Some Texas Surprises at the Grammys
There were lots of Lone Star nominees at the music world's biggest night—and lots of winners, including one that R&B fans probably didn't expect.
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There was a whole lot of Texas on board for last night’s Grammys telecast. Here’s a list of Texans who were nominated for an award, or associated with projects that were nominated:
- Kelly Clarkson (who performed a tribute to Patti Page and Carole King)
- Robert Glasper
- The Eli Young Band
- Don Williams
- Miranda Lambert (who sang a duet with Dierks Bentley)
- Esperanza Spalding
- Ruthie Foster
- T Bone Burnett
- Ben Kweller
- St. Vincent
- and the late Janis Joplin and Arizona Dranes
That’s a pretty impressive list, and a diverse one, too, ranging from glossy pop to red dirt country to traditional gospel to a couple of savvy jazz-R&B hybrids. Even more impressive is how many Texans won. Fort Worth native Clarkson pulled in a Best Pop Vocal Album win for Stronger; Beyoncé won Best Traditional R&B Performance For “Love On Top”; Esperanza Spalding, a part-time Austinite and Grammy darling, took Best Jazz Vocal Album for Radio Music Society and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) for “City of Roses”; Fort Worth-raised T Bone Burnett was awarded Best Song Written For Visual Media (a category in which he was nominated twice, once along with Woodlands-raised Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler) for “Safe & Sound,” from the Hunger Games soundtrack; and two albums by San Antonio’s Hacienda were among the four albums for which Dan Auerbach received his Producer of the Year, Non-Classical honor.
Grapevine’s favorite daughter Norah Jones also showed up with half sister Anoushka Shankar to accept the Best World Music Album award on behalf of their late father, Ravi Shankar.
The biggest surprise, though, was the Robert Glasper Experiment’s win in the Best R&B Album category for Black Radio. The Grammy committee doesn’t usually reward adventurous work over the tried and true, but here was a Houston-born-and-trained jazz pianist walking away with the prize for a weird, drifty album (which we gave a mixed review) over work by R&B mainstays like R. Kelly, Anthony Hamilton, Tamia, and Tyrese. (Glasper’s single, “Gonna Be Alright,” lost in the Best R&B Performance category to R&B mainstay Usher’s “Climax.”)
It was particularly surprising given that Black Radio (which includes a guest turn from Dallas’s Erykah Badu) was a hard-to-categorize piece of work that could have landed alongside Spalding’s abum in the jazz category. “To be honest, I’m a jazz musician who put out a record that kind of mixed genres and has something that everybody can enjoy,” Glasper told the Los Angeles Times last year, soon after the record surprised many by hitting number fifteen on the Billboard pop chart (it also hit number four on the R&B chart and number one on jazz). “It’s a jazz record, it’s soul, it’s hip-hop— it’s kind of everything. I don’t know what to call it.”
Well, for today, call it a winner. And note that Texas seems to be putting out a fair amount of this left-field R&B that points toward new possibilities for jazz. Spalding’s aforementioned Radio Music Society (what’s up with these Radio titles?) falls into that non-category category, as does Conflict of a Man, a recent, truly strange album from Erimaj, a band run by Houston-born jazz drummer Jamire Williams (who, like Glasper and Beyoncé, attended Houston’s High School for the Performing & Visual Arts and gave Glasper a shout out last night). Not what most people think of when they think of Texas music, but that’s our problem, not Robert Glasper’s. And, hearteningly, not the Grammy committee’s.