A day that gets everyone scrolling through aeons of tiny font and gnashing their teeth at the absence of their favourite, The 2024 Grammy nominations are out, in all their pomp, glory and categorical complexity. This year’s reveals were mostly business as usual, with both SZA and boygenius reigning high at the top of the leaderboard, as well as the ritualistic snubs of K-pop and regional pop that have become sadly familiar in recent years.
There was one triumph in particular though which felt like a real treat: R&B singer-songwriter Victoria Monét scoring seven nominations (tied for second-most overall), including Best New Artist, Record of the Year for ‘On My Mama’, Best R&B Performance for ‘How Does It Make You Feel’ and Best R&B Album, for ‘Jaguar II’.
Being close to Monét also appears to pay dividends: longtime collaborator and producer Dernst Emile II (known as D’Mile) has been nominated for Non-Classical Producer of the Year for the second year in a row, whilst Monét’s two-year-old daughter, the impossibly cute Hazel, has become the youngest ever Grammy nominee for her appearance on the song ‘Hollywood’, featuring both her mama and R&B legends Earth, Wind & Fire. Blue Ivy, it’s time to set up that protegé training scheme…
In many ways, this level of recognition for Victoria feels like true vindication, a sign that the mainstream can no longer ignore what those in the know have argued for years — a woman with the skills and catalogue to be remembered as one of the most influential players in our current R&B ecosystem. Though she has long has ambitions of being a front-and-centre star, her early success as a songwriter for other artists has seen her pen some of the most memorable recent hits of the genre — ‘7 Rings’ and ‘Thank U Next’ by Ariana Grande, ‘Do It’ by Chloe x Halle, and ‘Ice Cream’ by BLACKPINK and Selena Gomez.
When she finally did make a real solo go of it in 2020, The Forty-Five were right there with her, learning about how her experiences of being in girl bands and working with others all led to the quality and confidence of her debut E.P, ‘Jaguar’.
“Everything happens in the right time – a lot of the things I do in my artist career, I’ve learned from seeing other artists operate,” Monét said in an interview with us. “It’s been a long but necessary journey.… I didn’t feel comfortable to say what I really wanted to say for a long time…but I’m also trying to encourage other people to kind of skip over some of the hesitations that I originally had.”
When it comes to musical self-empowerment, Victoria Monét’s work shows none of that early uncertainty. Her best songs swing with a loose, carefree energy, the sonic equivalent of a friendly pick-me-up right. In a genre that often relies on simple metaphors to explore common tropes of love, loss, confidence or infidelity, her pen feels refreshingly playful, capturing a true sense of how millennials (particularly millennials borne of black culture) speak with each another. Whether it’s ‘On My Mama’s insistence that “I’m so deep in my bag/Like a grandma wit’ a peppermint”, or ‘West Coast’s observation that it “feel like a Thursday, how I’m throwing it back”, she reminds us that the best musical humble-brags are often silly as well as sexy, leaving room for personality to shine through.
There’s also her commitment to performance. Where the ‘Jaguar’ EP built the foundations of her sultry vocal delivery, recent shows in support of the ‘Jaguar II’ album have seen her go full balls-to-the-wall choreo, making no bones about the kind of multi-faceted artist she wants to be. She’s also been able to keep it current: every time she performs ‘Stop (Askin’ Me 4Shyt)’ on tour, she pauses to call out various issues that grind her gears, ranging from lighthearted observations about designer fashion and ticket scalpers to much heavier political callouts.
Citing the likes of Janet Jackson and Destiny’s Child as inspirations (as well as frequent tweets in 2020 about wanting to go on tour with the skit-loving Silk Sonic), Monét consistently finds smart ways to pay homage to R&B and Soul’s nostalgic golden eras, whilst also nodding to the kind of outspoken interaction and off-the-cuff variation that modern fanbases have come to love. Done well, this is exactly the sort of fully-fleshed conceptualisation that tends to make awarding bodies pay attention.
Undeniably though, a key element of Monét’s rise has also been her underdog status, the thrill that fans feel every time she confounds expectations. As recently as August, Monét revealed that her team had pitched her to perform at the MTV VMA Awards, but were told that it was ‘too early’ in her story. Now that this Grammys moment has happened, lots of fans feel that the victory is even sweeter, a message to anybody who dares to underestimate Black women.
At 34, Monét is far from old even by sexist music industry standards, but with her Best New Artist nomination particularly, her Grammy-approved presence puts pay to the long, tired debate about whether R&B is dead. In fact, the only artist more nominated than her this year is SZA, with former child star Coco Jones also receiving five R&B nods. Whilst Monét has been deserving of a GRAMMY-level accolade for years, there’s also something quite nice about her achieving it in a year where some of her previous co-writers are out of cycle, and where she can revel in the achievement without anybody writing her off as lesser part of somebody else’s equation.
“An independent artist making this type of music may be something inspiring for people to see, especially to someone Black and queer,” she told us back in 2020. “I just want people to get a sense of comfort in their own skin and know that it is who they are that will push them towards where they’re supposed to be. It’s literally why the title is ‘Jaguar’; trusting the instincts that you’re already born with to get your food and your prizes.”
The idea of seven potential prizes may well be exciting enough, but of course, this is only the beginning of the road that leads to February 4th. There’s the question of a potential performance, the boost this will have on her mainstream visibility, and maybe the biggest dilemma of all — what baby outfit on earth is fabulous enough for Hazel to wear on that red carpet? Whatever Monét decides, it’s going to be golden; after so many years of dreaming, her story is truly at its fairytale moment.