By Kathy Iandoli
There is always some shocking moment every year at the Grammys.
This year, it was Jazz artist Esperanza Spalding’s defeat of both Justin Bieber and Drake for the Best New Artist award. Spalding also beat two other nominees: Mumford & Sons, as well as UK band Florence and the Machine. While the multi-instrumentalist is far from a “new” artist, her organic buzz turned up a notch this past year.
“Honestly, I was surprised that she won. She is an amazing talent, but I did not think that as many people knew about her,” OP! DJ and organizer of New York’s I Love Vinyl series and Label Manager at Decon explains. “It is amazing to see that an artist who actually is a musician got the award.”
Spalding’s first album was 2006’s Junjo, followed by 2008’s Esperanza, both accompanied by other instrumentalists. Her solo debut arrived this past year with Chamber Music Society, the work that ultimately led to her taking home a Grammy. “The fact that the Grammy committee was hip to her this year, shows a visible shift in the music industry, where consumers are demanding more talent and real music,” Boyuan Gao, Editor-In-Chief of The Revivalist explains.
This win may come as a shock, but may be an indication of the shape of things to come for Spalding.
“I think it’s awesome that ten years after Alicia Keys won the Grammy for Best New Artist, Esperanza – an equal talent in measure and style – wins in the same category,” acknowledges Amy Andrieux, former Executive Editor of the Source and current Editor-In-Chief of the Stark Life. “And it doesn’t hurt that Prince is a huge fan.”
But what does this say in the midst of Bieber fever? Spalding has already received her fair share of threats from crazed Bieber fans and it hasn’t even been 24 hours since the ceremony aired.
“It would have been less than bold to go with Bieber considering that would have satisfied his minions,” Chuck Creekmur, CEO of AllHipHop.com explains. “I think Spalding was a gutsy move and really speaks volumes that the Grammys were about the quality of music, not a popularity contest.”
Not everyone shares that sentiment, though.
“You can’t tell me any new artist has reached the heights that Justin Bieber has in 2010,” Marisa Mendez, writer for In Flex We Trust, says. “I don’t want to take anything away from this woman. She is absolutely talented, but I feel like this award is supposed to be in recognition of outstanding achievements this year.”