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GRAMMY PERFORMANCES:
THE CONUNDRUM

Much chatter surrounds the Grammy show performance lineup, with word coming that Bradley Cooper will not be in attendance—he’s slated to appear at the U.K.’s BAFTA Awards—arguably complicating the chance of a big A Star Is Born look for Lady Gaga. Will Gaga perform nonetheless? She certainly would bring the kind of star magnetism and spectacle the show needs. What other major figures from the pop world will appear?

The show promises to feature a preponderance of female performers, following last year’s criticism about the lack thereof. The producers’ M.O. over the last few years has been to book big star headliners capable of pulling in viewers, on the assumption that the rest will subsequently fall into place. But the nominating committee—and the secret committee deciding who gets all the cake—make booking the show more difficult by passing over music’s biggest stars: Justin Timberlake, Ed Sheeran, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, P!Nk, Camilla Cabello (who will be appearing), Ariana Grande, etc.

It’s believed that hip-hop—which represents an overwhelming share of today’s business—should be featured prominently on the show, though one rapper who’s been a high-profile presence for the past couple of years, Kendrick Lamar, isn’t expected to be among the performers following some stress over last year’s appearance. Cardi B and Post Malone are now confirmed; where does super-hot, Kardashian-connected Travis Scott, who’s headed to CBSSuper Bowl halftime show, fit into the plan? (Childish Gambino, said to be in the studio finishing his album, is an extreme longshot to appear.)

And then there’s Drake. The hip-hop megastar (who's featured on Scott's monster "Sicko Mode") has expressed dissatisfaction with Grammy, but were he to perform on the telecast, it would be his show to own—and an opportunity for a beachhead with an upper-demo TV audience less well-versed in his music than the streaming legions are. In the long run, moreover, it’s a chance to join the pantheon of great Grammy moments. The conundrum: How do you balance the hip-hop nation with CBS TV’s broader mid-American audience?

While we may not recall who won which award when (we have Paul Grein for that), certain classic Grammy performances are indelible. We’re talking Michael Jackson’s gospel-tinged 1988 set. Whitney’s Bodyguard barnburner in ’94. Celine’s Titanic torch song, circa ’98. Ricky Martin’s potent “Cup of Life” in ’99. The unexpectedly powerful Eminem-Elton John “Stan” duet of 2001. The all-star “Lady Marmalade” of 2002. Beyoncé and Prince’s “Rain” dance of 2004. Kanye’s angel-wings 2005 staging of “Jesus Walks.” P!nk’s trapeze act in 2010. Gaga’s wild, heartfelt “Born This Way” in 2011. Adele’s “Deep” knockout in 2012. Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z’s formal-wear frolic in 2013.

Who might join this illustrious company? Stay tuned.

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