The R&B field at the Grammys is often one of the most competitive. This year we have everything from surprise newcomers to established veterans all in the running for gold. So let’s dive in to figure out who will win and who could potentially upset.
Best R&B Performance
This is probably an easy win for Beyoncé with “Black Parade.” The song is nominated for three other awards, including Record and Song of the Year, and it’s the only nominee in this category to get into Best R&B Song. However, watch out for an upset, since past artists like Rihanna and H.E.R. have lost here despite nominations in the general field.
If someone were to spoil, I’d say it would be Jacob Collier’s “All I Need” featuring Mahalia and Ty Dolla $ign or Jhené Aiko’s “Lightning and Thunder” with John Legend. Collier and Aiko are both nominated for Album of the Year, and both songs feature R&B radio heavyweights. Out of the two, “All I Need” could have the edge given that it’s been promoted more, but don’t count out Aiko.
Emily King (“See Me”) and Brittany Howard (“Goat Head”) will probably not win, but Howard fans shouldn’t feel bad: she’s probably winning something in the rock or American roots fields.
Will Win: Beyoncé, “Black Parade”
Dark Horse: Jacob Collier’s “All I Need,” or Jhené Aiko’s “Lightning and Thunder”
Best Traditional R&B Performance
There are three main contenders here: Yebba’s “Distance,” Chloe x Halle’s “Wonder What She Thinks of Me,” and Ledisi’s “Anything For You.” Ledisi could be the sentimental favorite here, having scored 12 previous nominations with no wins. The question is whether the Grammys want to finally give her a trophy, or if they will continue to make her wait.
In that case, “Wonder What She Thinks of Me” could probably sneak to the top thanks to Chloe x Halle’s higher profile. The song was also performed at their recent “Tiny Desk Concert,” which seems to be a good campaigning spot for the Grammys. If they do win, it’d be in the vein of Lizzo last year winning with “Jerome,” another album track that prevailed because of the artist’s hype. As such, I’d say Chloe x Halle have the edge, but Ledisi wouldn’t be a shocker at all.
Still, Yebba is the only nominee with a previous win here, and could upset as well.
Will Win: Chloe x Halle’s “Wonder What She Thinks of Me”
Dark Horse: Ledisi’s “Anything For You”
Best R&B Song
This category might be the hardest to predict in this field. At first glance, most people might go with Beyoncé’s “Black Parade” due to its general field nominations. However, and contrary to R&B Performance, there are two bigger R&B hits here: Skip Marley and H.E.R.’s “Slow Down” and Chloe x Halle’s “Do It.” Not only that, Robert Glasper is also nominated alongside H.E.R. (again) and Meshell Ndegeocello for “Better Than I Imagine,” and given that all three are consistent nominees (and the first two are Grammy winners), they could also pose a threat.
“Slow Down” might have the edge here since it’s the biggest hit on Urban AC radio, but Chloe x Halle have a lot of media attention and campaigning behind them, so they shouldn’t be underestimated. “Do It” was also nominated for the Soul Train Award for Song of the Year, which helps its chances.
Will Win: Skip Marley and H.E.R, “Slow Down”
Dark Horse: Chloe x Halle, “Do It”
Best R&B Album
This one is likely going to John Legend with “Bigger Love.” He has 11 wins (all the other nominees have two wins combined) and is a consistent nominee, including two victories in this category. “Bigger Love” is also the highest-charting album nominated, and Legend is the only one who has an additional nom this year (R&B Performance for the aforementioned “Lightning and Thunder”). As for who can upset, maybe Gregory Porter, who has two previous wins (both in the jazz field). The other three nominees — Ant Clemons (“Happy 2 Be Here”), Luke James (“To Feel Love/d”) and Giveon (“Take Time”) — may be too low-key or new to win.
Will Win: John Legend, “Bigger Love”
Dark Horse: Gregory Porter, “All Rise”
Best Progressive R&B Album
This will likely be a battle between Album of the Year nominee Jhené Aiko and relative newcomers Chloe x Halle. The latter have done a lot of campaigning, which could help them win. However, typically the most successful album wins here, and that is definitely Jhené Aiko’s “Chilombo.” The album could also be helped by “B.S.,” a single from the album that peaked on radio while voting was underway. I’m going with Aiko on this one, but if Chloe x Halle do win with their acclaimed album “Ungodly Hour,” don’t be shocked.
Will Win: Jhené Aiko, “Chilombo”
Dark Horse: Chloe x Halle, “Ungodly Hour”
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