Last nightâ€™s Grammy Awards marked two momentous occasions: the first public memorial for Whitney Houston, who died in a Beverly Hills hotel room on Saturday, and the first time rapper Chris Brown was allowed to return to the ceremony after being blacklisted following charges for beating the crap out of his then-girlfriend, Rihanna, in 2009.
For the Grammys, it was a moment of respectability and shameâ€”though maybe not for the reasons youâ€™re thinking.
Just hours after news of Houstonâ€™s death was released, Grammy officials announced that Jennifer Hudson, who accepted her 2009 Grammy from Houston and memorably performed â€śI Have Nothingâ€ť on American Idol, had been added to the eveningâ€™s lineup to honor the diva. The show opened with LL Cool J, the eveningâ€™s emcee, offering up a prayer for Houston and then using Obama-like oration to bring mood back up and remind viewers and the in-studio crowd that the night wasnâ€™t about mourning, it was about music.
After the standard â€śIn Memoriumâ€ť portion of the show, a visibly emotional Hudson belted out â€śI Will Always Love You,â€ť adding Whitneyâ€™s name to the last chorus. It was moving and sweet. The performance hit melancholic notes without being overwrought. It was a gentle way to remember the voice of a generation and strengthen the fans and friends who loved Houston.
All of it wouldâ€™ve seemed honorable in the face of tragedy had the evening not also been marred by a statement from Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich about the return of Chris Brown.
â€śI think people deserve a second chance, you know. If youâ€™ll note, he has not been on the Grammys for the past few years and it may have taken us a while to kind of get over the fact that we were the victim of what happened,â€ť Ehrlich told ABC News Radio.
Second chances are one thing. In Philadelphia, of all places, we get it. (See: Vick, Michael. Stein, Neil.) Perhaps Brown, who was nominated for three awards last night and has undergone counseling and performed community service, should have been allowed to attend the ceremony. But to clarify: Ehrlich considers the Grammy Awardsâ€”not Rihannaâ€”victims of Brownâ€™s abuse.
This sentimentâ€”disturbing to startâ€”is even more alarming in the wake of Houstonâ€™s death. Though autopsy results have not yet been released, itâ€™s difficult to argue that Houstonâ€™s disastrous relationship with Bobby Brownâ€”marred by drug abuse and domestic violenceâ€”didnâ€™t contribute to her eventual downfall and perhaps her death, though autopsy results wonâ€™t be released for some time.
To use the occasion to theatrically mourn Houston without mentioning the irony of the evening also honoring one of the worldâ€™s most famous wife beaters was a mistake. To take the focus away from Brownâ€™s victimâ€”and the other victims of domestic violenceâ€”was downright disrespectful. Ehrlich, on behalf of the Grammys, owes apologies: To Rihanna, for undercutting the trauma she suffered through; to the family of Whitney Houston, who neednâ€™t be reminded of the horrific effects of spousal abuse; and to all victims of domestic violence, who need support, not showboating.