meta-scriptHear The 2022 Nominees For Best Alternative Music Performance At The 2023 GRAMMY Awards | GRAMMY.com
Hear The 2022 Nominees For Best Alternative Music Performance At The 2023 GRAMMY Awards
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Hear The 2022 Nominees For Best Alternative Music Performance At The 2023 GRAMMY Awards

Here's who's up for the 2022 Best Alternative Music Performance, a new category introduced at the 2023 GRAMMY Awards.

GRAMMYs/Nov 18, 2022 - 05:14 pm

Call it Tumblr revival or post-quarantine activation, but this year saw plenty of established alternative and indie rock musicians make highly anticipated returns with fresh albums.

Of that set, plenty were recognized in the 2023 GRAMMY Awards’ inaugural award for Best Alternative Music Performance. Arctic Monkeys’ orchestral single “There’d Better Be A Mirrorball," Florence + The Machine’s triumphant "King," and Yeah Yeah Yeahs' first song in nearly a decade, "Spitting Off The Edge Of The World," featuring Perfume Genius, are all up for the trophy.

These long standing musicians are joined in the category by two acts who more recently got their breakthrough moment: Big Thief, who was recognized for their folksy track, “Certainty,” and Wet Leg, who is up for their viral hit, "Chaise Longue.”

The 2022 Best Alternative Music Performance, which aims to honor and uplift the alternative genre, is just one of the new categories that have been introduced for the 2023 GRAMMY Awards. It will exist in tandem with the Best Alternative Music Album category — which was established in 1958 and was referred to Best Alternative Music Performance in 1991, and from 1994 to 1999. 

Having both categories will provide more opportunities for the Recording Academy to recognize the diverse communities of musicians and creators who work in the alternative genre. 

Read on to learn more about the nominees ahead of the 2023 GRAMMY Awards ceremony, taking place Feb. 5 at Los Angeles’ Crypto Arena. 

Read the full list of nominees for the 2023 GRAMMY Awards here.

Arctic Monkeys — "There'd Better Be A Mirrorball"

To follow-up their loungey, high-concept 2018 record Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, Arctic Monkeys returned in 2022 with The Car. Their seventh studio album folds in elements of jazz, traditional pop, and flourishing film soundtracks.

The album’s opening track, "There’d Better Be A Mirrorball" begins with a passage of elegant strings and piano that sets the tone for the rest of the project. Frontman Alex Turner told Variety that the song was specifically influenced by Nat "King" Cole’s 1963 ballad "Where Did Everyone Go?"

Founded in 2002, the indie rock band from Sheffield, England has received six total career GRAMMY nominations. They were first recognized in 2006 when their debut record, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album.

Big Thief — "Certainty"

On "Certainty," Big Thief vocalist and songwriter Adrianne Lenker describes a devotion that fluctuates like a sine wave. "Maybe I love you is a river so high / Maybe I love you is a river so low," she sings.

The stripped-down song is one of 20 that appear on the indie rock band’s sprawling fifth studio album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe You. It follows the four piece's 2019 albums U.F.O.F. and Not, which have both previously received GRAMMY nods. 

While making Dragon, Lenker said she was becoming more fearless as a writer. "I definitely had a desire for things to be complex: Is this chord progression too simple? Is this lyric too simple? Is this cliche? Is this corny?," she told Pitchfork. "I feel less of that noise in my head, and more of just, 'This is what I want to sing.'" 

Florence + The Machine — "King"

"I’m no mother / I am no bride / I am king," Florence Welch repeats like a mantra on her determined pop-rock anthem "King." It marks Florence + the Machine’s seventh GRAMMY nomination since they broke out in 2009.

Written and produced by Welch and Jack Antonoff, the song captures the English artist's sudden "tearing of [her] identity and [her] desires," according to a statement. Though Welch never used to think much of her gender, being a woman in her 30s has brought upon a realization: "To be a performer, but also to want a family might not be as simple for me as it is for my male counterparts." 

"King" appears on the band’s fifth studio album, Dance Fever, which was partly inspired by the work of Iggy Pop and choreomania — a Medieval social phenomenon where groups of people danced erratically. 

Wet Leg — "Chaise Longue" 

"Chaise Longue," the debut breakout single from Wet Leg, marks the British indie rock act’s first GRAMMY nomination.

The energetic song went viral for its tongue-in-cheek lyrics that allude to academic life ("I went to college and I got the big D") and the 2004 film Mean Girls ("Would you like us to assign someone to butter your muffin"), bringing the duo of Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers into new visibility.

In a Rolling Stone interview, Teasdale said Wet Leg weren't "making a conscious effort to write anything," and that "Chaise Lounge" came from "that 13-year-old girl sleepover head space."  The song leads their self-titled first album, which debuted at No. 1 on the UK charts only two years after Teasdale and Chambers decided to become a musical duo. 

Yeah Yeah Yeahs feat.  Perfume Genius — "Spitting Off the Edge of the World"

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs returned this year with their first song in nine years: "Spitting Off The Edge Of The World," an insurgent indie rock track that confronts the climate crisis.

Produced by longtime collaborator Dave Sistek of TV on the Radio, the song is a duet between frontwoman Karen O and Perfume Genius that is equal parts vulnerable and resolute. "Spitting Off The Edge Of The World" was the lead single from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ long-awaited fifth studio album Cool It Down.

First breaking out in 2000, Yeah Yeah Yeahs have received three previous nominations for Best Alternative Music Album: 2003’s Fever to Tell, 2006’s Show Your Bones, and 2009’s It’s Blitz!

Where & How To Watch The 2023 GRAMMY Nominations

2024 GRAMMY Nominees For Best Remixed Recording Discuss The Art Of The Remix
Joshua Omead Mobaraki of Wet Leg

Photos: Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images

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2024 GRAMMY Nominees For Best Remixed Recording Discuss The Art Of The Remix

In a roundtable discussion, 2024 GRAMMY nominees Dom Dolla, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Wet Leg, Terry Hunter and BADBADNOTGOOD share the processes behind their nominated songs, what makes a great remix, and their favorites remixes of all time.

GRAMMYs/Jan 23, 2024 - 02:10 pm

Given that a remix is an edit of an existing, complete song, one could assume it's easier to craft than an original track. The 2024 GRAMMY nominees for Best Remixed Recording prove otherwise: When done right, the remix is a rather painstaking craft that can give entirely new life to a song, even ones you already thought were perfect.

The nominees for Best Remixed Recording demonstrate the breadth and magic of the remix. Alt-jazz group BADBADNOTGOOD amps up and expands on Turnstile and Blood Orange's "Alien Love Call," while DJ/producer Dom Dolla turns the Gorillaz collab with Tame Impala and Bootie Brown, "New Gold," into a trippy dance floor heater. Chicago house legend Terry Hunter gives an unreleased '90s Mariah Carey track, "Workin' Hard," a timeless house groove. Dance pop artist Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs speeds Lane 8's instrumental piano house ballad "Reviver" into a bright jungle gem, and Wet Leg's debut remix is a dark dreamy disco edit of Depeche Mode's "Wagging Tongue."

GRAMMY.com recently spoke to all six nominees about their nominated songs, what constitutes a great remix and their favorites remixes of all time.

Congrats on your nomination! What does it mean to you to be nominated for the GRAMMY for Best Remixed Recording and to be acknowledged by your peers in this way?

Dom Dolla: I mean, it's the highest honor in music. I never thought it would be something that I would be considered for. Funnily enough, my manager said his gut feeling was it would have been for a remix first because that's where I started. I started as a DJ and when I moved into music production, I started off by remixing things and became known within the scene for remixes. This was before I delved into learning to be a lyricist and a songwriter. It's kind of like finally getting the nod for all of those remixes I punched out over the years.

Terry Hunter: Man, it is really dope to go back-to-back with this [category] with two major, iconic artists. [Editor's note: Hunter earned a nod last year for his remix of Beyoncé's "Break My Soul."] Each time, I wasn't expecting it. 

Most of the Best Remixed Recording [2024 nominees] are dance records. I'm from Chicago, the city that birthed house music, so to have that represented on such a major level is really amazing. That's a great achievement in my opinion.

Wet Leg guitarist Josh Mobaraki: It's f—ing crazy, so cool. We had literally no idea that was gonna happen. We had so much fun making it. We'd never done a remix before; we're a band and were just wondering what people might expect. It's really encouraging and exciting. 

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs: First of all, it is my second nomination in my career, so I can persuade myself that it's not a fluke…it makes me think that maybe I do have a seat at the table. Also, the track that got nominated is surprising to me. It's not something I thought a lot of people would understand and certainly not put forward for a GRAMMY nomination. It's not a commercial remix or a style that's often recognized by institutions. I'm really pleased about that, because I think the only way that this could have got through is that people really listened to it.

BADBADNOTGOOD producer and drummer Alexander Sowinski: It’s a huge honor! We honestly never thought we would achieve something like this and to be recognized by an institution like the GRAMMYs is amazing.

How did you approach remixing the nominated track?

Dom Dolla: This was actually one of the most fiddly remixes I've ever done. I'm a huge fan of Gorillaz, Booty Brown and Tame [Impala] and I just wanted to get it right. Knowing that it was the only remix that they were going to do for [2023's Cracker Island], I was like, I can't f— this up. So, I approached each section individually. I had one entire Ableton session built upon drums and toms, one for sound design, one for sampling the record and using interesting delays, one for chords, and then I put them all together. There were hundreds of channels as opposed to 40 or 50 like I would normally have.

It was the third attempt [that finally worked]. It took a bit longer than a remix normally would for me. At my first solo show at the Shrine in L.A., I opened with it and the crowd reaction made me feel, Yep. We're onto something.

Terry Hunter: I got the call that [Mariah Carey] was working on this 30th anniversary remix project of the Music Box, her first album. [They asked me to remix] "I've Been Thinking About You." I love that song. I mean, Mariah is the diva of all divas, and she shows it in every way with her amazing vocal performance. When Mariah came out [onto the music scene], I had a major crush on her, so that made it even more special.

I was even more humbled and shocked that once she had heard what I did, they called me to remix another record for an unreleased song that she recorded in 1993, produced by C&C Music Factory. In the '90s, C&C Music Factory ran it — they were the number one guys to go to for production and remixes — I had to do them justice on the unreleased track. The original has that classic '90s C&C feel to it and to go more house, more soulful, a more gospel feel with it was really amazing. It's a reproduction in my opinion.

Wet Leg (Josh Mobaraki): Hester [Chambers] was like, "Let's do a disco song," which is basically her response to quite a lot of "What are we gonna do?" I'd seen other remixes of Depeche Mode, which are a lot of quite long electronic tracks. We found another way to do something in a similar vein but a little bit closer to us. We just played and experimented and that first session was really great and fun. 

Then Ellis [Durand] came around to do the bassline and we spent the whole evening trying every single different bassline that we could come up with and ended up on a single note. Hester wrote and performed the new vocal on the remix. And she picked up a flute — really, a piece of bamboo with some holes in it — and it just happened to fit. We wrote around that and then plopped the lead vocal. Rather than affecting it loads and loads, we sped the whole thing up and that brought a new timbre to the vocal.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs: I get asked to do a lot of remixes and there has to be a few things that are right for me to say yes. I have to like the project and want to be part of it — because you're then forever part of it — and I have to like the music. I have a lot of respect for Lane 8 and the world and career he's built. I liked the song because it was a very upfront EDM track, in the original form of EDM from 2010, 2011: big drums, big synth melody, what I would call kind of trance-y and very emotive. 

I took bars two to six of the eight-bar chord sequence and built my remix around those bits because that's where the lush stuff was for me. Once I found my mood with it, I went to 165 BPM or so — it was probably 120 to start. I tried doing a couple of house mixes which didn't feel exciting to me at all, probably because he'd already done a big four-four version of his idea. I basically did a (melodic) jungle remix, which is really fun for me because that's the first type of music I started making when I was a teenager and the thing that got me into music. I'm really grateful that he allowed me to take that risk because now there's a GRAMMY nomination. [Chuckles.]

BADBADNOTGOOD: The track came together in a pretty informal way. We were sent the stems for the Turnstile song and ended up jamming with a few friends in our studio in Toronto.

How do you generally approach remixes?

Dom Dolla: You're a lot more limited. When I'm listening to something someone asked me to do a remix of, I'll often listen to the vocal and the main hook elements, to see if there are things that stand out. As I'm listening, I try to delete the other elements in my mind.

If it's a melodic vocal like Damon Albarn's sung part in ["New Gold"], I'll imagine the mood I want to convey by changing the chord progression behind it. [The song has] these little ad-lib vocal rap parts and little grunts as well that I liked. I pick the elements that I really like and compound all my favorite sections and delete everything else that I don't think I'll use in the remix and limit myself to the sections that I love. Then I change the chords and get weird with production and stuff. And then drums are a whole other thing. I treat drums separately.

Terry Hunter: I still have the same formula. With a remix, for me, everything starts with the drums. They have to be in the pocket and then I start building from there. If I'm sitting down with any of my musicians, we may come up with a bassline or some chords. But before any of that, I gotta have the drums 75 percent done, because that's gonna tell the direction of where we're gonna go with the remix.

Wet Leg (Josh Mobaraki): Obviously, we [haven't made other remixes]. I've been making beats in my bedroom for 10 years and when I was younger, I was doing the band thing. [With this remix], I got to do my thing, in a way. Like every other bedroom producer, I spend a lot of time making four- or eight-bar loops. I love writing music with a computer. I've spent ages trying to work out how to make the sounds that I really love from other records, or even sounds that I don't really like so that I can sort of like them. 

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs: I'm looking for what I love in the original and I try to focus on and build something around that. For me, it's a really fun opportunity to do a particular kind of creative work where you kind of kick a ball of string down a hill and see where it ends up. I don't go into them knowing exactly what I want to do. You're re-presenting somebody's musical idea through a new lens, and I think it should feel like you've really gone there creatively and intellectually and pushed it. I think even the remixes that appear very simple still do that, the good ones.

It's definitely a big creative endeavor for me, maybe more so than writing original music sometimes. With original music, you might not turn an idea upside down and shake it out as much. With remixing, I'll take every sound that the artist gives me and I'll try and make something new out of it. I imagine other people approach it very differently.

BADBADNOTGOOD: Generally, we like to isolate the vocal track and take it out of context as much as possible. For this one, we thought the tone and timbre of Brendan [Yate]’s voice really sounded interesting over our groove and gave it a different feel. We also had a lot of fun with the dancey section over Dev Hynes’ [a.k.a. Blood Orange] bridge.

Does remixing feel like a separate muscle from making your own productions or collabing with another artist?

Dom Dolla: Remixing is a similar creative muscle but with a bit of a different mindset. It’s often a balance of re-imagining the hooks within the original record by surrounding them with a different mood or energy. I’ve always been super selective about remixing tracks for that exact reason, I never try to force it or use elements from the original that I don’t love. Writing original music is much more of a blank slate, which can make it as daunting as it is exciting.

Terry Hunter: It definitely is a different muscle that you're using because with remixes you have no control over the song. You have to make your idea of what you're feeling with the song and you have to work around that. And sometimes you have the pleasure of working with artists where the vocals were a little different and you ask if they can recut them to the music. That sometimes gives it a better feel to make it sound more original or organic. In the case with Mariah and Beyoncé, the vocals were perfect so there was no need to recut.

When you're collaborating with people, it's always great. It's a different energy because someone might come up with a sample or a bassline and that might trigger some drums and a chord progression.

Wet Leg (Josh Mobaraki): I over-intellectualize it a bit and then the girls are both, "Let's just have fun." And then I'm like, "Oh, yeah, let's do that."

[The remix] felt a bit like when we started making "Chaise Longue" and Wet Dream. That was me, Hester and Rhian [Teasdale] in this flat that we're talking to you from now, and that's the same place that me and Hester started this remix. 

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs: Yeah, it does. I think I have a remixing style that's separate from my original music production stuff. I think it's a part of my character as a musician that's slightly different from my other bits, if that makes sense. [Laughs.]

BADBADNOTGOOD: Absolutely, it’s a nice in-between because we can lean on the artist’s vocals and figure out a unique way to support it. It makes the initial writing process fun because you have such a strong starting point already. 

What do you think makes a great remix?

Dom Dolla: It depends on the intention, I suppose. If we're talking about house music, I think it's about great drums, great bassline, great hooks and it working on the dance floor. I think the intention of a great remix is giving it a new direction and introducing it to a whole different audience who wouldn't normally listen to it. For me, it's What are the parts of the song that I love and how do I introduce that to the house music world?

Terry Hunter: When you remix a record, the [original] artist or label is calling on that particular remixer to try to adapt what it is that you do sonically so you can stay true to yourself and your fans but also pay respect and complement the original. A remix is a hard thing to do. But technology allows people to make, in my opinion, lazy music. It can be quick and onto the next, but the feeling is not there, it's kind of cookie cutter-ish.

I think as long as you pay homage to the original and stay true — and even if you don't, sometimes you can just strip everything from it, and just come up with your own creative ideas. There's no right or wrong way. I feel there's no rules in music. It's just, when you hear that song, does it do anything for you?

Wet Leg (Josh Mobaraki): Sometimes a remix or a mashup almost feels like a magic trick. If you can make that feeling, that's really amazing. Usually that [happens by] recontextualizing a song that you really love. 

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs: When something really has its own flavor. A [good remix] takes a step back from the original source material, and you can hear that. There is always an element of deconstruction and reconstruction, and I think people like hearing that. Even with the very first ideas of the remix with the 12-inch mix and singles in the '80s and '90s, people enjoyed hearing the extended intros and outros. We still enjoy that; hearing the ideas spread out and chopped up.

BADBADNOTGOOD: Really just hearing elements of artists’ work taken out of context and infused with the energy of whoever is doing the remix is so fascinating.

What are some of your favorite remixes of all time by other artists and what makes them special?

Dom Dolla: The trentemøller remix of "Moan" is one of my favorites. It has really interesting sound design that stands the test of time. It's always just been really quirky and interesting. I feel like if it came out now, it would be really relevant and cool. The Thin White Duke remix of "What Else Is There" by Röyksopp is a melodic, euphoric, favorite moment of mine, I love playing that in sets.

Terry Hunter: I'm gonna have to shout out Masters at Work. They're good friends of mine so I'm being biased but not really because I get inspired from their work. They've remixed Saint Etienne, BeBe Winans, Madonna, Roy Ayers; everybody under the sun. Also, big shout out to David Morales and the late, great Frankie Knuckles, all of who are both GRAMMY winners and an inspiration for me for remixes and DJing.

[Picking] a favorite remix is so tough. It's not a remix, but it's a cover of a song by Rotary Connection; "It's All Right, I Feel It" by Masters at Work [as Nuyorican Soul] featuring Jocelyn Brown is probably one of my favorites. And Frankie Knuckles' remix of "The Pressure" by Sounds Of Blackness. David Morales has done a lot of major things but his remix of Jamiroquai "Space Cowboy" was massive.

Wet Leg (guitarist and vocalist Hester Chambers): That's a tough question. The Soulwax remix of "Midnight Dipper" by Warmduscher is a great remix. Soulwax in general, obviously. Also, the Soulwax remix of ["A Hero's Death" by] Fontaines D.C. is one of my favorites. My favorite part about that one is the steely synth line — it's a new addition, a new melody from the original song, but it's so catchy and really rad. Maybe that's what's so special about remixes is you can love a song and then somebody remixes it and it's a new interpretation and a new interaction for your brain with the song that you already love. 

[I also love] the Confidence Man remix of CHAI ["END"]. Deftones put out a really fun remix album a couple years ago of White Pony. I have so much nostalgia for that album, so it's lovely to have a new experience of it.

Wet Leg (Josh Mobaraki): This is an answer to a different question, but my first favorite remix was that Linkin Park and Jay-Z [EP], Collision Course. I think my mom was listening to loads and Linkin Park at the time. and stuff like that. I was like, Whoa.

Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs: For me, one of the kings of remixing is the producer Shep Pettibone. He's kind of the godfather of the original pop dance floor remix. That sometimes is about just making a slightly punchier 12-inch version of the track and sometimes it's about really turning it upside down. His remix of "Bizarre Love Triangle" by New Order is one of the best songs of all time, really, and his remix is better than the original. His remixes are about maximizing the pop song in a dance floor context. His Paula Abdul "Knocked Out" remix is a bit crazier and dubby and strange.

He's a big inspiration for me and one of the people I heard in my late-teens, early-20s that made me think I could get into four-four music, like house and disco, because I was very against that. I was all about breakbeats and hip-hop beats and jungle as a teenager. He was also a producer-producer and did a lot of Madonna's stuff. His remix of Jane Child's "Don't Wanna Fall in Love" is so good.

BADBADNOTGOOD: Some of our favorite remixes are the versions of songs that draw you further into it with fresh energy and feeling. A few of them: D’Angelo "Lady (feat. AZ) [Just Tha Beat Mix]", Björk "I Miss You (Dobie Rub Part One - Sunshine Mix)," Janet Jackson "If (Kaytranada Remix)," Sade "By Your Side (Neptunes Remix)," De La Soul "Stakes is High (J Dilla Remix)" and Nas "The World Is Yours (Q-Tip Remix)."

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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5 Artists Influenced By Enya: Brandy, Nicki Minaj, Grimes & More
Enya performs in Berlin, Germany in 2016.

Photo: Clemens Bilan/picture alliance via Getty Images

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5 Artists Influenced By Enya: Brandy, Nicki Minaj, Grimes & More

Thirty-five years after Enya's second studio effort, 'Watermark,' ushered in the contemporary New Age scene, take a look at five artists who have professed their love of the four-time GRAMMY winner.

GRAMMYs/Sep 19, 2023 - 04:43 pm

Enya never used to be considered the epitome of cool. Perhaps that was due to her image as a reclusive castle dweller. Maybe it's because she's never played a single live show in her four-decade career. Or it could be that her music has often been snootily dismissed as the aural equivalent of a bath bomb.

But over time, the four-time GRAMMY winner born Eithne Pádraigín Ní Bhraonáin has received a deserved critical reevaluation. The modern-day consensus is that her ethereal blend of Celtic folk, classical and pioneering use of lush, multi-layered synths — developed in conjunction with long-term creative team Nicky and Roma Ryan — spearheaded a new age for, well, New Age.

She's now talked about in the same circles as Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser and Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard, singers that, unlike Enya, were immediately celebrated for pushing their remarkable voices to new otherworldly places. And she's been sampled, namechecked or championed by artists as eclectic as industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle, death metallers Blood Incantation and the many-monikered rapper, Diddy.

In fact, think of any Enya song, and it's no doubt been borrowed by an unlikely suspect. "Boadicea" formed the basis of Fugees' career-best "Ready or Not," and rather sneakily without the hip-hop trio asking first. "Wild Child" was given the hardcore techno treatment by Eurodance duo CJ Crew. And yes, that is her most recognizable hit you can hear in the chorus of hip-hop provocateurs Die Antwoord's "Orinoco Ninja Flow (Wedding DJ's Remix)."

Sample or not, some musicians have been more vocal about their love of Ireland's second-biggest music export (only U2 have sold more records worldwide) than others. As her breakthrough album, Watermark, celebrates its 35th anniversary on Sept 19, here's a look at five.

Brandy

Brandy certainly doesn't see Enya as a guilty pleasure. The R&B star leapt to the defense of her unlikely musical hero during a 2020 interview with The Guardian when the journalist questioned the Irish icon's musical credibility. "Enya's a joke to you?" she asked incredulously. "That's not even possible. I'm a little bit offended."

The man who'd incurred her wrath should have known that Brandy takes Enya very seriously. You can hear the Irish' songstress' influence throughout her enduring career, from the gorgeous multi-layered harmonies of "Full Moon" to the hypnotic chant that weaves its way through the futuristic Timbaland production of "Afrodisiac."

"She has the voice of an angel," Brandy gushed in the introduction for an Apple playlist personally curated to reflect her life, with Enya's post-9/11 anthem "Only Time" appearing alongside Coldplay's "Yellow," three Whitney Houston cuts, and the best of her own material. "I first discovered Enya when I was 15. I love how she layered and stacked her voice."

Weyes Blood

Weyes Blood, aka baroque pop singer/songwriter Natalie Mering, was also forced to stick up for Enya when she was asked by The Irish Times whether her love of the New Age veteran was shrouded in irony. Her reply couldn't have made her sincerity any clearer.

"She is a completely uninhibited feminine force," said Mering. "A matriarchal force in music. She had so much success because of that distinctive sound. But because music people are obsessed with rock 'n' roll and drums, she doesn't get the attention she deserves. If you look at her record sales, she is, in my opinion, up there with the Beatles."

A year later, Mering waxed lyrical about the former Clannad singer in a Pitchfork piece about Enya's growing cultural cachet. She revealed that the Watermark and Shepherd Moons albums her parents played constantly back in the 1990s were a huge influence on her own LPs, 2016's Front Row Seat to Earth and 2019's Titanic Rising, particularly on the former's ballad "Generation Why." Mering then made a claim even bolder than her Fab Four comparison: "Enya's a drone artist, she's like the most mainstream noise artist there ever was."

Nicki Minaj

You wouldn't necessarily expect an album featuring a belated riposte to Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back" to also be partly influenced by the enigmatic darling of the New Age scene. But apparently, Nicki Minaj's The Pinkprint does nod to Enya on at least a couple of occasions.

Discussing her 2014 LP with V magazine, Minaj said, "One of my biggest [musical influences] is Enya. There are two records early in the album where the airiness and the whimsicalness remind me of Enya, and I sort of crafted it thinking about her and the way her music makes me feel."

And the rapper also tried to convert her son (still only known by his nickname, Papa Bear) to Enya's studio wizardry while he was still in the womb. The rapper explained on Twitter, "While pregnant I could only play him soothing music like Enya/classical, etc. He'd be more relaxed."

Grimes

Grimes' fondness for the Celtic goddess appears to have developed over time. When asked about her "Enya on steroids" label early on in her career, the Canadian seemed relatively non-committal. "I probably have the 'Best Of Enya' somewhere," she told NME. "I guess it makes a change from all the Cocteau Twins comparisons."

But over the following decade, Grimes showed more appreciation for Enya's talents. In 2013, she told Rolling Stone that her then-upcoming Art Angels album was heavily influenced by the Irishwoman's ethereal sound, particularly closer "Butterfly" in which she layered "so much Enya synth s—."

Five years later, Grimes included the haunting "Boadicea" on Playing Bloodborne, one of five mood-specific playlists she curated for Spotify. And during her 2022 DJ set at the Electric Daisy Carnival, Grimes no doubt confounded all the ravers expecting wall-to-wall EDM when she dropped in the geography lesson that is "Orinoco Flow."

Perfume Genius

"I also love Enya or Cocteau Twins, where I can't understand a word they're saying and they're pulling a thread that does not exist in the real world but is still so satisfying." Perfume Genius' 2020 interview with The New Yorker proves that the world music icon's influence extends the female sphere.

The singer/songwriter born Michael Alden Hadreas has repeatedly professed his admiration for Enya in recent years. "My wig has belonged to Enya since 1988," he tweeted in 2019. "Was Enya the first to ever pop off," he posted without any context a year later. And then in 2023, the art pop troubadour named "Caribbean Blue" as one of his 40 all-time favorite songs while joining in with the latest Twitter trend.

Hadreas' love of Enya has undoubtedly filtered down to his own sound, too. Hear the "Orinoco Flow"-esque intro of "Just Like Love," for example, or the celestial "Gay Angels." Speaking to Pitchfork in 2022, he explained that the Irishwoman's general aura is the key to her appeal — and what has helped classify her as a different kind of cool.

"There's something about Enya being so mainstream that is really soothing to me," he said. "Everybody knows who Enya is, but there's also this feeling that it's something spiritual and strange."

The star's unique vibe also gave Hadreas a sense of belonging — something Enya likely did for many of his peers as well. "It felt like a deeper thing, this secret, like I know that I am connected to something, and I know the way I am is OK."

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6 Female-Fronted Acts Reviving Rock: Wet Leg, Larkin Poe, Gretel Hänlyn & More
(Clockwise from left) Larkin Poe, Gretel Hänlyn, BRATTY, Olivia Jean, Dutch Mustard

Photos: Jason Stoltzfus; Jasper Cable-Alexander; Christian Alanis; Jada + David; Courtesy of artist 

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6 Female-Fronted Acts Reviving Rock: Wet Leg, Larkin Poe, Gretel Hänlyn & More

Long a staple of the form, 2023 sees even more women leading the hell out of rock bands. Read on for six rising acts whose bold sound and brash energy are taking rock to new heights.

GRAMMYs/Apr 21, 2023 - 01:54 pm

Neil Young once proclaimed that "rock and roll can never die," and while the genre isn't necessarily topping charts or playlists today, there are signs that rock music is coming back in a big way. In 2023, Neil's truth is being upheld by female rockers.  

Long a staple of the form — rock was pioneered by a woman, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, iterated on by female-led groups like Heart and Jefferson Airplane, revived and reformed by the likes of Bikini Kill, and onward to Paramore — women's contributions to rock remain less feted than those of their male counterparts. 

Yet female rockers and female-led bands are resonating with today’s younger audiences in big ways, following a culture shift that has resulted in more space for young women to express themselves. Gen-Z and younger millennial artists such as Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo and boygenius are known for their honest lyricism; it’s only natural that they’ve gravitated toward the fiery release of rock to further reflect their own individual experience.

Eilish’s GRAMMY-nominated breakup anthem "Happier Than Ever" invokes the classic rock format of beginning acoustic and swelling into an epic band finish complete with a guitar solo and a final 20 seconds of feedback-driven noise. Rodrigo has several rock songs on her smash hit debut album SOUR including "good 4 u," another enraged breakup song with emo tinges that is currently sitting at 1.7 billion streams on Spotify. 

Finally, while the debut album from boygenius, the record, is mostly in the indie wheelhouse of members Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus, the single "$20" is an alt-meter rock song. The trio details the stories of early youth wherein all it takes to avoid responsibility is $20; Bridgers literally screams her request for money at the song's close.

But how to define rock —  is it a feeling or an attitude? A sound or a set of instruments? For the purposes of this list, rock is categorized as guitar-forward and band-based. First and foremost, guitar is at the forefront — generally distorted, though an acoustic or clean sound can lend an upbeat energy or psychedelic quality. Second, rock is a band genre, even if a group is named after one person, the band creates real cohesion (e.g. the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Steve Miller Band).  In 2023, women are leading the hell out of these bands.

Read on for a list of rising artists whose sound and spirit rock.

Wet Leg

As Wet Leg, Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers took home a number of golden gramophones at the 2023 GRAMMYs: Best Alternative Music Album for their self-titled debut, and Best Alternative Music Performance for "Chaise Longue." 

Although they didn’t win in the "rock" categories, their guitar-driven success defines the current generation of rock music (to the point that they even beat out well-established acts like Arctic Monkeys and Yeah Yeah Yeahs).

Utterly simple in its song form, "Chaise Lounge"  captures Gen Z's disillusionment about college, viewing it as more of a gateway to light-hearted debauchery than a path to vocational freedom. Then they tear through the disillusionment with a high-energy, limb-shaking guitar riff.

Gretel Hänlyn

Rock and roll was certainly invented by Black American artists, but British musicians have consistently innovated and expanded the genre —  from the Beatles launching the British invasion, to Sabbath morphing rock into heavy metal, to Pink Floyd’s exploration of progressive psychedelia. Coming out of London, Gretel Hänlyn (pronounced hen-line) is upholding all the best traditions of British rock. 

Hänlyn explores every current corner of rock on her recently released EP, Head of the Love Club, and her previous, Slugeye

With a uniquely deep and resonant tone, Hänlyn has the power and versatility of a crooner. That ability defines the sound of "Dry Me" and other works throughout Hänlyn's catalog. She alters her delivery to befit the yelping and joyful side of rock on "King of Nothing" as well as the seething and scary side on "Drive." 

BRATTY

Coming out of Sinaloa Mexico, BRATTY is one of the female rock artists playing Coachella 2023, sharing her invigorated brand of the languorous sound of surf rock.

BRATTY's seaside exploits surely influenced the loungey and chilled-out feel of songs like "Honey, No Estás" and "tarde." With swells and sustains that are reminiscent of ocean sounds, BRATTY’s music transcends language barriers. 

Given that the festival has been without a major rock headliner since Guns ‘N Roses in 2016, the rock artists on the lineup this year are there to demonstrate the lifeblood of the genre. BRATTY’s contribution demonstrates that rock can be slower, softer, and just as effective. 

Olivia Jean

Olivia Jean isn’t just a former member of Jack White’s touring band. She’s not just his wife, either. She’s an artist all on her own, and she rocks hard

As a solo artist, Jean has released two albums, an EP, and a single on White's Third Man Records. Prior to that, she was releasing on the label via The Black Belles, her all-female garage-goth project, which put out a self-titled album in 2011 along with four singles.

Jean’s fingerprints go even deeper into the Third Man archives via her session contributions to different releases like Tom Brosseau and John C. Reilly’s seven-inch single, Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar.

No matter where she’s lent her vocal and instrumental talent, her loud yet bubbly sound is a welcome addition to the catalog.

Jean’s forthcoming album, Raving Ghost, (out May 5 on Third Man), and its first single, "Trouble," touches on all the traditional rock favorites like pentatonic power chords and call-and-response guitar squeals. You can check out Oliva Jean's rock on her American tour in May and June.  

Larkin Poe

Fun fact about the sisters Megan and Rebecca Lovell of Larkin Poe: They are distantly related to Edgar Allen Poe. With that kind of connection, it’s only natural their rendition of rock carries a certain connection to the sounds of generations past. Many of those older sounds of rock and roll stem from their native American South, and manifest in influences of blues and Americana that were born of the same region.

Larkin Poe's Venom & Faith was nominated for Best Contemporary Blues Album at the 2019 GRAMMYs. Grounded in swinging rhythms and twangy notes that have hallmarked the blues since its inception, the Lovells demonstrate their understanding of the music’s roots on a technical and emotional level, alongside their ability to carry the genre into the present.

Their latest album, Blood Harmony, follows the hereditary thread of blues giving birth to rock and roll. Larkin Poe dial back the swing just a bit and turn it up to 11 for hot and distorted tracks like  "Bad Spell," which features guitar breaks that will have Stevie Ray Vaughn jamming along in his grave.

Dutch Mustard

Another product of London, Sarah-Jayne Riedel fronts the just-out-of-the-gate alternative rock band, Dutch Mustard. Last year Dutch Mustard released their debut EP An Interpretation of Depersonalisation, and was quickly featured on BBC, getting airplay on Radio 1’s Future Artists and being selected by none other than rock's enduring sage Iggy Pop on 6 Music.

Dutch Mustard produces a sound that is as dreamy as it is heavy, finding that middle ground in guitar tone between fuzzy and pristine. Then on songs like "Something To You," vocal layering adds a hopeful flavor. Dutch Mustard, like the other artists on this list, make listeners feel hope not just for the band, but for the future of rock.

That future is especially bright considering Riedel wrote all the songs and demoed all the instruments herself in her bedroom before bringing in other musicians. The first EP was written entirely during the first COVID lockdown as well.

With that kind of creativity and versatility coming from her, there is no telling where she’ll take her music as her career moves forward into an open industry.

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