We have already reviewed the major contenders thus far for this year’s Album of the Year race, but now we will take a look at the singles that will fight for Record of the Year.
Over the course of the last five years, there have been 26 nominees for Record of the Year. 22 of those have hit the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and 16 have topped the chart. It is clear that this category leans towards massive, ubiquitous hits, and nothing in the last six months has been a bigger monster than “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars. The producer/singer collaboration has been resting atop the Hot 100 for the last 12 weeks and shows no signs of slowing down. It fits in perfectly with the recent retro-soul-funk-pop winners of this category (“Stay with Me,” “Get Lucky,” “Rolling in the Deep“).
The only other eligible song that has sat atop the Hot 100 is “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift. The Max Martin/Shellback-produced track was number-one for seven weeks before “Uptown Funk” took over. It would be Swift’s fourth nomination in this category in seven years. Will voters be so taken with Taylor that she finally gets the gold?
Ed Sheeran may have lost both of his nominations at this year’s awards, but his biggest single to-date is eligible for the next round of honorees: “Thinking Out Loud” is looking good for a Record of the Year bid. He received a Song of the Year nomination in 2012 (“The A Team“), a Best New Artist nod in 2013 and a bid for Album of the Year in 2014 (“X“). Will 2015 round out the general field for Sheeran?
If NARAS is concerned with lineage, their best choice is “FourFiveSeconds” by the unlikely combination of Rihanna, Kanye West and Paul McCartney. RiRi, Yeezy and Macca already teamed up to perform the acoustic ditty on the 57th Annual Awards telecast and Rihanna’s strong vocal performance in particular impressed audience members and fans alike. It certainly isn’t what you’d expect from a collaboration between these three heavyweights, but it has become a hit regardless. Only time will tell if Rihanna pumps out any stadium-crushing hits in the vein of “We Found Love” or “Umbrella,” but for now, “FFS” stands as a very strong chance for general-field attention in this year’s contest.
Ellie Goulding has slowly but surely become a reliable staple for Top 40 radio but has yet to receive a Grammy nomination. That could change next year because of “Love Me Like You Do” from the “Fifty Shades of Grey” soundtrack. This current top-five single has already become a signature hit for Goulding and could be her first grace with the Grammys. The Weeknd is also enjoying his first major pop hit with a single off of the same soundtrack, “Earned It.” He is less likely to succeed here than Ellie due to the more sexually suggestive nature of his single but could crack the R&B categories.
Mumford and Sons have been Grammy-friendly from the beginning. Their gentle yet passionate indie-folk has sold over five million albums and won the band Album of the Year for “Babel” in 2012. But they are switching up their sound for their upcoming third album and plugging in! The new sound is in the vein of arena-rock Grammy heavyweights like Coldplay and U2. Lead single “Believe” perfectly asserts Mumford’s new mission statement and could easily mark the band’s return to Grammy glory.
The 2015 telecast was one giant victory lap to finish off 12 months of massive achievement for Sam Smith. The British crooner won three of the top four categories, headlined by his breakup anthem “Stay With Me.” The third single from his debut album, “Lay Me Down,” has been re-recorded as a duet with fellow Grammy winner John Legend and the result is a surefire contender. It should be tough to ignore, at least in the pop field.
Performing on “Saturday Night Live” has helped launch many young careers over the years and has undoubtedly moved the needle to introduce new talent to Grammy voters, from Adele‘s 2008 performance of “Chasing Pavements” to Sam Smith singing “Stay With Me” last March. Just last weekend, George Ezra performed his AAA radio smash, “Budapest.” Combining pop, folk, rock and a hint of blues, Ezra’s first major chart hit could be this year’s standout British newbie at the Grammys.
Other radio singles that could sneak in include “Sugar” by Maroon 5 and “Shut Up And Dance” by Walk the Moon. It would be a great surprise to have one or two left-field nominees in the top category like “Lampshades on Fire” by Modest Mouse or “Don’t Wanna Fight” by Alabama Shakes. The latter band in particular could be just the kind of hip indie band with older bluesy appeal that could crack into the Grammy inner circle. Hip-hop offerings from Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj and even Big Sean would be welcome alternatives to the standard fare of straight-ahead-pop. But in line with previously successful, vaguely soulful female pop singers are dark horse candidates Ella Henderson and Ryn Weaver.