With the GRAMMYs (I’m not mad. I just think it’s in all caps) coming up this Sunday I figured I’d give y’all something.
Originally I was going to list all of the categories I wanted to talk about, but I started rambling too much on this post and figured no one would read it.
Instead, I wanted to talk about this new category – Best Urban Contemporary Album – and why separating the albums nominated in this category from the R&B categories was a good or bad move by the committee.
Before I get any further, I must explain GRAMMY deadline. Oct. 1 of one year to Sept. 30 of the next year is the GRAMMY’s eligibility year. For example: for an artist to be nominated in the 55th annual GRAMMYs in 2013 their music must have either been released, or become “popular” (to a level that I did not feel like researching) between 10/1/2011 and 9/30/2012. That’s why albums like Drake’s Take Care (11/15/2011) is in this year’s awards, but Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city (10/22/2012) is not eligible until next year’s awards.
BEST URBAN CONTEMPORARY ALBUM
Chris Brown – Fortune
Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Now the name … “Urban Contemporary Album”. Hahahahahha… Now I’m not about to go in and dog the academy for titling a category “urban”. I actually want to applaud them for practically admitting that they don’t know how to categorize music made by or popular within black culture, but isn’t cut-and-dry black-and-white (yes pun intended – haha I had to) R&B or Hip Hop.
I blame Lady Gaga’s rise to fame in 2008. Well, blame seems harsh, but I don’t remember so many House/Dance/Techno/Electronic Dance Music (EDM) sounding records all over the place before her. Pitbull isn’t even a Hip Hop artist anymore (I thought “Give Me Everything” was 2011’s best song, so I’m not hating), and Gaga even turned Flo-Rida out when she let him hop on her debut album. Both of their debut album’s came out in ’08. Flo always had some pop appeal, but he switched up even more on his sophomore. Even Busta Rhymes and 50 Cent hopped on the shit.
Even though Chris Brown likes to refer to “Forever” (coincidentally released the same month as Gaga’s “Just Dance”) as his first jab (no pun) at the sound, he didn’t really hop back on the wave until 2010 with “Yeah 3x”. By then everyone had those records out, but he made some good ones for his F.A.M.E. album. And the funny part is, “Yeah 3x”, “Beautiful People”, “Turn Up The Music”…none were nearly as successful on the charts as “Forever” was. So if he would’ve stuck with it from the deluxe edition of his sophomore album, he wouldn’t look like such a poser.
But back to my point. Aside from Brown’s album, I’m applauding the academy for not placing the others in the Best R&B Album category with Anthony Hamilton and R. Kelly, which are indeed R&B albums. Brown, Ocean and Miguel do not have standard R&B albums.
When I talked to Miguel in 2011 he told me that his debut, All I Want Is You would be the last time he would sound like that…as in that’s the closest to R&B he’s going to get. And with Kaleidoscope Dream, he didn’t lie. He told me he loves Prince and Fred Mercury, and he always leaned towards sounding like them as opposed to an Usher or Trey Songz (who I’ll talk about in a second). But I’m still confused at how Miguel’s album is not exactly in an R&B category, but “Adorn” is nominated in “Best R&B Performance”?
And Frank Ocean has just…he’s never really been an R&B artist. Ever. Not even just his album, Channel Orange. Listen to The Lonny Breaux Collection. Mad old shit on there. Even the stuff he wrote for John Legend aren’t rhythmy or bluesy.
Basically what I’m saying is that it’s easy to place a black singer into the R&B categories, but (now more than ever) that’s not the case. And I’m glad that the academy finally noticed that.
And about Usher and Trey Songz before I finally end your misery and finish this post haha. Their albums were terrible. Songz actually wouldn’t be in this category (unless you want to say that his uptempo/Hip Hop sounding party anthems that he’s good for now a days isn’t black-and-white R&B, and I wouldn’t argue with you). By his third album, he just started…yuck. Of course he’s sprinkled in some good ones, but “Last Time” was the last time I really REALLY loved one of his songs.
And Usher…he’s a lot like Chris Brown in the way that he hopped on the EDM wave in 2010 to critical and mainstream success, but just blew it the second time around. “Climax” is one of the best records of the year, but Looking 4 Myself as a whole is just nah.
But I’m not mad they gave the nod to Chris Brown and not Usher because Brown’s “Sweet Love” and “2012” are two incredible songs as opposed Usher just having “Climax”.
Anyways….Miguel’s album was pretty decent. Nothing special, but good. Y’all already know how I think about Chris Brown’s album. So yeah, the album I talked the least about is who I think deserves this GRAMMY; Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange.
Back in the summer I didn’t do a post on this album because I loved it so much. I think it’s the best album of the year. Sonically, there’s nothing great about the production other than a few standouts like “Pyramids” and “Thinkin Bout You”, but he’s a superb songwriter. He has really evolved from everything he’s done on The Lonny Breaux Collection (much of it was blah), Nostalgia, ULTRA (good shit) and now. “Thinkin Bout You” was already a great song, but his letter admitting to his homosexual relationship made it even more personal. It helped me enjoy the album more. Knowing the story behind everything before hearing the album helped to make sense of songs like “Bad Religion”. Really good shit.
And above all else, I’m glad the academy did not put this album in the R&B category. And seeing that he has the most GRAMMY nods which includes Album Of The Year, it’s safe to say that he will win this category.
***Glad I got through this post without mentioning the Frank Ocean/Chris Brown feud… Oops