BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
(I'll be in Los Angeles all weekend covering various Grammy events as well as the awards on Sunday, so make sure to come back daily.)
There are dozens of forms of validations for musicians — lesser awards, social media endorsements, sold-out venues — but they would all tell you after an injection of truth serum that having the phrase “Grammy-nominated” or “Grammy Award-winning” in front of their names is the dream accolade.
The 59th annual Grammy Awards will air on Sunday, live from Los Angeles with first-time host James Corden. A parade of musical luminaries from a palette spreading in diversity will be in attendance — from Chance the Rapper to Maren Morris to the Chainsmokers — and the performance list threatens, as always, to commandeer the night (which is not a bad thing).
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Here are five things to pay attention to during this year’s ceremony.
1. Adele, Beyonce. Beyonce, Adele: Their music couldn’t be more different — Beyonce with her spitting declarations of unfettered honesty and Adele with her billowy soul-pop melodies and songs centered on love, both unrequited and requited. But they are the two biggest female pop stars at the moment — Beyonce leads all Grammy nominees with nine and Adele earned five — and will face off in three key categories. For album of the year, Beyonce’s “Lemonade” will go head-to-head with Adele’s “25,” which sold more than 10 million copies in less than a year after its November 2015 release (Drake, Justin Bieber and outsider Sturgill Simpson also compete). The women will also compete for record of the year with “Formation” and “Hello,” respectively (along with Lukas Graham’s “7 Years,” Rihanna’s “Work” — featuring Drake — and Twenty One Pilots’ “Stressed Out”) and for song of the year with their same two hits, and will compete with Mike Posner (“I Took a Pill in Ibiza”), Bieber (“Love Yourself”) and Graham (“7 Years”).
2. Major tributes: Last year, the Grammys had to contend with the then-recent deaths of David Bowie and Glenn Frey. This year, there are at least 25 musicians who will likely be remembered during the “In Memoriam” segment, which will feature John Legend and Cynthia Erivo performing a new arrangement of the Beach Boys’ classic, “God Only Knows.” But two of the biggest — and most influential — pop names will each receive their own tribute segment: Prince and George Michael. Producers aren’t sharing details, but perhaps this is where we could have a Beyonce sighting?
3. Interesting pairings: To its credit, the Grammys have become synonymous with “huh, cool” types of musical hookups and will continue the trend on Sunday. Three years ago, Metallica performed with classical pianist Lang Lang. This year, they’ll rock the stage with Super Bowl hero Lady Gaga. Other tag teams include Alicia Keys and country breakthrough singer Maren Morris; the Weeknd with his “Starboy” collaborators Daft Punk; and Kelsea Ballerini with Graham. And for an added dollop of fun, Demi Lovato, Andra Day, Tori Kelly and Little Big Town will salute the Bee Gees’ landmark “Saturday Night Fever” album.
4. A marquee lineup: Since only about 14 Grammy Awards are presented on TV (the other 70 are unveiled during the three-hour “Premiere Ceremony,” which can be streamed at 3:30 p.m. via www.grammy.com/live), that leaves a lot of open space for performances. This year, music fans can revel in another appearance by the mighty Adele, as well as Chance the Rapper, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Sturgill Simpson, A Tribe Called Quest, Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, the Weeknd, Anderson.Paak, William Bell, Gary Clark Jr. and more. And, no slight to LL Cool J – after all, he IS a staple of CBS’ “NCIS: Los Angeles,” so we get the synergy, but cuddly new host and avowed music fan James Corden is an ideal selection. And a change was needed.
5. The home team: If we still consider Bieber tied to Atlanta in any capacity, then congrats to him on his major nomination for album of the year (“Purpose”) and song of the year (“Love Yourself”), as well as two others in pop categories. But the majority of Georgia-related nominees will be visible in pre-show categories.
2 Chainz is featured on Chance the Rapper’s “No Problem” (along with Lil Wayne), which earned a nomination for best rap performance. The College Park native legally known as Tauheed Epps also scored a nod with Chance and Wayne for best rap song, a songwriter’s award; upstart MC Lil Yachty lands his first Grammy nomination in the best rap/sung performance category for his feature on the double platinum single “Broccoli” with Virginia rapper D.R.A.M. (Yachty will also be the subject of a three-minute Target ad airing during the ceremony); Thomas Rhett, a Valdosta native, will vie for best country song with “Die a Happy Man,” the tune which won the singer a CMA Award for single of the year; Atlanta transplant Crowder has his second solo album, “American Prodigal,” in the running for best contemporary Christian music album; comedian David Cross, who regularly returns to Atlanta to visit his family, will contend for best comedy album with “… America … Great …”; frequent nominees Steven Lance Ledbetter and Michael Graves (along with April Ledbetter, Bill Nowlin, Philip D. Schuyler and Rick Fisher) return in the best historical album category for “Music of Morocco From the Library of Congress: Recorded by Paul Bowles, 1959,” on their Atlanta-based Dust-to-Digital label.
Other Atlanta-related nominees include Rick Ross (“Purple Lamborghini” collaboration with Skrillex for best song written for visual media); Mike Will Made-It (producer of Beyonce’s “Lemonade” for album of the year, “Formation” for record of the year); Musiq Soulchild (“I Do,” best R&B performance); Lauren Daigle (“Trust in You,” best contemporary Christian music performance/song); and Bell (“This Is Where I Live,” best Americana album).
59th annual Grammy Awards
8-11:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS. James Corden hosts.