Discerning the Grammys' Confusing Award Titles

by Alex Kritselis

The 2015 Grammy season is almost upon us! The nominees for the 57th Annual Grammy Awards will be announced in all categories — except for Album of the Year — on the morning of Friday, Dec. 5. The Album of the Year nominees will be revealed separately on Friday evening during a one-hour special on CBS called A Very Grammy Christmas. Each year after Grammy nominations are unveiled, I see music fans asking online: "What's the difference between Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year? Aren't those three categories kind of the same?" Those are really good questions! Don't worry — I have answers.

We'll get the easy part out of the way first: Album of the Year is distinct from Record of the Year and Song of the Year because it recognizes an entire body of work, while Record of the Year and Song of the Year both recognize individual songs (although in different ways — we'll get to that in just a second). For example, this past January, Daft Punk's Random Access Memories LP won Album of the Year. In 2013, Mumford & Sons' Babel took home the prize. Make sense? Now, we can talk about the difference between Record of the Year and Song of the Year:

Record of the Year

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Record of the Year is a performance and production award. As the Grammys website explains, the "category recognizes the artist’s performance as well as the overall contributions of the producer(s), recording engineer(s) and/or mixer(s) if other than the artist." For instance, in January, when Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" won Record of the Year, Daft Punk (Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo), Pharrell Williams, and Nile Rodgers all received the award as performing artists. Daft Punk produced the song themselves, but they had help from six different engineers/mixers — these six people also received the award.

Song of the Year

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On the other hand, Song of the Year is a songwriting award — it just recognizes songwriters. So, in January, when Lorde's "Royals" won Song of the Year, only songwriters Lorde and Joel Little received the award.

So, there you have it! Those are the differences between Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year. Pretty simple, right? Now you can impress your friends on Grammy night with your extensive category knowledge (probably not, but maybe)!

The 57th Annual Grammy Awards will air on Feb. 8, 2015 on CBS.

Images: Getty Images (2)