Lukas Graham’s “7 Years” is the kind of thoughtful, purposeful single that Grammy voters have favored for decades.

Adele’s blockbuster ballad “Hello” also seems like a sure thing. This would give Adele her third nom in this category. She was nominated for her breakthrough hit, “Chasing Pavements,” and won for “Rolling in the Deep.”

twenty one pilots“Stressed Out” is an effective blend of rock and hip-hop. The duo would become the first rock group or duo to make the finals since Imagine Dragons scored with “Radioactive” three years ago.

Beyoncé’s “Formation” has a timely #blacklivesmatter theme, which may give it a boost. “Formation” took Video of the Year at the BET Awards on June 26. EW rated it as the best song of the first half of the year. Beyoncé has received four Record of the Year nominations (counting one with Destiny’s Child). If she receives another nom this year, she’ll tie Barbra Streisand as the female artist with the most career Record of the Year noms in Grammy history.

Two Canadian chart titans, Justin Bieber and Drake, may duke it out for the fifth spot. Both have multiple hits in the running. Bieber has “Love Yourself” and “Sorry.” Drake has “One Dance” (featuring WizKid & Kyla) and “Hotline Bling” (which was released in the previous eligibility year, but wasn’t entered then; it thus is eligible this year). Drake is also featured on Rihanna’s chartbuster “Work.”

Now let’s dig into this: “One Dance” is a transatlantic #1 smash, but “Hotline Bling” may be a more memorable record. The problem: It was released on 7/31/15, so it may seem ancient by the time the nominations are announced on 12/6. Of the two Drake hits, “One Dance” would seem fresher, which is in the Grammys’ interest. But Drake must also compete with young Mr. Bieber, who, in “Love Yourself,” came up with an impressive record far removed both from the teenpop of his early hits and the EDM approach of “Where Are Ü Now,” his comeback hit with Jack Ü.

James Bay’s “Let It Go” and ZAYN’s “PILLOWTALK” are high on the list of alternates. Bay received three nominations last year, including Best New Artist and Best Rock Album. In fact, he performed “Let It Go” on the Grammys in February. The striking “Pillowtalk,” Zayn’s first single after leaving One Direction, was a global #1 smash.

Justin Timberlake’s feel-good smash “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” is a little light in tone for a Record of the Year nom. But he’s a Grammy fave, having been nominated three times in the category. So he’ll at least get a look.

Other possibilities include Maxwell’s “Lake by the Ocean,” Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man,” Fifth Harmony’s “Work From Home” (featuring Ty Dolla $ign), Kanye West’s gospel-infused “Ultralight Beam” (featuring Chance the Rapper, Kirk Franklin, The-Dream and Kelly Price) and Chance the Rapper’s “No Problem” (featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz).

Note: Alessia Cara’s “Here” and The Chainsmokers’ “Roses” (featuring ROZES) would have been strong contenders, but they’re not eligible. Both were entered last year.

To recap: the likely nominees are Lukas Graham’s “7 Years,” Adele’s “Hello,” twenty one pilots’ “Stressed Out,” Beyoncé’s “Formation” and Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.”


Let’s cut right to the chase: I’ll put my money on Lukas Graham’s “7 Years,” Adele’s “Hello,” Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man” and James Bay’s “Let It Go.”

Lukas Graham leader Lukas Forchammer co-wrote “7 Years” with Stefan Forrest, Morten Ristorp and Morten Pilegaard.

Adele co-wrote “Hello” with Greg Kurstin. This would be Adele’s third nom in this category; Kurstin’s second. Adele was nominated for “Chasing Pavements” and won for “Rolling in the Deep.” Kurstin was nominated four years ago for the Kelly Clarkson smash “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).” Trivia note: Lionel Richie’s “Hello” was nominated for Song of the Year 32 years ago. If Adele’s song is also nominated, this will mark the first time in Grammy history that two different songs with the same title have been nominated in this category.

Bieber co-wrote “Love Yourself” with Ed Sheeran and Benjamin Levin. This would be Sheeran’s third nom in this category in the past five years. He was nominated for “The A Team” and won for “Thinking Out Loud.”

Rhett co-wrote “Die a Happy Man” with Sean Douglas and Joe Spargur. One or more country songs has made the finals in this category in five of the last 10 years. And this song, which mentions Marvin Gaye, has broad appeal.

Bay co-wrote “Let It Go” with Paul Barry. The song has the tender poignancy of Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.”

Kurstin, who seems a shoo-in for a nom for “Hello,” has two other strong candidates in the running“Piece by Piece,” which he co-wrote with Kelly Clarkson, and “Cheap Thrills,” which he co-wrote with Sia.

Hit machine Max Martin, who has been nominated four times in the category (including the last three years in a row) has two strong candidates this year: “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” (which he co-wrote with Justin Timberlake and Shellback) and “Just Like Fire” (which he co-wrote with P!nk, Karl Johan Schuster and Oscar Holter).

Maxwell and his collaborator, Hod David, have a good chance of returning to the Song of the Year finals with the old-school R&B ballad “Lake by the Ocean.” They were nominated seven years ago for “Pretty Wings.”

Other candidates include “Formation” (which Beyoncé co-wrote with Khalif Brown, Jordan Frost, Asheton Hogan and Michael Len Williams II), “Stressed Out” (written by Tyler Joseph), “PILLOWTALK” (which ZAYN co-wrote with Levi Lennox, Anthony Hannides, Michael Hannides and Joe Garrett), “One Dance” (which Drake and WizKid co-wrote with Paul Jefferies, Aman Tekleab, Noah Shebib, Logan Sama, Themba Sekowe, Osabuohien Osaretin, Melanie Calumpad and Errol Reid) and “Ultralight Beam” (which Kanye West, Chance the Rapper, Kirk Franklin, The-Dream and Kelly Price co-wrote with Mike Dean, Nico “Donnie Trumpet” Segal, Kasseem Dean, Noah Goldstein, Jerome Potter, Samuel Griesemer, Cydel Young and Derek Watkins).

To recap: The likely nominees are Lukas Graham’s “7 Years,” Adele’s “Hello,” Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man” and James Bay’s “Let It Go.”

Paul Grein has been reporting on the Grammys long enough to know that Alessia Cara wouldn’t be the first artist with that surname to receive a Best New Artist nomination. Irene Cara (no relation) was nominated in 1980.


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