The Grammy for Song of the Year is one of the most coveted awards. Unlike Record of the Year, which salutes the performer and producer, Song of the Year goes to the songwriter. Therefore, a good rule of thumb when trying to differentiate between the two often-confused categories is to think about how the nominated song sounds stripped down to just a singer and a piano or acoustic guitar. Does it still work on that level with all bells and whistles removed? If so, it’s a good candidate. Below are this year’s contenders.

Song of the Year

“All of the Lights” Jeff Bhasker, Stacy Ferguson, Malik Jones, Warren Trotter & Kanye West, songwriters (Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie, performers)

“The Cave,” Ted Dwane, Ben Lovett, Marcus Mumford & Country Winston, songwriters (Mumford & Sons, performers)

“Grenade,”
Brody Brown, Claude Kelly, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Bruno Mars & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Bruno Mars, performer)

“Holocene,” Justin Vernon, songwriter (Bon Iver, performer)

“Rolling in the Deep,”
Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth, songwriters (Adele, performer)

Which one of these is not like the others? We think Kanye West is brilliant, but the Recording Academy voters made a mistake putting “All of the Lights” in Song of the Year instead of Record of the Year, given how stellar and pivotal to the song the complex production is (just as they made a big error by not nominating “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” for best album, but we’ll get to that tomorrow).  “Holocene” is haunting and beautiful, but not the strongest song here, or ever the strongest Bon Iver tune. “Grenade” has worn surprisingly well, but the two true contenders here are the dense, melodic “The Cave” and “Rolling In the Deep.” We wish Adele’s camp had put “Someone Like You” up for contention here instead, but they probably smartly realized that “Rolling In the Deep” is an unstoppable train at this point.

Should Win: “Rolling In the Deep”


Will Win “Rolling In the Deep”

Check out our record of the year and best new artist predictions.

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The 54th annual Grammy Awards air Feb. 12 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.