Photo: Sarah Louise Bennett
Bastille’s Dan Smith On Technological Mania & The "Totally Bizarre" Timing Of Their New Album, 'Give Me The Future'
The frontman dives into the futuristic world that inspired 'Give Me The Future,' and how it resulted in the British pop-rock group's most thought-provoking album to date
Like many artists, Bastille's Dan Smith used the unprecedented downtime induced by the COVID-19 pandemic to churn out an abundance of music. But perhaps unlike his peers, Smith had already begun feverishly creating before quarantine — and even more uniquely, he practically manifested the technology-driven era that ensued.
Bastille's fourth album, aptly titled Give Me the Future, explores the transportive nature of technology, and the complexities and pitfalls that come with it. Take the opening verse of the racing track "Back To the Future" ("Feels like we danced into a nightmare/ We're living 1984") or the entire message of "Plug In," which encapsulates in the line "We're living in a sci-fi fantasy."
Despite this, Smith and his band still feel hopeful about what lies ahead. And sonically, Give Me the Future hasn't steered away from the British group's signature upbeat, pop-driven melodies — if anything, the album's escapist nature has sent their anthemic sound into hyperdrive.
Smith attributes part of its impactfulness to their collaborators, as it's the first time Bastille has opened the doors to co-writers and co-producers beyond their go-to guys, Mark Crew and Dan Priddy. GRAMMY-winning superproducer Ryan Tedder executive-produced the LP; pop hitmaker Rami Yacoub co-penned four tracks; and actor Riz Ahmed provided "Promises," a moving interlude that was born out of his takeaways from listening to Give Me the Future.
Ahead of the album's release, Smith chatted with GRAMMY.com to detail its thought-provoking themes, what it was like to let go creatively, and where he thinks the future is headed.
What was it like seeing the pandemic unfold after you had conceptualized an album that had eerily similar themes to some of what we experienced with technology and beyond?
I wanted to make this record that was about escapism via losing yourself in your mind, and transporting yourself elsewhere with technology and with dreaming — with imagination. And I loved the idea of the freedom that that allowed within an album. But I think, ultimately, it was kind of too freeing. So as the album progressed, we honed in on the science-fiction, more future-leaning elements of it.
The fact that we live in a time where the future can often look pretty grim, and people are trying to reverse that or change it in a positive way. We're constantly confronted by what the future is for us on a macro and micro level, and personally and societally, and that's a f</em><em></em>ing s</em><em></em>load to get your head around whilst also getting on with your life.
It was just about trying to create a bunch of songs that kind of represent that, and speak to what it is to be a human with a kind of vulnerable brain and existence in and amongst all that stuff. I think the point of the album was to be like, "Some of this is terrifying. Some of this is hilarious. Some of this is completely absurd." Hopefully, it kind of pulls together these themes whilst also being quite honest and human about it.
The irony is not lost on me that we made this album about humanity and its relationship to technology in the context of writing songs over Zoom. Looking back at this album, it feels pretty fitting that it was made in this time.
It's also crazy that the album before this was called Doom Days. Is that a coincidence? Or are you, like, a psychic?
If I am, I'm sorry for what I've brought forward. [Laughs.]
When the pandemic began, all of our fans were joking that we predicted it. To have just come out of an album cycle for an album called Doom Days about a night out during an apocalypse, it's totally bizarre. And very surreal.
We released a song in 2020 called "survivin'." We literally finished it and played it for our A&R guy, like, a week before lockdown hit the UK. For me, it was about mental health struggles, and it was about coming off the back of seven, eight years of touring and the impact that that has on your head. It was quite a personal song, but obviously veiled in imagery.
It took quite a lot of encouraging for me to allow us to put that song out, because I just felt like releasing a song called "survivin'" in the middle of a pandemic, when people were struggling so much and so many people were losing their lives, felt in really poor taste. Also, I was worried that it would seem like I'd written it in response. Enough of my friends who'd heard it had said, "This feels different. It feels fresh, and it also is quite cathartic."
It is a pretty poignant song.
It's just weird. Maybe it's because I only ever write about depressing topics, but it seems to keep happening. First it was the apocalyptic album, then it was "survivin'," and now it's this.
I'm constantly joked with by our team and our managers. They're like, "Just write some f<em></em><em>ing love songs. Write some f</em><em></em>ing breakup songs. Make your life a bit easier, stop trying to write about all of these things." That's why I wrote [the Marshmello collab] "Happier," just to prove that I could have a go at writing a breakup song.
You're like, "Screw you guys for asking me for love songs. This is clearly working. Look at this amazing album."
I f<em></em>*ing love pop music in all of its many, many, many forms. So there's always going to be a pop sensibility to what we write. But it's about having fun within that and exploring, like, "How interesting can you make melodies? How much can we push the lyrical content and themes to take you somewhere you weren't expecting to go?"
I wrote a load of love songs and breakup songs in and around writing this album, and maybe some of them will see the light of day. But I think about "Happier," and it's such a f<em></em>*ing ridiculously depressing, sad, breakup song. It was written on a piano, but obviously, it's framed in the context of an EDM track. It really transforms it and changes it.
It's those kind of Trojan-horse tracks where you hear it, and you're like, "This is catchy." And then, if you properly listen to the lyrics, you're like, "Oh my god, is this person, okay?"
I feel like nine times out of 10 when you actually listen to a song's lyrics, you're like, "Wait, this is horribly depressing — but I was dancing the whole time?"
I think that's the responsibility of a songwriter, or a musician, or a pop star. It's your responsibility to use your platform to try and subtly — or very obviously — Trojan horse in something interesting, something different, something a bit provocative, or whatever. That's where pop can be really exciting. And it can be like, whatever the f<em></em>* you want it to be.
This album was the first Bastille project on which you brought in collaborators, like Ryan Tedder, who executive produced it. How did he get involved?
We can go down rabbit holes with our albums. We just made so much music, we really wanted a fresh perspective from the outside. We sent him all of the music, he listened, and we chatted a few times. It was almost like an A&R role for a minute.
There's a song on the album called "No Bad Days" that I really love, but I wouldn't necessarily have thought that it would be a single. He singled out that track and was like, "This song is amazing. You should definitely make it a kind of focus track for this record."
I think there's probably an expectation with our band, that a single is going to be sonically big, maybe bombastic, and definitely sort of upbeat. But not all of our songs do that. We have so many small, intimate songs — across our albums, we've tried f<em></em>*ing everything, and I love that about the band. But sometimes, because of the nature of things, the songs that people hear are one type of song.
For him to pick that song out — it's a hugely personal song to me. It's about my aunt who died, and she went down the path of assisted dying. She's from Australia, and she was one of the first people to opt in for that there. That was wildly empowering for her in the context of an illness that didn't really leave her with a huge amount of agency. I went to Australia to say goodbye to her with my sister, and came back, and that song kind of just fell out.
So to have someone from the outside hear something in that song that was maybe relatable, or resonant to him, those were the things, in terms of his involvement, that felt really important. It's become quite an important song on the record.
Did the process kind of make you think, "Hey, maybe we shouldn't be so protective of our music"?
I think so. I feel like as we progress, the moments in our music that I'm most proud of are the ones that other people bring to what we do. I can be like, "Guys, listen to this!" because it's not my f<em></em>*ing annoying voice singing.
It's me as the sort of dorky music fan getting to sort of signal the genius that other people are generous enough to bring to our music. That's what makes me excited.
[Bastille] has always been quite a DIY project, from sort of concepts to where it gets to. I think I've maybe held onto that slightly too tightly. It's been really nice chilling out a bit.
Between the statements you're making on the album, and the fictional tech world you're creating with Future Inc, are there certain impacts that you're hoping Give Me the Future will have? Or is it more just about saying your piece?
I mean, we're just a little band who make pop songs. So I don't expect there to be any impact at all. I think it's more the catharsis of being able to say things you feel like you want to say, and hopefully articulate them in a way that is vaguely interesting and thought-provoking.
When it comes to the themes of science fiction, and people pondering over the state of the world as it is — and it might be in the future — there are so many incredibly intelligent people spending all of their waking hours thinking about and articulating thoughts on those topics all over the world at all times. I think our whole position is just to sort of wander into it.
We've watched and read a lot, and written some songs, and it's hopefully the kind of thoughtful ecosystem for us to live in and enjoy for however long this album period might be. That was the thinking behind it rather than like, "We're gonna change the world with this album!" Because I'm not completely naïve [Laughs].
Is there anything about today's technology that excites you? Or are we all f<em></em>*ed?
Well this is the thing — I'm incredibly excited by so much of what technology is offering. On a practical level, look at what it's doing for medical science. And what it does for bringing people together, and its ability to give people a voice, and foster community.
It's so wonderfully unifying and world-shrinking. I guess our point with this album, and just in general, is, for all the amazing benefits, it can also be hugely divisive and really corrupted and really corrupting. That's what's so complicated about it.
So whilst I'm chronically addicted to my phone in a really unhealthy way, it also brings me so much joy because it means I get to chat to people that I miss and be constantly in the loop of things that are happening. There's countless things that it does that are wonderful, for all the hours of doomscrolling I might also partake in.
There's so much to be excited by, but there's also a lot to be scared of. So basically, f<em></em>* knows.
(L - R): Machine Gun Kelly, Charli XCX, Saweetie, Earl Sweatshirt, Rosalía
(Source Photos L - R): Rich Fury/Getty Images for dcp; Jason Koerner/Getty Images; Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for iHeartRadio; Marc Grimwade/WireImage; Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
30 Must-Hear Albums In 2022: Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B, Rosalía, Machine Gun Kelly, Charli XCX, Saweetie & More
2022 has no shortage of new albums to keep your shuffle hard at work. GRAMMY.com compiled a list of 30 upcoming releases — from Kid Cudi, Earl Sweatshirt, Combo Chimbita, Dolly Parton, and Guns N' Roses — to keep you moving in the new year.
Editor's Note: This piece has been updated to reflect release dates and album titles announced after publishing.
While it may feel like there's not much to look forward to during yet another wave of COVID-19, music fans around the world are eagerly waiting to load their playlists with new releases as 2022 gets underway.
And there's certainly plenty to look forward to: Along with The Weeknd, who released his fifth studio album, Dawn FM, on Jan. 7, superstars like Machine Gun Kelly, Camila Cabello, Dolly Parton, Guns N' Roses, and Rosalía have all announced or teased albums coming this year.
The pandemic may have slowed things down, but there's no stopping artists in 2022. Keep an eye out for these 30 albums from ENHYPEN, Mitski, Saweetie, Bastille, and many more.
The Weeknd, Dawn FM
Release date: Jan. 7
Only a year removed from his incendiary Super Bowl Halftime Show performance, the crowned pop prince of Canada returns with the semi-surprise Dawn FM, a hotly anticipated follow-up to his record-breaking 2020 release, After Hours (you know, the one with "Blinding Lights" and "Save Your Tears" on it).
As The Weeknd's album teasers promised, Dawn FM delivered sinister synthesizers, a vocal appearance from Jim Carrey, and old-man makeup that's arguably only slightly less distressing than his wax-faced After Hours persona.Max Martin is back (on lead single "Take My Breath"), and other guests include Tyler, the Creator and Oneohtrix Point Never.
As for what the three-time GRAMMY winner wants his listeners to take away from his latest work? "Picture the album being like the listener is dead," The Weeknd told Billboard. Capisce? — Brennan Carley
ENHYPEN, DIMENSION : ANSWER
Release date: January 10
Seven-piece boy group ENHYPEN may still be relatively new to the K-pop scene (the band formed in 2020 on the Korean survival competition show "I-Land"), but they're already making moves to put themselves in the ranks of BTS and EXO. Their latest release, DIMENSION : ANSWER, marks the group's first studio repackage album, expanding on their 2021 debut set, DIMENSION : DILEMMA.
DIMENSION : ANSWER will feature three new tracks,: "Polaroid Love," "Outro : Day 2," and lead single "Blessed-Cursed." Fans got a first taste of the three B-sides thanks to an album preview the group released on Jan. 4, which teased a wide array of sounds: punchy pop-sprinkled production on "Polaroid Love," sultry R&B vocals with "Outro : Day 2," and guitar-heavy rock on "Blessed-Cursed." With such vast musical prowess, DIMENSION : ANSWER may just be the group's ticket to K-pop superstardom. — Taylor Weatherby
Cordae, From a Bird's Eye View
Release date: Jan. 14
Cordae set the bar high with his GRAMMY-nominated debut album The Lost Boy and emerged as one of the most exciting new talents of 2019, making his return to the game with his hotly anticipated second album.
The Maryland-raised rapper held fans over with his Just Until… EP last April before launching into his album rollout with the braggadocious hit, "Super" and a collaboration with Lil Wayne, "Sinister." The 24-year-old wordsmith — known for his reflective, carefully-crafted raps — said From a Bird's Eye View was inspired by "a life-changing trip to Africa, enduring the loss of a friend gone too soon and evolving as an artist and a man."
The album will also mark Cordae's first full-length effort since the official disbanding of his YBN collective in 2020. — Victoria Moorwood
Animal Collective, Time Skiffs
Release date: Feb. 4
Followers of experimental pop adventurers Animal Collective have waited six years for a new album following 2016's Painting With. At last, the four-piece will release Time Skiffs, an album full of otherworldly harmonies and mind-opening melodies.
Animal Collective has released two singles from the LP so far: the gently psychedelic "Prester John" and the equally trippy "Walker." The latter is a tribute to Scott Walker, the prolific singer-songwriter who died in 2019. Its beautifully intricate music video, directed by band member Dave Portner and his sister Abby, brings the Time Skiffs album cover to life in vivid detail. — Jack Tregoning
Avril Lavigne, Love Sux
Release date: Feb 25
Like everything Y2K, pop-punk is making a comeback. And nearly 20 years since the release of her seminal pop-punk debut Let Go, Avril Lavigne brings back her pop-punk princess persona in all its glory — combat boots and all. In early November, the "Sk8r Boi" singer shared her the angsty anthem "Bite Me," first new single in over two years, featuring Travis Barker.
With the new music, Lavigne also shared she had signed to the drummer extraordinaire's label DTA Records. Her seventh studio album is set to be the artist's first LP since her more traditional pop LP Head Above Water in 2019. — I.K.
Release date: Jan. 14
Like everyone else around the world, electronic shapeshifter Simon Green had a very unusual past two years. The British musician and DJ, better known as Bonobo, found himself grounded in his adopted home of Los Angeles, itching for new inspiration to get through the pandemic. His wanderings took him from a tent in the Californian desert to a new appreciation for modular synths back home in lockdown, all with a nervous eye on the precarious state of the world.
This activity fed into a flood of music which we'll soon hear on Bonobo's seventh studio album, Fragments, out on Ninja Tune. Fragments features guests including Jamila Woods, Joji and Kadhja Bonet, while channeling influences from UK bass, Detroit techno and global music through Bonobo's widescreen lens. The producer is already up for two Best Dance/Electronic Recording awards at this year's GRAMMYs, for "Heartbreak," his collaboration with Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, and "Loom," with Ólafur Arnalds. Bonobo begins a tour of the US in February, giving fans a few precious weeks to soak up the album before its live debut. — J.T.
Earl Sweatshirt, SICK
Release date: Jan. 14
With a decade-plus of acclaimed projects such as 2018's Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt is both an underground hero and a critic's darling. He hasn't achieved the same level of mainstream success as former Odd Future colleagues Tyler, the Creator and Syd – which is fine with him.
Judging from SICK's lead track "2010," where he pays homage to his mother in cryptic terms, the 10-track album promises to be another collection of stylized verses, dusty beats and autobiographical confessions (albeit rendered in a clearer voice than his previous album, 2019's lo-fi affair Feet of Clay). As its title suggests, SICK was inspired by the pandemic. "My whole thing is grading things on the truth, you know what I mean? However expansive or detailed the truth is," he told Rolling Stone. — Mosi Reeves
iann dior, On To Better Things
Release date: January 21
After blasting onto the scene with his 24kgoldn team-up (and runaway smash) "Mood" in 2020, iann dior hasn't slowed down, releasing an EP and countless other collabs. On To Better Things marks dior's first full-length album since 2019, serving up 15 tracks that will help the rapper truly come into his own.
Like the Lil Uzi Vert-assisted "V12" and the racing single "Let You," On To Better Things will see dior further explore his capabilities as a rapper while also tapping into his alt-pop/rock sensibilities. Judging by his previous releases, dior won't be afraid to get raw and real on his latest project as he opens up about love, relationships and loyalty. There may be glimmers of hope on the album, though, as dior captioned a post teasing the album, "life is better now." — T.W.
Combo Chimbita, IRÉ
Release date: Jan. 28
The melding of cumbia beats and psychedelic vibes was embraced during the '70s by many pioneering outfits in Peru and Colombia. Since the release of their 2017 debut, New York quartet Combo Chimbita has built on that foundation, amping up the mystical tinge of its material through the soulful chanting of extraordinary vocalist Carolina Oliveros.
Always ready to speak up on social and political issues, Chimbita uses cumbia as a starting point, adding swashes of funk and soul, Afro guitar lines and atmospheric samples. The band's new album expands its palette, enhancing lead single "Oya" with a video shot at the ruins of Puerto Rico's abandoned Intercontinental Hotel. A tour with the awesomeLido Pimienta will follow soon. — Ernesto Lechner
Release date: January 2022
Anticipation surrounding Aaliyah's fourth album has been building since 2012, when Blackground Records released "Don't Think They Know," which paired the late singer's vocals with Chris Brown, and a Drake collaboration, "Enough Said." The long-awaited arrival of her back catalog to streaming last fall added fresh fuel for a project that has been controversial, with some diehard fans questioning whether it honors Aaliyah's legacy.
Unstoppable includes guests like Snoop Dogg, Future and Ne-Yo. The first single, a woozy ballad titled "Poison," features The Weeknd as well as lyrics originally written by the late Static Major. "Some of the people Aaliyah liked are on the album. She loved Snoop Dogg," Blackground CEO and Aaliyah's uncle Jomo Hankerson told Billboard. "Everything I do at Blackground is always with her in my heart and my mind." — M.R.
Bastille, Give Me the Future
Release date: Feb. 4
If the pandemic had even a glimmer of a bright side, it comes courtesy of musicians like Bastille pivoting and positioning their art to address the present, as Give Me the Future promises to do.
Bandleader Dan Smith had already begun work on the English pop-rock group's fourth album before COVID-19 threw a wrench in his plans, but the pandemic made the album's probing themes seem that much more prescient. Glistening songs like "Thelma + Louise" and the vocoded "Distorted Light Beam" dig more deeply into Bastille's exploration of escapism when the troubles of the world are thundering outside our windows, all with the help of new collaborators Rami Yacoub and One Republic's Ryan Tedder. We promise it's way more fun than it sounds. — B.C.
Mitski, Laurel Hell
Release date: Feb. 4
Mitski almost pressed pause on her music career which, according to a Rolling Stone interview, was "shaving away my soul little by little." After a final performance, "I would quit and find another life." Fortunately, though, Mitski has stuck with it.
Three years since the release of her fifth studio album Be the Cowboy, the indie singer-songwriter is set to share her forthcoming project Laurel Hell. While the majority of the LP was penned in 2018, it wasn't mixed until 2021, making it the longest the singer has spent on one of her records. What listeners can expect is a transformative set of songs that pair Mitski's signature vulnerability with uptempo dance beats and, ultimately, catharsis. — Ilana Kaplan
Guns N' Roses, Hard Skool EP
Release date: Feb. 25
In 2021, 36 years after the band first formed in the hard rock hotbed of Los Angeles, Guns N' Roses returned with two new singles. This productive streak was remarkable enough in itself given the group's notoriously haphazard release schedule. The singles "ABSUЯD" and "Hard Skool" are doubly remarkable, though, because they usher in a new EP that brings beloved members Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan together again after 28 years.
Reinterpreted from the band's Chinese Democracy sessions, "ABSUЯD" features a raw, punk-tinged sound that surprised some fans before rewarding repeat listens. "Hard Skool," meanwhile, harkens back to the classic sound that Guns N' Roses perfected in the late 1980s. The Hard Skool EP will feature the two 2021 singles alongside live renditions of GNR favorites "Don't Cry" and "You're Crazy." To mark this new era, the band is touring arenas throughout 2022, reuniting Axl, Slash and Duff as a powerhouse onstage trio. — J.T.
Take a Look Back: Guns N' Roses' 'Appetite For Destruction' | For The Record
Charli XCX, CRASH
Release date: March 18
Pop polymorph Charli XCX has been promising fans her sellout era for months now ("tip for new artists: sell your soul for money and fame," she tweeted last July), ushered in with last summer's "Good Ones" and buoyed into the holidays with "New Shapes," a powerhouse team-up with Caroline Polachek and Christine and the Queens.
CRASH is the fifth and final album she owes Atlantic Records — a benchmark not lost on fans or Charli herself. For it, Charli promises edge-of-your-seat appearances from Rina Sawayama, frequent collaborator A. G. Cook, and frequent Weeknd cohort Oneohtrix Point Never. Come for the bloody album artwork, stay for the cheeky, self-aware pop concoctions contained within. — B.C.
Dolly Parton, Run, Rose, Run
Release date: March 2022
The beloved, multi-GRAMMY Award-winning singer-songwriter Dolly Parton has built a career as a trailblazer, so it stands to reason that her next musical effort would carry on that grand tradition. Run, Rose, Run is an album of original tunes taking its energetic moniker from a companion novel that Parton co-authored with the acclaimed writer James Patterson.
According to Parton, the accompanying album consists of "all new songs written based on the characters and situations in the book" and centers on a tale about a girl who treks to Nashville to pursue her dreams. Adds Patterson, "the mind-blowing thing about this project is that reading the novel is enhanced by listening to the album and vice versa." Both projects are dropping in tandem. It's a unique undertaking that celebrates a smoldering passion for music; but if you've been following the legend's career, would you expect anything less? — Rob LeDonne
Maren Morris, Humble Quest
Release date: March 25
GRAMMY-winning singer Maren Morris has conquered modern country music with her soulful solo material and even forayed into pop (just mentioning "The Middle" will glue its sticky chorus to your every waking moment for the next week). So whatever magic Morris might make with her highly anticipated third album, Humble Quest, is cause enough for celebration.
Morris kicked off her next LP with "Circles Around This Town," an expansive, freewheeling single that blends the echoing production of her 2016 debut HERO and super-personal lyrics of 2019's GIRL. The album will be Morris' first since the untimely 2019 passing of her longtime creative partner busbee, but her partnership with pop hitmaker Greg Kurstin (who produced "Circles Around This Town" as well as four GIRL tracks) hints that this next project is going to be a timeless trip and an emotional walloping. — B.C.
Thomas Rhett, Where We Started / Country Again: Side B
Release date: April 1 / Fall 2022
Though country music has always been the core of what Thomas Rhett has done since his debut album (2013's It Goes Like This), the star's 2021 set, Country Again: Side A, was more traditional than his past projects. Clearly his roots (along with the unexpected pandemic-induced downtime) sparked a bout of inspiration, as Rhett announced in November that he'll be releasing Side B as well as another LP, titled Where We Started, in 2022.
Surprisingly, Side B won't be coming first. But it will create one cohesive Country Again narrative once it arrives, as Rhett promised in an interview with Rolling Stone last year — though he did hint that Side B will feature production that's "a smidge more experimental" than Side A. His latest single, the wistful "Slow Down Summer" hints that Where We Started will also bring back more of the pop-leaning production he's incorporated in his previous albums.
Still, that doesn't mean he'll lose sight of the country boy that has been unleashed: In writing all of this music, Rhett told his producers (per Rolling Stone), "This is the direction I'm headed in, and I think I'm gonna be here for a long time." — T.W.
Jack White, Fear of the Dawn / Entering Heaven Alive
Release date: April 8 / July 22
Epic ambition fuels the very essence of rock 'n' roll and Jack White has embodied the genre's weakness for glamour, dissonance and excess since his days with The White Stripes. The reckless propulsion of "Over and Over and Over" — off 2018's Boarding House Reach — proved that he has kept the bravado in his songwriting very much alive.
2022 will find the multi-GRAMMY Award winning singer/guitarist releasing two full-length albums: Fear of the Dawn, led by the wonderfully bombastic single "Taking Me Back," will also include a collaboration with rapper Q-Tip. No details are available on July's Entering Heaven Alive, but the appearance of two albums in the same year is the kind of grandiloquent gesture that rock is in need of more than ever before. — E.L.
Swedish House Mafia, Paradise Again
Release date: TBA, ships April 15
When GRAMMY-nominated Swedish House Mafia announced they were getting back together (and this time for good), fans were cautiously optimistic. The trio of DJ-producers — Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso and Axwell — promised a host of new music to mark their return, and so far they've kept to their word. The comeback began with the dark, guest-free "It Gets Better," which deviated from the big-room EDM sound championed by the Swedes up to their split in 2013.
From there, the trio delivered "Lifetime," featuring Ty Dolla $ign and 070 Shake, and "Moth to a Flame," featuring The Weeknd, which became their first major hit of the new era. This flurry of activity sets the stage for Swedish House Mafia's first full album, Paradise Again. As Ingrosso told NME, the album will combine their trademark "Scandinavian melodies with dark production and hard sounds." Starting July 2022, the DJs embark on their first tour in a decade, playing 44 dates throughout the US, UK and Europe. — J.T.
Jason Aldean, Georgia
Release date: April 22
Jumping on country music's 2021 double album trend, Jason Aldean issued Macon, the first half of his own two-disc set, Macon, Georgia, in November. The title is an homage to his hometown, which he refers to as a "melting pot" that shaped his music, according to Country Now. Yet, the 30-song project expands on Aldean's signature country-rock sound without steering too far away from what fans have grown to love, as evidenced with both Macon and Georgia's crooning lead single, "Whiskey Me Away."
Like its predecessor, Georgia will include 10 new songs and five live recordings of his biggest hits, essentially creating Aldean's first-ever live album.With the aptly titled track "Rock and Roll Cowboy" to boot, Georgia helps make Macon, Georgia a career highlight for Aldean. — T.W.
Machine Gun Kelly, Born with Horns
Release date: TBD
The upcoming sixth studio album from enigmatic rocker Machine Gun Kelly, ominously titled Born with Horns, was rumored to drop on New Year's Eve 2021, but it seems Kelly had a change of heart tweeting "See you in 2022." While the release date continues to be murky, there is some solid information about the highly anticipated fresh slate of music from the multi-hyphenate rockstar.
For one, the album is produced by fellow rock luminary Travis Barker and includes the decidedly dark single "Papercuts." "It feels more guitar-heavy for sure, lyrically it definitely goes deeper, but I never like to do anything the same," Kelly said of Born with Horns in an interview with Sunday TODAY, noting it'll also mark a personal evolution. "I'm not scared anymore, there's nothing holding me back from being my true self — and my true self can't be silenced, can't be restrained." — R.L.
Camila Cabello, Familia
Release date: TBD
There's perhaps never been a better advertisement for an album than Camila Cabello's edition of NPR's Tiny Desk. Released last fall, the session begins with three old songs and ends with two Familia cuts strong enough to bowl you over. In just 20 minutes, the former Fifth Harmony singer genuflects at the altar of pop's past while steering its ship into the future.
"Don't Go Yet" brims with the promise of comfort as it opens with a warm flamenco guitar. "La Buena Vida" is a Mariachi-based explosion of emotion and evocation, anchored by Cabello's arresting vocals. Whereas her prior albums sought to cement the 24-year-old amidst her contemporaries, the uber-personal Familia seems likely to propel her into a whole new pedigree of artistry. — B.C.
Release date: TBD
In 2018, Rosalía's cinematic El Mal Querer signified a before-and-after for the music of Spain and Latin America. A visionary blend of flamenco, hip-hop and confessional torch song, the album introduced her to the world as an intellectual, musicologist and pop diva wrapped up into one slick sonic package. Subsequent singles (2019's "Haute Couture" was a gorgeous slice of electro-pop) demonstrated that Rosalía's path to global domination relies on a voracious curiosity for disparate styles and high-profile collaborators such as Billie Eilish and Bad Bunny.
Titled MOTOMAMI, Rosalía's much anticipated release includes "LA FAMA," a deliciously distorted bachata duet with The Weeknd. We can only imagine what other wonders Rosalía's remarkable imagination has dreamed up for this, her first full-length album since becoming a cultural icon. — E.L.
Saweetie, Pretty Bitch Music
Release date: TBD
Saweetie is set to finally release her debut album, Pretty Bitch Music, this year. After first announcing the project in 2020, the Bay Area native's star power has exploded, reaching new heights last year with major endorsements, her first GRAMMY nominations and a "Saturday Night Live" debut. Pretty Bitch Music was initially slated to arrive in 2021, but Saweetie postponed the effort for some additional fine-tuning.
"I'm just living with it to ensure it's perfect," she told Hollywood Life in August. "I'm really challenging myself and I just want to ensure that I put out a body of work that [will] symbolize art."
Pretty Bitch Music is expected to include Saweetie's 2x Platinum-certified collaboration with Doja Cat, "Best Friend" and her single "Tap In" with production by Timbaland, Lil Jon and Murda Beatz, among other heavy-hitters. — V.M.
Kid Cudi, Entergalactic
Release date: TBD
Three years after it was announced, Kid Cudi's animated music adventure for Netflix is set to arrive this summer, as the rapper declared during his set at Rolling Loud California in December. "I got some tasty surprises," he told fans before offering a snippet of unreleased music that may be on the soundtrack.
Not much else is known about the project, which takes its title from a song on Cudi's 2009 debut Man on the Moon: The End of Day, and which co-creator Kenya Barris referred to as "the most ambitious thing" in a 2019 interview with Complex.
Entergalactic might not be where Kid Cudi stops in 2022, either: Amid his Rolling Loud teases, he said, "I want to drop another album before [Entergalactic]... I really am excited about all this new s, this new music to give to you guys. So that's why I'm teasing this s now, 'cause it's comin' out soon." — M.R.
Beach House, Once Twice Melody
Release date: throughout 2022
Nearly four years since the release of their seventh studio album aptly titled 7, Beach House is slowly unveiling their latest record Once Twice Melody. But instead of dropping all 18 tracks at once, the dreamy indie duo has been giving fans a taste of their new sound in four chapters.
Once Twice Melody is a significant shift as it's the first album produced in full by the band. Beach House also thought about its structure completely differently than they had in the past. "It didn't just feel like a regular, like another album of ours, it felt like a larger, newer kind of way of looking at our music," singer Victoria Legrand told Apple Music. Instead, they view it as "cinematic" and "literary." What fans can expect, they say, is "a lot of love" and "a sacredness of nature." — I.K.
Kendrick Lamar, TBA
Release date: TBD
One of our most celebrated artists of his generation may make his triumphant return this year. Although it's been nearly five years since Kendrick Lamar released his GRAMMY- and Pulitzer Prize-winning album DAMN, Lamar has remained busy. In 2018, Lamar curated the Black Panther soundtrack and he's also made guest appearances on tracks by artists as varied as Nipsey Hussle, Anderson .Paak, U2 and his cousin, Baby Keem.
But Lamar has been mostly mum about his own music, save for an August blog post titled "nu thoughts." "Love, loss, and grief have disturbed my comfort zone, but the glimmers of God speak through my music and family," he wrote, adding that his next album will be his last with Top Dawg Entertainment. It's the sort of thoughtful, precise announcement (and perhaps a hint to his album's content) that fans have come to expect from the notoriously private rapper. Lamar will thankfully make an appearance at this year's Super Bowl in February. — Britt Julious
Cardi B, TBA
Release date: TBD
Despite the slow-burning success of her single "Bodak Yellow," few could have predicted the popularity of Cardi B'sdebut album, Invasion of Privacy. A critical and commercial success, "Invasion of Privacy" won Best Rap Album at the 61st Grammy Awards, making Cardi the first woman to win in the category. That's why anticipation for her sophomore record is so high.
Cardi's brand of hip-hop is provocative and fun, and her two singles (possibly from the record) seem to confirm that same mood is still present in her music. In 2020, she dropped "WAP," a cultural reset of a collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion, and in 2021, she released "Up," which later inspired a viral TikTok dance challenge. As with many artists, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the release of Cardi's new album. But late last year on Instagram Live, Cardi said she has "lots of jobs now" and one of them is to "put out this album next year." Hopefully fans won't have to wait too long. — B.J.
Release date: TBD
If Koffee's latest single is any indication, the youngest GRAMMY Award winner for Best Reggae Album is planning a glorious homecoming in 2022. Sung with a wide smile you can nearly hear, "West Indies" is a dancehall love letter to the islands and an upbeat promise for what the singer has in store on her first full-length.
"I want to speak of a solution and of a way that we can come together and get along, even when things are going wrong," Koffee told Rolling Stone.
Although the pandemic halted her album recording and nixed her first Coachella performance, Koffee defies the dour attitude of much of the past two years. On "West Indies," Koffee assures that she's partying and having the time of her life — her as-yet-untitled album will likely soundtrack yours while you do the same. — Jessica Lipsky
Read More: The Women Essential To Reggae And Dancehall
Girl Ultra, TBA
Release date: TBD
Few musical experiences are as uplifting as listening to a singer/songwriter's follow-up to a brilliant debut, where they enhance the scope of their craft with new influences and sounds. Nuevos Aires, Girl Ultra's first full-length album, was just that – a breath of fresh air for Latin R&B, anchored on the purity of her voice and collaborations with Ximena Sariñana and Cuco (for the languid hit "DameLove.")
Following that 2019 release, the artist also known as Mariana de Miguel returns with a new EP. Lead single "Amores de Droga" evokes the sophistication of Everything But The Girl, combining smoldering vocalizing with cool electro grooves. A study in contrasts, it finds the Mexico City chanteuse reaching a pinnacle of inspiration. — E.L.
Photo Courtesy of Artist
Bastille's Bad Blood Turns Good
British rock band Bastille on the surprise success of their debut album, 'Bad Blood,' and their global hit "Pompeii"
British alternative rock band Bastille recently visited The Recording Academy's headquarters in Santa Monica, Calif., to participate in an exclusive GRAMMY.com interview. The quartet discussed the unexpected success of their 2013 debut album, Bad Blood, and why they didn't expect their single "Pompeii" to be the biggest hit on the album, among other topics.
"When we made and released [Bad Blood] in the UK we thought we'd be lucky if we got to do a couple of little tours around the country and maybe make a second album," said frontman Dan Smith. "It never entered our minds that we'd be able to go to Australia, come to the U.S. and all around Europe and Asia. It's been mind-blowing."Bastille — comprising Smith, Will Farquarson (bass), Kyle Simmons (keyboards), and Chris "Woody" Wood (drums) — formed in London in 2010.
The group took their name from Bastille Day, which commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution on July 14, and is also Smith's birthday. After releasing tracks on the Web, Bastille garnered both fans and media attention, while landing performance slots at UK festivals such as Glastonbury and Isle of Wight. They released their debut 7-inch single "Flaws"/"Icarus" in 2011, which was followed later that year by the Laura Palmer EP.
The band's debut studio album, Bad Blood, was released in March 2013. The 12-track set peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard 200 on the strength of the hits "Bad Blood" and "Pompeii," the latter of which landed at No. 2 on the UK singles chart and No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Bad Blood helped Bastille garner a 2014 Brit Award for British Breakthrough Act, as well as nominations for British Album of the Year, British Single for "Pompeii" and British Group.Bastille are currently in the midst of an international tour with dates scheduled through January 2015.
Photo: Norman Seeff
LeAnn Rimes On New Album 'God's Work,' Major-Label Debut 'Blue' & Choosing Joy 25 Years Into Her Career: "I Think It Was My Rebellion"
LeAnn Rimes was thrust into the music-biz machinery at just 13 with her breakthrough, 'Blue' — a throttling experience for any youngster. Her new album, 'god's work,' reflects the introspection and hard-fought wisdom that got her through to adulthood.
LeAnn Rimes' world-dominating success came as a bolt with the release of her debut album, Blue. She was just 13 when it came out in 1996, yet the country singer faced pressures that have destroyed artists with more years of experience under their belts — and less fame waiting at the door.
What does Rimes remember about this time that put her on the world stage, at an age when most are chiefly concerned with earth-science homework?
"Not much, to be honest," she tells GRAMMY.com over the phone, from her pool northwest of L.A. "There was so much success and momentum that for three and a half years, it was constantly the next thing, the next thing, the next thing. I didn't really have time to stop and take in anything."
To hear the two-time GRAMMY winner tell it, her unexpected hurtle into the heart of the country mainstream did "a number on me." But she made it through intact, with an eye for self-realization and mending old wounds. And that's partly what her newest album, god's work — which was released in September — is all about.
Musically, god's work is steeped in international flavors; lyrically, it gets heavier and goes harder than any of her past work. What does she say about "spaceship"? "There's a lot of anger in that song, a lot of grief." "the wild"? "A lot of rage, and a lot of hope."
Indeed, from fury and despair, god's work arcs northward into jubilation — especially that which relates to true love. Specifically, "how much a heart can hold" — written for her husband, actor Eddie Cibrian — wasn't supposed to be a public offering, but Rimes reversed course due to public demand, when she posted it to Instagram.
"I've been very fortunate," Rimes says, reflecting on the song's resonance. "I'm so honored to be part of the fabric of people's lives when it comes to their special moments." What a counterweight to any of the darknesses of getting famous, young — and reason to keep making art, no matter what.
Read on for an in-depth interview with Rimes about making her most eclectic music yet, ignoring the comments sections, and how she's achieved something like happiness in her fourth decade on earth.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
What did you want to impart to the listener with god's work?
I think it's a big message. Many of them.
I think the album takes a look at the duality of life, and how we all live in that world of duality — of the light and the dark, and how everything is basically a part of creation, no matter what side it is. I've done a lot of my own spiritual exploration, taking a look at my own.
I had a podcast called Wholly Human, so it all kind of ties in. But [the album deals with] a lot of exploration of my own holy and human sides of myself — my life, and the shadow side. I took a look at all of life from that perspective. And the album, I hope, for everyone listening, takes you on a deep emotional ride.
It's been one of my gifts — being able to connect people with emotions they don't necessarily touch all the time. I know music does that for me, so this album definitely will have you crying, it will have you questioning, it will piss you off, right? It does all the things.
It's a deep record, and I don't listen to my music once I'm done with it, very often. And I find myself listening to this record, because I find myself revisiting topics often. Every listen to different songs brings up a different emotion depending on where I'm at in my life, so I hope it does the same for people.
Most emotions aren't easily categorizable; we're usually feeling half a dozen ways at once. What emotions are present on the album that might not be typically present in song?
Yeah, totally. I've touched upon my own deep, dark spaces of depression, and "spaceship," to me — there's a lot of anger in that song, a lot of grief. In songs like "the wild," there's a lot of rage, and there's a lot of hope, which is really interesting to have both in the same breath.
I think as we grow up as human beings, being able to hold the duality and complexities of emotion and being able to be happy and sad and rageful and hopeful — all of that in the same breath — is part of our evolution.
These songs hold multiple emotions and are very complex. So, I think for me, as a woman — [and] as just a human being, not just a woman — I think everybody has a very challenging time touching upon rage and anger in a healthy way.
To touch upon my own grief and shame around sexuality with songs like "the wild" — there are a lot of emotions that have been not as welcomed that I touch upon on this record, especially for women.
But, like I said, for the whole human race, I think these emotions aren't necessarily the first thing we want to admit that we're feeling.
You mentioned in the god's work press release that "the wild" touches on "the ridicule women face when voicing their opinion." Can you talk about that form of belittlement, overcoming it, and whether we're societally headed in the right direction in this regard?
I hope we're headed in the right direction. I think we are; I still see it.
[With] not only myself but other women, I see people come at us on social media when we don't just "shut up and sing." You look at sports players who are taking a knee, and they're not just shutting up and playing.
I think we do have a platform, and I think we're very fortunate to be able to have a voice in the way that we do. And use it for social justice; for women's rights — and from my perspective, equal rights — so that all of humanity has a joyful, fulfilled, sovereign life. [That's] important to me.
On social platforms and even in the media, people still want us to shut up and do whatever entertainment that we do, but it is shifting. I think, first and foremost, we're human beings before anything, and we do have a voice in life and humanity.
I'll be 40 next month [Writer's note: This interview took place in July 2022], and it's taken me [up until] this moment in time to start using my voice in the way I feel like I'm called to.
Releasing a song like "the wild" felt like coming out to me, because it was such a powerful statement, and it's not something I've made so overtly in the past. It did feel like a release and unveiling of sorts for my own spirit — my own self — to speak so freely in my music.
I think it started a few records ago, and has only grown ever since, so I don't see me going back anytime soon. [Laughs]
Comment sections and social platforms seem to be where the rancor really lives.
Yeah, and you know what? To release "the wild" and have such insanity come back at me — I feel like I've grown so much, because I can totally sit in the discomfort of it and understand that everyone has their own point of view.
We're all very unique, just as our fingerprint is unique. So is the lens that we see life through. I've really come to understand that and have compassion for everyone's point of view — even if I don't agree with it — and be able to create from that place too.
I think that's where god's work was created from — that space of "No one's right or wrong; we're all learning." If I can create a better world — a world of more compassion — with my music, that's what I'm here to do.
So, yeah, the comment sections can be challenging at times, but it teaches me a lot. It has taught me a lot.
What a caliber of contributors here; I'm sure they all helped bolster that message. Ziggy Marley and Ben Harper are very talented and versatile, and Mickey Guyton is a ray of sunshine in the music community. What do you appreciate about her?
To have her on a song like "The Wild," it was important to me for a woman like her who has been through so much and fought her way through the industry and been through so much insanity — to have her sing those words was so powerful.
I love her voice; I love her spirit. And I know I've influenced her so much along the way. I think we're practically the same age, but to know that she's just now kicking off her career and how much I've influenced her has been really beautiful to see.
I think I can't say enough great words about her. She's a really good human being.
Can you talk about "throw my arms around the world"?
With all the climate change, with everything we're going through as a collective and have been going through, I felt like that was just my big prayer.
Not only a prayer, but a call for people to wake up and see what we're doing to ourselves. And, hopefully, start to shift what we're experiencing into something that's more regenerative and nurturing not only to Mother Earth, but ourselves.
One of the things I love about this record is that it's so eclectic, and there are so many world grooves that we explored. "throw my arms around the world" was kind of the catalyst for that exploration. And then, to have "the only," which is total reggae — I never thought I'd create a reggae song, but here I am doing it!
And I know "how much a heart can hold" holds resonance regarding your 11th wedding anniversary.
I wrote that song for my husband, for our wedding. I never thought it would see the light of day in public. I put it on Instagram with a video celebrating our 10-year anniversary, which was last year.
So many people were like, "What is this song? Where can I get it?" I've been very fortunate, and I'm so honored to be part of the fabric of people's lives when it comes to their special moments.
Because of the overwhelming feedback, I wanted to go in[to the studio]; that was the last song we recorded for the record, and we put it on so that love song could be a part of people's special moments, too.
We also just celebrated the 25th anniversary of Blue. What do you remember about that period in your life, and in the music business?
Not much, to be honest. It was such a whirlwind, and I was so young, and there was so much going on.
As soon as Blue was released, there was so much success and momentum that for three and a half years, it was constantly the next thing, the next thing, the next thing. I didn't really have time to stop and take in anything.
So, I take things from the perspective of now, looking back and kind of in awe of — number one — my ability to survive those three and a half years of this skyrocketing trajectory to success, and the choices I made at that young of an age.
I took the Blue demo and put the yodel thing in it myself. I was making my own artistic choices back then and creating something different. I like the things that happened to that girl, whenever I need to really take a risk in my life these days. And she's very much alive. It was a whirlwind moment, for sure.
What do you think gave you the resilience to go through that insane pressure-cooker situation and not let it destroy you — like it did so many young people?
Well, I mean, it definitely did a number on me, for sure. But I've come out of it, and I'm thriving in my life, and happy. I think it was my rebellion.
It's interesting because for me, as a woman, I've had such shame around my rebellion at times. Because, I think, while it can work in your best interest, it can also trip you up and teach you a lot of lessons, which it has for me.
But when I look at it from a holistic perspective, I think it saved my life many times — especially at that time in my life. I had this crazy success, and then my parents were going through a divorce at 14, and then I was basically living on my own by the time I was 16.
To think about how much of a fight I had in me — not only to live and succeed, but the fight for what was right and good for me, even if I didn't know it at the time — there was just a strong drive for that.
I think the last 10 years of my life have been [about] really getting back in touch with that and appreciating that piece of me.
What would you tell that young girl today if you could?
That the voice inside of her is the only thing she needs to listen to.
I think my intuition was so strong; I think our intuition is very strong as children. Then, we have so many voices from the outside world — whether it be parental, peers, media, whatever — that gets in our heads and takes us away from that deep intuition.
I think part of my journey, too, over the last decade, has been getting back in touch with that voice and knowing that's the most important thing to listen to, and the thing I should trust the most. So, yeah, I think she was on the right path as a kid by listening to that voice, and I'm glad that voice has returned.
Photo: Yannick Reid
Protoje's 'Third Time's The Charm' Closes A Trilogy With Melancholy, Reflective Vibes
Protoje released his sixth studio album in September, with the hope that his reflective, collab-heavy record will put an end to the misfortune of the Pandemic.
It is safe to assume that no one takes the artist Protoje to be the super extroverted type. The reggae singer perpetually possesses a chill vibe, and his music possesses the same calm. But while previewing his new album, Third Time’s The Charm, I was surprised by the gloomy sentiment seeping through my body, curiously calming my previously excited vibe. What was this?
"I am a sad person," Protoje reveals as he lounges in a brown leather sofa chair amidst studio equipment at a downtown New York content creator space. "[I’ve been like this] since I was a child. I have a pretty melancholy vibe, and with this project especially, I was in a much sadder place."
Released on Sept. 23, Third Time’s The Charm is Protoje’s sixth LP. The album is a melodic rift between isolation and family, love and betrayal, light and darkness — but it’s not depressing. Rather, it's his third consecutive album focusing on the concept of time, and exemplary of Protoje's seasoned mastery of his sound.
Third Time’s The Charm — Protoje's second album on RCA in partnership with his own In.Digg.Nation Collective — is a shift in consciousness. Sentient sounds sail over one drop dubwise beats. The lyrics are alert, yet nothing is forceful, and Protoje's vocals swiftly switch from crooning to old-school conscious rap flow, and sing-jaying — the Jamaican tradition of toasting and singing.
The third in a trilogy of temporally-themed albums (his previous being 2018's A Matter of Time, and 2020's In Search of Lost Time), Protoje hopes Third Time's The Charm will bring forth the fortune that the pandemic cut short.
"I did my last album, and for two years, I didn't get to do one show, sing one song, go to one party or hear it out in public," Protoje tells GRAMMY.com of the cheerlessness of Third. "I just felt sad a lot about not necessarily just my life, but what is life about, and why are we treating each other like this as people?"
Protoje spoke with GRAMMY.com about his headlining Lost In Time Tour, collaborating with Jorja Smith, and what time and the number three means for him.
How are you, and how has your 2022 been so far, especially in comparison to the past couple of years?
I’m good. A little bit tired from the tour, the driving, and everything else except for the performance, but I feel good, thankfully. 2022 is a lot more active, a lot more traveling, a lot more shows, more interacting, and less time for myself, but I'm grateful. I think it's been a good year. I've got to release a bunch of good singles, shoot some great videos, and play some great shows.
What are you hoping this album brings to you that the previous albums didn't?
Just to be able to go out and make the album connect. I did my last album, and for two years, I didn't get to do one show, sing one song, go to one party or hear it out in public. I didn't get to work. And not that it's too late, because reggae music's shelf life is very long. So for example, last night was the first time people heard me sing my new song "Hills," but it was [also] the first time they heard me sing "Switch It Up" and "Like Royalty" as well.
What is your experience with the number three in general?
I think three is a very good number. I think a lot of luck comes from three — you know the trinity, that's the major one. I like the off-balance of three and odd forces. Odd forces individuality and originality. I think when it's even, nothing has to be uncomfortable as we can just even it out. But when it's odd, and it has to be one or the other, that forces you to choose, make a decision, and take a strong stance. So I like that.
They say growth comes out of being uncomfortable. Do you believe that?
Yeah, it's true, but I like to be comfortable too. [Laughs] But, I'm looking for some comfort now, I swear to God.
Absolutely. There's a whole thing going around talking about "soft life" — like, "I'm going to get my rest, and I'm going to work as well." Do you believe in soft life?
Yes, yes, yes! I work so hard and non-stop but at the same time it's good to just unplug, and it's good to just live life, enjoy life, and experience it positively. I want to live life and spend time doing the things I want to do with the people I want to spend it with — being with my daughter, staying at home, getting up, going for a jog, coming back to my house, making food, making juices, eating fruits off my tree, going to the beach, visiting my mom, and looking for my dad.
When did you start recording this album? Was it a conscious move, or did you naturally record as a musician, and then certain songs ended up creating a solid album?
It was intentional, and I started last year in May. I did a bunch of work, and then took a break, then did a bunch of work and finished up. I guess in the pandemic, I was just making lots of music, but every time I did one I knew like okay this is for the album, this is not for the album, I think this is for it, I don't think that is for it. And that's how I work.
So I would hear something and make a song, but I knew that was not really for [the album]. It’s mostly the production. When I hear a beat I'm like this is it! My album needs one of these! When I did "Late At Night" with Lila Ike, I was like my album needs a heavy drum and bass in your face, dubwise with obnoxious drums. It needs that. Then I was like okay, I need an intro, and I need an outro. I just kind of work through it like that.
When I listen to that song specifically, as well as the whole album, to be honest, I feel a little bit melancholy. Melancholy is a feeling of pensive sadness, typically, with no obvious cause. So I don't know the reason why I feel melancholy, but you as the creator, you know. What's the reason?
I mean, I have had lots of sad times since 2020. I had a lot of upfull times too, but overall I am a sad person. [I’ve been like this] since I was a child. [You can’t tell that on stage] because on stage, I am a kid having fun, but in real life I see things. I have a pretty melancholy vibe, and I think with this project especially, I was in a much sadder place. I was not doing the things I love to do — my personal life and different things. So I make music how I feel.
I’m not depressed. I am an empath, so I feel a lot. It was like in that period of time, [making the album] I just felt sad a lot about not necessarily just my life, but what is life about and why are we treating each other like this as people? Why is it so uneven? And just things like that.
So you did a song about it?
Yeah, the song "Love For Me." When everybody listens to it they say "Jesus Christ this is so sad" but it's called "Love For Me" because there's real love. I am definitely loved and appreciated, but as I said, sometimes you're out there and you're giving your energy and you'll feel pressured or not appreciated in certain ways.
People may be loving your music, but the moment something doesn't go the way they want it to, they don't [love] anymore, and you realize that's not love. That's why the song after that is "Here Comes The Morning" where I am singing to my daughter about this. So yeah, the album will be melancholy, but I like to think it gives you hope and up-fullness as well.
I think it’s real and people appreciate real. I love to see this side of you. I didn't know you were such an empath. So how did the link up with Jorja come about?
Jorja is a dope superstar — a global global superstar with the most humble energy and the most welcoming spirit. She is cool. [We knew each other] relatively for like a couple of years and we kept in contact. I just reached out because she kind of inspired the song with her hairstyle. She usually has cane rows in. That was her first style and it kind of inspired me to write the song inspired by her. She heard it and she loved it and she came up with something.
Did you know who you wanted to collaborate with?
One hundred percent, it was [Jorja] or nobody. [In regards to the rest of the featured artists on my album] I am particular about who I want to work with so it was hand-picked. I wanted to work with all of them. Jesse is like family so when I started writing "Family" and actually finished it, I was like, this is missing something you know. I just reached out to him, and he pulled up and did it.
Lila was like "Yo me haffi deh pon your album" so we found something dope. Then Samory is a voice that I really love, and I just wanted him to get highlighted. I knew being on my project would be a big step for him.
So this is your second solo album on RCA. How has this experience differed from the albums when you were not on a major label?
It differs in terms of the time it takes for things to happen. When I'm on my own, I move faster because there's less paper trail and fewer clearances that have to be done than when you're dealing with a major label. At the same time, it's been much easier to make music and videos faster at this pace.
[RCA] pretty much left me to be independent and do what I need to do and just kind of help administer and put stuff together. Overall it has been a good experience.
You are the go-to person for your signees as the head of In.Digg.Nation Collective and an artist on the label but who is the go-to person that you trust?
My mom, for sure. My mom is my manager too, so she runs my company, she runs my label, helps me, and runs it with me. Outside of that, we have a very close relationship. She always calms me down, gets me back to zero, and tells me it's gonna be fine and balanced. And then my daughter is very up-full — she's five. She's very positive and very, like, "Daddy, come on, it's cool, you're good." It's very helpful.
I love that. So how do you manage to be there for the artists and balance your career?
I dedicate so much time to my music that I find time to produce, A&R, release music, and manage because I put a lot of time into it. I don't waste time. It's difficult, but life’s difficult.
I was listening to the song "Hills" and was like, damn, he's OD chilling. I know that must’ve felt nice. I want to OD chill. I want to be in the hills too. Where are these hills?
The engineer is up there running my studio. You should go visit. He is a dope producer too. He did "Like Royalty," "Same So," "Solitude" for Lila, and a bunch of stuff. So he's up there governing the studio in the mountains. It's crazy.
So that’s your place. What do you experience in the hills beside the recording that you don't experience elsewhere?
Yeah trust me, the lyrics are in that song:
"Aye, fresh air inna morning/ Six mile fi di day, despite gravity/Everybody just smile when dem witness/Hail up di artist; 'Gwaan, hold yuh fitness'/And me stay inna mi business always/Better live life simple nowadays."
At your NYC Webster Hall concert, you did a sick transition into Pop Smoke. Did you meet Pop?
No, no, and just to be honest, I did not know much about him until his passing because a lot of times I will listen to hip-hop, but I wouldn't find stuff that I like. When I heard "Dior" I was like, What is this? What is this? It sounds like UK music but from New York.
I then started to listen to some of his other stuff, and his voice was like, "unh". I was like this is DMX and 50 Cent in one energy, and then I heard he died so it’s sad. Hip Hop has been going through a lot of that. A lot of rappers' losing their lives to gun violence so it's wild. But I love Pop Smoke’s music. It just gives me an energy.
So what is the main message you're trying to convey on this album?
It's hard to say one message. It's lots of stuff. It’s hope, it’s appreciation for people you love, and focusing on making sure your circle is tight and that you're hanging out with people for the right reasons. Don't let yourself be taken advantage of, and don't take advantage of the people that you care about and expect too much of them. Those are the things that have been on my mind.
Were these thoughts always on your mind or did the pandemic heighten it?
I think things that happened during the pandemic heightened it. When I'm touring, I don't even know what's going on in life. I'm just waking up, doing shows, waking up doing shows, driving this. I don't have time to be worried about or focused on things that are not right. But when you're sitting down, day after day, and you're feeling things more it makes me think more.
[During the lockdown] I was taking time for myself and spending a lot of time by myself, trying to develop who I am as a person. I tried to get rid of things I wasn't proud of.
And can you give me an example of how you transmuted that? What is something that you started doing during the pandemic that you weren't doing before?
Stretching! I did some last night. It’s rough because everything's on the road now, but that's where discipline comes in. So there’s that and just trying to work out to be more in shape, clear my mind, and eat better. The stuff like that starts with my body, then my mind, and makes it expand.
This album feels melancholy in one aspect, but it also literally feels like I might have had a blunt maybe an hour ago when I'm listening to it. I'm like, okay this is a bit closer to Jah. What are your views on spirituality and did they evolve any in the pandemic?
It grew, but at the same time, it's not very dogmatic at all. It's open and free. I just chose to spend more time focusing on not just my career, and making songs, but just how I feel within myself and what are the answers for me to feel better about things.
Being uncomfortable about how I feel led me to just dig deeper into everything. I learned that you can’t have control over everything. Being in the position that I am gives you a feeling of control, and you kind of start getting used to controlling things. But life is so unpredictable, so just accept that some things are out of your control. Acceptance has been a thing that I've had to work on a lot in the pandemic.
What do you want people to take away from Third Time's The Charm?
Maybe by listening to the things that I am expressing, and the things I'm going through, they can find some answers in their life. They can feel freer to express how they feel. They can see that there are many things to feel — whether from being up in the hills in isolation or being back on the road in LA with family or the duality of life — and that certain times call for certain energies.
Be free to know that life is unpredictable. There are always waves, but you have to always show up. That is the main thing. It's about showing up every day and making sure you are putting yourself first and being consistent. When I make my albums, these are things I think about and I hope it comes across.