The difference between the Grammys’ Song, Album, and Record of the Year categories, explained ( )

Here’s everything you need to know to keep them straight.

There are just four categories at the Grammy Awards where artists from all musical genres compete against each other — Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. In these four races, country artists bump up against R&B musicians, and they both take on pop stars. If an artist wins one of these awards, they’ll make headlines and get to give a nice long speech at the awards telecast.

But the Grammys’ many, many categories are already steeped in confusing industry-speak, and the top four awards are no different. With the exception of Best New Artist, it’s easy to confuse the other three.

Here’s everything you need to know to keep these categories straight.

Album of the Year

The Album of the Year award is the most prestigious Grammy there is, the rough equivalent of the Best Picture Oscar. The category honors an entire LP, from the first track to the last, and everything about the production of the album’s sound.

Originally, the Album of the Year award went only to the artist credited with the creation of the album, and to the album’s producers.

But starting in 1999, with Lauryn Hill’s win for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, the sound engineers and mixers of the album have also been honored, as have any featured artists who appear on the album. If you participated in the creation of the sound of the album, you get a golden gramophone. However, the album’s songwriters are not included in this award.

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