I made a promise to myself this year that I would finally return to an in depth look at the nominees of the big 4 categories, weighing up the chances that each nominee has and sharing more of my personal opinions on how deserving each would be of the trophy on the night. First up is Record of the Year which for the first time in nearly 4 decades sees no female act nominated.
Redbone – Childish Gambino
(Donald Glover & Ludwig Goransson, producer; Donald Glover, Ludwig Goransson, Riley Mackin & Ruben Rivera, engineers/mixers; Bernie Grundman, mastering engineer)
Despacito – Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber
(Josh Gudwin, Mauricio Rengifo & Andrés Torres, producers; Josh Gudwin & Jaycen Joshua, Chris “TEK” O’Ryan, Mauricio Rengifo, Juan G Rivera “Gaby Music”, Luis “Salda” Saldarriaga & Andrés Torres, engineers/mixers; Dave Kutch, mastering engineer)
The Story of O.J. – JAY-Z
(JAY-Z & No I.D., producers; Jimmy Douglass & Gimel “Young Guru” Keaton, engineers/mixers; Dave Kutch, mastering engineer)
HUMBLE. – Kendrick Lamar
(Asheton Hogan & Mike Will Made It, producer; Derek “MixedByAli” Ali, James Hunt & Matt Schaeffer, engineers/mixers; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer)
24K Magic– Bruno Mars
(Shampoo Press & Curl, producers; Serban Ghenea, John Hanes & Charles Moniz, engineers/mixers; Tom Coyne, mastering engineer)
Obviously the biggest talking point here is the distinctive lack of women in the list. The argument that only 2 lead female acts claimed #1 on the Hot 100 is instantly mooted when just 2 of the songs listed above managed this. While I don’t think that Look What You Made Me Do and Bodak Yellow (Money Moves) truly deserved to be here, I was genuinely shocked that Taylor wasn’t nominated here. The biggest snub overall though was surely Ed Sheeran, who I predicted to be the front runner for the 3 biggest awards of the night with the undisputed biggest song of 2017 Shape of You. His absence here though opens the field right up and 2018 could be one of the most exciting battles for this award we have seen in a while.
The favourite has to be Despacito, with its record equaling run at #1 on the Hot 100 and bringing Latin music back to the top of the charts. It’s infectious an universal in a way that some of the songs listed above might not be for voters, far and away the most commercial and most recognisable of the songs in any big 4 category this year. It’s the first Record of the Year nomination for any of the three acts too, with Justin Bieber surprisingly missing out on a nod last year for Love Yourself. The last song to have a run on the charts anywhere near as good as Despacito had, the equally inescapable Uptown Funk, managed to take this award on the night so the odds on favourite is sure to be Luis Fonsi and co.
Some may have been surprised by the inclusion of Redbone from Childish Gambino, I regret only predicting it in my Alternatives back in October, but it’s the sort of sleeper hit that defined a lot of people’s year. It’s a pulsating rhythmic and sensual record, with Donald Glover’s uncharacteristic falsetto turning him into an RnB star from decades past. The sign that Redbone is a deserving nominee here is its use in cultural moments like potential Oscar contender Get Out, or alongside Glover’s own breakthrough TV show Atlanta.
Redbone is a personal favourite of mine, but ends up sitting here alongside the most unexpected nominee Jay-Z’s brilliant The Story of O.J. Its appearance here caught many off guard, it did chart on the Hot 100, but wasn’t anywhere near as big a hit as the other 4 nominees. It’s telling that it’s exploration of being Black in America in 2017 resonated with so many voters, but the lack of significant radio play might deter casual voters. The last time a song that didn’t make the Hot 100’s top 10 won Record of the Year was back in 2009, when Robert Plant and Alison Krauss won for Please Read the Letter. I’d say Redbone and The Story of O.J. might end up just outside of the favourites here.
That leaves two of this year’s big Grammy favourites one with the biggest hit of his career and the other with only his second biggest hit of the year. Kendrick Lamar’s HUMBLE. was not only his first #1 hit, but s much more of a ROTY contender than the politically charged Alright was back in 2016. It’s not my favourite single from DAMN. that would have to be DNA., but it end up putting Kendrick in a place he’s never been before as one of the ‘obvious’ favourites. He’s always sat as a slight outsider, but this year he’s right in there next to Despcacito with HUMBLE.
I was slightly surprised that Bruno’s label decided to go with his album’s title track over huge hit That’s What I Like here. Of course though, 24k Magic sounds like a Record of the Year winner, probably more than anything else here. It’s bold, hitting you a massive hook from the off and allowing the magic of its central star to shine throughout. The fact that Bruno won this very award just 2 years ago for the superior and similar Uptown Funk could work against him, but for the 4 minutes it lasts 24K Magic demands your enjoyment and keeps it better than anything else here. It’s my personal choice here, even if I don’t think it’s victory is guaranteed.
Most likely to win:
3) 24K Magic
5) The Story of O.J.
1) 24K Magic
3) The Story of O.J.