It’s difficult to use history to try to predict this year’s Grammy for Record of the Year, because so few of the nominees have any Grammy history. Three nominees are first-timers across the board – two of whom are also up for Best New Artist – while the most seasoned veteran, 39-year-old Sia, only has one previous nomination to her name in any category.
Does that mean the precocious Taylor Swift, a past Album of the Year winner and now a three-time Record of the Year nominee, is the frontrunner?
She’s certainly popular enough with the recording academy. She was 20 years old when she won Album of the Year for “Fearless” in 2009, making her the youngest artist ever to win that race. What’s more, “Shake it Off” is her second lead single to be nominated for Record of the Year before her album was even eligible to compete – her “1989,” which was the bestselling album of 2014, was released too late to qualify for this Grammy cycle, but voters are clearly eager to acknowledge any new material from her.
“Shake it Off” was also a big hit, with almost four million copies sold, and it has a corresponding Song of the Year nomination, which isn’t always necessary to win Record of the Year – the last two Record winners didn’t – but it certainly doesn’t hurt.
But will voters take it seriously enough for it to win? “Shake it Off” is a lighthearted song with a bouncy, repetitive chorus about shrugging off haters, but bubblegum pop doesn’t fare well in the Grammys’ general field. Sure, a dance song won last year (“Get Lucky“), but it was by veteran artists (Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams, and Nile Rodgers) and hearkened back to a disco era that older academy members may remember fondly.
That’s not to say the recording academy dislikes young artists. They just prefer adult contemporary tunes like recent champs “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye and Kimbra, “Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum, and “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele.
That could favor Sia, who has been working for two decades but had her biggest hit last year with “Chandelier” – it’s actually her first single ever to crack the Billboard Hot 100. And like previous winners “Rehab” (Amy Winehouse) and “Not Ready to Make Nice” (Dixie Chicks), it has an important theme, taking the point of view of an alcoholic party girl.
Voters may also opt for the melancholy love ballad “Stay with Me,” in which Sam Smith pleads for affection. Heart-on-their-sleeve love songs are extremely popular with the recording academy; with the exception of “Get Lucky” last year, all the winners from the past six years fit that bill.
Smith is also a rare artist to earn nominations in all four general-field categories: Record, Album, and Song of the Year as well as Best New Artist. That doesn’t always translate to a Record of the Year win – recently, Fun., India.Arie, and Paula Cole lost the Record race under the same circumstances – but it indicates strong support for the 22-year-old crooner.
Iggy Azalea competes against Sam Smith for both Record and New Artist. Her single “Fancy,” featuring Charli XCX, was the biggest hit of the summer, but Azalea must overcome two biases: (1) the Grammys often nominate the song of the summer, but don’t usually give them the win (consider “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, “Umbrella” by Rihanna, and “Crazy in Love” by Beyonce); and (2) no rap song has ever won this award.
“Fancy” is also the only Record nominee this year that doesn’t also have a bid for Song of the Year.
The final nominee is another newcomer: Meghan Trainor for “All About That Bass.” She wasn’t nominated for Best New Artist despite the breakthrough success of “Bass,” which may indicate a lack of support from the recording academy, but Gotye didn’t have a New Artist nod either when he won this category in 2012.
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