Just as the correlation between Record of the Year and Song of the Year—the distinction between which we’re relatively sure even some Grammy voters aren’t entirely clear on—seems to be truly drifting apart, along comes a nearly five-for-five slate. That’s not bad news for orphan Record of the Year nominee Iggy Azalea; last year, Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” managed a win in that category without even having been nominated for songwriting. However, it’s not good news for Hozier, whose gutsy-whiny “Take Me to Church” missed out on a bid in the glitzier main drag. You have to go back nearly a decade to find the last time a Song of the Year winner wasn’t also at least nominated in Record of the Year, and even in that case the streak is broken by U2, who were then at the apex of receiving general-field Grammys seemingly out of reflex. And it’s not like Hozier’s going to get a leg up from the voters who are biased toward performers who write their own material. Each of the five nominees this year is performing works that they had some hand in writing.
Which leaves those of us who predict based on the tangibles—you know, like category history—at a disadvantage. Thus, we’re forced to fall back on the intangibles, like guessing which candidate will have the broadest middle-of-the-road support, or who voters might consider the most overdue. If the latter is a factor, then Swedish-pop craftsman Max Martin, who is somehow up for just the third time this year, is a genuine threat. But the fact that only five songwriters have ever managed repeat wins in this category suggests that voters genuinely don’t care which names are attached to the songs they reward. Add to that the robust BPM of “Shake It Off” and you can pretty well cast it off.
One could argue on behalf of Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” as a message song of sorts (the message in question being that unabashed body positivity can be as unpalatable as the airbrushed alternative), but NARAS remains a pretty treble crowd. And though there are few questioning the anthemic thrust of Sia’s “Chandelier,” her punch-drunk heroine is raising enough glasses on her own without anyone else’s help. That leaves Sam Smith, the artist who could Christopher Cross his way to wins in all four of the top categories, but whose arguable safest shot ironically comes in the one category that, as the hasty, belated credits and royalties on Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne’s behalf attest, probably relied the least on his own talents.
Will Win: Sam Smith, “Stay with Me”
Could Win: Sia, “Chandelier”
Should Win: Please, just not “All About That Bass”