Well, that’s a hard act to follow, isn’t it?
The Grammys haven’t had a moment like the Academy Awards’ Will Smith slap since 1998 when “Soy Bomb” decided to be Dylan’s backup dancer. Fortunately, Bob was unflappable and no one got hurt.
The music awards have been spared all of the crazy violence going on in Hollywood. Last year, it was Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s erotic dance that had people fearing the end of Western civilization.
Somehow, we survived and, just one week after the Oscar madness, we’re back with the 64th annual Grammy Awards, moving from Los Angeles to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas and with Trevor Noah returning as master of ceremonies. It begins at 5 p.m. Sunday on CBS and streams live and on demand on Paramount+.
Unlike the Oscars, the Grammy show is basically a concert with a few hurried stops to hand out awards, which seems like a good thing at the moment. Some of the more interesting and musically challenging categories are dispensed with in a Premiere Ceremony that can be viewed at grammy.com beginning at 3:30 p.m. That’s where you will see if the Pittsburgh Symphony wins and who takes home best liner notes.
Jon Batiste and H.E.R., who lead the field with 11 and eight nominations each, respectively, will perform, along with Billie Eilish, Brothers Osborne, BTS, Brandi Carlile, Lil Nas X with Jack Harlow, Olivia Rodrigo, Nas, Chris Stapleton and surely more. There will also be an In Memoriam performance featuring songs of Stephen Sondheim by Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Ben Platt and Rachel Zegler.
Here are some things to watch for:
Will Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish continue to take turns?
These hardworking women, who have taken turns winning album of the year — Eilish in 2020 for “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” and Swift in 2021 for “Folklore” — are in the running again, with Swift’s somber ninth album “Evermore” up against Eilish’s sophomore effort “Happier Than Ever.” The category has been dominated by women the last six years, interrupted only by Bruno Mars winning in 2018, only to be savaged in the aftermath for “stealing it away” from Kendrick Lamar. The run of female winners stands in sharp contrast to the ’80s when the only winning woman was Yoko Ono, for her part in the “Double Fantasy” record with John Lennon. Some intrigue: This is the first time Swift and Kanye West, who infamously bum-rushed her MTV Video Music Awards win over Beyoncé in 2009, have been nominated together in this category. While Ye has been deserving of an AOY in the past, his recent antics with Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson have all but disqualified him in ’22. The betting favorite is Olivia Rodrigo, who became the freshest face of teen angst with her debut “Sour.”
What about Ye?
While Kanye has been barred from performing in light of “concerning online behavior,” he’s welcome to show up and go up — if he wins. He’s up for five, and that’s a trainwreck we might want to see. Despite having the second most wins (21) and nominations (68) for a rapper, behind Jay Z, he has yet to win a song, record or album of the year. “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” arguably his best work, did not even earn an AOY nomination. “Donda,” as noted, probably won’t change that, given his recent behavior. He has the second most wins for best rap album (four) behind Eminem (six), but in recent years he’s lost to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (2014) and Chance the Rapper (2017). So, what will Kanye do — stay home? Create a scene? Or, maybe, plan something that night to draw attention away from the Grammys. Should be fun.
Will Justin Bieber win his first major Grammy?
The Biebs, at 28, is now 14 years into his career and has been nominated 22 times, but he’s no fan of the Grammys. The Canadian pop sensation, who performs in Pittsburgh the night before the awards, has won two of those, but they were both small categories and in supporting roles: best dance recording for “Where Are Ü Now” with Skrillex (2016) and best country duo/group performance for “10,000 Hours” with Dan + Shay (2021). This year he’s in all three major categories: “Peaches,” which has topped 1 billion Spotify streams, is nominated for song and record of the year, and “Justice” for album of the year. Best guess? Not a chance he prevails here.
Is Olivia Rodrigo a lock for best new artist?
Female artists are on a streak here as well, with Alessia Cara, Dua Lipa, Eilish and Megan Thee Stallion winning the previous four years. Rodrigo is the natural next woman up after topping the pop charts with unstoppable “Drivers License” and the album charts with “Sour.” The last male artist to win was Chance the Rapper in 2017. Like the metal category, before they sorted it out, this one is always a head-scratcher. Take Glass Animals. According to the guidelines, the category is “for a new artist who releases, during the eligibility year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist.” Formed in 2010, Glass Animals had a Top 20 album in the U.S. in 2016 with “How to Be a Human Being” and headlined Stage AE on that tour.
Tony Bennett: Grammy winner at 95?
At the other end of the spectrum, there has yet to be a centenarian winner. But we’ve gotten close. The oldest artist to win a Grammy was 97-year-old Pinetop Perkins, for traditional blues album, in 2011. Sadly, he died a month later. Bennett, who finally retired in late 2021, has won 19 Grammys and will likely become the second-oldest winner ever, for his work with Lady Gaga on “Love for Sale.” Album of the year and record of the year would be long shots, but pop duo/group performance (“I Get a Kick Out of You”) and traditional pop vocal album are well in play. The competition in the latter includes 76-year-old Dolly Parton and 88-year-old Willie Nelson.
Will Jackson Browne win his first-ever Grammy?
The mild-mannered Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with the poetic touch got his first Grammy nominations in 1979 for “Running on Empty”: album of the year and best male pop vocal performance for the song. Unfortunately, he ran up against the juggernaut of the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack for AOY, and Barry Manilow knocked him off for pop vocal with “Copacabana,” because that’s how Grammy voters rolled in the ’70s. In all, he’s been nominated eight times, this year for best Americana album for 15th effort “Downhill From Everywhere,” which included protest songs about climate change and immigration. The competition is John Hiatt with The Jerry Douglas Band, Los Lobos, Allison Russell and the potentially dangerous Yola, a British country-soul artist who was nominated for best new artist in 2020.
Who else could win their first Grammy?
Believe it or not, ABBA. The Swedish pop legends have their first-ever nomination, record of the year, for “I Still Have Faith In You,” a single from their first new album in 40 years. “Voyage,” which came out in November, will be eligible in 2023. Some other artists who could pick up their first Grammys: Selena Gomez, Gang of Four, Sun Ra Arkestra, Valerie June, BTS, Dream Theater, Gojira, Rob Zombie, Fleet Foxes, Halsey, Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett, Brothers Osborne, Elvin Bishop and Joe Bonamassa.