Best R&B Performance
“Boo’d Up” (Ella Mai), “Best Part” (Daniel Caesar, H.E.R.), “Love Lies” (Khalid, Normani)
As the field stands now, these three songs are the surest bets for a nomination. These three records make up the triad of the biggest R&B hits of the year. Ella Mai’s “Boo’d Up” was massive and her name will be all over the Grammy nominations. Daniel Caesar is already a two-time Grammy nominee and former nominee in this category (2018, “Get You”); H.E.R. will also be a major player come Nominations Day. Finally, Khalid snagged five nominations last year, so it’s clear the Academy likes him. It doesn’t hurt that “Love Lies” was a smash and Normani is making major waves in the industry in her own right.
“Feels Like Summer” (Childish Gambino), “I Like That” (Janelle Monáe), “SUMMER” (The Carters), “GTFO” (Mariah Carey), “Call Out My Name” (The Weeknd), “Beyond” (Leon Bridges)
Aside for the previous three songs, the race for the final two slots is wide open. Although “Summertime Magic” is the better song off of Gambino’s Summer Pack (read my review here), “Feels Like Summer” was the record he chose to submit. The song’s video went viral and Gambino will be all over the nominations with “This Is America.” Janelle Monáe garnered rapturous critical acclaim with Dirty Computer and “I Like That” is setting personal records on radio for her. The Carters, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, have gotten nominated for album tracks before and both are former winners in this category. Mariah Carey scored a lot of good will with “GTFO” (read my review here) and her Caution album (read my review here) is receiving very good reviews. Also, she’s been under-awarded in the past, so that could help her chances. Leon Bridges is a critics darling and a former nominee, “Beyond” could make waves here as well. Finally, “Call Out My Name” was not nearly as impactful as “Earned It,” The Weeknd’s 2016 winner in this category, but as a 3-time winner, he stands a decent shot.
“Sky Walker (Live)” (Miguel), “Come Over” (The Internet), “Chewing Gum” (Blood Orange, A$AP Rocky, Project Pat)
Miguel’s hit, “Sky Walker” was passed over for a nomination last year, but that was before the song truly became a success. Live version don’t normally fare well in this category, but anything is possible. The Internet scored rapturous acclaim with “Come Over” and Hive Mind, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see them nominated. They are also former nominees. Finally, if the Grammys are feeling particularly indie, “Chewing Gum” could sneak in.
Final Predictions: “Boo’d Up” (Ella Mai), “Love Lies” (Khalid, Normani), “Best Part” (Daniel Caesar, H.E.R.), “Feels Like Summer” (Childish Gambino), “I Like That” (Janelle Monáe)
ALT: “Call Out My Name” (The Weeknd) OR “Come Over” (The Internet)
Best R&B Song
This category and the previous one overlap often enough, that I won’t do a complete breakdown. Nevertheless, I will list a few other contenders who will have a stronger shot here (a songwriting category) or were solely submitted here.
“Forever Always” (Peter Cottontale, Chance the Rapper, Daniel Caesar, Rex Orange County, Madison Ryann Ward & Yebba); “Come Through and Chill” (Miguel, J. Cole, Salaam Remi); “Dark Side of the Moon” (Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj); “Morning Light” (Justin Timberlake, Alicia Keys); “Gonna Love Me” (Teyana Taylor); “Focus” (H.E.R.); “Doesn’t Matter” (Gallant); “Leave It Smokin'” (Tamia)
Final Predictions: “Boo’d Up” (Ella Mai), “Love Lies” (Khalid, Normani), “Focus” (H.E.R.), “Beyond” (Leon Bridges), “I Like That” (Janelle Monáe)
ALT: “Call Out My Name” (The Weeknd) OR “Doesn’t Matter” (Gallant)
Best Urban Contemporary Album
This category seems to be the easiest to predict. There are not many mainstream submissions this year, so barring any super-indie artists surprising us, here are my predictions:
Final Predictions: EVERYTHING IS LOVE (The Carters, my review), War & Leisure (Miguel, my review), Dirty Computer (Janelle Monáe), Negro Swan (Blood Orange), My Dear Melancholy, (The Weeknd, my review)
ALT: The Kids Are Alright (Chloe x Halle) OR East Atlanta Love Letter (6LACK)
Best R&B Album
This category is pretty random to predict. Usually a mix of veterans and explosive new artists, this category can normally go either way.
Good Thing (Leon Bridges) and Hive Mind (The Internet)
A two-time nominee, one of them in this category (2015, Coming Home), Leon Bridges earned high critical praise for his sophomore release. He seems poised for nominations across the R&B categories this year. With one former nomination in 2015 (Hive Mind, Best Urban Contemporary), I think The Internet can pull off a nom here. I named it one of the best albums of summer 2018, and the critics have lauded this album as well.
Sex and Cigarettes (Toni Braxton), H.E.R. (H.E.R.), Lost & Found (Jorja Smith), Good Man (Ne-Yo), Honestly (Lalah Hathaway), Gumbo (Unplugged) [PJ Morton]
Toni Braxton has all the hallmarks for a nomination in this category. Her critical reputation is in good standing, she has won 7 Grammys out of 11 nominations, and her new album was a great record. I named Sex and Cigarettes one of the best albums of the first half of 2018. With two nominations and one win in this category already, I would not be surprised to see her here. H.E.R. will be all over the nominations list as her home genre has enthusiastically embraced her and the critics love her. Her album also won Best Album at the Soul Train Awards not too long ago. Jorja Smith’s star has risen exponentially over the past year or two, so she stands a solid shot with her debut, Lost & Found. Ne-Yo has won the equivalent of this category (Best Contemporary R&B Album) twice before and was nominated a third time. Good Man made a minimal impact, but watch out for him. Lalah Hathway has won this category before (2016, Lalah Hathaway Live), and she has proven to be a Grammy force in recent years. She has won Best Traditional R&B Performance or Best R&B Performance four years in a row (2013-2016) and she has 5 wins out of 7 nominations. Finally, PJ Morton was nominated with Gumbo last year. He has yet to win a Grammy, but his chances are bolstered this year. Why? He is a member of Maroon 5 who are locks for at least two nominations with “Girls Like You (feat. Cardi B).”
Tru LP (Lloyd), Sum of My Music (Jussie Smollett), Passion Like Fire (Tamia), R.O.S.E. (Jessie J)
Lloyd has never been nominated for a Grammy, but his comeback album, Tru LP, was well received and one of the best R&B records this year. Jussie Smollett has also never been nominated, but his star power from his role on Empire may carry him through. A six-time nominee (one in this category: 2013, Beautiful Surprise), 90s and 00s songstress, Tamia, could pull through with a nomination for her latest record, Passion Like Fire. Finally, Jessie J’s R.O.S.E. (read my review here), was a surprisingly phenomenal record and definitely deserves attention and a nomination. She has been nominated once before for “Bang Bang” (2015, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance), but this could be the year she breaks through.
Final Predictions: Good Thing (Leon Bridges), Hive Mind (The Internet), Sex and Cigarettes (Toni Braxton), H.E.R. (H.E.R.), Honestly (Lalah Hathaway)
ALT: Passion Like Fire (Tamia) OR Good Man (Ne-Yo)