Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
British popstar Dua Lipa just won Best New Artist at the 61st GRAMMY Awards. It is her second win of the night, after "Electricity" won Best Dance Recording, her track with Silk City aka Diplo and Mark Ronson.
"I want to say thank you to my fans who have allowed me to be the best version of myself," Lipa said in her speech.
23-year-old Lipa was born in London to Albanian parents. Her viral hit "New Rules," from her 2017 self-titled debut album, with its catchy and empowering lyrics put her firmly on the pop culture map.
Photo: Sue Kwon
California native singer/songwriter H.E.R. may just be 21, but her honest and thoughtful approach to R&B, with personal lyrics and '90s throwback slow-jam beats, reveal an old soul. Her smooth yet powerful voice offers insights on love and identity with vulnerability and plenty of straight-up feelings.
While her music is communicative, and even her moniker is an acronym for "Having Everything Revealed," the rising star still operates with an air of mystery. She has chosen to reveal minimal details about herself and, always pictured behind large sunglasses, seems to ask us to focus on her music first.
We recently caught up with the talented multi-instrumentalist, who, as a first-time nominee, is up for five awards at the 61st GRAMMY Awards. (In addition to being nominated for the all-genre Best New Artist and Album Of The Year categories, she is also up for Best R&B Song, Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Album. H.E.R., the album in consideration, is a release combining her two EPs plus B-sides—she has yet to release a debut LP.)
During our conversation, H.E.R. told us how grateful she is for all she's achieved thus far, growing up in a musical household, the importance of keeping "real people" around you and what we can expect to hear on her forthcoming debut album.
"I didn't think I would get this far so soon, so I'm focusing on elevation and really dreaming bigger."
How did you first learn about your first GRAMMY nomination? When you found out you were up for five awards, what was your initial reaction?
Oh my god! There were a lot of tears. I was with my tour squad; we had all just woken up early after a show. I was actually really sick, and kind of sad and down the day before. My manager gave us the news and it changed my entire mood and attitude. It made my day. I immediately called my mom, dad and sister. I was on cloud nine.
Your five nominations include Best New Artist, along with Album of the Year and Best R&B Album. What does that recognition mean to you?
It feels like I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. It's so easy to question your art, even to question what you're doing, to question the path that you're on. But this is such confirmation for me; "you're exactly where you need to be, you're doing all the right things." It just feels amazing, it feels like I found my objective and I'm fulfilling it. I'm so blessed.
Was there a moment when you were younger that made you want to make music? Were there other artists you admired that made you want to make R&B?
Music was something that was a given for me, like out of the womb. At parties I was always the center of attention, singing and dancing and playing instruments. I never made that decision of "I'm going to do music." My dad had a band that would rehearse in our living room, so all the instruments were in there and I gravitated towards them at a super-young age.
My mom would try to find talent shows and festivals for me to be in around the Bay Area, even when I was only seven or eight years old, because she knew I loved to do it. It was never a career goal or what I was planning on doing as soon as I graduated high school. I just did it. It came super naturally to me.
One artist I really respect is Alicia Keys. Because she plays piano and sings, and because I love instruments so much, she definitely paved the way for a young black musician and young black woman like me who wants to play instruments and find my voice in the industry. She played a big role.
I never really thought about the idea of being an R&B artist. R&B is kind of the core of everything, rhythm and blues. I grew up listening to a lot of soul and blues, so those influences shine through me. When I started making my first project, H.E.R. Vol. 1, it was so honest. It has a '90s R&B influence, but you could feel the soul reflecting my background and where I came from.
"Focus" is one of your songs up for a GRAMMY; the lyrics feel very personal and are really relatable. Can you talk about what that song means to you and how you think the honesty in your music helps you connect with fans?
My music is my diary. When I'm writing a song it's what I feel in that moment. With "Focus," I was afraid to leave it on my first project because it was so personal for me, it's so vulnerable. I was really young when I wrote it and was just feeling like, "put your phone down, pay attention to me." It's crazy how it's gone deeper and resonated with so many women; women who are even five and ten years into marriage, and able to relate that small feeling I felt then.
What's your favorite part of being an artist?
I don't know if I have a favorite part of being an artist. I do love being onstage and performing with my band. I also love rehearsing with them and creating the show, that's always a fun part. But there's also nothing like being in the studio and being able to get back to myself and get back to my feelings. The studio is the place for me to really confront my feelings and get it all out. I love being in that space and creating, doing what I love, making art.
Outside of music, how do you feel the success you've experienced in this past year has influenced or changed who you are?
I've learned a lot about myself through my music and the way people perceive it, and the goal is for the success not to change me. I feel like the same person I was when I released it, I've just grown. The success has definitely taught me a lot about keeping real people around you, and about purpose. It's taught me about the people and the things that you really need you to ensure success, and how important it is to keep those things around you and block out anything else, and about being positive.
Also, seeing the world has given me a better perspective on life. The fact that I can travel around the world doing what I love is such a blessing. I've learned that traveling is such an important thing; there's so many beautiful things out there and we get worried about such little things.
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What are you most looking forward to about the GRAMMYs? How will you celebrate if you win?
It's going to be like a movie. The fact that I'm nominated for five [awards] is just, wow. And the fact that people are going to really see me, because as you know I haven't revealed too much of myself. It's going to be my first red carpet!
After the GRAMMYs, I just want be with the ones I love and to reminisce. I love to think about memories and all the things that got me up to this point, so that would be celebratory, looking at old videos and old pictures of where I came from.
Read More: Something About Her: The Mystery Of H.E.R.
What's on the horizon for H.E.R.—can we expect new music this year?
Absolutely. I'm going to release a debut album, which I'm excited about. It's crazy because my project that's nominated for Album Of The Year is the combination of my two EPs. So there will be the new album and I'll be touring more. Also, I'm starting a foundation called Bringing The Noise to help bring music back into schools that have lost their music programs. I'm really excited that I'm now in a position to be able to help people.
There's so much happening this year, I couldn't even tell you. Like performing at Coachella! I didn't think I would get this far so soon, so I'm focusing on elevation and really dreaming bigger.
How many albums are in your record collection? You see, confusion between the terms "album" and "record" are nothing new, as vinyl albums and vinyl records are often called “records”—but this terminology has roots in the history of both.
In the early days of vinyl, a 45-rpm (meaning "revolutions per minute") disc would hold one recording on each side, with an "A-side” —usually the hit single—and a "B-side," meaning a second single, outtake or sleeper hit.
Later, when long-playing records came around at 33 1/3-rpm, more music could be stored on each side because the rotation speed was slower, and "tracks" were born. A series of recorded songs, or tracks, could now fit on a single vinyl and make it an album.
Makes sense? Good! Now let's see how this applies to two GRAMMY Award categories in the General Field: Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year…
Fast-forward to today, when music is enjoyed in a multitude of formats: So, what makes an album eligible for the Album Of The Year category of the GRAMMY Awards? According the Recording Academy official Awards Department guidelines, recordings must contain at least five different tracks and a total playing time of 15 minutes or a total playing time of at least 30 minutes with no minimum track requirement.
Voters in this category are expected to consider the quality and artistry of the collection of tracks as a whole, and this GRAMMY is awarded to any artist, featured artist, songwriter of new material, producer, recording engineer, mixer, and mastering engineer with at least 33 percent playing time of the album. For example, last year at the 60th GRAMMY Awards, Bruno Mars' 24K Magic won Album Of The Year.
On the other hand, the Record Of The Year category awards a single track and recognizes the artist’s performance as well as the overall contributions of the producer(s), recording engineer(s), and/or mixer(s), and mastering engineer(s). Bonus points if you read up on how this category is distinguished from Song Of The Year (hint: Song Of The Year is a Songwriter(s) Award…).
For example, at the 59th GRAMMY Awards, Adele's mega-hit "Hello" won Record Of The Year. Her album 25 also won Album Of The Year, but "Hello," being an individual track on that album, was eligible and victorious for Record Of The Year.
In both cases, with Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year, recordings must be released in the proper eligibility period and available to the public as stand-alone purchases or audio-only streams, although exceptions are made for opera and music video/film.
For further information on the contrast between these formats, the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame is filled with both, clearly labeled. For more helpful information on the GRAMMY Awards process, including key dates, a process overview and FAQs, head over to GRAMMY101.com.
Amy Winehouse Best New Artist winner for 2007 | Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Each year the selection of GRAMMY nominees is the result of careful consideration and voting by Recording Academy members, who must both follow hard-and-fast rules as well as exercise their expert musical judgement. The Best New Artist category highlights newcomers — whether a solo artist, duo or group — but since "new" is a relative term, let's take a closer look at how making the cut is determined.
First of all, eligible artists must have achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and impacted the musical landscape during the year's eligibility period. This speaks to the essence of why Best New Artist is one of the most-anticipated categories each year, honoring exciting new talent in the music world. But sometimes rising stars take a while to reach this point, so numerical limits also help define the criteria for being "new" in this category.
— Recording Academy / GRAMMYs (@RecordingAcad) January 29, 2018
The first numerical rule boils eligibility down to the number of an artist's releases. The minimum required is five singles or tracks or a complete album. The maximum is either three albums or a total of 30 singles or tracks previously released. Having more than this number of releases results in being ineligible even when an artist breaks through into public consciousness and impacts the musical landscape in a given eligibility period.
However, even if this numerical release criterion is met, an artist may still be deemed ineligible if the artist achieved previous prominence, meaning the artist came into prominence prior to the current eligibility year.
Another numerical limit is that an artist cannot have been considered more than three times previously for Best New Artist. This also applies to solo artists who emerge from having performed as a member in previous groups. That's right, being previously considered three times either as a solo artist, in a previous band, or some mixture of the two means an artist is not eligible for Best New Artist consideration.
For more valuable and illuminating information on all things GRAMMY Awards process, head over to GRAMMY101.com, or reach out to the Awards Help Desk at 877.637.6816, and don't forget to tune in Feb. 10.