The entertainment business is usually dominated by men, but there’s at least one corner of the industry that women have ruled: the Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance. Men represent only eight of the 25 total nominees since the award was established in 2011 by combining the previous Male Pop Vocal and Female Pop Vocal categories. The award has gone to a woman every year — except one. Last year, Pharrell Williams won for a live recording of his ubiquitous hit “Happy.”
The bigger irony of Pharrell’s win last year is that he defeated three nominees that were also up for Record of the Year: “Chandelier” by Sia, “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift and “Stay with Me” by Sam Smith, which actually won Record and Song of the Year. Since Record and Song are the highest honors for any individual tune at the Grammys, it stands to reason that they would prevail in their respective genre categories, but Pharrell proved that isn’t always the case.
Just like last year there are three Record of the Year nominees in contention in this race. Swift is back with “Blank Space,” and she’s joined by Ed Sheeran‘s “Thinking Out Loud” and The Weeknd‘s “Can’t Feel My Face.” Will one of them win, or will there be another surprise like last year?
Given this category’s bias towards female vocalists and the fact that “Blank Space” is nominated for Record and Song of the Year, Swift would appear to be the presumptive favorite. Before “Shake it Off” she was nominated for Female Pop Vocal for “You Belong with Me” (2009), but the country crossover star has yet to win an award in the pop field.
Sheeran is nominated for the first time for Best Pop Solo, and “Thinking Out Loud” also battles Swift’s “Blank Space” for Record and Song of the Year. His four overall bids this year bring his career nominations total to 10, but he still hasn’t won any category. Will that change now?
The Weeknd is also a first-time nominee in this category and a seven-time nominee this year alone, which ties him with Swift as the second most nominated artist at these awards (they both trail Kendrick Lamar‘s 11 noms). Before this year’s breakthrough he only had one previous Grammy nom: Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Remember You” with Wiz Khalifa in 2013.
Those three songs face a pair of contenders who don’t compete in the general field category, but that didn’t stop Pharrell last year. “Love Me Like You Do” is Ellie Goulding‘s first ever Grammy nomination, and this is her only nomination this year, though “Love Me” is also up for Best Visual Media Song, representing the film “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Kelly Clarkson is a relative veteran of this category. She was nominated for “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” in 2012, and before that she won Best Female Pop Vocal for “Since U Been Gone” in 2005. This year she’s nominated for “Heartbeat Song,” and she also contends for Best Pop Album (“Piece By Piece“). Given her strong track record in pop categories (she’s the only nominee who has won in this genre), we shouldn’t underestimate her.
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Taylor Swift photo credit: MediaPunch/REX
Ed Sheeran photo credit: RMV/REX
The Weeknd photo credit: Matt Baron/REX