Stop The Presses!

The R&B Field

Stop The Presses!

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Usher and John Legend & the Roots, who have won a combined 12 Grammys, are expected to dominate the awards in the R&B field.

Usher will also perform on the show in a joint appearance with his protégé Justin Bieber and Jaden Smith. Janelle Monae, who is competing with Usher for Best Contemporary R&B Album, and Cee Lo Green, who is the front-runner to win for Best Urban/Alternative Performance, are also set to perform on the show.

Sade is competing with Ronald Isley & Aretha Franklin for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Sade is nominated for the title track of its #1 album, Soldier Of Love. Isley & Franklin are in the running with their version of Carole King's "You've Got A Friend" (the 1971 Song of the Year winner).

Let's take a closer look at the nominations in the R&B field.

 

Best R&B Album

The nominees: Raheem DeVaughn's The Love & War Masterpeace, Fantasia's Back To Me, Jaheim's Another Round, John Legend & the Roots' Wake Up!, Monica's Still Standing.

The likely winner: Wake Up!. Going with Legend and the Roots would allow voters to salute two top acts at once. Legend won in this category five years ago with Get Lifted.

Grammy trivia: Legend would be the first male artist to win twice in this category. TLC and Alicia Keys also did it. 

 

Best Contemporary R&B Album

The nominees: Chris Brown's Graffiti, R. Kelly's Untitled, Ryan Leslie's Transition, Janelle Monae's The Archandroid, Usher's Raymond V Raymond

The likely winner: Raymond V Raymond. This would be Usher's second win in this category. He won six years ago with Confessions. Beyonce is the only other repeat winner in this category. She has won three times. Usher's only real competition this year is the critically-hailed Monae. The fact that they're both booked to perform on the show suggests how tight this race is.

P.S. If the Recording Academy combined these two R&B album categories, they'd have one highly competitive category instead of two that always feel a little padded.

 

Best R&B Song

The nominees: The Fantasia hit "Bittersweet" (Charles Harmon & Claude Kelly), the Jaheim hit "Finding My Way Back" (Jaheim, Ivan "Orthodox" Barias, Curt Chambers, Carvin "Ransum" Haggins, Miquel Jontel), the El DeBarge hit "Second Chance" (El DeBarge & Mischke), the John Legend & the Roots hit "Shine" (John Legend), the Kem hit "Why Would You Stay (Kem)

The likely winner: "Bittersweet." Cee Lo Green's "F*** You (Forget You)" (which he co-wrote with Philip Lawrence and Bruno Mars) was passed over for a nomination in this category (though it was nominated for the top songwriting award, Song of the Year). If it had been nominated here, it almost certainly would have won. As it is, there's no clear front-runner. "Bittersweet," "Finding My Way Back" and "Shine" are all culled from albums that are vying for Best R&B Album.

 

Best Female R&B Vocal Performance

The nominees: Faith Evans' "Gone Already," Fantasia's "Bittersweet," Monica's "Everything To Me," Kelly Price's "Tired," Jazmine Sullivan's "Holding You Down (Going In Circles)"

The likely winner: "Bittersweet." The nomination for Best R&B Song shows that the entry is on voters' radar. The Monica and Jazmine Sullivan songs were also solid hits.

 

Best Male R&B Vocal Performance

The nominees: El DeBarge's "Second Chance," Jaheim's "Finding My Way Back," Kem's "Why Would You Stay," Musiq Soulchild's "We're Still Friends," Usher's "There Goes My Baby"

The likely winner: "There Goes My Baby." This would be Usher's third win in this category. He won with 2001's "U Remind Me" and 2002's "U Don't Have To Call."

Grammy trivia: "We're Still Friends" is from a Donny Hathaway tribute album by jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum. Musiq Soulchild was the guest vocalist on that one track. Whalum's album, Everything Is Everything: The Music Of Donny Hathaway, is the front-runner to win for Best Pop Instrumental Album.

Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals

The nominees: "Love" (Chuck Brown, Jill Scott, Marcus Miller), "Take My Time" (Chris Brown & Tank), "You've Got A Friend" (Ronald Isley & Aretha Franklin), "Shine" (John Legend & the Roots), "Soldier Of Love" (Sade).

The likely winner: "Soldier Of Love." Sade won a Grammy for each of its last two studio albums. "No Ordinary Love," from Love Deluxe, won in this category for 1993. Lovers Rock won as Best Pop Vocal Album for 2001. But you can't discount R&B legends Ronald Isley & Aretha Franklin. Franklin, who has been seriously ill, previously won in this category for her 1987 duet with George Michael, "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)." Isley hasn't won a Grammy since the Isley Brothers' 1969 smash "It's Your Thing."

John Legend has won twice in this category, for 2006's "Family Affair" (with Joss Stone and Van Hunt) and 2008's "Stay With Me (By The Sea)" (with Al Green).

Grammy trivia: Sade is vying to become the first ongoing group or duo to win here since Destiny's Child won for 2000 and 2001. The last eight winners in the category were one-off collaborations.

 

Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance

The nominees: R. Kelly's "When A Woman Loves," John Legend & the Roots' "Hang On In There," Calvin Richardson's "You're So Amazing," Ryan Shaw's "In Between," Betty Wright's "Go" (Live)

The likely winner: "Hang On In There." The multiple nominations for Legend & the Roots demonstrate their support. But don't count out Betty Wright, who landed her first hit, "Girls Can't Do What The Guys Do," in 1968. If every voter who has fond memories of her 1972 smash "Clean Up Woman" voted for her, she's got it.

 

Best Urban/Alternative Performance

The nominees: Bilal's "Little One," Cee Lo Green's "F*** You," Carolyn Malachi's "Orion," Janelle Monae & Big Boi's "Tightrope," Eric Roberson's "Still."

The likely winner: "F*** You." This is nominated for Record and Song of the Year and Best Short Form Music Video. How can it lose here? (I hate to think what Green might say if he does lose!) Green won in this category four years ago with Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy." Big Boi is also a past winner in this category, for OutKast's 2003 smash "Hey Ya!"

To My Readers: If you missed my preview of the "Big Grammy Categories," here's a link. And here are links to my pop and rock previews. Next up: the rap field, followed by country.

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