The 2012 Grammys, held in tribute to Whitney Houston, smashed ratings records nationwide.

The event was already poised to draw millions of viewers as it does every year, but its viewership reached unexpected peaks, coming just one day after the tragic death of Grammy-winning singer Whitney Houston at just 48 years old.

The show evolved in the wake of the sad news to include not just a celebration of current recording artists, but also a remembrance of Whitney Houston. The show included moving tributes by host LL Cool J--who offered a prayer to Houston, who he called a member of our family and singer Jennifer Hudson, who sang Whitney Houston's hit song I Will Always Love You.

The 2012 Grammy Awards were the breakout hit of the television season, drawing 39.9 million viewers, according to Entertainment Weekly. That stunning number makes it the most-watched non-sports program so far this season. That number is about 50 percent higher than the 26.6 million viewers the show brought in last year.

It also makes the 2012 Grammys the second-highest-rated Grammy show in the ceremony's 54 year history. The only better-rated year was 1984, during which 43.8 million people watched Michael Jackson perform his smash hit Thriller, according to the New York Times.

The last time the Grammys pulled in more than 30 million viewers was 1988, Billboard reported.

Shown on CBS, the show ran more than 3 1/2 hours, and also landed a stellar 14.1 rating in the heavily-courted 18-to-49-year-old demographic (up 41 percent from its 10.0 rating last year) crowning it the top non-sports event for that group, too, the Times reported.

And the Times said the show even edged out last year's Oscars in the 18-to-49-year-old demographic. The 2011 Oscars only got 37.9 million viewers in that category, despite being the perennial highest-rated awards show.

Billboard reported that the Grammy Awards has seen increases in viewership over the past five years, after a number of years of ups-and-downs.