Jhene Aiko, Beyonce, Chloe x Halle & H.E.R. Lead Mixed Bag of R&B Grammy Nominations

In a strong year for R&B, seeing Jhené Aiko’s Chilombo among the eight album of the year nominees announced Tuesday (Nov. 24) for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards was indeed gratifying. Just as it was to also see Doja Cat earn marquee category nods for best new artist and record of the year (“Say So”) alongside Grammy veteran Beyoncé for “Black Parade” and her featured role on Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage.” And H.E.R. recognized under song of the year for the activist track “I Can’t Breathe” and Queen Bey once more for her celebratory “Black Parade.”

Segueing over to the R&B categories, however, reveals a mixed bag of nominations that encompasses major and indie label artists, unexpected pop-ups and enduring faves that will please R&B fans on the one hand. At the same time, it will no doubt leave them scratching their heads with the other as they ponder what’s going on.

Most striking are the artists who didn’t receive any nods in the field — and those who did. The first group features R&B’s other leading ladies of 2019-2020: Summer Walker (who also didn’t receive an expected best new artist nod), Kehlani, Teyana Taylor and Jessie Reyez, who gained her first Grammy nomination for best urban contemporary album last year for Being Human in Public. Other possible contenders not in the race this time include indie favorite Brent Faiyaz, PartyNextDoor with his “Believe It” featuring Rihanna and emerging artist Snoh Alegra. Still other genre fans may have expected nods for vets such as Kem, whose single “Lie to Me” and album Love Always Wins was heartily embraced by fans after his six-year hiatus. Or Toni Braxton, Alicia Keys and perhaps Usher, who stepped back to the forefront with “Don’t Waste My Time” featuring Ella Mai and his guest turn on Walker’s “Come Thru.”

Among the surprising names turning up in the five R&B categories is that of Quincy Jones protégé and Grammy-winning musician Jacob Collier. He’s nominated for best R&B performance for “All I Need” featuring Mahalia and Ty Dolla $ign from Collier’s Djesse Vol. 3; also an album of the year nominee, Collier’s set fuses elements of R&B, house, funk and pop. Also surfacing in that category are two more unexpected nominees: Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard (nominated in rock and American roots categories too) and singer-songwriter Emily King, nominated back in 2007 for best urban contemporary album.

There’s still also plenty to celebrate in the R&B field, however. Beyoncé’s empowering “Black Parade” earned nods for best R&B song and best R&B performance. Queen B is vying against her mentees Chloe x Halle (“Do It”) in best R&B song, while the sibling duo’s “Wonder What She Thinks of Me” is a best traditional R&B performance contender. As is Ledisi’s “Anything for You,” the singer’s first No. 1 R&B song and Yebba’s “Distance.” The latter artist won her first Grammy in this category in 2019 alongside PJ Morton for “How Deep Is Your Love.”

R&B star H.E.R. is competing against herself in the best R&B song category: for her guest turns on Robert Glasper’s “Better Than I Imagine” and Skip Marley’s “Slow Down,” the reggae star’s first No. 1 R&B song. U.K. artist Tiana Major9, another promising R&B singer, got her first Grammy nod with best R&B song nominee “Collide,” featuring EarthGang, from the Queen & Slim soundtrack. Fast-tracking newcomer Giveon picked up his first Grammy nomination as well for best R&B album with Take Time. That category includes veteran John Legend’s Bigger Love, singer/actor Luke James’ To Feel Love/d, Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Gregory Porter’s All Rise and indie artist Ant Clemons’ debut album Happy 2 Be Here. Clemons’ résumé includes songwriting credits and features with Beyoncé, SZA, Timbaland and Kanye West.

The 63rd annual Grammy Awards also marks the debut of the best progressive album category, formerly known as best urban contemporary album. The nominated albums christening the renamed category include Aiko’s Chilombo, Chloe x Halle’s Ungodly Hour, the self-titled album by Anderson .Paak’s band Free Nationals, Glasper’s F*ck Yo Feelings and Thunder Cat’s It Is What It Is. Announced by the Recording Academy in June, the redefined category “is intended to highlight albums that include the more progressive elements of R&B and may include samples and elements of hip-hop, rap, dance and electronic music. It may also incorporate production elements found in pop, euro-pop, country, rock, folk and alternative.”

5 Things to Know About Jacob Collier, 2021 Grammy Album of the Year Nominee

Jacob Collier’s name stood apart from the field in the 2021 Grammy album of the year nominees when they were announced Tuesday (Nov. 24).

His album Djesse Vol. 3 landed in the prestigious Big Four category — alongside Jhené Aiko, Black Pumas, Coldplay, Haim, Dua Lipa, Post Malone and Taylor Swift  — while the 26-year-old also snagged nods for best R&B performance (“All I Need,” featuring Mahalia and Ty Dolla $ign) and best arrangement, instruments and vocals (“He Won’t Hold You,” featuring Rapsody).

The London-based artist of British and Chinese descent experienced an unorthodox route to success in the music business, despite gaining international fame from YouTube covers, similar to his fellow Grammy nominees Justin Bieber and Chloe x Halle.

Below, find five fascinating facts about the Grammy-winning jazz prodigy.

He already has four Grammy Awards to his name

Collier has won all four Grammys he’s been nominated for in recent years, snagging two awards in the same two categories: best arrangement, instrumental or a cappella (“You and I” in 2017 and “Moon River” in 2020) and best arrangement, instruments and vocals (“Flinstones” in 2017 and “All Night Long” in 2020).

Collier is a self-proclaimed autodidact who taught himself how to play multiple instruments while creating his own

At just 4 years old, Collier sat in on his mother’s violin lessons at their home before abandoning her indirect instruction to begin experimenting with other instruments, according to a 2016 interview with The Guardian. At 7, he began producing music using computer software. In his teens, he taught himself to play piano, double bass and drums and enrolled at age 18 in the Royal Academy of Music in London, where his mother teaches, to study jazz piano, before dropping out two years later. In 2015, he partnered with Ben Bloomberg, a sound engineer at MIT Media Lab in Boston, to design the “Harmonizer,” his own instrument that enables him to sing multi-layered harmonies in real-time.

“The thing with music education is that it is good at teaching technique, but not texture. You only learn about that from listening to music and experimenting on your own. For me, it’s about feeling an instrument,” he told The Guardian. “It’s a backwards way of doing it; most people start learning an instrument, and their playing is governed by their technique. But, for me, I knew what sounds and grooves I wanted to create, I just had to find out ways to achieve them.”

He came to fame by posting multi-screen covers on YouTube of Stevie WonderMichael Jackson and more 

Collier perfected the one-man-band concept (and gave harmonizing apps a run for their money) with his YouTube covers. The then-17-year-old prodigy single-handedly arranged, recorded, produced and performed jazz and soul classics, such as Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing” and Jackson’s “PYT,” in a multi-screen display that synched each of his harmonies and instruments together.

Musical legends like Quincy Jones and Herbie Hancock have already given him their stamp of approval

After the legendary producer caught wind of his 2013 cover of “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” Jones signed Collier to his management company Qwest in 2014. He later introduced him to modern musical icon and pianist Hancock at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. In a 2016 interview with Front Row Live Ent, the 26-year-old musician spoke about being under Jones’ tutelage and how he’s always “a phone call away for questions or stories.”

Collier performed with Hans Zimmer and Pharrell Williams at Coachella 2017

The young Londoner trekked to the desert in Indio, Calif., to perform “Freedom” alongside the iconic film composer and music producer onstage for a dream movie soundtrack experience. Zimmer told The Hollywood Reporter that Collier’s YouTube covers caught his attention, so he spontaneously invited him to join the show.

Connor Bvrns Releases Video for ‘Wreck My Night’

On Tuesday (Nov. 24), California record producer and DJ Connor Bvrns released a video visualizer for “Wreck My Night,” a follow-up to his debut single “Anthem,” released on Astralwerks in January 2020.

The new song “is the last track of the first chapter. This first chapter was music inspired by the EDM influences I grew up on. I’m incredibly proud of the way this record came out, and it’s a turning point for me creatively,” Bvrns tells Billboard.

The 19-year-old Bvrns brings a unique sonic perspective to music: At a very young age, he was diagnosed with a condition known as Central Auditory Processing Disorder, which affects how his brain processes and responds to sound and can make it difficult to process speech in noisy environments. He struggled with the disorder at a young age, but also learned to use it as an asset that set him apart and allowed him to distinguish between certain frequencies of sound that most people could not identify or hear. Bvrns also experiences a perceptual phenomenon called synesthesia, in which stimulation of one sensory category — in Bvrns’ case his hearing — leads to involuntary experiences in a second sensory category.

In Bvrns’ case, the second category is sight, allowing him to see and hear in color, aiding him in identifying pitch with great precision. Like others with synesthesia, Bvrns is believed to have perfect pitch, and his ability to see and hear music is present in “Wreck My Night”

“The most important part of this track is how the story changes through the production,” Bvrns says. “The hook and the verses give you two different perspectives of the song, like ‘night & day,’ that normally one wouldn’t hear together.”

Check out the video forWreck My Night below: