On the morning of this year’s Grammy Award nominations, Victoria Monét, the pop and R&B singer and songwriter, had the champagne ready no matter what.
Up early and gathered at a hotel with her 2-year-old daughter, Hazel, some members of her team and other collaborators via video chat, Monét was hoping for some industry recognition but ready for anything. “Worst case scenario, I just would have been really tipsy,” she said.
When all the categories had been announced, there were at least nine reasons to celebrate: Monét scored seven nominations, tied for second-most overall, including record of the year (“On My Mama”), best new artist, best R&B song and best R&B album, for “Jaguar II.” Her longtime collaborator and “Jaguar II” producer Dernst Emile II, known as D’Mile, was nominated for producer of the year, nonclassical, for the second year in a row. And Hazel, Monét’s toddler, became the youngest Grammy nominee ever for her feature appearance — alongside Earth, Wind & Fire — on the song “Hollywood,” which is up for best traditional R&B performance.
Having long toiled as an aspiring solo star, Monét, 34, had previously found most of her success as a songwriter on tracks like “7 Rings” and “Thank U Next” by Ariana Grande, “Do It” by Chloe x Halle and “Ice Cream” by Blackpink and Selena Gomez. Even after the well-received release of “Jaguar II,” her debut full-length album, in August, Monét said she had been told that it was “too early” in her story to perform at the MTV Video Music Awards.
In a phone interview shortly after the Grammy nominees were announced, Monét discussed the vindication of this moment, the health of R&B music, her daughter’s reaction to her record-setting recognition and how the music industry views motherhood. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
What a morning! How much did you allow yourself to get your hopes up?
Honestly, I didn’t expect anything, because I know that the Grammys is such a prestigious awards academy. I knew we submitted a lot and I really felt strongly about the album, but I don’t think that always translates. I just wanted to watch it with my team in a really clean and serene environment. So we came to the hotel, we got the champagne and balloons as if we’d already been nominated. We could’ve definitely fell on our asses, but we came out really, really happy and emotional. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.
The whole field is dominated by women across genres. What does that say about the music industry at the moment?
I think it’s kind of a reflection of where the world is at, in addition to the music industry. Because I think women are realizing their power and the world is more in support of it, and we’re being more unapologetic and seeing the fruits of our labor. I think there’s a tide change in the world, and that’s definitely reflected in the Grammy nominations and in music in general.
What about R&B in particular? We’ve been dealing, for a decade-plus now, with the tired “Is R&B dead conversation?” And now here you are with SZA, Janelle Monáe and Coco Jones with many nominations.
I feel like that conversation has always been null and void. I don’t know whose idea or statement that was. I’m aware of it, but it just feels like it was a rumor started by some ghost and everyone I talk to disagrees.
They’re definitely, obviously wrong. But it almost feels like when people say that, people go harder for R&B to prove that it’s not, which I like. So I do value it for that reason. Clearly, because of the Grammy nominations, you can see it proven over and over again. Even across pop music and rap, you can see the R&B influences.
Between the release of the “Jaguar” EP and “Jaguar II,” you had your first child. Did you have to deal with anyone questioning how becoming a mother would affect your career?
Oh, 100 percent. People were scared. I even got a PowerPoint presentation from someone about reasons why it’s a bad idea and what it would cost. But it’s just a fear and an old way of thinking. When I first was introduced into the music industry, there was a strong opinion and narrative that you can’t do it if you’re an older woman, you can’t do it if you’re a mom and you can’t do it if you’re in a relationship. Weird, weird things that the music industry had hovering over women’s heads. But we’re consistently breaking those narrative down over the last few years and proving that they’re incorrect.
Your daughter, Hazel, is also nominated for her feature on “Hollywood.” How does she feel?
She’s 2 and a half now, but at the time of the feature she was 4 months old. She’s now the youngest Grammy nominated artist in history, which is crazy. Oh my God, I’m so proud. She just has no idea. She’s just on the phone watching “Baby Shark.” I’ll have to explain this to her later. I know she’ll appreciate it because she does love music — she’s getting that bug, wanting to be onstage and sing. She’s making up songs and doesn’t even realize that she’s writing already. So I’m excited to share that with her when she’s able to understand a bit more. But, you know, humble flex for her at school.
You and Ariana Grande have been a huge part of each other’s journeys and she’s always been a champion of yours. Have you had a chance to speak to her yet?
I haven’t spoken to her yet. I know she’s such a busy woman, but I’m sure we’ll share time about this. She’s always congratulatory and supportive on all things. Every bit of the way, she’s been wishing for the best for me. I know she’s been here as an artist, as well. So now we can relate and I’m excited to ask her for advice. Like, going into it, how did you prepare your mind? It’s good to have a friend who’s been where you are.
D’Mile is a bit of a Grammys whisperer, having such success with Silk Sonic and H.E.R.
Oh my, God, yes.
What did he bring to “Jaguar II”?
More than music, D’Mile has brought family energy into the studio. Companionship. Someone I really, really trust wholeheartedly. I moved to L.A. in 2009 and I didn’t have a place to live. I was in a girl group at the time. He offered his place so that we could stay. It’s bigger than just “Jaguar I” and “II.” We’ve been rocking for over a decade. We were on FaceTime together as he got his producer of the year nomination. I’m so excited and thankful that he’s on this journey.
You had a moment earlier this year when you were told you weren’t ready for the V.M.A.s. Is this the sweetest vindication?
It’s really, really awesome. I think my entire story has been leading up to this moment. I felt like an underdog for so long. There’s always been this narrative on Twitter that I’m underrated, which I’ve always appreciate it because I thought of it as my fans seeing more for me than what I already have. But now, everyone who was rooting has been able to see things come to fruition and see me get what they thought I deserved. It just feels like, finally. This is big release, but also celebration. I’m in complete gratitude.
Any big plans for the show?
I definitely have plans and dreams to perform at the Grammys, if allowed. But my first thought was, “Oh my God, Hazel will need something to wear.”