Grammy countdown: How Beyonce lost record of the year
The category: Record of the year
The field at a glance: Despite the runaway success of Taylor Swift, one could argue that this award was Beyoncé's to lose. Her "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" dance has become a global phenomen. The song stood out in the marketplace -- its sparse rhythm in contrast to the retro electronics favored by Lady Gaga -- and cemented Beyoncé's status as a veteran pop artist with proven staying power.
Yet the song wasn't even in the running for record of the year. Instead, "Single Ladies" was submitted only for song of the year, and the Beyoncé song nominated here is the ballad "Halo." It's nice, but it didn't define pop radio. Nor does it carry with it the elegance of last year's winner, "Please Read the Letter" from Alison Krauss and Robert Plant.
There're plenty of ubiquitous hits in consideration here. Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" was the song that launched the artist, and the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" was completely unavoidable all summer long. The cut even figured heavily in the Grammys' prime-time nomination concert on CBS in December. Kings of Leon's glistening arena ballad "Use Somebody" turned the once-scruffy Southern rockers into prom-friendly boys, and it's the kind of anthem that the more edgy "American Idol" candidates will be singing for years to come.
Rounding out the field is Swift's "You Belong With Me," a showcase for the artist's country-lite, good-natured hooks. Its messages of individualism come packed with plenty of easy-to-remember lyrical details ("she's cheer captain and I'm on the bleachers"), and is the kind of song that makes Swift a role model worth championing, as well as the heir to Shania Twain's country-rock throne.
And the Grammy goes to: Swift will be the first country artist to win this award since the Dixie Chicks took it in 2007, and only the second country artist to take it home in the last 10 years. Despite winning pretty much every major award given out in 2009, Swift will still act surprised.
And who deserves it? Lady Gaga, who has gradually grown into a more challenging pop star.
-- Todd Martens