Grammy rehearsals, day three: Bon Jovi (with Jennifer Nettles) and a tribute to Michael Jackson

The final day of Grammy rehearsals is upon us! Oh, it seems only yesterday that I was fighting to get through security in time for Zac Brown’s rehearsal, but no, that was Thursday. Oh, the memories!  (You can read our coverage of previous days here.)

It was a slow Saturday at Staples for me, since only a few acts were scheduled before I had to head home and get gussied up for tonight’s Clive Davis bash. I’ll have full coverage of that star-studded event tomorrow, but for now, read on for the scoop on Bon Jovi (with Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles) and the Michael Jackson tribute from Celine Dion, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, Smokey Robinson, and Usher. Sadly, I was bounced from the room before Beyonce could rehearse, but I’ll say this: She is using the whole stage.

The morning kicked off with a laid-back Bon Jovi run-through, as the venerable Jersey band probably doesn’t need a lot of practice to play their rockin’ greatest hits. Jon and the guys are being honored at the show, one presumes, just for being Bon Jovi, and the celebration kicks off with their newest single, “We Weren’t Born to Follow.” Next up in the medley: “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” with their original duet partner, Jennifer Nettles. If you’re the sort of person who keeps track of such things, you’ll know that this tune won the band their only Grammy Award (for Best Country Collaboration). Nettles was in her usual fine voice as the group took several no-frills passes through the hit, and she remained on stage for the final component of Bon Jovi’s Grammy Moment: a song-to-be-named-later, which is being voted on as we speak by You, The Fans. I can tell you the three songs practiced today were “Livin’ on a Prayer,” “It’s My Life,” and “Always,” so don’t forget to vote if you want to put your favorite over the top.

The set-up for the Michael Jackson tribute took a while, as more and more random people with video cameras and whatnot began to pack the room. It seems the death of the King of Pop is still big news—I wonder if this Grammy salute will finally put him to rest? They’ve certainly brought in the big guns: Celine Dion, Usher, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, and Smokey Robinson will come together on stage to honor the late pop great. It’s possible their tremendous voices are being under-utilized on “Earth Song,” since they’ve little to do but trade off lines with the Jackson recording while standing in front of jumbotrons running a 3-D video of a little girl running through a forest. As the song wears on, gorgeous shots of ponies and polar bears and snowy mountains slowly morph into a burning, post-apocalyptic landscape, before ending on a shot of Earth from outer space, and a moment of respect for Jackson. Again: All in 3-D! (Get your glasses at Target.) I’ll be curious to see how this plays with the folks at home—it’s possible the emotion of the moment will elevate things during the show. On a side note, I especially enjoyed that both Dion and Underwood were wearing their “Talent” credential stickers on stage, and would like to be introduced to any security personnel that might have a hard time identifying those two women sans sticky pass.

Tune in to the 52nd annual Grammy Awards, live on CBS tomorrow, Jan. 31, at 8 p.m. ET/PT — and don’t forget to sign up for our Grammy live blog!

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

More from’s Music Mix:
Grammys 2010: What are your predictions?
Goldfrapp dives Head First into ’80s pop on new album
Grammy rehearsals day one: Zac Brown Band, Pink, Lady Antebellum
Ayla Brown on her music career, her Senator-elect dad, and American Idol after Simon Cowell
New Mariah Carey video, ‘Up Out My Face’: Finally, Mimi does it right!

Photo Credit: Michael Buckner/

Comments (38 total) Add your comment
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  • mariela

    i think they should have done that tribute to Man in the Mirror. earth song isn’t widely known or popular, and for a tribute to him and his career, it needs to be something that is very closely associated with him, that everyone knows. billie jean can’t be it because that song is too fused to the dance itself and NO ONE can do it other than him. but MiTM is probably the second closest to him that people associate as it being personal. earth song sucks and it was a gimmick to plug a clip from the DVD in 3-D. lame and not significant enough

    • Donknottz

      Um MIchael said that earth song was the most important song of all of them to him because it spread the environmental message and you don’t know what your talking about there’s only a tiny clip of earth song on the dvd. He made this special for his tour and if this is what out of all of his music he said was the most important for people to hear then I think we can give the greatest entertainer in the history of the country what he wanted. MJ4eva L O V E

  • JBJ fan forever

    Glad to know that he woke up in a good mood. I love Jon Bon Jovi’s smile. The picture is beautiful. Thank you. It’s a shame that my favorite song is not among them. I love Bed Of Roses. This show promises to be wonderful… naturally!

  • whilome

    “It seems the death of the King of Pop is still big news.” What are you, like, 12? Whether or not this Grammy tribute “finally puts him to rest” as you wish is of little import to the millions of fans still in mourning and his family coming to collect the award.

  • James

    Am I the only person on the planet that can’t stand Jennifer Nettles? Seriously, she oversings and her “country swang” goes way too far. Plus, she has the worst stage presence this side of bad American Idol auditions.

    • Sara

      Yep. You’re the only one. ;0)

      I think she’s amazing. But what you see as “oversinging” and maybe the “worst stage presence…” (which I personally don’t get at all), I see as a woman who genuinely feels, to her core, the music she sings. That happens to be a trait I find most the compelling in music.

      • T

        Definitely the only one, James. I’m with Sara – I think she’s completely amazing! One of the best singers out there. I saw Sugarland in concert two summers ago, and it was such a blast. Jennifer and Kristian certainly know how to keep an audience entertained. Love their music, and so excited to see Jen perform on the Grammys tonight!!

    • Denise

      No James you’re not the only one…Jennifer is waaaay over twangy for me too!

      • James

        She really is terrible. She’s the Yoko Ono of country music.

      • Jeff Hovendon

        No, James. She’s freaking awful. I was introduced to her at last year’s Grammys, when she and Sugarland stomped all over Adele, whose performance I had eagerly anticipated. I hadn’t seen her again until this year’s Grammys… and I was equally unimpressed. The woman doesn’t know the meaning of subtlety. Count me among the non-fans.

    • Juju

      OMG! You are so right she so sucks. I love Bon Jovi – wish they pick some one better than her to sing with. They could do so much better than that wanna be sl*t.

    • tracy

      Oh yea, I was searching blogs to see if it was just me who thought Jennifer Nettles is annoying to listen to.

    • marlee

      Jennifer Nettles is from Georgia… she has a far better range and her tone is better than Taylor Swift!!haaha

  • Rachel

    When I first heard about a possible reunion between Jennifer and the Bon Jovi boys, I was VERY excited, even when it wasn’t a confirmed yes. Now seeing the rehearsal pictures and reading your account of the whole experience, I have to say I am VERY excited for tonight. Yeah, I am sad that there won’t be a “Sugarland” performance and I’ll miss Kristian, but this is the next best thing. Can’t wait to see it and the MJ tribute tonight!

  • Jane Lewis

    It, was great..ty Bon Jovi your the greatest rock star ever…Love & Peace…

    • Denise

      Yes..Jon is the greatest Rock Star and Bon Jovi is the greatest Rock Band!They soooo deserve to be in the “Rock” category not “Pop”!

  • psychoanalyzer

    I don’t think Earth Song sucks, but I do agree that Man in the Mirror would have been more fitting. I understand they wanted to do something that tributed Michael and was dear to his heart (his concern for the environment), but somehow I think plugging in both, or re-enacting his AMAZING performance of Man in the Mirror at the 1988 Grammy’s would have been more touching. This whole 3-D thing, I know Michael loved, but is a little gimmicky for a tribute to man who just died and whose kids have to be there to see it. I really feel like they just want to do something that they think will give the Grammy’s a ratings boost. These show producers are so out-of-touch and cardboard fake — they don’t understand that all on it’s own, a simple yet beautiful MJ tribute will be more than enough to boost their ratings no matter what. This is the freakin Grammy’s — you tribute Michael Jackson, and people will watch. But let’s not lie to ourselves — this is more about money and ratings, not about Michael.

  • curt

    Have to agree with Whitney. I cannot believe we have to endure yet another tribue to MJ. He’s dead people. Get over it. I’m sure that segment will be one hot mess, maybe even more so through 3D glasses. Maybe I’ll wear them throughout the show–perhaps they will even make the talentless Swift appear to be talented. Fingers crossed she sings yet another song about a fairytale.

    • psychoanalyzer

      Umm.. hello, it’s the Grammy’s. They kind of have to tribute MJ. And yes, this will be the last official tribute to him. That’s why it’s kind of a big deal. Go back to your happy hole, Curt. And take your 3D glasses with you.

    • Donknottz

      It’s been less than a year and this is the first grammy awards since and since he holds the record for most grammys won by an artist in one night and is ninth on the all time list of most grammys won I think it would e pretty stupid if they didnt have a tribute for him. Michael was the man stop your hate.

  • Shayne

    @ mariela
    Earth Song” was Michael’s biggest selling international single of all time. It was never released in the USA.It sold more than 3 million copies outside of USA “YANA” sold 3.5 million, but it included over million from USA. “BOW” was all-time record for Jackson with sale of 5 million copies, but there was 2 million from USA.

    And for the people Bitchin about another tribute for Him, were you saying the same thing when he was being ridiculed and bashed day in and day out. I bet you were one of the ones who welcomed it. Tables have turned. Elvis has been ded for 1000 years and he is still shoved in our faces 24/7

  • Abby

    Jennifer Nettles has won more than the one Grammy with Bon Jovi for Best Country Collaboration. They also won Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group – “Stay” and Jennifer also won for Best Country Song – “Stay”

    • JBJ fan forever

      Bon Jovi does not need a collection of Grammy Awards to be among the world’s biggest bands and stay on the music scene for nearly thirty years. They survived without it.

  • Chichi

    Anyone who doesn’t appreciate the sheer magic of Nettles voice is deaf! The woman can SANG! And it is a shame that the music industry is so obsessed with youth that someone like Swift is racking up nods when other artists are pushed aside.

    And I hope Underwood puts some clothes on for this tribute. Her bedazzled granny panties are not the move.

    • Scott Wilson

      Jennifer Nettles is a Super Star, and can sing country, rock, blues, bluegrass, pop, doo wop, etc. A true superstar! SugarLand is an amazing country rock band, with Jennifer and Kristian. To get a SugarLand concert ticket is nearly impossible!

      • marlee

        Super Star is Right!

  • joyce

    I like her in Sugarland but was appalled that she stayed on stage for the final song of Bon Jovi’s — I love Bon Jovi and he certainly doesn’t need her assistance

  • valerie

    Ditto, that woman can sing, speaking of Jennifer Nettles. She gave me goosebumps tonight, the same kind I got when I first heard Janis Joplin.

  • Scott Wilson

    Carrie was excellent on the Michael song, as were Celine, Usher, etc. And the country music performances were definitely highlights of the Grammy Awards. But Bon Jovi – Jennifer were the best! Thank you Bon Jovi for a great career!

    • marlee


  • Scott Wilson

    Maybe a Bon Jovi – SugarLand Tour? SugarLand has listed virtually no concerts yet. A Bon Jovi – SugarLand world-wide tour? Bon Jovi – SugarLand was the very best CrossRoads ever! I’m hoping! Bon Jovi supported SugarLand when nobody knew who they were.

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