Handicapping the Grammys: Part 3: Record of the Year

I'll finish this series up before the end of the year. I wasn't going much further with it, anyway. I have Album after this and a few of the more interesting categories and that's it.

Record of the Year reads very similar to Song of the Year on paper, especially this year, but the awards are responding to two very different things. Song of the Year is the composition: how well the song is written; the award goes to the songwriter. Record of the Year is the actual product itself: the recording; the award goes to the artist, the producer, the recording engineer, and the mixer. That means everything from performance to arrangement to recording technique is up for consideration, in theory. Exposure also plays a big part in this category. A record with a higher presence has a better chance at winning here than a smaller, less heard recording. 

Here are the nominees:


"Halo" by Beyonce:

If anything, I think Beyonce's big nominations should be reversed in Song and Record. "Halo" is a better composition, while "Single Ladies" is a better record. The latter would have been unstoppable in this category. "Halo" had great crossover appeal, becoming Beyonce's most successful single to date. It went to number 5 on the Hot 100, but stayed in the top 40 for 30 weeks straight; that's impressive. The single only recently fell off the charts. It received Contemporary Hit Radio/Top 40, Pop, R&B, Hip-Hop, and Dance airplay consistently; even some adult contemporary and easy listening stations went along. The song is catchy and easy to remember, the production clean and distinctive, and the balance between vocal, strings (synth), and drum track nicely arced. If they want to award Beyonce something big, it will be here. She's either going to walk away with most of her nominations or very few. I don't see an in-between situation here.

"I Gotta Feeling" by The Black Eyed Peas:

It's groups like The Black Eyed Peas that benefit from the Song/Record distinction. They've been nominated all over the Rap, Pop, and Dance categories, but Record remains their most consistent nomination. They were previously nominated for "Where is the Love?" and very similar song "Let's Get It Started." The group is the proof that airplay impacts this category. "I Gotta Feeling" is still a monster single. This is the first time since Digital Downloads were counted that a band replaced themselves at number one on the Hot 100 (the others: only three - The Beatles, Boys II Men, and Outkast). The single has been number 1 in 25 different countries and is tied with five other songs for second longest run at number 1 on the Hot 100. It did, however, only chart on Pop and Hot 100 charts. You could not escape this song this summer and only recently has it begun to fade on the radio. Do not be surprised if it wins on the big night: it's instantly recognizable, fun, slick, and practically ubiquitous in American culture for now.

The next three are identical to Song of the Year and have a better chance of winning:

"Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon:

Speaking of ubiquitous singles, here is the likely winner of the category: "Use Somebody" by Kings of Leon. Here's why. It's not a dance recording, country recording, or R&B recording. It's pop/rock, which gave it the most crossover appeal on the radio. There are Contemporary Hit Radio/Top 40 stations, for example, that refuse to play dance or remotely R&B/Hip-Hop tracks, but jump on anything rock like it's the second coming. It's currently still charting on the Hot 100, Pop, Rock, Radio, Digital, Adult Contemporary, Alternative, and Adult Pop charts. It peaked at number 4 on the Hot 100 Here's what the song has going for it: it's very repetitive and easy to sing along to, it's by a band the Grammys have liked in the past (previous winners with new crossover appeal - Rock Vocal Performance by Duo or Group for "Sex on Fire"), the production has a great energy to it (even more so than Beyonce's), and the singer really sells the emotion of the song without making it too sentimental. 

"Poker Face" by Lady Gaga:

If Lady Gaga had received a single Pop category nomination, I'd be comfortable calling her the winner here. The fact is that NARAS views her as a Dance artist with crossover appeal. She'll likely only win in the Dance categories unless the academy is far more receptive to The Fame and/or recognizing the next big thing in Contemporary Hit Radio/Top 40, I don't see her winning a big category. Maybe here if they feel as bad as they claim about her being ineligible for Best New Artist thanks to a previous nomination. The song has already been parodied on South Park, for goodness sake, and sampled on a charting Rap song (Kid Cudi's "Make Her Say"). It went to number 1 in 17 countries, plus the EU chart. It also topped all three US Dance charts in a single week. Lady Gaga can be a very polarizing force, but the people who love her really love her. If there are enough, this would be the category she could squeak out the win in. It's a memorable song and the production is unique among the nominees here.

"You Belong With Me" by Taylor Swift:

Taylor Swift's year has been huge. She's scooping up country music awards like rain drops in a barrel (bad simile, my apologies, it's early and I'm not firing on all cylinders yet). "You Belong With Me" is directly connected to the VMA incident. That incident could easily win to a big category win out of sympathy and appreciation for her strength of character in not smashing a certain rappers head in with a large silver moon man trophy for being a jackass. The song topped the Adult Contemporary and Country charts, and hit number two on the Hot 100 and Pop charts. It is a sweet love song with great crossover appeal and simple arrangement. It's probably the best written song among the nominees here, but this category is about everything. Country artists are hit or miss with the big awards, and to be blunt, Taylor Swift's presence is as tricky to analyze as Lady Gaga's. Sometimes NARAS embraces a country crossover act, other times they don't. Like Beyonce, it's almost an all or nothing situation for Swift. She'll have a huge night or a disappointing night. 

Winner: It's not as easy to pick out as some of the other categories, but I'll go with Kings of Leon for the win, though the Black Eyed Peas have an outside chance; Swift is the dark horse. Beyonce's category placement for her Record/Song nominations will probably result in two misses and Lady Gaga is in the ghetto of Dance recording.