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Tinashe's '333' Album Elevates Her To A New Level Of Freedom

Tinashe

Photo: Marcus Cooper

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Tinashe's '333' Album Elevates Her To A New Level Of Freedom

Singer/songwriter Tinashe discusses her enlightening new album '333,' virtual reality, and her feelings of no longer being "underrated."

GRAMMYs/Aug 3, 2021 - 09:44 pm

Tinashe seems a lot freer nowadays. While we can only hear each other's voices while connecting on Zoom, her joyous tone is contagious. It's reflective of the metaphorical exhale she's had since 2019 after parting ways with her label following a seven-year-long rollercoaster. The singer/songwriter has been around for nearly a decade, self-releasing her first mixtape, In Case We Die, in 2012 and making her major-label debut with 2014's Aquarius.

She soon dove headfirst as a free agent, her creativity overflowing within 2019's Songs For You, independently released via her Tinashe Music label. Now, Tinashe continues the self-fulfillment journey with 333. Out on August 6, it highlights a newfound clarity about her purpose both as an artist and a person.

333 is a seamless transition from Songs For You, complete with motivational anthems ("If only I could manifest it / My momma told me, 'Life is yours for the takin'" she affirms on lead single "Pasadena"), futuristic tunes that call back to her mixtape days ("I Can See The Future") and themes of owning one's womanhood ("Bouncin'" and "X" with Jeremih).

"I'm glad that it's noticeable because I certainly feel a big difference," Tinashe tells GRAMMY.com about her transition to artistic independence. "But at the same time, there was a lot of uncertainty of not really knowing how people would react to my [new] music, not knowing where I was getting the budget for things I wanted to create, and just how everything was going to work."

"Over the course of the last two years, there's been a lot of growth for me," she continues. "I really feel at peace with where I'm at in my career and excited about the fact that I'm able to make my own creative decisions. It's empowering. I'm feeling a lot more inspired and joyful in alignment with what I'm meant to be doing."

Below, Tinashe discusses the enlightening journey that led to 333 and why it's time to stop branding her as "underrated."

I was reading that 333 in angel numbers is a sign of divine protectors and that your path ahead is clear for you to move forward into life's next chapter. I'm assuming that was the inspiration for the album title?

Yeah, absolutely. It's been a journey for me to always remember that I am on the right path and that I'm always moving towards my ultimate goal. [I have to be] focused on that as opposed to getting lost in the sauce, whether that be in [streaming] numbers or competing for chart positions. These are things we can get caught up with when we're public music artists and wanting to be successful. I think those things can derail you from your true purpose.

So for me, it's just knowing that I am always protected, having that hopefulness, moving forward with a sense of safety, and not necessarily always being in reaction mode. I do have this divine protection at all times and I'm comforted in that. It's also reflective in my name as well, which I always think is cool. My name means "God is with us" in Shona, [the language spoken] where my dad is from Zimbabwe. It just mirrors that in the sense too: we always have our angels around us to look at our intuition and lead us in the right direction.

I love that. Virtual reality is also a big theme for this record. My interpretation is this controlled "machine" that society enforces on you that contrasts with your natural instincts of going with the flow.

I think that's a great interpretation. I've been really interested in how technology and spirituality meet. To get even deeper, questioning the nature of reality and simulated simulation theory and thinking about potentially being in a simulation. I feel like 2020 was so wild that a lot of times I [thought], "This can't be really happening." So it's playing with that idea, but then also realizing where it meets my spirituality, a sense of boundlessness and freedom. You can look at it in an interesting way, that potentially this is all just like a game.

Instead of finding that as a scary concept, looking at it as more empowered: "Maybe I'm able to actually control the narrative of my life, make my own decisions and take the power back." So it's moving through the [music] industry in a way that feels fearless. I can actually renavigate this landscape as opposed to just being a pawn in it.

Do you plan to bring that idea on your tour this fall?

Girl, yes. I plan to just continue to build out all of my interests from tech gaming and VR, and bring that into the performance space, and continue to push the boundaries in that aspect. Also with the world shutting down, being able to bring concert experiences to more fans than the people that can just come to the major markets. Connecting my worldwide fanbase ties into what I'm attempting to do with this project for sure.

Where does your interest in tech stem from?

I'm not exactly sure if there's one thing. It's a theme that I've been exploring since my Reverie mixtape in 2012, which at that time I was more interested in the concept of reality possibly being a dream and how we move through life. As the years have gone on, I've gotten more involved in gaming and tech has gotten more advanced, so it's interesting to me to then apply those same concepts and questions to this new landscape. There's a dichotomy between the natural world and re-sustainability with saving the planet. But then at the same time, we're trying to get to Mars, building AI and developing all these simulated worlds that are just getting better and better. I obviously also love gaming.

You actually nailed this theme on the title track, which I think is your most experimental moment. It has this robotic "Black Mirror" feel to it. I can tell you've been pushing yourself.

I appreciate that. I'm always intrigued by things that push the envelope because it's more interesting to me. I do think historically maybe that has been confusing for my audience at times, especially those who don't know me very well. From the outside looking in, people have said that maybe I'm unfocused or I lack direction, when in reality what feels the most natural to me is exploring all these different avenues.

I'm able to not box myself into one lane, genre, or style, and I can continue to experiment sonically. With this album, I personally think I did a really good job of trying to walk that line between music that is catchy, memorable, and that you can bop to of course, but then also pushing myself in a new direction as always.

This album is so bright and vibrant. My favorite projects from you are Black Water and Nightride, which are both so moody and dark. You hear this trajectory of you emerging from those murky waters and the light finally hits you. That light is now 333.

I feel that way in my spirit and who I am as a person as well. When I was creating those albums, that was very true of myself at the time. When I created Nightride, I was really working on Joyride and there was some tension with my record label.

Yeah, I remember it being this very public tug-o-war.

It was a whole thing. [Laughs.] The way I'm able to express my feelings or frustration, usually comes out through the art. Nightride felt more on the darker end of the spectrum, but still in alignment with the sonic universe that I'm creating now.

It's really telling how much I have matured and grown. So I'm excited to see where I go from here. I don't even know what the next project will sound like. I obviously have not started yet, but I think it's always going to be a journey through where I'm at emotionally and mentally as a human being.

There's also this heightened sexuality on this album too, which carries over from Songs For You. I don't know if you believe in the divine feminine, but it gives me that energy.

Yes, yes, thank you! Again, that's part of that evolution. Songs For You explored those themes, but I was definitely coming from a place of hurt. So a lot of the songs, even the sexier ones, have a tone of resentment or there's an edge to it. This one is more of me coming into my power and confidence. Like you said, that divine feminine energy is something that I've really tapped into as well.

I'm owning my sexuality and confidence as a woman and being able to play into that power in a way that is empowering and beautiful and exciting as opposed to just feeling more like it's like a crutch. Every woman that I've loved musically has really embraced that. Whether that'd be Janet [Jackson], Britney [Spears], Christina Aguilera, or Beyoncé, the list goes on and on. These are people who have used their sexuality in a way that feels really powerful and inspiring. I've always loved that as a fan. So I'm trying to incorporate that in my art as well.

We're both huge Britney Spears fans, and of course you collaborated with her on "Slumber Party" in 2016.

Britney has always walked this beautiful, fine line between power and softness both in her personality and in her sensuality. I've loved to see that as the years have gone on. I think one of the things that we all love the most about Britney is that she seems so sweet and genuine. That's why everyone really wants her to win and wants her to be happy. I want her to win and to see her come into her power, be able to speak her truth, be able to make those changes, and stand up for herself. I think that's amazing. So we absolutely love to see it.

You have power as well, now having full creative independence. How does that feel to finally gain that?

I feel like it's changed the game for me in terms of how I view myself as an artist. It really is more psychological than anything else, but just knowing that I've created this for myself and I don't need the big machine in order to validate who I am as an artist. I can still put out quality material and still focus on my purpose. That's really given me a lot of confidence and a new sense of energy as a performer, as an artist, as a creative. I'm very, very happy with all the changes I've made and I'm really proud of myself too.

As you should be. People are always tweeting: "Tinashe is so underrated!" I don't know if you've seen them, but there's so many videos of other artists who borrow from the Tinashe blueprint. Maybe it's because you're no longer with a major label, but at this point, you can't be considered as such.

Well, thank you and I agree! I do think that when people say that, they mean it as a compliment. I appreciate where they're coming from, in the sense that we all want these landmarks of success and to achieve these accolades. It's been really crucial in my own understanding of myself to not view myself as underrated, but as someone who absolutely has made an impact and is exactly where I'm meant to be and be comfortable in that.

It's important to not get mixed up in the numbers, streams, "likes" and the things that can potentially confuse that [ideal]. I'm owning what I've done and where I've come from. I'm looking at myself more as a legend-in-the-making, as opposed to someone who's underrated. I still got a long way to go. This isn't the end, the future is bright! I'm very excited to see what happens.

"It's been really crucial in my own understanding of myself to not view myself as underrated, but as someone who absolutely has made an impact and is exactly where I'm meant to be and be comfortable in that."

You're a triple threat and with both of us growing up in the "TRL" era, I think having the total package is what's been lacking in music lately. But you and a few other artists have been reigniting that movement.

I try to give the world what I loved the most about artists that I loved growing up — especially Janet Jackson. She really embodied every aspect of what it means to be a true entertainer, from the interviews to the visuals, to the stage performance, to the songs themselves. It never felt, at any point, that any part of her was lacking. There was an effort in every single element. I want to be able to bring that attention to detail and love of my art to what I do as well. So thank you. I've been very actively attempting to be accountable for every aspect of my career. So I'm glad that people can tell that I've been putting that effort in.

Your music still has the vibe that you're recording in your bedroom. Is maintaining that intimacy important to you?

A thousand percent. If ever there was a point in my career where I felt like I was maybe losing myself was when I didn't maintain my precious creative process. My best work has always been music that I've created in my own space or music that felt really instinctual.

When I was signed to a major [label], it was a blessing to be able to work with all of the biggest producers in the game. But at the same time, it affected my mental health and also how I viewed myself as an artist. There were times when I thought what I created wasn't as good as maybe what other people could create. Remembering that my best work always comes from my gut has really helped me refocus. And that output is tangible. I think people can tell the difference when you have a real passion behind everything you put out.

Spice Talks New Album 'Ten,' Working With Sean Paul & Shaggy: "I'm So Grateful"

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GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.

In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.

 

Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

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Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

 GRAMMY.com

 Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 and will be broadcast live on the Univision Television Network at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. 

"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community.

Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list. 

At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself  but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the album release of that concert, Juan Gabriel En Vivo Desde El Palacio De Bellas Artes, broke sales records and established his iconic status. 

After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.   

In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.   

Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized. 

For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or ticketing@grammy.com.

Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Grizzled Mighty perform at Bumbershoot on Sept. 1

Photo: The Recording Academy

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Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Alexa Zaske
Seattle

This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.

The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.

Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."

Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.

Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed. 

Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.

My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.

For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.

(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)

Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

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Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 10:58 am

As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.

Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.

"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."

Full Winners List: 61st GRAMMY Awards