This Sunday night I’ll be watching the 2019 GRAMMY Awards for which my friend Claudia Brant, an Argentine composer, producer and singer whose credits include writing songs for or with Camila Cabello, Jessie Reyez, Carlos Santana, Alejandro Sanz, Luis Fonsi, CNCO, Barbara Streisand, Josh Groban, and Ricky Martin received a nomination for her album Sincera in the category of “Best Latin Pop Album.”
I have many thoughts about this.
First of all, last year, as a GRAMMY Nominee myself I was everywhere. Clive’s party, photo-ops, Facebook, Insta, Red Carpet. You name it. This year, I had to turn down all invitations as I’ll be in Washington D.C. at my daughter’s college senior weekend. It goes without saying there’s no place else I’d rather be. But a little FOMO here. I wish these 2 events were on different weekends. That said, I’ll be sending Claudia positive feels remotely and here’s why:
At there risk of sounding buzz-wordy…for me Claudia’s album…well, it sparks joy. Full disclosure, I usually don’t have patience for songs in a language I don’t understand (in this case, Spanish). But when it comes to Sincera, it doesn’t matter. It’s her tone, her melodic sensibility, the joy in her delivery that give me pleasure. Just because I don’t understand her literally (I opted for French in high school), doesn’t mean I can’t relate emotionally.
Something else that appeals to me is that when translated, Sincera isn’t an album full of pleas to touch her body. I’m not 22. Neither is Claudia. We have a lot of other stuff on our minds to sing about. It’s a big complicated world out there.
After the nominations were announced we met for coffee — but actually we had soup — and Claudia recounted a meeting she had with a label back in 1996. In what she thought was going to be an enthusiastic conversation about how they were planning on promoting a record she just recorded for them, the newly hired A&R to her surprise, informed her that because he was not the one who signed her or picked the songs or producers he was not going to lift a finger to promote it. She could sign ‘this paper,’ collect her 2 dozen advance copies waiting for her in the lobby and be free of all recouping costs or she would owe the label a ton of money for an album that was essentially DOA. She cried herself to sleep that night.
Fast forward to 2018. At a Sincera record release event Claudia divulged there was more than one label head who suggested she was crazy to put herself forth as an artist at this time. They said her style was too wordy, her music was too “chordy” and…the songs were too beautiful. Too beautiful? They scoffed at her vision. (I don’t know about you, but scoffing usually makes me even more determined. Please, Scoff away!)
She explains in a Billboard interview that she “wanted to put aside commercial intentions for a moment” and that the tracks on her album are the “most personal songs I’ve ever written.” Her favorite one being “Ni Blanco Ni Negro,” (a duet with flamenco fusionist Antonio Carmona), about the opportunity America has given her and the hope that others can have the same.
Producers Cheche Alara and Moogie Canazio were thrilled to be involved in making a record on which Claudia could shine as an artist in her own right, a record that only life experience could write. One that was sincere (no pun intended) and didn’t use any autotune (brave lady)! When she brought the finished product to Sony Music U.S. Latin President Nir Seroussi, he said ‘…it’s not going to be an easy-sell but I think you just might win a GRAMMY so I’m putting it out...’ It must have sparked joy in him as well.
All it takes is one believer.
At a time in life when I find myself in a similar position — I’m a grown woman, a mother, a professional who’s been working behind the scenes for decades — I too have a hankering to reveal myself more personally. I might not be a Gaga or a Grande but my stories are worth telling. Am I nuts? Claudia assures me I’m not.
That said there is no GRAMMY goal for me. There’s no field or category in which I can realistically submit a record. “Best Pop Album” would have me competing with the Taylor Swifts and Cardi B.s The criteria for “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album” is that it must consist of covers from the Great American Songbook. And Folk, Americana — not my jam.
Not that a GRAMMY is the holy grail (although that can be argued), but it’s got me thinking. The current playing field of our business makes it understandable, respectable and financially prudent for an artist to choose to self-release music. THIS is the new paradigm. So doesn’t it make sense for the Recording Academy to incorporate a category (or 2) for the independent artist who doesn’t have major label muscle (and influence) behind them? Or are only the well known superstars worthy of recognition for outstanding work in their field?
Surely there’s some space for us (sung to the melody of “There’s a Place for Us”, from West Side Story.) 😛Just sayin. I have to say. That’s what I do.
Daryl Friedman are you listening? I know you read my blog. ❤️Maybe you can have a chat with Neil Portnow.
Anyoo a few days after I ‘souped’ with Claudia I recorded the first vocal for my album. It was only a rough but I didn’t think too much. Try too hard. I just closed my eyes and felt it. I had her in my head. That ‘rough’ will be the final vocal.
So thank you Ms. Claudia and Good Luck on Sunday. I know you made Sincera for yourself but you also inspired all the dreamers to ignore the doubters, follow their vision and refuse to lose who they are in the blur of the stars.