meta-scriptBlackbear Talks New EP ‘Misery Lake,’ Dream Collab With BTS, Making Music For His Mental Health & Fatherhood | GRAMMY.com
Blackbear Talks New EP ‘Misery Lake,’ Dream Collab With BTS, Making Music For His Mental Health & Fatherhood

blackbear

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Blackbear Talks New EP ‘Misery Lake,’ Dream Collab With BTS, Making Music For His Mental Health & Fatherhood

The Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter blackbear caught up with GRAMMY.com ahead of his new six-song project, 'misery lake'

GRAMMYs/Aug 12, 2021 - 11:47 pm

Like many of us, blackbear spent the seamless string of early pandemic-filled months holed up indoors, battling the feelings of isolation and anxiety brought on COVID-19. Unlike many of his fans, though, the Los Angeles-based artist, singer and hit songwriter emerged from last year's quarantine period with two new projects: his fifth studio album everything means nothing and new EP misery lake, which he's releasing tomorrow, August 13.

"It's about isolation–it's basically about quarantine and how you can feel loopy and you can feel happy and you can feel horrible all at the same time," he told GRAMMY.com over the phone.

blackbear spent the weeks leading up to the August release of everything means nothing surfing through Los Angeles Airbnbs, where he wrote and recorded what would turn out to be his two latest projects. Creating music at those rental homes became the mental health escape he needed from the pandemic, he explained.

"We recorded the whole everything means nothing album at probably three different [Airbnb] houses and then, for my mental health, I was like I need to just keep getting houses and keep recording," he said. "So I was like, let's do another project; what could it hurt?"

The result was misery lake–a six-song EP that encapsulates the feelings of loneliness and longing of 2020 in the melancholy-drenched yet undeniably catchy way that only blackbear's music can.

Now, arriving in a post-quarantine world, the EP translates into heartbroken bangers with edgy-pop production that fans will soon be screaming back to blackbear as he tours the U.S. this fall. The 33-stop trek with Maroon 5, which kicked off in Washington earlier this week, is just one of the positive things 2021 has brought the 30-year-old. Earlier this year, blackbear became engaged to his girlfriend Michele Maturo and in January, the couple celebrated their son Midnight's first birthday. The tot's voice can be heard on the outro of misery Lake's "bad day."

"It wakes me up in the morning," blackbear said of being a first-time dad. "It's a reason to keep going and to keep showing up for myself and to be a good example for my son."

Speaking with GRAMMY.com a week before releasing misery lake, blackbear opened up about writing and recording music to protect his mental health, how fatherhood inspires him, his love for BTS, recent cross-genre collaborations and more. After linking back up with his Mansionz collaborator Mike Posner for their single "Jealousy" earlier this year, blackbear also offers fans an update on what's next for the duo. Read his full interview below.

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misery lake is your first project since last year's everything means nothing and it's your first EP since 2017's Salt. Did you set out to make an EP or did it start with "u love u" with Tate McRae and kind of build from there?

 After everything means nothing, I kept wanting to get these writing houses. We kept recording in Airbnbs in L.A. County because my studio is under construction right now, so we were getting Airbnbs and just setting up speakers and microphones in there. [They were] pretty nice places, too. We recorded the whole everything means nothing album at probably three different houses and then, for my mental health, I was like I need to just keep getting houses and keep recording. So I was like, let's do another project; what could it hurt?

Was writing and recording music a good mental health release for you during the weirdness of quarantine?

For sure. The whole underlying theme of the EP is isolation and just feeling so alone. The first track is called "alone in a room full of people" to give you an idea, and it's just kind of a lonely EP, but it actually makes me feel good, too, at the same time.

What was that experience like, recording music in these different houses? I know a lot of artists usually like recording at home or in their studio where they feel most comfortable. Was it different being in these new places?

Yeah, at every house, we just had to kind of feel it out. You can't really tell from the pictures–every house looks nice on Airbnb.com. And then when you get there, you find a good couple houses and you stick to those. We had like two houses that we really liked, where we made everything means nothing in and all of misery lake in.

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Where did the title misery lake come from?

It's about isolation–it's basically about quarantine and how you can feel loopy and you can feel happy and you can feel horrible all at the same time. I really felt like I was in this imaginary place and I started tagging [the location of] my photos on Instagram as "Misery Island," "Misery Lake" and stuff like that, and I was like, you know what? I love that for a title. Maybe my next EP will be called Sorrow Forest.

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"@ my worst" has to be my favorite song on the project. What was the story behind that track?

It was one of our writing trip days and I think we were writing for other artists; I don't think we were writing for blackbear at the time. It just came out, and it was the first time I sat with [the song's co-producer] Andrew [Goldstein] and just really let it all come out. I was feeling a lot at that time. A lot of mental health [stuff] going on, a lot of anxiety.

It came out in a really beautiful way. Like you said, the EP is a lot of isolation and heartbreak, but you've been celebrating lots of good things this year. Your son turned 1 and you recently became engaged. How does your family and being a dad impact your music?

It wakes me up in the morning. It's a reason to keep going and to keep showing up for myself and to be a good example for my son. I just want to be the kind of dad that shows him how to be a man and how to take care of business and really just trust in yourself and trust in the process. I wanna set a good example, and I think that's what it's done for me.

You can hear your son cry at the end of "bad day," which is really cute. What made you want to add that to the track?

We heard him downstairs and he was crying in-key. I was like, "He's going to be a singer." I went down there with my phone and recorded an audio note and that ended up making it onto the song. We didn't autotune it at all. He sang a perfect A major.

That's so cute! Is he already dancing or responding to music?

When we get in the car all he says is, "Dada. Dada. Dada." And he'll cry until Dada's music comes on. He doesn't wanna hear any other artist, it's insane. He's my biggest fan.

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misery lake has that classic blackbear sound, but you've been having a lot of success lately crossing into other genres. For example, what was it like working with Kane Brown on "Memory"?

It was so fundamental for me to work with Kane Brown. I just wanted so badly to work with him. He's my favorite country artist out – besides Sam Hunt. I really like Sam Hunt as well. But Kane Brown especially because he's so versatile, and I love the direction he's moving in with his music. He's open to pop records and he's very open to experiment. He doesn't mind being the different one in the crowd and I love that.

Jungkook from BTS also recently covered your song "smile again" and I saw you gave him a shoutout for the cover on Twitter. Would you be open to collaborating with him or BTS?

I keep sending songs for BTS to cut. That's all I want! All I want is for them to take one of my songs, but I guess I just haven't written the right one yet. I'm just gonna keep trying, 'cause I've already sent them like three songs. I'm really trying really hard. Besides Ariana Grande, BTS is the other artist that I really wanna write for.

Read: Annika Wells On Writing For BTS, Her Advice For Singer/Songwriters & The Secret Value Of Making People Mad

Earlier this year you and Mike Posner reunited to drop "Jealousy." Have you guys been working on anything else lately? Maybe a Mansionz Part II?

We have been working on Mansionz music but not Mansionz Part II officially yet. We've been sending ideas back and forth and when the time's right, when I'm off tour and he's done climbing whatever mountain he's on now. He already summited Mt. Everest; I think he's on another mountain now. He was also talking about going to space. So, as soon as he's done with those endeavors, we'll probably find some time. Both of our schedules have to pan out and we both have big dreams – they're very different dreams, but they're big dreams.

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Like you said, you're getting ready to head out on tour for what will be your first string of shows since before the pandemic. Are you excited to get back out there?

I'm so worried that I'm not in shape enough, but yes. I've been running three miles a day and singing my set and just trying to prepare. Getting IV drips at the house with all the vitamins and everything, just trying not to get sick. My son has the stomach flu, so you know. I've just been in total preparation-mode, like really eating right and drinking my protein shakes. I'm just trying to be prepared for this tour because it's gonna be a big stage and it's gonna knock the wind out of me.

Have you been prepping with Maroon 5 at all? What's that like to get ready to go on tour with them?

I've been prepping over text with Adam Levine. He's been sending me his outfits back and forth so we can coordinate to not dress too similar. And we're making sure that we don't have the same color hair on tour–that's a big thing. [Laughs.] I think he has green hair right now, so I'm not gonna go green. I told him I might want to do pink and he was like, "I want pink." So, I'm just gonna stay blonde.

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You collaborated with Maroon 5 on their album JORDI too, so there's got to be a good chemistry there already.

Yeah, JORDI was such a great album. There's no skips for me.

Earlier this summer you also partnered with the CBD beverage company VYBES to release your own drink that you've said helped you cope with symptoms from your chronic pancreatitis. How have you been doing health-wise?

I get flare-ups a couple times a week and I get an attack probably once a month, but I've been managing it to the best of my ability. I've had to cancel a couple [recording] sessions, but everybody's been really cool. Benny Blanco understood. He was really nice and he rescheduled [our session] about a month later and we made an amazing song together. It's just about managing it and managing my stress because stress is a really big trigger for pancreatitis. So, I've just been trying to keep my stress down and live a stress-free life.

Has it been challenging preparing for a physically-demanding tour?

For sure, there's been a lot of days where I couldn't get out of bed to go work out. So, it's been challenging for sure. But hopefully I can inspire somebody else with chronic illness.

Your fans will definitely appreciate finally getting to see you perform again, too!

That's the first thing I'm gonna say on stage, "I'm back fu**ing outside!"

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9 Essential K-Pop/Western Collabs: From BTS And Megan Thee Stallion, To IVE And Saweetie
Megan Thee Stallion (Center) and (from L to R:) J-Hope, Jin, Jungkook, V, RM, Suga, and Jimin of BTS attend the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 03, 2022.

Photo: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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9 Essential K-Pop/Western Collabs: From BTS And Megan Thee Stallion, To IVE And Saweetie

From Jungkook and Usher's tribute to their shared musical idol, to BLACKPINK and Selena Gomez' sugary sweet collab, K-pop and Western artists of all genres are joining forces to create killer hits.

GRAMMYs/Feb 27, 2024 - 02:12 pm

It’s impossible to ignore the growing global popularity of K-pop. Although Korean pop has been around for decades, the genre's meteoric worldwide success over the past 10 years is reminiscent of Beatlemania and the early 2000s American boy band craze. With a steady increase year-over-year in album sales and K-pop groups touring the U.S. and Europe, interest in K-pop shows no signs of slowing down.

Initially launched in South Korea as a music subgenre with Western pop, R&B and hip-hop influences in the '90s, the K-pop industry is valued at around $10 billion.

Given the worldwide appetite for K-pop, several Western musicians are keen to partner with K-pop acts crossing over into more international markets, often with songs sung partially or entirely in English. While K-pop artists do not need Western artists to be successful — BTS sold out London’s Wembley stadium in under 90 minutes back in 2019, and BLACKPINK made Coachella history twice with performances in 2019 and 2023 — K-pop's massive fanbase and multi-genre influence make it an ideal collaboration for everyone from rappers and singers to electronic DJs.

But don’t take our word for it. Here are nine of the most iconic K-Pop/Western collaborations (not in any order; they are all great songs!).

Usher and Jungkook - "Standing Next to You (Usher Remix)" (2024)

The maknae (the youngest member of the group) of global K-pop superstars BTS and the King of R&B are both having banner years: Jungkook released his debut solo album, and Usher just performed at the Super Bowl

The Bangtan Boys have cited Usher as a significant influence (even singing a callback to his 2001 hit "U Got It Bad" in their No. 1 song, "Butter"), so BTS fans were delighted when the Jungkook tapped Usher for a remix of "Standing Next to You." The song marks the fourth single from his Billboard 200 chart-topping debut album, Golden

Both singers count Michael Jackson as a major influence. In their collaboration video, Usher and Jungkook pay tribute to the King of Pop as they slide, pop, and lock across the slick floor of an abandoned warehouse. 

John Legend and Wendy of Red Velvet - "Written in the Stars" (2018)

R&B singer/pianist John Legend was the perfect choice for an R&B ballad with Wendy, the main vocalist of K-pop quintet Red Velvet. The final song on the five-track SM Station x 0, a digital music project, "Written in the Stars," is a beautiful, mid-tempo love song. A bit of a departure from K-pop’s typical upbeat sound, Wendy and Legend are in perfect harmony over a warm yet melancholic rhythm.

As Red Velvet’s main vocalist, Wendy was the ideal voice for this collaboration. Additionally, she split her childhood between Canada and the U.S., and has been comfortable singing in English since Red Velvet debuted in 2014. This wasn't her first collab with a Western artist: In 2017, she released an English-language version of the pop ballad "Vente Pa’Ca" with Ricky Martin

BLACKPINK and Selena Gomez - "Ice Cream" (2020)

A powerhouse debut single, BLACKPINK collaborated with pop royalty Selena Gomez on the massive 2020 hit "Ice Cream."

An electropop-bubblegum fusion filled with dairy double entendres, "Ice Cream" was an enormous success for both Gomez and the BLACKPINK girls. The track peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has racked up nearly 900 million YouTube views to date. 

Written by a consortium of hitmakers, including Ariana Grande and BLACKPINK’s longtime songwriter and producer Teddy Park (a former K-pop idol himself), "Ice Cream" shows that YG Entertainment’s golden foursome and Gomez were the correct partnership for this track. The pop-trap bop marked the first time a K-pop girl group broke the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and immediately solidified BLACKPINK as global superstars. 

Snoop Dogg and Monsta X - "How We Do" (2022)

West Coast rap godfather Snoop Dogg has quietly become one of the go-to Western acts for K-pop collabs, working with Psy, BTS, Girls’ Generation and 2NE1. K-pop is the Dogg Father's "guilty pleasure," and he performed at the Mnet Asian Music Awards with Dr. Dre in 2011. Without Snoop's love of K-pop, the world might not have gotten this fun and energetic collaboration with Snoop and Monsta X, a five-member boy group under Starship Entertainment.

The song appears in The Spongebob Movie: Sponge On The Run in a dance segment where Snoop, decked out in a pink and purple Western suit, is accompanied by zombie dancers. Though we do not see the members of Monsta X, their harmonious crooning is the perfect accent to Snoop Dogg’s trademark casual West Coast flow.

BTS and Steven Aoki - "MIC Drop (Steve Aoki remix)" (2017)

No K-pop list is complete with a nod to the magnificent seven, and "MIC Drop" is one of their catchiest Western collabs to date. 

"Mic Drop" is quintessential BTS: a nod to hip-hop with a heavy bass line and fun choreography. While the original version of "MIC Drop" is excellent, the remix with EDM superstar DJ Steve Aoki and rapper Desiigner cracked the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100 — the first of many hits for the Bulletproof Boy Scouts. 

Released at a time when BTS were just starting their ascent to chart-topping Western dominance, the track's boastful lyrics and tension-building electro-trap production offered an excellent introduction to the group that would soon become international superstars. 

JYJ, Kanye West and Malik Yusef - "Ayyy Girl" (2010)

A truly deep K-pop cut, you’d be hard-pressed to find many people who know that Kanye West collaborated with a first-generation K-pop group over 13 years ago. Released as the lead single on JYJ’s English-language album The Beginning, West’s signature bravado and wordplay are on full display over a track that sounds like the Neptunes produced it.

The song garnered attention in the U.S., but after a string of bad luck (including a severely delayed U.S. visa process and issues with their management company, SM Entertainment), JYJ could not capitalize on their American success. The group continued to see success in Korea and Japan in the early 2010s but never made a splash in the Western market again.

IVE and Saweetie - "All Night" (2024)

A reimagining of Icona Pop’s 2013 song of the same name, "All Night," sees fourth-generation K-pop girl group IVE partner with rap’s resident glamor girl Saweetie for a funky, electronic-infused pop song that’s perfect for dancing from dusk till dawn. 

"All Night" is the first English song for the Starship Entertainment-backed group. Interestingly, none of the members of IVE have individual lines in the song, choosing instead to sing the lyrics in a six-part harmony. This choice is exciting but fun, giving listeners the feeling that they are more than welcome to sing along. 

The girl group embarked on their first 24-date world tour in January 2024, with stops in the U.S., Asia, Europe and South America. Given their quest for global dominance, there’s a good chance "All Night" won’t be IVE's last English-language release.

BTS and Megan Thee Stallion - "Butter (Remix)" (2021)

BTS’ "Butter" had already spent three weeks atop the Billboard charts and was declared the "song of the summer" when the group’s label announced Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion as the guest star for the song’s remix in late August 2021. The GRAMMY-nominated septet is no stranger to collaborating with Western musicians, having worked with Halsey, Jason Derulo, and Coldplay

Though only slightly altered from the original (Megan’s verse was added in place of the song’s second original verse, along with several ad-libs), the remix was praised by both fans and critics alike, catapulting the song’s return back to the No. 1. Although the collaborators did not release a new music video featuring the group and the self-proclaimed "Hot Girl Coach," three members of BTS’ "dance line" (members J-Hope, Jungkook and Jimin) released a specially choreographed dance video. Additionally, Megan was a surprise guest during BTS’ record-breaking Permission to Dance LA concert in November of the same year.

LE SSERAFIM and Niles Rodgers - "Unforgiven" (2023)

GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Nile Rodgers' first foray into K-pop was a partnership with LE SSERAFIM, a fourth-gen girl group from the same parent company behind BTS. "Unforgiven" was released earlier this year as the lead single from the group’s debut album of the same name. 

A darker take on the familiar K-pop formula with A Western feel and look (the young quintuplet dons cowboy hats, boots and bolo ties in the song’s accompanying music video), "Unforgiven" is about rebellion and being a fierce, strong and independent risk taker. That riskiness drew Rodgers' ear. 

"It seems like a lot of the K-pop that I'm hearing lately, the…chord changes are a lot more interesting than what's been happening [in other music fields] over the last few years," he told GRAMMY.com in 2023. "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."

15 K-Pop Songs That Took 2023 By Storm: From Seventeen’s "Super (손오공)" to NewJeans' "Super Shy"

4 Reasons Why Eminem's 'The Slim Shady LP' Is One Of The Most Influential Rap Records
Eminem

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4 Reasons Why Eminem's 'The Slim Shady LP' Is One Of The Most Influential Rap Records

Eminem’s major label debut, 'The Slim Shady LP,' turns 25 on Feb. 23. The album left an indelible imprint on hip-hop, and introduced the man who would go on to be the biggest-selling artist of any genre in the ensuing decade.

GRAMMYs/Feb 23, 2024 - 03:44 pm

A quarter century has passed since the mainstream music world was first introduced to a bottle-blonde enfant terrible virtuoso who grabbed everyone’s attention and wouldn’t let go

But enough about Christina Aguilera.

Just kidding. Another artist also exploded into stardom in 1999 — one who would become a big enough pop star, despite not singing a note, that he would soon be feuding with Xtina. Eminem’s biting major label debut The Slim Shady LP turns 25 on Feb. 23. While it was Eminem's second release, the album was the first taste most rap fans got of the man who would go on to be the biggest-selling artist in any genre during the ensuing decade. It also left an indelible imprint on hip-hop.

The Slim Shady LP is a record of a rapper who was white (still a comparative novelty back in 1999), working class and thus seemingly from a different universe than many mainstream rappers in the "shiny suit era." And where many of those contemporaries were braggadocious, Eminem was the loser in his rhymes more often than he was the winner. In fact, he talked so much about his real-life childhood bully on the album that the bully ended up suing him.  

It was also a record that played with truth and identity in ways that would become much more difficult once Em became world famous. Did he mean the outrageous things he was saying? Where were the knowing winks, and where were they absent? The guessing games that the album forced listeners to play were thrilling — and made all the more intense by his use of three personas (Marshall Mathers the person; Eminem the battle rapper; and Slim Shady the unhinged alter ego) that bled into each other.

And, of course, there was the rhyming. Eminem created a dizzying array of complicated compound rhymes and assonances, even finding time to rhyme "orange" — twice. (If you’re playing at home, he paired "foreign tools" with "orange juice" and "ignoring skill" with "orange bill.")

While the above are reason enough to revisit this classic album, pinpointing The Slim Shady LP's influence is a more complicated task. Other records from that year — releases from Jay-Z, Nas, Lil Wayne, Ludacris, and even the Ruff Ryders compilation Ryde or Die Vol. 1 — have a more direct throughline to the state of mainstream rap music today. So much of SSLP, on the other hand, is tied into Eminem’s particular personality and position. This makes Slim Shady inimitable; there aren’t many mainstream rappers complaining about their precarious minimum wage job, as Em does on "If I Had." (By the time of his next LP, Em had gone triple-platinum and couldn’t complain about that again himself.)

But there are aspects of SSLP that went on to have a major impact. Here are a few of the most important ones.

It Made Space For Different Narratives In Hip-Hop

Before Kanye rapped about working at The Gap, Eminem rapped about working at a burger joint. The Slim Shady LP opened up space for different narratives in mainstream rap music. 

The Slim Shady LP didn't feature typical rags-to-riches stories, tales of living the high life or stories from the street. Instead, there were bizarre trailer-park narratives (in fact, Eminem was living in a trailer months after the record was released), admissions of suicidal ideation ("That’s why I write songs where I die at the end," he explained on "Cum on Everybody"), memories of a neglectful mother, and even a disturbing story-song about dumping the corpse of his baby’s mother, rapped to his actual child (who cameos on the song). 

Marshall Mathers’ life experience was specific, of course, but every rapper has a story of their own. The fact that this one found such a wide audience demonstrated that audiences would accept tales with unique perspectives. Soon enough, popular rappers would be everything from middle-class college dropouts to theater kids and teen drama TV stars.

The Album Explored The Double-Edged Sword Of The White Rapper

Even as late in the game as 1999, being a white rapper was still a comparative novelty. There’s a reason that Em felt compelled to diss pretty much every white rapper he could think of on "Just Don’t Give a F—," and threatened to rip out Vanilla Ice’s dreadlocks on "Role Model": he didn’t want to be thought of like those guys. 

"People don't have a problem with white rappers now because Eminem ended up being the greatest artist," Kanye West said in 2015. You can take the "greatest artist" designation however you like, but it’s very true that Eminem’s success meant a categorical change in the status of white rappers in the mainstream.

This turned out to be a mixed blessing. While the genre has not, as some feared, turned into a mostly-white phenomenon, America’s racial disparities are often played out in the way white rappers are treated. Sales aside, they have more room to maneuver artistically — playing with different genres while insulting rap a la Post Malone,  or even changing styles completely like Machine Gun Kelly — to commercial approbation. Black artists who attempt similar moves are frequently met with skepticism or disinterest (see André 3000’s New Blue Sun rollout, which was largely spent explaining why the album features no rapping). 

Sales are worth speaking about, too. As Eminem has repeatedly said in song, no small amount of his popularity comes from his race — from the fact that white audiences could finally buy music from a rapper who looked like them. This was, as he has also bemusedly noted, the exact opposite of how his whiteness worked for him before his fame, when it was a barrier to being taken seriously as a rapper. 

For better, worse, or somewhere in between, the sheer volume of white rappers who are currently in the mainstream is largely traceable to the world-beating success of The Slim Shady LP.

It Was Headed Towards An Odd Future

SSLP laid groundwork for the next generation of unconventional rappers, including Tyler, the Creator.

Tyler is a huge Eminem fan. He’s said that listening to Em’s SSLP follow-up The Marshall Mathers LP was "how I learned to rap." And he’s noted that Em’s Relapse was "one of the greatest albums to me." 

"I just wanted to rap like Eminem on my first two albums," he once told GQ. More than flow, the idea of shocking people, being alternately angry and vulnerable, and playing with audience reaction is reflected heavily on Tyler’s first two albums, Goblin and Wolf. That is the template The Slim Shady LP set up. While Tyler may have graduated out of that world and moved on to more mature things, it was following Em’s template that first gained him wide notice. 

Eminem Brought Heat To Cold Detroit

The only guest artist to spit a verse on The Slim Shady LP is Royce da 5’9". This set the template for the next few years of Eminem’s career: Detroit, and especially his pre-fame crew from that city, would be his focus. There was his duo with Royce, Bad Meets Evil, whose pre-SSLP single of "Nuttin’ to Do"/"Scary Movies" would get renewed attention once those same two rappers had a duet, smartly titled "Bad Meets Evil," appear on a triple-platinum album. And of course there was the group D12, five Detroit rappers including his best friend Proof, with whom Eminem would release a whole album at the height of his fame.

This was not the only mainstream rap attention Detroit received in the late 1990s. For one thing, legendary producer James "J Dilla" Yancey, was a native of the city. But Eminem’s explosion helped make way for rappers in the city, even ones he didn’t know personally, to get attention. 

The after-effects of the Eminem tsunami can still be seen. Just look at the rise of so-called "scam rap" over the past few years. Or the success of artists like Babyface Ray, Kash Doll, 42 Dugg, and Veeze. They may owe little to Em artistically, but they admit that he’s done great things for the city — even if they may wish he was a little less reclusive these days

Is Eminem's "Stan" Based On A True Story? 10 Facts You Didn't Know About The GRAMMY-Winning Rapper

6 Takeaways From 'BTS Monuments: Beyond The Star'
BTS (from left): V, Suga, Jin, Jung Kook, RM, Jimin and J-Hope

PHOTO: AXELLE/BAUER-GRIFFIN/FILMMAGIC

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6 Takeaways From 'BTS Monuments: Beyond The Star'

In honor of BTS' 10th anniversary, Disney+ released 'BTS Monuments: Beyond the Star.' Two of the eight episode docuseries are available to stream; read on for a deeper look at the septet's history, accomplishments, and behind-the-scenes moments.

GRAMMYs/Dec 22, 2023 - 08:38 pm

Today, it’s hard to avoid BTS. You might have heard their GRAMMY-nominated singles "Dynamite" and "Butter" playing at a random store. Maybe you learned about another record they broke in the news. Or, you probably know at least one person in their passionate, loyal fanbase, also known as Army.

But before there was BTS, the international sensation, there was Kim Seok-jin (Jin), Min Yoon-gi (Suga), Jung Ho-seok (J-Hope), Kim Nam-joon (RM), Park Ji-min (Jimin), Kim Tae-hyung (V), and Jeon Jung-kook (Jung Kook), seven hopefuls from across South Korea with one dream and thousands of hours of dedication to their craft.

A decade ago, it might have seemed impossible for a group like BTS to be at the top in their home country — let alone one of the biggest groups on the planet. In Korea, it was only likely to become successful if you had one of the legacy names, such as SM Entertainment, backing you, and they came from the virtually unknown Big Hit Entertainment (now Big Hit Music under conglomerate HYBE).

Year after year, the septet defied odds, from winning Best New Artist at the esteemed Melon Music Awards in 2013 to earning Top Social Artist across the globe at the Billboard Music Awards consecutively between 2017 and 2021. They have amassed 26 Guinness World Records and became the first Korean act to receive multiple nods from the GRAMMYs.

In honor of their 10th anniversary as BTS, Disney+ released BTS Monuments: Beyond the Star. The docuseries offers a deeper look at the septet's massive accomplishments, tracing back to their initial auditions in 2010. The first two of eight episodes are available to stream now.

Below, discover everything we learned thus far about the icons in their latest docuseries, BTS Monuments: Beyond the Star.

The BTS Grind Never Stops

You see their flawless choreography, calculated facial expressions and glamorous outfits, but you never know the amount of preparation it takes to get there.

For example, BTS rehearsed the lead single, "Danger," from their debut studio album, Dark & Wild, until the wee hours of the morning for weeks. They then traveled to Los Angeles to promote the single and, despite Big Hit’s unstable financial state, implemented a huge budget to produce the music video. The goal was to win the television competition "SBS Inkigayo."

"As expected, we didn’t place first and left the charts in a day," RM remarks in the episode.

The intense training and dieting caused them to question if their slow traction was worth the battle. "To be honest, I didn’t think this was fun in the past," Jin tearfully mentioned in a 2013 fan meeting. "There were a lot of things they couldn’t get started because they weren’t sure what path we were on."

Through their frustrations, BTS never gave up, and eventually, the perseverance led to their first mega-hits, "I Need U" and "Fire" in 2017. They obtained their desired results and still never decreased their work ethic, which skyrocketed their career to an even higher level. "We’ve always worked hard, whether there was a crisis or not," Jin explains.

Everyone Had Their Unique Strengths

What makes BTS a powerhouse is that each member had a clear-cut reason they joined, and as Suga notes, it took "countless" changes to perfect it into the current lineup.

According to HYBE chairman and the group’s creator, Bang Si-hyuk, he was impressed by RM’s "depth of character and base of knowledge"; Suga had a unique sarcastic, dark side; J-Hope was "the personification of diligence" and a strong dancer; Jin’s handsome features would easily attract a fandom; Jung Kook had "a lot" of potential; V was effortlessly charming; and Jimin was instantly talented and intrigued the team.

They’re More Than Colleagues — They’re Family

It’s common for manufactured groups not to bond beyond the stage. However, BTS see themselves more like family than co-workers.

Showing up for one another’s personal affairs was second nature. Without question, they watched Jung Kook enter high school, taking photos and teasing their younger brother, or maknae. The docuseries also flashes back to J-Hope’s surprise birthday party, where the six created a sentimental video of his family.

"I had found my place," J-Hope shares. "I believe that [joining BTS] was the most fateful moment of my life."

Being A K-Pop Idol Wasn’t Always Respected

For many aspiring musicians, especially those of Asian heritage, becoming an idol is the ultimate goal. You completely surrender to your art, spending nearly every waking hour doing what you love. If you’re lucky enough to debut at a company like HYBE, you will undoubtedly join the ranks of K-pop’s most influential. Better than anyone else, BTS knows that wasn’t always the case.

"There was a strong negative view of idols," Suga recounts of their breakthrough EP The Most Beautiful Moment in Life. "Nowadays, we are acknowledged for our achievements and performances overseas, but it was a really agonizing time for us back then. We had a lot of unreasonable controversies."

They became "desperate and spiteful," but because of the support from the Army, they overcame the rough patch and switched the narrative. As a thank you to their fans, they wrote "2! 3!" to say, "Let’s forget it all."

The United States Was A Turning Point In Their Career

By 2016, BTS knew they were stars in Korea. They performed in the biggest venue at the time, the Olympic Gymnastics Arena, with a capacity of 25,000 people. They won the Mnet Asian Music Awards' most coveted honor: Artist Of The Year.

"In a movie, the credits would start rolling. At that point, we’d done everything we could as Korean artists," Suga says with a laugh. So, what’s next? Conquer the rest of the world.

The following year, BTS performed at the Billboard Music Awards, certain that nothing would come of it. To their surprise, they won Top Social Artist, which had previously only been awarded to Justin Bieber.

"It was the start of raising people’s awareness of us as the group BTS," RM reveals. Things continued to snowball: they performed at the American Music Awards and dropped a remix with Steve Aoki.

By early 2022, BTS were making history. The group performed their smash hit "Butter" onstage at the 64th GRAMMY Awards.

They Believe In The Power Of Art

When the pandemic began in 2020, entertainment was the first sacrifice. "‘Concerts may never be held again. People are unable to gather,’" Suga recalls hearing on broadcasts. They began to wonder if there was a point in releasing music.

After two years of self-reflection and improvement, they knew COVID-19 could not be the end. Music gave them purpose. "That was the driving force," J-Hope says. "I wasn’t completely aware of how important music and dancing was to me. I realized that I shouldn’t take it all for granted."

The lockdown also showed them the impact Army had on their lives. They motivated them to keep going because they knew how much the band meant to their fans. They witnessed it constantly when they saw the fervent cheers and tears on tour. BTS has brought together millions of people. As Namjoon promises, "Art can change the world," and "Music transcends languages, nationalities and races."

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11 Iconic Concert Films To Watch After 'Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour'
(From left) Chris Frantz, Tina Weymouth, David Byrne and Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads attend a 'Stop Making Sense' Q&A in Brooklyn

Photo: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for BAM

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11 Iconic Concert Films To Watch After 'Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour'

The concert film seems to be having a moment. From the Talking Heads to Queen, read on for 11 concert film experiences that will help keep the party going.

GRAMMYs/Oct 18, 2023 - 02:51 pm

A lavender haze has descended upon movie theaters across America. 

Taylor Swift’s filmed version of her historic Eras tour is the movie-music event of the year, dominating the box office becoming highest grossing dometic concert film in Hollywood history after a single weekend. Byt the time the Eras credits roll, you know all too well that you’re going to want to keep the party going.

Luckily, there are a breadth of artists whose musical singularity is reflected on the silver screen. Swift's major influence notwithstanding, the concert film seems to be having a moment in recent years: Pop stars such as Lizzo (Live in Concert), Selena Gomez (My Mind and Me) and Lewis Capaldi have released popular concert films.

From Beyoncé’s stunning Homecoming, to acclaimed concert films from Queen to Talking Heads and new entries like from the boys in BTS, read on for 11 excellent concert film experiences.

Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce (2019)

When Beyoncé headlined the Coachella Music and Arts Festival — the first Black woman to do so — in 2018, she didn’t just perform; she delivered a tour de force extravaganza that spurred a whole new moniker: Beychella. 

Shot over two nights, the Netflix film Homecoming includes a discography-spanning retrospective and memorable performances of "Run the World," "Single Ladies" and "Formation." Layered in ware nods to the Historically Black College and University experience, legends like Nina Simone and dazzling array of choreography, wardrobe and vocal chops. 

The New Yorker later hailed it a "triumphant self portrait" and "a spectacle of soul." Directed by Queen Bey herself, Homecoming took home the golden gramophone for Best Music Film at hte 62nd GRAMMYs. 

Stop Making Sense (1984)

The filmmaker Jonathan Demme is known for classics like Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, but he was also a major force in concert films. Among his achievements in this field is Stop Making Sense, his 1984 portrait of David Byrne and his Talking Heads.

Filmed at the peak of the band's popularity and following the release of Speaking in Tongues (which featured "This Must Be The Place" and "Burning Down the House,"), Stop Making Sense  is a cult classic, from its array of hits to the band’s massive suits which became their calling card. 

The film was re-released in theaters last month. "I'm kind of looking at it and thinking, who is that guy?," said David Byrne in a recent interview with NPR about watching his younger self. "I'm impressed with the film and impressed with our performance. But I'm also having this really jarring experience of thinking, ‘He's so serious.’" 

BTS: Yet to Come in Cinemas (2023)

While the GRAMMY-nominated South Korean superstars BTS may be on a break — Jung Kook recently announced that he will release his debut solo full-length- bask in the glow of the K-pop and their rollicking concert film earlier this year. In the film, Jung Kook alongside Jin, RM, Jimin, V, J-Hope as they smoothly perform their calvadace of hits, including "Butter" and"Dynamite" in a 2022 performance for Busan, South Korea’s rally to host the 2030 World Expo. 

The boys are actually no stranger to the genre, with Yet To Come marking their fifth concert film in addition to BTS Permission to Dance on Stage — Seoul: Live Viewing and 2020’s Break the Silence: The Movie among others. 

Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991)

With off-stage footage shot in black and white and performances in vivid color, this early '90s classic depicts Queen Madge at the height of her power. Taken from an actual game Madonna and friends play towards the end of the film (to scandalous results), Truth or Dare showcases the breadth of Madonna’s superstardom up until that point with performances of classics like "Holiday" and "Like a Virgin" with its artfully-shot juxtaposition of performance and documentary footage a trailblazer in the concert film genre. 

"The surprise of Truth or Dare is just what a blast Madonna is," wrote the Guardian on the occasion of the film’s 30th anniversary. "Nastily funny, openly horny, undisguised in her contempt for anyone she deems less fabulous than herself and her blessed collaborators." 

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never (2011)

Way before Swiftmania, there was Bieber Fever. In the wake of Justin Bieber’s explosive rise, Never Say Never interspersed performances with snapshots of his journey from humble Canadian roots to global pop force to be reckoned with. 

Helmed by Jon M. Chu (who’d go onto direct blockbusters like Crazy Rich Asians and In the Heights), Never Say Never is a time capsule of a younger, more innocent Bieber and his early earworm bubblegum hits. Until Swift's Eras is tallied it’s the top-grossing concert movie ever released in the USA. 

Prince: Sign o’ the Times (1987)

This iconic concert film was once hard to come by; after its theatrical run, Sign o’ the Times was only issued on VHS and eventually went out of print. But thanks to the magic of streaming, one can now easily transport oneself back to the '80s and enjoy the magic that is Prince

Directed by the artist and using his acclaimed 1987 album Sign o’ the Times as a jumping off point (the album itself was a 2017 inductee into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame), the film reminds viewers of the Purple One's magnetism. Under an array of colorful lights and performing to a raucous crowd, the icon may have died in 2016, but Sign o’ the Times serves as a deft time capsule of his royal talent. 

Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012)

As Katy Perry was in the midst of releasing her acclaimed album Teenage Dream, the pop singer had the foresight to chronicle the ensuing pandemonium.

 "I feel like it was, like, a big wave coming," she told ABC upon the release of Katy Perry: Part of Me, the 2012 concert film that documented her blockbuster California Dreams tour. "I thought to myself, 'Well, I think this is going to be a moment. Maybe I should catch it on tape. I'm either going to go completely mental, completely bankrupt, or have the best success of my life." 

Fortunately the later wound up occurring, with the subsequent film a celebrity-packed (featuring everyone from Lady Gaga to Adele) hit-filled ("Teenage Dream" and "California Girls") look into the life, times and music of the star. 

Queen: Live at Wembley ‘86 (1986)

Freddie Mercury and Queen were staples of London's Wembley Stadium, performing many memorable shows, including an iconic turn at Live Aid in the early '80s and a Mercury tribute show in the '90s. 

Songs like "We Will Rock You" and "We Are the Champions" fit right in on Wembley's massive stage, with the concert film depicting the thundering live versions of those classics. Relive those heady days with this film which showcases just what made Mercury and his band rock icons, and huge ones at that. 

"Mercury was indeed a born ringmaster," wrote CNN in a piece about their status as stadium savants. "There was no alienating affectation, no wallowing in sentiment... Queen consciously wrote their songs as vehicles for theatrics."

Summer of Soul (2021)

Back in 1969, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Nina Simone and B.B. King joined forces for the Harlem Cultural Festival, a mostly forgotten multi-week legendary summit. That all changed when Roots frontman Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson obtained a treasure trove worth of footage and directed this stunning film, aptly dubbed Summer of Soul, which brought the event back to vivid life and subsequent acclaim including a GRAMMY Award for Best Music Film. 

"It was gold," Thompson told Pitchfork of his process of sifting through the footage to create what would become a passion project. "If anything, it was an embarrassment of riches. It was too much. I kept this on a 24-hour loop for about six months straight. Slept to it. Traveled to it. It was the only thing I consumed."

Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids (2016)

Also directed by Jonathan Demme and released before his 2017 death, Justin Timberlake + The Tennessee Kids showcases Timberlake's  popular 20/20 Experience World Tour and litany of solo hits including "Sexyback" and "Suit & Tie."  

"I don’t think anything can compete with live performance," admitted Demme to Rolling Stone before his death in 2017. "You can’t beat it. But we strive to provide the most exciting interpretation of that feeling, as filmmakers. We can provide a roving best seat in the house. We can linger on closeups. We can follow the dynamics of the music. I love shooting music." 

The Last Waltz (1978)

One of the earliest projects of director Martin Scorsese’s career was helping edit the monumental film version of Woodstock in 1970. But as that decade progressed and the auteur became known for narrative features including Mean Streets, he revisited his roots by directing The Last Waltz. A trailblazer in the genre, the film captures the last performance of The Band featuring frontman Robbie Robertson alongside a range of guests including Bob Dylan, Ringo Starr and Eric Clapton. Filmed on Thanksgiving Day in 1976, it’s a time capsule of the day’s biggest acts at the height of their artistry. 

"It's a picture that kind of saved my life at the time," Scorsese told an audience at the Toronto International Film Festival during a 2019 screening. "It's very special to me. Forty years on, it's very special to a great number of us."

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