Photo: Sasha Samsonova
How Camila Cabello Found Herself With 'Familia,' An Album That Ties Together Her Latin Roots And "An Unfiltered Me"
Nearly 10 years since her career began with a fateful audition on 'The X Factor,' Camila Cabello is feeling more comfortable than ever on her third album, 'Familia'
March 3 is always a big day for Camila Cabello, but this year was particularly special. Not only was she celebrating her 25th birthday, she also announced her third album, Familia — a project she called "my whole f<em></em>*ing heart."
The day after, she teased the LP with a new Ed Sheeran collaboration, "Bam Bam." A lighthearted breakup song with (very specific) lyrics alluding to her recent split from Shawn Mendes, it was easy for fans to assume that Familia would be an album of heartbreak. But upon the album's arrival on April 8, they quickly realized that couldn't be further from the truth.
Sure, there's a few songs touching on that particular split (especially the final track, "everyone at this party"), but for the most part, Familia is a celebration of life — and, most of all, an homage to Cabello's Latina roots.
More than half of the album has Cabello singing in Spanish, and its lyrical themes vary from fiery romance ("Quiet") to crippling anxiety ("psychofreak," a collab with WILLOW). Whatever the topic or sound, each song on Familia is a representation of the fact that Cabello is feeling better than ever.
"I just feel like myself," she tells GRAMMY.com. "[This album process] was a lot more grounded, and I feel like you can hear that in the music — it really is an unfiltered me."
Ahead of Familia's release, Cabello sat down with GRAMMY.com to share how the album helped her find inner peace, how she's grown over the last 10 years, and why the Familia process was the most genuine yet.
You told Zane Lowe that this album was "a tool for me becoming a more well-rounded person." What is it about this music that makes you feel that way?
I think [on] my previous albums, my focus was, "How can I make a great album?" Obviously, I was honest and tried to get to the root of me, and what felt true to me, but there was also a lot of pressure. A lot of what I felt was pressure and anxiety — and not just in the studio. I was just anxious in general, and was having a tough time mentally.
It's like this album was a tool for me feeling better, and for creating real, genuine friendships and connections with my collaborators. It's about being vulnerable.
What felt different about this album compared to your previous releases?
In my previous albums, I felt like I had something to prove. I felt like I wanted to prove that I was a good songwriter, I wanted to prove that I had good ideas. So in the room with other songwriters and producers that I respected, I felt like I just wanted to show them that I was good.
I didn't feel any of that this time around. I was just like, "I don't really care. I'm just going to be myself. I'm going to make choices melodically, lyrically, that feel interesting to me." It was a lot more grounded, and I feel like you can hear that in the music — it really is an unfiltered me. There's no walls of any of that other, like, ego stuff up. So that's why it was the most fun experience, and what I think is my best work so far.
This is the first time you've collaborated with Scott Harris, one of Shawn Mendes' closest collaborators. What do you feel like he brought to your creative process?
I remember voice-memoing him in my house in Miami, he was about to come over and we were gonna just write in my bedroom. We wrote "Quiet" and "Boys Don't Cry" in the first two days [when] it was just me and him.
I told him exactly what I just told you. I was like, "I feel like, in the studio, sometimes I get anxious. I want to prove that I'm good. And I just want to be open and honest." I would journal every day, I would read them out to him, we would talk about it, and then we would write. So it started off with that intention.
Was there a certain song or a session you had for this album — or even something that wasn't even album related — that felt like a turning point for you in getting to a place where you can be that vulnerable?
I think that vulnerability really cemented, and I feel like I really matured as a writer, the day that I made a "psychofreak" with Ricky [Reed] and Scott. [Ricky] had this track — I started doing this thing after working with this artist Remi Wolf, where I would freestyle and word vomit, stream of consciousness into a mic. We weren't even like, "What are we going to write about today? I have this idea for a song." It was just like, "Cool, I love that. Let me see what comes out."
[With] "psychofreak," I felt really, really vulnerable. I felt really icky talking about those things, because they were real anxieties that I had about intimacy, and literally what I was talking through in therapy at that time. To say that, and then leave from the booth and go back into the room, and for my collaborators to be like, "Yeah, this line was really good, talk to us about that" was really hard. It was really hard, and felt embarrassing, and vulnerable.
It was a few days after that I was like, "Oh wow, I just made one of my favorite songs, if not my favorite song ever." That's when I feel like that trust between me and my collaborators was cemented, like I could say anything. And it's really f<em></em>*ing scary, but it feels good to get that out. It also results in, what I feel, is really good writing. That song was a big turning point.
You feature a variety of artists on Familia, from Ed Sheeran to Maria Becerra to WILLOW. How did you determine the right collaborators for this project?
I mean, I've had the same vision for my collaborators. I was just like, I want to work with other artists, and I don't want it to be like, you know, them over there and they send the files — obviously, sometimes it has to be that way because of schedules and whatever. But for example, Willow came over for "psychofreak" and [we ordered] some delicious vegan food, it was nighttime, we had some shots. It was me, Ricky, her and her friend in my house.
I just was like, I want to connect, I want to hang. I want it to be fun, and fun for everybody. I want it to feel genuine. With Ed, same thing — we're genuinely friends. And Yotuel, he is somebody that my family loves so much, and he is so important to the Cuban community. It didn't feel transactional. It felt very real.
This year marks both the 10 year anniversary of when Fifth Harmony formed, and five years since you officially launched your solo career with "Crying in the Club." When you think back to the Camilla who auditioned for The X Factor 10 years ago, and maybe even the Camila who you were upon going solo, how do you feel like you've grown professionally?
The girl that auditioned for X Factor is actually really similar, in a lot of ways, to who I am now. There was just this passion, vulnerability and excitement that I feel like I kind of regained — and I sometimes lost in the middle.
Writing-wise, so many different influences came together for this album — Sally Rooney, SZA — in my writing style, in my melodic style, and my lyrical style. I feel like I really have come back to what kind of turns me on about my craft, and about songwriting and making music.
How do you feel you've grown personally?
I feel like there was a lot of hard-earned wisdom. I don't have a lot of wisdom, because I'm 25, and I have a lot to learn. Something kind of stupid and silly is, I feel like things that used to make me really nervous don't anymore. And that feels really great. Like [previously] before I would do a performance, I would literally be like, almost fully blacking out [from nerves]. Now I can actually enjoy myself, which is less exhausting.
This album brings in the most Latin influence yet. I figured that probably plays into you feeling so good about this album, but it probably also comes from you being at the place you're at, and feeling so like yourself.
Definitely. I think it's all about finding my way. Honestly, I feel like I kind of lost my way a little bit in the middle of those 10 years.
This [album] has been finding my way back. A big part of that is my roots, and my heritage. I want to spend the most time in Latin America and in Mexico because it just makes me feel like myself. I just feel like myself.
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10 Artists Who Are Outspoken About Mental Health: Billie Eilish, Selena Gomez, Shawn Mendes & More
From Ed Sheeran to Janet Jackson, take a look at some of the major music stars who have shared their struggles with mental health — and helped fans feel supported and seen in the process.
Sharing mental health issues with close family or specialized medical professionals can be challenging enough. Add in the pressures of fame and being in the public eye, and any struggles are exponentially more difficult to cope with.
In recent years, though, mental health has become a much more widely discussed topic in celebrity culture. Several artists have used their music and their platform to open up about their own struggles with depression, anxiety and the like, from Bruce Springsteen to Selena Gomez.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, GRAMMY.com highlights the inspirational impact of music superstars who speak out about what they're going through, and how they manage their challenges. These 10 performers are making change through their courage and candor.
Ed Sheeran takes fans behind the curtain of his personal life and struggles with mental health in Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All. The four-episode docuseries, which is now streaming on Disney+, details the pain of losing his best friend Jamal Edwards and his wife Cherry Seaborn receiving a cancer diagnosis while she was pregnant with their daughter Jupiter.
"What I think is really great about the documentary is the themes that it explores, everyone goes through," Sheeran said at the New York City premiere on May 2, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "Everyone goes through grief. Everyone goes through ups and downs of their mental health."
Sheeran dives deeper into his struggles — and is more vulnerable than ever before — on his latest album Subtract, which arrived on May 5. "Running from the light/ Engulfed in darkness/ Sharing my eyes/ Wondering why I'm stuck on the borderline," he sings on album cut "Borderline," which touches on battling suicide thoughts.
Like Sheeran, Scottish singer Lewis Capaldi also gave fans an incredibly upfront look at his mental health challenges in a documentary, How I'm Feeling Now. The new Netflix release details his experience with anxiety and Tourette's syndrome, taking viewers to physical therapy with Capaldi and discussing how his medication both helps and hurts the quality of his life.
Capaldi's second album, Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent (due May 19) will further explore his anxieties and vulnerability. While he has admitted it wasn't easy to be so raw in his music and on screen, Capaldi wants to make a difference in other people's lives. "If people notice things that are concurrent with what's going on in their life, then it's all been worth it," he told Variety.
While Billie Eilish's music has been raw and real from the start, her music has become increasingly more vulnerable throughout the years. Whether in her music or in interviews, the star has opened up about dealing with body dysmorphia, depression and thoughts of self-harm — hoping to inspire fans to speak up when they are hurting, and to know that it gets better.
"It doesn't make you weak to ask for help," she asserts in a 2019 video for Ad Council's Seize The Awkward campaign, which features stars discussing mental health.
"Kids use my songs as a hug," she told Rolling Stone earlier that year. "Songs about being depressed or suicidal or completely just against-yourself — some adults think that's bad, but I feel that seeing that someone else feels just as horrible as you do is a comfort. It's a good feeling."
As one of the most-followed stars on social media, Selena Gomez has often used her formidable presence to discuss her mental health and connect with others. In 2022, the singer launched a startup called Wondermind, which is focused on "mental fitness" and helping users maintain strong mental health.
Just a few months later, Gomez further chronicled her own mental health journey in an Apple TV+ documentary, Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me, which shows extremes she's suffered with her depression and bipolar disorder. She has said she was initially hesitant to share the film, but ultimately reflected on how many others could be helped if she did.
"Because I have the platform I have, it's kind of like I'm sacrificing myself a little bit for a greater purpose," she explained in a 2022 cover story with Rolling Stone. "I don't want that to sound dramatic, but I almost wasn't going to put this out. God's honest truth, a few weeks ago, I wasn't sure I could do it."
In 2019, Shawn Mendes first publicly addressed his struggles with anxiety in the dynamic — and GRAMMY-nominated — hit "In My Blood." Three years later, the singer postponed his 2022 tour in order to focus on his mental health, opening up an important conversation to his legion of fans.
"The process was very difficult," he said in a February interview with Wall Street Journal. "A lot of doing therapy, a lot of trying to understand how I was feeling and what was making me feel that way. And then doing the work to help myself and heal. And also leaning on people in my life to help a little bit.
"It's been a lot of work, but I think the last year and a half has been the most eye-opening and growing and beautiful and just healing process of my life," he continued. "And it just really made me see how culture is really starting to get to a place where mental health is really becoming a priority."
Even an artist as successful and celebrated as Bruce Springsteen has faced depression. In his 2016 autobiography Born to Run, the 20-time GRAMMY winner cites a difficult relationship with his father and a history of mental illness in the family, sharing that he has sought treatment throughout his life.
"I was crushed between 60 and 62, good for a year, and out again from 63 to 64," he wrote in the book. In that time, he released his 2012 album, Wrecking Ball, which featured a raw track called "This Depression." "Baby, I've been down, but never this down I've been lost, but never this lost," he sings on the opening verse.
As his wife, Patti Scialfa, told Vanity Fair in 2016, "He approached the book the way he would approach writing a song…A lot of his work comes from him trying to overcome that part of himself."
The physical and emotional abuse suffered by the famous Jackson family is well-documented in books, documentaries and TV dramatizations. But it's only been in recent years that Janet Jackson has talked about her own depression, which she has referred to as "intense." Her son Aissa has helped her heal from mental health challenges that have followed her all of her life.
"In my 40s, like millions of women in the world, I still heard voices inside my head berating me, voices questioning my value," she wrote in a 2020 ESSENCE cover story. "Happiness was elusive. A reunion with old friends might make me happy. A call from a colleague might make me happy. But because sometimes I saw my failed relationships as my fault, I easily fell into despair."
After seeing global success with her debut single, "Ex's & Oh's," Elle King experienced the woes of sudden fame as well as a crumbling marriage. Her second album, 2018's Shake the Spirit, documented her struggles with self-doubt, medicinal drinking and PTSD.
"There's two ways out," she told PEOPLE in 2018, describing her marriage as "destructive," physically abusive and leading her to addiction. "You can take the bad way out or you can get help. I got help because I knew that I have felt good in my life and I knew I could get there again."
Certain public situations can trigger crippling anxiety attacks for Brendon Urie, who has been open about mental health concerns throughout his career. He can perform in front of thousands of fans, but he's revealed that being in the grocery store or stuck in an elevator for too long with other people are among some of his most uncomfortable scenarios in his life.
"You would never tell on the surface, but inside it's so painful I can't even describe," the former Panic! At The Disco frontman — who disbanded the group earlier this year to focus on his family — said in a 2016 interview with Kerrang.
Rapper Big Sean and his mother released a series of educational videos during Mental Health Awareness Month in 2021 — two years after the Detroit-born star started talking about his own long-held depression and anxiety publicly.
"I was just keeping it real because I was tired of not keeping it real," he said in an interview with ESSENCE in 2021. "I was tired of pretending I was a machine and everything was cool and being politically correct or whatever. I just was like, I'm a just say how I feel."
Like many of his peers, he hopes that his honesty will help others. "Whatever they can apply to their life and better themselves and maybe it just even starts a whole journey in a different direction as far as upgrading and taking care of themselves and bossing up themselves," he added. "Whatever they're trying to do, I hope it helps them get to that place."
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Ed Sheeran's Road To 'Subtract': How Grief And Tragedy Forced The Pop Troubadour To Recalculate His Musical Equation
After more than a decade of planning a series of mathematically titled albums, Ed Sheeran's world turned upside down. As he releases 'Subtract,' revisit the journey of love and loss that led to his most emotional album yet.
Ed Sheeran has always known he's not exactly a conventional superstar. He even says as much in his new docu-series, Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All: "I'm specky, ginger hair, really short, English, from the countryside, who stutters and beatboxes. That guy doesn't become a pop star."
And yet, on the verge of releasing his sixth studio album Subtract (out May 5), the red-headed troubadour from the county of Suffolk is undeniably a defining force in modern pop music, with four GRAMMYs, three Diamond-certified singles and more than 63 million albums sold worldwide.
A natural singer/songwriter, Sheeran became a global star upon the release of his 2011 debut album, Plus, which melded acoustic folk-pop with hip-hop rhythms — and, yes, plenty of beatboxing — on breakout hits like "The A Team," "You Need Me, I Don't Need You" and "Lego House."
Of course, like many a celebrated artist before him, the singer had toiled for years in the proverbial trenches to reach his big break. Inspired to start writing music as a preteen after seeing Damien Rice perform a secret show in Dublin, Sheeran booked his first gig in London at 14 — the same year he bought the signature loop pedal that would come to define his live shows.
To make a name for himself in the London scene, a 17-year-old Ed worked tirelessly, sleeping on friends' (or sometimes even newfound fans') couches between gigs and adopting a strategy to stand out from the pack of fellow hopefuls. "The places I really stand out are the places that you'd never really expect to see a white, ginger, chubby singer/songwriter play: rap nights, soul nights, comedy nights," he explained years later to MTV. However, it was ultimately a tale as old as the internet age — going viral on an urban music channel in London called SBTV — that catapulted Sheeran to a record deal, international fame and his first Song of the Year nomination for "The A Team."
When it came time to release his sophomore album, Multiply, in 2014, Sheeran's moonshot into the upper echelons of the music industry had clearly begat success and opportunity. New collaborators on the album included the likes of Rick Rubin, Benny Blanco and Snow Patrol's Johnny McDaid and Pharrell Williams, with the latter coaxing a more hip-hop-influenced blue-eyed soul edge out of Sheeran's songwriting on lead single "Sing."
But even with the framework of A-listers around him, Sheeran still saw himself as a regular guy from the British countryside — even if he now counted Taylor Swift as a close personal friend — and put the pressure on Multiply to prove he wasn't just a flash in the pan.
"I think this particular moment after such a successful first album, it's literally a make or break situation," he said in his 2014 documentary Nine Days and Nights with Ed Sheeran. "Everyone's watching this time, whereas the first time I could make a lot of mistakes and it didn't matter too much 'cause I was learning. This time around's a lot more of a stressful experience. It's whether I can be a career artist for the rest of my life or I had a very big album back in 2011. That's the difference: it's artist of the times or artist of…a career."
Multiply proved to be an even bigger hit than its predecessor, earning Sheeran his first No. 1 album on the Billboard 200 and a behemoth hit in "Thinking Out Loud," which won Sheeran his first two GRAMMYs in 2016 (including the coveted Song Of The Year). Anyone could argue that such runaway success would naturally quell the singer's concerns over his long-term plan, but in the closing moments of his MTV documentary, he revealed his pie-in-the-sky ambitions were only one part of the equation he was constructing for his life.
"I'd define success through ticket sales, so if I can constantly tour for the rest of my life at a high level, I'd say that's success. But I hope in 10 years I've got kids," he confessed. "There'd be nothing worse than touring 20 years from now with no kids and just [a] massive bank account, I can buy whatever I want in the world, but, like, nothing to show for it."
Vocalizing such a domestic goal might seem at disparate odds with what society expects from a contemporary pop star — particularly a male one — but it squared perfectly with the story Sheeran was telling fans on unabashed, heart-on-his-sleeve love songs like "Kiss Me," "Photograph" or "Tenerife Sea."
One year after releasing Multiply, Sheeran unexpectedly reconnected with Cherry Seaborn, a former classmate from Thomas Mills High School in his hometown of Framlingham; she'd gone off to America after graduating to play field hockey at Duke University. At the time, Seaborn was working in New York City, and the pair's romance fueled the creative process for Sheeran's next album, 2017's Divide.
"I just have a weird sense that it's gonna be the career-defining album," the singer predicted in his 2018 Apple Music film Ed Sheeran: Songwriter, which documented the recording process of the studio set. "All the songs have a thread that go through it, and it's all family."
Sheeran was right in thinking Divide would lead to yet a higher peak in his career. "Shape Of You," one of the LP's two lead singles along with the autobiographical "Castle on a Hill," rocketed to the top of the Hot 100, where it spent 12 weeks at No. 1. Its romantic, Seaborn-inspired follow-up "Perfect" became his second career chart-topper, spent another eight weeks reigning over the Hot 100, and scored a guest feature from none other than Beyoncé on its official remix. (Fun fact: as of press time, Divide, which won Sheeran the GRAMMY for Best Pop Vocal Album in 2018, also remains the most-streamed album in Spotify history with more than 12.8 billion streams.)
In the midst of his world tour in support of Divide, Sheeran took a detour from his mathematically titled studio sets to make his fourth album, No.6 Collaborations Project. A star-studded sequel to his 2011 indie EP No. 5 Collaborations Project, No. 6 found the GRAMMY winner enlisting a who's who of collaborators — from Justin Bieber to Cardi B and Camila Cabello to Eminem and 50 Cent — for an album that spanned Latin pop, R&B, country rock and U.K. hip-hop.
"I've never, ever had features on my albums, apart from when I did No. 5 Collaborations Project," Sheeran explained to Zane Lowe for Apple Music in 2021. "And I've been careful with putting together a solo album. 'Cause, like, when I bought Bob Dylan albums as a kid, you don't buy a Dylan album and it says 'Featuring Travis Scott.' So I wanted to actually make a specific record that just fed my desire for all of that, and ticked my boxes of wanting to work with these people…Yeah, it was never in my five-album plan, it was always gonna be a side project."
He also used the album to share a glimpse into his highly guarded personal life: in the adorable music video for "Put It All On Me" featuring Ella Mai, the singer revealed to fans that he'd secretly married Seaborn in January 2019. After releasing No.6 Collaborations Project and wrapping his tour, Sheeran put his guitar down for the first time in almost a decade and took a year-long sabbatical to travel the world with his new wife.
By 2021, Sheeran was ready to get back to work, and dove headfirst into the world of dance music to craft "Bad Habits" — the lead single off his fifth album Equals. In order to work authentically in the genre, he enlisted help from Fred again.., the British DJ and record producer who had helmed the bulk of No.6 Collaborations Project, telling Lowe, "It's so easy to write an acoustic tune and put a four-on-the-floor beat over it and then just call it a dance song. But actually, Fred is such a connoisseur of dance music that he kind of guided me into it."
The song's layered synths and throbbing beats also belied surprisingly heavy subject matter, which Sheeran toyed with by playing a glitter-eyed, spiky-haired vampire in a neon-pink suit in the accompanying music video.
"I used to do everything to excess, like real excess," Sheeran confessed after "Bad Habits" was released. "I loved drinking everything in sight and all the other stuff, and I just found when Cherry was six months pregnant, I was like, 'Right, water might break any time and I'm just gonna stop excess and just be available and be the husband that I'm meant to be. And then from there, it's just been kind of clean, healthy living."
The rest of Equals, which arrived in full October 2021, flirted with dance — particularly on Fred-assisted follow-up singles like "Shivers" and "Overpass Graffiti" — but mostly represented a return to musical form as Sheeran stepped into fatherhood for the first time. But despite the finality of its title, the album wasn't the end of the last part of the formula in the singer's head: he still had Subtract to work out.
As he later revealed, Sheeran had long envisioned Subtract as "the perfect acoustic album" and had quietly whittled away at the idea for the better part of a decade. Taylor Swift put him in touch with the National's Aaron Dessner (who had helped her create the magic of her 2020 albums folklore and evermore), and Sheeran had finally started focusing on the long-awaited album in earnest.
But then, tragedy and hardship struck, not once or even twice, but three times in the space of a single month. First, Seaborn found a cancerous tumor in her arm while pregnant with the couple's second daughter. The prognosis wasn't good, but there was nothing that could be done until after the baby was born. Next, Sheeran was hit with a copyright lawsuit over his biggest hit, "Shape of You," with the plaintiffs accusing him of plagiarizing parts of the song. And then, his world was turned upside down when Jamal Edwards, his best friend from the SBTV days, died of a sudden heart attack brought on by cocaine and alcohol use.
Depression crashed over Sheeran like a tidal wave, with the subsequent riptide pulling him to dark places he'd never experienced. "I felt like I didn't want to live anymore," he told Rolling Stone in a March cover story. "You're under the waves drowning. You're just sort of in this thing. And you can't get out of it."
Thankfully, Seaborn's surgery was successful after she gave birth to daughter Jupiter, and Sheeran won the court case over "Shape of You." But his best friend's death was a permanent loss, and he relied on music as a form of therapy to help him work through his grief.
"I wrote without thought of what the songs would be, I just wrote whatever tumbled out. And in just over a week I replaced a decade's worth of work with my deepest darkest thoughts," the singer shared when he announced the album on social media in March.
Subtract was first preceded by "Eyes Closed," on which he laments, "I pictured this year a little bit different when it hit February/ I step in the bar, it hit me so hard/ Oh, how can it be this heavy?/ Every song reminds me you're gone/ And I feel the lump form in my throat/ 'Cause I'm here alone." Ten days before the album's arrival, he released the emotional "Boat," a quiet anthem about finding resilience in the darkest of times and refusing to let the metaphorical boat sink as the waves batter you from all sides.
If those two songs are any indication, Sheeran's long-awaited album won't be anything like what's come before it. For starters, it'll mark the end of the pop star's decade-long mathematical era, the plan for which he spells out in The Sum of It All. (Plus was the "addition" to all the EPs he'd released, Multiply made the music exponentially "bigger," Divide was a double album — half acoustic, half R&B — and Equals was "the sum of all the parts.")
It'll also be Sheeran's first visual album, coming with 14 different music videos to help tell the story of Subtract. But instead of hyper-fixating on creating that "perfect acoustic album" as a postscript to Equals, he threw out a decade's worth of songwriting in favor of laying his soul bare in some of the most vulnerable work of his career.
Early last month, the singer played Subtract live from start to finish at an intimate show at Brooklyn's Kings Theatre, debuting powerful, emotional album cuts like "End of Youth" and "Life Goes On." And while each song touches a raw nerve filled with painful memories, Sheeran remains certain that he made the right choice by channeling his grief into his music.
"As an artist I didn't feel like I could credibly put a body of work into the world that didn't accurately represent where I am and how I need to express myself at this point in my life," he concluded in his Instagram post. "This album is purely that. It's opening the trapdoor into my soul. For the first time, I'm not trying to craft an album people will like, I'm merely putting something out that's honest and true to where I am in my adult life."
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5 Takeaways From Lewis Capaldi's Netflix Documentary 'How I'm Feeling Now'
The singer’s new Netflix doc 'Lewis Capaldi: How I'm Feeling Now' traces the pop star's path to fame, offering intimate reflections on family, mental health, and his musical process — and how that all led to his upcoming album.
From playing sets in pubs to selling out arenas, Lewis Capaldi’s career has grown on a massive scale in recent years — and the journey was all caught on camera.
Capaldi’s life forever changed thanks to his pained ballad "Someone You Loved," which was nominated Song Of The Year at the 2020 GRAMMYs and hit No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and UK Singles Chart in 2019. Four years after his breakout stardom, the singer is now poised to release his second album Broken by Desire to be Heavenly Sent on May 19.
Before the album arrives, Capaldi gave an inside look into the process with a new Netflix documentary, Lewis Capaldi: How I'm Feeling. The intimate film takes viewers everywhere from the Scottish star’s childhood home to his late nights in the studio, with an emphasis on mental health struggles as his fame skyrocketed.
Balancing Capaldi's vulnerability with his wryness, the documentary has a lot to say about the acclaimed musician. As it hits Netflix on April 5, take a look at five takeaways from Lewis Capaldi: How I'm Feeling.
Lewis Is Proud Of His Scottish Heritage — And Outlook On Life
Early on in the documentary, Capaldi acknowledges his family and Scottish heritage during a drive through Whitburn, his hometown. He's come to love where he's from, though touring makes it impossible for him to stay at home for long.
"I do love the fact that I am a Scottish person, and I like the patter that people have," he said. "I do like the mindset of realists everyone just stays on that level of like, 'Let's give this a go and we'll probably f— it up, but we'll have a good time.'"
This lighthearted mentality is clear throughout the documentary, which highlights Capaldi's natural comedic talent. Even when Capaldi is struggling with imposter syndrome or anxiety, he manages to find hope in his art and loved ones. Director Jon Pearlman excellently captures Capaldi's personality and self-deprecating demeanor — and of course, all with his thick Scottish accent.
His Parents Give Him Tough Love
"It's s—," Capaldi's father, Mark, said, agreeing with the singer’s mother, Carol, after Capaldi asked for song feedback. "You asked me my opinion, so I'll give it to you."
The documentary often frames Capaldi's parents to be big on tough love, unflinchingly sharing their sarcasm or cutting honesty. But their care and pride for their son are heartwarming above all else. Mark drove Capaldi to gigs around town when Capaldi first picked up his guitar, and Carol frequently expresses worry about her son's rising fame: "I don’t want him to change. I don’t want us to change. It wouldn’t be worth it."
How I'm Feeling shows Capaldi returning home due to the pandemic, capturing his family dynamic on screen (along with clips of the star completing his everyday chores from feeding the dog to folding laundry). The documentary flips through Capaldi's family photo albums, portraying his early interests in music as well as sharing exclusive commentary on how the singer's parents helped him follow his passion.
His Single 'Bruises' Was A Career Turning Point Before 'Someone You Loved' Existed
"If only I could hold you, you'd keep my head from going under," Capaldi belts across a montage of old concert videos. Shown early on in the documentary, the tender lyric appears to foreshadow his future emotional struggles — but the song is also the impetus for his stardom.
His crushing 2017 single "Bruises," which Capaldi released independently, was boosted through Spotify's addition of the song to its popular New Music Friday playlist — which quickly helped him get signed to a branch of Universal Music Group in the same year.
"You see the smile on his face when the crowd sang back," his father said in the documentary. "We knew that's what he was going to do for the rest of his life."
The documentary portrays Capaldi's quick escalation to fame, but it also provides a look into more intimate songwriting sessions the musician has with fellow collaborators such as Dan Nigro, Amy Allen, Nick Atkinson, and Edd Holloway. From voice memos to iPad demos, it's evident Capaldi belongs in the studio and on stage.
He's Open About His Mental Health And Tourette's
How I’m Feeling zeroes in on the impact fame has had on Capaldi’s mental health, and details his anxiety pricking up after the global success of "Someone You Loved" — especially as he felt the pressure to craft another No. 1 hit.
Amid echoey vocals, shadowy crowds, and whining microphone feedback, the documentary captures the dizzying anxiety Capaldi felt — and sometimes still feels — when confronting his career. The singer opens up about his Tourette syndrome diagnosis, debilitating panic attacks, and fear of death.
"Is it worth it? Making you feel like this?" asks his concerned mother at one point in the documentary.
Yet, as How I’m Feeling shows, Capaldi has found ways to prioritize his well-being and still continue his musical career. He regularly attends therapy, takes his vitamins, and knows when to take time off; the documentary portrays how this re-energized approach to life allowed him to pour his full passion into Broken by Desire to be Heavenly Sent.
He Still Doesn't Understand How He’s Famous
"People started getting their phones out. Why are they all so interested in what we're doing?" Capaldi queried in a vertical video, recalling a casual night out on the town. "And then I remember: it's 'cause I'm f—ing famous."
Although he said the line with his signature wit, How I'm Feeling demonstrates how genuinely easy it is for Capaldi to forget about his celebrity status. On a more personal level, he still struggles to understand why people like him — even with billions of streams and millions of followers.
"I just don't get it, I don't get why people would turn up and see [me perform], but I'm eternally grateful," he said, laughing, "I love you, but I will never understand you."
In one part of the documentary, Capaldi recalls grabbing beers with Ed Sheeran and chatting about impostor syndrome. A little while later, the singer received an email from Sheeran’s close friend Elton John, who wrote a kind note of encouragement to remind Capaldi: “You write beautiful songs that resonate with millions.”
Even so, Capaldi modestly disregards the power of his "silly little songs," and How I’m Feeling hints that he may always be in that mindset, even if Broken by Desire to be Heavenly Sent proves to be another massive success. Whether he understands the fame or not, Capaldi’s story is a reminder that achieving your dreams may not always be easy — but if you stay true to yourself, you’ll find a way to keep your head above water.
British Singer Sam Fender On Getting A (Literal) Taste Of America And Why "Everyone Needs A F—ing Elton John"
Photos (L-R, clockwise): GAB Archive/Redferns, Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images, Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
The Evolution Of The Girl Group: How TLC, BLACKPINK, The Shirelles & More Have Elevated Female Expression
From the Supremes to the Spice Girls, take a deep dive into the history of girl groups — and how their songs, performance and vocal power changed pop culture.
For more than eight decades, girl groups have harmonized their way into the collective consciousness, bringing female empowerment to the forefront — and changing culture along the way.
Of course, girl groups have come in many forms: there's the family-friendly Andrew Sisters, the funk rock-infused Labelle, and the R&B-leaning Destiny's Child. As the construct of the girl group has evolved, so has their cultural impact — while acts like the Supremes helped push popular music in a more diverse direction in America, J-Pop and K-Pop groups have helped girl groups be viewed through a global lens in recent years.
What has tied all of these groups together is their infectious and inspirational records, which have encouraged women to express themselves and feel empowered in doing so. Groups like the Spice Girls and the Shangri-Las, for instance, have helped women express all sides of themselves, reminding the world that there is joy and beauty in contrast.
As Women's History Month nears its end, GRAMMY.com celebrates all of the powerful women who have been part of the girl group evolution. (To narrow the field, we characterize a girl group as acts with a minimum of three members and a focus on vocal performance; hence why you won't see bands like the Go-Gos or the Chicks on this list.)
Below, take a look at how girl groups have changed in both construct and impact for nearly 90 years — and counting — and listen to GRAMMY.com's official Girl Groups playlist on Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora.
Though women have no doubt sung together since the beginning of time, the formal concept of the girl group came sometime in the '20s or '30s, with the rise in popularity of tightly harmonizing family acts like the Boswell Sisters and the Hamilton Sisters (the latter of whom would become Three X Sisters). The groups really started to see a rise in popularity around the beginning of WWII — perhaps because the entrance of more women into the workforce opened peoples' minds to the idea of the pop girl group, or perhaps because the soldiers overseas sought comfort and mild excitement via the groups' smooth sounds and attractive looks.
The Andrews Sisters, who officially formed in 1937 as a Boswell Sisters tribute act, would become the most popular of the sister acts, riding tracks like "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,""Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me)" and "Beer Barrel Polka (Roll Out The Barrel)" straight to the top of the charts. They're considered one of the most successful girl groups of all time, selling an estimated 80 million records and counting. Other girl groups followed the Andrews' act, including the Dinning Sisters, who released "They Just Chopped Down The Old Apple Tree" as an answer to their rivals' hit.
The Andrews Sisters continued to be popular well into the '50s, inspiring similar close harmony acts like the Chordettes, who found success with tracks like "Mr. Sandman" and "Lollipop," and the Lennon Sisters, who became a mainstay on "The Lawrence Welk Show."
Around the middle of the decade, girl groups started pulling a bit more from the doo-wop movement, with songs like the Bobbettes "Mr Lee" helping pave the way for a wave of all-Black girl groups to come. The Chantels — who had come up together singing in a choir — quickly followed with "Maybe," which solidified the genre's style with a blend of rock, pop, doo-wop that would act as a sonic template for years to come.
In 1961, the Shirelles found quick success with tracks like "Tonight's The Night" and "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow," which became the first girl group cut to go to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. The group would have five more hit singles throughout the decade, and inspired acts like the Marvelettes, whose "Please Mr. Postman" would become the first No. 1 single for Motown Records.
Keen to seize on that success, Motown invested heavily in creating more girl groups, crafting trios and quartets out of various singers that they might have previously eyed for solo work or even passed on signing. That kind of business-minded molding is what yielded Martha and the Vandellas, the Velvelettes, and a little act called the Supremes, who would go on to become the most successful American vocal group of all time, according to CNN. The success of the Motown acts — the majority of whom were all Black — was also a sign of American culture's increasing acceptance of the integration of popular music.
Having seen the success that Motown had in consciously crafting its girl groups, other producers and small, independent labels sought to capture some of that lightning in a bottle for themselves. The Philles label cashed in on the sound of the Crystals and the Ronettes, while Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller signed the Shangri-Las and the Dixie Cups to their Red Bird label. Tracks like the Shangri-Las' "Give Him A Great Big Kiss" offered a surprisingly real perspective on teen girl crushes, while "Leader Of The Pack" helped bring female perspective to a subgenre of songs about macabre teenage tragedies previously dominated by all-male acts like Jan And Dean and Wayne Cochran And The C.C. Riders.
First formed in the '60s as Patti LaBelle and the Bluebelles, Labelle pushed the genre out of the sock hop and into the nightclub, becoming one of the premiere girl groups of the '70s. Their funky, rock-infused singles were unlike anything girl group aficionados had heard before, and in 1974, the group captured America's heart with "Lady Marmalade," a slightly suggestive song that broke out of the discos and into the collective consciousness. Other acts originally formed in the '60s found similar success, like the Three Degrees, who had a number of hits, including the sunny and soothing "When Will I See You Again."
Sister Sledge also capitalized on the disco boom, crafting lasting hits like "We Are Family" and "He's The Greatest Dancer." The Pointer Sisters went through a rainbow of genres, including R&B (1973's funky "Yes We Can Can") and country (1974's "Fairytale," which won a GRAMMY for Best Country Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal in 1975), before finding their biggest success at the beginning of the next decade with tracks like the sultry "Slow Hand" and the more frantic "I'm So Excited."
Girl groups went through a bit of a lull in the '80s, as the culture trended toward hair metal and hip-hop. Some acts still managed to break through, capturing listeners' hearts with dance-friendly cuts imbued with Latin freestyle flair. Full of synths and syncopated percussion, freestyle burst out of clubs and parties in New York and Philadelphia, finding a particular hold amongst Hispanic and Italian-American audiences.
Miami's Exposé was one of the decade's biggest freestyle acts, blending girl group harmonies with synthetic sounds for hits like "Point Of No Return" and "Seasons Change." Two New York groups, Sweet Sensation and The Cover Girls, had freestyle success that bridged the '80s and '90s. Sweet Sensation's "Never Let You Go" tore up the dance charts, and while the Cover Girls' "Show Me" and "Because Of You" weren't quite as popular, they still hold a special place in the hearts of freestyle fans.
Girl groups roared back in a big way in the '90s, thanks in part to the emergency of new jack swing and a renewed interest in R&B's smooth vocal stylings. En Vogue was one of the first groups to go big in the '90s, with debut single "Hold On" first hitting the Billboard charts in 1990. Their biggest tracks came later in the decade, with the powerful "Free Your Mind" and "Giving Him Something He Can Feel" showcasing the quartet's vocal range and character.
Two groups from Atlanta also came to prominence around the same time as En Vogue. First was the street-savvy quartet Xscape, who harnessed the sounds of 1993 with tracks like "Just Kickin' It."
TLC had a more dynamic arc, first bursting into the collective consciousness with the new jack swing-infused "Ooooooohh… On The TLC Tip," which featured three top 10 singles, including "Ain't 2 Proud 2 Beg." The group's baggy pants and hip-hop aesthetic pushed girl group boundaries, in part because its members actually acknowledged their sexual desires, as well as the need for everyone to have safe sex. Later in the decade, TLC would rise to even higher heights with tracks like "Waterfalls" and the GRAMMY-winning "No Scrubs," the latter of which was actually co-written by two members of Xscape.
Destiny's Child initially emerged from Houston in the late '90s as a quartet, though they'd later lose some members and gain new ones, ending up as a trio. While it was hard to ignore the sheer star power of Beyonce, the threesome did generally function as a group, producing a string of danceable earworms, including "No, No, No," and "Bills, Bills, Bills." By the time they disbanded in 2006, Destiny's Child sold tens of millions of records and earned three GRAMMY Awards (and a total of nine nominations).
Out west, Wilson Phillips' Chyna Phillips, Wendy Wilson and Carnie Wilson were channeling the sounds of their respective parents, who had been members of the Beach Boys and the Mamas & The Papas. Their songs featured vocal harmonies and were largely about emotional longing, pushing back against the dance and funk that ruled much of the radio dial throughout the '90s.
Girl groups were also gaining major traction in the U.K during the '90s, spurred by a boy band boom in the country around the same time. Two groups — All Saints and the Spice Girls — were actually assembled by managers, something that didn't help allay naysayers' concern that much of pop music at the time was wholly manufactured. (Another U.K. mainstay, Ireland's B*Witched, came together organically.)
Regardless, both All Saints and the Spice Girls found commercial success, with the latter becoming absolutely massive not just because of catchy pop romps like "Wannabe," but because of the quintet's singular personas and the strength of their "girl power" messaging. The Spice Girls even starred in their own movie, "Spice World," which came out at the height of Spice-mania in 1997 and drew instant comparisons to the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night."
Girl groups continued to reign in the early part of the 2000s. A number of 2000s girl groups formed on television as part of reality programming, with U.K. sensation Girls Aloud forming on the ITV show "Popstars: The Rivals" and Danity Kane both forming and developing over three seasons of Sean Puffy Combs' "Making The Band." TV acted as a great launching pad for these pop acts, as fans were often emotionally invested in the group's success from watching the show so when a new single dropped, they were quick to get on board.
Girls Aloud and Danity Kane — as well as their peers, like Dream, 3LW, and Blacque — made pop music that was sexy, confident, and larger than life, with expensive-looking music videos to match. The songs also often crossed over from pop to urban radio.
Another of the most successful (and sexiest) girl groups of the 2000s also formed in a fairly roundabout way. The Pussycat Dolls found success with tracks like "Don't Cha" and "Buttons," but the actual origin of the Pussycat Dolls name and brand came almost 15 years earlier when an L.A. based choreographer named Robin Antin launched a burlesque troupe. After her club events and dancers became more and more popular (even posing for Playboy), she was urged by Interscope Records' Jimmy Iovine to attach the name to a pop group.
Antin recruited five singers who could hold a tune and looked the part, including Nicole Scherzinger — who initially got her start in Eden's Crush, another group formed on a TV show, the U.S. iteration of "Popstars" — and the Pussycat Dolls quickly strutted onto radio dials and Billboard charts with their catchy multi-tracked (and often risqué) hits.
Girl groups were also getting huge around the globe in the '00s, with Spain's Las Ketchup producing the insanely catchy pop ditty conveniently named "The Ketchup Song," Sweden's Play crossed over to commercial success in the American market, and the U.K.'s Atomic Kitten formed purely as a songwriting vehicle for Orchestral Maneuvers In the Dark's Andy McCluskey and Stuart Kershaw. Members of the latter would come and go throughout its career, but songs like "Whole Again" (which was also recorded by Play) have stood the test of time.
Though modern K-pop culture had begun in South Korea in the late '90s, it started to really pick up steam in the '00s, with both boy bands and girl groups benefiting from the surging Hallyu or Korean wave. One of those, Wonder Girls, found quick success in the late '00s with genre-spanning tracks like "Tell Me" and "Nobody," thanks in part to the pop act's ability to perform English versions of their songs while on tour with the Jonas Brothers.
Two of the 2010s biggest girl groups also came from televised reality competition shows. Little Mix, a quartet, was formed on the U.K.'s "The X Factor" and came to redefine the girl group era in Britain, selling more than 60 million records and topping the charts with high octane singles like "Cannonball" and "Shout Out To My Ex."
Stateside, Fifth Harmony was birthed on "The X Factor," where all five members had competed individually the season before but failed to advance. But after producers brought them back to compete as a group, Fifth Harmony was born, with viewers picking the name and ultimately helping them take third place in the competition.
The quintet emerged from the show signed to judge Simon Cowell's record label, Syco, and like so many great girl groups before it, embarked on a tour of malls and talk shows before eventually releasing a pop record tinged with both hip-hop and R&B. Fans latched on to songs like "I'm In Love With A Monster" and "Work From Home," the trap-laced monster hit that has garnered billions of hits on YouTube since its release.
The K-pop wave also continued in the 2010s, with groups like Girls Generation and Twice, both of whom broke the mold of a traditional girl group by having eight and nine members, respectively. At the same time, a J-Pop act, AKB48, rose to popularity, with a structure girl groups hadn't seen before — it has 80 members in total, with the group being divided into different "teams" that members are elected into by rabid fans. All three acts were literally and figuratively massive, selling tens of millions of highly produced bubblegum pop LPs and larger than life dance singles.
The success of K-pop girl groups shot to a new level when BLACKPINK entered the scene in 2016, forming after its members joined a girl group academy and underwent what amounts to girl group boot camp. The result is a fine-tuned musical machine that's produced pop hit after pop hit — including "Boombayah" and "DDU DU DDU DU" — as well as music videos that have been viewed billions of times online.
Spurred by the devotion of their fans (known as the BLINKs), BLACKPINK has also managed to rack up an impressive roster of accolades. They were the first Asian act to headline Coachella, the first female K-Pop artists on the cover of Billboard, and have amassed the most subscribers of any musical act on YouTube. But they're not the only female K-Pop act helping girl groups stay alive: Groups like Mamamoo and Red Velvet released hit after hit in the 2010s, and 2NE1 captured hearts everywhere with tracks like "Lonely" and "I Am The Best." In 2012, 2NE1 set out on what many consider to be the first world tour by a K-pop girl group, visiting 11 cities in seven countries.
A British girl group whose members pull from their individual cultures to create a unique, hip-hop influenced sound, Flo was also influenced by artists like Ciara and Amy Winehouse. Though they've only been together for a few years, their unique retro sound became almost instantly popular in the UK, with debut single "Cardboard Box" racking up almost a million views on YouTube within days of its release in early 2022. Other hit singles, like "Immature" and "Summertime" have followed.
Another thoroughly modern girl group, Boys World, was formed after managers found videos of five different women singing online and then contacted them to see if they wanted to team up. They said yes, launched a TikTok account, and moved into a house together in Los Angeles. Their thoroughly online approach to becoming a girl group has captivated audiences, along with their empowering anthems.
The K-Pop wave has continued to surge as well, with BLACKPINK headlining Coachella in 2023 and the quickly rising NewJeans earning the distinction of being the very first female Korean act to play Lollapalooza later this summer. Like so many girl groups before them, both acts continue to break boundaries and impact the culture at large, proving that the genre is as vital as ever.
While they may not be as abundant as in decades past, the girl group movement certainly hasn't shuttered. And with a diverse array of women still captivating audiences around the globe, girl groups will likely continue to spice up your life for years to come.
Listen To GRAMMY.com's Women's History Month 2023 Playlist: Swim In The Divine Feminine With These 40 Songs By Rihanna, SZA, Miley Cyrus, BLACKPINK & More