Posted in 58th GRAMMYs, Record of the Year

58th GRAMMYs: Odds for Record of the Year

Image by @CBSThisMorning
Image by @CBSThisMorning

With 41 days to go the countdown for the 58th GRAMMY Awards is slowly going down, and during the following weeks we will be looking at the main contenders for the music’s most prestigious awards. What are the odds for this nominated song? Who is the artist with the biggest chances? How the Academy members vote?

Today let’s begin with category number one, though it is usually the second-to-last or last to be announced during the televised ceremony: Record of the Year.

Record of the Year is one of the “Big four” categories in the general field. It is the award for the best single or track. The award goes to the performer(s), producer(s), engineer(s), mixer(s), and mastering engineer(s) of one particular song.

History has shown that Academy voters prefer songs with “live instrumentation”, usually pop/rock tunes, and solo artists have won more than groups and collaborations.

This year’s nominees include four of the best-selling and highest-charting pop hits of the year. The only exception is D’Angelo and The Vanguard’s neo-soul song, “Really Love”.  D’Angelo is also a first-time nominee in this category alongside The Weeknd and Ed Sheeran.

Let’s now take a look at the odds for each nominee. They are listed in order of likelihood of winning:

01. Mark Ronson Featuring Bruno Mars — Uptown Funk

  • Field: Pop
  • Billboard Hot 100 peak: #1 (14 weeks)
  • GoldDerby odds: 1st (2/7)
  • GRAMMY record: Mark Ronson (3 wins/5 nods); Bruno Mars (2/18)
  • Other nominees: Jeff Bhasker, Philip Lawrence, Josh Blair, Riccardo Damian, Serban Ghenea, Wayne Gordon, John Hanes, Inaam Haq, Boo Mitchell, Charles Moniz and Tom Coyne.
  • Song also nominated for: Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

“Uptown Funk” is the absolute favourite to win the Record of the Year award. Upon its release in late 2014, this song already sounded as GRAMMY-winning material.

Firstly, it is an 80s era-inspired funk song that resembles former Academy-darlings, Prince and Michael Jackson and more recent winners like Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”. Secondly, it is a song that generated a big cultural impact during the 2014/15 period and appealed everyone from baby-boomers to millennials. And lastly, it has a team of producers that have contended and won this category before.

The lead producer, Mark Ronson won this category in 2008 for producing Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab”. He was subsequently nominated with fellow featuring artist, Bruno Mars’ own “Locked Out of Heaven” two years ago. And this is Mars’ third nomination as he also contended for “Grenade” in 2012.

02. Taylor Swift — Blank Space

  • Field: Pop
  • Billboard Hot 100 peak: #1 (7 weeks)
  • GoldDerby odds: 3rd (10/1)
  • GRAMMY record: Taylor Swift (7/29)
  • Other nominees: Max Martin, Shellback, Serban Ghenea, John Hanes, Sam Holland, Michael Ilbert and Tom Coyne.
  • Song also nominated for: Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance

On a distant second place is Taylor Swift with her number-one single, “Blank Space”. This is Swift’s fourth appearance in this category following “You Belong with Me” in 2010; “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” in 2013; and “Shake It Off” last year. The song is also one of the two Record of the Year (ROTY) nominees that is also contending the Song of the Year (SOTY) award.

“Blank Space” is not the type of song that screams “ROTY”. A synthpop song has never won this award, not even in the 80s. The reason I’m placing Swift so high in the odds is because the Academy may want to award her after three unsuccessful attempts. The main producer, Swedish pop hit-maker, Max Martin is also long overdue for a Record of the Year win. He’s competed this category three times and is nominated twice this year. His first attempt was in 2000 for Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way”.

“Blank Space” is also among the favourites to win SOTY.

03. The Weeknd — Can’t Feel My Face

  • Field: Pop
  • Billboard Hot 100 peak: #1 (3 weeks)
  • GoldDerby odds: 4th (40/1)
  • GRAMMY record: The Weeknd (0/8)
  • Other nominees: Max Martin, Ali Payami, Serban Ghenea, John Hanes, Sam Holland, Tom Coyne.
  • Song also nominated for: Best Pop Solo Performance

The 2014/15 period seemed to have a lot of 80s nostalgia. The next favourite and one of the best-selling singles of the year is another 80s-inspired funky song.

Pundits and predictors seem to be underestimating “Can’t Feel My Face” chances here. The main reason behind this is The Weeknd’s lack of history within the GRAMMYs. He is currently nominated for seven awards, but he only had a previous nomination as a featured artist two years ago.

“Can’t Feel My Face”, however, does have winning material. Both Rolling Stone and Billboard named it the “best song of 2015”. The names of GRAMMY-winners Max Martin and Tom Coyne are among its production team. And last but not least, the Weeknd’s undeniable Michael Jackson’s resemble is a big plus.

Don’t be surprised if The Weeknd’s name is called onto the stage instead of Taylor’s or “Uptown Funk”.

04. Ed Sheeran — Thinking Out Loud

  • Field: Pop
  • Billboard Hot 100 peak: #2
  • GoldDerby odds: 2nd (10/1)
  • GRAMMY record: Ed Sheeran (0/10)
  • Other nominees: Jake Gosling, Mark ‘Spike’ Stent, Geoff Swan and Stuart Hawkes.
  • Song also nominated for: Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance

With this nomination Ed Sheeran achieved the distinction of being nominated in all of the big four categories. He first received a SOTY nod in 2013, then Best New Artist in 2014, and Album of the Year in 2015.

If you were only going to take into account the history of the ROTY winners. “Thinking Out Loud” seems to be the perfect fit. It has live instrumentation, blues-rock influences, and is a ballad. And ballads tend to do very well in this category.

The problem with Sheeran’s simple pop/rock song “Thinking Out Loud” is that it is facing fierce competition from the aforementioned overproduced pop/dance/funk songs. Anyhow keep in mind that in 2010 Kings of Leon’s rock track “Use Somebody” beat the rest of the pop-hits. They were considered the favourites, though.

05. D’Angelo & The Vanguard — Really Love

  • Field: R&B
  • Billboard Hot 100 peak: Did not chart
  • GoldDerby odds: 5th (80/1)
  • GRAMMY record: D’Angelo (2/12)
  • Other nominees: Brent Fischer, Russell Elevado, Ben Kane, Rafa Sardina and Dave Collins
  • Song also nominated for: Best R&B Song

D’Angelo & the Vanguard’s “Really Love” was definitely the surprise nominee in this category. This neo-soul track with Blues influences and a Spanish guitar is also very different from the rest of the nominees. It did not chart the Billboard Hot 100 and did not receive a billion views on YouTube (it doesn’t even have an official video). Furthermore, the last time an R&B song made the cut was back in 2007 with Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You”. This is also D’Angelo’s first ever appearance in the general categories, despite two previous wins in the R&B field.

“Really Love” could upset the rest of the nominees and win this category. In the end is that type of song with “live instrumentation” that seemed to be the norm for a ROTY win. This is unlikely to happen. The last time a non-charting song won was “Please Read the Letter” by Alisson Krauss and Robert Plant in 2009. However, this pair were considered veterans with a critically-acclaimed record and they were actually the favourites that year.

That’s it for now. Who do you think will take home the Record of the Year award? Vote in the poll and leave your comments!

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