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GRAMMY.com Exclusive First Listen: Ashthon Jones

Former "American Idol" contestant debuts "Good Living" from forthcoming Songs For A Healthier America album only on GRAMMY.com

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

R&B vocalist and former "American Idol" contestant Ashthon Jones will appear as a guest artist on Songs For A Healthier America, a compilation of health-focused songs set for release on Sept. 30. Ahead of the album's release, GRAMMY.com has your exclusive first listen to Jones' contribution, "Good Living."

Drawing on influences from the likes of GRAMMY winners Mary J. Blige, the Clark Sisters, Destiny's Child, Mary Mary, and Monica, Georgia native Jones emerged in 2008 with the six-track EP Introducing Ashthon Jones. Jones auditioned for season 10 of "American Idol" and finished as the 13th-place finalist in 2011. The following year she released the single "Lookout" and appeared on Lecrae's GRAMMY-winning album, Gravity, as a guest artist on "Mayday," which also featured rapper Big K.R.I.T. Earlier this month Jones appeared on Big K.R.I.T.'s latest single, "Good 2getha."

Set for release on Sept. 30, Songs For A Healthier America aims to "inspire children to believe in themselves, be more physically active and make healthier choices." The multigenre compilation features 19 health-focused songs, including the first single "Everybody," which was released June and features Doug E. Fresh, Ryan Beatty, Dr. Oz, and Jordin Sparks. The video for the song features a guest appearance by first lady Michelle Obama. Other artists featured on the album include Ashanti, Travis Barker, the Hip Hop Doc, Ariana Grande, and Nils Lofgren. The album was co-produced by Hip Hop Public Health and Partnership for a Healthier America, an organization founded in 2010 in conjunction with Obama's Let's Move! initiative. 

In conjunction with the release of Songs For A Healthier America, Jones has been selected by Obama to perform "Good Living" at the Apollo Theater in New York on Sept. 30.

"American Idol" Season 1 Finale - Kelly Clarkson Performance Show
Kelly Clarkson performs on Season 1 of "American Idol."

Photo: Steve Granitz / GettyImages

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On This Day In Music: "American Idol" Premieres On Fox Network

For decades, "American Idol" has been instrumental in discovering some of music’s biggest names and pioneering the reality TV contest genre. As the show enters its 22nd run, here’s a look at how it has become an iconic household staple across the country.

GRAMMYs/Jun 11, 2024 - 04:23 pm

For countless Americans, "American Idol" is intertwined with core memories as a show that had families eagerly glued to their TVs twice a week. It brought generations together, creating moments of both suspense and excitement that are still remembered today, as the show continues to run in its 22nd season.

Created by visionary entrepreneur Simon Fuller, "American Idol" premiered on June 11, 2002, as a fresh spin-off of the British program "Pop Idol." It revolutionized how Americans engaged with reality TV through its interactive, viewer-driven voting system, which encouraged audience participation in the success of their favorite contestants. The show also offered viewers a glimpse into contestants' candid backstories and personal journeys, anchoring emotional investment and skyrocketing the show's popularity.

The show's debut season featured a dynamic trio of judges: singer Paula Abdul, TV personality Simon Cowell, and producer Randy Jackson. Their contrasting personalities brewed a chemistry as captivating as the hopeful performances. Abdul’s warmth, Cowell's blunt wit, and Jackson’s humor added extra layers of entertainment, making the twice a week broadcasts a must-watch.

The first season of "American Idol" also unforgettably introduced the country to Kelly Clarkson. Since her debut — with a heart-tugging backstory about being the average girl-next-door with big dreams — Clarkson has gone on to tour the world, host her own TV talk show, and secured her spot as one of music’s most beloved talents. 

"I had dreams since I was a little girl that I wanted to be on the GRAMMYs, or some award show and sing on there," Clarkson mentioned in her pre-audition interview. Flash forward 22 years, the pop singer has accumulated 17 GRAMMY nominations and three wins, propelled by a powerful vocal gift.

Other artists who launched their careers from the show's platform include Jordin Sparks, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, and Jennifer Hudson, who each serve as testament to the show’s impact in music.

"American Idol" has not only opened our eyes to some of our favorite musicians, but it also has given us some of our favorite pop culture moments.

A video that frequently resurfaces on social media captures a memorable moment between Katy Perry and contestant Noah Davis, where they bond over the slang term 'wig'

"No, it’s not your language. It’s just for us," Perry joked to her fellow judges, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, when they questioned the term’s meaning.

After two decades on air, "American Idol" has etched a lasting legacy in pop culture. It has paved the way for other reality TV music shows and created lasting memories for music fans along the way.

“The show transcends age, gender, ethnicity, everything,” Underwood told Billboard in 2005. 

How Many "American Idol" Winners Have Won GRAMMYs? A Rundown Of Wins And Nominations For Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood & More

Alicia Keys and Michelle Obama at the 2019 GRAMMYs
(L-R) Alicia Keys and Michelle Obama at the 2019 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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GRAMMY-Winning U.S. Presidents & Politicians: The Obamas, Jimmy Carter & More

In honor of Presidents' Day, salute the former presidents, first ladies and other political figures that have won or been nominated for a golden gramophone including Bernie Sanders and John F. Kennedy.

GRAMMYs/Feb 19, 2024 - 02:03 pm

Presidents and politicians aren't the first people usually associated with GRAMMY season, but surprisingly, several of them — and first ladies, too — have added golden gramophones to their collections of awards.

In fact, at the 2024 GRAMMYs, former First Lady Michelle Obama claimed her second GRAMMY, for her bestselling memoir, The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times. Four years earlier, her first bestselling book, Becoming, which documented her rise from Chicago's South Side to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, also won a GRAMMY (more on her and husband Barack later).

Obama's latest victory is one of several political GRAMMY wins and nominations that date back to 1965. At the 7th GRAMMY Awards, the late former President John F. Kennedy and former Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson — who ran for president twice — each earned nominations for their contributions to The Kennedy Wit, a compilation of Kennedy's most famous and humorous anecdotes. The audio version was nominated for Best Documentary, Spoken Word Or Drama Recording (Other Than Comedy).

And though those nominations didn't turn into wins, there have been a few political figures who have won the coveted trophies. This Presidents' Day, we salute the former presidents, their spouses and even some would-be presidents who sit among the ranks of GRAMMY winners.

Jimmy Carter

Leading the pack is the 39th U.S. president, Jimmy Carter, who has three wins out of nine nominations to his credit, making him the most honored politician in GRAMMY history. All of his wins and nominations are in the Best Spoken Word Album Category.

The prolific Carter won his first GRAMMY at the 48th ceremony in 2006 for Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis and his most recent for Faith: A Journey for All at the 61st telecast in 2018. He also won in 2015 for A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety.

Carter earned his first GRAMMY nomination in 1997, 17 years after leaving office, for the audio adaptation of his 13th book, Living Faith. His other nods came in 1998, 2001, 2007, 2009 and 2014.

Bill & Hillary Rodham Clinton

Former president Bill Clinton earned two terms in 1992 and 1996, but Hillary Rodham Clinton, his first lady, beat him to GRAMMYs glory. Not long after he won re-election in 1996, Hillary won her first GRAMMY for It Takes a Village, which won Best Spoken Word Album at the 39th ceremony in 1997. Her album Living History landed a second nomination in the Category in 2004; though she didn't take home the GRAMMY, Bill was a winner that year. He won Best Spoken Word Album For Children for his role in Prokofiev: Peter and the Wolf/Beintus: Wolf Tracks

The following year, at the 47th GRAMMYs, Bill won in the Best Spoken Word Album Category for his memoir, My Life. Additional nominations followed in 2007 for Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World, and in 2012 for Back to Work: Why We Need Smart Government for a Strong Economy, both in the same Category.

The Clinton administration also (sort of) had a claim on Best Spoken Word Album at the 51st GRAMMYs in 2009, thanks to Cynthia Nixon's audiobook reading of the bestseller An Inconvenient Truth, written by Al Gore, who served as vice president under Clinton during both terms.

Barack & Michelle Obama

The Obama family may not have penned as many books as Carter (at least not yet), but collectively, former president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle outpace him with four GRAMMYs, two apiece. 

Barack's two wins are both in the Best Spoken Word Album Category for audio adaptations of two books published before his presidency: the memoir Dreams from My Father in 2005 and The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream in 2007. His third nomination in the Category came at the 64th GRAMMY awards in 2022 for "A Promised Land."

As previously mentioned, Michelle Obama is two for two with her GRAMMY nominations. She first won for her 2018 memoir, Becoming, which took home Best Spoken Word Album at the 62nd GRAMMYs in 2020, and four years later, she won Best Audio Book, Narration, And Storytelling Recording for The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times. (And before any of her nominations, in 2019, Michelle was part of a girl-powered surprise intro segment alongside Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, Jada Pinkett Smith and then-host Alicia Keys.)

Notable Nominations

Thirteen years after John F. Kennedy earned the first presidential GRAMMY nomination, former President Harry S. Truman was nominated for "The Truman Tapes," in the Best Spoken Word Recording Category (which is the same as Kennedy's Best Documentary or Spoken Word Recording (Other Than Comedy) Category, and is now known as the Best Audio Book, Narration & Storytelling Recording as of press time) in 1978.

Former President Richard Nixon earned a nomination in the same Category the next year, for his televised interviews with journalist David Frost, packaged as The Nixon Interviews With David Frost.

In 2015 — five years before her 2020 presidential run — Sen. Elizabeth Warren earned her first GRAMMY nomination for the adaptation of her bestselling book, A Fighting Chance, in the Best Spoken Word Album Category at the 57th GRAMMYs.

U.S. Senator and two-time presidential candidate Bernie Sanders earned a nomination in the same Category in 2017, for the reading of Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In. Like Michelle Obama, he earned his second GRAMMY nomination at the 2024 GRAMMYs, in the same category as the victorious former first lady (Best Audio Book, Narration, And Storytelling Recording) for his book It's Ok To Be Angry About Capitalism

With two GRAMMY nominations (and one win) in 2024, it's clear that, even nearly 60 years on, political figures will continue to be prominent in the GRAMMY sphere. 

10 Must-See Moments From The 2024 GRAMMYs: Taylor Swift Makes History, Billy Joel & Tracy Chapman Return, Boygenius Manifest Childhood Dreams

Women in the Mix 2024 panel photo
(L-R) Melody Chiu, Marcella Araica, Carly Pearce, and Jordin Sparks at the 2024 A Celebration Of Women In The Mix event.

Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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A Celebration Of Women In The Mix Inspired With Tales Of Tears, Tenacity & Triumph

Featuring appearances by Carly Pearce, Jordin Sparks, Emily King, and an emotional keynote by Ty Stiklorius, the Feb. 1 GRAMMY House event also included professional hair and makeup touchup activations.

GRAMMYs/Feb 3, 2024 - 11:05 pm

Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, women from across the recording industry gathered at GRAMMY House in Los Angeles' Arts District on Feb. 1 to celebrate their achievements and to remind the music world that there's still much work to be done.

A Celebration Of Women In The Mix Presented by PEOPLE and Sephora brought together musicians, agents, producers, engineers, managers, and more for three hours of food, drinks, speeches, and general revelry. 

Hosted by People Magazine Editor-At-Large Janine Rubenstein, the event featured a keynote speech by Friends At Work CEO Ty Stiklorius — best known for her years managing John Legend, among others — as well as performances by Sephora Sounds' artists Beth Million and Rawan Chaya, and 2024 GRAMMYs Best R&B Album nominee Emily King

"We wanted to make sure that we were driving representation and providing opportunities for all women in music from studio professionals to artists and beyond," said Tammy Hurt, the Chair of the Board for the Recording Academy, while detailing the creation of Women In The Mix in 2019. She noted that her team set a goal of recruiting 2,500 new women members to the voting body of the Academy by 2025.

An event Presenting Sponsor, Sephora had makeup artists set up next to the stage, giving guests some glam. Participating sponsors Dyson and The Hartford also had activations for guests to enjoy; Dyson provided styling stations for hair touch-ups and curated an immersive listening experience with the Dyson Zone™ noise-canceling headphones, while The Hartford hosted an interactive, augmented reality graffiti wall.

As Sephora's SVP of Personalization, Anna E. Banks explained on stage, the brand is committed to creating "the world's most inclusive beauty community." She added that Sephora supports individuals' creativity and ingenuity — whether it's through the products they choose to sell or the looks they feature in their campaigns. As one of the brand's new programs, Sephora Sounds will work to "continue to push for more diversity and representation" across the industry, "breaking down barriers and ushering in marginalized voices."

Keynote speaker Ty Stiklorius brought much of the room to tears with tales of sleazy record execs, thwarted dreams, and how she took the road less traveled to decades of success in the music industry. Donning a stunning maroon suit, Stiklorius detailed how she became not only John Legend's manager, but also his film and TV producing partner, his business partner in several companies, and the co-founder of several social impact groups working to reduce incarceration and level the playing field in terms of universal opportunity. 

"It's literally impossible to be a woman," Stiklorious said, quoting America Ferrera's powerful speech from the Barbie movie. She expressed frustration at the fact that women are always expected to be extraordinary — whether it's as a wife, a mother, or in the workplace — and dismissed antiquated notions that women can't be leaders in the music industry while having a family. To wit, Stiklorious created her company, Friends At Work, to give more women and more marginalized people a place to thrive in the industry, to be appreciated, recognized, and paid appropriately.

After all, Stiklorious reminded the room, women still have a long, long way to go to achieve any sort of parity in the music industry. While women dominate the major categories at this year's GRAMMY Awards, a recent study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that, while women make up more than half the population and the market for music, they only take up about 35 percent of the Billboard Hot 100. Only 6.5 percent of music producers are women, and less than 20 percent of the songwriters of last year's top songs were women. In fact, Stiklorious said, "nearly a quarter of the most popular songs of the last 12 years were penned by just 12 men." 

"Think about how those 12 men are shaping audience perfections and beliefs about romantic relationships, wealth, health, and any number of topics," Stiklorious said, before referencing a story she recently wrote for the L.A. Times in which she makes the case that, if the top women performers added just two women songwriters to some of their sessions and some of their songs, we'd reach gender parity in the songwriter space in just four years. 

"It's not that big of an ask, actually," she said. "With the growing power of female performers, those who routinely top the charts can change the lives of women songwriters and our culture, because the status quo isn't good for anyone, regardless of their gender identity, we all lose out on untapped and underappreciated talent."

The end of Stiklorious' speech was met with a rousing standing ovation.

After performances from Beth Million and Rawan Chaya, People Executive Editor Melody Chiu took the stage for the event's panel, which featured recording engineer Marcella Araica, GRAMMY winning country artist Carly Pearce, and GRAMMY nominee Jordin Sparks. They talked about role models, the barriers they've faced in the industry, becoming mothers, and how they learned that "no" is actually a complete sentence.

Singer/songwriter Emily King won the room over with tracks like "Medal" and "This Year." After King's set, Ruby Marchand, the Recording Industry's Chief Awards and Industry Officer, wrapped up the event by thanking members of the Recording Academy staff and board in the audience for their hard work on the event and in driving new membership. 

Diving into her thoughts on the concept of trust, Marchand said women in the music industry "have to learn to trust each other, because we're here to help and guide and support, and sometimes even help somebody through some critical thinking and get back on track." 

Women in the industry also have to learn to trust themselves, Marchand said. If women can all learn to be fearless and to trust in themselves, their decisions, and their strength, the sky's the limit. 

The Recording Academy's GRAMMY House Returns For GRAMMY Week 2024; Immersive Pop-Up Experience To Feature The Third Annual #GRAMMYSNEXTGEN Party

Robert Glasper
Robert Glasper performs at Los Angeles Chapter Nominee Celebration 2024.

Photo: Jerod Harris / Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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The Recording Academy’s Los Angeles Chapter Honored Its Musical Family At 2024 GRAMMY Nominee Celebration

The unofficial kick-off to GRAMMY Week brought people from every corner of the music industry together for a sparkling celebration of Los Angeles' talents.

GRAMMYs/Jan 31, 2024 - 05:26 pm

Hundreds of music professionals gathered Jan. 27 for the Los Angeles Chapter of the Recording Academy’s annual nominee celebration, held at NeueHouse Hollywood. Hailed by Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. as the "unofficial kickoff to GRAMMY Week," the event featured performances by three of this year’s nominees from the chapter: Gaby Moreno, Robert Glasper, and Jordin Sparks

Chapter Board Vice President Lynne Earls said that the unofficial theme for both the board and the chapter this year is "belonging," and those vibes certainly trickled down to the nominee celebration. People from every part of the recording industry came together to enjoy brunch, have some drinks, and mix and mingle. 

Groups of attendees called out friendly greetings to each other, catching up over mimosas and waffles, and attendees exchanged hugs while clad in everything from cocktail dresses to platform combat boots. Not unlike at the actual GRAMMY Awards, fashion was truly on parade at the nominee celebration. Attendees rocked fully bedazzled suits, bespoke leather jackets, and plush safari print hoodies; at least one crystal-covered clutch resembling an old school cassette was spotted.

While many attendees at the event undoubtedly hope to take home a golden gramophone on Feb. 4, Mason took pains to remind the room that being nominated for the award is just as life-changing. "Being a GRAMMY nominee… that goes with you for your entire life and your entire career. On your bio, it's always going to say ‘GRAMMY nominee,’ and hopefully it's going to say ‘GRAMMY winner.’"

In his remarks, Recording Academy President Panos Panay agreed with Mason but made a special effort to remind attendees that being a member of the GRAMMY family is more than just attending an awards show once a year. 

"We're known for the GRAMMYs, which are the big graduation ceremony … but what's important to know is that the Academy works 365 days a year," he said. "We're here to advocate for the creative class." He encouraged non-member attendees to join the Academy, saying "We really would love to have you become a member of this incredible group of professionals." 

Qiana Conley Akinro, the Senior Executive Director of the Recording Academy Los Angeles Chapter, also encouraged attendees to stop into the D.R.E.A.M. Lounge on the second floor of NeueHouse, which had been set up in partnership with Pacific Bridge Arts, Paper Magazine, and Netflix and featured a gifting suite full of Hallmark Mahogany items and a bloom bar by Postal Petals. Several panels were held in the space, which was given the D.R.E.A.M. acronym from the phrase "Diversity Reimagined Engaging All Musicians." Earls talked about her work with Women In The Mix and Academy Proud, while Academy Governor Kev Nish hosted a panel talking about the Gold Music Alliance, which aims to boost the impact of Pan-Asian people within both the GRAMMY organization and the recording industry.

After the panels, various nominees stopped by the D.R.E.A.M. video studio to give testimonials about how they found out they’d been honored. Best Jazz Arrangement, Instrument and Vocals nominee Maria Mendes relayed the importance of being the first Portuguese person nominated for a GRAMMY in the category, as well as her pride in repping her country’s music. Mendes even shouted out the jewelry and fashion designers behind her upcoming GRAMMY ceremony look, both of which are from Mendes’ home country. 

Colombian singer and Best Latin Pop Album nominee AleMor said she’s proud to represent her home country and independent artists. "I'm honored that I get to be here, and I am grateful that I'm alive at the same time as all of the people that are alive now," she told onlookers. "I think music is like invisible medicine, you know, like you listen to a song and it might make you feel good and you have no idea why. We are little magicians in the world, We get to change people's moods, and we get to change the way people see life."

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

The Los Angeles Chapter Nominee Celebration was made possible by generous support from Premier Sponsor Netflix, Co-Presenting Sponsors Pacific Bridges Arts, Paper Magazine, Official Sponsors SESAC Latin and NeueHouse Hollywood, and Gifting Sponsors Hallmark Mahogany, HYPNO, Fox Dog Productions, the Canadian Consulate, and VYDIA.