SOURCE PHOTOS (CLOCKWISE, L-R): Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic; Kevin Mazur/MG21/Getty Images For The Met Museum/Vogue; Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation
Inside The Visual World Of Billie Eilish's 'Happier Than Ever,' A Testament To Her "Brilliant" Creative Vision
After years of longing to take creative control, Billie Eilish is finally at the helm of her visual output. As she celebrates GRAMMY nods for Best Music Video and Best Music Film, her collaborators detail how her 'Happier Than Ever' vision came to life.
There's a moment early on in the 2021 Apple TV+ documentary film, The World's A Little Blurry, where Billie Eilish stakes her claim as the ringleader of her own creative circus — one where what she says goes.
In the scene, a then 16-year-old Eilish maps out her visual ideation for the "When The Party's Over" music video. Explaining in fine detail how she envisions her now-iconic black ink tears coming to life, Eilish has very specific instructions for director Carlos López Estrada.
"Don't zoom," Eilish demands in a video message to Estrada, filmed at a replica set in her backyard. "Don't do anything these bozo f<em></em>*ing filmmakers do when they try to have it not be boring."
At the actual video shoot, the blue-haired singer bounces between the set and the monitor to ensure that her vision — born from a "beautiful piece of art from a fan" — is being properly executed. When they wrap, she makes a quiet declaration with loud determination: "For the rest of the videos, I'm directing them all myself."
It's an aspiration Eilish has had since she started releasing music at age 14, but an opportunity she only had a few times before taking the reins with 2019's "Xanny." "Since the beginning of my career I wanted to direct videos," she told The Guardian in 2019. "I told everybody that immediately and they were like: 'Well, you don't have any experience and you don't have the time.'
"They really didn't want a 14-year-old girl to direct a music video," she continued. "But I knew I wanted to and I convinced them, I got their trust, and from here on out I want to do my own videos, and I eventually want to make a movie. I've wanted to direct my whole life. I love cinematography, the camera angles, the visuals."
Now, the singer is in the midst of building a world around her second album, Happier Than Ever, which earned Eilish seven nominations at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards. Though she's no stranger to GRAMMYs — in 2020, she became the youngest artist (and only second ever) to sweep all four General Field categories — this year spawned perhaps Eilish's most meaningful nomination yet: Best Music Video. Earning the nod was the visual for the album's title track, one of Eilish's self-directed masterpieces that features the star experiencing a cathartic release of emotion by way of a rain-induced flood.
One of six videos Eilish directed for the album, "Happier Than Ever" — which is nominated for both Record and Song of the Year, as well as Best Pop Solo Performance — is just a sliver of the visual universe the singer created. With the release of a philharmonic-backed concert film (the Disney+ special Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter To Los Angeles, nominated for Best Music Film) and multiple aesthetically pleasing live performances, Eilish displays a transformation at work — one helmed by an artist set on having full creative control.
As that fateful scene in The World's A Little Blurry indicates, the documentary's director R.J. Cutler saw the genius within Eilish as they worked together. "It was important to me to illustrate the fact that in terms of all other aspects of her work, her career, her business, her art and her image — whatever it might be, she is the final word," Cutler tells GRAMMY.com. "It should be no surprise to anybody that a brilliant visionary director who has an incredible instinct and a very specific visual sensibility is in command of the camera."
That sense of visual awareness is integral to pop stardom — particularly for women artists, who have historically been held to a higher standard than their male counterparts. Knowing this, Eilish launched the Happier Than Ever era with an aesthetic rebranding that swapped her trademark neon green roots for an Old Hollywood-style blonde cut. "I couldn't go anywhere with that hair because it was so obviously me," she told Elle last year. "I wanted anonymity."
Her compromised sense of security is a major theme across Happier Than Ever — and rightfully so, considering she came of age in the public eye. Though Eilish had never fully lost authority of her narrative, building a world around such a personal record offered an opportunity to regain control in more ways than one.
Visualizing Happier Than Ever
Eilish's self-directed visual world began to truly take shape with the music video for "Your Power," a damning examination of abuse and its consequences — or lack thereof. Nearly camouflaged against the earthy tones of Simi Valley's mountainside, the singer steeps in her lyrical vulnerability while a green anaconda envelops her body. "Your Power" served as the follow up to "Therefore I Am," a final send-off to Eilish's old signature green-rooted hair.
Within her own visual direction, Eilish often errs on the side of solitude. She builds narratives through the use of distinct locations and dramatic accessories, rather than acting out elaborate scenes with other people — whether she's having a real tarantula crawl out of her mouth for early career cut "You Should See Me In A Crown," walking down the middle of a street in the path of cars racing in all directions for "NDA," or performing in a torrential flood for "Happier Than Ever."
In the official "Male Fantasy" music video, which Eilish directed and edited, she conveys cold and brooding emotions with acute power within isolation. She moves from the quiet space of a living room back to her bed, then in and out of the refrigerator before once again returning to the security of the blankets. It's the exact opposite parallel to the lively slumber party she directed for "Lost Cause," which played into the same neutral color palette, but did so with a carefree air of spontaneity.
Crafting Intimate Live Performances
In July 2021, Eilish kicked off a four-part live performance video series that saw the singer scale back the avant-garde ideas often executed in her music videos for a more intimate setting. For the first release in the series, she leaves behind the slithering snake of "Your Power" and reimagines the song at Los Angeles' Biltmore Hotel.
Opening with an Old Hollywood film title card, the video places Eilish and Finneas against graceful orange curtains at the end of a long corridor at the hotel. The famed designs of the location are obscured with focus locked on the acoustic performance itself, a subtle visual narrative that develops over the course of the series. The historic 1930s hotel plays into the presence of Los Angeles as a character in Eilish's world, somewhere she often champions and revisits through song and video. Her constant call-backs add weight to the depth of the pivotal moment in "Happier Than Ever" where she cries out: "I'd never treat me this shitty, you made me hate this city."
"We had a good, long conversation with their team early on about [wanting] to create this as Billie not only enters this new phase of her musical career, but as she becomes an adult starting to tackle bigger themes — as you can clearly hear on the album," says Micah Bickham, executive producer of content production at Vevo. "We wanted to create this world that was elevated and took it to that same sort of place, exploring these more iconic and maybe more adult themes."
For "Male Fantasy," Eilish settles on the edge of a gold-blanketed bed in a torn cream sweater as she ruminates on the same notions of the male gaze and desire that she later explores in A Love Letter to Los Angeles. "All of that was by design," Bickham explains. "Her and Finneas in a simple hotel room just having a conversation with her fans in a way that blaring concert lights and large bands [couldn't]."
He adds: "We were just trying to create a bit of a paradox, if you will, between these softer environments and then take Billie into those worlds, who is basically, either vocally or performatively, creating a bit of a contrast. If you think about some of the songs, some of the lyrics juxtaposed to the world that she's sitting in, it's a really interesting simple expression of contrast. That was a really important part of it."
Completing Another Visual Journey
In the Vevo live performance series videos, there's a sense of emotional release that mirrors the intensity embedded within the lyrics. But Happier Than Ever is shaped through Old Hollywood regality, which displays the power of performance even in the absence of theatrics. "Lost Cause" and the simmering, rhythmic "Billie Bossa Nova" are delivered in the Biltmore Hotel's famed Crystal Ballroom, using the location as a point of entry to the alluring tone of each track. As the final installation of the video series, "Billie Bossa Nova" places Eilish in the center of the ballroom in front of a trio of luxurious ceiling-high windows.
"It's like, how do we create vignettes and spaces for each of these conversations to take place so that when you watch them individually, they stand on their own two legs — but if you were to watch them as a collection, you see the evolution of those performances from song to song," Bickham says.
The series is a significant example of Eilish driving the narrative of Happier Than Ever forward through the use of hyper-specific tones and color palettes. The singer, who has synesthesia, established the visual and tonal range executed through wardrobe choices and set designs. The muted pinks, pops of blue, and array of neutral selections — juxtaposed to the gold regality of the hotel — correspond with the Eilish's own synesthetic perceptions of each song.
"There are not that many artists who create a world around the album that they're making. They're not just performing singles, they're creating a character and that character is operating inside a world and the visuals that you're seeing are built inside that world," Bickham says. "Some people think they want endless possibilities, but it's important to have someone like Billie define what the parameters are and give us that thing that we can color inside the lines of, and help extend and build that world."
Reimagining The Concert Film
Amid the rollout of Vevo performances, Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter To Los Angeles arrived in September. The hour-long special brought more stunning live performances, doubling as a tribute to Eilish's hometown. Filmed over a week at the Hollywood Bowl, Love Letter reconfigures the typical concert film formula — particularly thanks to her 2D animated avatar, which threads a visual storyline through the streets of California.
When Eilish first approached animator Patrick Osborne and filmmaker Robert Rodriguez to co-direct the Disney+ feature, she — in very Billie fashion — had a specific vision for how the film would look.
"The first interaction we had, she was sending all of these reference images of blonde animated characters from '80s cartoons," Obsorne explains, recalling Ralph Bakshi and Jessica Rabbit-esque sources of inspiration. "Billie, from the beginning, [wanted to have] an animated alter-ego version of herself that was kind of idealized and something she isn't."
Working under a tight deadline, animators in London, Los Angeles and Sydney created a landscape for the blonde avatar to explore Eilish's hometown. The avatar has freedom that the real Eilish lacks, though billboards promoting Happier Than Ever appear throughout, reinforcing the ironclad inescapability of fame.
During "Not My Responsibility," Eilish tackles the conversation surrounding her body, while the avatar's silhouette saunters through shallow waters. She drives through rare traffic-less streets in a top-down convertible, making pit stops to take in the city from the rooftop of the Roosevelt Hotel and to dine alone at a quaint restaurant. Later, she arrives at a movie premiere under the shine of flashing lights. The avatar detours through Echo Park and Highland Park (the singer's longtime home until stalkers and security breaches made relocation imperative) before arriving at the Hollywood Bowl.
"If I was to dig into the psychology of the animated character, these '80s animated characters that she's referencing are really idealized from a male perspective," Osborne says, calling back to Eilish championing bodily autonomy and desire on Happier Than Ever itself.
"She has such a cool aesthetic eye that certain things feel like her," he adds. "She had an angle on this and that, then it was up to me and Robert to shape it into some kind of achievable story."
Capturing A Precious Moment In Time
The unrestricted adventures of Eilish's 2D avatar are a call back to life before When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and the massive influx of notoriety that followed. Having captured that moment in The World's A Little Blurry, R.J. Cutler recalls a recent conversation with Eilish's mother, Maggie Baird, about the change.
"Maggie said to me recently that she didn't expect that this would be one of the reasons she is so grateful for the film," he says. "But she now recognizes that it captured a moment in their lives that in some instances no longer exists."
At the pinnacle moment in A Love Letter to Los Angeles, the 2D character appears as the venue's sole audience. She watches the real Eilish perform an exceptional record of their shared experiences, backed by Finneas, the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, guitarist Romero Lubambo and drummer Andrew Marshall. The artist's ongoing theme of solitude, and the autonomy found within that, reaches a pointed height and speaks to the one consistency between where Eilish has been and where she's headed: herself.
"These films are a dialogue between the moment that they capture, and the moment that they're viewed," Cutler adds, noting the comparison between the 16-year-old girl in the Apple TV+ documentary and the now 20-year-old GRAMMY-winning musician currently embarking on a sold-out international arena tour.
By presenting the complex emotions of change in a tangible form, Eilish has constructed a living gallery of artistic growth. Surely she'll continue to evolve, but her Happier Than Ever era will always serve as an important statement piece of where she's been and where she's going — with her artistic identity at its center.
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Photo: Gerald Martineau/The The Washington Post via Getty Images
7 Artists Inspired By Their Mothers: Billie Eilish, Jacob Collier & More
In celebration of Mothers' Day, take a look at how moms have made a lasting and loving impact on artists including Tupac, Christina Aguilera and Dave Grohl.
Before Taylor Swift and Beyoncé became household names, their biggest champions were their mothers. Today, these global superstars honor their beginnings by being their own mother's biggest fans.
These musicians honor their moms through everything from social media posts to actually sharing the stage. In recent years, Lizzo has been vocal about the importance of her mom's support (and supportive of her mom and sister parking a food truck outside of stadium concerts); John Legend praises his mom for always encouraging him to sing in school and church. Swift wrote a song in tribute to her mother’s cancer journey, while Miranda Lambert and Sheryl Crow have shared important lessons learned from thier moms. Beyoncé tells the world, "I got this s— from Tina."
For Mothers Day, GRAMMY.com honors seven more musicians who celebrate their remarkable moms.
Jacob Collier truly grew up in a house of music. The singer/songwriter was raised to love multiple instruments by his mother Suzie Collier, herself an internationally sought-after violinist and conductor who teaches at the Royal College of Music.
Naturally, Collier's music career began in the family home and recording YouTube videos in a room decked with instruments. For more than 10 years, the Colliers have shared themselves playing lively jazz standards and Christmas songs from this foundational space.
"Really, I was brought up with music as a second language," Collier reflected in an interview with The Irish Times. My mother was extremely encouraging of the sensitivities of my brain. It was this sense of curiosity but never pressure."
Several years and five GRAMMY Awards later, Collier delights his audiences with surprise duets with "Mamma Collier," where they speak this language (and rock fantastic matching jackets) of their own.
Christina Aguilera was taken by her mother, Shelly Loraine Kearns, for singing auditions at the age of 7 and it eventually landed her placement in the iconic "Mickey Mouse Club." Yet childhood was far from perfect for Aguilera. Much of her music written in adulthood is a testament to Kearns' strength and their shared experience of domestic abuse at the hands of her father.
"I watched my mom have to be submissive, watch her Ps and Qs or she's gonna get beat up," Aguilera recalled to Paper Magazine. In considering what kind of woman she wanted to become, she adds, "You can either be, unfortunately, so damaged by it that you take a turn for the worse, or you can feel empowered by it and make choices to never go down that route."
Aguilera powerfully honors her mom's survivorship in several songs, such as "Oh, Mother" and this vulnerable performance of "I'm OK," which offers the chorus: "Bruises fade father, but the pain remains the same… Strength is my mother for all the love she gave / Every morning that I wake I look back to yesterday / And I'm OK."
In Tupac's resonant single "Dear Mama," the rapper praises his mother Afeni Shakur as a "Black queen." He ends the track with, "You are appreciated."
Afeni's story is as fascinating and complex as her son's. While pregnant with Shakur, Afeni faced a 350 year jail sentence on charges related to her affiliation with the Black Panther Party. She acted as her own attorney in court and served 11 months of the sentence, giving birth as a free woman. While she went on to battle addiction, she and Tupac reunited and she encouraged Shakur in using his creativity in the fight for justice.
This spring, the story continues through a five-part special with the same title on FX Network. 17 year old Shakur accounts in the trailer, "My mother taught me to analyze society and not be quiet."
Shakur's music and legacy center themes of freedom, inspired by his mother. This includes anthems like, "Keep Ya Head Up" and "Changes."
"My mother taught me to analyze society and not be quiet," he late rapper says in the trailer for an FX docuseries about their relationship. "I think my mother knew that freedom wouldn’t come in her lifetime, just like I know that it won’t come in mine."
Billie Eilish has one of the most recognizable families in music, including her and FINNEAS' mother, Maggie Baird. Baird has appeared in multiple of her daughter's Vanity Fair interviews, documentary, and frequently travels on tour with her daughter. They share a mission in vegan activism and have received environmental awards for their efforts.
Most importantly, Eilish credits her mother for saving her life when she was feeling suicidal. Baird checked in regularly with her daughter giving her permission to take a break from the world stage at any point.
In a most recent birthday post, Eilish affectionately wrote of her mother, "You make the world go round. I told you yesterday that when I think about how much I love you, I want to sob and throw up."
In recent years, WILLOW played homage to her mother, Jada Pinkett Smith, for Mother's Day. After a loving video tribute, she planned a surprise performance of a favorite song from Pinkett Smith's former metal band, Wicked Wisdom, alongside its original members. In which, WILLOW mirrors Pinkett Smith’s confidence and vocal range.
Throughout her childhood, WILLOW watched her mother perform with wonder. She elaborates, "I was my mom's biggest fan. Every night, I wanted to ride on the security guard's shoulders and watch her perform. She was a rock star, and I was living for Wicked Wisdom," WILLOW said. "I felt like it was only right for me to pay homage to a time in her life because she showed me what womaning up really is about."
This legacy comes through in WILLOW's most recent explorations in the worlds of alt and pop-punk.
Beyond a shared love of music, WILLOW, Pinkett Smith, and Jada's mother deepen their bond with their show Red Table Talk on Facebook Watch. In which, they share multi-generational, candid conversations on provocative topics ranging from race relations to forgiveness.
Camila Cabello and her mother, Sinuhe Estrabao, traveled far to get where she is today as an international pop-star. The two had a month-long journey when migrating from Cuba to the US when Cabello was six years old. Cabello shares in Popsugar, "I think the most important thing I've learned from my mom has been: You're human if you have fear, but you can't ever let it determine how hard you go at a situation. If anything, it should make you go harder — go for it all the way."
Though introverted, Cabello channeled this courage into making the decision to audition for "The X Factor" as a teenager.
When Cabello received Billboard's Breakthrough Artist Award, she began her acceptance speech by acknowledging her No. 1: "The only reason I am standing here on this stage, in this auditorium, on this soil in this country is because of one woman - and that's my mom."
Dave Grohl has an immense passion for a mother's role in a musician's life, and even hosts and executive produced the documentary series, "From Cradle to Stage." The series features interviews with rock stars and their moms; his own mother, Virgina Hanlon Grohl, wrote a book in 2017 with the same title.
In a NBC interview, Grohl said, "The relationship between a mother and their child — the mother and the artist — is maybe the most important relationship of any musician's life... It's the foundation of their understanding of love, and love is every artist's greatest muse. You know, every lyric you write is rooted in that."
Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for MTV Entertainment
10 Artists Who Are Outspoken About Mental Health: Billie Eilish, Selena Gomez, Shawn Mendes & More
From Ed Sheeran to Janet Jackson, take a look at some of the major music stars who have shared their struggles with mental health — and helped fans feel supported and seen in the process.
Sharing mental health issues with close family or specialized medical professionals can be challenging enough. Add in the pressures of fame and being in the public eye, and any struggles are exponentially more difficult to cope with.
In recent years, though, mental health has become a much more widely discussed topic in celebrity culture. Several artists have used their music and their platform to open up about their own struggles with depression, anxiety and the like, from Bruce Springsteen to Selena Gomez.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, GRAMMY.com highlights the inspirational impact of music superstars who speak out about what they're going through, and how they manage their challenges. These 10 performers are making change through their courage and candor.
Ed Sheeran takes fans behind the curtain of his personal life and struggles with mental health in Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All. The four-episode docuseries, which is now streaming on Disney+, details the pain of losing his best friend Jamal Edwards and his wife Cherry Seaborn receiving a cancer diagnosis while she was pregnant with their daughter Jupiter.
"What I think is really great about the documentary is the themes that it explores, everyone goes through," Sheeran said at the New York City premiere on May 2, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "Everyone goes through grief. Everyone goes through ups and downs of their mental health."
Sheeran dives deeper into his struggles — and is more vulnerable than ever before — on his latest album Subtract, which arrived on May 5. "Running from the light/ Engulfed in darkness/ Sharing my eyes/ Wondering why I'm stuck on the borderline," he sings on album cut "Borderline," which touches on battling suicide thoughts.
Like Sheeran, Scottish singer Lewis Capaldi also gave fans an incredibly upfront look at his mental health challenges in a documentary, How I'm Feeling Now. The new Netflix release details his experience with anxiety and Tourette's syndrome, taking viewers to physical therapy with Capaldi and discussing how his medication both helps and hurts the quality of his life.
Capaldi's second album, Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent (due May 19) will further explore his anxieties and vulnerability. While he has admitted it wasn't easy to be so raw in his music and on screen, Capaldi wants to make a difference in other people's lives. "If people notice things that are concurrent with what's going on in their life, then it's all been worth it," he told Variety.
While Billie Eilish's music has been raw and real from the start, her music has become increasingly more vulnerable throughout the years. Whether in her music or in interviews, the star has opened up about dealing with body dysmorphia, depression and thoughts of self-harm — hoping to inspire fans to speak up when they are hurting, and to know that it gets better.
"It doesn't make you weak to ask for help," she asserts in a 2019 video for Ad Council's Seize The Awkward campaign, which features stars discussing mental health.
"Kids use my songs as a hug," she told Rolling Stone earlier that year. "Songs about being depressed or suicidal or completely just against-yourself — some adults think that's bad, but I feel that seeing that someone else feels just as horrible as you do is a comfort. It's a good feeling."
As one of the most-followed stars on social media, Selena Gomez has often used her formidable presence to discuss her mental health and connect with others. In 2022, the singer launched a startup called Wondermind, which is focused on "mental fitness" and helping users maintain strong mental health.
Just a few months later, Gomez further chronicled her own mental health journey in an Apple TV+ documentary, Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me, which shows extremes she's suffered with her depression and bipolar disorder. She has said she was initially hesitant to share the film, but ultimately reflected on how many others could be helped if she did.
"Because I have the platform I have, it's kind of like I'm sacrificing myself a little bit for a greater purpose," she explained in a 2022 cover story with Rolling Stone. "I don't want that to sound dramatic, but I almost wasn't going to put this out. God's honest truth, a few weeks ago, I wasn't sure I could do it."
In 2019, Shawn Mendes first publicly addressed his struggles with anxiety in the dynamic — and GRAMMY-nominated — hit "In My Blood." Three years later, the singer postponed his 2022 tour in order to focus on his mental health, opening up an important conversation to his legion of fans.
"The process was very difficult," he said in a February interview with Wall Street Journal. "A lot of doing therapy, a lot of trying to understand how I was feeling and what was making me feel that way. And then doing the work to help myself and heal. And also leaning on people in my life to help a little bit.
"It's been a lot of work, but I think the last year and a half has been the most eye-opening and growing and beautiful and just healing process of my life," he continued. "And it just really made me see how culture is really starting to get to a place where mental health is really becoming a priority."
Even an artist as successful and celebrated as Bruce Springsteen has faced depression. In his 2016 autobiography Born to Run, the 20-time GRAMMY winner cites a difficult relationship with his father and a history of mental illness in the family, sharing that he has sought treatment throughout his life.
"I was crushed between 60 and 62, good for a year, and out again from 63 to 64," he wrote in the book. In that time, he released his 2012 album, Wrecking Ball, which featured a raw track called "This Depression." "Baby, I've been down, but never this down I've been lost, but never this lost," he sings on the opening verse.
As his wife, Patti Scialfa, told Vanity Fair in 2016, "He approached the book the way he would approach writing a song…A lot of his work comes from him trying to overcome that part of himself."
The physical and emotional abuse suffered by the famous Jackson family is well-documented in books, documentaries and TV dramatizations. But it's only been in recent years that Janet Jackson has talked about her own depression, which she has referred to as "intense." Her son Aissa has helped her heal from mental health challenges that have followed her all of her life.
"In my 40s, like millions of women in the world, I still heard voices inside my head berating me, voices questioning my value," she wrote in a 2020 ESSENCE cover story. "Happiness was elusive. A reunion with old friends might make me happy. A call from a colleague might make me happy. But because sometimes I saw my failed relationships as my fault, I easily fell into despair."
After seeing global success with her debut single, "Ex's & Oh's," Elle King experienced the woes of sudden fame as well as a crumbling marriage. Her second album, 2018's Shake the Spirit, documented her struggles with self-doubt, medicinal drinking and PTSD.
"There's two ways out," she told PEOPLE in 2018, describing her marriage as "destructive," physically abusive and leading her to addiction. "You can take the bad way out or you can get help. I got help because I knew that I have felt good in my life and I knew I could get there again."
Certain public situations can trigger crippling anxiety attacks for Brendon Urie, who has been open about mental health concerns throughout his career. He can perform in front of thousands of fans, but he's revealed that being in the grocery store or stuck in an elevator for too long with other people are among some of his most uncomfortable scenarios in his life.
"You would never tell on the surface, but inside it's so painful I can't even describe," the former Panic! At The Disco frontman — who disbanded the group earlier this year to focus on his family — said in a 2016 interview with Kerrang.
Rapper Big Sean and his mother released a series of educational videos during Mental Health Awareness Month in 2021 — two years after the Detroit-born star started talking about his own long-held depression and anxiety publicly.
"I was just keeping it real because I was tired of not keeping it real," he said in an interview with ESSENCE in 2021. "I was tired of pretending I was a machine and everything was cool and being politically correct or whatever. I just was like, I'm a just say how I feel."
Like many of his peers, he hopes that his honesty will help others. "Whatever they can apply to their life and better themselves and maybe it just even starts a whole journey in a different direction as far as upgrading and taking care of themselves and bossing up themselves," he added. "Whatever they're trying to do, I hope it helps them get to that place."
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Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Met Gala 2023: All The Artists & Celebrities Who Served Fierce Looks & Hot Fashion On The Red Carpet, From Rihanna To Dua Lipa To Billie Eilish To Bad Bunny To Cardi B To Doja Cat & More
Fashion and music have always been inextricably linked, and the strong longs were on fully on display at the 2023 Met Gala — one of the most anticipated style events of the year. See the red carpet outfits from Rihanna, Lil Nas X, Anitta & more.
It's that time again! The 2023 Met Gala — one of the fashion bonanzas of the year — is in full force. And given that fashion has always been the yin to music's yang, GRAMMY winners and nominees were among the stars studding this glamorous, fashion-forward event.
Presented by gala co-chair Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue and global editorial director of Condé Nast, the Met Gala this year is co-chaired by Penélope Cruz, Michaela Coel, Roger Federer and three-time GRAMMY winner Dua Lipa.
GRAMMY winners and nominees as well as today’s leading artists in music are already setting the Met Gala red carpet on fire, with everyone from Dua Lipa, Phoebe Bridgers, Rita Ora, David Byrne, rising rap sensation Ice Spice, and more showing off their fierce fashion looks. Plus, Rihanna and her partner ASAP Rocky made a last-minute surprise arrival on the 2023 Met Gala red carpet, setting the fashion and music worlds ablaze.
This year's Met Gala celebrates the indelible legacy of the late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld; the dress code is "In honor of Karl…")
Below, check out some of the most eye-catching red carpet fashion looks from music’s biggest stars at the 2023 Met Gala.
Rihanna attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Dua Lipa arrives for the 2023 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2023, in New York | Photo: ANGELA WEISS / AFP
(L-R) Finneas O'Connell and Billie Eilish attend The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/MG23/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue
Bad Bunny attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Jennifer Lopez attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Cardi B attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/MG23/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue
Doja Cat attends the 2023 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Lil Nas X attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/MG23/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue
Usher attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Sean "Diddy" Combs attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Phoebe Bridgers attends the 2023 Met Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Anitta attends the 2023 Met Gala the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Halle Bailey attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Kevin Mazur/MG23/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue
Janelle Monáe attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images
Photos: Jason Stoltzfus; Jasper Cable-Alexander; Christian Alanis; Jada + David; Courtesy of artist
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.
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.
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.
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."
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 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.
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.
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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