The Song of the Year Grammy aims to honor the best lyricism and compositions of the year and has gone to many classic songs over the decades. However, does he lean too much towards slow songs and love ballads?
It’s true that many of the Song of the Year winners have been slow, easy-listening songs. Sammy Davis Jr.“What kind of fool am I?” Henry Mancini“Moon River” and Simon and Garfunkel“Bridge Over Troubled Water” were some of the early ones, and that certainly also holds true for more recent winners like Adeleit’s “Hello”, Sam Smith“Stay with me” and Luther Vandross“Dancing with my father”. Many of these may have been helped by being more easily digestible for multiple voting blocks than more genre-defined music, as well as appealing to the sentimental feelings of recording academy members.
That said, many Song of the Year winners have also been more uplifting and/or upbeat songs. The second winner of Song of the Year, Johnny Horton“The Battle of New Orleans” isn’t slow-paced at all, and more focused on storytelling than sentimentality. Several years later The 5th DimensionThe psychedelic “Up, Up and Away” from won the honor. A little late came Kim Carnesthe signature hit of “Bette Davis Eyes”, a mid-tempo rock song with plenty of momentum. And of course there was santana and Robert Thomas“Smooth,” the chart-topping classic, is far from your conventional Song of the Year winner. During the 21st century, many more catchy songs have gone gold, including Amy Winehouse‘s “Rehab”, Beyonce“Single Women (Put a Ring on It)”, Fun“We are young” Bruno Mars“That’s what I like” and Billie Eilish‘s “Bad Guy”.
The gender breakdown was also very interesting in Song of the Year. Pop, rock and R&B tend to be the most awarded genres. The last of them has been particularly strong this millennium with victories for Alicia’s Keys“Fallin'”, “Single Ladies”, “Dance With My Father”, “That’s What I Like”, and more recently HER“I can not breathe”. We’ve also seen country and hip-hop win the past decade, with Lady A“Need you now” and Childish Gambino“This is America”. The latter was the first rap song to win the award, but continued another tradition of SOTY winners that focuses on social issues, including “I Can’t Breathe”, “Rehab”, United States for Africa“We are the world”, The chicks‘ “Not ready to do any good.” However, it’s true that most of the winners are breakup/love songs.
These trends represented among this year’s nominees. The top three favorites (Billie Eilish“Happier than ever”, Olivia Rodrigue“Driver’s License” and Sonic Silk“Leave the Door Open”), are in line with the romantic/lovely lyrical themes and pop/R&B genres of the previous winners. “Fight For You” by HER or Alicia’s Keys and Brandi Carlile“A Beautiful Noise” could win for tackling social issues. And Lil Nas X‘Montero (Call Me By Your Name)’ does a bit of both: it’s full of romantic nostalgia and resolutely queer. Will the Grammys go on a ballad again this year, champion an important cause, or shake things up?
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