2011 Grammy Awards: Who Is Esperanza Spalding?
Lady Gaga’s egg. Arcade Fire's win. Esperanza Spalding? These are some of the water cooler topics last night’s Grammy Awards have left you buzzing about this morning. But while many of us are still unsure about what exactly Lady Gaga’s shell was made out of, Best New Artist winner Esperanza Spalding was perhaps the biggest question mark of the evening, going from virtually unknown to the mainstream Grammy audience to the woman who upset much more high-profile nominees Drake, Florence + the Machine, Justin Bieber, and Mumford & Sons. “I take this honor to heart so sincerely,” Spalding said during her acceptance speech, “and I’ll do my damnedest to make great music for all of you.”
Despite being the underdog, the 26-year old jazz bassist-singer from Portland, Ore., is an experienced professional who has performed for President Obama three times, opened for Prince, and was asked to teach at her alma mater Berklee College of Music upon graduation at the ripe age of 20. And the classically trained jazz/chamber musician has always been an over-achiever. She taught herself how to play the violin at five years-old and joined the Chamber Society of Oregon not long after that. She’s released three solo albums to date, and can sing in English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Her most recent work “Chamber Music Society” incorporates a fusion of a jazz, contemporary classics, and funk, which The Washington Post called “as lively as it is original.” Rapper-producer Q-Tip plans to produce her next disc, “Radio Music Society,” slated for release later this year. Spalding is currently on tour, with upcoming dates at the Blue Note in Tokyo, Japan, later this week before arriving back stateside for a month of domestic dates.
It looks like the pain of losing hasn’t dissipated in Bieber land quite yet. Shortly after Spalding’s win, a slew of false information and inappropriate content was being updated to the artist’s Wikipedia page, Gawker reported, presumably committed by angry Bieber fans still licking the wounds of the Best New Artist loss. —Emily Exton