Award Season: Who is Esperanza Spalding?

So it’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas – it’s Award and Fashion Season! At the top of the year through the first quarter, all of the blood, sweat and tears of artists from various disciplines, is displayed and critiqued by the world – on runways and stages alike.

We had to catch our breaths between the Golden Globes (check out the red carpet post), the SAG Awards (which we chose not to cover), NY & Joburg Fashion Weeks (which we’ll review selectively), and the Grammy’s – which is usually pretty uneventful, but this year has created quit the buzz around fairness and  talent vs. popularity (or sales).

wearing Selma Karaca dress to the 53rd Grammy Awards

In case you have been under a rock, the main uproar came in response to the “Best New Artist” winner – Esperanza Spalding. If you are into music, attending, voting for, or watching the Grammy’s, you would certainly be familiar with the uber talented new musical sensation who has played with some of the biggest living artists of our time  (from Stevie Wonder to Prince), and who has continuously been invited to play before the US President, Barack Obama. But for some reason, the general public seemed to be shocked that a young black female artist who plays the stand-up bass like a genius while being able to sing and skat in the style of a late Ella, and write her own genre-less music, would be more worthy of an award than Justin Bieber?! Florence and The Machine was also a nominee (who we love), yet are rarely discussed in this rhetoric of “who the hell is Esperanza Spalding anyway?” For those who aren’t privy, below is one of many short videos done on her. This one was almost 3 years ago by a music company out of Brasil (who is clearly ahead of the US music scene).

This issue of who Esperanza is, and whether she deserved the award has been blowing up twitter and Facebook, and has sparked some great articles and commentary. One of my favorite articles was written by Patrick Jarenwattananon on NPR Jazz’s “A Blog Supreme.” Another interesting and rather comical reaction about the fairness of the Grammy’s in general came from a recent Open Letter from music mogul Steve Stout, where he “demands a change” in the selection process.

wearing jacket by Suno to 53rd Annual Grammy Awards press conference

At the end of the day, this is not a Susan Boyle situation. If the music industry is still concerned about going beyond content (read real talent), and pre-occupied with the full package of looking good, then you can’t deny this woman’s beauty and amazing style! In October of last year the NYT went shopping with her for some of her adorable vintage finds (clearly they knew about her and her style). Plus she also has the “rags to riches” story that they seem to eat up. Esperanza is a PR dream, but sorry if the masses didn’t get the memo!


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Filed under art, fashion, music

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