December 21, 2012 at 05:00 AM EST

The thankless job of belting ”I Will Always Love You” at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards a mere 24 hours after the passing of Whitney Houston fell on the shoulders of Jennifer Hudson, 31. It was an ideal choice; in Hudson, Grammy producers found a spiritual protégée. With poise and grace, Hudson didn’t try to match Whitney on The Note (she sang the shorter version recorded by Linda Ronstadt that omits the final verse). Instead, she centered her lovely rendition on two key breaths: one during the introduction to compose herself, the other near the end to set Whitney’s spirit free. In that pair of sublime pauses, Hudson conveyed the magnitude of what we had lost and the power of Houston’s legacy.

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A MONKEY ON A SHOW NO ONE SAW The monkey from Animal Practice

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