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

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There are four Grammy categories that carry the most prestige—Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. The latter is self-explanatory, but what of the other three? For the distinctions between Album, Record, and Song, we have to look at the Grammy academy’s rules about who is eligible for each of those awards.

The Album of the Year, considered the crowning achievement of the night, is for overall accomplishment on the entirety of the album. Yes, people colloquially refer to albums as “records,” but in Grammy terms, the "Record" category is far more similar to "Song." When Album of the Year was first awarded in 1959, only the performing artist was recognized, but by 1965 producers were included. Today, engineers and sound mixers who worked on the album are also eligible for a Grammy win.

Record of the Year, like Album, recognizes both the artist and any producers, engineers, mixers, etc., who made an individual song. The Record of the Year commends the actual recording of the track—what exactly you hear, how the instrumentation was layered, how the beats were mixed. For example, when “Get Lucky” won Record of the Year in 2014, 10 people were awarded trophies: Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk (who also produced), plus featured artists Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, four engineers/mixers, and two master engineers.

Song of the Year pertains to the songwriting—this award goes specifically to the songwriter, composer, and/or lyricist nominated for the single. This is usually a much shorter list, commonly no more than three or four people each year. Oftentimes, as is the case with singers who write the majority of their own songs, it can go to just that one individual. For example, when “Rehab” won Song of the Year in 2008, Amy Winehouse was the sole recipient; same with Alicia Keys winning in 2002 for “Fallin,’” or Bruce Springsteen in 1995 for “Streets of Philadelphia.”

Song of the Year illustrates why songwriting credits are important—if a band performs a song that wins in this category but only one member is listed as the songwriter, only that member wins the Grammy. For example, when The Police's “Every Breath You Take” won in 1984, only Sting walked away with a Grammy. Similarly, in 2003 Norah Jones and her album Come Away With Me swept all four prestige categories, and though Jones left with five Grammys that night, she herself did not win Song of the Year. That went to songwriter Jesse Harris, who singularly wrote her hit “Don’t Know Why.”

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Big Questions
Where Does the Phrase '… And the Horse You Rode In On' Come From?
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Horses may no longer be the dominant form of transportation in the U.S., but the legacy of our horseback-riding history lives on in language. When telling people off, we still use the phrase “... and the horse you rode in on.” These days, it’s rare for anyone you're telling to go screw themselves to actually be an equestrian, so where did “and the horse you rode in on” come from, anyway?

Well, let’s start with the basics. The phrase is, essentially, an intensifier, one typically appended to the phrase “F*** you.” As the public radio show "A Way With Words" puts it, it’s usually aimed at “someone who’s full of himself and unwelcome to boot.” As co-host and lexicographer Grant Barrett explains, “instead of just insulting you, they want to insult your whole circumstance.”

The phrase can be traced back to at least the 1950s, but it may be even older than that, since, as Barrett notes, plenty of crude language didn’t make it into print in the early 20th century. He suggests that it could have been in wide use even prior to World War II.

In 1998, William Safire of The New York Times tracked down several novels that employed the term, including The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972) and No Bugles, No Drums (1976). The literary editor of the latter book, Michael Seidman, told Safire that he heard the term growing up in the Bronx just after the Korean War, leading the journalist to peg the origin of the phrase to at least the late 1950s.

The phrase has had some pretty die-hard fans over the years, too. Donald Regan, who was Secretary of the Treasury under Ronald Reagan from 1981 through 1984, worked it into his official Treasury Department portrait. You can see a title along the spine of a book in the background of the painting. It reads: “And the Horse You Rode In On,” apparently one of Regan’s favorite sayings. (The book in the painting didn't refer to a real book, but there have since been a few published that bear similar names, like Clinton strategist James Carville’s book …and the Horse He Rode In On: The People V. Kenneth Starr and Dakota McFadzean’s 2013 book of comics Other Stories And the Horse You Rode In On.)

It seems that even in a world where almost no one rides in on a horse, insulting a man’s steed is a timeless burn.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Big Questions
What Could the Repeal of Net Neutrality Mean for Internet Users?
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What could the repeal of net neutrality mean for the average American internet user?

Zouhair Belkoura:

The imminent repeal of net neutrality could have implications for Americans beyond the Internet’s stratification, increased costs to consumers, and hindered access to content for all. Net neutrality’s repeal is a threat to the Internet’s democracy—the greatest information equalizer of our time.

With net neutrality’s repeal, ISPs could be selective about the content and pricing packages they make available. Portugal is a good example of what a country looks like without net neutrality

What people may not realize is that a repeal of net neutrality would also give ISPs the ability to throttle people’s Internet traffic. Customers won’t likely have visibility into what traffic is being throttled, and it could substantially slow down people’s Internet connections.

What happens when this type of friction is introduced to the system? The Internet—the greatest collective trove of information in the world—could gradually be starved. People who experience slower Internet speeds may get frustrated and stop seeking out their favorite sites. People may also lose the ability to make choices about the content they want to see and the knowledge they seek.

Inflated pricing, less access to knowledge, and slower connections aren’t the only impact a net neutrality repeal might have. People’s personal privacy and corporations’ security may suffer, too. Many people use virtual private networks to protect their privacy. VPNs keep people’s Internet browsing activities invisible to their ISPs and others who may track them. They also help them obscure their location and encrypt online transactions to keep personal data secure. When people have the privacy that VPNs afford, they can access information freely without worrying about being watched, judged, or having their browsing activity bought and sold by third-party advertisers.

Virtual private networks are also a vital tool for businesses that want to keep their company data private and secure. Employees are often required by their employers to connect to a VPN whenever they are offsite and working remotely.

Even the best VPNs can slow down individuals' Internet connections, because they create an encrypted tunnel to protect and secure personal data. If people want to protect their personal privacy or company’s security with a VPN [they] also must contend with ISP throttling; it’s conceivable that net neutrality’s repeal could undermine people’s freedom to protect their online safety. It could also render the protection a VPN offers to individuals and companies obsolete.

Speed has always been a defining characteristic of the Internet’s accessibility and its power. Net neutrality’s repeal promises to subvert this trait. It would compromise both people's and companies’ ability to secure their personal data and keep their browsing and purchasing activities private. When people don’t have privacy, they can’t feel safe. When they don’t feel safe, they can’t live freely. That’s not a world anyone, let alone Americans, want to live in.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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