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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And we still have a week to wait to find out the winner of the Grammy for Song of the Year. Until that moment, NPR Music's critic Ann Powers will be introducing us to the nominees.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRENADE")

ANN POWERS, BYLINE: This is Bruno Mars singing "Grenade."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRENADE")

BRUNO MARS: (Singing) But darling, I'd catch a grenade you. Throw my hand on the blade for you...

POWERS: The Grammys love down-the-middle pop stars that appeal across genres and generations. They also reward industry insiders, as Bruno Mars is totally one of those.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRENADE")

MARS: (Singing) ...never, ever, ever did, baby...

POWERS: He's co-written so many songs. Last year, he had a bunch of nominations but he only won Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. The Grammy organization drastically cut back on categories this year to make them more competitive. In the past, this might have forced women artists to compete in a boys' club. But pop is now so female-dominated that Bruno is the only guy in this category this year.

Bruno Mars wrote this song with his very successful songwriting team, the Smeezingtons, plus three more songwriters. Pop songwriting is a group effort these days.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRENADE")

MARS: (Singing) Gave you what I had and you tossed it in the trash, tossed it in the trash...

MONTAGNE: NPR Music critic Ann Powers. She'll be telling us about other Grammy nominees all this week.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GRENADE")

MARS: (Singing) All I ever ask, 'cause what you don't understand....

MONTAGNE: This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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