What you'll see on Sunday's Grammy broadcast -- Prepare for a Sting-Sean Paul duet, Dave Matthews singing the Beatles, and other unusual moments

By Brian Hiatt
February 06, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST
Sting: Frank Micelotta/Getty Images

With Janet Jackson reportedly nixed as a presenter, the 46th annual Grammy Awards will almost certainly be a nudity-free zone. But even without a pesky ”wardrobe malfunction,” this year’s not-quite-live ceremony (it’ll be broadcast on a five-minute tape delay from L.A.’s Staples Center) should include a surprise or two. It’ll be hard to match last year’s barnstorming all-star take on ”London Calling,” but producers are doing their best, studding Sunday night’s broadcast (Feb. 8, CBS, 8 p.m.) with tributes to the Beatles, the late Warren Zevon, and ailing soul star Luther Vandross. Take a look at who’s playing what:

THE FAB FAUX Never mind John, Paul, George, and Ringo: Here come…Sting, Dave Matthews, Vince Gill, and Pharrell Williams? Though the motley lineup is hardly the obvious choice to pay tribute to the 40th anniversary of the Beatles’ first ”Ed Sullivan Show” performance, Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich promises it’ll make sense when you hear it. The quartet are forming a temporary band — with Neptunes member Williams on drums — to pound its way through ”I Saw Her Standing There.” Given the lyric ”She was just 17, if you know what I mean,” it’s probably best that R. Kelly won’t be involved.

FUNK BROTHERS To honor what the show’s producers see as the increasing influence of old-school funk on hip-hop and R&B, the Grammys will present an epic tribute to the genre, hosted by actor Samuel L. Jackson. It’ll begin with veterans Earth, Wind & Fire playing their classic ”Shining Star,” and then segue into OutKast’s ”The Way You Move” (with members of EW&F jamming along). From there, pedal-steel guitar virtuoso Robert Randolph will perform, followed by George Clinton leading Parliament-Funkadelic through ”Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker).” Does the Staples Center have insurance?

CARIBBEAN DREAM Some wags have taken to calling 2003 ”The Year Dancehall Broke” (a reference to the 1991 Sonic Youth documentary ”The Year Punk Broke”) — and the Grammys won’t let the rise of the Jamaican-based genre go unnoticed. The ubiquitous Sean Paul (whose hits last year included ”Gimme the Light”) will be joined by Sting for a duet on what Ehrlich cryptically says will be ”a couple of Sting classics — with maybe even a Police classic.” In other words: ”Roxanne.”

IN MEMORIAM ”We knew it would be impossible to match the energy of ‘London Calling,”’ says Ehrlich, ”so we decided to go exactly the other way.” With that in mind, the show’s memorial for musicians who died last year will end with a performance of the late Warren Zevon’s ballad ”Keep Me in Your Heart.” Jackson Browne, Emmylou Harris, the Eagles’ Timothy B. Schmit, Dwight Yoakam, Jorge Calderon, and Billy Bob Thornton (!) will all accompany taped contributions from Zevon himself. What, Nat King Cole wasn’t available?

SOUL MAN Since R&B crooner Luther Vandross is still alive and recovering from a recent stroke, the Grammys aren’t calling their salute to him a ”tribute.” Nevertheless, Alicia Keys will sing ”A House Is Not a Home,” Celine Dion will belt her way through ”Dance With My Father,” and we will be right there waiting for Richard Marx, who’ll also join the party.

JAZZ ODYSSEY It’s always been a challenge for the Grammys to represent their dozens of non-pop categories without scaring off the broadcast’s mass audience. But this year, a solution has presented itself: Cuban trumpet player Arturo Sandoval will join Justin Timberlake for a performance of his single ”Senorita,” while jazz-fusion pianist Chick Corea will rock out with the Foo Fighters on ”Times Like These.” Says Ehrlich: ”What it tells people is there’s still a family of music.”

ODDS AND SODS Among the other scheduled performers are the seldom-seen Prince, Beyoncé Knowles, the Black-Eyed Peas (with Timberlake), and the White Stripes. Could any of these musicians be involved in the surprise opening performance? Ehrlich promises the show-starter will be a stunner on the scale of last year’s reunion of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, but when pressed for specifics, all he offers are the sounds of silence.