One of the weirder categories, Song of the Year suggests that you can reduce an entire year's worth of songwriting down to one song. Coincidentally, the songs chosen here all come from artists whose albums have been picked for awards as well. I don't think this is any kind of conspiracy. I chalk it up to an innate laziness. Or to the fact that only those names already in the Grammy Rolodex are likely to garner enough votes to be nominated.
I haven't bothered to list all the songwriters involved, since, really, who wants to read a bunch of names? It doesn't just make for bad television, as Randy Newman noted, but it makes for bad blogging as well!
Here's the list of the five nominated songs. I have no guess as to what will win. I don't even know how you vote for one song.
1) "All of the Lights" -- Kanye West: The cut comes from Kanye's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album, so if it should win, 2011's "best" tune would come from an album released in November of 2010. I know those are the Grammy's rules for eligibility, but why are we working off some sort of bizarre fiscal year strategy and not an actual year? I would say everyone living today considers 2011 to begin on January 1 and to end on December 31. Can't we agree on anything?
2) "The Cave" -- Mumford & Sons: Mumford & Sons are championed for being musicians who play folky instruments. I don't know how to say this without sounding like a crank, but I believe there are many -- countless, even -- musicians who play the same instruments just as well who have never received a smidgen of this kind of attention. I'm not blaming Mumford & Sons and I'm not saying they don't deserve the attention. Who wouldn't accept the attention? But wouldn't you like to buy the Academy some more records? If this wins, the best song of 2011 was released in 2009! By that logic, can we vote for "Strawberry Fields Forever," since it was remastered and reissued in 2009? Or are there rules against that sort of thing?
3) "Grenade" -- Bruno Mars: For people who like pop music with a touch of soul but not too much? "Grenade" is a likable, poppy number that came out in 2010 and Mars is a talented fella who straddles the line between enough genres to make most people happy. Is "Grenade" provably "better" than the other songs on this list? I don't know. I don't have the mathematical formula that determines such things.
4) "Holocene" -- Bon Iver: First off, it was released in 2011, so that's interesting. I would be shocked if this art-folk choir music won the golden award, but maybe there is a deep yearning in the hearts of the voters to bring prog rock back to the forefront of American taste. I'd be amused. But they don't do these things for my amusement.
5) "Rolling In the Deep" -- Adele: The single was released on November 29, 2010, while the album followed on January 19, 2011. The song has won great critical respect, while also being featured just about everywhere, including the TV shows 90210, One Tree Hill and Gossip Girl. It was the best-selling single in 2011 in the U.S. Do the voters love heartbreak? Who doesn't love heartbreak when it happens to somebody else?