As a refresher, Record of the Year is awarded to the performers, producers, engineers, and mixers of a track. Song of the Year is awarded to the songwriters who wrote the lyrics and melodies to the song. Let’s get to it:
“drivers license” (Olivia Rodrigo); “Leave The Door Open” (Silk Sonic); “Up” (Cardi B); “Peaches” (Justin Bieber, Daniel Caesar & Giveon); “Happier Than Ever” (Billie Eilish); “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” (Lil Nas X); “Kiss Me More” (Doja Cat & SZA); “Stay” (The Kid LAROI & Justin Bieber)
By April, the four biggest contenders for Record of the Year had already arrived. As of right now, the state of the race looks like a close call between Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license” and Silk Sonic’s “Leave The Door Open.” The former, Olivia’s proper debut single and the lead single from her SOUR album, dominated the globe and drew acclaim from music listeners and critics alike. With eight weeks at #1, a string of historic records set, and a triple-platinum certification in less than a year, “drivers license” has all the makings of a Record of the Year winner. More often than not, the nominees and winners of this category align with the most commercially successful songs of the eligibility period. With tracks like Dua Lipa & DaBaby’s “Levitating (Remix)” and The Weeknd & Ariana Grande’s “Save Your Tears (Remix)” out of contention, “drivers license” can comfortably occupy that lane. The power ballad is universal and traditional enough to draw support from blocs outside of pop voters, but, truthfully, it may not even need the extra support to win. The only thing standing in between “drivers license” and this award is that we simply do not know how the Academy will receive Olivia. They could honor her with Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance à la Lorde and “Royals” in 2013, and give Record of the Year to a song with more bombastic production. As for “Leave The Door Open,” that song has the privilege of being made by a set of artists who have 21 Grammys between them. Written and produced by Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, D’Mile, and Brody Brown, “Leave The Door Open” is probably the most predictable Record of the Year nominee. It’s a beloved #1 smash hit from two Grammy darlings that prioritize live instrumentation and draw from the Philadelphia Soul genre and era. Silk Sonic is an act that prizes genuine musicianship and showmanship over anything else. All in all, it would be downright shocking if “Leave The Door Open” were to miss out on a nomination here.
Two former Best New Artist nominees are gunning for their second nomination in Record of the Year. Lil Nas X’s “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” should be a lock for a nomination here, as should Doja Cat’s SZA-assisted “Kiss Me More.” There really isn’t much going against either song and, again, it would be shocking if either track were to miss out on recognition in this category. In Doja’s case, however, disgraced producer and alleged rapist Dr. Luke appears in the credits. While this same issue didn’t prevent Doja Cat from earning a nomination in this category for “Say So” last year, it’s hard to say if the Academy will turn a blind eye two years in a row. Also in contention are Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever” and Cardi B’s “Up.” Last year, Billie made history as the youngest artist (and third overall), to win Record of the Year in back-to-back years when she triumphed for “everything i wanted” after winning for “bad guy” in 2020. Frank Sinatra is the only performer to be nominated in this category for at least three consecutive ceremonies; he did it four times between 1959 and 1962. With a record as gorgeous as “Happier Than Ever,” don’t be too surprised if Billie’s name appears in the final lineup yet again. For purely circumstantial reasons, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s seismic “WAP” missed out on recognition at last year’s ceremony as well as the upcoming 2022 ceremony. On the bright side, Cardi pulled off yet another #1 smash hit with “Up.” While it wasn’t the most warmly-received record, “Up” has the stats and longevity to warrant a nomination. If nominated, “Up” would be the first completely-rapped solo song by a female artist to be recognized in this category, and it would be a nice way to commemorate Cardi’s continued dominance in the absence of her sophomore studio album.
At the last ceremony, Beyoncé earned two nominations in this category as she competed alongside Megan Thee Stallion with “Savage” as well as her own “Black Parade.” This year, Justin Bieber is likely to follow suit with his The Kid LAROI duet “Stay” and his own “Peaches.” The breezy R&B-influenced “Peaches” combines cross-generational and cross-genre appeal. The track also features Grammy-winner Daniel Caesar and Grammy-nominee Giveon. “Stay,” on the other hand, is one of the biggest streaming and radio hits of the year, and it’s the bookend to a massive breakout year for a young new act. With the news that “Peaches” would be competing in the R&B field, and “Stay” would only be competing in the General Field, Bieber & Co. are definitely strategizing for a blockbuster Grammy year.
“Bad Habits” (Ed Sheeran); “Heartbreak Anniversary” (Giveon); “Fight For You” (H.E.R.); “Right On Time” (Brandi Carlile); “Hurricane” (Kanye West); “positions” (Ariana Grande); “Butter” (BTS); “Essence” (Wizkid & Tems)
As previously stated, big pop radio hits and commercial smashes often fare well in this category. With that in mind, “positions” (Ariana Grande), “Bad Habits” (Ed Sheeran), and “Butter” (BTS) all have strong chances at a nomination here. As Grammy winners and previous nominees in this category (“7 rings” and “Thinking Out Loud”), Ariana and Ed could very easily translate their Top 40 radio juggernauts into Grammy gold. Both artists seem to be taking a more laidback approach this year when it comes to Grammy campaigning, but their names are big enough that they don’t need to be front and center during the voting period. BTS had their Grammy breakthrough last year when they earned a Best Pop Duo/Group Performance nomination for “Dynamite.” This could be the year they break into the General Field, especially with the “Levitating” and “Save Your Tears” remixes out of the running. “Butter” didn’t permeate the general culture quite like “Dynamite” did, but it’s hard to deny ten weeks at #1 and those massive sales numbers. Wizkid earned his first Grammy win last year (Best Music Video, “Brown Skin Girl”), and he could follow that up with a Record of the Year nod for his Tems-assisted “Essence.” The slow-burning global monster hit is one of the most singular records of the decade so far. It’s phenomenal, fresh, and, by all accounts, a song worthy of the title of Record of the Year. The only thing standing in its way is that we have yet to see the Grammys truly acknowledge Afrobeats outside of the Global Music category and whenever American artists borrow those sounds.
On the R&B front, Giveon, who’s also in the running with “Peaches,” and H.E.R., could make appearances in the final 8. “Heartbreak Anniversary,” a forlorn R&B ballad that found success on radio, streaming, and TikTok could garner enough passion to score a nomination. The Academy recognized Giveon last year with a Best R&B Album nod, so it’s clear that there’s some love for him. In terms of eligibility, there are a few questions. A lot of this depends on whether or not Giveon submitted this song consideration this year as opposed to more recent singles like “Stuck On You” and “For Tonight.” Whether it’s “Heartbreak Anniversary,” “Peaches,” or both, Giveon’s name is very likely to be in the final lineup. Last year, H.E.R. took home the Song of the Year Grammy, as well as the Academy Award for Best Original Song, for “Fight for You” from Judas and the Black Messiah. This year, she could be in the running for both Song and Record of the Year with “Fight for You.” Instead of opting for the more commercially successful “Damage,” H.E.R. chose to campaign “Fight” in the General Field. Given her track record in the major categories (six nominations in three years), it’s a risk that could very well pay off. Also in the running are Brandi Carlile’s “Right On Time” and Kanye West’s “Hurricane.” Brandi was nominated here in 2019 for “The Joke,” and thanks to a stellar SNL performance around voting time and some good controversy around the screening committee moving “Right On Time” for Americana to pop, she could definitely make a return to this category. As for Kanye, “Hurricane” is a chance for the Academy to rectify a number of wrongs. As one of the most innovative and successful performers and producers of the past two decades, it’s a bit bewildering that Kanye has just one Record of the Year nomination to his credit (2005, “Gold Digger”). In addition to making up for lost time, this is also a chance for the Academy to extend an olive branch to The Weeknd, who they famously snubbed last year. The Weeknd held true to his word and did not submit any of his own music for Grammy consideration this year, but as a credited performer on “Hurricane,” he may end walking away with some more Grammy gold whether he likes it or not. Furthermore, Lil Baby controversially went home empty-handed last year after having the most successful album of the eligibility period. He also appears on “Hurricane,” rounding out a trifecta of reasons this song is a bigger threat than it may seem. What’s going against it? The song has tumbled down the chart nearly every week since its debut, but with such big names attached, that’s not too big of a detractor.
As previous nominees in this category, Megan Thee Stallion (2021, “Savage”) and SZA (2019, “All the Stars”) have slim chances of returning to the final 8. While “Body” was certainly successful in its own right, the song lacks the cultural ubiquity and widespread acclaim that “Savage” did. On the other hand, “Good Days” became SZA’s first solo song to hit the Top 10, but I get the sense that this song is better positioned for a shot at Song of the Year given its poignant heartfelt lyrics and Jacob Collier co-writing credit. Taylor Swift has been nominated in this category four times before, but “willow” could carry her to her first appearance in the category since 2015. Similar to “Good Days,” “willow” is probably a stronger contender for Song of the Year. Its picturesque lyrics hold more weight than its understated production. Nonetheless, Song and Record of the Year overlap quite often, so anything can happen.
Bad Bunny could score his second Record of the Year nomination with “Dákiti,” and Kali Uchis could follow up her inaugural Grammy win (2021, Best Dance Recording, “10%”) with a nomination for “telepatía.” Both songs are sung primarily in Spanish and garnered hundreds of millions of streams. Unless Latin records are assisted by the appearance of English artists (“Un Dia,” “I Like It”) or English remixes (“Despacito”), the language barrier tends to hinder their chances at nominations in the general field. In a just world, there would be no question about either of these songs being in the final lineup, but a just world this is not. Finally, Jazmine Sullivan earned her first Gold-certified single with “Pick Up Your Feelings.” If she can translate her goodwill and critical acclaim into a strong nominations haul, she could potentially sneak into the General Field. Jazmine has never been nominated in the General Filed for a specific song or album (she scored a Best New Artist nod in 2010), but this could be the year that changes. “Pick Up Your Feelings” is a sublime record, and this could be one of those cases where the sheer quality of work eclipses any commercial shortcomings.
“Wild Side” (Normani & Cardi B); “Gyalis” (Capella Grey); “The Good Ones” (Gabby Barrett); “I Get A Kick Out Of You” (Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga); “Heat Waves (Live)” (Glass Animals); “transparent soul” (Willow & Travis Barker); “Pay Your Way In Pain” (St. Vincent); “7 Summers” (Morgan Wallen)
“drivers license” (Olivia Rodrigo)
“Leave The Door Open” (Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak & Silk Sonic)
“MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)” (Lil Nas X)
“Kiss Me More” (Doja Cat & SZA)
“Happier Than Ever” (Billie Eilish)
“Hurricane” (Kanye West, The Weeknd & Lil Baby)
“Peaches” (Justin Bieber, Daniel Caesar & Giveon)
ALT: “STAY” (The Kid LAROI & Justin Bieber); “Bad Habits” (Ed Sheeran); “Up” (Cardi B)