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Ahead of the Grammys 2024, culture reporter Njera Perkins explores the storied career and stellar rise of R&B superstar Victoria Monét, who is the second-most nominated artist at the 66th annual Grammy Awards.
Ask any die-hard R&B fan, and they’ll tell you 2023 was hands down the year of Victoria Monét. It’s an undeniable truth considering how quickly the singer-songwriter-dancer extraordinaire shot to stardom in a matter of months, all thanks to her critically acclaimed debut studio album Jaguar II and earworm single “On My Mama,” one of the biggest records of the year. Although she is a Best New Artist nominee at the 2024 Grammys, it's crucial to note that this past year was not her introduction to the industry.
For roughly a decade, Monét made a name for herself as one of music's most sought-after wordsmiths, penning Billboard-charting smashes for Ariana Grande (“Thank U, Next,” “7 Rings”), Chloe x Halle (“Do It”), BLACKPINK ("Ice Cream"), and many more. All the while, she primed her illustrious solo chapter with a slew of singles and EPs, including the Nightmares & Lullabies and Life After Love series, and her breakout project, 2020’s Jaguar, which is packed with impeccable tracks like “Moment,” “Dive,” and Touch Me.”
It would take the world a few more years to catch up to the talent brewing in Monét’s R&B offerings. However, her time finally arrived late last year when the 2024 Grammy nominations rolled around.
As recognition and reward for what many consider her best work yet, Monét’s Jaguar II rightfully earned her seven whopping nominations — including Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Best R&B Album, Best R&B Song, and a Best Traditional R&B Performance nod. With the latter, her 2-year-old featured daughter, Hazel Monét, became the youngest nominee ever as only a toddler.
Monét’s triumphant upsurge in the music scene speaks volumes about her underdog journey. Just two months before her Grammy noms, the MTV Video Music Awards told the singer’s team it was “too early” in her story to claim one of their performance slots. How soon did she prove them wrong. Not only is she the second-most Grammy-nominated artist this year and the name on everyone’s lips, but her recent accomplishments have confirmed what fans roaring for the last year: it’s her jaguar season.
Some say it took too long for people to take notice of Monét’s solo potential; she had already received Grammys recognition alongside Grande and Chlöe and Halle Bailey for her songwriting expertise, but Monét needed — and deserved — to be validated independently. Truth be told, though, her slow-burn transition from a blossoming R&B singer-songwriter to a triple-threat, bonafide superstar has all been a mix of divine timing, discipline, and golden opportunity fixed right at the forefront of 2023’s R&B takeover.
Starting the first half of the year with infectious singles like “Smoke” and “Party Girls,” Monét set the stage early for her album rollout at the same time that R&B saw a popular resurgence with women like SZA and Coco Jones and artists like Janelle Monáe dominating the genre. The years smartly spent developing her sound and identity (which includes her oft-memed signature brown aesthetic) opened Monét up to listeners who yearned to have real artists with real soul back on the cutting edge of music. Add to that a hunger for more story-esque visuals, and Monét’s “On My Mama” music video — an eye-catching ode to Black Y2K fashion and Southern Black culture, quickly labeled a classic — arrived right on time. She couldn’t have written a better narrative setup for her post-Jaguar return.
Despite setbacks and delays, the time away helped complete Monét’s artistic transformation as a consummate performer. Now, with a masterpiece album, a Billboard-climbing bop, a sold-out debut headlining tour, and several Grammy nominations, she has an even sweeter success story to accompany her seemingly sudden rise. Make no mistake, though. Monét isn’t having a short-lived moment by any means — she’s been sowing seeds for her ascension since she was a teen chasing big music dreams in California.
Let’s rewind. The 34-year-old Atlanta-born, Sacramento-bred artist grew up with a deep reverence for R&B and soul music. On many occasions, Monét has cited Sade, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, and collaborators Earth, Wind & Fire as some of her biggest musical influences and has since followed in their legendary footsteps. Her first industry opportunity came from iconic producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins when he was recruiting for the girl group Purple Reign around 2009. Monét told Nylon in 2020 that moving to Los Angeles to audition and eventually make it into the protégé group “literally changed my life.”
Purple Reign never took off after being signed and dropped by Motown Records within the same year. However, that formative time still proved life-changing for Monét, as it introduced her to her musical soulmate and longtime collaborator, Grammy-winning producer Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II (Jaguar and Jaguar II). The pair’s friendship nurtured Monét’s crucial career beginnings, her latest era, and the songwriting pursuit that set everything in motion.
“Writing became how I got into more rooms,” she recalled in conversation with Kelly Rowland for Rolling Stone last year. It also became a means of supporting herself without a 9-5 or side hustle to lean on, which explains the deeply committed work ethic Monét developed over the years. Though she garnered much success from writing on songs by Nas, T.I., and Fifth Harmony, plus numerous tracks for Grande, the lyricist knew penning for others was merely a pit stop on her road ahead. “At the time I questioned it so much: Like, what is it about me that’s so lackluster? Why aren’t people seeing me?” Monét told Variety in January. She wanted to be a star, too, and deserved such.
After years of grinding as a then-independent artist, many thought 2020 would finally be the year Monét entered the spotlight with her statement piece, Jaguar. The lauded project, in which she incorporated elements of retro ‘70s funk and ‘90s R&B grooves, crowned her as one of contemporary R&B's defining acts to watch.
Moreover, it showed that Monét had a brilliant vision of longevity for herself and the genre. Why wouldn’t that masterful artistry be recognized? Her time seemed destined after all since, for so long, she helped others work toward their successes while her star power was camouflaged — much like the spirit animal she claimed for her Jaguar series. The jungle cat, a powerful, integral part of its environment, seldom seen or heard, is a perfect metaphor for Monét, who quietly helped revitalize R&B and carve a lane for a soulful sound only she could cultivate.
Quarantine stalled Monét after she dropped the first part of her original Jaguar trilogy in the summer of 2020, a time that didn’t allow her to tour the new music. The extra time social distancing inside was a blessing in disguise, as it allowed her space to plot her monumental follow-up Jaguar II, on which she re-emerged more confident and inspired than ever after giving birth to her daughter in 2021. “I was bringing her and breastfeeding in the studio and trying to balance the new mindset with my old life,” Monét told Teen Vogue last summer.
With assistance from D’Mile, Monét put together a lush display of elevated nostalgia and dulcet sounds of pop, R&B, dancehall, and funk, all melted into one celebratory concept. Along with powerful lyrics of love, self-worth, and empowerment, she unlocked a new sense of humility to make her all the more relatable. The impressive engineering and presentation proves Monét as a well-studied student of the music game worthy of praise from legends like Janet Jackson and Anita Baker. It’s no wonder the album earned a stamp of approval from fans, critics, and the Recording Academy. And now, her manifested Grammy dreams are coming true.
Whether she takes home a gilded gramophone or not, it’s safe to say Monét’s underdog days are over. She’s paid her dues 10,000 hours over as a certified hitmaker and new-age R&B architect, coming off one of the most notable career breakthroughs we’ve seen in recent years.
The singer's record number of nominations may have surprised her, but the prestigious accolades were long overdue. From now on, the industry has no choice but to refer to Monét as the Grammy-nominated (and hopefully, Grammy-winning) star she’s always aspired to be.
Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue
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