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Diva battle, and perhaps politics, in store at Grammys

10 February 2017   |   3:00 am
Which diva will the music industry select for its top honors? Adele, who conquered the charts with time-tested ballads of heartache, or Beyonce, who has crafted an edgier, confident sound?

Beyonce Knowles / Al Bello/Getty Images/AFP

Which diva will the music industry select for its top honors? Adele, who conquered the charts with time-tested ballads of heartache, or Beyonce, who has crafted an edgier, confident sound?

The two singers face off in three top categories Sunday night at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles — where much attention will be on whether stars seize the televised moment to weigh in on tense political times in the United States.

Beyonce, who leads the Grammys with nine nominations, is due to make her first public appearance since setting the internet ablaze with news she is expecting twins with her husband Jay Z.

The 35-year-old, who became one of the world’s top stars with her R&B-rooted pop, took a more provocative approach with her latest album “Lemonade,” which she intertwined with a film.

Delving into hip-hop as well as hard rock and even country, Beyonce addresses “Lemonade” squarely at an audience of fellow African American women as she takes on issues from infidelity to police brutality.

Beyonce has won 20 Grammys over her career but, to her fans’ dismay, she has consistently lost out in the top categories of Album of the Year and Record of the Year, which recognizes the top overall song.

She faces a challenge from Adele, who chose to stick to her chart-topping sound on “25,” which features more ballads of heartache and nostalgia such as the ubiquitous hit “Hello.”

“25” proved to be the world’s top-selling album since the English singer’s last work, “21,” which won Album of the Year in 2012.

Beyonce and Adele face competition for Album of the Year from Toronto rapper Drake, who has broken streaming records with his readily danceable tunes.

Dark horses in the category are Justin Bieber’s “Purpose,” in which the tabloid fixture revived his sound with help from electronic producers, and “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” by Sturgill Simpson, who has given some intellectual heft to country music through lyricism inspired by Buddhist philosophy.

– Forum to attack Trump? –

For many artists at the Grammys, one factor brings them together besides a love of music — intense dislike of US President Donald Trump.

Beyonce, Adele and Drake have all criticized the immigrant-bashing tycoon in their own ways. Other Grammy performers include two leading celebrity campaigners for Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful run — Katy Perry and Lady Gaga.

Since Trump’s unlikely ascent from the celebrity world to the planet’s most powerful job, artists have been eager to take him on — and Trump, an avid consumer of television, has been quick to hit back through Twitter.

Perry is expected to debut her new song “Chained to the Rhythm” after she set off a global frenzy by providing clues on Twitter, where she is the world’s most followed person.

Perry, who has released little new music since her blockbuster 2013 album “Prism,” shared a map with directions to more than two dozen disco balls around the world, which lucky fans can find to hear the song.

Lady Gaga will take part in one of the more unlikely collaborations at the Grammys as she performs with metal legends Metallica.

The performance comes one week after Gaga’s well-received performance before more than 117 million television viewers at the Super Bowl, where she offered a subtle message of social acceptance.

– Tributes to Prince, George Michael –

The awards will also see the return of Daft Punk, the reclusive French electronic duo who unfailingly appear in robot costumes and have not performed publicly since the 2014 Grammys.

Daft Punk will play with R&B sensation The Weeknd, whose music the duo has produced. Fans will be watching closely for signs of a larger return of Daft Punk, who heightened speculation by announcing a pop-up store to open Saturday in Los Angeles.

The Grammys will also feature tributes to two late pop icons, Prince and George Michael. The Prince performance may herald the wider availability of his music on streaming sites such as Spotify, which has run Grammy advertisements in Prince’s signature color purple.

Contenders in the closely watched Best New Artist category include Chance the Rapper, the gospel-incorporating hip-hop artist who has taken advantage of new Grammy rules that consider streaming exclusives, and Anderson .Paak, an experimental rapper and drummer who will take the stage with hip-hop legends A Tribe Called Quest.