A great shock to the music industry came when Esperanza Spalding, and not Justin Bieber, won “Best New Artist” at this year’s Grammy Awards. The announcement caused upheaval because most people hadn’t even heard her name before, much less her music. So, who is Esperanza Spalding?
The 26-year-old was born in Portland, Ore. to a single mother. She attended Berklee College of Music, where she earned her bachelor of music degree and became the youngest faculty member in history at age 20.
Her 2008 solo album, “Esperanza,” featured songs written, sung and produced by Spalding. On the jazz album, she sings in English, Spanish and Portuguese. However, she is not only versatile in the languages she sings but also in the genres she performs.
When she was younger, Spalding performed hip-hop, classical, blues and funk. But jazz is what earned her this year’s Grammy.
Well, jazz and her talent. And what talent she has.
Spalding’s voice is soothing in any genre she performs. She can master the deepness and smoothness you expect from jazz, but she can pull off a falsetto that would make Whitney Houston or Celine Dion proud. Plus, her skills on the bass can compete with veterans’.
Maybe that’s why President Barack Obama asked her to perform in Norway when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. There, she performed “I Know You Know,” a track from “Esperanza,” which showcases her talents. In this jazz tune, Spalding goes from smoothly singing to scatting to hitting a high note at the end that makes the line “I’m not going away” stick in your mind.
If you watch Spalding perform, she’ll confirm that Grammy was very much deserved. Even more, she’ll prove that there is still hope or “esperanza” for music.