Grammy Predictions: The R&B Field

Paul Grein
Stop The Presses!

Beyonce is vying for her 17th Grammy, which would put her just one behind Aretha Franklin for the most by an African American woman in Grammy history. B is nominated for Best Traditional R&B Performance for “Love On Top,” the fourth single from her 2011 album 4. (It would be Beyonce’s first win since her six-Grammy sweep three years ago.)

Miguel, a Song of the Year finalist for “Adorn,” is likely to win two Grammys in the R&B field.

Best R&B Album

The nominees: Robert Glasper Experiment’s Black Radio, Anthony Hamilton’s Back To Love, R. Kelly’s Write Me Back, Tamia’s Beautiful Surprise, Tyrese’s Open Invitation

The discussion: This is R. Kelly’s 11th studio album. These are the fifth studio albums for the other four finalists.

None of these albums has sold 500K copies. The Tyrese, Hamilton and R. Kelly albums have come the closest.

R. Kelly won three Grammys for his 1997 smash “I Believe I Can Fly,” but hasn’t won since then. Hamilton shared the 2008 award for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance for “You’ve Got The Love I Need,” a collaboration with Al Green.

Black Radio features contributions from Erykah Badu, Lalah Hathaway, Lupe Fiasco, Musiq Soulchild, Chrisette Michele, Ledisi and Meshell Ndegeocello, among others. If enough Grammy voters have heard the album, it will probably win. But it has yet to sell 100K copies, which raises the possibility that too many voters have yet to discover it.

Here’s a point in its favor: Glasper is the only one of the R&B Album finalists who is also nominated for Best R&B Performance.

Grammy favorite Babyface co-wrote and co-produced three tracks on Back To Love, which features Keri Hilson. Open Invitation features Ludacris, Rick Ross and R. Kelly. (So R. Kelly is, in effect, competing with himself in this category.)

As the only woman in the finals, Tamia may have an edge. As the biggest name in the finals, R. Kelly may have an edge. As the artist with the best-selling album in the finals, Tyrese may have an edge. This is one of those categories where any of the nominees can conceivably win. So I’m going to circle back to my original choice.

The pick: Robert Glasper Experiment.

Best Urban Contemporary Album

The nominees: Chris Brown’s Fortune, Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream, Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange.

The discussion: All three of these albums have a shot at winning. It’s Brown’s fifth studio album; Miguel’s second; Ocean’s first (as a solo artist). The Ocean and Brown albums are closing in on 500K in sales.

Brown’s album features contributions from Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa and Nas. Ocean’s features contributions from John Mayer, Andre 3000 and Tyler, the Creator, his colleague in Odd Future.

Brown won his first Grammy last year when F.A.M.E. was named Best R&B Album. Ocean is nominated in three of the four marquee categories: Album of the Year, Record of the Year and Best New Artist. Miguel’s “Adorn” is up for Song of the Year.

The pick: Frank Ocean.

Best R&B Song

The nominees: Miguel’s “Adorn” (which he wrote), Tamia’s “Beautiful Surprise” (which she co-wrote with Claude Kelly & Salaam Remi), Trey Songz’s “Heart Attack” (which he co-wrote with Benjamin Levin and Rico Love), Anthony Hamilton’s “Pray For Me” (which he co-wrote with Antonio Dixon, Kenny Edmonds and Patrick “jQue” Smith) and Elle Varner’s “Refill” (which she co-wrote with Darhyl “DJ” Camper and Andrew “Pop” Wansel).

The discussion: None of these songs has yet reached the 1 million mark. “Heart Attack” and “Adorn” are closest. As the only R&B song that was nominated for Song of the Year, “Adorn” has this one sewn up.

The pick: “Adorn”

Best R&B Performance

The nominees: Estelle’s “Thank You,” Robert Glasper Experiment featuring Ledisi’s “Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.),” Luke James’ “I Want You,” Miguel’s “Adorn,” Usher’s “Climax.”

The discussion: “Climax” is the biggest hit of the five nominees. It’s closing in on the 1 million mark. Usher has won seven Grammys, including three for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. Estelle has won one. “American Boy,” her 2008 collabo with Kanye West, was voted Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.

But the Song of the Year nomination for “Adorn” elevates it above the pack.

The pick: Miguel.

Best Traditional R&B Performance

The nominees: Anita Baker’s version of Tyrese’s 1998 song “Lately,” Beyonce’s “Love On Top,” Melanie Fiona’s “Wrong Side Of A Love Song,” Gregory Porter’s “Real Good Hands,” SWV’s version of the Patti LaBelle 1983 hit “If Only You Knew.”

The discussion: Beyonce is vying for her 17th Grammy. Only two women in Grammy history have amassed so many. Alison Krauss has won 27. Aretha Franklin, as noted above, has won 18. Baker, a Grammy favorite of the late 1980s and early 1990s, is vying for her ninth Grammy (and her first since 1995). Fiona is vying for her third. She won in this category last year with “Fool For You,” a collabo with Cee Lo Green. (She and Green also won last year for Best R&B Song).

The pick: Beyonce.