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GREIN ON GRAMMYS:
SONG OF THE YEAR

Three film songs—“Shallow” from A Star Is Born, “All the Stars” from Black Panther and “Love Lies” from Love, Simon—are strong contenders for Song of the Year nominations. If one of them makes it, this would be the first time a film song has been nominated in this category since “See You Again” from Furious 7 three years ago. If more than one makes it, this would be the first time that multiple film songs have been nominated in the same year since 1998, when “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic, “Iris” from City of Angels and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” from Armageddon all received nominations.

Ed Sheeran & Beyoncé’s “Perfect” duet is entered for Record of the Year, but the song isn’t entered for Song of the Year, a category Sheeran won three years ago for “Thinking Out Loud.” That’s unfortunate, because this is a song in the traditional Grammy sense—a ballad that may well be covered by many artists over the years. This is the second year in a row that Sheeran has run into turbulence in this category. His megahit “Shape of You” was entered last year but wasn’t nominated. Sheeran has an outside chance of a nom this year for co-writing “The Rest of Our Life,” a country hit by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.

Larrance Dopson has three strong candidates in the running—Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up,” Sam Smith’s “Pray” and Justin Timberlake’s “Say Something” (featuring Chris Stapleton). Dopson co-wrote the latter two songs with Timothy Mosley, better known as Timbaland. Numerous other songwriters have multiple strong contenders, including Cardi B, Max Martin, Robin Fredriksson and Justin Tranter. All of these songwriters are vying to become the first writer with two nominations in this category in the same year since Elton John and Tim Rice scored 24 years ago with two songs from The Lion King.

There are 1,011 entries this year competing for Song of the Year, down slightly from 1,069 last year. Voting members of the Recording Academy are making their selections as we speak (voting runs from 10/17 to 10/31). Their top 20 choices move on to the next round, in which a secret committee of Grammy insiders will narrow it down to eight nominees.

Here are some leading candidates for Song of the Year. At the end of this discussion, I’ll give you my predictions of which songs will land in the eight available slots.

“Boo’d Up,” which Ella Mai co-wrote with Larrance Dopson, Joelle James and Dijon McFarlane. Also entered for Best R&B Song. (An entry isn’t a nomination, mind you, but this tells you where the song is competing in the Grammy process.)

“Lucid Dreams,” which Juice WRLD co-wrote with Nick Mira. The smash samples Sting’s 1993 song “Shape of My Heart,” but that song’s writers, Sting and Dominic Miller, aren’t entered here. Also entered for Best Rap Song.

“No Tears Left to Cry,” which Ariana Grande co-wrote with KnocDown, Savon Kotecha and Max Martin—a four-time nominee in this category. (There is no Best Pop Song category—on the theory that it would overlap too much with Song of the Year. Pop songs can only compete for Song of the Year.)

“Pray,” which Sam Smith co-wrote with Larrance Dopson, Timothy Mosley, James Napier, Darryl Pearson and Jose Velazquez. Smith and Napier shared the Song of the Year prize four years ago for “Stay With Me.”

“God’s Plan,” which Drake co-wrote with Daveon Jackson, Brock Korsan, Ron LaTour, Matthew Samuels and Noah Shebib. Also entered for Best Rap Song.

“Rockstar,” which Post Malone and 21 Savage co-wrote with Olufunmidi Awoshiley, Louis Bell, Carl Austin Rosen and Jo-Vaughn Virginie. Also entered for Best Rap Song.

“Shallow,” which Lady Gaga co-wrote with Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt. Gaga was nominated in this category nine years ago for “Poker Face.” If “Shallow” is nominated for Song of the Year, it will approach the achievement of the key song from the 1976 version of A Star Is Born: “Evergreen” by Barbra Streisand and Paul Williams shared the 1977 award with the deadly “You Light Up My Life.” “Shallow” is also entered for Best Song Written for Visual Media.

“This Is America,” which Childish Gambino co-wrote with Ludwig Goransson. Also entered for Best Rap Song.

“Call Out My Name,” which The Weeknd co-wrote with Adam Feeney and Nicolas Jaar. Also entered for Best R&B Song.

“Natural,” which the members of Imagine Dragons co-wrote with Robin Fredriksson, Mattias Larsson and Justin Tranter. Tranter was nominated in this category last year for co-writing the Julia Michaels hit “Issues.” Also entered for Best Rock Song.

“All the Stars,” which Kendrick Lamar and SZA co-wrote with Al Shuckburgh, Mark Spears and Anthony Tiffith. Lamar and Spears were nominated in this category three years ago for “Alright.” Also entered for Best Song Written for Visual Media.

“Sad!,” which the late XXXTentacion co-wrote with John Cunningham. XXX is vying to become the first songwriter to receive a nom posthumously in this category since Warren Zevon, who was nominated 15 years ago for “Keep Me in Your Heart.” Also entered for Best Rap Song.

“Love Lies,” which Khalid and Normani co-wrote with Jamil Chammas, Tayla Parks and Ryan Vojtesak. Khalid was nominated in this category last year for co-writing the Logic hit “1-800-273-8255,” on which he was featured. “Love Lies” is also entered for Best Song Written for Visual Media and Best R&B Song.

“Say Something,” which Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton co-wrote with Larrance Dopson, Floyd Hills, Nate Hills and Timothy Mosley.

“Cry Pretty,” which Carrie Underwood co-wrote with Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose. Lindsey, McKenna and Rose were nominated in this category three years ago for writing the Little Big Town hit “Girl Crush,” which is the most recent song to receive noms for both Song of the Year and Best Country Song. “Cry Pretty” is also entered for Best Country Song.

“In My Blood,” which Shawn Mendes co-wrote with Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris and Geoffrey Warburton.

“The Middle,” which Zedd and the members of Grey co-wrote with Sarah Aarons, Jordan K. Johnson, Stefan Johnson and Marcus Lomax.

“This Is Me,” the Keala Settle track from The Greatest Showman, which Benj Pasek and Justin Paul co-wrote. The Oscar-nominated song is the key track from the soundtrack that was the world’s best-selling album of 2018. Also entered for Best Song Written for Visual Media.

“Delicate,” which Taylor Swift co-wrote with Max Martin and Shellback. All three co-writers have been nominated multiple times in this category. “My reputation’s never been worse/So you must like me for me” is one of the year’s best lyrics.

“Girls Like You,” which Adam Levine of Maroon 5 and Cardi B co-wrote with Jason Evigan, Brittany Talia Hazzard, Gian Stone and Henry Walter.

“I Like It,” which Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J. Balvin co-wrote with 10 (count ’em!) co-writers—Noah Assad, Edgar Machucha, Luian Malave, Marcos E. Masis, Klenord Raphael, Jorden Thorpe, Edgar Wilmer Semper Vargas, Xavier Semer Vargas, Vincent Watson and Anthony Germaine White. This track is entered for Best Rap/Sung Performance, but the song is not entered for Best Rap Song. It was apparently judged to be too pop to compete in that category.

“Meant to Be,” which Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard co-wrote with David Garcia and Josh Miller. Also entered for Best Country Song.

“Never Be the Same,” which Camila Cabello co-wrote with Noonie Bao, Leo Rami Rawod, Adam Feeney, Jacob Ludwig Olofsson and Sasha Yatchenko. This is Cabello’s best shot at a nom in this category. Her smash “Havana” (featuring Young Thug) was entered in this category last year and thus is ineligible.

“Colors,” which Beck co-wrote with Greg Kurstin—a two-time nominee in this category. He won two years ago for co-writing Adele’s “Hello.”

“Drunk Girl,” which Chris Janson co-wrote with Scooter Carusoe and Tom Douglas. A CMA nominee for Song of the Year. The lyric, in which a man treats an inebriated woman with kindness, has resonated in this #metoo moment. Also entered for Best Country Song.

“Guiding Light,” written by the members of Mumford & Sons. The band was nominated in this category seven years ago for “The Cave,” which is the most recent song to receive noms for both Song of the Year and Best Rock Song. “Guiding Light” is also entered for Best Rock Song.

“Make Me Feel,” which Janelle Monáe co-wrote with Robin Fredriksson, Matt Friedman, Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter. Michaels and Tranter were nominated last year for co-writing her hit “Issues.”

“The Rest of Our Life,” the Tim McGraw and Faith Hill hit, which Steve Mac, Johnny McDaid, Ed Sheeran and Amy Wadge co-wrote. Sheeran and Wadge won in this category three years ago for “Thinking Out Loud.” “The Rest of Our Life” is also entered for Best Country Song.

“Tequila,” which Dan Smyers of Dan + Shay co-wrote with Nicolle Galyon and Jordan Reynolds. A CMA nominee for Song of the Year. Also entered for Best Country Song.

“Woman, Amen,” which Dierks Bentley co-wrote with Ross Cooperman and Josh Kear. Kear is a two-time nominee in this category. Also entered for Best Country Song.

“Babe,” the Sugarland (featuring Taylor Swift) hit which Pat Monahan and Swift co-wrote. Monahan was nominated in this category 17 years ago for co-writing Train’s “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me).” Swift is a three-time nominee in this category. Also entered for Best Country Song.

“Beautiful Trauma,” which P!nk co-wrote with Jack Antonoff. Antonoff won in this category six years ago for co-writing fun.’s “We Are Young.” P!nk was nominated five years ago for co-writing “Just Give Me a Reason.”

“Come On to Me,” which Paul McCartney wrote. McCartney is tied with Lionel Richie for the most noms in the history of this category (six). Also entered for Best Rock Song.

“Mine,” which Bazzi co-wrote with Kevin White and Mike Woods.

“Happier,” which Marshmello and Bastille’s Dan Smith co-wrote with Steve McCutcheon.

“Thunderclouds,” the LSD hit which that trio’s Labrinth, Sia and Diplo co-wrote with Henry Agincourt Allen and Philip Meckseper. Sia was nominated in this category four years ago for co-writing “Chandelier.”

“Youngblood,” which three members of 5 Seconds of Summer co-wrote with Louis Bell, Ali Tamposi and Andrew Watt. Tamposi was nominated in this category six years ago for co-writing Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).”

“Most People Are Good,” the Luke Bryan hit, which David Frasier, Ed Hill and Josh Kear co-wrote. Kear is a two-time nominee in this category. The line “I believe you love who you love/Ain’t nothin’ you should ever be ashamed of” is considered progressive coming from a mainstream country star. Also entered for Best Country Song.

“The Sky Is a Neighborhood,” which Foo Fighters wrote. Also entered for Best Rock Song.

So what will the nominees be? I’ve arranged my picks here in alphabetical order, just as the Recording Academy will present them on 12/5. (This is a songwriter’s award. Artist names appear in parentheses for identification purposes.)

“Boo’d Up,” Larrance Dopson, Joelle James, Ella Mai and Dijon McFarlane (Ella Mai).

“Call Out My Name,” Adam Feeney, Nicolas Jaar and Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd).

“God’s Plan,” Aubrey Graham, Daveon Jackson, Brock Korsan, Ron LaTour, Matthew Samuels and Noah Shebib (Drake).

“Lucid Dreams,” Jarad Higgins & Nick Mira (Juice WRLD).

“No Tears Left to Cry,” Ariana Grande, KnocDown, Savan Kotecha and Max Martin (Ariana Grande).

“Pray,” Larrance Dopson, Timothy Mosley, James Napier, Darryl Pearson, Sam Smith and Jose Velazquez (Sam Smith).

“Shallow,” Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando and Andrew Wyatt (Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper).

“This Is America,” Donald Glover & Ludwig Goransson (Childish Gambino).

 

FURTHER READING

Grein on Grammys: Record of the Year

Grein on Grammys: Best New Artist

Grein on Grammys: Country

 

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