“Her music grabs you by the throat … this is her year.”
These flattering words were spoken by none other than Michael Bublé at the 2018 JUNO Awards held in Vancouver a few months ago. Who is the “her” he is speaking of? Winner of the JUNO’s Breakthrough Artist award for 2018 and nominee for two MTV Video Music Awards this year, Latin Canadian musician Jessie Reyez.
The 27-year-old female singer and songwriter was born in Toronto to Colombian parents, and is first recorded as entering the music scene in 2014 after a collaboration with King Louie on the song “Living in the Sky.” Unofficially, however, Reyez was a part of the Remix Project and making music well before she was noticed nationally or internationally. This organization aims to provide an educational and practical space for artistic young people from “disadvantaged, marginalized and under served communities.” King Louie discovered Reyez here, and recorded a track with her.
Since her takeoff in 2014, she has worked with a multitude of other big names such as Chance the Rapper and Calvin Harris. She is not only an extremely talented singer, with a unique identity stemming from her raw vocals that range from gritty to buttery smooth, but she also works as a songwriter as well! One little known fact about her is that she co-wrote the hit song “One Kiss” by Dua Lipa and Calvin Harris, which was nominated for four awards at the 2018 MTV Video Music Awards earlier this week. Reyez herself was nominated for two awards — Push Artist of the Year and Video with a Message for her song “Gatekeeper.”
Jessie Reyez spoke about how she feels about the reactions to her song “Gatekeeper” and the process of its release on the MTV Video Music Awards red carpet.
This song was an important one for Reyez, as it detailed her experience with sexual misconduct and misogyny in the music industry when she was just starting out. “Gatekeeper” outlines the type of dialogue faced by emerging artists in the industry, wherein their superiors intimidate them into consenting to sexual relations in order to further their careers. The lyric “If you come up anywhere else, I’ll erase you” showcases the offensive language used by these superiors in order to scare new artists into thinking they have no other choice if they want to continue on their path.
Reyez revealed earlier this year that the person who the song was written about was producer Noel “Detail” Fisher, who was accused of sexually assaulting two singers in May. She opened up about the song being about him after the allegations were made public, tweeting that he tried the same thing with her over six years ago but she “didn’t know what to say or who to tell.” Although Reyez said her experience did not make it as far as that of these singers, she did initially consider Fisher’s offer-turned-threat. She couldn’t help but think that if she did not consent, her name in the industry would be wiped away before she even had a chance to show her talent. Fortunately, six years later, she has proved that the “gatekeepers” did not hold her back.
Jessie Reyez is just one name among many, many other Latin Canadian artists who have done their countries and ethnicities proud. Another musician is Fito Blanko, a Panamanian-Canadian singer whose song “Meneo” was on the soundtrack of Furious 7 and is signed with the Pitbull 305 record label. Blanko was featured in the Toronto Star in 2015 to highlight his successes with a big name movie soundtrack along with collaborations with artists such as Drake and Elvis Crespo.
Other names include Eva Avila, who won Canadian Idol back in 2006, and Alx Veliz, a Guatemalan-Canadian singer best known for his hit single “Dancing Kizomba.” Click on Blanko, Avila and Veliz’s names to be led to previous Alma Latina Online Magazine articles written about interviews with them.
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