While Grammy Week is traditionally loaded with parties and showcases and every stripe of event, many veterans agreed that 2019 might be the most event-filled one to date. The week started off with events like Bebe Rexha’s Women in Harmony brunch, a BMG party headlined by Margo Price, Willie Nelson being honored by the Grammy Producer and Engineers’ Wing and many others, and segued into the weekend on Thursday night with a pair of A-list throwdowns: The Spotify Best New Artist jam at the Hammer Museum in Brentwood and the Warner Music party at the Nomad downtown. (This article will be updated with more events throughout the weekend.)
As it did last year, the Spotify jam featured performances from the Best New Artist nominees, but this year the Grammys have expanded the nominations for the big awards from five to eight. So six of the eight nominees performed short, 3-4-song sets: Dua Lipa (pictured above), Chloe X Halle, Jorja Smith, Margo Price, Bebe Rexha (pictured, top) and H.E.R. While the sound tended to get lost in the Hammer Museum’s soaring ceiling, the insanely packed event ran smoothly. Dua Lipa — who did double duty, performing at both the Spotify and Warner parties — kicked off with her hit “Electricity,” accompanied by energetic dancers. Sister duo Chloe X Halle, who became exponentially more well known last weekend by performing “America the Beautiful” at the Super Bowl, played an elaborate setup with a large, all-female backing band; Smith delivered her sultry Winehouse-esque R&B; Margo Price brought country flair; and Rexha, fired up from her Women in Harmony event that afternoon, grew annoyed with the schmoozing crowd and actually stopped her hit with Florida Georgia Line, “Meant to Be,” in an (ahem) outspoken effort to get people to focus. H.E.R. wound down the event with her sultry R&B.
Before the show, Price said of her presence on the bill, “I am really excited. I feel like I’m very different than a lot of the artists. I’m incredibly happy to be here and represent roots music. I’m playing my own instruments and writing my own songs. I know there’s one other artist that’s on an independent label — most of the artists here are on major labels. I’m really thrilled to be representing the other side of the coin.”
The Warner fete featured a daunting security gauntlet, but any annoyance turned to “ah!” inside the opulent Nomad, which was made over to feature the Warner logo tastefully emblazoned on various parts of the décor and even the carpet. The high-ceilinged room featured a wide balcony and many smaller and quieter rooms with comfortable couches or tables with captain’s chairs; the sponsored bar featured many tasty drinks, including one called a “Dua Dream.” The party was roaring by the time Atlantic co-chairman Julie Greenwald took the stage and introduced rapper Nipsey Hussle, nominated for Best Rap Album, who performed a song; then Warner Bros. chiefs Aaron Bay-Schuck and Tom Corson introduced dual nominee Dua Lipa, who played “Electricity” for the second time in three hours as well as “IDGAF” and “New Rules.” Other artists in attendance included Best New Artist nominee Bebe Rexha, Janelle Monae (pictured above with Greenwald and Warner recorded music chief Max Lousada), Benj Pasek, Bhad Bhabie, Bri Steves, Broods, Christina Perri, D.R.A.M, Dan + Shay, Halestorm, Jason Mraz, Kevin Gates, Lil Pump, Lizzo, Anne-Marie, Mike Shinoda, Rita Ora, and soul legend Sam Moore and his wife Joyce Mcrae.
Any attempt to list all of the prominent industry execs in the house would be doomed to failure, but in addition to those mentioned above, Warner owner Len Blavatnik, CEO Steve Cooper, Atlantic co-chairman Craig Kallman, Warner/Chappell co-heads Guy Moot and Carianne Marshall, and dozens of other company execs were in the house.
On the red carpet, Moore was asked how he reacted when he found out he would be receiving a Lifetime Achievement award at the Grammys this year. “First of all, I gulped. And then I stood up,” he laughed. “I think [the honor] means that you have arrived! Do I deserve it? I don’t know, but I’m gonna take it! It’s an honor and I treasure that.”
Multiple nominee Brandi Carlile was asked about what’s changed for women’s representation at this year’s awards as opposed to 2018’s. “I think the female representation this year is epic,” she said. “And it’s not just female representation, its LGBTQ representation, its African American representation, its Latina representation and more. It’s really heartening to see.” However, she noted, “I think the biggest problem facing women in music industry is the infrastructure — not enough women producers, not enough women engineers, not enough women executives in the record label world and in radio programming. I’ve always struggled as a woman to have my voice heard in the studio and in business, and as I get older I feel that changing for the better, and it gives me hope for my daughters. I don’t want them to be overlooked and silenced and mansplained in the way that I have been in my 20s.”
For his part, Nipsey Hussle said that when he learned of his Grammy nomination, “I was excited! I felt acknowledged as an artist more than anything. I just felt inspired to create more music, I just felt humble and appreciated.”
Earlier on Thursday, Def Jam Records — which is out in force this week — held a listening session at Hollywood’s legendary Paramount Studios for many of the approximately two dozen new artists they’ve signed since Paul Rosenberg took the helm last year, which will be rolled out combo-platter style in the forthcoming “Undisputed” compilation album (out March 8) and documentary series. The company compensated for the building’s low-key exterior by parking a big truck out front with a lightboard on the back that flashed the company’s logo and video clips. Food and drinks (and weed!) were served in the back before Rosenberg and head of A&R Steven Victor spoke briefly to the assembled tastemakers (which is a slightly less offensive word than “influencers”) before we all broke off into separate studios to hear some of the new artists. Our session featured three promising acts: Georgia MC Bernard Jabs (high voice with a memorably catchy flow), Texas duo Sensi Molly and Lil Brooke (slow, murmured rapping over hard beats), and A$AP Mob alum Dominic Lord (more old-school than the others, with a hot song seemingly called “HEY!”). But our personal favorite was Minneapolis-St. Paul’s Nimic Revenue, who combines a remarkably original sing-rapping style with earworm melodies. (Pictured above, L to R: YFL Kelvin, TJ Porter, Landstrip Chip, SNEAKK, Lul G, Sensi Molly; squatting: Fetty Luciano, Lil Brooke)
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