Taylor Swift’s ‘Cardigan’ is Grammys front-runner for Song of the Year, but here’s why that would be an unlikely feat

With artists like Lady Gaga, Harry Styles and The Weeknd locked out of the top general field categories at the Grammys this year, Taylor Swift is sitting pretty. She earned nominations for Album of the Year (“Folklore“) and Song of the Year (“Cardigan”), and she’s the front-runner to win both based on the combined predictions of Gold Derby users. But that songwriting win might not be as easy for her as we think. It would be unusual when you consider it against recent Grammy history.

“Cardigan” is nominated for Song of the Year but not Record of the Year, which is awarded to the artist, producers and engineers instead of just the songwriters. And it’s tough to win Song without at least being nominated for Record. The last artist to do so was U2, who claimed Song of the Year in 2006 for “Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own.” That was 15 years ago.

In the years since  a couple of tunes have won SOTY without being nominated for ROTY, but in those cases the artist submitted and were nominated for a different song in the Record race. In 2010 Beyonce won SOTY for “Single Ladies,” but her ROTY nom was for “Halo.” Then in 2018 Bruno Mars won both categories for different songs: SOTY for “That’s What I Like” and ROTY for “24K Magic.” In this case, Swift submitted “Cardigan” to both categories, and the recording academy just declined to nominate it for ROTY.

But Swift’s case might closely resemble U2’s, because while those Irish rockers weren’t nominated for Record of the Year, they won Album of the Year for “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb,” just like we’re predicting Swift to do for “Folklore.” In fact, U2 swept those awards, winning all five of their nominations.

And Swift is overdue for SOTY. Even though she has won Album of the Year twice before for “Fearless” (2010) and “1989” (2016), the noted singer-songwriter has never won the recording academy’s top songwriting prize. She’s been nominated several times, though, and is in fact the most nominated female songwriter in history with five total bids: “You Belong with Me” (2010), “Shake it Off” (2015), “Blank Space” (2016), “Lover” (2020) and now “Cardigan.”

This year there are five artists nominated for both ROTY and SOTY: Dua Lipa (“Don’t Start Now” in both categories), Beyonce (“Black Parade” in both categories), Post Malone (“Circles” in both categories), Billie Eilish (“Everything I Wanted” in both categories) and Roddy Ricch (“Rockstar” for ROTY, “The Box” for SOTY). Nevertheless, the consensus of Gold Derby users is that Swift will be the next Bono.

Grammys Song of the Year widget

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