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GLASYS meets T-Pain: Why social media is the new A&R

GLASYS

Photo: Hunter Paye

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GLASYS meets T-Pain: Why social media is the new A&R

The connective power of the internet is breaking down barriers to new artist discovery and bringing GRAMMY-winning artists in ever closer contact with young talent on the edge of stardom

GRAMMYs/Jun 23, 2017 - 10:57 pm

The internet is a strange and fascinating place.

The likelihood of an encounter with a celebrity — especially an anonymous encounter — has become several orders of magnitude more likely for the average citizen. Furthermore, the opportunities offered by decentralized platforms such as YouTube and SoundCloud mean that the chances of a young artist's discovery by one of their idols have likewise increased immeasurably.

Take the case of Gil Assayas, a Portland, Ore.-based vocalist, producer and multi-instrumentalist. Performing under the stage name GLASYS since late 2016, Assayas has built a strong hometown following, earned endorsements and recognition from major instrument manufacturers such as Dave Smith Instruments and Nord Keyboards, and built a successful YouTube presence. 

After he was approached by software company Polyverse Music to create a demo video for a new vocal processor, Assayas posted the video to his YouTube channel, and then to the popular content aggregator site Reddit.com. Within 24 hours of posting the video, the top comment on Assayas' post was a word of praise from none other than two-time GRAMMY winner T-Pain.

 

"At first I was skeptical that it was really him, but other Reddit users confirmed it," says Assayas. "I was really excited by his comment. … You don't see many artists of his caliber browse a site like Reddit, respond to fans and share their posts on his social media accounts."

Assayas and T-Pain have continued to communicate via Twitter, with several other artists chiming to wish the young keyboard player well and praise his talents.

Assayas' experience adds to a growing list of young performers who have been discovered online or had their careers amplified through social media support by GRAMMY winners.

Atlanta-based R&B singers Chloe x Halle experienced a similarly life-changing moment in 2014 when their cover of Beyoncé's "Pretty Hurts" was shared by the 22-time GRAMMY winner via her Facebook page.

The young sisters' video quickly racked up some 12 million views, and less than a year later Beyoncé signed the duo to her new management company, Parkwood Entertainment. Since linking up with Queen Bey, Chloe x Halle have traveled the world as the opening act on the European leg of her Formation World Tour, released their debut EP, Sugar Symphony, and collaborated with Bey on her Best Urban Contemporary Album GRAMMY-winning LP, Lemonade.

Canada's Maria Aragon had her first brush with super-stardom at just 10 years old, when she posted a video of herself covering Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" to her sister's YouTube channel. The video was initially discovered by gossip blogger Perez Hilton, who sent it to the six-time GRAMMY winner and her team. After retweeting the video to her own massive fanbase, the Fame Monster further shocked the young singer by calling into a local radio show hosting Aragon for an interview.

After the two connected, Aragon was invited to join Gaga for several duet performances of "Born This Way," including the Toronto tour date of her 2011 Monster Ball Tour. Aragon was later signed to a major label and continues to release music.

Arguably one of the most famous social media-based talent discoveries has to be the 2010 blog post by GRAMMY winner Drake that helped launch the career of GRAMMY winner The Weeknd.

The original videos for "What You Need," "Loft Music" and "The Morning" that The Weeknd — aka Abel Makkonen Tesfaye — uploaded back in 2010 have since been taken down, but their impact remains.

After stumbling across three demo tracks The Weeknd uploaded to YouTube, Drake quickly posted all three to his OVO Blog with the simple preface, "Introducing The Weeknd."  Thereafter, Drake took to Twitter to promote the singer, and rumors began to swirl of a possible signing to the rapper's OVO Label.

Following their meeting, The Weekend contributed five songs as a writer or featured artist on Drake's multiplatinum and 2012 Best Rap Album GRAMMY-winning album Take Care. Thereafter, The Weekend made his presence further known as an internationally famous solo recording artist, winning two GRAMMYs at the 58th GRAMMY Awards for Best R&B Performance for "Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)" and Best Urban Contemporary Album for Beauty Behind The Madness.

Artists giving back: The Weeknd donates $100,000 to Uganda health center

So what do these stories of other artists' past successes mean for a performer like GLASYS? Only time will tell. If history is any indication, a chance online encounter with a supportive artist can easily be the spark that ignites a huge career when all parties involved are willing to go the distance.

Remix culture: The Hood Internet mashup historic hip-hop

A Timeline Of Beyoncé's GRAMMY Moments, From Her First Win With Destiny's Child to Making History With 'Renaissance'
(L-R): Beyoncé in 2004, 2008, 2013, 2017, 2021

Photos {L-R): Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images, Kevin Mazur/WireImage, Jason Merritt/Getty Images, Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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A Timeline Of Beyoncé's GRAMMY Moments, From Her First Win With Destiny's Child to Making History With 'Renaissance'

If Beyoncé wins four of the nine GRAMMYs she's nominated for at the 2023 GRAMMYs, she'll become the artist with the most GRAMMYs ever. Before the big night, take a look at her record-breaking 22-year history at the GRAMMY Awards.

GRAMMYs/Jan 31, 2023 - 04:00 pm

Two years after making GRAMMY history, Beyoncé could do it again at the 2023 GRAMMYs. She is currently tied with her husband, Jay-Z, for having the most nominations ever — 88 in total — and just four wins on Feb. 5 will make her the artist with the most GRAMMYs of all time.

While the 2023 GRAMMYs could potentially be her most memorable, Beyoncé has created an extensive history of GRAMMY moments. She has delivered epic live performances on her own and alongside icons like Prince and Tina Turner, and she's taken home six GRAMMYs in one night. And even if she doesn't win four awards on Feb. 5, Beyoncé already claims the title of most GRAMMYs won by a woman.

Starting from her first nominations with Destiny's Child in 2000, take a trip through Beyoncé's most memorable and impactful moments at Music's Biggest Night.

2000 — 42nd GRAMMY Awards

Nominations: Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal and Best Rhythm & Blues Song ("Bills, Bills, Bills") with Destiny's Child

Beyoncé's first red carpet appearance at the GRAMMYs was with fellow Destiny's Child members Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin (who was only part of the group for six months). The iteration of the group that was there that day was not the same group that received two nominations for "Bills, Bills, Bills" — that distinction goes to Beyoncé, Rowland, LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson

Beyoncé, Luckett and Rowland co-wrote the track with producer Kevin "She'kspeare" Briggs and Xscape singer Kandi Burruss, the latter of whom coincidentally won the GRAMMY for Best Rhythm & Blues Song that year for co-writing TLC's "No Scrubs" with Tameka "Tiny" Cottle.

2001 — 43rd GRAMMY Awards

Destiny's Child

Photo: Steve Granitz / Contributor / Getty Images

Wins: Best R&B Song ("Say My Name"), Best R&B Performance By A Duo or Group With Vocal ("Say My Name")

Nominations: Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year ("Say My Name"), Best Song Written For A Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media ("Independent Women Part I" From Charlie's Angels)

The first GRAMMY red carpet as a trio with Roland and Williams, the group wore matching silky gowns on the red carpet and "Survivor"-era green outfits backstage, all designed by Beyoncé's mother, Tina Knowles. 

Destiny's Child took home their first GRAMMYs that night, for Best R&B Performance By A Duo or Group With Vocal and Best R&B Song for "Say My Name," which was also nominated for Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year. 

Beyoncé also earned a Best Song Written For A Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media nomination for Destiny's Child's contribution to the 2000 film Charlie's Angels, "Independent Women Part I," which she co-wrote.

2002 — 44th GRAMMY Awards

Wins: Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal ("Survivor")

Nominations: Best R&B Album (Survivor)

Performance: "Quisiera Ser" with Alejandro Sanz

Destiny's Child's first performance at the GRAMMYs was to duet with Latin star Alejandro Sanz on "Quisiera Ser." They provided supporting vocals and Beyoncé added some English lyrics to his Spanish song. 

The group's own international hit "Survivor," an anthem about thriving as the trio, won a GRAMMY for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal, and the Survivor album was nominated for Best R&B Album.

2004 — 46th GRAMMY Awards

Wins: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance ("Dangerously In Love 2"), Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals ("The Closer I Get To You") with Luther Vandross, Best R&B Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration ("Crazy In Love"), Best Contemporary R&B Album (Dangerously In Love)

Nominations: Record Of The Year ("Crazy In Love")

Performance: "Purple Rain," "Baby I'm a Star," "Let's Go Crazy" and "Crazy In Love" with Prince

After dazzling in a gold Tina Knowles dress on the red carpet, Beyoncé opened the show alongside Prince with a medley of his hits "Purple Rain," "Let's Go Crazy" and "Baby I'm a Star," with a dash of her own "Crazy In Love." 

She accepted her first five GRAMMYs as a solo artist, including Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Dangerously In Love 2" — which she also performed — Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals for "The Closer I Get To You" with Luther Vandross, Best Contemporary R&B Album for Dangerously In Love and two wins for "Crazy In Love" (Best R&B Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration). 

2005 — 47th GRAMMY Awards

Nomination: Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals ("Lose My Breath")

Destiny's Child celebrated another global smash earning a GRAMMY nomination with "Lose My Breath." The lead single from Destiny Fulfilled — their final studio album — received a nomination for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals. 

Beyoncé and Rowland co-produced "Lose My Breath" with hitmakers Rodney Jerkins (who also helmed "Say My Name" and "Cater 2 U" from Destiny Fulfilled), and Sean Garrett, who later co-produced Bey solo singles including "Check On It," "Get Me Bodied," "Ring The Alarm" and "Upgrade U" with Swizz Beatz.

2006 — 48th GRAMMY Awards

Win: Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals ("So Amazing") with Stevie Wonder

Nominations: Best Contemporary R&B Album (Destiny Fulfilled), Best Female R&B Vocal Performance ("Wishing On A Star"), Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals ("Cater 2 U"), Best R&B Song ("Cater 2 U"), Best Rap/Sung Collaboration ("Soldier")

Beyoncé and Stevie Wonder won a GRAMMY for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals for "So Amazing," a cover of the song Luther Vandross wrote for Dionne Warwick in 1983 and recorded himself three years later. Bey also received a solo nomination for her cover of Rose Royce's "Wishing On A Star" on her Live at Wembley album. 

Meanwhile, Destiny's Child closed out their time as a group with four more nominations, bringing their career total to 14. Although the group had announced in June 2005 that they would be disbanding to pursue solo ventures, they assembled on the GRAMMY stage one last time — igniting eruptive applause — to present the golden gramophone for Song Of The Year, which went to U2 for "Sometimes You Can't Make It on Your Own."

2007 — 49th GRAMMY Awards

Win: Best Contemporary R&B Album (B'Day)

Nominations: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance ("Ring The Alarm"), Best R&B Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration ("Deja Vu")

Performance: "Listen" 

Beyoncé performed "Listen," her original song that she also sang as the lead role of Deena Jones in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls.

She went home a GRAMMY winner again that night, as her second album, B'Day, was victorious as Best Contemporary R&B Album. Two of the album's singles earned nominations as well: "Ring The Alarm" for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and "Deja Vu" for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.

2008 — 50th GRAMMY Awards

Wins: Best Compilation Soundtrack (Dreamgirls

Nominations: Record Of The Year ("Irreplaceable"), Best Pop Collaboration ("Beautiful Liar") with Shakira

Performance: "Proud Mary" with Tina Turner

Continuing her streak of performing live with legends at the GRAMMYs, Beyoncé joined Tina Turner onstage to sing a fierce rendition of "Proud Mary" and achieve one of her personal bucket-list moments. 

"She's my hero and my icon," she said of Turner at an after party. "It was crazy. I went in the room [after] and I just bawled because I couldn't believe it.”

Dreamgirls won Best Compilation Soundtrack that night, while "Irreplaceable" was nominated for Record Of The Year and "Beautiful Liar," her collaboration with Colombian star Shakira from B'Day, received a nomination for Best Pop Collaboration.

2009 — 51st GRAMMY Awards

Nomination: Best Female R&B Vocal Performance ("Me, Myself & I")

A top 10 hit that was co-produced by Beyoncé and Scott Storch, "Me, Myself & I" touts the benefits of self-care, of being one's "own best friend" and not taking the blame in the face of a partner's infidelity. The relatable song was nominated for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

2010 — 52nd GRAMMY Awards

Wins: Song Of The Year, Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance ("Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)"), Best Female Pop Vocal Performance ("Halo"), Best Contemporary R&B Album (I Am… Sasha Fierce), Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance ("At Last" from Cadillac Records: Music From The Motion Picture)

Nominations: Record Of The Year ("Halo"), Album Of The Year (I Am... Sasha Fierce), Best Rap/Sung Collaboration ("Ego"), Best Song Written For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media ("Once In A Lifetime" from Cadillac Records: Music From The Motion Picture)

Performance: "If I Were a Boy" 

Backed by an army of male dancers, Beyoncé's live performance of "If I Were a Boy" included an even more unexpected moment. At the song's climax, she switched to the chorus from "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morrissette, the 1996 GRAMMY winner for Best Rock Song and Best Female Rock Vocal Performance.

Bey won an impressive six GRAMMYs in 2010, including three for "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)." She also earned a nomination for her portrayal of Etta James in the 2008 film Cadillac Records, as Beyoncé's version of "At Last" won Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance.

2011 — 53rd GRAMMY Awards

Nominations: Best Female Pop Vocal Performance ("Halo (Live)"), Album Of The Year (The Fame Monster), Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals ("Telephone") with Lady Gaga

Several of Beyoncé's GRAMMY nominations have been for live songs as well as songs with other artists. At the 2011 GRAMMYs, she celebrated nominations for both: "Halo (Live)," which appears on the live album I Am… Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas, was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, and her collaboration with Lady Gaga, "Telephone," earned Beyoncé two nominations. 

2012 — 54th GRAMMY Awards

Nominations: Best Rap/Sung Collaboration ("Party") and Best Longform Music Video (I Am… World Tour)

"Party," a duet with André 3000 from OutKast, is a highlight from Beyoncé's 4 album for its infectious chorus and the sheer rarity of scoring a verse from Three Stacks. The GRAMMYs recognized this dream team with a nomination for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. Bey also received her first-ever nomination in the Best Longform Music Video category for I Am…World Tour. The film includes her singing "If I Were a Boy" with a few measures of "You Oughta Know," just like she did in her 2010 GRAMMYs performance.

2013 — 55th GRAMMY Awards

Win: Best Traditional R&B Performance ("Love On Top")

Beyoncé's 17th GRAMMY win occurred in the Premiere Ceremony for the 2013 GRAMMYs, which she and husband Jay-Z did not attend. So when Jimmy Jam announced that Beyoncé had won Best Traditional R&B Performance for "Love On Top," he jokingly offered to drop off the GRAMMY along with the awards Jay-Z won at the ceremony.

"They live in the same place, it's all good," Jam smiled. "Economical!"

2014 — 56th GRAMMY Awards

Beyoncé and Jay-Z

Photo: Frederic J. Brown / Getty Images


Nomination: Best Rap/Sung Collaboration ("Part II (On The Run)") with Jay-Z

Performance: "Drunk In Love" with Jay-Z

Smoke billowed across the stage as Beyoncé opened the 2014 GRAMMYs with an intimate live performance of "Drunk In Love," joined by her husband Jay-Z for what may just be the sexiest performance of their careers.

Although "Drunk In Love" wasn't nominated until the following year, the couple did celebrate a nomination in 2014 for "Part II (On The Run)," from Jay's album Magna Carta Holy Grail. Backstage, Bey's long white Michael Costello gown got cameras clicking and slayed style watchers, a standout among all of her GRAMMY fits.

2015 — 57th GRAMMY Awards

Wins: Best R&B Performance ("Drunk In Love"), Best R&B Song ("Drunk In Love"), Best Surround Sound Album (Beyoncé)

Nominations: Album Of The Year (Beyoncé), Best Contemporary Album (Beyoncé), Best Music Film (Beyoncé and Jay-Z: On The Run Tour)

Performance: "Take My Hand, Precious Lord"

After the previous year's racy performance of "Drunk In Love" that opened the show, Beyoncé took a markedly more pious approach with her musical number in 2015. Backed by an all-male choir, she sang "Take My Hand, Precious Lord," a gospel classic written by Thomas A. Dorsey in 1932. In a now-deleted behind-the-scenes video posted on her website, she explained that the performance was meant as a statement around police brutality and civil unrest in the wake of the murders of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, among others.

"My grandparents marched with Dr. King, and my father was part of the first generation of Black men that attended an all-white school," Beyoncé said. "My father has grown up with a lot of trauma from those experiences. I feel like now I can sing for his pain, I can sing for my grandparents' pain. I can sing for some of the families that have lost their sons."

During her three wins, fans saw her show some rare PDA with Jay-Z. The pair shared a kiss when they won Best R&B Performance for "Drunk In Love."

Two days after the 2015 GRAMMYs, Beyoncé also took part in a star-studded salute to Stevie Wonder for the CBS special "Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life — An All-Star Grammy Salute," which aired on Feb. 15, 2015. She sang a medley of "Fingertips," "Master Blaster" and "Higher Ground" alongside Ed Sheeran and Gary Clark Jr.

2016 — 58th GRAMMY Awards

In a year when she didn't have eligible work in the running, Beyoncé still made international waves when she appeared at the GRAMMYs in a white wedding-like gown. She wasn't there to get married, though — she presented the award for Record Of The Year to Bruno Mars for his hit song "Uptown Funk."

"Let's go, Beyoncé, let's do it!" Mars playfully yelled from the audience, just before she said his name.

2017 — 59th GRAMMY Awards

Wins: Best Contemporary Urban Album (Lemonade), Best Music Video ("Formation")

Nominations: Album Of The Year (Lemonade), Best Music Film (Lemonade), Record Of The Year ("Formation"), Song Of The Year ("Formation"), Best Pop Solo Performance ("Hold Up"), Best Rock Performance ("Don't Hurt Yourself"), Best Rap/Sung Performance ("Freedom") 

Performance: "Love Drought" and "Sandcastles"

Beyoncé dressed like a goddess while pregnant with twins Rumi and Sir Carter to perform "Love Drought" and "Sandcastles," songs from her multi-nominated (and GRAMMY-winning) album and music film Lemonade. Her kids were at the forefront of her mind during her acceptance speech for Best Contemporary Urban Album.

"It's important to me to show images to my children that reflect their beauty so they can grow up in a world where they look in the mirror — first through their own families, as well as the news, the Super Bowl, the Olympics, the White House and the GRAMMYs — and see themselves," she said.

Later, in an unexpected — and instantly viral — moment, Adele dedicated her acceptance speech for Album Of The Year to effusively praising Beyoncé and the Lemonade album, which was also nominated in the category.

"You are our light!" Adele exclaimed, calling Lemonade her album of the year.

2018 — 60th GRAMMY Awards

Nomination: Best Rap/Sung Performance ("Family Feud")

It was all in the family when Beyoncé, Jay-Z and their then 6-year-old daughter Blue Ivy Carter sat together at the GRAMMYs in 2018 — though Blue's parents were ironically nominated for a song called "Family Feud" from Jay's 4:44 album. In a clip that went viral, a camera caught Blue seemingly motioning for them to stop clapping. The world fell in love with her commanding presence at that very moment.

2019 — 61st GRAMMY Awards

Win: Best Urban Contemporary Album (Everything Is Love)

Nominations: Best R&B Performance ("Summer"), Best Music Video ("Apes<em></em>*")

Beyoncé's 2019 win and nominations were given for her collaborations with Jay-Z in their Everything Is Love album. The Carters won Best Urban Contemporary Album with the nine-song album, which they co-produced with Leon Michels and Cool & Dre. They also were nominated for Best R&B Performance for "Summer" as well as Best Music Video for "Apes<em></em>*," a bold piece which they filmed in front of the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Great Sphinx of Tanis and other seminal works displayed in Paris' Louvre.

2020 — 62nd GRAMMY Awards

Win: Best Music Film (Homecoming)

Nominations: Best Pop Solo Performance ("Spirit"), Best Song Written for Visual Media ("Spirit"), Best Pop Vocal Album (The Lion King: The Gift

Homecoming offers an intimate look at the best onstage and behind-the-scenes moments from Beyoncé's massive headline sets at Coachella in 2018. Performed over two consecutive weekends, her show at the Southern California desert festival pays homage to the great Southern bands from HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). There's also a brief but thrilling Destiny's Child reunion, as well as plenty of Easter eggs for Southern rap fans in the form of instrumental and lyrical riffs and snippets weaved into her hits. 

Two additional nominations recognized her work for The Lion King: The Gift. She voiced Nala in the film.

2021 — 63rd GRAMMY Awards

Wins: Best R&B Performance ("Black Parade"), Best Music Video ("Brown Skin Girl"), Best Rap Performance ("Savage") and Best Rap Song ("Savage") with Megan Thee Stallion

Nominations: Record Of The Year ("Savage") and Record Of The Year ("Savage") with Megan Thee Stallion, Best R&B Song and Song Of The Year ("Black Parade"), Best Music Film (Black Is King)

Beyoncé's Best R&B Performance win made her the performing artist with the most career GRAMMY wins in history. (She's tied with producer Quincy Jones, and Georg Solti, who has more wins, was a conductor and not a performer.) She also became the woman with the most GRAMMY wins that night.

During her acceptance speech, she shared that she's worked hard since she was 9 years old and congratulated her daughter — also 9 at the time — for scoring her first GRAMMY. Blue stars in the video for "Brown Skin Girl," the Best Music Video winner.

"It has been such a difficult time so I wanted to uplift, encourage, and celebrate all of the beautiful Black queens and kings that continue to inspire me and inspire the whole world," Beyoncé added about her Black Is King project. 

Bey also appeared onstage with fellow Houstonian Megan Thee Stallion, who couldn't contain her excitement about sharing the stage — and two GRAMMYs — with her hometown hero. "I love her work ethic, I love the way she is, I love the way she carry herself," Megan said. "My momma will always be like, 'Megan, what would Beyoncé do?' And I'm always like, 'You know what? What would Beyoncé do, but let me make it a little ratchet.'"

2023 — 65th GRAMMY Awards

Nominations: Record Of The Year ("Break My Soul"), Song Of The Year ("Break My Soul"), Best Dance/Electronic Music Album (Renaissance), Best Traditional R&B Performance ("Plastic Off The Sofa"), Best Song Written For Visual Media ("Be Alive" from King Richard), Album Of The Year (Renaissance), Best Dance/Electronic Music Recording ("Break My Soul"), Best R&B Performance ("Virgo's Groove"), Best R&B Song ("Cuff It")

Beyoncé could make even more GRAMMY history in 2023. If she wins four awards out of her nine nominations, she will become the artist with the most GRAMMYs of all time with 32, which would surpass the late Georg Solti's record 31. Tune in on Feb. 5 to see if Queen Bey breaks yet another GRAMMY record!

2023 GRAMMYs Performers Announced: Bad Bunny, Lizzo, Sam Smith, Steve Lacy, Mary J. Blige & More Confirmed

Songbook: How Mary J. Blige Became The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul Through Empathy, Attitude And An Open Heart
Mary J. Blige

Photos: (L to R): Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc; Ethan Miller/Getty Images; KMazur/WireImage; Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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Songbook: How Mary J. Blige Became The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul Through Empathy, Attitude And An Open Heart

With 14 albums and nine GRAMMYs under her belt, Mary J. Blige puts no limitations on the music she creates. Explore her extensive catalog of hits, soundtrack favorites, stunning covers and impactful remixes.

GRAMMYs/Jan 30, 2023 - 06:26 pm

Mary J. Blige’s tireless work ethic, extraordinary singing talent and soul-level relatability are the secret ingredients to her longevity as a recording artist. Her discography includes nine GRAMMY wins and 37 nominations, and the multi-hyphenate artist continues to demonstrate that there's no limit to her creativity.

Blige is nominated for six awards at the 2023 GRAMMYs, including Album Of The Year and Best R&B Album for Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe). The title track is nominated in three categories: Record Of The Year, Best Traditional R&B Performance and Best R&B Song, and "Here With Me" is up for Best R&B Performance.

Good Morning Gorgeous encapsulates the true self-love Blige felt after healing from divorce, abusive relationships and depression. As she explains on an album interlude "good morning gorgeous" is the affirmation Blige now says to herself in the mornings — and, for the first time, she believes it. And when it comes to the odds of adding to her GRAMMY wins on Feb. 5, it’s safe to wager that Blige thinks they’re sound.

"Bet on me, why not?" Blige sings in the chorus of the album’s "On Top." "Don’t act like I never left on top."

For her resonant musical messages, Blige has been crowned the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. But  she’s also an industry professional who deftly sets and iterates on trends, keeping even her earliest releases relevant and exciting. 

Blige became a record label boss when she released Good Morning Gorgeous as a joint venture between Lyor Cohen’s 300 Entertainment and her own Mary Jane Productions. She’s a frequent executive producer of her albums and multimedia projects and is set to executive produce two fictional films for Lifetime in 2023 through her production company Blue Butterfly. Real Love and Strength of a Woman are both named for her songs. Real Love is described as a romantic drama set in an upstate New York college. 

After more than 30 years of recording, Blige has amassed an acclaimed and extensive discography of consummate original classics, deep soundtrack cuts, scene-stealing covers and remixes. Press play on the Amazon Music playlist above and use the below guide as a diving board into a career full of the empathetic pain, healing, promise and happiness that she has shared with unflinching honesty and vulnerability.

The Queen Of Hip-Hop Soul

Blige was living in a housing project in Yonkers, N.Y. when the late Andre Harrell signed her to his Uptown Records, which released her 1992 debut album, What’s The 411? Harrell coined the nickname Queen of Hip-Hop Soul to describe the fresh way Blige's music melded rap beats with R&B hooks.

Harrell and his then-intern Sean Combs gave her a rugged style to match her music, with boots and baseball caps instead of heels and sparkles. Young women from the inner city saw themselves in Blige's aesthetic and in her rawness.

Yet admiration for Blige’s powerful vocals and unique tone grew before her name was ever recognized. Blige was first heard as a backup singer for Father MC’s 1990 hit "I'll Do 4 U" and, the following year, her own single "You Remind Me" (from the Strictly Business soundtrack) gave Blige some street buzz to lead into What’s The 411? The hip-hop swagger of "Real Love" — which samples "Top Billin'" by Audio Two, a beat highly familiar to New York City fans at the time — served as her formal introduction to the world and remains a calling card decades later.

The My Life Era (Extended Mix)

Contrary to the music industry’s sophomore slump stereotype, Blige’s second album is a seminal work. 1994's My Life became career-defining, and an album that she has subsequently reflected on to show her growth.

The album is a reflection of her volatile relationship with singer Cedric "K-Ci" Hailey, Blige explained in Mary J. Blige’s My Life, a documentary she executive produced for Amazon Studios in honor of the album’s 25th anniversary. Throughout, Blige keenly pairs heights of happiness with depths of her despair on songs like "You Bring Me Joy," "I’m Goin’ Down," "I Love You" and "Be Happy." 

"The whole 'My Life' album is, 'Please love me, don’t go, I need you,'" she said in the documentary. Combs, then known as Puffy, continued: "When she made that album, she was fighting for her heart." (Combs and Harrell served as executive producers of My Life.)

Blige and Combs never collaborated quite so closely again, though they remained friends. Combs didn’t produce 2011’s My Life II… The Journey Continues (Act 1), but he appears in a telephone skit to open the album, similarly to how he did on My Life. The sequel features guest stars such as Nas, Beyoncé and Drake.

Though her earlier works hinted at the potential, My Life most firmly established Blige as a beacon for hurt hearts everywhere. In a 2021 interview with Trevor Noah, Blige described how childhood physical and mental abuse, as well as her relationship with Hailey, led to substance abuse and depression. When she used the songs on My Life as a way of saying she needed help, "four million people responded and said, ‘'We need help, too.'"

Covers, Collaborations And Remixes

Cover songs have been an acclaimed — and long-lasting — part of Blige’s career ever since she sang "Sweet Thing" by Rufus featuring Chaka Khan on What’s The 411? Blige released her hugely popular version of Rose Royce’s "I’m Goin’ Down" in 1994, which reached No. 22 on the Billboard Hot 100, and she beat Beyoncé to the punch in 2000 with her take on Maze’s "Before I Let Go."

But her ascension to rock star status has a lot to do with her scene-stealing covers of songs of stadium-level acts. Blige has delivered epic versions of songs by Led Zeppelin ("Stairway To Heaven") and Sting ("Whenever I Say Your Name"), and when she collaborated with U2 on a new version of "One," there’s an audible battle with Bono as to whose song this is now.

Blige collaborates with rap, R&B, rock, country, electronic and classical artists with equal ease, and her discography includes work with late legends, including "Holdin’ On" with Aretha Franklin and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s "As" with George Michael. She won her first career GRAMMY in 1995 for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group for "I'll Be There For You / You're All I Need To Get By," a collaboration with Method Man that covers Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

A dance music collaboration with London duo Disclosure called "F for You" in 2013 helped to catalyze an entire album from the Capital of England called The London Sessions. The 2014 album features a second collaboration with Disclosure ("Right Now"), a cameo from UK garage DJ/producer MJ Cole ("Nobody But You") and guest vocals from Scottish singer Emeli Sandé ("Whole Damn Year").

Blige has long understood the potency of both hip-hop and dance music remixes, which remain a part of her single roll-outs. Over the years, she created a remix album of songs from What’s The 411?, and in 2002 released club-focused reworks of songs from No More Drama, Mary and Share My World on Dance For Me

Blige's remixes also pay homage. On her cover of First Choice’s "Let No Man Put Asunder," Blige honors singers who came before by featuring guest vocals from the group's lead singer, Rochelle Fleming.

Her Rap Alter Ego

Blige has rapped a few times on her albums, beginning with a verse in "Love," from 2001’s No More Drama. She won her first solo GRAMMY for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 2003 for "He Think I Don't Know" from No More Drama. By the time she rhymed on "Enough Cryin’" and "Take Me As I Am" (both from 2005’s The Breakthrough), her rap alter ego had a name: Brook Lynn.

Her cadence caught the ear of her friend Busta Rhymes, who recruited Blige for his "Touch It (Remix)" the next year. "The haters plot and they watch, lookin’ all pale/While I’m on a yacht overseas, doin’ my nails," she raps alongside Busta, Missy Elliott and Rah Digga.

Brook Lynn took a hiatus for a few years after that, but she came back blazing in 2011. "Homegirls love me and we be ridin' Phantoms/Mad chicks hate me 'cause I be writin' anthems," she rhymes on "Midnight Drive" from My Life II… The Journey Continues (Act 1)

The Soundtracks

Since "You Remind Me," her first Top 40 entry, appeared on the soundtrack to Strictly Business, Blige has written stunning original songs such as "I Can See in Color" for Precious (2009). She has also licensed other hits to dozens of movies.

After years of contributing to soundtracks, Blige created her own as executive producer and performer of the soundtrack for Think Like a Man Too (2014), which includes a cover of Shalamar’s "A Night to Remember" and guest appearances by Pharrell Williams and The-Dream.

Blige has been cast in several acting roles since she guest starred in an episode of The Jamie Foxx Show in 1998 and has played fictional characters as well as real life figures Betty Shabazz (Betty and Coretta) and Dinah Washington (Respect). She received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Song for her work on 2017 film Mudbound.

More than 30 years into her recording career, Blige appears happy, energized and ready to add more hits and heartfelt anthems to her songbook.

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The Official 2023 GRAMMYs Playlist Is Here: Listen To 115 Songs By Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Bad Bunny, Kendrick Lamar & More
(L-R, clockwise) Steve Lacy, Harry Styles, Lizzo, Anitta, BTS

Photos (L-R): Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Harry Styles, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, LUFRÉ, Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

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The Official 2023 GRAMMYs Playlist Is Here: Listen To 115 Songs By Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Bad Bunny, Kendrick Lamar & More

Get to know this year's nominees with the official 2023 GRAMMYs playlist, presented in partnership with Amazon Music, which features 115 GRAMMY-nominated songs across pop, rap, country, and beyond from today's stars.

GRAMMYs/Jan 19, 2023 - 04:24 pm

With the 2023 GRAMMYs less than a month away, excitement is bubbling over in the music community.

Whether you're rooting for innovative newcomers like Wet Leg and Omar Apollo or beloved legends like Beyoncé and ABBA, there is an abundance of spectacular talent to be celebrated this year. And the 2023 GRAMMY nominees are not only leading music, but they’re creatively transforming genres, from rap to alternative to reggae — and beyond.

To let the music speak for itself, stream the official 2023 GRAMMYs playlist, presented in partnership with Amazon Music, which features 115 GRAMMY-nominated songs across pop, rap, country, and beyond from today's stars, including BTS, Harry Styles, Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo, and many, many more.

Get to know this year's nominees by listening to their biggest hits and GRAMMY-nominated works on this immersive Amazon Music playlist — and tune in to CBS and Paramount+ on Sunday, Feb. 5 to experience Music's Biggest Night live.

Where, What Channel & How To Watch The Full 2023 GRAMMYs

Press Play On GRAMMY U Mixtape: New Year, It’s Poppin'! Monthly Member Playlist

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Press Play On GRAMMY U Mixtape: New Year, It’s Poppin'! Monthly Member Playlist

The GRAMMY U Mixtape is a monthly, genre-spanning playlist to quench your thirst for new tunes, all from student members. GRAMMY U celebrates new beginnings with fresh pop tunes that will kickstart 2023.

GRAMMYs/Jan 6, 2023 - 12:17 am

Did you know that among all of the students in GRAMMY U, songwriting and performance is one of the most sought after fields of study? We want to create a space to hear what these students are creating today!

The GRAMMY U Mixtape, now available for your listening pleasure, highlights the creations and fresh ideas that students are bringing to this industry directly on the Recording Academy's Spotify and Apple Music pages. Our goal is to celebrate GRAMMY U members, as well as the time and effort they put into making original music — from the songwriting process to the final production of the track.

Each month, we accept submissions and feature 20 to 25 songs that match that month’s theme. This month we're ringing in 2023 with our New Year, It's Poppin'! playlist, which features fresh pop songs that bring new year, new you vibes. Showcasing talented members from our various chapters, we felt these songs represented the positivity and hopefulness that GRAMMY U members embody as they tackle this upcoming year of exciting possibilities.

So, what’s stopping you? Press play on GRAMMY U’s Mixtape and listen now on Spotify below and Apple Music.

Want to be featured on the next playlist? Submit your songs today! We are currently accepting submissions for songs of all genres for consideration for our February playlist. Whether you write pop, rock, hip hop, jazz, or classical, we want to hear from you. Music must be written and/or produced by the student member (an original song) and you must be able to submit a Spotify and/or Apple Music link to the song. Students must be a GRAMMY U member to submit.

About GRAMMY U:

GRAMMY U is a program that connects college students with the industry's brightest and most talented minds and provides those aspiring professionals with the tools and opportunities necessary to start a career in music.     

Throughout each semester, events and special programs touch on all facets of the industry, including the business, technology, and the creative process.

As part of the Recording Academy's mission to ensure the recorded arts remain a thriving part of our shared cultural heritage, GRAMMY U establishes the necessary foundation for music’s next generation to flourish.

Not a member, but want to submit to our playlist? Apply for GRAMMY U Membership here.