Grammys 2020: Seven things to watch out for – and how to watch the ceremony


Lizzo and Lil Nas X

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Lizzo and Lil Nas X are among the leading nominees for this year’s awards

The 62nd annual Grammy Awards take place in Los Angeles on Sunday night.

Billed as “music’s biggest night”, the ceremony is more like “music’s longest day” – with festivities kicking off at lunchtime in LA and stretching out into the night. Comfortable shoes are advised.

Pop star Lizzo leads the nominations this year, with eight in total, including album and song of the year. Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X are close behind with six each.

All three represent a new vanguard of pop – charismatic and non-conformist, with songs that defined the last 12 months (Lizzo’s Truth Hurts, Billie’s Bad Guy and Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road).

But, as Snoop Dogg knows only too well, nominations don’t necessarily translate into trophies. The rapper has gone home empty-handed 17 times – a victim of the Grammys’ tendency to reward establishment heavyweights over vibrant new talent.

We’ll avoid predicting the winners for that very reason… But here are seven other moments to watch out for.

1) The Old Town Road all-stars

Who’d have thought that a cowboy rap song recorded by a gay teenager for just $50 would become the longest-running number one in US chart history?

Well, that’s the story of Old Town Road, Lil Nas X’s likeably daft breakout track, which racked up 19 weeks at the top of the Billboard charts last year.

The single’s sustained success was partly due to a constant stream of remixes that refreshed the song and introduced it to new audiences.

To celebrate his six Grammy nominations, Lil Nas X is bringing out everyone who collaborated on a remix – including Billy Ray Cyrus, Diplo, BTS and 13-year-old country singer Mason Ramsey – for an all-star performance.

Hopefully, their live version will be released as a single, which will in turn be eligible for next year’s Grammys, and the cycle will continue until the sun dies and the universe ends. It’s what we deserve.

2) References to vote rigging

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Ten days before the Grammys, the Recording Academy dropped a bombshell: It was suspending its chief executive Deborah Dugan with immediate effect.

Dugan responded by filing a discrimination complaint in which she suggested the voting process for the Grammys was compromised.

Some of her claims merely confirmed what everyone always suspected – that people who perform on the night are given preferential treatment. But Dugan also alleges that artists and their representatives are allowed to sit on the “secret committees” who decide the shortlists, and insert themselves into the running.

She said these “conflicts of interest” had “tainted” the awards, a claim which the Recording Academy called “spurious” and “categorically false”.

But will anyone be bold enough to acknowledge the claims – or refuse to accept a trophy – at the ceremony?

3) The Lana Del Rey problem

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Lana Del Rey is deservedly a contender for album of the year – but her record’s sweary title will cause a headache for the organisers. How will they refer to it on television? And what goes on the trophy if she wins?

Lana’s solution for the supermarket edition of the record was to reduce the title to an acronym: NFR. But we prefer the Cockney version: “Norman Flaming Rockwell”.

While she’s considered an underdog next to Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next, it’s worth noting that NFR was a critical darling that topped the BBC’s “poll of polls” for album of the year.

4) An old artist winning best new artist

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That’s not as daft as it sounds: One of the leading contenders for best new artist, Lizzo, is actually on her third album – the twist being that the first two weren’t hits.

But it’s hard to begrudge her nomination when she’s celebrated her breakthrough with such an irrepressible joie de vivre, busting out flute solos, preaching body-positivity and bringing a giant pair of inflatable buttocks to the MTV Awards (see above).

Her main competition comes from spook-pop sorceress Billie Eilish, whose album When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go was America’s biggest-selling debut of 2019, selling 2.5 million copies.

Both singers are nominated in all four of the Grammy’s biggest categories – record of the year, song of the year, album of the year and best new artist – with Eilish being the youngest-ever artist to achieve that feat.

5) Run-DMC performing with Aerosmith

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Rock titans Aerosmith will receive the MusiCares Person Of The Year award, which recognises both musical and philanthropic endeavours (the band have a charity supporting abused women, a topic they first addressed in the song Janie’s Got A Gun).

They’ll also get to play a medley of their hits – with Run-DMC joining them to recreate the 1986 rap-rock crossover Walk This Way. It’ll be the first time the two bands have played together since 2007, in London’s Hyde Park.

One person who won’t be joining the celebration, however, is Aerosmith drummer Joey Kramer, who’s been told he can’t play with the band after recovering from a foot injury. He even took the issue to court, but lost the case on Wednesday.

6) Trophies for Harry Potter and Michelle Obama?

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Believe it or not, Harry Potter already has two Grammys – both in the best audiobook category – and JK Rowling’s boy wizard could double that tally this year.

Imogen Heap’s gorgeous score for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is nominated for best musical theatre album category; while a new recording of Hedwig’s Theme, which appeared in all eight Potter films, is up for best instrumental arrangement.

Meanwhile, Michelle Obama is nominated in the spoken word category for the audiobook of her memoir, Becoming. Her husband Barack has already won the category twice, but a third trophy would really bring the room together.

7) Nipsey Hussle tribute… and a song from Fame

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Rapper Nipsey Hussle’s life was cut tragically short last year, when he was shot outside a clothing store he owned in Los Angeles.

The 33-year-old was more than a musician, though. He was a community activist, who was deeply committed to rebuilding and regenerating the neighbourhood he grew up in. After his death, the Los Angeles Police Department hailed him as a “peacemaker”.

He never won a Grammy in his lifetime, but organisers will acknowledge his legacy with a star-studded tribute featuring DJ Khaled, John Legend, Meek Mill, and gospel singer Kirk Franklin.

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Media caption33-year-old Nipsey Hussle was shot dead outside his clothing store in Los Angeles

The night’s other big tribute is more of a curveball.

Camila Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Lang Lang, Ben Platt and John Legend (yes, him again) are lined up to perform The Body Electric, a song you may vaguely remember from the finale to the 1980 movie Fame, which centred on a group of students at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts.

The segment is apparently a self-congratulatory honour for TV producer Ken Ehrlich, who’s been putting together the Grammy ceremony for the last 40 years.

Other, presumably more-compelling, performances on the night will come from Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, the Jonas Brothers, Lizzo and Spanish star Rosalía.

Pop star Demi Lovato will also make her comeback after completing treatment for substance abuse in 2018 following a suspected overdose.

How to watch the ceremony

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Alicia Keys will host the ceremony for the second time

Because the Grammys features approximately 2,735 categories, there are actually two ceremonies.

The first one, officially called the Grammy Awards Premiere, can be streamed live on Grammy.com from 20:30 (UK) / 15:30 (ET) on Sunday 26 February.

Hosted by British musician Imogen Heap, it will feature performances by Nicola Benedetti, Yola and Angélique Kidjo; while prizes like best immersive audio album and best regional Mexican music album (Including Tejano) will be handed out.

Sadly, the main ceremony isn’t broadcast live in the UK – but US viewers can catch it live on CBS from 20:00 (ET).

Highlights will be shown on 4Music from 19:30 on Monday, 27 January. Or you can come to the BBC News website for full as-it-happens coverage.

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