In a strong year for R&B, seeing Jhené Aiko’s Chilombo among the eight album of the year nominees announced Tuesday (Nov. 24) for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards was indeed gratifying. Just as it was to also see Doja Cat earn marquee category nods for best new artist and record of the year (“Say So”) alongside Grammy veteran Beyoncé for “Black Parade” and her featured role on Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage.” And H.E.R. recognized under song of the year for the activist track “I Can’t Breathe” and Queen Bey once more for her celebratory “Black Parade."
Segueing over to the R&B categories, however, reveals a mixed bag of nominations that encompasses major and indie label artists, unexpected pop-ups and enduring faves that will please R&B fans on the one hand. At the same time, it will no doubt leave them scratching their heads with the other as they ponder what’s going on.
Most striking are the artists who didn’t receive any nods in the field -- and those who did. The first group features R&B’s other leading ladies of 2019-2020: Summer Walker (who also didn’t receive an expected best new artist nod), Kehlani, Teyana Taylor and Jessie Reyez, who gained her first Grammy nomination for best urban contemporary album last year for Being Human in Public. Other possible contenders not in the race this time include indie favorite Brent Faiyaz, PartyNextDoor with his “Believe It” featuring Rihanna and emerging artist Snoh Alegra. Still other genre fans may have expected nods for vets such as Kem, whose single “Lie to Me” and album Love Always Wins was heartily embraced by fans after his six-year hiatus. Or Toni Braxton, Alicia Keys and perhaps Usher, who stepped back to the forefront with “Don’t Waste My Time” featuring Ella Mai and his guest turn on Walker’s “Come Thru.”