There may be 82 Grammy categories, but don't expect to see more than 10 of them on Sunday's telecast of the Grammy Awards. Instead, the three-plus-hour awards show is more of a televised concert, and this year, Paul McCartney, Daft Punk, Katy Perry and Lorde are among the scheduled performers.
But if the Oscars brings more trophies to its live show, the Grammys packs more theater. The bulk of the Grammy awards are scheduled to be handed out Sunday afternoon during a pre-telecast ceremony that will be streamed starting at 1 p.m. on Grammy.com.
That means the big show, which airs tape-delayed on CBS at 8 p.m. on the West Coast, can carry that much more drama. Here are some story lines to watch.
Will the Grammys get its groove back? Ten years ago, the Recording Academy introduced a Grammy for dance/electronica album. The category, in its short history, has yet to produce an album of the year winner. Buoyed by the summer hit "Get Lucky," Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" could be the first, and the timing seems right. The Grammys have been making overtures to the dance community in recent years, most obviously in 2012 with a Deadmau5-anchored live performance. But "Random Access Memories" has something Grammy voters love even more than Adele: It sounds old-fashioned. Though its retro flavoring may be Space Age cool, "Random Access Memories," in fact, owes more than a little debt to the era defined by the soundtrack to 1977's "Saturday Night Fever," one of the few dance-centric albums to ever take the top Grammy prize.
So "Random Access Memories" is the album of the year favorite? Tentatively. It's still relatively rare for Grammy voters to stray from albums that aren't steeped in more organic sounds. Fans of breakout rapper Kendrick Lamar should note that it's been a decade since a hip-hop artist won top prize, and an electronic act may be seen as downright exotic. The populist choice would be Taylor Swift, whose critically well-received "Red" has sold close to 4 million copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, and who has already won album of the year with her 2008 effort "Fearless."
What's bigger than a glowing pyramid? Daft Punk's trophy count is not the only question surrounding the electronic duo on Sunday. Heading into the show, the act's set with Stevie Wonder, Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers is arguably the most exciting bill of the night. And although we know who will be onstage, we don't know what will be onstage. Will they try and outdo their famous Coachella pyramid? Will they scale down for more of a live-band look like they did in the "Get Lucky" video? Will we finally get an all-robot rhythm section? The duo has to tour someday (knock on wood and pray to the luck source of your choice), and this set will be the first look at what they're up to.
Will Grammy sever ties with Kanye? Kanye West was once a lock for an album of year nod. That all changed with his 2010 album, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," a grisly, honest look into the mind of a superstar. Or maybe it was, to put it mildly, his lack of modesty that started to turn voters away. Regardless, "Yeezus" is the artist's second-straight solo album to be overlooked as an album of the year nominee. Even for West, "Yeezus" was a polarizing work, an album heralded for its riveting electronic beats but marred by off-the-cuff lyrics that struck many as misogynistic. It is nominated for rap album, but considering that it's competing against two album of the year offerings — records by Lamar and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, respectively — West's era as a dominant Grammy force may be nearing its end.
A genuine rap battle in the top slots. Speaking of rap, it's nice that the Grammys finally deigned to nominate two hip-hop acts for two major categories, album of the year and new artist. What's distressing, however, is that it's shaping up to be a bloodbath of competing rap virtues — the wise, fire-spitting Compton flag-bearer Lamar and the coat-swinging, goofball Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Neither of them needs the sales bump, but these contests will be crucial tests to see whether Grammy is more prepared to reward pop-radio ubiquity and soupy positivity, or something a little more ambitious.
What will be this year's train wreck of a performance? Grammy is famous for its 10-car collaborative pileups onstage. This year is especially rich in potential for watching the show through clenched fingers. Who decided that Lamar's live Grammy debut should be shared with the electro-jock-rock of Imagine Dragons? But Metallica's planned noodling alongside pianist Lang Lang and Robin Thicke performing with Chicago (what, was Huey Lewis & the News busy?) will give them a run for their cringe-watch money.
Might rock 'n' roll steal the show? Aside from the aforementioned appearance by Metallica, the Recording Academy has announced a grand finale featuring Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age, two of the genre's more reliably hard-hitting performers. Granted, there's many an atmospheric moment among Nine Inch Nails' cyber-punk aesthetic and Queens of the Stone Age's born-in-the-desert rumble, but at a time when Grammy voters are still nominating old Led Zeppelin works for rock album, expect the likes of Trent Reznor and Josh Homme to make their points loudly.
Will there be a breakout star? A Grammy show is not necessarily the place for music discovery, but keep a close eye on Kacey Musgraves. The new artist nominee is a star among the Nashville contingent — she tied with Swift for six nominations at the 2013 edition of the Country Music Assn. Awards — and with about 300,000 copies sold of her "Same Trailer Different Park" in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, Musgraves appears on the verge of crossover success. Musgraves, who is only in her mid-20s, looks at small-town values with a refreshingly skeptical eye, and her performance could reveal a Grammy fixture for years to come.
'The 56th Grammy Awards'
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Rating: TV-14-DL (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for suggestive dialogue and coarse language)Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times