scared the bejeezus out of me and I was not anxious to relive any part of it, especially in song at the typically PG rated, Grammys! Between the ominous vocals, the body possession and levitation, I was done, done, done! Somebody must’ve been possessed to give the green light on this one!
Most Satisfying Finale. I was surprised to find that my favorite performance of the evening was the medley of songs from “Abbey Road” provided by Sir Paul McCartney. I found myself stomping my feet and clapping along enjoying every moment of the music. Sir Paul’s voice at the ripe age of 69 is as strong as ever and the energy and joy he conveys through his music is contagious. The guitar collaboration with Dave Grohl, Bruce Springsteen and Joe Walsh at the end brought the house down and sent the Grammy’s out with a bang.
So long Whitney, we will always love you!