Grammy for Song of the Year: Why Taylor Swift WILL win, but Kendrick Lamar SHOULD win

taylor swift kendrick lamar

Taylor Swift‘s “Blank Space” is the current frontrunner in Gold Derby’s predictions to win Song of the Year with 10/11 odds. It’s a category she’s been nominated in twice before but hasn’t won. Swift was first nominated in the category for “You Belong with Me” in 2009, the same year she took home the Album of the Year prize for “Fearless” and only two years after she lost her first Grammy contest for Best New Artist.

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Since then Swift has been a Grammy darling, a perennial nominee in the country field and showing up in the top four general field categories with just as much frequency. In total, Swift is a 29-time Grammy nominee including her seven bids this year. It seems shocking then that she’s never won Song of the Year. But this could very well be her year, ironically in support of an album that marks her greatest departure from her country roots. “1989” is Swift’s official foray into the pop music genre.

It’s the pop-music trappings of “Blank Space” that could very well lead to its win. Pop music has an astounding track record in the category, having produced the winner in 10 of the last 15 years. But if we’re going to say a pop song is most likely to win this year then we must also acknowledge both “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran and “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth, both of which are nominated in the pop fields.

Thinking Out Loud” has a high profile considering it’s also up for Record of the Year and is Sheeran’s second nomination in the category after his “The A Team” lost to Fun.‘s “We Are Young” in 2012. Sheeran’s song is ranked second behind Swift’s with 3/1 odds.

See You Again” is ranked lower, tied for fourth in fact, with 16/1 odds. Despite the benefits of being classified as pop, “See You Again” suffers from another large hurdle: it’s a collaboration. Songs performed by a solo artist are the most awarded songs here. Songs by groups have a slightly tougher time, while collaborations have only taken home the prize eight times since 1958.

Tied for fourth in our predictions is “Girl Crush” by Little Big Town, the country song that has best odds to win its two other Grammy contests: Best Country Song and Best Country Duo/Group Performance. Country songs and group songs have a spotty track record in the category, though shouldn’t be counted out. Just ask Lady Antebellum, the country group that took home the prize in 2010 for “Need You Now” in addition to Record of the Year and the same two country categories.

The final nominee is currently third in our odds at 8/1: Kendrick Lamar‘s “Alright,” the hit single from his Album of the Year nominated “To Pimp a Butterfly.” Like “Girl Crush” in its country categories, “Alright” is expected to easily take its own genre prizes—it leads the odds for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song by wide margins. Rap, however, has yet to establish a winning relationship with Song of the Year. Despite a noticeable uptick in rap songs being nominated (seven times in the last 12 years) none have ever won.

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With all that being said, my picks in this category are:

blank space taylor swiftWILL win: “Blank Space” – Taylor Swift
It’s almost impossible to deny the likelihood that this year might belong to Taylor Swift. I’m already predicting her to win Record of the Year (though not Album of the Year) and I’m saying she’ll do the same here, for many of the same reasons. I think it’s surprising that she hasn’t won before and a win here will be a way to correct that while also serving to acknowledge the tremendously successful year she had.

alright kendrick lamarSHOULD win: “Alright” – Kendrick Lamar
I don’t want to suggest that “Alright” should win for any reason other than the fact that it’s one of the best songs of the year. But “Alright” also touches on one of the most important and urgent subjects our society continues to deal with: the injustices many people suffer due to the color of their skin. The song is ferocious, but also hopeful — as many rap songs can be, though they’re often never acknowledged as such — and, frankly, it’s time we listen. Many in the Black Lives Matter movement have taken up the song as an anthem for the cause. And not to trivialize the issue, I’d like the Grammys to take this opportunity to recognize that rap songs matter too.

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Who do you think will win?

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Photo credits: Taylor Swift by MediaPunch/REX; Kendrick Lamar by Richard Isaac/REX; “Alright” by Aftermath Records; “Blank Space” by Big Machine Records

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