“You gotta live a little bit.”
This is the advice Stephen Puth gives to other writers and producers looking to become artists. Although, it could have been bestowed to the guests of Spotify’s Best New Artist party, celebrating the nominees of the 2019 Grammy for Best New Artist. Being surrounded by guests such as Heidi Klum, Terry and Rebecca Crews, Hailee Steinfeld, Ashlee Simpson, Julianne Hough, Ashley Tisdale, and Quincy Jones, and preparing for performers Dua Lipa, Margo Price, Chloe x Halle, Jorja Smith, Bebe Rexha, and H.E.R , Puth noted that he felt like the “small fish.” But the last time I checked, fish are allowed to live it up too, though they might not be sporting Puth’s excellent boots.
So, here’s what living was like at the Hammer Museum on Thursday night:
Connections, Conversations, and Carpet:
Heard along the short red carpet welcoming guests was squeals of delight and discovery: friends finding each other, teams supporting each other, new connections, and old connections. “I’m excited to see a bunch of people that are my friends in town for the Grammys that usually don’t live here,” enthused Chantel Jeffries, who, just 24 hours later, would begin her Vegas residency. For some the night presented an opportunity for re-introduction, such as Ben Platt switching into the artist side of his work. “I only started just releasing my own original music and to sort of present as my own artist and not be sort of beholden to a greater project or another character is a new experience and it’s really exciting,” Platt shared. As an artist, he hopes he is “emotionally transparent and just as honest as I can be.” The multiple genres represented by the nominees provided an opportunity for expansion and discovery. “I think my music is a little different than a lot of the other artists here,” singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and Best New Artist nominee and performer Margo Price shared. “So, I think it’s good to represent roots music and [be] playing my own instruments and playing my own songs,” she added. Others were eager to add to their collection of musical honors at the Grammys on Sunday. “Tonight, I’m feeling not as good as some, but better than others. And I’m feeling like I like my chances to win my second Grammy,” shared Fantastic Negrito, a nominee for the Best Contemporary Blues Album for the second consecutive time.
Missions, Muses, and Mixers
Among the guests of the evening were musicians, songwriters, and creatives across platforms and genres, all brought together by the undeniable influence and reach of Spotify. It’s a unique moment in the industry, and one that guest Bishop Briggs identified as a key moment for new artists. When asked to define what a new artist means, Briggs shared, “I think it means releasing as much music as you can because you have the capability to do so, more than any other time [before].” This same moment also provides a space for artists to promote, elevate and bring awareness to the issues they care about: “It’s also a time to use your platform to talk about causes you believe in whether you have ten people that follow you or twenty thousand.” For Briggs, her current causes are LGBTQ rights and child sex trafficking (she recommends the Netflix movie Love Sonia”for those interested in learning more). As a platform, Spotify can also play a role in promoting gender equality through balanced playlists. “People anywhere can discover you,” Margot Price shared. “I know that we don’t have a lot of equal representation on mainstream radio so I really hope that Spotify works very hard to make their playlists 50% male and female.”
Crowds, Crostini, and Cruises
This evening, the Hammer transformed from a museum to a crowded, two-tiered party with an enormous stage. The transformation prompted some to call it a “cruise,” complete with cocktails and small appetizers. The invite-only crowd arrived early, eager to get into the experience. It is the first time I’ve ever heard “What’s your Spotify handle?” called out by organizers to confirm guests. The set-up, no matter how crowded, allowed for mingling and rubbing elbows alongside the evening’s performer and many guests were excited to meet and see their favorite artists. Niki Demartino feels like she’s been “spoiled” with all the great music from nominee Bebe Rexha recently. Tonight was the first time she’s seen her perform. Rexha was also the highlight for her identical twin, Gabi. “She is herself. She’s very emotional in her music and it means so much to her,” gushed Gabi. “She has gone from not having anything but ten cents to being who she is today and I think that is powerful and amazing.” That power resonated onstage, as Bebe Rexha captivated the audience, performing the hits “Me, Myself, and I,” “I’m a Mess” and “Meant to Be.” Dua Lipa opened the show and led the audience through “Electricity,” “IDGAF” and “New Rules.”
Sugar, Surprises, and Snaps
The night was not without a few surprises, including baskets full of fleece blankets to provide a touch of warmth for chilled guests, Milk cookies to end the night, and custom headshots by The Collective You, complete with immediate, live, editing. The headshot team was devoted to the right angles and creative set-ups, and the photos were then displayed on the wall of fame. Julianne Hough and her friends were big fans, taking multiple pictures during the evening. As Grammy nominee Jorja Smith played, and drinks and snacks continued to be served, I too participated in a headshot, my blazer collar suddenly folded up in a look that could only be described as rad; one small moment feeling like a celebrity, too. The Milk Bar cookies, unfortunately, do not follow Stephen Puth’s other pieces of advice for artists: “Try to get healthy” because “it’s easy to eat bad.” But I say to you, mouth currently full of cornflake marshmallow chocolate chip cookies, that this, indeed, is living a little bit.