Whitney Houston wasn't here. She was everywhere.
A look at the doings and sayings backstage at a Grammys Awards to remember:
There Were No Words…: Winners did press, but this was not a night where many (and, frankly, hardly any) winners wanted to take the press conference stage. Tony Bennett—who would've faced questions on both Amy Winehouse, with whom he won a Grammy, and Houston, who performed at Saturday night's Clive Davis Grammy party, was typical: begging off after doing some one-on-one interviews.
…Except for These Words: "It's just tragic," Hillary Scott of Country Album-winning trio Lady Antebellum said. "There's a hole in the heart of music."
The Show Went On…: People chatted. People milled. And people who won golden trophies, the few of those we saw, looked happy. If the Grammys show didn't seem radically different than past years, then neither did the backstage area.
…Except for the Time It Stopped: Backstage got about as quiet as backstage can get when Jennifer Hudson took the stage. As she fought through Houston's "I Will Always Love You," people closed ranks around the TV sets. It was like a scene in a movie—a tearjerker.
The Real Deal: When the telecast cut to a commercial after Hudson's performance, the screens went to black, but the applause still rang through Staples Center.
The Plan Worked: Just prior to the show, telecast producer Ken Ehrlich addressed the Staples VIPs. "This building often reverberated with applause for Whitney," Ehrlich told the nominees, presenters and music-industry players. "We wanted to [the tribute] to be respectful. We didn't want do overdo it."
The Plan Really Worked: After the show, Grammy president Neil Portnow said the Houston tribute needed a singer who could deliver a simple, elegant live performance. "Not everybody can do this," he said, noting it was believed Hudson's own family tragedies could help her deal with the emotions of the moment. "That was the first call."
The Big Question About the Night's Big Winner: Did Adele's post-surgery voice sound the same, we asked OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder, one of the singer's Album of the Year cowinners? Tedder admitted he hadn't seen the pre-surgery Adele in concert enough to be the ultimate judge, but he knew this: "She sounded phenomenal," he said. "The hair on the back of my neck stood up. "
Resting Her Voice: Adele herself didn't do a press conference, but that was probably more due her general shyness, than an aversion to anything Houston specific.
The Anti-Nicki Minaj: Bon Iver's Justin Vernon did his best juggling a trio of Grammys, including his one for Best New Artist, but he's just not the Grammy-juggling sort. The mild-mannered musician almost wasn't the Grammy-attending sort, either. "I'm glad I came," he said almost sheepishly. "I felt really honored and stuff."
What Might've Been: Vernon said a performance was discussed, but, in the end, there wasn't time. "The Beach Boys coming back," he said, "that's kind of a big deal."
The Reunion Took! The long-fractious Beach Boys kept it together after their historic Grammy performance—their first-ever on the awards show, they reminded—smiling and obliging in the press rounds.
They Don't Just Look Like Your Dads or Granddads, They Talk Like 'Em, Too: Asked how they felt about their well-received, but rough set, the Beach Boys' Mike Love had his patter down pat. "It was a good vibration," he smiled. "It was fun, fun, fun, too."
And the Grammy for Best Egg Goes to... The Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, who showed up for the nontelevised ceremony the same as he showed up for the prime-time show, and who warmed up the crowd at the outdoor Nokia Plaza with a bonus, rockin' version of Paul McCartney's "Jet."
And So It Goes: After the second and last Foo Fighters number, the outdoor stage went into teardown, but fast. Life went on as the show went on, and no one hung around for small talk. That was the night in the nutshell as much as anything.
(Orignally published Feb. 12, 2012, at 8:42 p.m. PT.)