Grammy Awards postponed as COVID-19 rages in Los Angeles
By Ben Sisario and Joe Coscarelli
The 63rd annual Grammy Awards, set to be presented this month, have been delayed over concerns about COVID-19, which has been spreading rapidly in the Los Angeles area.
The show will now be held March 14, according to a statement from Grammy organizers, although few other details were available about where, and how, the event would go on.
“The deteriorating COVID situation in Los Angeles, with hospital services being overwhelmed, ICUs having reached capacity, and new guidance from state and local governments have all led us to conclude that postponing our show was the right thing to do,” said the statement, which was signed by executives at the Recording Academy, which presents the Grammys, and CBS, its longtime broadcast partner.
“Nothing is more important,” it added, “than the health and safety of those in our music community and the hundreds of people who work tirelessly on producing the show.”
The delay comes less than four weeks before the ceremony was to be held, on Jan. 31, and as unions and entertainment industry groups have called to suspend in-person television and film production in Los Angeles, citing the surging virus and overwhelmed hospitals. Several late-night shows have moved back to remote formats.
The pandemic has kept this year’s Grammys under a cloud of uncertainty for months. In an interview in November, when nominations were announced, Harvey Mason Jr., chairman and interim chief executive of the academy, said that an event was planned for a small audience but that many other details were still being worked out. Trevor Noah, from “The Daily Show,” was to be the host.
Even the news of the postponement Tuesday left the music industry confused. After Rolling Stone reported that the ceremony had been postponed, neither the academy nor CBS made any official public statement for hours. An email to academy members — and the Grammys’ official website — both said that the new date was March 21. That was quickly rescinded, although the incorrect date continued to bounce around social media and was picked up by some news outlets.
Beyoncé has the most nominations for the ceremony, with nine in eight categories. Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa and rapper Roddy Ricch are among the other major contenders in the show.
In classic Grammys fashion, controversy — or at least, loud complaints —have swarmed around this year’s nominations, as stars like the Weeknd and country singer Luke Combs, who had some of the biggest hits of the period, were left off the ballot.
Despite off-stage griping, the Grammys remain one of the most high-profile moments in the year in pop music, with stars relishing the TV exposure and record executives schmoozing during glittery industry gatherings. Even if muted by the pandemic, the Grammys had been expected to represent a major media moment for the music world.
This year was set to mark a new era for the Grammys. Ken Ehrlich, its producer for four decades, stepped down after last year’s ceremony. The new show is to be produced by Ben Winston, who has worked with James Corden. In an interview with Variety last month, Winston said he was “looking to do something quite exciting with independent venues” around this year’s Grammys.
The telecast is also a major tent-pole event for CBS, the Grammys’ longtime broadcast partner, though the show’s ratings have been sagging. Last year 18.7 million people watched the Grammys live on television, a 12-year low.
Other major award shows have attempted a variety of approaches during various stages of the pandemic, with mixed results. The BET Awards, held in June; the MTV Video Music Awards, in August; the Billboard Music Awards, in October; and the Latin Grammys, in November, were televised without audiences, and artists appeared remotely from soundstages to perform and accept awards.
The Country Music Association Awards held an in-person ceremony in Nashville, Tennessee, in November, with a live audience consisting mostly of the show’s performers, who were socially distanced but largely unmasked. A month after the awards, singer Charley Pride, 86, died of complications from COVID-19, although where he was exposed remains unknown.
In other industries, the pandemic forced the Emmy Awards to stage a largely virtual event in September. The Tony Awards announced in August that the show would go ahead, online, at an unspecified date, after initially postponing its June date.
The Oscars were postponed two months from their original Feb. 28 date to April 25, with the format of the ceremony not yet determined. A week after that delay was announced, the Golden Globes said that it would hold its ceremony, typically scheduled for January, in person — as usual, at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California — on Feb. 28 instead.