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10 Essential James Bond Theme Songs: From Shirley Bassey To Sam Smith & Adele
Agent 007 turns 60 on Oct. 5, and his taste in music remains impeccable. GRAMMY.com revisits 10 James Bond theme songs by Shirley Bassey, Nancy Sinatra, Adele and others that have soundtracked the adventures of the world's most infamous spy.
Sixty years ago, on October 5, 1962, Agent 007 pointed his Walther PPK at the audience onscreen and fired his first shot. The screen bled red, the surf guitar riff of Monty Norman’s "James Bond Theme" filled the air, and a legend was born. A modestly budgeted noir shot in Jamaica, Dr. No was the first of the many spy adventures inspired by Ian Fleming’s pulpy novels.
No other cinematic franchise has been so thoroughly and completely informed by music like the 007 films. The blueprint developed and chaperoned by John Barry — who wrote the music for the first seven outings, then returned intermittently for an additional five — infused the saga with its existential cosmovision: slightly jaded, ever cosmopolitan, at times beautiful and profound.
Barry’s music made the action scenes soar, and, most importantly, added a tinge of bittersweet complexity to the improbable seduction scenes. It was the music, not the acting or special effects, that made the character of Bond human. By 1965, the theme songs had become a stylized ritual of their own that stretched out the canvas on which the colors and set pieces merged together.
There are 25 official titles in the Bond saga, and dozens of songs — some incidental, others rejected, many of them global hits. These 10 are absolutely essential.
Sam Smith - "Writing’s On The Wall" (2015)
Bond title songs have generated grand moments, but also a few spectacular misfires (remember Lulu and "The Man With The Golden Gun"?). When Sam Smith’s melancholy, strangely monotone track was first unveiled, critics were quick to pan it. But the song has staying power, and its mournful melody works particularly well within the context of Spectre.
In retrospect, it’s one of the series’ deepest anthems. Fun fact: Radiohead submitted a Spectre song, but it was rejected for being — surprise, surprise — a tad depressing.
Shirley Bassey - "Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" (1965)
Following the epic success of Goldfinger, Welsh diva Shirley Bassey was asked to return for this jazzy Barry composition meant for Thunderball, the fourth 007 adventure. The lyrics are preposterous ("Damoiselles and danger/Have filled the stranger’s past"), but Barry saves the day with a muted trumpet, stately acoustic bass and a melody filled with longing.
When the finished recording turned out to be too short and Bassey was unavailable, Dionne Warwick was enlisted as a replacement. Her version is just as good, but was also canned in favor of Tom Jones’ "Thunderball" after the producers insisted on a title track featuring the actual name of the movie, even if the word itself had no real meaning.
Louis Armstrong - "We Have All The Time In The World" (1969)
The first official Bond movie without Sean Connery is a bit of an incongruous mess, but it found Barry in a creative high. Combining lush orchestrations with electronic instruments, he wrote an electrifying instrumental for the title sequence, then worked with a dying Louis Armstrong on this moving ballad to accompany the story’s tragic shock ending.
Shirley Bassey - "Moonraker" (1979)
Bassey’s final 007 track — she certainly should have been asked for a few more — found her teaming up with Barry for a luxurious ballad that revels in swirling strings, a Morse code-like triangle pattern and a subliminal nod to late ‘70s disco opulence.
With Bond flying into outer space to fight the megalomaniacal villain, Moonraker was one of the silliest films in the series. Bassey’s regal touch added gravitas and a welcome hint of sadness.
Adele - "Skyfall" (2012)
During the ‘90s, Bond songs strayed away from the majestic sensibility branded in their DNA. It took Adele and a 77-piece orchestra to bring it all back.
"Skyfall" is a self-assured piece of songwriting that mirrored the film's narrative renewal. Written by the singer with producer Paul Epworth, "Skyfall" begins with mysterious piano chords, then matches the immensity of the Shirley Bassey school of thought with Adele’s soulful reading.
Duran Duran - "A View To A Kill" (1985)
Keeping Barry as the official 007 composer well into the ‘80s was a wise decision, but updating his sound was also necessary. Reportedly, the pairing of Academy Award winning Barry with such chart toppers as Duran Duran and A-ha created friction — but you could never tell by listening to this wicked new wave romp that glitters with the band’s glamor while maintaining that solemn Bondian touch. Playing it live was an altogether different story, as Simon Le Bon’s infamous bum note became one of Live Aid’s most talked about moments.
Jack White and Alicia Keys - "Another Way To Die" (2008)
On paper, inviting the White Stripes front man and the exquisitely gifted Keys for a joint 007 composition was an intriguing concept. The resulting track not only exceeded every possible expectation, but it also brought Bond closer to the redemptive noise of blues-fueled rock’n’roll.
White performed the ferocious drum beat himself, while kick-in-the-pants brass, grungy guitar licks and Keys’ exhilarating vocal gymnastics add to the exuberance. The repetitive piano note in the intro stands as a cool tribute to spy movie fundamentals.
Shirley Bassey – "Goldfinger" (1964)
A jazz star at the time, 27-year-old Shirley Bassey was inside the vocal booth on Aug. 20, 1964, struggling to reach those impossibly high notes at the end of "Goldfinger." Suddenly, the orchestra musicians heard some fidgeting, then saw a bustier land on top of the booth. After which the awesome Miss Bassey delivered the notes just the way they were supposed to sound: reckless, liberated, bombastic.
The message was loud and clear: by definition, Bond songs were meant to be fun and loopy ("such a cold finger beckons you to enter his web of sin"), interpreted with both panache and a serious touch. For an alternative reading, try the velvety, pared-down demo by original lyricist Anthony Newley.
Paul McCartney and Wings - "Live and Let Die" (1973)
"Live and Let Die" was rock royalty: written by Paul and Linda, recorded with Wings and 10cc’s Eric Stewart, produced by Beatles helmer George Martin. Linda came up with the idea of a reggae section in the middle, and the instrumental pyrotechnics featured a massive symphony orchestra.
Ironically, one of the 007 producers suggested re-recording the vocals with Thelma Houston after Martin played him the finished "demo." Logic prevailed, and "Live and Let Die" remains to this day a highlight of McCartney’s concerts, hitting a sweet spot between the exalted and the meditative.
Nancy Sinatra – "You Only Live Twice" (1967)
If you need one desert island Bond theme that perfectly encapsulates the elusive poetry of Barry’s vision, "You Only Live Twice" is it. Self-professed "problem child" Nancy Sinatra was terrified of recording the song in London in front of an orchestra, and her final performance was composed using bits and pieces from 25 different takes.
Perhaps it was Sinatra’s underwhelming vocal power that made her performance so incredibly vulnerable. It is also one of Barry’s best arrangements — languid, exotic, devastatingly sensuous. And that spiraling melody... The song has been sampled by Robbie Williams, covered by Bjork and Natacha Atlas, and used on TV shows to evoke the idealized splendor of ‘60s pop culture.
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8 Artists Who Were Inspired By Their Teachers: Rihanna, Adele, Jay-Z & More
In honor of Music In Our Schools Month this March, take a look at how teachers made a heartwarming impact on superstars like Katy Perry and John Legend.
Before Rihanna, Billy Joel and Jay-Z became some of the biggest names in music, they were students just like the rest of us. Without some particularly special teachers, they might not be the superstars they are today, and they all remember who first encouraged them.
Within the past few years, Rihanna made a special trip to a cricket match in England to reunite with her old P.E. teacher from Barbados, who she calls her "MVP"; Joel traveled back to his New York hometown to honor the teacher who said he should be a professional musician; and Jay-Z told David Letterman that his sixth grade English teacher made him fall in love with words.
In honor of Music In Our Schools Month — which raises awareness for supporting and cultivating worthwhile music programs in K-12 — GRAMMY.com highlights eight artists who have praised their teachers for making a lifelong impact.
After watching Joel tackle Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat Minor, Op. 23, his high school music appreciation teacher Chuck Arnold suggested that he consider music as a career.
"He said to me, you should be a professional musician," Joel recalled of his Hicksville High School mentor during a 1996 event at C.W. Post College. "Now, for a teacher to say that, it's like condemning someone to a life of poverty, drug taking, alcoholism and failure.
"A teacher is telling me this," he added seriously. "It had a huge influence on me."
In 2022, Joel was on hand to congratulate Arnold during the dedication of the Charles "Chuck" Arnold Theatre at the school. "This is for the coolest teacher there ever was," he praised.
.@CBSSunday surprised Lizzo with her high school band director, who encouraged her to apply herself when she was learning to play the flute — and her reaction was priceless: “Wow, I did it, didn't I?” https://t.co/dwffNvYzpb pic.twitter.com/xp5kDK5pWB— CBS News (@CBSNews) October 6, 2019
In 2019, CBS Sunday arranged a surprise visit with the singer and Manny Gonzales, the former band director at her alma mater, Elsik High School in Houston. She told the network that Gonzales helped her get a scholarship to study classical flute at University of Houston.
"You told my ass!" Lizzo exclaimed as she squeezed him. "You were like, 'Get it together, girl, 'cause you are special. Apply yourself!' Those moments meant so much to me."
The Atlanta DJ/producer and king of crunk has done more than take parties to the next level — he has invested in the educational future of children in Africa by building two schools in Ghana with the non-profit organization Pencils of Promise. He credits a mentor at Frederick Douglass High School in Atlanta for sparking his brain when he was a teenager.
"It was my music teacher [who inspired me to dream bigger]," he said in a 2019 interview with Yahoo! "I wanted to play drums, and if I didn't play drums, I wouldn't make music, and drums are the foundation for what I do."
Roddy Estwick was Rihanna's P.E. teacher in Barbados and is now the assistant coach of the West Indies cricket team. The two had an emotional reunion at the 2019 Cricket World Cup in England.
"He made a lasting impact on my life and he really offered great advice to me and many others when we were at school at Combermere," she told Barbados Today amid their reunion. "I just wanted to let everyone know what he meant to me in my development and what he did for us back at school in Barbados." Essence reported that Rihanna described him as, "My mentor, my champ, my MVP" on her Instagram stories.
The Ohio native credits his English teacher Mrs. Bodey at North High School in Springfield for setting him on the path that culminated in his music career.
"Until her class, I hadn't believed in my ability as a writer," Legend shared in a 2017 op-ed for Huffington Post. "She recognized my potential and showed me that I could write with creativity, with clarity, with passion."
He continued, "Mrs. Bodey, along with a few other teachers, helped me gain confidence in my skills and pushed me to challenge myself. They pushed me to graduate second in my class. They pushed me to deliver the speech at our graduation. They pushed me to earn a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, to hone my writing as an English Major and, ultimately, toward a successful career as a songwriter."
The singer was reunited with the most pivotal teacher in her life during her "An Audience with Adele" concert special in 2021. While the singer took questions from the crowd, actress Emma Thompson asked Adele if she had a supporter or protector in the past.
"I had a teacher at [south London high school] Chestnut Grove, who taught me English. That was Miss McDonald," Adele said. "She got me really into English literature. Like, I've always been obsessed with English and obviously now I write lyrics… She really made us care, and we knew that she cared about us."
Miss McDonald then surprised Adele on stage, and the singer was brought to tears — a touching highlight of the special. She even told her former teacher that she still has the books from her class!
While Perry has admitted that she wishes she had a better overall education, her former music school teacher gave her confidence to pursue singing seriously.
"I'm kind of bummed at this stage that I didn't have a great education because I could really use that these days," she said in a 2014 interview with Yahoo! "There was a teacher named Agatha Danoff who was my vocal teacher and music teacher at the Music Academy of the West. It was very fancy and I didn't come from any money… and she always used to give me a break on my lessons. I owe her a lot of credit and I appreciate that she looked out for me when I didn't have enough money to pay."
Picture a young Shawn Carter — now better known as Jay-Z — with his head stuck in a dictionary.
"I had a sixth grade teacher, her name was Ms. Lowden and I just loved the class so much," Jay-Z said during his appearance on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman in 2018.
He later realized how much Renee Rosenblum-Lowden, who taught him at Intermediate School 318 in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, had an influence on his passion for language. "Like, reading the dictionary and just my love of words," he explained. "I just connected with her."
"I knew he was extremely bright, but he was quiet," Rosenblum-Lowden told Brut in 2019, sharing that he scored at the 12th-grade level on a sixth-grade reading test.
"He's been very kind," she added. "Every famous person has a teacher who probably influenced them, and I wish they would all shout out the way Jay-Z did."
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Meet Tobias Jesso Jr., The First-Ever GRAMMY Winner For Songwriter Of The Year
"I felt the weight of what it meant," the man behind the curtain of massive songs by Adele, Harry Styles, Marcus Mumford and more says about his win in the brand-new GRAMMY category.
Tobias Jesso Jr. wanted to know how to write a hit song, so he read How to Write a Hit Song. Not that he needed to figure out how to break into the mainstream: he had already written a tune with Sia and Adele that cracked the Billboard Hot 100. But in an effort to take his young career seriously — that of writing behind the curtain for the stars — he cracked open the book at a café.
Just then, a voice: "What the hell are you doing?" He glanced up. It was Sia.
"She was like, 'Why are you reading that?' and I was like, 'I honestly don't know,'" Jesso remembers with a laugh. "I think I just put the book away from that point on and was like, OK, I don't need the books. And I just felt like there's been a different one of those lessons at every step of the way where I'm just like, Man, I think this is what I got to do, and then I just figure it out."
Since that exchange, Jesso has written with a litany of contemporary stars: John Legend, Shawn Mendes, Pink, Haim, Harry Styles — the list goes on. (As per the latter, he co-wrote "Boyfriends" on Harry's House, which was crowned Album Of The Year at the 2023 GRAMMYs.)
And at said ceremony, he received a historic honor — the first-ever golden gramophone for Songwriter Of The Year. As Evan Bogart, Chair of the Songwriters & Composers Wing, recently toldput it to GRAMMY.com: "We're looking for which songwriters have demonstrated, first and foremost, that they're considered a songwriter first by the music community. We want to recognize the professional, hardworking songwriters who do this for a living."
Read More: Why The New Songwriter Of The Year GRAMMY Category Matters For The Music Industry And Creator Community
Clearly, Jesso fits the mold, and possesses technical chops worthy of How to Write a Hit Song. But his realization — that he can literally throw out the rulebook — speaks volumes as to his flexible, collaborator-first and fun-first process.
"I get into a room and I really want to enjoy the people, and the songs will come if we're all just being honest," he tells GRAMMY.com. "If you take a few days or weeks to get to know somebody, all of a sudden, your songs are deeper."
And while working his interpersonal and collaborative magic, he keeps his ears and imagination open — a momentary trifle can become the heart of a song. It happened with Cautious Clay's "Whoa," which came from messing with some, well, whoas.
"It was a little silly at first," says Jesso,the songwriter whose first output was "inappropriate" high-school joke songs. "But now it wasn't silly anymore."
GRAMMY.com sat down with Jesso about his creative beginnings, the experience of working alongside pop titans, and how his inaugural GRAMMY win for Songwriter Of The Year happened during the happiest, most creatively fruitful period of his burgeoning career.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
How did it feel to take home the golden gramophone — the first ever in this category?
It felt tremendous. It felt amazing. It's such an honor to have received it, and I felt the weight of what it meant. I get really stage frightened, and so I kept telling myself there's no way I was going to win, just so I wouldn't be nervous or anything like that.
But weirdly, when I did win, I was very not nervous. I don't know how to put it, but it was the opposite of what I thought I would feel. I don't know if I've never been awarded something so prestigious. My elementary school did a piece on me after I won the GRAMMY, and it was sort of largely a "We didn't see any talent at all" kind of thing.
So, I'd say "tremendous" would be probably the one word I would feel most aptly describes it. I'm just really, really proud of the category and its creation, and super lucky to have been a part of it at all. Especially in the year that it comes out. I was baffled that I was nominated.
I had already felt like that rush of whoa, this amazing thing happened when I was nominated. And then winning was the next level of completely beyond what I could have ever expected.
How does the win help chart the next stage of your career?
As a songwriter, your job is to serve the artist. Your job is to serve the artist — the person who the song's for. And I think because of that, most songwriters have a very serve mentality, which generally doesn't work out well on the business side of things for you.
I think if you took all the producers in the world and took all the songwriters in the world and tried to look at which ones are more business savvy, I'd say nine times out of 10, it's probably the producers.
I think a lot of people — artists or songwriters among them — have imposter syndrome, feeling like they don't really know whether they belong there or they're just lucky or they have what it takes for the next one, even. If they know they had a good run or whatever, they're always going back to the well and praying that there's something in there.
And I think this GRAMMY is almost like having a symbol of a really good run — a really good, fertile time of creativity or something. TI think the way I see it is sort of a symbol of this period of time where I had a lot of ideas, and worked really hard, and managed to somehow win this thing, which is, for me, is huge. It means a lot.
For the songwriting community to have the award to look forward to, to have this symbol of Hey, you can be creative as a songwriter and just be a songwriter who doesn't sing and doesn't produce, and [the fact] you can get this prestigious symbol of your gifts that the world will now recognize — I think that's a wonderful thing for songwriters to have.
Take me back to the beginning of your career writing songs, either for yourself or others. The first time you really embraced this magical act of creation.
I was such a lazy songwriter for so many years because I always loved writing songs, writing songs with my friends in high school and stuff like that. But I never really wanted to play an instrument, and I never really wanted to sing them myself.
I think probably back in high school, in 1998 or '99, it was because they were joke songs. So I probably didn't want to sing them because they were inappropriate or something. I always wanted to. The beginning for me was definitely a sort of moment of hearing Tracy Chapman when I was like, Oh, this is what I'm going to do. Not be Tracy Chapman, but write songs.
From there I was really lazy and I just tried to do as little as possible, but I had this sort of confidence that I was somehow good at it. So, I would sometimes have my friends who played guitar or my friends who played piano, or whoever was around, do the music part for me, and I could just kind of pipe in and direct where I felt like my skillset was.
I started writing on piano for the first time when I was 27. That was a big moment for me where I was. I feel like I finally figured it out. It took me a long time: I still don't know how to play the piano, but I know I'm going to figure this out now.
I made a lot of mistakes along the way with bands and with albums or whatever. Things that just didn't exactly go the way [I planned them]; my gut was eventually telling me it just wasn't right. And then, when I started playing piano, it just finally all felt right, and I didn't think too much about it. I just sort of started doing it.
During that time, I unfortunately had to sing to get my album out, which was sort of a means to an end. But as soon as I was able to, I ducked away from that and started writing. Then I just had a new job. I was like I got promoted or something.
As you honed your ability and developed your craft, how did you follow that chain of connections to be able to write for who you've written for?
It's funny because Adele was the first person I worked with — [but] not in a professional way where managers and stuff like that are involved, and it's not just a friend of mine from high school or something. She was sort of my blueprint for how those things went.
I couldn't have gotten any luckier than with Adele, because her blueprint for how to do a writing session is the most pure in the game. There's nothing to hide behind. There's no producer in the room. She came to my friend's grandparents' where there are no mics; there's no studio equipment at all. There's a piano. And she just goes, "Great, let's write a song."
I don't know that that even exists much anymore. There's not even a microphone to capture what's going on, let alone one of the biggest players in the entire world doing it — just showing up, being like, "Let's write a song." And there's nothing to record her. I thought that was really cool. I'm like, "That's how I write songs. I just sit in front of a piano and just do what I think I like." And she was like, "And me too."
So, that's how we got along real great off the bat. And then from there, I would say it was just the most epic amount of failures and trial and error to figure out what the hell I was doing in every different session. I mean, I was treading water at times, and I felt like I was smoking crack sometimes, because I was so creative in a certain scenario I didn't expect to be creative in or something like that.
I think it's just this kind of learning process. There are a lot of people who are typically geared towards one style of writing. You're the country guy or you're the pop guy, or you're the ballad guy. And I could see that I was getting typecast. I was starting to get typecast, especially early on in my career because ballads, that's just the tempo that's naturally within me. It's sort of my soul tempo to just slow things down. I can write much easier in that tempo. I'll always sort of naturally progress there.
But I wanted to push the limits of that, and I wanted to figure out a way to get out of that typecast. And so I tried as quickly as I could to pick people who would be like, "Please don't play a ballad."
And when I started doing that, it was, again, trial and error. I think Niall [Horan of One Direction] was the first person I worked with who was in the pop world, and he was very much an acoustic singer. So I think that I was going into that session thinking I wanted to do upbeat pop. So I don't know — you get in the door and then you just try to acclimate yourself to the environment and help out as much as you can.
I think that's the best way to put it, because you never know what you're going to be doing. You never know what the artist is going to want from you or not want from you. A lot of the job is just figuring all that stuff out and then trying to just have fun while you're doing it. I think it's just that good energy, good attitude, and good people tend to sort of gravitate together.
How would you characterize the state of your artistic journey at this point?
I would say it feels the richest, in the sense that I'm the happiest I've been working.
I've found my rhythm — my perfect work-life balance kind of thing — so I can spend time with my son. And I think because of all of the time I've spent writing songs and how many songs come out, which is not a lot compared to how much you spend writing, you kind of learn that the relationships you make in the room are really the things that you really take out of it. It can be a lot more than, "I'm just a songwriter here to serve this artist" or whatever.
Lately, probably because of all the time I've spent doing it, I get into a room and I really want to enjoy the people. And the songs will come if we're all just being honest. We all know why we're here. We don't need that pressure in the room, and we don't need the A&R sitting in the room. We can get a song, but let's just be honest and really enjoy each other's company for a while.
And I think once that starts happening, it's way, way more fruitful in the long run. Because if you take a few days or weeks to get to know somebody, all of a sudden, your songs are deeper.
As a songwriter, your job is to point out metaphors or parallels — and things that could spark some interest in an artist's mind. And the better you get to know somebody, the more amazing the writing process can be.
That's been happening a lot in my recent sessions with Dua [Lipa] and Harry, another just amazing person. He is a great guy, but we haven't done that much writing together, but we know each other mostly through Kid Harpoon — Tom [Hull], who's the best.
I'm getting to know the people, and that's the most important part for me — I'm working with the people I want to work with. That's my journey now. I'll always work with new people, but I don't need to work with people I don't really vibe with or listen to. That's not really my interest anymore, especially if I'm in it for the right reasons. I'd say it's just more intentional, and I'm being more honest.
When you walk into a room to write with somebody, what are the first steps, or operating principles?
My operating principle is: Do I want to get to know this person, and do they want to get to know me at all, or do they just want to write a song and not want to open up?
If it's somebody who seems very open to talk, that's usually a good sign. And if not, then you just do what they want. You start writing a song and that's fine too. Sometimes there's great, catchy stuff. It's not always the deepest stuff.
Maybe they're the ones writing the lyrics, so maybe it is. But my operating principle is kind of, if I'm having a good time and everyone's having a good time, we're doing something good. We're not writing a bad song. We're just not. If we were writing a bad song in this room of professionals, we wouldn't be having a good time.
And when you're having a good time, good ideas do come. Even if they are silly at first and they're more openly accepted, and everything in the room is flowing better when those channels of enjoyment are sort of open, and everyone's laughing and having fun and dancing and being silly, that's how you get creative.
I don't know of many songwriters who are just dead serious. I've maybe met a couple. So I think my operating principle is to have a good time. That's going to be the funnest day, no matter what. It's probably going to be a better song for it if you're having fun and you like the people and they like you, and everything's going well.
Why is it crucial that the Recording Academy honor not only public-facing creators, but those behind the curtain?
I won't speak for myself as much as just the amazing people who I've worked with. You can't understand what kind of work has to go into a song. It's so funny, because it's a three-minute thing that sounds like most people can do it in an hour or something, but some of these things take months of work to get right.
I think it's really important to acknowledge everyone involved in each of the processes, because to give credit to just producers and artists, and then it's like, "Yeah, but the storytellers aren't even in the room," is like the congratulating a director and an actor, and then being like, the writer is s—. It's like, what? The movie wouldn't exist without them!
That just wouldn't happen. So, it feels like the right thing. I'm a bit overwhelmed and still a bit in disbelief, but it's snowing in LA, so miracles do happen.
What would you tell a young songwriter who wants to roll up their sleeves and do this?
I would say just be a good person and keep learning. Everyone's not perfect at the start. But if I had to give one piece of advice that was super, super important to me, is the good guys are winning in the end sometimes.
Like I said, the friendships and the artists, you don't want to come in being a d—. And I don't mean that strictly for men. I just mean whoever's coming in, you want to be a nice person. I think there's a lot of good people, and there's a lot of bad people too. You find your crew — energy finds energy.
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Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
The 2023 GRAMMYs Effect: Bad Bunny, Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo & More See Major Sales And Streams Boost After Record-Breaking Show
Take a look at the impressive gains that 2023 GRAMMYs winners and performers made in Spotify streams and album/song sales, from Beyoncé to Harry Styles.
The 2023 GRAMMYs weren't just historic, they were iconic — and the numbers show it.
The telecast itself saw a 30% increase in viewership, with more than 12.4 million viewers tuning into the Feb. 5 ceremony, the best ratings since 2020 per Nielsen data. In turn, several of the night's winners and performers saw major spikes in sales and streams.
Album Of The Year winner Harry Styles returned to the top 10 of the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart, as Harry's House — which also took home the GRAMMY for Best Pop Vocal Album — earned 38,000 equivalent album units in the U.S., a 51% gain. His previous two albums, 2019's Fine Line and his 2017 self-titled debut also made gains, the former up 15% and the latter up 11%.
Kendrick Lamar and Adele also enjoyed increases in sales and streams on several albums. Lamar — who won three GRAMMYs this year, including Best Rap Album for Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers — had a 20% gain for his fifth LP, as well as a 26% gain for 2015's To Pimp a Butterfly, 11% for 2017's DAMN., and 6% for 2012's good kid, m.A.A.d city.
Adele's 30 had a 25% increase in equivalent album units, while her 2015 album 25 went up 14% and 2011 release 21 went up 10%. (30's lead single, "Easy On Me," earned Adele her fifth GRAMMY for Best Pop Solo Performance — a record in the category.)
After Beyoncé made GRAMMY history at the 2023 ceremony with her 32nd win, her Best Dance/Electronic Music Album-winning RENAISSANCE made a huge jump. The album earned 37,000 equivalent album units, up 109%, helping Bey move from No. 24 to No. 11 on the Billboard 200.
Rising jazz star Samara Joy also had a monumental night, scoring the coveted GRAMMY for Best New Artist. As a result, her 2022 album, Linger Awhile, made its debut on the Billboard 200, with an equivalent album units gain of 319% and a 5,800% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S. The project also hit No. 1 on the Jazz Albums, Traditional Jazz Albums and Heatseekers Albums charts for the first time, as well as the top 10 of the Top Album Sales and Top Current Album Sales charts.
Blues great Bonnie Raitt's win for Song Of The Year (for her 2022 track "Just Like That") served as one of the night's biggest surprises, but also served as a catalyst for some serious streams and sales success. The song spiked from about 10,000 daily on-demand streams in the U.S. on Feb. 3 to 697,000 the day after the GRAMMYs (Feb. 6) — a gain of around 6,700% — according to Luminate. The song's sales were even better, gaining more than 10,000% on Feb. 6; the rest of Raitt's discography also climbed 161%, from 333,000 on-demand U.S. streams on Feb. 3 to 869,000 on Feb. 6.
Most of the 2023 GRAMMYs performers also celebrated sales and streams increases post-telecast. Show opener Bad Bunny saw gains on his GRAMMY-winning albumUn Verano Sin Ti (up 16%), as well as his 2020 albums YHLQMDLG (up 11%) and El Ultimo Tour del Mundo (up 8%). One of the songs Bad Bunny performed, Un Verano Sin Ti single "Despues de la Playa," also saw a 100% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S. in the hour following the telecast.
Lizzo delivered a soaring medley of her Record Of The Year-winning smash "About Damn Time" and the title track from her AOTY-nominated LP Special, the latter of which saw a 260% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S. after the show. Special also moved 11,000 equivalent album units, up 52%.
Steve Lacy won his first GRAMMY in the Premiere Ceremony, Best Progressive R&B Album for his album Gemini Rights. He also took the GRAMMYs stage for a sultry rendition of his hit "Bad Habit," all helping Lacy see a 16% increase in equivalent album units for Gemini Rights.
Sam Smith and Kim Petras also celebrated a historic win at the 2023 GRAMMYs, taking home Best Pop Duo/Group performance for their viral hit "Unholy" — marking the first win in the category by a trans woman. That moment, combined with the pair's risqué performance, helped the song see an almost 80% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S.
The heartfelt In Memoriam segment catalyzed stream increases, the biggest coming from Quavo's "Without U," which he sang in tribute to his late Migos bandmate and nephew Takeoff; the song jumped 890% in U.S. streams following the show. Fleetwood Mac's "Songbird," which Mick Fleetwood, Bonnie Raitt, and Sheryl Crow sang in honor of late Fleetwood Mac member Christine McVie, experienced an almost 100% increase in U.S. streams.
In other U.S. Spotify stream gains for performers, Harry Styles' "As It Was," saw a more than 75% increase; Brandi Carlile's "Broken Horses" saw a more than 2,700% increase; DJ Khaled's star-studded "God Did" (featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and John Legend) saw a more than 650% increase; Mary J. Blige's "Good Morning Gorgeous" saw a more than 390% increase.
Streaming numbers are from DKC News, a PR representative of Spotify.
12 Classic Moments From The 2023 GRAMMYs, From The Heartwarming To The Surreal
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Sam Smith & Kim Petras Deliver Fiery Performance of "Unholy" | 2023 GRAMMYs
Sam Smith and Kim Petras took the 65th GRAMMY Awards to the depths with a transgressive performance of their hit song.
Hey, daddy, daddy! Sam Smith and Kim Petras took the 2023 GRAMMYs to the body shop with a transgressive performance of their smash collaboration "Unholy."
Surrounded by long-haired acolytes in identical red sheaths, Smith kicked off the performance in an outfit of latex and a devil-horned top hat before Petras made her grand entrance in a giant cage guarded by a trio of she-devils. "Mummy don’t know daddy’s getting hot/ At the body shop, doin’ something unholy," the duo belted in hellish harmony as a wall of fire erupted on stage behind Petras’ personal prison.
The performance came shortly after the close pals accepted the GRAMMY for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, making Petras the very first trans woman to ever win in the category. In her giddy acceptance speech, the German pop princess gave a heartfelt shoutout to her late friend and collaborator SOPHIE, who helped pave the way with her own GRAMMY nomination in 2019 for Best Dance/Electronic Album for her album Oil of Every Pearl Un-Insides.
Speaking to the Recording Academy after she was nominated, Petras reflected on her place in the long line of trans GRAMMY nominees and winners, dating back to Wendy Carlos and, belatedly, Jackie Shane in the 1960s and ‘70s. "I’m proud," she told GRAMMY.com. "I just feel like they’ve all kind of been overlooked a lot, and never really got what they deserved regarding their influence…It’s cool to be in the same category as those artists that I really look up to."
Upon its September release, "Unholy" rocketed to the top of the charts all over the world, helping Smith and Petras become the first publicly non-binary and trans artists, respectively, to top the Billboard Hot 100.
The industrial dance track also provided a major breakthrough moment for Petras. Not only was "Unholy" her first No. 1, it was also her very first entry on the Billboard chart and first platinum-certified song by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Since receiving their joint nomination, Smith has released their fourth studio album Gloria and Petras has followed "Unholy" up with singles "If Jesus Was a Rock Star" and "brrr" in anticipation for her major-label debut full-length on Republic Records.
Check out the complete list of winners and nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs