SONG OF THE YEAR
MAIN EVENT: Beyoncé’s “Black Parade” vs. Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now”
DARK HORSE: H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe”
Collaborators J.P. Saxe and Julia Michaels can feel happy just to be nominated. Roddy Ricch is repped by a behemoth “Box,” but “crime drama” is not usually what the Academy looks for in this category. Voters who think Swift has the album prize in the bag may not worry so much about rewarding “Cardigan” here — unless that’s outweighed by any grievance over the song having been denied a vote in the more eminent record of the year category. Malone, again, for all his noms, seems like a slight outlier, as cred goes, while Eilish can coast on being last year’s big insider. It feels like it may be a spread-the-love kind of year, so you could envision a scenario in which voters decide to reward Lipa’s romp for record of the year and then give Beyoncé her due here for crafting a more serious song. But the wrinkle in that is the inclusion here of H.E.R., which gives voters sensitive to the BLM movement two strong picks to choose from, possibly splitting the social consciousness-favoring vote and leaving Lipa lapping the field.
MAIN EVENT: Phoebe Bridgers vs. Megan Thee Stallion
DARK HORSE: Ingrid Andress
Chika, Noah Cyrus, D Smoke and Kaytranada have their work more than cut out for them making their music better known to mainstream voters before deadline. Doja Cat is in the running, but faces stiff competition. It looks like a race between the quiet indie-rock of Bridgers and the anything but whispery hip-hop of Megan. But keep an eye on Andress, since she is the only country candidate in any of the top four categories, and the Nashville contingent, many of them unhappy that Luke Combs and Morgan Wallen got shut out, may be looking for someone of their own to coalesce around in their feeling slighted. Then again, there’s a good chance that fans of rock and hip-hop may feel their own genres are being widely underserved in favor of pop contenders, too, and put just as much passion into electing Phoebe or a stallion in this horse race.