Why Paul McCartney, Rihanna, & Kanye West Should Win Record Of The Year For "FourFiveSeconds"
Record of the Year. That odd child of the Grammys that no one really understands. (But really, if you don't know the difference between Record of the Year and Song of the Year, head over to Bustle's explanation for a minute.) Record of the Year is a prize that honors everything that goes into making a brilliant track. Production, performance, recording, mixing; it's all at stake for Record of the Year. That's why Paul McCartney, Rihanna, and Kanye West should win Record of the Year for "FourFiveSeconds." Released in January, "FourFiveSeconds" was completely inescapable for the first half of the year — and remains on rotation even nearly a year later.
"FourFiveSeconds" heralds Rihanna's new album Anti, on which West is credited as an executive producer. It's not the first time these musicians, or some combination of them, have worked together. Rihanna and West also collaborated on the Jay Z single "Run This Town" (which later won Grammys for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration) and "All of the Lights" (which won the same awards); West and McCartney worked together on "Only One," West's ode to his daughter North. Between "Only One" and "FourFiveSeconds," the latter is both more likely to meet Grammy success and more deserving of the accolade.
Aside from "FourFiveSeconds" impressive trio of performers — three singers one might not expect to find on the same record — the behind-the-scenes team responsible for the track is kind of amazing. That's what the Record of the Year song is all about, crediting those who might not get the fame from a track but still poured their own artistry into it. Ty Dolla Sign earned an additional writing credit (though Song of the Year is the songwriting Grammy, since Ty is a well-known producer and performer in his own right, it's likely that this will work in "FourFiveSeconds" favor), and Dave Longstreth of the Dirty Projectors is listed as a producer. It doesn't hit you over the head with its diverse influences like Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, but the combined efforts of Longstreth, McCartney, West, and Rihanna is audible. It's just accessible enough, yet different enough from each of their past work, to make it a strong Grammy contender.
Rihanna has been something of a Grammy darling since 2007's "Umbrella," which was also her first Record of the Year nomination. She was in contention for the prize again for "Love the Way You Lie" (both songs are marked by collaboration with a high-profile rapper, Jay Z and then Eminem). McCartney has been nominated for and won Record of the Year more than once. During his time with the Beatles, he was nominated for "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "Yesterday," "Hey Jude," and "Let It Be," and in in 1983 he was nominated for "Ebony and Ivory" alongside Stevie Wonder. West is actually the outlier in terms of past Grammy performance; "Gold Digger" was his last Record of the Year nomination, and it lost to Green Day's "Boulevard of Broken Dreams." Their individual appeal to the Grammy committee might work in their collective favor when the song is up for consideration (as it must be, right?) when February rolls around.
Most importantly (this is a music award, after all), the performance: "FourFiveSeconds" is great not because of the enormous production value. It's great, instead, because of how stripped-down it feels. When Tisch music theory professor Jeff Peretz listened to the song and analyzed it for The Fader, he explained his first impression was something like, "Really? Is this a demo of the song?" It centers Rihanna's vocals (Kanye even strips back the autotune) and their voices are accompanied by a mere acoustic guitar. (Where is Paul?) For artists known for their ambition, it's remarkably reserved. And while that doesn't make it particularly musically inventive, it's enough of a departure, with an illustrious enough team behind it, that it stands a good chance at winning Record of the Year.
"FourFiveSeconds" is an exercise is restraint, which sets it apart from many of the other songs up for consideration that are generally considered frontrunners. Just listen to it alongside something like Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk" — while it's another strong contender with a great team supporting it, it's exuberant and showy and all the things that "FourFiveSeconds" is not. It's not over-produced, and for that reason, it deserves the top award for production and performance.