Awards

The Weeknd, Billie Eilish & More Early Front-Runners for Record of the Year at 2021 Grammys

Getty Images; Design by Jenny Regan

"Dance Monkey," "The Bones" & "Circles" were released before the start of the current eligibility year -- nonetheless, they're eligible. I'll explain.

When the 63rd annual Grammy nominations are announced later this year, such past record of the year contenders as The Weeknd and Post Malone have a good chance of being nominated again in that marquee category, while Travis Scott and Harry Styles may well appear in the category for the first time.

We're less than five months away from the end of the eligibility period, assuming the Recording Academy operates under the same timetable that it did last year. The eligibility year began on Sept. 1, 2019 and will presumably end on Aug. 31. (The Academy hasn't yet made a formal announcement.)

A couple of weeks ago, we looked at 16 leading contenders for album of the year. Now, let's turn our attention to 16 leading candidates for record of the year.

With four and a half months to go in the eligibility year, and with only eight nomination slots to begin with, not all of these tracks will make it. But several almost certainly will. Which ones do you think will make the cut? We'll find out later this year when the nominations are announced. (Last year, the announcement was made on Nov. 20.)

All chart references in this story are to the Billboard Hot 100, unless otherwise stated.

The Weeknd, "Blinding Lights." This would be The Weeknd's second record of the year nod. He was nominated five years ago for "Can't Feel My Face." "Blinding Lights," the second single from The Weeknd's fourth album, After Hours, was his fifth No. 1 hit. It logged two weeks on top. "Heartless," the album's lead single, is also in the mix. Grammy track record: 3 wins, 10 nods.

Post Malone, "Circles." This would be Posty's third consecutive record of the year nomination. He was nominated two years ago for "Rockstar," featuring 21 Savage, and this past year for "Sunflower," his team-up with Swae Lee. Post is vying to become only the fourth artist in Grammy history to make the finals in this category three years running. This song, the fourth single from Posty's third album, Hollywood's Bleeding, was his fourth No. 1 hit. It logged three weeks on top. Two other hits from the album, "Goodbyes" (featuring Young Thug) and "Take What You Want (featuring Ozzy Osbourne and Scott) are also in the mix. Grammy track record: 0 wins, 6 nods.

Billie Eilish, "everything i wanted." This would be Eilish's second record of the year nod in a row. She won last year for "Bad Guy." She would be the first artist to be nominated again in this category the year after winning since U2 nearly two decades ago. This song, which was added to the deluxe edition of Eilish's debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, became her second top 10 hit. It peaked at No. 8. Grammy track record: 5 wins, 6 nods.

Maren Morris, "The Bones." This would be Morris' second record of the year nod; her first on her own. She was nominated two years ago for "The Middle," her smash pop hit with Zedd and Grey. Morris would join Taylor Swift on the short list of artists who have received record of the year nominations for both pop and country records. "The Bones," the second single from Morris' second major-label album, GIRL,  jumps to No. 12 this week. It is in its sixth week at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs. Grammy track record: 1 win, 10 nods.

Travis Scott, "Highest in the Room." This was Scott's second No. 1 hit, following "Sicko Mode." It was his first single to debut at No. 1. Scott's only nod in a Big Four category to date was as a featured artist on Justin Bieber's Purpose. Grammy track record: 0 wins, 7 noms.

Roddy Ricch, "The Box." This hip-hop smash was No. 1 for 11 consecutive weeks. It's from Ricch's debut album, Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial. Ricch won a Grammy last year for best rap performance for his featured role on Nipsey Hussle's "Racks in the Middle." Grammy track record: 1 win, 3 nods.

Harry Styles, "Adore You." This would be Styles' first Grammy nomination -- solo or with One Direction. This song, the third single from his second solo album, Fine Line, is his second top 10 solo hit. It has climbed as high as No. 6. Grammy track record: 0 wins, 0 nods.

Tones and I, "Dance Monkey." This global dance smash was taken from the Australian singer's first EP, The Kids Are Coming. Tones And I displays the quirky, theatrical vocal personality of fellow Aussie artist Sia's "Chandelier," a 2014 nominee in this category. "Dance Monkey" reached No. 4. Grammy track record: 0 wins, 0 nods.

Dua Lipa, "Don't Start Now." This is the lead single from Lipa's sophomore album, Future Nostalgia. This single reached No. 2, becoming Lipa's highest-charting hit to date. Lipa won two Grammys, including best new artist, two years ago. Grammy track record: 2 wins, 2 nods.

Selena Gomez, "Lose You to Love Me." This would be Gomez's first nomination -- solo or with her former group, The Scene. This was Gomez's first No. 1 hit. It's the lead single from her third solo album, Rare. Grammy track record: 0 wins, 0 nods.

The Black Eyed Peas & J Balvin, "RITMO (Bad Boys for Life)." This song from the film Bad Boys for Life reached No. 26. It would be the Peas' fourth record of the year nod; their first since "I Gotta Feelin'" (2009). It would be J Balvin's second, following "I Like It," his 2017 collab with Cardi B and Bad Bunny. Grammy track record: Peas: 6 wins, 15 nods. Balvin: 0 wins, 2 nods.

Drake, "Toosie Slide." This laid-back dance instructional single debuts at No. 1 this week. Drake has been nominated twice in this category, with "Work" (featuring Rihanna) and "God's Plan." If this is nominated, Drake will pull ahead of Michael Jackson, who gets a shout-out in the lyric, in terms of record of the year noms. Jackson was nominated twice, for "Beat It" and "Man in the Mirror." Grammy track record: 4 wins, 44 nods.

Dan + Shay & Justin Bieber, "10,000 Hours." This would be the second country/pop collab to make the finals within three years, following "The Middle." This would be Bieber's second nod. He was nominated three years ago for his featured role on Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito." This song reached No. 4. It logged 21 weeks at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs. Grammy track records: Dan + Shay: 2 wins, 2 nods. Bieber: 1 win, 10 nods.

Alicia Keys, "Underdog." This would be Keys' third record of the year nomination. She was nominated for "Fallin'" (2001) and, with Jay-Z, "Empire State of Mind" (2010). Keys introduced this song on the Grammys on Jan. 26, when she hosted the show for the second year in a row. This is the third single from Keys' upcoming seventh studio album, Alicia. It reached No. 69. Grammy track record: 15 wins, 29 nods.

Taylor Swift, "The Man." This smart single makes a strong feminist point without seeming preachy. It would be Swift's fifth record of the year nod, which would put her in a tie with Barbra Streisand and Beyoncé as the woman with the most record of the year nods in Grammy history. And unlike those megastars, Swift has performed solo on all of her entries. (Streisand's tally includes a duet with Neil Diamond. Beyonce's includes a Destiny's Child hit and a Jay-Z collab.) This is the fourth single from Swift's seventh studio album, Lover. It reached No. 23. Grammy track record: 10 wins, 35 nods.

Lady Gaga, "Stupid Love." Will the Nominations Review Committee see this as a welcome return to Gaga's classic dance-pop sound or a too-safe retreat to her proven hit formula? The answer to that question may determine whether this receives a record of the year nod. It would be Gaga's third nod in this category, following "Poker Face" and "Shallow" (her collab with Bradley Cooper). The song, from Gaga's upcoming fifth solo studio album Chromatica, reached No. 5. Grammy track record: 11 wins, 27 nods.

Note: "Dance Monkey," "The Bones" and "Circles" were released before the Sept. 1, 2019 start of the current eligibility year. So how, pray tell, are they eligible? The Recording Academy allows tracks to compete if they were released in the current or previous eligibility year, provided a) they weren't entered in the Grammy process previously and b) they weren't included on an album that won a Grammy. Lizzo's "Cuz I Love You" might have had a shot at a record of the year nod, but it was included on an album that won a Grammy. Eilish's "Everything I Wanted" is on a deluxe edition of an album that won a Grammy, but it wasn't on the original version of the album. So Lizzo is out and Eilish is in.