A night of stars and scandal

VICKI ANDERSON
Last updated 10:17 26/01/2014
 Lorde

GRAMMY HOPE: Kiwi teen Lorde will perform tomorrow at the 56th annual Grammy Awards.

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Hosted by LL Cool J, the 56th annual Grammy Awards will air live from the Staples Centre in Los Angeles tomorrow - and among the gleaming music millionaires will strut our very own Takapuna teenager, known to her mum and dad as Ella Yelich-O'Connor.

So, for those unable to tell their Macklemores from their Minajes, or their Gagas from their Kendrick Lamars, but who want to follow the live coverage on television, here's our rundown of what these Grammys are all about.

The awards are certainly not ageist. This year Beatles legends Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will receive the 2014 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, but the show's unashamedly celebrity focus means most of the performances are from the gen-y stars like Lorde, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons. Beyonce is also rumoured to be a surprise guest which, if true, would be her first major television performance since she launched her new "visual album" via iTunes last month.

Billed as "music's biggest night" the first Grammy Award ceremony was on May 4, 1959, in the Grand Ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel.

That night Perry Como and Ella Fitzgerald won the Best Male and Best Female categories respectively.

Back then they were called the Gramophone Awards and were launched to ward off the "threat of the rock 'n' roll explosion". The Best Rock and Roll Recording category wasn't added until 1962.

The first Grammy for rock music was given in 1961 to Chubby Checker for Let's Twist Again and, although rock 'n' roll legend and actor Elvis Presley won three Grammys, they were for his gospel music.

The first live telecast was in 1971 and ever since there have been many bloopers and scandals.

Stevie Wonder was in Nigeria on the night of the 1976 Grammys. He appeared via live satellite link. Host Andy Williams asked: "Stevie, can you see us now?" Williams never hosted the awards again.

1990 was a particularly good year for scandal when Sinead O'Connor became the only performer to reject an award - for the track I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got - to protest against what she saw as the increasing commercialisation of the awards. Milli Vanilli was also stripped of its award for Best New Artist when it was revealed that the vocals were not the voices of "singers" Rob Pilatus and Frank Farian.

In 1993 Billy Joel, in protest at Frank Sinatra's Lifetime Achievement Award speech being cut short, stopped midway through his performance of River of Dreams to say: "Valuable advertising time going by, valuable advertising time going by. Dollars, dollars, dollars."

The night before the 2009 Grammys, news broke that Rihanna and Chris Brown were involved in a domestic violence incident. Rihanna subsequently cancelled her awards appearance.

The night before the 2012 Grammy Awards, Whitney Houston was found dead in her hotel room at the Beverly Hills Hilton, shortly before the annual Clive Davis Grammy Pre-Party. Mere hours before the show was to go live, the directors of the awards rushed to put compile a tribute.

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Nicki Minaj caused controversy in 2012 when she arrived at the awards accompanied by an actor dressed as the Pope. The Catholic Church accused Minaj of being "sacrilegious and blasphemous".

In recent years, organisers have tried to prevent any bare-cheeked bloopers following Jennifer Lopez's almost-a-dress in 2000. The CBS Network has issued attendees with a "wardrobe advisory" policy, including banning outfits that "expose bare buttocks". Attendees must be sure "the genital region is adequately covered" with no visible "puffy bare skin exposure" and must avoid sheer, see-through clothing that could " possibly expose female breast nipples". Male nipples are apparently OK.

The first Grammy ceremony consisted of 28 categories but this blew out to 109 in 2012, at which point organisers decided to slash the trophies to 78.

But there's still great breadth to the categories, which cover classical, opera, historical metal and comedy as well as rock and pop, and which honour the work of engineers, producers and film- makers, as well as the expected megastars. The 2014 awards even have a Music Educator Award, already announced as being won by New York music teacher Kent Knappenberger.

The gilded gramophone trophies are made and assembled by hand by Billings Artworks in Colorado. The recipient's name is engraved on them after the show, so "stunt trophies" are reused each year for the televised broadcast.

Grammy nominees are voted on by the NARAS (the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences), which consists of more than 20,000 musicians and music industry professionals.

Among notable artists to never win a Grammy are The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead and Bob Marley.

The Grammys on TV

Thankfully TVNZ went back on their original decision to show the awards delayed on TV One - and made a great 11th-hour decision to broadcast them live from 2pm on TV2. Those of us stuck to desks during the afternoon will still have a chance to see the whole show delayed on TV One from 9.15pm.

- Sunday Star Times

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