Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
The Grammy, music's most prestigious honor, gets a 3 1/2-hour showcase to honor the industry's brightest talent. While fans root for their favorites to collect the gold, they don't tune in for endless marches to the podium.
And that's not what they get.
Viewers can expect a marathon musical revue and a trickle of trophies. Between 69 and 71 of the 82 Grammy awards will be dispensed at the pre-telecast.
The rest will be sandwiched between performances by the industry's hottest stars.
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Jay Z leads this year's pack with nine nominations. Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Justin Timberlake and Pharrell Williams each have seven, and Drake and mastering engineer Bob Ludwig have five.
Who sweeps or goes home empty-handed may be less memorable than the night's wild diversity and fabled matchups.
- Yep, the rumors are true. Madonna will perform with one of the nominated acts.
- Rock band Imagine Dragons and rapper Kendrick Lamar are paired in an organic mashup. "They gravitated toward each other," says executive producer Ken Ehrlich. "Sometimes we force the issue, but they really like each other."
- Pink and fun.'s Nate Ruess are teamed, presumably for their hit Just Give Me A Reason.
- Other pairings include country star Keith Urban with guitar great Gary Clark Jr., Metallica with Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang and Sara Bareilles with Carole King.
- Ringo Starr will perform his 1973 hit Photograph against a montage of photos from his book of the same name. Paul McCartney also is on the bill, and the two sharing the stage remains a possibility.
- Robin Thicke and veteran band Chicago plan a medley.
- Billie Joe Armstrong and Miranda Lambert will salute the late Phil Everly during an In Memoriam segment.
- John Legend will sing All of Me from his Love In the Future album. Also in the solo spotlight are Lorde, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Kacey Musgraves and Hunter Hayes.
- A hard-rock finale brings together Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl and Fleetwood Mac guitarist Lindsey Buckingham.
The range of talent "is pretty extraordinary this year, from the tried and true to the new," says Neil Portnow, president/CEO of the Recording Academy. "You see a lot of great established artists in the nominations, artists into their sophomore or junior albums who are soaring, and some brand new people who broke out with very different kinds of music. For us, that's the best-case scenario."
The chief challenge this year? The calendar. The Winter Olympics pushed the Grammy show two weeks earlier than usual.
"It's been a sprint to the finish line, but I've got the A team," Portnow says.
Also complicating matters is the simultaneous production of a Beatles all-star tribute, which tapes Monday after several days of rehearsals that overlap with Grammy preparations.
"My staff is going to kill me, and they have every right to," says Ehrlich, producer of both shows.