Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Rage Against The Machine perform at L.A. Rising in 2011
Electric Picnic 2020 Lineup: Rage Against The Machine, Snow Patrol, The Chemical Brothers, Lewis Capaldi And More Announced
Ireland's sold-out summer festival will also feature Irish group Picture This, Run The Jewels, Denzel Curry, Skepta, Annie Mac, Rick Astley, Helena Hauff and many others
Electric Picnic, one of Ireland's leading festivals, has today (March 11) announced the initial lineup for its 2020 iteration. The sold-out three-day event, taking place September 4-6 in Stradbally Hall in Stradbally, County Laois, Ireland, has confirmed headliners Rage Against The Machine, who recently reunited for the first time in nearly a decade, Snow Patrol, The Chemical Brothers, Irish group Picture This and Lewis Capaldi. The lineup also includes Run The Jewels, Denzel Curry, Skepta, Annie Mac, Rick Astley, Helena Hauff and others, with many more to be announced.
The festival's lineup announcement comes in the midst of the global coronavirus outbreak, which has recently caused multiple festivals and tours around the world to cancel or postpone, including Coachella and Stagecoach in Southern California as well as Ultra Music Festival in Miami and SXSW in Austin.
In an interview with Irish daily newspaper The Irish Times, festival organizer Melvin Benn of Festival Republic, the company behind Electric Picnic, said he does not expect to cancel or postpone the festival due to the coronavirus.
"I'm not worried about it at all," he said. "I'm full steam ahead unless the governments here and in the U.K. say we can't go ahead... I'm 100 per cent of the belief that by June we will all be over the hump and we will all have forgotten about it, quite frankly, and all you buggers will find something else to write about it.
"At this point in time I have got nothing in my head other than planning for this festival to take place at the time it will take place. When you put it in perspective about the number of people that could be seriously hurt, I think it has been whipped up a little bit, but it's a great news story.
"The reality is that, for me, I'm about providing entertainment outdoors until somebody forces me to stop."
In the same interview, Benn, who called this year's lineup “incredible, with five headliners," acknowledged the lack of female headliners at Electric Picnic 2020, noting an absence of female headlining acts this summer, according to The Irish Times. “We are completely committed to bringing women through all of the line-ups, but there is not a gender-balance ability across the headliners generally at the moment," he said.
Launched in 2004, Electric Picnic is an award-winning festival and one of the biggest music and arts gatherings in Ireland. In 2019, the festival featured headliners The Strokes, Florence + the Machine, Hozier and The 1975, among many others.
Tickets for Electric Picnic 2020 are now sold out. Head to the festival's official website for more information and to view the full lineup.
Photos: Antoine Flament/Getty Images; Amy Sussman/WireImage; Santiago Felipe/GettyImages; Ki Price; Rosie Cohe; Edward Cooke; Mauricio Santana/Getty Images
15 Must-Hear Albums This September: Olivia Rodrigo, Kylie Minogue, James Blake & More
Get your fall playlist ready. From pop blockbusters to the return of rock icons, check out 15 genre-spanning albums dropping in September.
With summer almost in the rear view, it’s time to welcome the first must-hear albums of the fall season. With the onset of chillier days comes a genre-spanning array of new music — from R&B sensation Jorja Smith to indie-rock maestro Mitski.
September's first big release comes from rock royalty the Pretenders, who return at the top of the month with their twelfth studio album, Relentless. The following week, pop firebrand Olivia Rodrigo will reveal GUTS, the feverishly anticipated follow-up to her 2021 debut, SOUR.
Rodrigo shares a release date with star-studded company, including disco queen Róisín Murphy, dance veterans the Chemical Brothers, shapeshifting singer/songwriter James Blake, and soul newcomer Jalen Ngonda. Elsewhere in the month, there’s something for all tastes, from the pop-rock reawakening of Demi Lovato to the noodly electronics of Animal Collective.
As we gear up for a season packed with musical highs, we’ve put together a handy guide to the 15 must-hear albums dropping in September 2023.
The Pretenders - Relentless
Release date: Sept. 1
For a band that released its debut album in 1979, the Pretenders still sounds remarkably vital 44 years on. Led by iconic songwriter and frontwoman Chrissie Hynde, the band is back in full force this September with the appropriately titled Relentless, which follows 2020’s on-form Hate for Sale.
The Pretenders announced their twelfth LP with a rousing-yet-poetic lead single, "Let the Sun Come In," and the album closes with an intriguing collaboration with Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood on strings.
"I think anyone in a band is constantly questioning if they should keep going," Hynde said of the album’s title in a statement. "It starts as a youthful pursuit and eventually, it makes you wonder, why am I doing this? It’s the life of the artist. You never retire. You become relentless."
Speedy Ortiz - Rabbit Rabbit
Release date: Sept. 1
Philadelphia rock quartet Speedy Ortiz has kept fans waiting five long years for a new LP, having released their pop-inflected Twerp Verse back in 2018. This September, the band returns with Rabbit Rabbit, its first album on mercurial frontwoman Sadie Dupuis’ label, Wax Nine.
To record Rabbit Rabbit, Speedy Ortiz jumped between two locations steeped in rock lore: Rancho de la Luna in Joshua Tree and Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas. The band has already shared a few songs so far, including the spiky "You S02" and the crunching, cathartic closer "Ghostwriter." The album also opens with a song called "Kim Cattrall."
"I turned 33 while writing this album, a palindrome birthday and a lucky number associated with knowledge," Dupuis said in a statement. "I wanted to mark how I was making better choices as I got older, letting go of heedless anger even when it’s warranted."
Olivia Rodrigo - GUTS
Release date: Sept. 8
As far as breakout albums go, Olivia Rodrigo’s SOUR was about as good as it gets. Powered by the stage-setting singles "drivers license" and "deja vu," the album dropped in May 2021 as a balm for dark pandemic days. Coming in at a lean 34 minutes, SOUR was all killer, no filler— and went on to pick up Best Pop Vocal Album at the 2022 GRAMMYs, alongside Rodrigo’s wins for Best Pop Solo Performance ("drivers license") and Best New Artist.
With Rodrigo now a bona fide pop superstar, she’s readying her second album, GUTS, for a buzzy September drop. Lead single "vampire" arrived back in June with a lush, swelling sound (producer Dan Nigro makes several appearances on GUTS) and score-settling lyrics that cut like a knife. Rodrigo followed this strong return with "bad idea right?," a gleefully fun throwback to the pop-punk and grunge that soundtracked her teens.
In an interview with the New York Times ahead of GUTS, Rodrigo enthused about embracing crunchy guitars and big emotional swings: "\[I\] always loved rock music, and always wanted to find a way that I could make it feel like me, and make it feel feminine and still telling a story and having something to say that’s vulnerable and intimate."
James Blake - Playing Robots In Heaven
Release date: Sept. 8
Following 2021’s acclaimed Friends That Break Your Heart, which featured guest turns from the likes of SZA, JID and Monica Martin, James Blake is stripping it back to basics on his sixth studio album, Playing Robots Into Heaven.
This time around, the etherally-voiced singer has seemingly gone back to the electronic roots of his earlier works that emerged as part of the UK’s post-dubstep scene.
With no featured guests, the tracklist includes the already-released singles "Big Hammer," which is all chopped-up samples and low-end frequencies, and "Loading," which recalls the vocal manipulations of the producer’s self-titled debut LP. Blake also shared the ambient title track, which will close the album in perfect contemplation.
Jalen Ngonda - Come Around and Love Me
Release date: Sept. 8
Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., Jalen Ngonda was immersed from an early age in soul music, courtesy of his music-obsessed father. Fast forward to 2023, and Ngonda is himself a talented soul artist signed to the revered Brooklyn indie label Daptone Records.
The singer's debut album, Come Around and Love Me, features lushly arranged singles "If You Don’t Want My Love" and "Just Like You Used To," which showcase his timeless vocal prowess.
The Chemical Brothers - For That Beautiful Feeling
Release date: Sept. 8
On their ninth album, 2019’s No Geography, UK electronic duo the Chemical Brothers sounded thrillingly energized. Now, after weathering a global pandemic, the veteran producers return with their tenth studio outing, For That Beautiful Feeling.
The album features a new version of the duo’s cautiously hopeful 2021 release, "The Darkness That You Fear," alongside the propulsive, classically-Chems single, "No Reason," and collaborations with indie darling Beck and French singer/songwriter Halo Maud.
The duo is set to follow the album in October with a career-spanning retrospective book, Paused in Cosmic Reflection, that’ll have fans clamoring.
Demi Lovato - REVAMPED
Release date: Sept. 15
Already an experienced master of reinvention, Demi Lovato is continuing her rock era with REVAMPED 5. On last year’s Holy Fvck, the pop chameleon wholeheartedly embraced hard rock and pop-punk, including collaborations with Yungblud, Royal & the Serpent and Dead Sara.
While touring Holy Fvck, Lovato also played heavier versions of her earlier songs, and discovered her fans loved it. This inspired her to re-record rock versions of ten songs from past albums, including Demi and Confident, which are now brought together on REVAMPED.
On the evidence of early singles like "Heart Attack (Rock Version)" and "Sorry Not Sorry (Rock Version)", the latter featuring Guns N Roses shredder Slash, Lovato is relishing the chance to rock out.
Mitski - The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We
Release date: Sept. 15
Back in July, ever-inventive singer-songwriter Mitski sent a voice memo to fans via her newsletter. "Hi, this is Mitski, and I’m at Bomb Shelter Studios in Nashville, where we recorded my new album that’s coming out," Mitski revealed. "It’s called The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We, and its first single is coming out on Wednesday."
That beautifully elegiac first single "Bug Like An Angel" suggests a heart-rending album to come from one of the boldest voices in indie-rock. The single also features a surprising (and powerfully effective) appearance from a 17-person choir that’s likely to appear elsewhere on The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We. As Mitski teased in a statement, "This is my most American album."
NEEDTOBREATHE - CAVES
Release date: Sept. 15
Following 2021’s Into The Mystery and its country-rock crossover hit, "I Wanna Remember," featuring Carrie Underwood, Christian rock troupe NEEDTOBREATHE returns with their ninth album, CAVES.
As documented in an intimate making-of video, the GRAMMY-winning band assembled in a house overlooking the majestic mountains of Utah to begin writing the album, which they completed while on the road with OneRepublic.
"We always believed we could make a record that would feel at home on the world’s biggest stages," the band wrote in a statement announcing CAVES. "It was important to us to prove that we could. This is the most ambitious record we’ve made in a really long time."
Kylie Minogue - Tension
Release date: Sept. 22
Thanks to the runaway viral success of her dance-pop earworm "Padam Padam," 2023 has already been a triumphant year for Australian pop veteran Kylie Minogue. Released in May, the single went on to vie for song of the summer status, powered by countless dance videos on TikTok and its warm embrace as a Pride anthem.
Buoyed by her surprise chart hit, Minogue will release her sixteenth studio album, Tension. As suggested by the glossy cover art, and the presence of producers such as Oliver Heldens and Biff Stannard, Minogue is ready to reclaim her electro-pop crown.
"I started this album with an open mind and a blank page," Minogue said in a statement. "Unlike my last two albums, there wasn’t a 'theme.' It was about finding the heart or the fun or the fantasy of that moment and always trying to service the song."
Bakar - Halo
Release date: Sept. 22
Acclaimed British artist Bakar will help kick off the month in style with his second album, Halo. The sophomore release is billed as a sonic counterpart to his genre-hopping 2018 mixtape, BADKID. Like that breakout release, Halo is set to blend indie, punk and hip-hop, with Bakar’s beguiling voice at front and center.
Ahead of a busy summer jumping between festival stages, Bakar dropped a mood-lifting single, "Alive!," accompanied by a music video featuring the artist bringing traffic to a standstill (for real) in Central London.
Animal Collective - Isn't It Now?
Release date: Sept. 29
Following 2022’s Time Skiffs, experimental pop four-piece Animal Collective returns with its most expansive album to date. With a total runtime of 64 minutes, Isn’t It Now? will explore a rich sonic palette, as suggested by the layered and hypnotic single, "Soul Capturer."
Co-produced, mixed and recorded with GRAMMY-winning producer Russell Elevado, Isn’t It Now? reportedly finds each band member digging deep into their current musical whims — such as multi-instrumentalist Panda Bear focusing more on drumming.
The centerpiece of the album is "Defeat," a 22-minute epic that captures Animal Collective at its most exploratory.
Jorja Smith - Falling or Flying
Release date: Sept. 29
As one of the brightest stars to emerge from the UK in the past decade, Jorja Smith has already put together an accomplished discography. Following her 2018 debut, Lost & Found, and 2021’s three-track EP, Be Right Back, Smith will release her most complete artistic statement to date.
Like her previous releases, the singer’s long-awaited second album, Falling or Flying, will connect the dots between soul, R&B, UK garage and house, with a song for every mood and situation.
"This album is like my brain,” Smith said in a statement. “There’s always so much going on but each song is definitely a standstill moment." So far, Smith has given us two standout singles — the garage-tinged "Little Things" and the more contemplative "Try Me" — so anticipation is sky high.
TINASHE - BB/ANG3L
Release date: TBD
While it’s yet to lock an official release date, the hype is building for Tinashe’s sixth studio album, BB/ANG3L — her first under a new deal with GRAMMY-winning hitmaker Ricky Reed’s record label, Nice Life.
"I’ve enjoyed stripping back layers of aesthetic fluff, smoke & mirrors, and white noise to get down to the core of myself," the alternative R&B star said of the album in a statement.
On lead single, "Talk to Me Nice," Tinashe’s indelible smoky vocals are offset by skittering, seductive production from hip-hop beatmaker Scoop DeVille and electronic artist Nosaj Thing. Follow-up single "Needs" is another undeniable bop, setting the stage for a standout album.
(G)I-DLE - HEAT
Release date: Oct. 15
Prolific K-pop girl group (G)I-DLE is set to release its first English language project, HEAT.
HEAT follows the group’s 2022 debut album, I Never Die, which opens with the pop-punk-influenced single, "TOMBOY." While little has been revealed about HEAT, the project comes via the Asian market-focused U.S. music company 88rising and South Korean label Cube Entertainment, and will showcase the songwriting prowess of group leader Jeon So-yeon.
(G)I-DLE has released one single from HEAT so far — the highly polished synth-pop love song, "I DO" — and the anticipation has K-pop fans feeling giddy.
Photo: Paras Griffin/Getty Images
Outside Lands 2023: 10 Female And LGBTQIA+ Performers Taking Center Stage, From Lana Del Rey To Megan Thee Stallion
Outside Lands is stacking a sensational lineup for its 15th anniversary from Aug. 11 to 13. From aespa to Janelle Monáe, here's 10 awe-inspiring female and nonbinary artists who are ready to rule San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of San Francisco's Outside Lands, and while the festival always boasts the Bay Area's best, the 2023 lineup is especially stacked with incredible female and nonbinary talent. From aespa making K-pop history to La Doña's homecoming, the fest's latest iteration is bound to be badass.
As San Francisco transforms Golden Gate Park into a lavish festival ground for three days, check out these 10 performers ready to electrify the city.
Megan Thee Stallion
Time to get lit like a match. Megan Thee Stallion has been hitting stages across the country this year — from LA Pride to her hometown of Houston for the Men's NCAA Final Four — and there's no doubt she'll bring the heat to Golden Gate Park on Sunday. Though the three-time GRAMMY winner is known for her high-hype, feel-good freestyles, her latest album, Traumazine, opens up about anxiety and the importance of self-care. So whether you're having a hot or healing girl summer, her headlining set will be the spot for festgoers to let loose.
On Friday, Janelle Monáe will usher San Francisco into The Age of Pleasure. Sensuality and freedom flood the singer's most recent album, and for Monáe's headlining show, fans can expect bursting psychedelic soul, pop and hip-hop in an evening full of color and love.
Emphasizing intersectionality and identity (Monáe identifies as nonbinary), her wide-ranging performance will traverse her trailblazing concept albums like GRAMMY-nominated Dirty Computer and The ArchAndroid. Having conquered both the big screen and the stage as a multihyphenate, Monáe's set will be nothing short of a spectacle.
Hot off supporting Taylor Swift's Eras Tour, beabadoobee is headed to Golden Gate Park on Sunday afternoon. The Filipino-English singer/songwriter has carved out a space for herself between indie rock and bedroom pop, first becoming known for her sweet, spacey falsetto and her sleeper hit "Coffee" in 2020. The indie star has since expanded her worldbuilding abilities rapidly, spinning intricate scenes from her debut Fake It Flowers into her scenic second album Beatopia — similarly, beabadoobee's Outside Lands set will likely flaunt the vitality of her imagination.
Raveena is the definition of grace, and her Friday Outside Lands set is sure to swell with serenity. Mindfulness is the objective of the singer's soulful music as she grounds herself through tranquil mixes of R&B and pop. From her 2019 debut Lucid to 2022's Asha's Awakening, her voice epitomizes comfort whether it floats through delicate strings or stony drums. At Golden Gate Park, Raveena will bring momentary, blissful peace to the festival's chaotic fun.
Ethel Cain is ready to take concertgoers to church — even on a Friday. The experimental breakout star is known for dissecting dark, Southern Gothic themes in her music, establishing herself as a rising leader in the modern alternative genre (and also in the LGBTQIA+ community, as she is a trans woman). Her debut album Preacher's Daughter only came out last year, but the critically acclaimed album swiftly earned the musician a cult following. After bewitching Coachella audiences back in April, Cain's upcoming Outside Lands set is sure to be compelling.
More than 10 years after she wrote her first original song, NIKI is ready to storm the Twin Peaks stage. Her deeply sincere indie pop drifts with bittersweetness, and it's powerful to witness how well the Indonesian singer's intimacy translates to massive crowds.
Signed to label 88rising in 2017, NIKI soon found herself playing concerts for a growing global fan base that resonated with her heart-to-heart songwriting. Ranging from the dramatic depths of her debut album, MOONCHILD, to 2022's earnest self-titled Nicole, NIKI's Outside Lands set will be perfect for listeners who want to escape with their head in the clouds.
Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey is the reigning queen of summertime sadness, and she'll be doin' time at Golden Gate Park as one of Saturday's headliners. Known for spinning tales of tragic romance, the GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter plans to enchant audiences at Twin Peaks stage following her release of Did You Know There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Boulevard. Her discography haunts and aches, filled with everything from folky gospel to trap pop; if one thing's for sure, Del Rey's highly anticipated performance is bound to be a spiritual journey.
Born and raised in San Francisco, La Doña is making her city proud by performing at the Bay's biggest annual music festival. Taking the Lands End stage with her 11-piece band on Friday, the Chicana musician has come a long way since picking up the trumpet at age 7.
Centering around personal identity and community, her music beautifully merges traditional Latin folk with modern cumbia, reggaeton, and hip-hop. La Doña's progressive sound just earned her a spot on Barack Obama's annual summer playlist, and less than a month later, her hometown will get to see what all of the hype is about.
When aespa takes to Twin Peaks stage Friday, they'll make history as the first K-pop act to ever perform at Outside Lands. Exploding onto the music scene in 2020, the innovative South Korean girl group gives K-pop a fresh edge, distinctively inspired by hyperpop and hip-hop. The group's name combines the words "avatar," "experience," and "aspect," representing their futuristic style that's often embellished by a metaverse aesthetic. Their mind-blowing Coachella and Governors Ball debuts hinted that aespa is ready to pull out all the stops for their Outside Lands crowd.
Maggie Rogers knows how to break free. The 2020 Best New Artist GRAMMY nominee will get the crowd hyped for Saturday headliners Foo Fighters with an enthralling set. Although her debut album Heard It in a Past Life pulses with steady revelations, her alternative follow-up Surrender leans into sweat and desire. As she's proven at many festivals past, Rogers' show will be infused with bright energy, from the slow emotional burn of "Light On" to the exhilarating "Want Want" as the sun goes down.
Photo: Jonathan Mannion
Killer Mike Says His New Album, 'Michael,' Is "Like A Prodigal Son Coming Home"
'Michael,' Killer Mike's first solo album in more than a decade drops June 16. He spoke to GRAMMY.com about creating a portrait of the Southern rap cyphers, Sunday church services, and barbershop discourse that shaped who he is today.
After more than 20 years in hip-hop — as one-half of the supergroup Run The Jewels and also as a solo artist — the Atlanta rapper Killer Mike is ready to make what he calls "a generational statement."
Born Michael Render, the activist rapper's statement comes in the form of his personal "origin story": a 14-song solo album called Michael. The album, Killer Mike’s sixth solo effort, drops June 16 and follows 2012’s R.A.P. Music. In support of the new record, he's touring 19 U.S. cities through Aug. 5.
"I’m one of the best rappers on the face of the earth, and that is authentic. Go to the records. My verses have proved it," Render, 48, told GRAMMY.com. "I’m tired of sitting and waiting for people to say it for me. I’m not waiting, I’m doing it now. My run matters. I’m not gonna die with a woulda been coulda been eulogy."
Michael stands in contrast to the big, bombastic (and less personal) vibe of Run The Jewels, who have released four albums since forming in 2013. While Render's solo outings have always been a mix of bravado and personal, his latest is particularly deep and insightful, dealing with the death of his mother, and his life growing up in the predominantly Black neighborhood Collier Heights, Atlanta.
"There is a character behind Killer Mike that is a whole human being that I’ve always wanted people to meet and introduce so they can understand the nuance of why I am," Render said during an event at SXSW 2023. "It is about helping other human beings understand that I share an experience with you, that you can meet me at, that transcends color, that transcends class, that transcends geographic location, and I meet you right at your humanity."
On Michael, Render puts his guard down. He allows himself to grieve the death of his mother and apologize for selling drugs as a teenager. Throughout the autobiographical album, Render paints a portrait of the southern rap cyphers, Sunday church services, and barbershop discourse that shaped who he is today.
"That Killer Mike character was invented when I was 9. I just wanted to be an MC, and Killer Mike was like me being a superhero," Render tells GRAMMY.com. "But when you hear me talking about my mother, I’m empty now. It’s not sad, but it’s about missing and wanting."
Render’s parents were teenagers when he was born, so he was raised in part by his grandparents in Collier Heights, Atlanta. Render credits the culture of his community with shaping who is today.
"I didn’t grow up with insecurities about race, I grew up in a Black majority," he tells GRAMMY.com. "The closest I got to white people growing up was watching Bob Ross or 'The Wonder Years' on TV. But all my real heroes looked like me."
Render says he never felt inhibited by his Blackness, because Blackness was celebrated in Collier Heights. His community introduced him to Black intellectuals like James Baldwin and Langston Hughes, who also celebrated Blackness. It never occurred to Render to not pursue hip-hop or politics or activism — and he never doubted that he could be an artist or MC.
He first rapped on Atlanta-based hip-hop group Outkast’s 2000 album Stankonia, and launched a solo career soon after. In the 2000s, his songs landed on Billboard charts and the EA Sports "Madden NFL 2004" football video game. Render also did voice over work during the 2000s for Adult Swim and appeared in films like Idlewild and ATL. He guest-rapped on Outkast’s 2003 double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, which was nominated for six golden gramophones at the 2004 GRAMMYs and won three, including Album Of The Year.
Two very important relationships forged in the 2010s have done much to shape Render’s trajectory since: one with producer and rapper El-P (the other half of Run The Jewels), the other with Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
El-P is essentially the yin to Killer Mike’s yang. El-P produced Render's previous solo records, and the two have been collaborating ever since; Killer Mike has called their relationship a "marriage made in heaven." Run The Jewels has toured with Rage Against The Machine and Lorde, opened for Jack White at Madison Square Garden, been nominated for a GRAMMY Award, and won NME’s Best International Band award in 2018. Rolling Stone called Run The Jewels "brash" and added, "If there were a GRAMMY for Most Creative Ways to Say 'We’re the Best,' these guys would win it, or take it by gunpoint."
Render’s political activism kicked into high gear in 2015, first with lectures at NYU and MIT on police brutality, for-profit jails, and racism in America. He made a last-minute — and ultimately unsuccessful — run for a Georgia state representative seat, and he forged an unlikely public friendship with then-presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders. Render told reporters that he and Sanders were "two angry radical guys, one 74 and white, one 40 and Black, finding common ground."
Render took his politics and activism much further. He co-founded an online banking system for Black and Latinx communities alongside former Atlanta mayor and civil rights leader Andrew Young, and has written op-eds in response to the police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the Baltimore uprisings in response to Freddie Gray’s death. On the 2019 Netflix show, "Trigger Warning," Render explored notions of land ownership, gangs, education, and consumerism.
All of his experiences — as a child of the South, as a rapper, and as a political thinker — inform the new album.
"Remember when Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote 'Letter to My Son'? People got a glimpse into Blackhood that wasn’t about absentee fatherhood and other cliches," Render tells GRAMMY.com. "Similarly, my album, even if you haven’t lived my life, it gives you a chance to be a voyeur, and that’s important."
Michael takes its time to unfold; personal subject matter unfolds verse after verse, over laid-back tempos executive produced by No I.D. Somber music provides a bed for Render and guests — among them, Andre 3000, Young Thug, Future, Ty Dolla $ign, Blxst, Curren$y, and Mozzy — to stretch out on. Slightly more aggressive, urgent-sounding songs like opening track "Down By Law" and "Talkin Dat SHIT!," which appears later in the album, are buffered by tunes that could uplift a church congregation.
"It’s imperative that I get that out and introduce people to this buck-toothed kid who grew up with hip-hop, out of wedlock fatherhood," Render says. "This record is like a prodigal son coming home. It’s my generational statement. If August Wilson was writing a rap album, this would be his 'Fences.'"
Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for MTV Entertainment
10 Artists Who Are Outspoken About Mental Health: Billie Eilish, Selena Gomez, Shawn Mendes & More
From Ed Sheeran to Janet Jackson, take a look at some of the major music stars who have shared their struggles with mental health — and helped fans feel supported and seen in the process.
Sharing mental health issues with close family or specialized medical professionals can be challenging enough. Add in the pressures of fame and being in the public eye, and any struggles are exponentially more difficult to cope with.
In recent years, though, mental health has become a much more widely discussed topic in celebrity culture. Several artists have used their music and their platform to open up about their own struggles with depression, anxiety and the like, from Bruce Springsteen to Selena Gomez.
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month this May, GRAMMY.com highlights the inspirational impact of music superstars who speak out about what they're going through, and how they manage their challenges. These 10 performers are making change through their courage and candor.
Ed Sheeran takes fans behind the curtain of his personal life and struggles with mental health in Ed Sheeran: The Sum of It All. The four-episode docuseries, which is now streaming on Disney+, details the pain of losing his best friend Jamal Edwards and his wife Cherry Seaborn receiving a cancer diagnosis while she was pregnant with their daughter Jupiter.
"What I think is really great about the documentary is the themes that it explores, everyone goes through," Sheeran said at the New York City premiere on May 2, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "Everyone goes through grief. Everyone goes through ups and downs of their mental health."
Sheeran dives deeper into his struggles — and is more vulnerable than ever before — on his latest album Subtract, which arrived on May 5. "Running from the light/ Engulfed in darkness/ Sharing my eyes/ Wondering why I'm stuck on the borderline," he sings on album cut "Borderline," which touches on battling suicide thoughts.
Like Sheeran, Scottish singer Lewis Capaldi also gave fans an incredibly upfront look at his mental health challenges in a documentary, How I'm Feeling Now. The new Netflix release details his experience with anxiety and Tourette's syndrome, taking viewers to physical therapy with Capaldi and discussing how his medication both helps and hurts the quality of his life.
Capaldi's second album, Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent (due May 19) will further explore his anxieties and vulnerability. While he has admitted it wasn't easy to be so raw in his music and on screen, Capaldi wants to make a difference in other people's lives. "If people notice things that are concurrent with what's going on in their life, then it's all been worth it," he told Variety.
While Billie Eilish's music has been raw and real from the start, her music has become increasingly more vulnerable throughout the years. Whether in her music or in interviews, the star has opened up about dealing with body dysmorphia, depression and thoughts of self-harm — hoping to inspire fans to speak up when they are hurting, and to know that it gets better.
"It doesn't make you weak to ask for help," she asserts in a 2019 video for Ad Council's Seize The Awkward campaign, which features stars discussing mental health.
"Kids use my songs as a hug," she told Rolling Stone earlier that year. "Songs about being depressed or suicidal or completely just against-yourself — some adults think that's bad, but I feel that seeing that someone else feels just as horrible as you do is a comfort. It's a good feeling."
As one of the most-followed stars on social media, Selena Gomez has often used her formidable presence to discuss her mental health and connect with others. In 2022, the singer launched a startup called Wondermind, which is focused on "mental fitness" and helping users maintain strong mental health.
Just a few months later, Gomez further chronicled her own mental health journey in an Apple TV+ documentary, Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me, which shows extremes she's suffered with her depression and bipolar disorder. She has said she was initially hesitant to share the film, but ultimately reflected on how many others could be helped if she did.
"Because I have the platform I have, it's kind of like I'm sacrificing myself a little bit for a greater purpose," she explained in a 2022 cover story with Rolling Stone. "I don't want that to sound dramatic, but I almost wasn't going to put this out. God's honest truth, a few weeks ago, I wasn't sure I could do it."
In 2019, Shawn Mendes first publicly addressed his struggles with anxiety in the dynamic — and GRAMMY-nominated — hit "In My Blood." Three years later, the singer postponed his 2022 tour in order to focus on his mental health, opening up an important conversation to his legion of fans.
"The process was very difficult," he said in a February interview with Wall Street Journal. "A lot of doing therapy, a lot of trying to understand how I was feeling and what was making me feel that way. And then doing the work to help myself and heal. And also leaning on people in my life to help a little bit.
"It's been a lot of work, but I think the last year and a half has been the most eye-opening and growing and beautiful and just healing process of my life," he continued. "And it just really made me see how culture is really starting to get to a place where mental health is really becoming a priority."
Even an artist as successful and celebrated as Bruce Springsteen has faced depression. In his 2016 autobiography Born to Run, the 20-time GRAMMY winner cites a difficult relationship with his father and a history of mental illness in the family, sharing that he has sought treatment throughout his life.
"I was crushed between 60 and 62, good for a year, and out again from 63 to 64," he wrote in the book. In that time, he released his 2012 album, Wrecking Ball, which featured a raw track called "This Depression." "Baby, I've been down, but never this down I've been lost, but never this lost," he sings on the opening verse.
As his wife, Patti Scialfa, told Vanity Fair in 2016, "He approached the book the way he would approach writing a song…A lot of his work comes from him trying to overcome that part of himself."
The physical and emotional abuse suffered by the famous Jackson family is well-documented in books, documentaries and TV dramatizations. But it's only been in recent years that Janet Jackson has talked about her own depression, which she has referred to as "intense." Her son Aissa has helped her heal from mental health challenges that have followed her all of her life.
"In my 40s, like millions of women in the world, I still heard voices inside my head berating me, voices questioning my value," she wrote in a 2020 ESSENCE cover story. "Happiness was elusive. A reunion with old friends might make me happy. A call from a colleague might make me happy. But because sometimes I saw my failed relationships as my fault, I easily fell into despair."
After seeing global success with her debut single, "Ex's & Oh's," Elle King experienced the woes of sudden fame as well as a crumbling marriage. Her second album, 2018's Shake the Spirit, documented her struggles with self-doubt, medicinal drinking and PTSD.
"There's two ways out," she told PEOPLE in 2018, describing her marriage as "destructive," physically abusive and leading her to addiction. "You can take the bad way out or you can get help. I got help because I knew that I have felt good in my life and I knew I could get there again."
Certain public situations can trigger crippling anxiety attacks for Brendon Urie, who has been open about mental health concerns throughout his career. He can perform in front of thousands of fans, but he's revealed that being in the grocery store or stuck in an elevator for too long with other people are among some of his most uncomfortable scenarios in his life.
"You would never tell on the surface, but inside it's so painful I can't even describe," the former Panic! At The Disco frontman — who disbanded the group earlier this year to focus on his family — said in a 2016 interview with Kerrang.
Rapper Big Sean and his mother released a series of educational videos during Mental Health Awareness Month in 2021 — two years after the Detroit-born star started talking about his own long-held depression and anxiety publicly.
"I was just keeping it real because I was tired of not keeping it real," he said in an interview with ESSENCE in 2021. "I was tired of pretending I was a machine and everything was cool and being politically correct or whatever. I just was like, I'm a just say how I feel."
Like many of his peers, he hopes that his honesty will help others. "Whatever they can apply to their life and better themselves and maybe it just even starts a whole journey in a different direction as far as upgrading and taking care of themselves and bossing up themselves," he added. "Whatever they're trying to do, I hope it helps them get to that place."