Here’s How the Grammys Told LL Cool J They’re Going With James Corden

“He’s not just a host to us — he’s family,” Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow tells TheWrap of “NCIS: LA” star

Last Updated: November 22, 2016 @ 5:37 PM

Fifty-nine years into this whole thing, and the Grammy Awards on CBS have booked what sounds like the perfect host.

Music’s biggest night scored James Corden for its 2017 show, which may prove one of the better pairings in recent TV special history. After all, the British-born Corden is CBS’ hottest employee right now: He can sing, dance and crack wise, and the “Late Late Show” host already has access to pop music’s biggest talent via “Carpool Karaoke” – one of the most popular comedy bits to come along in years.

It was “very clear that this is somebody who gets this very deeply on a personal level,” Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow told TheWrap about how the Corden selection fits their mission.

Unfortunately, the choice means that Portnow had to have a difficult discussion with rapper and “NCIS: LA” star LL Cool J, who has hosted the Grammys for five straight years. That wasn’t so easy.

“He’s not just a host to us — he’s family,” Portnow said. “The conversation … really starts with that vantage point.”

“At the end of the day, what we expect and what everybody has to do ask this question, ‘What is in the best interest of The Academy?” he explained of how the discussion went down. “So, when you use that lens, then you have to think about … changing things up.”

After all, the Grammys are an entertainment show that exists in a heavily competitive landscape. It feels like a new music awards show pops up every week, but Portnow’s is by far the biggest — he aims to keep it that way. And the mission of Portnow’s company is “bigger than any individual,” in his words, including the friend he affectionately calls “Todd” (James Todd Smith is LL Cool J‘s real name).

With that purview, the tough decision was “something that he could nod his head and say, ‘I get that'” over, Portnow said of LL’s reaction. Plus, that doesn’t mean their professional relationship with Cool J needs to cease. The Academy is discussing possible ways to keep the rapper/actor close to the show and maybe even involved on-air.

“There could be multiple opportunities” to do just that, Portnow said. (An email to a rep for LL Cool J was not returned.)

For instance, the Recording Academy doesn’t just do one show these days — it also does a yearly tribute special at Grammy time. Maybe LL could host that? Or how about opening the 59th annual Grammy Awards with a “Carpool Karaoke” featuring Cool James, which was TheWrap’s suggestion to Portnow.

“Too soon to tell,” he replied.

Producers are waiting for the nominees to be revealed on December 6 before making any segment decisions. “We’ve very often opened with a musical piece,” Portnow added.

Finally, we asked the music lover and artist advocate if he has any concern over the “American Music Awards” crashing in TV Ratings on Sunday.

“Not really,” he said, before admitting: “It concerns me when any element related to music on television isn’t doing well.”

“I always root for success,” Portnow concluded. With Corden on board, he may be set up for just that.

The 59th annual Grammy Awards take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and air live on CBS Sunday, February 12, 2017 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

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