Though most of the focus is on the awards, the real highlights of the Grammy come in the live performances. Given the size of the audience, the high-profile nature of the show and the positive effect a good performance can have on album sales, artists tend to pull out all the stops for the awards show.
Though there are a number of classic performances in the annals of Grammy history, the signature ones tend to be the collaborations — the unusual team-ups that often can’t be seen anywhere other than the yearly broadcast. This year’s show will include collaborations between Mary J. Blige and Andrea Bocelli (who will perform “Bridge Over Troubled Water” together as a tribute to Haiti); Drake, Lil Wayne, Eminem and Travis Barker (who will likely power through the “Forever” remix); Jamie Foxx, T-Pain, Doug E. Fresh and Slash together for a yet-to-be-revealed song; and Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Usher (who will pay tribute to the late, great Michael Jackson).
But will those collaborations live up to some of the best in Grammy history? Any time you talk about collaborations, you have to bring up the game-changing pairing of Eminem and Elton John on “Stan” in 2001. The rapper had come under fire for the homophobia on The Marshall Mathers LP, so teaming up with the openly gay John not only made for a great musical moment, but also helped him quell the accusations of hate speech.
Beyoncé has been part of a pair of legendary duets at the Grammys: one with Tina Turner (the two divas rocked through “Proud Mary” in 2008) and another with Prince (they hooked up on a “Purple Rain” medley in 2004). Both of those collaborations made perfect sense, but sometimes the joy comes in hookups that seem to come from left field.
Case in point: In 2006, Jay-Z and Linkin Park were performing “Numb/Encore” from their mash-up album Collision Course when LP rapper Mike Shinoda broke into a verse from the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” That was the cue for Paul McCartney to enter and finish the song, creating the only time Jigga, LP and McCartney had ever shared a stage together.
And only a year ago, the 2009 version of the show was full of amazing team-ups that went three, four and five people deep. While Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus’ “Fifteen” made all the teens swoon, the real meat came when Al Green, Justin Timberlake, Keith Urban and Boyz II Men got together on “Let’s Stay Together.” But the highlight of the night was most certainly the hip-hop portion of the show, which brought together T.I., Kanye West, Lil Wayne, M.I.A. and Jay-Z for a run through “Swagga Like Us.”
Which Grammy collaborations are your favorite and which ones are you most looking forward to on Sunday? Let us know below!
Stick with MTV News all week for our coverage of the 2010 Grammy Awards. We’ll have reports on your favorite nominees, party photos, behind-the-scenes video and much more leading up to and during the big show Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.