Jon Batiste's Best Songs Prove He Deserves All His Grammys

Getty | David Becker

At just 35 years old, singer and songwriter Jon Batiste has already established a legendary music career. Not only is he the bandleader of the live band on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," but he also earned several awards, including an Oscar and a Grammy, for composing the score for the acclaimed Disney Pixar film "Soul."

And it mustn't be forgotten that the musician makes his own music. He absolutely dominated the 2022 Grammys, winning a total of five Grammy awards out of his 11 nominations. Batiste's nominations spanned several categories: he took home the Grammy for album of the year for his 2021 neo-soul album "We Are," and his song "Cry" won two Grammys in the American roots performance and American roots song categories. Batiste was recognized for his work in "Soul," earning a Grammy for best score soundtrack for visual media, and he also won the award for best music video for "Freedom".

Jon Batiste's work spans more than 15 years and expands beyond just his most recent releases. In light of the jazz singer's incredible night at the Grammys, here is a selection of some of Batiste's best songs over the years. (We capped this list at 10, because it would have gone on forever otherwise!)

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"FREEDOM" by Jon Batiste

"When I move my body just like this, I don't know why, but I feel like freedom" repeats throughout this iconic track. Batiste discussed the meaning behind "Freedom" and its Grammy-winning music video with Apple Music, saying, "If you think about movies back in the day, you wouldn't show a Black man with a white woman, or you wouldn't show a Black relationship, or you wouldn't show a woman in a certain role. That is our sexuality and how people are represented. That's what people like James Brown, or when we saw Elvis with the twist in the hips, did. They were unlocking something in people that they were trying to hold in. These people became beacons of freedom, and you look at the way they move and the way that they express who they are onstage. That becomes the way that you want to be in life."

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"CRY" by Jon Batiste

While "Freedom" has an upbeat, lively tempo, "Cry" is a slower song with a heavier theme. "Why sometimes does it seem like all I want to do / All I wanna do is cry, cry, cry," Batiste sings on the track.

World events throughout 2020, from the COVID-19 pandemic to police brutality, inspired Batiste to write the song. "'Cry' is something that we all felt . . . it is something that 2020 made us all feel," he told God Is in the TV. "I think that we've gotten to a point where sometimes all you want to do is cry. You feel that in your subconscious, and this song came from my subconscious." With its strong backup vocals, bluesy instrumentals, and sharp guitar riffs, it's no surprise that "Cry" won two Grammy awards.

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"L.O.V.E." by Yung Bae feat. EARTHGANG, Jon Batiste, and Sherwyn

When you see Yung Bae's name on a track, you know the song is going to be a bop. Add Batiste, EARTHGANG, and Sherwyn, and it's sure to be iconic. This funky, upbeat track about having fun and spreading love features a rousing chorus, with Batiste joining a children's choir to sing, "L-O-V-E (That's how you spell what you mean to me) / Everybody (Clap your hands and stomp your feet)."

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"It's All Right" by Jon Batiste and Celeste

Batiste's contributions to "Soul" are unparalleled. "It's All Right" is a cover of the familiar 1963 song of the same name by The Impressions. Somehow, Batiste manages to preserve the song's nostalgic vibes while adding a modern twist, transforming it into his own sound. Calming, light, and soft, the song is one of his greatest works.

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"I NEED YOU" by Jon Batiste

Batiste's jazz influences are immediately apparent on "I Need You." The strings, bass, and piano give the song a timeless feel, while Batiste's lyrics make it modern. "I Need You," like many songs on the "We Are" album, revolve around the theme of pushing through difficult times via human connection. Batiste sings, "In this world with a lot of problems / All we need is a little loving / Thank you, thank you, oh, you make me / Thank you, thank you for your love."

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"ADULTHOOD" by Jon Batiste feat. BJ The Chicago Kid and Hot 8 Brass Band

"Adulthood," as the title suggests, explores growth. The lyrics describe the process of a boy finding his soul. "That's like how it is when you're young and you got fire; you're figuring out who you are, and you're looking at the world around you. And people give you advice, and you hear all these things about the past," Batiste said to Apple Music about the inspiration behind the understated, meaningful track. "You're trying to reconcile it all. Then, all of a sudden, you're an adult."

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"Born to Play" by Jon Batiste

Another song from the "Soul" soundtrack, "Born to Play" is a beautiful work of pure jazz. Listener can pick up on the subtleties of each instrument while appreciating the song as a whole. Batiste is a phenomenal singer, but this song — with its rumbling piano, deep bass, and easy rattling cymbal — puts his masterful ability as a composer and instrumentalist on display.

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"TELL THE TRUTH" by Jon Batiste

If you close your eyes, you could be convinced that "Tell the Truth" harks from the days of Chuck Berry and Stevie Wonder. That's probably because Batiste recorded the track in one take at Sound City recording studios with James Gadson, the iconic drummer who played for the likes of The Jackson 5, Marvin Gaye, and Diana Ross.

"We recorded it at the legendary Sound City recording studios [in Los Angeles]. All of us were in the same room at the same time, and it was done in one take. James Gadson, who plays the drums, played with Bill Withers and on all the classic records with the Jackson 5. He's a living legend who still plays like he was in his prime," Batiste told Apple Music. "It's about the advice that my dad told me when I was 17 years old, when I left New Orleans to move to New York and go to Juilliard to start my career. He told me to stay true to who I am, no matter what you're looking for, no matter what you're looking to do."

Batiste's raspy, charismatic voice transports the song from 2021 back to the 1960s. The instrumentals, along with Batiste's voice, infuse "Tell the Truth" with plenty of funk to make you move.

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"The Very Thought of You" by Jon Batiste

A cover of the 1934 song by Ray Noble that's been famously covered by musicians from Nat King Cole to Michael Bublé, "The Very Thought of You" sticks to the basics — just Batiste's voice and his versatile piano playing — and it's all the more moving and romantic for it.

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"WE ARE" by Jon Batiste feat. St. Augustine High School Marching 100

"We Are" is an incredibly powerful song, especially if you understand the background of the song's (and album's) composition. Batiste wrote much of the "We Are" album in 2020, with the COVID-19 pandemic surging and protests in the wake of George Floyd's murder taking the world by the storm. The song "We Are" captures the essence of the time, with strong marching-band instrumentals and backup vocals.