Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Urbanite End of Year Awards (The Countdown) - R&B Artist of the Year

The other week, we gave you The Urbanite's definitive list of the best music and artists of 2011.  With only days away until the end of the year, and after much deliberation and last minute changes, the list has finally been made.  We'll be revealing the winners after the new year, but here is a look at the singers that just missed the cut and why in the R&B Artist of the Year category.

5. Bruno Mars

2011 was another good year for Peter Gene Hernandez.  Not only did he see his debut album Doo Wops and Hooligans, released towards the end of 2010, go platinum within months of it's release.  He also received two grammy nominations for the record, winning Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for Just The Way You Are, and embarked on a successful worldwide tour promoting the album.  Mars is now a household name across the globe and his songwriting and singing skills have been in hot demand throughout the year.  

Although his solo material is what has endeared him to so many people across the globe, it is through his many guest appearances and song-writing that has made him one of the best R&B artists of the year.  His chorus on Eminem and Royce 5'9's Lighters is typical Bruno Mars; soulful, lyrical and very, very catchy.  The fact that he appears on what could possibly be the biggest 'real hip-hop' album of the year is testament to his cross-genre appeal - he is equally comfortable singing a song with Travis McCoy than he is appearing on a track with the Detroit superstars. The same goes for his appearance on Mirror with Lil Wayne, as he sings to his reflection in the wall ("Through my rise and fall, you've been my only friend").  

It has got to the point now where a guest chorus from the Hawaiian born singer means instant hit.  He runs the risk of over saturation, but at the moment it is good to be Bruno Mars.  

4. Rihanna 

It seems like this is said every year, but it has been another successful 12 months for Rihanna.  Back in the day, successful artists would release an album and then wait for at least another two years before releasing any more material.  Not Riri.    After bringing out Rated R in 2009 (which let's not forget was a BIG album) she went one better in 2010 and dominated charts worldwide with a string of songs from Loud.  This year, we practically expected the the 23year old to release another record and she duly obliged. 

Which is the main reason as to why she has been one of the artists of the year.  She's had the papers talking and caused controversy with her outfit, lyrics, relationships and performances.  She completed  a sixth month worldwide tour that spanned two continents, various cities and endless travelling.  And she dropped a number one album.  There isn't really a female singer out there that works as hard.  

And to top it all off, Rihanna continues to produce great songs.  We Found Love is one of those that won't get old, despite the amount of times it is played on the radio.  And on Take Care she appears, alongside Drake, on what will certainly be a number one when it is eventually released (hopefully we'll get a better video this time, though).  

3. Chris Brown

Back in February 2009, we thought we saw the end of Chris Brown.  Charged with assaulting his then girlfriend, Rihanna, it looked like Brown's career was destined to end in disgrace and lost potential.  What happened next was a bit of a surprise, given the unforgiving nature of show-business, but Brown started to make a slow and steady comeback last year with the leak of Deuces, which became a hit instantly.  

But it was when he dropped F.A.M.E that everyone stood up and started to take notice of the Chris Brown revival, giving him his first number one album and top ten hits around the world.  It was like his personal troubles had inspired him to get back to his music as he showcased his ability to make both ballads and party songs with instant ease.  Beautiful People is a classic dance tune, whilst Look At Me Now had dancefloors packed all year.  

He didn't stay out of the papers much either, providing us with endless gossip.  Was he getting back with Rihanna?  Did he really trash a dressing room and smash windows overlooking Times Square?  A week wouldn't go by without a new Chris Brown story and we lapped it up.  

In terms of the music though, Brown is beginning to resemble Usher in his heyday.  Just look at his remarkable performance at the American Video Music Awards.  The dance moves on the Look At Me Now video were brilliant and his stage presence has improved.  Credit also for spreading love to the UK, featuring on Chipmunk's Champion and practically murdering him on his own track.  

If he manages to keep himself out of the papers, and the court, Chris Brown may have pulled off the biggest musical comeback this generation.  

2. Beyonce

The world of Beyonce Knowles got a whole lot bigger and a whole lot crazier in 2011 as she inked her name into R&B legend with a blistering headline performance at Glastonbury, another number one album and the announcement of her pregnancy.  She featured on one of the albums of the year in Watch The Throne and released a refined and mature fourth album later on in the year to critical acclaim.  At the moment it seems like everything the singer touches turns to gold, or platinum.  

Even people who do not like R&B like Beyonce.  How else would you explain the sheer adulation that she received when she went out on stage and addressed the fields of Glastonbury?  Why else would Rolling Stone magazine call her album one of the best of the year?  It is because her music is so contagious to all types of tastes and different kinds of people that she is so successful.  

And things are also not too bad when you are one half of the music power couple.  It says something about Beyonce when her reputation is as high as her husband's, and rightfully so since her talent rather than her marriage is her main strength.  

For example, although Run The World (Girls) leans heavily on the Major Lazer sample, Beyonce still brings a raw energy to the song and video that others may not be able to pull off.  Best I Never Had is also a classic 'song to the ex' and had girls across the country singing (praying) that they had "dodged a bullet".  

Beyonce also deserves credit for not being afraid to champion new talent.  Instead of working with her tried and trusted producers she chose to use The Dream on two of her biggest songs this year and also collaborated with the song-writer of the year, Frank Ocean, on the fantastic I Miss You.  

Although it was known prior to her performance at Glastonbury, Beyonce is a legendary diva who will go down in history as a great.  2011 just made a few more people aware.  

See all nominations here.  Results will be announced in the new year.  

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