Jon Batiste’s win at the Grammys is nothing short of trivial

MUSIC – He was one of the favorites of the 2022 Grammy Awards vintage. This Sunday, April 3, jazzman Jon Batiste, heir to a musical dynasty, won five awards, enough to boost this young star for whom music is a “spiritual practice”.

Virtuoso pianist but also multi-instrumentalist, conductor, civil rights activist, Oscar-winning composer, this musical genius dominated the 64th edition of the Grammy Awards in Las Vegas by winning the most prestigious award for the album of the year for We Are.

He energized the room by declaring with a smile that music was for him “more than entertainment, a spiritual practice”, and which “touches people at a time in their lives when they need it most”.

Descended from a family of musicians in New Orleans, he is only 35 years old, but has already recorded with the biggest stars of American song, from Stevie Wonder to Prince via country legend Willie Nelson. To many Americans, he is perhaps best known as the conductor and musical director of the hugely popular television show The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

5 major awards

He is also the creative director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem and last year received an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Bafta for the soundtrack of Drunk, Pixar animated film, co-written with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Recently, Jon Batiste has also distinguished himself as an ardent activist for social justice and against racial discrimination, in particular during the demonstrations caused by the murder of George Floyd, a black man suffocated by a white policeman in the spring of 2020.

This discreet, unsuccessful candidate for three Grammy Awards in the past, has managed to win against superstars known around the world and on social networks like Justin Bieber and Olivia Rodrigo. Jon Batiste leaves Las Vegas with five Grammy Awards. Besides the best album, it won in the category “American roots” (blues, folk, etc.) and in that of the best music video.

Jon Batiste’s victory in the category of “best album”, undoubtedly the most coveted of all, is not insignificant. This is the first time since 2008 that a black artist has won it. That year, it was another jazzman, Herbie Hancock for his album River: The Joni Letters.

Each year, the lack of diversity, both in the list of nominees for the key categories and in the awarding of prizes, is denounced. The 2022 edition was no exception to the rule, Drake having, for example, asked the organizers of the evening to remove his name from the lists.

A mostly symbolic victory

No explanation was then given by the artist, whose last album Certified Lover Boy was a real tidal wave. It sold 613,000 copies in its first week and over 153 million streams in 24 hours, but was only nominated in two “rap” categories. Certified Lover Boy was not cited in any of the so-called “generalist” categories.

This dispute is not a first. Drake has already clashed with the Record Academy in the past, which he accuses of snubbing him, and confining him because of his skin color. “It’s a sector that sometimes depends on a small group of people who don’t understand what a mixed-race kid from Canada can have to say,” he said when he received his only award of the evening at the Grammys. Awards in 2019. A major artist of his generation, he has so far only won four trophies.

Like him, other black artists, like Frank Ocean and Jay-Z, have also lambasted the Grammys’ picks in recent years, accusing them of ignoring non-white musicians. In 2021, The Weeknd had compared the institution to an organization of “corrupt”, specifying to boycott the ceremony for good. The coronation of Jon Batiste is symbolic. However, it is not necessarily a harbinger of change. In the cinema register, Halle Berry’s victory at the Oscars in 2002 can testify to this. No other black woman has won Best Actress since.

See also on The HuffPost: The big winners of the Grammy Awards 2022

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Jon Batiste’s win at the Grammys is nothing short of trivial