What to Watch Tonight at the 2020 Grammys


LOS ANGELES — Intense drama hangs over the 62nd annual Grammy Awards ceremony on Sunday night, but not in ways that the Recording Academy, the nonprofit behind the show, would like.

This year’s event, which will be broadcast live on CBS at 8 p.m. Eastern, features a fresh crop of stars like Lizzo, Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X and Ariana Grande competing for the top awards. It was supposed to represent “a new era for the Recording Academy,” one that would be more attuned to pop’s current pulse after years of bruising criticism over the Grammys’ poor record in recognizing women and artists of color in the major categories.

That “new era” statement was made just two months ago, when nominations were announced, by Deborah Dugan, the academy’s new chief executive. She had been telegraphed as the bold new leader the Grammys needed, and came armed with an unsparing critique of the academy’s record on diversity by Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, the Time’s Up leader Tina Tchen.

But just 10 days ago, Dugan was removed from her position, stunning the industry and plunging the normally cheery pre-Grammy week into mudslinging and chaos that has threatened to overshadow the event itself.

Their battle may stretch on for months. For the academy itself — and the artists now rehearsing their performances and acceptance speech shout-outs — the show must go on. But the entire music industry will be watching closely for any sign of artist dissent or any crack in the academy’s facade of celebratory glitz.

While artists have largely remained silent, one of the few public comments from a major industry figure came Saturday night from the hip-hop mogul Diddy.

Accepting an award at Clive Davis’s glamorous annual pre-Grammy party, Diddy avoided mentioning Dugan by name but held the academy’s feet to the fire over its failure to recognize hip-hop artists and artists of color in the top categories. Over the last decade, for example, just one nonwhite artist — Bruno Mars — has won album of the year.

For music fans, the Grammys are a television show about splashy performances and, oh yes, a handful of awards scattered across three and a half hours. There may be no mention at all of the academy’s behind-the-scenes crisis.

The biggest contests this year feature some of pop’s most dynamic young faces, many of whom went from obscurity to megastardom over the past year.

At the music industry’s schmoozy pre-Grammy parties last week in Los Angeles, the insider chatter has all been about Dugan versus the academy. But, for the most part, the events have been business as usual. Few people expect the show to be affected.

Still, a top musician signaling a position on Dugan’s claims could change the conversation entirely. Label executives and publicists have been wringing their hands over what their artists might be asked — and what they might say — on the red carpet or onstage.


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