Speaking in advance of Metallica’s Grammy-night team-up with the Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang, guitarist Kirk Hammett publicly declared this week, “It’s gonna be completely insane.” Given Grammy’s history of oddball mash-ups, there is no reason to disbelieve the enthusiastic note-scorcher. And the pairing of a heavy-metal troupe with the Liszt-loving Lang Lang will not be the only madness that hits Staples Center on Sunday. Here’s a rundown of the gala’s intriguing couplings this year, along with some of Grammy’s classic collaborations gone wild.
One and done
Metallica and Lang Lang have been working on One, a Grammy-winning head-banging epic that won a golden gramophone in 1990. The ebullient Double-L has been called the “rock star” of the classical piano scene, so let’s see about that. Also, it’s good to see that Metallica’s going ahead with this, given its shark-jumping collaboration with Lou Reed on 2011’s Lulu.
Good kids, mad situation
The clever young rapper Kendrick Lamar (whose Good Kid, M.A.A.D City earned him five Grammy nominations this year) might wish to use a Geiger counter after his onstage encounter with Imagine Dragons, the rockers whose hit single Radioactive is up for a pair of major awards. Actually, in all seriousness, that tune’s stuttering rhythm and apocalyptic up-swoop – “welcome to the new age” – is tailor-made for a rappy insertion from a bright star like Lamar.
Baby, what a big surprise
For its love of brass, seventies survivor Chicago could be described as horny. Robin Thicke, same thing, without the brass. At first glance, this pairing might seem strange. But given that Thicke crossed so many lines with Miley Cyrus at last year’s MTV awards, this deal doesn’t seem so weird, especially given that the Blurred Line hit-maker has shown a predatory fondness for old music. For best schmaltz potential, why not have Chicago’s former singer Peter Cetera rejoin the band for a stirring rendition of the apologetic ballad Hard to Say I’m Sorry: “Everybody needs some time away …”
Forget you? Not a chance
In 2011, the incorrigible Cee Lo Green teamed up with a surprisingly capable Gwyneth Paltrow on a sassy duet version of Green’s expletive-deleted kiss-off hit. The backup “singers” were fuzzy puppets, but the audacious Green out H.R. Pufnstuf-ed them by a mile.
Blame it on the Auto-Tune
For a performance of his Blame It in 2010, Jamie Foxx inexplicably robed himself in what looked like a U.S. Calvary uniform and cloaked his (perfectly fine) voice with pitch-shifting shenanigans. Hip-hop heroes T-Pain and Doug E. Fresh were pretty much bystanders, and the whole thing ended with guitar god Slash squealing away on his instrument. Foxx immediately apologized to Jay Z (in the crowd) for using Auto-Tune.
No longing for yesterday
The rap-rock medley-mash in 2006 of Numb and Encore by Jay Z and Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington was fine and dandy, but then Paul McCartney walked on the stage like Bing Crosby at Coachella, lounge-crooning Yesterday with no irony. Suddenly he wasn’t half the man he used to be, and we all needed a place to hide away.
The 56th annual Grammy Awards (Sunday, Jan. 26, 8 p.m., CBS).