Grammys Celebrate the Changing Faces of Music in 2019
When Lizzo, Lil Nas X, and Billie Eilish account for a combined 20 Grammy Award nominations this year, it’s clear that a cultural and generational shift is happening in the music industry. The Recording Academy has become part of this shift, working to ensure gender parity on committees and broader diversity in its organization and in Grammy nominees.
The 62nd Grammy Awards Honour Merging Sounds and Genres
The 62nd Grammy Awards recognize the merging of sounds and genres in mainstream music. Some of the foremost examples were Lil Nas X’s smash country-trap crossover single “Old Town Road”, Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi’s Spanish album “Vida”, Nashville darling Yola Carter (the UK-born daughter of a Barbadian immigrant), and the folk/electronic blend of Maggie Rogers. As we approach the awards ceremony on January 26, Parvati Magazine features these new faces of the Grammys.
Lizzo 2019 was the year for Lizzo. Emerging from relative obscurity, the singer, rapper, songwriter and classically trained flutist is now leading the pack with eight nominations. Her songs were playing on commercials and topping the charts, while Lizzo herself was named Entertainer of the Year by Time Magazine. Her warm, joyful and exuberant beats are a springboard for utterly catchy messages of self-acceptance and encouragement. While Lizzo has been racking up positive reviews for her music since 2013, it was the combination of her 2017 song “Truth Hurts” being featured in last year’s film, “Someone Great”, and her latest album, “Cuz I Love You”, that rocketed her into the mainstream. Her nominations include Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist.
Lil Nas X In 2018, singer, songwriter, and rapper Lil Nas X was a college dropout living on his sister’s floor. But the following year, his single “Old Town Road” became an instant hit, making him one of the first artists to gain success through the video-sharing social network TikTok. “Old Town Road”’s unlikely pairing of hip-hop and country revolutionized North America’s country music scene. Then he changed the game even more when he became the first artist in history to come out while having a #1 record, and one of the few openly gay black male music stars, like Frank Ocean and Tyler the Creator. When “Old Town Road” was suddenly removed from the Billboard’s Hot Country Songs charts, to widespread outcry, for not being “country enough”, Billy Ray Cyrus recorded a remix with Lil Nas X and it shot to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. Remaining there for 19 weeks, it has become the longest-lasting #1 hit in history, edging out the previous record-holders “One Sweet Day”, the 1995 classic by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men, and “Despacito”, the 2017 hit by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber. Lil Nas X is nominated for six awards, including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Best New Artist, and Best Rap/Sung Performance.
Maggie Rogers Rogers got her big break in 2016 when, as a student at the NYU Clive Davis Institute, she joined a masterclass with Pharrell Williams. He was visibly moved by her song “Alaska” and said, “I’ve never heard anything like this before.” As a result, the song blew up online as her debut single. Her 2019 album “Heard it in a Past Life” spans tracks all the way back to that career changing-moment in 2016, as well as electronic pop and dance beats influenced by her time in the Berlin club music scene, her banjo-playing folk music roots, and pop rock. The leadoff track, “Leave the Light On”, speaks to her vulnerability and the pressures associated with her rise to fame, “Give a Little” addresses the world around her, inspired by the need for gun control and collective empathy. “Heard It in a Past Life” landed at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, and Rogers is nominated for Best Artist of the Year.
Yola Nothing could stop Yola Carter from chasing her dream to be a singer. Persevering through hardships that included homelessness and an abusive relationship, the UK singer, songwriter and musician made inroads like singing backup for Katy Perry and singing on EDM tracks, and being the frontwoman of the country and soul band Phantom Limb. After gaining financial security for her uncredited role on Duke Dumont’s EDM hit “Won’t Look Back”, Yola set her sights on Nashville. Her performances on a showcase tour there caught the attention of Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, and he invited her to work with him. Yola’s 2019 debut album, “Walk Through Fire”, produced by Auerbach, received critical acclaim and is nominated for four awards, including Best New Artist, Best Americana Album, Best American Roots Song, and Best American Roots Performance.
Luis Fonsi Luis Fonsi is one of the top artists in Latin America and a five-time Latin Grammy winner for his Spanish-language hits. While he released an English album in 2002, it was his 2017 single “Despacito” that made him a star in the English-speaking world. This multi-genre smash featuring Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber set seven Guinness World Records and is now part of his 2019 album “Vida”. With “Vida”, Fonsi reinvented his ballad and pop style by combining sounds such as Latin pop, Reggaeton and R&B. On his most recent tour, Fonsi found himself singing two-hour concerts in Spanish to enthusiastic crowds in Turkey, Latvia and Russia—a testament to the cross-cultural changes in the industry and the world. “Vida” is up for Best Latin Pop Album.
New albums to check out this month:
Selena Gomez, “Rare” (Interscope Records, January 10, 2020):
Selena describes her latest collection of pop, dance and Latin-inspired tracks as “the most honest music I’ve ever made.” Numerous producers had a hand in this album, including Kid Cudi and Billie Eilish’s brother and collaborator Finneas, who worked on her chart-topping ballad “Lose You to Love Me”.
Oh Wonder, “No One Else Can Wear Your Crown” (Island Records, February 7, 2020):
The third album indie-pop UK duo Anthony West and Josephine Vander Gucht gets its name from the lyrics of the leadoff track, “Dust”. Josephine commented, “The theme of the record… is don’t let anyone else tell you what to do… because you only have one life to live and it’s yours to live.”
Meghan Trainer, “Treaty Myself” (Epic Records, January 31, 2020):
Originally slated for release in 2018, this long-awaited album includes collaborations with Mike Sabath, Sasha Sloan and Lennon Stella. The leadoff single “Workin’ On It” shares a journey of self-acceptance in progress. Trainor says, “I get told how I’m a role model for positivity and confidence but the truth is… I’m working on believing the kind words and fully accepting and loving myself.”