While Grammy Week is traditionally loaded with parties and showcases and every stripe of event, many veterans agreed that 2019 might be the most event-filled one to date. The week started off with events like Bebe Rexha’s Women in Harmony brunch, a BMG party headlined by Margo Price, Willie Nelson being honored by the Grammy Producer and Engineers’ Wing and many others, and segued into the weekend on Thursday night with a pair of A-list throwdowns: The Spotify Best New Artist jam at the Hammer Museum in Brentwood and the Warner Music party at the Nomad downtown. (This article will be updated with more events throughout the weekend.)
As it did last year, the Spotify jam featured performances from the Best New Artist nominees, but this year the Grammys have expanded the nominations for the big awards from five to eight. So six of the eight nominees performed short, 3-4-song sets: Dua Lipa (pictured above), Chloe X Halle, Jorja Smith, Margo Price, Bebe Rexha (pictured, top) and H.E.R. While the sound tended to get lost in the Hammer Museum’s soaring ceiling, the insanely packed event ran smoothly. Dua Lipa — who did double duty, performing at both the Spotify and Warner parties — kicked off with her hit “Electricity,” accompanied by energetic dancers. Sister duo Chloe X Halle, who became exponentially more well known last weekend by performing “America the Beautiful” at the Super Bowl, played an elaborate setup with a large, all-female backing band; Smith delivered her sultry Winehouse-esque R&B; Margo Price brought country flair; and Rexha, fired up from her Women in Harmony event that afternoon, grew annoyed with the schmoozing crowd and actually stopped her hit with Florida Georgia Line, “Meant to Be,” in an (ahem) outspoken effort to get people to focus. H.E.R. wound down the event with her sultry R&B.
Before the show, Price said of her presence on the bill, “I am really excited. I feel like I’m very different than a lot of the artists. I’m incredibly happy to be here and represent roots music. I’m playing my own instruments and writing my own songs. I know there’s one other artist that’s on an independent label — most of the artists here are on major labels. I’m really thrilled to be representing the other side of the coin.”
The Warner fete featured a daunting security gauntlet, but any annoyance turned to “ah!” inside the opulent Nomad, which was made over to feature the Warner logo tastefully emblazoned on various parts of the décor and even the carpet. The high-ceilinged room featured a wide balcony and many smaller and quieter rooms with comfortable couches or tables with captain’s chairs; the sponsored bar featured many tasty drinks, including one called a “Dua Dream.” The party was roaring by the time Atlantic co-chairman Julie Greenwald took the stage and introduced rapper Nipsey Hussle, nominated for Best Rap Album, who performed a song; then Warner Bros. chiefs Aaron Bay-Schuck and Tom Corson introduced dual nominee Dua Lipa, who played “Electricity” for the second time in three hours as well as “IDGAF” and “New Rules.” Other artists in attendance included Best New Artist nominee Bebe Rexha, Janelle Monae (pictured above with Greenwald and Warner recorded music chief Max Lousada), Benj Pasek, Bhad Bhabie, Bri Steves, Broods, Christina Perri, D.R.A.M, Dan + Shay, Halestorm, Jason Mraz, Kevin Gates, Lil Pump, Lizzo, Anne-Marie, Mike Shinoda, Rita Ora, and soul legend Sam Moore and his wife Joyce Mcrae.
Any attempt to list all of the prominent industry execs in the house would be doomed to failure, but in addition to those mentioned above, Warner owner Len Blavatnik (spotted grooving to Dua Lipa from the front row), CEO Steve Cooper, Atlantic co-chairman Craig Kallman, Warner/Chappell co-heads Guy Moot and Carianne Marshall, and dozens of other company execs were in the house.
On the red carpet, Moore was asked how he reacted when he found out he would be receiving a Lifetime Achievement award at the Grammys this year. “First of all, I gulped. And then I stood up,” he laughed. “I think [the honor] means that you have arrived! Do I deserve it? I don’t know, but I’m gonna take it! It’s an honor and I treasure that.”
Multiple nominee Brandi Carlile was asked about what’s changed for women’s representation at this year’s awards as opposed to 2018’s. “I think the female representation this year is epic,” she said. “And it’s not just female representation, its LGBTQ representation, its African American representation, its Latina representation and more. It’s really heartening to see.” However, she noted, “I think the biggest problem facing women in music industry is the infrastructure — not enough women producers, not enough women engineers, not enough women executives in the record label world and in radio programming. I’ve always struggled as a woman to have my voice heard in the studio and in business, and as I get older I feel that changing for the better, and it gives me hope for my daughters. I don’t want them to be overlooked and silenced and mansplained in the way that I have been in my 20s.”
For his part, Nipsey Hussle said that when he learned of his Grammy nomination, “I was excited! I felt acknowledged as an artist more than anything. I just felt inspired to create more music, I just felt humble and appreciated.”
Over at the Sunset Marquis, Jingle Punks and parent company Olé trated some 200 guests to a set by the Grammys’ 1968 best new artist José Feliciano. The evening was a tale of two parties, as newly appointed Olé CEO Helen Murphy presided over a poolside crowd swaying to Feliciano’s classically-influenced jazzy light rock (yes, he played his famous cover of the Doors “Light My Fire”), while the kids decamped to a suite for an impromptu jam by the Jingle Punks All-Stars (Jingle Jared Gutstadt on guitar, joined by Childish Gambino’s Lynette “Hammondgal” Williams on keyboard). “We call it the Jingle Punks-Olé schmingle,” Gutstadt quipped. Also in attendance: UTA president Jay Sures; “Modern Family” creator Steve Levitan; producer Alex Da Kid; and actor Dennis Quaid, who released his first album last year with his band The Sharks, and is set to voice the upcoming Jingle Punks podcast “Bear and a Banjo” for iHeartRadio.
Earlier on Thursday, Def Jam Records — which is out in force this week — held a listening session at Hollywood’s legendary Paramount Studios for many of the approximately two dozen new artists they’ve signed since Paul Rosenberg took the helm last year, which will be rolled out combo-platter style in the forthcoming “Undisputed” compilation album (out March 8) and documentary series. The company compensated for the building’s low-key exterior by parking a big truck out front with a lightboard on the back that flashed the company’s logo and video clips. Food and drinks (and weed!) were served in the back before Rosenberg and head of A&R Steven Victor spoke briefly to the assembled tastemakers (which is a slightly less offensive word than “influencers”) before we all broke off into separate studios to hear some of the new artists. Our session featured three promising acts: Georgia MC Bernard Jabs (high voice with a memorably catchy flow), Texas duo Sensi Molly and Lil Brooke (slow, murmured rapping over hard beats), and A$AP Mob alum Dominic Lord (more old-school than the others, with a hot song seemingly called “HEY!”). But our personal favorite was Minneapolis-St. Paul’s Nimic Revenue, who combines a remarkably original sing-rapping style with earworm melodies. (Pictured above, L to R: YFL Kelvin, TJ Porter, Landstrip Chip, SNEAKK, Lul G, Sensi Molly; squatting: Fetty Luciano, Lil Brooke)
Janelle Monáe held court on Friday at Ysabel in West Hollywood during her Fem the Future brunch with Instagram. The early afternoon soiree’s guest list included current Variety cover star Brandi Carlile, Linda Perry, Chloe X Halle, Esperanza, Sofi Tukker and more.
“We have made progress,” Monáe said when Variety asked about the treatment of women in the music industry. “We have not arrived. We have a lot more work to do, but last year I remember taking that stage and you could kind of feel my frustration around our representation. This year, to have like 15 women nominated in the big four categories is a beautiful thing and it’s to be celebrated.” (Check out what Monáe told Variety about coming out as queer.)
On the carpet, Linda Perry gushed over Carlile. Perry said that she’s not only listening to her album “By the Way, I Forgive You,” but said she’s bought several copies as gifts for people. “This album is insane,” Perry said. She added, “She’s humble, she’s real, she’s raw, incredibly talented, a wonderful storyteller. Dolly Parton has been the best storyteller to me until I started listening to all of Brandi’s stuff and I was like, ‘Man, this woman—she tells a story!’ She I think is just the real deal and I love her and just a great person.”
Milck also weighed in on women in music. “There’s room for more women and more diverse story telling through our songs,” she told Variety. “And I think everything is starting to bubble thanks to the internet and thanks to this movement that’s happening. Everyone is wanting to do better and understanding how they can tell stories better and lift other people. So we’re at a good place. We’re developing good momentum.”
Not far away, First Access Entertainment, the management company headed by Sarah Stennett in a joint venture with Access Industries’ Len Blavatnik, held a “High Tea” at the San Vicente Bungalos, a new venture by Sunset Tower owner Jeff Klein, and managed to be very British and very L.A. at the same time. The homey but opulent venue meant for close quarters but most of the First Access staff and many of its artists rubbed shoulders with various execs, with Young Thug, Bebe Rexha (pictured above with Stennett), Makonnen, Rita Ora, Ashlee Simpson, Nicole Scherzinger and Earth, Wind & Fire’s Verdine White rubbing shoulders with younger artists like Cailin Russo, Too Poor, Nat Dunn and the sibling duo Mason and Jules.
Classy isn’t a strong enough word for the party thrown by Def Jam A&R chief Steven Victor to celebrate Pusha T’s Best Rap Album Grammy nomination at Dior on Beverly Hills’ legendary Rodeo Drive. Pusha and Victor (both wearing pristine Dior suits) mixed with Rae Sremmurd, Tyler, the Creator, The-Dream, Jermaine Dupri — a veritable cross-section of hip-hop generations — along with incoming Sony/ATV chief Jon Platt, Records boss Barry Weiss and several dozen others while a DJ spun classic hip-hop in the dark event area at the back of the store. Afterwards, Victor hosted Pusha along with friends and family at Matsuhisa at a private dinner.
For 22 years, the annual Friends N’ Family event, hosted by Advanced Alternative Media (AAM) executives Mark Beaven and Andy Kipnes, has offered a more casual and rocking alternative to MusiCares on Friday night. Rocking this was. A British guest in attendance was overheard commenting, “This feels more like I’m at Ministry Of Sound than a Grammy party” as she and friends pushed their way through the thousands of people to make their way through the labyrinth of rooms, which included a Macallan Scotch Whisky room, a room with a Just Dance stage and green screen, a courtyard of food trucks and the main DJ space where Grammy-nominated Sofi Tukker, Grades, Elohim, Pandora’s Mike Spinella and Elderbrook, performed.
The industry crowd included co-hosts for the night Grammy-winning engineer Seban Ghenea, Spring Aspers, Head of Music for Sony Pictures, Mio Vukovic, Disney Music Group SVP, A&R/Head of Creative, Ken Bunt, President, Disney Music Group, Chris Taylor. Global President, Music of Entertainment One, Julie Greenwald, Chairman/COO of Atlantic Records, Wade Metzer, Dir. of Industry Relations, Soundexchange, Michael Huppe, President & CEO of Soundexchange, Thomas Scherer, EVP Repertoire & Marketing Los Angeles, Global Writer Services & China at BMG US, Cassie Petrey, Owner Crowdsurf, Nikolas Kolm, Assistant Level Design Director, Quest at Ubisoft Quebec City, Elizabeth Matthews, CEO ASCAP, Carianne Marshall, COO of Warner/Chappell Music Publishing, Charlie Feldman, Vice President – Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), Tom Whalley, Concord Music chief label executive, Willard Ahdritz, Founder & CEO Kobalt Music Group, Jeff Sosnow, EVP of A&R of Warner Bros. Records, Robert Kyncl, Chief Business Officer at YouTube and guests such as Ultra Records founder Peter Moxey, Pandora VP, Editorial Content Bill Crandall, music managers Jeff Jampol, president of JAM, Inc. and YMU’s Peter Katsis, who handles Morrissey, Jane’s Addiction and Grammy-nominated FEVER 333, and more.
The mix of crowd size, activities and talent left the crowd buzzing. “It’s impressive how much it’s grown over the years and that it’s also become a great showcase for up and coming talent,” Katsis told Variety. “Elohim and Sofi Tukker both had great shows. A fun night indeed.”
Roc Nation hosted its annual pre-Grammy brunch at a private estate in Bel Air. The theme, #BlackExcellence, was hailed by attendees like Jay Z, Nipsey Hussle, Meek Mill, Swizz Beatz and Didd, the invite-only event was presented by PUMA, American Express and Barclays Center. A highlight included an impromptu — and inspiring — toast by Kevin Hart. Said Hart as Jay-Z and Meek Mill cheered on: “I’ll tell you what. If you around these group of people and you’re not motivated by what you see — you’re a loser. Losers like to lose, winners win. Winners win because they surround themselves with winners. I’ll be damned if I’m not around a bunch of f—ing winners. Be inspired, be motivated, and ask yourself, ‘do you want it?’ Because if you do, you get in rooms like this.”
Larry Mestel’s Primary Wave party at the London Hotel drew an eclectic guest list that included Paul Anka, who recently sold his lucrative back catalog, and admitted to loving Sid Vicious’ version of “My Way.” DEVO’s Gerald Casale held forth on how the pioneering band, along with Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, predicted the Trump presidency. Others spotted in the crowd one-time Arista A&R exec-turned-Primary Wave consultant Hosh Gureli, “The Voice” music supervisor Clyde Lieberman, Katy Perry manager Martin Kirkup, Daryl Hall & John Oates manager Jonathan Wolfson, ex-A&R exec Patrick Clifford, among many others. Long gone were the delicacies served up back in the day, replaced with old-school deviled eggs, chicken sate, a cheese table and the requisite open bar.
Later on Saturday night, LVRN took over the entire courtyard of Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood for a party to celebrate 6lack’s Grammy nomination for best rap/sung performance. Those who were lucky enough to get inside were met with an open bar, DJ Osh Kosh on the turntables, heat lamps, and a large outdoor tent to shield the rain. 6lack was in attendance with his girlfriend QUIN, as were Quavo, Lil Dicky, Rich The Kid, and Soulja Boy — who later got on the mic to perform timeless hits such as “Crank That” and “Shootout.” The evening also served as a birthday celebration for Interscope A&R executive Tim Glover and Amber Grimes, SVP of Global Creative at Capitol Records.
“The Wammys” took place at Dirty Laundry late on Saturday nigh and featured a bonafide jam sesh themed around The Traveling Wilburys and its members’ solo material, as enthusiastically hosted by Dhani Harrison (son of The Beatles and Wilbury’s George). Sound tame? Not exactly. Its mind-bending lineup included ’90s fixtures Perry Farrell and Jakob Dylan to Hollywood pop-ins John C. Reilly and Darren Criss, plus the genius, if head-scratching, pairing of Susanna Hoffs and Weird Al Yankovic who effortlessly inhabited the mantle of frontman with his roof-raising cover of Tom Petty’s “Refugee.” If you weren’t there, no worries. These were the type of see-it-to-believe-it moment social-media was made for.
Read about the Grammys after-parties here.
Reporting by Steve Baltin, Nisha Gopalan, Shirley Ju, Marc Malkin, Roy Trakin and Margeaux Sippell