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Loving the "Over-the-Top" Grammys

Jennifer Hudson, Celine Dion, Smokey Robinson, Usher, Carrie Underwood ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Michael Jackson don't do small. And so the Grammys were anything but.

Last night's big really big show averaged an estimated 25.8 million fans. That's the largest Grammy audience since 2004, back when Album of the Year winner Taylor Swift was unsigned and Justin Timberlake was all about apologizing for Janet Jackson's Super Bowl breast.

Professional Grammy watchers should be pleased with the Nielsen results: They actually liked the show.

"This year…the producers tried a new thing by letting the performances be what they are: over-the-top, kind of ridiculous and extravagant almost to the point of absurdity," Evan Sawdey wrote for PopMatters.

The end result, per Sawdey: "Probably the best Grammy telecast in the past five years."

The New York Times judged that the Grammys "got lucky," with several arena acts—Swift, Green Day, Pink, etc.—on hand to command the Grammys arena. First among all the headliners, it found, was Jackson, who even in death, critic Jon Pareles wrote, outdid Céline Dion, Jennifer Hudson and the rest who put their voices alongside his in the 3-D-enhanced "Earth Song" tribute. 

Rolling Stone was rocked by the night's top winner, Beyoncé: "Few performers sing this well live. [She] is beyond a force to be reckoned with."

Sure, there were quibbles: The Times called the show "the Auto-Tune Grammys" and called out its pitch-corrected suspects (Jamie Foxx and the Black Eyed Peas, among them); nearly everybody bemoaned Lil Wayne's censor-silenced rap with Eminem and Drake (helpfully, New York Magazine compiled all the missing cuss words here).

Then again, nothing's perfect. Especially when something's so big.

(Originally published Feb. 1, 2010, at 10:37 a.m. PT)

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Relive the drama, surprises and fashion in our 2010 Grammys: Big Moments From the Show gallery.

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