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Ashanti To Frank Ocean: 9 Artists Who Claimed Their (Label) Independence
In honor of America's Independence Day, let's take a look at a firecracker pack of fiercely independent musicians
Building a successful music career isn't easy. It takes some magical combination of tireless sharpening of one's craft, key business relationships and more than a little good fortune to create - and monetize - any kind of artistic revolution, big or small.
Fortunately, there are more paths than ever to share music with the world, running the spectrum from DIY lemonade stand bootstrapping to new emerging models of artist development to artists applying their sweat and smarts to leverage never-before-seen major label deals. And while major labels remain one of the most effective ways for an artist to reach an audience, they are far from the only option for artists with something to say. All in all, there are as many paths to success as there are great artists.
In honor of our nation's Independence Day, we put together a list of nine artists who claimed their label independence and took the tricky business of music into their own hands.
The label life isn't for everyone, especially for artists with an independent spirit like Frank Ocean. The GRAMMY-winning singer/songwriter took strong initiative in bringing to life his 2011 mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra and his breakthrough debut studio album, 2012's GRAMMY-winning Channel Orange. Following the success of these projects, in one of the most publicized declarations of independence, Ocean then dropped the 2016 visual album Endless to fulfill his major label obligations and quickly followed with Blonde, which he released through his own label, Boys Don't Cry, exclusively online. Blonde sold more than 275,000 million copies in its first week, proving that Ocean is a fierce spirit in complete control of his destiny. — Renée Fabian
From the beginning, singer/songwriter and industry pioneer Ani DiFranco has been fearless as folk and heavy on chutzpah, opting to form her own independent label, the now-legendary Righteous Babe Records, instead of kowtowing to the confines of a major label deal. Her 1996 song "Napoleon" from Dilate encapsulated the industry's rapacious insatiability. When asked about what impact her legacy with Righteous Babe will have on future independent artists, DiFranco said "I think the age of the musical artist as indentured servant to a big record company is over, and I think I have something to do with that, which I'm proud of. … And I think that people will carry [that spirit] forward and reinvent [independence] in so many new ways that I will never even dream of." — Nate Hertweck
Known more commonly as Cuco, Omar Banos is an independent up-and-coming artist. If you've never heard of him, the 20-year-old Chicano from Hawthorne, Calif. — a city just south of Los Angeles — is gaining fans for his romantic lyrics in both English and Spanish. His synthesized dream pop melodies in songs like "Lover Is A Day" and "Sunnyside" have attracted thousands of followers online, thousands of streams and a performance at Coachella this year, despite not belonging to a label. Since going viral in 2016 for his cover of Santo & Johnny's guitar instrumental "Sleep Walk," he has released two self-produced albums and his latest EP, Chiquito or "little one," in May. Where will all this success take Cuco? The artist told Billboard that he will remain independent for now. — Jennifer Velez
In the late '90s and early '00s, Mýa scored such major label hits as "It's All About Me," "Case Of The Ex" and the her smash collaboration with Christina Aguilera, Pink and Lil' Kim, "Lady Marmalade." But when she broke ties with her label after 2008's Sugar & Spice, she was determined to blaze her own trail. The GRAMMY-winning singer/songwriter started her own independent label, Planet 9, and has released three EPs, a mixtape and three new albums since, including TKO (The Knock Out), which dropped earlier this year. With a focus on maintaining artistic control and going directly to her fans, Mýa has inspired a generation of artists to take control their own success. — N.H.
The uncompromising Aloe Blacc uniquely blends R&B with hip-hop over a wide stylistic range, including a collaboration with the late EDM artist Avicii. Blacc also is known for standing up for what he believes in. The singer/songwriter sat alongside Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow to defend copyright modernization during GRAMMY Week this year, before the New York field hearing of the House Judiciary Committee. Blacc's creative fulfillment took him to indie label Stones Throw Records for his first two albums, 2006's Shine Through and 2010's Good Things. Although Blacc moved on to working with Interscope for his 2013 album Lift Your Spirit, whichreceived a nomination for Best R&B Album at the 57th GRAMMY Awards, it was his success on an indie that put him in the driver's seat. — Philip Merrill
GRAMMY-winning R&B singer/songwriter Ashanti made a smart business move when she established her own record label, Written Entertainment with eOne Music back in 2011. After her previous record deal had reportedly "run its course," her independence allowed her to exert complete creative control in her career and has led to some stunning music. Most notably, Ashanti released her first independent record in 2014, BraveHeart, which included collaborations with French Montana, Jeremih and Rick Ross. The album debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200. Though she's been pretty quiet musically since, in November 2017, Ashanti released "Say Less" with Ty Dolla $ign, and rumors abound that a new album could be coming soon. — R.F.
St. Vincent's body of work started as a sensation and has stayed at that level with unabashedly personal artistic statements. Like many an indie, the small label route was where it began, with Britain's 4AD, connected with Beggars Group and formerly Beggars Banquet. And though her 2012 collaboration Love This Giant with David Byrne was the last of her AD4 albums, she has carried on her independent spirit to her next, self-titled album, which won Best Alternative Music Album at the 57th GRAMMY Awards. — P.M.
It's hard to imagine reaching the kind of success Hanson found out of the gate with their 1997 smash hits "MMMBop" and "Where's The Love" from the Middle Of Nowhere album they came from. But what goes up must come down, and when the band couldn't do the impossible and match the wild success of their freshman hits on their sophomore effort, the industry turned cold to the trio of brothers from Tulsa, Okla. Unbroken and undeterred, the brothers Hanson returned to the grindstone in 2001, writing more than 80 songs for their third album, Underneath. When none of the majors would get behind the project, Hanson released the album on their own label, 3CG Records, in 2004 and even scored a No. 2 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Penny & Me." Most importantly, they retained the most loyal of their fanbase and regained control of their musical destiny instead of giving up when they were told the age-old, "I don't hear a single." — N.H.
Chance The Rapper
When you think of independent artists, Chance The Rapper is probably one of the first artists that comes to mind. Arguably the most well-known artist of the moment not to use a label as a pathway to commercial success in the music industry, Chance continues to declare musical independence. To him, independence is a realistic way to reach success; it just takes some patience. "I just wanna remain transparent. Folks out there without a deal need to know they're doing everything right just keep at it," he tweeted out after some push back on the authenticity of his independence. Before he released his 2016 album, Coloring Book, exclusively through Apple, his music was available online for free. During the 59th GRAMMY Awards, the first year streaming-only works were added in consideration for awards consideration, the rapper made history by winning three GRAMMYs, including Best New Artist. — J.V.
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7 Jaw-Dropping Sets From Coachella 2023 Weekend 1: BLACKPINK, Bad Bunny, Blink-182 & More
The first weekend of Coachella 2023 was full of more-than-memorable moments: Rosalía got into the audience; Metro Boomin brought hip-hop's heaviest hitters to the stage; major artists rocked small stages and so much more.
In a sense, every Coachella is an historic event.
Held annually at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, Calif., it’s the first major music festival of the year and often showcases artists’ tour launches, effectively providing a sneak preview of what’s to come. It’s also a place where things happen that can seemingly only happen there. The evidence lies in the sheer multitude of special guest appearances spanning the three-day event, with cameos occurring on nearly every one of eight stages.
The 2023 edition of Coachella — which sold out its first weekend, ushering in roughly 125,000 people from around the globe — was arguably the most consequential in its 22 years. On Friday, Puerto Rican rapper-singer Bad Bunny became the fest’s first Latino solo artist headliner; Saturday’s spectacle from BLACKPINK marked the first K-pop performance to top the bill; and on Sunday, Frank Ocean made history as the first openly gay man to close out the world-class music summit.
The latter artist’s set — his first in nearly six years — was certainly memorable, but not for fond reasons. On the bright side, there were plenty of other dazzling moments, whether enhanced by surprise guests or on their own merits, which made the weekend indisputably unforgettable. Read on for seven of the best sets from Coachella 2023.
The Murder Capital Slays The Sonora Tent
With only two albums under their belt and a relatively packed audience in the Sonora Tent on Friday afternoon (the second slot of the fest), it’s fair to argue that the Irish quintet deserved the nod for one of Coachella’s best up-and-coming bands.
They earned the accolade handily within just seven songs, a no-holds-barred display of searing, snotty-yet-sincere post-punk tunes (à la hometown contemporaries Fontaines D.C. and British sonic kin Idles and Shame) evenly split between their 2019 debut album When I Have Fears and this year’s follow-up, Gigi’s Recovery.
"We don’t give a f— what time is. We want to see you move," said vocalist James McGovern before launching into the maelstrom "Feeling Fades." Every member contributed to the unrelenting energy, expertly building anticipation during slow-burn portions on songs like "A Thousand Lives" and show closer "Ethel," before thrashing through the songs’ cacophonous climaxes.
The Coachella performance marks the end of the Murder Capital's first stateside tour and, based on this exceptional performance, they’ll doubtless return ready to release even more panache and sonic punch. Fans of thought-provoking punk rock would be wise to keep a lookout.
Blink-182 Reunites For An Epic Bout Of Pop-Punk Nostalgia
It was confirmed months ago that bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker would reunite with original Blink-182 singer/guitarist Tom DeLonge for a summer tour — the pop-punk trio’s first shows together in nine years — but seeing the band's name appear on the Friday schedule upon its reveal last week stoked some the weekend’s most spirited anticipation.
Fans reacted rabidly to the news — a group of Mexican friends waiting in front, all decked out in Blink attire and sporting tattoos of the band’s logo, said they scrambled to buy tickets and make the trip to the desert with only a single day's notice. Those fellas and the thousands spilling out of the Sahara Tent were rewarded with DeLonge making his entrance with middle fingers raised high, signaling that we were about to witness the same ol’ charmingly crass charades. They wasted no time tearing into a career-spanning set (plus the live debut of recently released new track, "EDGING") peppered with sarcastic and explicit banter that was as nostalgically satisfying as hits like "I Miss You" and "All the Small Things," and deep cuts "Dysentery Gary" and "Dumpweed."
Despite his near-decade away, DeLonge sounded sharper than ever, especially when the trio took it back all the way to 1997 for show closer "Dammit," mixing in a thrilling snippet of TLC’s "No Scrubs" (which also played in-full as the outro music). It was an odd but appropriate pairing — looking around at several generations of fans singing along to every track with equal enthusiasm, it became clear that for many, Blink’s classic catalog feels just as timeless as that R&B mega-hit.
Metro Boomin Brings The Whole Crew To The Stage
With a resume that includes work with John Legend, Future, Don Tolliver, 21 Savage, and the Weeknd, the anticipation for what might manifest during producer/DJ Metro Boomin’s Friday night set in the Sahara Tent was at an all-time high. And as it so happened, every one of those artists made appearances, in that order, resulting in the most star-studded show of the weekend in an incredibly intimate setting.
Within the first few seconds of Metro Boomin's set, Legend strolled out to belt on "On Time," and from that point, there was only one track without a heavy hitter at the helm. Future for five songs, wrapping up on superhit "Mask Off"; Don Tolliver out for three; 21 Savage for six exhilarating tunes; and finally the Weeknd for another half-dozen. The cherry on top: both 21 Savage and Diddy joined the Weeknd for the live debut of Metro Boomin’s "Creepin'" remix to close out the set. Acting as conductor and conduit, Metro stayed relatively hidden atop a center-stage platform for the entirety of the 23-song set, letting his guests and mesmerizing dancers take the wheel.
This show could’ve and should’ve been on the main stage, and the fact that it wasn’t made it that much more special for the fest-goers wise enough to sacrifice the beginning of Bad Bunny to witness it.
Bad Bunny Makes History
In the moments before Bad Bunny's headlining slot on Friday, footage depicting past lineups and performers — including Prince, Kendrick Lamar and the Black Keys — flashed across the main stage’s massive screens. The suggestion was clear: The Puerto Rican superstar intended to cement his own legacy as Coachellan royalty.
In some ways, that status was predetermined. As the first Latino solo artist to close out the festival, the GRAMMY-winning reggaeton titan had already made history before even setting foot on stage. El Conejo Malo gave his massive audience their money’s worth and more during a 2-hour tour de force that paid tribute to Latin music and dance.
Beginning the show atop a platform designed to look like the gas station roof in San Juan, Puerto Rico where he staged a surprise performance last December, the artist lovingly referred to by fans as Benito (his legal first name) serenaded the audience with several songs off chart-topping 2022 album Un Verano Sin Ti. He rarely showed himself on the stage’s screens, instead opting to display videos of historic Latin and Caribbean musical traditions, plus brightly colored graphics paired with sweeping lasers and spurts of pyro that evoked the feel of an enormous Miami nightclub.
Though hopes were high for Cardi B to appear for her part on breakout single "I Like It," she didn’t show, but no matter. Fans were treated to plenty more surprise guests, including Jowell Y Randy on "Safaera," Jay Cortez on a hat trick of tunes played on a B-stage, and Post Malone accompanying on acoustic guitar for "La Canción" and "Yonaguni." The latter two were diminished by sound issues, but it had little effect on the impact of the show for diehard fans — it was a veritable love letter to Latin culture that his faithful followers will surely hold dear for years to come.
Dinner Party Invites Everyone To The Table
With only a few performances under their belt to date, Dinner Party — the supergroup formed in 2020 by prolific pianist Robert Glasper, saxophonist Kamasi Washington, hip-hop producer/DJ 9th Wonder and renowned producer/musician Terrace Martin — was a must-see in the Gobi Tent on Saturday afternoon.
The outfit was joined by Arin Ray, who sings on their debut full-length Enigmatic Society (released one day prior on April 14) and in this setting also handled vocal parts from Dinner Party’s self-titled EP sung by Chicago artist Phoelix. His voice set a joyful, uplifting tone on opening track "Breathe," which was followed by segments where each contributor showcased their individual talents, including wild sax duels from Washington and Martin, and a hip-hop DJ mini-set from 9th Wonder.
But the group was at their best when all players were seated at the table, so to speak, and when Ray rejoined for the show’s finale, "Freeze Tag," an enlivened, church-like feeling overtook the audience — every person in the packed tent was grooving along, no exceptions.
Rosalía Engages With Her Fans
Over the course of Rosalía's hour-long, main stage set on Saturday night, which pulled heavily from new album MOTOMAMI, the Catalonian singer proved that she’s reached superstar status, not only with respect to her spellbinding vocal delivery and dancing, but also her overall artistic vision.
Even better, she achieved all of it while making her fans feel like an essential part of the show. Case in point: Much of the show’s live feed was shot on stage within the space of three video walls that created an ultra-smooth, almost surreal music video effect. But on "La Noche de Anoche" (a Bad Bunny collaboration), she made her way down to the audience holding a handheld camera and let her fans take turns singing a few of the lyrics. Even if they sounded terribly off-key, it showed unmatched class — a performer who can step down from her well-deserved pedestal to make meaningful connections with her supporters.
The scene was truly touching, and she built on that throughout the set, first by playing a tearjerkingly beautiful rendition of "Hentai" on piano dedicated to her dance teacher, then by bringing out her fiancé Rauw Alejandro for duets on "Beso" and "Vampiros," which wrapped up with the sweetest of on-stage kisses. By the end, there was no doubt of her mastery over balancing raw talent and authenticity.
BLACKPINK Shows Why K-Pop Deserves Coachella Spotlight
Saturday night’s headlining turn from the record-breaking K-pop girl group, the first to top Coachella’s lineup, was unequivocally the most impressive production of Coachella’s first weekend.
Mind-bending elements came into play before the quartet even appeared. A drone-powered light show above the stage — which first depicted a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, then a paper crane, then an astronaut, a hippo in a spacesuit and finally a heart — all representations of Coachella’s past installation art pieces — had the crowd gasping in astonishment.
Over the course of the following 18 songs, the four members danced, sang and rapped flawlessly while their live band conjured a soundtrack powerful enough to fill several arenas. Right out of the gates, they wowed with a ferocity that matched the title of opening track "Pink Venom," then strutted down the stage’s extended catwalks flanked by a brigade of equally impressive backup dancers to a B-stage for "Kill This Love" — all the while being followed by cameras that made their video element look like a high-end production seemingly unachievable in a live setting. The sequence drove the audience into a shouting, jumping frenzy as flames erupted on all sides.
After a few songs in group format, each member took a solo turn. Jennie went first, effortlessly amping up the fans with deep house-inspired "You & Me"; then Jisoo appeared for a fiery take on "Flower"; Rosé stunned with another effortlessly fierce dance routine down the catwalk; and Lisa wrapped up the segment with an unreleased explicit version of "Money," which began with a seductive pole dance followed by a decidedly hardcore rap delivery that would impress some of hip-hop’s heaviest hitters.
At its core, the performance was the most successful representation of what Coachella set out to do by booking such distinctly diverse headliners: it proliferated inclusivity. Even if you came to Coachella exclusively for another act, Blackpink had something to offer for everyone, from pop to hip-hop to rock to EDM, and it would be no surprise if they converted a new legion of fans in the process. The show concluded with a display of fireworks worthy of the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration, but they really weren't necessary — their performance was explosive enough without them.
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Frank Ocean Essentials: 10 Songs That Embody The Elusive Icon's R&B Genius
With rumors of new music swirling, Frank Ocean's headlining sets at Coachella 2023 are even more hotly anticipated. Ahead of his performances on April 16 and April 23, revisit 10 Frank Ocean songs from his beloved catalog.
Born a Scorpio in 1987, two-time GRAMMY winner Frank Ocean is a prolific and beloved singer, songwriter, and rapper. Yet he has zero No. 1 hits and no top 10 singles. Although he's been nominated for seven golden gramophones, only 14 of his 45 tracks charted on the Billboard Hot 100.
The California born, Louisana raised singer Is surely capable of recording mainstream-leaning pop songs if he wished to climb charts. Yet his signature ambition, intelligence and confidence has eschewed that traditional success in favor of genuine artistry. Combined with a Scorpio's creative problem-solving and inherent carnality, Frank Ocean has produced a cult-like fanbase, beginning with his critically acclaimed 2012 debut channel ORANGE and through his last single, 2020's "Dear April."
Rumors of new music — what would be his first album in over five years — have only added anticipation to Frank Ocean's Sunday headlining sets at this year's Coachella. Ahead of his performances on April 16 and April 23, GRAMMY.com honors Frank Ocean by selecting 10 of his essential songs.
"Lost" is a great place to start if you’re new to Frank Ocean’s music — and an even better place to start if you’re seeing him headline Coachella, where this tune is a surefire choice for a live rendition. You’ll learn the words.
This upbeat track from channel ORANGE offers lyrics about searching for love and adventure. EDM, soul, funk, synthesizers, horns, and a gospel choir all converge in musical matrimony to deliver one of Frank Ocean’s more radio-core choruses: "Lost, lost in the heat of it all / Girl, you know you’re lost / Lost in the thrill of it all / Miami, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Spain, lost / Los Angeles, India, lost on a train, lost."
The track earned a gold certification from the RIAA and cracked the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This track lamenting a lady who has been caught up in the world of drug trafficking is made pretty and catchy thanks to production by Malay, Pharrell and Om’mas Keith.
"Pink Matter" (2012)
Big Boi almost joined Andre 3000 on "Pink Matter," the third single from Frank Ocean’s debut studio album channel ORANGE. The historic Outkast reunion would have catapulted Ocean to an even higher echelon of legend.
Still, "Pink Matter' stands on its own, dealing in love, sexuality and spirituality. Frank's melancholy tone is abetted by an organ and an orchestra that stops playing just as abruptly as it starts. You’ll want to pay special attention to Frank Ocean’s excellent vocal delivery of the word "pleasure" from 1:05 to 1:08. Oddly but effectively, the track includes an audio clip from the 1985 film The Lost Dragon.
A somewhat overlooked track from channel ORANGE, the rock 'n' roll-leaning "Monks" mostly operates uptempo before slowing down around the 2 minute mark.
Another early example of Frank's nuanced lyricism, "Monks" unpacks the duality of freedom and oppression as he chooses between two young women. The first is an African girl with an English accent who likes "to f— boys in bands," watch Westerns, and show Frank her passport. The second is a young at heart Indian girl who sleeps above the temple, found a boyfriend, and is planning a runaway. Frank chooses the latter love interest.
"Thinkin Bout You" (2012)
"Thinkin Bout You" debuted in 2011 on now-defunct Los Angeles collective Odd Future’s Tumblr as a free download, and was later released as the lead single for channel ORANGE. Eventually, the track cracked the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100.
A good old-fashioned love song, "Thinkin Bout You" is a downtempo, emotive ballad where Frank — showing off his now well-known falsetto — pines for a shot at eternity with the one he cares about the most.
"Thinkin Bout You" was originally a demo written for singer/songwriter Bridget Kelly. She didn’t reject it — Frank Ocean took it back for himself when his demo of the song blew up.
Far from your traditional, radio-friendly hit, "Pyramids" is as close to EDM as you will find in Frank Ocean’s catalog. Its initial chords are moody and mysterious; the drums are played backwards to help the listener comprehend Frank's lyrics about events set in ancient Egypt. Come the second half, autotune on several lyrics and some horns come in.
He takes sound in a couple of different directions throughout the 10 minute track, ultimately settling into R&B. "Pyramids" serves as a sonic microcosm for what Frank Ocean is capable of — and John Mayer adds a guitar riff at the song's end for extra flair.
Widely regarded as one of Frank Ocean’s all-time greatest works, "Nights" appears on his sophomore album, Blonde. Its chief lyric, "Wanna see Nirvana / Don’t wanna die yet," has assuredly been used as plenty of Instagram captions, though Frank is largely absent from social media. At just over 5 minutes, the two-part track combines aspects of R&B, hip-hop, and electronic music with reversed and manipulated vocal samples to create a sparse mood and texture.
Om’mas Keith assisted Frank Ocean in producing the first half "Nights," while German electronic musician and producer Sebastian contributed dynamic and memorable production in its back end. The mix puts Frank Ocean’s vocals at the front while the instrumental’s volume is slightly lower. Most notable is the song's transition into an energetic and dynamic second instrumental, driven by a bassline, skittering hi-hats, and jazzy chords.
"Pretty Sweet" (2016)
The studio magic Pharrell practiced to make "Monks" repeats itself on "Pretty Sweet," a raucous ode to friendship and death. You’ve never heard Frank Ocean this locked in with Pharrell — he delivers pained and anguished vocals in fluid flows, while the drums in the second half of the track are rapidly fired off in a rare display of intense percussion work. A children’s choir is put front and center in the song’s waning moments.
Another prime candidate for a live rendition during his Coachella performance, "Pretty Sweet" proves Frank Ocean and Pharrell’s penchant for rock-inspired sound first heard on "Monks" was no fluke nor a college try.
GRAMMY-winning producer Malay Ho and GRAMMY-winning Swedish songwriter and producer Ludwig Göransson assisted Frank Ocean in crafting this guitar-driven indie rock ballad. A standout track from Blonde, this song marries a simple yet beautiful melody to introspective lyrics about lost love and moving on.
Minimalistic in sound, "Ivy" features reversed guitar riffs and background vocal harmonies. Frank Ocean’s vocal conveys a bittersweetness that's often difficult to pull off. The song’s outro has Frank Ocean letting out Prince-like vocals, screaming and singing simultaneously.
"Seigfried" is a masterpiece and the glue in the middle of a three-track run on Blonde that includes "White Ferrari" (you can hear Kanye West record the word "love") and "Godspeed." All three are worth writing about, yet "Seigfried" is a must-listen for anybody new to Frank Ocean’s music but weary of another sad love song. Here, the singer wonders if he should just settle down with two kids and a swimming pool.
Frank Ocean’s vocal strains itself with emotion over the truly captivating psychedelic sound. There are soaring strings, dreamy filters on the guitar riffs, reversed vocal samples. Once the strings swell at 2:50, the track reaches an emotional, cinematic peak.
"Dear April (Side A - Acoustic)" (2020)
Another gorgeous ballad, "Dear April (Side A - Acoustic)", released April 3, 2020, features contributions from producer and musician Daniel Aged. Three years later, it remains a vital entry point for those looking to familiarize themselves with the artist’s repertoire. Frank Ocean’s vocals shine front and center here. A listener has no choice but to hone in on the singer’s voice as he begins to share a situation between himself and his former lover April.
There’s a higher pitched guitar playing quietly between Frank’s verses. The lower pitched guitar strums higher in the mix. Slow and contemplative, there’s little fanfare to distract from Frank Ocean’s captivating vocal take, save for a minimalistic guitar melody and atmospheric synths.
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5 Memorable Highlights From "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys": Weezer, St. Vincent, John Legend & More
Drawing generation-spanning connections, "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys," which rebroadcasts Monday, May 29, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS and is available on demand on Paramount+, was a world-class tribute to America's Band. Here are five highlights.
Updated Monday, May 22, to include information about the re-air date for "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys."
"A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" will re-air on Monday, May 29, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
That's a wrap on "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys," an emotional, star-studded toast to America's Band — as the core lineup of the legendary group bore witness from a balcony.
From its heartfelt speeches and remarks to performances by John Legend, Brandi Carlile, Beck, Fall Out Boy, Mumford & Sons, LeAnn Rimes, St. Vincent, Weezer, and other heavy hitters, "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" served as a towering monument to these leading lights on the occasion of their 60th anniversary.
If you missed the CBS telecast, never fear: the thrilling special is rebroadcasting on Monday, May 29, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream on demand on Paramount+.
Below are some highlights from the Beach Boys' big night.
Read More: How To Watch "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys," Featuring Performances From John Legend, Brandi Carlile, Beck, Fall Out Boy, Mumford & Sons, LeAnn Rimes, Weezer & More
Weezer Gave "California Girls" A Shot In The Arm
The Weez was a natural choice for a Beach Boys bash — the GRAMMY winners have worn that influence on their sleeve throughout their career — from the harmony-stuffed Blue Album. to their love letter to the West Coast, the White Album.
And while Fall Out Boy's transmutation of "Do You Wanna Dance" into supercharged pop-punk was a joy, Weezer's version of "California Girls" was satisfying in a different way.
Therein, frontman Rivers Cuomo threaded his chunky power chords into the familiar arrangement masterfully. His head-turning, song-flipping guitar work in the outro was also gracefully executed.
John Legend Sang A Commanding "Sail On Sailor"
The rocking-and-rolling "Sail On Sailor" leads off the Beach Boys' deeply underrated 1973 album Holland. On that cut, the lead vocal isn't taken by an original member, but one of their two South African additions at the time: the brilliant Blondie Chaplin.
Fifty years ago, Chaplin channeled the stouthearted tune through his punchy midrange; John Legend possesses a similar one. In his hustling, wolfish performance at the piano, the 12-time GRAMMY winner gave this dark-horse Beach Boys classic the gusto it deserves.
Read More: The Beach Boys' Sail On Sailor Reframes Two Obscure 1970s Albums. Why Were They Obscure In The First Place?
Brandi Carlile Stunned With A Capella "In My Room" Verse
Nine-time GRAMMY winner Brandi Carlile is an eminent and versatile creative force; it's easy to imagine her nailing almost any song in the Beach Boys’ catalog — even the weird ones.
That said, this was more or less a night of hits — so Carlile took "In My Room" head on, and the results were spectacular. Even better was when the backing band dropped out for a verse, highlighting the song's proto-Pet Sounds solitude and introspection.
"Now it's dark/And I'm alone, but/I won't be afraid," Carlile sang, only joined by two harmonists. Mostly unadorned, she radiated a sense of inner strength.
Norah Jones Gorgeously Pared Back "The Warmth Of The Sun"
"The Warmth of the Sun" has always been a fan favorite for its radiant vocal interplay, but Norah Jones proved it's just as powerful with one voice front and center.
Sure, the nine-time GRAMMY winner had harmonists behind her. But while Brian Wilson shared the spotlight with the other Boys in the original tune, she was front and center, teasing out its mellow, jazzy undercurrents.
St. Vincent & Charlie Puth Plumbed The Atmosphere Of Pet Sounds
The Beach Boys' most famous album by some margin, 1966’s Pet Sounds, was well represented at "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys."
Beck performed a witty "Sloop John B"; Mumford & Sons drew hymnal energy from "I Know There's An Answer"; LeAnn Rimes drew lonesome power from "Caroline, No."
But two performances in particular captured the singular atmosphere of the album — whimsical, hopeful, melancholic, longing, sophisticated, strangely exotic. One was Charlie Puth's "Wouldn't It Be Nice," which strapped on the album's aesthetic like a rocket and took off.
The other was St. Vincent’s captivating take on "You Still Believe In Me," which highlighted the harpsichord melody to spectral effect.
Near the end, when the three-time GRAMMY winner launched into the "I wanna cry" outro, it was hard to not get chills — the kind the Beach Boys have given us for 60 years.
How Brian Wilson Crafted The Beach Boys' Early Sound: A Symphony Of Inspirations, From Boogie-Woogie To Barbershop
Photo Credit: CBS ©2022 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
How To Watch "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys," Featuring Performances From John Legend, Brandi Carlile, Beck, Fall Out Boy, Mumford & Sons, LeAnn Rimes, Weezer & More
The re-aired tribute to the Beach Boys will also feature performances from St. Vincent, My Morning Jacket, Norah Jones, Charlie Puth, and many others, as well as special appearances by Tom Hanks, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, and more.
Updated Monday, May 22, to include information about the re-air date for "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys."
"A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" will re-air on Monday, May 29, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
After six decades of game-changing innovation and culture-shifting hits, the Beach Boys stand tall as one of the most legendary and influential American bands of all time.
Now, the iconic band will be honored by the Recording Academy and CBS with a star-studded "Beach Boys party" for the ages: "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys," a two-hour tribute special featuring a lineup of heavy hitters, including John Legend, Brandi Carlile, Beck, Fall Out Boy, Mumford & Sons, LeAnn Rimes, St. Vincent, Weezer, and many more, who will perform all your favorite Beach Boys classics.
Wondering when, where and how to watch "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys"? Here's everything you need to know.
When & Where Will The Special Air?
"A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" will air on Monday, May 29, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.* A one-hour version of the tribute will air on MTV at a future date to be announced.
Who Will Perform, And What Will They Perform?
The following is a list of artists and performances featured on "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys":
Andy Grammer performing "Darlin'"
Beck performing "Sloop John B"
Beck & Jim James performing"Good Vibrations"
Brandi Carlile performing "In My Room"
Brandi Carlile & John Legend performing "God Only Knows"
Charlie Puth performing "Wouldn't It Be Nice"
Fall Out Boy performing "Do You Wanna Dance"
Foster The People performing "Do It Again"
Hanson performing "Barbara Ann"
Norah Jones performing"The Warmth of the Sun"
Lady A performing "Surfer Girl"
John Legend performing "Sail on Sailor"
Little Big Town performing "Help Me Rhonda"
Luke Spiller & Taylor Momsen performing "Surfin' USA / Fun Fun Fun"
Michael McDonald & Take 6 performing "Don't Worry Baby"
Mumford & Sons performing "I Know There's an Answer"
My Morning Jacket performing "I Get Around"
Pentatonix performing "Heroes and Villains"
LeAnn Rimes performing "Caroline No"
St. Vincent performing "You Still Believe in Me"
Weezer performing "California Girls"
Read More: 5 Memorable Highlights From "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys": Weezer, St. Vincent, John Legend & More
Who Are The Special Guests & Presenters?
In addition to the musical performances, the special features appearances by Drew Carey, Tom Hanks, Jimmy Jam, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, John Stamos, and Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr.
Beach Boys core members Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston, and David Marks are featured guests.
What's The Context For The Special?
Filmed at the iconic Dolby Theater in Los Angeles after the 2023 GRAMMYs, "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" airs during the year-long celebration of the Beach Boys' 60th anniversary. Counting more than 100 million records sold worldwide and recipients of the Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award, the Beach Boys are one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful bands of all time, and their music has been an indelible part of American history for more than six decades.
Keep an eye on GRAMMY.com for more exclusive content leading up to "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys."
*Paramount+ Premium subscribers will have access to stream live via the live feed of their local CBS affiliate on the service as well as on-demand. Essential tier subscribers will have access to the on-demand the following day after the episode airs.
Watch backstage interviews & exclusive content from "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys”