As time approaches for airing the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards, the R&B nominations have gaining new ground for being not only tried and true to tradition, but also not afraid to extend the boundaries of the R&B realm into both traditional and alternative styles. While the year, in my humble opinion, was fairly weak in the R&B sector, I am very glad to see that my trepidation was appeased by some really great nominations- even by some acts I was not familiar with.
Mainstays like Beyonce are surrounded by both independent and upstarting artists, like Melanie Fiona and Master P on one end and Maxwell, Anthony Hamilton, and Charlie Wilson on the other. A lot has been mentioned about Maxwell’s return to the airwaves, which makes him a strong contender in the R&B category. It’s also refreshing to see independent artists like Musiq Soulchild, India.Arie, Lalah Hathaway, and Ledisi as nominees. Acts which are relatively new in this sector- Master P, Melanie Fiona, and Jasmin Sullivan provide a balancing act between themselves and the seasoned nominees.
Although there seems to be a quite a bit of debate on the above nominations, discussions regarding the Traditional R&B category. Ann Nesby and Calvin Richardson have double nominations, but Beyonce and Anthony Hamilton are also nominees in this category, demonstrating their versatility, which makes those nominations interesting.
Although there are duplicate nominations in most of the categories, which can make the nominations appear to be somewhat concentrated on a core of artists, The Urban/Alternative stands out in it’s dedication to independent artists and concentrates not only on soul, but jazz as well, which makes it invigorating. India.Arie and Dobert Gnahorsa, who represent two nations, and Robert Glasper and Bilal, representing both the jazz consortium and the neo-soiul= vibe make this a very dynamic category. To put icing on the proverbial cake, Tonex, Eric Roberson and The Foreign Exhange make this category even more intriguing, in particular since they are very strong independent artists.
In retrospect, at the onset of 2009, it seemed that R&B would not have a very strong year. I’m very glad to say that my mind has been changed for the better. Hats off to 2009, and good luck to all the nominees.