Grammy Slugfest for Record of the Year

UPDATE (12/1):

Record of the Year
I continue to think that Sam Smith's "Stay with Me" and Meghan Trainor's "All About That Bass" are slam-dunks and that Ariana Grande's "Problem" (featuring Iggy Azalea), while not quite a slam-dunk, will also get a nod. But I now think that two of my earlier picks—Azalea's "Fancy" (featuring Charli XCX) and Eminem's "The Monster" (featuring Rihanna)—may not make it after all. Azalea is a somewhat polarizing figure. The panelists may decide that one nom in this category is enough for her. And "The Monster" didn't have the social import of the 2010 Eminem/Rihanna collabo, "Love The Way You Lie."

Song of the Year
I'm still sold on three of my earlier picks: "Stay with Me," "All About That Bass" and "Let It Go," and, to a lesser extent, "A Sky Full of Stars." But I'd like to replace "Say Something" with Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off." Everybody from Kelly Clarkson to Kendrick Lamar can be found on YouTube singing Swift's sassy hit.

By Paul Grein

We’re taking a look at the likely Grammy nominees in top categories. Yesterday, we looked at Album of the Year. Today, we’ll look at Record of the Year. Thursday, we’ll finish up with Best New Artist.

Sam Smith
’s blue-eyed-soul ballad "Stay With Me" is sure to be nominated. Ken Ehrlich, the Grammys’ long-time executive producer, loves to use gospel choirs on the telecast—and this song was built around one.

Meghan Trainor’s "All About That Bass," which calls for women to accept their bodies even if they don’t conform to society’s ideal, may be Smith’s strongest competition. A song with a similar theme, India.Arie’s "Video," was nominated for both Record and Song of the Year in 2001.

Iggy Azalea could pull a Pharrell Williams, landing two of the five Record of the Year slots. Azalea’s "Fancy" (featuring Charli XCX) and Ariana Grande’s "Problem," on which the Aussie rapper is featured, are both strong bets for nominations. (Williams was featured on two of last year’s finalists: Daft Punk’s "Get Lucky" and Robin Thicke’s "Blurred Lines.")

"The Monster" by Eminem featuring Rihanna could round out the category. The two stars would make Grammy history if they’re nominated: No teaming of two artists who usually record separately has ever made the Record of the Year finals twice. (The pair was previously nominated in this category with 2010’s "Love The Way You Lie.")

Note: "Drunk in Love" by Beyoncé featuring Jay Z would also be those stars’ second joint Record of the Year finalist. The pair was nominated with 2003’s "Crazy in Love." So they are also positioned to make Grammy history. But "The Monster" probably has a better shot.

Pharrell Williams
’ "Happy" and John Legend’s "All of Me" were released in last year’s eligibility period, but may be allowed to compete again this year because of the release of live versions. Technically, they’re different recordings. If they’re allowed in, either or both would have a good chance of making it. (The songs, however, aren’t eligible again for Song of the Year.)

KONGOS’ alternative smash "Come With Me Now" was a left-field pop hit. It could easily make the finals, but I suspect it will finish high on the list of runners-up.

Taylor Swift
’s kiss-country-goodbye pop smash "Shake It Off" also has a good shot. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" was nominated in this category two years ago.

Idina Menzel’s "Let It Go" from Frozen has a chance to become the first Oscar winner for Best Song to be nominated for Record and/or Song of the Year since Eminem’s "Lose Yourself" was nominated in both categories in 2003. (The big question: Would Grammy producers dare ask John Travolta to introduce her performance?)

Coldplay’s "A Sky Full of Stars" (which was co-produced and co-written by Avicii) and Ed Sheeran’s "Sing" (which was produced and co-written by Pharrell Williams) are also strong candidates. Coldplay won this award for 2003’s "Clocks" and was nominated for 2008’s "Viva La Vida."

Three other smash collabos are in the mix: "Say Something" by A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera, "Dark Horse" by Katy Perry featuring Juicy J and "Bang Bang" by Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj.

"Dark Horse" and "Drunk in Love" were both performed on last year’s telecast. Until the late 1990s, the Academy wouldn’t allow artists to perform material unless it was nominated that year—and especially not new material that might be in play for nominations the following year. Now that it does, it complicates matters when the material becomes eligible a year later. Does the exposure on the previous year’s telecast give a song an unfair advantage in the voting? Or does it put it at a disadvantage by giving it a sense of "been there, done that"? (It probably cuts both ways, depending on the situation.) The original restriction put the integrity of the voting ahead of maximizing the usefulness of the TV show as a promotional vehicle. How old-school!

Iggy Azalea isn’t the only artist who could score two Record of the Year nominations this year. Ariana Grande and Charli XCX could also conceivably "double up" on nominations in this category, a sign of the highly collaborative nature of contemporary pop. Grande is also a contender with "Bang Bang," her aforementioned collabo with Jessie J and Nicki Minaj. Charli XCX is also a possibility on her own with "Boom Clap."

Other possibilities include Sia’s "Chandelier," Nico & Vinz’s "Am I Wrong," MAGIC!’s "Rude," Aloe Blacc’s "The Man," MKTO’s "Classic," Paramore’s "Ain’t It Fun" and Enrique Iglesias’s "Bailando."

Four records that would have had a good shot at a nomination most likely won’t be eligible, because they were entered last year: Bastille’s "Pompeii," Passenger’s "Let Her Go," OneRepublic’s "Counting Stars" and "Latch" by Disclosure featuring Sam Smith. Also out of luck: "Love Never Felt So Good" by Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake. (Jackson recorded his part in 1983.)

Song of the Year

For the most part, the same works are under consideration for both Record of the Year (which honors a specific recording) and Song of the Year (which honors the song itself). The final nominees usually vary somewhat, but the prime contenders are generally the same.

Standard-type ballads historically have a better chance of landing Song of the Year nominations than do hot, contemporary tracks. The assumption is that they’re more likely to have a life after this particular record. With that in mind, I could see the final five being "Stay With Me," "All About That Bass," "Let It Go," "Say Something" and "A Sky Full of Stars."

Grein, who writes frequently for Yahoo Music, has been tracking the Grammys since "Stay With Me" was a hit by Faces and "Fancy" was a hit by Bobbie Gentry.

Read about the Best New Artist contenders here.

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