2012 was a big year for breakout musicians. The old pros were in the picture, sure, but it was the newcomers like Frank Ocean and PSY who dominated the conversation (even if the latter isn’t in the Grammy conversation). Several such performers are up for Best New Artist at this year’s Grammys, but there were enough n00bs on the airwaves that still more of them are included in a few other categories. Case in point: the Song of the Year field, which is dominated by relative newcomers.
Carly Rae Jepsen and Ed Sheeran are nominated for their breakout songs, as well as new-to-most-people acts fun. and Miguel. It’s one thing to make a first impression with a solid song, but these guys all made their introductions via certifiable hits. Of course, there’s also a wily veteran in this category, but does her anthem have the power to take home the Song of the Year title? Read on to get our take.
SONG OF THE YEAR NOMINEES:
“The A Team” — Ed Sheeran
“Adorn” — Miguel
“Call Me Maybe” — Carly Rae Jepsen
“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” — Kelly Clarkson
“We Are Young” — fun. featuring Janelle Monae
THOUGHTS ON THE NOMINEES: This is a seriously loaded field, and all the nominees are surely breathing a sigh of relief since neither Frank Ocean nor Taylor Swift are in this category (a pair of exclusions which boggles the mind). That said, each of these songs are solid enough to go toe-to-toe with any pop juggernaut.
On the one hand, you have a couple grand anthems from fun. and Kelly Clarkson. Kelly’s is a rousing bit of self-empowerment that rivals “Since U Been Gone,” while fun.’s was more of a slow-burn. As the first mega-hit of 2012, “We Are Young” helped set the tone for a surprisingly monocultural year. This paean to youth also helped break the streak of neon dance-pop paeans to youth that had topped the charts for, like, ever.
Then you had a few small-scale pop gems that immediately got whisked away into the big leagues. Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” soundtracked the summer (and beyond) thanks to its earworminess and unbridled exuberance. Miguel’s frisky “Adorn,” meanwhile, soundtracked countless late-night groping sessions, we’re guessing.
To listeners who were out of the loop with One Direction and Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran seemingly came out of nowhere with “The A Team.” It’s a simple, beautifully crafted ballad, but what hurts Sheeran’s chances is that these other tracks all had months and months of momentum propelling them into the Grammys. “The A Team” only now seems to be chugging along at full-speed.
WHO WILL WIN: Fun.’s “We Are Young” will take the title, and here’s why (note: we’ve been wrong before!): It’s anthemic, emotive, quirky (but not overwrought) and it was hugely successful. Plus, musically, it’s deceptively complex. If the Grammy cabal has a list of ideals for this award, “We Are Young” would seem to fill all the check boxes.
WHO SHOULD WIN: For us, Song of the Year has to have the power to bottle up the zeitgeist into a four-minute blast that will take you right back to that moment. And when you think of 2012, you will think of “Call Me Maybe.” It had the widest reach of all the nominated songs, and it encapsulates the biggest trends of the past year in music, a year of guilt-free guilty pleasures and left-field pop surprises. All five nominated tracks make you want to get up, smile and sing, but only one made us all do it for all of 2012.