Photo by Brian Ziff
Victoria Monét On 'Jaguar', Working With Brandy & Having GRAMMY Dreams
After years of songwriting for marquee music names—Ariana Grande, Fifth Harmony and Nas, just to name a few—the singer/songwriter is ready to step into the spotlight on her debut project
Victoria Monét didn’t realize her connection to the jaguar until after she recorded the titular song for her new project. A powerful, rosetted cat, the jaguar camouflages itself well. And, although it’s a present, integral part of the jungle, it’s seldom seen or registered. Monét, who's been a requisite part of the music industry for the past decade, having worked as a songwriter for Nas, Fifth Harmony, and most famously, Ariana Grande (for which she received two GRAMMY nominations), is finally getting her opportunity to be seen. This is, as she sings on Jaguar, her motherfking moment.
On August 7, she releases part one of the Jaguar trilogy, with part one and two due to follow sometime in the near-ish future. This introduction to the new, uncamouflaged Monét, is a melting pot of sounds from the ‘70s and ‘90s, which she sops up and repackages into a sexy, kaleidoscopic trip. It’s filled with natural highs (the psychedelia of seeing your dreams come true) and boasts some of the year’s tersest and most dynamic songwriting. GRAMMY.com spoke to Monét about her anti-ego approach to music, her love of Beyoncé, and her future GRAMMY dreams.
You've been promoting for a while now. When was the project itself completed?
The album was pretty much done in February 2019, so I've had a majority of the music for a really long time. With some songs, I'd go back and add harmonies, but the vocal bit has been done for a minute. Only one song and one interlude were new this year, and I think that’s just me trying to finish the parts that follow part one, part two and part three—to be prepared for the next wave and have new music. But also, since I’ve gotten so used to these songs, I’ve gone back to them and added some things to keep them fresh.
So did the Khalid feature come after the project's initial completion?
Yeah, that was something that was recent. He joined maybe three or four weeks before we put it out, but I also had that song done in 2019, so he just added his verse. He was such a great feature and a perfect vocal for the song.
Did your team put any pressure on you to add a feature?
No, I actually planned to put this album out without features, but I also just looked at this as an introduction to a new version of me—giving people a chance to just hear me was fine with me—but Khalid ended up being the perfect fit, and became the only feature on the project.
Since you completed the project, has your time mostly been spent trying to figure out how you're actually going to present this project and the "new version of you" to the world?
Yeah, I’ve been just giving myself time to develop and go through different ideas creatively. I started filming things for the project in September of last year, so I had a lot of time to live with the music and see what it would mean visually, and to kind of rebrand. I know I was still doing the same color scheme—I've been wearing brown for the past two or three years, so it was just really easy for me to incorporate more '70s elements to match the music and really fall in love with that era. I've really been going into the style and the rhythm of it—how people were feeling and dressing [in those decades].
The project feels really psychedelic. I'm curious to know whether you ever took psychedelics to help with the creative process?
"Psychedelic" was one of the words I used to describe the music I wanted to make before I even made it, so I'm really pleased that comes across. I wanted to make something trippy that would take people into this other world. But I haven't experimented with any psychedelics myself. The furthest I've gone is weed, so some of the songs are marijiuana-enhanced. It's a really cool way to just relax and have some sort of freedom, to just release anxieties and be honest. If people are listening to this album on psychedelics, I wonder how it will sound to them. And also I hope sober people can listen to this and get that same feeling
Why did the date keep getting pushed back?
Initially, the album was supposed to be released on my birthday—May 1. When we were talking about that date it was mid-March, and we'd just entered the pandemic and believed that we'd probably be out of lockdown by then—we could do the release party, we could travel to New York and London by then. But seeing how the world was playing out, we thought it seemed a little insensitive and premature to release an album then, so we decided to take our time. And I'm glad we did that because that allowed us to release "Experience" with Khalid. And this most recent pushback from July 31st to August 7 is just me being a real Beyoncé fan and realizing that the internet is going to want to give her her flowers, just like I do. [Editor's note: Beyoncé's visual album Black Is King was released on July 31.] I want to be able to enjoy that day too. It's just a Beyhive respect move. I was also thinking about how Beyoncé’s album is animal-themed because of the lion king, and mine's called Jaguar. Plus, I also have releases as a songwriter on [July 31]. I have a song on Brandy's project. Then mine will come out the following week.
Something I love so much about your songwriting is how ambiguous it is. The songs on this project could either be about sexual and romantic success or your specific success as a musician. Do you see a link between the two?
Yeah, I do. I think it all comes into manifesting something for yourself. When something you've dreamed of comes true, there’s nothing but positive vibes. I think developing success and envisioning who you want to be, and being unapologetic in that process, while getting to put something out there that influences people and has an affect on them—makes me feel really, really good.
Did you write poetry before you started writing songs?
Yeah, I did. It was really brief, but that's how I got into writing. I used to love reading out loud in class, I think that was early proof of my love of performance—performing the lyrics, performing words that mean things. I definitely carried that into the songwriting.
I ask because there are millions of songs about sex, but I've never heard it being described the way you describe it on this project.
I feel that might be because I'm an only child and have a really big imagination, just being able to compare certain things—that's where it comes from. It’s not a planned thing, I just say whatever I’m thinking, then i realize that it’s something interesting after people listen.
How do you know when you've written a great song?
It takes a long time, after listening to the song over and over. If i really can’t stop listening to it then I think it’s a good song. But I also have a hard time deciding, because I’m really hard on myself too. I’m my worst critic. It’s hard for me to know when a song is done and if it’s better than I think it is. Maybe that’s a good thing, that I’ll never get big-headed about it. I just have the urge to make things better, and to always keep working.
As someone who writes songs for other people, you must be used to bringing out people's best and most interesting assets. Can you do that with your own music?
Yeah, and I think maybe even a little harder. I'm in my own brain so I'm thinking about my own thoughts—processing those thoughts. That's a part of art—figuring out what you love and what you don’t love, and making the best art from both of those places. I critique myself and try to make myself better, but I also give myself self-love and affirmation. You don't have to speak to yourself a certain way. All of it is about developing and becoming a better human.
Does asserting yourself come naturally to you?
I think, growing up I was more passive. If other people wanted to do a certain thing, even if I wanted to do something else, I’d be the one to sacrifice my own desires. But now, I've become firmer and more assertive with what I say. I'm strong and outwardly opinionated, but also willing to listen and to change my perspective. I'm more willing now to just be honest and say what I feel.
Do you know what your purpose is as an artist?
I feel like there's purpose in being an artist. Just having your experiences as an individual become something that the world can see and relate to, I feel like that's a purpose. Just giving people the opportunity to learn from your own experiences, or be inspired by them, or even join you in the feelings that you have through music. Music really has a certain influence over people that we don't even realize, from the slang we use to how we feel. We listen and it makes us wanna move. It's a language of its own. That's a way that musicians and artists and songwriters have purpose, just by communicating that language to people through song—the things that you can’t really express with words or actions.
When and how did you learn about songwriting, and all the technicalities therein?
I really just learned through trial and error. I didn't go to a music school. I mean, I took piano lessons for a really short amount of time when I was young, and at a point I could read music a little bit, but then I forgot all that and started out from scratch. I guess I just learned by listening and collaborating with other people. I've been watching and learning through touching. I could have gone to school and heard about the ways in which music is made, but I think I went to school in life instead—going through it and making things happen.
How does it feel to now work with your influences, like Brandy?
I didn’t go into the studio with her to make the song, I recorded the song at home and sent it to a friend of mine who is a producer who was working on the project. Then when she cut the song, she had me come to the studio to help record. It was a really beautiful full-circle experience, because when i first moved to L.A. I was in this girl group that was being produced by LaShawn Daniels, and he wrote all the songs for us, as well as "Full Moon" by Brandy, so just to hear her now recording something that I've written feels really beautiful. I'm so thankful because she has one of my favorite voices.
I love your mix of influences on Jaguar. You've got the wide space and textures of '70s soul couching those ‘90s Janet harmonics. How did you bring those two sounds together?
I brought some of my influences to the producer—specifically ‘70s influences—and was like, let's try and dig into this sound, by suggesting horn lines and string melodies and stuff. But i don't really have a classic ‘70s voice so i think that's where the ‘90s, the era I grew up in, is most prominent. You can hear my direct influences. I heard Janet growing up, I heard Beyoncé all the time. Not that i didn't hear ‘60s and ‘70s music too, because that's what my grandmother was listening to, but as far as vocalists and performers, ‘90s artists were the ones I was gravitating towards. I try to explore through melody choices as well, but I think that's where the combination of influences comes in. I like that. I don't think I’ve ever heard that combo either—a really on the nose ‘70s reference with a classic ‘90s R&B sound.
Is that how you assert yourself as an artist in your own right, by taking a little bit from all your influences?
It’s not something I even think about. I think of those artists as my parents. They’re in my DNA, because I’ve been so absorbed in what they’ve done throughout my entire life. It feels like a natural thing. Even when I just think I’m being myself, people are like, "You sound like Janet, you speak like Janet." I’m really not thinking about the mathematics of how to put stuff together, it just flows out that way because it’s what made me. I just want to be myself and let other people decide what they hear that’s familiar, because I think that lets people relate. I'm fine with all the comparisons, but in the studio, I'm not calculating what I'm going to bring to the table.
Are you going to take a backseat from writing songs for others to focus more on your own art and more projects like Jaguar?
I'm always in the middle of writing stuff for other people, while keeping my mind open for myself too. I already have a Jaguar part II and Jaguar III. The tracklist is already there but I'll probably be adding or changing things, because for me, nothing is finished until it comes out. So now I'm thinking about and working on the projects to follow that, so I just wanna be extra prepared, and really advance the timeframe so i can always have the next thing ready, while putting out new releases, so that there won't be a huge lull.
Do you ever take breaks from music at all?
Oh yeah. This pandemic has been the break for me. It's really forced me to sit down. People aren't making as much music and there isn't as much studio time, so there's a lot more in between time to just be a human, which I appreciate. I’m taking this as a refresher, then I’ll be back when the world comes back, although i don't think the world will ever be quite the same.
Do you feel hope for the future and your success as an artist in your own right?
Yeah, I do, and I feel really excited to just be able to share these parts of myself with the world, while not trying to put too much pressure on expectations, but of course I do want the accolades. I have GRAMMY dreams, I have award show performance dreams, I have world tour dreams. But really just being able to make music a career, and doing what I love—it’s a privilege. I think I’m just trying to keep that perspective, because you can really become wrapped up in this.
If your expectations fall short, is there a chance you might become cynical?
No, I dont think I’ll feel any kind of spite. This already feels like a dream and an opportunity to celebrate, considering where I’ve come from and how long it’s taken for me to get to where I am today. I’m not taking any of the current success for granted and I’m definitely not comparing my artist career to anybody that I’ve written for. It wouldn't be fair to me. I'm just really happy to be where I am. That's the kind of fulfillment that I want—not constantly comparing myself to others, and looking at where I am on the charts. If I get that kind of success I’ll be happy of course, but I won’t define my success on those things. I'm just trying to find the success in happiness.
You're clearly a very nice person, but have people in the music industry treated you as kindly in return?
Well, I try to surround myself with people who I really feel connected to, so I think I’ve been pretty good at protecting myself from any of the darker energies. As a person, I run from that—whether that’s friendships or professional relationships. I separate myself from that darkness quite naturally. So I think that everyone I do surround myself with is very nice, but I’m also very aware that I am in the music industry, which is kind of like a mafia, with the contracts and how things work. You know, contractually speaking, I've definitely been through the wire and have had hard times getting myself into certain deals, just because I love to do this. So, I've learned my lessons and I think on a day-to-day basis, I’m surrounded by a really great team. I love that most of them are women, by the way, but every single person on my team is someone that I really love. I feel surrounded by light, and maybe other people can’t say the same, but this is after years of trial and error. Now, I think I have the perfect group of women around me to take this thing where I want it to go. We’re all good people, so it makes me really excited to do this with them.
Photo: Randy Holmes/DISNEY via Getty Images
New Holiday Songs For 2023: Listen To Festive Releases From Aespa, Brandy, Sabrina Carpenter & More
With the Christmas season in full swing, it’s time to deck the halls and load up those holiday playlists. Check out 14 new songs and projects to add to your 2023 festivities.
It's the most wonderful time of year! With every holiday season comes a new outpouring of festive music, and this year is no different.
From pop and R&B to K-pop and country, artists from all genres revel in the season as they pen new, original Christmas songs and reinterpret well-loved classics. This year, GRAMMY winners like Brandy and Samara Joy deliver full-length albums, while rising stars like Sabrina Carpenter, Mimi Webb and Coco Jones add their own contributions like shiny new baubles on a sparkling Christmas tree.
Below, GRAMMY.com rounded up 14 new holiday releases worth checking out, from Alanis Morissette's first Christmas EP to new projects by Aly & AJ and Gavin DeGraw, and even a posthumous duet between Elvis Presley and Kane Brown.
aespa, "Jingle Bell Rock"
Need some K-pop for your holiday playlist? Look no further than aespa's take on "Jingle Bell Rock." The girl group takes Bobby Helms' 1957 hit to the metaverse by giving it a slinky edge punctuated by handclaps, toy piano and glitchy undertones. Members GISELLE and NINGNING even add their own laid-back rap verse to the proceedings, casually tossing off lyrics like, "Ring, ring, ring, jingle bell rock/ Play like a spell/ I won't tell, jingle bell talk" partway through the track.
Aly & AJ, Lonesome Dove
Lonesome Dove isn't Aly & AJ's first Christmas project — that would be their excellent 2006 LP Acoustic Hearts of Winter — but the siblings have come a long way from the Disney days of their last holiday record. Just look at "Greatest Time of Year," which they've plucked from the Acoustic Hearts track list and transformed from into a delicate slowburner perfect to be sung by the fireside. Then there's the pitch-perfect cover of "Sisters," which proves the only way to improve upon Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen's eternally iconic number from 1954's White Christmas is for it to be recorded by, you know, actual sisters.
Brandy, Christmas With Brandy
Considering she's been called the "Vocal Bible" since she rose to stardom in the '90s, a Christmas album makes all the sense in the world for Brandy. On Christmas with Brandy, the R&B sensation — and star of Netflix's new holiday flick Best. Christmas. Ever. — eschews the scriptural in favor of the romantic ("Christmas Party For Two"), the hopeful ("Someday at Christmas") and the celebratory ("Christmas Gift" with daughter Sy'Rai) — all with her trademark gossamer runs and riffs in full, glistening effect.
Kane Brown and Elvis Presley, "Blue Christmas"
Fresh off his performance in NBC's "Christmas at Graceland" special, Kane Brown turns his live version of "Blue Christmas" into a full-blown duet with Elvis Presley himself. The King famously released his iconic version of the holiday classic in 1957 — as well as a live version more than a decade later — and Brown wisely sticks to Presley's tried-and-true formula on their duet by trading verses, while letting Elvis' iconic voice shine.
Sabrina Carpenter, Fruitcake
Sabrina Carpenter created a recipe for a holiday hit last year thanks to "A Nonsense Christmas," a cheeky seasonal remake of her top 10 pop hit "Nonsense." This year, she doubles the recipe on Fruitcake, a delectable slice of Christmas goodness that's equal parts sweet and sour.
On the winking "Buy Me Presents," the pop chanteuse demands the undivided attention of her lover while "Cindy Lou Who" turns the sweetest character in Dr. Seuss' oeuvre into a man-stealing Jolene of Christmas nightmares. "Is It New Year's Yet" revels in an irresistible spirit of pessimism that'll have all of Carpenter's fans saying "Bah humbug!" with glee.
Gavin DeGraw, A Classic Christmas
Eighteen months since Gavin DeGraw's last album, 2022's understated Face the River, the crooner turns up the yuletide cheer — with all the trimming and trappings — for his first holiday record. Each song on the six-track EP stays true to the title, as strings, sleigh bells and tradition combine with DeGraw's soulful timbre on standards like "The Most Wonderful Time of Year," "Silent Night" and "White Christmas."
Kirk Franklin, "Joy To The World"
Kirk Franklin cooked up an extra-special gift for his Spotify Singles Holiday rendition of "Joy to the World." Enlisting a buoyant backing choir, the 19-time GRAMMY winner adds a thoughtful spoken word element over the music, telling listeners everywhere, "This year I offer you the gift of unity. The gift of harmony. Bring us together like never before this holiday season. Find room in your heart. Listen. Can you hear it?"
Coco Jones, "A Timeless Christmas"
Determined to make 2023 a year to remember, Coco Jones follows her five 2024 GRAMMY nominations — including one for Best New Artist — with "A Timeless Christmas." On the original song, the R&B breakout aims to unwrap a holiday filled with family, joy and love as she intones, "Cherish the moment with the people that surround you/ Live in the moment today/ Let's have a timeless Christmas/ Let's just come together in harmony as one forever."
Samara Joy, A Joyful Holiday
Just months after releasing Linger Awhile Longer — the deluxe edition of her 2022 studio album — Samara Joy returns with A Joyful Holiday, a festive EP filled with jazzy originals and standards alike. The 2023 Best New Artist GRAMMY winner taps jazz pianist Sullivan Fortner on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Me" and turns on the feels on opener "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." But perhaps the most special moment of the record happens when three generations of her family join her for a gospel-fueled take on "O Holy Night," filled with stunning harmonies.
Ingrid Michaelson, "This Christmas"
Ingrid Michaelson has supplied plenty of cozy and nostalgic Christmas tunes ever since releasing her 2018 album Songs of the Season, but she doubles down on the warm fireside sounds with her new single "This Christmas." Though it shares a title with the beloved Donny Hathaway track, Michaelson's original song finds beauty in the stillness and small details of the season — from the wonder in a child's eyes as snow falls swirls to the ground to family gathered around the piano.
Alanis Morissette, Last Christmas
After gifting fans a string of holiday singles over the past few years, Alanis Morissette has finally compiled the songs into a full Christmas-themed project. The four-track EP Last Christmas contains three of the alt pioneer’s past releases: 2020’s rousing and poignant “Happy Xmas (War Is Over) and pandemic-era take on “What Child Is This” as well as last year’s “Little Drummer Boy.” However, she saved a shiny new toy for last in the form of a surprisingly peppy cover of Wham!’s modern classic “Last Christmas.”
Jon Pardi, Merry Christmas From Jon Pardi
It's a full-blown Christmas Pardi, ahem, party on Jon Pardi's fifth album, the aptly-titled Merry Christmas From Jon Pardi. The recent Grand Ole Opry inductee appoints Rudolph a designated driver on "Beer For Santa," is unfazed by a ferocious blizzard thanks to "400 Horsepower Sleigh" and sheds his ugly Christmas sweater to celebrates the holiday on the beach with "Merry Christmas From The Keys." But he's also unafraid to put a country spin on the likes of Mariah Carey's timeless smash "All I Want for Christmas Is You," and holiday classics like "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" and "Please Come Home For Christmas."
Meghan Trainor, "Jingle Bells"
Meghan Trainor has delivered Christmas goodies in the past (2020's A Very Trainor Christmas, last year's "Kid on Christmas" with Pentatonix), but this year she teamed up with Amazon Music for an exclusive rendition of "Jingle Bells." There's only a 30-second preview available without Amazon Music, but in the event you're not a subscriber, check out Trainor's other holiday offering of the season: her duet with Jimmy Fallon titled "Wrap Me Up."
Mimi Webb, "Back Home For Christmas"
In the wake of her debut studio album, Amelia, Mimi Webb tackles her first original holiday track in the form of "Back Home For Christmas." The lovelorn single is filled with church bells and yearning galore as the rising pop starlet wails, "Just like that, first of December/ Counting down 'til we're together/ Only one thing on my wishlist/ Bring my love back home for Christmas/ Mistletoe making me lonely/ Santa Claus just can't console me/ Only one thing that I'm missin'/ Bring my love back home for Christmas."
Clearly, the Christmas season can make you feel all sorts of ways, from nostalgic and cozy to lonely, filled with hope and back again.
Here Are The Nominees For Best R&B Album At The 2024 GRAMMYs
The five nominees for Best R&B Album highlight how women are driving the category. With entries from Coco Jones, Victoria Monét, Summer Walker, Emily King and Babyface — whose album features all female singers — R&B is putting ladies first.
The roster of the Best R&B Album nominees at the 2024 GRAMMYs makes it abundantly clear that women are driving the category for the 66th GRAMMY Awards.
Coco Jones and Victoria Monét took back control over their careers and scored their biggest hits yet, while Summer Walker and Emily King turned their pain into art that resonates. Babyface — who helped define the '90s as one of the most in-demand songwriters — released his first full-length record in seven years, Girls Night Out.
Since 1995, only 12 female artists have won Best R&B Album with Alicia Keys receiving the honor three times. This year, female artists are taking center stage in the category. From Babyface championing some of today's most promising female R&B vocalists, to Monét and Jones finding their unique voices and King and Walker's beautiful solace in heartbreak, it's anyone's game.
Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs on Feb. 4, 2024, get to know the five nominees for Best R&B Album.
Babyface - Girls Night Out
R&B legend and 11-time GRAMMY winner Babyface didn't set out to make a sequel to 1996's beloved Waiting to Exhale's soundtrack — which boasts vocal contributions from Whitney Houston, Brandy, Toni Braxton, Mary J. Blige, TLC, and Aretha Franklin, to name a few.
Still, his 2022 album Girls Night Out drew plenty of comparisons to the now-iconic OST due to its all-female lineup. The record features some of the leading ladies from R&B's new class, including Ari Lennox, Muni Long, Kehlani, Queen Naija, and fellow nominee Coco Jones (more on her later). His "Keeps on Fallin'" collab with Ella Mai received a nod for Best Traditional R&B Performance at the 2023 GRAMMYs.
As the Girls Night Out title suggests, Babyface takes a backseat and lets the women shine. While each lends their own signature style, the result is a cohesive body of work under Babyface's mentorship.
Despite having 125 Top 10 writer/producer credits to his name, the 64-year-old music veteran admitted to studying the current R&B landscape before joining forces with some of the genre's brightest and best. His homework is perhaps most reflected in "Game Over," "Don't Even Think About It," "G Wagon," and the title track.
"I needed to learn how people spoke and how melodies are different," Babyface told GRAMMY.com in early 2023. "I have a much clearer understanding of today's R&B because there is a difference, and it's not necessarily a difference that's any better or any worse. It's just a difference in terms of time, and that's what made the process enjoyable to me."
Coco Jones - What I Didn't Tell You (Deluxe)
Coco Jones is living proof that staying the course pays off. With co-signs from Janet Jackson and Beyoncé, Jones started recording demos at just 9 years old and released music independently for nearly a decade after parting ways with Disney in 2014.
Fast forward to 2023, a jam-packed year of exciting firsts for the former Disney Channel prodigy. The platinum-selling single "ICU" off Jones' debut EP, What I Didn't Tell You, became her first Billboard Hot 100 chart entry and first No. 1 on the Mainstream R&B/Hip Hop Airplay chart. Plus, the 25-year-old embarked on her first headlining tour, which kicked off on Aug. 5. And now, her first GRAMMY nomination.
Released in the second half of 2022, What I Didn't Tell You sees the Bel-Air star returning to music roots in a big way and leaning into her starpower with "Crazy for Me," "Spend It," "Headline," and the SWV-sampling "Double Back" emerging as standouts in addition to breakout hit "ICU."
In typical R&B fashion, What I Didn't Tell You takes listeners through the mixed bag of emotions brought on by love. But longtime fans may notice something's different this time around. For instance, lyrics like "This here is top shelf, I know you're thirsty / Run up a tab so you can get every drop of me" from "No Chaser" are delivered with a level of confidence that's only attained through real-life experiences.
The deluxe version of What I Didn't Tell You features four extra tracks, including her "Simple" duet with Babyface. With the 2024 GRAMMYs inching closer, Jones is clearly manifesting what could end up being her first-ever win. "That photo of Beyoncé, where she's holding several GRAMMYs — I put my face on there," she recently told the Los Angeles Times. "And then I zoomed in on a GRAMMY, and wrote Coco Jones."
Emily King - Special Occasion
"This year's gonna be about me / Never will I have another reason to doubt me," Emily King declares on "This Year," the opening track off her fifth studio album, Special Occasion.
The song itself sees King picking up the pieces of a broken heart, but on a larger scale, it's a sincere manifestation of good things to come.
All 11 tracks on Special Occasion embody the end of King's nearly 15-year relationship with Jeremy Most, who doubled as her longtime musical collaborator. As King told NPR, the record is more than a breakup album; it's a collection of "songs that project out into the future of who I want to be."
Born to jazz singers in New York City, King's talent caught the attention of Clive Davis at just 18 years old, landing a deal with the legendary executive's J Records. In 2008, her debut album, East Side Story, garnered a GRAMMY nomination for Best Contemporary R&B Album. Around the same time, King toured with John Legend, Alicia Keys, and Erykah Badu. However, the then-newcomer grew dissatisfied with the music that was supposed to represent her and J Records dropped her soon after. "I had made compromises creatively," King, now 38, told "CBS Mornings."
So, receiving another GRAMMY nod (her fourth in total) in a similar category for music that she's creating on her terms must feel full-circle and validating as an artist.
While cuts like "Bad Memory" and "Easy" evoke regret and sadness, there's also great moments of joy sprinkled across Special Occasion. "Brand-new kicks and my old Jeep / Windows down, catch the summer breeze / Music loud on the stereo / Cuties passing, wave hello," she croons.
In all the complexities and nuances heard throughout the sonic journey that is Special Occasion lies King's most honest work to date.
Victoria Monét - JAGUAR II
Victoria Monét is finally getting the spotlight she deserves. After years spent penning hit songs for artists like Ariana Grande, Chloe x Halle, and BLACKPINK, Monét's debut studio album, JAGUAR II, was met with much acclaim when it arrived on Aug. 25.
Earlier in August, the 34-year-old set social media ablaze when she dropped the Y2K nostalgia-laced visuals for "On My Mama," the third single off JAGUAR II and her highest-charting single on the Billboard Hot 100 so far.
Ironically, the feel-good anthem was conceived while Monét experienced postpartum depression a couple months after welcoming her first child in 2021. "It came while I was in a place of disbelief in what I was actually saying. So it's almost like I had to speak it into existence," she told Apple Music 1.
For much of the sonic cohesion heard throughout JAGUAR II, Monét entrusted two-time GRAMMY winner D'Mile, who counts Beyoncé and JAY-Z, along with Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak's Silk Sonic as collaborators. In its entirety, Monét’s record makes the perfect soundtrack for family reunions and cookouts. Songs like "Good Bye," "How Does It Make You Feel," and "Hollywood," which features Earth, Wind & Fire and Monét's two-year-old daughter Hazel's first laugh, are such ethereal nods to '70s music that it's easy to mistake the album for a time machine.
Monét's future looks brighter than ever, as evidenced by her sold-out debut headlining tour and celebratory deal with RCA Records.
"I feel really excited to just be able to share these parts of myself with the world, while not trying to put too much pressure on expectations, but of course I do want the accolades," she told GRAMMY.com in 2020. "I have GRAMMY dreams, I have award show performance dreams, I have world tour dreams. But really just being able to make music a career, and doing what I love — it’s a privilege."
Summer Walker - CLEAR 2: SOFT LIFE EP
Summer Walker's rise has been both fascinating and inspiring; she's come a long way since teaching herself to play guitar through YouTube tutorials and running her own cleaning business in her early 20s.
Her debut album, 2019's Over It, narrowly missed the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart but birthed her breakthrough hit, "Playing Games," whereas her 2021 sophomore effort, Still Over It, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. It also holds the record for the most streamed R&B album by a female artist since Beyoncé's Lemonade.
Fast forward a couple years later, and Walker is celebrating her first solo GRAMMY nomination thanks to her latest EP, CLEAR 2: SOFT LIFE — featuring production from Solange, Steve Lacy, Jay Versace, and John Carroll Kirby.
On the diaristic, neo soul-coded project, Walker is as raw, vulnerable, and introspective as ever. "Tired of seein' all these, all these / Spanish and these white bitches / Livin' they soft life with they feet kicked up," she sings in "Hardlife." Elsewhere, the spoken-word piece "Agayu’s Revelation" sees Walker taking accountability and prioritizing inner work over toxic relationships ("Stop workin' with people who are made of glass if you are made of steel").
One of the nine-track EP's highlights belongs to opener "To Summer, From Cole (Audio Hug)." On the track, which brought Walker to tears, J. Cole pens a heartfelt verse uplifting and affirming the mother of three. "I find it amazing the way that you juggle your kids, the biz, the fame / The bitches that's hatin', they sit around / Waitin' for you to fall off, like the album I'm makin,'" J. Cole raps over a minimalistic beat. "Between the hectic sounds of your precious baby crying / Do you clear your mind? Must be a lot goin' on."
"To Summer, From Cole" particularly stands out considering the singer's openness surrounding her social anxiety disorder and failed relationships, along with the fact that more Black women are breaking up with the strong Black woman archetype and embracing their "soft era" instead. As Walker noted to Apple Music, "I'm really loving life right now, enjoying this new outlook on life, loving the new me, loving my kids, and not letting life pass me by anymore." The "soft life" suits her well.
The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.
The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy’s Voting Membership.
Photos: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen; Image from TiVO;Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images; Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET;Arturo Holmes/Getty Images; Image from TiVO;Prince Williams/WireImage; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Here Are The Record Of The Year Nominees At The 2024 GRAMMYs
The 2024 Record Of The Year nominees at the 2024 GRAMMYs are hits from some of music’s biggest names Jon Batiste, boygenius, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish & FINNEAS, Victoria Monét, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift and SZA.
Throughout the past year, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift delivered inescapable pop anthems, while Victoria Monét and SZA proved that R&B deserves a place in the spotlight. Jon Batiste continued to evolve his artistry, while indie supergroup boygenius made an anticipated comeback.
With so many standout moments, the golden gramophone Record Of The Year — which is awarded to the artist and the producer(s), recording engineer(s) and/or mixer(s) and mastering engineer(s) — is shaping up to be a thrilling contest at the 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards.
Before tuning into the 2024 GRAMMYs on Feb. 4, 2024, learn more about this year's Record Of The Year nominees below.
Jon Batiste - "Worship"
Album highlight "Worship" encapsulates the LP’s message of unification and community by fusing various global sounds. The song is quite the joyride, beginning with bellowing organs before a choir joins with a glorious harmony and finally explodes with a Latin samba party. "We are born the same / Return to that place" Batiste repeats throughout the song, driving home his inclusive mission.
"Worship" is a joyous anthem and, following his Album Of The Year win at the 2023 GRAMMYs for We Are, it’s clear the five-time GRAMMY winner is keeping the celebration going.
boygenius -"Not Strong Enough"
The LP beautifully captured just how well the women rockers work together, and their chemistry is best seen in "Not Strong Enough." The single’s lush harmonies and feather-light guitars are a contrast to the candid lyricism, which attempts to juggle insecurities and having a God complex.
"The two wolves inside us can be self-hatred and self-aggrandizing," Bridgers explained to Rolling Stone. "Being like, ‘I’m not strong enough to show up for you. I can’t be the partner that you want me to be.’ But also being like, ‘I’m too f—ed up. I’m unknowable in some deep way!’"
"Not Strong Enough" marks a career milestone for boygenius, as it's the group’s first nomination for Record Of The Year.
Miley Cyrus - "Flowers"
A truly great pop star knows how to make a break-up anthem for the ages. Miley Cyrus already had a few under her belt, but she kicked off the year with her strongest offering to date.
"Flowers" was suggested to be inspired by Cyrus’ divorce from Liam Hemsworth, but the song’s messaging goes well beyond the singer’s personal life. Many can relate to having to pick up the pieces of a broken heart, but Cyrus’ confident vocals paired with the soaring disco-inspired melody reassure that self-love is the ultimate healer.
"The chorus was originally: ‘I can buy myself flowers, write my name in the sand, but I can’t love me better than you can,’" the singer told British Vogue of the song’s original lyrics. "It used to be more, like, 1950s. The saddest song. Like: ‘Sure, I can be my own lover, but you’re so much better.’"
The subtle decision to flip the "can’t" into a "can" showcases the brilliance of Cyrus’ songwriting, which ultimately makes the meaning of "Flowers" that much more empowering.
Billie Eilish & FINNEAS - "What Was I Made For?"
The Barbie movie was arguably this year’s biggest pop culture phenomenon, so of course the soundtrack had equally big names. But among the midst of fast-paced and glittery pop songs, Billie Eilish’s contribution tugged at heartstrings. The seven-time GRAMMY winner teamed with her brother and go-to collaborator FINNEAS for "What Was I Made For?"
It’s a tender, melancholic ballad that ties in the movie’s themes of autonomy and balancing feminism in a patriarchal world, with Eilish still holding on to hope: "I don’t know how to feel / But someday I might." The song reflects a universal experience for many women, including Eilish herself — although she didn’t realize it at first.
"I was purely inspired by this movie and this character and the way I thought she would feel and wrote about that," Eilish told Zane Lowe for Apple Music 1. "Over the next couple days, I was listening and [realized] I was writing for myself and I don’t even know it." That relatability is one of the beauties of music, for listeners and artists alike.
Victoria Monét - "On My Mama"
Victoria Monét has a long songwriting history, penning hits for the likes of Brandy, BLACKPINK, Chloe x Halle and longtime friend Ariana Grande. And while she’s released solo music in the past, her debut album Jaguar II cements her place within R&B’s new crop of stars. Third single "On My Mama" took the scene by storm, bringing together millennials and Gen Z’s shared love of ‘00s nostalgia.
Sampling Chalie Boy’s 2009 song "I Look Good" and lined with Monét’s signature horns, the song is a celebration of Black southern culture. As Monét described it on "The Ebro Show" on Apple Music 1, "It’s an anthem for affirmations, positive self-talk, manifestations, living in abundance, [and] speaking things into existence."
Olivia Rodrigo - "Vampire"
What makes Olivia Rodrigo a captivating artist is her honesty. Her ability to capture her generation’s emotional nature is why 2021’s debut album Sour took pop music by storm (and also made her a three-time GRAMMY winner). And she’s continued the movement with "Vampire", the lead single from her sophomore album, Guts.
The song is a red herring of sorts, beginning with melancholic piano keys that often kickstart the singer’s tunes. But rather than shed tears, she unleashes the fury of a woman scorned, dishing out insults to a manipulative ex-lover that ripped her heart out. "Bloodsucker, famef—er / Bleedin' me dry, like a goddamn vampire" she seethes on the chorus. The best revenge is always served cold.
Taylor Swift - "Anti-Hero"
Taylor Swift has grown to be even more self-aware as her status ascends. She knows being a pop superstar comes with its challenges, and “Anti-Hero” reveals the woman behind the glitzy veil. Inspired by her nightmares, the chart-topping smash from tTaylor Swift has become even more self aware as her status ascends. She knows being a pop superstar comes with its challenges, and "Anti-Hero" reveals the woman behind the glitzy veil.
Inspired by her nightmares, the chart-topping smash from the 12-time GRAMMY winner’s tenth album Midnights is a personal journal into feelings of self-doubt and anxiety. But in natural Swift fashion, the dark lyricism is anchored by hopeful pop synths courtesy of longtime collaborator and co-producer Jack Antonoff. The video heightens the song’s themes, as Swift confronts various versions of her former selves.
"We all hate things about ourselves, and it's all of those aspects of the things we dislike and like about ourselves that we have to come to terms with if we're going to be this person," Swift shared with fans on Instagram. That refreshing honesty is what makes "Anti-Hero" one of the singer’s most successful songs to date.
SZA - "Kill Bill"
Leave it to SZA to make murder sound so sweet. On SOS standout single "Kill Bill," the singer takes a page from director Quentin Tarantino by nodding to his 2003 film, as she lives out her vengeful fantasies.
The GRAMMY winner’s raging jealousy landed "Kill Bill" atop the Billboard Hot 100, making it her first-ever solo No.1 hit. SZA brought the fatal single to life with a cinematic music video, which pays homage to Kill Bill with fierce action scenes and an appearance from Vivica A. Fox, who starred as a Deadly Viper and Thurman's enemy Vernita Green in the film.
"I've never raged the way that I should have. This is my villain era, and I'm very comfortable with that," the singer shared with Glamour about her album’s themes. "It is in the way I say no. It's in the f–ked up things that I don't apologize for." And with lyrics like "I did all of this sober" on "Kill Bill," you have no choice but to believe her.
Photos: Def Jam Recordings, Capitol Records, Image from TiVO, Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET, Image from TiVO, Austin Hargrave, Image from TiVO, Ashley Osborn
Get To Know The Best New Artist Nominees At The 2024 GRAMMYs
From new rap sensations to a country star with a second life, the 2024 GRAMMY nominees for Best New Artist are nothing short of inspirational.
The Best New Artist category is perhaps one of the GRAMMYs' most exciting. Each year honors artists from all genres who have the potential to become timeless legends in the future.
Whether the nominees have been in the game for decades or are fresh debutantes, the Best New Artist honor highlights the moment they are living now, and how they are breaking through the noise with distinctive voices, visions, and sounds.
The Best New Artist nominees for the 2024 GRAMMYs are Gracie Abrams, Fred again.., Ice Spice, Jelly Roll, Coco Jones, Noah Kahan, Victoria Monét, and The War And Treaty. Though only one of them will win the golden gramophone, their nominations speak to their excellence, and foreshadow exciting journeys ahead.
Below, get to know the nominees for Best New Artist at the 2024 GRAMMYs.
Since her 2019 debut single "Mean It," Gracie Abrams has been making every listener feel like her closest friend. Through confessional lyrics and a soft, raspy voice, she's caught the attention of fans, media and even other singers alike.
On her list of admirers are names like Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift — both of whom invited Abrams to be an opening act for their respective tours. Amid those prestigious gigs, Abrams still found the time to release her debut studio album, Good Riddance, in February.
Co-written by her and The National's Aaron Dessner (who also produced the album), Good Riddance was recorded at Dessner's famous Long Pond Studios, which added to the record's intimate atmosphere. "I think working with Aaron allowed for so much to come up that I don't think would have for me otherwise. So much of that is because of the trust that he and I share,," Abrams told GRAMMY.com earlier this year.
The 24-year-old grew up surrounded by art (she's the daughter of Hollywood director J.J Abrams and producer Katie McGrath), but that only made her talents bloom further. In a generation filled with remarkable female songwriters, Abrams' delicacy leaves a deep, gripping mark.
Fred Gibson, better known as the viral producer and DJ Fred again.., rose to popularity during the pandemic. When people couldn't go to clubs or even leave their homes, his mix-and-match dance tracks brought us just the right amount of nostalgia and euphoria.
His Actual Life album series started as an EP in 2020, but quickly expanded into three studio albums — the latest of which, Actual Life 3, arrived in October 2022. In each project, the trivialities of the world find a new veneer: voice notes from friends, clips from social media, and even the restlessness of public transport all become main characters, surrounded by Fred again..'s larger-than-life synths.
But before diving into his own complex creations, Gibson was already lauded as one of the UK's most prominent producers. He co-wrote and/or produced hits for a number of artists, from Ed Sheeran to Rita Ora, and was mentored by Brian Eno — who was his family's neighbor growing up. In 2020, he won Producer of the Year at the Brit Awards, becoming the youngest producer to do so at 26 years old.
Though Gibson has admitted that he's "not really fussed" by the glitz and the glamor, he's undeniably become the dance scene's hottest new star. And as the only dance act in the Best New Artist category, that may be evident at the 2024 GRAMMYs, too.
Who hasn't heard of Ice Spice? The rapper's chill bars and fiery curls dominated the world this year, whether it was on TikTok's latest viral hit or the Met Gala red carpet.
Born and raised in the Bronx, New York City, the 23-year-old had a breakthrough with 2022's "Munch (Feelin' U)," followed by the equally popular "Bikini Bottom" and "In Ha Mood." The singles led up to her January debut EP, Like..?, and propelled Ice Spice — whose birth name is Isis Gaston — even higher.
In less than a year, she released collaborations with PinkPantheress ("Boy's a Liar Pt. 2"), Nicki Minaj ("Princess Diana" and "Barbie World," featuring Aqua), and Taylor Swift ("Karma"), becoming the first artist to land four top 10 singles on Billboard's Hot 100 Chart in 2023.
While Ice Spice hasn't even released a debut studio album yet, she's an undeniable phenomenon who is pushing the drill scene far and beyond. Her style and bravado have made a mark on the music industry, and will likely continue to do so.
"I want to write a conceptual album that kind of outlines my journey of religion, my journey of spirituality, my journey of redemption, my journey of wrongdoings," Jelly Roll explained to GRAMMY.com earlier this year.
That album is his first country LP, 2023's Whitsitt Chapel. It was named after Whitsitt Chapel Baptist Church in his hometown of Antioch, Tennessee, where he was baptized at 14 years old.
Jelly Roll had a turbulent journey before becoming one of country music's most exciting new artists. After breaking a cycle of felonies, he still spent almost two decades treading the waters of the music industry. Born Jason DeFord, the 38-year-old star spent a good amount of the early 2000s selling rap mixtapes out of his car. But the hard work paid off — he has since developed a unique mix of hip-hop, rock and country, which led him to a Grand Ole Opry debut in 2021, and to last year's smash hit "Son of a Sinner," off his 2021 album, Ballads of the Broken.
The success of "Son of a Sinner" inspired a full pivot to country, and his decision has proven right with the success of singles "Need a Favor" and "Save Me," the latter of which earned him a nomination for Best Country Duo/Group Performance this year for his duet version with Lainey Wilson. Along with coming full circle musically, Jelly Roll mends his past while becoming a new artist — and we're lucky to witness his becoming.
You might remember Coco Jones from the 2012 Disney Channel film Let It Shine. In it, she played the prodigious teenage singer Roxie — and offered a glimpse of her dazzling talents.
Although Let It Shine was the most watched movie of the year for kids and tweens in 2012, it took a whole decade for Jones to truly gain the recognition she deserves. The South Carolina-born, Tennessee-raised star spent the majority of the past years as an independent singer and actress, dropping four EPs and scoring roles in films like 2018's Flock of Four and in the 2022 television series Bel-Air.
It was only last year, after she signed a contract with High Standardz and Def Jam Recordings, that her efforts started to pay off. She released her first major label EP, What I Didn't Tell You, featured on Babyface's GRAMMY-nominated Girls Night Out ("Simple"), and earned her first No. 1 on Billboard's Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart with the sultry "ICU."
Now, she attests to her potential as R&B's next soulful diva with her first GRAMMY nomination.
When Noah Kahan named one of his songs "Stick Season" — the Vermont-specific term to describe the dreary, gray days between Halloween and the first snow — he didn't know that this period of time would be more bountiful to him than any blossoming spring.
First teased on TikTok in 2020, "Stick Season" went viral in the next two years, culminating with its official release as the lead track off Kahan's 2022 LP of the same name. The album followed suit as a smashing success, earning the top spot on five Billboard charts upon its release (including Top Rock & Alternative Albums) and prompting collaborations with Kacey Musgraves, Hozier and Post Malone.
The 26-year-old folk-pop singer is still adjusting to all the prestige, which will only grow as he starts 2024 with a stadium/arena tour that includes dates at L.A.'s Hollywood Bowl and New York's Madison Square Garden. "It's f—ing unbelievable," he told GRAMMY.com in October. "It feels so fake that it's almost like, the more time I spend thinking about it, the more abstract it becomes."
Kahan's main strength is this unflinching honesty — he talks openly about his struggles with depression and anxiety, and his lyrics resonate because of their sharp vulnerability. His openness as well as his charming wit have helped him continue to reach bigger audiences, and have now helped him earn his first GRAMMY nomination.
While Victoria Monét has been releasing solo music since 2014 with her debut EP Nightmares & Lullabies: Act 1, she used to be best known for her work behind the scenes. Her expertise was writing hits for many of today's biggest pop stars, including Ariana Grande, Chloe x Halle, BLACKPINK, and more.
She has even been nominated for three GRAMMYs thanks to her songwriting prowess: two in 2020 for her work with Grande (Album of the Year for Thank U, Next and Record of the Year for "7 Rings") and one in 2021 for her work with Chloe x Halle (Best R&B Song for "Do It.")
Gradually, people started to notice the 34-year-old songwriter for her own singing as Monét came into her artistry more and more. Her 2020 independently released EP, Jaguar marked a breakthrough in her career and was critically acclaimed for its luxurious R&B melodies and classy undertones.
Following suit came her debut solo album, 2023's Jaguar II, through RCA Records. The album was equally acclaimed, and its supporting tour sold out minutes after being announced. Add to that seven nominations at the 2024 GRAMMYs — including Best New Artist and Record Of The Year for "On My Mama" — it's more than clear that Monét is already a superstar to be reckoned with.
The War and Treaty
Tanya and Michael Trotter Jr. found each other in 2010, when they both played at Maryland's Spirit of Love festival. The name was a good omen, as the couple soon began a lasting partnership — both in love and in music.
The War and Treaty is their way to let us peek into their rich universe. While originally formed in 2014 under the name Trotter & Blount, they changed it in 2017 after several discussions. "Michael, calm down," Tanya said one day, as retold by Michael on BobbyCast. "This is not a war, we need to come to some sort of treaty about this."
Since then, they have been stirring hearts with emotional anthems inspired by soul, country, and gospel music. However, it was only in 2022 that they signed with UMG Nashville, already carrying one EP and three studio albums under their belt. In March 2023 came the devotional Lover's Game, their first major label LP, with production credits by GRAMMY winner Dave Cobb.
"This album isn't about whether you like the music or not," Michael said in an interview with NPR. "This album is about, 'Do you understand what we're trying to say? Can you get with this? Do you feel the inclusion in our voices? Do you feel the resilience? Do you feel the overcoming? And if you feel it, do you have a heart for the War and Treaty?"
As one of only eight artists with a Best New Artist GRAMMY nomination for 2024, it seems at least their peers do..
The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.
The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy's Voting Membership.