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What to expect at the 2020 Grammy Awards

From a Nipsey Hussle tribute to Ariana Grande's return after last year's boycott, there's a lot to take stock of at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards.
Alicia Keys at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles
Alicia Keys at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on Feb. 10, 2019.Kevin Winter / Getty Images for for The Recording Academy

With 84 categories spanning nearly every conceivable genre, there's a lot to take stock of at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards. From first-time nominees to veterans of the award show, here's what you should watch out for Sunday.

15-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys returns as host

"Girl on Fire" singer Alicia Keys returns to the Grammys as a host for the second consecutive year. The 15-time Grammy award winner was the first female artist to host the awards in 14 years, following Queen Latifah, who hosted in 2005.

Keys has described her experience hosting the show as "powerful."

"At first, I did think last year was a one-time thing, but when the opportunity came back around, there was no question about returning as host," Keys said in a statement after the news was announced in November. "Not only did I feel the love in the room, but I felt it from around the world and it confirmed the healing and unifying power of music."

Last year, Keys sang a medley of songs, which she titled "Songs I Wish I Wrote." Among the melodies were Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly," Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable" and Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody.”

Nipsey Hussle Tribute

Nipsey Hussle will be honored at The Grammys with performances from John Legend, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG. The rapper, who died last March, was posthumously nominated for three Grammy Awards for best rap performance, best rap/sung performance and best rap song.

Ariana Grande's back after boycott

Last year, Ariana Grande said "Thank U, Next" to the Grammy Awards, even though she was nominated for — and ultimately won — the award for best pop album. Grande decided not to attend the awards show last year, citing disagreements with producers over which song she would perform. This year, Grande is not only slated to perform, but she's up for awards in the best pop vocal album, record of the year, album of the year, best pop solo performance and best pop duo/group performance categories.

The contentious best new artist category

The best new artist category is always a contentious one and this year may prove to be among the most debatable. Eight artists are nominated in the category, all of which have had a remarkable year. The artists include Lizzo, Black Pumas, Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, Maggie Rogers, Rosalía, Tank and the Bangas, and Yola. Though these artists play different genres of music, many can credit social media for their rise in popularity.

Lizzo isn't quite so new; she's been putting out music since 2013. But 2019 marked a breakout year for her after her 2016 song "Truth Hurts" was featured in the Netflix movie "Someone Great" and in a viral TikTok meme. Lizzo reissued the track on a deluxe version of her album "Cuz I Love You," which was released last April. The song and the album on which it appears have been nominated for the record of the year and song of the year categories.

Rapper-singer Lil Nas X's song "Old Town Road," a viral hit also made famous on TikTok broke the record for longest consecutive run in the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart last year. Billboard originally removed the song from its Hot Country chart, stating that it did "not embrace enough elements of today’s country music to chart in its current version." Lil Nas X then rereleased the song with Billy Ray Cyrus, keeping its fusion of country and rap that gained him notice in the first place.

Eilish first gained traction after uploading a song called "Ocean Eyes" on Soundcloud in 2016, but 2019 also proved to be a year of mainstream success for the 18-year-old artist. Her album "When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" was released in March and debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 as well as on the UK Albums Chart, making her the first artist born in the 2000s to have a number one album in the United States, and the youngest female ever to have a number one album in the United Kingdom.

Maggie Rogers also had her viral moment, gaining her big break came when her song "Alaska" was played to Pharrell Williams during a class at New York University in 2016. She released her first album "Heard it in a Past Life" last year.

First time Grammy nominees

While many of the nominees might not come as a surprise as they are in fact the biggest names in the music industry, some artists have the potential to be introduced to new audiences.

Among the first-time nominees are Che Apalache, a four-man string band that blends Appalachian and Latin music, formed after Joe Troop, the group’s founder, moved to Argentina to teach the five-string banjo. The band’s 2019 album “Rearrange My Heart” — which was nominated for Best Folk Album alongside Andrew Bird, Patty Griffin, Gregory Alan Isakov and Joy Williams — features songs about immigration, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and the border wall.

“Bluegrass is the sound of my home, and there are a lot of immigrants living in Appalachia, but we’re a globalized bluegrass band, products of a globalized world,” Troop told NBC News. “It’s a natural thing, then, to write about immigration in our songs.”

Other first-time Grammy Award nominees include Haitian-American Nathalie Joachim, whose debut solo album "Fanm d'Ayiti" has been nominated for Best World Music Album this year, and Gregory Alan Isakov, a South African-born artist whose album Evening Machines is nominated in the Best Folk Album category.

Recording Academy Controversy

This year's Grammy Awards will occur as turmoil unfolds among the Recording Academy's leadership. Deborah Dugan, the first female president of the organization was placed on administrative leave last week. She filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday, claiming she was placed on leave in retaliation for having sent a memo outlining concerns about the organization. Dugan alleges unlawful gender discrimination, sexual harassment, unlawful retaliation and unequal pay.

To what extent this controversy could overshadow the Grammys remains to be seen.

The 62nd Grammy Awards will be held on Sun. Jan 26 and will air live on CBS at 8 p.m. ET. The awards can also be streamed on the CBS All Access app.