This article is part of a series in celebration of a new, dynamic voice in Black America: the NUBIANO Exchange. Brace yourself for the NUBIANO experience.
Although the death of R&B is looming, 2007 was a very good year. Highlights include: debut albums from Chrisette Michele (I Am) and Tony Award nominee Elisabeth Withers (It Can Happen to Anyone); incredible first-week album sales for Mary J. Blige (Growing Pains, 629,000) and Alicia Keys (As I Am, 742,000); the return of "blue-eyed soul," with Robin Thicke becoming the second white man to top the R&B singles chart (with "Lost Without You"); and a continuous string of number one hits on Billboard's R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart: "When I See You" (Fantasia, 8 weeks), "Let It Go" (Keyshia Cole, 3 weeks), "Bed" (J. Holiday, 5 weeks) and "No One" (Alicia Keys, 10 weeks).
Here are my predictions for the 50th Grammy Awards in the R&B field:
Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
- "Just Fine" – Mary J. Blige [Geffen]
- "When I See You" – Fantasia [J Records/19 Records/S Records]
- "No One" – Alicia Keys [J Records/MBK Entertainment]
- "If I Have My Way" – Chrisette Michele [Def Jam Recordings]
- "Hate On Me" – Jill Scott [Hidden Beach Recordings]
Although "No One" garnered much success at the tail end of 2007, "When I See You" ruled Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart for eight weeks as the summer's biggest R&B hit. Granted, Alicia Keys has achieved more mainstream success than Fantasia over the years, with "No One" topping Billboard's Hot 100 chart and "When I See You" only peaking at #32. It must be noted, however, that of all Fantasia's heartfelt ballads, this is one of her best performances — being her first number one single and third to place in the top ten of Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Fantasia, with six Grammy nominations in two years, should not be overlooked. It is time for the Recording Academy to give Fantasia her due. Did I mention that "When I See You" is also nominated for Best R&B Song?
Best Male R&B Vocal Performance
- "Woman" – Raheem DeVaughn [Jive Records]
- "B.U.D.D.Y." – Musiq Soulchild [Atlantic Records]
- "Because Of You" – Ne-Yo [Def Jam Recordings]
- "Future Baby Mama" – Prince [Columbia/NPG Records]
- "Please Don't Go" – Tank [Blackground/Universal Motown]
Ne-Yo appears to be the stand-out in this category. "Because of You" was an R&B hit, indeed. It was also a SMASHING pop hit as well. Ne-Yo's recent songwriting and production credits, most notably Beyoncé’s “Irreplaceable,” will help him secure this win, especially since he has four other top 10 songs to his credit: "So Sick," "When You're Mad," "Sexy Love" and "Do You."
Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals
- "Same Girl" – R. Kelly featuring Usher [Jive]
- "Disrespectful" – Chaka Khan featuring Mary J. Blige [Burgundy/Sony/BMG]
- "Hate That I Love You" – Rihanna featuring Ne-Yo [Def Jam Recordings]
- "Baby" – Angie Stone featuring Betty Wright [Stax]
- "Bartender" – T-Pain featuring Akon [Jive]
Chaka Khan and Mary J. Blige will win in this category, for the following reasons: Chaka Khan made a respectable album with original material, after a nine year hiatus; last year, Mary J. Blige was the darling of the Grammys; and a double-dose of R&B's best, both past and present, is nothing to squawk at.
Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance
- "Walk A Mile In My Shoes" – Otis Clay [Echo Records]
- "All Night Long" – Randy Crawford & Joe Sample [PRA Records]
- "In My Songs" – Gerald Levert [Atlantic]
- "I Apologize" – Ann Nesby [Shanachie/It's Time Child Records]
- "I Am Your Man" – Ryan Shaw [Razor & Tie Entertainment]
The late Gerald Levert will be given the Grammy for the posthumous release of "In My Songs." The win will not come out of pity but out of respect for his talent and raw emotion. It's sad to think that this is his first nomination as a solo artist. His previous nominations were in the Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group category for 1988's "Casanova" with Levert and 2007's "Everyday (Family Reunion)" with Chaka Khan, Carl Thomas, and Yolanda Adams.
Best Urban/Alternative Performance
- "Make A Baby" – Vikter Duplaix [BBE]
- "That’s The Way Of The World" – Dwele [Stax]
- "Daydreamin'" – Lupe Fiasco featuring Jill Scott [1st & 15th/Atlantic]
- "Fantasy" – Meshell Ndegeocello [Stax]
- "Dream" – Alice Smith [BBE Records]
Since Jill Scott is well-known for her collaborations and will surely lose out in the Best Female R&B Vocal Performance category, "Daydreaming" (featuring Lupe Fiasco) will serve as a consolation prize of sorts. Lupe Fiasco, whose star is on the rise, and Jill Scott, with twelve career Grammy nominations (and only two wins), are more than deserving of this win. Besides, Jill Scott vocal rendition of "Daydream" is a real treat.
Best R&B Song
- "Beautiful Flower" (performed by India.Arie) – India.Arie & Joyce Simpson [Universal Republic Records; Publishers: Gold & Iron Music Publishing, WB Music Corp.]
- "Hate That I Love You" (performed by Rihanna and Ne-Yo) – Mikkel S. Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen & Shaffer Smith [Def Jam Recordings; Publishers: EMI April Music, Sony/ATV Tunes]
- "No One" (performed by Alicia Keys) – Dirty Harry, Kerry Brothers & Alicia Keys [J Records/MBK Entertainment; Publishers: Lellow Productions/EMI April Music, Book Of Daniel Music/EMI Music Publishing, D. Harry Productions]
- "Teachme" (performed by Musiq Soulchild) – Ivan Barias, Adam W. Blackstone, Randall C. Bowland, Carvin Haggins, Johnnie Smith II & Corey Latif Williams [Atlantic; Publishers: Nivrac Tyke/Universal Publishing, Latif Music/Universal Publishing, Tetra Grammaton/Universal Music Publishing, Melodic Piano Productions, HC 1030 Publishing]
- "When I See U" (performed by Fantasia) – Louis Biancaniello, Waynne Nugent, Erika Nuri, Kevin Risto, Janet Sewel & Sam Watters [J Records/19 Records/S Records; Publishers: Breakthrough Creations/EMI April Music, S.M.Y. Publishing/Sony/ATV Tunes, Break North Music/Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Wayne Writers/Sony/ATV Tunes, J. Sewell Publishing, Golden The Super Kid Music]
Since this award is given to songwriters, this Grammy will be given to "No One" or "Beautiful Flower," since Alicia Keys and India.Arie both have writing and performance credits. If I had to bet money on it, though, I'd go with "No One," since the song topped the R&B charts and became Keys' most successful single to date.
Best R&B Album
- Funk This – Chaka Khan [Burgundy Records]
- Lost & Found – Ledisi [Verve Forecast]
- Luvanmusiq – Musiq Soulchild [Atlantic]
- The Real Thing – Jill Scott [Hidden Beach Recordings]
- Sex, Love & Pain – Tank [Blackground/Universal Motown Records]
Jill Scott's first two albums, Who Is Jill Scott? Words & Sounds Vol. 1 (2000) and Beautifully Human: Words & Sounds Vol. 2 (2004), are R&B classics and both received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album upon their release. Neither, however, managed to pull a win. Fortunately for Jill, the third time will be a charm for Words & Sounds Vol. 3 (2007). She is "the real thing," indeed!
Best Contemporary R&B Album
- Konvicted – Akon [SRC/Universal Motown]
- Just Like You – Keyshia Cole [Confidential Records/Geffen]
- Fantasia – Fantasia [J Records/19 Records/S Records]
- East Side Story – Emily King [J Records]
- Because Of You – Ne-Yo [Def Jam Recordings]
As the heir-apparent to Mary J. Blige, as the forthcoming generation’s “Queen of Hip Hop Soul,” Keyshia Cole's Just Like You will reign supreme. Besides, it helps that the album generated four top ten singles ("Last Night" with Diddy, "Let It Go" featuring Lil Kim and Missy Elliott, "Shoulda Let You Go" featuring Amina and "I Remember").
The 50th Annual Grammy Awards will take place on Sunday, February 10, 2008. CBS will broadcast the ceremony at 8PM ET/PT.