searchsearch
10 Jazz Artists Blending And Expanding The Sounds Of Latin America: Miguel Zenón, Roxana Amed, Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Others
(L-R) Lauren Henderson, Arturo O’Farrill, Claudia Acuña, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Luciana Souza, Magos Herrera, Leo Genovese, Miguel Zenón, Roxana Amed, Camila Meza

Photos (L-R): Matt Baker, Jen Rosenstein, Hollis King, Pachy Lopez, Kim Fox, Shervin Lainez, courtesy of the artist, Herminio, Claudio Napolitano, Christopher Drukker

list

10 Jazz Artists Blending And Expanding The Sounds Of Latin America: Miguel Zenón, Roxana Amed, Gonzalo Rubalcaba & Others

“Latin jazz” is not — and will never be — a single, easily-defined entity. “I think it's still constantly unfolding,” one visionary artist says. “I think we are still looking into the question of who we really are.”

GRAMMYs/Oct 17, 2022 - 04:55 pm

If you're interested in investigating Latin jazz, two issues materialize from the phrase itself: both "Latin" and "jazz" can be interpreted as wildly freighted, reductive words.

"Jazz" is worth examining at the outset: many of its chief architects hated the word. Historically, it has connotations in the ballpark of sexual, low-down, dirty; saxophonist Gary Bartz considers it tantamount to a racial slur. That's where the alternative descriptors come in — like "modern music"; "creative music"; and "Black American Music," or "BAM."

Then there's "Latin," which refers to "Latin American"; that blanket of a word is generally understood to cover the entire South American continent in addition to Mexico, Central America, and the islands of the Caribbean whose populace speaks a Romance language.

It's human nature to categorize, to designate, to compartmentalize. But when "Latin jazz" becomes a genre tag, a marketing term, a music-industry silo, that's arguably when problems begin — first and foremost among the musicians thought by many to belong to that sphere.

Not all of them, of course. Some "Latin jazz" artists are generally fine with the genre tag, or consider it a necessary evil. Others prefer "Latinx" or "Ibero American" — the former, an inclusive neologism; the latter, an attempt to amalgamate countries and territories where Spanish and Portuguese are predominantly spoken.

But others — including some of the 10 musicians interviewed for this article — have concerns about it.

"I feel like it's the pure definition of a business to put people in categories," says Claudia Acuña, a vocalist, songwriter and arranger from Chile. "It's a very, very vast umbrella," notes Magos Herrera, a singer/songwriter and producer from Mexico. "The term 'Latin' never really feels comfortable for us," vocalist and composer Roxana Amed states, speaking to her Argentinian background.

Others push back a little harder.

"I don't really feel like that term represents me or my friends," says Leo Genovese, a pianist and composer hailing from Argentina. "I consider myself a jazz musician who happens to be from Latin America," clarifies Miguel Zenón, an alto saxophonist and composer born and raised in Puerto Rico. "Latin jazz is a way for the jazz industry to deal with those of us that have Hispanic surnames," declares Arturo O'Farrill, a Mexican, Cuban and Irish composer, pianist and educator.

Cuban pianist and composer Gonzalo Rubalcaba cites an album with vocalist Aymée Regla Nuviola, which was nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album at the 2023 GRAMMYs. While Rubalcaba heavily deals in Afro-Cuban influences on other records, "I don't see [it] as an Afro-Cuban album at all," he says.

Yet others consider the "Latin jazz" designation to be anywhere between a benign business reality, a point of debate and a positive challenge.

"[As] Argentinians, we never felt comfortable saying that we were Latin," Amed says. "It was almost weird to call myself a Latin jazz artist, because of that conception that the world had of Latin music," adds Camila Meza, a vocalist, guitarist and composer from Chile, noting the term's gradual reduction into Afro-Cuban and Brazilian rhythms.

"I'd rather not sit in any definition," says singer-songwriter Magos Herrera, "because [with] every single album that I record, I just push boundaries all the time."

Herrera's comment captures the reality of so many artists nominally within the "Latin jazz" world: They're far less interested in conforming to preconceived notions than expanding, blending, and furthering the sounds of Latin America — all with a jazzy approach.

Here are 10 artists who embody that spirit of transcending and often exploding the easy designation of "Latin jazz" — all with deep-rooted respect for their various heritages and the multiplicity of idioms in each.

LeoGenovese

Leo Genovese performing in 2014. Photo: Andy Sheppard/Redferns via Getty Images

Leo Genovese

Born and raised in Argentina, pianist and composer Genovese may be most visible right now as the touring keyboardist for reunited progressive rockers the Mars Volta. But it behooves anyone who catches that show to plumb Genovese's miles-deep back catalog. 

Since his early classical tutelage and graduation as a Progressive Music Major at Berklee College of Music in 2003, he's played with everyone from Esperanza Spalding to Wayne Shorter to Jack DeJohnette, and released a sizable handful of inspired albums as a leader or co-leader.

The New York Times once called Genovese a "polyglot," and that tracks when you ask him about the musicians who galvanize him — past and present. The answer is: everyone he encounters in his artistic journeys — even if he doesn't connect with their work.

"I love to listen and I love to see what people are into and what people are doing. And I think that all of that influences you, [whether] you want it or not," Genovese tells GRAMMY.com. "[At times], I'm like, "That gets me thinking, and gets me rolling, and gets me going, and gets my machine oily." (Lately, that's applied to sets he caught by saxophonist Kenny Garrett, Mexican heavy metal band Molotov, and Argentinian rapper Trueno.)

"I think I became more interested in the music that blew [or, had improvisational qualities] and that represents either Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, or Paraguay," Genovese says, as opposed to just the music of his home country. "You name it — any of the nations."

When asked what recent project of his interweaves Latin American influences in an especially unique way, Genovese points to Ritual, his 2022 album with bassist Demian Cabaud, drummer Jeff Williams, and on four tracks, vocalist Nadia Larcher — who hails from Catamarca in northwestern Argentina.

"There is some Argentinian folkloric DNA element in there," Genovese says. And that entails influences from all over — ones listeners might not immediately think of, but that harmonize with sociocultural and anthropological history.

"Cousins and sisters and far-away relatives of this music were merging in different parts of the continent with the mixture of African people, Indigenous people, and European people," Genovese explains. "All of this is something that's still giving fruit — and it's kind of new in the history of the whole universe, in a way. 

"I think it's still constantly unfolding," he adds. "I think we are still looking into the question of who we really are."

LucianaSouza

Luciana Souza. Photo: Kim Fox

Luciana Souza

Born in São Paulo to bossa-nova musician parents, the dynamic singer/songwriter Souza has been around long enough to remember the days of Tower Records — and where they slotted her releases.

"I was Latin jazz, or Brazilian; it was just so it was easier," she tells GRAMMY.com. "I never found it stifling. I just thought, 'OK, you call it that.' And then within that, I'll just keep pushing the boundaries."

Souza doesn't try to hedge or obfuscate her Brazilian heritage; it permeates virtually everything she does. (She still cites
Antônio Carlos Jobim as "the most important musician in my life.) From there, what makes her work porous, pliant and mutable is that she fused Brazilian musics with jazz.

"What I love about the word 'jazz' is that it opens everything. Jazz can be anything, right?" Souza says. "It can be hip-hop; it can be soul; it can be funk; it can be Brazilian; it can be Latin." 

Long ago, she made the decision to not feel put-upon by the "Latin jazz" label: "It doesn't advance the cause of anything. What's important about the title for me is the 'jazz' word. The fact that somebody called me a 'jazz' anything: I'm happy about that, because jazz is the one that's breaking all the walls and boundaries."

A native Portuguese speaker who sings in Spanish, Souza has been nominated for seven GRAMMYs over the years; she won one, for Album Of The Year, at the 2008 GRAMMYs for her work on Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters. (She sang Mitchell's Hejira cut "Amelia.")

For a recent example of her inclination to "push the boundaries," Souza cites 2020's
Storytellers, her collaborative album with American producer, arranger and conductor Vince Mendoza and the WDR Big Band Köln — a German ensemble.

"It's Brazilian music, but it's not being played by Brazilians," Souza explains. "The only Brazilian on the record is me, so the other folks have to translate this music."

Storytellers consists of well-known material by luminaries from Chico Pinheiro to Edu Lobo to Chico Buarque to Gilberto Gil, but Souza's unique execution and blending of perspectives makes these songs personal — reaching toward an entirely new zone.

"That's the great thing about music, is that we don't speak the same language," Souza says. "One is speaking English, one Portuguese, one German — but in the end, we all come in together."

MagosHerrera

Magos Herrera. Photo: Shervin Lainez

Magos Herrera


Tracing the taxonomy of "Latin jazz" in detail, through time and place and sound, would be a lifelong proposition. Magos Herrera is acutely aware of the oceanic nature of this subject, and notes how simple genre tags can fail in summarizing or encapsulating it all.<em></em>

"To find definitions is not too clever," the Mexican-born singer-songwriter and producer tells GRAMMY.com. "Let's just say that jazz these days is taking such a vast direction."

Herrera tries gamely to unpack the Latin aspect of the genre tag, and notes how it comes up short. "Are we talking about just the Caribbeans? Are we talking about the whole continent? Are we talking about the Ibero Americas, Spain, Portugal, and Latin America? My relationship with it is: no definitions."

Through all the divergent cultures and musics of Latin America, Herrera says, there's an ineffable, binding spirit. That spirit magnetizes her: although she was influenced by American vocalists like Carmen McRae, Betty Carter and Sarah Vaughan, she identifies more with singers like Elis Regina, from Brazil.

"Jazz artists are either revisiting the jazz standard repertoire — The Real Book — or they're embracing the contemporary jazz repertoire by the scene that's going on right now, or singers are adding lyrics to jazz classics, or they're taking pop songs and rearranging them into a jazz context," Herrera explains.

"For a Latin American artist, we're doing exactly the same," she adds. "But our popular music are all these incredible folk artists that wrote a very prolific songbook during the last century."

Herrera's artistry partly involves imbuing said works with jazzy approaches — like a livewire sense of interplay, fresh harmonic sophistication, and the introduction of new meters and tempi.

"It's very easy, if you're a jazz artist, to get lost in translation and just do something that surpasses the nature of the song," she explains. "So you have to be very careful and very tasteful, so you don't lose the weight of the song."

One window into Herrera's unique approach is 2018's Dreamers, her collaborative album with string quartet Brooklyn Rider. Dreamers focuses on selections from what she calls the "Ibero American songbook" — like those by João Gilberto and Gilberto Gil — as well as pieces written to texts by Octavio Paz, Rubén Darío, and Federico García Lorca.

What partly binds these poets and songwriters? According to a press bio, "they came from places that have endured brutal state violence." Herrera and company also chose jazz and classical arrangers from a Latin American background, like Jaques Morelenbaum, Gonzalo Grau and Guillermo Klein.

"The arrangements have the harmonic richness of jazz. The lines, how they're written, are a conversation all the time," Herrera says. "Sometimes I use my voice as an instrument as well; I have all these conversations going on with the quartet. But also there are these little moments when it opens up, and I'm able to improvise."

"My next album," she teases, "is going to be something like that too."

ArturoOFarrill

Arturo O'Farrill. Photo: Jen Rosenstein

Arturo O'Farrill

Right off the bat, O'Farrill brings up a crucial point: Latin America isn't some sort of sidestream or tributary of the jazz tradition. Rather, without its primary and essential influence, it would be unrecognizable.

"'The term 'Latin jazz' is a way to program this or that artist into this or that single slot on the festival to write this or that artist into the one chapter — or paragraph — of the book," O'Farrill, a five-time GRAMMY winner, tells GRAMMY.com.

"But in a way, Latinos — or Latinx people — have been taking part in the jazz experience since the beginning," he adds, citing the foundational 1800s pianist and composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk.

O'Farrill was born in Mexico City to musical parents — Mexican singer Lupe Valero and pioneering Cuban jazz trumpeter and composer Chico O'Farrill.

"In a way, I was very resistant to the music of my father," O'Farrill says regarding his early life, "because it was Latin and in an Anglo country, feeling ostracized and even self-deprecating."

But that connection proved foundational to O'Farrill, who was already communing with the "African conversational practice" via musical moments like Herbie Hancock's solo on "Seven Steps to Heaven."

Plus, the elder O'Farrill's close friendship with Dizzy Gillespie — who did a tremendous amount to bridge the spheres of modern jazz and Afro-Cuban music, thus helping codify Afro-Cuban jazz — set the stage for his son's life's work.

"Dizzy was also a big part of my entrance into the idea that Latinos could take part in the jazz experiment," O'Farrill explains. "Like Wynton, like Louis Armstrong, he understood that jazz was a natural Latino experience — that the music that we call jazz has also been filtered through Cuba and Columbia and Peru and Mexico."

All these traditions and more coalesce throughout his work; and O'Farrill cites 2015's "The Afro Latin Jazz Suite," which won a GRAMMY in 2016 for Best Instrumental Composition.

"I embraced festejo; I embraced mambo; I embraced djembe patterns," he says about that piece. And in general, "I have no qualms about mixing Colombian rhythms with Peruvian rhythms, with reggaeton and hip-hop.

"All of these things are fair; they're beautiful; they're fair game," O'Farrill continues, citing the 2008 book Secular Devotion and its assertion that virtually all music derives from African religious practice.

"I get to mix all these rhythms, and I don't do it in a sloppy way," he says. "I really try to be genuine about it."

CamilaMeza

Camila Meza. Photo: Christopher Drukker

Camila Meza

When Camila Meza first absorbed the American jazz guitar greats — ranging from George Benson to Pat Metheny to Wes Montgomery — she noticed an unexpected thread through their works.

"Several of the first guitarists I got super-interested in were actually using elements of Latin music in their compositions," the Chilean vocalist, guitarist and composer tells GRAMMY.com. "So, I got into jazz through the connection that some American musicians had with Latin music."

Tracing that thread deeper and deeper into the heart of the music, Meza began incorporating Latin American compositions into her repertoire — just as stateside musicians pull material from the Great American Songbook. Simultaneously, this material influenced her writing and arranging.

"I would pick, for instance, a rhythm — let's say an Argentinian zamba, with a z, not with s — and then kind of experiment with that rhythm as well," Meza says. "I like to take cells of these rhythms, or the general feel, and then incorporate my own voice and experiment with them."

This mixing and matching, she explains, could apply to the meter, the instrumentation, or any number of other musical components.

To hear this approach in action, check out Ambar, Meza's 2019 album with the Nectar Orchestra. Therein, Meza juxtaposes material by American artists like Elliott Smith ("Waltz #1") and David Bowie with the Pat Metheny Group ("This is Not America") with originals like "Kalifu" and "Awaken." It also contains Latin American classics, like Jobim's "Olha Maria" and Tomás Méndez's "Cucurrucucú Paloma."

In crafting their arrangements, Meza was influenced by certain string parts on Latin American albums that are "very, very intense and dramatic and lyrical." She also reharmonized some of the well-worn compositions to render them fresh, personal and forward-thinking.

"Every time I take a song from anywhere, really, it goes through that process of experimenting with its harmony, experimenting with the rhythm, and making it so that it fits the message and the spirit that I want to put into the song," Meza says.

"I have inherited all this knowledge and these sounds from the folklore of both South America and the United States," she continues, "but at the same time, I have developed a sound that I consider my own."

GonzaloRubalcaba

Gonzalo Rubalcaba. Photo: Pachy Lopez

Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Gonzalo Rubalcaba, an esteemed pianist and composer who hails from Cuba, stresses that his home country's music is highly distinctive in and of itself.

"We can see a lot of common things between Cuba and many of the islands around. But at the same time, we see a huge contrast in many different aspects," the three-time GRAMMY winner tells GRAMMY.com. "[Historically], Cuba has been really, really well-defined in the way that musicians there produce the music."

This unmistakable tradition is inseparable from much of Rubalcaba's work — like 2015's Suite Caminos, which earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best Latin Jazz Album. "I went directly to the Afro-Cuban roots in terms of the rhythm, chantings, melodies, and history behind that music," he says.

But then there are Rubalcaba offerings where he "injects himself" a little more — like 2011's XXI Century.

"Even when we can definitely find some aspect of Afro-Cuban music on this record, this is not an Afro-Cuban recording because it is not the main subject," he says. "I'm trying to do something totally different… this record is not coming directly from Afro-Cuban [tradition] in its totality."

Whether or not he hews closely to said vocabulary, Rubalcaba's works wind up consistently personal. This is partly due to how he conceptualizes each work, which runs counter to many of his fellow composers.

"I don't feel able to put a name on top of [my works at the outset], because I'm not thinking about that when I make music or compose my music," Rubalcaba says. "I'm not saying that this is good or bad, [but] I'm not working like that. At the end, I see the whole picture and then I can realize what the record is about."

Each resulting record could reveal any combination of the influences in his wheelhouse, but one through-line is certain: like every artist on this list, regardless of deeply into the past he reaches, Rubalcaba's works represent something new forward-thinking because he made them.

LaurenHenderson

Lauren Henderson. Photo: Matt Baker

Lauren Henderson

An American-born singer-songwriter deeply informed by her Afro-Latinx heritage, Henderson experienced dissonance growing up in the decidedly non-diverse town of Marblehead, Massachusetts.

"It wasn't diverse socioeconomically, either. There were people who were very fortunate and had certain privileges that many other people around the world do not," Henderson explains to GRAMMY.com. "I think you have to do a lot of work in all social situations and all types of relationships that you have." She adds that she didn't feel "completely accepted or enough of this or enough of that — Black enough, Latinx enough, what have you."

Henderson, whose family can be found all over Panama and the Caribbean, identifies as Afro-Latina. She also personally embraces the term "Latinx," citing it as a counterweight to "the lack of representation in a lot of the entertainment industry, historically — especially for artists who look like me, or who will be recognized for their contribution to Latinx music."

"Bending and being open to flexibility" is crucial to her artistry, Henderson says: "I'm always open to the fact that my image, my self, sense of self, my identity, and all of these things grow with my personal view on my voice in this community and in this music."

In Marblehead, Henderson became more and more curious about her background and identity. Traveling fueled that urge toward self-exploration: "I would come across different people, and they would see different things in [me], or ask me different questions about my background. I didn't have the answer to some of these things, so I delved deeper. It happened to coincide a lot with my passion for music and languages emerging and bubbling."

This came to a head on 2021's Musa, which features first-call accompanists in pianist Sullivan Fortner, bassist Eric Wheeler, and drummer Joe Dyson, and braids jazz, R&B, soul, and flamenco. "I felt like I've been melding these things and then paying homage to all of the influences that I've had that have helped shape me," Henderson says, pointing aheads to future works that deepen this communion with her background.

"I'm excited to learn more about my heritage all across the world," she adds. "Music has been a vehicle to do that."

ClaudiaAcuna

Claudia Acuña. Photo: Hollis King

Claudia Acuña

Growing up under the authoritarian military dictatorship in Chile, vocalist, songwriter and arranger Claudia Acuña had a friend help set up an antenna to other countries. This way, she heard Frank Sinatra, AC/DC, and the Jackson 5 — along with tangos, folk music, and cumbias.

This planted the seed in Acuña's mind that music didn't have to be one thing — and jazz, which she heard in the musicals she watched with her mother, was the prime vehicle for evading easy designations.

"[More than] any other music, it gave me those wings," Acuña tells GRAMMY.com. "Not having access to things like music school or being in a band, you start creating these things in your head and singing on your own and creating this sort of language and voice, learning from records and whatever I could get my hands, or ears, on."

As Acuña continued to develop, she established herself in the Santiago jazz scene; upon arriving in New York City in 1995, Acuña rapidly established herself there, with the legendary West Village club Smalls as a hub of creativity and activity.

Within the NYC scene, Acuña went on to collaborate with everyone from O'Farrill to trumpeter Avishai Cohen to the late pianist Harry Whitaker. And in recent times, she's worked with leading lights like pianists Fred Hersch and Kenny Barron, and bassist Christian McBride.

Acuña's catalog as a leader, ranging from 2002's Rhythm of Life to 2009's En Este Momento, is imbued with an exploratory spirit, whether giving Great American Songbook standards a South American spin or expanding upon the Afro-Caribbean rhythmic toolbox.

Lately, Acuña's been in a place of gratitude and joy, reveling in the "unapologetic" freedom she's afforded herself in this artistic space. "When you're doing the music that you love, it's like being in a lavender bubble," Acuña says. "It's an amazing tool and opportunity to document a moment that is going to live beyond my own life."

MiguelZenon

Miguel Zenón. Photo: Herminio

Miguel Zenón

The cerebral, fiery and lyrical alto saxophonist and composer Miguel Zenón wouldn't describe what he does as "Latin jazz." But that doesn't mean he's in some way disconnected from his roots — it's the opposite.

"I'm very connected to what I am and where I come from. I try to represent that in what I do physically as a person," Zenón tells GRAMMY.com. "It's a big part of my music — being from Latin America, being from Puerto Rico."

Zenón's work has long been characterized as straddling the traditions of American jazz and Latin American idioms, and those of tradition and innovation — and these tendencies were partly initiated when he arrived at Berklee School of Music in Boston.

"My main thing was I just wanted to play like Charlie Parker and Coltrane and Cannonball," he told The New York Times in 2021. "But I quickly came to understand that I really didn't know my music, the music of Puerto Rico. If I wanted to play something slow, instead of playing standards from the Great American Songbook, I'd rather go into my world, you know?"

This rapprochement between stateside jazz and the music of his home country has led to an eclectic and rewarding discography — which features some of the most dynamic and head-turning alto playing on the New York jazz scene.

These include 2011's ethnomusicological Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook and 2021's El Arte del Bolero, an intimate, jazzy take on boleros with his longtime musical partner, pianist Luis Perdomo. He's also recorded album-length tributes to Ornette Coleman and Puerto Rican singer and composer Ismael Rivera.

And all of these big swings feel earned, as Zenón is something of a lifelong student — and all you need to do to behold the fruits of his explorations is pick up one of his records or check him out live.

"I do the research," Zenón says. "I try to delve into the information, and be as well-versed as possible, and have as much information to deal with as possible. And then, I find common threads, common elements and things that work well together."

RoxanaAmed

Roxana Amed. Photo: Claudio Napolitano

Roxana Amed

Amed, a vocalist and composer originally from Argentina, remembers the press cycle for her 2021 album Ontology as something of a crossroads. The album had been nominated for two Latin GRAMMYs — and Amed wanted to avoid being pigeonholed as a result.

"Don't expect me to be doing big-ensemble music, or strong, loud music, or brass music, or music for dancing — the uptempo thing that in general, Latin jazz suggests," Amed tells GRAMMY.com, paraphrasing her expressions during one interview. "I can speak Spanish, but still, the approach of this album is not exactly as any other Latin musician would use."

Amed's care and detail in her self-presentation certainly applies to her music; therein, she pays sharp attention to how Argentine and American musics have commingled throughout history.

"Those musicians approached their music using some American jazz tools," she says. "It was not only our own blending in each country, but it was the Black influence — like in Peruvian music."

Amed's ongoing analyses in this regard have informed her ability to gracefully walk between worlds — whether in her original work; interpreting the work of luminaries like Joni Mitchell, Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter; or paying tribute to giants like tango composer, arranger, and bandoneon player Astor Piazzolla.

"I think the best we can do — Latin jazz musicians, or whatever — is really know the language, know the American tradition, and know very well your own and try to see if that blending doesn't kill anyone in the process," Amed says. "Because sometimes you say, 'Oh, I will play this as if it were some other thing. And then you kill it; you kill the heart of the song."

Amed is in no danger of doing this; thanks to her acute artistic vision and understanding of her place in the canon, Amed helps them take root, grow and propagate into a matrix of fresh inspirations. The songs are safe with her.

The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy's Voting Membership.

America Has Birthed A Wealth Of Musical Forms. These Indigenous Artists Want To Know Where They Fit Into Them.

A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 

list

A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea

James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.

Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.

Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.

In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.

Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.

There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Say She She

Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.

While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."

Moniquea

Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.

Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.

Shiro Schwarz

Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.

Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.

L'Impératrice

L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.

During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.

Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.

The Rise Of Underground House: How Artists Like Fisher & Acraze Have Taken Tech House, Other Electronic Genres From Indie To EDC

Living Legends: Billy Idol On Survival, Revival & Breaking Out Of The Cage
Billy Idol

Photo: Steven Sebring

interview

Living Legends: Billy Idol On Survival, Revival & Breaking Out Of The Cage

"One foot in the past and one foot into the future," Billy Idol says, describing his decade-spanning career in rock. "We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol."

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:19 pm

Living Legends is a series that spotlights icons in music still going strong today. This week, GRAMMY.com spoke with Billy Idol about his latest EP,  Cage, and continuing to rock through decades of changing tastes.

Billy Idol is a true rock 'n' roll survivor who has persevered through cultural shifts and personal struggles. While some may think of Idol solely for "Rebel Yell" and "White Wedding," the singer's musical influences span genres and many of his tunes are less turbo-charged than his '80s hits would belie.  

Idol first made a splash in the latter half of the '70s with the British punk band Generation X. In the '80s, he went on to a solo career combining rock, pop, and punk into a distinct sound that transformed him and his musical partner, guitarist Steve Stevens, into icons. They have racked up multiple GRAMMY nominations, in addition to one gold, one double platinum, and four platinum albums thanks to hits like "Cradle Of Love," "Flesh For Fantasy," and "Eyes Without A Face." 

But, unlike many legacy artists, Idol is anything but a relic. Billy continues to produce vital Idol music by collaborating with producers and songwriters — including Miley Cyrus — who share his forward-thinking vision. He will play a five-show Vegas residency in November, and filmmaker Jonas Akerlund is working on a documentary about Idol’s life. 

His latest release is Cage, the second in a trilogy of annual four-song EPs. The title track is a classic Billy Idol banger expressing the desire to free himself from personal constraints and live a better life. Other tracks on Cage incorporate metallic riffing and funky R&B grooves. 

Idol continues to reckon with his demons — they both grappled with addiction during the '80s — and the singer is open about those struggles on the record and the page. (Idol's 2014 memoir Dancing With Myself, details a 1990 motorcycle accident that nearly claimed a leg, and how becoming a father steered him to reject hard drugs. "Bitter Taste," from his last EP, The Roadside, reflects on surviving the accident.)

Although Idol and Stevens split in the late '80s — the skilled guitarist fronted Steve Stevens & The Atomic Playboys, and collaborated with Michael Jackson, Rick Ocasek, Vince Neil, and Harold Faltermeyer (on the GRAMMY-winning "Top Gun Anthem") —  their common history and shared musical bond has been undeniable. The duo reunited in 2001 for an episode of "VH1 Storytellers" and have been back in the saddle for two decades. Their union remains one of the strongest collaborations in rock 'n roll history.

While there is recognizable personnel and a distinguishable sound throughout a lot of his work, Billy Idol has always pushed himself to try different things. Idol discusses his musical journey, his desire to constantly move forward, and the strong connection that he shares with Stevens. 

Steve has said that you like to mix up a variety of styles, yet everyone assumes you're the "Rebel Yell"/"White Wedding" guy. But if they really listen to your catalog, it's vastly different.

Yeah, that's right. With someone like Steve Stevens, and then back in the day Keith Forsey producing... [Before that] Generation X actually did move around inside punk rock. We didn't stay doing just the Ramones two-minute music. We actually did a seven-minute song. [Laughs]. We did always mix things up. 

Then when I got into my solo career, that was the fun of it. With someone like Steve, I knew what he could do. I could see whatever we needed to do, we could nail it. The world was my oyster musically. 

"Cage" is a classic-sounding Billy Idol rocker, then "Running From The Ghost" is almost metal, like what the Devil's Playground album was like back in the mid-2000s. "Miss Nobody" comes out of nowhere with this pop/R&B flavor. What inspired that?

We really hadn't done anything like that since something like "Flesh For Fantasy" [which] had a bit of an R&B thing about it. Back in the early days of Billy Idol, "Hot In The City" and "Mony Mony" had girls [singing] on the backgrounds. 

We always had a bit of R&B really, so it was actually fun to revisit that. We just hadn't done anything really quite like that for a long time. That was one of the reasons to work with someone like Sam Hollander [for the song "Rita Hayworth"] on The Roadside. We knew we could go [with him] into an R&B world, and he's a great songwriter and producer. That's the fun of music really, trying out these things and seeing if you can make them stick. 

I listen to new music by veteran artists and debate that with some people. I'm sure you have those fans that want their nostalgia, and then there are some people who will embrace the newer stuff. Do you find it’s a challenge to reach people with new songs?

Obviously, what we're looking for is, how do we somehow have one foot in the past and one foot into the future? We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol. 

You want to do things that are true to you, and you don't just want to try and do things that you're seeing there in the charts today. I think that we're achieving it with things like "Running From The Ghost" and "Cage" on this new EP. I think we’re managing to do both in a way. 

Obviously, "Running From The Ghost" is about addiction, all the stuff that you went through, and in "Cage" you’re talking about  freeing yourself from a lot of personal shackles. Was there any one moment in your life that made you really thought I have to not let this weigh me down anymore?

I mean, things like the motorcycle accident I had, that was a bit of a wake up call way back. It was 32 years ago. But there were things like that, years ago, that gradually made me think about what I was doing with my life. I didn't want to ruin it, really. I didn't want to throw it away, and it made [me] be less cavalier. 

I had to say to myself, about the drugs and stuff, that I've been there and I've done it. There’s no point in carrying on doing it. You couldn't get any higher. You didn't want to throw your life away casually, and I was close to doing that. It took me a bit of time, but then gradually I was able to get control of myself to a certain extent [with] drugs and everything. And I think Steve's done the same thing. We're on a similar path really, which has been great because we're in the same boat in terms of lyrics and stuff. 

So a lot of things like that were wake up calls. Even having grandchildren and just watching my daughter enlarging her family and everything; it just makes you really positive about things and want to show a positive side to how you're feeling, about where you're going. We've lived with the demons so long, we've found a way to live with them. We found a way to be at peace with our demons, in a way. Maybe not completely, but certainly to where we’re enjoying what we do and excited about it.

[When writing] "Running From The Ghost" it was easy to go, what was the ghost for us? At one point, we were very drug addicted in the '80s. And Steve in particular is super sober [now]. I mean, I still vape pot and stuff. I don’t know how he’s doing it, but it’s incredible. All I want to be able to do is have a couple of glasses of wine at a restaurant or something. I can do that now.

I think working with people that are super talented, you just feel confident. That is a big reason why you open up and express yourself more because you feel comfortable with what's around you.

Did you watch Danny Boyle's recent Sex Pistols mini-series?

I did, yes.

You had a couple of cameos; well, an actor who portrayed you did. How did you react to it? How accurate do you think it was in portraying that particular time period?

I love Jonesy’s book, I thought his book was incredible. It's probably one of the best bio books really. It was incredible and so open. I was looking forward to that a lot.

It was as if [the show] kind of stayed with Steve [Jones’ memoir] about halfway through, and then departed from it. [John] Lydon, for instance, was never someone I ever saw acting out; he's more like that today. I never saw him do something like jump up in the room and run around going crazy. The only time I saw him ever do that was when they signed the recording deal with Virgin in front of Buckingham Palace. Whereas Sid Vicious was always acting out; he was always doing something in a horrible way or shouting at someone. I don't remember John being like that. I remember him being much more introverted.

But then I watched interviews with some of the actors about coming to grips with the parts they were playing. And they were saying, we knew punk rock happened but just didn't know any of the details. So I thought well, there you go. If ["Pistol" is]  informing a lot of people who wouldn't know anything about punk rock, maybe that's what's good about it.

Maybe down the road John Lydon will get the chance to do John's version of the Pistols story. Maybe someone will go a lot deeper into it and it won't be so surface. But maybe you needed this just to get people back in the flow.

We had punk and metal over here in the States, but it feels like England it was legitimately more dangerous. British society was much more rigid.

It never went [as] mega in America. It went big in England. It exploded when the Pistols did that interview with [TV host Bill] Grundy, that lorry truck driver put his boot through his own TV, and all the national papers had "the filth and the fury" [headlines].

We went from being unknown to being known overnight. We waited a year, Generation X. We even told them [record labels] no for nine months to a year. Every record company wanted their own punk rock group. So it went really mega in England, and it affected the whole country – the style, the fashions, everything. I mean, the Ramones were massive in England. Devo had a No. 1 song [in England] with "Satisfaction" in '77. Actually, Devo was as big as or bigger than the Pistols.

You were ahead of the pop-punk thing that happened in the late '90s, and a lot of it became tongue-in-cheek by then. It didn't have the same sense of rebelliousness as the original movement. It was more pop.

It had become a style. There was a famous book in England called Revolt Into Style — and that's what had happened, a revolt that turned into style which then they were able to duplicate in their own way. Even recently, Billie Joe [Armstrong] did his own version of "Gimme Some Truth," the Lennon song we covered way back in 1977.

When we initially were making [punk] music, it hadn't become accepted yet. It was still dangerous and turned into a style that people were used to. We were still breaking barriers.

You have a band called Generation Sex with Steve Jones and Paul Cook. I assume you all have an easier time playing Pistols and Gen X songs together now and not worrying about getting spit on like back in the '70s?

Yeah, definitely. When I got to America I told the group I was putting it together, "No one spits at the audience."

We had five years of being spat on [in the UK], and it was revolting. And they spat at you if they liked you. If they didn't like it they smashed your gear up. One night, I remember I saw blood on my T-shirt, and I think Joe Strummer got meningitis when spit went in his mouth.

You had to go through a lot to become successful, it wasn't like you just kind of got up there and did a couple of gigs. I don't think some young rock bands really get that today.

With punk going so mega in England, we definitely got a leg up. We still had a lot of work to get where we got to, and rightly so because you find out that you need to do that. A lot of groups in the old days would be together three to five years before they ever made a record, and that time is really important. In a way, what was great about punk rock for me was it was very much a learning period. I really learned a lot [about] recording music and being in a group and even writing songs.

Then when I came to America, it was a flow, really. I also really started to know what I wanted Billy Idol to be. It took me a little bit, but I kind of knew what I wanted Billy Idol to be. And even that took a while to let it marinate.

You and Miley Cyrus have developed a good working relationship in the last several years. How do you think her fans have responded to you, and your fans have responded to her?

I think they're into it. It's more the record company that she had didn't really get "Night Crawling"— it was one of the best songs on Plastic Hearts, and I don't think they understood that. They wanted to go with Dua Lipa, they wanted to go with the modern, young acts, and I don't think they realized that that song was resonating with her fans. Which is a shame really because, with Andrew Watt producing, it's a hit song.

But at the same time, I enjoyed doing it. It came out really good and it's very Billy Idol. In fact, I think it’s more Billy Idol than Miley Cyrus. I think it shows you where Andrew Watt was. He was excited about doing a Billy Idol track. She's fun to work with. She’s a really great person and she works at her singing — I watched her rehearsing for the Super Bowl performance she gave. She rehearsed all Saturday morning, all Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning and it was that afternoon. I have to admire her fortitude. She really cares.

I remember when you went on "Viva La Bamback in 2005 and decided to give Bam Margera’s Lamborghini a new sunroof by taking a power saw to it. Did he own that car? Was that a rental?

I think it was his car.

Did he get over it later on?

He loved it. [Laughs] He’s got a wacky sense of humor. He’s fantastic, actually. I’m really sorry to see what he's been going through just lately. He's going through a lot, and I wish him the best. He's a fantastic person, and it's a shame that he's struggling so much with his addictions. I know what it's like. It's not easy.

Musically, what is the synergy like with you guys during the past 10 years, doing Kings and Queens of the Underground and this new stuff? What is your working relationship like now in this more sober, older, mature version of you two as opposed to what it was like back in the '80s?

In lots of ways it’s not so different because we always wrote the songs together, we always talked about what we're going to do together. It was just that we were getting high at the same time.We're just not getting [that way now] but we're doing all the same things.

We're still talking about things, still [planning] things:What are we going to do next? How are we going to find new people to work with? We want to find new producers. Let's be a little bit more timely about putting stuff out.That part of our relationship is the same, you know what I mean? That never got affected. We just happened to be overloading in the '80s.

The relationship’s… matured and it's carrying on being fruitful, and I think that's pretty amazing. Really, most people don't get to this place. Usually, they hate each other by now. [Laughs] We also give each other space. We're not stopping each other doing things outside of what we’re working on together. All of that enables us to carry on working together. I love and admire him. I respect him. He's been fantastic. I mean, just standing there on stage with him is always a treat. And he’s got an immensely great sense of humor. I think that's another reason why we can hang together after all this time because we've got the sense of humor to enable us to go forward.

There's a lot of fan reaction videos online, and I noticed a lot of younger women like "Rebel Yell" because, unlike a lot of other '80s alpha male rock tunes, you're talking about satisfying your lover.

It was about my girlfriend at the time, Perri Lister. It was about how great I thought she was, how much I was in love with her, and how great women are, how powerful they are.

It was a bit of a feminist anthem in a weird way. It was all about how relationships can free you and add a lot to your life. It was a cry of love, nothing to do with the Civil War or anything like that. Perri was a big part of my life, a big part of being Billy Idol. I wanted to write about it. I'm glad that's the effect.

Is there something you hope people get out of the songs you've been doing over the last 10 years? Do you find yourself putting out a message that keeps repeating?

Well, I suppose, if anything, is that you can come to terms with your life, you can keep a hold of it. You can work your dreams into reality in a way and, look, a million years later, still be enjoying it.

The only reason I'm singing about getting out of the cage is because I kicked out of the cage years ago. I joined Generation X when I said to my parents, "I'm leaving university, and I'm joining a punk rock group." And they didn't even know what a punk rock group was. Years ago, I’d write things for myself that put me on this path, so that maybe in 2022 I could sing something like "Cage" and be owning this territory and really having a good time. This is the life I wanted.

The original UK punk movement challenged societal norms. Despite all the craziness going on throughout the world, it seems like a lot of modern rock bands are afraid to do what you guys were doing. Do you think we'll see a shift in that?

Yeah.  Art usually reacts to things, so I would think eventually there will be a massive reaction to the pop music that’s taken over — the middle of the road music, and then this kind of right wing politics. There will be a massive reaction if there's not already one. I don’t know where it will come from exactly. You never know who's gonna do [it].

Living Legends: Nancy Sinatra Reflects On Creating "Power And Magic" In Studio, Developing A Legacy Beyond "Boots" & The Pop Stars She Wants To Work With

Hear All Of The Best Country Solo Performance Nominees For The 2023 GRAMMY Awards
2023 GRAMMYs

Graphic: The Recording Academy

list

Hear All Of The Best Country Solo Performance Nominees For The 2023 GRAMMY Awards

The 2023 GRAMMY Award nominees for Best Country Solo Performance highlight country music's newcomers and veterans, featuring hits from Kelsea Ballerini, Zach Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris and Willie Nelson.

GRAMMYs/Nov 23, 2022 - 03:01 pm

Country music's evolution is well represented in the 2023 GRAMMY nominees for Best Country Solo Performance. From crossover pop hooks to red-dirt outlaw roots, the genre's most celebrated elements are on full display — thanks to rising stars, leading ladies and country icons.

Longtime hitmaker Miranda Lambert delivered a soulful performance on the rootsy ballad "In His Arms," an arrangement as sparing as the windswept west Texas highlands where she co-wrote the song. Viral newcomer Zach Bryan dug into similar organic territory on the Oklahoma side of the Red River for "Something in the Orange," his voice accompanied with little more than an acoustic guitar.

Two of country's 2010s breakout stars are clearly still shining, too, as Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini both received Best Country Solo Performance GRAMMY nods. Morris channeled the determination that drove her leap-of-faith move from Texas to Nashville for the playful clap-along "Circles Around This Town," while Ballerini brought poppy hooks with a country edge on the infectiously upbeat "HEARTFIRST."

Rounding out the category is the one and only Willie Nelson, who paid tribute to his late friend Billy Joe Shaver with a cover of "Live Forever" — a fitting sentiment for the 89-year-old legend, who is approaching his eighth decade in the business. 

As the excitement builds for the 2023 GRAMMYs on Feb. 5, 2023, let's take a closer look at this year's nominees for Best Country Solo Performance.

Kelsea Ballerini — "HEARTFIRST"

In the tradition of Shania Twain, Faith Hill and Carrie Underwood, Kelsea Ballerini represents Nashville's sunnier side — and her single "HEARTFIRST" is a slice of bright, uptempo, confectionary country-pop for the ages.

Ballerini sings about leaning into a carefree crush with her heart on her sleeve, pushing aside her reservations and taking a risk on love at first sight. The scene plays out in a bar room and a back seat, as she sweeps nimbly through the verses and into a shimmering chorus, when the narrator decides she's ready to "wake up in your T-shirt." 

There are enough steel guitar licks to let you know you're listening to a country song, but the story and melody are universal. "HEARTFIRST" is Ballerini's third GRAMMY nod, but first in the Best Country Solo Performance category.

Zach Bryan — "Something In The Orange"

Zach Bryan blew into Music City seemingly from nowhere in 2017, when his original song "Heading South" — recorded on an iPhone — went viral. Then an active officer in the U.S. Navy, the Oklahoma native chased his muse through music during his downtime, striking a chord with country music fans on stark songs led by his acoustic guitar and affecting vocals.

After his honorable discharge in 2021, Bryan began his music career in earnest, and in 2022 released "Something in the Orange," a haunting ballad that stakes a convincing claim to the territory between Tyler Childers and Jason Isbell in both sonics and songwriting. Slashing slide guitar drives home the song's heartbreak, as Bryan pines for a lover whose tail lights have long since vanished over the horizon. 

"Something In The Orange" marks Bryan's first-ever GRAMMY nomination.

Miranda Lambert — "In His Arms"

Miranda Lambert is the rare, chart-topping contemporary country artist who does more than pay lip service to the genre's rural American roots. "In His Arms" originally surfaced on 2021's The Marfa Tapes, a casual recording Lambert made with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall in Marfa, Texas — a tiny arts enclave in the middle of the west Texas high desert.

In this proper studio version — recorded for her 2022 album, Palomino — Lambert retains the structure and organic feel of the mostly acoustic song; light percussion and soothing atmospherics keep her emotive vocals front and center. A native Texan herself, Lambert sounds fully at home on "In His Arms."

Lambert is the only Best Country Solo Performance nominee who is nominated in all four Country Field categories in 2023. To date, Miranda Lambert has won 3 GRAMMYs and received 27 nominations overall. 

Maren Morris — "Circles Around This Town"

When Maren Morris found herself uninspired and dealing with writer's block, she went back to what inspired her to move to Nashville nearly a decade ago — and out came "Circles Around This Town," the lead single from her 2022 album Humble Quest.

Written in one of her first in-person songwriting sessions since the pandemic, Morris has called "Circles Around This Town" her "most autobiographical song" to date; she even recreated her own teenage bedroom for the song's video. As she looks back to her Texas beginnings and the life she left for Nashville, Morris' voice soars over anthemic, yet easygoing production. 

Morris last won a GRAMMY for Best Country Solo Performance in 2017, when her song "My Church" earned the singer her first GRAMMY. To date, Maren Morris has won one GRAMMY and received 17 nominations overall.

Willie Nelson — "Live Forever"

Country music icon Willie Nelson is no stranger to the GRAMMYs, and this year he aims to add to his collection of 10 gramophones. He earned another three nominations for 2023 — bringing his career total to 56 — including a Best Country Solo Performance nod for "Live Forever."

Nelson's performance of "Live Forever," the lead track of the 2022 tribute album Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver, is a faithful rendition of Shaver's signature song. Still, Nelson puts his own twist on the tune, recruiting Lucinda Williams for backing vocals and echoing the melody with the inimitable tone of his nylon-string Martin guitar. 

Shaver, an outlaw country pioneer who passed in 2020 at 81 years old, never had any hits of his own during his lifetime. But plenty of his songs were still heard, thanks to stars like Elvis Presley, Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings. Nelson was a longtime friend and frequent collaborator of Shaver's — and now has a GRAMMY nom to show for it.

2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List

Listen: All Of The Latin Music 2023 GRAMMY Nominees In One Playlist
The Recording Academy

Graphic: The Recording Academy

news

Listen: All Of The Latin Music 2023 GRAMMY Nominees In One Playlist

Ahead of Music's Biggest Night on Feb. 5, 2023, celebrate with this immersive playlist of every Latin Field nominee at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

GRAMMYs/Nov 22, 2022 - 11:48 pm

The Latin GRAMMYs may have just honored the genre's trailblazers in Las Vegas on Nov. 17, but the celebration will continue at the upcoming 65th GRAMMY Awards ceremony in February. There are five categories in the Latin Field of the 2023 GRAMMY nominations — and you can hear all of the nominees in one playlist.

In the Best Latin Pop Album category, are Christina Aguilera's Latin GRAMMY-winning AGUILERA will compete with Rubén Blades & Boca Livre's Pasieros, Camilo's De Adendro Pa Afuera, Fonseca's VIAJANTE, and Sebastián Yatra's Dharma+. Channeling their lively Latin roots while traversing pop landscapes, these albums all magnetically merge tradition and modernity.

Reggaeton, dancehall, hip hop, and funk coalesce in the nominated works for Best Música Urbana Album: Rauw Alejandro's Trap Cake, Vol. 2, Bad Bunny's Un Verano Sin Ti, Daddy Yankee's LEGENDADDY, Farruko's La 167, and Maluma's The Love & Sex Tape.

The genre-blending jubilation continues with the Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album category. This year's nominees are Cimafunk's El Alimento, Jorge Drexler's Tinta y Tiempo, Mon Laferte's 1940 Carmen, Gaby Moreno's Alegoría, Fito Paez's Los Años Salvajes, and Rosalía's MOTOMAMI.

For Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano), 2021 winner Natalia Lafourcade's Un Canto por México - El Musical is up against Chiquis' Abeja Reina, Los Tigres Del Norte's La Reunión (Deluxe), Christian Nodal's EP #1 Forajido, and Marco Antonio Solís' ​​Qué Ganas de Verte (Deluxe)

As for Best Tropical Latin Album, Marc Anthony — a two-time winner in the category — returns as a nominee with Pa'lla Voy, alongside pioneers Tito Nieves (nominated for Legendario), La Santa Cecilia (Quiero Verte Feliz), Víctor Manuelle (Lado A Lado B), Spanish Harlem Orchestra (Imágenes Latinas), and Carlos Vives (Cumbiana II).

Listen to all of the above albums in this comprehensive, 338-song playlist of the Latin music GRAMMY nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

​​Check it out on Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music — and we'll see you at Music's Biggest Night on Sunday, Feb. 5!

2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List