Pierce: Houston hovered over the Grammy Awards (video)

By Scott D. Pierce

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: February 13, 2012 09:57AM
Updated: February 14, 2012 11:34PM
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Matt Sayles | AP file photo Singer Whitney Houston receives the International Artist Award onstage at the 37th Annual American Music Awards in Los Angeles Nov. 22, 2009. Houston, who reigned as pop music's queen until her majestic voice and regal image were ravaged by drug use, has died.

The Grammys opened on Sunday with a prayer for and tribute to Whitney Houston.

It was tasteful. It was heartfelt. It was all that was necessary.

“There is no way around this,” host LL Cool J told the crowd in the Staples Center and TV viewers after an opening number by Bruce Springsteen. “We’ve had a death in our family. So at least for me, the only thing that feels right is to begin with a prayer for a woman that we loved.”

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At which point he bowed his head and prayed for Houston, who died Saturday of (as of this writing) undetermined causes.

“Although she is gone too soon, we remain truly blessed by her musical spirit,” LL Cool J said. And then producers played a clip of Houston singing “I Will Always Love You” from a past Grammy show.

That wasn’t the end of it. Houston was featured in the, ahem, death montage later in the show. And Jennifer Hudson followed that with her own rendition of “I Will Always Love You.”

But the Whitney worship didn’t get out of hand.

LL Cool J may have gotten the gig because the Grammys were on CBS and he’s a CBS star (“NCIS: Los Angeles”). He was, believe it or not, the first Grammy host since 2005.

And he pretty much disappeared after the brief opening. But he did what he had to do.

The Grammys have a built-in advantage over the Oscars, the Emmys and even the Tonys. They’re far more entertaining because, while you can’t show viewers an entire movie, TV program or Broadway show, you can show them song after song.

And, as always, the awards took a back seat to the performances at the Grammys.

Are you kidding? The lineup included Bruno Mars, Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson, the Foo Fighters, Rihanna and Coldplay, Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Tony Bennett and Carrie Underwood.

Seeing Glen Campbell perform with The Band Perry and Blake Shelton as McCartney danced in the audience was worth the price of admission.

As was Adele demonstrating that her voice is back. And accepting her awards.

Not everything worked, of course. Fewer weak Beach Boys covers by Maroon Five and Foster the People, more actual Beach Boys, please.

Following Hudson’s stunning performance with a second appearance by Chris Brown was a misstep. (Apparently, he’s now completely forgiven for beating up Rihanna, who also performed.) And Nicki Minaj’s bizarre production number left viewers going, “What was that?”

Whatever it was, it was bad.

As is the case with most awards show, the biggest problem with the Grammys was that they refused to end. Three-and-a-half hours was ridiculous.

Cut the big speech by the head of the academy, kill the Minaj bit and you could be out of there in three hours, tops.

Scott D. Pierce’s column appears Mondays and Fridays in The Mix. Email him at spierce@sltrib.com.