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GREIN ON GRAMMYS: CHILDISH GAMBINO'S RARE TRIPLE PLAY

Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” is nominated for Grammys for Record and Song of the Year and Best Music Video. How rare an occurrence is that? It has happened just 11 times since the Grammys introduced music video categories in the early ’80s.

Five of the 11 songs/videos that have been nominated in all three of these categories deal with social issues—hunger, homelessness, domestic violence, racial tensions, gun violence and police brutality. The commentary has become progressively more outspoken, from the polite tone of “Another Day in Paradise” (with its oft-repeated refrain, “Just think about it”) to the fury of “Formation,” in which we see a placard that says, “Stop shooting us.”

Here are the 11 classics that have been nominated in each of these three marquee categories.

USA for Africa’s “We Are the World” (1985). Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie co-wrote the humanitarian anthem. Quincy Jones produced the single. Tom Trbovich directed the star-studded video. “We Are the World” won in all three categories. It’s one of only two works to sweep all three awards.

Mike & the Mechanics’ “The Living Years” (1989). Group leader Mike Rutherford co-wrote the tender ballad with Brian A. Robertson and co-produced the single with Christopher Neil. Tim Broad directed the video. (Broad deserved a nom just for figuring out how to spotlight both Rutherford and the song’s lead vocalist, Paul Carrack). This is easily the gentlest song on the list. No gimmicks or power-ballad bombast. Just a universal theme—the death of a parent.

Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise” (1990). Collins, who, like Rutherford, was a long-time member of Genesis, wrote the song and co-produced the single with Hugh Padgham. (The single won Record of the Year.) Jim Yukich directed the video, which is the only clip shot in black-and-white on this list. Yukich sprinkles in factoids like “100 million homeless worldwide” and “3 million homeless in America.”

Sinéad O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2U” (1990). Prince wrote the song. O’Connor co-produced the stark single with Nellee Hooper. John Maybury directed the video, which is primarily a tight close-up on O’Connor’s face.

R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” (1991). The four members of R.E.M. wrote the song and co-produced the single with Scott Litt. Tarsem Singh directed the video, which won. (The single and song lost to Natalie Cole featuring Nat “King” Cole’s “Unforgettable.” No disrespect to the Coles, but by going with “Unforgettable” over “Losing My Religion,” the Grammys looked back to the best music of the early ’50s instead of focusing on the best music of the early ’90s.)

Eminem featuring Rihanna, “Love the Way You Lie” (2010). Eminem co-wrote the song with Alex Da Kid (Alexander Grant) and Skylar Grey. Da Kid and Makeba Riddick produced the single. Joseph Kahn directed the video.

Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You” (2010). Most of the songs and videos on this list tackle serious, sober themes. This one is pure fun. Cee Lo co-wrote the song with Brody Brown and the members of The Smeezingtons (Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine and Bruno Mars). The Smeezingtons produced the single, which won a Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative Performance. Matt Stawski directed the video.

Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” (2011). Adele co-wrote the rhythm ballad with Paul Epworth. Epworth also produced the single. Sam Brown directed the video, in which much china is broken. “Rolling in the Deep” won in all three categories, making it the second of two works to sweep all three awards.

Sia’s “Chandelier” (2014). Sia co-wrote the song with Jesse Shatkin and co-directed the video with Daniel Askill. (Sia is the only artist on this list who directed or co-directed the video.) Greg Kurstin and Shatkin co-produced the stylish single. This is the only video of these 11 in which the artist doesn’t appear. A dancer, the very limber Maddie Ziegler, is featured.

Beyoncé’s “Formation” (2016). Beyoncé co-wrote and co-produced the song with Mike Will Made-It (Michael L. Williams II) and Pluss (Asheton Hogan). Other co-writers were Aaquil Brown and Khalif Brown. Melina Matsoukas directed the video, which won. (The single and song lost to Adele’s “Hello”). The video is the only one of these 11 to carry a “Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics” (though it’s not the only one that could have used one).

Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” (2018). Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) and Ludwig Göransson co-wrote the song and co-produced the single; Jeffery Lamar Williams (a.k.a Young Thug) is a third credited writer on the song. Hiro Murai directed the video, in which Glover brings a light, even playful, touch to subjects that are anything but.

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