meta-scriptH.E.R. Performs Battle Song "Fight For You" From 'Judas And The Black Messiah' At The 2021 Oscars | GRAMMY.com
H.E.R. performs at the Oscars: Into the Spotlight at the 2021 Oscars

H.E.R. performs at the "Oscars: Into the Spotlight" special at the 2021 Oscars

Photo: Richard Harbaugh/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

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H.E.R. Performs Battle Song "Fight For You" From 'Judas And The Black Messiah' At The 2021 Oscars

Singer/songwriter and guitarist H.E.R. performed "Fight For You" from the five-time-nominated film 'Judas and the Black Messiah' at the 2021 Oscars

GRAMMYs/Apr 26, 2021 - 06:10 am

The blazing singer/songwriter and guitarist H.E.R. performed her courageous song "Fight For You" from Judas and the Black Messiah at the 2021 Oscars. 

The film is up for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor.

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In a lead-up to the performance at the 2021 Oscars pre-show, an aglow H.E.R. said "I'm really excited for people to see it," and "It's very powerful and important to me."

Keep watching this space at GRAMMY.com for more news about 2021 Oscars performers and/or winners.

H.E.R. Wins Best Original Song For "Fight For You" From 'Judas And The Black Messiah' At The 2021 Oscars

Aaliyah in 2001
Aaliyah in 2001.

Photo: Sal Idriss/Redferns

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8 Ways Aaliyah Empowered A Generation Of Female R&B Stars

More than 20 years after her untimely death and 30 since her debut album, 'Age Ain't Nothing But a Number,' Aaliyah's legacy lives on through female R&B artists of generations new and old. Dig into her impact, from her fearlessness to her fashion sense.

GRAMMYs/May 24, 2024 - 02:39 pm

With worldwide sales of 32 million, five GRAMMY nominations, and more than a dozen Hot 100 hits to her name, Aaliyah achieved more in her tragically cut-short 22 years than most would several lifetimes over. And more than two decades after her untimely death, the female R&B scene is still very much indebted to her pioneering talents.

In the last few years alone, she's been namechecked by Beyoncé, sampled by SZA and Normani, and covered by Mariah the Scientist and Sinead Harnett. And that's only on a sonic level. Ella Mai and Mahalia also recreated her signature tomboyish look in their video for "What You Did," as did Jhené Aiko on " P*$$Y Fairy (OTW)." Justine Skye and Sevyn Streeter are just a few of the names who paid their respects in 2023 ABC tribute Superstar. And going further back, Aaliyah has also been cited as a major source of inspiration by Ciara, Tinashe, Nelly Furtado, and Rihanna, while Katy B and Jessie Ware even named their "Jolene"-esque duet after their musical icon.

And thanks to Aaliyah's innovative second and third studio efforts, 1996's One In A Million and 2001's Aaliyah, finally escaping from licensing limbo in 2021, those growing up in the streaming age are now discovering her supremely sultry voice, masterly interpretative skills, and array of forward-thinking hits, too. In the last three years, the likes of "Try Again" and "Are You That Somebody" have racked up more than 140 ad 170 million streams, respectively, on Spotify alone.

But why exactly does the singer nicknamed Baby Girl still have such a hold on contemporary artists, several of whom were barely out of diapers when she was busy tearing up the R&B rulebook? To coincide with the 30th anniversary of Aaliyah's debut album, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number, here's a look at how the "street but sweet" star built up such an inspirational legacy.

She Knew How To Use Her Voice 

Aaliyah arrived at a time when powerhouses Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and Whitney Houston were the dominant female singers. But the New Yorker quickly proved that lung-busting multiple octaves isn't the only way to vocally impress.

Aaliyah was still capable of such acrobatics. According to producer Daryl Simmons, she would often rely on opera runs before recording to warm up her voice; Diane Warren, who worked with the star on ballad "The One I Gave My Heart To," has spoken of how she was taken aback by her versatility. But Aaliyah's signature delivery was very much "less is more." You can hear her sensual, featherlight tones in the likes of Kelela, Rochelle Jordan, and The Internet's Syd, the latter of whom has specifically hailed Aaliyah as a formative influence on her own cooler-than-cool style.

She Retained An Air Of Mystery 

Aaliyah's less-is-more approach also applied to her public profile. Perhaps due to the controversy surrounding her relationship with debut album producer R. Kelly, the singer largely preferred to let her music do the talking.

Even when she did speak to the press, she kept her cards close to her chest. And she avoided giving the more salacious outlets any further ammunition by growing up away from the spotlight. If they were looking for celebrity beefs, love triangles or stumbling out of nightclubs, they had to look elsewhere.

In the social media era where oversharing is the norm, Aaliyah's desire to keep her private life entirely private now seems both admirable and practically impossible. But there are still several artists who've recognized there's a power in retaining a sense of mystery. Just look at Sault, the enigmatic collective said to be fronted by the Aaliyah-esque Cleo Sol, who've released 11 albums and evenperformed live without officially revealing their true identities.

She Was A Triple Threat 

Triple threats are par for the course these days. From Beyoncé and Rihanna to Brandy and Nicki Minaj, almost every female R&B star now seems determined to show they can pull off singing, dancing and acting — and, in the case of Jennifer Lopez's recent passion project, all at the same time. But Aaliyah was one of the first to showcase such impressive versatility.

In 2000 thriller Romeo Must Die, she stole the show from Jet Li as the daughter of a crime lord who refuses to get drawn into his dangerous underworld. And thanks to an inventive blend of wirework and futuristic choreography, she was equally spellbinding in the video for tie-in single "Try Again." 

Meanwhile, her slithery performance as the titular bloodsucker was by far the standout in 2001 horror Queen of the Damned. Having landed key roles in The Matrix Reloaded and Sparkle shortly before her untimely death, Aaliyah's movie career would undoubtedly have ascended to the same lofty heights as her musical.

She Wasn't Afraid To Take Control 

Don't be fooled by Aaliyah's softly spoken vocals and coy demeanor. The star was never afraid to tell it like it is. Just ask A&R executive Jeff Sledge, who guided her early days with Jive Records. "She was shy but when she would speak, you could tell she was a real artist," he told The Guardian in 2021. "She had her ideas of what she wanted to do and say — she wasn't a puppet."

Although her talents lay as a performer/interpreter rather than a songwriter/producer, Aaliyah continued to exert creative control throughout her discography. While promoting sophomore One In A Million, she told MTV, "I was very confident in my convictions and what I wanted this time around." 

It's a mindset reflected across her lyrical themes, too. On "If Your Girl Only Knew," she hits back at a player whose attention she's unwillingly caught, while on "Are You That Somebody," she insists on keeping her new beau a secret until he proves his worth.

She Helped Launch Missy Elliott's Career 

Although Missy Elliott had started to make waves in the music industry — firstly in short-lived girlband Sista, and then as writer/producer for Jodeci and Aaron Hall — it was her partnership with Timbaland and Aaliyah on 1996's One In A Million where she truly established herself as an R&B game-changer. Elliott co-penned nine tracks, including the singles "Hot Like Fire," "4 Page Letter" and "If Your Girl Only Knew," her sensual melodic hooks the perfect foil for Timbaland's innovative beats.

By the time their crowning glory, "Are You That Somebody," dropped in 1998, Elliott had become a star in her own right: maintaining the synergy, her debut album, 1997's Supa Dupa Fly, also boasted a guest appearance from Aaliyah. But as Elliott told Entertainment Weekly in a tribute to Aaliyah after her passing, their connection went far beyond the studio: "It was more of a family vibe than just work. We could tell each other anything." Over the next few years, both established (Whitney, Mariah) and emerging (702, Tweet) female talent would follow Aaliyah's lead by utilizing Elliott's production skills.

She Gave The Youth A Voice 

From SWV and En Vogue to Brownstone and Jade, the mid-'90s R&B scene was dominated by ladies well into adulthood. Aaliyah, however, was just 15 when debut Age Ain't Nothing But A Number hit the shelves. Subsequently, a generation of young girls immediately latched on to who they saw as a kindred spirit.

Although Aaliyah always sounded more mature than her years, her debut often reads like a schoolgirl's diary entry. (She even opens the title track by noting one: "May 5, 1993/ Aaliyah's diary/ Got it," goes the often-omitted intro.) Songs about crushes, hanging out with her friends, and partying on the weekend certainly reflected the teenage experience with authenticity (Aaliyah was still attending Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts).

What's more, "Young Nation" essentially finds her spearheading a new youth movement, "keeping it smooth with a jazz attitude.""There were so many messages in her songs that guided me and became the soundtrack to my childhood," British singer Kara Marni told The Guardian, proving that Aaliyah's generational influence extended far beyond her homeland.

She Had A Timeless Sense Of Style 

"There doesn't seem to be a current streetwear trend that Aaliyah didn't sport first," Vogue's fashion editor Janelle Okwodu recently claimed, no doubt referring to everything from bandanas and baggy jeans to sports jerseys and ski hats. From the moment she first graced MTV in overalls, a tracksuit and the chunkiest of leather vests in "Back & Forth," the New Yorker made it crystal clear she wasn't interested in appealing solely to the male gaze.

Aaliyah could dress up for the occasion; see the Roberto Cavalli ballgown she wore to the 2000 VMAs. But her sense of style always leaned more toward the casual and tomboyish end of the spectrum, empowering the next generation of R&B performers to wear exactly what they wanted. British singer Nao was one such follower of her fashion: "There was a part of Aaliyah that made me feel comfortable in rolling out in my denim trousers or in an oversized jumper and knowing that my music can be enough."

She Proved Female R&B Could Think Outside The Box 

TLC's "No Scrubs," Missy Elliott's "Get Ur Freak On," Amerie's "1 Thing." Think of the most innovative R&B singles of the pre-streaming era and it's likely a female act is responsible. And thanks to a sonic palette that still sounds like it's been sent from the future, Aaliyah undeniably paved the way.

Age Ain't Nothing But A Number first established her innovative ways, her mellifluous vocals gliding across Timbaland's progressive beats and bank of avant-garde sound effects. But it was 2001's eponymous LP that truly pushed the genre into various weird and wonderful directions, from the snake-charming classical sample on "We Need A Resolution," to the warped Nine Inch Nails-esque guitars on "What If," to the squelchy sci-fi funk of "Try Again." 

Even when she went classic, as on gorgeous slow jam, "I Care 4 U," she practically invented alternative R&B. Musical boundaries might now be a thing of the past, but in the early '00s, Aaliyah was one of the few breaking them down.

​​10 Ways TLC Shaped The Future Of R&B

Tori Kelly
Tori Kelly

Photo: Sarah Morris/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Tori Kelly Gets “Unwrapped” For 'TORI' At GRAMMY U Event Showcasing Production & Recording Techniques From Her New Album

The singer stepped out for GRAMMY U's first "Unwrapped" event to give fans a look deep inside her new record, TORI. Joined by producer and collaborator Tenroc, the pair walked guests through the making of several tracks including "missin u" and "oceans."

GRAMMYs/May 21, 2024 - 10:11 pm

GRAMMY U members got a special treat from Tori Kelly when the singer (and Sing-er) took the stage for the first ever GRAMMY U "Unwrapped" event on May 15. Held at The Novo in downtown Los Angeles, the event brought together fans, music industry professionals, and students for a night that dove deep into the creative process behind Kelly’s brand new record, TORI. Amazon Music and Mastercard were presenting sponsors for this event. 

Joined on stage by producer and collaborator Tenroc, Kelly took fans through a journey of several tracks from her new record, from inception to completion. Kelly discussed each track, aided by a video presentation and using stems to highlight special production techniques, musical intricacies, and cool little Easter eggs. The showcase was followed by a round of live questions from the audience, where Kelly dished about everything from her voiceover work to her pre-studio rituals, before grabbing a guitar and performing two new tracks: "High Water" and "Oceans." 

Here’s a glimpse into all the songs Kelly and Tenroc featured, from "Missin' U" to "Spruce."

"thing u do”

When it came time to make Tori, Kelly told the audience that she wanted to focus on "songs that make [you] wanna dance," and "songs that [anyone] can belt out in the car." Mainly collaborating just with Tenroc, Bellion, Clyde Lawrence, and Jordan Cohen, Kelly put together a record that's strongly influenced by late '90s and early '00s pop, with references to chirping Sidekick phones and plenty of nostalgic vocal effects. 

"missin u" in particular is interesting, not just because it was inspired by Craig David and the U.K. Garage sound — with Kelly taking special care to pronounce "garage" in true British fashion at the live event — but also because it was released in both its original form and as an R&B edit. The latter version is the one Kelly and Tenroc highlighted at the event, going through Kelly's vocal tracks, and really digging in on the remix's bridge, which Kelly wrote just for that track and recorded in her home studio.

Getting to see Tenroc's Logic Pro work on the big screen seemed to mesmerize everyone in attendance, with most marveling at the ease he seemed to have flicking through the dozens of stems, layers, and plug-ins. 

"missin u"

When it came time to make TORI, Kelly told the audience that she wanted to focus on "songs that make [you] wanna dance," and "songs that [anyone] can belt out in the car." Mainly collaborating just with Tenroc, Bellion, Clyde Lawrence, and Jordan Cohen, Kelly put together a record that's strongly influenced by late '90s and early '00s pop, with references to chirping Sidekick phones and plenty of nostalgic vocal effects.

In particular, "missin u" is interesting, not just because it was inspired by Craig David and the U.K. Garage sound — with Kelly taking special care to pronounce "garage" in true British fashion at the live event — but also because it was released in both its original form and as an R&B edit. The latter version is the one Kelly and Tenroc highlighted at the event, going through Kelly's vocal tracks, and really digging in on the remix's bridge, which Kelly wrote just for that track and recorded in her home studio.

Getting to see Tenroc's Logic Pro work on the big screen seemed to mesmerize everyone in attendance, with most marveling at the ease he seemed to have flicking through the dozens of stems, layers, and plug-ins. 

"shelter"

Talking about "shelter," Kelly described a sort of shorthand she'd developed with Tenroc, after working closely together over the past few years. She said they're at the point where they can communicate with "sounds" and "telepathy," a benefit she attributes to not switching producers throughout the making of her record.

Tenroc and Kelly used "shelter" to talk about the comping process, or the act of combining the best parts of different takes into a single track. Kelly said she typically does about five takes of a vocal track, all in different personas: one normal, one shyer, one wild, one with a lot of vocal runs, and one that's sort of a wild card. She can keep each take separate in her mind that way, remembering how she recorded a vowel slightly better in one take or gave a line a little grittier vocal texture in another. It's not something everyone can do, though, and Tenroc said it's truly amazing to witness in person — a fact the live audience could attest to. 

For Kelly, a lot of making TORI, was about exploring different tones and textures of her voice, she said. She'd sometimes start by doing an impression of a singer like Rihanna and Willow in one run, and then blend the inspired version with her own, stretching herself vocally. She demonstrated that kind of thing live at the show, doing off-the-cuff runs of bits of "Shelter" to talk about how they changed the way the word "plate" in the chorus. 

Tenroc also showed off how he used the Little Alterboy plug-in to alter Kelly's voice, turning the rap in "shelter," as well as the "you, you, you, you, you" bit into what sounds like a deep masculine voice, even though those lines were originally laid down by Kelly herself. 

"spruce"

When "spruce" was first being envisioned by Kelly and co-writer Casey Smith, it was a song called "truce" about making up with your loved one before going out on the town. Kelly had been wanting to make a "getting ready, girly song," though, and Bellion came into the studio one day with the idea of merging the two ideas in what became "spruce." 

Written over a loop made by Tenroc, "spruce" — featuring Kim Chaewon of K-Pop group LE SSERAFIM — is emblematic, Kelly said, of her effort to let go, change, and try new things in the studio. The production was inspired by Jai Paul and uses sidechain compression, which is when the level of one instrument or sound triggers a compressor to control the level of another sound. The crowd clearly seemed taken with the sound when Tenroc played examples of how it was used in the track, which he said he made in part with the Serum plugin. Kelly said the result feels fully "3-D," like you're "inside" the track rather than just listening along.

"same girl"

The last — and most personal —song on the record, "same girl," was mostly written by Kelly while she was on a plane. She wanted something that felt like it could close the record, and she recorded it live with Tenroc in her studio, where he also played piano. 

Kelly said the song was inspired by her love of various music styles and genres. She explained, "Coming up as an artist, I always felt a little insecure about trying to stay in one lane and be in one box. I love so many different genres. I'm inspired by so many different things." She continued, "And so finding my sound I always thought that was a bad thing... But I'm grateful for all these different genres I've been able to dabble in. This song was me being overwhelmed by people's opinions and letting it get to me a little bit while thinking of my career as a whole."

Kelly said that while she worried when she was writing that the lyrics would be too personal and too specific, she's had great feedback about the track, something that reminds her that, "Anytime you write about your own experience, someone else out there is going to be able to relate to it." 

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Genia (right) performs for Press Play.

Photo: Courtesy of Genia

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Press Play: Watch Genia Narrate The Pain Of Heartbreak In This Raw Performance Of "Dear Life"

R&B singer Genia offers an acoustic rendition of "Dear Life," one of the singles from her forthcoming mixtape, '4 AM In The Ville,' out April 19 via Def Jam.

GRAMMYs/Apr 9, 2024 - 05:00 pm

On "Dear Life," R&B singer Genia pens a farewell letter to her lover — while simultaneously reflecting on how the intense saga crumbled her.

"I can't take anymore/ Put my pride aside, thought you could save me," she cries in the first verse. "These days, I don't know what I need/ You destroy me from the inside out/ If I go off the deep end/ You'll be sure not to bring me back."

In this episode of Press Play, watch Genia deliver a stripped-down performance of the vulnerable track alongside her guitarist.

The California native released "Dear Life" on Nov. 10, via Def Jam Recordings. She has also dropped three more singles — "Like That," "Know!," and "Let Me Wander" — leading up to her sophomore mixtape, 4 AM In The Ville, on April 19. 4 AM is a sequel to her debut, 4 PM In The Ville; both projects are inspired by Genia's experience of growing up in Victorville, California.

""[The songs] explore the different stages of grief in a relationship," she revealed in an interview with Urban Magazine. "The second tape is really me touching on falling in love, betrayal, anger, and rape."

Watch the video above to hear Genia's acoustic performance of "Dear Life," and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Press Play.

10 Ways TLC Shaped The Future Of R&B

Usher Super Bowl 2024
Usher performs with Ludacris, Lil Jon, Jermaine Dupri and Will.i.am during the Apple Music halftime show at the NFL Super Bowl 58 football game

Photo: Michael Owens/Getty Images

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Usher's Super Bowl Halftime Show Was More Than A Performance, It Was A Celebration Of Black Excellence

From celebrating Atlanta's HBCU culture to shining light on Southern rappers like Ludacris and Lil Jon, Usher brought the brilliance of the Black South to Las Vegas.

GRAMMYs/Feb 12, 2024 - 08:41 pm

In the days leading up to Usher’s Super Bowl performance, the singer waxed poetically about the significance of this moment not only in popular culture but for Black music.

Speaking with Kelly Carter on "Good Morning America," Usher reflected on the history of Black entertainers who performed for the masses under restrictive laws. Although a majority of those laws have been overturned, it would be remiss to not think about the recent series of court cases that have targeted Black musicians, such as Atlanta-based rapper Young Thug, whose music is currently being used against him in court

For singers like Usher who have been privy to the ways in which Black music — and those who create it — have been mistreated, his halftime performance was as much as a statement as it was a tribute to those who came before him. "I'm coming through the front door with this one," Usher told Carter.

It is only fitting that the performance opened with lines from "My Way" the title of his Las Vegas residency, which has featured a who’s who of prominent figures in pop culture before launching into "Caught Up." Usher then descended from his anointed throne in a crisp, all white Dolce & Gabbana ensemble, he began a Michael Jackson-inspired dance routine with an array of backup dancers; the standout being renowned celebrity choreographer Sean Bankhead.

Usher made it clear early on, however, that his performance was no mere spectacle. He paused to deliver a testimony, one that bears repeating despite his new album and $100 million-earning Vegas residency: "They said I wouldn't make it, they said I wouldn't be here today, but I am." 

Once the air cleared and Usher thanked his momma for her steadfast advocacy and faith in him, he led Allegiant Stadium in a sing along of "Superstar." The track from 2004’s Confessions recently inspired a viral challenge on TikTok. 

A consummate performer and supporter of his peers, Usher wasn't content to simply highlight his own success. The singer transformed Allegiant Stadium to "The Yard" — the singular place at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, where students gather to talk, discuss, and have fun — and filled it with music. 

Usher’s Yard included a performance of "Love In This Club" with the assistance of two members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., the second oldest Black fraternity in the U.S. The trio was supported by the Jackson State University marching band, known as the "Sonic Boom of The South," to finish the song. 

Even his brief moment of affection with singer Alicia Keys, who joined the singer for "My Boo," can be described as a "homecoming hug." Homecoming is another HBCU tradition, where alumni convene at their respective campuses and greet their former flame with a hug.

When Jermaine Dupri entered the stage to announce the 20th anniversary of Confessions, the transportation was complete. The audience was no longer in Vegas, but in Atlanta, the Black Mecca of the world. And Usher is Atlanta’s nucleus.

It is here that the spirits of Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, and Prince accompanied Usher as he bewitched millions with a singular microphone and momentum stage presence. A haze of purple clouds and smoke led the way for singer H.E.R., the night’s self appointed "Bad Girl" and her crew of roller skating baddies.

While Usher may have began the halftime show with the enthusiasm of a young boy who just got his chance to perform a solo in the church choir, by its end he was fully inhabiting his chart-topping sex icon persona.Will.i.am’s voice rippled through the stadium as Usher, donning a blue and black Off-White outfit reminiscent of football shoulder pads, glided onto the stage with an aura that is equal parts charismatic and sinful sweet. 

Skating, a main tenant of Atlanta’s culture, is embedded in Usher’s ethos and a part of his larger business. The singer loves skating and owns several skating rinks.

Usher finished the extravagant performance with "Yeah!" — a song beloved in Atlanta and far, far beyond. That the song is turning 20 this year and still resonates with a global audience (not to mention a football-loving one) is further evidence that Usher truly is the "King of R&B."

"Your moment is your moment. And this is a moment I’ve prepared for during the last 30 years," Usher told Billboard ahead of the Super Bowl. 

He certainly owned his moment. Usher's Super Bowl halftime show was no singular performance or an audition, but a coronation. He was receiving the torch carried by all the Black entertainers who preceded him, and reminding the world that the South still has something to say. 

Surrounded by Ludacris and Lil Jon,  strippers, and his own marching band, Usher closed the night out with the A-Town Stomp and one important phase: "I took the world to the A!" 

Usher's Biggest Hits, From Baby-Making Slow Jams To Dance Floor Classics