Jon Batiste is the most nominated artist at the GRAMMY Awards, aspiring for 11 nominations. The Louisiana musician competes in two of the biggest categories, Album of the Year and Record of the Year, as well as other “genre” categories as varied as Best R&B Album, Best Instrumental Jazz Album, Best Contemporary Classical Composition, Best soundtrack for visual medium and, attention, Best improvised jazz solo. The rest of the most nominated artists are HER, Doja Cat, Lil Nas X, Olivia Rodrigo, Justin Bieber and Billie Eilish, and among all of them there is one that sounds rather little to us.
Who the hell is Justin Bieber? No, now seriously, Jon Batiste -with whom he shares acronyms- may not be as well known in Spain but in the United States he is an eminence in the academic world and thanks to his GRAMMY nominations he is now known even by all those people who , in the last hours, They have sought on Twitter “who is Jon Batiste” and “who the hell is Jon Batiste”. In fact, you have probably already heard his music even if you don’t know it, because this year Batiste, along with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, has won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA for the soundtrack of ‘Soul’, one of the latest Pixar movies. And no one achieves such a thing without a long distance race.
Batiste comes from a family of jazz musicians in New Orleans. He started composing at the age of 8, transcribing music from video games into scores, and at 20 he was already playing in a prestigious Amsterdam concert hall and organizing music workshops in underprivileged neighborhoods. He has released 8 albums, played with Stevie Wonder, Prince, Ed Sheeran, Lenny Kravitz, Willie Nelson, Roy Hargrove and Mavis Staples and, since 2015, is part of the resident band of the American late night The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In 2017 he collaborated on a single by Leon Bridges, in 2020 he played piano on Hamilton Leithauser’s album and this year, both ‘Soul’ and his album ‘WE ARE’ have given him the greatest joys of his career.
‘WE ARE’ is one of those albums that you will not see reviewed on Pitchfork, Stereogum or NME (neither have we reviewed it) but on NPR or specialized media such as Jazz Times or American Songwriter because there is a world beyond the trend magazines and “hypes” that last a week. It is a protest album influenced by the Black Lives Matter movement that, musically, explores and fuses styles such as soul, R&B, jazz, funk or hip-hop from a point of view that puts virtuosity before virtuosity. innovation. In other words, Jon Batiste has not exactly made a groundbreaking album that links him with Kendrick Lamar on an artistic level but rather classic and heavily indebted to his influences in which two singles stand out, the exciting ‘WE ARE’ and the jovial ‘ FREEDOM ‘, nominated for the golden gramophones.
The “elephant in the room” here is very clear: Jon Batiste is a great musician but he has not made a record, neither especially current (only by theme) nor especially interesting, that has been able to conquer a transversal audience. Rather, it seems to lead the nominations for the GRAMMYs so that it is not so noticeable that in reality the most nominated are the Doja Cats, the Justin Biebers and the Olivia Rodrigos as if they were the MTV Video Music Awards. It fulfills the “serious” quota of the awards but it cannot be said that it represents the best that 2021 has given when it has barely received critical attention from the jazz or American media … genres for which there are already specialized categories in which it does not it would have been so out of tune. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to acknowledge your work on ‘Soul’ and that’s it?
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Who the hell is Jon Batiste, the most nominated artist at the Grammys – jenesaispop.com