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GRAMMY CHEW: RECORD OF THE YEAR

In this installment, we look at the likely nominees for ROTY, as well as a few outliers. We feel it pairs nicely with potato salad.

THE FAVORITES

Lewis Capaldi, “Someone You Loved”: The Brit crossover of the year and the little ballad that could came out of left field and conquered the world with pure emotion. “Someone” is a strong contender for SOTY as well, and Capaldi a fave for a BNA nod. He could have a huge night.

Billie Eilish, “bad guy”: An odds-on favorite, this envelope-pushing track is the breakthrough from the phenom’s monster album, and her innovative SNL performance strengthened her case with Grammy voters. Billie, too, looks to be on track for a batch of noms—and possibly a spectacular Grammy night.

Jonas Brothers, “Sucker”: This supremely well-made record is pure pop pleasure, and has reignited the brothers’ group brand—as well as lighting the fuse for their mega-tour. It combines a killer performance, lingering affection for the trio’s legacy and a hook that lodges in your brain like a meat cleaver.

Khalid, “Talk”: This disarming soul-pop charmer seems as close to a sure shot as you’ll get in our uncertain world. Packed with solid hooks and sweetened by Khalid’s emotive falsetto, it just works—and marks the completion of Khalid’s trajectory from wunderkind to superstar.

Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road”: We’ve probably spilled enough ink by now about the record-breaking “Road”—inarguably the biggest single of the year—to convey its significance. Crossing just about every genre boundary, this is the Energizer Bunny of pop tracks. Not including it in this category would be a miscarriage of justice.

Lizzo, “Truth Hurts”: Like Billie’s “guy,” this is the breakout song from a breakthrough artist. Lizzo has rocked every music metric but also moved the culture. She has the potential, depending on how things go, to collect a stack of noms—and even to rule the roost on Music’s Biggest Night.

Post Malone f/Swae Lee, “Sunflower”: Post is beyond big, and this breezy cut (which first appeared on the Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse ST) underscores how he’s reshaped the pop mainstream in his own face-tatted image. He’s overdue for some serious Grammy love. Respect.

Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello, “Señorita”: This Latin-pop-hybrid is a juggernaut; having scored a Top 40 radio #1, it sits at #1 on Spotify’s Global chart. The duo’s chemistry is smoking-hot—demonstrating, for those who didn’t already know, that these are two of the new generation’s superstars. Will it go all the way?

Panic! At the Disco, “High Hopes”: This is the year’s biggest cut by a rock band. With a killer vocal and ridiculously strong hooks, it’s a celebration of classic pop virtues in contemporary drag—and its vaulting optimism washes over you like an ocean wave. In a less crowded field, “Hopes” would feel like a sure thing; even in this group, it can reasonably hope for a nom.

Sam Smith and Normani, “Dancing With a Stranger”: Melancholy but funky, this finely crafted duet is an instant classic. It’s fair to assume that there’s still a lot of love in Grammyland for Sam; could “Stranger” dance into the winner’s circle? Don’t bet against it.


TOP CONTENDERS

Ariana Grande, “7 rings”: Ariana’s had a stellar year, and this hip-hop take on “My Favorite Things” (which previously inspired Julie Andrews, among others) was a colossal smash. Interestingly, Team Ari submitted this for ROTY and “thank u, next” for SOTY. In any case, Grammy may decide to atone for past slights of the absurdly talented megadiva with a nod.

Halsey, “Without Me”: This was the year Halsey became ubiquitous in pop culture, and this sleek, darkly emotional cut is what took her already-buzzing career to critical mass. One of pop’s least predictable stars, she’s forged her own path; does it lead to a ROTY nom this time out?

Lady Gaga, “Always Remember Us This Way” (from A Star Is Born): This tearjerking coda to Gaga’s box-office giant is a straightforward blast of feeling from one of the strongest singers we have. Did it come out too long ago? The album probably has a better shot at Grammy glory than this cut, which is a long shot.

Taylor Swift, “You Need to Calm Down”: The second single from Tay’s Lover, an infectious pop treat in its own right, was turbocharged by its pointedly pro-LGBTQ lyrics. This combo of winsome melody and woke message could be just the right formula to win Swift a spot on the short list.

 

WILD CARDS 

Beyoncé, “Spirit”: This Lion King cut deserves consideration, but Bey’s best Grammy shot this year is probably for her dazzling live set Homecoming in the Album category. That said, the Afrocentric, soulful “Spirit” surely resonates.

Andrea and Matteo Bocelli, “Fall on Me”: A powerful father-son vocal pairing on a great song (with the additional kick of a Disney ST connection, for The Nutcracker and the Four Realms), this could be a surprise runner in the final round. Will this dynastic duo make the cut?

DaBaby, “Suge”: The rapper’s streaming behemoth—paying tribute to a badass of the biz—looks to be one of the strongest hip-hop contenders for ROTY. DaBaby was dissed in the Best New Artist category, so his inclusion here would be a (well-deserved) make-up.

Dan + Shay, “Speechless”: This Nashville pair had the biggest Country-to-Pop crossover of the year on the heels of the unstoppable “Tequila,” which they performed, unforgettably, on last year’s show. A ROTY nom would be a good way to get them back onstage. Just sayin’.

J. Cole, “Middle Child”: Another enormous hip-hop record, which emphasized not only Cole’s ongoing viability in the brutally competitive streaming sweepstakes but also his continuing cred and gravitas. The clarity and seriousness of its lyrics could well propel it to glory.

Lil Tecca, “Ransom”: This late-breaking streaming monster is another new-school rap smash with a fleet groove and an insinuating melody (and at 2:11, it’s rivaled only by the original “Old Town Road” for brevity). That said, teenage Tecca is probably a long shot this year.

Maren Morris, “GIRL”: A bona fide country star who got a huge pop look thanks to Zedd/Grey collab “The Middle,” Maren is a fierce presence and already beloved by Grammy. The female-empowerment blast “GIRL” may be an outlier nod.

Maggie Rogers, “Light On”: Rogers’ haunting love letter to fans may be a dark-horse winner. Ever since she knocked Pharrell’s socks off during his NYU masterclass, Rogers has impressed with both craft and feeling. As writer, performer and producer, she’s the complete creative package.

Tyler, The Creator, “Earfquake”: AOTY is probably more likely, but this compelling alterna-soul cut shouldn’t be counted out, particularly given the artist’s undeniable cool factor. If Grammy wants an arty outlier among the expected pop frontrunners, Tyler fits the bill.

Carrie Underwood, “Love Wins”: This is one Nashville record that may resonate more with Blue State sensibilities than Red, wading as it does into the troubled waters of the gun-control divide. This being heavyweight-champ Underwood, of course, the soaring melody and positive vibes far outweigh the politics.

 

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