Since the restructuring of the Grammy Awards in 2013, the R&B field has provided plenty of surprise nominees and wins. In the past 21 years, Best R&B Album has gone to a who’s who of R&B stars like Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Toni Braxton, Chaka Khan and Luther Vandross have all won in this category. Usually, this category goes to the most mainstream artist in contention. However, with A-list artists like Beyonce and Rihanna competing in the Best Urban Contemporary Album race instead, this year’s nominees lack a clear superstar nominee, which makes it even more difficult to forecast who will win. Also interesting to note is that this is the first nomination in this category for all the nominees. Let’s take a closer look at the contenders:
BJ the Chicago Kid, “In My Mind”
BJ the Chicago Kid earned his first Grammy nomination in 2014 for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for the track “Studio” with rapper Schoolboy Q. He’s the most nominated artist of this group with three bids including Best R&B Performance for “Turnin’ Me Up” and Best Traditional R&B Performance for “Woman’s World.” If BJ wins he’ll become the seventh male solo artist to claim this category following Tony Rich (“Words” in 1997), D’Angelo (“Voodoo” in 2001, “Black Messiah” with the Vanguard in 2016), Vandross (“Dance with My Father” in 2004), Legend (“Get Lifted” in 2006), Maxwell (“BLACKsummers’night” in 2010) and Chris Brown (“F.A.M.E.” in 2012).
Lalah Hathaway, “Lalah Hathaway Live”
As of late, Lalah Hathaway has become a Grammy darling. She won her first Grammy in 2014 for Best R&B Performance for the track “Something” with Snarky Puppy. She went on to win back-to-back Grammys in 2015 and 2016 in the Best Traditional R&B Performance category for her collaboration track “Jesus Children” with Robert Glasper Experiment and Malcolm-Jamal Warner and then her rendition of her late, great father Donny Hathaway’s “Little Ghetto Boy.” She could make it a three-peat this year in that category with her cover of Anita Baker’s “Angel.”
If Lalah wins in this category, hers would be the first live album to prevail. Previously Erykah Badu’s “Live” and Alicia Keys’s “Unplugged” were also live nominees.
Terrace Martin, “Velvet Portraits”
Musician/producer Terrace Martin has produced tracks for artists like Snoop Dogg, The Game, Charlie Wilson, Raphael Saadiq and Kendrick Lamar, which earned Martin two Album of the Year nominations as a producer for Lamar’s “good kid, m.A.A.d City” and “How to Pimp a Butterfly.” As an acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, Martin fits the profile of several previous winners like Robert Glasper, D’Angelo and John Legend.
Mint Condition, “Healing Season”
Veteran R&B band Mint Condition received their first career Grammy nomination. “Healing Season” holds the distinction of being the first holiday album nominated in this category, and if they were to win they would become the fifth group to do so, following Boyz II Men (“II” in 1995), TLC (“CrazySexyCool” in 1996, “FanMail” in 2000), The Roots (“Wake Up!” with John Legend in 2011) and Robert Glasper Experiment (“Black Radio” in 2013).
Mya, “Smoove Jones”
Out of the five nominees, Mya by far is the most accomplished in terms of mainstream success. Mya has several chart topping singles throughout her career including the number-one hit “Lady Marmalade” for which she won the Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration with Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim and Pink. If Mya wins, she would become the first to prevail for an album from an independent record label.
Based on Gold Derby’s combined predictions BJ the Chicago Kid is out front with 8/13 odds, followed by Lalah Hathaway (7/2 odds), Mya (15/2 odds), Mint Condition (28/1 odds) and Terrace Martin (40/1 odds). What do you think?
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