Oh, it’s that Grammys Record of the Year award, the one that always causes people to say, “Wait, didn’t somebody just win the Song of the Year Award?” But that distinction aside — the Song of the Year honors an exceptional composition (the lyrics and music), while Record of the Year awards the entire track, including the vocal performance and production — the Record of the Year is all about the epoch-defining songs of the last year, and it shows in the nominees.
These are the songs that were ubiquitous, but deservedly so, from the alt-ier end of the spectrum (The Black Keys‘ “Lonely Boy”) to the sugary pop bite of Taylor Swift‘s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” But what’s most notable is that the list is dominated by artists who had breakout successes this year, demonstrating that the year’s best songs are no longer the domain of music’s veterans: It’s anyone’s game now. Check our analysis after the jump.
RECORD OF THE YEAR NOMINEES:
“Somebody That I Used To Know” — Gotye featuring Kimbra
“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” — Kelly Clarkson
“We Are Young” — fun. featuring Janelle Monae
“Lonely Boy” — The Black Keys
“Thinkin Bout You” — Frank Ocean
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” — Taylor Swift
OUR TAKE ON THE NOMINEES:
It’s definitely a good year for pop fans, from Swift’s “Together,” which combined the confessional songwriting that made her a superstar with Max Martin‘s Swedish sheen and supernatural gift for melody, to Clarkson’s disco-pop “Stronger,” an energizing self-empowerment ode that sounds scientifically engineered for the dancefloor. But this award also honors the surprise crossover hits: Gotye’s “Somebody” and fun.’s “We Are Young,” neither of which sound like what pop radio is supposed to sound like, but both of which found meteoric success there due to killer hooks and a dose of unpredictability.
Meanwhile, neither “Lonely Boy” nor “Thinkin Bout You” cracked the Top 20 on the Hot 100, but both are representative of albums that received massive commercial acclaim. While both are exceptional, it would be a surprise to see either win, given the fact that they didn’t cross over to the mainstream with the type of impact that the other contenders have.
WHO SHOULD WIN:
We’re split between Swift and Ocean on this one. In terms of the execution, the songcraft in “Together” is deceptively simple, but that earworm of a hook coupled with Swift’s delivery (on the bridge!), which packed way more attitude than usual, makes it one of the year’s most effective tracks. But Ocean’s song is all about delivery: That dreamy falsetto is arguably the best thing that happened in music this year.
WHO WILL WIN:
Ultimately, Swift’s song feels a little too frivolous, and Ocean remained a little too niche. The perfect marriage of commercial success and critical acclaim is “We Are Young,” which has just enough gravity to feel Grammy-worthy but was still a favorite with the public. It’s the likeliest to take the prize.