In anticipation of the 2020 Grammys on Jan. 26, Wonderwall.com is taking a closer look at the stage names of this year's crop of nominees to learn what inspired their famous monikers… starting with the singer on everyone's playlist this year, Lizzo, who's nominated for a jaw-dropping eight Grammys including album of the year for "Cuz I Love You" and record of the year for "Truth Hurts." Lizzo, who was born Melissa Viviane Jefferson, told the Chicago Tribune that her stage name stems from her middle school nickname, "Melisso," which, when later shortened, became Lizzo. "Everybody where I grew up in Houston would chop off half the name and put an 'o' at the end," she explained. Keep reading to learn more about the stage names of 2020's Grammy-nominated music stars…
Most celebrities on our list have unusual stage names and perfectly normal real names. Not the case for pop star Billie Eilish, who's nominated for six Grammys in 2020 including best new artist and song of the year (for "Bad Guy"). Billie's stage name is just an abbreviation of her real name, she explained in a BBC radio interview: "So I'm Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O'Connell. Pretty weird, right? Pirate was going to be my middle name, but then my uncle had a problem with it because pirates are bad. Then Baird is my mother's [last] name."
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The story behind Colombian music star Maluma's stage name is so sweet, it might just make you his fan for life. Maluma — who's nominated for best Latin pop album for his chart-topping fourth studio album "11:11" — told "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon that his real name is actually Juan Luis Londoño Arias, but he wanted a professional name that represented the people he loved most in his life: his family. "My mom's name is Marlli, my father's name is Luis and my sister's name is Manuela," he explained. When you put the first two letters of each of their names together, you get Maluma.
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Despite what you may have heard, "Old Town Road" rapper Lil Nas X didn't create his stage name as a mashup of the names of rappers Lil Wayne, Nas and DMX. Lil Nas X — who's up for an impressive six Grammys including best new artist and album of the year for his debut EP, "7" — was born Montero Lamar Hill. He got his stage name from his old internet alias, Nas. Speaking with BET in 2019, he explained how he came up with the moniker: "When I first started rapping, I wasn't being serious, so it's like, 'OK, what'll be funny? Lil, lil, lil, [for] every new rapper.' So, 'Lil Nas,' aha!" He also clarified the addition of "X" (the Roman numeral 10), saying, "As I got more serious with music, I added the 'X' on, like, 'OK, this is the amount of time until I'm going to be, you know, at that mogul, legendary level.' So basically, 'Lil Nas' and the 'X' is like, for 10 years. By that point, I'll already be there, [but] I'm not saying it's going to take 10 years."
Singer Lana Del Rey is up for two Grammys including album of the year and song of the year for her sixth studio album and its titular track "Norman F—ing Rockwell!" Born Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, Lana's stage name was the last in a long line of professional pseudonyms that included Sparkle Jump Rope Queen (we're dead serious), Lizzy Grant and May Jailer. After a trip to Miami with sister Caroline Grant, Lana finally came up with her professional moniker, telling MTV Buzzworthy she "wanted a name that sounded sort of exotic and reminded me of like, the seaside on the Floridian coast." Thus, Lana Del Rey was born.
The story of how hip-hop and R&B star Post Malone got his stage name is actually pretty funny. Born Austin Richard Post, the musician — who earned two Grammy nominations (record of the year and best pop duo performance) for his song "Sunflower" — reportedly used an online app to help him find a professional pseudonym, telling late night host Jimmy Fallon, "I was like, 14 and had started getting into producing and rapping and singing over my own stuff. And I needed a name, you know, for my s—– mixtape, so I ran [my real name] through a random rap-name generator… now I'm stuck with it."
Another Grammy-nominated singer whose stage name was inspired by her real name is Cuban-Mexican-American star Camila Cabello. The pop star — who earned a Grammy nod in 2020 for best pop performance by a duo for her song "Senorita" with boyfriend Shawn Mendes — uses her middle name professionally: She was born Karla Camila Cabello Estrabao. Camila has said that her professional name is more her "alter ego" — the wild, fun and sexy side of her — whereas Karla is her down-home and totally nerdy self, both of whom were featured in her debut music video for her hit single "Havana." In a tweet discussing the "Havana" video, Camila explained, "Karla and Camila represent two parts of my personality but Karla in the movies is who I really am and always have been."
Thanks to his collaboration with Post Malone on "Sunflower" from the movie "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," rap artist Swae Lee has racked up two Grammy nominations in 2020. Born Khalif Malik Ibn Shaman Brown, the "Sicko Mode" rapper — who began his career with the rap group Rae Sremmurd — shared in an interview with Acclaim Magazine, "I got my name because I have 'swae,' which is undeniable style. And they say I have tight a– eyes."
British singer-songwriter FKA Twigs got the inspiration for her stage name from her body. While some might think the singer, who was born Tahliah Debrett Barnett, took on the moniker "Twigs" because of her thin physique, it's actually because of the loud popping sound her joints make, which she's said sounds just like twigs breaking. The nickname became her initial stage name, but after another music artist who also performed as Twigs took issue, Tahliah added "FKA" to her stage name (which is short for "formerly known as"). In 2020, FKA Twigs is up for her first Grammy Award (for best music video for her song "Cellophane").
Following his shocking shooting death on March 31, 2019, Nipsey Hussle was honored with Grammy nominations for best rap performance and best rap song for his track "Racks in the Middle" and best rap/sung performance for "Higher." The beloved music star, who was born Ermias Asghedom, can thank a friend for nicknaming him Nipsey Hussle — a play on the name of the late African American comedian Julius "Nipsey" Russell.
First-time Grammy nominee NAO, the British singer-songwriter who created her own genre of "wonky funk," is up for the best contemporary album award for her second studio album, "Saturn." While she hasn't spoken about the origins of her stage name, it's believed NAO is both a play on her birth name, Neo Jessica Joshua, and her love of Japanese culture and language. As the founder of Little Tokyo Recordings, an imprint under RCA, it's interesting to note that NAO, in Japanese, happens to mean "honest."
Family and fandom are what inspired Grammy-winning musician Elvis Costello's unique stage name. Born Declan Patrick Aloysius MacManus, the "Let's Misbehave" singer — who this year is nominated along with his band The Imposters for best traditional pop vocal album for their 30th studio album, "Look Now" — changed his name to Elvis in the 1970s in honor of Elvis Presley, on the advice of his manager. The name Costello, it turns out, was inspired by Declan's father, the late musician Ross MacManus, who once upon a time recorded under the stage name Day Costello.
English singer Yola has enjoyed a monumentally successful year after making her debut as a solo artist with her first studio album, "Walk Through Fire." Nominated for four Grammys in 2020, including best new artist, Yola has an easy explanation for her name and no, it's not a play on "YOLO." Born Yolanda Quartey, Yola is merely a shortened version of her given name.
Rapper Meek Mill earned his first Grammy nomination in 2020 (for best rap album for his chart-topping fourth studio effort, "Championships"). Born Robert Rihmeek Williams, the "Going Bad" rapper was called Meek as a shortened version of his middle name, and Millions as a play on his last name. As he his music career began taking shape, he simply shortened his longtime nickname from Meek Millions to Meek Mill.
The adorable way Swedish singer and songwriter Tove Lo — who was born Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson — got her stage name is going to make every animal lover swoon. The Grammy nominee for best music video (for her song "Glad He's Gone") was 3 when her grandmother nicknamed her Tove Lo (pronounced too-veh loo) because Ebba was obsessed with a lynx also named Tove that they saw during a visit to the zoo. Seeing how much her granddaughter loved the wildcat, she coined her Tove Lo, as Lo means "lynx" in Swedish.
While Mustard's music is no joke — he earned a Grammy nomination for best rap/sung performance for his song "Ballin" — the inspiration behind his stage name is actually pretty funny. Born Dijon Isaiah McFarlane, the rapper — who used to go by the moniker DJ Mustard — picked his professional pseudonym because his first name is also a type of the popular condiment . Just don't ask him if he's got any Grey Poupon.
Grammy-winning R&B singer H.E.R. — who was born Gabriella Wilson — is back in the spotlight with five new Grammy nominations in 2020 including song of the year and record of the year for "Hard Place" as well as album of the year for her second studio effort, "I Used to Know Her." The concept for her stage name came after a difficult breakup with a man who wasn't right for her. Realizing her experience was a part of her "becoming," she came upon the idea that "Having Everything Revealed" in time was part of the necessary process of growing, thus she chose the stage name H.E.R. to represent that meaningful insight into her life.
Singer, rapper and songwriter Anderson .Paak is up for two Grammys in 2020 including best R&B performance (for "Come Home") and best R&B album (for "Ventura"). The performer born Brandon Paak Anderson simply lopped off his first name and inverted the rest. But what about that dot? In an interview with NPR, he explained the reason for the period, saying, "The dot stands for detail. Always be paying attention to detail… I spent a lot of time working on my craft, developing my style, and after I came out of my little incubation I promised that I would pay attention to detail. And on top of that, I want to make sure that dot is always there to remind me and to remind others."
It turns out that a Grammy-nominated band was the inspiration behind Australian DJ Flume's unique stage name. Born Harley Edward Streten, Flume — whose mixtape "Hi This is Flume" is nominated for best dance/electronic album — told Yen magazine that he liked the name of Bon Iver's song "Flume" and decided to make it his stage name, saying, "It was one I was really into at the time, and I figured if I was ever going to be successful with this it was going to get written on a lot of things, on posters and T-shirts, so I wanted a word that looked nice on paper from a typography perspective and Flume really worked for me."
Jamaican reggae singer Koffee might only be 19 years old, but this year, she's up for her first Grammy for best reggae album for her debut EP, "Rapture." Born Mikayla Simpson, the "Throne" singer reportedly got her stage name from a childhood friend who teased her after ordering hot coffee on a hot day when everyone else wanted a cold soda.
Grammy-winning Puerto Rican singer iLe — who was born Ileana Mercedes Cabra Joglar — is up for another award in 2020 for best Latin rock, urban or alternative album for her latest effort, "Almadura." Her stage name is simply an abbreviation of her first name.
How Puerto Rican music star Luis Fonsi arrived at his stage name is rather simple. Born Luis Alfonso Rodríguez López-Cepero, the "Despacito" singer-songwriter — whose 10th studio album, "Vida," is nominated for best Latin album in 2020 — shortened his middle name from Alfonso to Fonsi and cut off the rest, leaving him with a quick, sexy pseudonym we've all come to love.
Born Tyler Gregory Okonma, the musician known as Tyler, the Creator isn't lying when he talks about being an inventor. Tyler — who's nominated in 2020 for best rap album for his fifth studio album, "Igor" — is a master at making beats and making records. In 2011, he founded his own label, Odd Future Records, which is named after the hip-hop collective he also created, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. Given his track record of creativity, his stage name Tyler, the Creator makes perfect sense.
People magazine's 2019 Sexiest Man Alive, singer-songwriter John Legend, was actually born John Roger Stephens. Say what?! The EGOT winner, who has two Grammy nods in 2020 (for best traditional pop vocal album, for "A Legendary Christmas," and best rap/sung performance, for "Higher"), came up with his stage last name thanks to a friend who coined him "Legend" while he was still an up-and-coming musician working to make a name for himself. In a 2006 interview with The New York Times, John explained, "It was bold and I knew people would be like, 'He'd better be good if he's going to call himself John Legend.'"
Lady Gaga, who's nominated for three Grammys including song of the year for "Always Remember Us This Way," was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. The Oscar- and Grammy-winning star got the inspiration for her stage name following a little gentle teasing from a former colleague. According to a 2010 interview with Flybe, Gaga claimed the idea for her famous pseudonym came from her former music producer Robert Fusari, who called her "Gaga" after the Queen song "Radio Ga Ga." Wanting to reinvent herself after years performing under her own name, she decided to ditch Stefani and become Gaga, adding "Lady" because it had "such connotations." (In a sweet nod to her family, Gaga titled her sixth studio album "Joanne" after her deceased aunt, Joanne Stefani Germanotta, who was the inspiration behind the singer's birth names.)