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AI predicts an historic Grammy win for Childish Gambino’s “This Is America”

“This Is America” could be the first rap song to win Song of the Year, and this AI platform says it’s going to happen. Here’s how it crunched the data.

AI predicts an historic Grammy win for Childish Gambino’s “This Is America”
[Photos: Daniel Chen/Unsplash; Flickr user Prayitno]

UPDATE: Childish Gambino won Song of the Year for “This is America.”

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In the 60-year history of the Grammys, a rap song has never taken home the award for Song of the Year–but this AI platform thinks this is the year.

According to machine learning company DataRobot, Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” has a 20.38% chance of winning. The other top two contenders are “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper (19.15%) and “All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar and SZA (17.21%).

  • “This Is America” by Childish Gambino–20.38%
  • “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper–19.17%
  • “All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar and SZA–17.21%
  • “The Middle” by Zedd and Maren Morris–16.47%
  • “The Joke” by Brandi Carlile–15.55%
  • “God’s Plan” by Drake–15.48%
  • “Boo’d Up” by Ella Mai–14.54%
  • “In My Blood” by Shawn Mendes–13.08%

Pulling quantifiable data like “danceability” and “valence” from Spotify’s API, as well as song lyrics from Genius to check for profanity and overall sentiment, DataRobot was able to isolate the characteristics of previous winners in the category to make predictions for 2019.

“Initially, I wasn’t even sure if the data would be predictive. I did this analysis because I wanted to show people a cool application for machine learning and data science,” says DataRobot data scientist Taylor Larkin. “To my surprise, the model predicted about 44% better than randomly guessing during the period I tested it on from 2012 to 2018, which I believe is better than expected given the difficulty of this problem.”

[Image: courtesy of DataRobot]
There’s a good chance DataRobot’s prediction could pan out.

Aside from the fact that “This Is America” was a smash on the charts and went viral online, the Recording Academy could use Childish Gambino’s win as a bargaining chip in the court of public opinion, which has long deemed the Grammys as “out of touch” and “racist.”

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Larkin says, “I think if ‘This Is America’ does, in fact, win, it will be a testament to the evolution and increasing progressivism of the music industry and awards committee, which is something that machine learning can help us learn more about.”

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About the author

KC covers entertainment and pop culture for Fast Company. Previously, KC was part of the Emmy Award-winning team at "Good Morning America," where he was the social media producer.

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