At the 2020 Grammy Awards, Brand New and Old Songs Got as Much Airtime as Current Nominees

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.

Camila Cabello performs onstage during the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on January 26, 2020 in Los Angeles.

Just three of this year's eight record of the year nominees were performed on the telecast.

There was a time when Recording Academy officials were sticklers that all performances on the Grammy Awards had to be of current nominated works. Those days are as dead as 8-track tape.

For the last several years, the Academy has allowed artists to introduce brand-new songs on the telecast (on the theory that this freshens the show) and has allowed segments which include old songs (on the theory that this gives viewers, who may not necessarily be up on the latest hits, some songs they'll be likely to know).

But this year, the Grammys may have gone further than ever before. A little more than half of the songs performed on the show were either old or new -- not this year's contenders.

Artists who were allowed to introduce new songs on Music's Biggest Night were Blake Shelton and Gwen Stefani ("Nobody But You," their new single); Jonas Brothers ("Five More Minutes," a new song, and "What a Man Gotta Do," their new single); Camila Cabello ("First Man," the closing track on her second solo album, which was released in December, long after the close of eligibility for this year's awards); Demi Lovato ("Anyone," her new single); Meek Mill and Roddy Ricch ("Letter to Nipsey," a tribute to the late Nipsey Hussle, which led into DJ Khaled's Grammy-winning "Higher"); Rosalía ("Juro Qué," her new single, which she performed in tandem with a song from her Grammy-winning album); Alicia Keys & Brittany Howard ("Underdog," from Keys' forthcoming album Alicia); and H.E.R. ("Sometimes," her new single).

Artists who performed old songs on the show were Keys and Boyz II Men ("It's So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday," the group's 1991 hit, which was performed as a tribute to Kobe Bryant); Usher, FKA Twigs and Sheila E. (a three-song Prince medley, which promoted an upcoming Grammy-branded TV salute to the music legend); Aerosmith (two songs, including "Walk This Way" with Run-D.M.C., keyed to the rock band being this year's recipient of MusiCares' person of the year award); Bonnie Raitt ("Angel from Montgomery" from John Prine's 1971 debut album, tied to his lifetime achievement award); and Ben Platt, Cyndi Lauper and others ("I Sing the Body Electric" from the 1980 film Fame, keyed to Grammy executive producer Ken Ehrlich receiving a trustees award and wrapping up a four-decade run with the show).

This is another sign that, in this fiercely competitive ratings environment, the Academy is willing to make concessions that it would never have made in the past.

Another indication of that: just eight awards were presented on this year's telecast. A whopping 76 were presented in the pre-telecast portion of the show. The show's focus is very much on entertainment, not awards.

H.E.R. was nominated for record of the year this year for "Hard Place," which she performed on last year's telecast.

Just three of this year's eight record of the year nominees -- Lizzo's "Truth Hurts," Ariana Grande's "7 Rings" and the Lil Nas X/Billy Ray Cyrus megahit "Old Town Road" -- were performed on the telecast. Two other artists who had current record of the year nominations performed other material on the telecast. Billie Eilish performed "When the Party's Over," another track from her Grammy-winning album When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, instead of "Bad Guy," which won record and song of the year. H.E.R. performed the aforementioned new song "Sometimes."

2020 Grammy Awards

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