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Behind The Board: Jack Antonoff On Chasing Voices, Ignoring Outsiders And Why Discomfort Makes For The Best Music
Five-time GRAMMY-winner singer/songwriter, producer and engineer Jack Antonoff explains each of his roles' importance and shares his formula for success, in the newest episode of Behind The Board
Five-time GRAMMY winner Jack Antonoff classifies himself as operating in four different lanes of music: artistry, engineering, producing and songwriting.
"They bleed together because they're interesting, but in my head, they're really, really separate," stresses Antonoff in the latest episode of Behind The Board.
Watch down below to hear Antonoff make the distinction between each.
While Antonoff may notice relative gulfs between his changing roles, the results seem to stay the same as long as he has a hand in them.
As an artist, Antonoff won two GRAMMYs in 2013 for Best New Artist and Song Of The Year as the guitarist for the pop band Fun. and currently serves as the lead singer of the indie pop band Bleachers. The behind-the-scenes version of Antonoff—the engineer, producer and songwriter—works with artists like Lana Del Rey, Lorde and Taylor Swift and takes home GRAMMYs for Album of The Year (2020's Folklore) and Best Rock Song ("Masseducation").
So what's Antonoff's key to success? "Find that thing that brings you discomfort and sit in it," shares the 15-time GRAMMY nominee.
Watch the above video for more advice from Antonoff and check down below for more episodes of Behind The Board.
To learn more about the world of production and engineering, follow the Producers & Engineers Wing on GRAMMY.com and Instagram.
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5 Takeaways From Lana Del Rey's New Album 'Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd'
Navigating grief, sex and identity with harrowing depth, Lana Del Rey bares her soul in 'Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd.' Here are five takeaways from her scintillating 77-minute record.
Lana Del Rey is "straight vibing." At least, that's how she approached creating her profound ninth studio album, Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd. Rather than tapping into the world-building technique she used on Norman F—ing Rockwell!, Del Rey's latest work feels more natural and personal.
On Did You Know, Del Rey's dreamy alternative pop drifts from saccharine to unearthly, her tracks tangling together in curious harmony. Her voice reverberates often, as if she's actually traveling through the now-hidden Jergins Tunnel under Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach — yet, unlike its titular inspiration, her album is anything but hollow.
A painstaking honesty ricochets throughout the record as Del Rey unveils familial grief and reflects on the intensity of love in its many forms. A spirituality and self-awareness hover in each mature and intimate track, while the album benefits from a list of collaborators long enough to match her song titles.
In honor of the artist's spectacular new self-portrait and ahead of her headlining sets at Lollapalooza and Outside Lands, here are five key takeaways from Lana Del Rey's Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd.
She Pays Homage To Her Family
While some of Del Rey's most well-known songs unravel romantic fantasies, familial relationships are the linchpin of Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd.
Del Rey longs for intergenerational connection on her track "Grandfather please stand on the shoulders of my father while he’s deep-sea fishing," its title taken from the chorus. Contrasting a domestic closeness with the vastness of the Pacific, the singer/songwriter offers a spark of comforting warmth.
The musician, born Elizabeth Grant, also honors her family name by opening the album with "The Grants." Inspired by John Denver's 1972 "Rocky Mountain High" — specifically, the line "And he lost a friend, but kept the memory" — Del Rey reflects on loving her family now as well as after death. With a heavy heart, the song's tender offering of hope is a masterclass in coping with grief.
"When I was very young I was sort of floored by the fact that my mother and my father and everyone I knew was going to die one day, and myself too," she said in a past interview while promoting Born To Die. "I had a sort of a philosophical crisis. I couldn't believe that we were mortal."
Within this context, Del Rey's deep reflections on death and family on Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd feel weightier. In the interview, she explained how her fear of mortality tended to overshadow her life — but now, in accepting life's transience, she's finding the light.
She Thrives With Tonal Shifts
Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd might be Del Rey's most tonally sporadic album yet, but it works to her advantage. Where Born To Die and Norman F— Rockwell! cling to listeners with cohesion, Del Rey's latest album waxes and wanes.
While the musician is renowned as dream baroque pop royalty, her latest creative ventures dip into other genres. Gospel chimes in on "The Grants," folk weaves its way into the Father John Misty collaboration "Let The Light In," and trap flickers memorably across "Taco Truck x VB" and "Fishtail." (The latter two are produced by Jack Antonoff, Del Rey's close collaborator and friend who remains alt pop's ubiquitous producer.) Elsewhere, idiosyncratic rap verses stand out as the highlights of ambitious single "A&W" and Tommy Genesis' raunchy collaboration "Peppers," interrupting Del Rey's more classic balladry.
The album also boasts the highest number of features of all her records. Jon Batiste, SYML, RIOPY, Father John Misty, Bleachers, Tommy Genesis and Judah Smith all make welcome appearances, adding to the album's distinct tonal shifts with their own styles. Though some moments feel especially jarring — namely, Smith and Batiste's interludes — Del Rey ultimately finds strength in this risk-taking diffusion.
She Weaves In Her Past — Not Just Lyrically, But Sonically
Beyond its lyrical reflections on family and past relationships, the album also peers into Del Rey's sonic past. Pieces of Norman F— Rockwell! reappear in many tracks on Did You Know, bridging her sixth and ninth studio albums with an aural nostalgia.
Fans correctly speculated that Norman F— Rockwell!s iconic "Venice B—" would surface in new track "Taco Truck x VB," and Antonoff's grittier, trumpeting version indeed shimmers through in the song's second half. "A&W" welcomes strings from "Norman F— Rockwell!", and "Candy Necklace" featuring Batiste sweetly references "Cinnamon Girl" (and even calls back to Born To Die's "Radio").
These interpolations exhibit the playful extent of Del Rey's masterful discography. Although her sound is ever-changing, the multifaceted musician can still return to her musical roots in a way that experimentally builds upon her catalog. Her music almost always feels reminiscent and bittersweet, and this album takes this nostalgia to a new, otherworldly level.
She Leans Into Spirituality More Than Ever
Del Rey's music seems to be unfailingly cinematic. Historically, her tragic romantic storytelling enlightens Americana tales with an often glamorous melodrama. With Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, Del Rey continues to captivate her audiences, but this record taps into a different form of transcendence — a spiritual one.
Featuring heavy gospel influences, opener "The Grants" sees the musician hold memories of her loved ones close to her heart and into the afterlife. "Do you think about Heaven? Oh-oh, do you think about me?" she asks. "My pastor told me when you leave, all you take/ Oh-oh, is your memory." (Later on "Taco Truck x VB," she shouts, "Never die!").
Del Rey takes a step back for "Judah Smith Interlude," a four-and-a-half-minute-long sermon by pastor Judah Smith, who also appeared on Justin Bieber's 2021 EP Freedom. Though Del Rey and her friends occasionally punctuate the track with snide background remarks, Smith leads the track with abrasive preaching against lust.
While the album strays into darker territory here, Del Rey finds her way back to a somewhat uncharacteristic optimism — on standout "Kintsugi," she sings of thoughts "brought by the sunlight of the spirit to pour into me." Just like that, her radiance returns.
As Always, She Finds Beauty In Brokenness
Del Rey's track "Kintsugi" is named after the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold. The artform highlights the beauty in embracing flaws, even underscoring them, and Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd exquisitely champions this notion.
"That's how the light gets in," Del Rey gently repeats in the chorus, the line doubly serving as a nod to the art of kintsugi and Leonard Cohen's "Anthem." As Del Rey learns to nurture the cracks of her broken heart, she learns how to be kinder to herself, how to love herself.
At the end of the track, she reassures herself a final time: "That's how the light gets in/ Then you're golden." She can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
For The Record: Why Lana Del Rey's 'Born To Die' Is One Of Pop's Most Influential Albums In The Past Decade
Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
20 Artists Who Made History At The 2023 GRAMMYs Other Than Beyoncé: Taylor Swift, Kim Petras, Viola Davis & More
As Queen Bey takes her throne as the artist with the most GRAMMYs of all time, take a look at some of the other 2023 GRAMMY winners who joined her in celebrating momentous achievements.
In the win heard around the world, Beyoncé became the person with the most GRAMMYs of all time at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Her win for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album for RENAISSANCE put her at 32 golden gramophones — and in host Trevor Noah's eyes, that solidified her title as the GRAMMY GOAT.
But while Beyoncé's latest GRAMMY feat is unquestionably impressive, the "BREAK MY SOUL" singer wasn't the only artist who experienced a piece of GRAMMY history at the 65th GRAMMY Awards.
There were several special moments at the Premiere Ceremony, including the first-ever GRAMMY Awards for Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical (Tobias Jesso Jr.) and Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media ("Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarok"). At the Telecast, Kim Petras scored a major win for the transgender community with her Best Pop Duo/Group Performance victory, and Dr. Dre was the inaugural recipient of his namesake Dr. Dre Global Impact Award.
Below, take a look at some of the history-making feats from the 2023 GRAMMYs.
As Kim Petras and Sam Smith accepted the GRAMMY for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their risqué collaboration, "Unholy," Smith let Petras do the talking because of a very special feat: She was the first trans woman to win in the category.
Earlier at the Premiere Ceremony, Germaine Franco became the first woman of color to win Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media, which she won for composing the Disney animated film Encanto. (Notably, Encanto swept all three of the categories for which it was nominated, also winning Best Song Written For Visual Media for "We Don't Talk About Bruno" and Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media.)
Carly Pearce and Ashley McBryde rang in a country first, as their win for Best Country Duo/Group Performance (for "Never Wanted to Be That Girl") marked the first female pairing to win the category — and the first GRAMMY win for both artists!
There were seven new awards given at the 2023 GRAMMYs, making those seven recipients the first to receive their respective honors. These were the first-time winners at the Premiere Ceremony: Tobias Jesso Jr. (Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical), "Assassin's Creed Valhalla: Dawn Of Ragnarok" (Best Score Soundtrack For Video Games And Other Interactive Media), Wet Leg (Best Alternative Music Performance for "Chaise Longue"), Bonnie Raitt (Best Americana Performance for "Made Up Mind") and J. Ivy (Best Spoken Word Poetry Album for The Poet Who Sat By The Door).
At the Telecast, Dr. Dre became the first recipient of the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award; shortly after, Iranian singer/songwriter Shervin Hajipour and his song "Baraye" received the first Special Merit Award for Best Song For Social Change.
There were a few other notable firsts at the Premiere Ceremony. Taylor Swift's Best Music Video win for "All Too Well: The Short Film" was the first time an artist won the category for a video directed by the artist themselves.
When jazz favorite Robert Glasper's Black Radio III won Best R&B Album, it marked his second win in the category — and an interesting one at that. His first win came in 2013 thanks to the original album in the trilogy, Black Radio, meaning his 2023 win was the first time an album and its sequel album have won in the category.
Elsewhere, two student groups celebrated some historic GRAMMY firsts: The Tennessee State University Marching Band became the first collegiate band to win a GRAMMY after receiving the golden gramophone for Best Roots Gospel Album, and the New York Youth Symphony became the first youth orchestra to win Best Orchestral Performance.
Viola Davis added a GRAMMY to her ever-impressive empire, which meant she is now officially an EGOT (Emmy, GRAMMY, Oscar, Tony) winner. Her GRAMMY win for Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording helped her become the third Black woman to earn an EGOT, and the first to secure the status at the GRAMMY Awards, following Whoopi Goldberg and Jennifer Hudson.
Bronx-born jazz singer Samara Joy was awarded the GRAMMY for Best New Artist — only the second time a jazz artist has won the award, and the first since Esperanza Spalding's win in 2011.
Jack Antonoff became the third producer to win Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical winner in consecutive years; Babyface did so in 1996 and 1997, and Greg Kurstin achieved the feat in 2016 and 2017.
Last but certainly not least, "Into The Woods" joined elite ranks by winning the GRAMMY for Best Musical Theater Album. Stephen Sondheim's 1987 original won the category in 1989, making it only the fourth Broadway show to earn two Best Musical Theater Album GRAMMYs alongside "Gypsy," "Les Miserables" and "West Side Story." It's also the second year in a row a piece of GRAMMY history was born from the category, as "The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical" creators Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear became the youngest winners in 2022.
10 Must-See Moments From The 2023 GRAMMYs: Beyoncé Makes History, Hip-Hop Receives An Epic Tribute, Bad Bunny Brings The Puerto Rican Heat
Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images
Jack Antonoff Wins Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical For The Second Year In A Row | 2023 GRAMMYs
The reigning Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical winner, Jack Antonoff, holds his title at the 2023 GRAMMYs,
Jack Antonoff won the GRAMMY for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical at the 2023 GRAMMYs, marking his second win in the category — in a row.
Even so, Antonoff remained humble as he accepted his trophy. He put the spotlight on his right-hand woman, sound engineer Laura Sisk, who joined Antonoff on stage.
"I sit in the studio all day with one person — this is Laura, who engineers and mixes the records with us," he said. "We just sit there all f—ing day. We were there yesterday, we'll be there tomorrow, and this is all completely for Laura."
Dan Auerbach, Boi-1da, Dahi, and Dernst "D'mile" Emile II were the other nominees in the category.
Listen to music from all of the nominees on our official Amazon Music playlist.
Check out the complete list of winners and nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs.
Photo: Rachel Kupfer
A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.
It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.
Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.
Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.
In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.
Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.
There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.
Say She She
Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.
While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."
Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.
Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.
Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.
Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.
L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.
During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.
Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.
Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.
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