Women in Music 2016

Grammys 2015 Preview: The Lowdown on the Best R&B Song and Best Urban Contemporary Album Nominees

Robin Harper
Beyonce

BEST R&B SONG NOMINEES: THE LOWDOWN

"Drunk In Love"
Performers: Beyoncé Featuring Jay Z
Songwriters: Shawn Carter, Rasool Diaz, Noel Fisher, Jerome Harmon, Beyoncé Knowles, Timothy Mosley, Andre Eric Proctor, Brian Soko
Publishers: Andre Eric Proctor Publishing Designee, Brian Soko Publishing Designee, Carter Boys Music, EMI Blackwood Music Inc., If You Need Me Don't Leave Me, Jerome Harmon Productions, Oakland 13 Music, Ole Ole, Rasool Diaz Publishing Designee, The Order of Music Publishing, VB Rising Publishing, Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp., WB Music Corp.
From: Beyoncé
Label: Parkwood/Columbia

It's a more sensual Beyoncé who greets listeners on this steamy romp celebrating love -- and female sexuality -- with featured guest and husband Jay Z. Queen Bey sing-raps her way through ultra-sexy lyrics ("I get filthy when that liquor get into me") that redefine what it means to ride on a surfboard. Beyoncé also netted a best R&B performance nomination for "Drunk," which peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

"Good Kisser"
Performer: Usher
Songwriters: Ronald "Blip" Colson, Warren "Oak" Felder, Usher Raymond IV, Jameel Roberts, Terry "Tru" Sneed, Andrew "Pop" Wansel
Publishers: Crow's Tree Publishing, EMI April Music Inc., EMI UNART Catalog Inc., Gye Name Music LLC, Private Stock Entertainment LLC, Robert Bloom Publishing Designee, Sauce Like, Songs of Universal Inc., Sony/ATV Songs LLC, Sony/ATV Tunes LLC, Terry Sneed, UR-IV Music
From: Usher
Label: RCA Records
Usher dives into retro-R&B/funk territory on the lead single from his upcoming eighth studio album. Climbing to No. 17 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, this falsetto-aided ode to an especially talented friend also earned a nod for best R&B performance.

Billboard Cover: Usher on Getting Tough With Justin Bieber, Why He's Not Ready for a New Album and Life as a Single Dad

"New Flame"
Performers: Chris Brown Featuring Usher and Rick Ross
Songwriters: Eric Bellinger, Chris Brown, James Chambers, Malissa Hunter, Justin Booth Johnson, Mark Pitts, Usher Raymond IV, William Roberts, Maurice "Verse" Simmonds, Keith Thomas
Publishers: Songs of Universal Inc./Culture Beyond Ur Experience Publishing/Justin Booth Johnson, Keef Tha Beef, Maurice Nathan Simmonds Publishing/Bu Thiam Publishing/Universal Music Publishing, Eric B/Writing Camp Music/Sony-ATV Tunes LLC, 4 Blunts Lit at Once Publishing/First and Gold Publishing administered by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp./Sony-ATV Songs LLC, 6 Kolbert Drive/Sony-ATV Tunes LLC, Prescriptions Songs/Kobalt Songs Music Publishing, UR-IV Music/EMI April Music Inc.
From: X
Label: RCA Records

"New Flame" pairs two of R&B's biggest stars, as Chris Brown and Usher trade verses about finding love in a club, while rapper Rick Ross drops the play-by-play with sports metaphors. Also up for best R&B performance, "New Flame" peaked at No. 27 on the Hot 100 and No. 6 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.

"Options (Wolfjames Version)"
Performer: Luke James
Songwriters: Dominic Gordon, Brandon Hesson, William Roberts, Jamaica "Kahn-Cept" Smith
Publishers: Kahncept Music/BMG Platinum Songs/The Alliance Music Enterprises, God Bless This Melody/The Alliance Music Empire, Dominic Gordon Writetime Music/The Alliance Music Enterprises, 4 Blunts Lit at Once/EMI Blackwood
Label: Island Records

There's another version of "Options" that features Rick Ross, but it's Luke James' solo workout from his self-titled release that received the nomination. A Marvin Gaye-style crooner and gifted songwriter (credits include Britney Spears and Justin Bieber), James narrates the thoughts of a man faced with tough decisions on this reflective single. This isn't James' first brush with a Grammy: He was nominated for best R&B performance for "I Want You" in 2013.

Luke James Talks Self-Titled Album & Reminisces on 2013 Grammy Nomination

"The Worst"
Performer: Jhene Aiko
Songwriter: Jhene Aiko Chilombo
Publisher: Universal Music Corp.
From: Sail Out
Label: Def Jam Recordings

This alt-R&B slow jam -- the second single from Jhene Aiko's Grammy-nominated EP Sail Out -- peaked at No. 1 on the Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop airplay chart and No. 43 on the Hot 100. Aiko also received a nod for best rap/sung collaboration for her appearance on Common's "Black Majik."


BEST URBAN CONTEMPORARY ALBUM NOMINEES: THE LOWDOWN

Sail Out
Jhene Aiko
Executive Producers: No I.D., Ketrina "Taz" Askew
Producer: Fisticuffs
Engineers/Mixers: Fisticuffs, Jim Caruana, Christian Plata, Ryan Kaul, Derek "MixedByAli" Ali, Jaycen Joshua, Rob Kinelski, Maximilian Jaeger, Sam Martin, Donnie Scantz, Michael L. Thomas
Label: ARTium Records/Def Jam Recordings

After 10 years of lending her sultry voice to songs by B2K, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar and Drake, Jhene Aiko formally came into her own with this solo debut, an ethereal set of new-wave-R&B melodies and lyrical freestyles that includes breakthrough single "The Worst" (best R&B song nominee), "3:16am" (featured on VH1's Black Ink Crew) and "Bed Peace" with Childish Gambino.

Jhene Aiko, 'Souled Out': Track-by-Track Review

Beyoncé
Beyoncé
Executive Producer: Beyoncé Knowles
Producers: Ammo, Boots, Noel "Detail" Fisher, Jerome Harmon, Hit-Boy, Beyoncé Knowles, Terius "The Dream" Nash, Caroline Polachek, Rey Reel, Noah "40" Shebib, Ryan Tedder, Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, Key Wane, Pharrell Williams
Engineers/Mixers: Boots, Noel Cadastre, Noel "Gadget" Campbell, Rob Cohen, Andrew Coleman, Chris Godbey, Justin Hergett, James Krausse, Mike Larson, Jonathan Lee, Tony Maserati, Ann Mincieli, Caroline Polachek, Andrew Scheps, Bart Schoudel, Noah "40" Shebib, Ryan Tedder, Stuart White, Jordan "DJ Swivel" Young, Tom Coyne, Aya Merrill
Label: Parkwood/Columbia

On her most daring work to date -- Beyoncé tackles monogamy (best R&B song nominee "Drunk in Love"), self-empowerment ("Pretty Hurts"), feminism ("Flawless"), the joy of sex ("Partition") and motherhood ("Blue"). Guests include husband Jay Z, Frank Ocean, Drake and daughter Blue Ivy. Debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, Beyoncé has sold more than 2 million copies, according to Nielsen Music.

X
Chris Brown
Executive Producers: Mark Pitts, Chris Brown
Producers: Diplo, Danja, NicNac, Justin "Count Justice" Booth, Mel & Mus, Ambiance & Soundz, Dennis-Manuel Peters, Daniel Coriglie & Mario Bakovic, R. Kelly, Jean Baptiste, Free School, Darhyl "Hey DJ" Camper Jr., B.A.M., Roccstar, Glass John, Babydaddy, Razihel, Tommy "TBhits" Brown, Steven Franks
Engineers/Mixers: Brian Springer, Jaycen Joshua, Trehy Harris, Abel Garibaldi, Ian Mereness, Marcella "Ms. Lago" Aracia, Ryan Kaul, Natural, Maddox Chhim
Label: RCA Records

Chris Brown's sixth studio album, X, skillfully fuses R&B, hip-hop, EDM and pop and features the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 "Loyal" with Lil Wayne and Tyga. Among X's other guests: Usher, Rick Ross, Trey Songz, R. Kelly, Akon, Kendrick Lamar, Jhene Aiko and Brandy. X debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200.

Pharrell's Lawyer to YouTube: Remove Our Songs or Face $1B Lawsuit

Mali Is...
Mali Music
Executive Producers: Mark Pitts, Wayne Barrow
Producers: Jerry "Wonda" Duplessis, Arden "Keyz" Altino, Akene "The Champ" Dunkley & Olivier "Akos" Castelli, Kortney "Mali Music" Pollard, D'Mile, Andre Harris, Stephen McGregor
Engineers/Mixers: Koby Hass, Serge "Sergical" Tsai, Tyler Bunting, Sara Parks, Alex Pino, Travis Lovis, Kevin "Kev-O" Wilson, Manny Marroquin, Chris Galland, Delbert Bowers, John Kercy, Andrew Harris, Lance Powell, Kevin Teasley, Matthew Brownlie, Ray Brown, Kortney "Mali Music" Pollard
Label: Bystorm Entertainment/RCA Records

Mali Music's major-label debut may be a surprise choice, but longtime fans of the inspirational/­gospel scene can recall the excitement conjured by the singer-songwriter's first two independent albums. Signing to RCA in 2013, the soulful tenor racked up 1.8 million YouTube views with single "Beautiful" -- which debuted at No. 36 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart -- after performing the life-affirming anthem on American Idol last March.

G I R L
Pharrell Williams
Producer: Pharrell Williams
Engineers/Mixers: Leslie Braithwaite, Adrian Breakspear, Andrew Coleman, Jimmy Douglas, Hart Gunther, Mick Guzauski, Florian Lagatta, Mike Larson, Stephanie McNally, Alan Meyerson, Ann Mincieli, Kenta Yonesaka, Bob Ludwig
Label: I Am Other/Columbia Records

Pharrell Williams finds himself vying against Beyoncé in both the urban contemporary and the album of the year categories. G I R L, an eclectic mix of pop, R&B, funk and dance, follows his work on Daft Punk's Grammy-winning "Get Lucky" -- and the French robots also guest star on G I R L, along with Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus and Alicia Keys.

This story first appeared in the Dec. 26 issue of Billboard.