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Cynthia Erivo

Cynthia Erivo

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Sounds Of Change: Cynthia Erivo Performs A Somber Version Of John Lennon's "Imagine"

Accompanied by piano and backed by riveting images of social justice struggles, Cynthia Erivo performs John Lennon's evergreen 1970 peace anthem "Imagine"

GRAMMYs/Mar 31, 2021 - 02:06 am

Featuring stars from Patti LaBelle to Andra Day to Gladys Knight, "A GRAMMY Salute To The Sounds Of Change" was a decades-spanning celebration of the iconic songs that inspired social change and left an everlasting imprint on music and history.

Here's a clip from the 2021 special in which English singer/songwriter Cynthia Erivo performs John Lennon's evergreen 1971 peace anthem "Imagine" while accompanied by piano.

She ended the rendition with a hair-raising vamp, surrounded by projected imagery of placards reading things like "Close The Camps" and "Unjustified War Is Criminal." 

Watch the performance above and read a full recap of the event here.

"A GRAMMY Salute To The Sounds Of Change" is available on-demand on Paramount+.

Here's What Went Down At "A GRAMMY Salute To The Sounds Of Change"

Sean Ono Lennon at 2024 Oscars
Sean Ono Lennon attends the 2024 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

Photo: Lionel Hahn/Getty Images

interview

Catching Up With Sean Ono Lennon: His New Album 'Asterisms,' 'War Is Over!' Short & Shouting Out Yoko At The Oscars

Sean Ono Lennon is having a busy year, complete with a new instrumental album, 'Asterisms,' and an Oscar-winning short film, 'War is Over!' The multidisciplinary artist discusses his multitude of creative processes.

GRAMMYs/May 2, 2024 - 02:23 pm

Marketing himself as a solo musician is a little excruciating for Sean Ono Lennon. It might be for you, too, if you had globally renowned parents. Despite his musical triumphs over the years, Lennon is reticent to join the solo artist racket.

Which made a certain moment at the 2024 Oscars absolutely floor him: Someone walked up to Lennon and told him "Dead Meat," from his last solo album, 2006's Friendly Fire, was his favorite song ever. Not just on the album, or by Lennon. Ever.

"I was so shocked. I wanted to say something nice to him, because it was so amazing for someone to say that," Lennon tells GRAMMY.com. "But it was too late anyway." (Thankfully, after he tweeted about that out-of-nowhere moment, the complimenter connected with him.)

It's a nice glimmer of past Lennon, one who straightforwardly walked in his father's shoes. But what's transpired since 2006 is far more interesting than any Beatle mini-me.

Creatively, Lennon has a million irons in the fire — with the bands the Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, the Claypool Lennon Delirium, his mom's Plastic Ono Band, and beyond.

And in 2024, two projects have taken center stage. In February, he delivered his album Asterisms, a genreless instrumental project with a murderer's row of musicians in John Zorn's orbit, released on Zorn's storied experimental label Tzadik Records. Then just a few weeks later, his 2023 short film War is Over! — for which he co-wrote the original story, and is inspired by John Lennon and Yoko Ono's timeless peace anthem "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)" — won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.

On the heels of the latter, Lennon sat down with GRAMMY.com to offer insights on both projects, and how they each contributed to "really exciting" creative liberation.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

You shouted out your mom at the Oscars a couple of months back. How'd that feel?

Well, honestly, it felt really cosmic that it was Mother's Day [in the UK]. So I just kind of presented as a gift to her. It felt really good. It felt like the stars were aligning in many ways, because she was watching. It was a very sweet moment for me.

What was the extent of your involvement with the War Is Over! short?

Universal Music had talked to me about maybe coming up with a music video idea. I had been trying to develop a music video for a while, and I didn't like any of the concepts; it just felt boring to me.

The idea of watching a song that everyone listens to already, every year, with some new visual accompaniment — it didn't feel that interesting. So, I thought it'd be better to do a short film that kind of exemplifies the meaning of the song, because then, it would be something new and interesting to watch.

That's when I called my friend Adam Gates, who works at Pixar. I was asking him if he had any ideas for animators, or whatever. I knew Adam because he had a band called Beanpole. [All My Kin] was a record he made years ago with his friends, and never came out. It's this incredible record, so I actually put it out on my label, Chimera Music.

But Adam couldn't really help me with the film, because he's still contractually with Pixar, and they have a lot of work to do. But he introduced me to his friend Dave Mullins, who's the director. He had just left Pixar to start a new production company. He could do it, because he was independent, freelance.

Dave and I had a meeting. In that first meeting, we were bouncing around ideas, and we came up with the concept for the chess game and the pigeon. I wanted it to be a pigeon, because I really love pigeons, and birds. We wrote it together, and then we started working on it.

So, I was there from before that existed, and I saw the thing through as well. I also brought in Peter Jackson to do the graphics. 

This message unfortunately resonates more than ever. Republicans used to be the war hawks; now, it's Democrats. What a reversal.

It just feels like we live in an upside-down world. Something happened where we went through a wormhole, and we're in this alternate reality. I don't know how it happened. But it's not the only [example]; a lot of things just seem absolutely absurd with the world these days.

But hopefully, it points toward something better. I try to be optimistic. In the Hegelian dialectic, you have to have a thesis and antithesis, and the synthesis is when they fuse to become a better idea. So, I'm hoping that all the tension in society right now is what the final stage of synthesis looks like.

How'd the filmmaking process roll on from there?

Dave had made a really great short film called LOU when he was at Pixar; that was also nominated for an Oscar. He and [producer] Brad [Booker] know a ton of talented people; they have an amazing character designer.

We started sending files back and forth with WingNut in New Zealand; they would be adding the skins to the characters.

One of the first stages was the performance capture, where you basically attach a bunch of ping pong balls to a catsuit and a bicycle helmet. You record the position of these ping pong balls in a three-dimensional space. That gives you the performance that you map the skins onto on the computer later on. 

For a couple of years, there was a lot of production. David and his team did a really good job of inventing and designing uniforms for the imaginary armies that never existed, because we really didn't want to identify any army as French or British or German or anything.

We wanted to get a kind of parallel universe — an abstraction of the First World War. We designed it so that one army was based on round geometry, and the other was based on angular geometry.

It was a long process, and it was really fun. I learned a lot about modern computer animation.

Between Em Cooper's GRAMMY-winning "I'm Only Sleeping" video and now this, the Beatles' presence in visual media is expanding outward in a cool way.

I think we've been really fortunate to have a lot of really great projects to give to the world. I've only been working on the Beatles and John Lennon stuff directly in the last couple of years, and it's been really exciting for me.

And a big challenge, obviously, because I don't [hesitates] want to f— up. [Laughs.] But it's been a real honor. And I'm very grateful to my mom for giving me the freedom to try all these wacky ideas. Because a lot of people are like, "Oh, when are you going to stop trying to rehash the past with the Beatles, or John Lennon?"

Because the modern world is as it is, I feel like we have a responsibility to try to make sure that the Beatles and John Lennon's music remains out there in the public consciousness, because I think it's really important. I think the world needs to remember the Beatles' music, and remember John and Yoko. It's really about making sure we don't get lost in the white noise of modernity.

I love Asterisms. Where are you at in your journey as a guitarist? I'm sure you unlocked something here.

Like it's a video game. It's weird — I don't even consider myself a guitar player. I'm just, like, a software. But I think it's more about confidence — because it's really hard for me to get over my insecurity with playing and stuff.

For so many different reasons, it's probably just the way I'm designed — being John and
Yoko's kid, growing up with a lot of preconceived notions or expectations about me, musically.

So, it's always been hard to accept myself as a musician, and this was kind of a lesson in getting over myself. Accepting what I wanted to play, and just doing it.

This is my Tzadik record, so it had to be all these fancy, amazing musicians. It doesn't matter what your chops are: it's more about how you feel, and the feeling you bring to your performance.

Once we recorded, it sounded amazing, because we recorded live to tape. So, everything on that album is live, except for my guitar solos. I didn't play my solos live, because I had to play the rhythm guitar. I was just paying attention to the band and cueing people. Once we finished the basic tracks, it just took us a couple of days, and it was done.

It was the simplest record I've ever done, because there were no vocals, so there wasn't a lot of mixing process. We recorded live to 16-track tape, and it was done.

I caught wind a couple of years back that you were working on another solo record simultaneously. Is that true?

I was working on a solo record of songs with lyrics. I finished it, and — I don't know, I think this speaks to the mental problems I have — but I didn't like it suddenly, and i never put it out. I just felt weird about it. I think I overthought it or something.

Then Zorn asked me to do an instrumental thing, and it was a no-brainer, because I've been a fan my whole life. The idea of getting to do something on his label was really an honor.

I got turned on to so many amazing musicians from Zorn, like Joey Baron, Dave Douglas, Kenny Wolleson, and Marc Ribot. Growing up in New York, that's always been my idea of where the greatest musicians are — Zorn and his gang.

Why'd you feel weird about the other album? Did it just not have the juice?

It's not that I didn't think it had the juice. I just got uncomfortable with the idea of putting out a solo record, and the whole process. I got nervous. I still think it's good. But I don't know if it's good enough to warrant me releasing it.

That's fine playing in bands, like the [Claypool Lennon] Delirium and GOASTT [Ghost of a Saber Toothed Tiger]. It takes a degree of unnecessary pressure off of making music. But as soon as your actual birth name is on the record, it starts to feel uncomfortable for me.

People are ruthless today, period. But they're especially critical of me with music. So, it's like, Do I really need to do that s—? It's a little more awkward: "I, myself, Sean Lennon, am putting out my art, and here it is." I'd rather be part of the band.

The Beatles' Final Song: Giles Martin On The Second Life Of "Now And Then" & How The Fab Four Are "Still Breaking New Ground"

Ludwig Goransson holds his Oscar award for Best Original Score for Oppenheimer.
Ludwig Göransson holds his Oscar award for Best Original Score for Oppenheimer at the 2024 Oscars in Hollywood, CA.

 Photo: John Shearer/ WireImage/ Getty Images

video

2024 Oscars: Ludwig Goransson's Masterful Composition for 'Oppenheimer' Wins Best Original Score

The 'Oppenheimer' win by one of the youngest composers to ever receive the award for Best Original Score, marks a second Oscar victory for Ludwig Goransson.

GRAMMYs/Mar 11, 2024 - 03:52 am

Ludwig Göransson's captivating composition for Oppenheimer has triumphed in the Best Original Score category at the 2024 Oscars.

Göransson's victory represents his exceptional talent and innovative approach to film scoring, as one of the youngest composers to ever receive the Best Original Score Oscar. It marks his second win in the category — he took home his first Oscar in 2019 for Black Panther. Göransson's work on Oppenheimer also won at the 2024 GRAMMYs for Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media (Includes Film And Television).

Göransson's work stood out among the competition, going up against the scores of American Fiction, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Killers of the Flower Moon, and Poor Things. His ability to convey deep emotional narratives and complex historical contexts through his scores has established him as one of the most innovative and sought-after composers in Hollywood.

2024 Oscars: Watch Performances & Highlights

Göransson's composition for Oppenheimer serves as the heartbeat of the movie, underpinning the film's exploration of the moral complexities and monumental impact of J. Robert Oppenheimer's work on the atomic bomb. Through his music, Göransson invites audiences into the internal and external conflicts faced by the "father of the atomic bomb," providing a sonic backdrop that is as thought-provoking as it is visceral.

Read more: Watch: Ludwig Göransson Discusses His GRAMMY Win For 'Oppenheimer' At The 2024 GRAMMYs 

The award was presented by fellow GRAMMY winners, Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo, who will star together in the Wizard of Oz big screen adaptation of the musical Wicked as Glinda and Elphaba respectively, premiering on the silver screen later this year. Speaking to the power of music to leave an indelible mark on the viewer through film, Grande said, "a great film score can leave a handprint on our hearts forever. It can ignite wonder and astonishment, make us feel sadness and longing and even transport us to new worlds." 

Göransson achieved just that. In his acceptance speech, Göransson thanked his colleagues,  and stars of the film for contributions to his distinctive vision. "Christopher Nolan, it was your idea to use a violin in the score and it allowed me to work and collaborate with my wonderful wife and acclaimed violinist, Serena Göransson," he said.

Göransson ended his speech by acknowledging his parents, "Thank you for giving me guitars and drum machines and not buying me video games." 

2024 Oscars: Billie Eilish And FINNEAS Perform A Heartrending Version Of "What Was I Made For?" From The 'Barbie' Soundtrack

Billie Eilish and FINNEAS
Finneas O'Connell and Billie Eilish show off their Oscar awards for Best Original Song for 'What Was I Made For?' from 'Barbie'' at the 96th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Photo: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

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2024 Oscars: Billie Eilish and FINNEAS Win Best Original Song For "What Was I Made For?" From The Motion Picture 'Barbie'

The duo's win for "What Was I Made For?" [From The Motion Picture 'Barbie'] marks the second Oscar win for Billie Eilish and FINNEAS, making Eilish the youngest two-time Oscar winner ever.

GRAMMYs/Mar 11, 2024 - 02:23 am

Sibling duo Billie Eilish and FINNEAS are taking home more awards "What Was I Made For" [From The Motion Picture *Barbie*], this time at the 2024 Oscars, winning the prestigious Best Original Song award for their heartfelt ballad.

Once again, they've proven their unparalleled talent crosses effortlessly between the realms of music and film. Billie Eilish and Finneas won their first Oscar in 2022 for Best Original Song with "No Time to Die," the theme for the James Bond film of the same name.

Fittingly, the award was presented by two GRAMMY-winning musical performers, Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo, who star as Glinda and Elphaba in the Wizard of Oz big screen adaptation of the musical Wicked, premiering on the silver screen later this year. 

2024 Oscars: Watch Performances & Highlights

Eilish, who admitted to having a nightmare the night before receiving the award, burst into laughs before thanking the Academy and Barbie director Greta Gerwig, "Thank you to Greta, where did you go? I love you. Thank you for this. I'm so grateful for this song and this movie and the way that it made me feel."

The pair contended for the award against a diverse group of nominees: Diane Warren with "The Fire Inside" from "Flamin' Hot," Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt for "I'm Just Ken" also from Barbie, Jon Batiste and Dan Wilson with "It Never Went Away" from American Symphony, and Scott George for "Wahzhazhe (A Song for My People)" from Killers of the Flower Moon.

Ahead of the win, Eilish and O'Connell gave a stirring paired back performance that highlighted their power as a pair.

Read more: 2024 Oscars: Billie Eilish And FINNEAS Perform A Heartrending Version Of "What Was I Made For?" From The 'Barbie' Soundtrack

"What Was I Made For?" captivated audiences and critics alike with its poignant lyrics and emotive composition, underscoring the siblings' ability to tap into universal feelings of identity and purpose.

This Oscar win is a significant milestone for both artists, reinforcing their status as multifaceted talents capable of storytelling that resonates across different mediums. At the 2024 GRAMMYs, they had already made waves with the same song, winning Song Of The Year and Best Song Written For Visual Media.

Eilish and Finneas's journey from the music studios to the glitz of the Oscar stage is a testament to their hard work, creativity, and the deep connection they share as siblings. Their ability to collaborate and push the boundaries of music, now recognized by both the Recording Academy and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, sets a high bar for artists striving to make their mark across multiple industries.

Eilish and FINNEAS are not just a powerful duo in music but also formidable talents in film music composition. Their Oscar victory tonight is not just a win for them but a win for the incredible synergy between music and storytelling in cinema.

2024 Oscars: Watch Ryan Gosling And Mark Ronson Perform A Soaring, Hilarious Version Of "I'm Just Ken" From The 'Barbie' Soundtrack


Ariana Grande as Glinda the Good Witch in 'Wicked'
Ariana Grande as Glinda the Good Witch in the First Look for 'Wicked: Part 1.'

Photo: Univeral

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Ariana Grande Shines In ‘Wicked: Part 1’ First Look Movie Teaser

The trailer for the wildly anticipated movie musical starring Ariana Grande as Glinda the Good Witch and Cynthia Erivo as Wicked Witch Elphaba dropped before kickoff during Super Bowl LVIII.

GRAMMYs/Feb 12, 2024 - 01:00 am

Something has changed within me! The first trailer for Wicked: Part 1 premiered during Super Bowl LVIII starring Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo.

The teaser gives fans a peek at the first, fortuitous meeting between Grande’s Glinda and Erivo’s Elphaba on their first day at (dear old) Shiz University. Letting out a frightened shriek, the future Good Witch of the North marvels, “Oh! You’re green!” to which Elphie plays along, staring at her hands in awe before agreeing, “I am!”

Elsewhere in the teaser, Elphaba dons her famous black witch’s hat before revealing, “Something just takes over me, and when it does, bad things happen” as Glinda floats into frame in her iconic bubble, all dolled up in a frilly pink gown with matching crown and scepter.

While Wicked lovers don’t get a sneak peek at two-time GRAMMY winner Grande Grande singing any of Glinda’s songs in the trailer, we do get to hear strains of “Defying Gravity” as the clip introduces Jonathan Bailey as Fiyero, Michelle Yeoh as Madame Morrible and Jeff Goldblum as the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with the latter ominously promising, “The best way to bring folks together is to give them a real good enemy.”

The trailer ends with Glinda and Elphaba arriving hand-in-hand at the Emerald City to meet the Wizard, with Grande whispering, “Don’t be afraid” and Erivo replying, “I’m not afraid; it’s the Wizard who should be afraid of me.” Cue the Wicked Witch bursting out of a window and taking flight for the first time as she lets roar the beloved final riff at the end of “Defying Gravity.”

Wicked: Part 1 is scheduled to hit theaters nationwide on Thanksgiving Day 2024 and also stars Ethan Slater, Marissa Bode, Bowen Yang, Keala Settle and Adam James. Watch the trailer above.

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