On Twitter, 15 minutes can last for days. Consider the strange case of Esperanza Spalding, the (formerly) little-known jazz singer/bassist who won the Best New Artist Grammy on Sunday night. She's been a huge presence on Twitter since then largely because she's suddenly famous for not being famous -- or at least not as famous as Justin Bieber, whose fans felt he'd been robbed of the Best New Artist nod.
One of the most popular tweets regarding Spalding came from the @DudeItsTrue account: "That awkward moment when Esperanza Spalding wins 'Best New Artist' and NOBODY knows who the heck she is. #dudeitstrue." According to Twitter, it's been retweeted at least 3,000 times. Among the runners-up (retweeted at least 1,000 times): "@BieberDigits: and the best new artist award goes to .... Esperanza Spalding" *awkward silence* "SHE DOESN'T EVEN GO HERE!"
OK, I'm sorry, that's kind of funny. (Click here for a 20-second refresher on the "Mean Girls" reference.)
Generally, we seem to take fame -- even instant fame -- for granted. One day, somebody's an unknown, the next day they're, say, a reality-TV sensation, and we accept that they're a "celebrity." (Hello, Kardashians!) But in Esperanza Spalding's case, the Twittersphere has seemed rather obsessed with dwelling on her relative obscurity. Take a look at the expandable chart embedded here, which shows hourly tweet volume mentioning "Esperanza Spalding" (or #esperanzaspalding) as measured by our editorial partner Trendrr, the social-media monitoring service. She was averaging just single-digit mentions per hour on Twitter until she won, at which point she spiked to 13,925 in a single hour. On Monday, her full-day peak on Twitter, she racked up a total of 68,065 mentions.
|Recent hourly volume of tweets mentioning "Esperanza Spalding" or "#esperanzaspalding"|
Within the first 48 hours or so of her Grammy win, judging from periodic samples I took, the vast majority of tweets mentioning her were of the "Who?!" and/or hater variety. (To get a sense of how up-in-arms Beliebers were over his "unfair" Grammy loss, take a look at this rather shocking list compiled by BuzzFeed: Top 10 Esperanza Spalding Death Threats By Justin Bieber Fans.)
Now, though, the conversation about Spalding on Twitter is being reclaimed by fans -- old and new -- who are sharing links to her music and videos. Here's one making the rounds: Esperanza Spalding | Little Fly music video, on YouTube. At the moment, the top-rated comment on that page is "I'm actually very grateful to the Justin Bieber grammys hooha. If not I would not have discovered this gem."
Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.