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Don't Cry For Justin Bieber

If you didn’t know who Esperanza Spalding was before she won the New Artist Grammy this year, it’s okay. While she’s had a few records out, they were jazz records, and since most of the record buying/bootlegging public doesn’t buy/steal jazz, it’s understandable. Frankly, I’m surprised she got nominated at all. She’s an actual musician multi-tasking on vocals and killing on both counts. She writes her own stuff. She’s fine, young, and her resume exploded over the last year or so with key appearances, most notably a couple of gigs at the White House. She’s a musician’s musician, and loves straddling genres.

One of the funniest things about all of the noise that the media is making about her win (because they didn’t have shit to say about her nomination) is how much of a given they thought Justin Bieber was. You know, as if the other people in the category were scrubs. Mind you, I wasn’t invested in any of the other nominees except Spalding, but when you look at the candidates the Academy has at least continued its trend of being moderately interesting. That Bieber was nominated is probably a larger mystery than why Spalding won, except that the trend in recent years seems to be to pick a group of acts that most television audiences haven’t heard of that have merit and insert one largely suspect superstar, then give it to one of the merit acts anyway.

As a betting man, I wouldn’t have bet on Bieber anyway. Do you know how many times this award has gone to a woman? MOST of the time. Of the 48 times this award has been given out only 11 solo male acts have received it...just under 25% of the time. I’ve heard the theory that this category is largely used to help more deserving artists get a leg up in the industry for the one award they’re likely to even (or in some cases, ever) be nominated for. I won’t go that far, but I wouldn’t doubt that of the thousands of people who get to vote some of them didn’t think the same thing. It’s a big world out there.

The only genuinely fascinating thing about this award for me as a musicologist is who hasn’t received this award and what it’s meant to their careers. For an award you only get one shot at (as an individual anyway), it certainly hasn’t hurt the people who didn’t ultimately win the statue: Leontyne Price, Sonny & Cher, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Elton-fucking-John, Barry White, Elvis Costello, Luther Vandross, Terence Trent D’Arby, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, John Mayer…and those were of the people who were nominated. Of the nearly 250 acts that have been nominated, none of them were the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson or Prince. The long-rumored winner’s curse appears to be alive and well when you look at some of the winners’s careers versus the careers of the “losers” (who went on to sell millions of records anyway). Ultimately, even losing a Grammy means you get to change your rider for shows for as long as you can stay off the cocaine and remain relevant to an audience, but it also means you were thought highly enough of by your peers at some point to be nominated top of the class (regardless of what that might be based on).

Bieber is no Elton John or Luther Vandross - he is a flavor – but any way you slice it he’s set for life without this award if he doesn’t shoot himself in the foot. He’s the only one who seems to be handling any of this like an adult. Whoever his handlers are should get a raise. But anybody who feels sorry for Bieber needs professional help. He’s already a millionaire and he hasn’t even shaved yet, and if this is about him getting respect, try singing songs that aren’t disposable.



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 15th, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC)
You are so correct. But I think it's an age thing. Bieber is their hero and it hurts them when he gets, as they see it, 'dissed.
Feb. 15th, 2011 09:55 pm (UTC)
Bieber is quite the phenom. No getting around the fact that he's touched a nerve.
Feb. 15th, 2011 08:23 pm (UTC)
I work at a university-based performing arts centre, and we had looked at booking Esperanza Spalding for our upcoming season, but decided she didn't have a big enough profile to fill our hall. Man, that would have been a risky bet that paid off.
Feb. 15th, 2011 09:56 pm (UTC)
Man, that hurts!
I would have booked her anyway, but then it's not my money. I jus would have wanted to see her up close doing her thing.
Feb. 15th, 2011 10:03 pm (UTC)
Did you know her middle name is quesadilla?
Feb. 16th, 2011 01:41 pm (UTC)
Feb. 15th, 2011 10:53 pm (UTC)
*slow clap*
Feb. 16th, 2011 01:41 pm (UTC)
:) thankyewberymuch
Feb. 16th, 2011 03:29 am (UTC)
I just downloaded a couple Esperanza Spalding songs recently and LOVE them-I cant wait until I can afford the whole Chamber Music Society album lol for now its a couple songs at a time.
Feb. 16th, 2011 11:39 am (UTC)
I've reserved the Spalding, and am willing to wait.

Mumford & Sons got jobbed.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )