Jennifer Hudson channeled Whitney Houston's balladry in February when she performed "I Will Always Love You" at the Grammys, the day after the iconic pop singer died. Hudson captured Houston's more energetic stage persona Thursday night during the taping of We Will Always Love You: A Grammy Salute To Whitney Houston at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles.
During the one-hour television special, Hudson partied in the aisle with attendants as she sang Houston's dance favorites, "I'm Every Woman," "How Will I Know" and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" while also donning the late singer's signature styles.
Hudson borrowed Houston's bouffant hairstyle from her "I Wanna Dance With Somebody" music video, and her shiny grey jacket was a perfect match for the slinky dress and gloves Houston wore in her "How Will I Know" short.
Hudson was one of the night's three moving live performances. Usher sang "I Believe In You And Me" and CeCe Winans and Yolanda Adams sang "Count On Me" from the Preacher's Wife and Waiting To Exhale soundtracks, respectively.
Winans originally performed "Count On Me" as a duet with Houston. Adams, who offered a toned down rendition of Houston's parts, set Winans up to belt her way through the rest of the gospel number, prompting the audience to stand. The camera captured Houston's daughter Bobbi Kristina sighing and fanning herself to fight back tears as she watched one of her mother's best friends pay homage.
Aside from a rarely seen video of Celine Dion singing Houston's "The Greatest Love Of All" in 1987, the remainder of the evening's entertainment came from Houston. Houston's most memorable televised moments were played for viewers, among them, her historic "Star Spangled Banner" performance at Super Bowl XXV, "I Will Always Love You" Grammy showstopper in 1994, and even her first television appearance on The Merv Griffin Show in 1983.
In an interview clip, Houston joked that her mother actually directed the band during her Merv Griffin taping. According to Houston, the band was playing a slow tempo, so Mrs. Houston took the lead and her silhouette can been seen through the show curtains conducting the band.
The night hosted by LL Cool J included a number of A-list presenters. Halle Berry struggled not to cry as she offered the opening remarks, referring to Houston as a hero whose singing inspired her when she was a little girl. Britney Spears revealed that she sang Houston's "I Have Nothing" when she auditioned for her recording deal at the age of 15. Actress Taraji P. Henson's eyes were welled with tears as she introduced Usher. Houston's mentor Clive Davis reiterated his remarks from Houston's funeral that you wait for a lifetime to experience a talent and beauty as great as Houston.
We Will Always Love You: A Grammy Salute To Whitney Houston will air on CBS on November 16 at 10 p.m. ET.