Now that we know the what, the when and the where of the 2022 Grammy Awards, the next question is the most fun: who? Who might be gracing the glamorous Grammy stage on the night of April 3?
While many in the industry seem to believe that holding the big show in Las Vegas will be a detriment to Grammy Week if not the show, there’s a lot more silver in that lining than might seem at first blush. As the omicron variant has caused yet another disruption to touring plans, Vegas residencies have become a very attractive touring-without-touring option for artists big enough to take that route, and hey, what do you know, both Adele and just-announced Silk Sonic will be performing Vegas residencies at the time the Grammys take place — and they both happen to have the night of April 3 off! (Reps for the artists mentioned in this article either declined or did not respond to Variety’s requests for comment.)
Of course, Adele is not nominated for the 2022 Grammys, with “30,” her first album in years, arriving well outside of the eligibility period — but that didn’t stop the Grammys from booking Silk Sonic last year, and when one considers a) the viewers that an Adele performance would bring to the Grammy broadcast and b) the additional buzz it would bring for Adele’s already-oversold Vegas residency (which presumably could be extended for as long as her heart desires and her vocal cords can stand), it’s win/win/win. Likewise, it’s rare for the same artist to perform on two consecutive Grammys, but Silk Sonic’s four nominations — not to mention one of the biggest singles of the year — may overrule that loose rule.
Looking at the nominees list, there’s Jon Batiste at the top with a near-record 11 nods, not only for his genre-spanning “We Are” album but also for his stellar work on Pixar’s “Soul” film. Will he be performing? Duh!
From the other most-nominated artists, Doja Cat seems likely to bring one of her trademark extravagant TV performances; Justin Bieber could do a medley of his nominated songs with the Kid Laroi popping up for the “Stay” segment; and H.E.R. already is well on her way to being an awards-show regular, although the lack of a breakthrough song on her best-album-nominated “Back of My Mind” makes that feel a bit less obvious.
Of course, 2021’s breakthrough star, Olivia Rodrigo, seems a natural, as do multiple nominees Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X, the latter of whom could conjure a vivid water-cooler-moment performance that would make Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s pearl-clutch-inducing take on “WAP” last year seem tame. Finally of the big nominees, Brandi Carlile has also become a Grammy favorite and could use her considerable clout to shine the light on another artist, like possibly her pal and three-time nominee Alison Russell.
Ironically, the two most sure-fire viewer-bait artists just have one nomination apiece: Taylor Swift and BTS. Swift was expected to get more than just the lone album of the year nomination she came away with; she won that very prize last year, but probably faces tougher odds in claiming a repeat. She has showed up to perform before at awards shows where fans feel she was seriously underrepresented in the nominations, as she is here — but usually when she had a new album or single to promote. So with “Evermore” being nearly a year and a half old by the time the Grammys come around, Swift may feel fine sitting it out… although it’s not impossible to imagine a scenario where she’d be reviving something from one of her Big Machine re-records instead.
And BTS? They surely care a little less than their most ardent fans do about how many nominations they’ve picked up, knowing it’s really all about the performance slots. The idea of the Grammys not inviting them to perform, anyway, is unfathomable.
Theorizing what kind of “Grammy moments” might be manufactured by producers is interesting, if far from knowable. These usually involve pairing performers up, but in the case of the multiply nominated duo of Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, it would involve un-pairing her from the elder singer, as he has retired since the making of their album. Could Gaga galvanize attention all by her lonesome, singing in salute to her idol-turned-partner? Of course. Or she could bookend an all-star salute to Bennett.
Multi-artist performances themed around genres or categories are a possibility, too. Looking at the American roots and country categories, it’s not difficult to imagine a grouping that would make use of the huge wave BIPOC women artists based in those genres or the Nashville scene that could be celebrated in a blowout performance, including Russell, Yola, Mickey Guyton (who already had a featured solo spot on the telecast last year), Rhiannon Giddens and Valerie June… and more, if producers went outside just the list of nominees.
Plenty of nominees might seem on the bubble — at least worthy of a collaborative spot, or a solo spotlight that could help the Grammys’ credibility karma, if they don’t stay fixated on superstars: Think Jazmine Sullivan, Arlo Parks, Jimmie Allen, Leon Bridges and many others.
With the nominated records being so far in the past by the time the telecast occurs, producers could well look to artists who have newer releases coming out or peaking in 2020, a la the current album chart-topper “Gunna,” or even Lin-Manuel Miranda and the voice cast of “Encanto,” if they aren’t worried about that current phenomenon being too much a thing of nostalgia come April, too.
And then there’s the problem child: Kanye West. Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. has said that the top categories were expanded from 8 to 10 this year because hip-hop was not represented in album of the year — with West and Swift being the beneficiaries of that expansion — but West is no friend of the Grammys and even posted a video of himself urinating on a Grammy trophy last year (presumably one from his collection of 21). He is also a billionaire, seemingly immune to criticism and the living definition of a loose cannon, so anyone who places him on live television has no excuse for what might happen, and the mind reels at the possibilities. CBS and the Academy may well decide that the ratings are not worth a risk on that scale. Then again, Mason jr. is said to believe it’s important to try to bring West back into the Grammys’ fold.
Of course, the Grammys had to reinvent themselves last year, and while all are hoping for a more-normal show in 2022, lots of old informal rules have already been broken, so this year’s show is tougher to predict than, say, 2019’s. One thing’s for sure: We’ll be watching …
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