From Domenico Modugno's win for "Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare)" at the inaugural GRAMMY Awards for 1958 to Billie Eilish's win for "Bad Guy" at the 62nd GRAMMYs earlier this year, the Song Of The Year category has remained one of the highest honor achievable for songwriters for over six decades. Today, we celebrate a new crop of creators for their command of the melodies and lyrics and breakdown the exclusive list of eight songs that earned GRAMMY nominations in the Song Of The Year category.
To find out who will win Song Of The Year this year, tune into the 2021 GRAMMYs Sunday, March 14, on CBS.
"BLACK PARADE," Beyoncé
Queen Bey is back, and she's giving back. This year the larger-than-life cultural icon celebrated Juneteenth with power, pride and generosity, releasing the charity single "BLACK PARADE" to benefit her BeyGOOD's Black Business Impact Fund, administered by the NAACP, and posting an extensive directory of Black-owned businesses on her website. The song's staccato beat and cascading melodies explore the rich beauty and strength of Black culture with the divine, catchy command only Beyoncé can wield.
Her credited co-writers for "Black Parade" include Denisia Andrews, Stephen Bray, Brittany Coney, Derek James Dixie, Akil King, Kim "Kaydence" Krysiuk, Rickie "Caso" Tice, and her legendary husband Shawn Carter.
"The Box," Roddy Ricch
Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial was everywhere this year, but mostly it could be found at the top of the charts. Compton rapper Roddy Ricch has gotten comfortable at the front of the pack, entering the Billboard 200 at No. 1 when the album dropped in December 2019, and watching "The Box" take him to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for an months, even though it wasn't releases as a single initially, and even take off virally on TikTok. So when Ricch asks, "And I really wanna know where you at, at?," his answer is, seriously, everywhere.
"It’s an incredible feeling to be able to see a new artist dominate the charts and beat out some illustrious talent to claim the number one spot," the 22-year-old told TIME about the song's success.
Ricch, who earned his first career GRAMMY last year for Best Rap Performance for his work on Nipsey Hussle's "Racks In The Middle," co-wrote "The Box" with GRAMMY-nominated producer Samuel Gloade a.k.a. 30 Roc.
"Cardigan," Taylor Swift
The pandemic changed almost everyone's plans in 2020, including Taylor Swift's. Instead of heading out for her worldwide Lover tour on the wings of her triumphant seventh album, she went inward, writing and recording the intimate song stories that became folklore. "Cardigan" sits as the emotional centerpiece on the critically acclaimed effort, showing a new angle of Swift's signature sentimentality under a more mature and confident light than ever before.
Co-written with Aaron Dessner of The National, "Cardigan" stands as the latest major songwriting accomplishment in her ever-deepening catalog. The nomination also marks the 10-time GRAMMY winner's fifth of her career in the Song Of The Year category, where she is still seeking her first career win.
"Circles," Post Malone
Since his 2016 debut album, Stoney, Post Malone has continued to break with convention, win over critics and release smash records. "Circles" shows off the superstars writing chops with the circular melodies that haunt its emotive verses and big-time chorus. From the chart-dominant artist's third LP, the feature-heavy Hollywood's Bleeding, "Circles" proved Post's rare ability to flex his songwriting range and still climb to No. 1 the Billboard Hot 100. The song was co-written by Post, who is seeking his first career GRAMMY win, with Louis Bell, Adam Feeney, Kaan Gunesberk and Billy Walsh.
"Don't Start Now," Dua Lipa
British-born two-time GRAMMY winner Dua Lipa delivered one of the most highly anticipated sophomore albums in recent memory when she dropped Future Nostalgia back in March. While the timing of the release, relative to the coronavirus shutdown, was tricky, the pop juggernaut was determined to fill the dance floor with her fans, even if it's in their own homes.
"In the preparation to put it out, I remembered that I created this record to get away from any pressures or anxieties from the outside world," Dua Lipa recently told the Recording Academy. "The album made me feel happy and want to dance. That persuaded me, like maybe this would at least get people's minds off what's going on and make them want to dance and feel happy."
Dua Lipa took home both of the GRAMMY awards she was nominated for two years ago, including Best New Artist. She co-wrote "Don't Start Now" with Caroline Ailin, Ian Kirkpatrick and Emily Warren.
"Everything I Wanted," Billie Eilish
The defending champs in the Song Of The Year category, sister/brother dynamo Billie Eilish and FINNEAS are back in the mix this year with the single "Everything I Wanted." Stark production and whisper vocals, both trademarks of the duos industry-changing stylings, adorn this simple, haunting composition. Indeed, Eilish told Billboard the song was inspired by a horrible dream, and her brother revealed it almost didn't get released at all.
Fortunately for fans, "Everything I Wanted" escaped the nightmare where it began to become another huge hit for the sibling songwriters. Will it be enough to earn them repeat victory in the category following last year's aforementioned win for "Bad Guy"?
"I Can't Breathe," H.E.R.
Every movement is made up of moments. When H.E.R. released "I Can't Breathe" on June 10, the fight against social injustice in America had intensified in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Rising to the occasion as an artist who believes in the power of music to change the world, H.E.R. channeled Floyd's own dying words for the title for the song and delivered an impassioned performance of perhaps the year's most timely and tender protest anthem. The juxtaposition of H.E.R.'s silky smooth guitar work, sultry beat and airy vocal runs with her in-your-face, unflinching, spoken-word bridge/outro poem gives great gravity and lends levity to the song – and to the moment.
Co-written with Dernst Emile II and Tiara Thomas, the nomination gives H.E.R. a shot at the third GRAMMY of her already-remarkable career.
"If The World Was Ending," JP Saxe Featuring Julia Michaels
The year 2020 has been a trying one, but it has also shown many of us what really matters. All the more eerie in its foreshadowing, JP Saxe and Julia Michaels co-wrote a heartfelt hit that asks the ultimate question: "If the world was ending, you'd come over, right?" The answer was a GRAMMY nomination.
The minimal piano duet cuts to the core of a love abandoned but not forgotten in the face of catastrophe. The romance on tape turned has played back in real life, as Saxe checked in with the Recording Academy early on during the pandemic to let us know how lockdown was going with his hit-making partner.
"If The World Was Ending" dropped Oct. 17, 2019, earning Canadian singer/songwriter Saxe his first hit and now his first GRAMMY nomination. Michaels has two previous career nominations, both from the 60th GRAMMY Awards including Best New Artist and Song Of The Year, and is seeking her first career win.