BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Whitney Houston's appearance at Clive Davis' celeb-soaked, pre-Grammy concert party fueled speculation that the diva would be among the night's performers — but her only time in the spotlight came when the music mogul introduced her in the audience.
Houston, who is working on her comeback album, didn't get on stage Saturday night, but the event didn't lack for all-star performers — Alicia Keys, the Foo Fighters, Daughtry and Akon were among the Grammy-nominees who sang at the VIP event. Others there from music and Hollywood's A-list included Janet Jackson, Quincy Jones, new mom Nicole Richie and boyfriend Joel Madden and Richie's father, Lionel.
Carrie Underwood showed up with "Gossip Girl's" Chase Crawford, while Ashlee Simpson and boyfriend Pete Wentz walked in arm-in-arm. Other couples included comedians Sara Silverman and Jimmy Kimmel, and Usher and his wife, Tameka, who recently gave birth to the couple's first child, a son.
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Rihanna and Chris Brown chatted together at one of the front tables, while Super Bowl champ Michael Strahan of the New York Giants joined tennis champion Serena Williams at another table (Strahan got a huge cheer from the crowd when he was singled out by Davis).
"American Idol" judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson mingled while last year's champ Jordin Sparks chatted with past finalist Chris Daughtry.
And Fantasia was sporting a new hairstyle, which could best be described as bangs in the front and sheared sides, including one section dyed silver. Asked to explain her new 'do,' the former "American Idol" champion, who recently wrapped up a run playing Celie in "The Color Purple" on Broadway, told The Associated Press: "It's something different, post-Celie."
Daughtry's two-song set included guitarist Slash and Nickelback lead singer Chad Kroeger. Lead singer Chris Daughtry said performing at the event, perhaps the music industry's most coveted invite, is an enviable position to be in.
"I was here last year, and I had to sit in the audience, and it sucks watching everyone else perform," he told the audience.
The show also featured British newcomer Leona Lewis, Fantasia, and Josh Groban and Andrea Bocelli, who got a standing ovation after performing "The Prayer."
"My teachers told me always, don't sing after dinner," Bocelli joked. "But this was a special occasion."
Akon joined friend and collaborator Wyclef Jean onstage to close out the party. Jean started off his performance with a rendition of a new song, "President," with a revised lyric: "Obama, Hillary Clinton, they got competition ... vote for me for president."
Jean and Akon both traded hits before the last verse, coming out into the audience and dancing with the crowd. But Jean didn't want to end it there: "I'm not gonna end until we flip," he sang to Akon, who shook his head and shrugged.
Moments later, Jean did a backflip, then Akon matched his effort with a backflip of his own, though not as steady.