judThis year’s R&B categories boast two strange omissions-Alicia Keys and Mary J. Blige. Both are extraordinarily loved by Grammy voters, and yet they’re almost nowhere to be found. Instead, the NARAS folks are honoring soul music’s new guard, with multiple nominations for newcomer Jazmine Sullivan and relative newcomers Ne-Yo and Jennifer Hudson. Let’s see how the categories shake out.

Best Female R&B Vocal Performance: Me, Myself & I (Beyonce)/Heaven Sent (Keyshia Cole)/Spotlight (Jennifer Hudson)/Superwoman (Alicia Keys)/Need U Bad (Jazmine Sullivan)

Will Win: Jennifer Hudson

Should Win: Keyshia Cole

The obvious first question is “Why is Beyonce nominated for a song that’s over 5 years old?”. Apparently, it’s an audio track from a live DVD and Grammy saw fit to nominate her instead of Mary J. Blige or any of the other deserving females that could have potentially been up for this award. She won’t win anyway. The R&B category this year is going to be very kind to either Hudson or Sullivan I’m betting the sympathy factor works in J. Hud’s factor. However, Keyshia Cole deserves this simply for making me love a song by an artist I detest.

Best Male R&B Vocal Performance: You’re the Only One (Eric Benet)/Take You Down (Chris Brown)/Miss Independent (Ne-Yo)/Can’t Help But Wait (Trey Songz)/Here I Stand (Usher)

Will Win: Ne-Yo

Should Win: Usher

This is Ne-Yo’s year, point blank. Count on him to challenge Coldplay for most awards won tonight (although I think parity will be the name of the game this year). I don’t see anyone else getting this award. Usher has won three times in this category, but the fact that he has the strongest song in the bunch will be negated by the fact that his album was perceived as a flop.

Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group: Ribbon in the Sky (Boyz II Men)/Words (Anthony David feat. india.arie)/Stay With Me (By the Sea) (Al Green feat. John Legend)/I’m His Only Woman (Jennifer Hudson feat. Fantasia)/Never Give You Up (Raphael Saadiq feat. Stevie Wonder & CJ Hilton)

Will Win: Al Green feat. John Legend

Should Win: Raphael Saadiq feat. Stevie Wonder & CJ Hilton

The average music fan doesn’t even know that Boyz II Men is still around. It’s not 1994, so it’s doubtful they will win, which leaves the 4 collaborations. Raphael Saadiq and india.arie both have a history of getting Susan Lucci’ed at the Grammys, so that leaves J. Hud and Fantasia (who can sneak in and nab this one, and the beautiful Al Green/John Legend duet, which will probably snag the prize.

Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance: A Change is Gonna Come (Wayne Brady)/You Got the Love I Need (Al Green feat. Anthony Hamilton)/Baby I Know (Linda Jones with Helen Bruner & Terry Jones)/Love That Girl (Raphael Saadiq)/In Love with Another Man (Jazmine Sullivan)

Will Win: Al Green feat. Anthony Hamilton

Should Win: Al Green feat. Anthony Hamilton

Linda Jones has been deceased for over thirty-five years. The younger contingent of voters isn’t going to know who she is. Hell, the OLDER contingent of voters won’t know who she is. Wayne Brady, despite being totally qualified to win this award, isn’t as well known as a musician as he is a TV personality. If Jazmine Sullivan gets on a roll, she might get this one, but the save bet is Rev. Al, the Ladies’ Pal. And it would give Anthony Hamilton a well-deserved first Grammy! Sweet!

Best Urban/Alternative Performance: Say Goodbye to Love (Kenna)/Wanna Be (Maiysha)/Be OK (Chrisette Michele feat. will.i.am)/Many Moons (Janelle Monae)/Lovin’ You (Music) (Wayna feat. Kokayi)

Will Win: Chrisette Michele

Should Win: Kenna

Simply put, Grammy voters are going to vote for who they know. So unless Puffy gets everyone he knows to vote for Janelle Monae, the NARAS folks are gonna recognize will.i.am’s name and put a checkmark next to it. I personally would give Kenna the award, seeing as he singlehandedly redeems The Neptunes for half a decade of truly mediocre music.

Best R&B Song: Bust Your Windows (Jazmine Sullivan)/Customer (Raheem DeVaughn)/Heaven Sent (Keyshia Cole)/Miss Independent (Ne-Yo)/Spotlight (Jennifer Hudson)

Will Win: “Spotlight”

Should Win: “Customer”

One would think that with two nominations in this category (he also wrote “Spotlight”), Ne-Yo would cancel himself out, but for some reason my Spidey Sense tells me that won’t happen this time around. This is another category that I think Jazmine Sullivan has a chance at, especially if she gets on a roll, but this’ll probably end up another J. Hud sympathy vote although, considering she didn’t write the song, she won’t get an award.

Best R&B Album: Love & Life (Eric Benet)/Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA (Boyz II Men)/Lay it Down (Al Green)/Jennifer Hudson (Jennifer Hudson)/The Way I See It (Raphael Saadiq)

Will Win: Al Green

Should Win: Raphael Saadiq

I still don’t know the difference between an “R&B Album” and a “Contemporary R&B” album. Can someone help me out here? Grammy likes to bestow honors on artists late in their careers, so I think 2009 will be the year Al Green gets honored, not just for “Lay it Down”, which is a great album in its’ own right, but for making “Let’s Stay Together” and “I’m Still in Love with You” and all the 70s hits he wasn’t honored for initially.

Best Contemporary R&B Album: Growing Pains (Mary J. Blige)/Back of My Lac (J. Holiday)/First Love (Karina)/Year of the Gentleman (Ne-Yo)/Fearless (Jazmine Sullivan)

Will Win: Ne-Yo

Should Win: Ne-Yo

Who’s Karina and why is she nominated? Must investigate. Didn’t J. Holiday’s record come out two years ago? Anyway, there’s three solid nominees here, and even though I wanna say Mary J. might come up and spirit this one away, it’s Ne-Yo’s night. He wins again.

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration: American Boy (Estelle feat. Kanye West)/Low (Flo-rida feat. T-Pain)/Green Light (John Legend feat. Andre 3000)/Got Money (Lil Wayne feat. T-Pain)/Superstar (Lupe Fiasco feat. Matthew Santos)

Will Win: “American Boy”

Should Win: “Green Light”

I don’t know that the conservative bloc of Grammy voters is going to vote for Lil Wayne. Besides, he’s dragged down by the presence of T-Pain, whose two nominations will probably cancel one another out (not that it worked last year. I can’t believe T-Pain has a Grammy). Grammy loves Andre 3000 and John Legend, but Grammy loves Kanye even more, and “American Boy” was probably the most popular song of the 5 nominated. Plus, Estelle & Kanye are performing on the show. I think that’s the tipoff right there.