Surveying the insane mobs of humanity clamoring to get into Spotify’s Best New Artist Grammy party at the Hammer Museum on Thursday night (Feb. 7) Spotify Global Head Of Music Nick Holmsten looked around. “It’s crazy, it’s gonna be a great night,” he told Billboard as he entered the fervent fray.
Watching as thousands made their way into the hottest non-official Grammy party — the one everyone had said they were going to all week — Holmsten couldn’t help but think back to a few years ago when Spotify entered the Grammy scene with a viewing party at Chateau Marmont. Now, here they were just four years later with a Grammy-esque lineup of six of the eight best new artist nominees playing — Dua Lipa, H.E.R. Bebe Rexha, Chloe X Halle, Jorja Smith and Margo Price (only Greta Van Fleet and Luke Combs didn’t perform).
Spotify is the name in music now. Wednesday night, leaving the Grammy Producers And Engineers tribute to Willie Nelson, we ran into a major music manager and in discussing the plans for a busy Grammy week they said, “Of course I’ll be at Spotify, have to kiss the ring.”
This celebration, where Billboard ran into Fall Out Boy‘s Pete Wentz and Bishop Briggs as part of a celebrity crowd that also included Quincy Jones, Rita Ora, Heidi Klum, Terry Crews and James Blake, was much more of a coronation than a party. And in the spirit of that it was massive and over-the-top. One only need see the insanity of a red carpet more congested than a mosh pit to feel what an event this was.
Lipa, who performed later that night at the Warner Music Group party, kicked off the night with a superb three-song set that showed once again, win or lose in the Best New Artist category, that she has as much star power and charisma as any new act in music these days. She is a star in every way.
Her friend Bebe Rexha had some issues with the crowd when they refused to sing along to her record-breaking smash “Meant To Be.” When the industry audience responded unenthusiastically to her entreaty to sing along, Rexha called them out. “I worked too hard for this moment. I’m from Staten Island, New York, and I’m standing on this stage right here,” she said. “You’re going to sing the f**king words if you know the f**king song.”
To her credit, Rexha, like Lipa and Billie Eilish — one of a refreshing new breed of pop star that speaks candidly and oozes rock swagger — got the room to sing along on the second try. No easy feat for a jaded L.A. industry gathering pushing for free drinks at the open bar and the array of pass-through appetizers constantly on tap.
One had to admire Rexha’s candor and emotion. Ask any artist and they will tell you industry parties aren’t always the easiest place to perform. But to Spotify’s credit they wanted this night to be true to the company’s belief of music discovery. Holmsten proudly pointed out that Spotify believes in and champions discovery, hence the best new artist theme.
Many people in this crowd may not have otherwise seen the closing set from H.E.R., Price’s joyful three-song set, the elegance of Chloe X Halle’s six-song set or the majesty of Smith. All of them showed why they are in the best new artist category and left a memorable impression. But if there was one breakout star of the night it was Spotify, who at least for now solidified its place as music’s biggest superstar in 2019.