December 9, 2023

Grammys Record/Song of the Year contenders: Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift


The eligibility period is ending soon for the 66th Grammy Awards: the deadline is September 15. So with less than a month to go, it’s an appropriate time to start looking at who the big contenders are for Record and Song of the Year, especially considering how hectic the music scene has been.

There are a couple of surefire locks. Miley Cyrus’s “Flowers” has emerged as the probable front-runner, being arguably the biggest song of the year worldwide and second biggest in the US behind Morgan Wallen‘s “Last Night” — more on him below. “Flowers” is a perfect Grammy song in many aspects. It’s pop, but not too lightweight. It has AC appeal but is by a young starlet, so it could be embraced by voters young and old. It uses live instrumentation, which is typically embraced by the Grammys over more heavily produced songs. And it’s a huge, empowering hit that makes listeners feel good.

Perhaps the biggest roadblock for Cyrus is … Cyrus herself. It is unclear whether voters will hold her earlier, more controversial music against her. However, if they embraced Harry Styles last year, Cyrus should have no issue, especially after her last album, “Plastic Hearts,” vindicated her as a more “serious” artist. Still, even in the worst case scenario, “Flowers” will get into Record and Song of the Year easily, even if it doesn’t win.

The two other likely locks are Taylor Swift’s “Anti-Hero” and SZA’s “Kill Bill.” Swift and SZA are the biggest stars of the year besides the aforementioned Wallen. As such, their songs — which are both huge, chart-topping singles — should easily get them Record and Song nominations. As for the win, both have slight disadvantages. Both songs are older and might be somewhat forgotten compared to more recent singles, and both tackle subjects — insecurity and literal homicide, respectively — that might not make voters feel as warm and fuzzy as “Flowers.” Still, voters could simply award them in one or both categories for their great year overall, especially if they’re also the academy’s pick to win Album of the Year.

Morgan Wallen’s “Last Night” is a tricky one. The song is the biggest hit of the year in the United States, breaking the record for the longest-running solo number-one single in Hot 100 history and becoming the second longest-running chart-topper overall. However, country has fared badly in recent years in the general field, and Wallen isn’t precisely a beloved figure. Plus, his type of country music might be a bit too bro-ish for what the academy typically likes.

Still, with such monstrous success and pop crossover appeal (“Last Night” is a top-five hit on the pop radio charts), Wallen on paper does feel like a somewhat safe prediction, especially for Song of the Year, where he wouldn’t be nominated anyway since he didn’t pen the tune. For context, out of the 12 songs that have spent 14 or more weeks atop the Hot 100, only one got no general field nominations: Los Del Rio‘s “Macarena.” So voters would have to hate Wallen to an immense degree not to give him the nomination. Plus, he’s been embraced by his peers at the CMAs and ACMs since his most infamous controversies, so the industry might not despise him that much anymore.

Four spots are left. Perhaps the only other song that feels like a possibility in both categories is Olivia Rodrigo’s “Vampire” considering that she received Record and Song nominations for “Drivers License” in 2022. However, its low alphabetical placement for Song of the Year (which is listed by song title) might cost it the nomination, seeing how lazy voters have been to scroll that far down their ballots recently. This problem could be offset by its commercial success, but “Vampire” hasn’t been the kind of monstrous hit that all voters will necessarily be compelled to look for. As such, expect it in Record more than Song. Inversely, PinkPantheress and Ice Spice’s “Boy’s a Liar, Pt. 2” is likelier in Song of the Year due to its high ballot placement. But both “Vampire” and “Boy’s a Liar” could still conceivably happen in both categories despite their relative disadvantages.

Another Record contender could be Billie Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?” The song might not be a big enough hit to overcome its alphabetical disadvantage in Song of the Year, but it could be in for Record of the Year, a category Eilish has won twice (for “Bad Guy” and “Everything I Wanted”). There’s also Luke Combs’s “Fast Car.” Since it’s a cover, it’s not eligible for Song of the Year. But it has remained at number-two on the Hot 100 for multiple weeks, and is now a top-10 hit on pop radio as well, ensuring crossover appeal. Similarly, Metro Boomin, The Weeknd, and 21 Savage’s “Creepin’” is probably a safe bet for Record of the Year, but it’s likely ineligible for Song of the Year considering everything but the Savage verse is a cover. Finally, don’t count out Bad Bunny’s “Where She Goes.” The hype from his continued success, factored into its high ballot placement (Record of the Year is alphabetical by artist) and an English title could help the song sneak onto the list.

For songs that could get into Song but not Record, a few come to mind. Lana Del Rey’s “A&W” is one of her most acclaimed songs and will likely be one of the first alphabetically on the ballot. That could ensure a nomination. Lil Durk and J. Cole’s “All My Life” is in a similar situation, being a Best Rap Song front-runner too. The song has also been gaining on pop radio, and as such could appeal to voters beyond the rap field. “All My Life” might just be popular enough to get into Record of the Year too, especially if it’s poised to win in the rap field. The same applies to Dua Lipa’s “Dance the Night”: more likely in Song due to being higher-placed on the abllot, but still possible in both due to its success and Lipa being a three-time Grammy winner.

Finally, there’s the case of Rema and Selena Gomez’s “Calm Down.” Considering the original version of the song without Gomez was already submitted last year, this remix might not be new enough to be considered a new recording. The song was added to Rema’s deluxe re-release of his album “Rave and Roses,” perhaps as a way to qualify it for this year’s awards. However, the deluxe album doesn’t feature enough new material overall (it needs at least 75% new music) to be counted as an album eligible for this year. That might also keep the song ineligible. As such, we’ll have to wait and see if an alternative recording (a live version or acoustic version) is released in order to qualify it. We have never seen the live version of a song nominated in the top categories, so it would be a first. Still, the song is a multiformat radio smash and one of the biggest hits of the year, so it would still be a contender for Record of the Year.

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