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10 Thrilling Sets From Primavera Sound Los Angeles 2022: Lorde, Nine Inch Nails, Mitski, Khruangbin, James Blake & More
Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails

Photo: Pooneh Ghana for Primavera Sound L.A.

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10 Thrilling Sets From Primavera Sound Los Angeles 2022: Lorde, Nine Inch Nails, Mitski, Khruangbin, James Blake & More

GRAMMY.com attended the first-ever Primavera Sound L.A., and caught vibes from PinkPantheress, Stereolab, Mitski, Lorde, Georgia, Khruangbin, Nine Inch Nails, BICEP, CHAI, and James Blake.

GRAMMYs/Sep 19, 2022 - 10:24 pm

The first edition of Primavera Sound Los Angeles wrapped up on Sept.18, after three vibey days of perfect, late summer cool weather at Los Angeles State Historic Park.

The beloved Barcelona music festival, which celebrated its 20th edition back home in June, also hosts annual fests in other cities in Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Chile and Argentina. The festival's first North American venture featured a stacked gender-equal lineup headlined by Lorde, Nine Inch Nails and Arctic Monkeys.

A decent number of artists at Primavera L.A. had also played in Barcelona, but the much smaller footprint of the Los Angeles festival made getting around and catching everyone you wanted to see a lot easier. The festival was packed with exciting fun sets, but read on for eight of the best sets from Primavera Los Angeles.

Primavera Sound LA recap mitski

Mitski | Lyndsey Byrnes for Primavera Sound L.A.

A Theatrical Mitski Brings Bedroom Pop To Life

Alt-pop darling Mitski is beloved with her emotional, honest "sad girl" power pop songs about heartbreak and loss. She brought the drama of her music to life, energetically traversing the stage with leaps and theatrical hand motions. The stage setup was simple, with a white door behind her and her band — it felt like a fantasy recreation of a high school bedroom, the place where poems, love letters and tearful diary entries are crafted, and cathartic solo dance moves are made across the floor. Mitski even rocked a silk PJ top and bike shorts.

For "Me and My Husband," her dance moves entailed miming putting long gloves on over and over, and at the end of the song, she pretended to choke herself. For 2014 track "Townie," she ran around the stage as she sang, slowing down at the end to hold and hug herself. After closing with "A Pearl" from 2018's Be the Cowboy, she ended with one last drama school move, a bow.

PinkPantheress Channels 2000 (Even Though She Was Born in 2001)

Twenty-one-year-old PinkPantheress, who channels '90s / '00 U.K. garage and drum 'n bass into short pop bops, got big through TikTok. The Gen Z representation was strong at her Friday afternoon set, loudly cheering her on from the quarantined under-21 section to the side of the stage. But the over-21 turnout was also strong, and PinkPantheress and her DJ got everyone dancing.

PinkPantheress came out looking like a 2004 teen that just came from the mall, rocking a hot pink Diesel long-sleeveT-shirt and brown asymmetrical skirt, complete with short-strap purse and frameless shades. Her warm and funny banter made it feel like we were at the mall with our friends — except maybe more like a secret all-ages rave in the parking lot.

The highlights of the energetic, smile-inducing set included her dedicating "Nineteen" to the 19-year-olds, her cover of the classic 2000 U.K. garage hit "Flowers," and when she stopped the music to say hi to her fan Alan, who screamed into her mic at her May L.A. show. (She later jumped down into the crowd and Alan got an encore scream. Beautiful.)

Stereolab Perfectly Soundtracks The Sunset

British group Stereolab have been making synthy, experimental alt-pop since the early '90s, and while they're influenced by various decades of pop, their records truly transcend time and space. The sun was just beginning to set on day one of the fest, and Stereolab (whose four members look like cool music teachers who each own an amazing vinyl collection) channeled that dreamy setting with their music.

“This is 'Reflections,' an ode to the realm of possibilities remaining open rather than closed,” lead singer Laetitia Sadier announced right as the sun dipped out of view behind the stage. The next couple tracks were a bit more noisy, upbeat and rock-y, and the crowd was fully immersed in their layered sounds. They closed with two of their biggest songs, "Pack Ur Romantic Mind," and "French Disko."

Photo of Lorde performing at Primavera Sound Los Angeles festival 2022

Lorde | Ismael Quintanilla III for Primavera Sound L.A.

Lorde Casts A Spell For Endless Summer

Lorde's Friday closing set was both a powerhouse pop production and an intimate moment. The first day of the fest was joyfully not crowded, so fans were able to gather close as Lorde delivered her ode to summer and mother nature, chatting from atop an epic ladder-to-heaven on stage. The ladder leaned against a big circle, and they rotated around the stage, with a large sun-like orb of changing hues on the screen behind. Her band stood on either side in matching mustard-colored suits, while the New Zealander donned her summer best: a cute black bra top with big puffy sleeves, black mesh pants and long blonde hair.

“I’m really happy to be here,” Lorde announced after several songs. "Especially playing here, outside at the end of summer…you might know I'm kind of obsessed with summer," she continued with a smile. "I don’t know if you have a crush here tonight, but I came down here from the mountain to unite all the potential lovers,” she said before performing "The Louvre" from Melodrama. Next up was "Secrets from a Girl (Who's Seen it All)”and "Mood Ring" from her 2021 album dedicated to the healing power of the sun, Solar Power. This was followed by an amazing cover of Bananarama's 1983 hit "Cruel Summer."

She also put out a call for action to combat the climate crisis, hinting that she already knew what her fourth album was about. Closing her set with "Solar Power," Lorde cast a spell to let the summer vibes last a little longer. “This song was written in a wet bikini, in late July after a long day at the beach…. I want to preserve that feeling, so wherever you are you can feel that." With a wide smile, she continued, "They say it’s almost fall, but don’t let them trick you…it’s still my season."

Georgia Is A One-Woman Dance Party Machine

The sun was shining again on Saturday, and British dance pop artist Georgia got temperatures rising as she commanded the stage with her electronic drum kit and synth. She started with Seeking Thrills' opening track "Started Out," going into "Never Let You Go" and "Ray Guns" from her infectious 2020 album.

Her energy was invigorating, as she sang, drummed, danced and commanded the stage. While Georgia was jet-lagged, she told the audience at her first-ever L.A. festival that they were giving her the energy she needed — but it was definitely a mutual exchange.

She played three new unreleased songs, and shared that she's been working with Rostam, who was somewhere in the crowd and would be mortified that she was touting him as the best producer in the city of Angels. Her "babes" came out to assist on guitar for one of the Rostam-produced tracks. She closed with a cover of Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill" — while that song is very rinsed at the moment, it felt fresh and resonated with the crowd.

Khruangbin la primavera 2022

Khruangbin | Pooneh Ghana for Primavera Sound L.A.

Khruangbin Expands Time With Their Jams

Houston psychedelic rockers Khruangbin jammed for an hour on the mainstage as the sky darkened above. The set went by quickly but was expansive, as they riffed on familiar rhythms that knitted their songs into one large, cozy sonic quilt. The trio looked cool as hell on stage with Donald “DJ” Johnson in a cowboy hat, Laura Lee in thigh-high leopard print boots and a matching dress, and Mark Speer in a black and silver geometric-patterned suit. DJ and his drums were elevated and there were two giant disco balls on stage, which the visuals on screen offered trippy renderings of the groovy action.

After running off to the bathroom in the middle of their set and briefly listening from afar, I joked that I wasn't sure if I'd missed one or seven songs, but both were kind of true. They expanded each track and carried it into the next, like a jam band or DJ set. I think we all could've jammed on for several more hours with them.

Nine Inch Nails Penetrate Our Souls

For day two's headline set, the disco balls were removed and the crowd packed the main stage, patiently waiting for Nine Inch Nails to rock them. Before they'd even begun, security stopped letting fans in to avoid overcrowding, and a line formed to let people in as space allowed. The flashing lights began and Trent Reznor appeared in a triangle of light and smoke. Soon, the light expands to reveal the rest of the band, and they break into 1999's "Somewhat Damaged."

The next 70 minutes were a full-on assault of light and a wall of sound. There was no way to escape the emotions rattling through your body as the layered bass, synth, guitar, drums and growls shook everything to the surface. The band worked like a well-oiled machine, effortlessly performing their intricate music with precision and energy.

Reznor shared that they'd really enjoyed playing at Primavera Sound in Barcelona a few years back, so they said yes when they were asked to play what was supposed to be Primavera L.A. 2020: "Finally, here the f— we are.”

They played tracks from across their extensive catalog, including "Closer," "The Hand That Feeds," "Head Like A Hole" and "Hurt," ending with the latter three. "Hurt," famously covered by Johnny Cash, was the only moment of relative quiet during the set, allowing for Reznor's lyrics to really sink in.

bicep la primavera 2022

Bicep | Quinn Tucker for Primavera Sound L.A.

Bicep Create An Immersive Rave Rainbow

Belfast producer duo BICEP create immersive, dreamy electronic soundscapes, and their live show ups the immersion with lasers, bright lights and flashes of color. While their set overlapped with Nine Inch Nails, it luckily continued on for 45 minutes after the rockers ended their wall of sound. As I ran from one wall of sound and lights to the next, from rock to rave, the synths and lights at each tying nicely — and surprisingly — together.

As the two childhood friends faced each other and delivered their expansive dancefloor sound with big energy and extra flourishes. They saved an extended version of their massive 2017 track, “Glue,” for second-to-last, as the lasers erupted into two rainbows shooting out over the crowd, the smoke dancing in its light and casting trippy, liquidy shapes. A tall guy in the crowd jumped up to touch the rainbow laser magic, just barely missing.

CHAI = CUTE!

Part of the description on J-pop group CHAI's Spotify bio reads: "With lyrics focused on 'women empowerment' and redefining the definition of 'kawaii,' or cute in Japanese," and they brought their high energy girl power, fun and cuteness to the last afternoon of Primavera L.A. Rocking the stage in coordinating pink-and-white outfits topped with big, frilly, rainbow-print capes, CHAI filled their 40 minute set with pure energy and joy, leaving the crowd captivated and asking for more.

After two songs, they "interrupted" their live performance for a mini DJ set led by the drummer and keyboardist, a high energy mix that included Hardrive's "Deep Inside," Crystal Waters' "Gypsy Woman," and Spice Girls' "Wannabee." For the latter song, the quartet came to the front to sing along and dance with fluffy pink-fitted fans, getting the audience to shout out "CHAI!" and "Yesss!" CHAI, YES is exactly how I felt about them in this moment and now forever more. They continued with a few more of their songs, closing with "N.E.O," which had the audience screaming the English words and jumping along.

James Blake Wishes Primavera L.A. Godspeed

As the Arctic Monkeys rocked the main stage and Detroit techno wizard Jeff Mills captivated the dance music stage, British-born, L.A.-based James Blake offered his angelic vocals to soothe the rest of us. He opened with an early track of his, "Unluck," into 2020's "Before" and "Limit to Your Love," which was originally recorded by Feist.

Blake asked the crowd to sing the chorus of  "Say What You Will” — from his latest 2021 album, Friends That Break Your Heart — imploring the audience to sing louder to compete with Mills and the Arctic Monkeys. For another track from the 2021 album, "Frozen," he brought out one of its featured rappers, Atlanta's SwaVay, who brought the energy with his OutKast-nodding flow. (Blake shared that the rapper had a new, great album coming out soon.)

After a few more songs, the "Retrograde" singer closed with his cover of Frank Ocean's gut-wrenching "Godspeed," which he co-produced.

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

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He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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5 Ways Lorde's 'Pure Heroine' Helped Pave The Way For The Unconventional Modern Superstar
Lorde performs in Los Angeles in 2013.

Photo: Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images

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5 Ways Lorde's 'Pure Heroine' Helped Pave The Way For The Unconventional Modern Superstar

On the 10th anniversary of Lorde's massive debut album, 'Pure Heroine,' take a look at five ways the star's defiant spirit — on and off the LP — influenced a generation.

GRAMMYs/Sep 27, 2023 - 11:01 pm

Over 10 years after Lorde released her breakout hit, "Royals," its opening line presents a profound sense of irony: "I've never seen a diamond in the flesh."

In the song, Lorde depicts a disillusionment with the lifestyle and status associated with diamonds — one based on excess, ostentation, and a departure from reality. But her scorned sentiment is so relatable that "Royals" itself has become a diamond.

In December of 2017, the single reached the rarely achieved diamond certification from the Recording Industry Association of America for selling 10 million units. The single now has over 1 billion streams on Spotify, and when it was in the throes of release, topped the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks, before earning two GRAMMYs: Song Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at the 2014 ceremony.

"Royals" was the lead single for Pure Heroine, Lorde's debut album, which turns 10 this month. Like its first hit, the album demonstrated Lorde's foresight into the next generation of pop star — so much so that none other than David Bowie had proclaimed her as "the future of music."

In many ways, the title Pure Heroine is apposite to Lorde herself. In the early 2010s, she was a heroine with a pure message — a message of honesty and humanity that resonated with everyone, from fans to her fellow musicians. Even critics were intrigued: "In a moment when too many new artists seem afraid to offend or go off script, Lorde is an exciting contradiction," Pitchfork wrote in their review of Pure Heroine.

Going "off script" permeates everything about Pure Heroine, but it also goes beyond the album and into what Lorde represented for music and humanity at large. 

As Pure Heroine turns 10, here are five aspects of Lorde's rise that demonstrate that she helped create the blueprint for the modern superstar.

Defiance Of Industry Expectations

Lorde has been signed to Universal Music Group since she was 12 years old, after being discovered because of a performance at a talent show. However, she didn't let such a grand association play a role in her approach to her music.

"I've been dealing with the world's biggest record company for so long so I've never had that 'Holy Shit' moment with it being a major label or anything," Lorde told Spin in 2013. "It's just something I grew up with."

Even prior to the album, Lorde was prescient in her defiance of the industry when she released her 2012 EP, The Love Club, on Soundcloud for free. Per The Guardian, she told UMG, "Leave it alone — don't promote it, no ads, let it grow organically." This ended up working in her favor when singer/songwriter Grimes reposted Lorde's Soundcloud after "some random" alerted her to it. 

And when the time came for Lorde to make her first album, Universal initially suggested doing a series of soul covers, but she refused. "They got straight away that I was a bit weird, that I would not be doing anything I didn't want to do, and they completely went with that," she told The Guardian in 2013. 

What Lorde considered "a bit weird" in 2013 is now, rightfully, considered brave and forward-thinking because it was all in service to her simply being herself, regardless of what anyone in the industry expected of her. 

That mentality also bled into her appearance. "I'm not the sort of artist that TMZ can write about like, 'She stepped out with no makeup today!' Because 80 percent of the time I'm not wearing any makeup," Lorde told The Fader in 2013.

She also didn't care for the comparisons to other massive artists like her: "I read a piece the other day that said, 'Why Lorde is this generation's Nirvana,' and I was like, PLEASE DON'T! Don't do that to me! They meant it as a compliment, obviously, but what's the point in even making the parallel?" she said to Rookie in 2014.

Lorde has only ever wanted to do things her way, and that not only fueled the magic of Pure Heroine, but her career as a whole.

A Simple One Writer, One Producer Formula

One thing Lorde wanted to do on her debut album was write all of her own lyrics, even though she had never written a song before in her life. And she clearly aimed to have as much creative control as possible, opting to work with only one producer on the album, Joel Little.

Little and Lorde are the only two credits for both writing and production throughout Pure Heroine, a stark contrast to other albums released in 2013 including Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience, and Beyoncé's self-titled, all of which followed the modern pop standard of gathering numerous songwriters and producers together on an album.

Now, 10 years on from Pure Heroine, some of the biggest artists and albums follow the Pure Heroine approach. For example, on both of Billie Eilish's studio albums, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO? (2019) and Happier Than Ever (2022) the only credits are herself and her brother, Finneas.

Another is Olivia Rodrigo, who — other than an occasional extra producer or songwriter and a few interpolation credits to artists like Hayley Williams and Taylor Swift — wrote and produced the entirety of her two studio albums, SOUR (2021) and GUTS (2023) alongside producer Daniel Nigro.

A more intimate creative process makes sense given the candid nature of these artists' music, and the central topic of Lorde's honesty in Pure Heroine can be summed up by the pre-chorus in "Royals": "Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece/ Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash/ We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair."

Ten years ago, the de facto motto of pop music was "the bigger the better," emphasized by songs like "Love Me" from Lil' Wayne and Drake, "F—in' Problems" from A$AP Rocky, 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake, and "Suit & Tie" from Justin Timberlake and JAY-Z. Then in comes a teenager from New Zealand who literally says "We don't care." She didn't care about the lifestyle pop music purported — and without a boardroom of writers and producers, her message rang out unimpeded.

A DIY Social Media Approach

Given her rise was in the early 2010s, Lorde was also one of the first stars of her generation to engage in the never-ending battle of social media — and, naturally, she only engaged with it as she saw fit.

"I would get an email from one of the record companies saying, 'Just realized that you're not social-networking to your fullest potential. Here's how! Use lots of hashtags! Only focus on the music, Do 'follow sprees' and constantly reply to fans!'" Lorde recalled to Rookie in 2014. "I was like, 'You've just got to trust me. Everyone will hate me in two months if I do that.'"

Yet another gem of foresight from the young Kiwi, given that numerous Gen-Z notables — from the country breakout star Bailey Zimmerman to the hip-hop/electronic crossover artist PinkPantheress — launched their careers from TikTok by posting DIY clips of their creative processes.

As of late, Lorde's Instagram account is rather bare. There are two posts: the cover of her latest album, 2021's Solar Power, and a carousel of her swimming with a cryptic caption about "a light on inside."

However, there is a highlight on her profile entitled "INSTITUTE" which gives a glimpse into the last year or so of touring. Within these slides Lorde's authentic approach to social sharing is unambiguous. There are numerous high-quality performance shots, of course, but there are also images of "TOUR BUS SHELLFISH" alongside shots of porcupines and her eating sushi in the bath.

In the timeline of Lorde's social media, there are examples that demonstrate even less concern with curation and presentation. She even started an account dedicated to onion rings in 2017 (though it unfortunately hasn't had a post since 2021). 

While she was certainly public about her feelings towards social media, there are also hints of that disdain throughout Pure Heroine. Like on the album's second single, "Tennis Court": "It's a new artform showing people how little we care."

Honesty In Lyrics And Beyond

One thing Lorde surely does care about is her audience, which is likely a major reason why the songs on Pure Heroine speak to inner value. She is on their side, and one simple method of demonstrating this is the shift from "I" to "We."

"This dream isn't feeling sweet/ We're reeling through the midnight streets/ And I've never felt more alone/It feels so scary, getting old," Lorde sings on "Ribs," recounting one of the aspects of life she finds most stressful: aging.

As "Ribs" suggests, the 10 songs on Pure Heroine are for real people in the real world — people who are complex and have varying life experiences. One minute, Lorde is celebrating her elevated status ("Getting pumped up on the little bright things I bought/ But I know they'll never own me," Lorde sings on opener "Tennis Court") and next, she's lamenting her declining ability to be carefree as she gets older ("I'm kind of over gettin' told to throw my hands up in the air/ So there/ I'm kind of older than I was when I reveled without a care/ So there," she quips in "Team," the album's third single).

This kind of honesty also extends beyond lyrics for Lorde, who, since the time of Pure Heroine, has been unfiltered in her opinions on topics including her fellow pop stars.

"I think a lot of women in this industry maybe aren't doing so well for the girls," Lorde told Fader in 2013. "She's great, but I listened to that Lana Del Rey record and the whole time I was just thinking it's so unhealthy for young girls to be listening to, you know: 'I'm nothing without you.'"

In that vein, you won't find a single breakup song on Pure Heroine, but instead, honesty in the form of her love/hate relationship with her sudden explosion into fame on "Still Sane": "All business, all day keeps me up a level/All work and no play, lonely on that new s—, yeah."

But even as she acknowledges her rising profile, through "White Teeth Teens" she maintains she hasn't lost sight of who she truly is, that she is still on the side of her people: "I'll let you in on something big/I am not a white teeth teen/I tried to join, but never did/The way they are, the way they seem/Is something else, it's in the blood."

And even when she does broach the topic of heartbreak on songs like "Liability," from Pure Heroine's 2017 successor, Melodrama, Lorde goes deep within herself instead of running back to her ex: "So I guess I'll go home/Into the arms of the girl that I love/The only love I haven't screwed up/She's so hard to please, but she's a forest fire."

Pure Heroine set the tone for the kind of honesty Lorde will always bring in her music — one that's more self-reflective than self-pitying.

A Punk Attitude

Lorde was not concerned with the standards of the music industry when she was making Pure Heroine, and there is a genre of music that is celebrated for this same lack of concern: punk.

While it might seem that a major pop star like Lorde and punk rockers like the Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys have absolutely nothing in common, the ethos of how they approach their music and persona are actually quite similar. Because punk isn't simply not caring; punk is not caring what people tell you to care about.

If Sonic Youth truly didn't care about anything, they wouldn't have written "Youth Against Facism," their scathing indictment of the U.S. government. It's the same reason Anti-Flag wrote the plainly titled "F— Police Brutality." They use music to predicate change.

Lorde's lyrical approach may not be as on-the-nose as punk, but given the state of pop music at the time of Pure Heroine, ideas presented in "Royals" were well against what the general pop sphere was beckoning people to care about it: "My friends and I, we've cracked the code/ We count our dollars on the train to the party/ And everyone who knows us knows/ That we're fine with this, we didn't come from money."

Here, the "code" is being happy and content without the gold teeth and the Grey Goose. That she and her friends (once again, alluding to her fans) have value that goes beyond money.

Although Lorde's November 1996 birthday technically lands her just shy of the Gen-Z cutoff, her values in standing up for the common person is a central tenet of Gen-Z culture. This generation is being forced to pick up the pieces of a climate and an economy ravaged by generations prior, and Gen-Zers are facing that necessary change head-on the same way Lorde faced the necessary change in the music industry at the start of her career.

Just before Pure Heroine reached its 10th birthday on Sept. 27, Lorde took to email to share a candid update on what's been happening in her life in the last year, denoting everything from hints at new music to health struggles, to laments on the decade past.

"I know I'm gonna look back on this year with fondness and a bit of awe, knowing it was the year that locked everything into place, the year that transitioned me from my childhood working decade to the one that comes next — one that even through all this, I'm so excited for. It's just hard when you're in it," Lorde wrote, according to a Tumblr account called "Lorde's Email Archive."

Lorde considers the last 10 years her "childhood working decade." In that decade, she redefined what it meant to be a superstar — who knows what she may redefine in the next decade.

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Mitski's Road To 'The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We': How Expanding Sonically Illuminated The Liminal Space Between Brutality & Love
Mitski performs at the Primavera Sound Festival in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2022.

Photo: Mauricio Santana/Getty Images

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Mitski's Road To 'The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We': How Expanding Sonically Illuminated The Liminal Space Between Brutality & Love

The singer/songwriter's seventh LP embraces Western soundtrack tones, experimental pop twitches, and lithe ache, building a new set of concentric orbital rings without losing any of Mitski's trademark intimate intensity.

GRAMMYs/Sep 21, 2023 - 06:49 pm

Mitski likely didn't know the Pandora's Box she was opening while producing her debut album. Though the 2012 LP, Lush, was self-released — and reportedly doubled as a project for her junior year at SUNY Purchase — it carries the grand orchestral drama of a seasoned singer/songwriter, her already clarion vocals bolstered by clever songwriting. Just over a decade later, she's now idolized as a celestial being in a pantheon somewhere between indie pop star, poetic genius, and voice of a generation.

But Mitski's level of success has had its pitfalls. Despite her rather coy image and indie background, Mitski has garnered a rabid following with the stan culture of a stadium-filling act (for one, there's a Twitter account called "mitski's archive" that managed to track down rare footage of her college days). In turn, Mitski's career has often rung with a certain tension and internal conflict — yet, remarkably, the music has always remained transcendent.

Resilience has long been part of Mitski's journey, even before she realized she could turn to music as an outlet. Born in Japan to a Japanese mother and American father, Mitsuki Miyawaki spent much of her youth traveling internationally because of her father's job. Having to do that over and over — let alone as a mixed-race, Japanese-American child dropped into the Czech Republic or the Democratic Republic of Congo — was likely bewildering. But music gave some sense of home, of certainty: "Whenever she was lonely in a new house or city or country, she'd walk around and hum invented fragments of melody," Margaret Talbot wrote in a profile of Mitski for The New Yorker.

But still, she didn't fully find what she was looking for until high school, when she joined a choir, and then began writing songs in her teens. "As a teenager, I didn't want to be alive…I just wanted to be dead. I didn't have anything I was good at, because I didn't know I could make music yet," she told Talbot.

Settling into the United States for high school and then college, she dove head first into what music could offer. As Lush proved an incredible first step, another college-era project, 2013's Retired from Sad, New Career in Business, reinforced its predecessor's blend of chamber pop and indie rock flourishes; it was also her first in partnership with producer Patrick Hyland, who has worked on every Mitski album since. Both heady and delivered straight from the heart, poetic yet knifepoint-sharp, the one-two punch of Retired and Lush introduced a well of great potential.

Mitski's third album, 2014's Bury Me At Makeout Creek, served as a tidy turning point as her spotlight warmed up — especially because it was her first release with an independent label, Double Double Whammy. It's as if Mitski realized that people were drawn more to her than to the piano, and began exploring other ways that her intimate songs of pain and love could play out.

Rather than rely on the orchestra to underscore her rich, low-slung vocals, the fuzzier compositions embrace the roiling emotion they convey — ragged edges of distorted guitar and squared synth where once Mitski would have pinned everything together with a string section. What's more, the album's guitar-driven indie rock gave the feeling that she's sonically exploring her newly minted status as a signed indie rock touring act.

Removed from some of the preciousness of her college records, the distortion propelling "Townie" or the electronic percussion on "I Don't Smoke" pushed a rough-hewn color through Mitski's lyrics — underlining the uncertainty, the struggle, the hurt feelings that her storytelling implies. The musical complexities emphasized the lyrical conflict, and the propulsive energy was undeniable.

"The craft here is obvious, as is the accruing confidence of someone who's developed a compelling voice in obscurity," Ian Cohen wrote in a Pitchfork review of Bury Me.

The concept of obscurity is one that would be increasingly important over the following years. While her poetic lyricism is emotionally and visually evocative, Bury Me showed that it never feels diaristic; her internal reality and experiences are lightly obscured, but still essential to the process.

By completely reinventing her sonic palette while simultaneously deepening her lyrical vision, Bury Me hinted at an even brighter future — and set into motion the bind that Mitski has fought against ever since. As her music improved, her fame grew, and she soon found that her success was actually taking away from her ability to explore her musicality.

"When I record, it's this very precious and insular thing," she told Stereogum ahead of releasing 2016's Puberty 2. "With promoting Bury Me, I was so out of touch with music."

In that same interview, Mitski discussed how the songs for Puberty 2 were written without consideration of how they'd be performed live, as if she were attempting to retain some ownership of her experience before giving it over to the growing audiences. (Even so, Mitski toured both Europe and North America that fall.)

Puberty 2 did take a step back from the distorted, brash edge of Bury Me, but doesn't fully return to her orchestral roots either. No genre was safe, no sonic touchstone outside of her palette — everything swirled and caught up in her evocative storytelling, from jumpy electronic touches and burnished horns to surfy guitar. Her vocals ranged from skyscraping pop adventurism to deadpan chop.

The wide-ranging approach worked, as Puberty 2 landed on several "Best Of 2016" album lists and helped Mitski earn opening slots with the Pixies and Lorde in 2017. But as she announced the album's follow-up, 2018's Be the Cowboy, there were hints yet again that Mitski was exhausted by the realities of being a star, not just a creator: "A lot of this record was me not having any feelings, being completely spent but then trying to rally myself and wake up and get back to Mitski," she said in a press release.

Ironically, "not having any feelings" would be the last thing that comes to mind upon hearing Be the Cowboy. The record's scope widened even further than its predecessors; in an almost Bjork-like career trajectory, Mitski continued to find new levels of intensity and beauty without ever repeating herself.

Songs like the explosive and grandiose "Geyser," the disco-tinged "Nobody," and the stomp-clamp wonderland "Washing Machine Heart" showcased the maturation of Mitski's approach, each song creating a world of its own — and the album's universe all spinning beautifully together. While she may have struggled during the creation of Be the Cowboy, something clearly worked: the album became her first to land on the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart and was her first to be certified Gold in the U.S.

As the attention levels rose like a precipitous tide, Mitski continued to seem wary, if not outright frustrated. "All the sort of aggrandizing, strangely worshipful commentary about me, it doesn't make any sense," she told PBS Newshour.

When touring the record, Mitski opted to work with a choreographer named Jas Lin. The duo developed dance moves inspired by a Japanese form called butoh, resulting in what i-D called "slow, hyper-controlled motions, exaggerated facial expressions, and a fixation on hard emotions and absurdity." In another ironic turn, adding this performative layer between her inner self and her audience resulted in an even more rabid following on social media.

At the end of the tour, Mitski announced an indefinite hiatus from music, leaving social media behind as well — though, meanwhile, her songs were infiltrating thousands and thousands of TikToks. At the time, she told Rolling Stone that she expected to be done for good, to "find another life."

But the music kept calling, and it took less than a year for her return. "What it came down to was, 'I have to do this even though it hurts me, because I love it,'" she told Rolling Stone for a 2021 cover story, six weeks before Laurel Hell arrived in February 2022.

In a press release for that album, Mitski seemed to explain the urge as needing to deal with fame as a side effect of life as a creator: "I don't want to put on a front where I'm a role model, but I'm also not a bad person. I needed to create this space mostly for myself where I sat in that gray area."

For Mitski, that gray area resulted in an '80s synthpop record full of neon blue, splashes erupting from raindrops falling into puddles, and wafts of hazy smoke. Across its 11 tracks, there were love songs with reminders of death and explosively moving songs about feeling stuck — every track a blend of pleasure and pain.

Though various interviews saw her comparing herself to a bathroom stall ready to "take s—" from others, a "black hole" where people dump their feelings, and a "product" to be bought and sold, Mitski seemed to have turned a corner with Laurel Hell. As the album's beatific vibes suggest, she found a sense of acceptance during her hiatus.

"If I truly want the greatest magic in the world, the highest euphoria, the best thing, if I want to do that, I'm going to have to pay an equivalent price," she told Vulture. (She still maintained boundaries, though, declining to answer questions about her personal life.)

Mitski furthers that clarity-achieving experience with The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We, an 11-song ode to the one thing that still feels like hers: love. "The best thing I ever did in my life was to love people," Mitski said in a statement.

The first single, "Bug Like an Angel," balances immensities: the ecstatic and the mundane, rock bottom and ecstasy. Mitski embraces the dichotomy sonically as well, with lightly echoed vocals and acoustic guitars interrupted by a sudden choral interjection. "Sometimes a drink feels like family," she sings, the irony of 17 people harmonizing that last word played out in heartbreaking majesty.

The dizzying meteor shower of "Star" and the string-laden "Heaven" reinforce that blend of subtlety and theatrics. At times, The Land is Inhospitable feels like the soundtrack to a tragicomedy epic — a cohesive story of hope, love and hurt colliding.

Mitski has made unique choices in her live performances in support of the record, too — perhaps, in a way, to prevent the burnout and struggle she experienced after releasing albums in the past. A week before the album's release, she put on "Double Features," a limited run of listening parties in which playback of the album was followed by a classic film (like Drugstore Cowboy or Days of Heaven).

In terms of touring, she has opted for intimate, acoustic "Amateur Mistake" performances, with only 10 shows stretched across 39 days. The venues are smaller (New York's 1,500 seat Town Hall subs in for the Laurel Hell tour's 6,000 seat Radio City Music Hall), another sign of Mitski setting another boundary for herself. Judging by a video of her first stop in Mexico City, all of the moves she's made have resulted in something that feels sincere, beautiful and loving.

In a career of unlocking new formulas to convey her stratospheric talent, it seems Mitski may have found one that also supports her heart — a way to square the self that is hers when creating art, and the self that exists in the world for others.

"You have to go to both worlds all the time," she said in a press release. "I don't have a self. I have a million selves, and they're all me, and I inhabit them, and they all live inside me."

With The Land is Inhospitable, those selves populate an expansive, haunting world threaded through with love and care — finally living in harmony with the surrounding darkness.

5 Artists Influenced By Enya: Brandy, Nicki Minaj, Grimes & More

15 Must-Hear Albums This September: Olivia Rodrigo, Kylie Minogue, James Blake & More
(Clockwise) Bakar, Olivia Rodrigo, Demi Lovato, Chrissie Hynde, Jalen Ngonda, Kylie Minogue, Mitski

Photos: Antoine Flament/Getty Images; Amy Sussman/WireImage; Santiago Felipe/GettyImages; Ki Price; Rosie Cohe; Edward Cooke; Mauricio Santana/Getty Images

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15 Must-Hear Albums This September: Olivia Rodrigo, Kylie Minogue, James Blake & More

Get your fall playlist ready. From pop blockbusters to the return of rock icons, check out 15 genre-spanning albums dropping in September.

GRAMMYs/Sep 1, 2023 - 01:18 pm

With summer almost in the rear view, it’s time to welcome the first must-hear albums of the fall season. With the onset of chillier days comes a genre-spanning array of new music — from R&B sensation Jorja Smith to indie-rock maestro Mitski. 

September's first big release comes from rock royalty the Pretenders, who return at the top of the month with their twelfth studio album, *Relentless*. The following week, pop firebrand [Olivia Rodrigo](https://www.grammy.com/artists/Olivia-Rodrigo/38411) will reveal *GUTS*, the feverishly anticipated follow-up to her 2021 debut, *SOUR*

Rodrigo shares a release date with star-studded company, including disco queen Róisín Murphy, dance veterans [the Chemical Brothers](https://www.grammy.com/artists/chemical-brothers/7746), shapeshifting singer/songwriter [James Blake](https://www.grammy.com/artists/james-blake/17760), and soul newcomer Jalen Ngonda. Elsewhere in the month, there’s something for all tastes, from the pop-rock reawakening of [Demi Lovato](https://www.grammy.com/artists/demi-lovato/19851) to the noodly electronics of Animal Collective.

As we gear up for a season packed with musical highs, we’ve put together a handy guide to the 15 must-hear albums dropping in September 2023.

The Pretenders -  *Relentless*

**Release date:** Sept. 1

For a band that released its debut album in 1979, the Pretenders still sounds remarkably vital 44 years on. Led by iconic songwriter and frontwoman Chrissie Hynde, the band is back in full force this September with the appropriately titled Relentless, which follows 2020’s on-form Hate for Sale

The Pretenders announced their twelfth LP with a rousing-yet-poetic lead single, "Let the Sun Come In," and the album closes with an intriguing collaboration with [Radiohead](https://www.grammy.com/artists/radiohead/8042)’s [Jonny Greenwood](https://www.grammy.com/artists/jonny-greenwood/11632) on strings. 

"I think anyone in a band is constantly questioning if they should keep going," Hynde said of the album’s title in a statement. "It starts as a youthful pursuit and eventually, it makes you wonder, why am I doing this? It’s the life of the artist. You never retire. You become relentless."

Speedy Ortiz - *Rabbit Rabbit

**Release date:** Sept. 1

Philadelphia rock quartet Speedy Ortiz has kept fans waiting five long years for a new LP, having released their pop-inflected Twerp Verse back in 2018. This September, the band returns with Rabbit Rabbit, its first album on mercurial frontwoman Sadie Dupuis’ label, Wax Nine. 

To record *Rabbit Rabbit*, Speedy Ortiz jumped between two locations steeped in rock lore: Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree and Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas. The band has already shared a few songs so far, including the spiky "You S02" and the crunching, cathartic closer "Ghostwriter." The album also opens with a song called "Kim Cattrall."

"I turned 33 while writing this album, a palindrome birthday and a lucky number associated with knowledge," Dupuis said in a statement. "I wanted to mark how I was making better choices as I got older, letting go of heedless anger even when it’s warranted."

**Olivia Rodrigo - *GUTS***

**Release date:** Sept. 8 

As far as breakout albums go, Olivia Rodrigo’s SOUR was about as good as it gets. Powered by the stage-setting singles "drivers license" and "deja vu," the album dropped in May 2021 as a balm for dark pandemic days. Coming in at a lean 34 minutes, SOUR was all killer, no filler— and went on to pick up Best Pop Vocal Album at the 2022 GRAMMYs, alongside Rodrigo’s wins for Best Pop Solo Performance ("drivers license") and Best New Artist. 

With Rodrigo now a bona fide pop superstar, she’s readying her second album, *GUTS*, for a buzzy September drop. [Lead single "vampire"](https://www.grammy.com/news/breakup-songs-like-olivia-rodrigo-vampire-taylor-swift-miley-cyrus-kelly-clarkson) arrived back in June with a lush, swelling sound (producer Dan Nigro makes several appearances on *GUTS*) and score-settling lyrics that cut like a knife. Rodrigo followed this strong return with "bad idea right?," a gleefully fun throwback to the pop-punk and grunge that soundtracked her teens.

In [an interview with the ](https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/24/arts/music/olivia-rodrigo-guts.html)*[New York Times](https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/24/arts/music/olivia-rodrigo-guts.html)* ahead of *GUTS*, Rodrigo enthused about embracing crunchy guitars and big emotional swings: "\[I\] always loved rock music, and always wanted to find a way that I could make it feel like me, and make it feel feminine and still telling a story and having something to say that’s vulnerable and intimate."

James Blake - *Playing Robots In Heaven* 

**Release date:** Sept. 8 

Following 2021’s acclaimed Friends That Break Your Heart, which featured guest turns from the likes of SZA, JID and Monica Martin, James Blake is stripping it back to basics on his sixth studio album, Playing Robots Into Heaven

This time around, the etherally-voiced singer has seemingly gone back to the electronic roots of his earlier works that emerged as part of the UK’s post-dubstep scene. 

With no featured guests, the tracklist includes the already-released singles "Big Hammer," which is all chopped-up samples and low-end frequencies, and "Loading," which recalls the vocal manipulations of the producer’s self-titled debut LP. Blake also shared the ambient title track, which will close the album in perfect contemplation. 

Jalen Ngonda - *Come Around and Love Me

**Release date:** Sept. 8

Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., Jalen Ngonda was immersed from an early age in soul music, courtesy of his music-obsessed father. Fast forward to 2023, and Ngonda is himself a talented soul artist signed to the revered Brooklyn indie label Daptone Records. 

The singer's debut album, *Come Around and Love Me*, features lushly arranged singles "If You Don’t Want My Love" and "Just Like You Used To," which showcase his timeless vocal prowess.

In a statement announcing the album, Ngonda revealed, "To a stranger, I’d describe my music as modern soul and R&B, while trying to fit in the [Beach Boys](https://www.grammy.com/artists/beach-boys/609) and [the Beatles](https://www.grammy.com/artists/beatles/16293) somewhere in between."  

The Chemical Brothers - *For That Beautiful Feeling*

**Release date:** Sept. 8

On their ninth album, 2019’s No Geography, UK electronic duo the Chemical Brothers sounded thrillingly energized. Now, after weathering a global pandemic, the veteran producers return with their tenth studio outing, For That Beautiful Feeling

The album features a new version of the duo’s cautiously hopeful 2021 release, "The Darkness That You Fear," alongside the propulsive, classically-Chems single, "No Reason," and collaborations with indie darling Beck and French singer/songwriter Halo Maud. 

The duo is set to follow the album in October with a career-spanning retrospective book, *Paused in Cosmic Reflection*, that’ll have fans clamoring. 

Demi Lovato - *REVAMPED* 

**Release date:** Sept. 15

Already an experienced master of reinvention, Demi Lovato is continuing her rock era with REVAMPED 5. On last year’s Holy Fvck, the pop chameleon wholeheartedly embraced hard rock and pop-punk, including collaborations with Yungblud, Royal & the Serpent and Dead Sara. 

While touring *Holy Fvck*, Lovato also played heavier versions of her earlier songs, and discovered her fans loved it. This inspired her to re-record rock versions of ten songs from past albums, including *Demi* and *Confident*, which are now brought together on *REVAMPED*

On the evidence of early singles like "Heart Attack (Rock Version)" and "Sorry Not Sorry (Rock Version)", the latter featuring [Guns N Roses](https://www.grammy.com/artists/guns-n-roses/7805) shredder Slash, Lovato is relishing the chance to rock out. 

Mitski - *The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We*

**Release date:** Sept. 15

Back in July, ever-inventive singer-songwriter Mitski sent a voice memo to fans via her newsletter. "Hi, this is Mitski, and I’m at Bomb Shelter Studios in Nashville, where we recorded my new album that’s coming out," Mitski revealed. "It’s called The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We, and its first single is coming out on Wednesday." 

That beautifully elegiac first single "Bug Like An Angel" suggests a heart-rending album to come from one of the boldest voices in indie-rock. The single also features a surprising (and powerfully effective) appearance from a 17-person choir that’s likely to appear elsewhere on *The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We*. As Mitski teased in a statement, "This is my most American album." 

NEEDTOBREATHE - *CAVES *

Release date: Sept. 15 

Following 2021’s Into The Mystery and its country-rock crossover hit, "I Wanna Remember," featuring Carrie Underwood, Christian rock troupe NEEDTOBREATHE returns with their ninth album, CAVES

As documented in an intimate making-of video, the GRAMMY-winning band assembled in a house overlooking the majestic mountains of Utah to begin writing the album, which they completed while on the road with OneRepublic

"We always believed we could make a record that would feel at home on the world’s biggest stages," the band wrote in a statement announcing CAVES. "It was important to us to prove that we could. This is the most ambitious record we’ve made in a really long time."

Kylie Minogue - *Tension*

**Release date: **Sept. 22

Thanks to the runaway viral success of her dance-pop earworm "Padam Padam," 2023 has already been a triumphant year for Australian pop veteran Kylie Minogue. Released in May, the single went on to vie for song of the summer status, powered by countless dance videos on TikTok and its warm embrace as a Pride anthem. 

Buoyed by her surprise chart hit, Minogue will release her sixteenth studio album, *Tension*. As suggested by the glossy cover art, and the presence of producers such as Oliver Heldens and Biff Stannard, Minogue is ready to reclaim her electro-pop crown. 

"I started this album with an open mind and a blank page," Minogue said in a statement. "Unlike my last two albums, there wasn’t a 'theme.' It was about finding the heart or the fun or the fantasy of that moment and always trying to service the song." 

Bakar - *Halo*

**Release date:** Sept. 22

Acclaimed British artist Bakar will help kick off the month in style with his second album, Halo. The sophomore release is billed as a sonic counterpart to his genre-hopping 2018 mixtape, BADKID. Like that breakout release, Halo is set to blend indie, punk and hip-hop, with Bakar’s beguiling voice at front and center. 

Ahead of a busy summer jumping between festival stages, Bakar dropped a mood-lifting single, "Alive!," accompanied by a music video featuring the artist bringing traffic to a standstill (for real) in Central London. 

Animal Collective - *Isn't It Now?*  

**Release date:** Sept. 29

Following 2022’s Time Skiffs, experimental pop four-piece Animal Collective returns with its most expansive album to date. With a total runtime of 64 minutes, Isn’t It Now? will explore a rich sonic palette, as suggested by the layered and hypnotic single, "Soul Capturer."

Co-produced, mixed and recorded with GRAMMY-winning producer Russell Elevado, Isn’t It Now? reportedly finds each band member digging deep into their current musical whims — such as multi-instrumentalist Panda Bear focusing more on drumming. 

The centerpiece of the album is "Defeat," a 22-minute epic that captures Animal Collective at its most exploratory. 

Jorja Smith -  *Falling or Flying* 

**Release date:** Sept. 29

As one of the brightest stars to emerge from the UK in the past decade, Jorja Smith has already put together an accomplished discography. Following her 2018 debut, Lost & Found, and 2021’s three-track EP, Be Right Back, Smith will release her most complete artistic statement to date. 

Like her previous releases, the singer’s long-awaited second album, *Falling or Flying*, will connect the dots between soul, R&B, UK garage and house, with a song for every mood and situation. 

"This album is like my brain,” Smith said in a statement. “There’s always so much going on but each song is definitely a standstill moment." So far, Smith has given us two standout singles — the garage-tinged "Little Things" and the more contemplative "Try Me" — so anticipation is sky high. 

TINASHE - *BB/ANG3L

**Release date:** TBD 

While it’s yet to lock an official release date, the hype is building for Tinashe’s sixth studio album, BB/ANG3L — her first under a new deal with GRAMMY-winning hitmaker Ricky Reed’s record label, Nice Life. 

"I’ve enjoyed stripping back layers of aesthetic fluff, smoke & mirrors, and white noise to get down to the core of myself," the alternative R&B star said of the album in a statement. 

On lead single, "Talk to Me Nice," Tinashe’s indelible smoky vocals are offset by skittering, seductive production from hip-hop beatmaker [Scoop DeVille](https://www.grammy.com/artists/scoop-deville/18109) and electronic artist Nosaj Thing. Follow-up single "Needs" is another undeniable bop, setting the stage for a standout album.

(G)I-DLE - *HEAT*

**Release date:** Oct. 15

Prolific K-pop girl group (G)I-DLE is set to release its first English language project, HEAT

*HEAT* follows the group’s 2022 debut album, *I Never Die*, which opens with the pop-punk-influenced single, "TOMBOY." While little has been revealed about *HEAT*, the project comes via the Asian market-focused U.S. music company 88rising and South Korean label Cube Entertainment, and will showcase the songwriting prowess of group leader Jeon So-yeon. 

(G)I-DLE has released one single from *HEAT* so far — the highly polished synth-pop love song, "I DO" — and the anticipation has K-pop fans feeling giddy.

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