53rd Annual Grammy Awards: Are You There World, It’s Me, Esperanza Spalding

Last night a musical extravaganza took place in Los Angeles, California, occasionally punctuated by various well-dressed, unusually attractive humans announcing the “winners” of assorted musical awards and then handing a large statue to the winner of the award. As I believe we touched on last year, the Grammys are total nonsense.

This year’s ceremony included excessive quantities of country music, hyperbolically hyped performances (hope you caught Dr.Dre/Eminem because it’s going to show up in your AP History class next year, seeing as it is so f*cking HISTORICAL), an especially smarmy-looking John Mayer, a plethora of gratuitous Nicole Kidman-centric crowdscans, a cornucopia of “upsets” (Best New Artist, Album of the Year, etc), Adam Lambert not winning a Grammy or making out with anyone on stage, and Lady Gaga arriving inside a giant egg.

Ten Things Worth Noting About the 2011 Grammy Awards:

1. Esperanza F*cking Spalding, Y’all

Who the hizell is Esperanza Spalding? Well, it’s not Justin Bieber, that’s all we needed to know.

No but for real, Esperanza Spalding surprised everyone by winning Best New Artist — making her the first Jazz Artist to do so. I haven’t been this surprised since the last time Taylor Swift won a thing.

However this win didn’t go over as well backstage as it did in our living room:

When Spalding made her way back to the media room at the Staples Center, she had no mercy for the competition, especially Justin Bieber. “He’ll have many more years and many more nominations, so he’ll be straight,” she said when asked about beating the teen pop sensation.

Bieber’s devoted acolytes didn’t take her victory so lightly. In dozens of changes to Spalding’s Wikipedia page, Beliebers attacked the singer/bassist, with the most glaring being this gem: “JUSTIN BIEBER DESERVED IT GO DIE IN A HOLE. WHO THE HECK ARE YOU ANYWAY?” On top of that, people changed her middle name to “Justin” and then “Quesadilla.” Another Rhodes Scholar among the vandals went on to call Spalding a “reatard,” which probably has nothing to do with the late Jay Reatard.

A Little Bit More About Esperanza: Esperanza Spalding is a half-black, half-Welsh/Hispanic/Native American 26-year-old jazz singer and bassist. Growing up in a rough part of Portland, Oregon, raised by a single mother, she was inspired to become a musician when she saw Yo-Yo Ma on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. She studied and taught at the Berklee College of Music, released her first album in 2006, and her 2010 record, “Chamber Music Society,” is currently holding court in the iTunes Top Ten following last night’s win.

Here she is performing at the White House. You know this song because of Lauryn Hill.


2. Lady Gaga Just Got Born This Way

I’ve got “Born this Way” stuck in my head for life now — and as usual, Lady Gaga’s performance warmed me up to this tune in a way I’d not felt prior. Thoughts?


3. Glee

These kids are at everything now. It’s like a thing. Is Glee a thing? We hadn’t noticed.


4. Why Does Katy Perry Exist

You know when your friend fancies him or herself a singer and starts singing along to some ballad on the radio in a way that makes you feel both bored and strange? You know when your friend subjects you to their wedding photos even though you already saw all the parts you cared about on facebook? Katy Perry combined both of those things last night and called it a “performance.” Katy, go get a giant lollipop and a short skirt and some hyper-pop beats from hell and some gay back-up dancers and show us what you can do because what you can do is not “sing ballads,” it’s “be in music videos.”


5. This Year was The Year of the Most Annoying Fucking Songs Of All Fucking Time

If you thought “It’s a Small World” was difficult to get out of your head after tripping balls through China and Russia and the USA in Disneyworld on a raft, then the Grammys have probably turned your head into a psychotic pulsing mound of I CAN’T GET THIS FUCKING SONG OUT OF MY HEAD.

Songs I Can’t Get Out of my Fucking Head:

Train “Hey Soul Sister” (winner, Best Pop Performance)

Bruno Mars “Nothin’ on You” (nominee, Record of the Year)

Justin Bieber “Baby” (nominee, Best New Artist)

Lady Antebellum “Need You Now” (winner, Song of the Year)

Gweneth Paltrow and Cee-Lo, The “Forget You” version of “F*** You” (nominee, Song of the Year)

Katy Perry, “Teenage Dream” (nominee, best Female Pop Vocal Performance)


6. It’s Not Gay, It’s Fashion

I don’t know anything about fashion, as is evidenced by the two fashion articles I have penned for this website: Top Ten Sweatpants and How to Not Dress for Success: Top Ten Fashions For Being Alone in Your Apartment. But that won’t stop me from trying. Nobody wore sweatpants, btw.


These Fashions Seemed Real Good:


These Fashions Seemed Real Bad:


These Fashions I Am Unsure About, Open to Input:


7. Muppets Take the Cake

Want your musical performance to be not only bearable, but impressive? Try a muppet. Cee-Lo as Elton John meets the Enchanted Tikki Room meets Muppets in Space was the highlight of the evening.



Let’s be real clearly I didn’t pay attention to the Grammys last night. But I found some cute photos:

9. combos

These are my favorite Combos:

But I also enjoyed these combos:


10. FYI These Are the Winners

Record of the Year: Need You Now, Lady Antebellum
Album of the Year: The Surburbs, Arcade Fire
Song of the Year: Need You Now, Lady Antebellum
Best New Artist: Esperanza Spalding

Best Female Pop Vocal Perofmance: Bad Romance, Lady Gaga
Best Male Pop Vocal Performance: Just The Way You Are, Bruno Mars
Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals: Hey, Soul Sister (Live), Train
Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals: Imagine by Herbie Hancock, Pink, India.Arie, Seal, Konono No 1, Jeff Beck & Oumou Sangare

Best Pop Instrumental Performance: Nessun Dorma, Jeff Beck
Best Pop Instrumental Album: Take Your Pick, Larry Carlton & Tak Matsumoto
Best Pop Vocal Album: The Fame Monster, Lady Gaga

Best Dance Recording: Only Girl (In The World), Rihanna
Best Electronic/Dance Album: La Roux, La Roux
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Crazy Love, Michael Bublè
Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance: Helter Skelter, Paul McCartney
Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals: Tighten Up, The Black Keys

Best Hard Rock Performance: New Fang, Them Crooked Vultures
Best Metal Performance: El Dorado, Iron Maiden
Best Rock Instrumental Performance: Hammerhead, Jeff Beck
Best Rock Song: Angry World, Neil Young
Best Rock Album: The Resistance, Muse
Best Alternative Music Album: Brothers, The Black Keys

Best Female R&B Vocal Performance: Bittersweet, Fantasia
Best Male R&B Vocal Performance: There Goes My Baby, Usher
Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals
Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance: Hang On In There, John Legend & The Roots
Best Urban/Alternative Performance: F*** You, Cee Lo Green
Best R&B Song: Shine, John Stephens, songwriter (John Legend & The Roots)

Best Rap Solo Performance: Not Afraid, Eminem
Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group: On To The Next One, Jay-Z & Swizz Beatz
Best Rap Song: Empire State Of Mind, Shawn Carter, Angela Hunte, Alicia Keys, Jane’t “Jnay” Sewell-Ulepic & Alexander Shuckburgh, songwriters (Burt Keyes & Sylvia Robinson, songwriters)
(Jay-Z & Alicia Keys)
Best Rap Album: Recovery, by Eminem

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3224 articles for us.


  1. I did not know the Grammys were last night until someone mentioned them to me at school today. I’m still undecided as to whether my ignorance was a bad thing?

  2. I could not watch the Grammy Awards from here in Australia, howevs I did enjoy witnessing the USA’s shock & confusion on twitter when Esperanza Spalding and the Arcade Fire won big awards.

    I’m particularly enjoying this: http://whoisarcadefire.tumblr.com

    • i’m confused as to why people are confused about them. i thought the arcade fire were a big thing. i thought the arcade fire was MAINSTREAM.

        • I live in the States, and I thought they were a thing. I’ve heard of them for like years? I don’t know. People on that tumblr is crazy.

          • Arcade Fire is mainstream without being mainstream – popular without the top 40 radio play – which helps maintain their pseudo-indie cred. If music listeners are willing to listen to anything outside of top 40 radio (which plays Rihanna, Eminem, Katy Perry, Gaga, Bruno Mars, etc on a continuous cycle) then Arcade Fire is easy to discover…

            those tumblr people obviously don’t stay too far from The Biebs or top 40.

          • I think arcade fire are mainstream like radiohead are mainstream, which is to say they are huge like the magma under the earth’s top 40 surface

          • I love how people in that tumblr assume that just because they’ve never heard of Arcade Fire and they’re not a pop group they’re the “Worst band EVA!” etc I feel like Arcade Fire will recieve a lot of mainstream-pop-loving enemies because of this, which they dont deserve obviously!

            They also won two Brit awards tonight and not many thought they would but I think maybe they’re more well known in these parts of the world? How could you not be when you’ve been playing gigs like this-> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jq6M4PWKvq4 for years I suppose. Anyway, they just prove that you dont need to arrive in an egg and dress in fillets of beef to be a good musician, the music speaks for itself!

    • I am pretty sure that tumblr is actually mocking people who don’t know of Arcade Fire. Which explains why it’s entirely re-posts of illiterate twitter users. It’s like all these people on twitter were suddenly outraged by their own massive ignorance and had to express said ignorance to anyone online? It’s ridiculous enough to warrant its own tumblr, I think.

  3. Bob Dylan looks like a mixture of Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean and Captain Hook from Hook, that is all I have to contribute.

    • Haha he kinda reminded me of Marquis de Sade in Quills played by Geoffrey Rush which reminded me of Pirates of Caribbean.

  4. I had heard of Esperanza Spalding and her music before she won. But, her genre is not my cup of tea. That being said, she is super talented (and cute), has a great voice, is obviously a fantastic musician and deserved to win over the Biebs. The Grammys should be based on musicianship and artistic merit – not what’s the most popular at the moment. The Bieber gang needs to chill out with the threats and immaturity.

    The Grammy got some of its indie cred back by voting for Arcade Fire. But, I kinda prefer their previous 2 albums over the Suburbs.

  5. I’ve always kind of secretly hated Gwyneth. And then Glee happened and now her Grammy duet with Cee-lo and I’m kind of falling for her a bit. Damn you, Gwyneth! I should have known that anybody who calls Beyonce and Jay-Z her BFFs had to be just a little bit cool.

  6. I have loved Esperanza Spalding for a few years now, and was so thrilled to see her win. She’s a fantastic musician, and this time the Grammy’s got it right by rewarding pure talent. I was a bit puzzled as to why Spalding was a “new artist,” as she has three albums out and has been performing for several years. However, I was very happy to see her win.

  7. When I was maybe in the 6th grade, I saw Esperansa Spalding on a local commercial. I grew up practically on the campus of Purdue University (Indiana, U.S.). and I was watching some campus haps. station.
    The campus music hall was airing a commercial that did, like, 5 second samples of all the no-name artists that were coming to campus later that semester.
    She was one of the no-names.

    In the clip, she played her base. I’m saying, ohgod.
    And I didn’t know I liked jazz yet at the time, and I definitely didn’t know I dug women, but I used a computer in the school library to order the cd off of Amazon. We didn’t have Internet at the house yet. I’m saying, like whoa.

  8. I would have loved Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” if the lyrics weren’t such an epic fucking fail.

    Oh boo boo Gaga. Orient is used to describe rugs, not people.

    • I still don’t get why “Oriental” is so offensive. We use it all the time in Mandarin Chinese to refer to ourselves…

      • I think it might be because it connotes an anthropological field of study that generalized the middle and far East in a very particular, mostly racist way. But uhm uhh that’s just me and err I’m studying postcolonialism.
        In any case, omg arcade fire and Gaga in an egg. It’s all gold.

      • Oriental is racist/offensive (in the English language, at least) because it originated during a time in which the West was considered the center and “The Orient” was separate, less modern, more barbaric. It was romanticized and trivialized by the Western world, which went so far as to put a live Chinese woman on display in a museum. The term “Oriental” seems to still hold those connotations to this day.

        & Because of what the previous commenter said, too.

        • That is so strange.
          In french, we use the term “orient” all the time to refer to the eastern cultures, without connotation. Interesting, though. I’ll know not to use it in english.

  9. Esperanza Spalding: I feel like a bad lover-of-jazz for not having heard her music before, but I will definitely be downloading it sometime soon. Right after I amass a decent collection of photos of Florence from Florence + The Machine to my hard drive. Florence can do no wrong.

  10. That Train song is TERRIBLE and overplayed and there is a whole tumblr devoted to it

    Re: Esperanza Spalding, props to the Grammy’s to not just giving recognition to those who have already had plenty of it. As for her having “no mercy for the competition” that made it sound like she was being mean, but I think it was a totally reasonable thing to say? What was she supposed to say, that he should’ve gotten it?

    • Yeah…….I totally just broke it down one time to “We Are Here To Change the World”

      *resumes breaking it down one time*

  11. i have opinions!

    esperanza spalding: i’m not gonna claim to be a huge, longtime fan, but i saw her at the music, poetry & spoken word thing (sometimes i watch pbs and feel smart) and i was blown away. she’s super cute and super talented and i bought “esperanza” and ‘i know you know’ is one of my fave songs.

    arcade fire: wtf. i thought they were huge. wasn’t the suburbs #1 for a bit on the billboard and things? i don’t know. i loved suburbs, married a hard copy, etc. his level of excitement = my level of not being surprised at all.


    Janelle Monae is flawless. I wish the dude in the blue suit would have tucked in his shirt though and I don’t like that red dress, something about the mullet hem there just … no. Also the fabric is too shiny and kind of tight? IDK I feel like if you’re going to wear a huge expensive dress, wear a huge expensive dress that’s tailored to you.

    If Kelly Osborne wasn’t Kelly Osborne I would kind of like that dress. It’s a really cute colour on her, maybe the hair is the problem? But it doesn’t seem real faithful to her look, and like, look at Helena Bonham Carter (look at Tilda Swinton at the BAFTAs, to die!), you can be yourself on the red carpet, they won’t kick you out. Also I really like the dress Rihanna is wearing, I just think it’s fun/silly/look it’s Rihanna, you know?

    Bieber would look OK if it fit, it doesn’t though it’s way big and you know … he can afford to have it fit! YOU DON’T NEED TO BUY CLOTHES YOU CAN GROW INTO ANY MORE BIEBS. I like Naya Rivera’s dress even though it has a mullet hem but I am weak for her, so. I think Florence Welch’s dress is AMAZING, but I wish that she’d done to her hair what the girl in the dress with the pink fluffy stuff did to her hair. Speaing of which I like the dress with the pink fluffy stuff. She looks about 12, 12 year olds can have fun at the Grammy’s! Plus it’s just kind of cute/fun.

    I have to go and watch the Monae performance now, see above re: flawless. I will give Spalding a go even though she beat Florence and Mumford & Sons and that makes me sadface.

    • thank you for playing tui, apparently nobody else here is capable of discussing fashion with me. TYPICAL LESBIANS.

      You’re right, I used to work a job that involved spying on people to see if they were who they said they were (long story) and one of the first things my boss told me was that you could tell if a man was rich or not by whether or not his suit was tailored, that dudes with good jobs always wear suits that fit. and justin bieber has like a shit ton of money right. so good call there.

      i am confused about kelly osbourne in general, i liked her better five years ago.

      florence’s dress has a lot going on. i feel like it is trying to seduce me.

      the “mullet dress” was a thing this year, yeah? it was a thing

    • I largely agree with the verdicts of the fashions graphics (excepting the mullet dresses which are terrible in all cases, plus I kind of like the insane leopard ensemble (this sounds somehow like maybe the slightly classier sister group of the Insane Clown Posse?? oh you can tell I’m a Michigander)), but I think that overall Esperanza Spaulding completely wins in the category of fashions, she is dressed so cute in everything! And I’m a total sucker for girls with giant afros.

    • Kinda late on the reply, but isn’t girl-with-pink-fluffy-thing Hayley Williams (Paramore lead singer)? I think she’s early 20s. BUT, I kinda like the dress, maybe I’m just a sucker for bright colours but I thought it was fun.

      Also I <3 Janelle Monae forever. Jus' sayin.

  13. yeah im surprised arcade fire were surprised and that people are surprised. they’re huge. millionaires. ah the suburbs sucked. anyway, why can’t we talk about janelle monae???????? her/performance=super queer/amazing/THE FUTURE

      • I just can’t get passed how terrible a name “Lady Antebellum” is…especially for a country band! Seriously, might as well call your group “Lady Longs-For-the-Day-We-Could-Still-Keep-Slaves.”

        • Sadly, you could name the group after any period in American history and it would still have ties to violent racism.

  14. Bruno Mars, I’m really happy for you and I’m gonna let you finish, but Adam Lambert had one of the best songs of all time.

    actually my impression of Bruno Mars songs is that they are boring songs that play on the radio and obviously Adam Lambert’s music is the best.

    I’m really happy Muse won, though. (Muse has such a strong gay sensibility, I can’t believe they are all straight but it is true, the singer has impregnated Kate Hudson)

    I vote yes on Ricky Martin’s outfit… silver pants+boots=doing it right.

    p.s. *my* favorite combos are salsa combos.

    • Muse, fuck yeah. Although I think Absolution was a better rock album than the Resistance…but they never got a Grammy for it. So.

      I know! I’ve always said that girls who love girls love Muse. Matthew Bellamy’s a lesbian.

  15. OMG Janelle Monae and Harry Freaking Potter in a picture together. I almost changed my background but drunk cats are slightly better.


  17. I tried not to get worked up from all the hype but I still got up early on Friday to listen to “Born This Way”. I wasn’t too impressed yet I knew I’d probably like it a million times more after hearing Lady Gaga perform it live at the Grammys, which I did. I don’t know, she has a way of making even the most mediocre of songs sound awesome. (Then again, I always argue with my friends that’s it’s more than just the music with Lady Gaga.) I bet she would even do a great job with the other songs you can’t get out of your head.

  18. you’re only unsure about that white tuxedo because it has justin beiber inside it. You put kate moennig in it and it will be a lovely tux indeed.

  19. Well my new year’s resolution was to be more positive and also more honest so:

    I really like Mumford and Sons. <— This is a falsehood.

    I think John Mayer's filthy insides are infiltrating his outside. Or he's gay for Johnny Depp.

    Katy Perry doesn't bother me that much. <— Lie.
    I did like the non-ballad portion of her performance. (I did.) And I thought one of the best parts, of the whole night really, was how much Nicole Kidman was enjoying herself.

    I wish Florence + the Machine had won something. And from the fact that Kanye wasn't there I guess he wasn't eligible for nomination this year? When did that album come out? And wasn't Empire State of Mind forever ago? Whats the eligibility period? Pleas answer that. I am interested. <— I am not.

    I'm happy for Lady Antebellum. I am not sick of that song. I listen to both it and the Glee cover of it at least once a day. This is truth. And before you get you're Fucking Hipster judgment all over me know – I LIKE COUNTRY MUSIC AND I WILL NOT BE MOVED.

    Highlights included Rihanna's fine ass, her performance with Eminem, Cee-lo out-Gaga-ing GaGa, the Aretha tribute, the B.o.b/Bruno/Janelle trifecta of awesomeness and anyone not dressed like a fucking clown.

    Lowlights included ninjas, Usher, old people phoning it in, the Drake part of Rihanna's performance, too random presenter selection, Gaga being weird in a boring way and everybody who did dress like a fucking clown.

  20. I think it’s great that Esperanza Spalding won.But it makes me wonder if they can give her an award well maybe they can give other really talented people awards and airtime unlike the Katy Perry’s and Taylor Swifts?I thought the Grammy’s were a lame-assish,pretentious,self-congratulatory, popularity contest? So that confuses me.

    On a side note I didn’t love Arcade Fires first 2 albums but I loved the Burb’s.I’ve always liked music about the alienation of youth,the bleakness of it’s vast teenage wasteland,all the while tinged with a hope for the future.So win for me.I also think Gaga is starting to bore me much like Taylor Katy Swift-Perry

  21. Did you see her new video with her kissing a woman at the end?? Is that her coming out video??

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