Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the third annual Popblerd Grammy Awards preview. This almost didn’t happen…after the nominees were announced a month or so ago, I felt a strange burst of apathy. However, I’m a glutton for punishment. So although I think these might be the least predictable Grammys in history, I’ll be predicting (obviously) and I will most likely be watching, as well.

The R&B and Rap categories are always interesting, and they’re even more interesting this year because of the complete absence of the three biggest “R&B” stars of 2013. Justin Timberlake and Robin Thicke are almost exclusively relegated to the pop categories, and Beyonce didn’t release anything during the period for which songs and albums were eligible. Next year, expect Beyonce to own shit (unless another huge release comes out.)

The songs and albums nominated this year are a mixed bag, and there’s no clear front runner. Even the rap categories, which feature the requisite number of superstars, are more difficult to predict this year. Kendrick Lamar is looking golden boy-ish, but pop/rap duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have as many nominations. Of course, we can’t forget about Grammy perennials like Jay Z, Kanye or Eminem, who all find themselves with nods.

This takes a little bit of a tighter thinking cap than usual. Let’s look into the crystal ball, shall we?

Best R&B Performance-

“Love & War”-Tamar Braxton

“Best Of Me”-Anthony Hamilton

“Nakamarra”-Hiatus Kaiyote feat. Q-Tip

“How Many Drinks?”-Miguel feat. Kendrick Lamar

“Something”-Snarky Puppy feat. Lalah Hathaway

WILL WIN: Miguel & Kendrick Lamar

SHOULD WIN: Anthony Hamilton

WINNER: Snarky Puppy (Really!)

A track from Miguel’s Kaleidoscope Dream album (honored last year) is again eligible because of a radio remix featuring it-rapper Kendrick Lamar. The fact that Miggy won an award last year, as well as the fact that his co-nominee is a multiple nominee, should be enough to put him over the edge. Tamar Braxton was last year’s surprise R&B success, so consider her a dark horse. For my money, though, Anthony Hamilton’s butter-smooth vocals are always a pleasure, and “Best Of Me” was one of the best tracks on his last album. Hamilton has not yet gotten his due, with only one Grammy to his name. I’d like to see him get more.

Best Traditional R&B Performance-

“Please Come Home”-Gary Clark Jr.

“Get It Right”-Fantasia

“Quiet Fire”-Maysa

“Hey Laura”-Gregory Porter

“Yesterday”-Ryan Shaw

WILL WIN: Gregory Porter

SHOULD WIN: Um…???

WINNER: Gary Clark Jr.

On the recommendation of my ace boon Jefito, I am giving the much-praised Gregory Porter album another chance. This category is super tough to call. Ryan Shaw and Maysa are pretty unknown (although Maysa has been a music industry mainstay for twenty years.) Gary Clark Jr. is a relative newcomer, but he’s garnered praise amongst the press for his melding of styles (true to that statement, he also finds himself nominated for Best Rock Song,) but I think I can safely say that this race is between Porter and the latest effort from “American Idol” alum (and one of four Grammy winners to emerge from the now-maligned show) Fantasia.

Best R&B Song:

“Best Of Me”-Anthony Hamilton & Jairus Mozee

“Love & War”-Tamar Braxton, Daryhl Camper Jr., LaShawn Daniels, Makeba Riddick

“Only One”-PJ Morton

“Pusher Love Girl”-Justin Timberlake, James Fauntleroy, Timothy Mosely & Jerome Harmon

“Without Me”-Fantasia Barrino, Missy Elliott, Al Sherrod Lambert, Kyle Stewart & Harmony Samuels

WILL WIN: “Pusher Love Girl”

SHOULD WIN: “Best Of Me”

WINNER: “Pusher Love Girl”

In case you don’t know who PJ Morton is, he’s the black guy in Maroon 5. His album is actually quite good. That said, he’s not winning any Grammys. The trophies typically go to the biggest names, and although not everyone considers Justin Timberlake an R&B artist (I’ll just say he blurs the lines,) his successful year combined with his somewhat shocking omissions from the major categories should garner him an easy win here. Even if it’s for an album track and not an actual single.

Best Contemporary R&B Album:

Love & War-Tamar Braxton

Side Effects Of You-Fantasia

One: In The Chamber-Salaam Remi

New York: A Love Story-Mack Wilds

Unapologetic-Rihanna

WILL WIN: Rihanna

SHOULD WIN: Salaam Remi

WINNER: Rihanna

Rihanna is less of an R&B artist than Justin Timberlake. I’m going to imagine that she’s only nominated here because her record company figured this was the category she had the greatest chance of being nominated in. Lo and behold, they were correct. Truthfully, Unapologetic isn’t a bad album, it’s just maybe in the wrong category (and if it was nominated for Best Pop Album, would be against MUCH stiffer comp.) It may be a digital only release, but Remi’s album is packed with startling guest turns from Stephen Marley (covering The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”) and Ne-Yo (performing a song that, if performed and released by him, would have brought Michael Jackson right back to the top of the charts.) He’s already an acclaimed producer and industry exec. Might as well give him a Grammy too.

Best R&B Album-

R&B Divas-Faith Evans

Girl On Fire-Alicia Keys

Love In The FutureJohn Legend

Better-Chrisette Michele

Three Kings-TGT

WILL WIN: John Legend

SHOULD WIN: John Legend

WINNER: Alicia Keys

Faith Evans’ albums haven’t been good enough to get nominated even at the peak of her career. It’s a small wonder that she finds herself nominated now for what’s essentially a reality show soundtrack. TGT is the D-league version of R&B supergroup LSG, and while Chrisette Michele briefly appeared to be separating herself from the pack of anonymous R&B women out there, she’s slipped back into the marginalia with her last couple of albums. This category will be won by one of two proven superstars: Alicia Keys or John Legend. Keys’ album not only sucked, but it feels like it came out forever ago. John Legend will take home yet another golden Gramophone.

Best Rap Performance-

“Started From The Bottom”-Drake

“Berserk”-Eminem

“Tom Ford”-Jay Z

“Swimming Pools (Drank)”-Kendrick Lamar

“Thrift Shop”-Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Wanz

WILL WIN: Macklemore

SHOULD WIN: Kendrick Lamar

WINNER: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Actually, this category could be won by any of the five nominees. The fact that “Thrift Shop” was a fucking phenomenon, though, may work in Macklemore & Andrew Ridgeley Ryan Lewis’ favor. For my money, “Thrift” was the second best of the five songs. I love Jay, like Drake and occasionally tolerate Eminem, but “Tom Ford”, “Started From The Bottom” and “Berserk” all sucked. Much as he did on Big Sean’s “Control,” Kendrick schools everyone in this category.

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration-

“Power Trip”-J. Cole feat. Miguel

“Part II (On The Run)”-Jay Z feat. Beyonce

“Holy Grail”-Jay Z feat. Justin Timberlake

“Now Or Never”-Kendrick Lamar feat. Mary J. Blige

“Remember You”-Wiz Khalifa feat. The Weeknd

WILL WIN: Jay & Justin

SHOULD WIN: J. Cole & Miguel

WINNER: Jay Z & Justin Timberlake

You can’t get two names bigger at this point than Jay Z & Justin Timberlake (although Jay Z and Beyonce obviously comes close.) This is the rare case in which multiple nominations by the same artist won’t cancel each other out. Also, why the hell is “Blurred Lines” not on here? Or are they only nominating rap songs containing sung passages as opposed to pop or R&B songs with rap sections? It’s so damn confusing. Anyway, the “Legends of The Summer” will win, but if I was the Grammy voting committee, I’d award the trophy to the confusingly otherwise nomination-less J. Cole.

Best Rap Song-

“Fuckin’ Problems”-Tauheed “2 Chainz” Epps, Aubrey Drake Graham, Kendrick Lamar, Rakim “ASAP Rocky” Mayers & Noah Shebib

“Holy Grail”-Shawn “JAY Z” Carter, Terius “The-Dream” Nash, J. Harmon, Timothy Mosley, Justin Timberlake, Kurt Cobain, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic & Ernest Wilson

“New Slaves”-Christopher “Frank Ocean”¬†Breaux, Ben Bronfman, Mike Dean, Noah Goldstein, Louis Johnson, Malik Jones, Sham Joseph, Elon Rutberg, Sakiya Sandifer, Travis Scott, Che “Rhymefest” Smith, Kanye West & Cydell Young

“Started From The Bottom”-W. Coleman, Aubrey Drake Graham, Noah Shebib & Bruno Sanfilippo

“Thrift Shop”-Ben Haggerty & Ryan Lewis

WILL WIN: “Thrift Shop”

SHOULD WIN: It took how many people to write “New Slaves?”

WINNER: “Thrift Shop”

Granted, I think some of the folks credited on “New Slaves” might have those credits due to those works being sampled, but based on knowing real names, I see at least four actual artists (Kanye, CyHi The Prince, Rhymefest & Frank Ocean) nominated…are they going to split the Grammy into 13 pieces? Will NARAS run out of trophies? Ah, never mind. It won’t win. “Holy Grail” stands a chance (if only for the insider chuckle of giving Dave Grohl a rap Grammy) but I think “Thrift Shop” wins this one.

Best Rap Album-

Nothing Was The Same-Drake

Magna Carta…Holy Grail-Jay Z

Good Kid…M.A.A.D. City-Kendrick Lamar

The Heist-Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Yeezus-Kanye West

WILL WIN: Kendrick Lamar

SHOULD WIN: Kendrick Lamar

WINNER: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Two newcomers against three artists who have already won in this very same category…innnnnnteresting! Also, Macklamar (I just came up with a new supergroup) are both nominated in the prestigious Album Of The Year category (which neither of them will win, but more on that later.) Kendrick legitimately made the best hip-hop album of the period, and I think in this case, voters will acknowledge talent over hits. Mr. Lamar, the Grammy is yours.

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