Alicia Keys was the only sound choice for host of the 2020 Grammys.
A 15-time winner herself, the platinum-selling artist had a sparkling debut as host last year, proving a fitting guide for the industry's biggest night as a longtime voice of female empowerment and an advocate of the ongoing mission that is achieving equal representation and compensation for women in, not just music, but all fields.
"Really, in my opinion, we are the greatest species on the planet," Keys, an expert on a woman's worth, told E! News with a smile at the 2019 DVF Awards, "and I think that we really create so, so much—beginning with life and the way that all things happen really begin with the strength of a woman."
The "Show Me Love" singer will be bringing all the strength a live four-hour broadcast could ask for and more to the stage this Sunday—and lord knows, the Grammys need her guiding light.
Efforts to be more inclusive in 2019 were evident in the wake of then-Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow's ill-advised entreaty to women in 2018 to "step up" if they wanted to be more prevalent on the big stage. A blue-ribbon panel was formed to examine areas where the stodgy old Academy could improve. In addition to Keys being brought in as the first woman to host in 14 years, five of the eight Album of the Year nominees were by female artists and 31 women took home awards that night.
Portnow stepped down after 17 years last summer and all was seeingly well leading up to the 2020 show, what with Lizzo leading the field with eight nominations and the usual slew of who'd-a-thought-to-put-them-together performances falling into place. Last week, however, Portnow's successor, Deborah Dugan, was placed on leave forcreating a "toxic and intolerable working environment" and bullying a female assistant, according to a memo sent to members by interim Academy president/CEO Harvey Mason Jr.
Dugan has since filed a complaint against the Recording Academy with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation, among other bombshell allegations—including that the voting process is rigged.
"It is curious that Ms. Dugan never raised these grave allegations until a week after legal claims were made against her personally by a female employee," the Academy said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. Her attorney called the accusation that she never raised concerns before she herself was accused of misconduct "completely false."
Tensions roiling behind the scenes will be stashed far from the naked eye on Grammys night, but Keys, who hasn't commented on any of the backstage drama, is once again the captain of a ship sailing over turbulent waters.
"I wanted to create this lovefest where we could celebrate each other's greatness and just have fun," she told Billboard last month about her plan for the 2020 Grammys. "We're all trying to make our way through a very chaotic time, and we all just need a little celebration—to feel like we're with friends, like somebody actually cares."
She couldn't have known just how chaotic, but if anyone can bring the boat into port without a scrape, she can. Here are 15 important things to know about Alicia Keys—one for each Grammy she's won over the years:
And now, Keys will set the tempo for the 2020 Grammys.
But though it's an encore performance, that doesn't mean the industry veteran—who's releasing her seventh studio album, Alicia, and a new memoir, More Myself: A Journey, this year—won't be feeling the pressure.
"We all get nervous!" she told Billboard. "You go out in the world, and if everybody doesn't like you, you feel hurt or scared or 'something's wrong with me.' Cross over into social media, where we literally want people to like us—this shit is a mindf--k. I've thought so much about the different sides of us all. And personally, I think I've leaned on one or two sides because it's comfortable. Only recently have I started to explore the parts that are scary."
At the end of the day, the Grammys are a celebration, and Keys understands why winning one of those shiny little gramophones remains such a special honor.
"You are awarded by your peers—people who have been through the same experience that you have," she explained. "So to receive one is the ultimate validation from people that you admire. That's the point, and the reason why it has to maintain that level of integrity. And it has to expand now because music is not what it was 10 years ago. It's about making sure that it's representing the music that's happening at the rate that it's happening, as well. If we're not all growing and evolving, then pack it up, because what's the point?"