Photos: MICHAEL TRAN/AFP via Getty Images; Frazer Harrison/FilmMagic; Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images; Samir Hussein/WireImage
Road To 'Barbie The Album': How Mark Ronson Dolled Up The Movie's Polished Pop Soundtrack
On the moodboard, she's the inspo. Greta Gerwig's film 'Barbie' releases worldwide on July 21 — and so does its star-studded, Mark Ronson-produced soundtrack. Take a look at how the fantastic plastic of 'Barbie The Album' came together.
This summer, everyone's hot (pink) with Barbie fever.
In the last few months, seemingly all corners of the world have been painted Barbie pink. From floods of #barbiegirl TikToks to ubiquitous brand collaborations, there's been no shortage of almost alarmingly efficient marketing for Greta Gerwig's upcoming blockbuster Barbie.
Out July 21, the fantasy comedy spotlights Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Mattel's classic Barbie doll couple, alongside a slew of other major stars including Issa Rae, Will Ferrell, America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, Simu Liu, and plenty more.
The highly anticipated Barbie soundtrack is helmed by Mark Ronson, the seven-time GRAMMY-winning producer known for working with artists like Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Amy Winehouse, and Miley Cyrus. Ronson's nearly year-long work on Barbie The Album kicked off when he checked his phone and saw a one-word text: "Barbie?"
The text came from producer George Drakoulias, who previously worked with Barbie co-writer Noah Baumbach on critically acclaimed films like Marriage Story and White Noise. Drakoulias shared details about the project, and Ronson was sold.
"I don't read a lot of scripts, but it was just everything I want in a movie," Ronson remembered in a Rolling Stone profile. "I was like, 'If I don't get this gig, this is gonna be my favorite movie of the year.'"
Ronson happily signed on as the soundtrack's executive producer — in his own words, becoming "the Robin to [Gerwig's] Batman" — and he hopped on a preliminary Zoom with Gerwig and Baumbach while they were in England gearing up for production.
As they brainstormed for Barbie The Album, Gerwig sent over a playlist of some of her favorite songs, which featured everything from Andrea True Connection to music from Xanadu, to what Ronson personally dubbed "Peloton pop." Spitballing ideas evolved into a crystal pink vision for Barbie The Album, which would be 17 tracks in total and featuring everyone from Lizzo to FIFTY FIFTY to Tame Impala to even Gosling himself.
Speaking to the New York Times, Gerwig described the film Barbie as an "anarchic dance-party emotional meltdown spiritual quest." In line with the movie's chaotic good, she and Ronson wanted the soundtrack to be many, many things: poppy, playful, whimsical, nostalgic, and most importantly, full-hearted.
With all this in mind, there was more news: Barbie would feature a highly-choreographed dance number, and Ronson was tasked with putting together the film's central groove. Rehearsals were scheduled to hit the floor in two weeks.
Ronson and producer Andrew Wyatt — who would end up scoring the entire film together — got to work, crafting the fluttery, up-tempo beat to "Dance The Night" to power the film's core dance scene. Caroline Ailin also contributed as a songwriter to what would become Barbie's defining lead single.
"It became the Barbie anthem on set," Robbie shared with Rolling Stone.
According to Robbie, Barbie cast members rehearsed to the temporarily lyricless song, following only its whirling beat. That is, until Ronson slid into Dua Lipa's DMs to recruit her for the track. Channeling carefree fun reminiscent of Future Nostalgia, Lipa felt like a perfect fit for the song's retro disco relief. (Gerwig later invited the three-time GRAMMY winner to play the neon-pink-wigged role of Mermaid Barbie.)
"Dance The Night" unmistakably bubbles as the buoyant centerpiece of Barbie The Album; in fact, it's featured just 10 seconds into the film's trailer. As Barbie floats down from her dreamhouse, the song's strings flourish with nu-disco verve, luring viewers in and spiritedly signifying the magic of Barbie Land.
It's this breezy, dance floor-ready energy that Barbie The Album epitomizes. The record refracts the light of a disco ball, equating an evening at a club with a spiritual experience. In Gerwig's world, Barbies are — ironically — never boxed in.
While the album thrums with the rhythm of a nonstop party, Ronson still finds moments to hint at profundity, beneath the film's slick comedy. "Even when the tears are flowin' like diamonds on my face/ I'll still keep the party goin', not one hair out of place," Lipa sings in "Dance The Night."
The track's juxtaposition of sorrow and partying represents Barbie perfectly, nodding to the doll's controversial history. Since its 1959 launch, Barbies emerged as symbols of both female empowerment and unrealistic standards for women.
"I kept thinking: Humans are the people that make dolls and then get mad at the dolls," Gerwig explained to the NYT. "We create them and then they create us and we recreate them and they recreate us. We're in constant conversation with inanimate objects."
This idea of creating and recreating applies not just to the film, but its music, too. A modern musical reimagination filled with nostalgia, Barbie The Album slots in several iconic samples, including Toni Basil's 1981 "Mickey," Janet Jackson's 1997 "Together Again," and Aqua's 1997 "Barbie Girl."
"I was like, 'Greta, how are we going to incorporate this song? We can't do a Barbie movie and not have a nod to Aqua's 'Barbie Girl.' It has to be in there,'" Robbie told Rolling Stone. "And [Greta] was like, 'Don't worry, we're going to find a cool way to incorporate it.'"
Gerwig's response was apparently code for "get Nicki Minaj to hop on the track." Minaj made the top of Ronson and Gerwig's "dream list" of artists for the soundtrack — no doubt because of her reigning title as queen of the Barbz. The fanbase name emerged after the cover of Minaj's debut 2007 mixtape, Playtime Is Over, featured the rapper as a Barbie doll within a Mattel box.
"I feel like people have been asking Nicki to rhyme over some version of 'Barbie Girl' for 15 years now," Ronson estimated in conversation with Rolling Stone.
In her pink carpet interview with "Access Hollywood," Minaj admitted it took her a second to warm up to the track's Aqua sample: "I didn't even want to listen to this song because a lot of people have sent me that sample for years, and I never like it!"
But the rapper knew she wanted to be a part of Barbie. "So the next day, I mustered up the courage to listen to the song, and then I loved the beat, and that sold me," Minaj continued.
Once Minaj jumped on the track, Ronson began chasing down another one of today's hottest names in the rap scene: Ice Spice. The 23-year-old Bronx rapper almost didn't make the track because of her demanding schedule, but one night, she found the time to slide into the studio — just as Ronson was getting ready to go to sleep "like an old guy." He biked to the studio after midnight to track her verses, and "Barbie World" was born.
The track marked a "very full circle moment" for Minaj — as well as for Charli XCX. The pop singer told Rolling Stone that her first live performance was actually of Aqua's "Barbie Girl." Although XCX beheaded her Barbie dolls when she was younger, her a cappella rendition of Aqua's hit earned her a win in a cruise ship talent show.
Years later, XCX traded cruise ships for "lavender Lamborghinis" in her 2016 magnum opus "Vroom Vroom." So when Ronson and Gerwig showed XCX a few Barbie clips to choose from, it's no surprise that XCX was immediately drawn to the car chase scene. XCX's Barbie track "Speed Drive" runs through all the red lights, interpolating Toni Basil's "Mickey" as well as sampling Robyn's cover of Teddybears' "Cobrastyle" to assemble one of the album's many hot girl anthems.
And where there's a hot girl anthem, there's a sad girl anthem. Billie Eilish and Sam Smith were recently revealed to be the album's mystery guests, and Ronson put the former behind the wheel for "What Was I Made For?", with her brother and producer FINNEAS riding shotgun. For the siblings, working on Barbie helped flare a creative spark they felt had been dimming.
"We were really in a zone of feeling like we lost it and feeling like, 'man, I don't know if we can do this anymore,'" Eilish shared with Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1. "Barbie and Greta just pulled it out of me, I don't know."
The seven-time GRAMMY winner shared that writing for Barbie The Album allowed for her to refreshingly write from a new perspective — before realizing that she was actually reflecting on herself.
"I did not think about myself once in the writing process. I was purely inspired by this movie and this character and the way I thought she would feel, and wrote about that," Eilish continued with Lowe. "But I do this thing where… I'm writing for myself and I don't even know it."
Just as Eilish's inspiration came from processing her relationship with Barbie, other musicians featured on the album also held personal connections to the doll.
Barbie was rooted in HAIM's childhood. The sisters grew up in Los Angeles in the '90s and self-labeled themselves as "Barbie specialists." Funnily enough, the siblings were allowed just one VHS tape: a Barbie film.
Ronson and Gerwig fell into the habit of showing soundtrack participants scenes from Barbie during the creative process, offering more context for the pair's vision. The HAIM sisters found themselves watching scenes from Gerwig's Barbie to pen "Home" for the soundtrack.
"I wanted to see the movie first to understand the project because we know the doll as a perfect figure, so I needed to understand the film's message," Karol G told HOLA! USA. "Then we met [with the Barbie team], and they shared the songs they loved and the rhythm they were looking for... I wanted that when they played the music; it sounded like a real party. A Latino party!"
The Colombian reggaetonera collaborated with Panamanian rapper Aldo Ranks, recording the thumping reggaeton banger "WATATI" for the album.
Ronson ensured that Barbie The Album stylishly encompassed a wide number of genres, and its variety serves an asset to the film's worldbuilding.
"[Gerwig] had a vision for a really diverse and unique world that she was creating," Brandon Davis, Executive Vice President and Co-Head of Pop A&R at Atlantic Records, said to Rolling Stone. "That's why you're hearing, for instance, a Karol G record that leans more reggaeton next to a Dominic Fike record that's a nod to Sugar Ray."
The slogan of Mattel's signature doll is simple: "You can be anything." Barbie The Album encapsulates this effortlessly, blurring the soft lines between disco pop and drill. The soundtrack even features an Irish jig, unexpectedly on PinkPantheress' wistful song "Angel."
"The soundtrack reminded me of a 2000s Disney prom scene. I was just like, let's try it and see what they think. I just wanted to have fun," the pop star told ELLE. The chorus' uplifting jig gave "Angel" the necessary "soundtrack vibe" she was looking for.
Before kicking off her musical career, PinkPantheress was originally on an acting path. Having studied Gerwig's filmography in school, she was "gassed beyond belief" to join the Barbie team. "I do not think that anyone knows me. I'm always surprised," PinkPantheress said. "So, the fact that Greta Gerwig [does]..."
PinkPantheress knew that thinking pink meant she was on the right track — the color's in her stage name, after all.
"When I listen to ['Angel'], all I think about is the color pink. And when I think of pink, I think of Barbie," she said.
At the end of the day, it's Barbie's world, and we're just living in it. Gerwig pulled us into this glossy, fuschia-flushed world, and Ronson fluidly soundtracked its complementary pop paradise. Ronson spoke highly of the writer-director, citing not only her impressive innovation and drive but her presence alone as uplifting.
"Greta proves that you can be an incredibly strong-minded visionary, but inspire people by just your goodness alone," Ronson told Vanity Fair. "Everybody just felt so free to create."
This open, creative freedom is what makes Barbie truly Barbie. Mattel’s slogan rings true in Ronson’s soundtrack, pulsing like a Barbie dreamhouse party come to life. Songs range from trend-setting and bubblegum to comedic and quirky, but above all, the rosy soundtrack glimmers with moments of sincerity.
One thing about Barbie? She'll always think outside of the box.
Photo: Hugo Comte
'Future Nostalgia': How Dua Lipa Rose From Best New Artist To Massive Pop Star
Nominated for six GRAMMYs at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards show, Dua Lipa leaped into powerhouse territory with her 2020 sophomore album, 'Future Nostalgia,' becoming pop's newest reigning queen in the process
For Women's History Month 2021, GRAMMY.com is celebrating some of the women artists nominated at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards show. Today, we honor Dua Lipa, who's currently nominated for six GRAMMYs.
There was so much to mourn in 2020: The last time we hugged our families, traveled to new places and swayed among sweaty strangers on a dance floor. But that didn't stop Dua Lipa.
Since last March, the English pop star has released not one, but three albums. The first of the trilogy, her defiant dance pop sophomore record, Future Nostalgia, released last March just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to take hold over the world, quickly became a nu-disco-tinged masterpiece. It was a bold move for Lipa to release a record in a pandemic, with the major-label pop album rollout upended and international touring put on pause.
The risk paid off: Future Nostalgia became her first album to enter the Top 5 on Billboard's Hot 200 chart. And if Future Nostalgia was any indication, the thrill of taking risks was far from over.
Last August, the singer released Club Future Nostalgia, an adrenaline-filled remix album for the digital dance floor, made with DJ/producer the Blessed Madonna. For the album, she enlisted collaborators Blackpink, Mark Ronson, Madonna, Missy Elliott and Gwen Stefani.
But she still wasn't done expanding the Future Nostalgia universe. Just last month, she shared another version of the album, The Moonlight Edition, which included three new singles as well as Lipa's "Prisoner" collaboration with Miley Cyrus; "Un Día" with J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Tainy, for which she's currently nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance; and "Not My Problem" with J.I.D.
It's clear Lipa put in the work to get here. With the release of her 2017 self-titled debut album, the singer became crystallized as a feminist force in the pop world. Singles like the beguiling synth-pop anthem "Be the One" and the club-ready "Blow Your Mind (Mwah)" captivated listeners. But it was the empowering smash "New Rules" that ignited a viral craze for its infectious lyrics and GIF-able music video, which is filled with women holding and uplifting each other while dancing sleepover-themed choreography.
Dua Lipa and the subsequent success of "New Rules" helped Lipa nab a Best New Artist GRAMMY in 2019—plus an internet nickname ("Dula Peep")—and primed her for pop superstardom. While her self-titled album established her as a headlining pop contender, Lipa continued to push herself.
Part of challenging herself came in the fallout of the pandemic. The pop album release cycle is generally highly orchestrated, teeming with the careful planning of single releases, music videos and tour dates. But one cannot prepare for unprecedented times: Per The New York Times, as Lipa's 85-date arena tour was pushed back, there were talks in her camp of postponing the drop of Future Nostalgia—then days before her livestream of the album leaked—and an imminent release became necessary. This was all happening in parallel with the collective trauma and grief the world was facing with COVID.
Future Nostalgia delivered exactly the escapism people around the world sought.
The anthemic single "Don't Start Now," currently nominated for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards show, was the kind of carefree, disco-inflected number you'd hear while skating backward at a '70s roller rink. What followed was the candy-coated, dance pop track "Physical," which delivered '80s aerobics touchstones, and "Break My Heart," a glittery, disco funk jaunt with swaggering guitar riffs. (The album's retro-futuristic slant touched everything: from the songs themselves to the neon leotards in the music videos.)
Lipa saw how cathartic the music had become for her fans. The album hailed quarantine anthems and received the meme treatment: "Don't Start Now" for its refrain ("Don't show up/Don't come out") and "Break My Heart" for its very timely chorus ("I should have stayed home").
As fans found new ways to connect with Future Nostalgia, so did Lipa—and innovation took the lead. Doing late-night TV performances required a newfound sense of creativity.
Then there was the idea of trying to recreate concerts. While a garden variety of livestreams had been sprinkled throughout 2020, the absence of flashy arena performances was an obvious void. But despite live shows being canceled indefinitely, Lipa led the charge behind one of the year's most highly anticipated—and polished—virtual concerts with Studio 2054, which paid homage to the Future Nostalgia universe. Filmed in a sprawling London warehouse, the livestream concert saw Lipa command the stage of custom-built sets with sleek choreography, glitter, glam, raves and roller discos, along with special appearances from Elton John, FKA twigs, Kylie Minogue, Bad Bunny and more.
Future Nostalgia was indeed a game-changer for Lipa's musical arc and aesthetic; it was a transformation for her career, too. She didn't just create an album—she created an era. "Her voice changes a song the same way her presence lights up a room," Future Nostalgia producer Ian Kirkpatrick tells GRAMMY.com.
Future Nostalgia took Lipa into powerhouse territory, with the singer making the massive leap from Best New Artist to pop's newest reigning queen. Most of all, it showed that Lipa could seamlessly redefine herself. Sarah Hudson, who co-wrote songs on her debut album as well as "Levitating" and "Physical" off Future Nostalgia, had "no doubt" that Lipa "would take over the world." "[Dua] had a very specific vision for Future Nostalgia, and she executed it flawlessly," she tells GRAMMY.com. "It comes genuinely from her heart, and you can feel that in every single song."
It also helped that Lipa had a top-tier team behind her. Chris Gehringer, who mastered Future Nostalgia, says that the album's success stemmed from the fact that Lipa enlisted producers and engineers who all "worked on a No. 1 song and album before." "I mastered three songs from her debut album, 'Lost In Your Light,' 'Blow Your Mind' and 'New Rules,' so I knew this new album was going to be big," he tells GRAMMY.com. Ali Tamposi, who co-wrote "Break My Heart," describes Lipa as a "force to be reckoned with." "We're lucky to have someone like her at the forefront of music who [continuously] raises the bar."
Following this year's GRAMMYs, it'll be interesting to watch how Dua Lipa continues to evolve as an artist. Future Nostalgia was such a sonic departure from her first album—how will she push the boundaries of pop next?
Photo: Celine Pinget
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Antibalas Talk 'Fu Chronicles,' Kung Fu And Their Mission To Spread Afrobeat
Antibalas members Martín Perna and Duke Amayo discuss their origin story, their decades-long rise as an outlier in Brooklyn and how their first-ever GRAMMY nomination for Best Global Music Album could help introduce new listeners to Afrobeat
Even somebody who barely listens to music could presumably name three artists in each of these spheres: rock, blues and jazz. Sure, Bob Marley may remain the embodiment of reggae, but chances are you've heard of Toots and the Maytals or Lee "Scratch" Perry at least once. What about Afrobeat, a West African amalgam of soul and funk with regional styles like Yoruba and highlife?
For many, the Afrobeat conversation begins and ends with the outrageous, incendiary, brilliant multi-instrumentalist and pioneer of the form, Fela Kuti. While the Brooklyn Afrobeat ensemble Antibalas, which ranges from 11 to 19 members, undoubtedly work from the template Kuti helped create, they argue the story of Afrobeat begins—not ends—with him.
"I think that's one of the weirdest things, being in a genre of music that is so defined and predetermined by one person," Martín Perna, the multi-instrumentalist who first dreamed up Antibalas in 1998, tells GRAMMY.com. "Even reggae artists don't all get compared to Bob Marley. I don't think anybody in any other genre is in the shadow of one person like people who play this music." (For those who wish to dig deeper, Perna recommends Geraldo Pino, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou and the Funkees; his bandmate, Duke Amayo, name-drops Orlando Julius.)
"It's been a weird thing," Perna continues. "I would have thought after 22 years that it would have expanded a little bit more."
More than 20 years after Kuti's death in 1997, Afrobeat may soon expand radically in the public eye thanks to Antibalas. The group, who played their first gig half a year after Kuti's passing, has been nominated at the 2021 GRAMMYs Awards show in the newly renamed Best Global Music Album category for Fu Chronicles, which dropped last February on Daptone Records. Their first album to be solely written by lead singer and percussionist Amayo, its highlights, like "Lai Lai," "MTTT, Pt. 1 & 2" and "Fist of Flowers," partly derive their power from his other primary pursuit: kung fu.
A Nigerian-born multidisciplinarian who is a senior master at the Jow Ga Kung Fo School of martial arts, Amayo aims to find the nexus point between music, dance and martial arts. When he received the unexpected news that Antibalas had clinched their first-ever GRAMMY nomination after 20 years in the game, he launched into a dance of his own.
"I walked over to my girl and said, 'Check this out. Is this real?'" he recalls to GRAMMY.com with a laugh. "She Googled the GRAMMY nominations, and it was surreal. And then I did that usual thing where you shake your hips, violently doing the hip thrust back and forth. Then, I woke the whole house up screaming, as my daughter screamed with me for a minute or two."
GRAMMY.com spoke with Martín Perna and Duke Amayo about Antibalas' origin story, their decades-long rise as an outlier in Brooklyn and how their nomination could help introduce new listeners to Afrobeat.
These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.
How would you explain the vocabulary of someone like Fela Kuti to a person who's unfamiliar?
Martín Perna: Afrobeat is like musical architecture. It's a set of ingredients and musical relationships between those ingredients. All the instruments are talking to each other. They're all in dialogue, and these dialogues create dynamic tension in the music. Some instruments create a rigid structure, and others—vocals included—have much more free reign to improvise or solo.
Duke Amayo: I would describe it as a tonal language of the common Nigerian—or African—singing truth to power from a marginalized place. That is the window from where Fela Kuti was operating. He drew from observations around him and expressed them truthfully throughout his music. He is like the Bob Marley and the James Brown of Nigeria rolled into one.
Perna: Whereas the guitar might be playing the same five-note pattern without stopping for 20 minutes, the singer or keyboardist gets to improvise. Or, when the horns aren't playing the melodies, they get solos. It's both very rigid and very free, but it's a dynamic tension between the two.
In a nutshell, describe how Antibalas came up in the Brooklyn scene.
Perna: I was 22 when I dreamed this up, and a lot of it was just trying to create a scene that I wanted to be part of. At the time, I played with Sharon Jones—rest in peace—Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. A bunch of the musicians were my colleagues in that band. The rest of the musicians came pretty much from the neighborhood—just people I knew who either had the chops or the interest to be in this band.
Amayo: I was living in Williamsburg, a neighborhood that embodied gentrification in record time. I was in the right place at the right time as I opened a clothing store/martial-arts dojo in my residence called the Afro-Spot. From here, I hosted many fashion shows, using Nigerian drummers to maintain an edge to my brand. This exposed me to musicians who wanted to make resistance music, if you will.
So that brought me in contact with Martín and [Daptone Records co-founder and former Antibalas guitarist] Gabe [Roth], who stopped in my store one day to hang. Eventually, they asked me to join the band. I started as a percussionist and then became the lead singer.
Perna: I wanted to make a band that was both a dance band and a protest band. Because you need so many people to make this music, it fulfilled that idea of being a band and a community. You need anywhere from 11 [musicians] on the small end; at our biggest shows, there have been 19 musicians on stage. So, already, you have a community of people.
Coming up in Brooklyn, did you have local peers in this style? Was there a scene?
Perna: No, there wasn't a scene. There were individuals—mostly West African guys a generation older than us—that had played with Fela or were part of some other African funk band in the '70s. But no, there weren't any peers at all.
Amayo: I would state that we were the scene.
How would you describe your vision for Fu Chronicles as opposed to past Antibalas albums?
Amayo: Fu Chronicles is a concept album written by only me. While the past albums have been written by different members employing the group dynamics of the time, my vision was to create a musical universe where African folklore and kung fu wisdom can coexist seamlessly, supporting each other in a harmonious flow.
The first song I composed [20 years ago], "MTTT," came from my intention to compose a timeless, logical song, expressing a new frontier in classical African music. I wanted to move the music forward by writing songs with two distinct-but-related bass and guitar lines and shape the grooves into a two-part form: yin and yang.
How did martial arts play into the album?
Amayo: I wanted to reimagine Afrobeat songs from a real kung fu practitioner's mindset. I'm a certified Jow Ga Kung Fu sifu, or master. I started studying kung fu in Nigeria as a young boy. The song "Fist of Flowers" describes the traditional form of Jow Ga Kung Fu that I teach. My rhythmic blocks are sometimes based on the shapes of my kung fu movements.
How did you learn about your GRAMMY nomination for Best Global Music Album?
Amayo: The first person who texted me was Kyle Eustice, [who interviewed me in 2020] for High Times. I didn't react at first. I walked over to my girl and said, "Check this out. Is this real?" She Googled the GRAMMY nominations, and it was surreal.
I did that usual thing where you shake your hips, violently doing the hip thrust back and forth, and quickly calmed down. Then I woke the whole house up screaming as my daughter screamed with me for a minute or two.
Perna: On my fridge, last year, when I set my goals and intentions, one of the five things [I wrote] was to win a GRAMMY. This year has been such a disappointment in so many ways, so it's exciting that at least we got, so far, the nomination.
This nomination serves as a punctuation mark on Antibalas's 20-plus-year career. How do you see the next 20 years?
Perna: Oh, gosh. I hope it provides some wind in our sails to continue to record and tour and grow our audience. It could be either a nice end to a beautiful history of the band, or something like I said: wind in our sails.
Amayo: I see the next 20 years of Antibalas as a flower in full growth, writing music to push the genre forward while maintaining excellence in the trade. We began as a bunch of guys in Brooklyn who wanted to make a change, make some noise, and be part of the revival of activist music.
And it's still as relevant as ever, demanding for justice movements like Black Lives Matter, Indigenous peoples' plight, and a more comprehensive education system based on truth ...
Perna: … To get this recommendation and this nod from the GRAMMYs, it's like, "Hey, everybody! Pay attention to this band! They made this amazing record, and you should listen to it!" That's something that propels us out of the world of just musicians listening to us. It feels good to get a little bit of wider recognition.
Amayo: I've been praising my wife ever since [the nomination]: "This is all mostly you." Because if she hadn't put a fire in me, I wouldn't have been able to make the right moves. It takes something to light it up for you, to believe you can get there.
Thus, my song, "Fight Am Finish," with the lyrics, "Never, ever let go of your dreams." I'm going to keep running. I'm going to keep my feet moving until I cross the finish line, you know what I mean?
Quarantine Diaries: Issy Wood Is Working On Music, Doing 'The New York Times' Crossword Puzzle & Texting Mark Ronson
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, GRAMMY.com reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rock the music industry, GRAMMY.com reached out to a few musicians to see how they were spending their days indoors. Today, artist and singer/songwriter Issy Wood shares her Quarantine Diary. Wood's debut EP, Cries Real Tears!, is out now.
[8.45 a.m.] I wake up cold—the antidepressants I’m on sometimes cause me to sweat the bed; apparently last night was one of those times. I dreamt I was trying to leave Venice on a jet ski and the moisture adds a certain realism to it all.
[9 a.m.] I throw on clothes I don’t care about since all interest in fashion has been cancelled since March. I take vitamins (the pills that make me sweat), drink a huge bottle of water and get on my bike to ride to the studio. A normal person would’ve showered, but I prefer squalor.
[9.30 a.m.] I smoke 2 cigarettes, drink 2 espressos and eat a croissant while doing the New York Times crossword puzzle on their app. It’s Tuesday, so the clues are painless. I send a screengrab of the app’s “CONGRATS! You completed Tuesday in 12 minutes!” to Ben who is in New York and will wake up to my success before annihilating me. I paint for two hours while listening to Alec Baldwin’s “Here’s The Thing” podcast.
[11.30 a.m.] I pick up a call from an unknown London number with an automated voice telling me I am under investigation for tax evasion and that a warrant is out for my arrest. In my heart I know it’s spam, but I’m seized by a moment of terrified speculation that my accountant has been cooking the books since he wears a gold necklace. He hasn’t.
[12 p.m.] My studio landlord comes over and tells me about his diabetic wife. His cousin gets out of a Mercedes and tells me COVID isn’t real. “How do you know?” I ask. He gestures to a group of pigeons eating what looks like a discarded sock in the yard. “Because look at these birds, they’re fine, they never get sick. The news don’t want you to know this,” he says.
[1:30 p.m.] I eat a salad and chase it with further cigarettes. I listen to the draft of a song I worked on last night and test out a chorus on my keyboard. My gallerist, Vanessa, texts me about a show in Beijing next month. I’m grateful for the one exhibition scheduled this year in China. I learned yesterday that the Chinese have their own nicknames for western celebrities and politicians. Taylor Swift is known as “Unlucky Bus”, Angela Merkel is “Silent Granny.” I think my favourite, though, is Avril Lavigne, known simply as “Yeast”.
[3 p.m.] New York is awake, and Maggie, my press person, is emailing me about magazines while I paint. Sometimes I think I’m her worst nightmare because I’m camera-shy, picky and ill-tempered. Mark Ronson texts me to say he liked a particular lyric from a new song. I ask him if he’s ever been a clue on the NYT crossword puzzle and he doesn’t reply.
[4.30 p.m.] I pack up the studio and bike home via the supermarket and the pharmacy. People seem depressed, possibly drunk. When the government put a 10 p.m. curfew on bars and pubs (as though covid only exists after 10pm) the British public just started drinking earlier. Now that we are fully locked down, I imagine people drink all day. I calculate online how long I’ve been sober in minutes: 204987. I feel a moment of smugness, then sadness because I miss vodka.
[5 p.m.] In the pharmacy line, I read an advice column about vaginismus and go through my bi-weekly ritual of wondering whether I should get a dog. I then remember the time my ex-boyfriend’s dog Golda ate an entire Le Labo scented candle and decide I’m still not ready.
[5.30 p.m.] I work on music at my kitchen table, tapping lyrics into my phone that say: “Im feeling good it’s just / your love’s got me close to concussed / yeah maybe I’ll meet all your heat with disgust / but I won’t make a fuss.” The second line bugs me and I check Rhymezone, my favourite website, for alternatives. None suffice.
[6.30 p.m.] I eat tabbouleh punctuated by texts with my manager, John. He and I haven’t met in person because of COVID, but I am so glad he came on board when he did. I express a wish to have my music on "Grand Theft Auto VI," and he shows me some salt beef he’s been making. John is a food person and ever since I gave him my YouTube password for uploading videos, my watch history has largely been instructional videos on how to gut and fillet fish.
[6.45 p.m.] I “show up” to my eating disorder therapy group late on Zoom. Everybody seems to be working on calling their mothers less often. I can’t relate and should really call my mother. She’s a paediatrician and a truly great parent.
[8.45 p.m.] I abandon Ableton for "The Sopranos" reruns and the familiar attraction to James Gandolfini that most women I know harbour. Vanessa texts me about an “unappealing group show” which I say no to. Vanessa offers to decline the request herself, since I have a track record of writing “dear [gallery] No. kind regards, Issy”
[10.30 p.m.] I write on my blog then lie in a needlessly hot bath wondering what the prison time is for tax evasion and whether I’d thrive as an inmate.
[11.30 p.m.] I stagger from the tub into bed with texts from L.A. and New York unanswered. Someone is revving their car engine in my neighbourhood; Masculinity is so complicated.
Photo: Hugo Comte
Dua Lipa Talks 'Club Future Nostalgia,' Working With Madonna And How She's Navigating The Music Industry In The COVID-19 Era
The GRAMMY-winning pop superstar tells GRAMMY.com about the creative process behind her newly released remix album, the project's high-profile collaborations and the challenges of releasing music during the coronavirus age
Club Future Nostalgia is open for business. As clubs and bar spaces around the world remained closed during the COVID-19 era, British pop superstar Dua Lipa has created a virtual club experience with Club Future Nostalgia, her newly released remix album she developed and curated alongside Chicago DJ/producer The Blessed Madonna while in quarantine.
Released Friday (Aug. 28), Club Future Nostalgia remixes all the tracks off her latest album, Future Nostalgia, which Lipa dropped in late March just as the coronavirus pandemic began to spread widely around the world. The remix album, which features contributions from fellow Brits like Mark Ronson, Joe Goddard, Paul Woolford and Jacques Lu Cont as well as American and international electronic DJs/producers like Jayda G, Masters At Work, Yaeji and others, reimagines Future Nostalgia into a nearly hour-long set that spans '80s soul and '90s house music to today's Lipa-led disco-pop revival.
Other artists featured on the album include the Queen Of Pop, Madonna, and hip-hop icon Missy Elliott, who both guest on The Blessed Madonna's funky "Levitating" remix, as well as Gwen Stefani and K-pop princesses BLACKPINK.
The album's unique creative setting was central to the creation of Club Future Nostalgia, Lipa says.
"It was the perfect opportunity to create something like this," Lipa tells GRAMMY.com by phone. "I had what felt like all the time in the world, and everyone's at home. It doesn't really happen so often that you get the opportunity to collaborate with all these incredible producers and artists. I think it was of-the-moment that I was able to snap everyone up, especially The Blessed Madonna, who would've been on tour by [that] time. This album really came to be because of the current climate."
Five years ago this month, Lipa launched her career with the release of her debut single, "New Love." It would take more singles to build some buzz and nearly two years for her 2017 self-titled debut album to see the light of day. After a slow-burn success, she wowed the world with her 2017 breakthrough hit, "New Rules." Never limiting her musical horizons, she next delved into dance music via collaborations with Calvin Harris ("One Kiss") and Silk City ("Electricity"), Mark Ronson and Diplo's supergroup duo. The latter garnered her a GRAMMY win for Best Dance Recording in 2019. That same night, she also took home the coveted Best New Artist GRAMMY.
With the breakout success of Future Nostalgia further solidifying Lipa's name in the music industry, she's reached a point in her career where she can do as she pleases. She now has a Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart-topper under her belt with "Un Día (One Day)," a collaboration with J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Tainy. The sky's the limit for Lipa, but what she wants most is for her fans to find joy in Club Future Nostalgia.
Dua Lipa chatted with GRAMMY.com about the creative process behind Club Future Nostalgia, the album's high-profile remixes and collaborations and the challenges of releasing music in the age of COVID-19.
How did you manage to get Madonna on the "Levitating" remix?
It was very much a manifestation thing. I was thinking out loud. I was just talking with my manager and I was like, "You know who would sound really good on this? Madonna." And he said, "You know, we could try. We could send it to her and see if she likes it." She responded and she was so down. I was over the moon. I couldn't believe that she wanted to do this record with me. I'm such a fan. It was really exciting.
How did Gwen Stefani get involved with the "Physical" remix?
Oh my God! She is my queen. She's just amazing. When I got to interview her for "Jimmy Kimmel [Live!]," she was such a ball of light and energy. It was one of those things that just happened by chance. We had the "Hollaback Girl" sample on the remix album and we were contacting her and her team to get it cleared. I was like, "While we're at it, we should just ask her if she wants to be on the record." She was so down. She loved the "Physical" remix that Mark Ronson did. She was totally up for jumping on it. When I was waiting for her vocal to come in, I was jumping around like a 5-year-old. I was so excited.
"Physical" sounds like it was made for Gwen. She sounds great on it.
Yeah, she snapped! [Laughs.]
What was the experience like to work with BLACKPINK on "Kiss And Make Up"?
On the original version, it was really cool and fun. I had written "Kiss And Make Up" probably a year and a bit before it came out. It didn't quite fit with my album at the time, and I wanted to put it out, but I wanted it to be really special.
I did a show in Seoul. [BLACKPINK's] Jennie and Lisa came to the show to hang out. We had an absolute blast. Immediately after hanging out with them, I was like, "I have a crazy idea. I have this song and I would love for you guys to be on it." They were so up for it and they went in the studio and translated the lyrics. It worked out so perfectly. It's one of my favorite collaborations that I've done.
The album comes with an extensive animated visualizer. Where did the idea for that come from?
Being in quarantine and lockdown, I had to think outside the box. While I was preparing the "Hallucinate" video, which I ended up doing an animation for with the animator Lisha Tan, who is amazing; it was so exciting to do that with her. I thought, "What a perfect time to try to get as many incredible and fun animators to bring their own world with every song." That's what we did with the remix album, where every producer and DJ threw their flavor and take on it. I thought it was the perfect pairing to create an animated visual video.
Again, during this time, when would I ever be able to have the opportunity to work with so many incredible animators and artists? It's been an amazing thing to see so many people come together to create this record. A lot of time, effort and love has been put into it. It's been a fun way to reimagine the album.
Thank you. That's such a compliment for me, especially from my first album moving into my next. I wanted to do something that felt fresh and new, something that touched on a memory, something that always rings so true to me, especially in my childhood. To be able to recreate that in a modern way was an absolute dream for me. I'm so happy that I stood by and honed in on that sound that I love. It makes me feel so good. I'm really proud of this record because I feel like I found my [footing] as an artist and as a songwriter. I really wrote things that I absolutely love. It's definitely a milestone for me in my career.
Future Nostalgia was also one of the first major albums to be released at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. What was that experience like?
At times, especially a couple days before, it was scary. It was a time of uncertainty that I was like, "I don't even know if people need my music right now." I was scared that maybe it won't get received well or that it would come across as tone-deaf because there was so much suffering.
In the preparation to put it out, I remembered that I created this record to get away from any pressures or anxieties from the outside world. The album made me feel happy and want to dance. That persuaded me, like maybe this would at least get people's minds off what's going on and make them want to dance and feel happy.
I'm grateful for the way people responded and the messages and videos I was sent. All the love that was pouring in—I was so happy. It still makes me so excited when people are like, "Thank you, because it was like the soundtrack to all our workouts and motivated us to stay fit during this quarantine." [Laughs.]
What was the experience like to work with J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Tainy on "Un Día (One Day)"?
It was really fun. They have such great energies, such lovely boys. What I love to do with the collaborations I do is always something that people don't expect me to do, something that's a little bit outside of my comfort zone. I love to experiment. I love to surprise people and learn so much from my peers. It was such a great experience. I love the song.
I feel like it's another one that when I listen to it, it immediately transports me somewhere really sunny and warm. I feel like I'm by the beach when I listen to it. It was exciting for me to write to a track that I wouldn't naturally do for my own project. I think that's the magic of music and collaborations at this time. Everything is so genre-bending.
It's been five years since you released your debut single, "New Love." What have you learned about yourself in that time?
I think from five years ago, I really did stick to everything I believed in the beginning. And that was sticking to my vision, talking about my stories and being open and standing by things that I believe in and never backing down and believing in my art. That's something that I told myself five years ago that I stuck by. I always want to grow and learn so much. I really stuck to those words so much, so I feel like it helped me and guided me so much during this process.
You won the GRAMMY for Best New Artist in 2019. How did you feel when that happened?
Oh my God! I literally think I blacked out in that moment because I had to go back and listen to my speech afterwards. I was so nervous that all I did was "umm" and "ahh" because I just couldn't believe it. Like my whole world just exploded right in front of my eyes. It was the most insane thing to have ever happened. To be recognized by my peers and to have the opportunity to be up there was absolutely incredible and surreal. It definitely pushed me to be better and do better and work harder and really stick by what I believe in. I'm really grateful. I wanted to prove that I deserved it.
You have always used your platform to support the LGBTQ+ community. Do you have a message for your LGBTQ+ fans?
Absolutely. I always believed that everyone deserves to live their truth. Tomorrow isn't promised, so we have to be as loud as we can and be proud. There's so much love and support, and I'm right here for you. I'm here every step of the way, and I love you. Thank you for everything that the LGBTQ+ community has done for me. I couldn't have done it without them.