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Childish Gambino And Kacey Musgraves To Headline Outside Lands 2019

Lineup for August is filled with artists prominent at the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Mar 27, 2019 - 04:29 am

The Outside Lands festival is coming to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park on the weekend of Aug. 9–11. They announced their lineup this morning including 61st GRAMMY Awards Record Of The Year winner Childish Gambino and Album Of The Year winner Kacey Musgraves. Gambino aka Donald Glover also won for Best Music Video, Best Rap/Sung Performance and Song Of The Year. Kacey Musgraves' Golden Hour also won Best Country Album. Her track "Space Cowboy" won best Country Song and "Butterflies" won Best Country Solo Performance. The overlap between Outside Lands and winning at the 61st Awards doesn't stop there.

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Other 61st winners in Outside Lands' lineup announced on March 26 are Leon Bridges, Lauren Daigle, Ella Mai, PJ Morton, and Anderson .Paak. Nominees from this year's show include Bebe Rexha and Tierra WhackTyler Joseph from Twenty One Pilots was nominated for Best Rock Song at the 61st as well.

The Outside Lands lineup is filled with winners of GRAMMY awards from other years as well. The list includes Edie Brickell, Flume, Lil Wayne, Paul Simon, and Mavis StaplesBlink-182, Counting Crows, Hozier, the Lumineers, and Bob Moses are among the artists in the lineup who've previously been nominated for GRAMMY awards.

GRAMMY wins and nominations are recognition for artists but the lesser-known acts coming to Golden Gate Park in August are also exciting and well worth a listen. We've covered San HoloYaeji and others. With a lineup this entertaining, the experience in the park this summer is bound to be fantastic.

Tierra Whack Talks Creative Process, Netflix Recommendations And Checkers' Fries

Twenty One Pilots performing in 2022
Twenty One Pilots perform at GPWeek Festival in 2022.

Photo: Mauricio Santana/Getty Images

feature

Twenty One Pilots' Road To 'Clancy': How The New Album Wraps Up A Decade-Long Lore

Three years after 'Scaled and Icy,' Twenty One Pilots' seventh studio album is here. Dig into the rock duo's journey to 'Clancy,' and how it further showcases their knack for vivid world-building.

GRAMMYs/May 24, 2024 - 07:28 pm

Long before Twenty One Pilots developed a cult following, the Columbus, Ohio natives were determined to not be put into a box. From their first EP, 2009's Johnny Boy, they've blended elements of emo, rap, alt-pop, electronica, incorporating hardcore and hip-hop into their shows. "No one knew where to put us," drummer Josh Dun told USA Today in 2014. "But we've approached live shows as a way to build something from nothing."

In the decade since, the band's sheer determination and eclectic onstage personality have made them one of the biggest rock groups of their generation. They're equally as spontaneous and intriguing in their music, building an entire world through dynamic soundscapes and visuals — and their new album, Clancy, ties all of it together.  

As the band revealed in a press release upon announcing the album in March, Clancy "marks the final chapter in an ambitious multi-album narrative" that began with Blurryface in 2015. But it certainly doesn't feel like an ending; Clancy further expands on the theatrical style and eclectic sound they've showcased from the start, offering both a resolution and an evolution.

While the makings of the signature Twenty One Pilots aesthetic began with its original formation as a trio — lead singer Tyler Joseph and his friends Nick Thomas and Chris Salih — it truly took shape when Dun replaced Thomas and Salih in 2011. Dun and Joseph had a common goal to re-formulate the way songs and shows were crafted; the drummer utilized samples and backing tapes at their gigs, helping the band dive deeper into their alternative style by fusing everything from reggae to pop together.

As a newly formed duo, Twenty One Pilots issued their album Regional at Best in 2011 — their last release before they signed to a major label (though, as they told Huffpost in 2013, they since consider the record a "glorified mixtape"). After significant social media buzz and selling out a show at Newport Music Hall in Columbus, the duo was courted by a dozen record labels, which set the stage for their big break.

"We went from no one in the industry caring to all of the sudden it was the hot thing for every label, independent and major, to be interested in some way," Joseph told Columbus Monthly in 2012 upon signing to Fueled by Ramen, which the singer said they were drawn to because they were able to retain "creative control" — a factor that would become increasingly more important with each release. 

Their 2013 album Vessel — which featured a combination of new and re-recorded songs from Regional At Best —spawned the band's first charting single, "Holding On to You," a rap-meets-pop track that oscillates from sensitive indie ballad to energetic anthem. Not only had they begun making a mark commercially, but it seemed to be the album that Twenty One Pilots felt they were hitting their stride creatively, too: "I know some people might not like this, but I kind of view Vessel as our first record," Joseph told Kerrang!at the time.

Though the character "Clancy" first came about with 2018's Trench, Twenty One Pilots actually introduced the world that Clancy would eventually live in with 2015's Blurryface, which focused on a titular character who embodies depression and anxiety. "It's a guy who kind of represents all the things that I as an individual, but also everyone around me, are insecure about," Joseph said of his alter-ego in a 2015 interview with MTV.

To convey the "feeling of suffocation" caused by insecurities from what he creates, Joseph began wearing black paint on his neck and hands in music videos and on stage to represent the "Blurryface" character. As Joseph told the Recording Academy in 2015, the "common thread" of all of the songs on Blurryface was that Joseph's alter-ego would be defeated, and each song wrestled with the dichotomy between darkness and optimism.

While Vessel kickstarted the band's commercial success, Blurryface saw their popularity explode and resulted in the band's best-selling single, the eerie rap-rock anthem "Stressed Out." The commercial success of Blurryface helped their hot streak continue into 2016 with the release of "Heathens." While the song served as the first single from the Suicide Squad soundtrack, its haunting production fits right into the world the pair had begun building with Blurryface. Their acclaim continued to grow, with Twenty One Pilots earning their first GRAMMY in 2017 for "Stressed Out" in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance Category — and, in line with their affinity for stunts, dropping their pants as they accepted their award.

Ahead of the release of their 2018 concept album Trench, the lore surrounding "Clancy" really began. Twenty One Pilots began leaving clues for fans on a website known as DMAORG, which featured black-and-white images and letters from "Clancy," who ultimately became the protagonist of the album. Twenty One Pilots fans (often referred to as the"Skeleton Clique") began clamoring to deduce puzzling clues and posting their theories about the narrative's endgame online.

With Trench, they found more characters and a deeper narrative. The overall album depicts "a world where nine dictatorial bishops keep the inhabitants (Tyler included) of a fictional place named Dema from escaping its controlling clutches, with the help of the Banditos — a rebel organization (featuring Josh)." On a larger scale, the album grapples with mental illness, suicide and an expansion on Joseph's insecurities from Blurryface

But Trench isn't one cohesive story; rather, it's a series of songs with clues embedded within. For instance, in "Morph," the character Nico is introduced, who is also the subject of "Nico and The Niners." From there, fans gleaned that Nico was one of nine bishops controlling the citizens of Dema, and those nine bishops were represented by each of the songs on Blurryface. The bombastic "Pet Cheetah" references that the house has vultures on the roof which alludes to it — and Joseph's home — being Dema. 

As with Blurryface, visuals became an integral part of the album cycle. This time, they used them to illustrate life in the dystopian Dema, which personifies depression through the trilogy of music videos for "Levitate," "Nico and The Niners" and "Jumpsuit." While Joseph's black-painted neck and hands signaled the Blurryface era, dark green clothing marked with yellow tape signaled the Trench era. During this time, the "Clancy" character remained shrouded in mystery — though through videos and letters shared by the band, fans theorized that it is an opposing force to "Blurryface."

By the time Twenty One Pilots' 2021 album, Scaled and Icy, came around, fans quickly noticed that it paid homage to "Clancy" as an anagram for "Clancy is dead," while also acknowledging the COVID-19 pandemic as a shortened phrase for "scaled back and isolated." While Twenty One Pilots could have leaned into the harrowing events of lockdown, they instead chose to focus on what has driven the band itself, the power of imagination — something that has been behind much of the band's work since Blurryface.

With the album came three singles — the propulsive "Shy Away," the heartwrenching banger "Choker" and the funk-pop-tinged "Saturday — which were recorded when the duo was working virtually during the pandemic. Unlike the past two projects which grappled with this doomed slant, Scaled and Icy pivoted toward a sunnier sound, signaling a shift in the narrative. But it didn't mean the dark world of Blurryface and Trench were completely in the past; upon Scaled and Icy's release, Joseph revealed to Apple Music that there would be "one more record" and "an explanation and book end" before moving onto another story.

Three years following the release of Scaled and Icy, fans began receiving letters from the "Sacred Municipality of Dema" — a reference to the fictional city featured on Trench, signaling what appeared to be a new era diving deeper into the band's lore. Since the previous record featured an anagram about "Clancy" in its title, it seemed natural that the next album would be named after the character. 

"'Clancy' is our protagonist in this story we've been telling, stretched out over the last several records. 'Clancy' is the type of character who, for a long time, didn't know if he was a leader or not, didn't want to take that responsibility," Joseph told BBC Radio earlier this year.

As the singer had hinted in the Scaled and Icy era, Clancy brings fans back to the darker narrative that began with Blurryfacet. After Joseph's character escapes Dema a handful of times, joins a rebellion, then is captured again, he finally has the same abilities as the bishops and aims to free the people of Dema. The album attempts to answer a few conceptual questions along the way.

Clancy's blistering first single, "Overcompensate" is inherently hopeful, and answers the long-lingering question fans have been wondering: Who is "Clancy"? According to the psych-funk number, it's been Joseph all along ("If you can't see, I am Clancy/ Prodigal son, done running, come up with Josh Dun.") As Joseph further explained to BBC Radio, "[With] 'Overcompensate', there's a bit of a confidence and swagger in it that the character needed to embody in order to take on the new role in the story we've been telling, and Clancy is gonna rise up as that person."

But much of the album focuses less on the literal lore, instead tackling the overarching themes of its counterparts: Joseph's struggles with mental health. Despite the darker, anxious nature of the album's lyrics, the majority of Clancy has a self-assured breeziness to it, jumping off of the upbeat Scaled and Icy sound. 

On the ballad-like closer, "Paladin Strait" — named after a fictional body of water off the coast of Dema —Twenty One Pilots really digs into the narrative of "Clancy" the character in a literal way again. What's revealed is the final battle between "Clancy" and "Blurryface" with no apparent winner — alluding to the idea that there is not necessarily a triumph over depression. In the final line, the band offers a callback to a lyric from Blurryface: "So few, so proud, so emotional/ Hello, Clancy."

While the ending may remain ambiguous, it may not be a coincidence that Twenty One Pilots postponed Clancy's release date by a week (from May 17 to May 24) in order to finish filming music videos for each of the tracks, all of which were unveiled upon the album's release. So, there's still hope that fans will find out definitively what happened to "Clancy" — or maybe it means his story isn't completely finished. 

How Andrew Watt Became Rock's Big Producer: His Work With Paul McCartney, Ozzy Osbourne, Pearl Jam, & More

Amaarae performing in London in 2024
Amaarae performs in London in March 2024.

Photo: Burak Cingi/Redferns

list

10 Can't-Miss Acts At Primavera Sound Barcelona 2024: Amaarae, Ethel Cain, Troye Sivan & More

Barcelona's Primavera Sound shines as a star-studded spectacle every year, but the famed international festival's 2024 lineup is especially lively. Get to know 10 acts you won't want to miss at Parc del Fòrum from May 29 to June 2.

GRAMMYs/May 22, 2024 - 08:43 pm

Since 2001, Primavera Sound has served as Barcelona's kickoff to summer. And with a stacked lineup chock full of effervescent acts for its 2024 iteration, this year's fest will certainly get the feel-good, warm-weather vibes rolling.

Phoenix starts the party with pop rock and new wave on May 29, setting the stage for fellow headliners Pulp, Vampire Weekend, and Justice on May 30. Lana Del Rey, The National, and Disclosure will make everyone's Friday night on May 31. Then, SZA, PJ Harvey, Mitski, and Charli XCX will ring in June on Saturday, before house/electronic acts ANOTR, The Blessed Madonna, Chloé Caillet, and Mochakk close things out on June 2.

But the headliners are just the beginning of what makes this year's Primavera Sound Barcelona exciting. Peggy Gou, L'Imperatrice, or Omar Apollo will likely tease new tunes, as they all gear up for June album releases. And just a month ago, Faye Webster, The Last Dinner Party, and Eartheater all had their respective Coachella debuts, proving they're more than ready to tackle the Primavera stage.

In the festival's jam-packed five-day lineup, hundreds of acts are primed to kick-start summer with a bang. Below, GRAMMY.com highlights 10 sets you won't want to miss in Barcelona — from Deftones' alt-metal bash to Amaarae's soulful hip-hop.

yeule

Performing: May 30, Plenitude Stage

Singaporean musician yeule is pioneering the ambient and glitch pop genres one song at a time. Born Nat Ćmiel, their stage name is based on a video game character, Paddra Nsu-Yeul, which speaks to their artistic steps in and out of reality. yeule's musical (and fashion) aesthetic is defined by the cyberworld, marked by futuristic, alternative styles that bewitchingly break norms.

Though they started out as a bedroom producer, yeule's more recent creative endeavors — like their invigorating 2022 album, softscars — have been more collaborative, adding a new layer of inspiration and beauty to their work. With influences ranging from Avril Lavigne to Radiohead, yeule's Primavera set will be ideal for living out all of your emo nostalgic fantasies.

Deftones

Performing: May 30, Amazon Music Stage

Get ready to scream with Deftones at Primavera. Winning their first GRAMMY back in 2001, the alternative metal band is still rocking out 20-plus years later — and making waves in this festival lineup. While Primavera tends to be led by various electronic and pop acts, Deftones is uniquely ushering punk to the festival's frontlines.

Banding together in 1988 in Sacramento, Deftones is known for their progressive experimentation within metal and rock, often dipping into psychedelia, post-punk, trip hop. Headed by lead vocalist Chino Moreno, the band's hardcore sound is unabashedly raw, original and heavy, continuing to evolve expansively with the metal genre.

Paving the way for contemporary heavy metal over the years, Deftones is a defiant act you won't want to miss at a major stage at Primavera Sound.

Troye Sivan

Performing: May 31, Santander Stage

Ready to feel the rush? Troye Sivan certainly is.

The Australian pop star is making Primavera an early stop in his tour for Something To Give Each Other, his latest album featuring jubilant singles like "Rush" and "Got Me Started." Once his European tour wraps in Birmingham, England at the tail end of June, he'll be headlining the Sweat Tour with fellow headliner Charli XCX — who coincidentally will be performing at Primavera the next day on June 1.

From the electropop seedlings on his 2015 debut, Blue Neighborhood, to the full-fledged forlorn beauty of his 2020 EP, In A Dream, Sivan's artistry has evolved significantly in the last decade. Today, his music is its most freeing yet, and there's no doubt it'll be glorious (and sweaty) on the Primavera stage.

Obongjayar

Performing: May 31, Plentitude Stage

UK-based Nigerian artist Obongjayar's musical style is nearly indescribable. Interlacing Afrobeat, spoken word, and EDM, all of his songs are distinctly tinged with a signature, soulful vibrance, and it'll be sensational to see how Obongjayar takes his pensive profundity to fill the Primavera stage.

Though he might be best known for the Fred again.. collaboration "adore u" (which samples his track "I Wish It Was Me"), Obongjayar's special sound effortlessly meshes with everyone he works with. From "If You Say" with Sarz, to "Point and Kill" with Little Simz, to "Protein" with Jeshi, it would be fair to call Obongjayar a chameleon — except instead of blending in, he's standing out.

Ethel Cain

Performing: May 31, Santander Stage

There's no better word to describe Ethel Cain's music than transcendent.

A master of gothic indie rock, Cain stitches together uncanny Americana and lovelorn nostalgia into a radiant, sensory experience. Her debut album, 2022's Preacher's Daughter, is divine and sometimes disturbing, but its ambience live sends audiences into an impossibly satisfying trance.

Whether you're listening to the enchanting slow burn of "A House In Nebraska" or the eerie roar of "American Teenager," both Cain's storytelling and live performance are infallibly spine-chilling — do yourself a favor and don't miss Cain's hauntingly beautiful set at Primavera.

BADBADNOTGOOD

Performing: May 31, Cupra Stage

Looking for a band that combines jazz styles with hip-hop production? Look no further than BADBADNOTGOOD, an innovative Canadian instrumental band.

After meeting at a Toronto jazz program in 2010, the three-piece band bonded over their hip-hop music appreciation, and the rest is history. Since then, BADBADNOTGOOD (which now features Leland Whitty in place of original member Matthew Tavares) has released five studio albums — fittingly, including covers of hip-hop songs with jazz interpretations. The group has also worked with Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, The Creator, Thundercat, and many more notable artists.

The band's collaborative production and remixing has earned them two GRAMMY wins and five total nominations, and there's no question BADBADNOTGOOD's set will put a spell on Barcelona.

Arca

Performing: May 31, Amazon Music Stage

Electronica is Arca's playground, and the pioneering producer's set at Primavera is sure to craft a whole new world. Dynamism defines the Venezuelan musician's shape-shifting art; through its avant-garde fusion of reggaeton, ambient techno, and dark electronica, her music is bursting with vigor.

Arca's music often discusses themes of gender identity and sexuality, and her views of queerness center around harmony and inclusion, which reflect in her pristine tracks "Nonbinary" and "Machote" on her GRAMMY-nominated album KiCk i. Having released 10 albums since 2006; worked with artists like Rosalía, Björk, and the late SOPHIE; and even opened for Beyoncé's Renaissance World Tour, Arca brings immeasurable experience to Barcelona.

The producer's music naturally begs to be heard live — it's meant to sweat to and be danced to, and Arca's Primavera set will embody true electronic extravagance.

ATARASHII GAKKO!

Performing: June 1, Cupra Stage

This rising Japanese girl group's powerful sound easily warrants a stage name in all caps and with an exclamation point.

Fresh off their U.S. television debut on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!," ATARASHII GAKKO! is ready to tackle the Primavera Sound stage with their engaging J-pop that integrates elements of hip-hop, rock, and jazz. Intrepid and commanding, their live performance features synchronized dancing, matching sailor school uniforms, and occasionally a marching band.

The quartet's upcoming world tour has a handful of sold-out dates. They've already conquered crowds at Coachella and Head in the Clouds — and there's no doubt that ATARASHII GAKKO! will bring their best to Barcelona.

Amaarae

Performing: June 1, Amazon Music Stage

Ama Serwah Genfi — better known as Amaarae — is an alté trailblazer. Raised between Atlanta and Accra, Ghana, the singer crafts mercurial music that is both introspective and stylish, and destined to be performed for vast audiences.

From her 2017 EP, Passionfruit Summers, to her 2023 album, Fountain Baby, it's easy to be mesmerized by her distinct, eccentric soprano and overflowing confidence. Her critically acclaimed "Sad Girlz Luv Money" (featuring Molly and Kali Uchis) charted globally in 2021, and just last year, she became the first Ghanaian American to perform an NPR Tiny Desk Concert. Amaarae's live performances bring her blend of R&B, pop, and afrobeats to a new level, and she's ready to introduce her infectious global beats to Primavera.

Bikini Kill

Performing: June 1, Pull&Bear Stage

Famed pioneers of the riot grrrl movement in the '90s, Bikini Kill is bringing punk fun (and rage) to the Primavera stage.

Influencing alternative stars like Sleater-Kinney, Pussy Riot, and The Linda Lindas, it's no question that the iconic American band has inspired the next generation, whether that be through their music or activism. From "Rebel Girl" to "Feels Blind" to "I Like F—ing," Bikini Kill's beautifully irate music calls for female solidarity and empowerment still resonate with listeners today.

Though the band broke up in 1997, they reunited in 2019 and have since been touring together — and now, Primavera offers a special chance to see another inspiring moment from the revolutionary rockers.

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Graham "Suggs" McPherson of Madness performs in 2023
Graham "Suggs" McPherson of Madness performs in 2023

Photo: Gus Stewart/Redferns

interview

Madness Frontman Suggs Talks New Album, First U.S. Tour & Getting Kicked Off "Top Of The Pops" — Four Times

Ahead of their appearance at Las Vegas' Punk Rock Bowling fest and first American shows in 10 years, Madness' lead singer Suggs details the band's hit-filled history, 2023 album and coming up Two Tone.

GRAMMYs/May 22, 2024 - 01:32 pm

American audiences may only know "Our House," but there’s much more to Madness than their lone Stateside mega-hit.

Prior to their 1982 smash, the English band enjoyed immense commercial success in their home country. Between 1979 and 1981, Madness sent nine consecutive singles into the Top 10 of the UK Official Singles Chart. 

"It was a few years of hard work and all of a sudden, we were the most successful band in England," says Madness frontman Suggs (born Graham McPherson), chatting from London. "That happened because people f—ikn’ dug the tunes we made."

Madness also helped bring ska to the masses. Alongside comrades like the Specials, the London septet were leaders of the late ‘70s British ska boom, which combined Jamaican rhythms with punk swagger, and united Black and white working-class kids. Among their hits from this era were "One Step Beyond" (1979),  "Baggy Trousers" (1980) and "House of Fun" (1982). 

With their street-savvy fashions and Monty Python-style music videos (which caught the eye of Honda and led to a series of advertisements in the early '80s), Madness have been  fixtures in UK culture and beyond for over 40 years. They endured so strongly that their 13th LP, 2023’s Theatre of the Absurd Presents C’est la Vie, hit No. 1 on the UK Official Albums Chart — their first studio album to reach the summit.

Beginning May 22, Madness will tour the U.S. for the first time in 10 years, including a headline slot at Las Vegas’ Punk Rock Bowling festival, alongside Devo and Descendents.

On the phone, Suggs is chatty and jovial, quick to break into song or pull a good story from his band’s topsy-turvy history. Madness once turned down a chance to play Madison Square Garden as "Our House" surged in 1983. (They’d already performed on "SNL" and "Our House" was an MTV staple.) Madness could have been a much bigger band in America. But after years of non-stop touring and promotion in the UK, Madness was nearing its breaking point. "We had f—in’ 20 hits and we were all getting a bit tired," Suggs remembers. "I see the Pretenders, 18 months touring America! So, we never really continued." In 1986, Madness went their separate ways. 

A decade later, ska was enjoying a moment in the sun in America as groups like the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, No Doubt and Reel Big Fish dominated airwaves during the genre's "third wave." Over in the UK, a rejuvenated Madness was enjoying its elder statesman status, drawing massive festival crowds since reuniting in 1992. No Doubt frequently cited Madness as an inspiration and even tapped keyboardist Mike Barson to play on one of their songs. And the fire still burns. At Coachella 2024, No Doubt covered Madness’ rendition of "One Step Beyond," itself a cover of a ‘60s classic by Jamaican ska legend Prince Buster. 

Madness — whose current lineup also includes guitarist Chrissy Boy, saxophonist Lee Thompson, bassist Mark Bedford, and drummer Woody — has earned its place in rock history. Their classics still bring crowds to a frenzy and, as their latest album proves, fans are still enthralled by what Suggs and company have to say.

GRAMMY.com recently caught up with the Madness singer for a career-spanning swath of topics: crafting tunes in the modern day, some sage advice he got from Clash frontman Joe Strummer, why Madness kept getting banned from "Top of the Pops," and much more. 

Was there a moment you realized "Our House" was going to be a much bigger song than your previous hits?

When it was a hit in America, that was definitely an indication. And that’s the alchemy of music — you just don’t know when you’re doing it at the time. I remember we were rehearsing, when the song started… our bass player Mark [Bedford] goes [hums "Our House" intro], dum-dum, dum-dum-de-dum-dum… There wasn’t a chorus at the time, so our producer Clive [Langer], just sang, "Our house, in the middle of the street," just joking. 

But without that, it wouldn’t have been the hit that it is. [Songs] are like babies. You have them, you bring them up, and then they go out into the world, and you don’t know where they’re gonna go. It’s not up to you. It’s up to other people to decide if they like them or not. 

We’d been in America for a month and suddenly "Our House" was a massive hit. We’d been offered to play Madison Square Garden but we were just tired and wanted to go home. We all had kids. We didn’t do a few gigs [that] we were offered in America that might have changed the situation. 

We [weren't] arrogant — but we were a bit. And we were so popular in England. We were making a very good living; we didn’t really have to go anywhere anymore. We just decided that it was kind of too late to try and break — whatever that word means — America. It was a great hit, it was fantastic, but that was kind of it.

What do you remember from the first time Madness toured the States?

It was 1979 or so… It was a really big, eye-opening experience. There were seven [of us] in the band, so probably 10 of our friends [including crew]. We were like a party on the road, we didn’t really need anyone else’s company. Coming over the Brooklyn Bridge and seeing New York, you know what I mean? When you come from London — I mean, London isn’t small — but you don’t compare it to New York. 

And then L.A. and all the palm trees. I remember we played at Whisky a Go Go. We did two shows a night: one at 11 and one at 2 in the morning — my suit was still wet. 

It was kind of off because [L.A.] was still catching up with punk. You had the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, X. People were doing all this mad punk dancing and the worm or whatever, writhing about on the floor. We’d sort of done that in London; we’d had the Sex Pistols and the Clash. We were into something else, which was dancing, and playing music by Black origin. We weren’t just thrashing about and spitting at each other. But that kind of thing was still going on, which made it a bit difficult for us because a lot of the places we were playing were really punk. And we weren’t punk. We were over that.

By the time "Our House" came around in '82, I’d think America was starting to catch up.

By then you had Blondie, the CBGB scene, Talking Heads, and it started to make more sense to us. With post-punk, there were grooves suddenly. It was offbeat, but it wasn’t anger. 

When Madness first started playing, what were the crowds like?

It was just our friends. We started off in a pub in Camden Town, where we were living. We got a residency, every Wednesday night. First week, there’d be 10 people. Second week, 30, 40, 60, 80, 90, 100, and then two months later, we had a queue around the block. The music we were playing, which was ska, and the clothes we were wearing was kinda different than everybody else around. 

Then we got a gig supporting the Specials in a pub in West London. They sort of appeared out of nowhere — Coventry — which is quite a long way from London. And they were wearing the same clothes as us, playing the same kind of music. I remember [Specials singer] Neville [Staple] was shooting holes in the ceiling with a starting pistol and I just thought, Crikey, these are kooks. We might be onto something. I remember Johnny Rotten getting out of a cab and going, "Are you for real?" And these kids went, "Yeah, you f—ing arse." It was the transition of power. It wasn't that long: ‘77, punk. ‘78, us. And suddenly you got the Specials, the Beat, the Selecter. Two-tone became this massive phenomenon in London. So we went on tour with them: the Specials, Selecter, Beat. 

I remember being with Joe Strummer from the Clash and I was walking through a playground with him. I can’t remember where we were going, but all the kids were singing "Baggy Trousers" on the swings. And I’m going, "I want to be cool, I don’t want school kids." And he went, "No, you’ve got it wrong, mate. You want to have young kids, that’s the best thing that can happen. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the young people you want to connect with." 

When you’ve got pretty naive school kids singing your songs, you’ve definitely done something you should be proud of. 

What was Camden Town like when you were growing up there?

It was rough, man. You know, people now in London are getting more and more scared, lot of knives flyin’ and gangs, but it was the same. You lived in a certain area and you would be very wary of another area across the road because you could be stabbed, shot. The greatest thing was the music. 

Every pub had a stage and there’d be music on every night. In that period, punk was still there, then you got goth, you got psychobilly, rockabilly, then you got new romantic. Every pub you went to was something going on. Different scenes, all these kids. 

The pride I have [as one of] these working class kids. There’s no money, you just tried: this is what you’re gonna wear, and this is what you’re into. And suddenly a whole scene started. It was totally organic and individual. It wasn’t trend sections, fashion magazines; it was just kids doing what they want.

Where you grew up, what were race relations like?

They were difficult. And we got caught up in that, unfortunately, because we were all white… Although our original drummer was Black, but he left because we were too s—. Like I said, there was all these different scenes and the scene we were into was ska and reggae. And you had this whole culture — from the mods to the skinheads to the suedeheads in the late ‘60s and ‘70s — which was all about fashion and listening to that music, but it got usurped by these [racist] skinheads who started to take it the other way.

We’d be playing concerts and there’d be all sorts of racism going on and we’d have to deal with it in our own way. I remember jumping into the audience a few times and getting beaten up. It went away, fortunately. Only a couple years: probably ‘78, ‘79 maybe. Even the Specials were getting it, and they had Black people in their own group. They’d get people f—ing sieg heiling. It’s a fucking long story. 

What we had here was football hooliganism, which has now become very popular in Italy, France, and Germany. It’s one of our greatest exports. [Laughs.] It was easier for them to come to rock concerts than football matches, where there were loads of police. 

How did the commercial success first come?

By being really good. People saw what we’d done. It was a few years of hard work and all of a sudden, we were the most successful band in England. That happened because people f—in’ dug the tunes we made. Then we split up in 1985 and I think we were still the most successful band of the ‘80s… in England. Ha ha! 

"The Prince" on 2 Tone [Records] got to No. 16, then we had [our debut album] One Step Beyond get to No. 2, then we had "House of Fun" [reach No. 1]. We just had hit after hit, you tell me. 

Music videos played a big role in Madness' success, right?

That had just started. This was before MTV. We went to Stiff Records [in 1979]. We’d been on 2 Tone [Records], but we decided we wanted to spread our wings and Stiff had Elvis Costello, Ian Dury, Kirsty MacColl, the Damned. Dave Robinson, who ran that label, also saw the potential that we were all quite theatrical, so we started making videos. 

[Television program] "Top of the Pops" had 20 million viewers; it only was allowed one promo pop video, and we were always the one that they showed. When we did "Baggy Trousers," there was a feeling in the air. People would talk about our videos, and it definitely added to the potency of what we were doing. 

The intellectual types and the tastemakers, the people who make and break you, just thought we were a flash in the pan joke, and the music got slightly sidelined. Only recently we’ve had much better reviews of our history. We put a lot of effort into the music [and] those videos. 

There’s so much going on in those songs, musically, if you really listen.

We’d have friends, musicians, play covers and they’d go, "We can’t play your songs, it’s too complicated." We had seven of us, all wrote songs, so we were in constant competition with each other. You couldn’t just go, "Mine’s the best." You had to actually write the best song. 

So many bands with two or three songwriters are fighting all the time, or just break up. How did Madness do it with so many?

Tolerance is the main thing. The underlying reason is we were friends from when we were at school. We were famous around our way. It was a gang called the Aldenham Glamour Boys, and to be in or amongst them, you were famous. So by the time we got the band going, we weren’t really bothered by other people’s impressions of us. 

On "Top of the Pops," we got banned four times. The girl who used to do our promotions said, "Do you realize people would give their right arm to be on this?" And I said, "The thing is, we’re just not right arm-giving people."

What were the four things you got banned from "Top of the Pops" for?

The first time was when one of our friend’s brothers was in prison and he held up a sign saying, "This is for prisoner number 44224022." That wasn’t allowed. The second time, we got on a lift with this dance troupe and the lift plummeted into the basement because there were too many of us. The third time, Lee [Thompson], our saxophone player, had a t-shirt that said, "I need the BBC" and then he had another t-shirt underneath that said, "Like a hole in the head." And I can’t remember what the fourth one was.  

When America had its brief ska moment in the ‘90s, did Madness get any new attention?

I don’t think so, no, because we had accepted that it was too late. It was great to see, all the Americans, Mighty Mighty Bosstones or whoever checking us. But we weren’t going to go back. If it had been 20 years earlier, it would have helped. But it was too late, like, "Who are these old farts?" [Laughs.]

When Madness got back together in the ‘90s, what was that like?

Vince Power, who just passed away, a great promoter, used to do this Irish festival, Fleadh, in North London. We all used to go. And he says, "When’s the last time you played?" And I said, "Well, probably about six years ago." And he said, "Why don’t you do a one-off comeback?" 

So we did Madstock! in 1992. We didn’t know if anyone was going to turn up. 35,000 people turned up. So we put on another one. And 70,000 people turned up. There was an earthquake, 4.5 on the Richter scale, people were jumping up and down. And they had to evacuate people out of their houses, flats, and apartments because of the earthquake that we’d created. We put out a greatest hits album, it goes to No. 1, sold 2 million copies, blah, blah, blah… And we’ve been going longer now on this bit than we did on that first bit. 

It’s really interesting to hear how you’ve been part of rock music through so many eras.

I’ve just done a couple songs with Paul Weller, he’s a friend of mine from the old days. We were working on a tune and I went, "Look Paul, it’s only music." And he said, "No, it f—ing isn’t." [Laughs.] And it’s true innit? We made a lot of f—ing good pop music. It’s something I’m very proud of. It’s the soundtrack of our lives. When you hear a tune, you remember exactly where you were. 

When you wrote the lyrics for the new album, Theatre of the Absurd, what was on your mind?

We all write. We had 40 songs. During the lockdown, for that two years, the worst way to communicate is email. People were losing their minds. So I thought we were going to fall out and never speak to each other… And we made a record I think is good. I mean, [it went] No. 1 in England; that’s the first number one [studio] album we ever had. 

I wrote the first song on the album, "Theatre of the Absurd." I was just sitting on my own, stuck, and I was imagining being in some old theater with all the doors locked, not being able to get out. Theatre of the Absurd was a French artistic [concept]  where things became so absurd, it was all gobbledygook. They just made up words. 

I’m really fortunate. This band of mine, they're a dysfunctional family, it’s very difficult to be in. But it’s like the philosophers the Eagles once said, "You can check out any time you like, but you can never f—in’ leave." 

But I’m looking forward to playing America. The fella from "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Larry David wants to introduce us. 

Are you gonna do that?

You know, Helen Mirren did a bit on our new album, [so did] Martin Freeman, actors from England. Getting someone from America who likes us, I can’t see the problem with that. We shall see. 

Watch: "A History Of L.A. Ska" Panel At The GRAMMY Museum With Reel Big Fish, NOFX & More

Zayn
Zayn Malik attends the Valentino Menswear Fall/Winter 2024-2025 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on January 20, 2024 in Paris, France

Photo: Marc Piasecki/WireImage via Getty Images

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New Music Friday: Listen To Songs & Albums From Zayn, The Avett Brothers, Bebe Rexha & More

As Billie Eilish fans rejoice over the release of her latest album, they're not the only fandom jamming new tunes on May 17. Check out new music from Maria Becerra, Saweetie, Galantis, and more.

GRAMMYs/May 17, 2024 - 04:12 pm

As music fans know, Friday is the official weekday of new releases — but this week began with a bang.

On Monday, May 13, Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, released Atavista, a "finished" version of his 2020 album, 3.15.20. Back then, he released a nascent version of said album on his website, before pulling it down and uploading it to streaming services the following week, with guest appearances by Ariana Grande, 21 Savage and more.

Happily, the finished product retains those inspired guest appearances, over polished and honed versions of the original tunes. With the release of Atavista, Glover released a music video for "Little Foot Big Foot," featuring Young Nudy. He also promised special vinyl with visuals for each song, as well as an all-new Childish Gambino album due this summer.

And before Friday even hit, two country superstars also delivered exciting new tracks. Also on May 13, Lainey Wilson unleashed "Hang Tight Honey," the first single from her forthcoming third album, Whirlwind, out August 23. Three days later, Luke Combs released "Ain't No Love In Oklahoma," the lead track from TWISTERS: THE ALBUM. (Arriving July 19, the soundtrack will feature a number of other country greats, from Miranda Lambert to Shania Twain to Jelly Roll.) 

Today, there are plenty of other musical delicacies to savor. One of the most prominent is Billie Eilish's hotly anticipated third album, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT. Also, Puerto Rican rap star Álvaro Díaz's SAYONARA; American singer/songwriter Sasha Alex Sloan's Me Again; and 1D star Zayn's ROOM UNDER THE STAIRS have been unveiled. Even renowned actress Kate Hudson has also joined the musical ranks, releasing her debut album, Glorious.

Veterans, too, are stepping out with fresh offerings. Psych-tinged retro rockers Cage the Elephant are back with their first album in five years, Neon Pill. Slash released Orgy of the Damned, an album of mostly blues covers featuring guests from Gary Clark Jr. to Iggy Pop to Demi Lovato. On the opposite side of the coin, boy band pioneers New Kids on the Block return with Still Kids, their first album in 11 years, featuring guests DJ Jazzy Jeff and Taylor Dayne.

Still, that doesn't even begin to cover the trove of new songs delivered on May 17. Omar Apollo, Peggy Gou and HARDY released tracks from upcoming albums, and Russ (feat. 6LACK), Charlotte Cardin and T-Pain released inspired singles. What other treasures have this Friday wrought? Check the below list for albums and tunes to add to your weekend playlist!

The Avett Brothers — The Avett Brothers

With their previous album, back in 2019, Americana favorites the Avett Brothers declared they were Closer Than Together. Now, they're back with a self-titled album, and a return to their original label, Ramseur Records.

But that's just one way they're circling back to their roots; the Rick Rubin-produced The Avett Brothers returns to burning-rubber vocals; sturdy, folkloric melodies; and lovelorn lyrics. If those are your bag, don't miss tracks like "Love of a Girl," "Orion's Belt" and "Same Broken Bones."

Bebe Rexha, "Chase It (Mmm Da Da Da)"

Bebe Rexha's last album was 2023's Bebe, but this phenom of a pop singer/songwriter is already back with new music. Get warmed up for the impending summer sun with "Chase It (Mmm Da Da Da)," complete with a rip-roaring video.

The four-time GRAMMY nominee debuted her latest banger in the desert sands of Coachella 2024; if you're ready for the swooping, thumping official version, chase it down today. 

Meaningfully, "Chase It (Mmm Da Da Da)" marks Rexha's first solo dance track after numerous collaborations with electronic acts; she even earned back-to-back GRAMMY nods in 2023 and 2024 for jams concocted with David Guetta, and her only other release of 2024 so far was a collab with Brazilian DJ Alok.

Galantis, Rx

We haven't gotten a new album from the beloved Swedish EDM duo Galantis in a hot minute; that just changed. Though they has released two albums since 2015's Pharmacy — 2017's The Aviary and 2020's Church — Galantis' latest album is a direct successor to their game-changing debut. Behold, the aptly titled Rx.

Running the gamut from ethereal textures to electrifying, pulsing rhythms, Rx directly reckons with Galantis's now-sole member Christian Karlsson's ADHD, and how medication was a game-changer in his life and work.

"Pharmacy was when I knew I was neurodivergent and I knew the studio was like a pharmacy for me," Karlsson stated in a press release. "I was the patient. Rx is when I found medication. For me, it was key, but of course, everyone walks their own path."

Saweetie — "NANi"

Before Saweetie officially released "NANi," she had been teasing the track all week long. On May 11, at the 2024 Gold Gala, an annual gathering of top Asian Pacific and multicultural leaders, the rapper (who has Filipino and Chinese roots) told Billboard, "NANi' is that girl. 'NANi' is main character energy." And on Instagram, as part of the cover art reveal for the single, she declared, "We gon' fkkk up the Summer."

She certainly will. The poolside-partying, Smirnoff-plugging video lives up to a YouTube commenter's adroit description: "It's giving Barbie and Bratz royalty!" Will it be part of Pretty Bitch Music, the album she's been teasing (and honing) for years? Time will tell.

Warren Zeiders — "Betrayal"

Warren Zeiders staked his claim with his 2021 debut single, "Ride the Lightning"; now, he's got a stormcloud overhead. The uber-moody "Betrayal" makes no bones about its subject: "This isn't how I pictured you and I/ Smile in my face while you twist the knife/ Shame on me if you fool me twice/ You fooled me twice."

As unremittingly bleak as the lyrics are, though, the budding country star's melody lets the light in. What an alchemy: the more Zeiders bemoans being chapfallen and frustrated, the lap steel-laced music evermore swoops and sparkles.

María Becerra — "IMAN (Two of Us)"

Once a YouTuber, and now an urbano sensation, bubbly Argentine singer María Becerra is back with a four-on-the-floor stomper. The somewhat Dua Lipa-tinted "IMAN (Two of Us)" is a delight, as is its candy-coated video, where Becerra cavorts and romances through a surreal art exhibit.

Her new album, MB3*, is expected sometime in 2024; it should also include tunes like "Slow it Down," "Do You (feat. 24kGoldn)" and "Agora." Let the earworm "IMAN" slake your thirst in the meantime.

Zayn — ROOM UNDER THE STAIRS

Boy band acolytes will always long for the return of One Direction, who have been on hiatus since 2016. But in the meantime, their solo work just keeps getting sweeter. Following a three-year intermission, Zayn released ROOM UNDER THE STAIRS; for him, this music cuts to the quick of who he is.

"I think the intention behind this album fully is ​​for the listener to get more insight on me personally as a human being," Zayn explained in an Instagram post. "My ambitions, my fears, and for them to have a connection with that and that's why it's so raw. It's just me."

Taking six years to get right, and marking a return to Mercury Records, ROOM UNDER THE STAIRS is an unmistakable sonic and thematic evolution for the One Direction star. As with the other selections on this list, it's right on time for spring — let the songs of the season help you flourish, too.

New Music Friday: Listen To Songs From Megan Thee Stallion, Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X, BTS' RM & More