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Bootsy Collins: "I'm Hoping The World Comes Together Like We Did On This Album"

Bootsy Collins

Photo: Michael Weintrob

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Bootsy Collins: "I'm Hoping The World Comes Together Like We Did On This Album"

On his new album, 'The Power of the One,' released Oct. 23 on his own Bootzilla Records, we witness the almost-69-year-old (his birthday is Oct. 26) thriving in his musical playground

GRAMMYs/Oct 24, 2020 - 04:09 am

GRAMMY winner and 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Bootsy Collins has been embodying the funk and sharing his grooviness for decades, ever since he joined James Brown's band in 1969. It was then, from the Godfather of Soul himself, he first learned the Power of the One, or the importance of synching on the one-beat.

With George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, Bootsy's Rubber Band, his solo records and endless collaborations, he's harnessed that funky power and grown it into a philosophy, a way of life. Through it all he's always bringing the funk into new spaces and to new ears, whether directly—Fatboy Slim's GRAMMY-winning 2000 dance anthem "Weapon Of Choice" wouldn't soar without Collin's voice—or through those he's influenced like Childish Gambino on his infectiously groovy GRAMMY-winner "Redbone." He is the true definition of a living legend, yet he's incredibly humble and always interested in learning more and working with other artists.

On his new album, The Power of the One, released today (Oct. 23) on his own Bootzilla Records, we witness the almost-69-year-old (his birthday is Oct. 26) thriving in his musical playground. It's playful, funky, joyous and filled with talented collaborators from across the musical spectrum, including Snoop Dogg, Dr. Cornel West, Branford Marsalis, Ellis Hall and up-and-comers Brandon "Taz" Niederauer and Emmaline. While he had to adapt to virtual collaboration when they pandemic hit—the album was about half done at this point—he is undeniably thrilled with the result and rightly so.

"To be around these people, they made the record become what it is because to have the older people with the younger people and everyone in-between, all this going on on the record. And just making music together. It's like making love, it's like making friends. In a time like we're in now, to do that, what else could you ask for? It's just a great feeling. I can tell you, I know they had the same kind of feeling," Collins told us recently over the phone.

We caught up with the master himself to learn more about finishing the album during quarantine, bringing together the talented collaborators, mentoring younger artists over the years and, of course, the Power of the One.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with me. I hope your day is good so far.

Yeah. Just gearing up, getting myself together to go out there and do it one more time, you know? We got the record off. That was the good part for me, was to at least get through it because it is a very deep time that kind of hit us out of the blue. Getting through it was a beautiful thing. It actually helped keep me sane.

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I bet, having something to work on. And my first question is about your new album, The Power Of The One, which is coming out pretty soon. What do you hope this album offers to the world and to its listeners?

I'm hoping the world comes together like we did on this album. All the musicians, everybody that really put their time and energy in it—and they really, really wanted to do it. It wasn't like somebody forced them to do it or paid them on such a big scale that they just had to do it. Everybody joined me and did it because it was fun.

It reminded everybody that, even in a difficult time, each and every one of us can get some kind of joy out of it and at the same time, help somebody else share some good vibes. If we didn't get nothing else but some good vibes, that was really good enough because everybody needs some of that right now.

I think on this record, that's what it's really all about. Good vibes, being in the kitchen cooking up something a little different here and there, using a different recipe. Even a recipe that's not traditional. On this album, that's what I wanted to show—it doesn't have to be a certain traditional record. It could be everybody together just having a good time because, to me, that was the main thing. Stop stressing yourself. Have a good time doing it and doing it with somebody you want to do it with. That's key. I think everybody felt that and it comes off of the record like that, from what people are telling me.

You're right, I think we all need some good vibes right now.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That to me is what the Power of the One is, the power of all of the people coming together and just doing what we have to do to get through it, to get over the hump. Putting all of our differences all by the wayside because we all realize we're just human and we need each other. We're coming up in a time where people don't really feel like they need each other because the technology we have is saying you don't need nobody. You can take your office with you. You got it right there in your hand, your iPhone, and you really don't need people.

Once you get used to that, it turns on you. It's like a Frankenstein monster. The monster is cool and everything, but one day he wakes up and realizes he's a monster and turns on you. I think that's what happened in the world. We got to take the power within all of us where we're standing. I think this music will help in our healing, help in our focus, and help us to have a little joy and a little fun along with all the deepness that is going on. That's what I wanted to do with this record, really just to put some joy and fun in everybody's lives.

More Inspiration: Brandon Lucas Talks Staying Hopeful, Working With Dr. Cornel West & Empowering Dance Producers Of Color

Can you explain the Power of the One a little more, both like musical technique and the philosophy?

Well, actually The Power of the One grew out of when I worked with James Brown, he was always saying to the band, "You got to put it on the one. Give me that one and you can play everything else, but just hit it on the one." On every measure you count, the emphasis is on that down beat. To this day, even on a computer, when you have a four by four [beat], you got that one. You'll hear that click louder on the emphasis on that one beat. That brings everybody's focus to it.

This is where we all meet up, right here on the one. I, out of that training with James Brown, I took that over to Parliament-Funkadelic and George Clinton made a whole concept out of everything's on the one. He even made a record called "Everything Is On The One." I guess with all of that growing and experiencing the one, it grew to me as even bigger than just being a musical term. Now for me, it's more everybody is part of the Power of the One.

It's like everybody's around that one wall and everybody gets that certain frequency all at the same time and that wall will come down. That's the Power of the One. We just have to realize that that's what we got to do, everybody's got to be in sync with each other. Once we began to be in sync with each other, all of this mess that we're going through falls down. I want to get people to realize that we do have that power within ourselves.

We got to get focused and quit running from each other. We've got to all come together on the one and that's when you get the Power of the One. I'm just trying to redirect people to come together. It doesn't matter who your father is—I just have to respect your father and you have to respect mine. That's the Power of the One, when you realize that none of that stuff really matters.

We're all on this spaceship mother earth and we're traveling through time and space on earth. This is our mothership. Nobody's throwing us out. We're on it together and the sooner we realize that, the better. Because you can't be here and be better than somebody else. I'm not better than nobody else. Out here, I'm just like you.

It's really about us getting along and getting together while we're here. This is the opportunity for us. It's just like this album. This album was the opportunity to put all these beautiful people together that are not necessarily supposed to be together on a record. I'm just crazy enough to believe that if we can do it on an album, we can certainly can do this in a world like we have today.

That's mainly the reason I wanted to do something like this, to show that it's bigger than all of us. It's much bigger than what I think it should be or what you think it should be. It's much bigger than that and that's the Power of the One that's within all of us. No one's got it more, no one's got it less. Everybody has their power, you just have to develop it.

"It's really about us getting along and getting together while we're here. This is the opportunity for us. It's just like this album. This album was the opportunity to put all these beautiful people together that are not necessarily supposed to be together on a record. I'm just crazy enough to believe that if we can do it on an album, we can certainly can do this in a world like we have today."

That's some philosophy right there.

[Laughs.] I hope you got it down. I'd like to read that book myself. [Laughs.] Oh, man. That's the top layer at least. I'll have to keep digging and we'll get more of it coming up. For now, that's where I'm at. I just want people to respect and believe in each other, and dig in on each other. We got to get back to having some kind of fun. I think that's got a lot to do with why this has happened. These kinds of tragedies, it's like man, if you can't wake up after this, you're already dead. I know we're not dead now.

We're being hard headed. We are thinking we're something that we're not. We're all human. We haven't transformed yet into that other frequency. Until then, we got to deal with each other. We got to start learning how to because we've been learning the complete opposite. Now, the One has introduced us, now you have to know and love and trust each other. There's no other alternative now. We are past that point. It's either that or the other craziness.

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I feel that. There are a lot of really great collabs on the album, but I wanted to talk specifically about the creative process behind "Jam On" with Snoop Dogg and Brandon Taz. How did that one happen?

Oh, man. That was a track that Snoop and I had done and hadn't really finished. We did it for another album. It was like, man, that track would show a lot of fun and that you can mix different things and come up with something that is not new in a sense, but I guess fresh for today. It brings the old with the new, the guitar playing from Taz, his new energy that he's got, with Snoop's raps and my own peace vibe going on. I thought that would be a beautiful, what you would call, a sandwich or a dinner. Sure enough, it was so easy to put together. I talked to Taz, then I went to see him at a concert. This was all before the pandemic hit.

We got to vibing and I was like, "Man, we should go in the studio." And sure enough, we went to Sweetwater and recorded all of his stuff. And Snoop and myself, we did our parts here at the Bootcave [his home studio]. We got lucky on that song, because got about 60 percent done with the album [before the pandemic] and the rest of it we had to start sending out on WeTransfer, that kind of stuff.

We send them to artists and they send you back what they did and then you get on the phone and talk about what needs to change, what key to go to and this, that and the other. That was a much harder way of recording than being in the studio with the actual person. That's when it's really fun. I got a 50/50 deal on recording this album—recording half live and then the other 50 percent we had to record basically on the internet.

That was something I had to get used to, but at the same time, I don't think I'll ever get used to that. But I learned how to do it, enough to get it done. We started adding horns, all kinds of different stuff, but I had to send the actual file to the person. That particular song, "Jam On," we got that pretty much done in the studio, so that was a blessing because we had fun doing it.

I'm sure so much of creating funk music is being in the studio together riffing off each other and going with the flow. That must have been different to not have that tangible element of it for part of the album.

Yeah, yeah. It's totally different. It's just like you and the guy you're talking to, it's different when you're together than when you talk on the phone. The phone is the next best thing, but being together, there is nothing like that. That's the start of the difference right there. It's like when you can actually touch the guitar, when you actually see what the bass player is playing, you can actually hear what the singer or rapper is singing or rapping. You can actually see them. It's like, wow. This is so cool.

You lose all of that part, so I think it's cool for people that are growing up doing it that way. But if you're not used to doing it like that, it's a different ball game. It is something you have to learn on the job. Like I say, it's good to know the new way of recording and stuff. I think I'll continue to learn, but nothing is going to take the place of actually being in the bed together. It's like, "How are you doing?" "Oh, I'm okay. I'm laying in the bed by myself." I'm like, "Yeah, I wish I was there." [Laughs.]

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What is your favorite part of collaborating and how was it adapting that, like you were saying, during quarantine?

Well, it was really cool for me with the collaborating part because I got a chance to collaborate with people that I hadn't before. Like Branford Marsalis, who's just the greatest. His genre is jazz and he's just an incredible saxophonist and I never got a chance to record with him [before]. We talked about it, we've been to each other's shows and stuff, but we never actually did anything together.

That was a highlight for me to play with him and to play with Christian McBride, who plays the upright bass. He is just incredible and to have him in the studio and watch him play it. That was my first instrument that I was supposed to learn how to play on, but I found out I just couldn't play that big, old upright bass. It was too much work, man. I had to carry it home from school. The girls would look and laugh at me. It was like, "Ah man. I got to get me a new instrument." So, for him to bring that big, old bass to the Bootcave and hook it up and start playing it, it was just a great experience.

And then to have George Benson? Come on, you can't get no bigger than that. He's played with all the jazz greats. To have him want to get on the album—I had no idea that he really wanted to play on the record until I talked to him. We always have done festivals together in passing, but we never got a chance to work together.

I got a chance to work with some of the best, the people that I looked up to, and I got a chance to work with the young ones, like Kingfish, that are the new musicians. Speaking of Taz, he's 17 years old. And Kingfish is 19 now. These guys are just blowing the roof off with the guitar playing. To have this kind of energy around, for me, is the cream of the crop. It don't come no better. Then on "Lips Turn Blue" there's Emmaline. She's like a young, fresh Ella Fitzgerald. The way she sings, her voice takes you back to that time. But she's just out of college. She's just so sharp and professional.

To be around these people, they made the record become what it is because to have the older people with the younger people and everyone in-between, all this going on on the record and just making music together. It's like making love, it's like making friends. In a time like we're in now to do that, what else could you ask for? It's just a great feeling. I can tell you, I know they had the same kind of feeling.

It was just a great way to express yourself in a time where you're supposed to be locked up and locked down. Everybody's got a chance to release that feeling and we got a chance to put it on a record to share it with the world. I wasn't looking at the big picture, I was just looking at whatever song we were doing, putting our whole heart and soul into it. I didn't have to tell nobody to do that because everybody was ready. You didn't have to tell anyone, "Man, I want you to love this song." They just loved it. You could tell they loved it.

I think it's more amazing because of the time that we're living in right now. It affects us much more now because I think before we have taken music and people for granted. We've taken everything for granted. We thought it was always going to be great, we were going to be working all the time. All of a sudden, they pull the gigs away from us. No more festivals, no more club dates, no more Colosseum dates.

All of that stuff, it didn't just happen to the music world. Everybody had to push the reset button, like "Wait a minute, what the heck is going on?" We are still going through that and we have to figure out ways to do things differently. I'm hoping this album, The Power of the One, helps reset people to know that, "Hey, we got to deal with each other. Ain't nobody going nowhere. We're all in this together."

Listen: Unearthing A Lost Ella Fitzgerald Recording, 60 Years Later

You've also worked with a lot of younger musicians over the years on their projects, like Snoop and many others. What does mentorship mean to you and why is it important?

Oh, man. I would say because it gives you what you really need. It's like the energy that you've shared all your life, it comes back to you through the young musicians and artists. When I got with James Brown, I didn't understand about the energy and how it excited him. He was excited by the energy that we brought. I didn't really understand that until I got older and I started realizing, "Okay, this is what he was talking about and this is what he was feeling." Once you get older, you start feeling it, especially when you start having grandkids. Oh my God, those guys have got energy up the wazoo. I never knew that I was like that at one time.

At some point, I was as crazy as they were. That crazy energy can be turned into something and when it is, it can be magical. Some of these kids are able to turn it into something and you'd really be surprised. You just have to be in the mix and that's why I make sure I'm always in the mix, that I'm always learning from the younger people. And hopefully they're learning something from me, but I'm not in it for me.

I'm in it to learn something that I didn't know how to do. Coming from them, that's a beautiful thing. I look forward to that. A lot of older people look at kids like, "Oh, they can't teach me nothing." But I don't agree with that. I would like to continue to learn from them and be around them because they make me younger, they make me feel young. It's a great energy and hopefully I'm as good to them as they are to me.

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Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Omar Apollo On “Evergreen,” Growth & The Art Of Longing
Omar Apollo

Photo: Gustavo Garcia Villa

interview

Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Omar Apollo On “Evergreen,” Growth & The Art Of Longing

Omar Apollo sings, raps and dances. No matter what the Best New Artist nominee does, he does it with soul.

GRAMMYs/Jan 13, 2023 - 04:00 pm

Omar Apollo’s career began with a stolen guitar. It almost ended with one, too.

The self-taught musician, then 14, had been playing for two or three years when robbers took his beloved instrument from the family car after a gig. With no money to replace it, Apollo took up dancing and worked various jobs while in high school. He had let his music-making days go — until one day he couldn’t anymore. 

"The feeling overwhelmed me," he tells GRAMMY.com. "Music had taken over the part in my brain that needed to be creative." He went to a pawn shop and bought another guitar.

Following that feeling served him well. Apollo uploaded his song "Ugotme" to Spotify in 2017 and it was quickly blew up after being placed on a Fresh Finds playlist. Over the next three years, he released two EPs and a mixtape — Stereo (2018), Friends (2019) and Apolonio (2020) — which showcased his wide range of sounds including funk, pop, disco, R&B and Spanish corridos. Apollo’s dreamy croons and wistful lyrics about love (or lack of it) were a raw new voice to the youth experience of putting words to yet-unplumbed feelings. The son of Mexican immigrants, he also became a relatable figure for fellow first-generation Latinos.

This past year has been especially momentous. In April 2022, Apollo released his debut album, Ivory, which features Kali Uchis ("Bad Life"), Daniel Caesar ("Invincible") and production by the Neptunes ("Tamagotchi"). Another single from the LP, "Evergreen," went viral on TikTok, earned him his first placement on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and currently boasts over 118 million Spotify streams. It’s all culminated in a Best New Artist nomination for the 65th GRAMMY Awards. 

Of course, these achievements didn’t all come easily. Behind the scenes, he reckoned with scrapped albums, tight deadlines and the type of overthinking that can crumble any artist’s career. Yet these hurdles only helped Apollo sharpen his vision — and he’s just only getting started.

How did your parents react to your nomination?

My dad was like, "Congratulations." My dad’s thought every single award was a GRAMMY nomination. So like, I won an award recently and he's like, "I heard you got another GRAMMY, mijo." And I was like, it wasn’t a GRAMMY [laughs]. It was so fun. My mom instantly was like, "What are we wearing?"

Are you bringing them to the GRAMMYs?

Of course.

As a fellow child of immigrants, I think we're very aware of the sacrifices that our parents made to build the life that we have now. How does that impact you?

With my parents being from Mexico, then coming here so their kids could have a better life, there's that pressure of needing to be successful or wanting to be — not so much in a creative way; more like, no, you go to college and get a job, that kind of thing.

But honestly, the feeling to make music was far greater than the pressure. I didn't think of it as a career; it just kind of snowballed into one. It was tough for them at first to understand. If I was living in Mexico and crossed the border illegally so my kids could have a better life, and then my kid wakes up one day and is like, oh, I wanna be a singer, I would be stressed out too. So I never blamed them for it. Now I have a great relationship with them.

How do you feel about the general Best New Artist category?

I'm happy to be recognized as new [laughs]. I wake up every day and just think about the future, and wanting to keep making music and progressing. Some people are like, you've been touring for a while, but I honestly feel like I'm barely getting started. It's just wonderful to be recognized, and with other great talented artists that I've known about and really like their music, too.

Ivory almost didn't happen in its current state. Why did you scrap the first version of the album, and how did you know you were on the right track for this one?

I scrapped the first album because I hated it. I wasn't excited to perform it. Everything was post-rationalized; it didn't have any theme. It was just me linking up with a bunch of producers and then putting whatever happened in those two months all together. It didn't feel like me by any means. It wasn't made on my laptop while I've been making music; it was on everyone else's computers. It was just weird. 

I learned so much from working with other people that I don't regret that at all. It also led me to making an album that I was proud of. So after I realized that it was an album that I didn't like, I made a new one in like three months. I booked houses in Idyllwild and Greenpoint in New York and just isolated myself, just took everything I learned. Very few people were involved in that process. I didn't even play it for my manager or nobody until it was done. I think that boundary really made all those songs into what they are.

Three months to make a new album sounds incredibly stressful. Do you find that you thrive in periods of crunch time?

That was definitely my most stressful time with music for sure. It was very dark. I felt like I was gonna burn a bridge with my label. But I got so much done. I made a hundred songs in three months and cut it down. Now I don't think I need to do that. 

Now it's not so much discovery, it's more execution. Discovery can take years, you know? I think that the process of Ivory and me releasing it gave me so much to learn from next time I'm in the process of writing.

Like what?

Themes, tones, overall cohesiveness and making an album. I could be like, this album is about this as opposed to doing 10 different genres. At the heart of everything that I do, I feel like there's soul even when I'm rapping. I think that's when I realized it's the type of music that I wanna make and play forever.

Did you expect "Evergreen" to take off the way that it did?

I don't think any of us did. It's so funny 'cause I always hear people talk about, when the song goes big, they're like, "we never knew." But we genuinely never knew. We even had a conversation when we were doing the splits of the song. It was me, Manny [Barajas], and Teo [Halm], and something came up along the lines of like, yeah, this isn't gonna be like, the song [laughs]. It’s just funny that it was.

Why do you think it resonated with so many people?

There was a giant release on that song and it almost didn't happen. The bridge is the release, the thing that ties the whole song together. Otherwise, it would just be a very sad song. I think that the part where [I sing] "You didn't deserve me at all" — just the way that it was set up and done — people could relate to it.

 It's a feeling that we've all felt in a relationship where it's just like, you tell yourself things to get over it and move on. One of those things is like, you didn't deserve me and the love I had to give.

I personally love "En El Olvido." Have you thought about making an album entirely of corridos or an all Spanish language record?

I totally have. I don't know how I would do it though. Right now I'm focused on writing. I'm going to the studio every day; I'm probably gonna go after this. There's just things I have to get out first, but who knows, they might develop or change. I just try to honor the inspiration that I feel and get it out as much as I can.

What's inspiring you now?

I've become obsessed with synthesizers; I just got one that I've been making every song on. And analog, '70s stuff. The atmospheric tones from that era have been inspiring me. I've been listening to a lot of Brian Eno, a lot of ambient [music]. 

I made a playlist, it's four hours long, that I spent like eight hours making one day in the green room. I was doing a show and just made like a whole… all of my knowledge of ambient music and even new stuff, just altogether in one thing. I don't know why, I've just been really drawn to that ambient feeling. I want to be able to sing over it because I love how it makes me feel. I want to amplify that feeling, that atmosphere, that world. Just be engulfed in it.

Tell me more about that world.

It slows everything down for me. I feel like when you're on the road and you have to constantly be perceived, it gets kind of heavy and then you start overthinking every interaction. Even the ones that aren't being recorded. That music puts me to sleep at night and makes me feel like everything's okay. 

Longing has been a major theme in your work. What is longing to you and why is it so dominant in your music?

Living in a state of longing is probably some of the most intense moments that I've had and the ones that I remember. Always traveling and not being able to have a conventional relationship as much as I'd like to. I've accepted longing as a feeling and, instead of being sad about it, I just like to live in it, I like to bask in it. It’s like a Freudian slip. Whenever I talk about longing, it's just there, like a sadness that I love to carry. 

I feel that. When you talked about how Pedro Infante’s "Cien Años" was foundational to your understanding and love of corridos, as soon as I read that I had to listen to it. It's still stuck in my head.

It's so good, man. Especially when you're longing for somebody but you know you’ll see them again. The longing of someone unrequited is what sucks. That one I don't like [laughs]. But the longing of somebody's presence, wanting to see them, be around them, see how they react to the simplest things. You get joy from it. That's the part I miss.

You're big on manifestation. In the last few years you've manifested two "Tonight Show" appearances, a Coachella gig and possibly this Best New Artist win. So let's put it out there: What else do you want to manifest?

What I want to manifest ultimately is being able to say what I wanna say in the most poetic way. That's all I really think about, is just being able to put words to these feelings that I get, and make something that I'm proud of.

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Press Play On GRAMMY U Mixtape: New Year, It’s Poppin'! Monthly Member Playlist

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Press Play On GRAMMY U Mixtape: New Year, It’s Poppin'! Monthly Member Playlist

The GRAMMY U Mixtape is a monthly, genre-spanning playlist to quench your thirst for new tunes, all from student members. GRAMMY U celebrates new beginnings with fresh pop tunes that will kickstart 2023.

GRAMMYs/Jan 6, 2023 - 12:17 am

Did you know that among all of the students in GRAMMY U, songwriting and performance is one of the most sought after fields of study? We want to create a space to hear what these students are creating today!

The GRAMMY U Mixtape, now available for your listening pleasure, highlights the creations and fresh ideas that students are bringing to this industry directly on the Recording Academy's Spotify and Apple Music pages. Our goal is to celebrate GRAMMY U members, as well as the time and effort they put into making original music — from the songwriting process to the final production of the track.

Each month, we accept submissions and feature 20 to 25 songs that match that month’s theme. This month we're ringing in 2023 with our New Year, It's Poppin'! playlist, which features fresh pop songs that bring new year, new you vibes. Showcasing talented members from our various chapters, we felt these songs represented the positivity and hopefulness that GRAMMY U members embody as they tackle this upcoming year of exciting possibilities.

So, what’s stopping you? Press play on GRAMMY U’s Mixtape and listen now on Spotify below and Apple Music.

Want to be featured on the next playlist? Submit your songs today! We are currently accepting submissions for songs of all genres for consideration for our February playlist. Whether you write pop, rock, hip hop, jazz, or classical, we want to hear from you. Music must be written and/or produced by the student member (an original song) and you must be able to submit a Spotify and/or Apple Music link to the song. Students must be a GRAMMY U member to submit.

About GRAMMY U:

GRAMMY U is a program that connects college students with the industry's brightest and most talented minds and provides those aspiring professionals with the tools and opportunities necessary to start a career in music.     

Throughout each semester, events and special programs touch on all facets of the industry, including the business, technology, and the creative process.

As part of the Recording Academy's mission to ensure the recorded arts remain a thriving part of our shared cultural heritage, GRAMMY U establishes the necessary foundation for music’s next generation to flourish.

Not a member, but want to submit to our playlist? Apply for GRAMMY U Membership here.

A College Of Musical Knowledge: 15 Musical Groups That Act As Hubs For Emerging Talent
Trombone Shorty and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at the 2020 GRAMMYs

Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

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A College Of Musical Knowledge: 15 Musical Groups That Act As Hubs For Emerging Talent

Some acts have few or no original members because they simply can't keep the band together; others turn over their memberships somewhat by design, and act as bona fide academies for new waves of musicians. Here are 15 diverse examples.

GRAMMYs/Dec 13, 2022 - 07:41 pm

Ever hear of the Ship of Theseus thought experiment? It asks the reader to picture a ship whose components have been replaced — hull, mast, sail, rudder, and every single plank of the deck. Is it still Theseus' craft? Or something else entirely? The question still bedevils philosophers.

Now apply this framing to beloved musical groups of the 20th century. That's what Rolling Stone writer David Browne did in his 2022 feature, "The Future of Classic Rock Tours: One or Two Surviving Members…or None?"

As Browne illuminated, estate-authorized acts like the Allman Brothers Band Presents: Trouble No More are bringing beloved songbooks to audiences thirsting for them — without most or all of the parent band's original members. (Lynyrd Skynyrd is down to one.)

And with the passage of time, Trouble No More could become a model for keeping acts on the road — and, in turn, streaming numbers up, and the brand in people's mouths.

Audiences may feel one way or another about seeing Woodstock-era favorites Canned Heat with one almost-original member: Adolfo "Fito" de la Parra. (Side note: they still cook.) But what if the massive turnover isn't an unfortunate hurdle due to members dying or leaving? What if, to some degree, it's the whole point?

Welcome to the sphere of music where classic ensembles act as hubs for emerging talent; they turn over like college alumni or sports teams. Many of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers became jazz legends; John Mayall's Bluesbreakers gave the world Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Peter Green.

And this model applies across the board: to big band, to classical, to cumbia and salsa. Slipknot and Tower of Power arguably qualify. So do Yellowjackets. And so did Miles Davis' and David Bowie's various groups. Doo-wop is full of them. There's one titanically important electronic band, extant since 1967, passed to a new heir.

All ensembles may consist of mortals with shifting priorities, but their music doesn't have to disappear when they do. Here are 15 longstanding acts who replaced most or all of their planks — to borrow a metaphor — and made the most of it.

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers aren't only a serious contender for the greatest jazz band of all time, they functioned as an unofficial jazz university, with drummer Blakey as their tempestuous headmaster. The group featured dozens of cats throughout its four-decaderun: Horace Silver, Hank Mobley, Jackie McLean, Joanne Brackeen, Wynton and Branford Marsalis were all nurtured as Messengers, and that's just scratching the surface. When Blakey died in 1990, saxophonist McLean said just about the only three words you can say: "School is closed."

Count Basie Orchestra

From the Mingus Big Band to the Duke Ellington Orchestra to the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra (once known as the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra), jazz is replete with big bands whose leaders died long ago. Some call them "ghost bands," whether or not their musicians appreciate the tag. Whatever your chosen vocabulary, Count Basie Orchestra is one of the most prestigious ensembles without their fearless leader, who formed the group in the mid-1950s. As for the Basie band's current incarnation, led by the illustrious Scotty Barnhart? They were nominated for a GRAMMY in 2021, for Live at Birdland!.

John Mayall's Bluesbreakers

John Mayall's Bluesbreakers hold the strange distinction of being written and talked about more than listened to. Any biography of the Rolling Stones, Cream and Fleetwood Mac will invariably mention them, but when's the last time you cued them up on Spotify? That shouldn't be the case, necessarily; they made classics like 1966's Blues Breakers with Eric Clapton and fostered guitar gods in all three of those household names. And best of all, they’re still at it.

Juilliard String Quartet

Founded in 1946, the Juilliard String Quartet is critically important to the evolution of chamber music stateside. William Schumann, the then-president of the New York school, founded it; violinists Robert Mann and Robert Koff, violist Raphael Hillyer, and cellist Arthur Winograd formed the OG lineup. Areta Zhulla, Ronald Copes, Molly Carr, and Astrid Schween are currently in their seats; over the decades, they've won four GRAMMYs and been nominated for 16.

La Sonora Dinamita

Since their founding in 1960, Colombian cumbia greats La Sonora Dinamita have played an instrumental role in the form's popular resurgence. Beneath the unchanging banner, their lineup has turned over, and over, and over: original singer and musical director Lucho Argain's passing in 2002 didn't stymy their constant evolution. In the 2020's, with current players at the vanguard of cumbia, they remain absolute dinamita, releasing music with abandon.

Do you typically think of boy bands as being relatively static, membership-wise? Maybe one or two members in and out, but the familiar faces remaining? Feast your eyes on Menudo's Wikipedia page: a whopping 38 past members. Since the brand's formation in 1977, Menudo has provided a launching pad for international stars Ricky Martin and Draco Rosa, and weathered tragedy and legal battles. But they're not ending anytime soon — thanks to Mario Lopez and his global talent search.

Parliament-Funkadelic

Who's the most prolific, dynamic and influential ensemble in funk history? It's borderline axiomatic that the answer is P-Funk. Together or apart, Parliament and Funkadelic haven't just made bona fide classics — press play on  1971's Maggot Brain or 1978's One Nation Under a Groove — they architected their own bizarre, hyper-imaginative, Afrofuturist universe. And it goes even deeper: under the tutelage of George Clinton, members like Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell and Eddie “Maggot Brain” Hazel became stars. The collective is still going today; looking at the astonishing headcount over the years, it seems hard to find someone who wasn’t in P-Funk. To everyone who was, is, and has been — what a feather in your cap.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

New Orleans is Pres Hall is New Orleans: watch the wonderful 2018 documentary A Cuba to Tuba to find out why. These days, countless historical jazz sites in the Big Easy are crumbling and collapsing, but institutions like the Preservation Hall Jazz Band — as well as Dirty Dozen Brass Band, among others — ensure the music is unscathed. Founded in the early 1960s as the house band for the hallowed French Quarter venue, the ensemble has never reneged on its mission: "nurturing and perpetuating the art of New Orleans jazz."

Tangerine Dream

Founded in 1967, the German electronic music pioneers join Guided by Voices and the Grateful Dead with this distinction; you could only listen to Tangerine Dream and be well-stocked with jams for the foreseeable future. As the brainchild of Edgar Froese for decades, they made classics like 1972's Zeit, 1974's Phaedra, 1980's Tangram… the list goes on. The band could have understandably folded when Froese passed in 2015, but his successor, Thorsten Quaeschning, remains the bearer of the flame. And by the sound of their stunning 2022 album Raum, rightfully so.

The Four Seasons

If infectious, pre-Beatlemania tunes like "Sherry" and "Big Girls Don't Cry" have been basically implanted in your skull from birth, thank one man first and foremost: Frankie Valli. His Four Seasons have provided a platform for numberless singers and instrumentalists since then — through the '70s, '80s, '90s, and up to the present day. These days, 88-year-old Valli is the only remaining original member of these Jersey boys — which says much less about the integrity of the original group than his capacity to hand out hat-hanging legacies.

The Skatalites

Whether or not the ska revival swept you up or not — and regardless of the volume of checkerboard threads in your closet — the fact remains that the Skatalites are pillars of the form. Like the Four Seasons, the instrumental supergroup began during Beatlemania time, and never stopped mutating and evolving. Decades past their early hits, like "Guns of Navarone," they give younger players like New York saxophonist Anant Pradhan a chance at ska royalty while offering legends the chance to bring Jamaica's freedom sounds to new generations — like 85-year-old percussionist Larry McDonald.

The Temptations

Ah, the Temps: Detroit legends, undersung psychedelic voyagers, the first Motown signees to win a GRAMMY. (That was in 1968, for "Cloud Nine"; how could Membership back then sleep on "My Girl"? We digress.) In 2018, the Broadway show Ain’t Too Proud gave opportunities beyond the purview of the endlessly shapeshifting original band. Come the 2020s, Otis Williams is the only original Temptation; many, many men have been one. Imagine the feeling of learning you're one. A certain jam from '68 might sum it up.

The Wailers Band

We're used to hearing this band name glued to "Bob Marley &"; is their association with Marley the long and short of their importance? Heavens, no, as at least two other members were legends in their own right: Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. After Marley's death in 1981, the band continued under various permutations and spin-offs — including The Original Wailers — with talented members in and out the door. These days, Aston Barrett Jr. and Emilio Estefan Jr. are at the helm of the Wailers Band; Barrett's been nominated for a GRAMMY, Estefan's won two.

The Yardbirds

Despite being something of a '60s relic, the Yardbirds' whole catalog holds up; they were as psychedelic as anyone, white British boys with a deep command of the blues. In their heyday, they launched the careers of Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck; Led Zeppelin originally took flight as the New Yardbirds. And their lineup churn continues; original drummer Jim McCarty remains.

So many members of the Allmans have dropped, but their popularity remains undimmed. (Crank up 1971's At Fillmore East on a good system and you'll see why.) Their estate has tried a unique tack: sending an estate-approved band called Trouble No More on the road, platforming young talent while giving the people the jams they require. Diehards' mileage may vary regarding a completely reconstituted Allmans. But the magnitude of talent from the multiracial, multigender ensemble might make haters eat a peach.

Ian Anderson On The Historical Threads Of Fanaticism, Playing Ageless Instruments & Jethro Tull's New Album The Zealot Gene

15 Must-Hear New Albums Out This Month: SZA, Neil Young, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, NCT Dream & More
(L-R): A Boogie wit da Hoodie, SZA, Jacquees, Metro Boomin, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer

Photos (L-R): Joseph Okpako/WireImage; Tim Mosenfelder/FilmMagic; Prince Williams/Wireimage; Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Justin Combs Events; Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

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15 Must-Hear New Albums Out This Month: SZA, Neil Young, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, NCT Dream & More

Rounding out the year, here are the can't-miss releases and massive new albums dropping in December 2022 from Weezer, Metro Boomin, NOFX, Jacquees, Ab-Soul, and many others.

GRAMMYs/Dec 2, 2022 - 07:20 pm

And just like that, 2022 is almost done — but not before we get another round of must-hear albums. December's slate of releases is set to send the year out on a high note, with something for all tastes.

This month heralds much-anticipated returns from R&B innovator SZA, with S.O.S., and rap super-producer Metro Boomin, with the mysterious HEROES & VILLAINS. December's riches also include Bad MFs from West Coast hip-hop supergroup Mount Westmore, indie-rock lifers Weezer dropping SZNZ: Winter and a loaded, possibly final album from punk-rock misfits NOFX. There's also new-generation R&B (RINI’s Ultraviolet EP and Jacquees' Sincerely For You), dark techno (Terence Fixmer's Shifting Signals), soul-baring indie (Sophie Jamieson's Choosing), and much more. 

Below, check out a guide to the 15 essential albums dropping just in time for the festive season. — Jack Tregoning

Contributed reporting by Ashlee Mitchell

SZA - S.O.S.

Release date: TBD

Five years after her GRAMMY-nominated debut album, Ctrl, it's about to be SZA season all over again. While details are still pending, the alternative R&B star is expected to drop her second album, S.O.S., this month, following the single "Shirt" and its teaser follow-up, "PSA".

In a revealing Billboard cover story, SZA spoke frankly about the pressure she feels to release the album while navigating the music industry and her fans' expectations. As always with SZA, the music itself speaks volumes, and the darkly seductive "Shirt" (accompanied by a music video co-starring SZA and Academy Award nominee LaKeith Stanfield in a riff on Bonnie and Clyde) suggests S.O.S. will be something to savor. — J.T.

Related: Ari Lennox's Age/Sex/Location Explores Online Dating, Never Settling & Old School Romance

Metro Boomin - HEROES & VILLAINS

Release date: December 2

To prepare fans for his new album, HEROES & VILLAINS, sought-after rap producer Metro Boomin went all-out on a short film starring his collaborators Young Thug and Gunna alongside celebrated actors Morgan Freeman and LaKeith Stanfield. Following that flex, the artist's first solo LP in four years is set to feature a who's who of rap, with an exact tracklist still to be announced.

Metro Boomin's previous album, 2018's Not All Heroes Wear Capes, featured the likes of Travis Scott, 21 Savage and Gucci Mane rapping over the producer's dark, trap-centric beats. This time around, he's keeping his cards close to his chest, slyly sharing a video of the studio sessions on his Instagram with the caption, "When the sequel is even better than the first." All will be revealed on Dec. 2. — J.T.

Related: For The Record: Kendrick Lamar's 'Good Kid, M.A.A.d City' Launched A New Era In Storytelling & West Coast Rap

Neil Young - Harvest (50th Anniversary Edition)

Release date: December 2

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Neil Young's seminal folk-rock album Harvest, released to great acclaim in 1972. Featuring indelible songs like "Heart of Gold," "Old Man" and "The Needle and The Damage Done," Harvest was the best-selling album of that year in the US.

To celebrate the milestone, Young is releasing a special anniversary edition, available in either CD or vinyl box-set. Extras include a new two-hour documentary called Harvest Time, an official release of Young's BBC In Concert performance , and a hardcover book featuring never-before-seen photos and notes by legendary rock photographer Joel Bernstein. Consider this the festive gift for the Neil Young completist in your life. — J.T.

After breaking out with his 2021 debut album, Constellations, RINI returns this month with the seven-track EP, Ultraviolet. The Filipino-Australian R&B talent, who now calls Los Angeles home, pairs his indelible voice with slinky, late-night production that pulls the listener close.

Ahead of Ultraviolet, RINI has released the singles "Haunt Me" and "Selfish," featuring GRAMMY-winning rapper BEAM, which pair his themes of love and longing with gauzy, head-nodding beats. "I want to be able to show the world and myself that I'm growing, not just in music, but as a person," RINI told Uproxx in May. On Ultraviolet, which also features the slick bedroom jams "Something to Feel" and "Your Eyes," that evolution is evident. — J.T.

Related: R&B Isn't Dead: Listen To 51 Songs By Summer Walker, Josh Levi & More Artists Who Are Pushing The Genre Forward

NOFX - Double Album

Release date: December 2

SoCal punk veterans NOFX have always kept up a prolific output, and this month the band returns with their 15th LP, Double Album. Following last year's Single Album, the conveniently titled Double Album features 10 new songs with perfectly NOFX titles like "Punk Rock Cliché" and "Is It Too Soon if Time Is Relative?" Lead single "Darby Crashing Your Party" showcases the band at their hard-riffing, rowdy best, with frontman Fat Mike clearly relishing lyrical volleys like, "A middle-class clown waging lower class war/A Beverly Hillbilly peeled off the floor."

In a statement announcing the new album, Fat Mike revealed the songs were recorded at the same time as Single Album, then finished off later. "I think it's a very enjoyable album, and maybe our funniest," he added. It could also be NOFX's parting gift — responding to a fan’s Instagram comment, Fat Mike announced that 2023 will be the band's "last year" after an "amazing run." — J.T.

Related: 5 Women Essential To Punk: Exene Cervenka, Poly Styrene, Alice Bag, Kathleen Hanna & The Linda Lindas

Terence Fixmer - Shifting Signals

Release date: December 2

French producer Terence Fixmer has been one of the most intriguing figures in the electronic music scene for well over a decade. Over six past solo albums, numerous EPs and standalone releases, Fixmer has perfected a dark, gritty sound that melds techno with the looser industrial spirit of electronic body music (EBM).

Fixmer's seventh album, Shifting Signals, continues in that vein while allowing for new textures to creep in. "On each album I aim for something different but I retain the core sound, which is always there and often dark and melancholic," the producer wrote in a statement. "Sometimes the balance tips slightly and on this album, I'm striving to be freer and open myself up more to melody."

That openness to different modes is showcased on the atmospheric, piano-led "Synthetic Minds," which evokes a John Carpenter film score, while fellow singles "Corne de Brume" and "No Latitude for Errors" are built for heady techno dance floors. — J.T.

Related: Going Underground: House DJ Claude VonStroke On Making Soul Decisions & Keeping Electronic Music Grimy

Sophie Jamieson - Choosing

Release date: December 2

On her debut album, Choosing, London-based singer-songwriter Sophie Jamieson doesn't shy from difficult or uncomfortable emotions. Lead single, "Sink" lays bare her push-pull relationship with alcohol over a lulling bed of piano and drums. That theme of emotional vulnerability carries through the LP's 11 songs, which foreground Jamieson's enchanting voice and plain-spoken lyrics.

"The title of this album is so important," Jamieson wrote in a statement. "Without it, this might sound like another record about self-destruction and pain, but at heart, it's about hope, and finding strength. It's about finding the light at the end of the tunnel and crawling towards it." Choosing arrives via Bella Union, the tastemaking label led by Simon Raymonde, formerly of Scottish dream pop band Cocteau Twins. — J.T.

Related: Hear The 2022 Nominees For Best Alternative Music Performance At The 2023 GRAMMY Awards

White Lung - Premonition

Release date: December 2

Canadian punk rockers White Lung weren't expecting to take six years to follow up 2016's celebrated Paradise. As the story goes, the band got together in their hometown of Vancouver in 2017, expecting to rip out their final album before parting ways. In the studio, frontwoman Mish Barber-Way discovered she was pregnant with her first child — which, along with a global pandemic and another child, put the album plans on ice.

Fast forward to 2022, and White Lung's fifth and final album, Premonition, is finally here. With all that extra time to marinate, Premonition is a thrilling return from the trio, mining deeper themes with the same raucous, kick-down-the-door energy that fans expect. The album opens furiously with "Hysteric", and also features the singles "Date Night" and "Tomorrow," which match Barber-Way's impassioned vocals with muscular punk-rock riffing.

"We felt like this record was the right endpoint and we are happy the songs will finally be released," the band wrote in a statement. — J.T. 

Related: Like Turnstile And Code Orange? 10 More Bands Expanding The Boundaries Of Hardcore

A Boogie Wit da Hoodie - Me vs. Myself

Release date: December 9

New York's A Boogie wit da Hoodie has been steadily hyping the release of his fourth album, Me Vs Myself, throughout 2022. Originally scheduled for November, the album will drop this month, right in time for A Boogie's hometown album launch at the iconic Apollo Theater in Harlem.

Me Vs Myself was preceded by a pair of singles, "Take Shots," featuring Tory Lanez, and "Ballin," which both showcase the rapper's supremely confident flow and wavy beats. While the full tracklist is not yet confirmed, A Boogie's previous album, ARTIST 2.0, covered the R&B and rap spectrum with guests like Summer Walker, Khalid, Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert, without pulling focus from the main star. The rapper has already lined up dates for the Me Vs Myself tour stretching into 2023, so it's a great time to bet on A Boogie. — J.T.

Related: Meet The 2022 Nominees For Best Rap Album At The 2023 GRAMMY Awards

Mount Westmore - Snoop, Cube, 40, $hort

Release date: December 9

When living legends Snoop Dogg, E-40, Too Short and Ice Cube formed the supergroup Mount Westmore, West Coast rap heads took notice. After several hints that a collaborative album was coming, Mount Westmore made the surprise decision to release their debut, Bad MFs, exclusively as an NFT via the blockchain-based platform Gala Music.

The album arrives on streaming services this month under a new title, Snoop, Cube, 40, $hort, featuring additional songs not included on the NFT version. A spirit of loose fun and ride-or-die friendship carries through all the singles released so far, including the swaggering "Bad MFs" and the bass-heavy, light-hearted "Big Subwoofer." As Snoop put it to HotNewHipHop, "You bring the legends of the West Coast together, something great will always happen." — J.T.

Related: Take The Power Back: How Rage Against The Machine's Debut LP Created Rap-Rock With A Message

Leland Whitty - Anyhow

Release date: December 9

Best known as a member of Toronto-based jazz ensemble BADBADNOTGOOD, Leland Whitty is a true multi-instrumentalist. On his seven-track solo release, Anyhow, Whitty oversaw all production and composition, moving deftly between guitar, synthesizer, woodwinds and strings.

Following his scores for indie films Disappearance at Clifton Hill and Learn to Swim, Whitty was inspired to combine cinematic composition with rock and jazz instrumentation in his own project. Lead single "Awake" perfectly strikes that balance with twinkling keys, mournful strings and an insistent drum beat, while follow-up "Glass Moon" conjures a similarly beguiling mood. Members of BADBADNOTGOOD and Whitty's musician brother also joined the studio sessions, making Anyhow a family affair. — J.T.

Related: Robert Glasper & Terrace Martin On Removing Their Egos And Creating Their GRAMMY-Nominated Collaboration Dinner Party: Dessert

Jacquees - Sincerely For You

Release date: December 16

On "Say Yea", the sultry bedroom anthem he dropped back in May, Jacquees croons, "Girl, you overdue for some romantic s—." That simple line is something of a mission statement for the R&B casanova, whose third album, Sincerely For You, drops this month.

The LP features "Say Yea" alongside 16 more R&B jams, including singles "Tipsy," which captures the singer's blurry plea to a lover, and the smoothly boastful "Still That." Elsewhere, Sincerely For You offers up guest turns from Future (who also executive produced the album), 21 Savage and Tory Lanez, plus the R&B dream team of 6lack and Summer Walker on "Tell Me It's Over." On his socials, Jacquees dedicated the album to "everybody who been there for me along the way" and promised to deliver only "real R&B." — J.T.

Related: Durand Bernarr's 'Wanderlust': The R&B Singer Explains Why He's "Constantly In A State Of Arriving"

Ab-Soul - Herbert

Release date: December 16

Six hard-won years after his last album, the divisive, conspiracy theory-heavy Do What Thou Wilt., Ab-Soul has found his drive again. The rapper from Carson, California returns this month with a deeply personal album that shares his birth name, Herbert.

Ab-Soul's new outlook was previewed in lead single "Do Better," which reckons with the scars of his past and looks to the future with powerful clarity. The next single, "Gang'Nem," featuring Houston rapper FRE$H and produced by fellow Top Dawg Entertainment mainstay Sounwave, also revisits his upbringing and pays respect to L.A. street culture over a woozy, hard-hitting beat.

For fans of Ab-Soul's dense lyrical style and gravelly flow, Herbert is an eagerly-anticipated return to the rap limelight. — J.T.

Related: From "Rap Sh!t" To "Pistol" And "Treme": 8 Must-See TV Series For Music Lovers

NCT DREAM - Candy

Release date: December 19

NCT Dream, the youngest sub-group of Neo Culture Technology (NCT), has seen exponential growth since they rebranded as a fixed unit in 2020. The septet is set to release a winter special EP called Candy on Dec. 19. The mini-album's six tracks, include lead single "Candy," which was originally performed by H.O.T. in 1996. The album will be the first holiday release for any NCT sub-group, following a slew of successful releases from NCT Dream this year.

The group released their second studio album, Glitch, in March 2022, followed by their repackaged Beatbox in May. Their first feature film, NCT Dream The Movie: In a Dream, released worldwide on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 and documents the opening days of their tour in Seoul. The group will finish their tour in Japan by February 2023. — Ashlee Mitchell

Related: K-Pop Icon B.I Isn't Afraid To Explore Growth And Freedom On 'Love Or Loved Pt. 1'

Weezer - SZNZ: Winter

Release date: December 21

This has been a remarkably good year to be a Weezer fan. Always pleasingly prolific, in 2022 the band decided to release a four-EP series under the name SZNZ, each timed to coincide with a new season.

Following Spring, Summer and Autumn editions, SZNZ: Winter arrives just in time for peak coziness. While the complete tracklist is not yet known, Weezer performed the EP in full for an intimate crowd at the Troubadour in Los Angeles (using their favored alias Goat Punishment), with new highlights including "I Want A Dog" and "The One That Got Away."

While frontman Rivers Cuomo has described SZNZ: Winter as having a sad vibe that suits snowed-in days, you can always count on Weezer to cut the melancholy with some power-pop verve. — J.T.

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