veterans and next-generation crooners go head to head

best contemporary r&b album

Chris Brown
LABEL: RCA Records
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Chris Brown, Tina Davis, Mark Pitts, Team Breezy
PRODUCERS: The Underdogs, Fuego, Andrew "Pop" Wansel, Danja, Harmony aka H-Money, the Messingers, Adonis, Kevin "K-Mac" McCall, the Runners, the Monarch, Polow Da Don, Jason "JP" Perry, Tha Bizness, Brian "BK" Kennedy, Dante Jones, Tommy Hitz, Boi-1da, Chris Brown, Benny & Alle Benassi, Free School, William Orbit, Jerome "JRoc" Harmon
ENGINEERS/MIXERS: John Hanes, Phil Seaford, Serban Ghenea, Jaycen Joshua, Manny Marroquin

Chris Brown earned his first Grammy last year: best R&B album for F.A.M.E. Reaching No. 1 on both the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts, follow-up Fortune percolates with R&B/hip-hop, pop, EDM and rock. The 14-track set includes the hits "Turn Up the Music," "Strip" featuring Kevin McCall and "Don't Wake Me Up," plus the top 10 R&B Songs hit "Don't Judge Me."

Kaleidoscope Dream
LABEL: Bystorm Entertainment/Black Ice/RCA Records
EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: Miguel Pimentel, Mark Pitts
PRODUCERS: Miguel, Happy Perez, Andrew "Pop" Wansel, Warren "Oak" Felder, Steve "Ace" Mostyn, Jerry "Wonda" Duplessis, Arden "Keyz" Altino, Salaam Remi, Phatboiz, Fisticuffs
ENGINEERS/MIXERS: Christian Plata, Rich Costey, Manny Marroquin, Chris Kasych, Eric Isip

Miguel comes adorned with five nominations. Other nods include best rap song for his co-write on Wale's "Lotus Flower Bomb" (on which Miguel is also featured) and a marquee nod for song of the year for "Adorn" -- also a best R&B song and best R&B performance nominee. The singer/songwriter/producer's sophomore set is an adventurous, multigenre blend touted as a standard-bearer for R&B's new renaissance. Debuting at No. 1 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, the album peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200.

Channel Orange
Frank Ocean
LABEL: Def Jam
PRODUCERS: Malay, Frank Ocean, Om'Mas Keith, Pharrell Williams
ENGINEERS/MIXERS: Calvin Bailif, Andrew Coleman, Jeff Ellis, Doug Fenske, Om'Mas Keith, Malay, Phillip Scott, Mark "Spike" Stent, Pat Thrall, Marcos Tovar, Vic Wainstein, Frank Ocean

Before the media hoopla, many ears had already tuned into Frank Ocean -- notably his Nostalgia, Ultra mixtape. Critical acclaim for his debut album-"arrestingly smooth"; "addictive and textured" -- left no doubt the revitalizing newcomer would be a Grammy fave. He arrives at the party with three additional Orange nods: album of the year, record of the year ("Thinkin Bout You") and best new artist. Plus two nods (best rap/sung collaboration and best short form music video) for his work on "No Church in the Wild" with Jay-Z and Kanye West.

best r&b song


FROM: Kaleidoscope Dream
SONGWRITER: Miguel Pimentel
PUBLISHER: Art Dealer Chic
LABEL: Bystorm Entertainment/Black Ice/RCA Records

Reaching No. 1 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, the vibrant lead single from Miguel's Grammy-nominated album gave fans a colorful portent of the creative fearlessness and intimacy that the singer/songwriter/producer sought to achieve on his sophomore outing. As he told Billboard earlier this year before Kaleidoscope Dream's release, "Somewhere along the way . . . the genre became a stereotype, and I've never been one for stereotypes." Miguel is also up for best R&B performance, vying against Estelle, Robert Glasper Experiment (featuring Ledisi), Luke James and Usher.

"Beautiful Surprise"

FROM: Beautiful Surprise
SONGWRITERS: Tamia Hill, Claude Kelly, Salaam Remi
PUBLISHERS: Plus 1 Publishing, Studiobeast Music/Warner Tamerlane Music/Linden Springfield/EMI Blackwood Music
LABEL: Plus 1 Music Group

After a six-year hiatus, Tamia soars triumphantly with not one but two nominations from the first release on her own label: best R&B song and best R&B album. The six-time Grammy nominee's same-titled album counts among its competitors the Robert Glasper Experiment, Anthony Hamilton, R. Kelly and Tyrese. "Beautiful Surprise" co-writer Salaam Remi (Amy Winehouse, Alicia Keys) is also up for producer of the year, non-classical.

"Heart Attack"
Trey Songz

FROM: Chapter V
SONGWRITERS: Benjamin Levin, Rico Love, Tremaine Neverson
PUBLISHERS: Matza Ball Music, Where Da Kasz At, EMI Foray Music, April's Boy Muzik, Warner/Chappell Music
LABEL: Songbook/Atlantic Records

One of R&B's young soldiers returns to the nominee circle with the first single from his fifth album -- and first Billboard 200 No. 1 -- Chapter V. Now gold-certified, aching break-up ballad "Heart Attack" peaked at No. 3 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. This marks Songz' third Grammy nomination, including best male R&B vocal performance ("Can't Help but Wait") in 2008 and best contemporary R&B album (Ready) in 2010.

"Pray For Me"
Anthony Hamilton

FROM: Back to Love
SONGWRITERS: Antonio Dixon, Kenny Edmonds, Anthony Hamilton, Patrick "jQue" Smith
PUBLISHERS: Tappy Whyte's Music/Songs of Universal/Faze 2 Music/Songs of Universal/Antonio Dixon's Muzik/EMI April Music, Christopher Matthew Music Publishing/Songs of Windswept Pacific
LABEL: RCA Records

After garnering some of the best reviews of his career for 2011's Back to Love, Anthony Hamilton, like Tamia, reaps double nominations: best R&B song and best R&B album. Gut-burning redemption track "Pray for Me" hit No. 1 for three weeks on Adult R&B. Also a six-time nominee, Hamilton won the statuette in 2009: best traditional R&B vocal performance for his featured role on Al Green's "You've Got the Love I Need."

Elle Varner

FROM: Perfectly Imperfect
SONGWRITERS: Darhyl "DJ" Camper, Elle Varner, Andrew "Pop" Wansel
PUBLISHERS: Ellevision Music, Sony/ATV Songs, Private Stock Entertainment, Songs of Universal, CampStar Music, EMI April
LABEL: MBK Entertainment/RCA Records

Thanks to the unlikely accompaniment of a country fiddle, newcomer Elle Varner set R&B tongues wagging with "Refill" -- and picked up her first Grammy nod. The infectious song, about an intoxicating guy, peaked at No. 10 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. Her debut album, Perfectly Imperfect, debuted and peaked at No. 2 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and No. 4 on the Billboard 200, turning the spotlight on another promising next-generation talent.