meta-script5 Black Artists Rewriting Country Music: Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer & Willie Jones | GRAMMY.com
5 Black Artists Rewriting Country Music: Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer & Willie Jones

(L-R): Willie Jones, Kane Brown, Mickey Guyton, Brittney Spencer, Jimmie Allen

Photo credit for source images (L-R): Matthew Berinato, Matthew Berinato, Phylicia J.L. Munn, John Shearer

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5 Black Artists Rewriting Country Music: Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer & Willie Jones

Despite inventing country music, Black artists have historically been marginalized in that sphere. That's all changing in the 21st century with the help of country music stars like Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer & Willie Jones.

GRAMMYs/Jul 26, 2021 - 10:30 pm

2021 has introduced a dynamic change to American life that has aggressively called into question stereotypes surrounding race, gender and culture. And there may be no better lens through which to examine this development than in country music. 

For almost a century, the Appalachia-born genre, more than almost any other subset of American popular music, has largely excluded Black artists and performers. However, the roots of country music lay in the hands of banjo-playing Black slaves and minstrel-show performing sharecroppers. 

Still, for well over 50 years, the only Black artist significantly represented in the country music industry was the late Charley Pride, who died last December. The Mississippi-born sharecropper turned All-Star Negro League pitcher's ability to navigate his way around a country song led to four dozen-plus top 10 Billboard Country chart hits (including the 1971 classic "Kiss An Angel Good Morning") and worldwide appeal.

Today, in an era partly defined by reparational justice toward African-Americans nationwide, country music contains numerous performers whose tireless efforts in the genre are now being rewarded. Of the growing crowd, Mickey Guyton, Kane Brown, Jimmie Allen, Brittney Spencer, and Willie Jones have all received Pride-level applause for their successes within country music.

Read More: For Charley Pride, Black Country Music Was A Self-Evident Truth

Country's Next Great Torch Singer: Mickey Guyton

From Patsy Cline to Carrie Underwood, country music has a tradition of white female vocalists whose impressive vocal control and electrifying histrionics elevate superb songwriting to award-winning levels.

Comparatively, warm, soulful singers like Linda Martell and Rissi Palmer have opened doors for Black female country performers.

For those looking for a marriage of the two, Mickey Guyton—a veteran country artist buoyed by the pained yet profound inspiration of the Black Lives Matter movement—married her multi-octave superstar vocal instrument to the poignant ballad "Black Like Me" and has soared to top-tier country acclaim. Her new album, Remember Her Name, drops on September 24.

Country music is often maligned because of its inability to address issues of race and gender in a manner that befits the tenor of progressive times. However, Guyton's now-signature song overcame the genre's historical slights against marginalized communities. What's more, it reflects country music's slow, continued moves toward justice for them.

A "Worldwide Beautiful" Superstar In The Making: Kane Brown

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Kane Brown is the type of artist as comfortable making modernized trap-style country ballads (2020's "Be Like That," featuring Swae Lee) as he is covering the neo-traditionalist Randy Travis' classic "Three Wooden Crosses."

His head—frequently topped with an adjustable trucker hat—has growing ears, eyes and music-biz savvy. Recently, the trailer-park-raised Chattanooga, Tennessee, native launched a new label, Sony-backed 1021 Entertainment—plus a song publishing company, Verse 2 Entertainment. 

However, if looking for the accurate measurement of Brown's cross-cultural reach, "Worldwide Beautiful" drives home why Brown is a star of note, with an extraordinarily passionate social media following to boot.

When he sings, "At every show I see my people/They ain't the same, but they're all equal/One love, one God, one family," his rich tenor conveys a unifying message that supersedes today's American frustrations and antagonism.

The Hometown Hero: Jimmie Allen

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Country music loves stories of self-made small-town boys with humble dreams that shine under Music City's downtown Broadway lights.

To wit, rising country star Jimmie Allen is a native—and still, proudly a resident—of Milton, Delaware, a town populated by a hair below 3,000 people. His new album, Bettie James Gold Edition—an expansion of his Bettie James project—dropped in June.

Within the first five years of his country career, Allen's achieved two platinum-selling, number-one Billboard Country Airplay chart singles (2018's "Best Shot" and 2019's "Make Me Want To"), plus recently became the first Black artist to win the New Male Artist of the Year award at 2021's Academy of Country Music Awards.

It's also notable how Allen carries forth Charley Pride's legacy. In a 2020 interview for Holler, the vocalist noted that the Country Music Hall of Famer taught him that if he made the music he loved, "It'll land on the ears and hearts of the people who are supposed to hear it."

"[That advice] clicked," he replied. "Ever since, I really got the confidence to just kind of fall in my groove of what I do."

Your Favorite Singer/Songwriter's Favorite Singer/Songwriter: Brittney Spencer

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Baltimore, Maryland's Brittney Spencer writes from a place of deeply ingrained spiritual inspirations, and her style is borne from years spent as a churchgoing Episcopal church choir member and musical arranger. 

Equally, it's inspired by having a friend introduce her to the music of the Chicks as a teenager. Just like the band whose 1998 song "Wide Open Spaces" is a crossover country classic, Spencer's music is cut from the same cloth.

On songs like the 2020 Compassion EP single "Sorrys Don't Work No More," lyrics like "I called you up in August, hoping I could be honest/But you never let me speak" hurt more than they rhyme—which is a rare talent. 

That skill is not only apparent in Spencer's forthcoming material, but in writers' rooms with the likes of a diverse slate of country performers including Allen, Maren MorrisBrandy Clark and Jason Isbell.

Overall, it's simply a case of if—and not when—Spencer's acclaim will grow.

The Country-Trap Iconoclast: Willie Jones

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No artist in the pop-country realm more uniquely highlights the diverse presentations allowed when welcoming more artists of color into the mainstream conversation than Shreveport, Louisiana's Willie Jones.

Suppose a Venn diagram space existed wherein early 2Pac's blend of earnestness and braggadocio blended with Kenny Chesney's desire to kick off his shoes and relax with a drink. In that case, the 26-year old singer-songwriter would occupy it.

From one side of his mouth emerges "American Dream," his critically-acclaimed 2021 civil rights anthem that includes the lyrics, "When you're livin' as a Black man/It's a different kinda American dream."

However, on the other side of the coin, you've got "Down By The Riverside," his Southern, countrified 2021 party track about corn, cotton and crawfish.

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Remembering Toby Keith: 5 Essential Songs From The Patriotic Cowboy And Country Music Icon
Toby Keith performs at the 2021 iHeartCountry Festival in Austin, Texas.

Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images

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Remembering Toby Keith: 5 Essential Songs From The Patriotic Cowboy And Country Music Icon

After a two-year battle with stomach cancer, country star Toby Keith passed away on Feb. 5 at the age of 62. Revisit his influence with five of his seminal tracks, including his debut hit "Should've Been a Cowboy."

GRAMMYs/Feb 7, 2024 - 04:39 pm

We may have known about Toby Keith's stomach cancer diagnosis for nearly two years, but that didn't keep the news of his Feb. 5 death from hitting hard. The oftentimes outspoken country music star enjoyed a three-decade career as one of the genre's beloved hitmakers, courtesy of unabashed hits like "Who's Your Daddy?," "Made In America" and "I Wanna Talk About Me."

Occasionally his in-your-face persona clashed with folks, particularly when it came to his political views in recent years. But for the most part, it was Keith's blue-collar upbringing and work ethic that shined through and resonated with his legion of listeners. 

It wasn't until his thirties that the future Songwriters Hall of Famer landed his first record deal in 1993, following years grinding away as a rodeo hand, in oil fields and as a semi-professional football player to make ends meet. The Oklahoma-born crooner would go on to record 20 No.1 hits, sell over 40 million records across 26 albums, and gross nearly $400 million touring — cementing himself as one of country music's most successful artists in the process.

As we look back on Keith's life and legacy, here are five essential cuts from the seven-time GRAMMY nominee, whose memory will live on in the hearts of country music artists and fans alike.

"Should've Been A Cowboy" (1993)

Few artists strike gold with their maiden release, but Keith did just that when his song "Should've Been A Cowboy" launched in February 1993. The upbeat track received widespread acclaim, eventually reaching No. 1 on the Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart a few months later.

"Should've Been A Cowboy" takes on a distinctly traditional tone as Keith romanticizes cowboy culture by referencing classic westerns like Gunsmoke with nods to Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty in addition to six-shooters, cattle drives and Texas Rangers abound. The tune also reinforces the notion that cowboys just have more fun, whether its "stealin' the young girls' hearts, just like Gene [Autry] and Roy [Rogers]" or "runnin' wild through the hills chasin' Jesse James." 

By the looks of Keith's career, he certainly had his fair share of fun, and it may not have come if it weren't for "Should've Been A Cowboy."

"How Do You Like Me Now?!" (1999)

After a successful '90s run (which included two more No. 1s in "Who's That Man" and "Me Too"), Keith kicked off the 2000s with his fourth No. 1 hit, "How Do You Like Me Now?!" In signature Toby Keith fashion, he confronts his haters by asking the titular, rhetorical question, posed to his high school's valedictorian — who was also his crush. "I couldn't make you love me but I always dreamed about livin' in your radio," he sings on the brazen chorus.

The song is a stern reminder to never let anyone keep you from chasing your dreams; it's also a lesson of standing strong on your convictions. Its message also proved fitting for Keith's career: After Mercury Records Nashville rejected the song (and its namesake album) in the late '90s, Keith got out of his deal with them in favor of signing with DreamWorks Records, with whom he released the project a year later. Not only did the single go on to spend five weeks at No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart, but it became the singer's first major crossover hit.

"Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" (2002)

Keith was never afraid to share his opinion in public or in song, especially when it came to displaying his patriotism and appreciation for those who protect the United States. While the Okie approached this from a softer side on 2003's "American Soldier," his most renowned musings on the subject without a doubt came a year earlier with "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)."

On the angsty ballad — which was written in the wake of his father's March 2001 death and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks — Keith channels a universal feeling of American hurt and pride. "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)" inspired an equal outpouring of support and outrage that, for better or worse depending on where you stand, helped cement the song into the annals of country music lore.

"I Love This Bar" (2003)

We've all got our favorite watering hole full of its own quirks and characters, from winners to losers, chain-smokers and boozers. Keith taps into that feel-good, hometown hang feeling with "I Love This Bar," a lighthearted tale from 2003's Shock'n Y'all that makes dingy dive bars feel like the prime party destination.

The midtempo track — Keith's 12th No. 1 — further plays into country music drinking tropes as Keith proclaims, "I like my girlfriend, I like to take her out to dinner, I like a movie now and then" before making a hard pivot, adding "but I love this bar." 

All joking aside, the song, and all of the unique individuals described within it, have a harmony to them inside those hallowed walls. It's a kinship that seems more and more difficult to find in today's world, and a sentiment best captured at the song's conclusion: "come as you are."

"As Good As I Once Was" (2005)

Your best days may be behind you, but that doesn't mean you can't still live your best life and thrive in the present — even if you don't get over hangovers as quickly as you used to.

That youthful wisdom is distilled into every lyric of "As Good As I Once Was," a reminiscent story in which a then-44-year-old Keith recounts his prime as a lover, drinker and fighter humbly. That being said, his pride is still quick to take charge with convictions like "I still throw a few back, talk a little smack, when I'm feelin' bullet proof."

Lasting six weeks at No. 1, "As Good As I Once Was" was the biggest of the 15 chart-toppers Keith tallied in the 2000s. And though he scored one more in the following decade (along with several other hits, including the playful drinking song "Red Solo Cup"), "As Good As I Once Was" will live on as one of Keith's quintessential messages of fun-loving confidence: "I ain't as good as I once was, but I'm as good once, as I ever was."

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Charles Esten On How Procrastination, Serendipity And "Nashville" Resulted In 'Love Ain't Pretty'
Charles Esten

Photo: Kirsten Balani

interview

Charles Esten On How Procrastination, Serendipity And "Nashville" Resulted In 'Love Ain't Pretty'

For the first time in his career, Charles Esten is fully focused on music. But as the actor/singer details, his debut album, 'Love Ain't Pretty' is much more than another venture — it's a lifelong goal achieved.

GRAMMYs/Jan 3, 2024 - 10:40 pm

Like many of his peers, Charles Esten has known music is his calling since he was a kid. But at 58, he's just now getting the opportunity to do what his contemporaries are long past: release a debut album.

As fans of the beloved ABC/CMT series "Nashville" or the hit Netflix drama "Outer Banks" know, Esten first established himself in the acting world. But as his "Nashville" role revealed, the actor also had some strong singing chops, too — and it wasn't a coincidence.

Due Jan. 26, Love Ain't Pretty is a testament to both Esten's patience and his passion. Combining his soulful country sound and emotive songwriting, Love Ain't Pretty poignantly captures his years of loving and learning. And with a co-writing credit on all 14 tracks, the album is the purest representation of his artistry possible.

"Being the age I am, and the difference of what this album is to what maybe my first album would've been if I was 28, is the intentionality," he tells GRAMMY.com. "I can chase what's thoroughly me, and the facets of that. And in the end, that, I think, makes better music anyway."

As the title suggests, Love Ain't Pretty mostly focuses on finding the beauty in life. Along with several odes to his wife, Patty ("One Good Move," "Candlelight"), Esten delivers tales of self-reflection ("A Little Right Now") and simply enjoying the moment ("Willing To Try"), all with a grit that's equal parts inspiring and charming.

Perhaps the most fitting sentiment on the album is "Make You Happy" — not because of its lovestruck narrative, but because it captures Esten's goal with Love Ain't Pretty and beyond: "Wanna make you happy/ Wanna make you smile."

"I know that musical superstardom is not an option," he acknowledges. "I don't even seek it. So, what do I seek instead of perfection? Connection."

Below, Esten recounts his fateful journey to Love Ain't Pretty — from his first taste of stardom to finally fulfilling his lifelong dream.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

All the way back in third grade, our elementary school had a contest to write the school song. They said, "Find a Disney song and use the melody and then put new words to it." I did it to "It's a Small World." I probably wrote little doodles on my own [before that], but that was the first one with any bit of fame. 

I went back, like 10 years later, and they were singing that. They actually made it as part of all the assemblies and everything. That feeling, to hear people singing words that you thought of, I'm sure that was the beginning of this path.

Eventually, when I went to college, I was in a band. But, even before I was in a band, my grandmother passed in my sophomore year of college. And, I didn't get back in time to see her. She had helped raise me when I was little, after my parents' divorce, so it hit me hard. I somehow was able to put what she meant to me in a song, and that made a big impact in a lot of ways. Whereas that third grade little ditty made everybody laugh and smile and everything, this made my mother and my aunts and uncles [cry] in a warm, loving way. I could see it affecting them. 

I could [also] feel it help me process what I was going through. That was another bit of an aha moment, like, "Oh wow, writing a song can do that also."

Right after that, I started a band. That experience of hearing a band bring your song alive — it was so much more full, this experience, and hearing somebody else add a thing you hadn't thought of, that was another true revelation, the power of that. So I got hooked rather quickly. 

Honestly, I probably would've stayed in that world if my band had stayed in that world. They all made the decision to graduate and go be doctors and lawyers and stuff, as the song says. When that finished up, I didn't know what I was going to do next. But, having experienced that made it clear to me that I was not cut out for a desk job — even though I had an economics degree. 

I had some friends that had gone to L.A. and started becoming actors. I thought, "Maybe I'll give that a try." But the long and the short of it is, if you had asked me, "Will you continue in music?" I'd be like, "Absolutely. I'm going to go out there and I'm going to meet another bass player and a drummer and another band will come."

It didn't happen. I went to London and played Buddy Holly for two and a half years in the musical "Buddy." When I went back to L.A. after that, then the family started to come, and so the band just never happened. But I had a piano, had guitars — I never stopped writing or playing.

At one point, I had the thought, "Well, I might have missed the boat in terms of ever getting to be a performer myself, but I can write songs." And by this point, I was really listening to a whole lot of country, '90s country, 2000s and all.

So, I decided I was going to start writing in a more formalized way, in a more intentional way, instead of just whenever a song came to me. And, as soon as I sort of said that, things started happening.

I met my friend Jane Bach, who is a great Nashville songwriter. She was going back and forth between LA and Nashville at the time. She invited me to sing at the Bluebird [Cafe in Nashville], which I knew very well, and I said yes. And twice, I had to cancel because I got other work. And at a certain point, I literally said to my wife, "When am I going to get to go to Nashville? That'll never happen."

[That] maybe was two or three years before "Nashville." And then I get this script that says, "Nashville." Next thing I know, I'm here and I'm literally doing my first scene in the Bluebird.

I understand, very cleanly, that ["Nashville"] opened all these side doors that most people don't have access to. But, I also know that there's a chance they could have all been opened and I could not have been ready. 

When it finally [happened], for a lot of people, just looking at an actor who's playing a singer/songwriter, I get the feeling that it was a pleasant surprise — I like to think that there was a little more there than they expected. It was actually more authentically who I was than the actor.

I never really quite verbalized this, but the feeling [of landing "Nashville"] was one of — it'll make me emotional — completion. I felt like the show was an answer to so many unsolved things in my life. And that's, I think, why we haven't left. And it's also why the album meant so much to me.

It meant so much to me that I didn't just get here and do an album. I got here at 46. To be that old and not really know who you are as an artist — I never had to define myself. So, I didn't chase that immediately. I just wanted to make music in Music City and make as much as I could. 

I always felt behind, because all my contemporaries that had been here, very many of them were already incredibly famous and already had done so much. But you can't [focus on] the road not taken. 

I have to admit, there's some part of me that would be like, "What if you were putting out your first album at 28?" That's nothing I sort of worry about. I know that it wouldn't have been this. I wouldn't change anything. I have this wife and this family and this career that brought me here. It feels like this was the way it was meant to happen, as strange as it all is.

I felt more prepared than people might expect. And I had something that most people didn't have, which was, Deacon walked in places before I did. Deacon sang at the Bluebird before Charles did. Deacon was at the Grand Ole Opry before I was.

That began what I would call my 10,000 hours in this town. Between the number of hours I've been able to be on stage at these incredible venues, and play music with these incredible people, and all the singles I was able to put out over the last 10 years, I now feel like that, in some ways, I have as much of a catalog as people that have been here for those 30 years. But, it's still my first album, which I've held onto for something special, and I'm so grateful for the way it turned out. I couldn't be happier.

I knew that I wasn't emptying the whole toolbox to play Deacon. But, having said that, I'm so moved by how much playing that guy influenced my music and my songwriting. A song like "A Little Right Now," it roars at the top and rages a little bit, but in general, that is a Deacon song through and through. "I'm a farmer praying for rain/ I'm a gambler that needs an ace of spades/ I'm a sailor hoping for a gust of wind/ I'm a singer looking for that song/ I'm a prisoner that ain't got long/ I'm a dreamer waiting for my ship to come in/ But lately all my roads have been running out/ There ain't no silver linings in these clouds/ Help me, Lord, and show me how to find the kind of faith that I once found/ 'Cause I could sure use a little right now." When you watch the show, you'll go, "That's the Deacon-est thing I've ever heard."

There's other songs on this album as well. "Maybe I'm Alright" — Deacon's journey was from utterly broken to "maybe I'm alright." As I look at it, he informs this album.

I'm a procrastinator. That's why I released so many singles in 2016, that world record. [Editor's note: Esten released 54 original songs once a week for 54 straight weeks, earning a Guinness World Records title in 2018 for the "Most consecutive weeks to release an original digital single by a music act."] 

That was a mind hack — a life hack — to arbitrarily create deadlines. And, my God, did that work, because I just started putting it out. [After that,] I started thinking about an album, and I even made an early attempt at it, and then COVID hit. 

They felt like songs from a thousand years ago [after the lockdown]. I pretty much scrapped it and didn't use any of them, and said, "I've just got to do this again in a different way. It's a different me. It's a different world."

My wife is not a procrastinator. And I'll show her, sometimes there's an upside of procrastinating. It's like using a crockpot when there's a microwave right there — it stews in all the ingredients. 

Deacon's a major ingredient, but if you just put that major ingredient on it and cook it real quick, it's too pronounced. Stew it in there with all the other ones until it's a new flavor, a new thing in its entirety. And that's what happened.

It's also interesting that, being the age I am, and the difference of what this album was to what, maybe, my first album would've been if I was 28, is the intentionality in terms of radio success or chart success — or chasing something that might not be thoroughly you, but might be a little more popular than thoroughly you. There's no reason for it at my age, so I can chase what's thoroughly me, and the facets of that. And in the end, that, I think, makes better music anyway.

There's a video I put out for "Somewhere in the Sunshine." Already, the impact of that song is sort of blowing my mind. The video is full of quotes from people that commented on YouTube about who they lost, and how it's giving them a little moment of peace, and how it's blessing them. That's my radio play. That's my GRAMMY.

I try to always realize how blessed I am to be able to do this. It's so much more precious later in life. I think people sometimes meet me and I have an enthusiasm for it that is younger than my years. And, maybe [that's] just because I've been waiting at a distance so long and it finally came true. I might get jaded someday, but it hasn't happened yet.

There's still an outsider mentality. I also feel like an anomaly. All the great artist friends I have, I'm not like them. They've been on the radio, they've had cuts, they've had hits. And then, all the new ones starting off doing their first album, I'm not in their group either — they have a whole career and future ahead.

On the other hand, I feel warm and welcomed in all of those arenas, and in everyone in this town. It always has been unusual for me here. All the reasons I'm here, all the why's, all the how's — but I guess, in the end, that's how I fit, and that's how I belong.

I was blessed that I was able to take my time. I think, once you let go of the outcome, freedom is available. It's just really hard to let go of that outcome. But, as I said, I'm a different beast. What I am means I better let go of that outcome, because the odds of me getting a No. 1 smash off this, they're not great. But the odds of me moving somebody with this music? I think they're pretty good.

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New Holiday Songs For 2023: Listen To Festive Releases From Aespa, Brandy, Sabrina Carpenter & More
Jimmy Fallon & Meghan Trainor perform their song "Wrap Me Up" on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" in November 2023.

Photo: Randy Holmes/DISNEY via Getty Images

New Holiday Songs For 2023: Listen To Festive Releases From Aespa, Brandy, Sabrina Carpenter & More

With the Christmas season in full swing, it’s time to deck the halls and load up those holiday playlists. Check out 14 new songs and projects to add to your 2023 festivities.

GRAMMYs/Dec 4, 2023 - 06:39 pm

It's the most wonderful time of year! With every holiday season comes a new outpouring of festive music, and this year is no different.

From pop and R&B to K-pop and country, artists from all genres revel in the season as they pen new, original Christmas songs and reinterpret well-loved classics. This year, GRAMMY winners like Brandy and Samara Joy deliver full-length albums, while rising stars like Sabrina Carpenter, Mimi Webb and Coco Jones add their own contributions like shiny new baubles on a sparkling Christmas tree. 

Below, GRAMMY.com rounded up 14 new holiday releases worth checking out, from Alanis Morissette's first Christmas EP to new projects by Aly & AJ and Gavin DeGraw, and even a posthumous duet between Elvis Presley and Kane Brown

aespa, "Jingle Bell Rock"

Need some K-pop for your holiday playlist? Look no further than aespa's take on "Jingle Bell Rock." The girl group takes Bobby Helms' 1957 hit to the metaverse by giving it a slinky edge punctuated by handclaps, toy piano and glitchy undertones. Members GISELLE and NINGNING even add their own laid-back rap verse to the proceedings, casually tossing off lyrics like, "Ring, ring, ring, jingle bell rock/ Play like a spell/ I won't tell, jingle bell talk" partway through the track.

Aly & AJ, Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove isn't Aly & AJ's first Christmas project — that would be their excellent 2006 LP Acoustic Hearts of Winter — but the siblings have come a long way from the Disney days of their last holiday record. Just look at "Greatest Time of Year," which they've plucked from the Acoustic Hearts track list and transformed from into a delicate slowburner perfect to be sung by the fireside. Then there's the pitch-perfect cover of "Sisters," which proves the only way to improve upon Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen's eternally iconic number from 1954's White Christmas is for it to be recorded by, you know, actual sisters.

Brandy, Christmas With Brandy

Considering she's been called the "Vocal Bible" since she rose to stardom in the '90s, a Christmas album makes all the sense in the world for Brandy. On Christmas with Brandy, the R&B sensation — and star of Netflix's new holiday flick Best. Christmas. Ever. — eschews the scriptural in favor of the romantic ("Christmas Party For Two"), the hopeful ("Someday at Christmas") and the celebratory ("Christmas Gift" with daughter Sy'Rai) — all with her trademark gossamer runs and riffs in full, glistening effect.

Kane Brown and Elvis Presley, "Blue Christmas"

Fresh off his performance in NBC's "Christmas at Graceland" special, Kane Brown turns his live version of "Blue Christmas" into a full-blown duet with Elvis Presley himself. The King famously released his iconic version of the holiday classic in 1957 — as well as a live version more than a decade later — and Brown wisely sticks to Presley's tried-and-true formula on their duet by trading verses, while letting Elvis' iconic voice shine.

Sabrina Carpenter, Fruitcake

Sabrina Carpenter created a recipe for a holiday hit last year thanks to "A Nonsense Christmas," a cheeky seasonal remake of her top 10 pop hit "Nonsense." This year, she doubles the recipe on Fruitcake, a delectable slice of Christmas goodness that's equal parts sweet and sour.

On the winking "Buy Me Presents," the pop chanteuse demands the undivided attention of her lover while "Cindy Lou Who" turns the sweetest character in Dr. Seuss' oeuvre into a man-stealing Jolene of Christmas nightmares. "Is It New Year's Yet" revels in an irresistible spirit of pessimism that'll have all of Carpenter's fans saying "Bah humbug!" with glee.

Gavin DeGraw, A Classic Christmas

Eighteen months since Gavin DeGraw's last album, 2022's understated Face the River, the crooner turns up the yuletide cheer — with all the trimming and trappings — for his first holiday record. Each song on the six-track EP stays true to the title, as strings, sleigh bells and tradition combine with DeGraw's soulful timbre on standards like "The Most Wonderful Time of Year," "Silent Night" and "White Christmas."

Kirk Franklin, "Joy To The World"

Kirk Franklin cooked up an extra-special gift for his Spotify Singles Holiday rendition of "Joy to the World." Enlisting a buoyant backing choir, the 19-time GRAMMY winner adds a thoughtful spoken word element over the music, telling listeners everywhere, "This year I offer you the gift of unity. The gift of harmony. Bring us together like never before this holiday season. Find room in your heart. Listen. Can you hear it?"

Coco Jones, "A Timeless Christmas"

Determined to make 2023 a year to remember, Coco Jones follows her five 2024 GRAMMY nominations — including one for Best New Artist — with "A Timeless Christmas." On the original song, the R&B breakout aims to unwrap a holiday filled with family, joy and love as she intones, "Cherish the moment with the people that surround you/ Live in the moment today/ Let's have a timeless Christmas/ Let's just come together in harmony as one forever."

Samara Joy, A Joyful Holiday

Just months after releasing Linger Awhile Longer — the deluxe edition of her 2022 studio album — Samara Joy returns with A Joyful Holiday, a festive EP filled with jazzy originals and standards alike. The 2023 Best New Artist GRAMMY winner taps jazz pianist Sullivan Fortner on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Me" and turns on the feels on opener "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." But perhaps the most special moment of the record happens when three generations of her family join her for a gospel-fueled take on "O Holy Night," filled with stunning harmonies.

Ingrid Michaelson, "This Christmas"

Ingrid Michaelson has supplied plenty of cozy and nostalgic Christmas tunes ever since releasing her 2018 album Songs of the Season, but she doubles down on the warm fireside sounds with her new single "This Christmas." Though it shares a title with the beloved Donny Hathaway track, Michaelson's original song finds beauty in the stillness and small details of the season — from the wonder in a child's eyes as snow falls swirls to the ground to family gathered around the piano.

Alanis Morissette, Last Christmas

After gifting fans a string of holiday singles over the past few years, Alanis Morissette has finally compiled the songs into a full Christmas-themed project. The four-track EP Last Christmas contains three of the alt pioneer’s past releases: 2020’s rousing and poignant “Happy Xmas (War Is Over) and pandemic-era take on “What Child Is This” as well as last year’s “Little Drummer Boy.” However, she saved a shiny new toy for last in the form of a surprisingly peppy cover of Wham!’s modern classic “Last Christmas.”

Jon Pardi, Merry Christmas From Jon Pardi

It's a full-blown Christmas Pardi, ahem, party on Jon Pardi's fifth album, the aptly-titled Merry Christmas From Jon Pardi. The recent Grand Ole Opry inductee appoints Rudolph a designated driver on "Beer For Santa," is unfazed by a ferocious blizzard thanks to "400 Horsepower Sleigh" and sheds his ugly Christmas sweater to celebrates the holiday on the beach with "Merry Christmas From The Keys." But he's also unafraid to put a country spin on the likes of Mariah Carey's timeless smash "All I Want for Christmas Is You," and holiday classics like "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" and "Please Come Home For Christmas."

Meghan Trainor, "Jingle Bells"

Meghan Trainor has delivered Christmas goodies in the past (2020's A Very Trainor Christmas, last year's "Kid on Christmas" with Pentatonix), but this year she teamed up with Amazon Music for an exclusive rendition of "Jingle Bells." There's only a 30-second preview available without Amazon Music, but in the event you're not a subscriber, check out Trainor's other holiday offering of the season: her duet with Jimmy Fallon titled "Wrap Me Up."

Mimi Webb, "Back Home For Christmas"

In the wake of her debut studio album, Amelia, Mimi Webb tackles her first original holiday track in the form of "Back Home For Christmas." The lovelorn single is filled with church bells and yearning galore as the rising pop starlet wails, "Just like that, first of December/ Counting down 'til we're together/ Only one thing on my wishlist/ Bring my love back home for Christmas/ Mistletoe making me lonely/ Santa Claus just can't console me/ Only one thing that I'm missin'/ Bring my love back home for Christmas." 

Clearly, the Christmas season can make you feel all sorts of ways, from nostalgic and cozy to lonely, filled with hope and back again.

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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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