2021 GRAMMYs Nominations Predictions: Record of the Year

Quick Notes:

  1. To be nominated for the 2021 Grammy Awards albums and singles must have been released within the eligibility period of Sept. 1, 2019—Aug. 31, 2020.
  2. Record of the Year is for the artists and producers. Song of the Year is for the songwriters.
  3. There are now eight slots in each of the four General Field categories.

Leading Contenders

Post has been nominated for this award in 2019 (“Rockstar”) and 2020 (“Sunflower”), and he could end up nominated again for “Circles.” The historic single became Post’s first solo #1 hit (fourth overall) and spent a record-breaking 39 weeks in the Top 10. “Circles” is a track that’s liked by pretty much everybody as proven by its incredible staying power and 4x Platinum certification. One of his better-received singles, “Circles” is a safe bet for a nomination. The clear frontrunner, however, is The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights.” The acclaimed #1 hit recently broke the record for longest run in the Top 5 of the Hot 100 and it’s already one of the 20 most streamed songs in Spotify history — and it’s not even a year old yet. There really isn’t anything working against “Blinding Lights,” from its acclaim and success to its recent VMA win for Video of the Year, it would be one of the most egregious snubs in recent memory if this track missed a nomination in this category. A few other pop songs are also in contention. Doja Cat’s breakthrough hit “Say So” has a strong chance to be recognized here. However, the chat room controversy could have her relegated to Pop Solo Performance instead. Dua Lipa’s career-defining “Don’t Start Now” is likely to be recognized here as well. Again, there isn’t much going against her for this specific category. Ariana Grande scored her first nomination in this category last year with “7 rings” and she could return with her Lady Gaga duet “Rain On Me.” Gaga has two previous nods in this category (2010’s “Poker Face” and 2019’s “Shallow”) and the song went #1 and drew acclaim, so this dynamic duo is well-poised for a nomination. Harry Styles’ “Adore You” was a quality smash hit, so he is also in great standing for a nomination here.

On the rap side of things, Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” is entering Grammy season as the biggest song of the year. It’s a legitimately excellent song that hits all the boxes, no pun intended, so there’s no reason why this song shouldn’t be announced come Nominations Day. Megan Thee Stallion has had a landmark year and the power of Beyoncé could help lift her to a nomination in this category for “Savage (Remix).” Beyoncé has been nominated her five times before (including Destiny’s Child), with the most recent being “Formation” in 2017. “Savage” has everything the Grammys love to see in this category: an undeniable smash hit with a veteran collaborating with newcomer. It doesn’t hurt that this is a song by two black women since the current political climate and recent Grammy scandals are expected to impact this year’s awards.

STRONG SHOTS

Billie Eilish won this category last year for “bad guy” and she could end up nominated again for “everything i wanted.” Her goodwill from last year combined with the song’s success and positive reception could very well result in a nomination. Also on the pop side, Taylor Swift could show up her for “cardigan.” The #1 hit from her folklore album has the potential to become Swift’s fifth nomination here. Gabby Barrett pulled off an incredible feat this year and scored a multi-week Hot 100 Top 10 hit with her debut single, “I Hope,” a country song. Don’t be surprised to see her name among the nominees. Similarly, Maren Morris scored one of the most impactful country songs in recent memory with “The Bones.” Already a previous winner and six-time nominee, a nomination for “The Bones” is certainly within reach. Dan + Shay had one of the most talked-about performances of last year’s Grammy telecast, and their Justin Bieber-assisted “10,000 Hours” track could become their first nomination in the general field. The track became the country duo’s first Top 10 hit and has already scored nominations at the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Country Music Association Awards. In addition, Justin being a previous nominee in this category (2018, “Despacito (Remix)”) definitely helps their case.

For the rap contenders, Roddy Ricch appears once again, this time for his featured turn on DaBaby’s “Rockstar.” DaBaby scored a pair of nominations in the Rap Field last year for “Suge,” so if the “The Box” doesn’t overshadow this and the committees fully embrace him, “Rockstar” could make it in. Similarly, Megan Thee Stallion is also in the running with her Cardi B duet, “WAP.” The controversial #1 hit has yet to leave the Top 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Cardi herself was a nominee here in 2019 for “I Like It.” It’s not likely that both “Savage” and “WAP” get recognized in this category and it would be a shame if both were ignored. Future and Drake are also in the running with “Life Is Good.” The massively successful single would become Future’s first and Drake’s third nomination in this category; its Video of the Year nomination at the VMAs could be a push in the right direction for them as well. If his label and team play their cards right and push the proper narrative, Pop Smoke could pull off a surprise nomination for “Dior.”

The Killers have a fair shot here with “Caution” as it’s probably the most rock-leaning mainstream hit of the year. “Be A Light,” the country super-collaboration which features Thomas Rhett, Keith Urban, Reba McEntire, Hillary Scott, and Chris Tomlin (that’s 17 Grammys between them!), could also get in but it may be too niche. My gut tells me that Giveon could get in here for “Favorite Mistake,” as a surprise, but well-deserving, nominee. H.E.R. was nominated her last year for “Hard Place,” and with 10 Grammy nominations in 2 years and a song that perfectly captures the sociopolitical climate of the times, she could very well get a nomination here for “I Can’t Breathe.”

FIGHTING CHANCES

ROTY isn’t a stranger to surprise nominations, but it does normally line up with the year’s biggest commercial hits more than any other category. With that being said, here are few options that could sneak into the Final 8. On the rock and country side of things, Fiona Apple’s “Shameika,” The Highwomen’s “Crowded Table,” Miranda Lambert’s “Bluebird,” Evanescence’s “Wasted On You,” Chris Cornell’s “Patience,” Zac Brown Band’s “The Man Who Loves You The Most,” and Morgan Wallen’s “7 Summers” all have potential to be nominated. With the exception of Morgan Wallen, all of the acts mentioned are past Grammy winners.

For hip-hop, Jack Harlow’s “What’s Poppin” has a solid chance, but The Academy may want to avoid another Macklemore situation. Lil Baby could be a surprise nominee here with “The Bigger Picture”; the song’s Black Lives Matter theme easily makes it the most accessible track from the young rapper. Drake and Lil Durk’s “Laugh Now Cry Later” and Drake’s own “Toosie Slide” have small chances as well. Finally, SAINt JHN’s global smash “Roses” would be an interesting choice for a nomination. In the vein of global smash hits, Tones and I’s “Dance Monkey” has the commercial clout to warrant a nomination, but it really all depends on how the Academy wants to brand themselves this year. Chloe x Halle are also in the running with “Do It,” their breakthrough hit, as are John Legend with either “Conversations In The Dark” or “Preach” and Alicia Keys with “Underdog.” Lewis Capaldi scored his sole Grammy nomination last year for Song of the Year with “Someone You Loved,” and he could repeat in both that category and Record of the Year with “Before You Go.”

Finally, there’s the question of BTS’ “Dynamite.” The global monster hit from the K-Pop group has made history and broken numerous records in the United States and cemented them as an undeniable musical and cultural force. BTS has never been nominated for a Grammy, so it’s hard to gauge if the Academy will embrace them in the General Field, keep them in Pop Duo/Group, or, sadly, ignore them once again.

Final Predictions

  1. “Blinding Lights” (The Weeknd)
  2. “Don’t Start Now” (Dua Lipa)
  3. “The Bones” (Maren Morris)
  4. “Savage (Remix)” (Megan Thee Stallion & Beyoncé)
  5. “Rain On Me” (Lady Gaga & Ariana Grande)
  6. “The Bigger Picture” (Lil Baby)
  7. “The Box” (Roddy Ricch)
  8. “Circles” (Post Malone)

ALT: “Shameika” (Fiona Apple) OR “I Can’t Breathe” (H.E.R.)

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