With the death of Whitney Houston just hours earlier, it's hard to focus on the matter of crowning the best in recorded music — but Sunday night's Grammy Awards are going to try.
Music's biggest night was rocked on the eve of the event with news that the 48-year-old pop legend was found dead in her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where she was preparing to attend a pre-Grammy party.
Speculation over this year's Grammy favorites seemed secondary in the wake of her death. Still, the show will go on, with a musical tribute to Houston by one of her biggest fans, Jennifer Hudson.
Before the death of one of pop music's most important figures, the Grammy buzz focused on whether Adele — 2011's top-selling artist and set to make her first public performance on the show since having vocal cord surgery — would be the queen of the Grammys. Although Kanye West leads all nominees with seven and Bruno Mars and the Foo Fighters tied Adele with six nominations, she was favored to sweep all of her categories.
But as show time neared, the focus remained on Houston's death.
Grammy show producer Ken Ehrlich was quick to announce Hudson's tribute. "It's too fresh in everyone's memory to do more at this time," he said late Saturday, "but we would be remiss if we didn't recognize Whitney's remarkable contribution to music fans in general, and in particular her close ties with the Grammy telecast and her Grammy wins and nominations over the years."
More Houston tributes from nominees and presenters are expected during the three-and-a-half hour Staples Center show, which was to feature the Foo Fighters, Mars, Nicki Minaj, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Taylor Swift, Chris Brown and Rihanna.
It will mark the first time Rihanna and Brown have appeared at the same awards show since his attack on her three years ago — also on the eve of the Grammys — forced both to drop out of the show and led to an assault conviction for Brown. It almost derailed his career, but 2011 marked a huge comeback, and he was rewarded with a Grammy performance slot on Sunday night's CBS broadcast.
Rihanna is also a nominee, up for album of the year. She is competing with Adele's "21," Mars' "Doo-Woops & Hooligans," the Foo Fighters "Wasting Light" and Lady Gaga's "Born This Way."
Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" is nominated for record and song of the year. Both categories also include Bon Iver's "Holocene," Mumford & Sons "The Cave," and Mars' "Grenade." Katy Perry's "Firework" is up for record of the year but instead of that song, West's "All of the Lights" takes the remaining position in the song of the year category.
Nekesa Mumbi Moody is the AP's Music Editor. Follow her at http://www.twitter.com/nekesamumbi