2023 Grammy roundtable: TikTok, authenticity and self-care

Clockwise from prime left: Grammy nominees Babyface, Nija Charles, Kim Petras, Blake Slatkin and Muni Lengthy.

(Annie Noelker / For The Occasions)

Midwestern chili comes with spaghetti. Giving oneself a manicure is tougher than it appears. And husbands ought to get their wives a “re-up ring” across the seventh yr of marriage.

These had been a number of the many tidbits of knowledge traded among the many 5 musicians who gathered at The Occasions’ studio on a current afternoon for a energetic dialogue of the work that led them to nominations for the sixty fifth Grammy Awards.

Our panelists:

• Singer, songwriter and producer Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, 64, who’s up for conventional R&B efficiency — his fiftieth Grammy nod in a profession that stretches again to the mid-Nineteen Seventies — along with his music “Keeps On Fallin’.”

• Singer and songwriter Muni Lengthy, 34, nominated for finest new artist, in addition to R&B efficiency and R&B music for “Hrs & Hrs.”

• Singer and songwriter Kim Petras, 30, whose “Unholy” duet with Sam Smith is within the pop duo/group efficiency class.

• Songwriter Nija Charles, 25, nominated for the Grammys’ inaugural songwriter of the yr prize for her work with Beyoncé (“Cozy”), Summer season Walker (“Ex for a Reason,” “Throw It Away”) and Megan Thee Stallion and Dua Lipa (“Sweetest Pie”), amongst others.

• Songwriter and producer Blake Slatkin, 25, who co-wrote and co-produced “Unholy” and whose work on Lizzo’s “About Damn Time” and her “Special” LP earned him nods for report, music and album of the yr.

Because the 5 acquired acquainted, Slatkin eagerly peppered Babyface with questions on what it was prefer to be within the studio with Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston again within the day; Petras, who’s from Germany, advised everybody about her habit to horror films. “All the fairy tales from home are so dark — they got me into spooky stuff,” she mentioned to squeamish appears from Charles and Lengthy. “I can’t do horror,” Charles mentioned. “I’ll be hiding in the closet.”

Their diversified tastes and hobbies mirrored the truth that every panelist acquired into music in numerous methods, at completely different instances and somewhere else — and that every adopted his or her personal path to the Grammys, set for Feb. 5 at Crypto.com Enviornment in Los Angeles. However after the small speak, all discovered widespread floor concerning the fun and the calls for of creativity.

These are edited excerpts from the dialog, which can stream in video kind Dec. 19 on the Amazon Music web page on Twitch.

A woman reflected in a broken mirror

Kim Petras.

(Annie Noelker / For The Occasions)

1. “It gives the power to the people”

Most of the songs nominated on the Grammys discovered life in a method or one other on TikTok, which solidified its place this yr as probably the most dependable hitmaking platform in music. Is TikTok’s significance a very good factor or a nasty factor?
Slatkin: Each large music I’ve ever had has been purely due to TikTok. Nothing issues marketing-wise, label-wise, budget-wise till youngsters determine that they love the music on TikTok. I’ve made songs the place we spent zero {dollars} on studios, and I’ve made songs that took some huge cash to make, and it’s prefer it couldn’t matter much less. Which to me is the best factor in all the world as a result of all of us have an equal shot as anybody else to make one thing nice that folks love. I feel it’s the most effective factor to occur to music in a very long time.

“Unholy” took a reasonably quick journey from TikTok to No. 1 on Billboard’s Scorching 100.
Petras: Folks had been so inventive and had a lot enjoyable with the music. It offers the facility to the folks. As an artist, I leak extra issues than I did earlier than I used to be on TikTok as a result of I’m simply testing stuff out — like, “Do you guys like this vibe that I like? Should I keep going on this demo?” With “Unholy,” Sam and I did somewhat video of us listening to it within the studio, and it was fairly s— audio high quality, simply on the telephone. However that’s what folks preferred about it — that it simply felt like, “Hey, we tried making this song, see if you like it.”

Babyface: Radio and the report firms was the gatekeepers of what folks may take heed to or not take heed to, so there’s so many individuals that by no means acquired the prospect to even get their stuff heard. TikTok now opens that door the place all people will get a shot. And it’s nonetheless 1,000,000 to at least one that somebody’s gonna soar on it. However we’ve seen so many success tales that it’s important to take it significantly.

Who’s a musician who’s actually found out the right way to use TikTok?
Lengthy: Charlie Puth. He’ll simply, like, [taps rings against coffee cup] and make it right into a beat.

Slatkin: And it’s the most effective music you’ve ever heard.

Lengthy: I really feel like I’m proper there with him within the studio.

What’s it really feel prefer to have your music was a snippet?
Lengthy: It helps me sharpen my instrument as a author. I don’t attempt to make songs for TikTok, however I undoubtedly guarantee that there are clear items that folks can use and interpret in their very own manner.

Slatkin: I feel the snippetization encourages greatness as a result of it’s like each half issues simply as a lot because the refrain. The verse can also be the refrain, and so is the pre- and so is the outro. To me as a songwriter and producer, it simply makes me need to do every little thing I can to make each single second of the music the most effective it might presumably be.

A woman in front of a broken mirror

Muni Lengthy.

(Annie Noelker / For The Occasions)

2. “I hate making music alone”

Fashionable songwriting is extremely collaborative in a manner that appears to bewilder some people. When Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” dropped, the veteran songwriter Diane Warren acquired lots of flak after she tweeted, “How can there be 24 writers on a song?” You labored on Beyoncé’s music “Cozy,” Nija. Say somewhat in regards to the course of.
Charles: Primary, there is perhaps lots of writers as a result of we’re utilizing samples, so these older songs, the folks on there additionally get credited. However with “Cozy,” Beyoncé wished to make a music for all girls, and I used to be similar to, what can I consider for feminine empowerment? I normally go on with the melody first, however I used to be additionally simply writing down traces: What’s gonna hit and make each lady really feel it? I really like to tug stuff from my on a regular basis life, and I say “cozy” on a regular basis. So I used to be simply actually considering of a witty method to say that I’m actually simply snug with who I’m — snug in my pores and skin and with all of the errors that I’ve made.

Blake, “About Damn Time” has 4 credited writers, not together with these whose work was sampled.
Slatkin: I’ve all the time made music with my buddies. I hate making music alone — it’s simply not enjoyable for me. I feel “About Damn Time” seems like as a lot enjoyable as we had making it. Similar with “Unholy.” We actually had a celebration within the studio whereas we had been making it.

Petras: As a songwriter, I’ve so many buddies that I’m like, this particular person is so good at this — I wanna deliver a few of that into my music.

Babyface: By way of the million-people-on-a-song factor, it occurs a lot at the moment as a result of when folks begin a music, it goes by a strategy of attempting to make it higher, and in that course of, so many alternative folks contact it. They usually truly deliver one thing to the desk that issues. Their names are solely there as a result of they helped transfer it ahead. Nobody’s taking a trip. I can promise you, ain’t no person letting anyone take rides.



(Annie Noelker / For The Occasions)

3. “The question of the ‘it’ factor”

Let’s say there are two approaches to fashionable pop stardom: the Taylor Swift mannequin, by which you’re continuously speaking together with your followers, and the Beyoncé mannequin, by which you let your music do the speaking. Which is the best one for every of you?
Lengthy: You need to do what’s most genuine to you. Folks settle for Beyoncé not speaking to you as a result of she don’t try this in particular person [laughs]. Me, I’m a really personable particular person — I’m all the time taking on each room: “How you doing? You good? You want something to drink?” So I’m all the time within the feedback.

Babyface: There’s the query of the “it” issue. And the “it” issue is a loopy factor as a result of generally it’s about being sincere and being who you might be, however generally it’s being the precise reverse. Sure artists that I’ve recognized, when you truly go backstage, they’re fully completely different than this persona that they look like. However they knew what they needed to be so as to shine.

Who’s someone who turned out to be completely different than you anticipated?
Babyface: I can’t say. Effectively, I received’t say — put it that manner.

Lengthy: Proper?! You’re attempting to get us in bother.

Babyface: It’s a lot tougher to do this at the moment as a result of there’s nowhere to cover. Social media has modified all of it. Beyoncé, she’s a traditional famous person. She’s too large to should reply to anyone at this explicit level. And that’s an ideal place to be. However I don’t assume that an artist beginning out could make that very same transfer. You possibly can’t be mysterious as a result of the youngsters need to know.

Nija, as a songwriter, does placing your self on the market really feel pure?
Charles: It’s pure due to social media. That’s how I even acquired into songwriting — showcasing what I used to be doing on Instagram and Twitter and now with TikTok. Simply yesterday, someone [on the street] was like, “Oh, you’re the girl from TikTok!” I’m like, OK, I’ve been Grammy-nominated, however I’m the lady from TikTok.

What about you, Blake?
Slatkin: I’m truly the alternative. My intuition isn’t to be within the highlight. I work with artists which can be so themselves and a lot greater than their music that there’s nothing I can deliver to the desk with out them. It’s all what I can do to be part of their story. Like Sam [Smith], for instance — I used to be such a giant fan of them since I used to be 10 years previous and I used to be overlaying their songs on piano. To be part of a second like “Unholy” that’s so completely different from what they usually do was particular.

What Sam Smith songs did you play?
Slatkin: I did “I’m Not the Only One.” I did “Stay With Me.”

These had been good covers or —?
Slatkin: Horrible. However I used to be studying.

A man reflected against a broken mirror

Blake Slatkin.

(Annie Noelker / For The Occasions)

4. “There’s an audience for me”

Kim, “Unholy” made historical past this yr when it turned the primary music by an brazenly nonbinary particular person and an brazenly trans particular person to prime the Scorching 100. Is music turning into extra inclusive?
Petras: Sure, for certain. I began out as a songwriter, and with songwriting, all that issues is: Is your music good? When folks [outside music] met me, it was like, “Oh, you’re transgender,” and it was this large factor. And I really feel like within the music neighborhood, it was similar to, “You sound dope.” As an artist, it was all about proving that there’s an viewers for me.

You took a second as a presenter at November’s American Music Awards to notice the current mass taking pictures at a homosexual membership in Colorado Springs. How do you reconcile the positive aspects within the music business with that form of violence and with a number of the anti-LGBTQ laws we’ve seen this yr?
Petras: I felt actually emotional on the American Music Awards. As a fan of music, I may all the time be myself at homosexual golf equipment. Nobody loves pop music greater than [people at] homosexual golf equipment. That was my secure place as a child the place I may go to to really feel accepted and really feel like myself. So, , that [clubgoers in Colorado Springs] might be my buddies. That might be me. That might be my total neighborhood. And I need to defend that. I need to do one thing to make that not occur once more. I imply, gun management normally is insane in the united statesA.

Does “Unholy” go off within the membership?
Petras: It goes off. There’s a Disclosure remix, which I really like.

Is the membership a great way to find out what’s taking place together with your songs?
Lengthy: Oh, my god, sure. I haven’t skilled it totally but with my music. It’s form of unprecedented to have a ballad be within the membership. However to listen to folks on Instagram screaming all the music, phrase for phrase ? I simply can’t wait to be within the crowd.

A woman in front of a broken mirror

Nija Charles.

(Annie Noelker / For The Occasions)

5. “Remembering self-care”

What’s the worst a part of your job?
Lengthy: Not sleeping. I like to sleep.

Charles: Rising up, you idolize the folks you’re employed with, and also you by no means need to inform anyone no. And also you form of overlook that you just’re a human on the finish of the day. You overlook about your self since you put your work first otherwise you simply need to seize each alternative. The toughest a part of the job is remembering self-care.

Petras: Vocal relaxation [before a show].

Lengthy: It’s so laborious to close up.

Petras: It’s the worst. I kind issues into this little app and it speaks it for me, however I hate not having the ability to use my voice. I’ve had nodules earlier than, and I used to put in writing manner increased songs than you may technically carry out in a row on a regular basis. So I’ve needed to learn to navigate the vocal cords.

Lengthy: I would like that app.

Have all of you had experiences the place you’ve broken or misplaced your voice?
Lengthy: I fully misplaced my voice in 2018. It was gone. I couldn’t sing in any respect. Seems I had blocked sinuses. I went and acquired it mounted, but it surely’s a scary feeling. I needed to study to sing round it. That’s the place this new model of singing got here from — this comfortable factor that folks interpreted as attractive, however actually it was simply because I couldn’t hit some other notes.

Babyface: Small blessings, as a result of it sounds nice that manner. I bear in mind speaking to Eddie Levert from the O’Jays, I requested him, “What do you do when you go out [onstage] every night?” He has this tough voice, and I mentioned, “I know they’re expecting you to kill it every night, but there’s no way with that voice you’re gonna be able to.” And he mentioned, “It’s not what comes out of you — it’s the intention of what you’re giving them.” Even in case you can’t hit the notes, it’s whether or not you tried.

6. “It needs to hurt”

Any memorable aha! moments out of your nominated songs? A type of situations the place the music’s not working after which one thing simply unlocks?
Lengthy: If it ever feels an excessive amount of like work — like I’m attempting to shove a sq. peg in a spherical gap — I’ll simply be like, subsequent. It ought to by no means really feel pressured.

Petras: I’ve accomplished that. I’m very German that manner — like, it wants to harm. However lots of the good stuff comes whenever you’re having enjoyable and it simply occurs.

Slatkin: That’s what it was for us on “About Damn Time.” We had been engaged on this little nugget of inspiration that we had — working within the greatest, costliest studio with each keyboard, each guitar. And there was at some point the place we couldn’t get to that studio, and we ended up going to this little room that’s Lizzo’s favourite place to report. We had been form of misplaced on the music, and within the second verse we took out all of the music so it was simply the bass and drums. And I watched Lizzo’s eyes gentle up and go within the sales space and freestyle the second verse — the “In a minute …” half that’s form of the hook of the music. That second of inspiration, you haven’t any thought the place it got here from, and also you couldn’t replicate it in 1,000,000 years in case you tried. Everybody was like, “Nobody move — let’s just let this come out.” And after it got here out, I imply, I wished to throw up and s— and cry on the identical time.

Final thing: Current firm excluded, whose music excited you this yr?
Charles: Ice Spice. The bars that she’s saying is rather like how my homegirls would speak again dwelling. It’s like a dialog on a drill beat.

Petras: I really like Shygirl. Try “BB,” one in all my favourite songs. I really like her sonic world — techno combined in along with her flows.

Slatkin: PinkPantheress. And there’s a woman named Hemlocke Springs who put out a music known as “Girlfriend.” She produced all of it by herself. It’s form of all I take heed to.

Lengthy: I’m obsessive about Jacob Collier. He’s like a mad scientist — I actually wanna work with him. GloRilla is my responsible pleasure. I simply love that she’s just like the folks’s champ. Everyone’s rooting for her.

Babyface: I actually just like the writing of Steve Lacy. It feels very sincere and complicated and musical. It’s so good to listen to that coming from a youthful artist at the moment, and the best half about it’s that it’s working. That’s inspiring.