For many people, not a Grammy weekend will go by without thoughts of Whitney Houston, her legacy and what might have been had she lived past 48.
Monday marks a year since the singer was discovered unresponsive in the bathtub of her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, where, downstairs, her mentor Clive Davis was to host his 2012 pre-Grammy party. Whitney had been expected to attend the exclusive event, so news of her death came as a shock to her peers in the industry and to the masses of fans around the globe who had fallen in love with "The Voice."
Whitney had traveled a bumpy road since her start in the mid-'80s. Her early success came with criticisms, including accusations from some people who said she was a sellout. Her mother, Cissy Houston, whose Remembering Whitney book was released last month, said in a recent Today interview that her daughter was hurt by people calling her "Whitey." And attacks like those, along with later problems in her marriage to Bobby Brown, contributed to Whitney's bouts with self-medication.
Substance abuse issues often threatened to overshadow more positive aspects of Whitney's life, but when fans remember the singer one year after her death, they'll likely be thinking of her storied career. She sold more than 170 million albums and singles worldwide, and won six Grammy Awards, two Emmys and countless other honors.
Her powerful voice earned her a slew of hits, including the early ones, like "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" and "The Greatest Love of All." People still talk about Whitney's 1991 Super Bowl performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner," and who can forget her stirring rendition of "I Will Always Love You"?
This past Saturday night, as music's biggest stars once again gathered at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for Clive Davis' annual pre-Grammy party, many found it hard to believe that it had been a year since the death of one of the greatest voices of our generation.
"I remember sitting next to her two years before at Clive's party, freaking out that Whitney Houston was sitting next to me and my wife," OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder recalled on the red carpet. "Two years later I get a text from one of Clive's right-hand men...like, 'Hey, just so you know, Whitney Houston passed away,' and I didn't believe it. The next two hours, as I'm getting ready to come here, was, 'Is this even gonna happen? I don't know, I don't think it is, I think they're canceling it.' And it ended up happening and it was really weird.
Asked for his favorite Whitney memory, Miguel noted, "Any of the performances, I mean, I think that's what we all fell in love with Whitney for, was her voice and how amazing she was live, you know? Pick a Grammy performance and that's it."
Singer, songwriter and producer Akon noted that the location of Clive's party will always be associated with that terrible night a year ago. "It's like one of those situations where it's like, surreal, and every time you go past the Beverly Hilton, you're like, 'Damn, that's the place where Whitney passed,' y'know?," he said. "So it's just a sad moment, but it's a bittersweet moment today."
Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men said he and the group regretted never working with Whitney, because it was a real possibility. "We saw her a couple years ago at the Grammys, actually, we were backstage together...we were all talking and we actually talked about doing a song together and we never did," he recalled to ABC News Radio. "So that was sad, just to know that, y'know, that'll never happen." He described Whitney as "down-home, homegrown...just a sister, just an aunt, just someone you love instantly."
Perhaps former 'N SYNC member JC Chasez said it best when he noted on the red carpet, "Obviously, people are moving on but her music's gonna live forever."
Here are the winners of the 55th Grammy Awards, held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday night:
|Album of the Year||Mumford & Sons, Babel|
|Record of the Year||Gotye featuring Kimbra, "Somebody That I Used to Know"|
|Song Of The Year [awarded to songwriter]||"We Are Young," Jack Antonoff, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost & Nate Ruess, songwriters (fun. featuring Janelle Monae|
|Best New Artist||fun.|
|Best Pop Vocal Album||Kelly Clarkson, Stronger|
|Best Pop Solo Performance||"Set Fire To The Rain (Live)," Adele|
|Best Pop Duo/Group Performance||"Somebody That I Used To Know," Gotye featuring Kimbra|
|Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album||Kisses On The Bottom, Paul McCartney|
|Best Rock Performance||"Lonely Boy," The Black Keys|
|Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance||"Love Bites (So Do I)," Halestorm|
|Best Rock Song||"Lonely Boy," The Black Keys|
|Best Rock Album||El Camino, The Black Keys|
|Best Alternative Music Album||Making Mirrors, Gotye|
|Best R&B Performance||"Climax," Usher|
|Best Traditional R&B Performance||"Love On Top," Beyoncé|
|Best R&B Song||"Adorn," Miguel|
|Best Urban Contemporary Album||Channel Orange, Frank Ocean|
|Best R&B Album||Black Radio, Robert Glasper Experiment|
|Best Rap Performance||"N****s In Paris," Jay-Z & Kanye West|
|Best Rap/Sung Collaboration||"No Church In The Wild," Jay-Z & Kanye West featuring Frank Ocean & The-Dream|
|Best Rap Song||"N****s In Paris," Jay-Z & Kanye West|
|Best Rap Album||Take Care, Drake|
|Best Country Solo Performance||Carrie Underwood, "Blown Away"|
|Best Country Duo/Group Performance||"Pontoon," Little Big Town|
|Best Country Song||"Blown Away," Carrie Underwood|
|Best Country Album||Uncaged, Zac Brown Band|
|Song Written For Visual Media||"Safe & Sound" (From The Hunger Games), Taylor Swift, John Paul White, Joy Williams|
|Short-Form Music Video||"We Found Love," Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris|
|Long-Form Music Video||"Big Easy Express," Mumford & Sons|
|Best Spoken Word||Society's Child: My Autobiography, Janis Ian|
Sure, Jennifer Hudson has an Academy Award under her belt, but she says guest starring on the NBC musical drama Smash was no piece of cake.
JHud stopped by Live with Kelly and Michael on Friday to promote her role on the show, and told hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan about the difficulty of portraying Broadway star Veronica "Ronnie" Moore. In her role as Ronnie, Jennifer stars in a Broadway show within the show.
"It's not easy being in theater and on Broadway and then with it being on television too!" Jennifer says. "So you're on a television show that's functioning like a Broadway show, but like a concert at the same time that's changing every week."
In case you missed Jennifer's first Smash appearance on Tuesday, you can see her in a couple more episodes over the next few weeks. Despite her busy schedule, American Idol alum Jennifer says that she's still managed to check out a recent installment of the long-running music competition, which now features a reconfigured judges' panel that includes Mariah Carey.
"I'm happy that Mariah is there because she's a singer so she knows what to expect, how to judge, even the position that the kids are in when they're auditioning," Jennifer says.
Even with television and movie projects on her plate, Jennifer still has a passion for singing. "In music I would like to write more," she says. When the time comes to do her follow-up to 2011's I Remember Me, Jennifer says, "I'm going to write more," adding that she plans to "be more involved musically."
Beyoncé's performance during the Super Bowl halftime show didn't go over well with the folks at PETA.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals didn't have a problem with her set list. Rather, the group objects to the leather outfit she wore, which featured iguana and python skin.
PETA tells E! News, "We would take a bet that if Beyoncé watched our video exposés...she'd probably not want to be seen again in anything made of snakes, lizards, rabbits, or other animals who died painfully."
It adds, "Today's fashions are trending toward humane vegan options, and Beyoncé's Super Bowl outfit missed the mark on that score."
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department won't file charges against Chris Brown in his reported brawl with Frank Ocean, based on Frank's decision not to go forward with the case. But Chris is still facing major legal drama, namely the accusation that he violated his probation by submitting bogus community service records in connection with his sentence for assaulting Rihanna in 2009.
Mark Geragos, a lawyer for Chris tells ABC News affiliate KABC-TV, however, that "Chris didnt violate anything." Geragos goes on to say that the L.A. County District Attorney's office "should be ashamed of themselves they besmirched the reputation of Chris Brown based on no evidence."
Chris has been order to appear at a probation violation hearing in Los Angeles Wednesday at 2 p.m. PT.
Chris, by prior agreement, has been completing his community service obligation in his home state of Virgina, but the L.A. County District Attorney claims in legal documents, posted by the Los Angeles Times, that Chris may have faked his community service work, and that documentation of his hours were "at best sloppy, and at worst fraudulent reporting."
The D.A. is calling for Chris to fulfill his obligation by doing work in Los Angeles County.
In one instance, the D.A. alleges, Chris claimed to have picked up trash in Virginia but airline records show that instead, he was actually aboard a private jet headed to Cancun. But Geragos refutes that, arguing that his client "was not on a plane to Cancun."
In another case, the documents claim, Chris supposedly completed more than the required 180 days of community service, in part by doing odd jobs around Virginia's Tappahannock Children's Center, a facility where his mom once was a director. He reported painting, washing windows and more at the center, but the D.A.'s motion reveals that the Virginia probation officer assigned to Chris told investigators that no one from his department supervised, monitored or verified Brown's work.
But Chris' lawyer says that Richmond Police Chief Bryan T. Norwood supervised all of Chris' community service, including spot checking at the children's center. Geragos says Chris was always found doing his work.
As for the D.A.'s office, Chris' lawyer says, "They are absolutely wrong and they know it."
In addition to citing issues with Chris' community service documentation, the D.A. is also calling attention to other possible probation violations by Brown, including the time witnesses say he tossed a chair through the window following a Good Morning America interview. He also tested positive for marijuana, was accused of swiping a fan's phone in Miami and failed to obtain a travel permit, according to the documents.
Of course, Chris' run-in with Frank Ocean is also an issue. And with a TMZ report that Frank told police he was called a "f**got" during the altercation, it's unlikely that the controversy will go away anytime soon. The D.A.'s report also says that Chris threatened to shoot Frank during the incident.
Amid all this drama, Chris let off some steam Tuesday on his Instagram account, which is now private. According to E! News, he composed a long post in which he wrote, "Im wise I can handle the hate but enough is enough yo!! Yes it bothers me but its not my main focus! My music is..."
Chris continued, "Im a human being and I honestly think I deserve respect im sick of being accused...Im Tired yall just dont understand Ive been going through this s*** since I was 19 years old..you cant sit here and tell me to calm down, when am I gonna get a positive outcome out of anything I do?"
As expected, Beyoncé reunited with her Destiny's Child pals during her Super Bowl halftime performance at New Orleans' Superdome on Sunday. And one thing was for certain: Beyoncé bounced back in a big way after lip-syncing the national anthem at the presidential inauguration last month.
The halftime highlight was Destiny's Child's Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams joining their one-time band mate halfway through the set, emerging from underneath the stage. The trio started off with their single "Bootylicious" -- appropriately enough, given their sexy black outfits -- before segueing into "Independent Women," which was featured in the 2000 movie Charlie's Angels.
In a nod to their involvement in that film's soundtrack, they closed the song by stating in unison, "Hello, Charlie," and then striking the famous Charlie's Angels pose.
B asked Kelly and Michelle for help on vocals on her next song: her solo hit "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)." Kelly and Michelle even did the dance made famous in the "Single Ladies" video along with Beyoncé before exiting the stage halfway through the song.
The halftime show began with Pepsi's "fan-made countdown," a speedy photo montage of Beyoncé's fans that served as an introduction to the pop star.
Beyoncé, wearing a black leather outfit split in the middle to go with lengthy black boots, appeared on a set whose edges were lit in neon colors. From above, the shape of the set gave the appearance of two faces looking at one another. She was surrounded for most of her performance by a large group of backup dancers.
Fire sprung up from the stage, and Beyoncé kicked things off with a small snippet of "Love On Top" before launching into her first major solo hit, "Crazy in Love." There was no cameo from her duet partner in the original recording, her husband, Jay-Z.
After singing "End of Time," Beyoncé stood in front of a screen on which several realistic images of her mimicked her moves as she sang "Baby Boy." Vocals from reggae singer Sean Paul, who's featured on the original recording, were piped in.
Beyoncé closed the show with a wonderful rendition of "Halo," slapping the hands of fans surrounding the set as she did so. She thanked the crowd at the end of her set.
An Instagram user has posted a photo of Jay-Z hugging his wife following the halftime show.
Less than three hours after her performance, Beyoncé announced a world tour.
Here's the set list from Beyoncé's halftime show:
Super Bowl 47 at New Orleans' Superdome on Sunday opened with a pair of powerful performances from Alicia Keys and Jennifer Hudson.
Alicia, wearing an elegant maroon dress with a gold neck ring as she sat in front of a white piano, played a no-frills version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." And yes, she sang it live.
After singing the final lyrics, "O'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave," she added an additional line: "Livin' in the home, home of the brave."
Prior to Alicia's rendition of the national anthem, Jennifer Hudson joined the chorus of Newtown, Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School for a stirring performance of "America the Beautiful." They all wore green ribbons in memory of the students and staff members who died during the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.
Jennifer wore a tight black leather shirt and a white skirt for the occasion.
Towards the end of CBS' lengthy pregame coverage, Matchbox 20 performed their hit "She's So Mean." OneRepublic was also featured at the NFL Tailgate Party.
Boyz II Men tweeted on Sunday that they had a "BIG ANNOUNCEMENT THIS WEEK," and on Tuesday, the cat was out of the bag: the fellas are teaming up with New Kids on the Block and 98 Degrees for a joint tour. The New Kids made the announcement on ABC's The View Tuesday morning, and then brought their tour mates out onstage as the audience went wild.
The trek, dubbed The Package Tour, kicks off May 31, with tickets going on sale February 2. Earlier this year, Boyz II Men announced a residency at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. The guys will perform there in March, April and May, before resuming in September.
Here are the tour dates:
The usually-private Beyonce opened up her world in 2012, sharing family photos on her Tumblr page and posting snapshots on Instagram. But those glimpses into Bey's life were only the beginning. In an extended trailer for her upcoming HBO documentary, Life Is But a Dream, the superstar singer shares some very intimate moments, even showing off an ultrasound image of her daughter, Blue Ivy.
The 90-second clip opens with a voiceover from Beyonce, who talks about her inner battle to decide how much of her life to reveal to the public. With the constant pressure to outdo herself, she says, she focused her sights on independence.
Scenes of intense dance rehearsals, shows and recording sessions flash on screen, while Beyonce says over the footage, "Everyone was like, what is she going to do now?" And that's when the sleek camera shots are replaced by grainier footage of Beyonce in bed, speaking directly to the camera. "I just had a feeling that something was going on," Bey says, smiling.
Viewers see the ultrasound picture, followed seconds later by more shots of Beyonce's grueling dance practices and performances. "They keep putting me in these tight clothes and trying to hide it," Beyonce says, as footage of her baby bump appears on-screen. "It's very difficult. I don't know how I'm going to get through this."
Beyonce goes on to talk about power, and how it's taken and not given. She also shares her philosophy on life, as the clip closes.
Life Is But a Dream premieres February 16 at 9 p.m. Eastern time on HBO. Perhaps Bey's film title was inspired by the first line of her husband Jay-Z's song "Beach Chair," featuring Coldplay's Chris Martin. "Life is but a dream to me, I don't wanna wake up" he rhymes on the track, borrowing the famous last line from the nursery rhyme "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."
Robin Roberts made a live appearance on ABC's Good Morning America on Monday, announcing plans to return to the show.
Im coming home, Roberts said in a live interview from her New York City apartment. Were talking now a matter of weeks, not months.
Roberts announced that her most recent test, 138 days after the bone marrow transplant she underwent in September, showed no sign of abnormality, meaning she can begin the process of returning to GMA.
Im so happy to be sharing this news with everybody, Roberts said. Were going to take it step by step Im listening to my doctors. Im taking everything into account but this is a next step and Im so excited to be sharing it with everyone.
Roberts, a former ESPN anchor, likened the process of her return to an athlete coming off the injured reserve list, easing their way back into the game as opposed to jumping into the starting lineup.
Part of the process of reentry is I got up at 4 a.m. this morning, Roberts said. Thats one thing I have not missed is that alarm clock.
Roberts told her fellow anchors she will be doing a dry run next week, coming to the GMA studio in Times Square and going through hair and makeup but staying off-air as she adjusts to being back in her surroundings.
My skin is very sensitive and so we have to see how it reacts to the studio lights. My vision is still a little blurry from the treatment, she said. All of this is getting better day by day so that is the next step.
After I go through this dry run, my doctors will sit down with me again and well evaluate where I am, Roberts said. I should be back sometime in February. Now, I have a date in mind thats very personal and very important to me but I will ultimately listen to, of course, what my doctors say and, of course, we have to remember were in the height of flu season. Theres a lot of factors still.
Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News chief health and medical editor who has been working with Roberts throughout her treatment, also highlighted the importance of protecting Roberts from the flu.
Her immune system, what protects her from infections, is still rebuilding, he said Monday on GMA. She cant get a flu shot yet. Her body wont respond to that. Its not affecting it, which is why its important for other people to get that flu shot to protect her and I cant tell you how many people here at Times Square studio have told me this is the first year they got a flu shot and they got it for Robin.
Roberts took to Twitter last week, writing, See you VERY soon, to her fellow GMA anchors, prompting speculation about her return to GMA. In a blog post, entitled Wonderful Wednesday, she shared the very encouraging news that her doctors are pleased with her recovery.
I am excited but theres a range of emotions, Roberts said on Monday. I havent been live on television since the end of August. My heart is beating so fast right now but, you know what, it means Im alive, Im alive and Im so grateful to be excited as I am and I cant wait to be back.
In late December, Roberts celebrated the crucial 100-day benchmark, a milestone in her recovery from the September bone marrow transplant, according to her doctor, Dr. Gail Roboz, the oncologist at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
What we know now is that we cant see any of the disease that prompted this whole process right now, Roboz said. Thats really, thats what we were looking for. For right now, did we get rid of what we started out getting rid of?
Roberts, a breast cancer survivor, underwent the transplant to treat Myelodysplastic Syndrome or MDS, a rare blood disorder that affects the bone marrow. The transplant was a five-minute procedure in which the donor cells from Roberts' sister, Sally-Ann, were injected into Roberts' system through a syringe.
Roberts first announced her diagnosis on GMA in July and has been on medical leave from the program since Aug. 30.
Word has it that Ashanti and Nelly have called it quits on their relationship.
The pair seemed be enjoying each other in October, when Nelly hosted a surprise party in Atlanta to celebrate Ashanti's 32nd birthday. But rumor has it that Nelly has moved on, setting his sights on The Game actress Tae Heckard, who last year appeared in music videos for songs by Keyshia Cole and Rick Ross among others.
Years ago, Tae even appeared in a video for Nelly's 2005 hit "Grillz." It's possible that nothing romantic is happening between the old friends, but they've certainly been hanging out together lately. Around Christmas, Nelly's daughter took to Instagram with photos of herself and her dad, and credited Tae as the person behind the camera.
And the gossip mill recently went into overdrive when Nelly appeared alongside Tae in a photo she posted from her own Instagram account. When a Twitter user mentioned Tae in a message, writing, "So wait @taeheckard ain't gay..." and asked whether she was dating Nelly, Tae responded. "u thought I was gay?!?!?! ..." she wrote, ignoring the question about her relationship to Nelly.
So far, Ashanti and Nelly have remained mum on what's going on between them.
R. Kelly is sending a message of hope to the survivors of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. The song, "I Know You Are Hurting (Tribute to the Newtown, Ct. Kids)," is available now on iTunes.
Kellz leaves most of the singing up to a choir, including a group of children who open the song. "We need your love to shower down/ In our hearts/ Hear us now/ We need some answers." An adult ensemble takes over the chorus, which includes the lyrics, "I know youre hurting/ I hear you crying/ But come tomorrow/ There's a place you can go/ Find the blue skies/ Hear the choir sing/ Feel the power of a miracle/ Healing both you and me."
Over the course of his decades-long career, Kelly has been nominated for more than 20 Grammy Awards, but he's walked away with the trophy only three times. Each of those times was thanks to his inspirational 1998 hit "I Believe I Can Fly."
You probably saw the first photo from Rihanna's 2013 Barbados tourism campaign. Well, now there's video of the singer enjoying the island country where she grew up.
The clip features Rihanna's song "Diamonds" and shows her -- in a long white dress, with her hair down her back -- frolicking on the beach. The campaign's latest slogan, "TOURIST OR TRAVELER?" flashes on the screen, inviting potential visitors to "Find Your Path."
Rihanna's path leads her to a bungalow on the shore, where she looks out over the water. Then she's back to skipping down the beach, only this time, in a black-and-white striped "BARBADOS" t-shirt and bikini bottoms.
The Bajan beauty takes her bicycle out for a ride in another scene. She also plays dominoes with some locals, goes horseback riding in a pair of cutoff shorts and explores a lush hillside.
Miguel is riding high after earning five Grammy award nominations for his sophomore album, Kaleidoscope Dream. The California native stopped by Friday's Good Morning America to perform his hit single "Adorn" but before he took the stage, Miguel explained the meaning of his album title.
"I believe everyone has their own kaleidoscope dream. And it's made up of your conscious decisions, your sensibilities, your subconscious thought patterns -- all those things contribute to what you're experiencing in the near future," Miguel explained. "And this album was pretty much my way of painting my kaleidoscope dream, kind of giving the sonic soundtrack to my lifestyle."
When Miguel set out to record his sophomore album, "I wasn't trying to be slick, I wasn't trying to be poetic," he told ABC News Radio last November. The only exception is the album's title track, which Miguel says is "fairly poetic," and is intended to capture the energy of his lifestyle.
Miguel's lifestyle this past year has largely been on the road. The 26-year-old just wrapped up an outing with Trey Songz and Elle Varner on the Trey's Chapter V Tour, and is set to tour with Alicia Keys, who continues to promote her latest album, Girl on Fire.
Rihanna couldn't seem to stay out of the headlines in 2012 and she fed the fire, providing constant updates on Twitter and Instagram to her loyal and fanatical fan base, which she'd dubbed her "Navy."
The singer's complicated relationship with her ex Chris Brown got even more complicated in late December 2011, when he tweeted -- to no one in particular -- "Love U more than u know!" and Rihanna wrote, just moments later, "I'll always love u #1LOVE." That hint that the two still had something between them became more clear in February, when Chris appeared on Rihanna's "Birthday Cake" remix. Some fans and critics welcomed the track, while others questioned Rihanna's decision to collaborate with a man who had, just two years prior, admitted in court to physically beating her.
On Oprah's Next Chapter, Rihanna acknowledged that she had forgiven Chris, and revealed that she still loved him and was working on her friendship with him. Complicating matters was the fact that, at the time of the Oprah interview, Chris was dating aspiring model Karrueche Tran. In early October, though, Chris was seen hanging out with Rihanna in New York City, and just days after the pair were spotted cuddling at a Jay-Z concert, Chris officially announced his split from Karrueche. Not long after, he released a video in which he wondered aloud whether someone can be in love with two people.
The Rihanna/Chris Brown saga was almost enough to make people forget about Rih's record-breaking year in music. Thanks to "Diamonds," the lead single from Rihanna's latest album Unapologetic, the singer landed her 23rd top-10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, while Unapologetic became her first-ever #1 album. Even the bad publicity surrounding her "777" tour -- in which she packed journalists and fans into a jet and flew them around the world in an exhausting, unsatisfying whirlwind tour -- didn't hurt album sales. The disc included a full-fledged duet with Chris Brown titled, appropriately, "Nobody's Business."
Rihanna closed 2012 by scoring three Grammy nominations. Her only professional disappointment of the year seemed to be her big-screen debut in the movie Battleship, which was panned by critics and is considered a box office flop.
Rihanna is up for three Grammy nominations: Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "Talk That Talk" with Jay-Z, "Where Have You Been" for Best Pop Solo Performance and "We Found Love," featuring Calvin Harris for Best Short Form Music Video.
In February, Houston traveled to Los Angeles, where she was scheduled to perform at her mentor Clive Davis' annual pre-Grammy party. But hours before the event, news came that Whitney had been discovered unresponsive in the water-filled bathtub of her Beverly Hilton hotel room. The most-awarded female music artist of all time was dead at the age of 48. A coroner's report later would reveal the singer's official cause of death as drowning aggravated by a pre-existing heart condition called atherosclerotic heart disease. Cocaine and other drugs were found in her system, but they were not found to have contributed to her death.
Fans, friends and celebrities, including Mariah Carey, Usher and more, flooded Twitter with tributes to Whitney. For a time, every trending topic on Twitter was Whitney-related. At the Grammy Awards show, the loss of Whitney loomed large. Show host LL Cool J shared a heartfelt prayer in memory of the singer at the top of the awards broadcast, and Jennifer Hudson delivered a stirring performance of "I Will Always Love You" late in the show, working hard to maintain her composure as she sang.
The outpouring of love continued with Whitney's funeral -- a "home going celebration" at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., where Whitney sang in the choir as a youngster. Whitney's The Bodyguard co-star Kevin Costner spoke of their long friendship, and Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder, R. Kelly, CeCe Winans and more performed musical tributes to their dear friend.
Whitney's legacy lives on in her 19-year-old daughter with ex-husband Bobby Brown, Bobbi Kristina, who has followed her mom's footsteps into the acting and singing worlds. In addition to appearing in Tyler Perry's For Better or Worse, Bobbi now stars alongside her family in Lifetime's docu-series The Houstons: On Our Own. In November, Bobbi and her godbrother-turned-boyfriend Nick Gordon attended the CBS special We Will Always Love You: A Grammy Salute to Whitney Houston. Among those on hand to pay tribute to Whitney were Usher, Jennifer Hudson, Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Yolanda Adams, CeCe Winans and Halle Berry.
Along with Whitney, the music world this year also lost Donna Summer, Etta James, Soul Train creator and host Don Cornelius, funk legend Jimmy Castor, Natina Reed of girl group Blaque, and music exec Chris Lighty.
The shooting deaths of Jennifer Hudson's mother, brother and nephew took place in 2008, but it wasn't until May 2012 that a Chicago jury found William Balfour guilty on all counts in the murders. The verdict was read while Jennifer was present in the courtroom, joined by her fiance David Otunga and sister Julia Hudson.
In the years since the killings, Jennifer and fiance David have gone on to welcome their first child, David Otunga, Jr. The Dreamgirls star had also gone on to do other films, even taking on a role as a spokesperson for Weight Watchers. But even with all the wonderful things going on in her life, Jennifer was forced to return to the nightmare that had claimed her family.
Balfour's trial began in April 2012, and Jennifer vowed to be in the courtroom every day. She was the first of 80 witnesses who prosecutors called to the stand over a two-week span. In her testimony, Jennifer said she'd known Balfour since grammar school, and revealed that neither she, nor her mother, wanted Julia to marry him.
It was Julia who contacted Jennifer on the day that their mother, Darnell Donerson, and their brother Jason Hudson, 29, were found shot to death at the family's home in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood. Jennifer's nephew, 7-year-old Julian King, was also found shot to death, though at another location.
In her interview on Oprah's Next Chapter in September, Jennifer said that she didn't even know whose death to grieve first: "You don't know where to start," she said. With Balfour behind bars, though, Jennifer said she was finally ready to visit the grave site where her mom, brother and nephew were buried. She keeps her nephew's memory alive through her Julian D. King Foundation, which provides children, particularly those in the Chicago area, with toys and school supplies.
Jennifer's year includes a role in The Three Stooges movie. The svelte singer also released her autobiography, I Got This: How I Changed My Ways and Lost What Weighed Me Down. Add to that the launch of her own Jennifer Hudson Collection clothing line with QVC.
Perhaps most memorably, though, Jennifer tapped into her own personal experiences to deliver a stirring performance of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" as a tribute to the late singer, at the 2012 Grammys.
In late 2011, reports surfaced that Usher had sought sole custody of his two sons with his ex-wife Tameka Raymond, and not long after, she responded with court papers of her own. The legal drama spilled into 2012, ending in August, when an Atlanta judge granted Usher primary physical custody of his boys, Naviyd Ely Raymond and Usher Raymond V.
But while the legal proceedings may have come to a close, who could forget the courtroom drama that transpired between Usher and Tameka over the past year? First, news outlets reported on Usher's refusal to take a drug test -- a request that Tameka made, claiming that drugs may have been to blame for her superstar ex's loopy behavior during a concert in Germany back in January 2011. Usher's rep blamed a respiratory infection for his jerky performance.
In May, there was the courtroom discussion of whether Usher had been caught in bed with a woman who'd been one of Tameka's bridesmaids. Then, days later Usher testified that Tameka had swung and spat at his female friend just moments after he'd dropped on of his son's off at Tameka's home.
The wrangling wasn't limited to the courtroom. When Usher took to Facebook to post a photo of himself looking somber on the stand, Tameka laughed it off, saying he was using his popularity to manipulate the media and fans. But things turned more serious in July when Tameka's son, Kile Glover, was struck by a jet ski. The tragedy, which ended in Kile's death, later became part of Usher and Tameka's back-and-forth, with both parties arguing that the other was using it to their own advantage.
Despite the drama in his personal life, in February, Usher managed to release "Climax," the lead single from his seventh studio album, Looking 4 Myself, which was released in June. The track ranked high on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart, followed by another hit song, "Scream." By the time Usher was promoting his fifth single, "Dive," his custody battle with Tameka was coming to an end, and he soon walked away with primary physical custody of their kids.
In a September interview on Oprah's Next Chapter, Usher shared his thoughts on the custody battle, revealing, "It's very nasty... and there is no winner in any fight." He also owned up to doubts he had about marrying Tameka in the first place, and admitted that maybe they went through with tying the knot when they weren't ready.
Usher also told Oprah about his desire to be a good dad. Perhaps in a testament to that mission, Usher announced that he was postponing his Euphoria tour to spend time with his sons. The tour dates have been rescheduled for 2013. Also next year, Usher will begin his stint as a coach on NBC's The Voice.
Maybe someone could have predicted that Frank Ocean's Channel Orange album would be big in 2012. The New Orleans native landed on a handful of noteworthy "Best of" lists back in 2011, thanks to his nostalgia ULTRA mixtape, so multiple Grammy nominations for his mainstream debut wouldn't have seemed out of the question.
But what might have seemed far-fetched is a scenario in which a guy who'd become one of the most in-demand singer-songwriters in the R&B and hip-hop world would reveal via his Tumblr page -- just days before his album's July release -- that his first love had been another man. Doing so would seem like a high-risk gamble, especially in the urban music world, in which heterosexuality is expected of leading men and the use of homophobic slurs happens both in and out of the recording booth.
Frank wrote in his Tumblr letter that he'd been planning to open up about his sexuality in the liner notes of his album. His decision to speak up sooner was likely in reaction to a report that revealed that Frank had referred to a male love interest in songs on his album. Instead of denying it, though, Frank shared his story of meeting a guy one summer, and falling in love. His truth was met with an outpouring of acceptance, with supportive messages flowing from the Twitter accounts and Web pages of everyone from Alicia Keys and Beyonce, to Frank's Odd Future pal Tyler the Creator, whose lyrics had been criticized for a frequent use of the word f**got.
When Frank made his television debut on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon shortly before his album hit iTunes, he sang "Bad Religion" -- the very song that compelled journalists to speculate about his sexual orientation in the first place. For all his gutsy moves and the inspiration it brought his peers and fans alike, mtvU named Frank its Man of the Year.
As for the Grammys, Channel Orange is up for Album of the Year, as well as Best Urban Contemporary Album. Frank's single, "Thinkin Bout You," is in the running for Record of the Year, and Frank himself is up for Best New Artist. Thanks to his part on Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," Frank is also nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Long Form Music Video.
Frank headline sold-out shows in 2012, and canceling his dates with Coldplay. In 2013, he's expected to hit the road again, and he recently told British newspaper The Guardian that he has plans to perform in the UK.
"On the roof at 560 State St. Words cant describe," Jay wrote underneath a photo of his special moment. The post on his Life + Times website read, "No Ceilings" -- and it seems that's the exact message Jay was trying to get across in 2012.
His year got off to a great start, with the birth of his and wife Beyonce's daughter, Blue Ivy Carter. Jay captured the moment on his Pharrell Williams-produced track, "Glory," featuring none other than baby Blue. Credited as B.I.C. on the single, Jay's little girl became the youngest person ever to appear on a Billboard chart.
Along with the specially dedicated track, Jay and Kanye West were selling out shows around the globe on their Watch the Throne tour. Named one of the highest-grossing tours of the year, the excursion wrapped up in June. Still, there was more to look forward to: Jay-Z would be curating the first Budweiser Made in America festival in Philadelphia. The September shows brought out everyone from G.O.O.D. Music's Kanye West, Big Sean and Pusha T, to Maybach Music Group's Rick Ross and Meek Mill, as well as D'Angelo, Jill Scott, Janelle Monae and rockers Pearl Jam.
By the end of September, Jay was at Barclays. In addition to giving the people good music, Jay was doing his duty as a minority stakeholder in the Nets, spreading the word about the franchise. But as a Brooklynite, he was simply celebrating the fact that his borough had its first professional sports team since the Dodgers skipped town for Los Angeles.
"It's like a gift to Brooklyn to have this... arena and this team," Jay said on the red carpet outside his renovated 40/40 club, where he marked the release of NBA 2K13, a video game for which he executive-produced the music.
Named one of hip-hop's Cash Kings by Forbes, there's no telling what Jay-Z will do in the new year. On Dec. 31, he'll count down to 2013 by holding a joint New Year's Eve concert at Barclays with Coldplay. He's up for a handful of Grammys, including Best Rap Song for "N****s In Paris" with Kanye.
Some might say 2012 was a transitional year for Beyonce. Her baby bump was the talk of 2011, and in 2012 her biggest announcement has everyone counting down for an event happening in 2013: Bey's halftime performance at the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.
Nevertheless, when it comes to Beyonce, even her low-key years aren't very low-key. She brought in the new year with the birth of her and Jay-Z's first child, Blue Ivy Carter, in early January. And like magic, Bey seemed to lose the baby weight, posing for pictures in a fitted red dress not long after welcoming Blue home.
The public got its first glimpse of the Carters' new addition when family photos were shared on Blue's special Tumblr page in February. And while the cute snapshots were a hit, Beyonce made an even bigger social media splash when she gave fans a glimpse into her private life with Beyonce.Tumblr.com. The first photos Bey shared? Snapshots commemorating her and Jay's fourth wedding anniversary.
Of course, hard-working Beyonce couldn't stay on maternity leave long. In May, she returned to work, showing off her svelte post-baby body on stage at the new Revel Entertainment Complex in Atlantic City, NJ. The four-night run over Memorial Day weekend drew fans from across the globe, and even brought out first lady Michelle Obama.
In July, Beyonce released her new fragrance Midnight Heat, and a month later she encouraged fans to join her in leaving their footprint on World Humanitarian Day. To bring attention to humanitarian work around the world, Bey even filmed a special video for her song "I Was Here" in the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York City, in front of a live audience.
After celebrating her 31st birthday with a yachting trip around the Mediterranean, Bey and Jay-Z returned to New York City to host a fundraiser for President Obama's re-election campaign. Then Bey slowly began building a campaign of her own. She announced her Super Bowl gig, reportedly bowed out of Clint Eastwood's A Star Is Born remake, and began working on her 4 follow-up album.
She shared photos from the recording studio via her new Instagram account, and The-Dream confirmed to Billboard that Bey would release new material ahead of her Super Bowl show. And as if that's not big enough, Bey is executive producing a documentary about herself, which will premiere February 16. Fans will also get to check out her work in the animated film Epic, due out next spring.
All eyes were on Nicki Minaj in 2012 as she upped her TV, music and merchandise game.
Nicki's April release of Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded already had her on everyone's radar, but it was the departures of Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler from American Idol that catapulted Nicki even further when she landed a spot on the popular music reality series. After much speculation, Mariah Carey, Nicki and country music singer Keith Urban were confirmed as new judges in September. Almost immediately, the vibe was electric between Mariah and Nicki -- maybe a bit too high-voltage.
Within days, there were rumors that Nicki and Mariah didn't really get along. Initially, both women denied any issues -- until a leaked video surfaced, appearing to show the pair bickering during American Idol auditions. Lots of celebs weighed in on the feud. Some, like Cee Lo Green, doubted the feud from the jump while others, like Fleetwood Mac's Stevie Nicks, took a harder stance, for which she later apologized, in which she imagined strangling Nicki for what came across as disrespectful treatment of Mariah.
Despite the diva tiff, Nicki stayed focused on handling her other business and revamped Pink Friday for the November release of The Re-Up. She even made time to weigh in on the presidential election. As the presidential race heated up, Nicki rapped seemingly pro-Mitt Romney lyrics, which caused some fans to question her politics. After Nicki tweeted President Obama, acknowledging his comments in a radio interview in which he noted she often played characters in her songs, Nicki vowed to stay silent about the election outcome.
She didn't stay silent for long with her mini-reality series of specials on E!, Nicki Minaj: My Truth. In the special, Nicki took fans inside her Barbie world for a more in-depth look at her personal and professional life and how she lives in the spotlight.
Harajuku Barbie also showed off her girly side with makeup and fragrance collections. Nicki's new fragrance, Pink Friday, debuted in November while her second Viva Glam makeup collection with Mac Cosmetics will arrive to stores by February.
R&B's biggest stars, including Ne-Yo, Usher, Chris Brown and Trey Songz, released albums this year. But what critics couldn't seem to stop talking about was the so-called new wave of R&B rolling through.
Miguel is riding the current of that wave with his Kaleidoscope Dream album. He told ABC News Radio back in July that the disc would be "alternative" -- an opinion alluded to by impressed critics, including Rolling Stone, which wrote that Miguel's latest tracks were "spare and unpredictable."
Commenting on his talent, the New York Times wrote that Miguel had carved out a place for his "slightly left-of-center talent." Being different -- from the funky haircut to the blue blazers -- has paid off for Miguel, whose latest release debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 200 albums chart and is nominated for a handful of Grammys, thanks to hit single, "Adorn."
The singer is currently on Trey's Chapter V tour with Elle Varner, whose Perfectly Imperfect debut got props from first lady Michelle Obama. Varner spoke to Vibe Vixen about the changing sound of R&B, explaining that some of the stuff that falls into the category "in a way, is not even R&B; theres just nothing else to really call it. But you have artists like Frank Ocean, Miguel, myself -- it's not mainstream R&B."
Perhaps that's why even more traditional R&B singers like Brandy have taken notice. She called upon Frank Ocean to write music for her Two Eleven album, her first project since 2008's Human. Alicia Keys, too, took on a bit of Frank's sound, with its stripped-down production and vivid storytelling. He co-wrote "One Thing" for her Girl on Fire album, which Alicia says marks her her transformation into a more self-assured, bold woman in recent years. The disc had previously been slated to include a song co-written by Miguel, but that material ended up on his album instead.
In hip-hop, Dr. Dre protege Kendrick Lamar proved to be one of the biggest stories of the year. His debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, topped some important "Best of 2012" lists, thanks in part to its vivid storytelling about coming-of-age in Los Angeles. In mid-December the disc was certified gold.
Rick Ross finally released his long-delayed God Forgives, I Don't album in July, Nas declared Life Is Good with his tenth studio album and Kanye West caused a stir with rhymes about Kim Kardashian on his Cruel Summer compilation disc with G.O.O.D. Music's Pusha T, Big Sean and more.
Not all the big releases were new, though. Michael Jacksons landmark album Bad turned 25 in August, and to celebrate the anniversary, Michael's estate re-released his 1987 album as a three-CD, one-DVD deluxe set titled Bad 25. Along with re-mastered versions of Michael's singles, "I Just Can't Stop Loving You," "Bad," "The Way You Make Me Feel," "Man in the Mirror" and "Dirty Diana," the disc also gave fans previously unreleased material and song demos recorded at Michael's personal studio.
2 Chainz was a hip-hop phenomenon in 2012. He started the year still riding the momentum of his 2011 club anthem, "Spend It," which spawned unofficial remixes from Fabolous and Rick Ross. Now, a year later, things are even better for 2 Chainz, who's since been named the BET Hip-Hop Awards' Rookie of the Year, and The Source's Man of the Year. The second title had previously been Ross' two years in a row.
Before 2012, 2 Chainz had never released a solo record, so how does a new guy come along and become one of the hottest rappers in the game? First off, 2 Chainz isn't exactly a new guy. He broke into the music scene as Tity Boi, one half of the duo Playaz Circle. Their 2007 song "Duffle Bag Boy," featuring Lil Wayne, was a hit, but things never exactly took off. Four years later, 2 Chainz changed his name to his current, more family-friendly moniker. With some popular mixtape tracks under his belt, he signed to Def Jam, announcing the deal in February.
A couple months later, 2 Chainz jumped on Kanye West's Cruel Summer single, "Mercy," and the rest is history. The song, also featuring Big Sean and Pusha T, was a massive success, reaching #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and topping both the Billboard Hot Rap Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts. Later, 2 Chainz's first official single, "No Lie," featuring Drake, booted "Mercy" from the #1 spot in the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs rankings.
The BET Hip-Hop Awards gave 2 Chainz its "Sweet 16" title for "best featured verse" on "Mercy," and "No Lie" earned him the People's Champ Award. Both songs have been certified platinum.
And there were other big features, including 2 Chainz's spot on Nicki Minaj's "Beez in the Trap," which was released in April. While on tour with Nicki Minaj, 2 Chainz delivered his Kanye-assisted single "Birthday Song," followed by the August release of his Based on a T.R.U. Story debut. The set went to #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart in its first week out, selling 147,000 units, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
In September, 2 Chainz made his debut on the MTV Video Music Awards, rapping alongside Nicki on "Beez in the Trap." In October, he encouraged f, e, , lons to get edu, , cated about their voting rights. And in November, the former basketball star began rocking Adidas gear in ads for the retailer Champs, and also popped up in ads for Beats by Dre headphones.
As for the Grammys, 2 Chainz's Based on a T.R.U. Story set is up for Best Rap Album, and "Mercy" is nominated in the Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song categories.