What to expect from the Grammy show. The event's producers give EW.com a sneak preview of the music industry's biggest night
Mya, Pink, ...
Credit: Moulin Rouge: Kevin Mazur

No Grammy Awards ceremony could ever be totally somber — especially with ‘N Sync and Britney in the house — but expect this year’s event to be more serious than usual. ”We’re trying to create an important show, rather than focusing on flying blondes down from the ceiling,” says Michael Greene, president and CEO of Grammy organizer NARAS. Meanwhile, with 17 musical performances planned (including songs from U2, Alicia Keys, Bob Dylan, Outkast, and the full ”Lady Marmalade” crew) the show is also scheduled to be one of the longest Grammys ever — running from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Wednesday night on CBS. Here’s what you can expect:

Two of the show’s songs — Tony Bennett and Billy Joel’s duet on ”New York State of Mind” and country star Alan Jackson’s hit ”Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” — will serve as tributes to the victims of last September’s terror attacks. The ceremony will also incorporate a video memorial for music industry figures who died over the past year, from Aaliyah to Chet Atkins. ”Almost every genre of music lost a seminal figure,” says Greene.

The show will trace the origins of American popular music through medleys of gospel (with the help of the Reverend Al Green, Brian McKnight, and India.Arie) and vintage folk/country (via ”O! Brother Where Art Thou?” performers Ralph Stanley, Alison Krauss, and Emmylou Harris, et al). ”I have a feeling that when people watch this show from beginning to end and see those numbers in the context of Outkast, Bob Dylan, even U2, they’ll see the tapestry of American music,” says Ken Ehrlich, the show’s writer/producer.

Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out
In their own tribute to more recent musical history, the ”Lady Marmalade” crew from the ”Moulin Rouge” soundtrack — Christina Aguilera, Pink, Mya, Lil’ Kim, and Missy Elliott — will team up with Patti LaBelle, the song’s original singer. ”We knew we wanted Patti in there from the beginning,” Ehrlich says of what he promises will be a ”huge production number.”

Bob Dylan: Grammy’s good-luck charm?
As of last Friday, Album of the Year-nominee Dylan hadn’t yet decided what song he’ll perform. ”We can safely assume that he’s probably not gonna do ‘Macarena.’ Outside of that, it’s hard to say,” admits Ehrlich. The iconic singer/songwriter has had a checkered history at the Grammys, including an unrehearsed, mumble-heavy performance of ”Masters of War” in 1991 and a ”Soy Bomb”-interrupted version of ”Love Sick” in ’97. ”He’s our good-luck charm,” Ehrlich laughs.

‘N Sync and Nelly
The boy-band champs will recreate the hit Neptunes remix of their current single ”Girlfriend,” complete with Nelly’s rap part. ”This will be a cool way of showing how these genres are coming together,” Greene says.

This year’s Grammy front-runners plan on performing ”Walk On,” although that could change, Ehrlich says. If past performances are any indication, expect the band to mix in pieces of their other hits, or even a cover song or two.

Alicia Keys
Best New Artist favorite Keys will perform a medley comprising her big hits, ”Fallin”’ and ”A Woman’s Worth,” plus ”something we’ve never seen her do before,” Greene says. ”It’s going to be kind of a surprise.”

The year’s most-nominated hip-hop act will perform ”Ms. Jackson” backed by a full band, according to Ehrlich. ”The staging is gonna be interesting. What I wanted to do is try to frame it in a late ’50s, early-’60s Southern feel, with kids on a playground in the background.”

Dave Matthews Band
Though the DMB don’t have any major nominations this year, ”it felt like time” to have them on the show, says Ehrlich. The saxophone-prone roots-rockers will perform ”The Space Between.”

Other performances to watch for include Train assaying ”Drops of Jupiter” with the L.A. Philharmonic and pop-classical prodigy Joshua Bell doing a ‘”West Side Story” medley. Producers are also trying to put together a group performance by some as-yet-unnamed major rock acts, according to Greene. Apparently, the three-and-a-half hour show still isn’t long enough.