2019 American Music Awards

Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Lizzo & More Front-Runners for Record of the Year Noms at 2020 Grammys

ISSUE 12 2019 - NOT OUT YET!!! OUT ON MAY 9, 2019 10AM EST
Heather Hazzan
Billie Eilish photographed on April 18, 2019 at SunLight Studios in Los Angeles.

A record 1,160 singles were entered in this category. So when people say "it's an honor just to be nominated," that's not just an empty platitude.

When the nominations for the 62nd annual Grammy Awards are announced Nov. 20, Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy" is all but certain to be in the running for record of the year. The quirky smash reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Eilish, who will be one month shy of 18 when the nominations are announced, would be the youngest artist to receive a nom in that category since Lorde, who was 17 years and one month old when "Royals" was nominated in December 2013.

Three other female solo artists are also likely to be nominated in that category: Lizzo for "Truth Hurts," Ariana Grande for "7 Rings" and Halsey for "Without Me." All three of these hits also topped the Hot 100. This would be the first record of the year nom for all three artists -- as it would be for Eilish.

"7 Rings" interpolates Rodgers & Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music. That Julie Andrews-led soundtrack was a 1965 album of the year nominee.

Post Malone seems likely to receive his second record of the year nom in a row for "Sunflower," a collab with Swae Lee. Post was nominated last year for "Rockstar" (featuring 21 Savage). "Sunflower," which also topped the Hot 100, was featured in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which won an Oscar in February for best animated feature film.

Khalid seems likely to make the finals, with his own hit "Talk" or with Ed Sheeran's "Beautiful People," on which he is featured -- or both. "Talk" reached No. 3 on the Hot 100. "Beautiful People" has climbed as high as No. 14. This would be Khalid's first record of the year nom. "Beautiful People" would be Sheeran's second. "Thinking Out Loud" was nominated four years ago. The Grammys have a bit of fence-mending to do with Sheeran, who was passed over in each of the top three categories with his previous album.

If both of these Khalid hits are nominated, this would be only the second time in Grammy history that one artist has had two record of the year noms in the same year. Six years ago, Pharrell Williams was featured on both Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" and Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines." ("Get Lucky" won.)

Jonas Brothers' "Sucker," an irresistable blend of pop, power-pop and bubblegum, entered the Hot 100 at No. 1. JoBros are vying to become the third brother trio to land a record of the year nom. The first two were Bee Gees ("Stayin' Alive," 1978) and Hanson ("MMMBop," 1997).

Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" (featuring Billy Ray Cyrus) is this year's big question mark. The single logged a record-setting 19 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100. The Nominations Review Committee, which determines the final nominees in the Big Four categories -- album, record and song of the year plus best new artist -- will probably decide that to not nominate it, especially now that there are eight slots available, would be widely seen as a "snub," one that would overshadow whatever is nominated. That's why I think they'll nominate it. This would be Cyrus' second record of the year nom. He was nominated 27 years ago for "Achy Breaky Heart."

Last year, seven of the eight nominees for record of the year were top 10 hits on the Hot 100. The outlier was Brandi Carlile's "The Joke," which bubbled under the chart at No. 104. It's unlikely that the Nominations Review Committee would select eight smash hits, so they might drop one or more of the aforementioned singles and pull up a lesser hit, to underscore that the Grammys are different from the American Music Awards and the Billboard Music Awards. But which one(s) will they drop?

There are many strong singles bubbling just under the top eight. Any of these could move up if one or more of the front-runners falter. These include Taylor Swift's "You Need to Calm Down," Cardi B and Bruno Mars' "Please Me," Beyoncé's "Spirit," Sam Smith and Normani's "Dancing With a Stranger" and Maren Morris' "GIRL." All of these artists (except Normani) are past nominees in this category. Mars and Beyoncé have each been nominated five times. Swift has been nominated three times. Cardi B, Smith and Morris have each been nominated once.

Halsey is featured on single that also has a fairly good shot at a nomination in this category: BTS' "Boy With Luv." So she too could wind up with two record of the year noms.

Other singles that are bubbling under the top eight include Dan + Shay's "Speechless" and Highwomen's "Redesigning Women." Highwomen includes two artists who were nominated for record of the year last year -- Morris and Carlisle -- as well as Natalie Hemby and Amanda Shires. Highwomen's eponymous debut album was released too late for this year's awards, but the single is eligible. (Morris could also wind up with two record of the year noms, though she could just as easily wind up with none.)

Gary Clark Jr.'s "This Land," which was inspired by Woody Guthrie's 1947 classic "This Land Is Your Land," could make the finals. Like Childish Gambino's "This Is America," which won in this category in February, and Beyoncé's "Formation," a nominee three years ago, it comments on race in America.

Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello's "Señorita" also has a good chance. The muy caliente collab would be the first record of the year nom for both artists. Other solid possibilities by artists who would be landing their first noms in the category include Lewis Capaldi's "Someone You Loved," Blueface's "Thotiana," J. Cole's "Middle Child," Luke Combs' "Beautiful Crazy," H.E.R.'s "Hard Place," Maggie Rogers' "Light On" and Tyler, the Creator's "Earfquake."

Chris Brown's "No Guidance" (featuring Drake), Brown's first top five hit on the Hot 100 in more than a decade, also has a shot. This would be Brown's first nom in this category and Drake's third in the past four years.

Panic! at the Disco's "High Hopes (Live)" and Marshmello and Bastille's "Happier (Stripped)" are also eligible. These are alternate versions of these smash hits. In both cases, the studio versions were entered in this category last year. Rank-and-file voters are likely to vote for them, perhaps not knowing the difference, but the Nominations Review Committee rarely votes for alternate versions.

This will be the second year that the Grammys will have eight nominees for record of the year, up from five. But it's still incredibly hard to get a nomination. A record 1,160 singles were entered in this category, up from 1,025 last year.

When people say "it's an honor just to be nominated," we think of it an empty platitude. But it happens to be true.

2020 Grammy Awards


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