Even though I’m not the biggest Esperanza Spalding fan in the world, I’ve got to give girlfriend some love. Nobody expected some bass-player with a big ass Afro to beat out this year’s boy toy, Justin Bieber, for the Best New Artist Grammy, but that’s exactly what she did. Whenever the underdog beats out the top dog, that’s worth noting.
Facebook and Twitter blew up with people wishing her well, posting links to her videos and just generally celebrating the sister’s upset victory. And I’ll bet percent of them have no idea who the hell Esperanza Spalding is. If you could turn those congratulations into actual sales of her albums, she’d really have something to be happy about.
What’s been funny and simultaneously embarrassing to see how many Black people are ignorant of jazz and blues, but can hum every note of the latest Justin Bieber joint.
Like Nikki Giovanni said, “Ain’t we got NO shame?” When more White folks are hip to jazz than the people who invented the genre in favor of some punk kid with a bad haircut fronted by Usher, it’s time for some mandatory remedial instruction in W.C. Handy, Jelly Roll Morton and Edward Kennedy Ellington, bitches!
I was talking to a woman who owns a really nice local jazz nightclub. She put a post on Facebook asking people if they could have any act, living or dead, play the club, who would they want to see? The answers included the likes of Prince, Sade, Michael Jackson, Bryan McKnight to play a 250 seat club. I was like, c’mon people! Gimme a break! The lady sent me a message that she has to book acts with singers or she can’t get a decent turn out. How pathetic is that? If Herbie Hancock came to town would he have to start “singing” through a vocoder or do an extended version of “Rockit” before folks would show up? That is sad, sad, sad.
I have two teenagers, one about to turn 21 and the other 17 in a matter of months, who have no interest in jazz music. It’s as mysterious and as exotic to them as the Dead Sea Scrolls. They know about Kanye and Ludacris and Beyoncé. They don’t know jack about Miles and Nat and Ella.
There was a Bieber Backlash as some asshole fans crashed Spalding’s website, trashed her Wikipedia entry with death threats “YOU SHOULD GO DIE IN A HOLE…WHO THE HECK ARE YOU ANYWHERE” one fanatic posted in all-caps and accused the jazz bassist of “stealing” the award from Bieber.
The wrath of pimply, pissed-off, prepubescent girls under the influence of Bieber Fever is a force not to be underestimated. Boo-fucking-hoo, ladies. Your idol’s got a crappy 3-D movie stinking up the theaters. Go watch that and have a good cry. That’s show biz, kids.
Ah well, maybe it’s not so important as to shrug off whether Esperanza deserves the big push (“The brightest star on the jazz horizon?” Please.) she’s getting as it is to applaud her providing what President Obama likes to call, “a teachable moment.” I’d hate to think all my jazz albums might as well be burnt up right along with me when I kick off and they toast me up in the crematorium. If Spalding’s success turns a few inquiring minds on to jazz, that’s not a bad thing.
So what if she doesn’t have a feature film or isn’t dampening the panties of 13-year old girls? Justin Bieber never got a round of applause from the President of the United States. It all evens out eventually.