2020 Grammy Watch: Song of the Year

Historically, Record of the Year and Song of the Year have a lot of overlap. In recent years, Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me”; Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” and “Hello”; Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” and Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” have won both awards. Two years ago, Bruno Mars won both categories albeit for two different songs. Song of the Year is awarded to the songwriters, composers, and lyricists; Record of the Year is awarded to the recording artists and producers.

Leaders

Team Grande has the task of promoting two career-defining #1 smash hits for this year’s awards. In my opinion, the smartest thing to do is go the Beyoncé route. Back in 2010, Beyoncé had “Halo” and “Single Ladies” compete in the same year. Her team pushed “Halo” for Record of the Year and “Single Ladies” for Song of the Year and they eventually got nominated in both categories and won the latter. Likewise, Ariana should push “7 rings” for Record of the Year and “thank u, next,” the more lyrically and melodically impressive song, for Song of the Year. The Grammys love a rising British artist with strong vocal chops (Amy Winehouse, Adele, Ed Sheeran, and Sam Smith have all won this award recently). Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved” is a stunning ballad that is blowing up right when voting is about to start. I would be surprised if this misses a nomination. Billie Eilish’s “bad guy”; Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Old Town Road”; and Post Malone & Swae Lee’s “Sunflower” are all locks for Record of the Year. I have a hard time seeing any of these songs being excluded from the Song of the Year lineup. Nevertheless, if the Academy is going to actually award the most quality songs, “Old Town Road” is the most vulnerable track. But it’s kind of hard to ignore 19 consecutive weeks at #1.

Strong Contenders

Khalid’s “Talk” is the kind of inoffensive and universal track that the Grammys love to award (think “Get Lucky”; “We Are Young”; “Thinking Out Loud”). Taylor Swift has three prior nominations in this category, but she has never won. If her team does the right thing and pushes “Lover” for this category, I would be shocked if she was ignored. “Lover” is one of her best songs in years, and it’s a quintessential Song of the Year track. Jonas Brother’s “Sucker” is a leading contender for Record of the Year, but lyrically/melodically, the song isn’t that impressive. Country music hasn’t won this category in almost a decade, and if the genre is ignored again in 2020, that would mark five years since the last time a country song was nominated in this category. Blake Shelton’s “God’s Country” and Dan + Shay’s “Speechless” are strong contenders for Record of the Year, but their chances are even better in this category. It is Luke Combs’ “Beautiful Crazy,” however, that has the best shot at nomination out of the country tracks highlighted here. It’s very much in the Ed Sheeran vein, lyrically, which can only help its chances. Like “Formation” and “This Is America” before it, Gary Clark Jr.’s political “This Land” could show up as well. Obviously, the song is excellent, but I’m also betting on his album of the same name to score an Album of the Year nod.

Outside Shots

Song of the Year is always a hard category to predict. Outside of a select group of obvious contenders, it begins to be a true guessing game. I think Lizzo probably has Best Pop Solo Performance and Record of the Year on lock for “Truth Hurts,” but lyrically, the song may be a bit too abrasive for voters. One would think that any song that has the power of Beyoncé, Disney, and The Lion King behind it is an obvious choice to win Grammys. In the case of “Spirit,” one of Beyoncé’s strongest songs (lyrically and vocally) to date, no one really knows it. The unfortunately short placement of the song in the film coupled with absolutely no traditional promotion is definitely hurting it’s chances. Regardless, if the Grammys are really going “to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position,” this should have no problem being nominated. Solange’s “Almeda” and Tyler The, Creator’s “EARFQUAKE,” are both acclaimed genre-spanning tracks that (with some help from the Blue Ribbon Committee) could make the cut.

Something in my gut is telling me Lana Del Rey will have a good year at the Grammys this year. Whether she campaigns “Norman f*****g Rockwell” or “Looking for America,” I think she has a legitimate shot at General Field recognition this year. Maren Morris is looking for her first nomination in this category, and her crossover hit “The Bones,” could garner enough country and pop support to cross the finish line. Maggie Rogers’ “Light On” and Craig Morgan’s “The Father, My Son, And the Holy Ghost” are the kind of indie/alternative/left-of-mainstream country tracks that usually surprise in this category. Both are more than deserving of a nomination. Halsey’s “Without Me” is one of her best songs, but with so many stronger and more memorable #1 hits in contention this year, she may be passed over. Finally, Miley Cyrus could join her dad in this category if she is able to pull of a nomination for her beautiful “Slide Away.” Also keep an eye out for Tori Kelly’s “Sorry Would Go A Long Way.”

Final Predictions

“Old Town Road” (Lil Nas X & Billy Ray Cyrus)

“Someone You Loved” (Lewis Capaldi)

“thank u, next” (Ariana Grande)

“Beautiful Crazy” (Luke Combs)

“bad guy” (Billie Eilish)

“Sunflower” (Post Malone & Swae Lee)

“Talk” (Khalid)

“This Land” (Gary Clark Jr.)

ALT: “Lover” (Taylor Swift) OR “Spirit” (Beyoncé)

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