I almost missed it.

Somewhere between awkwardly played racial quips and the French annexation of American cinema, a now famous artist pulled yet another sleight of hand.

Over a year ago, Esperanza Spalding tricked the entire world into believing that contemporary society actually rewards musical talent. This isn’t a knock on the competition, but let’s be honest. We know what modern pop is and what it is not. But we also know what ultimately plays, and it’s definitely not coming out of the Berklee College of Music.

So when I saw her take the stage at last night’s Oscars, I was overwhelmed with the same conflicting emotions felt when she was named our most promising new talent. Above all, I was proud. Because just like that, an effortless rendition of “What a Wonderful World” had stolen the show, from Hollywood’s most important figures.

My inherent pessimism leads me to believe that this is some elaborate hoax that inevitably leads to Justin Bieber jumping out of the shadows and yelling some catchphrase akin to “Punk’d!” But until then, I’m going to continue to enjoy her ascension into popular culture. I’m fairly certain that this, her newest video, will help along the way.

Whenever we reconvene as a people, I’m placing a vote for this to be February’s most requested anthem. My apologies to Brother James Weldon Johnson.

What I appreciate most about this record is its refreshingly vibrant outlook on a culture whose nationalistic prose often engages in either a militantly aggressive future or a tragically flawed past.

It’s not preaching. It’s not divisive. It’s simply beautiful just because. And when I think of my race, that is exactly how I feel.

Esperanza continues to amaze me and this is just another reason why.

Written By: Paul Pennington

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