Likely Nominees for Record and Song of the Year

We’re looking at the likely Grammy nominees and runners-up in the “Big Four” categories. (The eligibility year ends Sept. 30.) Yesterday, we looked at Album of the Year. Today we explore Record and Song of the Year. Tomorrow we conclude with Best New Artist. 

The likely nominees: “Uptown Funk!” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” and Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.”

This would be Mars’ fifth nomination in this category (his fourth as an artist); Swift’s fourth.

Such an outcome would make for a memorable Grammy night for Max Martin and Shellback, who co-produced both “Blank Space” and “Can’t Feel My Face.”

“Uptown Funk!” won a BRIT Award for British Single of the Year earlier this year. If it also wins the Grammy for Record of the Year, it would be the first single to take both prizes since Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise” in 1990.

Swift and The Weeknd both had such strong years that they each have several hits that could be nominated here. Swift’s “Bad Blood” (featuring Kendrick Lamar) represents the fullest expression of her immersion into contemporary pop and hip-hop culture. Also, a nomination for that smash would also give the Academy another chance to recognize the respected Lamar. But I just think that “Blank Space” is more in line with Grammy tastes. The brash “Bad Blood,” which won the VMA for Video of the Year, is more MTV. The classy “Blank Space” is more Grammys.

The Weeknd could make it with “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey),” “Can’t Feel My Face” or “The Hills,” all of which were giant (top three) hits. The irresistible “Can’t Feel My Face” was his first #1 hit, which may give it an edge. The record is essentially an homage to Michael Jackson, but its lack of originality probably won’t hurt it in this category. Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven,” which cribbed from The Police, and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” which lifted from Marvin Gaye, were both nominated in this category two years ago.

“Girl Crush” was Little Big Town’s biggest crossover hit to date. The bluesy and provocative ballad echoes Grammy favorite Bonnie Raitt. Little Big Town is vying to become just the fourth country group or duo to land a Record of the Year nomination, following Lady Antebellum (“Need You Now”), Dixie Chicks (“Not Ready to Make Nice”) and The Browns (surely you remember 1959’s “The Three Bells”).

Sheeran may face a roadblock on his way to a nomination: He performed “Thinking Out Loud” on the Grammy telecast in February. As a result, it may seem like yesterday’s news to the panelists who select the final nominees.

February’s show included a performance of another work that might have been a serious Record of the Year contender this year: “FourFiveSeconds” by Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney.

Obviously, the producers of the telecast won’t want these performances on the show two years in a row. The panelists who select the final nominees shouldn’t take such factors into account, but they can’t help but be aware of them. That may lead them to pass over these works in search of material that seems fresher. That’s why I’m not a fan of the Grammys’ recent practice of booking performances on the telecast that won’t be eligible for awards consideration until the following year. The Grammys are placing the interests of the TV show ahead of the integrity of the awards process.

(“FourFiveSeconds” has a modest, understated charm, but it doesn’t quite live up to the expectations created by the all-star billing. But “Thinking Out Loud” is a lovely and timeless ballad and is entirely deserving of nominations in the marquee categories.)

Here are capsule summaries of four other strong contenders. “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth blends a sweet pop melody with hip-hop in a way that even people who aren’t rap fans (i.e., many Grammy voters) can appreciate. Sam Hunt’s “Take Your Time” seamlessly blends singing and spoken elements. The video, which depicts domestic violence, gives the song added gravitas. Andy Grammer’s “Honey, I’m Good.” may get extra points for its positive social message (the video is a cheerful PSA for monogamy). Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” has the spunk and female assertiveness that made Katy Perry’s “Roar” a Song of the Year finalist two years ago.

Other records with a good chance include Elle King’s “Ex’s & Oh’s,” Adam Lambert’s “Ghost Town,” Tori Kelly’s “Should’ve Been Us,” Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” Sia’s “Elastic Heart,” Jason Derulo’s “Want to Want Me,” Fall Out Boy’s “Uma Thurman” and a clutch of collabos: “One Man Can Change the World” by Big Sean featuring Kanye West & John Legend; Hey Mama” by David Guetta featuring Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack; “Lean On” by Major Lazer & DJ Snake featuring ; “Worth It” by Fifth Harmony featuring Kid Ink; “Where Are U Now” by Skrillex & Diplo with Justin Bieber; and “Glory” by John Legend & Common.

Also eligible: Maroon 5’s “Animals” and “Sugar,” Ariana Grande’s “Break Free” (featuring Zedd) and “Love Me Harder” (a collabo with The Weeknd), Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen,” Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do,” Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance,” Meghan Trainor’s “Lips Are Movin,” Beyoncé’s “7/11” and OMI’s “Cheerleader.”

Sam Smith’s “I’m Not the Only One” (featuring A$AP Rocky) and “Lay Me Down” (featuring John Legend) will be eligible, though the panel may decide Smith got enough recognition last year, when “Stay With Me” won Record and Song of the Year.

My five picks are “Uptown Funk!” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” and Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.”

The likely nominees: “Thinking Out Loud,” “Girl Crush,” “Blank Space,” “Uptown Funk!” and a Weeknd song, either “Can’t Feel My Face” or “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey).”

Max Martin co-wrote both “Blank Space” and “Can’t Feel My Face.” If both songs are nominated, the Swede would join the short list of songwriters with two Song of the Year nominations in the same year. It would also boost Martin’s career tally in this category to four noms.

This would be the fourth nomination in this category for Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence and Jeff Bhasker, who are among the co-writers of “Uptown Funk!” It would be Swift’s third nom in the category and the second for Sheeran, Shellback (who co-wrote “Blank Space”) and Liz Rose and Hillary Lindsey (who co-wrote “Girl Crush”).

Other songs with a good shot include “Honey, I’m Good.,” “Fight Song,” “See You Again,” “Take Your Time,” “Alright,” the VMA-winning “One Man Can Change the World” and the Oscar-winning “Glory,” among others.

My five picks are “Thinking Out Loud,” “Girl Crush,” “Blank Space,” “Uptown Funk!” and a Weeknd song, either “Can’t Feel My Face” or “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey).”

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We make yet more predictions, which you are free to ignore.
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