With online voting for the 60th annual Grammy Awards underway since 10/16, three singles seem sure to be nominated for Record of the Year—Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” and Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” (featuring Justin Bieber).

But let’s start our discussion with this year’s big question mark in this category, Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do.”

The song, the lead single from Swift’s upcoming studio album, was polarizing. But it did precisely what it was intended to do—it immediately put Swift back in the spotlight. The night the song was released in August, everyone had an opinion on it. Who else has that kind of star power? The song shot to #1 in the U.S. and around the world. Some critics didn’t care for it, but Swift and her co-producer, Jack Antonoff, knew it would work as a single—and it did.

The lead singles from Swift’s last two albums (“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “Shake It Off”) were both nominated for Record of the Year; “Shake It Off” was also nominated for Song of the Year. It would be seen almost as a rebuke—certainly by Swift!—if “Look What You Made Me Do” wasn’t nominated in at least one of these marquee categories.

“Look What You Made Me Do” was polarizing. But it did precisely what it was intended to do—it immediately put Swift back in the spotlight."

And the importance of megastars like Swift, Adele and Beyoncé to the Grammy telecast goes without saying. Swift opened the show five years ago with a performance of “We Are Never Ever…”

On the other hand, “Look What You Made Me Do” has none of the depth or timeliness of such rival contenders as Kesha’s “Praying” and Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” (featuring Alessia Cara & Khalid). Kesha’s song is about powerful men who exploit women (very timely in the year of the Harvey Weinstein scandal). Logic’s song is about suicide (very timely in the year that Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington took their own lives). Swift’s song is about how she and an unnamed rival (everyone assumes it’s Kanye West) really don’t get along.

Grammy history hangs in the balance. If Swift is nominated for Record of the Year, she would tie Barbra Streisand and Beyoncé for the most career nominations in this category by a female artist. Moreover, she would become the first woman to amass five Record of the Year nominations for records that were entirely hers. Streisand’s tally includes a duet with Neil Diamond; Beyoncé’s tally includes a Destiny’s Child hit.

Will Swift make it? There are, as you can see, plusses and minuses. I imagine that the Nominations Review Committee, which makes the final selections in the top four categories, will spend more time discussing her single than any other release this year. I also imagine that, toward the end of that discussion, someone will say, “The record definitely has its moments, but it doesn’t hold together as well as her best singles have. Not everything she—or anyone else—puts out is worthy of a Record of the Year nomination.”

Now, let’s go back to the three singles that seem like locks for nominations.

The zesty, dancehall-infused “Shape of You” was a convincing step for an artist who made his name with ballads. Sheeran introduced “Shape of You” on the Grammy telecast earlier this year. The committee could conceivably go with Sheeran’s “Castle on the Hill” instead, but “Shape of You” was clearly the bigger hit. “Thinking Out Loud” was nominated in this category two years ago.

“HUMBLE.” was Lamar’s first #1 single as a lead artist. It took the VMA for Video of the Year in August. If “HUMBLE.” also wins Record of the Year—a longshot, given Grammy voters’ resistance to rap—it would become the first hip-hop record to win Record of the Year. And it would become only the second work from any genre to win both the VMA for Video of the Year and the Grammy for Record of the Year. The first was Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.”

If “Despacito” makes it, Bieber will have been nominated in each of the Big
Four categories, a neat trick—one that few besides Scooter Braun
thought would ever happen.

“Despacito” is a global, genre-bridging smash. The bilingual, multicultural aspect takes on added import in the age of Donald Trump. A nom would also be a morale booster for Puerto Rico (Fonsi and Daddy Yankee were both born in San Juan), which was devastated by Hurricane Maria. “Despacito” had the longest run at #1 since the 1995 Mariah Carey/Boyz II Men juggernaut “One Sweet Day”; That smash was nominated for Record of the Year. This would be would be the first song primarily recorded in a foreign language to be nominated in this category since Los Lobos’ “La Bamba” 30 years ago. It would be Bieber’s first Record of the Year nomination. If it makes it, he’ll have been nominated in each of the Big Four categories, a neat trick—and one that few besides Scooter Braun thought would ever happen.

If the committee passes on Swift’s single and all three of these “locks” come through, that leaves just two open spots—unless the Grammys expand the field to six nominees, as they did five years ago (the year of “We Are Never Ever…”).

I count about 20 singles with a realistic chance of taking those last two spots.

Sam Smith’s current single, “Too Good at Goodbyes,” has the same soulful, choir-backed sound as “Stay With Me,” his breakout hit which won Record of the Year three years ago. He stayed in his comfort zone on a record that plays to his strengths.

Kesha’s power ballad “Praying” is widely seen as a rebuke to her former producer/mentor, Dr. Luke. As a song that directly responds to a pivotal event in an artist’s life, this ranks with Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven,” which won both Record and Song of the Year for 1992, and Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready to Make Nice,” which took both awards for 2006. The inspirational aspect of standing up to bullies gives this song a sense of importance and universality. And the never-ending scandals involving powerful men who exploit and prey on women (Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Bill O’Reilly, the late Roger Ailes) confirm that this is very pressing issue.

Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” (featuring Alessia Cara & Khalid) is a prime contender, thanks in part to the VMAs, which turned it into a smash. The staging of this song on that show, with survivors of suicide attempts gathered onstage, echoed the Grammys’ staging of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ marriage equality anthem “Same Love” four years ago. That was nominated for Song of the Year.

Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times” is one of the year’s best singles and a major step forward for this young star. Grammy trivia: This would be the first time that a single from the first solo album by an artist who rose to fame in a group or duo has been nominated in this category since Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” 12 years ago. Styles’ 1D cohort, Niall Horan, is also in the running with his appealing hit “Slow Hands,” but Styles’ record seems more distinctive; more of an artistic breakthrough.

Note: Kesha, Logic and Styles (as part of One Direction) have never received a Grammy nomination—in any category. That underscores how much of a breakthrough these singles were.

Imagine Dragons’ “Believer” could give the band its second nom in this category. They were nominated four years ago for “Radioactive.” That would make Imagine Dragons the fourth rock band to gather two Record of the Year noms in this century. The first three were U2, Coldplay and Green Day.

Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” shows the influence of Sly & the Family Stone and Prince— neither of whom was ever nominated for Record of the Year, if you can believe that. This stylish, superbly arranged song was one of the year’s biggest sleeper hits. Childish Gambino, of course, is the musical alter-ego of actor Donald Glover, who won two Emmys in September for his work on the FX series Atlanta. Will he also get multiple Grammy noms this year? Count on it.

Khalid’s “Location” is a sophisticated R&B hit with some jazzy notes. If it makes the top 20 on the voters’ initial list of choices (a prerequisite for being brought to the attention of the Nominations Review Committee, according to Neil Portnow), the committee could hoist it into the final five. This is exactly the kind of quality, progressive choice the Grammys would love to champion.

Two other songs with a strong Latin flavor, J Balvin & Willy William’s “Mi Gente” (featuring Beyoncé) and DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts” (featuring Rihanna and Bryson Tiller) could give “Despacito” a run for its money. If “Mi Gente” is nominated, this would give Beyoncé her sixth Record of the Year nomination, which would leave both Swift and Streisand in the dust. “Wild Thoughts” leans heavily on a sample from Santana’s “Maria Maria,” a Grammy-winning track from the 1999 Album of the Year winner. This would be Rihanna’s fourth nom in this category. Could two hits with a Latin music component make it in the same year? Sure. In 1999, Santana’s “Smooth” (featuring Rob Thomas) and Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” were both nominated for both Record and Song of the Year.

Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road” broke Florida Georgia Line’s record for the longest run at #1 on the country chart. But, come to think of it, the Florida Georgia Line hit in question, “Cruise,” was passed over for a Record of the Year nom four years ago. The last non-Taylor country single to receive a Record of the Year nom was Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now,” which won the 2010 award.

The Chainsmokers & Coldplay’s “Something Just like This” is a pleasing blend of pop and EDM. Coldplay won the 2003 award in this category for “Clocks” and was nominated again five years later for “Viva La Vida.” But The Chainsmokers were passed over in this category last year for their megahit “Closer” (featuring Halsey). This may garner added attention for the sheer rarity of two top groups or duos teaming up.

A nomination for “Believer” would make Imagine Dragons the fourth rock
band to gather two Record of the Year noms in this century.

Lady Gaga came up with her biggest and best single in years with “Million Reasons.” The ballad cracked the top five following her half-time performance at the Super Bowl. It would be her second nomination in this category, following “Poker Face.” Alas, it may have come out too early in the eligibility year.

Bruno Mars is also vying for his fifth Record of the Year nom. He could make it with either “24K Magic” or “That’s What I Like.” The latter, which he performed on the Grammys, was the bigger hit. But it’s kind of cutesy. Neither of Mars’ singles is as compelling as his four hits that were nominated for this award—B.o.B’s “Nothin’ on You,” “Grenade,” “Locked Out of Heaven” and Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk!”

Other singles in the conversation include James Arthur’s “Say You Won’t Let Go,” Julia Michaels’ “Issues,” Shawn Mendes’ “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back,” Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif 3,” Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful,” P!nk’s “What About Us” and Lorde’s “Green Light.”

My early picks: Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You,” Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.,” Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” (featuring Justin Bieber), Sam Smith’s “Too Good at Goodbyes,” Kesha’s “Praying.”

Note: The nominations will be announced on Nov. 28. The awards will be presented on Jan. 28. Last year, 991 singles or tracks were entered for Record of the Year.

Big news from the Spot. (10/15a)
This is getting ridiculous (10/14a)
It all adds up. (10/13a)
(20 FOR 16)
Beer and Glickman collaborate on the Spot. (10/13a)
Your Thanksgiving weekend soundtrack (10/14a)
Adele; Adele Adele?
A... dele?
Adele Adele; Adele.

 First Name

 Last Name


Captcha: (type the characters above)