Photo: Kenneth Cappello
Inside Charlie Puth's New Album 'Charlie': How Elton John, TikTok & A Busy Mind Helped Create His Proudest Work Yet
GRAMMY-nominated singer (and now, TikTok star) Charlie Puth details the people, feelings and sounds that inspired his new album 'Charlie' — and why it's no coincidence that his third LP is self-titled.
Puth had released a trio of one-off singles throughout the year, and his third album — the follow-up to his acclaimed 2017 set, Voicenotes — was in progress. But after John's comment, the New Jersey native shifted gears and took full ownership of the music he was making — and now, he's arguably bigger than he's ever been.
Charlie, Puth's new-and-improved third album, arrived Oct. 7. To say it was a highly anticipated release would be an understatement, specifically in TikTok terms. He teased the track list on the viral video-sharing app two weeks before the album's arrival, and as of press time, that video has 47 million views.
Puth utilized TikTok as a marketing tool for Charlie, but in a way that, as he puts it, "[fans] feel like they wrote the music with me." The singer/producer began letting fans in on his creation process with lead single "Light Switch," in which he cleverly flips the sound of an actual light switch into a romantic metaphor and, more impressively, a catchy beat. That video immediately took off, and Puth began teasing other Charlie tracks as they came together, garnering millions of views on each one.
TikTok and Elton John are two huge pieces of the Charlie puzzle, but certainly not the only ones. As Puth suggests, the album is simply a musical mirror — one that shows he's the happiest he's ever been.
"I don't really think you could assign any particular genre to this album because it's almost chaotic, like my mind is," he explains. "I just tried to make the soundtrack of my own mind."
Puth broke down all of the inspirations behind his third album, and explained why calling Charlie his "most personal album" isn't as cliché as it may sound.
He was the wake-up call [that let me know] that I just had to produce the music. It has to be me producing the album.
It's not like I'm opposed to working with other producers. I worked with two other producers when I made "Stay" for [The Kid] LAROI and [Justin] Bieber. But for my music specifically at this point in time, it just made sense.
The last two albums of mine lacked a bit of cohesion. So it was really important that I handled all the instrumentation this time around. I just involved too many people in those couple of songs [in 2019], so I scrapped the project and really tapped into what I was going through and feeling. I put my feelings first.
His Busy Mind
I don't really like talking to people about my problems — I like to try and solve them myself. I believe that I have it within me to figure things out with the help of music. I almost called this album Conversations With Myself for that reason. At the end of the day, I was like, I should just name the songs after myself, because they're my personality to an absolute T.
Like on "When You're Sad I'm Sad," there's these strings and this piano. It's so melodramatic, and it's just like, "Oh, dude, go take a walk." That's very indicative of my personality. And then "Light Switch" [is too, with] the quirkiness of the lyric.
I'm not trying to be the cool guy anymore. I'm trying to show my personality off. So "Light Switch" is that, in a way. It's almost theatrical. I'm very, you know, pizzazz and jazz hands and just hyper — like, I'm drinking three cups of coffee at all times.
"I Don't Think That I Like Her," it's almost like [a] 2022 "Penny Lane." My love of jazz and very rich-sounding, David Foster-like chord progressions are present in that song — and lyrical angst.
I'm basically saying that I'm dramatic and musical. [Laughs.] I'm a theater kid that turned into a pop singer.
The TikTok Community
I was going through two different types of breakups [when I began writing Charlie]: I had left my original label, [which] felt like a little bit of a breakup business-wise. And romantically, [I was] going through a breakup. Those two things had nothing to do with each other, yet felt so similar — manipulation, and feeling like you constantly need to be in a state of proving yourself.
In a very boring, long-winded explanation, I [since] resigned to my original label. [But at the time], I thought I lost my key person at the label that I would run everything by. I had a little bit of a freak-out thinking I don't know what is good anymore, but I actually had it within me the entire time. That's what I discovered on this album, and kind of why I turned to TikTok — for approval, almost.
I really do live for people's reactions. And what better place to get those reactions than playing music in a live setting? But, you know, [during] the pandemic, we didn't have any live concerts. So I turned to the internet for a new way of performing. [I thought,] This could be an interesting way to have people overly acquainted with the music before it comes out, then they feel like they wrote the music with me.
I used to think I had to act like Prince and not let anybody into my musical world. I flipped the script and let millions of people into my process. That felt exciting to me. Humans are the best recipe for me making a song, and people just happen to be in the mass at one place right now.
When I made "Light Switch," which was the first single off the album, it was so different than records like "Attention" and "One Call Away," that I was still in a state of is this good? So I turned to the internet, and I got a resounding thumbs up by getting, like, 10 million unique plays in one evening. I got a foam finger the size of Dodger Stadium telling me that I could proceed to make that song.
It's not like everything has to have this grandiose reaction for me to have the ability to put it on my album. That's the wrong mentality — any artist should just put out whatever they're feeling. But it's just worked for me.
Another thing that people can take away from listening to this album is that anything can be made into music. Like, the sprinkler that I'm looking at right now that's watering a little portion of dead grass on my lawn, I know that it's making a pitch. I can't hear it right now, but I'm looking at it thinking, What would the instrument be that would be most similar to that sprinkler? That's how my mind works — that's been happening since I was 8 years old — and that's what I did throughout this entire album.
There's a song called "When You're Sad I'm Sad," which is about not being able to leave something that you've become so dependent on. There's a lyric in the second verse that goes, "I can hear the tears in your eyes when you say 'please come and get me.'" I received a call from someone one time where — you know when you can tell that someone's upset about something over [the] phone? When humans cry, there isn't an audible sound that comes out of your eyes, and I just made a mental note of that. When I had the "here" and "tears" rhyme, I just made the entire song — I reverse engineered it.
The Music He Grew Up With
I was influenced by the feelings that me and my friends got when we listened to albums. I remembered the first time my friend played "…Baby One More Time" by Britney Spears in 1999. I was in his basement trading Pokémon cards, and my musical mind wasn't all the way there yet, but I just remember that feeling of warmth and shock — I had never heard anything like it before.
I always remember that feeling of hearing something for the first time — like when I heard "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga for the first time. Those types of feelings I tried to capture, and I wanted to make my own songs that someone else could listen to and have a similar reaction to.
Simply Having Fun
I found myself through chord changes. I discovered who I was by going to Conway Studios in Hollywood, and documenting the process for millions of people to see. I was putting up a wall before, and now there's no wall. I'm having the most fun I've ever had.
I've always felt like I needed to fill a void. Like, we've got to have the uptempo record or we have to make sure we have a mid-tempo song — I had those little things in the back of my head. I never really put myself first [on previous albums]. This is the first time I'm putting myself first.
I don't really think about music in terms of success. I think of it in terms of "How many people can I affect with my message?" That's what I meant when I said I feel like I'm the "biggest I've ever been" — not from my own ego, but I have more of a reach.
I've hit my most successful peak so far by being myself. If you're truly just yourself, you can be your most successful you.
Everyone has a unique story, and I want [people] to hear one of my songs and be like, "I've never been able to explain this feeling, but Charlie described it perfectly with a little melody attached to it."
I want people to take this album as a whole and know the two different types of so-called breakups that I went through, and know that I am not impervious to normal feelings. I'm just like everyone — I just happen to play the piano and make songs about my feelings.
I aspire to be an artist that can surprise-drop an album like Beyoncé or Taylor [Swift] or Drake, where every song hasn't been heard and everyone is eagerly [waiting] — like the anticipation for Rihanna to follow up her 2016 album. But, you know, I started with wanting people to be excited about two songs. Maybe they'll be excited about a surprise drop from me one day, but for now I'll overshare.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
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.
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."
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.
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."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: Gary Gershoff/Getty Images for iHeartRadio
JVKE's "Golden" Year: How The Singer's World Turned "Upside Down" With TikTok, Collaborating With Charlie Puth & More
Viral 22-year-old musician JVKE breaks down his journey to fame, from breaking out with "Upside Down" to breaking through with "golden hour," and now headlining his first national tour.
For some, it might come as a surprise that an up-and-coming artist would announce their debut album is their last. But for JVKE, it's a sign of the times.
Born Jacob Lawson, JVKE is a pioneering musician exploring how music is majorly shifting with social media. Though he originally worked behind the scenes as a songwriter, penning hits for Jason Derulo and EXO, the 22-year-old singer stepped into the spotlight after exploding on TikTok in 2020.
JVKE grew up in a musical family in Rhode Island, spending time with his music teacher mother, singing at church with his brother, and taking piano, drum and guitar lessons. When he was 19, his breakout song "Upside Down" quite literally turned his life upside down. Massively popular TikTokers like Charli D'Amelio and Loren Gray used the song in their videos, transforming JVKE's quarantine into a productive period of musical creativity.
Soon, labels were knocking at his door after seeing his viral success — but JVKE decided to remain independent through AWAL, wanting to be in charge of his own creative vision. He views collections of music as ever-changing and experiential, which is why he announced that his first album, 2022's This Is What ____ Feels Like (Vol. 1–4), will also be his last. He'll continue releasing music in new and innovative ways, beyond the boundaries of albums.
JVKE's track "golden hour" sounded off as his next big hit in 2022, peaking at No. 10 on Billboard's Hot 100 as his debut album cracked the top 50 on the Billboard 200. The love song unites twinkling piano and soaring vocals, and it encapsulates a singular, raw feeling of radiance. The track's resonant depth demonstrates JVKE's ability to push the limits of music — and with a combined following of nearly 13 million, it's no wonder his fan base continues only to grow.
"I'm just so passionate about creating and writing music — if I could be anywhere all day long, I would be in the studio," JVKE tells GRAMMY.com. "Now I'm realizing that people actually are open to hearing my creative ideas."
Though his studio feels like home, the singer is currently embracing his calling to the stage. While traveling for his first headlining tour, JVKE reflected on his biggest career highlights with GRAMMY.com, from first going viral to performing with Alicia Keys.
On Going Viral on TikTok, Embracing Out-Of-The-Box Creativity
I remember seeing ["Upside Down"] starting to go viral… I saw that [Charli D'Amelio] had used the sound. That's when I knew that the song was just getting started. And it already had a million uses, which was insane for TikTok at that time, and then eventually went on to get 15 million videos created to the sound. That was kind of when I knew TikTok is powerful. I realized that I should start releasing my own music, because I realized I could promote it there.
I was always pitching to other artists trying to fit their mold, but I realized that the best form of creativity could come when I just release what I want to release. I found that people resonate the most when I released my own music versus trying to pitch for other people. Things kind of shifted once I realized that people actually liked my creative music, rather than me just trying to fit a mold. I started trying new ideas and not trying to box myself in.
I think no one can ever really predict virality for sure. But when it happens, you know, you have to be ready to just make the most of the moment.
On Releasing His Debut Album, Staying Independent And Listening To Fans
When "Upside Down" first happened, I was definitely approached by a lot of labels… then eventually, the viral moment started to die down a bit. I realized the success that I'm having right now can be kind of short-lived. But if I just take the reins and take responsibility for getting my music out there, then at the end of the day, I'm the only one that I can rely on. So there's a bit more pressure there, which I think is good for an artist. Sometimes artists will sign to a major label, get a big check, and then they become kind of lax. I'm in it for the music. That's the centerpiece.
I think things are changing way faster than people want to admit. It leaves us in a really cool spot, because we can pioneer some new ideas, but with that, obviously comes a lot of risks, because the safe place to do what everyone else has been doing. I'm very much looking ahead to what the future is going to look like and trying to think of creative ways to adapt.
I found a lot of success with… giving the fans more content to consume by just putting it out, even when it's not finished, and just being okay with being vulnerable and not having this perfect, put-together idea. But I think that's the fun of it. I think that people enjoy being a part of the process.
On His "Pinch Me" Moment: Collaborating With Charlie Puth
@charlieputh This all happened because of Tik Tok. Everyone go stream Upside Down by @jvke featuring myself ;) hi @bellapoarch ♬ All TikTok Mashup (JVKE - Upside Down) - JVKE
I have been a big Charlie Puth fan for a while now. And right when "Upside Down" happened, that was kind of my first moment where I was no longer behind the scenes, but I was actually able to be the artist and just kind of be in the moment.
It was crazy, because Charlie had connected with my team, and he had heard the song all over TikTok. And he was like, "Yo, I'd love to do a remix and just hop on the song with you." And then I ended up going to his house, we made some TikToks. We went pretty viral together — like 30, 40 million views on different videos, and just us, playing the song. And that's the sort of moment where it's just like, pinch myself like, is this actually happening?
He actually asked me to go on tour with him, but it unfortunately conflicted with my current tour dates so I couldn't go. But yeah, honestly, he's kind of been a role model to me in different ways, even just him being open to the changes in the music industry. There's so many changes happening right now, and he's one artist who's really embraced them, and embraced the up-and-coming culture around TikTok and all that. I always hoped to be like that; he inspires me to always be open to new ideas.
On Playing With Alicia Keys In Front Of His Childhood Teacher
That was a bucket list moment for me. Being a pianist myself, having grown up hearing Alicia Keys songs, I've always been a huge fan of her and all of her songs, her amazing songwriting and involving the piano.
She had reached out because her son had shown her "golden hour." He was like, "Check this out, mom. You're gonna love this song, trust me." She heard it, and luckily, she really loved it. She called me up and she's like, "Hey, I have this winter performance for my new Christmas album. And I was wondering if you'd want to perform 'golden hour' with me, and we can mash it up into one of my songs." And I was like, "Are you kidding me? Absolutely. I'll be there."
I got to invite some of my friends, my family and my childhood music teacher. It was really such an emotional moment. I had a hard time holding it together. Honestly, it was that feeling of just being starstruck — it's like, I don't even know what to do right now. I'm on stage, looking at Alicia Keys while we play the piano together. Are you kidding me? It was crazy.
On Tackling His First Headlining National Tour
thank you.♬ original sound - JVKE
You never really know what it feels like to have people singing your songs until you feel that it's like, wait, this is actually connecting with people. And they actually take the time to sing along and listen to all the lyrics. It's just like, the craziest feeling. So I love knowing that I'm connecting with people on such a personal level… I love being on the road, being on tour. It's so fun.
For the kids who come, we usually find all the short kids and we bring them to the front in the little area, so that they can see the show right in front. For me, that's such a sick thing, because this is likely their first show they've ever been to. And for me to get that moment with them is just the coolest thing ever.
The whole music experience isn't complete without that touring element — being able to perform it and let all of my crazy ideas kind of have visuals attached to them. I'm all about just the full submersion of experience. There's no better place to do that than on a tour.
On Celebrating With His Loved Ones
‘golden hour’ is out everywhere. ty guys for streaming ily♬ golden hour - JVKE
Before I dropped out of college to just write music full-time, to make some money, I was teaching piano lessons to a lot of younger kids and different things. It was really sad, when "Upside Down" blew up and I moved out to LA for a few months. I remember having to text all my old piano students and tell them that I couldn't teach piano lessons anymore.
But I got to film this TikTok with one of my old students, and we posted it and it did really well. That's one of those moments where it's sad to let go of the past… but it's also the sweetest thing, because it all kind of comes together, and we get to all celebrate together. Those sentimental moments are one of the most important things to me. Even beyond the recognition, it doesn't really connect unless you enjoy it with the people you love.
Recently having moved out and going all over the place all the time, there's always a piece of me that's wanting to go back home and just hang out. [My mom and I] had so many musical experiences together [when I was] growing up. Now, she's probably going to be joining me on tour for a few days. She's always been excited for all the things that have been happening. Even though I'm living out my dreams, I feel like we're living them out together.
Photo: Courtesy of the Recording Academy/Photo by Rebecca Sapp, Getty Images 2023
6 Things To Know About Charlie Puth, From His Unusual Inspirations To His Teaching Aspirations
On the heels of his last U.S. tour stop, Charlie Puth wowed fans at a special GRAMMY fundraising brunch in Los Angeles. Take a look at six takeaways from the intimate event.
Just after Charlie Puth wrapped his North American tour on July 11, the pop hitmaker treated 150 fans to the ultimate fan experience: brunch with a side of Puth.
Part of The GRAMMY Museum's Sunday Brunch With… series, the event — a fundraiser for the organization's GRAMMY In The Schools program that was sponsored by City National Bank and Porsche — invited fans to enjoy a three-course brunch followed by an intimate 45-minute acoustic set from Puth.
From the stage at his friend (and 17-time GRAMMY Award-winning mixer) Manny Marroquin's restaurant, VERSE LA in Toluca Lake, California, Puth told stories about his days at Berklee College Of Music and his journey to stardom. He also let attendees in on his songwriting process, performing some of his most beloved tracks in the process.
For those who weren't able to make it to the sold-out event, here are six takeaways from Sunday Brunch With Charlie Puth.
He May Just Become A Music Teacher In The Future
Early on in the show, Puth made a point of shouting out one of his old Berklee professors from the stage. Turns out it was Prince Charles Alexander, a multi-GRAMMY Award winning mixer and engineer who has worked with Mary J. Blige, Destiny's Child, P. Diddy, Usher, and Aretha Franklin.
Puth said he'd often pop into Alexander's office to run ideas by him, with Alexander offering up tips in return. Puth told the crowd he still thinks about Alexander's advice when he's making his own records all these years later, and shouted out not just his professor but all music educators, saying that he's a firm believer in the value of music in our schools. He even joked that he'd like to become a music teacher himself "if this whole music thing doesn't work out."
One Of His Songs Was Inspired By A Rainy Walk…
When Puth wrote "How Long" back in 2017, it was on a long walk. He was strutting around the town wondering why there weren't more tracks written at a perfect walking tempo when it started to rain. The sound of his feet combined with the wet concrete and suddenly, he told the crowd, "it was like the chords fell out of the sky."
Puth then kicked into a smooth and resonant performance of the song — which sounded excellent on whatever sound system Marroquin installed in his restaurant — prompting one attendee to shout out in glee, "ooh, you better sing!"
…And Another Was Inspired By Ed Sheeran
Puth says he started writing "We Don't Talk Anymore" when he was on the road in Osaka, Japan. He'd fallen in love with the percussive guitar on Ed Sheeran's song "Bloodstream" and wanted to use that same sort of tone on his own track.
Puth says he also wanted to write what he called "the worldliest sounding record," or "a record that would take me around the world." Given that "We Don't Talk Anymore" hit the top 10 in 20 different countries and the video has more than three billion views on YouTube to date, it's fair to say he did just that.
He Likes To Use "Light Switch" To Inspire Up-And-Coming Musicians
When the freshly signed Puth was first in LA in the early 2010s, a producer suggested they take his newly recorded tracks to a club, where they'd play them for the crowd and see what hit. It was a novel idea for Puth at the time, but something he's adapted a bit for the modern age, when he throws bits of songs and ideas up on his TikTok, hoping to see what flies.
That's exactly how his 2022 hit "Light Switch" came to be: The simple percussive sound that you hear when you turn the lights on and off.
In videos he's posted on TikTok, he's tried to show fans that, like that song, music can come from anywhere. "You don't need a multi-million dollar recording studio to make a record," he told the crowd, reminding everyone that Soulja Boy's "Crank That" was self-produced on the rapper's home computer before breaking big on social media.
Anyone, Puth said, can make and release their own music, even if they're not currently in possession of the dream recording set-up. It's just about passion and perseverance, and a desire to make something new.
He Likes To Blend Classical Riffs With Perfect Pop Melodies
When Puth started to write "Attention," it was with a little classical riff he was fooling around with on the piano. He decided to take the classical bars and throw them into a pop song, reminding the room that it's not all that uncommon. For instance, he said, Toni Wine and Carole Bayer Sager's "A Groovy Kind Of Love" contains the Rondo from Muzio Clementi's Sonatina, Opus 36, No. 5. In Puth's view, classical music and pop can live in perfect harmony, feeding off each other and building toward something even bigger than the sum of their parts.
He's Proof Of The Power Of Being Yourself
In 2012, at the height of "weight for the drop" style EDM hits, Puth felt discouraged as he was trying to break into music himself. As he recalled, he'd moved home to his parents house and was laser focused on the pop charts, tailoring his songs to whatever was No. 1 at the moment — but they were all getting turned down by labels. Finally, he said, an A&R person gave him a piece of advice, saying, essentially, "We've heard all this before. We want to hear something from you."
That's how, on his way to record a dance track at some studio in LA, Puth decided to lay down a piano ballad instead. He says it was like "See You Again" fell into his lap and attributes its success to the fact that he wasn't trying to be anyone but himself.
"See You Again changed my life," he told the brunch crowd, noting that he'll be proud and lucky if he gets to perform it for the rest of his life. As he played it live, the whole room joyfully sang along — hinting that Puth may have crafted a lifelong hit.
Photo: Amy Sussman/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
5 Memorable Highlights From "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys": Weezer, St. Vincent, John Legend & More
Drawing generation-spanning connections, "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys," which rebroadcasts Monday, May 29, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CBS and is available on demand on Paramount+, was a world-class tribute to America's Band. Here are five highlights.
Updated Monday, May 22, to include information about the re-air date for "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys."
"A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" will re-air on Monday, May 29, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
That's a wrap on "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys," an emotional, star-studded toast to America's Band — as the core lineup of the legendary group bore witness from a balcony.
From its heartfelt speeches and remarks to performances by John Legend, Brandi Carlile, Beck, Fall Out Boy, Mumford & Sons, LeAnn Rimes, St. Vincent, Weezer, and other heavy hitters, "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys" served as a towering monument to these leading lights on the occasion of their 60th anniversary.
If you missed the CBS telecast, never fear: the thrilling special is rebroadcasting on Monday, May 29, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream on demand on Paramount+.
Below are some highlights from the Beach Boys' big night.
Weezer Gave "California Girls" A Shot In The Arm
The Weez was a natural choice for a Beach Boys bash — the GRAMMY winners have worn that influence on their sleeve throughout their career — from the harmony-stuffed Blue Album. to their love letter to the West Coast, the White Album.
And while Fall Out Boy's transmutation of "Do You Wanna Dance" into supercharged pop-punk was a joy, Weezer's version of "California Girls" was satisfying in a different way.
Therein, frontman Rivers Cuomo threaded his chunky power chords into the familiar arrangement masterfully. His head-turning, song-flipping guitar work in the outro was also gracefully executed.
John Legend Sang A Commanding "Sail On Sailor"
The rocking-and-rolling "Sail On Sailor" leads off the Beach Boys' deeply underrated 1973 album Holland. On that cut, the lead vocal isn't taken by an original member, but one of their two South African additions at the time: the brilliant Blondie Chaplin.
Fifty years ago, Chaplin channeled the stouthearted tune through his punchy midrange; John Legend possesses a similar one. In his hustling, wolfish performance at the piano, the 12-time GRAMMY winner gave this dark-horse Beach Boys classic the gusto it deserves.
Brandi Carlile Stunned With A Capella "In My Room" Verse
Nine-time GRAMMY winner Brandi Carlile is an eminent and versatile creative force; it's easy to imagine her nailing almost any song in the Beach Boys’ catalog — even the weird ones.
That said, this was more or less a night of hits — so Carlile took "In My Room" head on, and the results were spectacular. Even better was when the backing band dropped out for a verse, highlighting the song's proto-Pet Sounds solitude and introspection.
"Now it's dark/And I'm alone, but/I won't be afraid," Carlile sang, only joined by two harmonists. Mostly unadorned, she radiated a sense of inner strength.
Norah Jones Gorgeously Pared Back "The Warmth Of The Sun"
"The Warmth of the Sun" has always been a fan favorite for its radiant vocal interplay, but Norah Jones proved it's just as powerful with one voice front and center.
Sure, the nine-time GRAMMY winner had harmonists behind her. But while Brian Wilson shared the spotlight with the other Boys in the original tune, she was front and center, teasing out its mellow, jazzy undercurrents.
St. Vincent & Charlie Puth Plumbed The Atmosphere Of Pet Sounds
The Beach Boys' most famous album by some margin, 1966’s Pet Sounds, was well represented at "A GRAMMY Salute To The Beach Boys."
Beck performed a witty "Sloop John B"; Mumford & Sons drew hymnal energy from "I Know There's An Answer"; LeAnn Rimes drew lonesome power from "Caroline, No."
But two performances in particular captured the singular atmosphere of the album — whimsical, hopeful, melancholic, longing, sophisticated, strangely exotic. One was Charlie Puth's "Wouldn't It Be Nice," which strapped on the album's aesthetic like a rocket and took off.
The other was St. Vincent’s captivating take on "You Still Believe In Me," which highlighted the harpsichord melody to spectral effect.
Near the end, when the three-time GRAMMY winner launched into the "I wanna cry" outro, it was hard to not get chills — the kind the Beach Boys have given us for 60 years.