It was a big enough surprise that a jazz singer won best new artist at Sunday’s Grammy Awards, but that it was Samara Joy was a delight for many.
The 23-year-old artist from the Bronx also won best jazz vocal album for her project, “Linger Awhile.”
Joy has had quite the ride to success.
Performing is in her blood
The singer comes from a legacy of music.
Her paternal grandparents, Elder Goldwire and Ruth McLendon, sang in the famed soul gospel Philadelphia group, The Savettes.
Joy’s father is Antonio McLendon, a singer and bassist who toured for years with another gospel star, Andraé Crouch.
TikTok loves her
Like any member of Gen Z, Joy understands the power of social media.
Her videos on TikTok have frequently gone viral because of her smooth stylings of both her music and some of the classics. She celebrated with a TikTok video in December when she caught the attention of premiere producer Timberland, who then posted about her on hs Instagram account.
A viral Facebook video of Joy singng Ella Fitzgerald’s “Take Love Easy” as a thank you for receiving the Ella Fitzgerald Scholarship in 2020 while a student at State University of New York at Purchase led to a record deal.
Joy has other famous fans
Her sound has attracted the likes of actors LaKeith Stanfield and Regina King, the latter of whom credits Joy’s music with helping her get through the pandemic.
“I discovered a young woman who just seems like Sarah Vaughn and Ella Fitzgerald are both living in her body,” King said during a directors roundtable two years ago for The Hollywood Reporter. “When I watch her and listen to her… her name is Samara Joy and it brings me joy.”
While she’s been compared to plenty of the jazz greats, including Sarah Vaughn, Joy has named someone closer to her own age as her inspiration.
According to a 2019 interview with then WBGO radio host Keanna Faircloth, the young singer admires 31-year-old Jazzmeia Horn.
“For Samara, Horn’s presence and ability to use the stage are characteristics that she aspires to,” the WBGO article stated.
The Grammy is not her first big prize
The then 20-year-old Joy won the prestigious Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition in 2019 and things took off from there.