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Posted at 11:10 PM ET, 02/13/2011

Grammys 2011: Esperanza Spalding wins best new artist award over Justin Bieber

By Jen Chaney

In one of the bigger surprises so far of this year's Grammy Awards, Esperanza Spalding won the best new artist award, beating out better known names Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence + The Machine and Mumford and Sons.

That's right, Spalding -- a 26-year-old jazz performer and bassist whose second solo album, "Chamber Music Society," was relased last year, and who is not the subject of a 3-D biopic currently playing in a multiplex near you -- beat out the Biebs. If you're a serious music (especially jazz) fan, this was a moment in which integrity triumphed over mass popularity. If you have Bieber fever, this was an injustice of the highest order, as evidenced by the predictable explosion of "Who the [bleep] is Esperanza Spalding and who does she think she is?" tweets that immediately dominated Twitter. One example:

That awkward moment when Esperanza Spalding wins 'Best New Artist' and NOBODY knows who the heck she is. #dudeitstrueless than a minute ago via web

If you're curious about how Spalding could have been nominated, the rules for the new artist category allow for the inclusion of performers who have previously released singles or even albums. It's really more of a best up-and-comer sort of award, and that's why Spalding qualifies.

For those curious to hear more of her music, check out the above clip of her 2009 performance at The White House, then watch her NPR tiny desk concert, recorded just a few weeks ago:

By Jen Chaney  | February 13, 2011; 11:10 PM ET
Categories:  Music  | Tags:  Grammys  
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I think it's absolutely awesome that Ms. Spalding won. I did not watch because I didn't think she had a chance against her fellow pre-packaged, mass marketed nominees. I have followed her music for a couple of years now and 3 albums later, have not been disappointed. She is hard to classify. Her music is not straight jazz, or classical, or samba, or pop, but it is certainly nice. I'm ecstatic that talent actually counted this year instead of packaging and production. I may even watch the Grammys again. Haven't seen them in over 20 years.

Posted by: kwbarrett_jr | February 13, 2011 11:58 PM | Report abuse

Why bother to nominate the "pre-packaged mass marketed artists" if the intent is to award the, perhaps very talented but also most obscure ones? Why not just have a very talented but little heard of award? It just seemed strange that in many divisions you had rock legends like Neil Young, Tom Petty, Jeff Beck, and Pearl Jam only to have the award go to some 15 minutes of fame English band who will be forgotten when these other artists put their next albums out? I mean, when Barbra Streisand confuses the name of the album of the year "the Suburbs",with the band, Arcade Fire (not that she is completely up on pop music.) It just seemed like that happened all night. The whole thing seemed confusing and marginalized.

Posted by: Rwestjr606 | February 14, 2011 12:31 AM | Report abuse

I mean, you can't hate a guy like Justin Bieber because he is successful as hell. Prepackaged? Most definitely. Without talent? Definitely not and I am 56. He has great hooks in his songs and real musical sensibilities. I would never buy his albums but I have to gie it up to him. After watching him a couple of times I think he is going to be around for a while.

Posted by: Rwestjr606 | February 14, 2011 12:49 AM | Report abuse

I almost fell off my chair when she won. I've been a fan since her first record and she's received high praise from many of the jazz elite, Pat Metheny and Kurt Rosenwinkle among them.

Maybe when Kelly Joe Phelps wins a Grammy (in any category) my faith in mankind will be officially restored.

Posted by: johnk1000 | February 14, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Spalding is a quality artist, very talented and I really love her sound! Justin who????

Posted by: noneckmd | February 14, 2011 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Spalding is a quality artist, very talented and I really love her sound! Justin who????

Posted by: noneckmd | February 14, 2011 10:06 AM | Report abuse

I already knew about this girl before she was came out of Berklee because Pat Metheny is a mentor to this young woman. If people don't know about her, shame on them. I have all her albums to date. Justin "Bib"ber fans need to crawl in a shell and rot.

Posted by: cbmuzik | February 14, 2011 10:11 AM | Report abuse

So glad she won! This takes me back to when the Grammys honored true musicians and singers. Not manufactured puppets. I agree with cbmuzik. I'm a HUGE Pat Metheny fan and I knew Ms. Spalding was going to hit it big someday. She's awesome and the total package!

Posted by: demigloss | February 14, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

The New Yorker Magazine did a terrific profile of Ms. Spalding last year. She's a solid, grounded, innovative, wonderful musician. Kudos to the Grammys for recognizing her talent. Her music is on my iPod and I'll be looking for more.

Posted by: sue1047 | February 14, 2011 11:55 AM | Report abuse

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