meta-scriptFrom TikTok Trend to GRAMMY Nominee: How The 'Bridgerton' Musical Is Changing Theater Culture | GRAMMY.com
Tiktok sensations Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear
TikTok sensations Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear

PHOTO: Jeff Spicer/Stringer 

interview

From TikTok Trend to GRAMMY Nominee: How The 'Bridgerton' Musical Is Changing Theater Culture

'The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical's' nominated composers, lyricists and vocal performers are Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear — the only women nominated in their category and the youngest-ever nominees for a Best Musical Theater Album GRAMMY

GRAMMYs/Mar 24, 2022 - 01:31 pm

Like sourdough and "Tiger King," the “TikTok musical” was a trend of the early pandemic — starting with "Ratatouille" and peaking with "Bridgerton." When Broadway (and therefore all regional and local theaters) shuttered for nearly a year and a half, creators collaborated across cyberspace to develop full-fledged, handheld musicals.

These social media musicals often begin small, converting a piece of existing work like a movie or TV show into a musical format. When these popular TikTok musical videos go viral, subsequent creators add their own spin in the form of lyrics, melodies, choreography or orchestrations. On New Year’s Day 2021, a star-studded TikTok take on the Disney film Ratatouille raised $2 million for the Actor’s Fund and won a Webby.

While the charming and family-friendly "Ratatouille" may have started the TikTok musical trend, very different source material influenced one of its most popular creations. “Bridgerton," a Regency-era-set romance, was turned into The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical concept album, a compilation of songs originally created on TikTok. The album, currently nominated at the 2022 GRAMMYs, is the first musical of its kind to receive a GRAMMY nomination for Best Musical Theater Album. 

Bridgerton's nominated composers, lyricists and vocal performers are Abigail Barlow and Emily Bear — the only women nominated in their category. At 23 and 20 years old, they also make history as the youngest nominees in their category and the youngest-ever nominees for a musical theater GRAMMY. They met through friends and, while they worked together on “one offs” before Bridgerton, this is their first official collaboration. 

Barlow and Bear’s songs are pop-influenced and catchy, more reminiscent of singer/songwriter hits from Sara Barellis and Olivia Rodrigo than classic showtunes. The team’s nomination signals a significant cultural music moment, one where musical creation can result from years of development by experienced professionals and investors, but can also stem from passionate newcomers on a social media app.

Very few musicals are based on television shows ("Addams Family" and "the SpongeBob Musical" are notable exceptions) and "Bridgerton" is the first and so far only TikTok musical to have mainstream, offline success. In October, Barlow and Bear performed at the Kennedy Center and were joined by Broadway and "Glee" alum Darren Criss for a number. 

Post nomination, Barlow and Bear teamed up with fellow nominee Andrew Lloyd Webber in December for a "Cinderella/Bridgerton" mashup shared on Webber’s Instagram. They may have been new on the scene before "Bridgerton," but Barlow and Bear quickly made a place for themselves among the theater community.  

Barlow and Bear — who sat together in the same room, their obvious affection for one another on display over Zoom — discussed how they created The Unofficial Bridgerton Concept Album.

From an idea to a viral sensation

Barlow, a pop singer with musical theater roots, says she thought of the first song for the "Bridgerton" musical  shortly after the show’s debut in January 2021.

Before posting, she sent it to Bear. “I knew it wasn’t going to be real without Emily,” she says. Within 45 minutes, Bear — a piano prodigy who had her first 15 minutes of fame at age 6 on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" — sent the song back fully orchestrated. 

The post, titled “What if 'Bridgerton' was a musical,” went viral and the two began collaborating on more songs about the hit Netflix series. Unlike other Best Musical Theater Album nominees — many of which were years in the making or based on previously-written songs — the Bridgerton concept album was written quickly: 15 songs over six weeks in early 2021. 

The transparent process was documented via live TikTok and Instragam streams, incorporating feedback from commenters. Bear says the hours-long live streams were “very vulnerable,” with audiences sometimes patiently watching the two have writer’s block. The process was like “workshopping instantly,” Bear recalls, with Barlow adding that “what drew the everyday person in is that it’s not always pretty.”  

Singers, choreographers and dancers made videos using the songs and, in a world with no theater, the TikTok musical allowed people to find community. In a time when mental health crises were on the rise, especially among young people, Barlow and Bear were blown away by the support. Bear says fans told her "Bridgerton" musical content was what they looked forward to everyday. “I can’t wrap my head around the fact that what we created can help people,” she says, adding, “It [also] helped us.”

Becoming musical theater changemakers

Musicals made in the first half of the 20th century often consisted of contemporary pop songs shoehorned into plots, similar to jukebox musicals of today — a category this year’s nominee, "Girl from North Country" and last year’s winner, "Jagged Little Pill" fall into. 

However, while the trend is for new musicals to be created by known stars, that hasn’t always been the case. Bear referenced a rare piece of musical theater history: 73-year-old Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose Cinderella is competing with Bridgerton for Best Musical Theater Album this year, got his start at age 20 with a 15-minute version of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" he had workshopped for a school performance in 1968. "Bridgerton" brings this musical theater history full circle by returning to the tradition of newcomers using a popular musical style, ironically going up against those who did it first.  

The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical concept album was released on Sept. 10, 2021, nine months after Barlow made the first "Bridgerton"TikTok. Within two hours, the album was iTunes' No. 1 US Pop Album and was in its top 10 across the world.

A historical GRAMMY nomination

The Unofficial Bridgerton Musical was nominated along with musical theater legends Webber ("Cats," "Phantom of the Opera"),  Stephen Schwartz ("Wicked"), Burt Bacarach ("The Boy from Oz") and Steven Sater ("Spring Awakening"). Also nominated is a "Les Miserables" concert and "Girl From the North Country," a musical using Bob Dylan’s songs.

Of the 26 people nominated in this category over six shows, Barlow and Bear stand out for their sex and age. Barlow and Bear represent Gen Z, a population not known for theater patronage, but a powerful force in the music business otherwise. Their inclusion marks a historic change in the way musicals are created and celebrated.

TikTok: The future of musical theater?

Most of these musicals aren’t currently on Broadway and reflect the period of time in which theaters went dark. The nominated version of "Cinderella" is also a concept album, which is packaged as a recorded work in the musical theater genre, but is not necessarily a reflection of a live performance.  

Even though Netflix and the television show's stars, as well as the author of the book "Bridgerton," gave kudos to the musical, there are currently no plans for a stage show. Barlow and Bear do not own the intellectual property rights to "Bridgerton" and the concept album will stay in the wings unless Netflix wants to pursue it. 

“That ball is thoroughly in Netflix’s court,” says Barlow. If the popularity of the Netflix series — whose second season drops March 25 — combines with the TikTok fan support and accolades, the concept album could become a lucrative live show someday. 

In anticipation of the new season, fans wonder if Barlow and Bear will take to TikTok for a sequel. The pair are planning to watch season two —““who knows when inspiration will strike,” Bear teases. 

Even if Bridgerton doesn’t take home a GRAMMY on April 3, its acknowledgement is a sign the culture around content creation is changing. It’s no longer a home for elite legends, creating product in secrecy and only sharing once it’s complete. Barlow predicts that, in the future, “people are going to want to see behind the curtain. Theater is a gate-kept artform. You don’t get to see a show until you’ve paid $200 for a ticket.” 

With the TikTok musical, she says, “people who wouldn’t go to the theater are now interested in it and want to see what it takes.” 

The pair is currently working on a number of projects, including one with Margot Robbie’s production company. They are also working on an unnamed stage show, completely new and separate from Bridgerton. Barlow says she is documenting the process now to share when they are able. 

Someday, the duo would like to develop a movie musical, stage show or another album while showing people the process along the way. Bear says people “listen to songs everyday but they don’t know how it's created. Opening the curtain on those processes would be so great.”

Barlow says there’s a stigma about “jazz hands musical theater” but “anything can be musical theater. Any genre can tell a story.” Now, music and musicals can be made stronger by community, fan response and even social media. What seemed like a passing trend might be the new way we make and consume content.  

"Jagged Little Pill" Wins Best Musical Theater Album | 2021 GRAMMY Awards Show


"Bridgerton" Season 3
"Bridgerton" Season 3

Photo: Netflix

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"Bridgerton" Composer Kris Bowers & Vitamin String Quartet Continue To Make Classical Music Pop For Season 3

The Netflix show returns for its third season on May 16. Composer Kris Bowers, alongside the Vitamin String Quartet and other artists, masterfully reimagines modern pop with a classical twist, including a Taylor Swift hit.

GRAMMYs/May 16, 2024 - 02:31 pm

No one is arguing that “Bridgerton” is realistic or even particularly historically accurate — in fact, leaning into anachronisms is the point. Entering its third season, which premieres on May 16, the pulpy Netflix show based on a series of romance novels by Julia Quinn — often classified as “bodice rippers” — mixes modern life ideas with Regency-era social rules.

From Lady Whistledown's tantalizing gossip columns to the complex romances of the Bridgerton siblings, the series grips viewers with its blend of historical drama and contemporary flair. One key note in that chord is classical music. Instead of using current tracks like some historical-contemporary-hybrids (most famously “A Knight’s Tale" in 2001), “Bridgerton” has mastered the art of the classical cover. 

Paired with original compositions by Kris Bowers, an Oscar winner and GRAMMY nominee — including one for Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media for "Bridgerton" — the tone of the show is that of a heightened, classic world. Bowers, along with music supervisor Justin Kamps collaborates with the Vitamin String Quartet and other artists to create a full circle sonic landscape. They make the classical music in “Bridgerton” pop by re-recording, rearranging, and reimagining contemporary pop songs as classic pieces. 

Over three seasons, as well as with the spin off, “Queen Charlotte,” the team has included a mix of the newest songs as well as nostalgic favorites. This season features GAYLE’s “abcdefu,” which was released in 2022 as well as a cover of Pitbull, Ne-Yo, and Afrojack’s “Give Me Everything,” which was released in 2011, which can appease the full gamut of millennial and Gen Z viewers.  

Regency traditions 

The Regency period in which the show is based, spanned from 1811 to 1820, and was known as an era of elegance and refinement in British history.  In the first chunk of the 1800s, pop music included pieces by Beethoven, Liszt, Haydn, and Mendlesson (famous for the “Wedding March”). Waltzes were all the rage, and this “new” music was considered much more emotional and passionate than previous offerings. The romance of being swept away in a dance increased the thrill, and string quartets were highly popular. 

As seen throughout the series (and much like today), society placed a significant emphasis on social gatherings and music played a central role in these events. Balls, soirées, and intimate musical evenings were common, the perfect backdrop for orchestrating romance. 

In “Bridgerton," the show's modern portrayal of the Regency period occasionally features or references music from the time period, such as Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” which was written a century before the events in the show but was and is still a popular piece of classical music. The show frequently uses arrangements of classical songs in a slightly modern way, but most often, it underscores scenes with either classically arranged covers of pop songs or original music by Bowers. 

Contemporary music covers

Choosing between a cover or original music is a nuanced decision for the music team. The music team considers “whether or not, there's something that can, lyrically, even though we don't hear lyrics, speak to a moment really well,” said Bowers. Absent a cover by an outside band, Bowers arranges pop hits to suit the tone of the scene. He said, “when you're saying something with a song, you're making commentary on what's happening.” 

When they do outsource tracks, more often than not, these covers come from Los Angeles-based Vitamin String Quartet. VSQ is the new Mendlesson in that they have been the predominant wedding-march artist for nearly a decade, known for producing string renditions of highly eclectic mix of artists including Cardi B, Lana Del Rey, Björk, and Sigur Rós

They contributed four covers in season one, including Billie Elish's “bad guy” and Ariana Grande's “Thank U, Next,” about which Leo Flynn, VSQ Brand Manager at CMH Label Group said, “Talk about a great track changing the temperature of a room.” In season two, VSQ’s cover of Robyn's “Dancing on My Own” played under a dance scene. 

When we spoke to James Curtiss, Director of A&R at CMH, the song placements for season three were still a mystery. Curtiss shared, “When we finished that Taylor [Swift] record, we sent it right over to the people at ‘Bridgerton.’” 

[Spoiler alert:] Since then, we have learned Swift's “Snow on the Beach” will be featured in season three. This isn't the first time Swift's music has been featured in the show: Duomo’s cover of “Wildest Dreams” played under the honeymoon scenes in season one. 

Composer Bowers added his favorite cover of the season is in episode eight, the finale, but what title that is will be a surprise. The surprise of an “unexpected cover” as Bowers calls it is that when you “hear a song that you know, and have this strong indelible connection with it that is represented in this style that you typically don't feel like is for you. People get excited by having this music that they really love be elevated to this other level.” He said the familiarity makes “you feel connected to this time period, these characters, and these people in a different way.” 

Flynn said, “There’s something about the past that’s inherently romantic,” and the use of VSQ songs “unites something from the past with what’s going on now.” Because classical music “feels very idealized and formal,” he said, “there’s all this history and mystique built into it.” 

Flynn also mentioned that “Bridgerton” fuses past and present on a “major storytelling scale” between the historically-inspired stories themselves, the “visual feast” of the show, and the music. Curtiss added that the “romantic nature of the string quartet” juxtaposed with pop songs helps viewers tie the feeling of going to a bar or club to the experience of hearing “the popular bangers of the day,” as he called Beethoven et al., at a ball in the Regency era. 

Original compositions

When the music needs to set a specific tone without taking the audience out of the action to try and name that tune, “Bridgerton” often uses original compositions by Bowers. Bowers said, “Looking at pop music for those things like rhythm and tempo and all that stuff also helps in moments where we want to have the score feel a little bit more modern and not as traditional.” He continued, “I’ll put something in the violas and the celli that have this kind of guitar and bass feeling to them even though we’re looking at it orchestrationally from a classical perspective.” He explained that “borrowing the rhythms or the way that parts interlock from pop music” makes it feel like a modern classical sound. 

Each character and couple has their own theme. Bowers explained that it was enjoyable to create themes that could fit both heartbreaking and celebratory moments. “The melodies are still the same even if the harmonic tone is changed,” he said.

Instrumental Pop In Visual Media

The “Bridgerton” style of using instrumentalized versions of pop songs is not unique. Famously, “Promising Young Woman” used a haunting version of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” adapted by Anthony Willis, and “Westworld’s” Ramin Djawadi used adaptations of Radiohead among others. “Wednesday” featured a stirring string version of the Rolling Stones’ “Paint it Black.” The popularity of Vitamin String Quartet and other classical cover bands has not waned and, if anything, is becoming more of a mainstream staple.

As season three approaches, the unveiling of the time-spanning, romantic soundtrack is highly anticipated. Four episodes air May 16 and the second half of the season airs June 13, with original compositions by Kris Bowers and additional music by various artists, including Vitamin String Quartet, who will be taking over Pandora’s Classical Goes Pop in anticipation of their fall, “Bridgerton”-music-filled tour. 

Overall, to find the tone of the whole series, Bowers said, “Season three actually has a lot more lightness to it. (Showrunners) Shonda (Rhimes) and Jess (Brownell) really want to have a lot of fun this season so there's a little bit more of a playful, youthful quality to the music.” Whatever tunes make it into the season, they are sure to be a feast for the ears. 

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“The Outsiders” Broadway cast.
“The Outsiders” Broadway cast.

Photo: Miller Mobley

list

New Broadway Musicals To See This Spring: "Hell's Kitchen," "The Wiz" & More

Broadway’s newest musicals have something for everyone, from works by GRAMMY-winning artists, to highly-anticipated revivals. Read on for everything you need to know about the new musicals appearing on Broadway.

GRAMMYs/Apr 3, 2024 - 01:27 pm

It’s a busy spring season on Broadway, with 11 musicals opening by April 25 — the cutoff for this year’s Tony Award eligibility.

Spring 2024 musicals span a wide range of styles and genres, from adaptations of literary classics and histories, to timeless revivals and jukebox musicals from GRAMMY winners Huey Lewis and Alicia Keys. The season also features some recognizable singers including Deborah Cox, Jeremy Jordan, Shoshana Bean, and Brandon Victor Dixon.

Here’s a breakdown (in alphabetical order) of what’s playing; unless listed, all of the following musicals have open run dates.

"Cabaret"

August Wilson Theatre

Set within the seedy Kit Kat Club in 1930s Berlin as the Nazi regime was beginning to take over,  "Cabaret" premiered on Broadway in 1966. The hit play starred Joel Grey as the Emcee and Jill Haworth. Sally Bowles, with music and lyrics by the legendary John Kander and the late Fred Ebb. In 1972, the musical was turned into a movie starring Gray and Liza Minnelli; it subsequently won eight Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Actress for Grey and Minnelli. 

The 2024 revival stars Eddie Redmayne as the Emcee, who will perform in the round on an  immersive set. While the stage may be different, fans can still expect unique renditions of iconic songs such as "Willkommen," "Cabaret" and "Don’t Tell Mama." 

"Hell's Kitchen"

Shubert Theater 

Sixteen-time GRAMMY winner Alicia Keys brings her artistry from the Super Bowl to the Broadway stage in the jukebox musical "Hell’s Kitchen." Loosely based on Keys' life growing up in the Manhattan neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen, the story centers around 17-year-old Ali, played by newcomer Maleah Joi Moon, as she navigates her teenage years through love and loss.

Written by Pulitzer Prize-finalist playwright Kristoffer Diaz, "Hell's Kitchen" features songs by Keys with new arrangements, as well as the recently debuted "Kaleidoscope."  Shoshana Bean and two-time GRAMMY nominee Brandon Victor Dixon co-star in the musical, all reprising their roles from its premiere at the Public Theatre last fall.

"Illinoise"

St. James Theatre 

April 24 - Aug. 10

This new, dance-centered musical was the last show to announce its arrival on Broadway this season, and is moving from the New York’s Upper East Side Park Avenue Armory after a sold out run in order to meet the Tony Award eligibility deadline.

"Illinoise" features music by GRAMMY-nominated musician Sufjan Stevens and is based on his beloved 2005 concept album Illinois. The album features stories, people and places from the state. The show is conceived and choreographed by Justin Peck, of the New York City Ballet, who also choreographed Maestro and Steven Spielberg’s West Side Story. "‘Illinoise’ is a coming-of-age story that takes the audience on a journey through the American heartland — from campfire storytelling to the edges of the cosmos — all told in through a unique blend of music, dance, and theater," Peck said in a statement.

Dancers featured in the show include Yesenia Ayala, Gaby Diaz, Jeanette Delgado and  Ben Cook, who also were in West Side Story.

"Lempicka"

Longacre Theatre

"Lempicka" is a brand new, original musical with a "pop infused sound" with a script and lyrics by Carson Kreitzer and book and music by Matt Gould.

The musical tells the tale of real Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka, who was famous for her art deco portraits of aristocrats and highly stylized nude paintings. While Lempicka changed art and culture in the late 1800s, she struggled with decades of political and personal turmoil. Eden Espinosa stars in the title role, and previously played Elphaba in "Wicked." Amber Iman, the first woman to perform on Broadway after the Coronavirus shutdown and Tony Award winner Beth Leavel also star in the show.

"The Great Gatsby"

Broadway Theatre

First it was a book, turned into a movie, and now a Broadway musical. "The Great Gatsby" is based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary classic, and has all the glitz and jazz-aged glam of the 1925 novel.

Starring Jeremy Jordan as Long Island millionaire Jay Gatsby and Eva Noblezada as Daisy Buchanan, the Broadway adaptation features all new music with a modern jazz and pop score by Jason Howland with lyrics by Nathan Tysen. As in the book, "Gatsby" tells the story of how Gatsby is after his long lost love Daisy and all the stops to bring her back into his life.

"The Heart of Rock and Roll"

James Earl Jones Theatre

Songs by GRAMMY winners Huey Lewis & the News appear in two new musicals this season. "The Power of Love" is featured in "Back to the Future" (which opened last summer) and the new jukebox musical, "The Heart of Rock and Roll." 

Set in 1987 and featuring many hits from the time, the story centers on the young couple, played by Cory Cottand McKenzie Kurtz, who work at the same company and eventually fall in love. Bobby, a rock and roller, trades his guitar for the corporate ladder and his boss Cassandra is always putting the family business first. The musical is jam packed with Huey Lewis megahits like "Do You Believe in Love", "Hip to Be Square," and "If This Is It." 

"The Notebook"

Schoenfeld Theatre

Singer/songwriter Ingrid Michaelon wrote the music and lyrics for this tear-jerker musical adapted from Nicholas Sparks’ best-selling novel and the classic romantic movie starring Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling. Michaelson admits she’s best at the "weepy and romantic" songs.

The musical tells the story of how leads Allie and Noah shared a lifetime of love despite growing up in opposite socioeconomic classes. And if you’re wondering: yes, the famous rain scene from the movie makes a big splash with audiences on Broadway. 

"The Outsiders"

Bernard B. Jacobs Theater

"The Outsiders" transforms S.E. Hinton's novel — perhaps most famous for the 1983 movie starring Matt Damon, Patrick Swayze and Tom Cruise — into a Broadway musical. One of its co-producers is Angelina Jolie, who saw the show with her family when it debuted out-of-town in California. 

"The Outsiders" features a book by Adam Rapp with Justin Levine, along with music and lyrics by Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay & Zach Chance) and Justin Levine. Set in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1967, Ponyboy Curtis and Johnny Cade along with their fellow Outsiders  battle their rivals, the Socs.

"The Who’s Tommy"

Nederlander Theatre

Perhaps the most famous song from 1975 rock opera The Who’s Tommy is "Pinball Wizard" written by guitarist Pete Townshend. The musician won a GRAMMY for Best Musical Show Album in 1993 for the musical’s original cast recording. 

Des McAnuff — who co-wrote the musical's script with Townshend and also directed the original musical 30 years ago — is back in the director’s chair for this revival. The musical, about a boy who finds a knack for playing pinball, is based on the Who’s 1969 album, Tommy. It was also turned into a 1975 film called Tommy, which starred Elton John, Tina Turner, Ann Margaret and Roger Daltry as Tommy. On Broadway, Ali Louis Bourzgui stars in the title role. 

"The Wiz"

Marquis Theatre

Ease on down the road to the Marquis Theatre! "The Wiz" returns to Broadway for the first time since it premiered back in 1974 for a limited run followed by subsequent shows around the country. The show is based on The Wizard of Oz and, in 1978, was turned into a film starring Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Tinman. 

The revival features music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls, and book by William F. Brown with script updates by Amber Ruffin (whose Some Like It Hot won Best Musical Theater Album at the 2024 GRAMMYs). JaQuel Knight, who choreographed Beyoncé’s "Single Ladies," choreographed "The Wiz."

Newcomer Nichelle Lewis plays Dorothy along with Wayne Brady as The Wiz and Deborah Cox as Glinda. Look out for Avery Wilson as the Scarecrow; the R&B singer appeared on "The Voice" and their single "Kiss The Sky" cracked the Top 20 on Billboard’s R&B chart. 

"Suffs"

Music Box Theatre

On the heels of "Hamilton" is a historic musical called "Suffs." It’s 1913 and the women’s suffrage movement is heating up in America. The suffragists, or "Suffs," are relentless in their pursuit of the right to vote. 

Shaina Taub stars as Alice Paul, one of the leaders of the National Women’s Party. Taub also wrote the book, music and lyrics (She’s also collabing with five-time GRAMMY winner Elton John on the "Devil Wears Prada" musical). "Suffs" is produced by Hillary Clinton, tying the suffrage movement to contemporary politics in a tangible way.

"Water for Elephants"   

Imperial Theatre

Sara Gruen’s novel and 2011 film adaptation has now turned into a musical with music/lyrics by PigPen Theatre Co. 

Rick Elice (known for writing the book for "Jersey Boys") puts his stamp on this show about Jacob Jankowski, who jumps on a train finding a new home with a traveling circus. 

Like "The Notebook," this "memory musical" is told from his point of view as an old man and goes back and forth between the present and the past when he worked for the circus. Audiences will love the aerial tricks and impressive elephant puppetry. "

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Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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

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

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Franc Moody
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 

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A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea

James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.

Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.

Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.

In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.

Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.

There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Say She She

Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.

While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."

Moniquea

Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.

Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.

Shiro Schwarz

Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.

Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.

L'Impératrice

L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.

During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.

Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.

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