I’m not into “shipping”, but I hear that Grace has a date with a word on January 14, 2019, when teen magazine J-14 announces, among others, its Iconic Female Singer award for its March edition.
It’s a ready-made personal pronoun of a sort that has been attached often to Grace since around the start of the year. Used by her fans both proudly and defensively, it initially seemed to relate to the varied assessments of the chart performance of JTB, and of Grace’s career thus far. It’s now almost become a fait accompli. But perhaps we should take a step back and attempt to define its meaning, and flesh it out a bit, if we can. I’m speaking, of course, of Grace the “Icon”.
Let’s consider the dictionary meaning: originally applied to paintings of holy figures such as Jesus Christ, its common usage now pertains to a “person or thing regarded as a representative of something”. Historical icons are obvious. The musical and singing icons are less set in stone, with Bono seemingly the most mentioned among the many. Passing on at an early age is certainly a plus if you want to be considered a singing icon, but only if you want to be one THAT badly. Of the minority who are still with us, Bono is the age exception as the youngest, at 58 years old.
So when did we decide that a 14 year-old (among other young candidates for the J-14 icon awards) should even be considered an icon? Can’t we just call singers “singers” and give them awards for singing? Most successful young singers represent trying to achieve or continue achieving their chart-topping records. Maybe they “represent” in the LL Cool J sense of the word. But not even the best young singers, which certainly includes Grace, are regarded at this early point in their career as the symbol of all singers in the long history of Singing. Grace has spoken of people who “work their whole life to make it. Years of hard work getting there”. I would proffer that she would prefer to attain the level of “singing icon” when there is no question that she has been one for many years.
Of course, regardless of what it has been named, we fans will be extremely happy to see Grace win yet another award. A very well deserved one, at that. But let’s look at the usage of our newly-found label as it pertains more to Grace’s fans’ usage: the singer-songwriter icon. I myself often refer to Grace in this context, but now I’m wary that I’ll be confused to be referring to the J-14 award. So let’s look at iconic singer-songwriters:
The use of the word iconic has of recent been used to promote a singer-songwriter whose talents transcend being trendy, and who is “in it for the long run”. This is a refer-back to known previous icons. Bob Dylan, for instance, had 2 singles reach #2 on Billboard’s top 100 back when the folk music was a trend (“Like a Rolling Stone” and “Rainy Day Women #12 & #35”) but never a #1 single. Neil Young had a #1 single with “Heart of Gold”, but that’s all. Joni Mitchell had a few AC hits, but nothing on top of the mainstream charts. Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” reached #2. Yet, they all could fill large venues anytime they felt like touring.
So, the adjective “iconic” now implies a verb-like process: “Building a huge fan base as a singer-songwriter without regard for the current trends or charts”. And if the talent is there, it’s a blueprint for real long-term popularity and, in short supply these days, respect as an artist. Grace fits perfectly that definition. So I call her an iconic artist in this context. But she could very well also become a Taylor/Selena/Ariana-like hit machine as well. We don’t know yet. Either way, she is already, by degrees, building a large, solid fan base (as if I’m telling you something you don’t already know).
So, as you heard as a child, use your words, even the word “icon” alongside Grace’s name. Just make sure to make it MEAN something.
Note: I’ve reached out a few times to the J-14 Awards people to get their perspective on the meaning of their “icon awards” with no response as of yet. If they do respond, I will pass it on.
This article was first posted on VanderVault’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5RMyfR1R3y4&lc=Ugw5NFL_tbKPqPR_vUJ4AaABAg