meta-scriptGet To Know Benson Boone, The "Beautiful Things" Singer & Rising Pop-Rock Sensation |
Benson Boone performing at 2023 KCON
Benson Boone performs at KIIS FM's K-Pop Village at KCON LA in August 2023.

Photo: Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images


Get To Know Benson Boone, The "Beautiful Things" Singer & Rising Pop-Rock Sensation

As Benson Boone's erupting smash "Beautiful Things" continues to dominate Billboard's global charts, rounded up seven things to know about the budding star, from his reality TV roots to his rock star mentor.

GRAMMYs/Mar 15, 2024 - 08:25 pm

Benson Boone's swift rise to stardom has been a beautiful thing to witness. Over the past three years, the Monroe, Washington native has gone from viral TikTok influencer to one of Gen Z's most promising pop talents.

Remarkably, the 21-year-old pop-rock artist didn't even discover his voice until he reached high school, after his best friend asked him to play the piano in their school's battle of the bands competition and the singer dropped out at the last second. Boone found himself filling in, an impromptu decision that would unwittingly alter the course of his entire life.

"It's just like I unlocked something I didn't know I had," he mused recently to MTV. "And I stopped, like, halfway through the first verse and just looked around, and I was so shocked that I had just sang…It was, like, the best feeling of my life."

Cut to the present day, and Boone's voice has helped him soar to the top of multiple Billboard charts. His latest single "Beautiful Things," a desperate prayer of a love song that pinballs between warm, folksy verses and a rollicking chorus reminiscent of Freddie Mercury's electrifying vocals, has positively exploded since its January release. Boone's breakout hit has spent six consecutive weeks in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 3 as of press time and topping both of Billboard's global charts for multi-week runs.

"My life has changed dramatically since the song came out," Boone reflected earlier this month in a sit-down with Variety. "It's so, so, so insane to me that this is happening. I'm trying so hard to formulate words. I have so much trouble processing it all right now…But when I sit back and look at what's happening, it really, truly blows my mind. Because it's something a lot of people dream of, and [I'm] one of those people."

Benson is steadfast in building on the runaway success of "Beautiful Things," too. The singer/songwriter's forthcoming debut album is expected some time later this year, and his just-announced Fireworks and Rollerblades World Tour kicks off April 3 in Chicago, with legs in North America, the U.K., Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

As Boone's rise to superstardom continues, rounded up everything you need to know about the buzzy star-in-the-making, from his brief stint on reality TV to the A-list rocker who's taken him under his wing.

He's A Proud "American Idol" Dropout

Before he became a rising star on the charts, Boone initially attempted to get his start in music on "American Idol." During Season 19, the then-18-year-old auditioned for the reality show with a piano-playing cover of Aidan Martin's 2017 single "Punchline" after producers came across his videos online.

Boone's jaw-dropping audition earned a standing ovation from judges Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan before Katy Perry confidently declared, "They're gonna swoon over Benson Boone." All three judges were baffled to learn that the teenager had only discovered his obvious musical talent the year before, and the "Roar" singer doubled down on her praise by predicting, "I'm gonna tell you something that you may not believe. But if you believe it, it might happen…I see you winning 'American Idol' if you want to."

"That is the biggest compliment I've ever gotten, thank you," a starstruck Boone replied. However, by the time Hollywood week rolled around, the fresh-faced teenager had apparently decided he didn't want to win the long-running reality competition, and withdrew after advancing to the Top 24. 

"The reason I quit 'American Idol' is because I wanted to do music," he explained a couple of years later during an appearance on The Zach Sang Show. "I don't want people to be like, 'Oh, Benson Boone, 'American Idol' blew him up. Like, that's where he comes from. No. I want to be Benson Boone 'cause I write smash hits and they love my music…I just didn't want that label on me."

He Has A Bonafide Rock Superstar For A Mentor

Part of Boone's success as a solo artist can be attributed to Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons, who came across the young talent and personally signed him to Night Street Records, the rock singer's own Warner Records imprint that has also boasted K.Flay on its exclusive roster, in 2021. 

"We sign artists so rarely at Night Street — it was one of those moments where you know you have no choice," the frontman told Billboard at the time Boone inked his record deal. "That's how I felt when I first sat in a recording booth with Benson. I'm excited for the world to get to know him the way I have these last months."

Since then, Reynolds has also served as a sort of industry mentor figure for Boone, as the burgeoning rocker explained in a 2023 interview promoting the release of his EP Pulse. "He makes you feel comfortable in your own skin, he's very gifted in that way," Boone told iHeartRadio Canada. "So working with him has been incredible, and him taking time for an artist very much smaller than him is just…he's a very kind soul. 

"I think that the main thing that he's taught me is that in this industry, everybody wants something different from you," he continued. "Everybody has a different outlook on yourself than you actually do. And regardless of what that is, you are the leader of your own career and your own life. You have to do things that make you happy, write music that you want to be writing, releasing things that you're proud of…He's just taught me to stick to my gut and just follow my own dreams."

His Earlier Singles Pack An Emotional Punch (No, Seriously, Grab Some Tissues)

The runaway success of "Beautiful Things" may have earned Boone's legions of newfound fans in the last two months, but it's actually not his biggest song on streaming platforms (at least just yet). Before his soul-baring folk-rock anthem was burning up charts around the world, the singer released his debut single "Ghost Town" and heartbreaking follow-up "In The Stars," both of which are included on his debut 2021 EP Walk Me Home… (As of press time, the former has more than 336 million streams on Spotify, and the latter has a whopping 617 million.)

Another smoldering torch song, "Ghost Town" became Boone's first official entry on the Hot 100 after it was released in October 2021. "Maybe you'd be happier with someone else/ Maybe loving me's the reason you can't love yourself/ Before I turn your heart into a ghost town/ Show me everything we build so I can tear it all down," he laments on the soaring chorus over a running piano line and booming, orchestral percussion.

On the heels of "Ghost Town," Boone then penned "In the Stars" in 2022 about the death of his beloved great-grandma. "That kind of loss can be more emotional and heartfelt than a relationship," he told Genius about the song's tender meaning. "I wanted to write about something that was real. It's something I've never really talked about or dealt face to face with. Songwriting is very new to me, and so I'm still learning that process of figuring out how to cope with something through a song. And I think this is kind of where that starts for me." 

Other pre-"Beautiful Things" tracks worth checking out in Boone's quickly blossoming discography include the addictive TikTok smash "Sugar Sweet," wistfully upbeat bop "Coffee Cake" and the introspective "What Was."

His Stage Presence Is Downright Acrobatic

Boone may be a relative newcomer in the music industry, but he's already developed a magnetic stage presence at his packed live shows. In fact, one of his signature tricks on stage is landing a backflip mid-song without so much as missing a beat.

To tease his upcoming world tour, the singer posted a clip of himself in late January belting out "What Was" in front of an ecstatic crowd. In the video, he impressively nails a flip before effortlessly transitioning right into the power ballad's bombastic climax, wailing, "Let me/ Start over/ The moment that I left you in tears/ Is a mem'ry that will haunt me for years/ And years and years and years and years."

"My dad is 49 years old and still backflips, I get it from him," the singer confessed to Australian outlet The Project on his first trip Down Under in the fall of 2022. "I always thought he was, like, the coolest…but yeah, I've been flipping since I was, like, four and it's just always been my thing."

He Has Roots In Mormonism

Boone grew up in small-town Washington as the only boy in a Mormon family with four sisters. He's never really spoken publicly about growing up in the clean-cut, high-demand religion, but he actually briefly attended Brigham Young University—Idaho, the Mormon university in Rexburg, for a semester before pausing his education to focus on music.

Mormonism is a trait he coincidentally shares with his mentor Reynolds, who's been outspoken throughout his career about his Mormon background and actually got kicked out of Brigham Young University around the same time he formed Imagine Dragons. 

While Boone grew up outside the "Book of Mormon Belt" — the geographic area that radiates from Mormonism's Salt Lake City headquarters to include parts of Idaho, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming and even southern Alberta, Canada — his Mormon roots have shown up in his music in subtle ways. He even filmed the official music video for "Beautiful Things" against the majestic backdrop of the red rock bluffs outside St. George, Utah (which just so happens to be this writer's hometown!).

He Serves As His Own Creative Team

Boone's creative side extends beyond the realm of music: he's also a talented artist who often draws the cover art for his own singles. When "Ghost Town" was released in 2021, he showed off his skills by sketching the song's artwork for Spotify's Today's Top Hits — even admitting it was his first time attempting to draw a self-portrait with charcoal.

"I've always loved drawing and painting," Boone said of his artistic flair in a 2023 interview, also noting that he designs all his own merchandise. "I get that from my dad…My dad's, like, a crazy artist, he's so good. And so it's kinda just always been something that I've done."

He's An Avid Rollerblader

As the name of his upcoming Fireworks and Rollerblades World Tour would suggest, Boone is both a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie and has a not-so-secret passion for rollerblading. In fact, the singer's TikTok feed is littered with videos of himself landing tricks, stunts and, of course, flips on wheels in between the requisite promo material teasing new music like his upcoming single "Slow It Down," footage from live shows and other viral TikTok content.

What other tricks does Benson Boone have up his sleeve for the rest of 2024? Judging by his meteoric chart success thus far, the world is eagerly waiting to find out.

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Benson Boone Press Photo 2024
Benson Boone

Photo: Jonathan Weiner


Benson Boone Declares "Beautiful Things" Is No Fluke: "I've Tapped Into How I'll Write For The Rest Of My Life"

On his debut album, 'Fireworks and Rollerblades,' Benson Boone doubles down on the anthemic sound and cathartic narrative of his breakout smash — and promises this is truly just the beginning.

GRAMMYs/Apr 8, 2024 - 08:52 pm

If there's one way to describe Benson Boone's breakthrough year, look to the title of his debut album, Fireworks and Rollerblades.

While the name was borrowed from a lyric on the LP, Boone sees it as a metaphor for his life: "I feel like things have taken off for me like a firework tied to a rollerblade, all very quickly."

He's not wrong. In the three months since the pop singer/songwriter released the album's lead single, the booming ballad "Beautiful Things," Boone has held a comfortable position in the top five of the Billboard Hot 100 (peaking at No. 2 as of press time), held a five-week reign on Billboard's Global 200 chart, topped charts in multiple countries, and amassed nearly half a billion streams on Spotify alone. The song has helped Boone become one of the biggest breakout stars of 2024 so far, but his talent is something many have been seeing for the past few years.

Building a career off of penning raw lyrics strung together with memorable hooks and thrashing piano riffs, the Washington native first made waves on social media and during Season 19 of "American Idol" in 2021, where judge Lionel Richie pointed out his natural talent: "You know, there's some folks who need to practice, and there's some folks who are just gifted at it." That same quality caught the ear of Imagine Dragons' Dan Reynolds, who promptly signed the rising star to his Warner Records imprint Night Street Records right around the time Boone morphed into a TikTok superstar.

His powerful voice and penchant for vulnerability is what's had fans enthralled from the start, whether with early hit "Ghost Town" (a raw mediation on love with lyrics like,"Maybe you'd be happier with someone else/ Maybe loving me's the reason you can't love yourself") or the unflinching tracks on Fireworks and Rollerblades like the "Beautiful Things" follow-up "Slow it Down" ("I get nervous, oh, I'm anxious/ Maybe loving you is dangerous"). But for Boone, he simply doesn't know how to write any other way: "Nobody is going to relate to your lyrics if they're not real."

Just before releasing Fireworks & Rollerblades — and just after kicking off his sold-out tour of the same name — Boone spoke to about his success, debut album and the fine art of capturing authentic emotions in his work.

It's rare in today's zeitgeist to have a relatively new artist achieve the success you've seen recently. But now that you have the following, it becomes about following it up. So after the astronomical success of "Beautiful Things," does that make releasing your debut album stressful or stress free?

I definitely understand feeling the pressure for this album. But "Beautiful Things" was its own moment, and we worked very hard to get it to where that went — and I know that doesn't always happen, and I'm not expecting that. But I'm just doing my best to get the album to as many people as I can regardless of whether it doesn't stream at all or it does great.

I'm truly so proud of these songs, and I've made something I love and that I'm passionate about. So I'm just excited to get my first album out.

How do you usually write a song? Do you have one surefire way?

I think the last couple of months I've kind of tapped into how I'll probably write for most of the rest of my life. It's just me and the piano, usually late at night when I can't sleep. I'll sit there and start playing chords and singing random melodies. That's how it starts, and I'll take it down to the studio to beat it up and hopefully get a song [out of it].

Tony Bennett once said, "if you steal from one person, you're just a thief. But if you steal from everyone, that's research." When you were first getting started, who were your musical inspirations?

Growing up I listened to a lot of Billy Joel, Sam Smith, Adele, Stevie Wonder, and Queen; these are artists who use their voice as the main instrument for their songs. I think I took a lot of aspects from that into my own music and that's kind of how I operate. So when I write, I let my voice lead where the song goes. I think that's what I naturally picked up listening to those artists.

Many of your songs have deep emotion at their core. For example, on Fireworks and Rollerblades, you have a song called "Cry" and the lyrics go, "Cry cry cry/ Go ahead and ruin someone else's life." These are heavy sentiments. Does a weight come off your chest when you write these lyrics?

I think every song is very different; some of them are sad and some aren't. But I do like to pull inspiration from whatever I'm feeling at the time. So whatever I'm going through, that's when I want to write a song; when I'm feeling those emotions the strongest.

No matter what situation I'm in, I always feel better writing something in the middle of whatever emotion I'm feeling. So it does help me. It's therapeutic.

Have you ever written a lyric and then wound up deleting or rewriting it because you thought it was too personal or too revealing?

Honestly, no. I never want something to come out about someone else that they wouldn't want out, so I would never name drop somebody or say something personal about someone else. But for me, I'm not scared to be personal; being vulnerable is the most important thing in songwriting.

When you're finally performing a song you've written however long after, what's it like to hear people sing these emotional lyrics back to you? Do they still have that power for you, or have you worked through them in the interim and they lose that grip?

I think depending on the song, they never lose their grip. A song like "In the Stars," I'll always remember why I wrote that and I'll always think of that. But when I'm performing live, I'm not trying to get everyone to think of my experience because I understand that everybody has their own experience they can relate to. It's not always my grandma, it's not always my girlfriend, it's not always my parents or experiences. It's the audience's experiences, friends, significant others. So when I perform, I don't always think of something I've written a song about but rather giving them something that they can take and grip onto instead.

Speaking of, can you take me back to the late night awhile back when you wrote "Beautiful Things"? How was that particular one born?

Well, I had just moved to LA, and all I had in my house were a mattress and a piano. There were two nights I could not sleep hardly at all and I went downstairs that first night and wrote its verse and medley. But I couldn't really figure out a chorus, so I went back to bed.

The next night I came up with a completely new song and idea, and wrote a chorus but couldn't think of any verses. The next day I happened to have a session with two people I love very much, Jack LaFrantz and Evan Blair, and I showed them the verses idea and we sat there and couldn't figure out where we wanted to take the chorus. So separately I showed them my other chorus idea, and Jack said, "Why don't we make it the same song and make this the chorus?" And that's kind of how the structure of "Beautiful Things" came, but we worked on it for a long time.

Once it came together, we were like "This song is insane and it has so much potential." I've never had a song written like that, ever."

Where did the name of the album, Fireworks and Rollerblades, come from? Do you have a typical way of thinking of titles?

Each one is different, but that title came from a lyric from one of the songs called "Hello Love." It goes: "I can try to blame you but my mind ain't safe/ Like two fireworks tied to a rollerblade." It always stuck out to me and in the session I wrote that, I said, "Dude, if this is part of an album, we should name it Fireworks and Rollerblades, imagine how sick that would be." Everybody was super hyped on the idea, and it actually happened. I loved the lyric and that sentiment.

It's also similar to my life: I feel like things have taken off for me like a firework tied to a rollerblade, all very quickly. And rollerblading is something I love, so it all made sense. I'm so happy with that title.

Let's talk about the single "Slow It Down," an ironic title considering it went viral immediately out of the gate.

I think a lot of people I talked to were like, "Oh the pressure's on for this song!" after "Beautiful Things." But I love "Slow It Down," and writing it was so natural. Some people were listening to me write it and it came together so organically.

It's another very personal song for me. I'm trying my hardest to do my best, and that's all I can do. I can't force people to like or listen to that song. I'm just hoping that it resonates.

How do you know when you're finished with something? Can you easily step away?

I try not to think of deadlines. I'm very particular about how a song sounds, especially its production and how the vocals are treated. Every sound matters to me. Some songs come together a lot faster. But if it's not a simple production, sometimes they take a while and I have to rethink parts and then go sit with the producer and have them do this and this. Some of them take weeks, some of them take months, some of them take days. Each song is so incredibly different.

For Fireworks and Rollerblades, some tracks took a lot longer than I thought, especially "Beautiful Things" actually. It's always a rollercoaster trying to finish a song and the last 10 percent is the hardest part. But it paid off, and I'm so glad.

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Big Freedia at iHeartRadio Can't Cancel Pride 2023
Big Freedia attends iHeartRadio's Can't Cancel Pride in April 2023.

Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for iHeartRadio


9 Artists Who Advocate For The LGBTQIA+ Community: Troye Sivan, Taylor Swift, Madonna & More

From Big Freedia to Beyoncé, artists who identify as queer and allies alike celebrate love in all its forms.

GRAMMYs/Jun 21, 2023 - 11:00 pm

"GAY RIGHTS!!!!!" Betty Who captioned a cheeky photo earlier this month. Yes, it was a well-known inside joke among the LGBTQIA+ community, but the all-caps message held some serious meaning. The queer pop star's photo was from the White House's 2023 Pride Celebration, where President Biden formally announced the New Actions to Protect the LGBTQIA+ Community plan — and Betty Who was the star performer.

Music has always been a safe haven for gay and trans people of all kinds — from the closeted kids in Middle America finding sanctuary in the songs of their favorite pop stars, to the out-and-proud artists forming the soundtrack for the next generation of LGBTQIA+ fans. And Pride has always been a special time of the year to celebrate visibility and inclusion in the music industry — a place where everyone deserves to show up and be seen (and heard!) as their authentic self, and where every proverbial note, melody and harmony make up a beautiful and unique soundtrack that can only be yours.

Recently, queer musicians and allies who use their platforms to stand up for the LGBTQIA+ community has felt more important than ever. A rash of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation has swept through state legislatures across the country, from so-called "Don't Say Gay" bills to blatant legal attacks on drag queens, trans kids and LGBTQIA+ history as a whole —  but those who stand for the community are fighting even harder.

As Pride month carries on, has rounded up a list of nine LGBTQIA+ artists, allies and bonafide gay icons who've made advocating for the community a central tenet of their music, their words and their actions. Of course, there are dozens to highlight, but take a look at how queer artists like Kim Petras and Troye Sivan and allies like Taylor Swift and Madonna have helped fans shine as their authentic selves.


Kim Petras

Petras cemented her place as a rising star in the pop music echelon in February, when she became the first trans woman to win the GRAMMY for Best Pop Duo/Group collaboration with Sam Smith for their subversive collaboration "Unholy." (Smith, who identifies as non-binary, also made history with the win, though they graciously ceded the floor for Petras to give her awestruck acceptance speech on the GRAMMYs stage.)

As the cover star of Out's 2023 Pride issue, the German pop princess spoke out about the rash of anti-trans rhetoric taking root in legislatures across the country and harming vulnerable trans youth. "I literally was very suicidal as a kid, and I just wouldn't still be here had my parents not believed me," she told the magazine. "I hate that another generation is going through this, and I hate that young kids are going through the same s–t I was going through, and that apparently just isn't changing. I think it's sad. I just never understood why people were so obsessed with what people do to be happy. Just focus on what you can do to be happy."

Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X has never been shy when it comes to sticking up for the queer community — and he usually does so with a healthy dose of snarky humor on social media. He's cheerfully clapped back about everything from the explicit queerness of his music videos to his place in the modern pantheon of hip-hop; mostly recently, he hopped on Twitter to hilariously take down conservative outrage over Pride-themed merchandise at Target.

"Can't believe target is supporting this nonsense, im never shopping there again, my son is not 'too cool for school' these shirts are ridiculous. He is going to school and he WILL learn," the GRAMMY winner wrote in a since-deleted tweet, mockingly referencing the anti-LGBTQIA+ crusaders upset with inclusive and trans-friendly apparel being sold at the popular retailer. 

In another instance from late April, Montero made his stance hysterically clear when he tweeted, "I want to clear all the straight rumors. i have many straight friends and i support their community, but that is NOT me!"

Troye Sivan

Years before releasing his debut album Blue Neighborhood in 2015, Troye Sivan came out publicly via YouTube. Since then, he's been consistently outspoken about his experiences as a gay artist in the music industry.

The Australia native, who announced his long-awaited follow-up to 2018's Bloom earlier this month, has made a consistent point in his career to turn his visuals into unapologetic examples of queer art — from the lusty defiance of 2018's "My My My!" to the "gushy juicy doting adoring power b^tt^m gay ballad" perfection that was 2021's "Angel Baby."

Perhaps most powerful of all, though, was his video for early single "Heaven" featuring Betty Who, which depicted historic moments in the LGBTQIA+ rights movement including some of the earliest Pride parades on record. "We have always been here. we will always be here. this video is dedicated to all those who've come before me and fought for our cause and those who now continue the fight," he wrote in the video's description. "in dark and light times, let's love forever. love, troye x."

Betty Who

Speaking of Betty Who, the indie pop star received an invitation directly from President Biden to perform at the White House's official 2023 Pride Celebration, where the commander in chief formally announced his administration's plan titled New Actions to Protect the LGBTQIA+ Community. The three-point roll-out promises to focus on "Strengthening Physical Safety," "Addressing Civil Rights Violations" and "Strengthening Mental Health and other Support Resources."

"Today was the biggest pride celebration ever held at the white house and i got to be a part of it!!!!!!!!" Betty, who identifies as both queer and bisexual, wrote afterwards on social media. "So many things i want to say! What an honour it is, how proud i am to be part of the lgbtqia+ [community], how special today's event was and how grateful i am to @potus, @drbiden and the amazing white house staff for hosting us. queer joy spouting everywhere!!! very grateful for this incredible experience."

Big Freedia

Earlier this year, Big Freedia was honored by PFLAG — the nation's longest-running LGBTQIA+ organization — with its first-ever National Breaking Barriers Award. The new honor, which she received at PGFLAG's 50th anniversary gala in March, is meant to shine the spotlight on "an individual who uses their platform to help remove obstacles to LGBTQIA+ and intersectional equality in pursuit of a more just, equitable and inclusive world."

Upon receiving the award, the bounce music trailblazer (and 2023 GRAMMY winner) took to Instagram with a determined message, writing, "There's still so much work to do to fight discrimination and I will continue to work on behalf of our whole community to spread love, acceptance, inclusion and everyone's right TO BE FREE."


Taylor Swift

While she'd slyly referenced her support for the LGBTQIA+ community in the past on songs like "Welcome to New York," Taylor Swift took a public stand in 2019 with her Lover era single "You Need to Calm Down." The gay anthem's celebratory music video issued a call to action for her fans to support the as-yet-unpassed Equality Act with her very own petition.

During her Eras Tour stop in Chicago earlier this month, the superstar spoke specifically to her LGBTQIA+ fans, promising them that her concerts would always be a "safe space" for them to celebrate who they are. 

"I wish that every place was safe and beautiful for people in the LGBTQ community, I really wish that. We can't talk about Pride Month without talking about pain," she told the sold-out crowd of Swifties at Soldier Field. "There have been so many harmful pieces of legislation that have put people in the LGBTQ and queer community at risk. It's painful for everyone — every ally, every loved one, every person in these communities. And that's why I'm always posting, 'This is when the midterms are. This is when these important, key primaries are.'

"'Cause we can support as much as we want during Pride Month," the 12-time GRAMMY winner continued. "But if we're not doing our research on these elected officials — Are they advocates? Are they allies? Are they protectors of equality? Do I want to vote for them? — I love you guys so much and happy Pride Month."


What hasn't Madonna done in her iconic career to lift up the LGBTQIA+ community? In fact, there's an entire Wikipedia page dedicated solely to her status as a living gay icon.

Famously, Her Madgesty's love for the gay community started with her early mentor and dance teacher Christopher Flynn. Early in her career, she became one of the first artists to speak out about the HIV/AIDS crisis and decry the stigmatization of gay people at the time.

She's been recognized by the GLAAD Media Awards multiple times, including in 1991 with the Raising Gay Awareness award and in 2019 with the Advocate for Change award. (At the latter ceremony, GLAAD president Sarah Kate Ellis stated, "Madonna always has and always will be the LGBTQ community's greatest ally.")

More recently, Madge added multiple dates to her upcoming Celebration Tour, including a special stop in Nashville to stand in solidarity with the state's queer, trans and drag communities as they've been bombarded by a string of anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation from the state's Capitol.

"The oppression of the LGBTQIA+ is not only unacceptable and inhumane; it's creating an unsafe environment; making America a dangerous place for our most vulnerable citizens, especially trans women of color," she wrote on Instagram alongside the announcement. "Also, these so-called laws to protect our children are unfounded and pathetic. Anyone with half a brain knows not to f— with a drag queen. Bob and I will see you from the stage in Nashville where we will celebrate the beauty that is the queer community!"


Long considered a gay icon in her own right, Beyoncé paid reverential honor to the LGBTQIA+ community and her late uncle Johnny with 2022's Renaissance, an undulating magnum opus inspired by the underground ballroom scene sparked by Black, trans and gay pioneers of the 1970s, '80s, '90s, and beyond.

Queen Bey also holds space for queer artists throughout Renaissance's sprawling, hour-long track list, collaborating with TS Madison and Big Freedia, sampling Kevin Aviance and late drag star Moi Renee, working with Honey Dijon behind the boards and more. "Thank you to all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long," the living legend wrote in a note posted to her personal website upon the album's release. "This is a celebration for you."

Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons

Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds has emerged as a powerful advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community through his nonprofit organization Loveloud and its popular Utah festival, which he launched in 2017 to support LGBTQIA+ teens in the state's overwhelmingly conservative (and outspokenly anti-LGBTQIA+) Mormon community. 

This year, though, Reynolds and the Loveloud board — which includes out and proud musicians like Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees, Vincint, Wrabel and Parson James — have expanded Loveloud's mission beyond the Mormonism of the Wasatch front. In early March, Loveloud announced it would be transforming into a traveling festival for its sixth year with stops in Austin, Texas, where dozens of anti-LGBTQIA+ laws have been pursued by the state legislature and Gov. Greg Abbott, and Washington D.C.

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Imagine Dragons performing 2022
Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons performs at the NOS Alive festival in Lisbon, Portugal, in July 2022.

Photo: Pedro Gomes/Redferns


Inside Imagine Dragons' Biggest Hits: Dan Reynolds Details How "Believer," "Radioactive" & More Came To Be

On the heels of Imagine Dragons' sixth album, 'Mercury - Act 1 & 2,' frontman Dan Reynolds reveals the backstories behind smash songs like "Thunder," and "Enemy."

GRAMMYs/Aug 5, 2022 - 05:35 pm

Since Imagine Dragons debuted 10 years ago, billion has become their default number. Four of the hitmaking group's singles — "Radioactive," "Believer," "Demons," and "Thunder" — each have more than a billion views on YouTube and a billion streams on Spotify.

Clearly those aren't the only songs that have made Imagine Dragons one of the most commercially successful rock bands of the 2010s. Combined, the group's streams top 100 billion, thanks to other hits like "Whatever It Takes" and "Enemy." The latter track is part of the group's sixth LP (and first compilation album), Mercury - Acts 1 & 2, and became their latest top 5 single on the Billboard Hot 100 — proving that they're not done making hits.

Behind each one of Imagine Dragons' songs is frontman Dan Reynolds, the group's principal songwriter. While the band has only been active in the mainstream for a decade, 35-year-old Reynolds is going on 25 years of making music.

"I started writing when I was 12, and I have recorded a song almost every day since then," Reynolds tells "I have thousands and thousands of recorded songs with lyrics and melody that never saw the light of day."

Luckily for Imagine Dragons and their fans, plenty of songs have emerged from Reynolds' daily songwriting — and it's taken him and his band around the world. The group kicked off their 72-date Mercury World Tour in Miami in February, and they return to North America on Aug. 5 after a stretch of shows in Europe. (They had to cancel shows in Ukraine and Russia due to the countries' ongoing conflict, but Imagine Dragons showed their support for Ukraine by becoming ambassadors for United24, the organization launched by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that collects charitable donations for his country.)  

During a brief break from performing, Reynolds reminisced with about some of his group's most recognizable hits to date.

"It's Time" — Night Visions, 2012

The major-label debut single from Imagine Dragons cracked the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100, also finding its way onto multiple screens thanks to Gossip Girl, Perks of Being a Wallflower and Glee.

Ten years later, it's still the song with which Imagine Dragons open the majority of their live shows. For Reynolds, "It's Time" serves as perhaps the most full-circle song in their catalog. "I wrote 'It's Time' in my dorm room the week I was dropping out of college to pursue music," he recalls. "The stomp clap is me hitting my desk."

After moving back to his hometown of Las Vegas, Reynolds recorded the song with the rest of the band at The Studio at the Palms. "We added the group's stomps and claps, but we kept the slaps and claps I had done in the dorm room," he says. "There is something about the youthfulness of that song. It took us from obscurity into alternative radio. It paved the way for 'Radioactive' and is still, to this day, one of my favorite songs."

"Radioactive" — Night Visions, 2012

Imagine Dragons' highest-charting single on the Hot 100, the No. 3-peaking "Radioactive" was the band's first top 5 single. It also gave Imagine Dragons another big first: their first GRAMMY.  "Radioactive" won Best Rock Performance at the 56th GRAMMYs, where it was also nominated for Record Of The Year (and where the group performed the song with Kendrick Lamar).

"My first memories of 'Radioactive' are me living in a studio apartment at the Villa Carlotta in L.A. with my wife and first child," recalls Reynolds. "My wife and I were both struggling musicians. She was the singer of a band called Nico Vega who were signed to MySpace. Imagine Dragons was unsigned. We played at the Viper Room and Alex da Kid's assistant attended our show, bought our EP and gave it to Alex. [Alex] emailed saying 'I like your songwriting. Would you like to come in and do some songwriting sessions?'"

"Radioactive" was one of the first songs they wrote, with Reynolds writing the lyrics and melodies and Alex da Kid creating the dubstep beat. With the addition of Wayne Sermon's guitar parts, Ben McKee's bass and Daniel Platzman's drums, the song became, "More and more strange," laughs Reynolds. "Combining EDM and dubstep and five rock instruments was weird. But we wanted to keep listening to it. That was promising."

But when they brought "Radioactive" to their newly minted team at Interscope — their label home since 2011 — Reynolds remembers being told "This can never play on Top 40 radio." Nonetheless, "It forced its way on the radio," he asserts. "It was a monster. One of those songs that just wanted a life of its own and took on a life of its own."

"Demons" — Night Visions, 2012

Imagine Dragons' second Top 10 single "Demons" was "written in two hours," says Reynolds, during those same early songwriting sessions with Alex da Kid. Reynolds would write from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. every day, and present what he had to Alex da Kid at the end of the day.

"Alex is usually very reserved and not reactive," says Reynolds. "I remember specifically when I played 'Demons' he was like, 'This is really special,' which is a lot for him. When we brought in the band, it took even more life. Same as 'Radioactive,' where adding real instrumentation took something that was electronic and brought more live emotion to it, it made the song feel magical.

"We were an unsigned band at this time," Reynolds continues. "Even though these songs feel special, we had no understanding or idea that they would go on to be massive. In a perfect world, we wanted to maybe get enough fans to be able to do a club tour around America and play in front of 150 people in every city. The dream was to be able to sustain ourselves as indie artists. We had no understanding of what the songs would actually end up doing."

Last year, "Demons" was Diamond-certified, making Imagine Dragons the first band to have three Diamond-certified singles at the time; "Thunder" hit that milestone certification this July, adding to their record-breaking RIAA legacy.

"Believer" — Evolve, 2017

"Believer" marked the start of Reynolds working with Swedish songwriting/production duo Mattman & Robin, as well as hit-making songwriter Justin Tranter — collaborators who Reynolds says helped Imagine Dragons get back on track.

"We self-produced our second record, Smoke & Mirrors, which is one of my favorite records that we've done," says Reynolds. "But its biggest weakness is, it was way over-produced. When it's four people producing, it's easy to overthink and keep adding, so it's a huge wall of sound on every song." 

With that in mind, Reynolds says the band took "a really minimalistic view" when approaching Evolve. "Mattman and Robin, that's what they do: very few sounds, but really intelligent and well thought out. We were in a room with [Tranter] and 'Believer' came really quick. It was one of those songs that was waiting to be written."

"Believer" spent 29 weeks topping the Hot Rock & Alternative chart — their longest run on the tally to date. Additionally, "Believer" is the only song in Imagine Dragons' catalog to have more than 2 billion streams on Spotify and 2 billion views on YouTube. 

"Thunder" — Evolve, 2017

Imagine Dragons' fourth Diamond-certified single was nominated for Best Pop/Duo/Group Performance at the 60th GRAMMY Awards. The song spent 24 weeks in the No. 1 position on the Hot Rock and Alternative Songs chart and seven weeks at No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

"It was recorded at my computer in my front entry room," recalls Reynolds. "If you listen really closely, you can hear a couple of my kids screaming in the background. There was nothing professional about it. It wasn't in a studio. It's not recorded in a vocal booth. I recorded it in one evening, sent it back to Alex, he said, 'I love this, let's get the band on it.'"

"Whatever It Takes" — Evolve, 2017

"Whatever It Takes" is Imagine Dragons' unintentional sports anthem. The third Hot Rock & Alternative Songs No. 1 — in a row — from Evolve was the official theme song for WWE's Battleground 2017 as well as featured on Madden NFL 18.

"We lived with that song for months," remembers Reynolds. "We kept feeling like the chorus sounded too familiar. Nobody could put their finger on it. We finally realized it sounded too close to Gary Glitter's 'Rock 'n' Roll.' It wasn't the same melody, but it was close enough that it made you think of it. We got rid of the chorus. I rewrote and re-recorded the chorus at my house in the same front lobby that I recorded 'Thunder.' I wanted that kind of redemptive chorus and I tried to stay in that zone when I was creating it."

Says Reynolds of the GRAMMY-nominated Evolve, "It's a big record for us, which is crazy because we felt Night Visions was one of those things that we were never going to replicate and that it was all downhill from there."

"Natural" — Origins, 2018

Also an unintentional sports anthem, "Natural" was the hype song for ESPN's 2018 college football season. Reynolds wrote "Natural" during the same sessions as "Believer," but held on to the song for a strategic reason.

"When you put out an album, you're lucky in this day and age, if maybe you get two big singles," he says. "You don't get three or four singles. It just doesn't happen that way. We knew 'Natural' was going to be a big song, but we didn't want to put it on Evolve, because it would get buried with 'Thunder' and 'Whatever It Takes' and 'Believer.'"

So, they put it on Origins, which Reynolds calls "the sister album" to Evolve. "I'm really glad we did that, because I don't think it would have ever been released as a single or seen the light of day otherwise."

"Enemy (with JID)" — Mercury - Act 1/Arcane League of Legends Soundtrack, 2021

When the video game company Riot Games presented Arcane: League of Legends to Imagine Dragons to tap them for a theme song, Reynolds felt "Enemy" was a good fit for the Netflix animated series.

"We had the whole song complete," remembers Reynolds. "But we thought it'd be cool to have a guest appearance on it. We took out my vocals on the bridge. I really love JID and suggested him. What he added to it really brought it up a level."

It was four years from the time "Enemy" was written to when it was released with Arcane. But it was worth the wait for Imagine Dragons: "Enemy" earned them their first top 5 hit on the Hot 100 in five years.

"Bones" — Mercury - Acts 1&2, 2022

The lead single from Mercury - Act 2, "Bones," earned Imagine Dragons their 22nd Top 10 hit on the Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart. Reynolds says his writing for Mercury - Acts 1&2 revolved around the concept of finality — and "Bones" exemplifies that idea.

"I was really hyper focused on death," says Reynolds. "That sounds so morbid, but that was the theme of the record. My goal was to write a song about death that was not sad. It's the first time we've ever made a dance song. When we play 'Bones' live, everybody's dancing. It's not typical for Imagine Dragons. That's not the rhythm that we go for. It's usually more angsty.

"'Bones' is supposed to be self-aware and a little bit ironic. But also, it was part of my lifelong obsession about, 'What is life? Why are we here? Where are we going? What happens when we die?' And also about not wanting to recognize death because it's such a scary thing to talk about. Why not just sing about it and make light of it?"

As "Bones" continues to rack up the streams and views and Imagine Dragons hit the road again, one thing remains clear: They're showing no signs of stepping down from their place as one of the biggest rock bands of their generation. 

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9/11 Memorial

Lower Manhattan on September 10, 2021



10 Songs That Captured America’s Feelings After 9/11

From emotional tributes to criticizing the government, artists across all genres captured the country’s wide range of feelings about 9/11

GRAMMYs/Sep 11, 2021 - 01:53 am

Since cave paintings and prehistoric sculptures, art has served as a medium to capture emotions and convey feelings. 

After the 9/11 attacks, with emotions overflowing and feelings scattered, musicians had the large task of making sure the nation’s wide-ranging attitudes towards the tragedy would live on forever.

At the time, major media companies like Clear Channel Communications (now iHeartMedia) urged its 1,100+ radio stations not to play over 150 songs due to potentially offensive material.

But despite occasional media censorship, these 10 artists managed to capture the country’s diverse feelings around the events of September 11th.

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Coldplay, "Politik"

According to the book Coldplay: Look at the Stars, "Politik" was heavily inspired by the September 11 attacks. 

"I wrote the song on 9/11 and we recorded it on 9/13. We were all a little confused and frightened," said lead singer Chris Martin. "I want to write songs and do things, 'cause you never know what might happen. You got to live in the moment."

"Politik" served as the intro track for the band’s GRAMMY-winning A Rush Of Blood To The Head'' album. The song’s transcendent production paired with its inquisitive lyrics reflect the nation’s harsh realization of mortality after 9/11.

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50 Cent ft. Eminem"Patiently Waiting"

Despite the song mainly focusing on their respective rivals, both 50 Cent and Eminem incorporated memorable lines about the September 11 attacks on the 2003 track "Patiently Waiting".

"I'm innocent in my head, like a baby born dead, destination heaven, sit and politic with passengers from 9/11," 50 Cent raps on his opening verse.

While the line may catch some off guard on first listen, 50 Cent is essentially stating the innocence of the 9/11 attack victims who lost their lives. 

Eminem conveys the shared feeling of how close to home the attacks hit with his line, "Shady Records was eighty seconds away from the towers."

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Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys"Empire State Of Mind"

Following 9/11, American patriotism reached new heights. At the center of the country’s newfound patriotism was the site of the initial attacks, New York City. 

Jay-Z’s and Alicia Keys’ "Empire State Of Mind" perfectly captured the love and pride the nation shared with New York. "Long live the World Trade," raps the 23-time GRAMMY winner on his second verse. 

The New York-centric track went on to earn two GRAMMYs at the 53rd GRAMMYs for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song.

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Heems, "Flag Shopping"

While 9/11 turned many Americans to patriotism, it also pushed many to harmful lanes of pride like nationalism and racism. 

Heems, an American rapper of Punjabi-Indian descent, touches on how he and his family unfairly faced backlash after the September 11 attacks.

"I know why they mad, but why call us A-rabs?" he raps on "Flag Shopping." "We sad like they sad, but now we buy they flags."

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Sheryl Crow, "Out of Our Heads"

Released in 2008, "Out of Our Heads" is an anti-conflict song aimed at the Iraq war.

Many of the lyrics were targeted at U.S. leaders, accusing them of manipulating the nation’s anger following the 9/11 attacks.

"Someone's feeding on your anger. Someone's been whispering in your ear. You've seen his face before. You've been played before. These aren't the words you need to hear," sings Crow.

"Out of Our Heads" was released as part of Crow’s 2008 album Detours, which earned a GRAMMY nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 51st GRAMMY Awards.

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John Vanderslice, "Exodus Damage"

For every Sheryl Crow urging peace, there was also a John Vanderslice looking for a way to let out feelings.

"Saw the second plane hit at 9:02," sings Vanderslice at the top of the second verse. "An hour went by without a fighter in the sky/ You said there’s a reason why/ Tell me now, I must confess/ I’m not sick enough to guess."

Throughout the song, Vanderslice recounts a conversation with a conspiracy theorist friend on the day of the attacks and questions why the nation’s leaders didn’t immediately respond with force.

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If the song’s title didn’t give it away, Jadakiss questions a lot of agreed-upon narratives in "Why". 

Of the 100 or so inquiries in the song, one was a famous conspiracy theory centered around then-president George W. Bush’s supposed role in the 9/11 attacks.

"Why did Bush knock down the towers?" he demands on the popular track. The track was nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 47th GRAMMY Awards.

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Dream Theater, "Sacrificed Sons"

"Sacrificed Sons" opens with a combination of news station soundbites from September 11th before Dream Theater delivers an emotional remembrance to all the lost lives.

"Burning City, smoke and fire, planes, we're certain, faith-inspired," questions the two-time GRAMMY-nominated band. "No clues, a complete surprise. Who'll be coming home tonight?"

Lyrics by James LaBrie, "Sacrificed Sons" captures the nation’s confusion, surprise and grief across 10 minutes.

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Bruce Springsteen, "Into The Fire"

"Into the Fire" recounts the tragic events of 9/11 from the point of view of a firefighter’s spouse. 

With lyrics like "love and duty called you some place higher, somewhere up the stairs, into the fire" and "may your strength give us strength", the five-minute track serves as a touching tribute to first responders and their families.

18 years after the song’s 2002 release, Springsteen’s son Sam Springsteen joined the Jersey City Fire Department

The tribute was a part of Springsteen’s The Rising album, which won Best Male Rock Vocal Performance, Best Rock Song and Best Rock Album at the 45th GRAMMY Awards.

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Imagine Dragons, "America"

With lyrics like "from farmers in the fields, to the tallest of the towers that fall and rise, 1-7-7-6, the names upon the list, for all the ones that gave until they died," Imagine Dragons’ "America" captured the resilient nature of the country following the 9/11 attacks.

"America, don’t you cry," the band sings in the chorus. "Lift me up. Give me strength to press on."

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