meta-scriptHow Camila Cabello Found Herself With 'Familia,' An Album That Ties Together Her Latin Roots And "An Unfiltered Me" | GRAMMY.com
How Camila Cabello Found Herself With 'Familia,' An Album That Ties Together Her Latin Roots And "An Unfiltered Me"
Camila Cabello

Photo: Sasha Samsonova

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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'

GRAMMYs/Apr 8, 2022 - 06:40 pm

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***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***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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(L-R) Usher and Alicia Keys during the Super Bowl LVIII halftime show.

Photo: L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

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17 Love Songs That Have Won GRAMMYs: "I Will Always Love You," "Drunk In Love" & More

Over the GRAMMYs' 66-year history, artists from Frank Sinatra to Ed Sheeran have taken home golden gramophones for their heartfelt tunes. Take a look at some of the love songs that have won GRAMMYs.

GRAMMYs/Feb 14, 2024 - 09:42 pm

Editor's Note: This is an update to a story from 2017.

Without heart-bursting, world-shifting love songs, music wouldn't be the same. There are countless classic and chart-topping hits dedicated to love, and several of them have won GRAMMYs.

We're not looking at tunes that merely deal with shades of love or dwell in heartbreak. We're talking out-and-out, no-holds-barred musical expressions of affection — the kind of love that leaves you wobbly at the knees.

No matter how you're celebrating Valentine's Day (or not), take a look at 18 odes to that feel-good, mushy-gushy love that have taken home golden gramophones over the years.

Frank Sinatra, "Strangers In The Night"

Record Of The Year / Best Vocal Performance, Male, 1967

Ol' Blue Eyes offers but a glimmer of hope for the single crowd on Valentine's Day, gently ruminating about exchanging glances with a stranger and sharing love before the night is through.

Willie Nelson, "Always On My Mind"

Best Country Vocal Performance, Male, 1983

In this cover, Nelson sings to the woman in his life, lamenting over those small things he should have said and done, but never took the time. Don't find yourself in the same position this Valentine's Day.

Lionel Richie, "Truly"

Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, 1983

"Truly" embodies true dedication to a loved one, and it's delivered with sincerity from the king of '80s romantic pop — who gave life to the timeless love-song classics "Endless Love," "Still" and "Three Times A Lady."

Roy Orbison, "Oh, Pretty Woman"

Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, 1991

Orbison captures the essence of encountering a lovely woman for the first time, and offers helpful one-liners such as "No one could look as good as you" and "I couldn't help but see … you look as lovely as can be." Single men, take notes.

Whitney Houston, "I Will Always Love You"

Record Of The Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, 1994

Houston passionately delivers a message of love, remembrance and forgiveness on her version of this song, which was written by country sweetheart Dolly Parton and first nominated for a GRAMMY in 1982.

Celine Dion, "My Heart Will Go On (Love Theme From Titanic)"  

Record Of The Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, 1999

This omnipresent theme song from the 1997 film Titanic was propelled to the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 as the story of Jack and Rose (played by Leonardo DiCaprio and GRAMMY winner Kate Winslet) swept the country.

Shania Twain, "You're Still The One"

Best Female Country Vocal Performance, Best Country Song, 1999

Co-written with producer and then-husband Mutt Lange, Twain speaks of beating the odds with love and perseverance in lyrics such as, "I'm so glad we made it/Look how far we've come my baby," offering a fresh coat of optimism for couples of all ages.

Usher & Alicia Keys, "My Boo"

Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals, 2005

"There's always that one person that will always have your heart," sings Usher in this duet with Keys, taking the listener back to that special first love. The chemistry between the longtime friends makes this ode to “My Boo” even more heartfelt, and the love was still palpable even 20 years later when they performed it on the Super Bowl halftime show stage.

Bruno Mars, "Just The Way You Are"

Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, 2011

Dating advice from Bruno Mars: If you think someone is beautiful, you should tell them every day. Whether or not it got Mars a date for Valentine's Day, it did get him a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

Cee Lo Green & Melanie Fiona, "Fool For You" 

Best Traditional R&B Performance, 2012

It's a far cry from his previous GRAMMY-winning song, "F*** You," but "Fool For You" had us yearning for "that deep, that burning/ That amazing unconditional, inseparable love."

Justin Timberlake, "Pusher Love Girl" 

Best R&B Song, 2014

Timberlake is so high on the love drug he's "on the ceiling, baby." Timberlake co-wrote the track with James Fauntleroy, Jerome Harmon and Timbaland, and it's featured on his 2013 album The 20/20 Experience, which flew high to No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Beyoncé & Jay-Z, "Drunk In Love"

Best R&B Performance / Best R&B Song, 2015

While "Drunk In Love" wasn't the first love song that won Beyoncé and Jay-Z a GRAMMY — they won two GRAMMYs for "Crazy In Love" in 2004 — it is certainly the sexiest. This quintessential 2010s bop from one of music's most formidable couples captures why their alliance set the world's hearts aflame (and so did their steamy GRAMMYs performance of it).

Ed Sheeran, "Thinking Out Loud"

Song Of The Year / Best Pop Solo Performance, 2016

Along with his abundant talent, Sheeran's boy-next-door charm is what rocketed him to the top of the pop ranks. And with swooning lyrics and a waltzing melody, "Thinking Out Loud" is proof that he's a modern-day monarch of the love song.

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper, "Shallow"

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance / Best Song Written For Visual Media, 2019

A Star is Born's cachet has gone up and down with its various remakes, but the 2018 iteration was a smash hit. Not only is that thanks to moving performances from Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, but particularly thanks to their impassioned, belt-along duet "Shallow."

H.E.R. & Daniel Caesar, "Best Part"

Best R&B Performance, 2019

"If life is a movie/ Know you're the best part." Who among us besotted hasn't felt their emotions so widescreen, so thunderous? Clearly, H.E.R. and Daniel Caesar have — and they poured that feeling into the GRAMMY-winning ballad "Best Part."

Kacey Musgraves, "Butterflies"

Best Country Solo Performance, 2019

As Musgraves' Album Of The Year-winning LP Golden Hour shows, the country-pop star can zoom in or out at will, capturing numberless truths about the human experience. With its starry-eyed lyrics and swirling production, "Butterflies" perfectly encapsulates the flutter in your stomach that love can often spark.

Dan + Shay & Justin Bieber, "10,000 Hours"

Best Country Duo/Group Performance, 2021

When country hook-meisters Dan + Shay teamed up with pop phenom Justin Bieber, their love song powers were unstoppable. With more than 1 billion Spotify streams alone, "10,000 Hours" has become far more than an ode to just their respective wives; it's an anthem for any lover.

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(L-R): Taylor Swift, Tate McRae, *NSYNC, Olivia Rodrigo, Ed Sheeran

Photos (L-R): Buda Mendes/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management, Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for MTV, Mike Coppola/Getty Images for MTV, Theo Wargo/Getty Images

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2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Pop Music

From massive world stages to hilarious TikTok trends, pop music was all about the fun in 2023 — which led to huge hits and pop culture moments alike.

GRAMMYs/Dec 22, 2023 - 04:15 pm

There's arguably only one way to sum up pop music in 2023: it belonged to the women.

Whether SZA or Olivia Rodrigo were revealing the cracks in their relationships through catchy hooks, or Taylor Swift was taking over stadiums around the globe, female artists dominated genre charts and trends. And even a fictional female figure helped spawn some of the year's biggest pop tracks.  

It was also a big year for legends and classic hits; pop mainstays showed just why they became superstars in the first place, and TikTok helped resurface some pop songs of old.

Below, take a deeper dive into some of 2023's biggest moments in pop.

Ex-Lovers Were Called Out

Nothing burns more than a woman scorned. This year, pop stars and rising artists were both shameless in calling out their exes for their wrongdoings.

One of the biggest moments came courtesy of SZA. The artist is known for wearing her heart on her sleeve, and SOS album highlight "Kill Bill" was a buffet of toxic "what if" scenarios. The singer let jealousy overcome her emotions as she couldn't stand to see her ex-lover move on: "I might kill my ex, I still love him though/ Rather be in jail than alone." On a similar note, Olivia Rodrigo's "vampire" finds the pop star tapping into a new level of fury. The lead single from her sophomore album, GUTS, "vampire" shoots bloody daggers at a manipulative boyfriend.

But it wasn't all about vengeance. In Miley Cyrus' case, her best form of revenge came in the form of forgiveness. Her "Flowers" anthem was thought to be inspired by Cyrus' divorce from Liam Hemsworth, but its messaging is relatable to anyone who had to learn how to move on from a broken heart. "I can take myself dancing and I can hold my own hand/ I can love me better than you can," Cyrus assures.

All three singles topped the Billboard Hot 100 this year, marking SZA's first solo No. 1, Cyrus' first in a decade and Rodrigo's first from her new album era. The singles also all earned 2024 GRAMMY nominations for both Song Of The Year (alongside Billie Eilish's "What Was I Made For?", Dua Lipa's "Dance the Night", Jon Batiste's "Butterfly", Lana Del Rey's "A&W" and Taylor Swift's "Anti-Hero") and Record Of The Year (next to Billie Eilish's What Was I Made For?", Boygenius' "Not Strong Enough", Jon Batiste's "Worship", Taylor Swift's "Anti-Hero" and Victoria Monét's "On My Mama"). 

Rising stars also joined in on the fun. After Tate McRae scored her biggest hit to date with the playful “greedy,” she delivered a fiery kiss-off anthem with “exes.” Elsewhere, Benee called her ex a "waste of f—king time" on the rowdy "Green Honda," British singer Mae Stephens contemplated all of her options on "If We Ever Broke Up," RAYE brooded over "dumb decisions" and booze on "Escapism," and Los Angeles alt-pop singer Leah Kate's jam-packed her debut album Super Over with advice on cutting off toxic relationships.

Classic Songs Made A TikTok Resurgence

TikTok has proved its social media dominance over the past few years. But aside from pop's new generation enjoying viral success, the genre's OGs also found their classic hits reborn.

Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly" single warmed our hearts when it debuted in 2007, and in true Gen Z fashion, it reemerged thanks to a meme trend. TikTok users placed the song over high-energy performance videos like those of Travis Scott, Justin Bieber and Tyler, The Creator which made for a hilarious juxtaposition. Caillat kept the momentum by making TikTok duets and even sharing an acoustic version of the song on her YouTube page.

Bridgit Mendler's 2013 single "Hurricane" also got a second wind for its 10th anniversary where female users placed it over humorous self-deprecating videos about being delusional over men. Jessie J's 2011 "Price Tag" hit sparked a dance trend with a sped-up version of the song and Lana Del Rey's "Radio" (a deep cut from 2012's Born To Die debut) inspired users to make videos that showcased how "sweet like cinnamon" their lives are.

Career-Spanning Tours Took Over The World

What better way to celebrate a decorated career than with a massive tour? Pop stars from all corners of the genre commemorated their many years (or in some cases, decades) in the music industry by going down memory lane with their fans worldwide.

The most notable trek was, of course, Taylor Swift's Eras Tour, which kicked off on March 17 and will conclude on Dec. 8, 2024. The pop star — who is arguably bigger than she's ever been, nearly 20 years into her career — used the stadium tour to pay homage to her extensive discography with a nonstop three-hour spectacle. Swift's impact quickly made history: the Eras Tour surpassed $1 billion in revenue in early December, already making it the highest-grossing music tour of all time, according to Guinness World Records. Its accompanying concert film, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, also became the highest-grossing concert film of all time with $250 million earned globally as of press time.

But Swift wasn't the only star celebrating their music milestones on the road. After a thrilling reunion in 2019, the Jonas Brothers continued to shock fans with what's possibly the most challenging tour of their career. Titled "Five Albums. One Night. The World Tour," the trio featured their entire discography in a set list that included over 60 songs. 

Another artist who rode the ambitious train was Madonna. The pop icon's Celebration Tour was, well, a celebration of a genre-defining career spanning over four decades. Kicking off in October in London, the tour features a retrospective setlist that is a treat for diehard fans, featuring singles she hasn't performed live in decades including 1990's "Justify My Love," 1998's "Nothing Really Matters" and 2002's "Die Another Day."

On the pop-rock end, The Maine's "Sweet Sixteen Tour" highlighted the band's growth over the past 16 years through nine albums, while Boys Like Girls' anchored their comeback after an 11-year hiatus with the North American Speaking Our Language Tour.

Movies Had Major Music Moments

While music has long been a driving force in films, this year saw the pairing excitedly take over pop culture. Greta Gerwig's Barbie movie notably had the world seeing pink, with the iconic doll infiltrating everything from fashion to real estate.

Not surprisingly, the accompanying soundtrack was a pop-filled joyride. Featuring production from pop mastermind Mark Ronson, the 17-song Barbie: The Album featured the likes of Lizzo, Charli XCX, PinkPantheress, Sam Smith, GAYLE and FIFTY FIFTY. But perhaps most notably, the album dominated the Best Song Written For Visual Media category at the 2024 GRAMMYs: Dua Lipa's disco-laced "Dance The Night," Ryan Gosling's TikTok-trending "I'm Just Ken," Ice Spice's and Nicki Minaj's sparkly collaboration "Barbie World," and Billie Eilish's gripping ballad "What Was I Made For?" compete with Rihanna's Black Panther hit "Lift Me Up."

The year also called for reunions and revivals, with the biggest shock arguably belonging to NSYNC. Many fans were impatiently waiting for the boys to make a return, and they did so with "Better Place." The Trolls soundtrack highlight marked the boy band's first song after a two-decade-long music hiatus (which was accompanied by an appearance at the MTV Video Music Awards, where they presented with Best Pop Video). Under the sea, Halle Bailey refreshed a Disney classic with The Little Mermaid live-action reimagining, while the nostalgia train continued with movie musicals Wonka and Mean Girls (out in January).

Pop Titans Were Inescapable

Thanks to social media, it may seem like Gen Z artists have overthrown their elder pop counterparts. But make no mistake, the veterans are showing they aren't so easily shakeable.

This year, many preserved their legacies through various mediums. Taylor Swift wasn't the only superstar proving her staying power on the road (and in stadiums); Beyoncé's Renaissance World Tour cemented her legendary status as the highest-grossing tour by a Black artist, while Ed Sheeran's The Mathematics Tour broke attendance records worldwide.

Adele and Usher ruled Sin City with their Las Vegas residencies, with the latter set to perform at the 2024 Super Bowl halftime show. The pop titans even showed their dominance on television, with Kelly Clarkson (who also had a Vegas stint) and Jennifer Hudson gaining a new audience with their respective talk shows.

After a year filled with viral moments and comebacks, we're eager to see how artists will continue to uplift pop music in 2024.

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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
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."

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

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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How Skrillex & Fred Again.. Became Dance Music's Favorite Friendship: A Timeline
Fred Again (L) & Skrillex (R) in 2023

Photos: Kate Green/Getty Images & Venla Shalin/Redferns

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How Skrillex & Fred Again.. Became Dance Music's Favorite Friendship: A Timeline

Before they both play Ill Points in Miami this October, journey back through the highlights of Skrillex and Fred again..'s party-starting bromance.

GRAMMYs/Oct 9, 2023 - 07:13 pm

Few friendships in dance music have burned as brightly as the bromance between Fred Gibson, aka Fred again.., and Sonny Moore, a.k.a. Skrillex. In a few short years, the English phenom and Los Angeles-born bass don have forged a dynamic bond as DJ partners, co-producers, and mutual muses.

Brought together as fellow Ed Sheeran collaborators, their partnership went legit on "Rumble," an instant wobbly-bass classic featuring grime MC Flowdan, which Fred teased in his star-making 2022 Boiler Room set. Mere months after "Rumble" officially dropped that January, they closed Coachella with a historic set alongside their buddy and studio secret weapon Four Tet. 

Alongside all the music and viral moments, the friendship has clearly given Skrillex — a producer always looking for his next musical evolution — a new lease on life. 

After a pinch-yourself start to the year that also included a sold-out show with Four Tet at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Skrillex and Fred again.. will meet again this October at Ill Points in Miami. While billed separately, there’s no keeping these two apart. With much more expected from this superstar pairing, we’re taking a look back through their friendship so far. 

2019: Before his breakthrough as a solo artist, Fred again.. earned his stripes as a producer for U.K. grime acts like Headie One, Stormzy and AJ Tracey, and pop stadium-filler Ed Sheeran. While hailing from different sides of the Atlantic, he and Skrillex were destined to meet some day. 

Returning as a producer on Sheeran’s 2019 album, No.6 Collaborations Project, Fred again.. intersected with Skrillex (and producer/engineer Kenny Beats) on "Take Me Back to London," featuring Stormzy. Fusing pop hooks with grime swagger, the song hinted at the crisp basslines and drums to come from future Skrillex/Fred team-ups. 

In this period, Fred played Skrillex an early iteration of "Rumble," which he’d been trading back and forth with Flowdan. "The first time I ever met Sonny, I played him the first version we had," Fred recalled in an interview with BBC Radio 1’s Jack Saunders.

Skrillex requested the "stems" (the individual isolated parts of a recording) and made a version that he worried missed the mark. "I didn’t like it," he also told Saunders. "I thought I ruined the song." He and Fred tweaked the elements until it  clicked — and their friendship was born.

2021: With COVID-19 keeping artists grounded, Fred again.. released Actual Life (April 14 - December 17 2020), a collection of achingly personal electronic elegies that cemented his signature sound.

He followed it later that year with Actual Life 2 (February 2 - October 15 2021), which explored themes of grief and catharsis through a collage of electronic production, samples and audio clips from the producer’s "actual life." Skrillex, meanwhile, kicked off the year by releasing his collaboration with Four Tet and Starrah, "Butterflies," setting the stage for more transatlantic collaborations. 

June 2022: To kick off summer, fast friends Skrillex and Fred again.. rented a house in the idyllic English village of Pangbourne to work on new music. As Skrillex recalled on Instagram, he had an album to finish, while Fred again.. was finalising music for his then-imminent Boiler Room debut. Four Tet agreed to come and hang out for a bit, bringing his toothbrush just in case he was compelled to stay. As Skrillex put it on Instagram, "This moment marked the birth of the Pangbourne House Mafia."

July 2022: When Fred again.. rolled up to his Boiler Room debut in London, no one could’ve predicted the energy to come. Surrounded on all sides by sweaty, screaming admirers, the producer blazed through a hybrid DJ-live set that blended house, U.K. garage, grime, drum & bass, and pop.

He also used the set to preview a few of his collaborations with Skrillex, including "Rumble," which sent fans clamouring for clues online. The Boiler Room session blew up on YouTube (where it now has 22 million views), catapulting Fred again.. and his to-be-released collaborations to a whole new level. 

October 2022: While promoting his third album, Actual Life 3 (January 1 - September 9 2022), Fred again.. sat down for an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe at Skrillex’s house in Los Angeles. "We’ve done a home swap at the moment," the producer told Lowe, "so he’s staying at mine in London and I’m at his in L.A." Now, that’s true friendship.

January 2023: After making fans wait, Skrillex and Fred again.. Kicked off the year with a bang and finally released "Rumble" via Skrillex’s OWSLA label. The pair also grabbed Four Tet for a surprise back-to-back-to-back DJ set at London’s Electric Ballroom, which featured a whirlwind of new and unreleased music. What started as a one-off show rolled into three extremely sold-out nights at different venues, with the trio of DJs clearly having the time of their lives.

February 2023: In a career-defining month, Skrillex released his much-anticipated album Quest for Fire, which featured collaborators like Porter Robinson, Missy Elliot, Mr Oizo, Bobby Raps, and — of course — Fred again.. and Four Tet. To celebrate the release, the "Pangbourne House Mafia" casually announced a show at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden, which sold out within three minutes. To warm up, the trio created pandemonium with an impromptu DJ set in Times Square, where they trialled some new edits ahead of the big show.

April 2023: After selling out Madison Square Garden without breaking a sweat, and releasing team-up track, "Baby again.." in March, the unlikely supergroup of Fred, Skrillex and Four Tet went looking for the next high.

As it happened, that opportunity came on the second weekend of Coachella. With Frank Ocean relinquishing his Sunday headlining spot after a divisive weekend performance, the festival left a tantalizing TBA in the final slot. Before long, the cat was out of the bag, and dance music’s new favorite trio were headed to the desert with memeable merch bearing the slogan, OMG TBA.

"I didn’t think I was gonna be back with my brothers like this for a longgggg time," Fred again.. wrote on Instagram. "Until last night. And here we are." 

Appearing on a circular stage deep in the crowd, the DJs closed down Coachella with the excitement of three friends who couldn’t quite believe their luck. 

June 2023: With the members of the "Pangbourne House Mafia" returning to life as solo artists after Coachella, Fred again.. announced a three-night run at New York’s Forest Hills Stadium in October, followed by Ill Points in Miami, and then eight shows at Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles. With LA being Skrillex’s hometown, the two producers are sure to cook up something new - after, this is one friendship with a lot more to give.

NEIL FRANCES Just Want To Have Fun & Get Fuzzy