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The executive producer of the Grammys promises a night of surprises

Ben Winston, the seemingly unflappable Brit responsible for producing the presentations, live performances and stadium full of stars at the Grammy Awards, is prepared for the unexpected on Sunday night.

“You never know what’s going to happen on a live show,” Winston told CNN in an interview this week. “With that many performances, that many stars, that many awards, anything can happen. And that’s why, I think, it’s a really fun watch.”

Last year, the infamous traffic of Los Angeles caused artists like Beyoncé and Bad Bunny to run late, nearly derailing plans for the telecast. This year, a severe Southern California rainstorm could pose problems for talent arrivals. But whatever happens, Winston, who is producing the event for a fourth time, and his team said they are ready to roll with the punches.

“The stress of this show in the lead up is bad enough and then sadly artists don’t always make it on time,” Winston said with a laugh. “You never know what’s going to happen on this show. In a room full of that many stars, you kind of have no idea.”

Adele and Ben Winston at the Grammys in 2023. - Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Adele and Ben Winston at the Grammys in 2023. - Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Heading into Sunday’s ceremony, SZA leads in nominations with nine, including album of the year. Other big nominees include Victoria Monet, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift, who stands to make history.

Swift is tied with Barbra Streisand for the most all-time nominations by a female artist in the album of the year category with her nod for “Midnights.” She’s won the category three times previously, tied with music legends Paul Simon, Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder.

“If she were to win this year’s album, that’s the first time anyone has won four, so it could be a really significant night,” Winston said. “She’ll be a big part of it, just as she always is, dancing in the audience and the like.”

Swift, however, won’t be attending with Kansas City Chiefs player Travis Kelce, who recently said that he’ll have to miss out attending the Grammys in person because he will be at practice for the Super Bowl, which airs the following Sunday, also on CBS.

“They’re both big nights. What a great couple of weeks it could be if she wins Grammys and the Chiefs win the Super Bowl,” Winston said. “She’s definitely winning right now and deservedly so.”

Some viewers may be hoping they’ll see Swift take the stage to sing, but no performance has been announced, as of yet. Winston said they intentionally keep some of their plans under wraps.

“It’s about creating suspense for the show,” he explained.

Tracy Chapman, here in 2007, will perform "Fast Car" with Luke Combs at Sunday's Grammy Awards. - Bryan Bedder/Getty Images
Tracy Chapman, here in 2007, will perform "Fast Car" with Luke Combs at Sunday's Grammy Awards. - Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

Confirmed performers include Billy Joel, Olivia Rodrigo, Dua Lipa, who Winston revealed will sing her hit song “Dance the Night” from the “Barbie” movie, and more. Joni Mitchell will perform at the Grammys for the first time ever, while Tracy Chapman will return to sing “Fast Car” with Luke Combs, a song she closed the show with in 1989. U2 at The Sphere is also on the lineup, marking the first time a television show will broadcast from the venue in Las Vegas.

A special, extended in-memoriam tribute is planned, Winston revealed. The performances to honor late recording artists like Tina Turner, Tony Bennett and Sinead O’Connor will span an impressive 16 minutes and forgo commercial breaks.

The executive producer also teased that the final presenter of the night will be a major moment.

“They are an absolute global icon. I think jaws will drop to the floor. People will be on their feet,” he said “The only condition they gave is that it was a surprise.”

The 66th Grammy Awards will air Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on CBS and stream on Paramount+.

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