The 37th Grammy Awards, held in March 1995, were an especially influential ceremony thanks to Tony Bennett’s controversial Album of the Year win for “MTV Unplugged,” which led the academy to introduce their now-infamous and now-deceased nomination review committees to decide the ultimate contenders. But there was a more overlooked result that took place on the same night, and it was actually pretty rare: Sheryl Crow (“All I Wanna Do”) and Bruce Springsteen (“Streets of Philadelphia”) split the awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, respectively. That was actually the last time that two songs split those awards when both songs were nominated in both categories.
Prior to Crow/Springsteen, Record and Song of the Year had split like that only seven times:
1963: “I Left My Heart In San Francisco” by Tony Bennett (Record) and “What Kind of Fool Am I?” by Sammy Davis Jr. (Song)
1977: “This Masquerade” by George Benson (Record) and “I Write The Songs” by Barry Manilow, who, funnily enough, did not write that song (Song)
1978: “Hotel California” by The Eagles (Record) splitting with “You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone and “Evergreen” by Barbra Streisand, in the first and only Song of the Year tie
1983: “Rosanna” by Toto (Record) and “Always On My Mind” by Willie Nelson (Song)
1984: “Beat It” by Michael Jackson (Record) and “Every Breath You Take” by The Police (Song)
1987: “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood (Record) and “That’s What Friends Are For” by the queen of Twitter Dionne Warwick and Co. (Song)
1991: “Another Day In Paradise” by Phil Collins (Record) and “From a Distance” by Bette Midler (Song).
What caused those splits? A few things could have factored in. Perhaps Grammy voters in earlier years were especially aware of the difference between the achievements: Record of the Year honors the producers, engineers, and performers of a particular recording, while Song of the Year is strictly a songwriter’s award.
But as the years progressed, the winners started to match more often. From the inaugural Grammys in 1959 to 1979, only eight songs won both awards. But from 1980 to 2000 they matched 14 times. And then they matched 10 times from 2001 to 2021 — 11 times if you count Bruno Mars’s wins in 2018, when he submitted “24K Magic” for Record and “That’s What I Like” for Song, winning both. But since the Crow/Springsteen split, every time the awards have gone different ways either the Record winner wasn’t nominated for Song, or vice versa. These days, maybe Grammy voters have just gotten used to name-checking the song they like for both awards whenever they get the chance even though the categories honor different achievements.
Having different songs in each lineup could’ve also been a factor. Crow’s “All I Wanna Do” might have benefited from artists like Bonnie Raitt (“Love Sneakin’ Up on You”) and Mary Chapin Carpenter (“He Thinks He’ll Keep Her”) pulling older voters from veteran Springsteen in the Record category, while Raitt and Carpenter weren’t nominated for Song. (Side note: this author would like to add that Boyz II Men‘s “I’ll Make Love to You” losing Record of the Year that year was an egregious snub.)
So what if anything does this mean for the current awards season? As mentioned above, 1995 was not only the year of the last true Record and Song split, it was also the last year without the blue ribbon panels in the general field. Now the panels are gone, and NARAS President Harvey Mason Jr. promises new changes in membership in order to avoid lazy or outdated voting, so could we perhaps be at the start of another splitting era, or will Record and Song agree even more than they do already?
It wouldn’t surprise me if more songs split the awards; for the past two years we’ve seen other unusual splits in top categories, like Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” beating Lizzo‘s “Truth Hurts” for Record and Song while losing to “Truth Hurts” in Best Pop Solo Performance. Similarly, this year we saw Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” beat Dua Lipa‘s “Future Nostalgia” for Album of the Year while losing to “Future Nostalgia” for Best Pop Vocal Album. Maybe without a panel deciding nominations and potentially engineering certain outcomes, voters can actually show that they discern what makes a song a great Record of the Year winner but not a great Song of the Year winner, or the other way around.
At the end of the day, all we want to see from the Grammys is voters caring, not just about the music we all love, but about participating in and understanding what they’re voting for. C’mon folks, it’s not that much to ask.
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