The 411 On The Big Four GRAMMY Categories

The inside scoop on what it takes to be nominated for Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best New Artist
  • Photo: John Shearer/
    Nicki Minaj announces nominees for Record Of The Year
  • Photo: Lester Cohen/
    Katy Perry announces nominees for Album Of The Year
  • Photo: John Shearer/
    Actress Taraji P. Henson announces nominees for Song Of The Year
  • Photo: Lester Cohen/
    Bruno Mars announces nominees for Best New Artist
December 01, 2011 -- 12:00 pm PST

(For more information on the artists nominated this year for Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best New Artist, click here. For a complete list of nominees for the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards, click here.)

At the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards on Feb. 12, 2012, artists will go head-to-head for four of the most prestigious GRAMMY Awards — Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best New Artist. The winners of these four coveted prizes will be distinguished as the cream of the crop for the year in music, as decided by the more than 11,000 members of the music community that make up The Recording Academy's voting body — professionals with creative or technical credits on six commercially released tracks, including vocalists, musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers, composers, and other qualified music professionals.

But before these trophies are handed out on Music's Biggest Night, a lengthy voting and verification process is put in place by The Academy to ensure that each submitted piece of work is properly eligible for consideration.

It all begins each fall at the annual GRAMMY Awards screening meetings, which brings together music experts from around the country to pour through every entry for the upcoming GRAMMY Awards and ultimately decide in which category each recording is placed. Every album, song and artist (see exceptions below) that is deemed eligible is placed in the General Field categories. (To be eligible for a nomination, all recordings must have been released between Oct. 1, 2010, and Sept. 30, 2011, and be in general distribution in the United States.) The Academy's voting body then votes to determine the final nominations, which were announced last night during "The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!! — Countdown To Music's Biggest Night." In approximately two weeks, final ballots will be sent to the voting members, who will then select the GRAMMY winners. An accounting firm will tabulate the votes and seal the results in envelopes that will be opened for the very first time on Feb. 12.

With the rest of the GRAMMY categories ranging from specific genres such as rock and pop to R&B and classical, this particular field allows for competition between artists across genres. Just last year we saw country stars Lady Antebellum win Record Of The Year against a field that included Eminem, Cee Lo Green and B.o.B and Bruno Mars, while jazz artist Esperanza Spalding bested artists including pop sensation Justin Bieber for Best New Artist.

Take a look at which artists and songwriters will battle it out this year, and learn about the criteria for being nominated in a "big four" category.


The Record Of The Year honor recognizes an artist's performance on a single track, as well as the overall contributions of the producer, recording engineer and/or mixer, if other than the artist. Previous winners range from the Eagles' "Hotel California" and Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It," to Coldplay's "Clocks" and the Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready To Make Nice."


The Album Of The Year award honors an album in its entirety and is awarded to the artist, as well as the producer, recording engineer/mixer and mastering engineer, if other than the artist. Previous winners range from the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, to OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below and Taylor Swift's Fearless, as well as such collective efforts as The Concert For Bangla Desh.


The Song Of The Year category recognizes the songwriters responsible for writing a single or track, and is not awarded to the artist (unless the artist also wrote the song). If the song was crafted by the members of a band or group, each member receives an individual nomination, rather than the group as one entity. Previous winners range from "Bridge Over Troubled Water" (written by Paul Simon) and "Every Breath You Take" (written by Sting), to "Beautiful Day" (written by the members of U2) and "Fallin'" (written by Alicia Keys).


The Best New Artist award honors a new artist who releases, during the eligibility year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist as a performer. Artists nominated in this category must have released at least one album during the eligibility period, but not more than three, and must not have previously been nominated for a GRAMMY, unless that nomination came before the release of an entire album. Previous winners range from the Beatles and José Feliciano, to Maroon 5 and Amy Winehouse.

To find out which artists will take home these coveted awards, tune in to the 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, on CBS at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

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