Photo: Cindy Ord/Getty Images
Here's What Happened At The Recording Academy New York Chapter's 2022 GRAMMYs Nominee Celebration: Good Jitters, Good Company & A Spotlight On All Categories
Ahead of the 2022 GRAMMYs, the Recording Academy’s New York Chapter convened for a celebration of the Chapter’s members, current nominees, and the wider New York musical omniverse — which is about to be elevated to the global stage once again
It's a four-hour drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas — but to get from from JFK to LAS, you're looking at five or six hours in the air. Factor in hotels, transportation, credentials, innumerable other logistics — and the still-existent pandemic — and the New York Chapter of the Recording Academy's Nominee Celebration in Manhattan on Mar. 28 was the site of many palpable jitters.
But they were good jitters. As GRAMMY nominees and industry professionals sipped cocktails from an open bar at the Bowery Hotel, settled into comfortable fireside couches and overall enjoyed each other's company, a glimpse into the upcoming magic of the 64th GRAMMY Awards revealed itself. Sure, many of the folks involved were nominated for the same golden gramophone, but there was nary a competitive vibe to be found. Instead, the overarching feeling in the room was of gratitude — that NYC's musical community would be elevated as a united entity.
A more specific pleasure to be found at the celebration, though, was the highlighting of categories more centric to the Premiere Ceremony than the main show. Sure, the lion's share of the attention is generally bestowed on categories like Best New Artist and Album Of The Year But what of Best Instrumental Composition, Best Children's Music Album and Best Latin Jazz Album? Simply put, they matter, too — immensely so.
So it was rewarding to catch up with GRAMMY-nominated artists like family-music singer/songwriter Falu, jazz pianist and composer Luis Perdomo, and harpist and composer Brandee Younger about the inspirations behind their GRAMMY-nominated works and their feelings as the 2022 GRAMMY Awards — and, yes, the crush of flights from JFK, LaGuardia and Newark — draw near.
Among the flashing camera bulbs and piped-in club beats, singer/songwriter Falu — who has been nominated for Best Children's Album for 2021's A Colorful World — calmly reinforced the importance of making substantive music for families to enjoy together.
"Children are the future, and the seeds that we sow in them right now really blossom and make them better citizens," the two-time GRAMMY nominee told GRAMMY.com on the red carpet, stressing that family music should "teach them the values of inclusiveness, diversity, uniqueness and embracing each other, rather than being scared of each other's differences."
And if this means that the music might introduce challenging concepts that don't just pacify with pretty sounds and colors, remember: children are wiser, and more absorbent, than we often give them credit for. "The messages aren't so complex that you can't make a 5-year-old understand," she added. "It becomes natural — something they do when they're sleeping, having dinner, or just playing in the park."
The concept of naturalness came up over and over in these conversations, driving home the point that these GRAMMY-nominated offerings were pure, human expressions — not mere vyings for global recognition. As for the revered pianist Luis Perdomo, his collaborative album with saxophonist Miguel Zenón, El Arte Del Bolero, wasn't even supposed to be a record in the first place.
"We just did it as something for fun," he explained to GRAMMY.com of the dreamy, luminous record. "Kind of like after the gig's over, the club is closing and a lot of people leave, and there are only a few people left — that was the vibe of that." With only a phone call and zero rehearsal, the Venezuelan pianist and Puerto Rican tenorman plumbed the Latin American songbook, dreamily performing standards like "Como Fue," "La Vida Es Un Sueño" and "Jaguete" during a COVID-era livestream at an empty Jazz Gallery in Manhattan.
El Arte Del Bolero resonated far beyond its low-key concept and presentation — the pair now have a GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY nomination to show for it. "We did it just to put it out on YouTube," the twice-nominated Perdomo said. "It was a wild surprise." No matter what happens during the 2022 GRAMMY Awards, this nomination shows that two old friends performing songs they've known all their lives can still move listeners on a global scale.
In that same spirit, Brandee Younger — who's nominated for Best Instrumental Composition for "Beautiful is Black" — considers how her musical family in New York has been uplifted by the 2022 GRAMMY Awards nominations. “I feel like some underdogs came up,” Younger told GRAMMY.com over text a few days after the party, shouting out fellow GRAMMY nominees Curtis Stewart, Jon Batiste, the Baylor Project, Jazzmeia Horn and Kanye West — she played on the latter’s colossal, complicated, Album Of The Year-nominated Donda.
And if you want to find out how up it can get, tune into the 2022 GRAMMY Awards on April 3 to watch these creative dynamos show the world what New York's musical omniverse is all about.
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: Erin O'Brien
Positive Vibes Only: Brandee Younger Reimagines The Enchantment Of Stevie Wonder's "If It's Magic" In This Instrumental Cover
Using just a harp, Brandee Younger delivers a moving performance of Stevie Wonder's 1976 deep cut "If It's Magic."
Almost 50 years ago, Stevie Wonder graced the world with his critically acclaimed (and Album Of The Year-winning) studio album, Songs in the Key of Life. Beyond notable singles "Isn't She Lovely" and "I Wish" lives "If It's Magic," a song about the unavoidable failure of unprotected love.
"If it's magic/ Then why can't it be everlasting?/ Like the sun that always shines/ Like the poet's endless rhymes/ Like the galaxies in time," Wonder questions in the track's opening verse. "It holds the key to every heart/ Throughout the universe/ It fills you up without a bite/ And quenches every thirst."
In this episode of Positive Vibes Only, American harpist Brandee Younger performs a soothing, instrumental cover of "If It's Magic." Younger plays the harp from a well-lit room covered in plants, increasing the serene ambiance of the performance.
Last month, Younger released her latest album, Brand New Life. As one of the most prominent Black, female harpists, Younger created Brand New Life as one of her many efforts to highlight the musical contributions of Black women. In 2022, she became the first Black woman to be nominated for a GRAMMY Award in the Best Instrumental Composition category.
Press play on the video above to watch Brandee Younger's tranquil cover of Stevie Wonder's deep cut "If It's Magic," and check back to GRAMMY.com every Sunday for more new episodes of Positive Vibes Only.
Photo courtesy of the Recording Academy
What Went Down At 2023 Recording Academy New York Chapter Nominee Celebration: Musical Theater, Mayor Eric Adams & Magical Company
Last year's party was marked by the good kind of jitters, as the show got moved and the pandemic wasn't done with us yet. This year, there was a palpable sense of relief and enthusiasm — and musical theater and the mayor took the spotlight.
By all means, the 2022 the Recording Academy New York Chapter Nominee Celebration was a fantastic bash, and a welcome return to in-person reverie. But on multiple levels, the party this year was just looser. Which is no knock against last year's edition; it simply reflects the times we're living in.
This brings us to the 2023 Recording Academy New York Chapter Nominee Celebration at Spring Place, a spacious, verdant, intimately lit workspace and social club in Tribeca. Adjacent to the main space was a candlelit "conversation room"; almost nobody went for it, opting to be shoulder-to-shoulder at the bar.
Sure, some opted for masks, but there was a tangible sense of relaxation. More than that, reverie — as a special appearance from New York Mayor Eric Adams underlined.
Adams began with a reflection on the pandemic's impact on NYC, with some poetic asides about the spiritual power of music. "When you sing, when you dance, when you play an instrument, you feed something inside us — [it] feeds the emotional anatomy of our spirit," he stated. He then broke the ice.
"Slick Rick, if you only knew how many shorties I met off your songs!" Adams called out to the rapper in attendance — a recipient of the 2023 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award — to raucous laughter and cheers. "Now let's bring home the GRAMMYs!"
Aside from relief at the tail-end of a long pandemic, the 2023 New York Chapter Nominee Celebration felt looser in a more profound way. While locked inside, most of us were subjected to technological hypersaturation — our phones became like new limbs. And the everything-now demand of streaming did a number not only on our attention spans, but the value of music as a commodity.
That's all changing, said one GRAMMY-winning trombonist.
"I feel like it's a musical shift," Doug Beavers, a member of Spanish Harlem Orchestra who co-produced their latest album, Imágenes Latinas, told GRAMMY.com. To him, this year's GRAMMYs nominations list — said album is up for Best Tropical Latin Album — reflects an increased grounding in artistic communion, and the here and now.
"Instead of relying on our eyes, we're going back to our ears more," Beavers continues. "I feel like what's represented is good-quality, listenable music. We're going from the streaming stuff and gimme, gimme, gimme now, to: Let's sit down with this record and really enjoy what they're trying to say with it."
It's worth stressing that the General Field is not the be-all-end-all of the GRAMMYs nominations; all fields, from American Roots Music to Global Music to Best New Age, Ambient or Chant, are of the most esteemed importance. Driving this home was the preponderance of musical theater artists on the red carpet.
While you might have to scroll down 63 sections to find that field, it's essential to what Adams called "the baddest city in the world" — and to the Recording Academy.
Jason Veasey, who performs as part of the Broadway musical "A Strange Loop," cites the importance of cast recordings to those who can't readily travel to — or live in — the Big Apple. "Until I got to New York, it was the only thing that I had," he told GRAMMY.com. "All these idols that I loved, I learned about through a [vinyl] album or CD."
Flash forward to the 2023 GRAMMYs, where "A Strange Loop" is nominated for Best Musical Theater Album: Veasey is touched by the honor due to the primacy of the format. "That's how half of our fans found the show," he says. "So, with that genre and art form, it's actually one of the most important things that can happen."
When considering the weight of a GRAMMY nomination, John-Andrew Morrison — who was part of the original cast of "A Strange Loop" — looks back to his childhood abroad.
"The GRAMMYs have been something that I watched since I was a little kid in Jamaica," he tells GRAMMY.com. "I've seen all these brilliant reggae artists and all of these people win, and it's been the pride of Jamaica to see that every year."
Morrison notes that getting a show to Broadway is something of a superhuman feat: to him, "a million and two things have to go right at exactly the same time." "To be able to make a Broadway debut on a show that I love in an industry that I love, and then have all of that wonderful stuff happen," he continues, "to then get nominated for a GRAMMY feels like supremely rarefied air."
Jazz singer/songwriter Nicole Zuraitis was nominated for Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals at the 2019 GRAMMYs. As she looks ahead to her upcoming album, the Christian McBride-co-produced How Love Begins, in July, she considers how the nomination changed her trajectory.
"I think [husband, drummer, composer, and fellow GRAMMY nominee] Dan [Pugach] and I were at the point in 2018 where we were working so hard, but not getting very far,” Zuraitis tells GRAMMY.com. "And when we got our GRAMMYnomination… there's that validation of the hard work that we put in."
"The Recording Academy makes us want to put out the best work that we possibly can," she continues. "My best work, I think, is ahead of me."
These two worlds that can be a little niche — musical theater and jazz — are not lost on the Recording Academy, and they were tremendous presences at the 2023 New York Chapter Nominee Celebration. In a hypercompetitive city, under a global culture where pop can hold something of a monopoly, seeing these worlds so happily and generously represented was moving. (This especially applied to musical theater; folks from "MJ: The Musical," "The Phantom of the Opera," "SIX," and more were on the red carpet.)
Maybe the cultural, technological and pandemic-related squeeze is giving way, it was hard not to think. Maybe we're sitting down and really listening.
This year's annual platinum event partner was The Mayor's Office of Media & Entertainment, along with annual gold event partner Great South Bay Music Group, and annual silver event partners include Concord and The Orchard. GREY GOOSE® Vodka is the official spirits partner.
Photo: Rachel Kupfer
A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.
It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.
Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.
Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.
In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.
Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.
There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.
Say She She
Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.
While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."
Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.
Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.
Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.
Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.
L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.
During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.
Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.
Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.