LL Cool J hosts the 56th Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBS. (Credit: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)
The last thing millions of viewers will be focused on while watching the Grammys is the awards themselves. What makes the Grammys are the performances. The programmers know this, which is why in recent years they have featured less trophy presentations and more of their oddball pairings of performers that you wouldn’t necessarily think would work together. The results often vary from stunning to excruciating, which is why we tune in. Here’s what to look out for on Sunday night.
Getting lucky? Pharrell Williams had his hand in two of 2013’s mega hits, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” the latter of which he’ll perform with everybody’s favorite helmeted Frenchmen. (BTW, be ready to tell your parents that Daft Punk have been around since the ’90s when they ask who the weirdos in the helmets were). With Nile Rodgers and Stevie Wonder also joining in this jam, you can feel it all over, especially as it’s rumored they’ll go into Stevie’s classic, “Sir Duke.” It will also be surprising if you don’t see Pharrell at the podium to accept an award at least once. He’s nominated for seven!
The host with the most (licks) LL Cool J is back for his third consecutive year as the host, and if the previous years are any indication, he also swings wildly between cringe-worthy (actually saying the phrase “hash tag” in front of everybody’s name he mentions like a verbal tweet) and awe-inspiring (kicking it old school at the end of last year’s ceremony with Chuck D, Z-Trip, Tom Morello and Travis Barker). Also, if you’re looking for a Grammys drinking game, if you take a drink after every time the host licks his lips, you’ll be wasted before a single note-worthy award is given. Historically, LL has stood for Ladies Love, but maybe it's been lip-licking all along!
Country classics Though many may see this as “the guy from ‘The Voice’ with a bunch of old bearded dudes,” Blake Shelton (nominated for Best Country Solo Performance) will sing with Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson. The forecast for this one is amazing, with a chance of embarrassing.
Blurred horn lines You remember Robin Thicke from the VMAs? Yes, he was definitely there! He was the one guy that Miley Cyrus grinded upon that wasn’t dressed like a stuffed animal. Anyway, he’s being given another shot at awards show glory, and he’s sharing the stage with the legendary nine-piece horn outfit Chicago. So he had something different in mind when he told Miley right before their duet that he wanted “something horny”?
‘Radioactive’ collaboration One of the worst moments in Grammy history happened in 2006, when Linkin Park, Jay Z and Paul McCartney tried to create popular mashups that featured their music. (In 2006, mashups were still new and musicians were still figuring out how to accompany rappers.) Eight years later, hip-hop and rock fit more naturally, so when Imagine Dragons play their Record of the Year nominee, “Radioactive” as Kendrick Lamar raps over it with “Swimming Pool,” from his Album of the Year nominee, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City,” it has potential. Interestingly enough, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (nominated for seven awards also, including Album of the Year and Song of the Year) are not paired with anybody. Maybe the Academy thought they were separate artists who they’d already paired together?
Music’s last couple Yes, they'll probably do "Drunk in Love" together, but wouldn’t it be sublime if hip-hop’s royal couple silently acted out a dramatic scene while Lorde performed her multiple nominee “Royals”? Think about how much that “you can call me Queen Bey” part would resonate! Or maybe Jay and Bey could perform “Love Will Keep Us Together,” as a tribute to Captain and Tennille, who earlier this week announced that they are divorcing.
Big sloppy rock ending There’s also no star in an all-star jam, because when a ton of accomplished famous musicians plug in, it’s just a mess. Earlier this week it was announced that Dave Grohl was curating the finale, which includes Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac. But what makes this different from any Rock and Roll Hall of Fame jam is that we can’t think of a single song that all of these guys would like. It will be a mess, but at least it will be an interesting mess.