Unlike last year, when Frank Ocean and Miguel were all over the scene. The R&B field is rather weak this time. The strongest contender here is, breakthrough artist, Tamar Braxton who is up for three of the five awards including Best R&B Performance and Song for her smash-hit, “Love And War”. Former winners, Fantasia and Anthony Hamilton, garnered three and two nods respectively. NARAS’ darlings, Alicia Keys and John Legend were relegated to Best R&B Album, only. The latter, though, will be performing during the telecast with Australian country artist, Keith Urban.
Best R&B Performance: This year’s nominee include all forms of modern R&B music: neo-soul, urban contemporary, hip hop soul, alternative R&B and even groove. The Academy will opt, however, for the ballad and most melodramatic tune; “Love and War” by Tamar Braxton –also Soul Train winner for Best R&B Female Artist. Her closest rivals are; Miguel, featuring 7-time nominee Kendrick Lamar, for “How Many Drinks?”, a song which was present in several best-of lists. Fusion band Snarky Puppy, with the First Daughter of Soul, Lalah Hathaway; could throw a surprise here for the groove-oriented song “Something”. One-time winner, Anthony Hamilton with “Best of Me”, doesn’t seem to have big chances. And alongside big names there’s an underground Australian band; Hiatus Kayote, in collaboration with rapper and GRAMMY-winner Q-Tip, for the chill-out song “Nakamarra” (which I personally consider the best; and I highly recommend to watch the video).
Best Traditional R&B Performance: For those wondering the difference between this award and the aforementioned one. Well, there are enormous differences. This category is reserved to the more soulful forms of R&B music, without any electronic/pop or hip-hop elements. Winners include elite-class names like; Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, or The Temptations. Fantasia, who is contending here for the second time, with “Get It Right” will probably join that list. Gregory Porter for “Hey Laura”, and Ryan Shaw for “Yesterday” are also in for the second-time. Blues musician Gary Clark Jr. with “Please Come Here”, and jazz singer Maysa with “Quite Fire”, are both debuting at this year’s award.
Best R&B Song: There are several former winners in this year’s line-up. This means voters will have a hard time coming up with a winner here. Polls are betting on “Pusher Love Girl” co-written by Justin Timberlake, James Fauntleroy, J-Roc, and Timbaland. None of them have won a songwriter’s award before; though the latter two have earned GRAMMYs as producers. But the Academy might restrain to give this award to non-R&B artists. The most likely option, however, might be “Love and War” by Tamar Braxton and Beyoncé’s top songwriters; LeShawn Daniels, Makeba Riddick, and Darhyl Camper Jr. Also nominated is Fantasia for “Without Me” (surprisingly snubbed at Best R&B Performance) with 5-time winner, Missy Elliot, Harmony Samuels, and Al Sherrod Lambert. The list is wrapped up with Maroon 5’s touring bandmate, PJ Morton for Stevie Wonder’s song “Only One”; and “Best of Me” by Anthony Hamilton and Jairus Mooze.
Best R&B Album: Believe it or not, all of the nominated works for this category received average reviews. The most decent choice, however, will be John Legend for his electronic-oriented album, Love in the Future. Legend has won this category twice. Supergroup TGT are the other front-runners. The Three Kings. The rest of the nominees are just fillers: Faith Evan’s R&B Divas; Better by Chrissette Michele; and even 14-time winner (including two in this category) Alicia Keys, for her poorly reviewed Girl on Fire.
Best Urban Contemporary Album: This category has now overshadow the R&B album award. Better albums and bigger names are in contention. Rihanna’s label made the smartest decision; by submitting the multi-platinum Unapologetic here instead of Pop album. Nonetheless, the rest of the nominees also stand high chances. Fantasia is up for the Soul Train Award-nominated disc, Side Effects of You. Once again, we have Tamar Braxton for her second album Love and War. There are other two curious nominees: Famous hip-hop producer, Salaam Remi is in for his very first (own) album, One: In the Chamber; actor Tristan Wilds, under the stage name of Mack Wilds, got in for his debut album, New York: A Love Story which in fact produced by Remi.