The Grammys Early Line: Who Are the 2020 Record of the Year Contenders?

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for NARAS
Cardi B and Bruno Mars perform onstage during the 60th Annual Grammy Awards at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 28, 2018 in New York City. 

The eligibility year is already more than half over. Who are the key contenders at this point?

Hard to imagine, but we're already more than halfway through the eligibility year for the 62nd annual Grammy Awards.

What does it take for a single or track to be nominated for record of the year? Being a hit isn't a requirement, but it never hurts. This past year, seven of the eight nominees for record of the year were top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. (The outlier was Brandi Carlile's "The Joke," which bubbled just under the chart.)

Have you ever wondered the difference between record and song of the year? (People have been asking that question since the days of Domenico Modugno.) Record of the year honors a specific recording of a song; the award goes to the artist, producer, engineer/mixer and mastering engineer. Song of the year honors the song itself; the award goes to the songwriter.

Here are some early candidates to watch for record of the year. On Tuesday, we'll look at the field, as it stands at this point, for album of the year. The eligibility period runs Oct. 1, 2018-Aug. 31, 2019.

LEADERS

Ariana Grande, "Thank U, Next”: After six years of pop stardom, Grande has yet to be nominated in any of the Big Four categories: album, record, song and best new artist. This shimmering and highly personal smash -- Grande's first No. 1 on the Hot 100 -- should change that. It's rare to have a pop confection that is also so meaningful and autobiographical. Grande has two other monster hits in contention, both of which also hit No. 1: "7 Rings," which brought Rodgers & Hammerstein's "My Favorite Things" into the streaming era, and the edgy "Break Up with Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored."

Cardi B & Bruno Mars' “Please Me”: This old-school soul ballad, which has climbed as high as No. 3 on the Hot 100, could put both of these veterans back in the finals. Cardi B is vying to become the first female rapper to be nominated twice in this category. She was a finalist earlier this year for "I Like It." This would be Mars' sixth nom in this category, a showing equaled or bettered in Grammy history only by Frank Sinatra, who amassed seven noms. (Moreover, Mars would have secured all six noms in the space of 10 years -- 2010-19 -- which would match Sinatra's pace; the legendary singer got his first six record of the year noms from 1958-67.) Mars is also a possibility for "Wake Up in the Sky," a collaboration with Gucci Mane and Kodak Black. For her part, Cardi B is also a possibility for "Money," which she performed on this year's telecast.

Post Malone & Swae Lee, "Sunflower (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse)”: Post could be headed for his second consecutive record of the year nom with this warm and appealing Hot 100 No. 1 smash from the Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. If this is nominated, it would mark the second year running that a film song was up for record of the year. (Two film songs -- "Shallow" from A Star Is Born and "All the Stars" from Black Panther -- competed this past year.) Post also has a second hit, "Wow.," in contention.

Bad Bunny feat. Drake, “Mia”: Both artists were nominated for record of the year at this year’s ceremony for "I Like It" and "God's Plan," respectively. Drake also had a previous nom as a featured artist on Rihanna's "Work." Drake sings in Spanish on this zesty hit, which reached No. 5 on the Hot 100. Note: If this is nominated, this will be the third year in a row in which a song sung partly in Spanish is in the running for record of the year. Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee's "Despacito" (featuring Justin Bieber) and Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin's "I Like It" were nominated the last two years. (Drake is also in the mix this year with "Girls Need Love," his mellow and soulful collaboration with Summer Walker.)

Billie Eilish, "When the Party's Over”: This ethereal single, a sleeper hit on the Hot 100, is one of several Eilish tracks that could be nominated. The highly touted newcomer will be 18 by the time of the next Grammys, a year older than Lorde was when she was nominated for record of the year and won song of the year for "Royals."

H.E.R., "Hard Place”: The singer, a best new artist nominee, performed this slow-build ballad on this year's telecast. It is not featured on her compilation H.E.R., which won a Grammy as best R&B album.

Halsey, "Without Me”: Three years ago, voters passed on nominating "Closer," Halsey's megahit collaboration with The Chainsmokers, in this category. Maybe they'll be more welcoming to her second No. 1.

Dan + Shay, “Speechless”: This No. 1 country smash would be the first country hit to be nominated for record of the year since Taylor Swift's pop-minded crossover hit "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" seven years ago. It would be the first country song to be nominated by an act that is primarily country since Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," the 2010 winner.

CONTENDERS

Ella Mai, “Trip": Ella Mai was nominated for song of the year, but not record of the year, this past year for "Boo'd Up." She'll be eligible for noms in both categories in 2020 with this follow-up hit.

Khalid, “Better”: This warm ballad is a big pop/R&B crossover hit. Khalid, a best new artist nominee two years ago, is also represented with the new "My Bad." He was nominated for song of the year two years ago for co-writing Logic’s "1-800-273-8255."

Maren Morris, “Girl": Morris was nominated in this category this past year with "The Middle," a collaboration with Zedd and Grey. Her new song has a strong feminist theme. Morris was a best new artist nominee three years ago.

Jonas Brothers, “Sucker": This slick pop song entered the Hot 100 at No. 1. The JoBros were nominated as best new artist of 2008.

Gesaffelstein & The Weeknd, "Lost in the Fire”: The French DJ and the Canadian singer are in the running with this hit collaboration. The Weeknd's "Can't Feel My Face" was nominated in this category four years ago.

Sam Smith & Normani, “Dancing With a Stranger”:  Smith won record and song of the year five years ago for "Stay with Me." Normani has yet to be nominated in any category, either on her own or with Fifth Harmony.

Imagine Dragons, "Bad Liar”: The band was nominated in this category six years ago for "Radioactive."

POSSIBILITIES

P!nk, "Walk Me Home”: P!nk has never been nominated for record of the year, though she was nominated for song of the year six years ago for "Just Give Me a Reason," her collaboration with Nate Ruess. Ruess, as it happens, also co-wrote "Walk Me Home."

Ellie Goulding x Diplo feat. Swae Lee, "Close to Me”: The casting on this hit is intriguing, with pop, dance and hip-hop stars joining forces.

Juice WRLD, “Robbery”: The voters didn't show any love to Juice's 2018 smash "Lucid Dreams," but he may be back in contention with this hit or “Empty."

-Songs by newish artists in the mix include FLETCHER's "Undrunk," Why Don't We's "8 Letters" and Madison Beer's "Hurts Like Hell" (featuring Offset).

-Mark Ronson featuring Miley Cyrus' evocative, country-shaded dance single "Nothing Breaks like a Heart" fell short of the top 40, which will make it hard for it to gain traction come Grammy time.

Note: Some strong singles won't be eligible because they were entered (though not nominated) this past year. Among them: Marshmello & Bastille's "Happier"; Panic! at the Disco's "High Hopes"; benny blanco, Halsey & Khalid's "Eastside"; 5 Seconds of Summer's "Youngblood"; Chris Stapleton's "Millionaire"; Lovelytheband's "Broken"; DJ Snake's "Taki Taki" (featuring Selena Gomez, Ozuna & Cardi B); The Chainsmokers' "This Feeling" (featuring Kelsea Ballerini); and Dean Lewis' "Be Alright."


THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.