What are the odds a woman will win Record Of The Year in 2020?
While the Grammys are currently dealing with a legal fiasco that potentially speaks to the organization’s structural and inherent biases, plenty of fans, artists, and industry experts are still debating the minutia of the show’s biggest awards. We already posted a guide to the difference between Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year, and if in case you’re still confused on the basics, “record” is used in this case to mean everyone involved with the recorded structure of a song, and is not referring to an album, at all.
The Song award goes more specifically to the singular songwriter(s), and while still an impactful category, in the commercial pop and hip-hop eras this category has been a bit less focused on the song that actually dominates a given year. Songwriters are often behind the scenes, so the Song award gets less attention than Record, which goes to the performing artists. Although, these distinctions are all technicalities, and the categories often share both nominees and winners — though this year they are far more diverse than ever before because of a recent expansion in the four major categories — Album, Record, Song and Best New Artist — from five to eight nominees.
This expansion has led to an exceptionally diverse field in 2020, although crunching the numbers shows that the history of the category has allowed a fair number of female nominees and winners in the past as well. Across sixty-one years of the Grammys Record Of The Year, measuring from 1959 to 2019, women have won twenty times, so about roughly a third of the time. Icons like Roberta Flack and Adele have even won the award twice, and unexpected names like the Dixie Chicks and Norah Jones won big during the early 2000s. A woman of color, on the other hand, hasn’t won the award since Whitney Houston in 1994, so if Lizzo picked up the trophy this year for “Truth Hurts” on Sunday, she would be the first in over twenty-five years.
Lizzo isn’t the only woman with a good shot at taking home the award this year, either; the field is evenly split between male and female nominees for 2020, with Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, and HER, who all have the commercial and critical success to justify a victory. “7 Rings” and “Bad Guy” both stand out as songs that truly did define the past year or so, each catapulting the artist in question to a new level of stardom, sitting on the upper echelon of the chart for the majority of the year, and breaking multiple records.
Notably, Lana Del Rey’s “Norman F*cking Rockwell” and Taylor Swift’s “Lover” are both nominated in the song category, and not the record one, speaking again to the distinction made between excellent songwriting or excellent and/or more intensive production. Both of those songs by Lana and Taylor are stripped back tunes with just soft piano backing. And though it is on a slightly lesser scale than those two tracks, “Always Remember Us This Way” from A Star Is Born is also nominated in the song category, giving Lady Gaga another nod for her work on that film and its original compositions.
While the women seem like the stronger nominees in the Record category, the songs by male artists that made the cut are all equally likely to win. Bon Iver is a beloved artist at the Grammys, and “Hey Ma” would be the left-field indie win the Academy has already shown a proclivity for, or there’s “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X, which was unequivocally one of the biggest songs of last year, no matter how you feel about it. “Talk” by Khalid and “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee were also huge streaming and radio hits last year, playing at pretty much every party or event I attended in 2019.
Looking at the women who have won Record Of The Year in the past, it’s also very likely the Academy will nod to HER’s “Hard Place because it wasn’t as much of a pop radio hit. They’ve historically shown a penchant for choosing women who are not modern pop stars, and that lean more into songwriting; in the past they’ve honored traditional artists like Adele or Amy Winehouse — and even Norah Jones and the Dixie Chicks, the 2003 and 2007 winners, respectively, don’t quite fit the pop mold.
The historic odds indicate that women have roughly a 33% chance of winning on Sunday, and while thinking the gender split field hikes that up closer to 50%, never forget 2015 when four women were nominated and only one man was, and Sam Smith still took the trophy home for “Stay With Me.” That song is great, but what a bait and switch! For the record, my money is on Lizzo for a doubly historic win on Sunday, but I’ll be happy if any of the women nominated win. And if it’s a man, well, there’s always next year.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.