meta-scriptCharming Liars Drop Must-Hear Cover Of Post Malone's "Circles" To Benefit Disaster Relief In Lebanon |
Charming Liars Drop Must-Hear Cover Of Post Malone's "Circles" To Benefit Disaster Relief In Lebanon

Karnig Manoukian of Charming Liars

Photo: Miikka Skaffari/FilmMagic/Getty Images


Charming Liars Drop Must-Hear Cover Of Post Malone's "Circles" To Benefit Disaster Relief In Lebanon

With co-signs from the likes of Elton John and System Of A Down's Serj Tankian, the single is raising money for disaster relief efforts following the Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut

GRAMMYs/Aug 27, 2020 - 04:26 am

Los Angeles alternative outfit Charming Liars have released a brand new benefit single. The song: a soaring cover of one of their favorite Post Malone songs, "Cirlcles." The cause: to raise funds for disaster relief efforts following the devastating Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. Have a listen:

Charming Liar's version of the Posty hit has received support on social media from the likes of Elton John and Serj Tankian of System Of A Down. 

Originally formed in London's West End by guitarist/producer Karnig Manoukian and bassist Mike Kruger, Charming Liars relocated to Los Angeles in 2013 where they linked up with vocalist Kiliyan Maguire. The band explained the affect of the disaster in a heartfelt post accompanying the new single:

“On August 4th, the third-largest explosion in our world history occurred in Beirut, Lebanon resulting in a devastating amount of destruction, damage, and death to the country and people of Lebanon. Karnig, who is Lebanese Armenian, and all of us Charming Liars, want to do our part to help rebuild and restore the beautiful city of Beirut as well as provide aid to the estimated 300,000 Lebanese who have been left homeless as a result of this tragic event.”

Proceeds from the single will go several organizatons to aid their disaster relief efforts, including the Lebanese Red Cross, Impact Lebanon, Saint George Hospital Beirut, and others.

"Please download, stream, and share it on all music platforms to help us raise funds for an incredible cause," the band added. "Thank you for your continuous support and see you soon!” 

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Beirut's Zach Condon Lost His Sense Of Self — Then Found It Within A Church Organ
Zach Condon of Beirut

Photo: Lina Gaisser


Beirut's Zach Condon Lost His Sense Of Self — Then Found It Within A Church Organ

The Beirut star who captivated the hipster set with tunes like "Postcards from Italy" is a bottomless musical thinker. He explains how he found his way back from the hell of 2019, and crafted an enveloping new album, 'Hadsel.'

GRAMMYs/Nov 14, 2023 - 03:23 pm

Since the release of his first album as Beirut, in 2006, Zach Condon has both enjoyed numberless enviable successes and been through the wringer. Divorce, mental illness — which clobbered his body and grounded him as a touring act — the whole nine yards.

"I canceled everything, and I just told the band, 'Sorry, guys, it's not working,'" Condon tells from his home in Berlin, of a third tour that had fallen through due to respiratory maladies. "Clearly, these physical issues were clearly caused by some mental issue.

"I think my body was just like, We've tried everything," elaborates the walking definition of an uneasy tourer. He takes on the voice of his physiology: "Oh, if you take the voice out, he just goes home."

The experience left Condon demoralized and "shattered." But there was a silver lining. In an effort to lick his wounds — and regroup from the mental maladies that had made him turn to substances, and sober up in 2018 — Condon absconded to the arctic Norwegian island of Hadsel. On a colossal organ in a 19th century church, began to throw ideas at the wall.

The result is the magisterial, borderline liturgical Hadsel, which finds the tenacious Pitchfork-era indie darling of yore completing a circle.

"It enabled me to work on my own again; I think I had come more and more to rely on the and and even in the studio," he says. "Doing this one completely alone reminded me of how I started, which was just as a bedroom kind of four track guy.

"It is very liberating to be like, oh, you know what? I'm actually more capable of this than I thought," he continues. "And it's not like I've just creatively worn out and burnt out. It's like there's really a fire burning underneath — if I don't kill myself going on tour."

Read on for an interview with the erudite, incisive Condon, where he elaborates on Hadsel from all directions.

The first thing I thought of while listening to Hadsel was the timbral multitudes of the church organ. The entire record seems to exude from it. What speaks to you about the pure sound of the instrument?

So, there's the pump organ and the church organ. And the pump organ, which is on most of the record, feels like a warm blanket of an embrace, sonically. It's just like the warmest roundest tone and it's just breathing and wheezing in this really nice way and it's kind of droning.

So for me, that was the fireplace at the center of the album — the warmth and the shelter and all that stuff. And then I was getting really into these modular synth things.

[Looks over Zach's shoulder] I noticed.

And when you say timbral, I'm often thinking of that kind of stuff — because there you're teasing out all these frequencies and overtones. And the better you get at it, the more you can get these really interesting tonalities.

But [the organ] is much more chaotic and woozy. And I kind of considered that to be almost like the outside forces, or almost like the weather patterns outside rather than the kind of warm focus in the center.

I liked mixing those too. It wasn't conscious; It's not like I went there and I was like, Oh, you know what's going to be great, is modular synth and pump organ. I just happened to be really interested in both, and that's what happened.

Where do the two connect for you?

What's funny to me is, the church organ feels like the first modular instrument to me. This is all about sound manipulation and tone manipulation. And then the church organ is basically the insane, gothic version of that where it's like, I'm going to make an orchestra of flutes that you can play by hand, but then you can change them into trumpets and mix it with both of them and you can get exactly the sound you're looking for.

So it's that kind of insanity that only humans have. That's one of the reasons I love that instrument so much.

There are so many lineages and pantheons of the organ. Which one are you most interested or steeped in?

I've been learning a lot about the church organs, because it's just so fascinating. But my bread and butter is certainly with the reed organs because they make the most sense to me and they're the most versatile in some ways.

The funniest thing I've stumbled upon is they still have [church] organs in places like Spain and Italy that are so old that they use the system they had before they had electric air pumps. Literally, one monk would just sit there with the giant bellows trying not to push too hard or too slow in order to keep the tone steady, while another monk would sit there and play. Which is quite funny to watch, actually.

That rickety, unwieldy inhalation and exhalation — I'm sure that affected what you were writing, as far as pulse is concerned.

Yeah, it does, too. Usually, they have a kind of bellow — like a reservoir that you fill, and it [emits] one constant amount all the time. It never changes.

But the way I've been using it is not like that. It's like the moment you press down, it'll swell and then go back. And so there really is a kind of expressiveness, even though it drones. And I feel like that's the best way it sounds is when it drones, there is some room for expression.

You lay out the story of Hadsel rather well in the press release. But what place of the heart did the album spring from?

I was quite shattered in 2019. That's a big part of the story. I don't even know if I wrote that down in that part.

But 2018 was the year that I had sobered up, and I was like, 2019, I'm going to take over the world. As in, I'm going to do this world tour, and I'm going to pay my band really well, and it's going to be this triumphant return to form. And the moment I got on the road — I went through three tours. The first one I spent the whole time on steroids and antibiotics because I was sick the entire time.


The second one, I was sick again. Within one week. I got a horrible upper respiratory infection, and I was on antibiotics and steroids, and it got so bad I still had to cancel that tour.

And, then I went on a third tour in Europe. And again, one week into the road, I got terribly sick. And I went to a doctor and was like, "Just give me the drugs." And he was like, "If you keep doing this, you're not going to sing anymore and your body's going to fall apart." It was like, Why would you do this to yourself?

So I canceled everything. I still had all these European dates. I had Brazil, and Mexico, and much more, even. And I canceled everything. And I just told the band, "Sorry, guys, it's not working." Clearly, these physical issues were clearly caused by some mental issue.

And so, when I went up to Hadsel, I was kind of fleeing from all that. I had had these difficult dealings with insurance companies. I had just told the band that we probably wouldn't be touring ever again, which is still true.

I was in a really, really low place. I was fleeing things and all these things that I had pushed aside since I was quite young, 15, 16 years old. Covering everything up with alcohol, and with all sorts of things.

It was all just hitting me at the same time while I was making this record, I didn't think, it's not like I went up there with this perfect plan. I actually was more like, I'm going to go up there and relax.

But then, I saw that they had this organ. So, I brought equipment with me, and I thought it would just kind of be hobby style — just get lost in the music, or whatever. So it wasn't until I came back from Berlin that I actually was like, I can make this mess an album if I try.

To bring it back to the music, how did the other necessary musical ingredients announce themselves — from that warm, foggy, musty bed of the organ?

Well, usually the bed actually started with the frame of the drums. So because I'm not really a percussionist, actually, that's one of the reasons I was bringing this along is I was like, "This will be my drum machine."

I'm super obsessed with old analog drum machines. [Gestures] I have the old Rolands over there, for example. And I would mix the two. And then I started using the modular almost entirely as a drum machine, which originally wasn't why I started using it, but I realized it made these very interesting, bongo-like electroacoustic sounds.

Then, I would just spend hours deep in that sound-making without thinking about melody or harmony or anything at all. That would just get you in this weird, repetitious, kind of train-like state.

Eventually, I would stand back and let the machine just go and go and go, and then I would start playing the organ over it. It just seemed like the natural next step. And then that would lead [elsewhere]; I mean, if you listen, most of the songs are pretty much built around that.

And then, I would throw some melodic elements on and some hand drums, for example. Then, maybe a trumpet line or some French horn. And eventually, I got the baritone ukulele, and I realized that it had the same warmth as the organ somehow.

Overall, what was your approach to harmony on Hadsel?

I was listening to a lot of choir music at the time, but I don't know if I learned anything from it or if I was just impressed by it.

My way of harmony is weird — because when I work with other people, I realize they do it super differently. I have a couple well-schooled brass guys that play live in the band, and they think about it beforehand.

I'll sing one part, and then mute that part, and then I'll sing another part that just sounds nice to me. And then I'll mute that one, and I'll sing a third part that sounds nice to me. And then I'll just unmute and be like, Does that work? Flying blind is kind of the way I go.

I had no idea you were into modular synths, or even theory. Have you always been an under-the-hood kind of guy?

The only instrument I was trained in was trumpet. And then, my teacher spent a whole year [with me] when I was in high school. He sat me down with music theory, and I was so furious with him. In hindsight, I'm like, "That's quite helpful."

I just know the very basics. With this stuff, this is normally not what I'm interested in. I'm normally a crash-and-burn, throw a microphone in the general direction of the instrument. I've never played it before, but this sounds good to me.

And I feel like with production, I got a little more hands-on with this record, obviously. So all of a sudden I was using compressors and all that stuff for the first time in my life.

If it's related to music, I can get into it, basically.

Zach Condon

Zach Condon of Beirut. Photo: Lina Gaißer

All of this recontextualizes the use of the ukulele, which has been integral to Beirut's music for a long time. Back in 2007, that might have been slotted into the "twee" milieu. But arrangement-wise, it's a counterweight to the gigantism of the organ.

I spend almost all my time on organs and pianos in the same two octaves, which are down towards the bottom. They're under middle C or something like that. I never go above that, because that's the room for those other instruments.

I can get why people would've thought of my music as twee. But for me, that was never what the purpose or intent of it was at all.

In the music industry, I've witnessed firsthand how artist friends of mine have been sloppily tagged and shoved through the system. Was there any resentment, any getting over the indignity of being in the machine?

Oh, absolutely. I would be lying if I was like, "Oh, it never affected me." I hated it. And I spent some years attempting to crawl out of it.

Notably, during [2011's] The Rip Tide and the record after that [2015's No No No], if things were coming to me and I thought they could be misperceived in that way, I would be like, "All right, maybe we skip to a different song," or something like that.

Which is a horrible way to work. I felt very handicapped. I felt like I always had one hand tied behind my back. I felt like I had to prove something to the world, and I was building up this kind of facade. And it's exhausting to do that.

So with the last two records, and definitely with this one, I really just stripped all of that off. I really was like, "I'm old enough now to know I don't come from that generation of cynicism." That's my older brother's voice, practically.

And it's not like he's just this asshole that's always cynical of what I do; he's super supportive. But his friends in those groups — it's like I saw the way that they would chew things up, they'd tear it apart. If it had any vulnerabilities, they would tear it apart.

And with this record, I was like, The vulnerabilities are what made it interesting in the first place. So I'm leaving them. All of it. I don't care anymore.

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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


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

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

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Noah Kahan's Big Year: How The "Stick Season" Singer Became A Folk-Pop Hero
Noah Kahan

Photo: Aysia Marotta


Noah Kahan's Big Year: How The "Stick Season" Singer Became A Folk-Pop Hero

On the heels of announcing an arena and stadium tour for 2024, Noah Kahan revisits some of the biggest moments that have led to it, from going viral with "Stick Season" to collaborating with Post Malone.

GRAMMYs/Oct 9, 2023 - 05:30 pm

In July 2019, Noah Kahan made a promise to his fans via Twitter: "I prolly won't sell out Madison square garden, or even all the shows on my tour but I'll keep writing songs for you all for as long as you'll have me."

Four years later, he's made good on his word about continuing to write songs. But he's also proved himself wrong; not only has the Vermont-born star sold out his entire 2023 tour, but 2024 will see him play a sold-out Madison Square Garden — twice.

While Kahan himself asserts that he's always had a "very dedicated" fan base — whether from his days of posting to SoundCloud and YouTube or since he signed with Republic Records in 2017 – he admits he still finds it hard to process the level to which it's grown. "It's f—ing unbelievable," he says. "It feels so fake that it's almost like, the more time I spend thinking about it, the more abstract it becomes."

His humility is a large part of his appeal (as well as his sense of humor, both on Twitter and on stage), which carries into his folk-pop music. It's matched with extreme vulnerability, as Kahan has been open about his struggles with mental health. Even one of his biggest hits has revealing lyrics: "So I thought that if I piled something good on all my bad/ That I could cancel out the darkness I inherited from Dad," he sings the second verse of "Stick Season."

"Stick Season" became Kahan's breakout song in 2022, first making waves on social media — catching the attention of stars like Zach Bryan and Maisie Peters — and earning him his first radio hit. Its namesake album earned Kahan top 5 spots on Billboard's Top Alternative Albums, Top Rock Albums and Top Rock & Alternative Albums charts in October 2022, but it was the 2023 deluxe edition that really showed his trajectory: all 18 tracks debuted on Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Charts, making him one of only five artists to ever land 18 songs on the chart in one week. 

Kahan's disbelief in his success is only going to continue into the new year, as his 2024 tour will also include L.A.'s Hollywood Bowl and two nights at Boston's Fenway Park. At this rate, he's seemingly on his way to Taylor Swift-level stardom — though, as he jokes, three-hour shows will never be in the cards: "From a physical health standpoint, this is as big as it can get."

In the midst of his Stick Season Tour, Kahan reminisced on the wild ride he's been on for the past 18 months. Below, he details seven of his most career-defining moments to date. 

Watching "Stick Season" Blow Up

I wrote the song in 2020 and I posted the first verse and the chorus [on social media] the next morning. It was kind of an awkward time, because I had another album coming out right after that video was posted [2021's I Was / I Am] , and I had to promote that, and people were like, "What about that other song?" I'd be at shows and people would be like, "Play 'Stick Season'!"

I started to play it live, which is really what stoked the fire in terms of us realizing that it could be a big song. I played it in Syracuse, New York — and we hadn't posted any snippets besides what I would do on my Instagram Lives, or I'd perform it here and there on social media. Everyone in the room knew every single word to it. That was the song that got the biggest reaction all night, and it was a song that wasn't even out yet. That definitely opened my eyes to the desire for that song to be out in the world. 

A lot of my set at the time was more pop-leaning, and this song is definitely more folk-leaning. I could really see the desire for sing-along folk anthems after that performance. [I remember] talking to my team and being like, "I think this song is gonna be around for a long time."

It gave confidence to something that I had been trying to do for a long time, even subconsciously. I think I was always making folk music, and I would always gravitate toward those songs, but a part of me would be like, This isn't who you are, you make pop. So I would stay away from it. 

It took this one song — and playing it the way that I wanted to, and having people really respond — it opened my eyes to the audience that I didn't realize was there. It also opened my eyes to that confidence in myself that really comes through in this kind of songwriting. It let me look at folk music and storytelling as a bigger focus in my life instead of something that I did for fun or in the privacy of my home.

Seeing The Success Of Stick Season

When I was a kid, I would write my name on a blank CD, and I'd put it next to my Green Day CD, and I would pretend that we were the same. For a second it feels real, but it's really not.

Seeing my name on the charts and in conversations with all of these incredible famous artists, it kind of gave me the same feeling where I felt like, This just can't be real — I must be back in my childhood bedroom writing my band name on blank CDs. Because this doesn't happen to people making folk music, really. I was just kind of stunned into disbelief to the point where it took people reminding me that it was happening to actually process it.

I was in love with everything about the process of making this album, and honestly, that was enough for me. I felt so fulfilled. The organic nature of how it all came together felt so real to me, and it felt so important to me. And doing it in Vermont, and having the record be about Vermont and New England — it really felt like the album I've been waiting to make my whole life. 

I think my fans could see how much it meant to me, and it meant the same to them. We kind of shared this real emotional attachment to this album together. 

It just felt like a huge change in the way my life was gonna be. It meant that I could make music that fulfilled me that would fulfill others. I guess you could say it reinvigorated my faith in music in a lot of ways.

The chart success, and the radio play, and the co-signs from other really great artists and songwriters was incredible and overwhelming. I still haven't really processed it all. 

It definitely changed my life and put me into a place where I'm selling out shows, and there's lots of people that want me to work with them. It feels so nice, because it all came from following my heart — in the least cliché way.

Playing Boston Calling

It started to feel monumental when I got there. It's, like, three minutes away from my house, which is crazy. So I took a van from my house and I started walking around the festival, and it felt like I was Justin Bieber — people were chasing me around the festival and screaming.

It was one of the first times I've played in Boston since the deluxe [version of Stick Season] came out, and it was the second festival of the tour, so we were not expecting this crazy reaction. We get on stage and the crowd is just a sea of people. It looked like the crowd for a headliner, and it was only, like, 6 p.m.

We had a really good performance — objectively, we kind of crushed it — and all the fans were losing their minds, and then later, I went on stage with the Lumineers, which was so insane. It just felt like this moment of this hometown crowd really coming out in full force, showing their support and showing the world that I had this kind of fan base. I felt like I was kind of stepping out into a new world in a lot of ways when I got on stage. 

Singing "Homesick" was pretty incredible. It has a line about the Boston [Marathon] bombers, and we were literally right next to Watertown where the Boston bombers were caught. And hearing like 40,000 New Englanders sing "I'm mean because I grew up in New England" was incredible — it made me tear up watching videos the next day. Seeing all those people connect over this common understanding of who we are, and that region, all at once was really, really special. It was just such a Boston moment.

Ever since then, it was kind of just crazy show after crazy show. And every hometown show has been so unbelievable. It was kind of the start of the madness.

Headlining Red Rocks

A show that felt particularly special was Red Rocks. Having gone from being an opener there to a headliner in a little less than a year was really special for me. The growth was so evident.

The crowds at Red Rocks are in this trance of community and love — it felt like the crowd was connecting with each other, and watching that happen was really incredible. Every single person there had a smile on their face. I think that everybody there had an amazing time, and that made me so happy. 

Another thing that I've loved about all the shows, but Red Rocks in particular, is that some of these songs are filled with painful feelings and thoughts, and things that, for me, required a lot of vulnerability. And when the crowd is singing every single word, it just means that a whole crowd of — in Red Rocks' case, 9,900 people — are just being vulnerable, and yelling it out loud. 

That's the greatest gift a musician can ever get — watching people express themselves and free themselves from any kind of shame at a show. That's what I try to do with my music, and I feel like I saw thousands of people shedding their guilt, their fear and their shame, and singing the lyrics. 

We were playing the song "Maine," and there's a line that's like, "If there were cameras in the traffic lights, they'd make me a star," and I remember looking up at the crowd — that line is really about knowing that you have something special, but not knowing if anyone can ever see it. 

I remember singing that song and that line, and I looked up to the crowd — 9,,000 people, that's four times bigger than everyone in my hometown — screaming that line back to me, and I cried. I couldn't believe where I was in my life. 

And I still can't, but there are moments that I get numb to all of it and there are moments when the absurdity of it all slaps me in the face. That was definitely a moment where I felt just shocked by where I had gotten to, and how things have grown.

Launching The Busyhead Project

The Busyhead Project is an endeavor to raise a million dollars for mental health awareness, and these organizations that are doing so much for fighting the stigma and supporting people who suffer around North America. We wanted to start this organization because I have spent a lot of my career thinking and about my own journey with mental health, but I always felt like I was not doing enough, or just kind of providing lip service. 

I never wanted to feel like I was accessorizing it or commodifying it. So I wanted to do something that felt boots-on-the-ground, tangible, [and] would make a real difference. We set out with a goal to raise a million dollars [for these organizations], and we're getting really close. [Editor's note: As of press time, The Busyhead Project has raised $977,055.]

I think it just comes down to putting your money where your mouth is. Like, I'm playing bigger venues and I sell merch — I'm starting to make money, and part of my philosophy on wealth and making money is that you're supposed to use it to help other people. 

I don't need a lot for myself. I live on a diet of sunflower seeds and bananas — I'm literally eating both of them right now — so I wanted to give back as much as I can. It's really that simple; trying to raise money for people that really need it, and organizations that are doing miraculous work. We're definitely not going to stop at a million — I hope not, because that would be kind of lame. [Laughs.] If we can raise more money, we should raise it. 

When I was a kid, I would look up "Artists with depression" or "Artists on medication." I didn't find a lot of 'em, but when I did find somebody, it would feel like I was, like, saved by God or something. That became like religion to me, to see that someone who was in the music industry was also struggling with what I was really struggling with as a kid. I want to provide that for some kid making music out there.

Breaking Onto The Hot 100 (And Collaborating With Post Malone) With "Dial Drunk"

The chart is kind of, like, the one thing from movies about the music industry that signify when the band is doing well — like The Rocker, or Rockstar, where it's like, "Oh my god, the music's on the charts!" And they're doing a montage where the chart spins, and they're on a magazine cover, you know what I mean? And what's always followed by that is a horrible downward spiral, so I think when I saw the song charting well, I was like, Oh God, this is where my career starts to go bad. 

But I was really excited, and it was super cool — and, again, one of those things that's hard to actually understand from a human level. 

It was also really nice because I always feel like the last thing I did is the best thing I did, so after "Stick Season" was a big success, I was like, I have to have another song! And I was touring so much, and I was on Zoloft, so I was feeling emotionally kind of numbed-down. Writing this song was kind of a wake-me-up from what was going on. 

It was kind of a personal victory in a lot of ways — I challenged myself to make something new, and I did, and then it had this massive success. It felt like I can get through anything and do this again if I have to. It reminded me that what was happening in my career wasn't lightning in a bottle, but a real reflection of an audience being hungry for my music.

So then when Post Malone started recording his verse in the song, I felt like I was in a fever dream. I felt like it was gonna elevate my career to a new place, and I think it did.

He's always been an inspiration to me in the way he approaches music. I literally just reached out to him on DMs randomly one day, I was like, "Bro, I think you might like this song, we should do it together." He responded two months later, like, "Yeah, I f—ing love it!" It felt really natural.

We sat cross-legged and drank beers at the show in Massachusetts that I went out with him [to perform "Dial Drunk"]. It was so Post Malone — we talked about adult diapers and The Dewey Cox Story. He was just so funny and fun to be around. 

Announcing An Arena & Stadium Tour For 2024

They had been talked about for a while when we were starting the tour in the spring, but they never felt real — I always kind of think, That'll happen later. At the point that I'm doing those shows, I'll feel like I belong in those rooms.

Having these shows scheduled is truly surreal. I just don't know how we're gonna sell that many tickets. [Laughs.] I think I'll believe it when I'm in the room — like, Madison Square Garden, to me, has always felt like just where Paul McCartney goes, and I can't believe that I get to be having my name on the marquee.

I told my managers on the phone when they booked Fenway, "I'm actually going to retire after this." [Laughs.] There's really no way to describe what that means to someone from New England. 

As someone who grew up loving the Red Sox, going to Fenway Park all the time with my friends — getting drunk and stealing somebody's seats, and screaming at the opposing players over the dugout — that place has meant so much to me and so many people in my life. And the fact that I'm going to be one of not many people that have headlined that venue is just the craziest f—ing thing in the entire world. It feels like there's no other higher peak than playing songs about New England in the mecca of New England.

There was, like, a limit to my dreams when I was a kid — what I could do for a living and how big it could be. I'm trying to have my 8-year-old self be proud of me. I don't think he could even imagine where I'd be now. 

I'm so proud of the people I work with, I'm so proud of myself, because I have really worked hard for this, and I've sacrificed a lot of things in my life to make music happen. To get to this place, it just feels like all those hard decisions were worth it. 

I'm grateful for all the people that have supported me, and the people that have taken time out of their day to believe in my music when I couldn't believe in it. I'm just happy to feel like I belong here.

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Elton John's 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' Turns 50: A Track-By-Track Breakdown
Elton John performs in the United Kingdom in 1973.

Photo: David Redfern/Redferns


Elton John's 'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road' Turns 50: A Track-By-Track Breakdown

Half a century on, Elton John's GRAMMY Hall Of Fame-winning, double-disc masterpiece is a glitzy, emotional, sprawling thrill ride for the ages.

GRAMMYs/Oct 5, 2023 - 03:30 pm

When you hear Elton John's name, what do you think of? Perhaps glitzy showmanship, down-home rakishness, a very '70s opulence. (Oh, and about a dozen song songs implanted in our brains from birth.) For the five-time GRAMMY winner, only sweeping will do.

But that's not a studio-conjured mirage, a mere feat of technology. Because if you listen to John sing "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" alone with a piano — as you can on 2019's quietly issued Live from Moscow 1979 — John's signature hit still buries you like a ton of bricks.

On this astonishing version, John doesn't sound like a rock god; he sounds more mortal than ever, beseeching the heavens from below. 

"When are you going to come down/ When are you going to land?" goes his signature intro; in this naked setting, hearing the words reverberate and fall over the audience is enrapturing. 

And in the chorus, when he leans into the word blues in "singing the blues," the hair on the back of your neck might stand up. What follows is that cascading, wordless tag, a whirlpool of pure feeling. All the cultural trappings of John evaporate; you can only behold that sound.

John recently concluded his final tour, and it was named after "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" — "goodbye" switched for "farewell." In its wake, John's career — forged in tandem with his legendary lyricist, Bernie Taupin — increasingly looks like an enterprise to look back on.

And your communion could start with that piano, that voice, that song — and the classic 1973 album it named, which turns 50 on Oct. 5.

Featuring all-time knockouts from said title track to "Candle in the Wind" to "Bennie and the Jets" — as well as inspired deeper cuts ("Grey Seal") and a double album's requisite oddities ("Jamaica Jerk-Off"), Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is an all-timer of AOR and arguably John's most sprawling, eclectic, memorable album.

In 2003, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame; three years prior to that, John had been named MusiCares' Person Of The Year. On top of his five GRAMMY wins, John's been nominated for a whopping 35 golden gramophones.

In honor of the 50th anniversary of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, here's a breakdown of all 17 tracks.

"Funeral for a Friend / Love Lies Bleeding"

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road's opening track begins with wind sounds and eerie trills; it then efflorescences into Robert Wyatt or Tangerine Dream-style synths — the kind of music John wanted to hear at his own funeral.

Then, as the "Funeral for a Friend" section gives way to "Love Lies Bleeding," the track reveals itself to be a moody, theatrical statement of intent. "The roses in the window have tilted to one side," John yowls; "Everything about this house was born to grow and die."

"Candle in the Wind"

Everyone knows John and Taupin wrote "Candle in the Wind" as an ode to Marilyn Monroe; many remember its 1997 retrofitting as a tribute to Princess Diana.

But despite being half a century old, and its association with two glamour icons of yore, "Candle in the Wind" could have been written this morning. Which is due to both its celebrity-age applicability and luminous, searching melody.

"Bennie and the Jets"

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is decidedly front-loaded; after one world-tilting banger, John casually drops another.

Time and ubiquity have not dampened the ebullience of "Bennie and the Jets": whichever PA you hear it piped from, it's practically illegal to not answer his "Benny!" with your own.

"Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"

This article may have led with love for the solo "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," but that's not to brush off the studio version.

On the album cut, John is backed by his subtle, coaxing, perennially underrated rhythm section of bassist Dee Murray and drummer Nigel Olsson — plus Leslie-ed out electric guitar from Davey Johnstone and an Abbey Road-like orchestral arrangement from Del Newman.

Part of Taupin's appeal as a lyricist is how he could transmute goofiness into splendor — and who else but Elton could beseech you to get back to the farm, "hunting the horny back toad," with such gravitas?

"This Song Has No Title"

As if he didn't just drop "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" on you, the album continues unblinking with this gorgeously rolling, mellotron-laced deep cut. "Let me drink deeply from the water and the wine," John sings. "Light colored candles in dark dreary mines."

"Grey Seal"

In a catalog filled with head-scratching lyrics, "Grey Seal" is especially inscrutable; reportedly, Taupin barely understood its meaning, but simply adored how the words linked to the music.

Indeed, "Grey Seal" is a multifarious marvel of a four-minute rock song, as John throws out iridescent images with abandon — such as "I never learned why meteors were formed/ I only farmed in schools."

"Jamaica Jerk-Off"

The Beatles' The White Album forever laid the groundwork for sprawling, messy double albums, so Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is entitled to its own "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." (Especially since he initially started recording the album in Jamaica.)

"I've Seen That Movie Too"

After the tropical anxiety attack of "Jamaica Jerk-Off," Goodbye Yellow Brick Road pivots to downcast and philosophical with "I've Seen That Movie Too."

Therein, John considers the cyclical nature of everything, through the lens of actors on a soundstage — which, if we were to further the White Album metaphor, would make this his "While My Guitar Gently Weeps."

"Sweet Painted Lady"

John hasn't performed this ode to a harbor prostitute many times; in fact, he hasn't performed it in 23 years. But as an interstitial piece, it works in a pinch; sound effects of waves and gulls drive home the atmosphere.

"The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-1934)"

John and Taupin sure loved their old-timey narratives, and "The Ballad of Danny Bailey (1909-1934)" is no exception; it traces the life and death of a two-bit gangster.

"Some punk with a shotgun killed young Danny Bailey in cold blood in the lobby of a downtown motel," reports Elton at the jump — and what unspools is poetic, cinematic glory.

"Dirty Little Girl"

If glammy misogyny isn't your jam, you may want to swerve around "Dirty Little Girl" — in John's heyday, everyone from the Rolling Stones ("Stupid Girl") to Neil Young (also "Stupid Girl") got one of these songs.

But if you come in well-advised, it might be fun to roll around in its Neanderthal energy; with lyrics like "I'm gonna get buckshot in your pants if you step into my yard," John essentially hands you the controller to Grand Theft Auto V.

"All the Girls Love Alice"

After "Dirty Little Girl," John shakes off the muck for the swinging, swaggering "All the Girls Love Alice." While it's about "a young girl who gets seduced by the naughty ladies," the tune feels less mean than dryly tragic.

"Your Sister Can't Twist (But She Can Rock 'n' Roll)"

As Goodbye Yellow Brick Road races to the finish line, it picks up retro headwinds: here, Elton John nailed his attempt at "a cross between surfing music and Freddie Cannon records."

"Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)"

In that regard, "Your Sister Can't Twist" is only a ramp-up: if "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)" doesn't get you shaking hips at your desk, we can't help you.=

"Roy Rogers"

Every TV-bound kid of John's generation remembers the King of the Cowboys. Although Roy Rogers was very much alive, John gorgeously eulogizes his run in film and TV, and weaves an Old West fantasia for the ages.

"Social Disease"

"My bulldog is barking in the backyard/ Enough to raise a dead man from his grave." So begins a self-effacing character study worthy of Randy Newman and John Prine, with a dash of hallucinogenic strangeness.

If you "dress in rags, smell a lot and have a real good time," you've found your personal anthem — complete with deliciously greasy sax and honky-tonk piano.


John concludes his wild, messy opus by raising a ragged flag, as the string section lifts the proceedings as if on balloons.

"I want to love you forever/ And dream of the never, never, never-leaving harmony," Elton sings at song's end, repeating the title until the song — and Goodbye Yellow Brick Road itself — evaporate in midair.

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