The red carpet has been rolled out for music’s night of nights, with the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards kicking off soon.
Dubbed “the music industry’s highest honour”, music lovers around the world tune in for the winners, the losers, the stellar performances and the fashion.
The Grammys have a whopping 84 award categories, and while many of them are pretty self-explanatory, some of the biggest accolades in the world of music can get a little confusing.
Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Album of the Year are all very different — but which one means what?
Taylor Swift won Album of the Year for 1989 at the 58th Grammy Awards. (Reuters: Mario Anzuoni)
What do the awards mean?
The four ‘big’ Grammy awards fall under the General Field — Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist — and are the ones the music industry (and fans) hold their breath for.
In the General Field, everyone is up against each other, and not divided by genre.
Record of the Year
The names of the awards originate from the days of 45-rpm vinyls, where each ‘record’ would often hold just one track on each side.
This explains the Record of the Year category’s definition.
This award is for a single track and “recognises the artist’s performance as well as the overall contributions of the producers, recording engineers, and/or mixers and mastering engineers” according to the Recording Academy (who vote on and decide the Grammys).
Basically, it’s a nod to the people who make the song sound like it does through the vocals and music.
NOMINEES FOR 2019 RECORD OF THE YEAR:
Hey, Ma — Bon Iver
Bad Guy — Billie Eilish
7 rings — Ariana Grande
Hard Place — H.E.R.
Talk — Khalid
Old Town Road — Lil Nas X Featuring Billy Ray Cyrus
Truth Hurts — Lizzo
Sunflower — Post Malone & Swae Lee
Bruno Mars took out Record of the Year for 24K Magic in 2018. He also won Album and Song of the Year. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)
Album of the Year
Album of the Year, according to the official awards guidelines, must contain at least five different tracks and a total playing time of 15 minutes or a total playing time of at least 30 minutes with no minimum track requirement — like an album you’d buy on a CD.
In short, Album of the Year is for a full album of work, and Record of the Year is for one song.
So if Album of the Year is for a complete album, and Record of the Year is for a single recording, why isn’t Song of the Year the same as Record of the Year?
NOMINEES FOR 2019 ALBUM OF THE YEAR:
I,I — Bon Iver
Norman F***ing Rockwell — Lana Del Rey
When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? — Billie Eilish
thank u, next — Ariana Grande
I Used To Know Her — H.E.R.
7 — Lil Nas X
Cuz I Love You (Deluxe) — Lizzo
Father Of The Bride — Vampire Weekend
@RecordingAcad link tweet: We’re taking a #GRAMMYRewind to 6-time GRAMMY winner @KaceyMusgraves winning Album of the Year at the 61st #GRAMMYs. ⏪
Song of the Year
Song of the Year is a little different again — this category is to recognise the writers who wrote and composed a song.
Sometimes the artist and the songwriter are the same person.
For example, when Amy Winehouse won Song of the Year in 2007 for Rehab she was credited as the songwriter.
At last year’s awards, three people were credited as writing Childish Gambino’s This Is America: Donald Glover (the performing artist), Ludwig Göransson and Jeffery Lamar Williams.
Overall, the category is to recognise the outstanding efforts of those who craft our favourite tunes.
A track can win both Song of the Year and Record of the Year, it’s happened many times. Just last year, Childish Gambino’s This is America took out both Record and Song of the Year, and Adele did the same with Rolling in the Deep in 2011 and again with Hello at the 2016 awards.
NOMINEES FOR 2019 SONG OF THE YEAR:
Always Remember Us This Way — Natalie Hemby, Lady Gaga, Hillary Lindsey & Lori McKenna (performed by Lady Gaga)
Bad Guy — Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell (performed by Billie Eilish)
Bring My Flowers Now — Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth & Tanya Tucker (performed by Tanya Tucker)
Hard Place — Ruby Amanfu, Sam Ashworth, D. Arcelious Harris, H.E.R. & Rodney Jerkins (performed by H.E.R.)
Lover — Taylor Swift (performed by Taylor Swift)
Norman F***ing Rockwell — Jack Antonoff & Lana Del Rey (performed by Lana Del Rey)
Someone You Loved — Tom Barnes, Lewis Capaldi, Pete Kelleher, Benjamin Kohn & Sam Roman (performed by Lewis Capaldi)
Truth Hurts — Steven Cheung, Eric Frederic, Melissa Jefferson & Jesse Saint John (performed by Lizzo)
Best New Artist
Then there’s Best New Artist, which is what you’d expect.
There is a little fine print to this category, including not having entered into the category more than three times, and having released no more than 30 tracks or three albums in their career.
Dua Lipa won Best New Artist at the last Grammy Awards, as well as Best Dance Recording. (REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)
The artist must also “have achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and impacted the musical landscape during the eligibility period” according to the Academy.
Many Best New Artist winners go on to do big things.
For example, if we go back to 2001, Alicia Keys was presented with the award — this year she will host the awards for the second year in a row (not to mention her 15 Grammys, 29 nominations and the rest of her stellar career over the last two decades).
Best New Artist doesn’t have to be a single person, it can be a group too. Some of those include The Beatles in 1964 and Australia’s own Men At Work back in 1982.
NOMINEES FOR 2019 BEST NEW ARTIST:
Lil Nas X
Tank and the Bangas
Apparently everyone who wins Best New Artist makes this face. Sam Smith, in 2015, also won Song and Record of the Year. (REUTERS/Mike Blake)
The rest of the awards are split up into fields which cover a range of musical genres, compositions and arrangements, production, music videos and more.
Each field falls under one of four different judging channels. This determines how each category is voted on and therefore how the nominees are decided.
Who decides who wins and how?
The Grammys are decided by The Recording Academy, with each entry voted on by Academy members.
These voting members include professional artists, producers, engineers and songwriters who have credits on a number of commercial tracks.
This means the awards are peer-recognised — decided on by other professional artists.
The Academy rounds up more than 150 experts from a range of musical fields to place recordings in their categories before the first round of voting begins.
Who will win this year? Lizzo, Lil Nas X and Billie Eilish topped the list for the most nominations. (AP/REUTERS)
In the General Field — the four awards explained above — members vote in a first-round ballot, then the final list of nominees is determined by the Nominations Review Committees.
Many other genre categories undergo this same voting process, including Pop, Dance/Electronic, Rock, Jazz, Latin, R&B, Rap and more.
Other fields, like Alternative, Comedy, Musical Theatre, Spoken Word or Visual Media, are judged through just one block of first round voting by members.
There’s categories for the more technical side of things too, like album notes, immersive audio and remixed recordings, which are only voted on by extremely specialised voting members of the Academy called the Craft Committees.
Tweet @RecordingAcad The #GRAMMYs aren’t about what you expect, they’re about everything you don’t.
Other categories for compositions, arrangements, engineering, and the awards for Producers of the Year, are voted on by both the Craft Committees and all the Recording Academy voters in the first round.
Once the list of nominees is released (this came out in late November), the Academy Voting Members have a few weeks to vote again before the numbers are tallied by an independent accounting firm and the winners’ names are slipped into their envelopes.
Even the experts can’t just go barrelling through the voting process — members who are eligible to vote can have their say in the General Field categories (Album, Record and Song of the Year and Best New Artist) and up to 15 other categories based on their expertise and qualifications.
The Grammys will be broadcast from STAPLES Centre in Los Angeles on January 26 (that’s local time — if you’re in Australia, tune in on Monday January 27).