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5 Takeaways From Beyoncé's New Album 'Renaissance'
Beyoncé's 'RENAISSANCE' album cover.

Photo: Courtesy of Parkwood Entertainment.

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5 Takeaways From Beyoncé's New Album 'Renaissance'

Beyoncé's seventh album, 'RENAISSANCE,' pays tribute to the LGBTQIA+ roots of club culture — and one very special family member.

GRAMMYs/Jul 29, 2022 - 06:29 pm

When Beyoncé released the club-ready single "BREAK MY SOUL" as the first taste of her seventh album, RENAISSANCE, fans prepared for a summer of booty shaking. Now that the album has officially dropped — despite leaking a few days early — the dancing has commenced. 

With collaborators like Nile Rodgers, Grace Jones, Green Velvet and Nigerian singer Tems, it's clear that Beyoncé has spent the last few years immersed in the escapism of dance music's Black pioneers. As she said herself upon announcing RENAISSANCE, her inspiration for the album was similar to that of club culture: "My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment."

Dubbed "act i," RENAISSANCE is the first installment of a "three-act project," as Beyoncé revealed on her website the day before the album's release. If these 16 songs are any indication, Queen Bey has only just begun her dance-floor quest.

Here are five key details to know about Beyoncé's bold new album, RENAISSANCE.

The Album Is A Tribute To Her "Godmother" And The Pioneers Of Club Culture

Beyoncé called her late cousin Jonny, who was her mother's nephew, her uncle. He died of HIV-related complications, Beyoncé revealed when she paid tribute to him while accepting GLAAD's Vanguard Award in 2019. She dedicated the album to him and her family, showing pictures of her with her kids and her mother with Jonny.

"A big thank you to my Uncle Jonny," she wrote in the acknowledgements that appear on her website and on physical versions of RENAISSANCE. "He was my godmother and the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album." 

She continued, "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. This is a celebration for you."

The album features contributions from several LGBTQIA+ artists that are acclaimed in the world of dance music, including Big Freedia, Kevin Aviance and Moi Renee. Honey Dijon, a transgender producer who worked on "COZY" and "ALIEN SUPERSTAR," called the RENAISSANCE experience "life changing."

"Your elegance, beauty, talent, work ethic, and vision is truly inspirational," Dijon wrote in a Facebook post. "To share my Chicago house music roots and black queer and trans culture with you and the world is profound and emotional. I am honored, humbled, delirious with joy, and proud."

RENAISSANCE Emulates A DJ Set

The songs on RENAISSANCE track at speeds from 92 to 136 beats per minute, a tempo range that's aimed straight at the dance floor. And many of the songs sample several other tracks within a few minutes in the way that a DJ set might be structured. 

"PURE/HONEY," for example, samples the bassline from Chicago house classic "Mystery of Love" as well as vocals and stabs from three ballroom anthems: Kevin Aviance's "Cunty" (1999), "Miss Honey" (1992) by drag icon Moi Renee and MikeQ featuring Kevin JZ Prodigy's "Feels Like" (2011). 

Further, Beyoncé has released a cappella and instrumental versions of "BREAK MY SOUL" on her YouTube channel — a move that signals that she's open to DJs everywhere using them as tools to create unofficial remixes in their sets.

Beyoncé Is The Drug On RENAISSANCE

The album drips with metaphors on how Beyoncé is the only intoxicant you need to get high. "You know love is my weakness," she sings in the opening song, "I'M THAT GIRL." "Don't need drugs for some freak s—/ I'm just high all the time, I'm out of my mind/ I'm tweakin'..."

On "AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM" — which samples beats from Atlanta rapper Kilo Ali's 1990 song "America Has a Problem (Cocaine)" — she compares herself to the drug, rapping, "Your ex-dealer dope, but it ain't crack enough/ I'm supplying my man, I'm in demand soon as I land."

You Can't Hear Him, But JAY-Z Is There

Beyoncé has collaborated with JAY-Z on several of her albums, but it would be easy to miss his contribution to RENAISSANCE. Though you won't hear the rapper's voice this time around, you'll still hear some JAY-Z lyrics: he's a co-writer on "AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM." 

In the album's dedication, she calls him her "beautiful husband and muse, noting that he "held me down during those late nights in the studio." Sounds like the couple's collective creativity is still in full effect.

She's Leaning More Into Her Own Vocal Production

Beyoncé's deep involvement in her album production processes is routinely overlooked, but she serves as her own vocal producer for RENAISSANCE — in addition to her writing and producer credits.

"Sometimes it takes a year for me to personally search through thousands of sounds to find just the right kick or snare," she told Harper's Bazaar in 2021. "One chorus can have up to 200 stacked harmonies. Still, there's nothing like the amount of love, passion, and healing that I feel in the recording studio. After 31 years, it feels just as exciting as it did when I was 9 years old."

Will the next two acts in Beyoncé's musical story remain on the dance floor, or will the star explore new directions? With no announced timeline for the rest of the project, fans will just have to wait and see — but in the meantime, keep dancing.

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5 Takeaways From Janelle Monáe’s New Album, 'The Age of Pleasure'
Janelle Monáe

Photo: Mason Rose 

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5 Takeaways From Janelle Monáe’s New Album, 'The Age of Pleasure'

On her first album in five years, Janelle Monáe trades a sci-fi world for a lush sense of escape. Out June 9, 'The Age of Pleasure' offers a utopia of sensual and sonic exploration.

GRAMMYs/Jun 9, 2023 - 05:41 pm

Since her 2010 debut album, The ArchAndroid, Janelle Monáe’s work has been grounded in intricacy. 

Whether Monáe is building sci-fi worlds, continuing the Afrofuturism narrative of her Cindi Mayweather character or analyzing the concept of American identity on 2019’s Dirty Computer — which scored a nomination for Album Of The Year at the 2019 GRAMMYs — she tasks listeners with digesting various storylines and concepts. 

Now, Monáe is shaking off all expectations with her fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure. Released on June 9, the 14-track album takes a more streamlined approach, creating an escape in just over 30 minutes. The artist appears lighter, even more self-assured and quite frankly (as seen with her near-nude promo campaign) ready to get wild.

The Age of Pleasure is Monáe's first album in five years and trades in her previous warnings of AI-driven dystopian futures for a lush paradise, replete with a reggae swing. With warm melodies and lyrics meant for the bedroom (or wherever one enjoys pleasure), the album creates a utopia where all are welcome.

"I think being an artist gets lonely," Monáe told Rolling Stone in May. "Most people don’t understand what’s going on in my brain. Community has been so helpful to me; it’s beautiful that I have a title called The Age of Pleasure because it actually re-centers me. It’s not about an album anymore. I’ve changed my whole f—ing lifestyle." 

​​Throughout its journey of self-exploration, here are five takeaways from Janelle Monáe’s new album, The Age of Pleasure.

Janelle Embraces Sexuality Across The Spectrum

In 2018, Monáe shared that she was pansexual and came out as nonbinary last year (using the pronouns "free-ass motherf—er, they/them, her/she"). Her journey of discovering more about her queer identity (which was alluded to in previous albums, most notably Dirty Computer’s woman empowerment anthem "Pynk") envelopes The Age of Pleasure

"Lipstick Lover" is a hazy, reggae-tinged ode to the queer woman gaze ("I just wanna feel a little tongue, we don't have a long time," Monáe urges), while "The Rush" mimics an orgasm complete with a breathy spoken word by actress Nia Long and a naughty verse from Ghanaian American singer Amaarae. And then there’s "Water Slide," which floods the speakers with barely-concealed innuendos. 

The idea of "guilty pleasure" is completely stripped of guilt. Here, there isn’t shame or taboo surrounding sexual acts or what one identifies as.

She Showcases The Beauty Of The Diaspora

While creating this album, Monáe got inspired through parties hosted on her Wondaland West property in Los Angeles. People from all backgrounds were welcomed, and the album celebrates the joining of the communities. Monáe called upon artists across the diaspora — Ghana, Nigeria, Jamaica and the Dirty South — to be part of her utopia. 

Fela Kuti’s son Seun and his band Egypt 80 open the album on "Float," queer icon Grace Jones seduces the ear with the French-speaking "Ooh La La" interlude, Jamaican dancehall legend Sister Nancy provides reggae authenticity "The French 75." The end result shows there is power in creative numbers, as well as sonic commonality across the African diaspora.

Self-Confidence Is At An All-Time High

The artist is completely free lately, from displaying her breasts on red carpets to dancing on bar tops at afterparties. She adores every curve of her body, and that confidence radiates on The Age of Pleasure. It’s best displayed on "Phenomenal," where Monáe and rapper Doechii trade cocky lines atop a deliciously wacky beat that fuses South African amapiano with New York City ballroom culture. "I'm lookin' at a thousand versions of myself and we're all fine as f—," Monáe muses more than once.

She doesn’t want you to forget just how good she looks and wants everyone to feel that same way about themselves. The "I'm young and I'm Black and I'm wild" line on "Haute" is better digested as an affirmation in front of the mirror.

Pleasure Is Meant For Fun In The Sun

Pleasure is best enjoyed in the sweltering heat, so it only makes sense the artist released this album at the brink of summertime. Her "Lipstick Lover" music video is a hedonistic dream, with queer women and femmes enjoying each other’s company (and body parts) at a sweaty, West Coast pool party. 

Album highlight "Only Have Eyes 42" winks at polyamory and its dreamy flip on the Flamingos’ 1959 doo-wop classic is best served with a Red Stripe beer and sand beneath one’s feet. Whether you’re enjoying the lapping waves on a Caribbean island or soaking up the rays in your backyard, The Age of Pleasure is the fuel for your own fiesta.

She Hasn’t Lost The Funk

As the late Prince’s mentee, Janelle Monáe is a master at funk. While she boasts "No I’m not the same" on the album opener, parts of Monáe’s previous sound excitedly peek through.

Her discography is stuffed with dancefloor jams, and The Age of Pleasure keeps the party going with a seamless fusion of rap, R&B and funk. Still, its exploration of new sounds like reggae, dancehall, amapiano and Afrobeats is a thrill. 

From the triumphant horns on "Float" to the electric groove of "Champagne S—", the album is begging for a live rendition. It just so happens that Monáe is embarking on a North American tour. It kicks off on Aug. 30 in Seattle and will keep the good vibes going until Oct. 18 in Inglewood, California.

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Meet LE SSERAFIM, The K-Pop Group Nile Rodgers Chose For His First Foray Into The Genre
LE SSERAFIM

Photo courtesy of SOURCE MUSIC

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Meet LE SSERAFIM, The K-Pop Group Nile Rodgers Chose For His First Foray Into The Genre

In an exclusive joint interview, LE SSERAFIM and legendary musician Nile Rodgers — who is featured on their debut record, 'Unforgiven' — discuss the importance of being unconventional, and why K-pop is so exciting to Western audiences.

GRAMMYs/May 2, 2023 - 01:30 pm

What Nile Rodgers loves the most about K-pop is that it is fearless. The revered producer, guitarist, and four-time GRAMMY winner (as well as Lifetime Achievement Award recipient) spares no words on how invigorating the South Korean industry is. "For a musician like myself, it’s exciting to have that kind of challenge," he says over a Zoom from his studio, whose walls are covered in gold, platinum and diamond albums.

Rodgers’ work has soundtracked our lives more than we know. In 1977, he co-founded the disco vanguard band Chic, which then spawned samples for the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," and Daft Punk’s "Around the World." He collaborated with Diana Ross, David Bowie, Beyoncé and many others, and produced era-defining albums such as Madonna’s Like a Virgin and Duran Duran’s Notorious

Now, he’s ready to make his debut into the K-pop realm alongside girl group LE SSERAFIM. Rodgers is featured on "Unforgiven," the title track from LE SSERAFIM's debut studio album. The track also samples Ennio Morricone’s theme song from the 1966 spaghetti Western film The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, and the music video, recorded in Thailand, sees them boldly take the town in cowgirl outfits — a celebration of all the "unforgiven girls" and "unforgiven boys" in the lyrics.

Rodgers couldn’t have chosen a better act for his first K-pop feature. LE SSERAFIM takes their name out of an anagram for "I’m fearless." In May 2022, the quintet became the first girl group launched by Source Music under HYBE — the same label of K-pop icons BTS and SEVENTEEN — with the fittingly-titled EP Fearless. Aiming to spread self-confident messages, LE SSERAFIM established themselves as unflinching, dare-devilish stars.

Throughout Unforgiven’s 13 tracks, LE SSERAFIM are boldly themselves, regardless of what others think. Whether they are the unforgiven villains of the title track, "a mess in distress" in "Eve, Psyche & The Bluebeard’s wife," or demonstrate vulnerably on "FEARNOT (Between you, me and the lamppost)," LE SSERAFIM live by their truth. And what’s more fearless than that?

GRAMMY.com caught up with Nile Rodgers and LE SSERAFIM's Sakura, Kim Chaewon, Huh Yunjin, Kazuha, and Hong Eunchae for an exclusive conversation about Western and Eastern collaborations, what makes K-pop so exciting, and what they learned from each other.

Nile, you have collaborated with many legendary artists throughout the decades. What made you choose LE SSERAFIM to be your first K-pop collaboration?

Nile Rodgers: Why? Because when I heard the song, I loved it.

LE SSERAFIM [in unison]: Thank you!

LE SSERAFIM, did you know about Nile’s work before? What was your reaction when you learned that he was featuring on "Unforgiven?"

Yunjin: Well, I grew up in the States, so of course I knew. We were all so shocked to know that such a legend would work with us. It hasn't even been a year since we debuted, we were so honored and so excited.

Sakura: It was a really, really huge honor, and I still cannot believe that it happened. When Nile first played the guitar for us, I was completely blown away. I was like, "Is this going to be in our song?" I couldn't believe it. I was really proud.

Yunjin: I remember when I first told my parents, they were like, "No way! You? You and Nile Rodgers?" [Laughs.]

Nile, what are your impressions about K-pop in general? How do you see its growth in America and across the world?

Rodgers: This may sound nerdy, but I love the fact that it seems like a lot of the K-pop that I'm hearing lately, the new music, [has] the harmonic changes. The chord changes are a lot more interesting than what's been happening [in other music fields] over the last few years.

And that's made me excited, because I come from a jazz background, so to hear chord changes like that is really cool. They’re not afraid, which is great to me.

LE SSERAFIM, as a K-pop group, why do you think that it's important to collaborate with Western artists like Nile Rodgers? Is making your music more global something that you strive for to reach more people?

Yunjin: As time goes by, on the contrary, I think it's harder to find boundaries. Music is a universal language, and I think it's very good and very honorable to have Western and Eastern artists collaborating from wherever they are. It's just so that more people can enjoy good music. Isn't that the only reason? Like, music is good, and so more people should listen to it.

Rodgers: And I agree.

How has this collaboration inspired you further? Is there anything you learned from working together that you want to apply to your future work?

Rodgers: I was thinking I should have worn a cowboy hat today. [Laughs.]

Kazuha: When we first met online, Nile played [the guitar] according to our song, and it was completely freestyle. It wasn't something like "Oh, I'm gonna sit down and play music," it was just completely freestyle. I thought it was really cool and fascinating for a new work of art to be formed just by going with the flow and feeling the vibe. I thought it would be nice to [have] that process for us too, as true artists and for [creating] similar works of art as well.

Since Nile mentioned the cowboy hat, "Unforgiven" samples The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly soundtrack, which is a surprising novelty. What do you think about the fact that you are actually merging the past with the present, and bridging decades of culture in one song?

Sakura: I just learned that there are no set rules in music, we just do it.

Rodgers: I once attended a concert with maestro Ennio Morricone, who wrote the music for The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. He had me sit right behind him while he conducted. It was fantastic.

Yunjin: Wow, so it must have been very weird to hear that in a K-pop song?

Rodgers: It's cool. See, that's the thing I like. K-pop music is stretching the boundaries. I was talking to my engineer today, and we were listening to, not just the rest of [LE SSERAFIM’s] album, but other people who are sending me music or would like me to play with them. And I was noticing that, as I said earlier, harmonically, it's a lot more interesting than what's been happening in the last maybe 10 years, where it's been almost the same four chords over and over and over again, just different melodies.

Nile, you've heard the rest of Unforgiven. LE SSERAFIM’s album. What was the main takeaway that you got from it? 

Rodgers: I actually think that it's really cool. I think it's progressive. It's fun. It's exciting. I hope that what I feel is what the rest of the world feels — I loved it. There’s a lot of good writers and producers. It's really great.

LE SSERAFIM [in unison]: Aw, thank you so much!

The title Unforgiven is based on the idea that you don’t need excuses to be who you are. Is there anything specific that you learned about yourselves while working with this concept?

Yunjin: Through every album, we grow with it and then we are able to personify [it]. I think the main message that we want to convey has actually become our story. No matter what people say — even if they might judge us, or misperceive us, or point fingers at us —  regardless of what people think, we might become the villain in other people's eyes. But just like how our music is crossing lines and stretching out the boundaries, we want to become a team that can continue doing that.

Rodgers: I think what you're saying is exactly right. If you have a message and a concept, never worry about some people not liking it, because there's no way that everybody can like everything. 

I mean, even the five of you probably don't like all the exact same food at the exact same moment, but it's okay. Sometimes people don't understand it right away and they get it later on, and that's cool too. Art is personal.

Were there any challenges working together, or any obstacles that you had to overcome while recording?

Rodgers: Well, I was In America, unfortunately, and they were in Korea. You can see that we can work like this, we can work remotely, but it would probably be fun to be in the same room.

Chaewon: Sure, sure, hopefully.

LE SSERAFIM was the first girl group launched by Source Music under HYBE, and now you're part of such a strong new generation of girl groups who also debuted in the past few years. What are some of your thoughts about being part of this new wave?

Eunchae: I think it is really nice to be active in a time where so many great girl groups are getting a lot of attention. A lot of people are listening to their music, and while we are also promoting with other groups, we're getting a lot of motivation and positive influences. I'm really satisfied and happy with that.

There’s plenty of musical styles that you approach on Unforgiven — Latin rhythms, Jersey Club beats, and even some country rock. What are some of your favorite experimentations or favorite moments to work on in the album?

Chaewon: "Unforgiven!"

Yunjin: I think the fact that Nile is in our album is just… You just can't not have "Unforgiven" as a favorite. I think all of us have "Unforgiven" as our top two. It's my personal favorite title track that we have ever done.

Sakura, Kazuha and Eunchae: Yes, "Unforgiven"!

Rodgers: I didn't pay them to say that. [Laughs.]

Nile, do you have any other favorites in the album, besides "Unforgiven"?

Rodgers: I actually liked the whole album. That's why, when we first started talking, I really was impressed with the fact that it's not conventional. It's not exactly what you would think. As a musician, it's great to listen to, to have different styles of music, and all of the styles that they pursue sound sincere.

If you could collaborate together again, what kind of music would you want to make?

Chaewon: Wow, that’s hard. I think if we can collaborate together again, anything would be fine.

Yunjin: We will try our best at everything.

Rodgers: I have a feeling in my heart that we will collaborate again.

[LE SSERAFIM cheer and send heart hands and thumbs ups to Nile.]

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5 Things We Learned From GRAMMY Museum's New The Power Of Song Exhibit, A Celebration Of Songwriters From Tom Petty To Taylor Swift
A selection of items on display at Power of Song Exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum.

Photo: Rebecca Sapp

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5 Things We Learned From GRAMMY Museum's New The Power Of Song Exhibit, A Celebration Of Songwriters From Tom Petty To Taylor Swift

Nile Rodgers, Jimmy Jam, Smokey Robinson and more provide deep insights into their hit collaborations and creative process at GRAMMY Museum's The Power of Song: A Songwriters Hall of Fame Exhibit, open from April 26 through Sept. 4.

GRAMMYs/Apr 26, 2023 - 08:23 pm

Since its founding in 1969, the Songwriters Hall of Fame has been celebrating the great songwriters and composers of our time. In 2010, it found a physical home at Downtown Los Angeles' GRAMMY Museum.

Now, the GRAMMY Museum is adding to that legacy with a special expanded exhibit, which dives deep into the history of songwriting and recorded music in the United States — as well as the Songwriters Hall of Fame and its inductees' role in it. Whether you're a songwriter or musician who loves the creative process, a history nerd, or simply a music lover, this exhibit is for you.

When you enter The Power Of Song, you'll hear the voices of legendary Songwriter Hall of Fame inductees and GRAMMY winners — including Nile Rodgers, Carole King, Diane Warren, Smokey Robinson and Jimmy Jam — discussing their creative process and some of the biggest songs they've written. Take a seat on the couch to absorb all their wisdom in the deeply informative and inspiring original short film.

Turn to the right, and you'll find a timeline across the entire wall, explaining the origins and key points around songwriting and recorded music in the U.S. On the other wall, pop on the headphones provided to enjoy a video of memorable Hall of Fame ceremony performances. One interactive video interface near the entrance allows you to hear "song highlights," and another allows you to explore the entire Songwriters Hall of Fame database.

The exhibit is filled with a treasure trove of handwritten song lyrics from Taylor Swift, Cyndi Lauper, Tom Petty and many more, as well as iconic artifacts, including Daft Punk's helmets, a classy Nile Rodgers GRAMMY look, and guitars from Bill Withers, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp and Toby Keith.

Below, take a look at five things we learned from The Power Of Song: A Songwriters Hall Of Fame Exhibit, which will be at the GRAMMY Museum from April 26 through Sept. 4.

Daft Punk Rerecorded "Get Lucky" To Fit Nile Rodgers' Funky Guitar

Legendary funk pioneer and superproducer Nile Rodgers is the current Chairman of the SHOF and has an active presence at the exhibit. One case features the disco-esque lime green Dior tuxedo Rodgers wore to the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, along with the shiny metallic helmets of French dance duo Daft Punk, who collaborated with Rodgers on their GRAMMY-winning 2013 album, Random Access Memories.

Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo of Daft Punk and Rodgers had forged a friendship and been wanting to collab for years prior to 2013's Record Of The Year-winning smash "Get Lucky." When they finally connected and Bangalter and de Homem-Christo played the CHIC founder the demo for "Get Lucky," he asked to hear it again with everything muted except the drum track, so he could create the perfect guitar lick for it.

Bangalter and de Homem-Christo decided to essentially re-record the whole song to fit Rodgers' guitar, which joyously drives the track — and carried it to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, Daft Punk's first Top 5 hit.

Nile Rodgers Display at GRAMMY Museum

Photo: Rebecca Sapp

Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis Set Up Their Studio The "Wrong" Way Because Of Prince

In the exhibit film, Jimmy Jam tells several stories about working with — and learning from — Prince. He recalls how he and Terry Lewis watched Prince work and record everything "in the red," so they set up their Minneapolis studio to follow his lead. A sound engineer told them it was too loud, but that ended up being the sound that artists like Janet Jackson and Usher came to them for. It was a "happy mistake," as Jam put it, that helped their legendary careers as a powerhouse production duo take off.

Prince's dogmatic, tireless work ethic also rubbed off on the powerhouse pair. One rehearsal, the Purple One kept pressing Jam to do more, which resulted in him playing two instruments, singing and hitting the choreography from behind his keyboard. "He saw that I could do more than I thought I could; he saw me better than I saw myself," he reflected.

"God Bless America" Composer Irving Berlin Didn't Read Music

In his 50 year-career, Irving Berlin wrote over 1000 songs, many of which defined American popular music for the better part of the 20th century. Along with penning "God Bless America," "White Christmas," "Puttin' on the Ritz," and "There's No Business Like Show Business" (among many other classics), he wrote 17 full Broadway musical scores and contributed songs to six more plays.

Berlin also wrote scores for early Hollywood musicals starring the likes of Ginger Rodgers, Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe, and Bing Crosby. He made a lasting, indelible mark on music, theater, film and American culture writ large.

Rather astonishingly, the widely celebrated American Tin Pan Alley-era composer was self-taught and didn't read sheet music. His family immigrated to New York from Imperial Russia when he was 5 years old, and when he was just 13, his father died, so he busked on the streets and worked as a singing waiter to help his family out.

In 1907, at 19, he had his first song published, and just four years later penned his first international hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band." Berlin had a natural musicality and played music by ear in the key of F-sharp, with the help of his trusted upright transposing piano, a rare instrument that had a mechanism allowing him to shift into different keys. His "trick piano," as he called it, where many of his unforgettable songs first came to life, is on display at the exhibit.

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Smokey Robinson Didn't Expect "My Girl" To Become A Timeless Hit

Smokey Robinson was an important part of Motown's hit-making factory as a singer, songwriter and producer. In the exhibit film, he discusses "My Girl," one of his classic tunes, which he wrote and produced for the Temptations in 1965.

"I had no idea it would become what it would become," he said.

He says that people often ask him why he didn't record the unforgettable song with his group the Miracles instead of "giving it away" to the Temptations, but he never regretted his decision. Instead, he's honored to have created music that stands the test of time and means so much to so many people.

Robinson joked that the Temptations' then-lead singer David Ruffin's gruff voice scared girls into going out with him. Really, he loved Ruffin's voice, and thought he'd sound great singing a sweet love song like "My Girl." Safe to say he was right.

After World War II, Pop Music Changed Forever

Prior to World War II, American music operated as a singular mainstream market, and New York's Tin Pan Alley songwriters competed to make the next pop or Broadway hit. In a post-World War II America, especially when the early Baby Boomer generation became teenagers and young adults in the '60s and '70s, tastes changed and new styles of pop and pop songwriting emerged. As rock shook up popular culture, Tin Pan Alley gave way to a new era of young songwriters, many who worked out of just two buildings in midtown Manhattan, 1619 Broadway (the Brill Building) and 1650 Broadway.

In this richly creative and collaborative environment, powerhouse songwriting duos began to emerge and reshape pop music, challenging and balancing each other — and creating a ton of hits in the process. The hit-making duos of this diversified pop era included Burt Bacharach and Hal David (Dionne Warrick's "That's What Friends Are For"), Carole King and Gerry Goffin (Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion"), Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil (the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'") and Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich (the Ronettes' "Be My Baby" and the Crystals' "Then He Kissed Me," both in collaboration with Phil Spector). In fact, there are far too many classics penned by these four prolific songwriter duos to list here.

While there are still songwriters that pen big hit after hit for pop stars (Max Martin is still at it, as is his protege Oscar Görres), the dynamics in the industry have continued to shift with singers taking on more creative power themselves. Today's pop stars — including Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa and Taylor Swift — have found success co-writing with their own trusted teams of songwriters and producers. But as this new exhibit shows, it doesn't matter who is behind the pen — the power of song is mighty.

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Daft Punk Essentials: 10 Songs That Showcase The Duo's Futuristic Innovation
French musical group Daft Punk performing in Italy in 2019

Photo: Marco Piraccini/Archivio Marco Piraccini/Mondadori via Getty Images

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Daft Punk Essentials: 10 Songs That Showcase The Duo's Futuristic Innovation

The French electronic music duo's massive influence in the '90s and early 2000s transformed the dance landscape and continues to resonate. On the 10th anniversary of their smash hit "Get Lucky," revisit some of their biggest hits.

GRAMMYs/Apr 19, 2023 - 06:13 pm

Dance music wouldn't be the same without Daft Punk. In 1993, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo joined forces, not knowing they would become trailblazers of the decade's French house movement.

The duo took their name from a negative review of their former band Darlin', in which their music was criticized as "a daft punky thrash" — and so Daft Punk was born, living up to their name by merging creative absurdity with liveliness. The duo made few public media appearances, quite literally shrouding themselves in mystery through a sci-fi aesthetic accompanying their prolific, contemporary sound.

From their 1997 debut studio album Homework to collaborations with The Weeknd decades later, the duo built their extensive discography on a fearless restyling of electronica. Contributing to dance music popularization in North America with their 2006-2007 tour, Daft Punk is credited with ushering EDM into the mainstream.

Although the duo disbanded in 2021, their influence is everlasting: colorfully blending house with every genre from techno to synth-pop, Daft Punk has proved their creativity knows no limits.

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the GRAMMY-winning duo's "Get Lucky" and their 30-year career span, take a listen to these 9 funky essentials by Daft Punk.

"Da Funk," Homework (1997)

Tripping into acid house, Daft Punk's single "Da Funk" is a glaring highlight from the duo's debut, Homework. Featuring a squirming, snappy 303 bass line and refreshing disco-inspired sound, the lyricless track is a '90s house classic.

"Around The World," Homework (1997)

Daft Punk's dynamic sounds are staples in clubs all over the world, and part of this is due to the smash success of their single "Around The World." The second single from their debut hit No. 1 on dance charts worldwide, its only lyric — fittingly, "around the world" — repeated 144 times to reach full earworm potential.

"One More Time," Discovery (2000)

Daft Punk regards "One More Time" as the bridge between Homework and Discovery, and this song speaks to the duo's timeless, overarching creativity. Spotlighting their signature auto-tuned vocals and futuristic production, the song is a full-blown celebration. Upon release, the track tied with "Around The World" by hitting No. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," Discovery (2001)

An instant influential hit, "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" combines the keyboard riff from Edwin Birdsong's 1979 funk song "Cola Bottle Baby" with heavily vocoded vocals. The song has been remixed, sampled, and covered dozens of times, and a live version of the track — from Daft Punk's live album, Alive 2007 — took home a GRAMMY for Best Dance/Electronic Recording in 2009.

"Digital Love," Discovery (2001)

Led elegantly by a Wurlitzer and filled with prolonged harmonies, this Daft Punk essential sloshes through a dreamy electropop soundscape. Longing pulses through the textured, technological track, and its softness cushions the song's outlined fantasy in a graceful way.

"Robot Rock," Human After All (2005)

Wonderfully mechanical, Daft Punk's "Robot Rock" is a staple of electronic rock. Its central and only lyric — "Rock, robot rock" — repeats over and over, meshing with a looping synth-led riff and electric guitar power chords. Filmed on VHS, its music video glitters as the first video to star Daft Punk exclusively.

"Starboy" - The Weeknd, Starboy (2016)

The title track from The Weeknd's third studio album, "Starboy," strays from Daft Punk's signature electronic sound, determinedly wandering into edgy pop and R&B. Surprisingly, the collaboration is Daft Punk's first and only No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"Get Lucky" featuring Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers, Random Access Memories (2013)

Pulling in a couple of legends for collaboration, "Get Lucky" strikes a perfect groove as a disco-pop banger about staying up 'til the sun. Starring Nile Rodgers' radiant guitar riff and Pharrell Williams' funky vocals, the experimental song won Record Of The Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 56th GRAMMY Awards.

"Derezzed," TRON: Legacy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) (2010)

Who better than Daft Punk to craft the soundtrack for a sci-fi film? The pair's robotic aesthetic and futuristic music perfectly complement the 2010 Disney cyberworld film Tron: Legacy, and "Derezzed" stands out as an especially immersive track. At the 54th GRAMMY Awards, TRON: Legacy (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) was nominated for Best Score Soundtrack Album For Visual Media.

"Lose Yourself to Dance" featuring Pharrell Williams, Random Access Memories (2013)

Pharrell Williams returned to work with Daft Punk for the groovy "Lose Yourself to Dance" in 2013. His vocals float through the song's funky production, and partway through, a multi-layered clap imbues the track with new, crowd-sourced energy.

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