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R. Kelly, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Hudson, 'Glee's Matthew Morrison perform: On the scene at Clive Davis's annual Grammy party

Pre-GRAMMY-GalaThere is only one place on Grammy eve in Los Angeles where Neil Young chats up Quincy Jones, Lou Reed brushes shoulders with Usher, and Miley Cyrus hoots and shimmies for R. Kelly.

Industry icon Clive Davis’s annual pre-event party last night in Beverly Hills is the week’s most reliably A-list party, a stacked tower of celebrity Jenga that rightly terrified Mumford and Son’s Marcus Mumford: “This is pretty sh– scary,” the English folkie muttered from the stage, before opening the night’s performances with an impassioned, eyes-squeezed-shut take on the band’s “Sigh No More” and “Little Lion Man.”

Janelle Monae followed, pocket-sized and sharp in her rockabilly suit, her signature pompadour coming undone and bouncing wildly as she roared through an acellerated “Cold War” and “Tightrope,” while the events cameras projected the beaming faces of Warren Beatty and legendary record producer Lou Adler.

Mary J. Blige stepped up next to offer a funky, if slightly disconcerting take on Joni Mitchell’s wry, languid “Free Man in Paris,” the song Mitchell penned in 1974 for the night’s honoree, David Geffen, before yielding to a video tribute to Geffen featuring the likes of Tom Hanks, Slash, and Elton John. A fantastically bespangled, foul-mouthed Cher (“I don’t know even what this f—ing award is for”) then appeared to honor him in person and relay a few salty anecdotes from their decades-long friendship.

The night’s momentum was often slowed by lengthy, somewhat rambling speeches from Davis and Grammy head Neil Portnow, so a distracted, several-chardonnays-in crowd wasn’t entirely prepared when R. Kelly stormed in from the rear of the ballroom, electrifying the room almost instantaneously with—no joke—the National Anthem.

From that rockets’ red glare (he wore a red bowtie and red sequined tux scarf to match), Kelly ruthlessly stole the show, moving relentlessly and fantastically through “Step in the Name of Love,” “Your Body’s Calling,” and—cue wild Miley—a quickfire medley of “You Remind Me of Something,” “Bump ‘N Grind,” “Ignition,” and “Down Low,” before asking the audience for a palate-cleansing swig of champagne, which producer Swizz Beats stood up to supply, and ending on “When a Woman Loves.” The man is out of his mind, and he is a wonder.

It was an unlucky artist who had to follow that fandango, but a sleek, red-lipped Jennifer Hudson pulled it out admirably, tearing through her new single “Where You At” and  scorching Aretha Franklin’s often oversung “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” before yielding to Glee star Matthew Morrison and his tiny guitar, plink-plunking his way gently, if anticlimactically, through Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s plaintive version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

A reportedly ill Cee-Lo followed, gamely giving the crowd the “F— You” they demanded before surrendering the stage to the night’s final performance: Whitney Houston’s tribute to her cousin Dionne Warwick. Houston, in a cream sequined column, looked and sounded better than she has in the recent past, throaty and measured. Though her rendition of Warkwick’s “Walk on By” and “Say a Little Prayer,” followed by a duet on “That’s What Friends Are For” with Warwick herself, ultimately felt underwhelming after Kelly’s and Hudson’s vocal acrobatics and theatrical showboating.

Some five hours after its doors opened, stars like the Katy Perry, Keri Hilson, John Mayer, Lady Antebellum, the Foo Fighters and Usher filed out of the ballroom and into the night, off to other, later parties—or, for the more conscientious among them nominated and due to perform at tonight’s ceremony, off to bed.

Image Credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.com; Lester Cohen/WireImage.com

Whitney Houston cancels more concerts

Whitney Houston postponed more dates on her European tour due to a respiratory infection. The Manchester Evening News Arena, where Houston was scheduled to perform on April 8-9, released a statement on its website announcing that the two shows had been moved to June 16-17. In addition, her April 11 show in Glasgow has been postponed until May 1. “Doctors visited Whitney late last night in Paris and confirmed that she was suffering from an upper respiratory infection. Upon medical advice Whitney has been advised that she cannot perform to allow her time to recover,” according to the statement. Houston had recently canceled a performance in Paris for a similar health precaution.

Kim Burrell wows Whitney Houston with 'I Believe in You and Me' at BET Honors

Introducing Kim Burrell for a surprise tribute to Whitney Houston at the BET Honors, which aired last night, presenter Ne-Yo called her “one of Ms. Houston’s favorite voices on the planet.” He wasn’t kidding: Houston literally leaped out of her seat when she heard Burrell’s name. She stayed up through Burrell’s stirring performance of “I Believe in You and Me,” dancing in the aisles while she watched the gospel singer light up the stage. By the song’s end, Houston was mouthing the words “I love you” with what looked like tears in her eyes. It was a genuinely moving moment, given the personal trials Houston has surmounted in the past decade.

Did you watch the BET Honors last night? What were your favorite moments? Whether or not you tuned in, you can catch Burrell’s tribute to Houston below.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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Whitney Houston's Grammy shut-out: Was she robbed?

Of many unexpected admissions and omissions in last night’s Grammy nominee announcement, few are as surprising as the total absence of Whitney Houston on the ballot. Granted, her August release I Look to You was not her finest hour, and it yielded few commercial singles; her often uneven performances to promote it didn’t help.

But she’s also the stuff these shows are made of (26-time Grammy nominee, seven-time winner); her label even moved the release of her album up a day to make sure it was eligible, and Look‘s redemption tales seemed calibrated to hit Academy voters right in the solar plexus—and the voting-finger.  And yet, not a single nod for the chest-thumping title track or slinky “Million Dollar Bill,” penned by Grammy darling Alicia Keys. So is it the notes Houston hit (or didn’t) that kept her out?

Clearly, what was once one of the greatest natural instruments in pop music is not what it was. But no one ever said that Bob Dylan or Tom Waits sounded like a flock of baby songbirds at sunrise, and artists like Billie Holiday made transcendant art of the quirks and crags inherent in their traditionally “imperfect” voices.

Maybe if Houston had chosen material more like Dylan’s or Holiday’s—something deliberately rougher and more intimate, less reliant on modern R&B polish—Grammy voters would be throwing her a ticker-tape parade today. Or maybe Look‘s material just wasn’t good to stand amongst nominees in the R&B fields like Beyonce, Maxwell, or India.Arie (and Pleasure P, Jamie Foxx, Melanie Fiona, Trey Songz…) Give us your theories below.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
Grammy noms for Best Album: All the single ladies (and a few back-up dudes)
Grammy nomination special: The best and worst performances
Nominees (Kings of Leon! Sugarland! Maxwell!) talk Taylor Swift and more after the Grammy nomination special
Grammy nominations: We’re shocked! Six huge surprises
The Grammy nomination rules: An idiot’s guide

Jay-Z tops albums chart again; Oprah bump for Whitney Houston

Last week was a big one for the hip-hop hype machine, with the long-awaited debut album from Kid Cudi as well as an EP from Drake hitting stores. Turns out neither one of them sold quite as well as their elder Jay-Z, who moved a hefty 298,000 additional units of his week-old The Blueprint 3, according to Nielsen SoundScan, securing a second week at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Much of the movement elsewhere on this week’s chart resulted from choice TV appearances. Whitney Houston’s two-part interview with Oprah Winfrey helped boost flagging returns for her album I Look to You, propelling her back up to No. 2 with 156,000 in new sales. The MTV Video Music Awards, meanwhile, reaped rewards throughout the week for several artists who performed during the Sept. 13 broadcast. Jay-Z’s VMAs turn (as well as his Jay Leno performance) no doubt helped him stay at No. 1. Muse debuted at No. 3 with 128,000 copies sold of The Resistance. Taylor Swift hopped up two spots to No. 8 with 46,000 sold, a 37 percent increase on the previous week. Lady Gaga did even better, vaulting from No. 23 to No. 12 with 33,000 sold, a 76 percent improvement. And Kanye West? Well, his 808s and Heartbreak, which came out around the same time as Swift’s Fearless, hadn’t sold enough copies to appear on the Billboard 200 last week, and the VMAs did not change that situation this week.

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Whitney Houston's 'Million Dollar Bill' video: Watch it here

Whitney sneaking through the back door of a speakeasy, slinking onstage for a few dozen unsuspecting clubgoers to perform her new Alicia Keys-penned single “Million Dollar Bill,” and turning it all into a giddy dance party?

In video-land, anything is possible — and even if it’s not the most original concept, Whit looks like, well, a million bucks: healthy, happy, sequin-y.

Watch it below (the stream is unofficial; if it disappears, keep checking YouTube):

Whitney Houston on 'Oprah': What do you think so far?

The Oprah Winfrey Show‘s 24th season is premiering as we speak with the first part of Oprah’s highly-touted exclusive interview with Whitney Houston. It’s the first time the singer has given such a major interview since her infamous 2002 sit-down with ABC’s Diane Sawyer.

Lord knows she’s got a lot to talk about this time. “No topic is off-limits,” Oprah has promised. We should start seeing how that works out in a matter of minutes.

Are you tuning in? What do you think of their interview so far? Let us know in the comments below.

More from EW’s Music Mix:
Whitney Houston live on ‘Good Morning America’: What’s your verdict?
Whitney Houston tops the albums chart
Kanye West interrupts Taylor Swift’s VMAs moment: What was he thinking?
Kanye West apologizes for interrupting Taylor Swift at the VMAs: “I’m not crazy…I’m just real.”

Photo Credit: George Burns

Whitney Houston tops the albums chart

The results are in, and those early projections were about on target: Whitney Houston’s I Look to You is the No. 1 album on this week’s Billboard 200 chart after selling 305,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Like I said last night, that’s not a terrible performance by any means. It’s pretty good! In fact, it’s the best first-week number Whitney has put up since Nielsen SoundScan started tracking sales in 1991. But it’s still not a grand slam, even by 2009 standards. Consider all the fuss that’s been made over Whitney Houston’s comeback: She used to be the type of artist whose first album in seven years would be a major commercial event. Now, it seems, she’s just a respectably successful singer like any other — nothing to be ashamed of, but the numbers don’t lie.

Houston had plenty of company in the chart-debut field this week. Trey Songz’s Ready took No. 3 with 131,000 sold, no doubt occasioning many a pleased emoticon from his keyboard. A troop of 50,000 Juggalos put Insane Clown Posse’s Bang! Pow! Boom! at No. 4. Chevelle, a hard-rock combo whose name sounds more like a hair product to me, landed at No. 6 with 46,000 copies sold of Sci-Fi Crimes. Pitbull capitalized on the success of his single “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” by selling 41,000 copies of Rebelution for a No. 8 debut. Down at No. 10, The Used found 35,000 aesthetes to buy Artwork. The Black Crowes’ latest blues-rock jam session, Before the Frost…, made it to No. 12 with 32,000. And Chris Young, who won 2006′s Nashville Star, proved himself a moderate-size Nashville star on the charts by squeaking in at No. 19 with 26,000 sold.

What do you think of this week’s crop of new chart faces? And what do you make of Whitney Houston’s return to commercial earth?

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Whitney Houston: Will her sales disappoint?
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Whitney Houston: Will her sales disappoint?

Last Monday was a big day for Whitney Houston, whose first all-new album in seven years finally arrived in stores. An even more important day might be tomorrow, when first-week sales results will be announced, providing one answer to the question of just how much the public has missed her.

Right now, trade gossip site HitsDailyDouble.com — whose estimates are usually pretty reliable — is projecting that Houston’s I Look to You will top the albums chart with sales of about 301,000. That’s not too shabby. It’s considerably more than the underwhelming 205,000 that her last album managed in its first week. Then again, it’s no blockbuster, either.

By way of comparison, Maxwell performed similarly this July, selling 316,000 copies of BLACKsummers’night in its first week. Now, Maxwell, like Whitney, is an R&B/pop singer who hadn’t put out a new album in many years (eight, in his case). But Maxwell was never a megastar on Whitney’s level. Not even close. Maxwell never had a record certified 17 times platinum. If Houston can’t even beat his sales today, what does that say about her relevance?

Check back on the Music Mix tomorrow morning to find out the final sales results for last week. ‘Til then, what do you think of these predictions? Is 301,000 a number to be proud of for Whitney Houston? Do you even care how many copies she sells in week 1?

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Photo credit: Patrick Demarchelier

Whitney Houston live on 'GMA': What's your verdict?

Whitney Houston appeared on Good Morning America today to promote her first album in seven years, I Look to You (and reunite with her self-proclaimed “dearest friend” Diane Sawyer).

In a silver tunic and black leggings, Houston performed four songs: Look‘s title track, the Alicia Keys-penned “Million Dollar Bill,” her 1998 hit “My Love Is Your Love” (for which daughter Bobbi Christina joined her onstage), and her ’92 cover of Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman.”

Watch a fan-taped sneak peek below, and view the entire show in five segments (including a brief interview) at ABC’s official website here.

What do you think of her comeback, Music Mixers? She seemed to be in a better place and genuinely glad to be there, but her voice is certainly not what it was; Houston blamed too much talking, specifically her recently completed interview with Oprah which airs Monday, Sept 14. Do you agree with her claims that she “never left”?

More from EW’s Music Mix:
Eminem, Mary J. Blige, The Roots, and more to perform at ‘VH1 Hip-Hop Honors’
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