The Grammys certainly embrace the buddy system. In recent, the vast majority of performance slots on the telecast have been given over to odd-couple superstar teamings, never-to-be-repeated duets, and all-star medleys. That recipe is on tap for this year, certainly, with legends Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, and Barbra Streisand sharing the stage with the junior likes of Justin Bieber, Jaden Smith, and some profanity-skirting puppets.
Here are a dozen solid reasons to get over your awards fatigue and tune in Sunday at 8:
1. Mick Jagger's first in-person Grammys appearance. He won't be accompanied the Stones, but what's promised could be even better: He'll be tribute to one of his early idols—the late, great soul man Solomon Burke—in tandem with Raphael Saadiq. It's been a long time since anyone considered Mick the cool guy in the Stones, but if he successfully re-conjures the band's rough-hewn R&B roots, this could be the moment Jagger earns some cachet back.
2. Florence, Aretha. Aretha, Florence. The Grammys aren't waiting for Aretha Franklin to shuffle off this mortal coil to pay tribute to her. They've assembled an intriguingly motley assortment of female singers to pay homage to the thankfully still-with-us legend, foremost among them Best New Artist nominee (and likely winner?) Florence Welch, of Florence & the Machine. Other big-voiced gals participating in the medley: Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride, Yolanda Adams, and Christina Aguilera. (Will someone in the pit be holding up cue cards for Christina that spell out "R-E-S-P-E-C-T"? Cheap shot, we know.)
3. Justin Bieber, in 2D! If you're long in the tooth—or, let's face it, if all your adult teeth have grown in—you may be wary of heading to theaters this weekend and having Bieber whip his bangs in your face in 3D. So this will provide a less visually intimidating chance for Justin to convince adult doubters that he's got the kind of talent that might last. In his first Grammys performance (he presented last year), Justin will be teaming up with his mentor, Usher, who presumably has been released from whatever sort of hospitalization he required after doing the Super Bowl splits. Also reunited for this number, for the first time since the Karate Kid soundtrack: Bieber and another child possibly destined to become a world dictator, Jaden Smith.
4. Eminem wins Album of the Year...? There's no guarantee on this one, but after some controversial misses at Grammy telecasts past, Marshall Mathers seems to be the odds-on favorite to win it this time, between the "he's due" sentiment and the lack of any competitor with strong momentum. Will he go sociopathic on NARAS in his acceptance speech, or be a pussycat and thank a long list of agents, managers, and deities?
5. Puppets join America's sweetheart in saying the F-word. The F-word in question is "forget," as in "Forget You," the sanitized version of an unsanitary hit that is the version we think Gwyneth Paltrow and Cee Lo will be performing at the Grammys. Joining these two on the censored, Glee-authorized rendition of the racy tune will be the Jim Henson Company Puppets—not the Muppets, it's been pointed out (lest anyone think Kermit would risk any more guilt by association after that whole Katy Perry/Sesame Street brouhaha).
6. Bob Dylan, + Avett Brothers + Mumford & Sons, - Soy Bomb. It's been close to 50 years since Dylan shocked the folk world by going electric, but the Grammys, which have traditionally been a little slow to accept change, have squeezed him into a salute to acoustic music. Maybe he'll defy them and turn it up to 11 anyway. The preliminary part of the medley will have Mumford & Sons performing "The Cave," and the Avetts will do "Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise." But Dylan's song selection hasn't been publicly locked in yet. (Wouldn't it be great if Bieber painted "Soy Bomb" on his bare chest and bumrushed the stage?)
7. Meet the singing Focker: Barbra Streisand. To a generation of Bieber-maniacs, she is the funny lady in the Ben Stiller movies. Trust us, young 'uns, she has other talents, too. "I am singing and talking for 12 to 15 minutes," she told the Los Angeles Times—which, if true, will be a chunk of time unprecedented in recent Grammy telecast history. That sounds even more unlikely when you consider that her performance will follow a medley of other singers paying homage, including Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, Jeff Beck, Stevie Wonder, and the cast of Glee. But far worse things could happen than if the Grammys got hijacked for a half-hour by Barbrafest 2011.
8. Two words: Arcade Fire. As far as anyone has been told, these Album of the Year nominees are not being shoehorned into a medley. On a show that thrives on teaming people for the novelty factor, letting a great rock 'n' roll band do their thing without any guests or partners may count as the biggest novelty of the night.
9. Esperanza Spalding: A star is born? Ever since Ricky Martin galvanized the viewing audience at the 1999 Grammys, there's been a thought—or hope—that the show can actually break artists. Spalding is the only artist getting a major slot this year who really counts as unknown even to most music fans, so she's this year's designated breakout performer, even if her jazz orientation may keep her from becoming a household name no matter how well she comes off. Spalding also helps fill a token old-school "class" slot, since the jazz singer and bassist (and Best New Artist nominee) will be performing with youngsters from the Grammy Jazz Ensembles and Grammy Camp.
10. Rihanna belatedly makes it to the Grammys. Better two years late than never. She'll be performing with Drake, so gossip-attuned viewers will be looking to see if there are anything other than purely visual fireworks going off.
11. The return of Dr. Dre. So far, Dre has kind of been making his long-awaited comeback into an extended anticlimax. But if he's going to reestablish himself with a splash, teaming up for a live performance with Eminem is the means to do it. Let's hope they debut some music from Dre's looooooong-gestating album. Also included in this segment: Maroon 5's Adam Levine, who was recently seen posing in a set of Dre's headphones, but whose connection to the two hip-hoppers is yet unknown.
12. No Black Eyed Peas. Maybe it only feels like this is the first music awards show of the century not to include a BEPs performance (although will.i.am is scheduled as a presenter). Even if you love them, you are ready for them to go away and quietly count their endorsement deals for a while.