Song, Record, Album of the Year: What’s the Difference?

At last night’s Grammy Awards, Alicia Keys’ “Fallin’ ” won Song of the Year, U2’s “Walk On” won Record of the Year, and the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack won Album of the Year. What’s the difference between these three awards?

Song of the Year is a songwriter’s award. It rewards the songwriter for a song released (or that “first achieved prominence”) during the past eligibility year (Oct. 1, 2000, through Sept. 30, 2001). Record of the Year rewards a song’s performance and production. Record of the Year recognizes the artist (in this case, U2), the producers (Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois), and the recording engineers and mixers (Steve Lillywhite and Richard Rainey). Both Song of the Year and Record of the Year reward individual songs, but they recognize different aspects of the songmaking process.

Album of the Year is the most self-explanatory. It rewards, well, albums. Like Record of the Year, it’s a performance and production award that goes to the artist and the album’s producer and recording engineer.

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Explainer thanks Ian Gilmore and Michael Simon for asking the question.