Photo: Daniella Murillo
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Lido Pimienta Summoned All Her Creative & Artistic Powers On ‘Miss Colombia’
Recently, Lido Pimienta spoke to GRAMMY.com from her studio in Canada about her ‘Miss Colombia’ GRAMMY nomination, aspiring to be Enya and what she’s doing outside of music
Lido Pimienta’s La Papessa, the independently released sophomore album that launched the Colombian-born, Canada-based artist into the spotlight, wasn’t meant to be a record at all. A mix of experimental synth, cumbia rhythms and ritualistic vocals, with themes of colonization and abuse, it was meant to be a casual artistic project she made with friends.
"I didn't take it extremely seriously," she tells GRAMMY.com from her art studio in Canada. But listeners did: In 2017, it was the first Spanish-language album to receive Canada’s Polaris Prize, a coveted award for the country’s most distinct and promising artists, including Arcade Fire, Kaytranada, and Feist. Since then, she has gone from an "under the radar" artist to one to watch.
But her true magic manifested when she placed meaningful intention into La Papessa’s follow-up: Miss Colombia. The sequel arrived in the spring of 2020 on ANTI-, inspired by a 2015 blunder in which Steve Harvey crowned the wrong Miss Universe. Miss Colombia is like a healing wound for Pimienta. It tackles anti-Blackness—especially on "Pelo Cucu," which highlights how much the Latinx community subjects itself to European standards of beauty. But Black and indigenous empowerment shines through in the music: Throughout the album, Afro-Colombian and indigenous sounds braid together as one, and the result is a mesmerizing assemblage of sounds a listener will feel in their bones.
Pimienta made Miss Colombia on a tight budget, but it didn’t matter—the impressive production quality only highlight’s Pimienta’s resourcefulness. Almost a year later, the album continues to ensnare new fans. In 2020, the album earned both a GRAMMY nomination, for Best Latin Rock Or Alternative Album, and a Latin GRAMMY nomination, for Best Alternative Music Album.
With her newfound recognition, she hopes more money will come her way for her future projects. "I just think that I need to get more money. That's it. I feel like I'm at this point in my career where I hope whoever is watching is ready to invest," she says. "I know that I'm good at it, I know that I'm fantastic; I know that my voice is great; I know I'm a little cute. I know all of these things and I'm ready for it."
GRAMMY.com caught up with Lido Pimienta over Zoom at her studio in Canada about her GRAMMY nomination, aspiring to be Enya and what she’s doing outside of music.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How are you doing during this weird time?
I'm making all kinds of art. All kinds of new music. I'm listening to a lot of music I wouldn't necessarily be listening to, even six months ago. I'm exploring a lot of things that don’t have to do with me. I've been trying to use time [to the fullest] and trying to not let this situation get in the middle of my creativity.
I'm here all the time. This is where I live. This is my art studio and I'm making stuff and I have a little seat for my daughter and she makes a mess and I'm loving it. I watch "[Ru Paul’s] Drag Race" and I make art. It's been my therapy. It's been my escape and it's been my way of keeping my juices flowing.
What music are you listening to? And who’s your favorite "Drag Race" performer?
I've always listened to Enya in a joking way, but now, I'm listening to her seriously and trying to understand why she's so popular. Why does she resonate so much? Why is she this cult-like figure? She's really strange to me. I was listening to Enya [recently], and I was like, "I'm really obsessed with this white Catholic."
I think about it, and maybe I want to be her. Maybe I'm the one who wants to live in a castle and I want to appear through the decades and still be relevant with my very soft music that only a small population of the world can understand. That's been interesting.
But then, of course, I need my "Drag Race." I don't know what's on this season, Season 13. From the UK, I love Lawrence Chaney. From the Gringo one, it's between Gottmik and Kandy Muse. Kandy because of her personality and what they represent, and Gottmik because of her style.
Here's the thing I really respect about you: you critique things and you have a lens that a lot of people who aren't white and privileged don't know of. But you're also very honest. I think how you spoke about Enya really speaks to that, how we're all complex.
I don't know any other way to be. I also feel like I don't really have the pressure of hiding my true self like I feel a lot of people that are in the music industry have. They have to guard themselves and be a vessel for songs that don't actually have their own point of view.
I don't have that pressure, luckily. I can be fat. I can get wrinkles. I can show off cellulite. This is not about the way that I look. It's really about what I think. It amplifies, elevates, solidifies and verifies everything that I am. I am what you see is what you get.
What is something in music that makes you light up?
Traditional Afro-Colombian music. That's it. When I made up "Totó la Momposina," it was a huge deal to me.
One day, I was asked to do Petrona Martinez’s portrait. That's an honor for me. It's like meeting Celia Cruz, rest in power. Sexteto Tabalá, that's the stuff where I'm like, I can't wait to go to Colombia and start recording them because I want to produce their next album.
Even the traditional Peruvian music, my heart is racing just thinking about it. To me, that's proper. That's real, that's transcendental, that's beyond pop and all that stuff.
I take it you never thought you'd be nominated for both a Latin GRAMMY and a GRAMMY during a pandemic.
Yeah. With or without the pandemic, I did not anticipate that plot twist. Let me tell you, I'm pretty sure the day of the Latin GRAMMYs, I was making fun of the award show in my own Lido Pimienta way when I was like, "Wait, I'm pretty sure the GRAMMYs are like Miss Universe for musicians."
The inspiration for Miss Colombia came from the infamous 2015 Miss Universe [pageant] when Steve Harvey messed up and gave the crown to Miss Colombia and then took it away and gave it to [the actual winner] Miss Philippines. I was [like], "This is hilarious! The Latin GRAMMYs are like Miss Colombia." I guess I'll save the joke for another year when I'm not nominated.
Then, gosh. Here we go again with the gringo GRAMMYs. Then, at that point, I was kind of like, what do you mean only one nomination? Where are the other ones? I'm like, it's okay. Because now, it's like, you can be nominated for this huge award and you don't have to have a number one song in the entire world. Or as a woman, as a Latin woman, I actually don't have to show off my body and I'm still getting nominated.
[But] I don't think I'm going to win for this. The people that I'm going against are too popular.
You never know!
I'm very curious about the next record. I'm challenging myself. It's a fun game now.
One thing about your album is that you made it on a budget. You didn't have a lot of money. How did you make it work?
I'm resourceful. I do a lot of it myself. I feel like a lot of the albums that make it to huge platforms and are very, very popular have a lot of money behind them because they [are the product of the top producers, the top engineers working in a top studio.
Working in a top studio can cost what I used for my [whole] album just in a day. It's basic math, really. I would love to work with the top engineer in the world or the top producer in the world. [But] it might sound cheesy to me, and I might not need that.
A few months ago, this art studio was my music studio. I had been working on these songs since 2015. I went to Chile, I went to Colombia. My process is different because it really is all me. These are my songs. I don't fish for songs at those writing camps or stuff like that. It's me.
I feel like that's how I'm able to manage it because I write everything myself. What I would like is more budget for my videos, because I'm a visual artist and I feel like all of my videos so far are only scratching the surface.
I’m the one who critiques my work the most because I'm the only one who matters. I don't care if people like it or don’t like it, [but] it's wild to me to see how far Miss Colombia has gone. When I really think about it, it's like, I made it in my house. I don't have a hundred thousand dollars to make it.
But people are actually listening to this record. It has become the soundtrack for a lot of people in the pandemic. It's a huge honor and it kept me excited, and I know that I don't have to compromise my art. It all comes down to that [and] it shows that I am a good businesswoman.
In your The Road To Miss Colombia documentary, you talk about how at some point, you had these rose-colored glasses when looking at Colombia and the album is you taking off those glasses. What is your relationship to your culture now?
It's the same as always. I feel very much at home and welcome in my territory, in my community. Once I step out of my circle and I go into a Colombia mainstream, people will think I'm weird. People will think I'm so strange.
But this thing about Colombia is that we’re infatuated with the idea that we’re a colony. People are very proud that they'll have one percent Spaniard in them. Closeness, affiliation and relatability to whiteness—a.k.a. the Spaniard in them—makes people feel like they are making it.
One of the owners of [my] school—I forget her name, maybe because I blocked it so much—[was] this white Colombian. I remember her grabbing me and telling me, "Why are you in this classroom, Black child? Why are you in here? You're going to steal from us." I'm wearing my uniform. I'm obviously a student in this school. She was so bothered that I was taking space.
You remember these things and then, you're like, yeah, Colombia is messed up. But the redeemable qualities, it all lies in that we are Black and that we're indigenous. If we didn't have that, we would be empty. We would have no culture.
When you grow up like that and then, you move to a country like Canada, you relive those moments. But now you're an adult and now you're able to vocalize and understand where the hatred is coming from. Now, you actually have the maturity and in my case, personality to clap back.
That's where I live. That's my existence. It's like, that's my resistance. I use humor as my coping mechanism. I'm well-read and all that stuff. I'm a critical thinker.
Some of the things you coped with as a child, you're still coping with as an adult. That is a lot to carry. How do you deal with all that?
Art. That's it. Art and my children. I don't have a lot of friends, but the friends that I have are fantastic. I just want to make stuff. I'm constantly creating. I have so many dreams, and hopes and plans.
I know that certain people in this world who were born and granted suffering on many levels. The way that I have to experience it, I have to understand that the universe gave me this suffering, but also equipped me with strength, and wit, and intelligence.
I'm learning how to not dwell. I'm learning how to resist and push forward because I know who I am. After I die, I'm 100% convinced that people will write about me and people will write about my art. My art is going to live longer than my physical body. My children are going to be living off of my name for year-to-year.
That's the legacy that I'm building now. When I think about that and I think about this trauma and all that stuff, I know that it only gets better and that I'm real.
Does it comfort you at all that you are creating space not only for people who don’t fit the European standard of beauty but also with the music you make? You use a little bit of those reggaeton rhythms but it's not pop.
I don't even think that I'm creating anything for anyone other than myself. For whoever sees themselves in me, I feel like I'm setting a precedent that you don't really have to subscribe to the tropes of Latinidad in music.
I'm honestly like, I'm just bored. You know what I mean? It's like, really? Those two making another song? Oh, the other three are making—oh, wow! You know what I'm saying?
It all comes down to what people like. If the majority of people like serious, arty music, then I would be where they are. But that's not even what we're doing here. I get a song in my head, I sing it out loud. If I sing it still after a week, then I record that. It's as simple as that.
I don't think about who's going to listen to it. I don't think where they're going to listen to it. I don't think about if it's going to get released on a CD or vinyl, I don't think about any of that in the process of creation. It's just creation. That's it—hope you like it.
In the meantime, I'm home washing my sheets because my daughter peed on my bed, which actually happened three minutes ago.
On Miss Colombia, you recorded yourself and produced a lot of those songs. I know on your last album, you didn't get to do any of that. What did it mean to you to be able to do that?
I also did it on my last album. We had many more cooks because La Papessa was an album that wasn't supposed to be an album. It was supposed to be an audio experience that would go with these illustrations I made that were inspired by the Tarot and the High Priestess [card.]
It was like an art project; I was new to Toronto and I made these new friends. We were hitting record and jamming. I didn't really take it extremely seriously. Then, I went to Chile and I started working on Miss Colombia, an album that I actually was like, "You know what? I'm going to get serious" … Then, I come back and they're like, "We're going to shortlist it for the Polaris Prize in Canada."
I couldn't believe it because I was like, "Is this a prank? That album is a joke." But [now], I have to own it. The songs are real. I talk about a lot of real stuff. The production could be better, but it's very unique. It's very experimental. It's different points of view.
So, yeah, I was glad they gave me that recognition. It gave me the impulse and the motivation to write more music that more consciously and with more intention. Here, we have Miss Colombia and here I am not going on tour, so I'm working on new material.
What shifted that mindset from more fun and playful to intentional?
When I realized that I could work from home and still make a living, and a single mom to a boy that only has me, that I'm the only one that takes care of him. People were interested in booking me for shows and I realized that I could make money from that, I said, "Well, I don't want to feel like I'm cheating people. I want to do really good work," because I'm an artist and I did it. So, Miss Colombia was the summoning of all of my powers but doing them in a very intentional, serious way, giving a character, a purpose whether the character was me or whoever sees themselves in me coming up a beginning, a middle, and an end.
What's next for you? What else are you working on?
A TV show, like real segments and skits for my YouTube channel which I'm titling Lido TV, which is going to be really fun. Also, I'm writing an album for an artist, Julie and I'm singing a bunch of songs for other people in North America. Just another day in the life.
Do you have anything else to share about the next album? What the inspirations and sound might be?
People are going to say that I'm the Caribbean Enya.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: Clemens Bilan/picture alliance via Getty Images
5 Artists Influenced By Enya: Brandy, Nicki Minaj, Grimes & More
Thirty-five years after Enya's second studio effort, 'Watermark,' ushered in the contemporary New Age scene, take a look at five artists who have professed their love of the four-time GRAMMY winner.
Enya never used to be considered the epitome of cool. Perhaps that was due to her image as a reclusive castle dweller. Maybe it's because she's never played a single live show in her four-decade career. Or it could be that her music has often been snootily dismissed as the aural equivalent of a bath bomb.
But over time, the four-time GRAMMY winner born Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin has received a deserved critical reevaluation. The modern-day consensus is that her ethereal blend of Celtic folk, classical and pioneering use of lush, multi-layered synths — developed in conjunction with long-term creative team Nicky and Roma Ryan — spearheaded a new age for, well, New Age.
She's now talked about in the same circles as Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser and Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard, singers that, unlike Enya, were immediately celebrated for pushing their remarkable voices to new otherworldly places. And she's been sampled, namechecked or championed by artists as eclectic as industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle, death metallers Blood Incantation and the many-monikered rapper, Diddy.
In fact, think of any Enya song, and it's no doubt been borrowed by an unlikely suspect. "Boadicea" formed the basis of Fugees' career-best "Ready or Not," and rather sneakily without the hip-hop trio asking first. "Wild Child" was given the hardcore techno treatment by Eurodance duo CJ Crew. And yes, that is her most recognizable hit you can hear in the chorus of hip-hop provocateurs Die Antwoord's "Orinoco Ninja Flow (Wedding DJ's Remix)."
Sample or not, some musicians have been more vocal about their love of Ireland's second-biggest music export (only U2 have sold more records worldwide) than others. As her breakthrough album, Watermark, celebrates its 35th anniversary on Sept 19, here's a look at five.
Brandy certainly doesn't see Enya as a guilty pleasure. The R&B star leapt to the defense of her unlikely musical hero during a 2020 interview with The Guardian when the journalist questioned the Irish icon's musical credibility. "Enya's a joke to you?" she asked incredulously. "That's not even possible. I'm a little bit offended."
The man who'd incurred her wrath should have known that Brandy takes Enya very seriously. You can hear the Irish' songstress' influence throughout her enduring career, from the gorgeous multi-layered harmonies of "Full Moon" to the hypnotic chant that weaves its way through the futuristic Timbaland production of "Afrodisiac."
"She has the voice of an angel," Brandy gushed in the introduction for an Apple playlist personally curated to reflect her life, with Enya's post-9/11 anthem "Only Time" appearing alongside Coldplay's "Yellow," three Whitney Houston cuts, and the best of her own material. "I first discovered Enya when I was 15. I love how she layered and stacked her voice."
Weyes Blood, aka baroque pop singer/songwriter Natalie Mering, was also forced to stick up for Enya when she was asked by The Irish Times whether her love of the New Age veteran was shrouded in irony. Her reply couldn't have made her sincerity any clearer.
"She is a completely uninhibited feminine force," said Mering. "A matriarchal force in music. She had so much success because of that distinctive sound. But because music people are obsessed with rock 'n' roll and drums, she doesn't get the attention she deserves. If you look at her record sales, she is, in my opinion, up there with the Beatles."
A year later, Mering waxed lyrical about the former Clannad singer in a Pitchfork piece about Enya's growing cultural cachet. She revealed that the Watermark and Shepherd Moons albums her parents played constantly back in the 1990s were a huge influence on her own LPs, 2016's Front Row Seat to Earth and 2019's Titanic Rising, particularly on the former's ballad "Generation Why." Mering then made a claim even bolder than her Fab Four comparison: "Enya's a drone artist, she's like the most mainstream noise artist there ever was."
You wouldn't necessarily expect an album featuring a belated riposte to Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" to also be partly influenced by the enigmatic darling of the New Age scene. But apparently, Nicki Minaj's The Pinkprint does nod to Enya on at least a couple of occasions.
Discussing her 2014 LP with V magazine, Minaj said, "One of my biggest [musical influences] is Enya. There are two records early in the album where the airiness and the whimsicalness remind me of Enya, and I sort of crafted it thinking about her and the way her music makes me feel."
And the rapper also tried to convert her son (still only known by his nickname, Papa Bear) to Enya's studio wizardry while he was still in the womb. The rapper explained on Twitter, "While pregnant I could only play him soothing music like Enya/classical, etc. He'd be more relaxed."
Grimes' fondness for the Celtic goddess appears to have developed over time. When asked about her "Enya on steroids" label early on in her career, the Canadian seemed relatively non-committal. "I probably have the 'Best Of Enya' somewhere," she told NME. "I guess it makes a change from all the Cocteau Twins comparisons."
But over the following decade, Grimes showed more appreciation for Enya's talents. In 2013, she told Rolling Stone that her then-upcoming Art Angels album was heavily influenced by the Irishwoman's ethereal sound, particularly closer "Butterfly" in which she layered "so much Enya synth s—."
Five years later, Grimes included the haunting "Boadicea" on Playing Bloodborne, one of five mood-specific playlists she curated for Spotify. And during her 2022 DJ set at the Electric Daisy Carnival, Grimes no doubt confounded all the ravers expecting wall-to-wall EDM when she dropped in the geography lesson that is "Orinoco Flow."
"I also love Enya or Cocteau Twins, where I can't understand a word they're saying and they're pulling a thread that does not exist in the real world but is still so satisfying." Perfume Genius' 2020 interview with The New Yorker proves that the world music icon's influence extends the female sphere.
The singer/songwriter born Michael Alden Hadreas has repeatedly professed his admiration for Enya in recent years. "My wig has belonged to Enya since 1988," he tweeted in 2019. "Was Enya the first to ever pop off," he posted without any context a year later. And then in 2023, the art pop troubadour named "Caribbean Blue" as one of his 40 all-time favorite songs while joining in with the latest Twitter trend.
Hadreas' love of Enya has undoubtedly filtered down to his own sound, too. Hear the "Orinoco Flow"-esque intro of "Just Like Love," for example, or the celestial "Gay Angels." Speaking to Pitchfork in 2022, he explained that the Irishwoman's general aura is the key to her appeal — and what has helped classify her as a different kind of cool.
"There's something about Enya being so mainstream that is really soothing to me," he said. "Everybody knows who Enya is, but there's also this feeling that it's something spiritual and strange."
The star's unique vibe also gave Hadreas a sense of belonging — something Enya likely did for many of his peers as well. "It felt like a deeper thing, this secret, like I know that I am connected to something, and I know the way I am is OK."
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Anitta On The “Insane” Success Of "Envolver," Representing Brazil & Reshaping Global Pop
After a decade of building a massive career in her home country of Brazil, Anitta took her success to a global level in 2022. The singer discusses her “brand new career” and the Best New Artist nomination that came from it.
Before Anitta released her album Versions of Me last April, she already had four albums in her catalog. But as the title insists, Versions of Me is the project that showed Anitta has many layers to her success — and now, she has a GRAMMY nomination to show for it.
The Brazilian star is nominated for Best New Artist at the 2023 GRAMMYs, which may feel like a long time coming for those who have been a fan since Anitta's self-titled debut album arrived in 2013. After becoming a household name in her native Brazil, and then in Latin America, she finally cracked the U.S. last year with the worldwide hit "Envolver." Ten years in, Anitta almost feels reborn.
"In Brazil I got the recognition before, but internationally, it's amazing because I've just started a brand new career," she tells GRAMMY.com. "I feel really special. I feel like things are happening really fast and I'm really happy about it."
With Versions of Me, Anitta explored and embraced her cross-cultural appeal, even singing in Portuguese, Spanish and English across its 15 tracks. The album opens with "Envolver," which blends reggaeton music with an electronic allure; later, she put a trap music twist on the Brazilian bossa nova classic "The Girl From Ipanema" in "Girl From Rio," a tribute to her hometown of Rio de Janeiro.
Those personal details helped Versions of Me resonate with a global audience, and they were amplified by Anitta's unabashed ability to push pop music to new places. She embedded elements of funk carioca (Brazilian funk music from the favelas of Rio De Janeiro where she grew up) into genre-bending collaborations alongside stars like Cardi B, Khalid, and Saweetie.
Anitta has also become widely acclaimed for her show-stopping performances, from Coachella to the Latin GRAMMY Awards to the viral "Envolver" dance challenge on TikTok. Her charming transparency with her fans helps uplift women, her country of Brazil, and the LGBTQIA+ community (she publicly identified as bisexual in 2018) — in turn helping Anitta become one of Latin pop's most refreshing and boldest artists in recent memory.
Ahead of the 2023 GRAMMYs, Anitta spoke with GRAMMY.com about her first GRAMMY nomination, the viral success of "Envolver," and what's next.
How do you feel about being nominated for Best New Artist?
I feel really special. First of all for the nomination, to be part of the GRAMMYs. That makes me feel like I'm doing a good job. I'm on the right path. But also, I felt really special that I was nominated for the Best New Artist category. I feel happy that people understand that for me it's a whole new world.
Even though I have more than 10 years of a career in Brazil, for me, in these other markets, like singing in English and Spanish, it's brand new stuff. I am a new artist in these other markets. I feel really happy that people can understand that and see it like I do.
You're also representing Portuguese and Spanish music in the Best New Artist category. What does it mean to you to be able to represent those languages within the category?
I feel like it's really important. My country feels very special about it. They've never seen something like that. Last time they saw something like that was like 57 years ago <a href="https://www.grammy.com/artists/astrud-gilberto/16737">when Brazilian artists [Astrud Gilberto and Antônio Carlos Jobim were nominated for Best New Artist], so they're really happy for me to be part of this. To be representing so much for my country, I'm really glad that I can do that.
Your song "Girl From Rio" interpolates one of Jobim and Gilberto's classic songs.
"The Girl From Ipanema"! It's crazy, it's like a cycle. It's amazing!
In your album Versions of Me, you sing in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Why did you decide to record music in those three languages?
Portuguese is my first language, obviously. And then I started to learn English when I was still a kid. I started to learn Spanish after I went to Spain for the first time because one of my songs in Portuguese, "Show Das Poderosas," was playing in Madrid. So I went to Spain to sing for a radio show, and I didn't understand anything that people were telling me, so I decided to start learning Spanish, and I loved it. And I started singing [in that language].
I think it's just part of my personality to enjoy learning languages. When I was a kid, I also learned Italian, so I have songs in Italian. I really enjoy it.
The album cover art features different versions of yourself throughout your career. Why did you decide to bring together those images from your past and present?
I think controversy is good when people talk about a subject, and they can see it's accurate and real, and they can get to know you a little better. I think it's a little fun.
I like being open about the [plastic surgery] procedures I've done. Being open about all the things in my life. I don't like to fake or hide situations. I feel like I would feel stuck in some kind of prison. I feel better if people just get to know me from a 360 point of view.
In the album, you explore genres like pop, R&B, trap, and reggaeton music. What was experience like to work with those different genres?
I wanted to show different types of music that I like singing. Like different versions of myself. I'm fascinated by people's music — the different countries and cultures. I love traveling and getting to know the way people consume music, the way people create music. It's really special when I can travel and get to know a new culture, and sing, and get that feeling running through my blood.
I love playing with the biggest amount of places and rhythms, and everything that I can, because I think that's what it is about, when you can create music that's more than just something fun to listen to. If you can bring cultures and bring people together, I think it's even more of a special thing.
How did the song "Envolver" come together?
The [COVID-19 pandemic] quarantine was over, but still the gates were closed to Brazil from America. To go to America, you had to quarantine for 15 days somewhere. I was in Punta Cana waiting for these 15 days to pass, and I decided to bring some friends of mine — artists to write songs with. It was Phantom and Lenny Tavárez. We started writing, [and when] we got to "Envolver," it was really special. We wrote it so fast. It was insane. It was amazing.
What was the inspiration behind that song?
We wanted to talk about a woman that is always in control and not the opposite. In songs, we always see guys talking like that to women, and I wanted to bring exactly the opposite — when a woman is in power.
Did you think that "Envolver" would become the massive hit that it was?
We did think that — but we also think that about so many songs, so it's like, we never know. It was insanely big. I think it wouldn't have been that big if I didn't have the support of the foundation of my country, and also if I [hadn't] done so much work in the Latin community. It got big because we were already doing a lot of stuff.
You've become known for your electric live performances. How important is it to express your music through dancing as well?
Even more right now, with TikTok and things like that, I think people are so engaged to dancing. They want to feel involved somewhere, so that's one way of how people are getting into music right now. Getting involved with the artists in some way more than just the music. I think dance is a very good way of doing that.
You incorporate elements of Brazilian funk music throughout Versions of Me. How important was it for you to bring that genre into some of the songs?
I put in a little bit. Not as much as I wanted to. I think in the next albums I will do more. I'm trying to introduce a little bit of [Brazilian] funk to the worldwide audience, and then I will [release] something really cultural that I really believe in.
Since I started traveling around the world, I'm fascinated about showing people where I come from, my origins. I think funk is my origin. It's so different, and it has the power to be the next big thing, so I feel really special about it. I feel like people are starting to get into funk and making more Brazilian funk music, and I really love that I'm part of this change.
You announced that your next album will be a Brazilian funk album. How is that coming along?
I'm still waiting. I'm working on the album. I have most of the songs kind of ready. I'm still adjusting some things and the features on it. But I'm going to wait for the best time to release it. I'm not going to do it in a rush.
I'm going to put effort behind it because this is the thing I always dreamed about doing. I always dreamed about having an album where I can truly feel my culture and what I really love about funk and Brazilian music. I think I'm going to wait for everything to be completely perfect for me to release it.
Throughout your career, you've proudly represented the LGBTQIA+ community, collaborating with artists like Brazilian drag pop stars Pabllo Vittar and Gloria Groove and being open about your own sexuality. How do you feel to be helping raise that representation and visibility?
I think it's amazing the more we can [do that], because it's still very hard for the LGBTQIA+ community to show up and to get a space to talk and be open without prejudice. The more that we can open room for artists who are openly gay, or trans, or drag queens — I think the scene needs more representation, more artists. The more I can do to bring people to me, or bring visibility to new artists like that, I will do it. It's really important.
Coming off of such a huge year in 2022, what can fans expect from you this year?
I'm going to rest a little bit. I thought I was going to do that last year, but with everything that happened with "Envolver," I ended up not resting the way I wanted to, so for sure this year, I'm going to take more time for myself.
Photo: AB + DM
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Viola Davis On Sharing Her Life To Help People Change Theirs & Her Potential EGOT
Viola Davis has already netted an Academy Award, two Tonys, and an Emmy, but now the iconic actor has earned her first GRAMMY nod for her performance of the audiobook for her memoir, 'Finding Me' — a work that Davis hopes can help change lives.
"There are not enough words and pages to quantify one's life," Viola Davis says with a warm, stern certainty — despite having delivered a memoir that carries a remarkable weight and beauty.
Living through difficult experiences takes incredible strength. Living through them again to write a memoir and then read them aloud as an audiobook must be a herculean feat. But it should come as no surprise that Davis has proven herself more than capable of meeting that challenge.
The acclaimed actor’s memoir, Finding Me, reaches back to her difficult childhood, to trauma and struggle, and continues through on her journey of healing and artistic achievement — and Davis delivers it with an uncanny blend of fragility and strength. Davis, a first-time GRAMMY nominee, has been lauded for her efforts, with Finding Me receiving a nod for Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording at the 2023 GRAMMYs.
And now the audiobook extends the possibility to add a GRAMMY Award to her awards shelf alongside an Emmy, an Oscar, and two Tonys, potentially making her the 18th person to complete the EGOT. While joining those ranks would be an undeniable honor, Davis’ vision of achievement and impact remains much simpler: helping others find the hope and healing that she discovered. "When you begin to connect with yourself, to unpack your life and make peace with it, it's easier to connect to the world — and I want other people to do the same," she says.
GRAMMY.com caught up with Davis to talk about how reading Finding Me differed from her usual style of performance, finding her calling in life, and what joining the ranks of EGOT winners would mean to her.
Let’s start at the beginning! How did you feel when you got the call that you were nominated for a GRAMMY?
I don't know if I expected it. When I wrote the book, I was just trying to write a good book. That was the goal. I wanted to be honest. I wanted to honor the people who were in my life and who were the subject of my story. And that was it.
Everything else that came out of it has been the icing on the cake, those beautiful sort of boons and gifts that come when you put yourself out there. 'Cause they don't always come. The GRAMMY nomination and how the book has done have been truly a gift that I didn't expect.
And it’s something of your own. It takes such an incredible amount of introspection to write a memoir, and Finding Me is simultaneously so elegant and raw. I can imagine that the whole experience of writing was incredibly powerful as well — putting yourself at the forefront, but also giving yourself the time to honor that self.
Absolutely. The character that I played in The Woman King, Nanisca, who is the leader of this female army, has a line in the movie that has been motivating me in this part of my life. She says to her daughter, Nawi, "I'm sorry I left you. I wasn't brave enough."
And I just never want to get to the end of my life with that turn, saying, "I wasn't brave enough." And I certainly do not wanna get to the point in my life that I say that to my younger self. I don't wanna leave my story behind. I don't want wanna leave it unexplored, not articulated, hidden, in a vat of shame. I don't want that.
With this book you got to tell your own story in your own time, and you get to shine a light on stories that haven't been told before. And now that might bring you into the storied halls of EGOT winners. You don't seem like the type of person driven primarily by ego, but the EGOT is a rare achievement and a huge moment to recognize all the work that you've done in the past as well.
I absolutely, definitely think about it as a huge accomplishment. I feel this way, even though it's probably a very dramatic statement on my part: I think that everybody wants their life to mean something. I believe in the Cherokee birth blessing, which is "May you live long enough to know why you were born." I do believe that you literally wanna blow a hole through this world in whatever way you can.
A lot of people don't know how to do that. A lot of people haven't found that thing that they're passionate about, that they can do. Some have. But we all are looking for that, blowing a hole through this earth before we leave it. I think about that in my work a lot. I really found that thing that I love to do. So I always wanna make it meaningful.
You can feel that when listening to you read the audiobook. There's that passion throughout your work that's always there with you. How did you make sure that you punched that hole in the world with the audiobook, specifically?
Well, my briefing to myself was to be honest with my voice with each chapter, to match my heartbeat with my voice; to not make it feel formal. I always feel that when one is honest, words leap off of the page and they really enter someone's soul. When you speak from the soul, people receive it in their soul. I really wanted that, which sometimes is very difficult when you're reading an entire book that's over 300 pages. You get tired. But I have to say, I wrote most of the book at 2, 3 o'clock in the morning. That's when inspiration hit me. That's also the hormone reset time. [Laughs.] But I wrote it at that hour because things would hit my spirit.
I really, really do believe that when it comes to artistic excellence — and this is not my ego saying it, it's a general statement — when it comes to things that are just good, they always have to move you. You cannot stay in your head and admire something from afar, the technical aspects and proficiency of it, the technical execution of it. It's got to hit your heart. And once it does that, you cannot downplay that value. That is what we are supposed to do as artists. And that was what I wanted to hit when I was doing the audiobook.
Three o'clock in the morning is, I suppose, a time when you can get out of your own way.
Your book showed that, and the story flows without impediment. But it must have been difficult at times to not have another actor to bounce off of. I'm so curious about how you've trained yourself as an artist to ensure you can still deliver a powerful performance in the audio booth.
It's a wonderful question. Listen, I'm always an actor in search of a director. I got my Equity card at 23. That's when I became a professional actress. That's 34 years ago. I have put in my 10,000 hours. [Laughs.] I cannot tell you how many speaking gigs I've had. I can't tell you how many times I've had performances where there was a director, but they weren't very good so I had to direct myself. Then there's my undergraduate degree, my degree from Julliard, as well as other schools where you learn a way of working.
That's what being an artist is about. Being an artist is not getting up and making the bold statement: I wanna be an actor. Yes, I did say that, but the step in between is learning a process, learning how to warm up your voice, learning what to emphasize, learning what the main thought is, how to breathe, what exactly you are saying and what the journey is. I ask myself all of those big questions. If I did not have a process, I don't know, maybe I'd just be an entertainer. But I went to school to learn a process and it serves me when I am in a situation where there is no director other than the guy running the sound booth.
You have to just check yourself. That process clearly helped ground you in the performance, but at the same time you're almost re-embodying your own past and experiences. Were you conscious of that as you were performing? Or was it more of a natural process?
Sometimes both. It is my story, so I know where I was at each moment — at the beginning, running as a 6-year-old little girl, being called ugly Black n—. Here's the thing, no matter what I wrote on the page, there are not enough words and pages to quantify one's life. As much as I remember, it only represents 30 percent of who I was. A huge part of what I was just still exists somewhere. Some memories were just lost. Some memories I just couldn't even interpret.
But when I'm speaking them, there is a sort of backstory stream of consciousness, of emotional elements, that could not even be put on the page but can inform the words when I speak them. It's my life. My heartbeat. And at the same time, there is a technical aspect of it because you have to speak it in a way that people receive it. They have to understand phrases, pauses, those technical things, but for the most part I spoke from my heart because the story was birthed in my heart.
The mere existence of the book is proof of concept for the hope that exists in its pages, the hope that cycles of trauma and suffering can be broken through healing. How does it feel to know that that hope will impact readers? As an artist, you have similarly chosen roles that have really impacted people, so it must be a guiding principle for you.
It feels fantastic. I started out being an actor because it was the one thing I loved to do and I knew that it would get me out of my situation. But sometimes, it is divine intervention with what you choose in life. I was just driven to get out, and I found something that just made me jump out of bed in the morning. Sometimes when you fall in love with something, the reason why you fall in love with it becomes your purpose, which in this case is it helped heal me.
It was almost like everything that happened in my life created this giant emotional cyst within me and I couldn't rein it in. It was just being fed by just holding onto secrets, holding onto shame, holding onto feeling not worthy. And then all of a sudden, whenever you're given a chance to express what is inside of you, to put your story out there, showing up as Viola, it slowly began to drain that cyst. That then provides extraordinary healing to people who are witnessing it.
I've had so many people read my book, and I so appreciate it. More than even my acting, I'm really, really enjoying this whole experience with my book. But I find there's one thing that I wanna say to people, but I don't say, but in the back of my mind is my fantasy. There are so many people that read my book and say, "Oh my God, you've had a hard life. It's so unbelievable what you were able to accomplish. Oh my God. It was so hard. It was harder than anything I've been through." I always wanna say, "That's not why I wrote the book. I shared my story, now I want you to share yours." I'm not the only one moving through life with all of the sticks and stones and filthy swill and obstacles. We all have it because life is hard.
But the other side of it is not sharing. Then what you do is you abandon people. You make them feel alone. We're not alone. I've had people read my book who I know have been abused by their spouses, who I know have been in jail for substance abuse, who I know have addiction issues. And they've said, "Wow, your life was hard." Well, their life was too. But you see, what I did was I unpacked it. I resolved it. I continue to resolve it and continue to not live in shame, to make peace with myself. That's a larger conversation. It makes me feel so wonderful when people say "Your book has shifted people." That for me is everything.
Speaking about the potential impact to shift people, it's incredible to look at your fellow nominees in the category. You've got Mel Brooks, who's obviously an EGOT winner himself. You've got three other people of color: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Questlove, Jamie Foxx. How powerful is it for you to see that your own story is sharing the category with these nominees?
It feels overwhelming. They say everything you are is the company you keep. Being with that level of excellence? I have to say, I've always wanted to be excellent. And I understand that in the path to be excellent, there's lots of failures along the way. There has to be. It's how you chisel yourself. It's how you become. But to be in the presence of these extraordinary artists — all men too by the way [laughs] — it makes me feel like I'm on the right path.