The 56th Grammy Awards are this Sunday, at 8 p.m. ET on CBS, so gather around the television and watch the spectacle of GIFs waiting to happen, video mash-ups played live and iPod shuffle playlists come to life.
The Grammy Awards have become less about which trophy is destined for whose mom’s mantelpiece and more about the incredible performances that the producers can put together. This year the producers are using their super-powers for good and forcing The Beatles to reunite, making Metallica play with Lang Lang, Sara Bareilles to croon alongside Carole King and Robin Thicke to take his rightful place alongside Chicago. That alone means we will be parked on the couch watching the Grammys instead of Downton Abbey.
Here are a few performances to look forward to, some to avoid and a few wild guesses as to who will take home the trophies:
The Host: LL Cool J. While it’s not clear why the Grammys continue to ask the erstwhile rapper, avid hat wearer, and current NCIS: Los Angeles star to host the show, a role he’s held for the last two years. Perhaps next year the Grammys will simply play “Going Back To Cali” during the breaks between awards and performances and save LL the trouble of dressing up.
Category To Watch: Song of the Year. If Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ equality anthem “Same Love” takes the title, history will be made. That would be the first time ever, a hip-hop track — albeit a loosely-defined one — would win Song of the Year. Given the song’s popularity and message —and the veritable pupu platter of a category — there’s a good chance it could happen. If that’s not enough of the Mack for you, the rap duo apparently has a showstopper in the works for its live performance. They’ll be joined by Mary Lambert, the song’s co-writer and guest vocalist, as well as New Orleans sensation Trombone Shorty topped off with choreography by Nappytabs, the duo behind So You Think You Can Dance.
Toughest Competition: Best Rap Album. Put two titans —Kanye West and Jay Z — against Drake, an upstart with an excellent new album, and two freshmen —chart-topping Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and critically-acclaimed Kendrick Lamar — anyone could win and they all deserve the laurels. Not bad for a category that didn’t even exist until 1989, when the Best Rap Performance category was introduced, but not televised. If the Grammys really wanted to make the broadcast exciting they would make the men freestyle battle it out for the prize.
Performance We’re Most Excited For: Jay Z and Beyoncé. Will they perform “Drunk in Love” off of Bey’s surprise album, Beyoncé? Or their Grammy nominated rap/song collaboration on Jay Z’s “Part II (On the Run“? Or perhaps “Crazy in Love”? Frankly, who cares. These two could sing the Barney theme song and we would be rushing to download it on iTunes. Not only will this be Bey’s big unveiling after surprising the world with her visual album, but this will be Jay’s first Grammy appearance in ages. It was probably hard for him to continue his boycott in the face of nine Grammy nods.
Performance We’re Struggling To Imagine: Whoever dreamed up a collaboration between Nine Inch Nails, Queens Of The Stone Age, Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham has been …er, spending some quality time in Colorado. That said, people probably thought the first person to put peanut butter and chocolate together was crazy, too, and we all know how well that turned out.
Performance We’re Least Excited For: Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons. Kendrick keeps drawing the short straw at awards shows. At the VMAs he had to perform with Robin Thicke in the wake of Miley Cyrus and now, he is saddled with performing with mainstream alterna-rockers Imagine Dragons. Hopefully the Grammys will provide Lamar with a really big gong to go with Imagine Dragons really big drum.
Album We’re Rooting For: While Album of the Year has a lot of excellent contenders, if Kendrick Lamar manages to take the title, not only will it be the first time in a decade that a hip-hop album took home the night’s biggest prize (OutKast won in 2004 for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below), but the 26-year-old Lamar will have managed a feat that neither Kanye West nor Eminem nor Lil Wayne have pulled off. Plus, Lamar managed to slip into the category against heavyweights like Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience and Bruno Mars’ Unorthodox Jukebox.
Most Likely To Pull A Kanye: If Lamar does take Album of the Year — and Jay Z is in attendance — there’s a chance (admittedly a slim one) that Jay will rush the stage to point out that he thinks Beyoncé was a better album (even though it’s not eligible to win this year) or to publicly pout over the fact that he has never even been nominated for Album of the Year. Of course, we wouldn’t put it past Mr. Carter to rush the stage just to congratulate Lamar.
The Big Question: If Daft Punk wins Record of the Year for “Get Lucky”, will they actually speak?
Best Rewind Performance: Were you expecting us to say Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney? Not this Sunday, because country supergroup The Highwaymen is riding again. Sadly there are no plans for a Johnny Cash or Waylon Jennings hologram, but founding members Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson will be there joined by Blake Shelton and Merle Haggard filling in for the late Cash and Jennings.
Keep It In Perspective: The Baha Men won a Grammy for “Who Let The Dogs Out.” And Korn? They have two.
A Few Predictions:
Record Of The Year
Should Win: Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams “Get Lucky”
Will Win: Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams “Get Lucky”
Album Of The Year
Should Win: Kendrick Lamar “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”
Will Win: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis “The Heist”
Song Of The Year
Should Win: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Mary Lambert “Same Love”
Will Win: Lorde “Royals”
Best New Artist
Should Win: Kendrick Lamar
Will Win: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Best Country Album
Should Win: Kacey Musgraves “Same Trailer Different Park”
Will Win: Taylor Swift “Red”
Best Rap Album
Should Win: Kanye West “Yeezus”
Will Win: Kendrick Lamar “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City”
Best Alternative Album
Should Win: Vampire Weekend “Modern Vampires Of The City”
Will Win: Vampire Weekend “Modern Vampires Of The City”
The full list of Grammys nominations for 2014 is available at the awards show’s website. There are 82 categories.