Gunna, Shawn Mendes & MUNA: GRAMMY U's 10 Favorite SXSW 2022 Moments
The Recording Academy’s GRAMMY U team highlights their favorite performances and interviews from SXSW 2022
With writing and reporting by Alany Rodriguez, Dani Friedman and Kirsten Calabrese
South by Southwest, the music industry’s version of the Olympics, returned to its original format in Austin, Texas following a nearly three-year in person hiatus due to COVID-19. The "Live Music Capital of the World" was not left short of a week filled with exciting showcases featuring new and veteran artists.
The Recording Academy’s GRAMMY U team experienced SXSW's live shows and panels, and met some of the official SXSW artists. Inside the GRAMMY U Social Media Lounge, the team discussed artists' careers, what music they are listening to and their musical inspirations. Below are our 10 favorite moments and takeaways from South by Southwest 2022.
1. Young Thug & Gunna Opened The Stage
Opening the Samsung + Billboard-sponsored "The Stage,” Gunna first performed a solo 30-minute set before bringing out Young Thug (to palpable excitement from the crowd) to perform their hit single "Surf," off of Thug’s So Much Fun album. Following his solo set, the dynamic melodic rapping duo powered back together to perform their top collaborative songs, such as "Ski," "Hot" and their most recent viral hit, "pushin P."
2. Shawn Mendes' Touching Fan Moment
Following an opening set from Latin pop artist Sebastian Yatra, GRAMMY-nominated artist Shawn Mendes literally emerged from a cloud of smoke and opened his set with the dreamy lead single from his third album, Wonder.
Also held at “The Stage,” Mendes’ performance consisted of 11 songs, three of which were live debuts from Wonder, as well as Mendes' recently released single, "It’ll Be Okay."
Mendes spotted a fan from the crowd with a poster asking to perform "305" alongside him, and accommodated the request by bringing an extra mic onstage for an impromptu acoustic rendition. This touching fan moment was shared extensively on TikTok, though the internet went into a full frenzy following Mendes' debut of an unreleased (and previously unheard) song, "When You’re Gone."
The show wrapped with the crowd roaring along to the lyrics of past Song of the Year nominee "In My Blood," whose buildup led to a climactic smoke cannon explosion. Reflecting on social media later that night, Mendes posted a video mentioning that he "felt the love in Austin," a feeling mutual for both artist and crowd following the last night at The Stage.
3. Paris Jackson Shared Her Inspirational Moments And Dream Collabs
Before she hit the stage at the Scoot Inn for her very own SXSW showcase — where she showed off some newly acquired electric guitar skills — singer Paris Jackson stopped by the GRAMMY U Media Lounge Wednesday afternoon to talk about her creative process.
Jackson shared that the inspiration to write comes naturally, and she takes advantage of those moments whenever she can rather than forcing ideas and lyrics out. When asked about her dream artist collaborations, she gave special praise to Manchester Orchestra and shared her experience growing up with their music.
Reflecting on her first SXSW as an artist, Jackson noted that the experience has been challenging but also a shaping factor in her career.
4. Tayla Parx Brought Incredible Energy To The Stage
Tayla Parx, the Recording Academy’s LA Chapter Board Member and GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter, made an appearance at the GRAMMY U Social Media Lounge between her performance at the Dr. Martens Presents showcase and her show later that night.
Parx said she was "most excited to connect with [her] fans again" at SXSW, as it was her first time performing since the beginning of the pandemic. Her late-night performance at Speakeasy Ballroom was an incredible display of her talent, featuring a band and two dancers for a fully choreographed routine. Although it was nearly 2 a.m. by the show's end, there was no lack of energy in Parx’s performance.
5. MUNA Showed Excitement For A "New Chapter"
Electronic-pop band MUNA has been making waves across the music industry, continuing their momentum during their third trip to SXSW. The band played a number of shows during the festival, including a headlining performance at Mohawk presented by Saddest Factory Records and hosted by Phoebe Bridgers.
The following day, MUNA stopped by the GRAMMY U Social Media Lounge for an interview. MUNA said their forthcoming self-titled album represents a new chapter in their music, bringing more happiness and light to their discography. The band added that they are excited to do their first true headline run and to connect with fans post-pandemic.
6. KALI Encouraged Young Artists To Follow Their Gut
Teen indie artist KALI stopped by the GRAMMY U Social Media Lounge during their first SXSW appearance. The 17-year-old multi-instrumentalist discussed the advantages of being a young artist and the confidence that comes with trusting yourself.
"I think that a lot of people my age feel this pressure to figure out what they want to do, and I don’t really feel that pressure because I trust my gut enough," said KALI, adding that they look up to artists such as Paul McCartney and Phoebe Bridgers. "In the industry, it is very important to stay true to that and I feel like I am doing a good job so far."
KALI is currently on tour with Claud in the U.S. and is prepping the release their second EP.
7. The Woman Behind Women That Rock
Former GRAMMY U New York Chapter Representative Andie Aronow visited the GRAMMY U Social Media Lounge to discuss her company, Women That Rock, prior to their showcase event at Mohawk later in the week.
A graduate of the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University, Aronow described her transition from student to GRAMMY U Representative to music industry professional and adjunct professor as "surreal."
Women That Rock is dedicated to supporting up-and-coming women and non-binary musicians. At its second-ever SXSW showcase, Women That Rock artists ranged from acts with hundreds to tens of thousands of followers, with Sir Woman as one of the showcase headliners.
8. Eddie Benjamin, A Bieber Supporting Artist, Got Seen
The Porsche-presented showcase "Unseen" invited new artists to perform. Among the performers was rising Australian singer Eddie Benjamin, who is supporting Justin Bieber on his Justice world tour.
Accompanied by his electric guitar, Benjamin performed his top singles such as "Weatherman," and "Running Away From Home," in front of a dancing crowd. Obvious from his cadence performing live, his musical influences include legendary artists such as Jimi Hendrix.
9. Phoneboy's Performance At The Texas Chapter Block Party
On March 16, the Recording Academy’s Texas Chapter hosted a block party at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Austin. The event featured a special performance by Phoneboy, a band from the Stevens Institute of Technology who were the winners of the Texas Chapter Block Party GRAMMY U performer national contest.
Members of the New York Chapter, the indie-pop band gave a remarkable performance and charming stage presence in front of leading music industry professionals and artists. Their song "Hey, Kid!" had the crowd pumped up for the rest of the energetic night.
10. Don Toliver Uplifted The Crowd At SXSW's Close
Don Toliver closed out the action-packed week of live music at his Rolling Loud SXSW headlining slot. He took the audience for a melodic ride, performing both upbeat and more relaxed songs, taking the audience to space with a captivating performance of "Moon," which he featured on off of Ye’s Donda album.
The Houston native was not shy about jumping around the stage. During his performance of "After Party," the stage filled with smoke and you could feel the crowd’s uplifting party spirit.
Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
Rolling Loud Festival Los Angeles Reveals 2019 Lineup
Find out who's bringing the heat to the hip-hop fest returning to L.A. this December
Today, Rolling Loud revealed the massive lineup for their final music festival of 2019, Rolling Loud Los Angeles, which is set to take over the Banc of California Stadium and adjacent Exposition Park on Dec. 14–15.
This iteration of "the Woodstock of Hip-Hop," as the all-knowing Diddy has called it, will feature Chance the Rapper, Lil Uzi Vert, Juice WRLD, Young Thug and Lil Baby as Saturday's heavy-hitting headliners. Sunday's headliners are none other than Future, A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, YG and Playboi Carti.
L.A.'s own Blueface, Tyga and Doja Cat, are slated to perform, as well as representatives from the diverse rap scenes across the country, including Wale, Juicy J, Lil Yachty, Megan Thee Stallion, Gunna, Tyla Yaweh, Machine Gun Kelly and Yung Gravy.
The lineup announcement follows the successful wrap of Rolling Loud Bay Area in Oakland this past weekend. The event's flagship Miami event took place in May this year, and the New York and Hong Kong debut editions will both take place later this month.
Some of y’all not ready for these moshpits https://t.co/3nlaudjapq— Randy (@randyt0321) October 1, 2019
Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images
Shawn Mendes: "In My Blood" Shows Spirited Defiance
For those times when bending feels like it can break you, Mendes launches a meaningful anthem of struggle and never staying down
Having reached the Top 10 of Billboard Hot 100 in each of the past three years, Shawn Mendes' release of "In My Blood" from his upcoming third studio album welcomes 2018 as another promising year for the young Canadian.
As for those Mendes hits in past years, "Stitches" went to No. 4 in 2015, "Treat You Better" went to No. 6 in 2016 and "There's Nothing Holding Me Back" went to No. 6 in 2017. His first two albums — 2015's Handwritten and 2016's Illuminate — peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 album chart. That is a lot of impact for a talent who turns 20 this coming Aug. 8.
"In My Blood" was co-written by Mendes with Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris and Geoff Warburton — the same collective behind "There's Nothing. …"
Look for Mendes to perform his new song on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" on March 28.
And save the date: On April 10 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, Mendes will perform with SZA on the CBS two-hour concert special "Elton John: I'm Still Standing – A GRAMMY Salute." The two talents will duet on the John classic "Don't Go Breaking My Heart."
Photo: George Pimentel/Getty Images
Shawn Mendes To Kick Off "MTV Unplugged" Reboot
The iconic MTV series gets a fresh coat of paint, with new episodes featuring today's stars in interesting venues
MTV has announced a reboot of their beloved "Unplugged" franchise for this fall. The network is not holding back on star power either, enlisting pop chart-topper Shawn Mendes for the first installment of the relaunched series.
The show, originally conceived and launched in 1989 by singer/songwriter Jules Shear (who hosted the first 13 episodes) along with producers Robert Small and Jim Burns, drew on a late '80s fad of rock bands performing acoustic versions of their hits at award shows and televised events.
Clapton's Unplugged album went on to win the GRAMMY for Album Of The Year, with "Tears In Heaven" also taking Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year, at the 35th GRAMMY Awards. Tony Bennett became the second artist to win Album Of The Year for an "Unplugged" album at the 37th GRAMMY Awards.
According to Variety, the new series is looking to "mix things up this time around."
"'Let's take it to cool locations' was the thought," said MTV's Amani Duncan, who is heading the new launch. "Like where the artist played their first major show, or maybe they choose a location to make a pro-social statement, or it's, 'I always wanted to play Carnegie Hall.'"
The reboot of "MTV Unplugged" featuring Shawn Mendes from the Theatre at Ace Hotel in Los Angeles is scheduled to air Sept. 8.
Photo: Miranda McDonald
Shawn Mendes Wants You To Analyze His Music: "It's All About Being Vulnerable And Making People Feel Seen"
With his new single, "When You're Gone," Shawn Mendes gets raw and real about his split with Camila Cabello. The upbeat track is the pop star's most lyrically transparent breakup song to date — and that's exactly how he intended it.
Since Shawn Mendes dropped his first single, 2014's "Life Of The Party," vulnerability has always been part of his image. That came to a head with the anthemic 2018 hit "In My Blood" (which earned the singer/songwriter a Song Of The Year nomination at the 2019 GRAMMYs), and continued on his 2020 album, Wonder. While his latest release is no different, it may be his most candid yet.
Titled "When You're Gone," the pop-rock track details a looming heartbreak in raw form. "I know what we're supposed to do/ It's hard for me to let go of you/ So I'm just tryna hold on," Mendes sings in the first pre-chorus.
Breakup songs aren't necessarily new territory for Mendes, but this one is particularly autobiographical: The single comes four months after he and Camila Cabello announced their split. With its predecessor, the melancholy piano ballad "It'll Be Okay," also addressing the November 2021 breakup, Mendes' music has perhaps become more scrutinized than ever before — but to him, that's a good thing.
"I want [my music] to be put under a microscope," he tells GRAMMY.com. "That's the whole entire point of making music, in my opinion, is to have people get closer to the song and the meaning."
Mendes sat down with GRAMMY.com to detail how "When You're Gone" came together, his inspiration for being so vulnerable (hint: Justin Bieber is involved), and why he wants fans to examine every word he writes.
One of the first teasers that you posted of "When You're Gone" was of you signing it as a piano ballad. What made you decide to turn it into an upbeat track instead of something more stripped back?
I don't really know. I think it was the nature of what the song had to be, not what we wanted it to be. It started off on the piano, and then when we heard what it could be with drums at that tempo, it just felt like it had to be that. I can't imagine it another way.
Your sound keeps getting bigger and bigger with each album — Wonder felt like a step up from Shawn Mendes, and "When You're Gone" feels like an elevated version of the instrumentation that you brought on both of those albums. How do you approach making music that sonically tops what you've done before, or at least expands on it?
That's a really amazing question. A huge part of that is working with people who are inspired. There's a lot of people who are great, but there's not a lot of people who are inspired, and inspired people create magic. You can have all the productions, techniques and all the best sounds, but if you don't have an inspired sense in the room that day, it's gonna sound different.
For me, it's never about trying to top things sonically by adding more — it's always about trying to top the magic. There can be three instruments in the song, and it can give you the same feeling.
One of my first thoughts when I heard "When You're Gone" was, "I wonder what fans are going to say about this." Because no matter the actual inspiration for a song, fans love to dissect its meaning. Is that something that goes through your head when you're writing songs? Or have you gotten pretty comfortable with knowing that your music might be put under a microscope?
I want it to be put under a microscope. I want people to think about what it means, and think about how it affects them, and how it relates to them. That's the whole entire point of making music, in my opinion, is to have people get closer to the song and the meaning.
I figured that releasing a single as vulnerable as "In My Blood" a few years ago, and seeing the response to that, might have helped you get more comfortable with releasing super personal songs.
I think what makes me feel like I have to be open in my music is the way people reacted after "In My Blood." I was expecting judgment and critique after that song, and all I got was love and tears. And people were telling me how that song was speaking their truth as well.
Every single song [I've written] after that one, the number one rule is, this has to be true. This has to be real. This has to be authentic. And that's kind of how I go about it.
So "In My Blood" set a bar for you, in a way.
Yeah, in a lot of ways, it's set the bar of authenticity. It doesn't always have to be as deep — there's no box, but it always has to be as authentic.
That's what the song is — people know what you're going through, and you're kind of addressing it head on with these lyrics. I feel like people are going to be really appreciative of you just kind of being like, "This is my side. This is my story."
Yes and no. The thing about music, the thing about people is, we're not so one-sided. We're not constantly feeling one way for months and months and months. We're constantly changing. So yeah, that's my reality some days, and some days it's not. I just hope that people who are going through similar things can connect with that.
Going back to what we were talking about with your music being under a microscope, you talked about that in your Wonder track with Justin Bieber, "Monster." I know you've talked about the advice that he's given you about dealing with fame — how have you seen his advice come into play in the last few years?
He's just been a real steady friend for me for a couple of years. He's also just hyper-focused on truth and authenticity. And I think that comes across. I just follow his lead, and follow anyone's lead who is living that way, you know?
So is "When You're Gone" a teaser for what's to come on a new album, or more of a standalone song to get you and fans hyped for your upcoming tour?
It's just a song that I really loved, so I decided it's time to put it out. But all of those things also!
I mean, I can only imagine this song live — this is gonna go off.
I was playing in Austin a couple weeks ago. We played the song before it came out, and it was like it's already been out for years.
You said in a previous interview, "The beautiful thing about fame is that it allows you to have a voice to get messages across and to that need to be heard." What do you feel like your message is, going into this next chapter?
It's just allowing people to feel seen, and to feel heard — to feel like they're not alone, and supported. There's so much judgment and so much divisiveness between everybody, that I just want everyone to just, like, take a big deep breath, and be like, "We're all just human, trying to do our best."
That's what I crave and try to do with the way I am, the way I talk, the way I go on social media, the music I write. It's just all about being vulnerable and making people feel seen.