R&B is one of the biggest genres not only in music consumption but in the awards conversation. Artists like Beyoncé, Silk Sonic, Jazmine Sullivan, Jon Batiste, and H.E.R. have made a lot of noise due to their success at the Grammys, and it’s likely that one or two breakouts from this year will join their ranks. Let’s take a look at some buzzing names in R&B contention this year.
If you’re talking about R&B in 2023, you have to talk about SZA. The singer-songwriter has had a great year with the success of her sophomore album, “SOS.” It’s indisputably the frontrunner for Best Progressive R&B Album. There is, perhaps, a chance that the record could be moved to the pop field because it juggles many genres at once, but let’s assume it’s in R&B for now. As for the songs, while many might focus on “Kill Bill,” there is a chance that SZA’s team chooses to send that to the pop categories, especially now that it is a pop radio and Hot 100 number-one hit. Meanwhile, “Snooze” is a rising hit that was serviced to radio recently, and there’s also the urban radio hit “Shirt,” so SZA’s team could switch things up in the R&B field.
There are also a couple of major contenders that are making chart noise right now. Coco Jones’s “ICU” is shaping up to be one of the biggest R&B hits of the year and, more importantly, is one of the most traditional out of the likely contenders thus far. It’s hard to see R&B voters passing it up, at least with the way the competition looks as of now. There’s also what’s perhaps the second biggest hit of the year in R&B after “Kill Bill”: Metro Boomin, The Weeknd, and 21 Savage’s “Creepin’.” Now, “Creepin’” might not compete in R&B; like “Kill Bill,” it is as much a pop hit as it is an urban radio hit if not more. That said, if it is submitted to this field, you can expect it to be a frontrunner for Best R&B Performance.
A couple of previous nominees are looking to make a return to the Grammys. Daniel Caesar recently dropped his new album “Never Enough,” which features the hits “Let Me Go” and “Always.” There’s also Latin superstar Kali Uchis, whose “Red Moon in Venus” is one of the year’s most successful R&B releases. The album’s singles “Moonlight” and “I Wish You Roses” both charted on the Hot 100, and the album was critically acclaimed, earning an 84 on Metacritic.
There’s also supergroup Dinner Party — made up of Robert Glasper, Terrace Martin, 9th Wonder, and Kamasi Washington — with their debut full-length, “Enigmatic Society.” They were already Grammy-nominated two years ago for their self-titled EP, but lost to Lucky Daye. This year, though, there’s a lot of hype for the group, especially with Glasper always being a stealth Grammy favorite; just look at how he won Best R&B Album in 2023 despite it looking like a locked win for Album of the Year nominee “Good Morning Gorgeous” by Mary J. Blige. Finally, when it comes to Grammy royalty, you can’t count out Babyface, who was also nominated last year. This year he is eligible for his record “Girls Night Out,” featuring many prominent female artists in the R&B world.
Last but not least, you have to consider a few newer artists that have had good campaigning moments recently. Durand Bernarr, Joyce Wrice, and RAYE have all had semi-viral “Tiny Desk Performances,” and we know recording academy members love those. While Bernarr and Wrice are more easily categorized as R&B and will likely compete there with their records “Wanderlust” and “Motive,” respectively, RAYE might blur the lines between pop, R&B, and even hip-hop. As such, there’s a chance her acclaimed debut “My 21st Century Blues” goes into Best Progressive R&B Album, or it could go in Best Pop Vocal Album.
Time will tell the fate of some of these releases, especially with a few months left in the eligibility period for the field to be truly shaken up. In the meantime, the academy might very well save some time and engrave SZA’s name onto a few Grammys now. It’ll be a true shocker if she doesn’t finish this Grammy season with at least two more.
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