GRAMMY CHEW: WEIGHING IN ON THE R&B NOMINEES

In addition to AOTY, ROTY and SOTY nods, Beyoncé has a commanding presence in the R&B song categories as three cuts from RENAISSANCE (Parkwood/Columbia) are up for R&B noms. Bey’s nomination haul, which sets her up to potentially become the most-awarded artist in Grammy history, doesn’t include a nod for R&B album—she submitted her culture-shifting LP in the Dance category instead.

The biggest question for Grammy prognosticators: If this is truly Bey’s year, can anyone beat her? Or will the commercial and cultural force that is RENAISSANCE sweep the categories in which it’s nominated?

R&B legend Mary J. Blige, whose return to the spotlight in 2022 included general field noms for Album and Record and a performance during Dr. Dre’s Super Bowl Halftime Show, earned nods in all three R&B song categories, as well as Best R&B Album. Could Mary earn some hardware as a make-good for past snubs?

Blige, Morton, Long

In Best R&B Performance, Def Jam’s Muni Long—a favorite in a field of newcomers for Best New Artist—goes up against legends Bey and Blige with her breakthrough, “Hrs & Hrs.” Although the songwriter-turned-artist is surrounded by Grammy favorites, including RCA’s Lucky Daye and Jazmine Sullivan, Long’s smash still stands out as the year’s most viral R&B cut. Can she prevail in a field that’s thick with both star power and powerful Grammy agendas?

Best R&B Song has Bey, Blige, Sullivan and Long competing once again, though in this category Beyoncé’s “CUFF IT,” a funky throwback that could fill a dancefloor in any decade, seems primed to get its due (co-writers include Nile Rodgers, Raphael Saadiq, The-Dream, Nova Wav and Morten Ristorp). EMPIRE’s PJ Morton, who’s hauled in Grammy noms six years in a row, is an x-factor as the sole credited writer and artist on “Please Don’t Walk Away.” Although this is a songwriter’s award, expect the gravitational pull of the artists involved to be significant.

Best Traditional R&B Performance features Blige and Bey (“PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA”) again, alongside another high-profile R&B artist, Babyface, for his collaboration with Ella Mai, “Keeps on Fallin’” (Capitol). Rounding out the group is Artium/Roc Nation’s Snoh Aalegra with “DO 4 LOVE” and EMPIRE artist Adam Blackstone’s collab with Jazmine Sullivan, “’Round Midnight.” Traditional or not, Bey would seem to have the mojo here.

Best Progressive R&B Album is where you can find RCA phenom Steve Lacy, who gets a nod for Gemini Rights. Though his smash from the set, “Bad Habit,” didn’t get a nod in the R&B field. It’s in Pop Solo Performance and biggies Record and Song of the Year. Lacy, the youngest nominee in this group, is up against previously nominated acts Terrace Martin and Cory Henry, and Tank and The Bangas and Moonchild. It’s hard to imagine anything else being deemed more “progressive” than Lacy, for whatever that’s worth.

Previous Best R&B Album nominees Robert Glasper, Lucky Daye and PJ Morton get the nod again this year, as they take on Blige’s Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe) and Chris Brown’s Breezy (Deluxe). Since 2018, Morton has received three nominations for this award without a victory. Could his association with 2022 AOTY winner Jon Batiste give him an edge this time?

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