H.E.R. shares her thoughts on what it means to be a 'Grammy artist'
If there's one artist who represents the changing face of the Grammys as not just an awards body, but an institution, it's H.E.R.
The R&B prodigy, born Gabriella Sarmiento Wilson, already has four wins and 21 nominations under her belt, despite being only 24 years old.
Given how she's been a mainstay at the past couple ceremonies, one might label her a "Grammy artist," a.k.a. a musician whom the Recording Academy has taken a particular interest in. While the label traditionally invokes artists like Alison Krauss, Stevie Wonder, and U2, H.E.R. is a part of a new generation redefining the notion, even if the concept may be new to her.
"I don't understand what that means because it means something different to everybody," the singer-songwriter tells EW on a special Grammys edition of The Awardist podcast. "I feel like there are artists that have impact, and I only pray and hope that we're recognizing those artists that have something to say, that are impacting the culture. And to me, I would say that's what a Grammy artist is."
She adds, "There's a lot of dope artists that are really just influencing the world and the things that we love. They're shifting the culture. And I think that that's more important to me than anything when it comes to labels."
If innovative work like her Album of the Year contender Back of My Mind didn't already prove H.E.R. fits that criteria, she also recently joined the Recording Academy's Black Music Collective, a group of prominent music creators and professionals dedicated to amplifying Black voices in the Academy and the greater music community.
Asked to highlight some changes she's seen since becoming involved with the Recording Academy, H.E.R. points to greater transparency and a voting body that's looking more toward the future. "It can't be people who are not part of the culture, who don't know the culture of music — and aren't even lovers of music — voting on music," she says. "I see a lot of younger people being involved in the Grammys, and younger Black people at that, people that are really in music, really in the culture who are recognizing these artists."
As for her thoughts on artists like Drake and the Weeknd who have pulled away from Recording Academy dealings and sharply criticized the organization, H.E.R. simply says, "My experience is not their experience." For her part, "I hope that what I'm doing and the choices that I make are pushing us forward. But it comes down to the creativity for me, and really using my lyrics, my pen, and my words to create change."
She adds, "To me, my biggest responsibility is the things that I talk about and reaching the minds of the people, personally. Not necessarily through an organization. I have that independent responsibility that everybody doesn't take on, and that's cool. But that's just me personally."
Listen to H.E.R.'s full interview on The Awardist podcast below, or it's also available wherever you listen to podcasts. Subscribe for new episodes every Thursday. The Grammys will air Jan. 31 on CBS.