Eminem rocks with the Roots. Bruce Springsteen teams with Dave Grohl and Elvis Costello. And ‘NSync sings the Bee Gees.
No, this isn’t a wish list for the VMAs. It’s three of the planned highlights for Sunday’s Grammy Awards ceremony, televised live from Madison Square Garden (CBS, 8 p.m.). For this high-profile return to New York after four years in L.A., the event’s producers say they’re more intent than ever on creating memorable performances. ”In past years, what I would always come away with was those special Grammy moments,” says Neil Portnow, the new president of Grammy organizers NARAS. ”We’ll be looking to create a number of those this time.”
Some final details are still being worked out at press time, but here’s most of what you can expect to see on Sunday night:
EM ‘N’ THEM Eminem will be joined by new collaborators: critically adored Philly hip-hop collective the Roots, who backed Jay-Z for 2001’s ”Unplugged.” Grammy writer/producer Ken Ehrlich wouldn’t reveal which song Slim Shady and the Roots will play, but it probably won’t be the most obvious choice, ”Lose Yourself,” since the guitar-heavy song came out too late for Grammy consideration. Then again, Mr. Mathers isn’t one to fret too much about the rules.
CLASH OF THE TITANS Grammy organizers had hoped to pay tribute to late Clash frontman Joe Strummer with a performance by the group’s three surviving members. But the band is ”just not ready,” says Ehrlich. Instead, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Elvis Costello will trade vocals on the Clash anthem ”London Calling,” backed by No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal, Attractions drummer Pete Thomas, and E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt. Despite their decision not to play, the members of the Clash, who will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next month, have given their blessing to the performance, Ehrlich says.
SUNDAY NIGHT FEVER The recently solo members of ‘NSync will unite to salute another fallen musician, Maurice Gibb — whose band, the Bee Gees, had already been slated to receive the Grammys’ Legend Award before his death last month. Justin and his bandmates will sing a three-and-a-half-minute medley of Bee Gees hits, including ”Lonely Days,” ”How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” and ”Stayin’ Alive.”
‘RISING’ TIDE Five-time nominee Bruce Springsteen will perform twice — once in the Clash tribute, and once with the E Street Band. As expected, they’ll play the title track from ”The Rising,” but Ehrlich hints at some surprises within the performance. Presumably, a rousing version of ”War” won’t be involved.
JONES FOR JONES The evening’s other likely big winner, Norah Jones, will give an intimate performance that Ehrlich says will be reminiscent of Alanis Morissette’s candlelit rendition of ”You Oughta Know” in ’96. But don’t expect it to be like fellow piano-playing newcomer Alicia Keys’ look-I-can-dance moment last year: ”There will be no tango for Norah,” Ehrlich promises.
TAYLOR MADE John Mayer, Vanessa Carlton, and James Taylor (backed by cellist Yo Yo Ma) will give linked performances meant to show the enduring power of singer/songwriters. The details are still being worked out, so they may either sing together or simply give ”contiguous performances,” Ehrlich says. Meanwhile, another singer/songwriter, Avril Lavigne, will get her own performance, blasting through ”Complicated.”
R&B FAVES Duet queen Ashanti will go it solo this year, performing the ballad ”Dreams.” But Nelly and Kelly Rowland WILL team up, performing a medley of ”Dilemma” (the ”Nelly, I love you” song) and the inescapable ”Hot in Herre.”
OTHER PERFORMANCES In their highest-profile TV appearance to date, Best Alternative Album favorites Coldplay will soar through ”Politik,” backed by the New York Philharmonic. Other acts include No Doubt, Faith Hill, and the Dixie Chicks. In all, the show will feature 18 performances, running at least three and a half hours. So forget about catching ”Alias.”