Grammys 2022: Everything you need to know

On Sunday night, Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo go head-to-head in seven categories

Until Will Smith walked on stage at the Oscars last week, it was set to be a dreary awards season. With a single "thwack" that has all changed. And, with the fallout from "The Slap" rumbling on, all eyes now turn to Las Vegas and the 64th Grammys, which celebrate the world's greatest musicians along with Ed Sheeran.

Here is what you need to know.

Is Will Smith going to be attending?

After the open-handed clout heard around the world, it feels fair to say Oscar-winner Will Smith will be keeping a low profile for the time being. However one potentially volatile celebrity will be in the building this weekend. And that, inevitably, is Kanye West.

West was disinvited from performing at the Grammys after using a racial slur against host Trevor Noah on Instagram (he's also been booted off the platform). Kanye is nonetheless still nominated for Best Rap Album (for the very mediocre Donda), Best Melodic Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and is expected to attend.

This may set alarm bells clanging. Long before Will Smith, Kanye had a track record crashing the stage at awards ceremonies – most notoriously bum-rushing Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs. Might he attempt to one-up Smith? The Grammys organisers are alive to the possibility and have said, "there are plans in place for a variety of scenarios".

Who’s performing?

The ceremony will open with R&B duo Silk Sonic – aka Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak – who are nominated in four categories. Other artists taking to the stage will include Carrie Underwood, Brandi Carlile, Jon Batiste (heading the field with 11 nominations), Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo. Foo Fighters have dropped out following the death of drummer Taylor Hawkins. Instead there will be a tribute to Hawkins, who passed away age 50 on tour in Colombia.

Who’s boycotting?

Drake withdrew his two nominations for unspecified reasons. And The Weeknd said he will no longer submit his work to the Grammys because "the trust has been broken for so long between the Grammy organisation and artists that it would be unwise to raise a victory flag". So he's out too.

Where and when is the event taking place?

The Grammys has relocated from its traditional home at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles and will instead be held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. It all goes down Sunday night, from 1am Irish time. It is the first occasion since the 1973 Grammys in Nashville that the show has taken place outside either New York or Los Angeles.

Who is the host?

Daily Show presenter Trevor Noah will do the honours.

How can I watch?

You can’t. No broadcaster this side of the Atlantic is covering the event.

Are any Irish artists in the running?

U2 are taking time away and Fontaines DC’s new album isn’t out yet (their previous record was nominated in 2020). And as they are the only Irish acts seemingly on the radar of the organisers in recent years, you won’t be hearing much from us at the Grammys.

What categories should I keep an eye on?

Americans love dividing music into arbitrary genres. And Grammys categories are especially baffling – what, for instance, is the difference between Record of the Year and Album of the Year? That said, the album category offers a fascinating match-up between Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever and Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour.

Both put a baroque twist on teen pop and each artist has a claim to be the most exciting new voice in music (and both start their tours in Ireland this summer). So that’s one to look out for.

Taylor Swift is also nominated, for Evermore. If successful, she would make history as the first artist to win Album of the Year on four occasions. There is also speculation that BTS could become the first K-Pop group to receive a Grammy.

Jon Batiste is the most shortlisted artist, with 11 nominations.

Who is Jon Batiste?

Louisiana-born Batiste stands at the intersection between r'nb, pop and jazz. He is perhaps best known as bandleader of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert and has collaborated with figures as diverse as Ed Sheeran, Willie Nelson and Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor (what a Whatsapp group that must be).

His latest album, which is up for eight awards, is We Are – a genre-hopping affair that takes in subjects such as the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and Covid-19 and features a spoken-word contribution from Zadie Smith. It wasn’t a hit, though, stalling at 86 in the American charts.

Some of the nominated records were released a long time ago. What are the criteria for eligibility?

Any record released between September 1st, 2020, and September 30th, 2021, can be considered.

The Oscars relegated certain technical categories to a pre-show ceremony. Have the Grammys made any changes?

The organisers have expanded the number of nominees in the big categories - Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Best New Artist – from eight to 10. And eligibility criteria have been tweaked: a record must be 75 per cent new music.

Any artists worth discovering?

She's actually on her third album, but Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner is up for Best New Artist on the back of her April 2021 record Jubilee, a fantastic indie odyssey about making peace with grief (she also recently published a memoir about the death of her mother) and embracing the possibilities of a post-Covid world.

Tell me more about Billie Eilish v Olivia Rodrigo

They’re head-to-head in seven categories – including Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Pop Solo Performance, Song of the Year and Best Song by an Artist Born Between 2000 and 2005 Whose Name Begins With the Letters “B” or “O”. We made that last one up – though, giving the Grammy’s obsession with arcane categories, maybe we didn’t.

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