By Arturo R. García
The reactions to Esperanza Spalding’s win for Best New Artist seemed to range from the one above to, “Well, at least it wasn’t The Bieb.” But the win was as weird as it was surprising, as the 26-year-old isn’t a rookie.
Spalding was nominated following her third album, Chamber Music Society, which was released in July 2010, and was eligible because, in the eyes of the powers that be, Chamber was the first recording “which establishes the public identity of that artist.” Besides her own work, Spalding is the bassist in the US5 Quintet, led by jazz stalwart Joe Lovano, a Grammy-winner in his own right.
Of course, Spalding’s been relying on more than her album to “establish her public identity.” At last year’s 2010 BET Awards, she held her own alongside Janelle Monae, Alicia Keys and Patti LaBelle in a tribute medley for Prince. Spalding comes in at the three-minute mark with an abbreviated take on “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” (According to People Magazine, Prince personally requested she take part.)
She also attracted some attention for her rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed” at a White House event; Spalding has subsequently collaborated with Wonder.
Of course, the Best New Artist award has been tagged as the “kiss of death” for many of its winners. But based on an interview with Spinner.com, it sounds like Spalding’s keeping a healthy sense of perspective for now:
“I like to work. I like music,” she explains. “The real issue is that the solo career is the odd man out in my life right now. I have much more experience playing bass for other bandleaders than leading my own gigs, and I love being a sideman just as much. That’s why I got into music. It wasn’t to become my own phenomenon; it was to play music with other people. So whomever wants to play with me, and I can, and I’m into it, and inspired? Then off I go.”
Cee-Lo Green showing up with some Muppet-ish creatures for his performance of “F(orget) You” was, much like the song, repackaged retro, as proven by the clip below.
(As an old-school fan of The Muppet Show, I must note: the Gwyneth thing? All Cee-Lo. And maybe some network execs. But I digress.)
Anybody else out there watch the show and care to chime in?