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10 College Courses Dedicated To Pop Stars And Music: Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny & Hip-Hop
In honor of Music in Our Schools Month, check out nine college-level music courses that dissect punk and EDM, global hip-hop culture and the discographies and careers of superstar acts like the Beatles and Harry Styles.
There’s never been a better time to be a music-loving college student.
Beginning in the mid to late aughts, an increasing number of academic institutions have begun offering courses dedicated to major music acts. In the late aughts, rap maverick Jay-Z made headlines after becoming the subject of a Georgetown University course taught by Michael Eric Dyson, a sociologist and best-selling author of Jay-Z: Made in America. In the Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z, students analyzed Hova's life, socio-cultural significance and body of work.
It's easy to see why students would be attracted to these courses — which fill up quickly and are often one-time-only offerings. The intertwining of celebrity and sociology present such fertile grounds to explore, and often make for buzzy social media posts that can be a boon to enrollment numbers. For instance, Beyhivers attending the University of Texas at San Antonio were offered the opportunity to study the Black feminism foundations of Beyoncé's Lemonade in 2016. Meanwhile, Rutgers offered a course dedicated to dissecting the spiritual themes and imagery in Bruce Springsteen's catalog.
Luckily for students clamoring to get a seat in these highly sought-after courses, institutions across the country are constantly launching new seminars and classes about famous pop stars and beloved musical genres. From Bad Bunny to Harry Styles, the following list of popular music courses features a little something for every college-going music fan.
Bad Bunny's Impact On Media
From his chart-topping hits to his advocacy work, Bad Bunny has made waves on and off stage since rising to fame in 2016. Now graduate students at San Diego State University can explore the global superstar's cultural impact in an upcoming 2023 course.
"He speaks out about Puerto Rico; he speaks out about the Uvalde shooting victims and uses his platform to raise money and help them," said Dr. Nate Rodriguez, SDSU Associate Professor of Digital Media Studies. "How does he speak out against transphobia? Support the LGBTQ community? How does all of that happen? So yes, it’s very much relevant to journalism and media studies and cultural studies. It’s all of that mixed into one."
A Deep Dive Into Taylor Swift's Lyrics
Analyzing Taylor Swift's lyrics is a favorite pastime among Swifties, so it's fitting that her work and its feminist themes have been the focus of a string of university courses over the years.
In spring 2022, the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University launched an offering focused on the "Anti-Hero" singer's evolution as an entrepreneur, race and female adolescence. The waitlisted course — the first-ever for the institution — drew loads of media attention and Swift received an honorary degree from NYU in 2022.
In spring 2023, honors students at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas can analyze the 12-time GRAMMY winner's music and career in a seminar titled Culture and Society- Taylor Swift.
Kendrick Lamar's Storytelling & The Power Of Hip-Hop
Since dropping good kid, m.A.A.d. City in 2012, Kendrick Lamar has inspired a slew of academics to develop classes and seminars around his lyrical content and storytelling, including an English class that juxtaposed his work with that of James Baldwin and James Joyce.
More recently, Concordia University announced that the 16-time GRAMMY winner will be the focus of The Power of Hip Hop, It’s Bigger Than Us, a course examining the lyrical themes of Lamar’s works, such as loyalty, fatherhood, class and racial injustice.
"No artist speaks to this ethos louder and more intricately than King Kunta, the prince of Compton, Kendrick Lamar, 10 years after good kid, m.A.A.d. City dropped," said Yassin "Narcy" Alsalman, the Montreal hip-hop artist and Concordia Professor who developed the class which launches in winter 2023. “He showed us it was okay to work on yourself in front of the world and find yourself internally, that family always comes first, that community and collective missions are central to growth and that sometimes, you have to break free."
EDM Production, Techniques, and Applications
If you dream of hearing your own EDM tracks played at a massive music festival à la Marshmello, Steve Aoki and Skrillex, this all-in-one course at Boston's Berklee College of Music has you covered. Learn about the cultural origins of the various EDM styles — like techno, trance, drum and bass and more — and the techniques that artists use to achieve these sounds.
In between thought-provoking cultural seminars, students will receive lessons on how to operate the technologies necessary to create their own EDM masterpieces, including synths, digital audio workstations (DAW) and samplers.
Harry Styles And The Cult Of Celebrity
While many celebrity-focused courses center around sociology, the Harry’s House singer/songwriter has inspired his own digital history course at Texas State University in San Marcos: Harry Styles and the Cult of Celebrity: Identity, the Internet and European Pop Culture.
Developed by Dr. Louie Dean Valencia during lockdown, the class will cover Styles’ music along with topics like gender, sexual identity and class — but the singer-songwriter’s personal life is off limits. Stylers who are lucky enough to grab a spot in this first-ever university course dedicated to their fave can expect to revisit One Direction’s catalog for homework.
"I’ve always wanted to teach a history class that is both fun, but also covers a period that students have lived through and relate to," Dr. Valencia wrote in a Twitter post. "By studying the art, activism, consumerism and fandom around Harry Styles, I think we’ll be able to get to some very relevant contemporary issues. I think it’s so important for young people to see what is important to them reflected in their curriculum."
Global Hip Hop Culture(s): Hip Hop, Race, and Social Justice from South Central to South Africa
Since its inception, hip-hop has left a lasting mark on the world, influencing language, fashion, storytelling and beyond. At the University of California Los Angeles, students can learn about how the art form has shaped young minds as they analyze the various hip-hop scenes worldwide.
As part of a mission to establish the university as a leading center for hip-hop studies, UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies launched a hip-hop initiative featuring an artist-in-residence program, digital archives, and a series of postdoctoral fellowships. Chuck D, the founder of the barrier-breaking hip-hop group Public Enemy, was selected as the first artist-in-residence.
"As we celebrate 50 years of hip-hop music and cultural history, the rigorous study of the culture offers us a wealth of intellectual insight into the massive social and political impact of Black music, Black history and Black people on global culture — from language, dance, visual art and fashion to electoral politics, political activism and more," said associate director H. Samy Alim, who is leading the initiative.
The Music Of The Beatles
With their catchy two-minute pop hits, artsy record covers, headline-making fashions and groundbreaking use of studio tech, the Fab Five are among the most influential acts in music history. It’s no surprise, then, that they are the subjects of courses in a number of colleges and universities.
Boston’s Berklee College of Music offers The Music of Beatles, which digs into the group’s body of work as well as the music they penned for other acts. Alternatively, if you’re more interested in their post-breakup works, The Solo Careers of the Beatles dives into those efforts. Meanwhile, the University of Southern California takes a look at their music, careers and impact in The Beatles: Their Music and Their Times.
Symbolic Sisters: Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu
Whether you want to learn about craft, management, building a career, or marketing your work, the Clive Davis Institute at NYU offers an impressive curriculum for musicians and artists. With seminars focusing on the works of Prince, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, and J. Dilla, a unique duo stands out: Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse.
Framing the pair as "symbolic sisters," this two-credit seminar explores and compares how each songstress fused different genres and styles to forge a magnetic sound of their own. Winehouse rose to prominence for her retro spin on the sounds of Motown and Phil Spector and rebellious styling. A decade before "Back to Black" singer hit the mainstream, Badu — who is recognized as one of Winehouse's influences — rose to stardom thanks to her seamless blend of jazz, R&B, and hip-hop and captivating urban-bohemian style, creating a template for singers like SZA and Ari Lennox.
Selena: Music, Media and the Mexican American Experience
From ascending to the top of the male-dominated Tejano genre to helping introduce Latin music to the mainstream, Selena Quintanilla's impact continues to be felt decades after her untimely death. Artists including Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Victoria "La Mala" Ortiz, Becky G and Beyoncé cite the GRAMMY-winning "Queen of Tejano" as an influence.
Throughout the years, her legacy and cultural impact have been the focus of dozens of college courses. In 2023, Duke University continues this tradition with Selena: Music, Media and the Mexican American Experience. The course will explore the life, career and cultural impact of the beloved Tejano singer.
The Art of Punk: Sound, Aesthetics and Performance
Since emerging in the 1970s, punk rock has been viewed as a divisive, politically charged music genre. Its unique visual style — which can include leather jackets, tattoos, chunky boots and colorful hair — was absorbed into the mainstream in the '90s, where it continues to thrive (to the chagrin of hardcore punks everywhere). Over the decades, dozens of subgenres have cropped up and taken the spotlight — including riot grrrl and pop-punk — but very few have left the impact of the classic punk sound from the '70s and its anti-establishment themes.
If you're interested in learning more about the genre that inspired bands like Nirvana, check out Stanford University's The Art of Punk seminar, which explores the genre's visual and sonic origins, as well as its evolution and connections to race, class, and gender.
Photos: (Top row) Jaime Nogales Medios y Media/Getty Images; Latin GRAMMYs/Getty; Erika Goldring/Getty Images; Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Coachella; Mike Coppola/Getty Images (Bottom row) David Livingston/Getty Images; JOSE ALAVEZ
Listen To GRAMMY.com's Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 Playlist: Featuring Shakira, Peso Pluma, Karol G, Bad Bunny, Feid, & More
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, listen to 50 songs by groundbreaking artists from the U.S., Latin America, and Spain.
Latin music continues to make incredible strides, as language barriers between the world and music in Spanish and Portuguese become a thing of the past.
After going through a difficult chapter in her life, Shakira found healing and empowerment through her anthems, including her surprise collaboration with Argentine producer Bizarrap. Karol G made history in March when her album Mañana Será Bonito debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. She became the first woman to top the chart with an all-Spanish LP.
Regional Mexican music became a global force this year thanks to the success of acts like Peso Pluma, Eslabon Armado, Grupo Frontera, Fuerza Regida, and Yahritza y Su Esencia. Many of them argue that Mexican music is no longer regional. Also, Feid, Myke Towers, and Young Miko have become breakthrough stars with their music being streamed on the same level as heavy-hitters in English.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, GRAMMY.com is celebrating Latin music through the biggest and most impactful songs of 2023. Below, take a listen to 50 songs by Latin artists from the U.S., Latin America, and Spain —- including "BZRP Music Sessions, Vol. 53" and "Ella Baila Sola" — on Amazon, Apple Music, Pandora and the Spotify playlist below.
Graphic Courtesy of the Latin Recording Academy
Latin GRAMMYs 2023: Song Of The Year Nominees — Read Them Here
Here are the nominees for Song Of The Year at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, which will air Thursday, Nov. 16 from Sevilla, Spain.
The Latin Recording Academy has announced the complete list of nominees for the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, and the race for Song Of The Year is on.
The prestigious Category features this year’s most-nominated artist, Mexican American songwriter and producer Edgar Barrera, who earned an impressive 13 nods. It also includes three Colombian singers who have collaborated with Barrera — Karol G, Camilo, Shakira — the latter of whom set a record as the first artist to have three entries in Latin GRAMMYs' Song Of The Year Category.
The 2023 Latin GRAMMYs show will also make history, as the Thursday, Nov. 16, ceremony will be the first-ever international telecast in the history of the organization and awards, broadcasting from the Conference and Exhibition Centre (FIBES) in Sevilla, Spain.
Read on to learn more about the 10 bops nominated for Song Of The Year, and the artists and songwriters that penned them. (All lyrics noted below are translated from Spanish.)
"Acróstico" — Kevyn Mauricio Cruz Moreno, L.E.X.U.Z, Luis Fernando Ochoa & Shakira, songwriters (Shakira)
"Acróstico," the third lead single from Shakira's upcoming 12th studio album, is a heartfelt love letter to her young sons Milan and Sasha, in the wake of her split from their father Gerard Piqué. The tear-jerking ballad features her sons' vocals.
The track's Spanish title translates to acrostic, which is a poem where the first letter of each line spells out a word — and in Shakira's song, the opening lyrics spell out Milan. "This year Milan has written songs that have made me tear up, and Sasha has dedicated hours playing the piano and discovering his voice. Both have spent some time with me in the studio, and upon hearing this song, they've asked to be part of it," she wrote in Spanish in an Instagram post about the song.
Shakira co-wrote the song with a powerhouse team of Colombian gold:Keityn and L.e.x.u.z, of La Crème collective, and longtime collaborator Luis Fernando Ochoa, who first linked with Shakira back in 1995 on Pies Descalzos. (Keityn, born Kevyn Mauricio Cruz Moreno, also worked on two of Shakira's other big 2023 hits and Song Of The Year contenders: the record-breaking "Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53" with Bizarrap and "TQG" with Karol G.)
"Amigos" – Pablo Alborán & María Becerra, songwriters (Pablo Alborán Featuring María Becerra)
Spanish singer/songwriter Pablo Alborán linked up with Argentian reggaetónera María Becerra on "Amigos," a platonic love song to the friend that always has your back — and makes life a party. They wrote the sweet, vibey song together for his late-2022 album, La cuarto hoja.
"Amigos" opens with a chilled guitar instrumental, building up to an anthemic shout-it-with-your-bestie chorus: "I can see life in color/ the whole neighborhood looks at us/ We drink the hours as if it were liquor."
"De Todas Las Flores" – Natalia Lafourcade, songwriter (Natalia Lafourcade)
On "De Todas Las Flores," the title track of Natalia Lafourcade's first album of all original music in seven years, she beautifully paints the picture of a lost love. "Of all the flowers we plant/ There are only a few left/ Every morning they wonder/ When you will arrive to sing to them," she sings over sparse, tenderly melancholic instrumentation.
The backing vocals offer ethereal ooohs and ahhhs, like the fading memories shared with the lover no longer there. The Latin GRAMMY- and GRAMMY-winning Mexican singer/songwriter has always been a compelling storyteller, and it's a joy to hear her rich voice share new sonic poems on the project she's called an "extremely personal musical diary."
"Ella Baila Sola" – Pedro Julian Tovar Oceguera, songwriter (Eslabon Armado, Peso Pluma)
"Ella Baila Sola" (or, she dances alone) was written by 20-year-old Pedro Tovar, lead singer of Mexican regional band Eslabon Armado. It's about two friends noticing a pretty girl at a party, and one of them winning her affection.
The song features rapidly rising Mexican singer/rapper Peso Pluma, who is bringing Mexican corridos worldwide, fused with reggaetón and Latin trap. The dynamo pairing has helped "Ella Baila Sola" have a massive, record-breaking run; after it went viral on TikTok, it became the first regional Mexican song to reach the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 (reaching No. 4) and the first performed on late-night TV. It was also the most-streamed song globally on Spotify this summer, and second-most streamed song in the U.S.
"NASA" – Édgar Barrera, Camilo & Alejandro Sanz, songwriters (Camilo & Alejandro Sanz)
On "NASA," Latin GRAMMY-winning Colombian singer/songwriter Camilo teams up with Latin GRAMMY- and GRAMMY-winning Spanish star Alejandro Sanz to ask his lover for forgiveness for what he admits is unwarranted jealousy.
"I know/ That NASA has cameras rotating in space/ They spend day and night looking up and down/ And I'm about to call and ask for a job/ To see if I relax." It's a tender, vulnerable love song with playful lyrics exchanged back-and-forth by the two Spanish-language crooners, who also co-wrote the song together.
"Ojos Marrones" – Luis Jiménez, Lasso & Agustín Zubillaga, songwriters (Lasso)
"It's the first time/ I invited someone/ Since you left/ And I'm fine," Lasso opens on "Ojos Marrones," before revealing he's only kinda sorta fine. "Nothing is the same / Nothing is the same/ Nothing/ without your brown eyes," Lasso repeats empathetically in the chorus.
It's a sunset-hued pop rock heater with dreamy guitar licks reminiscent of those in Chris Issak's classic "Wicked Game." The Venezuelan singer/songwriter paired up Luis Jiménez and Agustín Zubillaga to pen the impactful track about trying — and failing — to get over an ex with a new lover, which is featured on his latest album, Eva. The track went viral on TikTok after a user compared its narrative to Justin Bieber's relationships, and its success spawned a remix with Sebastian Yatra.
"Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53" – Santiago Alvarado, Bizarrap, Kevyn Mauricio Cruz & Shakira, songwriters (Bizarrap Featuring Shakira)
It's an understatement to say that Shakira has had a momentous year. As she went through a very public separation — and tabloids across the globe zeroed in on her every move and social media post — she proved yet again she's a global pop superstar at the top of her game.
She started the year off with the viral "Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53," a sassy, synth-pop clap back at her ex. In just 24 hours, it garnered over 15 million streams on Spotify to top the platform's Top 50 global list, and the video saw over 55 million views on YouTube, the record for a Spanish-language track.
On it, she asserts herself and reclaims her power — who needs trashy gossip rags when Shakira is here to tell it like it is? "A she-wolf like me/ isn't for guys like you," the Colombian queen declares. "I was out of your league/ That's why you're/ With someone just like you," also coming for her ex's new girlfriend (the Casio he traded in for a Rolex, as Shaki put it). The fiery diss track came out of a session with forever-sunglassed Argentinan DJ and producer Bizarrap. They co-wrote the song with Keityn and Santiago Alvarado.
"Si Tú Me Quieres" – Fonseca, Yadam González & Yoel Henríquez, songwriters (Fonseca & Juan Luis Guerra)
It was a dream of Latin GRAMMY-winning Colombian singer/songwriter Fonseca to collab with Latin GRAMMY- and GRAMMY-winning Dominican superstar Juan Luis Guerra. "Si Tú Me Quieres" is a sweet tropical pop love song, a gorgeous result of Fonseca's dream brought to life.
It was co-produced by Colombian pop/rock king Juanes, and was co-written by Fonseca with two Latin GRAMMY-winning songwriter/producers: Puerto Rican Yoel Henríquez and Cuban Yadam González. When Fonseca finished the initial demo, he imagined Luis Guerra's distinctive voice on it, who quickly agreed to join in on it. They bring their voices, styles and homelands together for a joyful fiesta, with delightful touches of Colombian vallenato and Dominican bachata.
"Tqg" – Kevyn Mauricio Cruz, Karol G, Ovy On The Drums & Shakira, songwriters (Karol G Featuring Shakira)
Shakira and Keityn strike again — this time alongside Colombian reggaetónera Karol G, and her regular collaborator Ovy On The Drums.
On "TQG," Karol G and Shakira link up for the first time and come for their exes, reminding them who's on top. "You left and I went triple 'M'/ Much hotter, much tougher, much more class," Shakira sings defiantly.
"TQG" stands for te quedó grande, which roughly means too much for you to handle, and is featured on Karol's fourth album, MAÑANA SERÁ BONITO. When Karol saw the gossip fodder about Shakira, she knew she was the perfect collaborator to add fire to the reggaetón diss track,which she wrote with Keityn and Ovy during the same session of "Mamiii," her collab with Becky G.
"Un X100to" – Bad Bunny, Édgar Barrera, Marco Daniel Borrero & Andrés Jael Correa Ríos, songwriters (Grupo Frontera Featuring Bad Bunny)
With "un x100to," Grupo Frontera, a Texas-based regional Mexican band specializing in norteños, struck gold and brought regional Mexican music to the top of the charts. The song peaked at No. 5 on Billboard's Hot 100 — the fifth regional Mexican song ever to chart on it — with a little help from Puerto Rican superstar Bad Bunny.
Frontera lead singer Adelaido "Payo" Solis II and Bad Bunny sing passionately about trying to reconnect with an ex with a harrowing 1 percent battery left on their phone, on a playful romp that mixes norteño and cumbia. What makes the track even more remarkable is that Grupo Frontera didn't know Bad Bunny would be on the track until he appeared at the music video shoot — proving that sometimes the most impactful collabs can come from an unexpected pairing.
Photo: Courtesy of Asha Imuno
Hip-Hop Re:Defined: Watch Asha Imuno Personalize Kendrick Lamar's "i" With A Sparkling New Chorus
Rap newcomer Asha Imuno offers an upbeat cover of Kendrick Lamar's GRAMMY-winning hit "i," one of the many tracks that inspired the sound for Imuno's upcoming project, 'PINS & NEEDLES.'
Growing up in Compton, California, Kendrick Lamar never thought he would see the day he was happy, confident and, most importantly, hopeful. But his lead single from 2015's To Pimp A Butterfly, "i," proves that reality wasn't so far-fetched — even when confronted with gun violence and police brutality.
In this episode of Hip-Hop Re:Defined, rap newcomer Asha Imuno delivers his rendition of "i," which won Lamar both Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song at the 2015 GRAMMYs. Though the original track's groovy instrumental remains, Imuno adds a personal touch to his cover with a new chorus.
"And I love myself/ The world is a ghetto with big guns and picket signs/ And I love myself/ But they can do what they want, whenever they want, I don't mind," he sings. "And I love myself/ He said I gotta get up, there's more to life than suicide."
Imuno is a longtime fan of Lamar, and according to a press statement, his upcoming album, PINS & NEEDLES, was heavily inspired by Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly. On June 14, Imuno released the first single from the debut project, "PUSHING BUTTONS."
Press play on the video above to hear Asha Imuno's uplifting cover of Kendrick Lamar's "i," and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Hip-Hop Re:Defined, a limited series celebrating hip-hop's 50th anniversary.
Photo: Steve Jennings/WireImage
7 Unforgettable Sets From Outside Lands 2023: Foo Fighters' Special Guests, Lana Del Rey's Return & A Superhero DJ Shaq
The 15th edition of San Francisco’s foggy summer festival brought the musical heat — and lots of wild surprises.
On Aug. 11-13, Outside Lands returned to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park for the 15th time. The city's premiere multi-day music and food festival attracted approximately 75,000 daily attendees, and promoter Another Planet says that about half of the 225,000 ticket holders live outside the Bay Area.
Though it takes place in the peak of summer, San Francisco in August is relatively cold and nicknamed "Fogust," which may have shocked any of the out of towners who showed up in shorts and barely-there tops.
The mild weather conditions meant that the true heat was left up to the performers to generate, and the more than 90 acts happily delivered. Below, we recount seven of the sets that were worth braving the summer cold to witness.
Shaq Takes Day One Championship
Moonlighting as DJ Diesel, NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal apologized for starting his incredibly surprising set a few minutes late.
"Sorry I’m late, I was just hanging with Steph Curry and Draymond Green," he said, name checking the Golden State Warriors’ star players. He laced his banter with basketball metaphors and later brought out Warriors guard Gary Payton II to play Queen’s "We Are The Champions" in the team’s honor.
After dropping jaws by firing up aggressively, atonal EDM beats, he invited the crush of fans to come up on stage and "party with Diesel" one at a time. His set veered from Guns N Roses to Imogen Heap and he has to be the first DJ to call for a "ladies only mosh pit" while playing Aqua’s "Barbie World."
When he threw a young blonde boy on his shoulders and they both pumped their fists in unison, it was everything — and that’s how a superhero DJs.
Janelle Monáe Celebrates The Fam
With a towering stack of Jamaican sound system-styled speakers, giant beach balls, a towel-waisted band and swimsuited dancers, Janelle Monáe brought the sexy "Black Sugar Beach" and "Lipstick Lover" vibes of her new album The Age of Pleasure to the Lands End main stage, which she last graced in 2018.
Monáe has since come out as nonbinary and greatly expanded her fanbase; at Outside Lands, she dedicated her performance to "my community, the LGBTQIA+ community," saying, "I love you so much. To be Black, to be queer, to be nonbinary, to evolve and to have family like you is a blessing."
Monáe’s natural charisma has only gotten sharper over time, and her dance moves are more infused with the quick steps of the Godfather of Soul James Brown and Prince. Her almost Rockettes-level line choreography with her dancers has leveled up as well.
This year’s Outside Lands also saw the debut of the LGBTQIA+-centric Dolores’ stage, which was powered all weekend by local party crews such as Hard French, Fake and Gay and Oasis. A highlight was Reparations, an all-Black drag show hosted by the incomparable Nicki Jizz, San Francisco’s serial Drag Queen of the Year (according to local publication 48 Hills) who wore a large penis hat that she claimed was true to her actual size. The most overtly queer-friendly edition of Outside Lands was something beautiful to continue and build on in the future.
Kendrick Lamar Brings The Friday Night Light
Last seen rapping to a small but rapturous crowd on a secondary stage at Outside Lands in 2015, Kendrick Lamar has grown immeasurably as a recording artist and live performer. Lamar commanded the Lands End stage, closing the festival’s first night with quietly assertive control and grace in a performance that felt like a rightful graduation. This veritable elder statesman slot has been previously held by major acts like Radiohead, Neil Young With Crazy Horse and Paul McCartney.
His 2022 album Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers featured prominently in the 21-song set, which included leftfield covers of Pusha T’s "Nosetalgia" and The Weeknd’s "Sidewalks." But Lamar knows that people still want to yell their lungs out to earlier cuts like "Swimming Pools (Drank)," "Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe," "m.A.A.d city," "HUMBLE." and "Alright" and he obliged.
Lana Del Rey Swings Back To Twin Peaks
Flower crowns were all the rage when Lana Del Rey made her Outside Lands debut in 2016 at Twin Peaks, the festival’s second largest stage. A new generation has since discovered the singer’s outsize character and vibe, and as the gates opened on Saturday, giddy groups of teenage girls rushed to park themselves at the edge of that very same stage to catch Del Rey’s big return to Golden Gate Park.
This time, Del Rey’s set included a projection that said "God Bless You San Francisco" and a giant swing woven with flowers that flung her into the air while she sang. Her set spanned her classics, like "Video Games" from 2012’s Born To Die, current hits, such as the title track from this year’s album Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd., and a loving cover of Tammy Wynette’s 1968 country hit "Stand By Your Man."
Though she’s revered as an almost otherworldly figure and was an angelic vision in white, Del Rey doesn’t act untouchable in 2023 — in fact, she literally came down and touched some of those fans who waited all day for her.
Foo Fighters Come Out Crooning
"We’ve gotta fit 28 years into two f—ing hours!" Dave Grohl explained early in the Foo Fighters' set. It was a towering goal that they tackled with consummate ease, reaching back to hits such as "Times Like These" and "The Pretender" and showing the continuum through to recent songs like "Rescue."
After playing a few choice riffs of "Enter Sandman," it would have been less of a surprise to see a member of two-time Outside Lands headliner (and Bay Area natives) Metallica join them on stage than who actually came out for a cameo. After flying in from Argentina, Michael Bublé initially pretended to be a regular audience member before going onstage to sing his hit "Haven’t Met You Yet."
The Foo-Bublé connection is fun and surprising: New drummer Josh Freese has also played for the Canadian crooner, and "Haven’t Met You Yet" is part of a medley that the Foo Fighters are doing on tour that is comprised of other bands Freese has supported (including Devo’s "Whip It" and Nine Inch Nails’ "March of the Pigs").
Of course, the late drummer Taylor Hawkins will always be a prominent part of the Foo Fighters and their shows, and they played "Aurora" in his memory. As the park’s Polo Field lit up in violet-colored lights, Grohl’s 17-year-old daughter Violet Grohl also joined to sing three songs with her father, which he said was his absolute favorite thing in the world to do.
"I’m sure I’m embarrassing her right now!" he said.
Gabriels Tributes Tina Turner
"We’re California boys, but this is our first time in San Francisco," shared Gabriels singer Jacob Lusk before turning the Sutro stage into the Church of Outside Lands, and instructing everyone to share some neighborly love.
The Los Angeles band has some meteoric fans: Elton John invited Lusk, whose early resume includes being a former "American Idol" contestant who was in a gospel group with the late Nate Dogg, to sing with him on stage at this year’s Glastonbury. Lusk’s incredible vocal range flexes from baritone to falsetto on a dime, and he frequently takes a step back from the microphone while singing, as if not to overwhelm it.
In a particularly touching moment, Gabriels performed Tina Turner’s "Private Dancer" while a montage of footage of Turner filled the screen.
Megan Thee Stallion Triumphs Over Tragedy
Fog flooded the park as a super snatched Megan Thee Stallion took to the stage in a hot Barbie pink outfit and long red hair, but she blazed through the haze with ground-sweeping twerking and saucy tracks like "Body," "Her," "WAP" and "Big Ole Freak." It was her first performance since Tory Lanez was sentenced to 10 years for shooting her, and she was feeling noticeably buoyant.
"F— all my haters!" she said in the middle of the set. "None of the s— you was doing or saying broke me."
She received nothing but love from the crowd, and she was delighted by a big pocket of "boys" that she saw. Meg truly loves her "Hotties," and even stopped in between songs to sign someone’s graduation cap. A recent grad herself, she is proud of her fans who follow suit.
"Real college girl s—!" she exclaimed.