Photo: Jim Dyson/Getty Images
10 Must-See Acts At Coachella 2023: Yves Tumor, Earthgang, DJ Pee Wee & More
Ahead of the first weekend of the 2023 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, get a preview of some of the most-anticipated acts who will hit the desert stage.
It’s April and for the Southern California music scene that means one thing: It’s time for Coachella.
Over two consecutive weekends, April 14-16 and 21-23, the Empire Polo Club in Indio will welcome hundreds of thousands of attendees (not to mention all the people watching the live streams) for the 22nd edition of the festival.
What is rather striking about this particular edition is that, at the time of writing, the event is not completely sold out; tickets to weekend two are still available. There is no way to discern exactly why there is still availability this year, but the lineup doesn’t seem to be the culprit. The 2023 Coachella lineup has massive mainstream appeal, as well as many up-and-coming acts.
The ever-elusive R&B star Frank Ocean will perform a headlining set as the speculation around a new album reaches critical mass. Bad Bunny, who was Spotify’s most streamed artist of 2022 and the record holder for the highest-grossing tour in history, will be headlining as well. From there, the festival features a slew of major pop acts like Charli XCX, Rosalía, and Metro Boomin’, as well as exciting surprises like the first-ever performance from the MySpace-era, alternative pop hero Jai Paul.
In addition to the names in big text, the Coachella lineup boasts something for everyone further down the roster. Artists performing in jazz, electronic, reggae, indie, rap, and many more genres promise to offer equally exciting sets. Check out 10 buzzing artists who may be in small print, but are sure to make a big impact this year.
Jupiter & Okwess
Kick off Coachella with sounds from Africa, brought to you by Jupiter & Okwess. Hailing from Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Jupiter Bokondji and his band Okwess will bring the sound he’s delineated as "Bofenia Rock" to the festival on Friday.
"Bofenia" refers to a dance Bokondji’s grandmother performed in healing ceremonies in the DRC. However, in recent years, he has demonstrated a commitment to integrating music of different cultures into his repertoire. In 2022 Jupiter & Okwess shared two EPs entitled Brazil is my land and Mexico is my land, respectively, wherein artists from those nations remixed music from the most recent Jupiter & Okwess album, 2021’s Na Kozonga.
With such a diverse catalog, there’s no telling where in the world this set will take the people of Coachella.
With his latest album, Praise A Lord Who Chews But Which Does Not Consume; (Or Simply, Hot Between Worlds), still hot off the presses, Yves Tumor is coming back to Coachella several lines higher than his last appearance in 2019.
On this new LP, the Warp Records mainstay continues his foray into the alternative. "Ebony Eye" is an exploration in grand soul with an orchestral break laid against vocal tones of longing. "Meteora Blues" goes into alt-rock with the kind of emotional highs and lows that match the reference to Linkin Park’s sophomore album.
Yves Tumor held an overlapping time slot with headliner Childish Gambino in 2019, reserving his set for the heads who gravitate away from the main stage. This year, he’ll likely have a more coveted and, hopefully, less conflicting, set time.
2022 was massive for the Atlanta-based rap duo EARTHGANG: They released their second album, GHETTO GODS, went out on a 30-plus date North American tour, and were set to tour Europe. Their Euro tour was postponed to 2023 — but for good reason.
The group was "bit by the creative bug," and they will have "new energy" when they’re back on the road. Coachella's desert crowd will get the first taste of this "new energy," and hopefully some new material, before EARTHGANG heads to Europe with JID this summer.
The Comet Is Coming
After being booked on Coachella’s doomed 2020 lineup, modern jazz trio The Comet Is Coming are locked in for their debut performance. Like previous jazz acts that had space at the mainstream mecca — among them, electro-swing purveyor Parov Stelar and the hip-hop heavy trio BADBADNOTGOOD — TCIC showcase a new age understanding of jazz.
The three members all play specific instruments, but their titles in the band are expanded to an existential scale: Betamax the intuitionist, Shabaka the spiritual riffologist, Danalogue the studio magician. These unconventional titles feed the sound of their 2022 LP, Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam. Songs like "ANGEL OF DARKNESS" feature the instrumental elements for which jazz is known, but are presented over experimental soundscapes like choral cacophonies.
Coachella has long been the place for debuts. Daft Punk debuted their now-famous pyramid show in 2006; Richie Hawtin did the first-ever CLOSE show in 2017; Swedish House Mafia made their return to the festival stage after a five-year hiatus at Coachella 2022. In 2023, Alison Wonderland will make her festival debut as Whyte Fang.
Though Alison Wonderland (real name Alexandra Sholler) has performed as Whyte Fang twice before, her Coachella set will be the first with full-fledged festival production. The Coachella show will coincide with the release of the project’s debut album, Genesis, out on the Friday of weekend one.
Sholler’s music as Alison Wonderland is intricate in nature given her experience as a singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. Whyte Fang channels her widespread talent and takes it into a darker presentation. Such a shift can be heard on the album’s singles like the title track, which combines haunting pop vocals with a ghostly deep techno drop.
After rocking the house with their hybrid live-electronic band Soulwax in 2018, David and Stephen Dewaele return to Coachella as their brothers-only project, 2manydjs.
As 2manydjs, despite the on-the-nose name, the Dewaeles will not perform a traditional DJ set. They have a live show that integrates a carefully crafted journey largely consisting of their lauded remixes of celebrated artists. In 2022 alone they remixed tracks from artists including Oliver Sim, Wet Leg, and Peggy Gou into funky electro hitters primed for aCoachella set.
And those who want to see the brothers go into pure DJing can visit Despacio at Coachella all weekend long. Despacio is the custom sound system they designed with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem.
Hayden Silas Anhedönia has been telling the story of her alter-ego since 2019. Ethel Cain is a version of herself that represents emotions towards her restrictive Southern upbringing, and Ethel's story was first outlined on the singer/songwriter's 2022 debut album, Preacher’s Daughter.
The enthralling record employed diverse soundscapes to its relatable and utterly dark subject matter. Songs like "American Teenager" paired adolescent dread with indie-rock guitar chords, while "August Underground" is a full-fledged ambient composition. Though it has no words, the grueling sounds of the latter are meant to represent the emotions surrounding Ethel’s murder at the hands of her lover.
How Anhedönia will bring such a harrowing tale to life at Coachella will surely be a sight to behold.
Lindsey Jordan, who writes and performs under the name Snail Mail, was another artist set to make her return to Coachella in 2020 before…well, you know.
That performance was to be ahead of her 2021 sophomore album Valentine. Since touring has reopened, Jordan has taken her new batch of songs all over the world, performing 102 shows in 2022 alone.
In 2023 she is bringing songs like the indie power ballad "Valentine" and the heavy beats of "Ben Franklin" to Indio.
This year Coachella is standing up for diversity. All three headliners are minorities with the first-ever headlining slot from both a Latin artist (Bad Bunny) and an AAPI artist (BLACKPINK). This year’s lineup also includes Elyanna, who will be the first artist in the history of Coachella to perform her set in Arabic.
The Palestinian-Chilean artist released her second EP, Elyanna 2, in March of 2022. Across the seven tracks, she visits various different sounds in the popular music sphere; opener "Ghareeb Alay" is a lowdown reggae tune, while the piano ballad "Al Kawn Janni Maak" sees her voice soar to the sky.
Coachella lineups have the power to predicate listening trends. Perhaps this booking will lead to wider acceptance of Arabic artists on mainstream stages in years to come.
DJ Pee Wee
On Anderson .Paak’s Instagram account, his bio now reads: "Moving my talents towards Dj & film!" Attendees during the first weekend of Coachella will have a chance to enjoy .Paak’s DJ talents at the Heineken House, where he will spin an all-vinyl set as DJ Pee Wee.
Across his solo albums and his GRAMMY-winning work with Bruno Mars as Silk Sonic, .Paak has demonstrated his mastery of funk, soul, hip hop, and various other genres, all of which he will likely combine in his DJ set. (Given .Paak will be on site, it’s also likely he will make a guest appearance with his collaborators and label signees, DOMi & JD Beck, during their set on Friday.
Photo: Santiago Felipe/Getty Images for ABA
7 Mind-Blowing Sets From Coachella 2023 Weekend 2: Gorillaz, Boygenius, Eric Prydz & More
Weekend two of Coachella 2023 was packed with drama and intrigue, concluding with surprise headlining sets from Blink-182 and DJ trio Skrillex, Four Tet & Fred Again.. Read on for the weekend's biggest moments and exciting surprises.
Coachella 2023 has now come to a close. The second weekend of the Southern California mega-festival concluded with another series of bespoke performances that continued to build the event’s reputation as a place where legendary moments become history.
Weekend two was packed with drama and intrigue, led by the last-minute removal of Frank Ocean from the Sunday lineup due to injury. Fans were already buzzing following his controversial first weekend performance, while organizers worked quickly to replace his headlining set. The results were top notch, closing Coachella on a very energetic and celebratory note.
The mystery act didn't remain hush-hush for long, though. Sunday's headliners were revealed to be the supergroup DJ trio of Skrillex, Four Tet, and Fred Again.., who in their brief time playing music together have become one of the most sought-after acts in the world. (So much so that they sold out Madison Square Garden in two minutes after announcing the show.)
Beyond the Sunday scramble, weekend two of Coachella 2023 brought much of the same excitement as the previous week — replete with more stand-out sets than even the most experienced festival goer could manage to catch. Below, relive seven sets that showcase Coachella’s reign as one of the most popular festivals in the world.
Wet Leg Encourages Communal Release
The British alternative rock band only has one self-titled album’s worth of material, which they've been diligently touring around the globe. And yet they still managed to bring a sense of zeal and authentic excitement to their second Coachella set.
Wet Leg's Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers set the example of this energy. Throughout the performance, they shared excitable looks, occasionally dropping lyrics in favor of laughter. Other times, they led the crowd in an epic scream, just for the sake of it. Dave Grohl even showed up to scream with them.
The climax of the performance at the Mojave stage on Friday afternoon was "Chaise Longue," the upbeat rock and roll heater that earned the group a 2022 GRAMMY for Best Alternative Performance. When Teasdale would ask, "Excuse me," the crowd would shout back "What?!" with all their might. Then the rapid fire guitar came in, and everyone in the crowd understood that the assignment was to dance.
Gorillaz Take Special Guests Appearances To The Next Level
Gorillaz last performed at Coachella in 2010 as Sunday headliners, and brought headliner energy to Friday night's penultimate set. When it comes to special guests — a Coachella tradition already ingrained in Gorillaz's music — the group stepped up their game.
By the third song, the L.A. alternative legend Beck was on stage to sing his feature on "Valley of the Pagans" from Gorillaz’s 2020 album, Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez. From there, more than half of the 17-song set included a guest.
Thundercat came on for his contribution to the title track of Gorillaz's latest, Cracker Island, Little Simz performed "Garage Palace" off 2017's Humanz, and Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, joined Gorillaz along with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble for "Sweepstakes" from 2010’s Plastic Beach. Minutes before his own headlining set, Bad Bunny came out in a mask to perform "Tormenta," his feature on Cracker Island.
An IRL Bad Bunny collab may have been the ultimate surprise guest coup de grâce, but Gorillaz weren't finished yet. In a touching moment of unity, Gorillaz paid tribute to their late collaborator David Jolicoeur after the surviving members of De La Soul joined Gorillaz for a performance of "Feel Good, Inc."
Eric Prydz Brings Artificial Into Reality With His HOLO Show
If Eric Prydz had decided to simply play a DJ set, he still likely would have landed one of the festival's top booking slots; instead, he brought his HOLO show to Indio.
This unique live production is known in the global dance music circuit for pushing the limits of visuals in the live space. There are hundreds of videos on the internet heralding its epicness, but those videos don’t compare to experiencing it in person.
Prydz’s closing set at Outdoor Theater on Saturday night was scheduled to begin at 10:20 p.m., but when the time rolled around, the screens remained dark. However, a keen ear could tell that the scene had actually begun; a subtle line emanated through the speakers and, for 20 minutes, kept getting louder and extending in its repetition.
At 10:40, a giant mechanical hand appeared on the screen, as if it was floating out into the audience. With an iPhone between its Transformers-esque fingers, the hand took photos as a wash of electronic music started building. Then as the hand flipped the phone to show an image of the audience on its screen, the first track of the set took full form, and a tidal wave of energy was released from the crowd.
For the remainder of the set, every new song was accompanied by an evermore impressive audiovisual creation. One frame was Prydz himself wearing a spacesuit. Another was a team of spacemen firing laser guns at the crowd. It felt so real that someone probably ducked to avoid the virtual projectiles.
Christine & The Queens Do So Much With Not-So-Much
Coachella is a festival where most artists like to do a lot, but Christine & The Queens demonstrated that you can actually do a lot with a little.
Production during the Sunday sunset slot at Mojave was minimalistic: two separate platforms on stage, one for Christine and her three-piece band, the other open for use. Like her stage setup, Christine & The Queens' music is generally minimalistic — though Christine doesn't require much to completely enthrall her audience.
Songs began calmer, exemplified by the use of Red Hot Chili Peppers' alt-rock ballad of "By The Way" as a transition into her hit song, "Tilted." As that steady and simple beat moved along the intensity only increased. Christine threw her body around, ending up on the floor, on the platform, all the while nailing every note with her serenading tones.
Other than her soothing yet powerful vocals and mesmerizing stage presence, Christine was just as much a preacher as a musician. She decried patriarchal capitalism and stood strong in her belief that music is the greatest weapon against it.
"You are not going to surrender!" she shouted as her drummer threw down a high speed solo.
Boygenius Provide A Musical Safe Space
When the indie supergroup took the Outdoor stage for the first set of Saturday night in complete darkness, everyone was primed and ready to feel all the things. Thus commenced the musical therapy session that was boygenius' Coachella performance, as members Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker sang the first few lines of "Without You Without Them" together on a single mic.
"I want to hear your story and be a part of it," the trio sang — their message a call to everyone in earshot, from the audience to the security guards and production workers.
Although the crowd wasn’t the biggest that the Outdoor stage would see throughout the weekend, the environment allowed for plenty of space for the audience to be with themselves under the stars. Then as the band went through the various moods on their debut album, the record, the audience responded to their energy in kind.
When the trio were rocking out on songs like "$20" and "Satanist," the energy was high and lively as everyone took in Bridgers' towering shouts before returning with their own. Then when the volume came down for the raw, unfiltered honesty in songs like "True Blue" and "Emily I’m Sorry," the people who were shouting before began to gently sway, murmuring the lyrics to themselves word for word, experiencing them on a personal level.
Björk Reworks Her Classics With An Orchestra
Iceland’s own Björk last performed at Coachella in 2007, when she headlined Friday. For her first Coachella set in over 15 years, the artist returned with a full orchestra that performed original interpretations of her past works.
Backed by the Hollywood String Ensemble and conducted by fellow Icelander, Bjarni Frímann, pleasant indie songs such as "Aurora" and "Come To Me" became operatic epics. The orchestra allowed her to accurately and succinctly reproduce "Freefall," a song from her latest album, 2022’s Fossora, which integrates orchestral composition with alternative production.
Closing the set, Björk embarked on an exploration of orchestral techno, as Hollywood String Ensemble rearranged her industrial masterpiece, "Pluto."
Visually, Björk satisfied expectations on all levels. Her dress was reminiscent of a spider web, with feathers caught in the adhesive like several birds all flew through at the precise angle. Above the stage, an aerial drone show reacted to her voice as if her tones were literally reaching the heavens.
Skrillex, Four Tet & Fred Again.. Party In The Round
Saving the day, Skrillex, Four Tet, and Fred Again.. took their last-minute headlining set to epic proportions. The trio of DJs performed in the round on the satellite stage, while extra speakers were brought in so fans in every part of the field could bathe in their electronic sounds.
Their set was just a straight party, complete with plumes of glowsticks flying into the air during various drops. Then when they fell other people would scavenge the field and pick them up so they could throw them on the next great drop.
At other performances like MSG where they were the sole act, the trio had as long as five hours to explore all the music they wanted. This time they had less than two, and filled the set with as many bangers as they could.
Some examples were the scraping dubstep track "COUNTRY RIDDIM" by the rising dubstep producer HOL!, "RATATA," a breakbeat tune supported by a vocal feature from Missy Elliott, and even "Party In The USA" by Miley Cyrus.
But the glue holding together the set were the booming bass tones of UK grime rapper Flowdan. The new trio made new versions of his hook from the massive collaboration with Skrillex and Fred Agan.., "Rumble."
Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella
7 Jaw-Dropping Sets From Coachella 2023 Weekend 1: BLACKPINK, Bad Bunny, Blink-182 & More
The first weekend of Coachella 2023 was full of more-than-memorable moments: Rosalía got into the audience; Metro Boomin brought hip-hop's heaviest hitters to the stage; major artists rocked small stages and so much more.
In a sense, every Coachella is an historic event.
Held annually at the Empire Polo Field in Indio, Calif., it’s the first major music festival of the year and often showcases artists’ tour launches, effectively providing a sneak preview of what’s to come. It’s also a place where things happen that can seemingly only happen there. The evidence lies in the sheer multitude of special guest appearances spanning the three-day event, with cameos occurring on nearly every one of eight stages.
The 2023 edition of Coachella — which sold out its first weekend, ushering in roughly 125,000 people from around the globe — was arguably the most consequential in its 22 years. On Friday, Puerto Rican rapper-singer Bad Bunny became the fest’s first Latino solo artist headliner; Saturday’s spectacle from BLACKPINK marked the first K-pop performance to top the bill; and on Sunday, Frank Ocean made history as the first openly gay man to close out the world-class music summit.
The latter artist’s set — his first in nearly six years — was certainly memorable, but not for fond reasons. On the bright side, there were plenty of other dazzling moments, whether enhanced by surprise guests or on their own merits, which made the weekend indisputably unforgettable. Read on for seven of the best sets from Coachella 2023.
The Murder Capital Slays The Sonora Tent
With only two albums under their belt and a relatively packed audience in the Sonora Tent on Friday afternoon (the second slot of the fest), it’s fair to argue that the Irish quintet deserved the nod for one of Coachella’s best up-and-coming bands.
They earned the accolade handily within just seven songs, a no-holds-barred display of searing, snotty-yet-sincere post-punk tunes (à la hometown contemporaries Fontaines D.C. and British sonic kin Idles and Shame) evenly split between their 2019 debut album When I Have Fears and this year’s follow-up, Gigi’s Recovery.
"We don’t give a f— what time is. We want to see you move," said vocalist James McGovern before launching into the maelstrom "Feeling Fades." Every member contributed to the unrelenting energy, expertly building anticipation during slow-burn portions on songs like "A Thousand Lives" and show closer "Ethel," before thrashing through the songs’ cacophonous climaxes.
The Coachella performance marks the end of the Murder Capital's first stateside tour and, based on this exceptional performance, they’ll doubtless return ready to release even more panache and sonic punch. Fans of thought-provoking punk rock would be wise to keep a lookout.
Blink-182 Reunites For An Epic Bout Of Pop-Punk Nostalgia
It was confirmed months ago that bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker would reunite with original Blink-182 singer/guitarist Tom DeLonge for a summer tour — the pop-punk trio’s first shows together in nine years — but seeing the band's name appear on the Friday schedule upon its reveal last week stoked some the weekend’s most spirited anticipation.
Fans reacted rabidly to the news — a group of Mexican friends waiting in front, all decked out in Blink attire and sporting tattoos of the band’s logo, said they scrambled to buy tickets and make the trip to the desert with only a single day's notice. Those fellas and the thousands spilling out of the Sahara Tent were rewarded with DeLonge making his entrance with middle fingers raised high, signaling that we were about to witness the same ol’ charmingly crass charades. They wasted no time tearing into a career-spanning set (plus the live debut of recently released new track, "EDGING") peppered with sarcastic and explicit banter that was as nostalgically satisfying as hits like "I Miss You" and "All the Small Things," and deep cuts "Dysentery Gary" and "Dumpweed."
Despite his near-decade away, DeLonge sounded sharper than ever, especially when the trio took it back all the way to 1997 for show closer "Dammit," mixing in a thrilling snippet of TLC’s "No Scrubs" (which also played in-full as the outro music). It was an odd but appropriate pairing — looking around at several generations of fans singing along to every track with equal enthusiasm, it became clear that for many, Blink’s classic catalog feels just as timeless as that R&B mega-hit.
Metro Boomin Brings The Whole Crew To The Stage
With a resume that includes work with John Legend, Future, Don Tolliver, 21 Savage, and the Weeknd, the anticipation for what might manifest during producer/DJ Metro Boomin’s Friday night set in the Sahara Tent was at an all-time high. And as it so happened, every one of those artists made appearances, in that order, resulting in the most star-studded show of the weekend in an incredibly intimate setting.
Within the first few seconds of Metro Boomin's set, Legend strolled out to belt on "On Time," and from that point, there was only one track without a heavy hitter at the helm. Future for five songs, wrapping up on superhit "Mask Off"; Don Tolliver out for three; 21 Savage for six exhilarating tunes; and finally the Weeknd for another half-dozen. The cherry on top: both 21 Savage and Diddy joined the Weeknd for the live debut of Metro Boomin’s "Creepin'" remix to close out the set. Acting as conductor and conduit, Metro stayed relatively hidden atop a center-stage platform for the entirety of the 23-song set, letting his guests and mesmerizing dancers take the wheel.
This show could’ve and should’ve been on the main stage, and the fact that it wasn’t made it that much more special for the fest-goers wise enough to sacrifice the beginning of Bad Bunny to witness it.
Bad Bunny Makes History
In the moments before Bad Bunny's headlining slot on Friday, footage depicting past lineups and performers — including Prince, Kendrick Lamar and the Black Keys — flashed across the main stage’s massive screens. The suggestion was clear: The Puerto Rican superstar intended to cement his own legacy as Coachellan royalty.
In some ways, that status was predetermined. As the first Latino solo artist to close out the festival, the GRAMMY-winning reggaeton titan had already made history before even setting foot on stage. El Conejo Malo gave his massive audience their money’s worth and more during a 2-hour tour de force that paid tribute to Latin music and dance.
Beginning the show atop a platform designed to look like the gas station roof in San Juan, Puerto Rico where he staged a surprise performance last December, the artist lovingly referred to by fans as Benito (his legal first name) serenaded the audience with several songs off chart-topping 2022 album Un Verano Sin Ti. He rarely showed himself on the stage’s screens, instead opting to display videos of historic Latin and Caribbean musical traditions, plus brightly colored graphics paired with sweeping lasers and spurts of pyro that evoked the feel of an enormous Miami nightclub.
Though hopes were high for Cardi B to appear for her part on breakout single "I Like It," she didn’t show, but no matter. Fans were treated to plenty more surprise guests, including Jowell Y Randy on "Safaera," Jay Cortez on a hat trick of tunes played on a B-stage, and Post Malone accompanying on acoustic guitar for "La Canción" and "Yonaguni." The latter two were diminished by sound issues, but it had little effect on the impact of the show for diehard fans — it was a veritable love letter to Latin culture that his faithful followers will surely hold dear for years to come.
Dinner Party Invites Everyone To The Table
With only a few performances under their belt to date, Dinner Party — the supergroup formed in 2020 by prolific pianist Robert Glasper, saxophonist Kamasi Washington, hip-hop producer/DJ 9th Wonder and renowned producer/musician Terrace Martin — was a must-see in the Gobi Tent on Saturday afternoon.
The outfit was joined by Arin Ray, who sings on their debut full-length Enigmatic Society (released one day prior on April 14) and in this setting also handled vocal parts from Dinner Party’s self-titled EP sung by Chicago artist Phoelix. His voice set a joyful, uplifting tone on opening track "Breathe," which was followed by segments where each contributor showcased their individual talents, including wild sax duels from Washington and Martin, and a hip-hop DJ mini-set from 9th Wonder.
But the group was at their best when all players were seated at the table, so to speak, and when Ray rejoined for the show’s finale, "Freeze Tag," an enlivened, church-like feeling overtook the audience — every person in the packed tent was grooving along, no exceptions.
Rosalía Engages With Her Fans
Over the course of Rosalía's hour-long, main stage set on Saturday night, which pulled heavily from new album MOTOMAMI, the Catalonian singer proved that she’s reached superstar status, not only with respect to her spellbinding vocal delivery and dancing, but also her overall artistic vision.
Even better, she achieved all of it while making her fans feel like an essential part of the show. Case in point: Much of the show’s live feed was shot on stage within the space of three video walls that created an ultra-smooth, almost surreal music video effect. But on "La Noche de Anoche" (a Bad Bunny collaboration), she made her way down to the audience holding a handheld camera and let her fans take turns singing a few of the lyrics. Even if they sounded terribly off-key, it showed unmatched class — a performer who can step down from her well-deserved pedestal to make meaningful connections with her supporters.
The scene was truly touching, and she built on that throughout the set, first by playing a tearjerkingly beautiful rendition of "Hentai" on piano dedicated to her dance teacher, then by bringing out her fiancé Rauw Alejandro for duets on "Beso" and "Vampiros," which wrapped up with the sweetest of on-stage kisses. By the end, there was no doubt of her mastery over balancing raw talent and authenticity.
BLACKPINK Shows Why K-Pop Deserves Coachella Spotlight
Saturday night’s headlining turn from the record-breaking K-pop girl group, the first to top Coachella’s lineup, was unequivocally the most impressive production of Coachella’s first weekend.
Mind-bending elements came into play before the quartet even appeared. A drone-powered light show above the stage — which first depicted a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, then a paper crane, then an astronaut, a hippo in a spacesuit and finally a heart — all representations of Coachella’s past installation art pieces — had the crowd gasping in astonishment.
Over the course of the following 18 songs, the four members danced, sang and rapped flawlessly while their live band conjured a soundtrack powerful enough to fill several arenas. Right out of the gates, they wowed with a ferocity that matched the title of opening track "Pink Venom," then strutted down the stage’s extended catwalks flanked by a brigade of equally impressive backup dancers to a B-stage for "Kill This Love" — all the while being followed by cameras that made their video element look like a high-end production seemingly unachievable in a live setting. The sequence drove the audience into a shouting, jumping frenzy as flames erupted on all sides.
After a few songs in group format, each member took a solo turn. Jennie went first, effortlessly amping up the fans with deep house-inspired "You & Me"; then Jisoo appeared for a fiery take on "Flower"; Rosé stunned with another effortlessly fierce dance routine down the catwalk; and Lisa wrapped up the segment with an unreleased explicit version of "Money," which began with a seductive pole dance followed by a decidedly hardcore rap delivery that would impress some of hip-hop’s heaviest hitters.
At its core, the performance was the most successful representation of what Coachella set out to do by booking such distinctly diverse headliners: it proliferated inclusivity. Even if you came to Coachella exclusively for another act, Blackpink had something to offer for everyone, from pop to hip-hop to rock to EDM, and it would be no surprise if they converted a new legion of fans in the process. The show concluded with a display of fireworks worthy of the biggest New Year’s Eve celebration, but they really weren't necessary — their performance was explosive enough without them.
Photo: Visionhaus#GP/Corbis via Getty Images
Frank Ocean Essentials: 10 Songs That Embody The Elusive Icon's R&B Genius
With rumors of new music swirling, Frank Ocean's headlining sets at Coachella 2023 are even more hotly anticipated. Ahead of his performances on April 16 and April 23, revisit 10 Frank Ocean songs from his beloved catalog.
Born a Scorpio in 1987, two-time GRAMMY winner Frank Ocean is a prolific and beloved singer, songwriter, and rapper. Yet he has zero No. 1 hits and no top 10 singles. Although he's been nominated for seven golden gramophones, only 14 of his 45 tracks charted on the Billboard Hot 100.
The California born, Louisana raised singer Is surely capable of recording mainstream-leaning pop songs if he wished to climb charts. Yet his signature ambition, intelligence and confidence has eschewed that traditional success in favor of genuine artistry. Combined with a Scorpio's creative problem-solving and inherent carnality, Frank Ocean has produced a cult-like fanbase, beginning with his critically acclaimed 2012 debut channel ORANGE and through his last single, 2020's "Dear April."
Rumors of new music — what would be his first album in over five years — have only added anticipation to Frank Ocean's Sunday headlining sets at this year's Coachella. Ahead of his performances on April 16 and April 23, GRAMMY.com honors Frank Ocean by selecting 10 of his essential songs.
"Lost" is a great place to start if you’re new to Frank Ocean’s music — and an even better place to start if you’re seeing him headline Coachella, where this tune is a surefire choice for a live rendition. You’ll learn the words.
This upbeat track from channel ORANGE offers lyrics about searching for love and adventure. EDM, soul, funk, synthesizers, horns, and a gospel choir all converge in musical matrimony to deliver one of Frank Ocean’s more radio-core choruses: "Lost, lost in the heat of it all / Girl, you know you’re lost / Lost in the thrill of it all / Miami, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Spain, lost / Los Angeles, India, lost on a train, lost."
The track earned a gold certification from the RIAA and cracked the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This track lamenting a lady who has been caught up in the world of drug trafficking is made pretty and catchy thanks to production by Malay, Pharrell and Om’mas Keith.
"Pink Matter" (2012)
Big Boi almost joined Andre 3000 on "Pink Matter," the third single from Frank Ocean’s debut studio album channel ORANGE. The historic Outkast reunion would have catapulted Ocean to an even higher echelon of legend.
Still, "Pink Matter' stands on its own, dealing in love, sexuality and spirituality. Frank's melancholy tone is abetted by an organ and an orchestra that stops playing just as abruptly as it starts. You’ll want to pay special attention to Frank Ocean’s excellent vocal delivery of the word "pleasure" from 1:05 to 1:08. Oddly but effectively, the track includes an audio clip from the 1985 film The Lost Dragon.
A somewhat overlooked track from channel ORANGE, the rock 'n' roll-leaning "Monks" mostly operates uptempo before slowing down around the 2 minute mark.
Another early example of Frank's nuanced lyricism, "Monks" unpacks the duality of freedom and oppression as he chooses between two young women. The first is an African girl with an English accent who likes "to f— boys in bands," watch Westerns, and show Frank her passport. The second is a young at heart Indian girl who sleeps above the temple, found a boyfriend, and is planning a runaway. Frank chooses the latter love interest.
"Thinkin Bout You" (2012)
"Thinkin Bout You" debuted in 2011 on now-defunct Los Angeles collective Odd Future’s Tumblr as a free download, and was later released as the lead single for channel ORANGE. Eventually, the track cracked the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100.
A good old-fashioned love song, "Thinkin Bout You" is a downtempo, emotive ballad where Frank — showing off his now well-known falsetto — pines for a shot at eternity with the one he cares about the most.
"Thinkin Bout You" was originally a demo written for singer/songwriter Bridget Kelly. She didn’t reject it — Frank Ocean took it back for himself when his demo of the song blew up.
Far from your traditional, radio-friendly hit, "Pyramids" is as close to EDM as you will find in Frank Ocean’s catalog. Its initial chords are moody and mysterious; the drums are played backwards to help the listener comprehend Frank's lyrics about events set in ancient Egypt. Come the second half, autotune on several lyrics and some horns come in.
He takes sound in a couple of different directions throughout the 10 minute track, ultimately settling into R&B. "Pyramids" serves as a sonic microcosm for what Frank Ocean is capable of — and John Mayer adds a guitar riff at the song's end for extra flair.
Widely regarded as one of Frank Ocean’s all-time greatest works, "Nights" appears on his sophomore album, Blonde. Its chief lyric, "Wanna see Nirvana / Don’t wanna die yet," has assuredly been used as plenty of Instagram captions, though Frank is largely absent from social media. At just over 5 minutes, the two-part track combines aspects of R&B, hip-hop, and electronic music with reversed and manipulated vocal samples to create a sparse mood and texture.
Om’mas Keith assisted Frank Ocean in producing the first half "Nights," while German electronic musician and producer Sebastian contributed dynamic and memorable production in its back end. The mix puts Frank Ocean’s vocals at the front while the instrumental’s volume is slightly lower. Most notable is the song's transition into an energetic and dynamic second instrumental, driven by a bassline, skittering hi-hats, and jazzy chords.
"Pretty Sweet" (2016)
The studio magic Pharrell practiced to make "Monks" repeats itself on "Pretty Sweet," a raucous ode to friendship and death. You’ve never heard Frank Ocean this locked in with Pharrell — he delivers pained and anguished vocals in fluid flows, while the drums in the second half of the track are rapidly fired off in a rare display of intense percussion work. A children’s choir is put front and center in the song’s waning moments.
Another prime candidate for a live rendition during his Coachella performance, "Pretty Sweet" proves Frank Ocean and Pharrell’s penchant for rock-inspired sound first heard on "Monks" was no fluke nor a college try.
GRAMMY-winning producer Malay Ho and GRAMMY-winning Swedish songwriter and producer Ludwig Göransson assisted Frank Ocean in crafting this guitar-driven indie rock ballad. A standout track from Blonde, this song marries a simple yet beautiful melody to introspective lyrics about lost love and moving on.
Minimalistic in sound, "Ivy" features reversed guitar riffs and background vocal harmonies. Frank Ocean’s vocal conveys a bittersweetness that's often difficult to pull off. The song’s outro has Frank Ocean letting out Prince-like vocals, screaming and singing simultaneously.
"Seigfried" is a masterpiece and the glue in the middle of a three-track run on Blonde that includes "White Ferrari" (you can hear Kanye West record the word "love") and "Godspeed." All three are worth writing about, yet "Seigfried" is a must-listen for anybody new to Frank Ocean’s music but weary of another sad love song. Here, the singer wonders if he should just settle down with two kids and a swimming pool.
Frank Ocean’s vocal strains itself with emotion over the truly captivating psychedelic sound. There are soaring strings, dreamy filters on the guitar riffs, reversed vocal samples. Once the strings swell at 2:50, the track reaches an emotional, cinematic peak.
"Dear April (Side A - Acoustic)" (2020)
Another gorgeous ballad, "Dear April (Side A - Acoustic)", released April 3, 2020, features contributions from producer and musician Daniel Aged. Three years later, it remains a vital entry point for those looking to familiarize themselves with the artist’s repertoire. Frank Ocean’s vocals shine front and center here. A listener has no choice but to hone in on the singer’s voice as he begins to share a situation between himself and his former lover April.
There’s a higher pitched guitar playing quietly between Frank’s verses. The lower pitched guitar strums higher in the mix. Slow and contemplative, there’s little fanfare to distract from Frank Ocean’s captivating vocal take, save for a minimalistic guitar melody and atmospheric synths.
9 Revolutionary Rap Albums To Know: From Kendrick Lamar, Black Star, EarthGang & More
These nine rap albums exude Black solidarity and revolutionary fervor.
Studied observers know that hip-hop rarely goes along to get along, or consents to being made a cat's paw of. The genre is punker than punk. When Ronald Reagan's austerity government caused deep harm to Black communities, hip-hop spoke up, asserting its humanity with albums like It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back by Public Enemy and Pure Righteousness by Lakim Shabazz. And when subsequent presidents beefed up their strategies of surveillance and entrapment, hip-hop spoke up again; sometimes in song—who could forget Ice-T's disavowal of the security state on "Drama"?)—and sometimes in person. In fact, X Clan were among the demonstrators who in 1989 descended on hostile territory for a Day of Outrage.
But hip-hop responded differently to COVID-19, even when the pandemic snarled Black and brown people like nobody else. It's not like life continued as normal. How could it with so many rappers' livelihoods hanging perniciously in the balance? But many would argue the hip-hop community didn't push back all that forcefully on the bunglers of our national COVID-19 response. There were hand-washing PSAs aplenty, but very few howls of indignation.
Does this mean the flames of revolt have been extinguished? Absolutely not. Thirteen-time GRAMMY winner Kendrick Lamar—a familiar face at police reform rallies—shares his forebears' penchant for protest. So do Jay Electronica (a GRAMMY nominee), Isaiah Rashad, Noname, and others.
Below are nine hip-hop albums of "revolutionary" character. Some are faith-based; others advance a Black nationalist or Marxist perspective. But they all exude Black solidarity and revolutionary fervor.
Related: From Aretha Franklin To Public Enemy, Here's How Artists Have Amplified Social Justice Movements Through Music
Jungle Brothers, Straight Out The Jungle (1988)
Where would hip-hop be without the Jungle Brothers? On Straight Out The Jungle, the Harlem trio sculpted verdant soundscapes that were at once naturalistic and futuristic. They improvised rhymes with effortless deft. They created out of whole cloth wonderfully lifelike characters. ("Jimbrowski" introduces us to Dreadlock Man, a lion-maned prophet of truth.) And they cleared a path for plucky, socially conscious overachievers from De La Soul to A Tribe Called Quest to Black Sheep.
Hip-hop was still very young in 1988, but already it was the target of a disinformation campaign. Rappers were said to be "small-minded," slothful, materialistic, basically pliant stooges for the sportswear industrial complex. Thank god for Straight Out The Jungle. Much like De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising, which came out the following spring, Jungle rebutted the most intransigent mistruths about hip-hop and Black youth culture more generally.
Poor Righteous Teachers, Holy Intellect (1990)
Miraculously, the Five Percenter community was big enough to accommodate Poor Righteous Teachers and Brand Nubian. Both were professorial, tough as leather and unyielding in their convictions; stenographers to no one except Allah. Both could be high-handed and self-regarding, yet they coexisted without incident.
Brand Nubian was a great group, but too homophobic to pass moral muster. To its credit, Holy Intellect doesn't wade nearly so deeply into hip-hop's confected gay panic. The album is about three things: Allah's grace, Allah's mercy and Allah's beneficence. This is weighty stuff, to be sure. Luckily, the music is effervescent, with turntable scratches, rolling triplets, harmonica flourishes, and Doors-style organs.
Divine Styler, Spiral Walls Containing Autumns of Light (1992)
Divine Styler had a minor hit with 1989's "Ain't Savin' Nothin'." At that point in his career, he bore the impression of a chin-stroking sonneteer making music for coffee shop revolutionaries. But Styler underwent a dramatic transformation, and he did it inside of three years; by '92, all that remained of his former self was the hushed spoken-word cadence.
Spiral Walls is gutsy and eclectic—very, very brazenly eclectic. The polarity between hip-hop and noise rock, or hip-hop and exotica, ceases to matter. These are all just ingredients in a bitchin' brew concocted by Styler, the gamest fusionist you'll ever meet.
We haven't even gotten to Styler's writing, which is breathy at times and garrulous in a way that only he could be. But no one can deny the extraordinary scope of his imagination. A devout Muslim, Styler, like so many Black men, was born anew in the image of Allah, who he credits for his creative, not just spiritual, awakening.
The Coup, Genocide & Juice (1994)
The Bay Area might vote reliably blue, but there is no love lost between Boots Riley and America's oldest bourgeois party. Riley will probably never perform at an inauguration ball or headline a Democratic fundraiser. He's not a Democrat; he's an unreconstructed Marxist-Leninist-Trotskyist, and he's suspicious even of like-minded people with pretensions to the electoral office.
Genocide & Juice is refreshing, not least because it affords us a rare opportunity to hear about class exploitation from afflicted persons. Riley is a relatively anonymous gear in the capitalist machine, not a paid politico, well-coiffed pundit, or tenured academic. And on Genocide & Juice, he rails jocularly and impassionedly against the people: landlords, debt collectors, prosecutors, energy monopolists, CIA spies--who not only butter his congressperon's bread but make life hell for working Black folk.
Black Star, Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star (1998)
Mos Def is a competent yodeler and raps in a twangy patois over island-inspired sampledelia. (Give him a crate full of dub or reggae 45s and presto—a great song is born.) Talib Kweli is no flyweight, either. His flow—sturdy as stucco and fearsomely articulate—is one reason Black Star's 1998 debut album, Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star, has held up through the millennia. He also makes powerful cases against colonialism, consumerism, colorism, and every dastardly "ism" in between. Still, this album is remarkable for its unqualified positivity.
BUSDRIVER, Fear Of A Black Tangent (2005)
Rich kids do the damnedest things. Given his penchant for undecodable jabberwocky, you might assume that BUSDRIVER was raised by wolves. But no: He's the son of a screenwriter, showrunner, and all-around straight arrow (Ralph Farquhar, whose credits include "Moesha"). Despite his fortuitous background, BUSDRIVER has always felt most at home in the wacky world of mass transit.
Fear Of A Black Tangent's production is slightly gauzy, but it doesn't matter because BUSDRIVER's protestations are so spot-on. He calls out the white establishment for its persnickety elitism and credential humping: "They want to hear good freestyling with the sarcasm of Woody Allen," BUSDRIVER raps on "Cool Buzz Band." BUSDRIVER is many critics' Platonic ideal of a rapper: smart, adenoidal, free-associative, self-lampooning. But he's tired of being fetishized as "one of the good ones," and he's tired of bohemian critics with denigrative attitudes about hip-hop. "I'm a post-rap wizkid," he says on the mocking "Sphinx's Coonery." "My speech is littered with double entendres and sharp sarcasm."
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)
Imagine if Adrian Nicole LeBlanc had followed up her groundbreaking book "Random Family" with a scrapbook of fortune-cookie-like benedictions, incantations and truisms. That's sort of what Kendrick Lamar did. His 2012 breakout, good kid, m.A.A.d. city, was like a Victorian novel, densely plotted and stuffed to the brim with interweaving characters.
To Pimp A Butterfly is different. The record mosies along at an unbothered pace, lapping up the borrowed wisdom of Lamar's elders. Typical of To Pimp A Butterfly is "Institutionalized," where Lamar's grandmother is quoted as telling her grandbabies, "Don't s<em></em>* change until you get up and wash your ass."
Loving TPAB, by far the most inward-looking and "experimental" of Lamar's four studio albums, is, to quote "U," complicated, at least for those who prefer K.Dot as the rough-and-ready, battle-rapping prole from times past. But even when he's singing—in a coiled, stricken, serpentine falsetto—Lamar has plenty to say about obstacles one faces when seeking self-love and self-cultivation in the Black underclass.
Read: Black Sounds Beautiful: How Kendrick Lamar Became A Rap Icon
Smino, blkswn (2017)
If you find fault with Smino's unlofty personal commandment ("I know I'll be aight if I just make it through tonight," he raps on "Amphetamine"), it's because you live in a rose-scented never-never land. Smino does not. He's from North St. Louis, a poor, internally colonized lazaretto with one of the highest murder rates in the developed world. Ambition is a luxury Smino, a self-described "ashy lil' black boy," can ill afford; it's not a foundational human need.
Smino is flirtatious, even sex-mad, but he spends most of blkswn ducking and dodging oligarchs, not baby mamas. The corporate state has no use for "shiftless" Black youths like Smino—except, of course, in a 6-by-8-foot jail cell. The fidgety, cut-and-paste production is adventurous, and Smino is frantic in his febrile gaiety, but he hasn't gone daft. He's only too aware of what he's up against. "Life ain't even granted," he says on "Maraca". "Off the strength, I'm brown-skinned."
EarthGang, Mirrorland (2019)
EarthGang are an Atlanta duo with sherpa-like mountain endurance. The duo has been plugging along for nearly 15 years. In that time, many a nonbeliever has voiced displeasure with the duo's output, a spastic comingling of vaudeville, música latina and Southern trap; Twitter was not receptive when Julianna Godard likened EarthGang to a younger Outkast. For most of their career, though, EG were too marginal to generate significant hostility.
After years of thankless toil, EarthGang finally penetrated the mainstream with Mirrorland. Like Wakanda or Stankonia, Mirrorland is an egalitarian, vaguely transcendentalist, wholly self-ruling Black utopia. Based on communal ownership, Mirrorland nonetheless cherishes the sanctity of the individual. As Doctor Dut says on "Blue Moon," "We not each other's property."
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