The Grammys: stage of cool

From the (remaining) Beatles to Beyoncé, via Madonna and 33 marriages, this year's Grammys were a spectacle – and an almighty organisational job, as Gillian Orr discovers

It was pretty spectacular, even for "music's biggest night". Beyoncé and Jay-Z opened the 56th Annual Grammy Awards with a performance (as well as a PDA, left). The two remaining Beatles played together once again (top). Stevie Wonder joined Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams (above) on stage for "Get Lucky". And 33 straight and gay couples were married by Queen Latifah while Macklemore & Ryan Lewis played their new single, "Same Love".

That's the thing about the Grammys – they can get pretty weird. Like Madonna rocking up sporting gold grills across her teeth; or Led Zeppelin winning Best Rock Album for a live album recorded seven years ago. You just have to go with the madness. But this is organised chaos and the Grammys take meticulous planning. The man in the driving seat is executive producer Ken Ehrlich, who has been involved with the awards for the past 34 years. This year, the event took place more than two weeks earlier than it did in 2013, thanks to the Winter Olympics and the Super Bowl.

Usually Ehrlich and his team won't secure performers before nominations are announced (this time, that was on 5 December). But with the new time constraints Ehrlich who doesn't get to vote or have advanced information about nominees, had to approach things a bit differently. "Normally, I don't book anybody until the nominations come out; it's something of an unwritten rule," Ehrlich told Billboard. "But I made it very clear to the Academy this year: I have to talk to people we are reasonably sure will be nominated, early. Whether I trigger a request or not is another story. It's kind of unprecedented. I've had to couch requests with: 'Look, guys, we're talking now – but you'll get a call on 7 December to say if it's a go.'"

Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr performed Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr performed That everyone goes on Christmas break soon after doesn't help matters. "From the ninth to the 16th, I have to get everything rolling." The figures involved with putting on the show are staggering: 40 performers, 19 performances, thousands of lighting cues, dozens of video graphics, endless pre-recorded audio tracks. The show's director, Louis J Horvitz, leads a team of eight people in the video control room, manning the movements of 18 cameras. Twenty-two stage managers run amok over two stages and 40 lighting technicians are on hand to light the room and performances correctly. (It's a similarly huge undertaking at our own BRIT awards, where 1,000 people work on it on the night).

Ehrlich also prides himself on putting unusual collaborators together and it's what the Grammys have become known for.

Musicians Nile Rodgers, Stevie Wonder and Pharrell Williams perform onstage Musicians Nile Rodgers, Stevie Wonder and Pharrell Williams perform onstage "You see artists do things that they don't do anywhere else," Ehrlich told The Hollywood Reporter. "It may have started, years and years ago, with us approaching artists such as Prince and Beyoncé, or Eminem and Elton to suggest these collaborations. The fact is, the artists now come to us with these ideas, and look on it as a road map to the Grammys. You take Imagine Dragons and Kendrick Lamar, put them together and say, 'Make something out of this…'"

It's a route the BRIT awards have followed. In recent years we've seen collaborations from Rihanna and Klaxons, and Justin Timberlake and Kylie Minogue. Labrinth joined big winner Emeli Sandé in 2013. "Artists are very particular who they collaborate with," says Maggie Crowe, director of events at BPI, which puts on the BRITs. For this year's ceremony, organisers have hinted that dance duo Disclosure will team up with "Royals" singer, Lorde, after they tweeted an image of the Kiwi covered in Disclosure's signature sketch face. Katy Perry, Arctic Monkeys and Bruno Mars are also set to perform. But we'll have to wait until 19 February to see if anyone has planned anything as out-there as a mass wedding on stage.


Watch highlights from this year's Grammys

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments