PJ Morton has another chance to win his first Grammy. His most recent release, Gumbo Unplugged (Live), is one of the contenders for Best R&B Album at the 61st Annual Grammy Awards. The studio version of Gumbo received a nomination in the same category last year. This unprecedented accomplishment makes Morton the first artist in the 24-year history of this album category to have a live and studio album of the same material nominated.
“Wow, it’s only happened once? [This] feels amazing,” Morton tells Rated R&B, ahead of his 2019 Super Bowl halftime show performance with Maroon 5. “It really humbles me that people thought enough of those songs and performances to nominate it not once by twice. Makes me feel like I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.”
For those wondering how the Grammys made this determination, the answer is simple. An album that contains at least 51 percent or more playing time of a specialized genre can find itself receiving a nom more than once. Although the lyrical composition of Gumbo is the same for both the live and studio release, Morton and the vocals of featured performers are newly recorded. As a result, his nomination meets the basic Grammy guidelines.
This well-defined ruling goes far beyond albums. The same goes for tracks or singles. The Recording Academy defines a track as a recording featured on an album — not a separate entity. On the other hand, a single must be a commercially released recording, which is a separate entity and has been released for sale separately from the album.
In 2011, Beyoncé set the standard for this rare consideration after she earned a Best Female Pop Vocal Performance nomination for the live version of “Halo.” The grand ballad won the award a year prior; however, due to the newly recorded version from her I Am… Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas album, the recording had a second chance to be selected as the winning track.
Looking back at the history of Best R&B Album, Morton’s Gumbo Plugged (Live) isn’t the first live album to be nominated. Following her win in 1998 for Baduizm, Erykah Badu’s follow-up release, Live, scored a nom at the 41st Annual Grammy Awards in 1999. Seven years later, Alicia Keys’ Unplugged became the second live album to ever be nominated in this category. Though, it wasn’t until Lalah Hathaway’s eponymous live project in 2017 that an album containing live vocals and production won Best R&B Album.
Morton could be the second performer to have a live record win this award at this year’s Grammys. The versatile musician says that creating this live work served as a strong indication for him to trust his artist intuition. “I understand that deciding to stick to live instruments isn’t the popular thing to do in this current music culture,” he exclusively tells Rated R&B. “Taking that risk to remain who I am and being awarded for it by my peers would give me an ultimate sense of accomplishment and affirmation. I’d feel seen for sure [if I won].”
It’s Morton’s authenticity that could give him the upper hand and bring home the Grammy for Best R&B Album. On top of what could possibly be a hallmark moment in his storybook career, Morton has four other opportunities to walk away with the gold on Sunday. He received nominations for Best R&B Performance (“First Began”), Best Traditional R&B Performance (“How Deep is Your Love”) and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance (“Girls Like You”).
Check out the 61st Annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2019, at 8 p.m. EST / 5 p.m. PST to see if Morton takes home his very first Grammy.