meta-scriptEllie Goulding Talks Songwriting, Loving Skrillex & Björk & Growing Up On Electronic Music | GRAMMY.com
Ellie Goulding

Ellie Goulding

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Ellie Goulding Talks Songwriting, Loving Skrillex & Björk & Growing Up On Electronic Music

"If I could be described as being a musician that gave people hope, then I'd be really happy," the GRAMMY-nominated pop singer/songwriter told the Recording Academy in the latest episode of Up Close & Personal

GRAMMYs/Jun 28, 2019 - 01:38 am

Looking back at the music that British pop singer/songwriter Ellie Goulding has put out over the last decade, it's clear that her powerful voice works well on all types of tracks. The GRAMMY nominee is the perfect vocalist for EDM bangers like "I Need Your Love," from Calvin Harris' 2012 GRAMMY-nominated heater 18 Months, and Skrillex's "Summit," from his 2011 GRAMMY-winning rave album, Bangarang, as well as for more laid-back, piano-backed love songs like "Flux" and "How Long Will I Love You."

Her latest single, "Hate Me," released June 26, showcases her prowess as a collaborator with rappers. On the new track, the songstress links up with rising rap star Juice WRLD, as the pair stands up to unappreciative lovers.

Goulding recently stopped by the Recording Academy headquarters for an in-depth conversation in our latest episode of Up Close & Personal, which you can watch above and check out on our YouTube page for a longer version of the video, as well as the other recent episodes. Read on to learn how she feels when she looks back on the songs she's written over the last decade, what it was like to work with Diplo and Skrillex and how she's always loved electronic music. She also explains her reaction to hearing GRAMMY nominee Björk for the first time, why environmental activism is so important to her and more.

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Your most recent music video, for "Sixteen," is really sweet. Can you talk about the story and message behind it?

Well, I wrote "Sixteen" a few years ago and really it was about the idea that you develop yourself around that age. Well, for me anyway, it was really the age that I was discovering everything about myself and becoming who I am in a way. It was a pivotal time where I was figuring out music I really loved and friends and suddenly falling madly, deeply, uncontrollably in love with people. That song really was intended to be a nostalgic celebration and the video is about two friends who have this very close relationship.

I think now, it's so much more, not acceptable, but you can be so much more open with your friendships and it's okay to have a really close friendship with someone of the same sex or with anyone and there's no black and white anymore, which is great. I had those really close friendships with my girlfriends at that age and then some of my girlfriends are still with the person that they fell in love with at that age and they're now in their 30s and have kids with this person that they met at that age.

You've put out a lot of huge tracks over the past nine years, all the way back to "Starry Eyed" in 2010. What are a few of your personal favorites? Has your relationship with your earlier tracks changed over the years?

Oh my gosh. My relationship with all of my early songs has changed. I only get them out on very special occasions. When I listen back to the songs and the lyrics, I do feel a bit silly at some of the lyrics. I feel like they're kind of immature and they're a real marker of that time, where I feel like I didn't know anything about anything and I would write a very naïve perspective of what I thought love was. When I think back to those situations, I think that actually was me a lot of the time in the raw or me doing something stupid. In the song, I maybe portray it as differently or the other person's fault. I do think about my old songs a lot in that way, but I don't regret writing them. Once time has passed, I keep having to move on with songs. They're real markers in the book that I keep writing. It's very hard for me to go back in time with them, but "Anything Could Happen" is a big favorite because I just remember being in such a happy place when I wrote it.

It was melancholy because I had just broken up with somebody, which as we all know is for some reason the most painful thing in the world, but at the same time I was back in my hometown writing with somebody that also lives in my hometown and we just came up with this song, and whenever I play it live it just has this euphoria and brings everyone together and I see people in the crowd just so happy and it has some kind of rave element to it that makes everyone go a little bit crazy. Yeah, so I have such good memories of that song and it was also just one of those songs I wrote in half an hour. It just happened. I also am very proud of the song "Flux," which I played earlier. I was just proud of myself for the honesty and the way that I managed to capture what I was feeling.

Sometimes I'm like, "God, do I really want to write this about this person?" but sometimes I just have to tell the truth and even if it shows how emotional I am or shows my true colors or whatever, it just has to happen. That was one of those moments with that song. I'm proud of all the songs I've written. I'm proud of the huge cheesy pop songs and I'm proud of the more obscure weird ones, like when I first released a song called "Under the Sheets" on an EP with a song called "Fighter Plane," and I'm proud of how I was thinking at that age. I was maybe 20 and I was already writing in a somewhat mature way. [Laughs.] I'm having a proud moment.

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It's like the songs are the chapters of your life, and while the stories are super specific to you, so many people can relate to them.

I think subconsciously I've always written with other people in mind. Not in the sense that I want to please people, but I love the idea of providing people with a resolution, or with some kind of consolation for what they're going through. Music is one of the most powerful things in the world and we all speak its language. When I write lyrics, I understand how much of an impact they can have on people, so I'm always aware of that. When I'm writing about a breakup or I'm writing about the state of the world or the planet or whatever, I try and make it hopeful. If I could be described as being a musician that gave people hope, then I'd be really happy.

"If I could be described as being a musician that gave people hope, then I'd be really happy."

You've worked with some really big names in dance music: Diplo, Skrillex and Calvin Harris, to name a few. Can you talk a little bit about what you've learned working with those producers?

I think collaboration in general is somewhere you learn about yourself and you learn about compromise and it makes you realize how much of a unique artist you are because you're never just going to go in and have completely the same opinions on things and artistic ideas or directions. It's a learning curve, working with other people. I've written with writers where we both agree that it's not right; it was great to meet you, but it didn't quite gel well. Sometimes I write with writers where we're best friends by the next day and we're texting every day. There's some people that I feel so comfortable with, which is not that many people, that I just text them lyrics and say, "What do you think about this?," or send ideas or voice notes.

Diplo is someone I've gone back to. He's completely bat sh*t crazy. [Laughs.] But he's funny and he does respect artist's individuality, so he's really great to work with. And you know whatever he's going to do is going to be completely fresh and new and no one else has done it.

And then Skrillex, when I first met him, he was a pioneer in electronic music. Actually, I really feel like he was a new sound, he was refreshing and I was completely fascinated and completely enthralled by what he was doing and I just wanted to be a part of that. I have such an affinity for electronic music and since I was a kid, my mom listened to lots of rave music and dance music and we had a very specific phase in the U.K. in London, especially of dance music.

We had garage and then we had deep house and we like to think of ourselves as having a very unique place in music in that sense in London. I was completely inspired by that growing up. I only discovered musicians and people playing instruments in bands when I was a teen. I never listened to The Beatles. I never listened to Fleetwood Mac. I never listened to Bob Dylan, so it was just a sensory overload by the time I listened to all these singers like Stevie Nicks, Joni Mitchell, that it was a new world. That's probably when I realized that I could be a singer because I had this really unusual voice that I didn't know could be a thing until I heard other singers with unique voices and lyrics and honesty and I thought, "Oh, I could do this."

Is there a specific moment where you remember an artist that you listened to that you then thought, "Oh, I could have a place in music"?

Yeah, I came home one night and I was a bit drunk and I think we'd been out camping somewhere in a field. I grew up in the middle of nowhere. I switched on the TV. Tiny box TV at the time and Björk was singing on stage somewhere. I think maybe at the Albert Hall in London. I just remember being completely transfixed. I'd never seen anyone sing or perform like it before. All of a sudden I'd gone from listening to pop singers. I loved Lauryn Hill. I loved Alicia Keys. I loved Beyoncé. I loved Destiny's Child. I loved girl groups, and then I saw this singer and it resonated with me because people had always told me that I shouldn't sing because I had this really unusual voice. It had such a lack of control and I could sing high, I could sing low, I could sing hard, I could sing soft. I could do these crazy things with my voice, but it didn't ever really seem to have a place anywhere and I couldn't write the right songs and nothing seemed to sound right.

When I heard Björk, I suddenly was like she's got this beautifully inventive and unusually curious voice and it suddenly made me feel very powerful, like I could sing after all. It took a few years for people to really get me and some people would come along and listen to me sing. Not that many, but I've played my own songs. I carried on. I just kept singing and playing and I thought I had something maybe because more and more people were coming and at that point, I was able to sing and play effortlessly and not have to think about guitar and it was just there. Then, eventually it clicked after a solid few years of trying to get people to come and watch me play. Eventually I signed a publishing deal to be a writer and then I signed a record deal the year after that. After a long, long time of what we call "fanning around" in the U.K.

Related: Rosalía Shouts-Out Lauryn Hill, Kate Bush And More Women During Latin GRAMMY Speech

That's so cool. I love Björk.

Yeah, I saw her the other night in New York at The Shed. Oh my God, you have to see it, if you can. You can't even for a second lose focus or concentration because there's so much going on and the visuals are 10 years in the future. It's mad.

Do you have any dream collaborators you haven't worked with yet that you'd like to in the future?

I'm a fan of so many different producers and classical composers actually, maybe more than I am of artists, just in the sense that I can see so many possibilities with my voice with musicians and producers, but I'm always open to singing with other singers too. There's electronic producers I've always wanted to do things with; Jamie XX I've loved forever. One day he'll work with me. Mura Masa, I love. I love this guy George FitzGerald from the U.K. I love Frank Dukes, who makes a bunch of records here in L.A. There's a guy called Arca, who just did Björk's latest record.

There's actually a guy serpentwithfeet, who I love, who I discovered relatively recently. His voice is out of this world and he's a beautiful pianist, so maybe one day I'll work with him. I love experimenting and I love this classic producer and composer called Ola Gjeilo, who based in New York, he's from Norway, makes beautiful music. And then there's the classics like Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard. My dream is to eventually do film soundtracks and go down the Lisa Gerrard road where she's just f***ing cool and just puts her amazing voice on things. You know, in Gladiator she's the voice that you can never forget, and I'd love to do that at some point.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I won’t give up and neither will you. Remember nobody can do everything but everyone can do something. Take action with me and <a href="https://twitter.com/UNEnvironment?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@unenvironment</a> <br>Let’s <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BeatAirPollution?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BeatAirPollution</a> <a href="https://t.co/LwdOedrGrC">pic.twitter.com/LwdOedrGrC</a></p>&mdash; Ellie Goulding (@elliegoulding) <a href="https://twitter.com/elliegoulding/status/1136365170782085120?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 5, 2019</a></blockquote><script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

For World Environment Day, you posted on social media encouraging your fans to take action. You've done work with the UN and you've always been vocal about standing up for what you believe in. Can you speak a little bit to using your platform as a catalyst for change?

I do think it's important for me to use my social media to influence young people for the better. Social media can be used for all sorts of weird, wonderful and sometimes not-so-good things. Relatively speaking, I have a small following, but it's enough to get people talking and sharing about the things that I care about. The things that I care about, and what we should all be caring about because it's essentially all of our futures at stake, is protecting the environment, which involves things like cutting massively down on plastic and eating less meat, which is better for the environment. When you think about how much goes into producing meat, but that's a whole other story. Go to my Instagram if you want to know more.

I talk a lot about climate change; it is the biggest threat to our existence. There's never been more CO2 in the atmosphere. Every single year it gets hotter and I think that's enough for us all to be quite scared, but because there is another agenda, a huge agenda in this world to promote climate change as a hoax because of oil, the meat industry, things that are trying to crush it for their own financial advantage. We are the warriors on the other side of that, making it come to light and showing people that what they can do makes a difference individually. I really just try and spread the world that climate change will ultimately be the end of us, if we don't do something about it, which means drastically changing our habits, changing the way we live.

Stop plastic production because that is linked to climate change. We need to eat less meat. We need to stop cutting down forests. We're simply not growing trees quick enough to replace the CO2 that is being created. Ice caps are melting, which means methane and other things being released. Ice caps reflect the sun more, so the less ice there is, the less sunlight is going to reflect it back into space. Ultimately, everything is going to screw us unless we act quickly and it's not like, "Oh, maybe we'll be okay. We'll start acting in a few years." We have 12 years exactly to save the planet, so with that in mind, I do use my social media to try and push that a bit and get people on board with me.

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Billie Eilish Songbook Hero
(L-R) Billie Eilish in 2018, 2020 and 2023.

(L-R) Scott Legato/Getty Images for Live Nation, Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Global Citizen

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Songbook: A Guide To Billie Eilish's Musical Ventures & Artistic Ingenuity

On the heels of Billie Eilish's new album 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT,' take a deep dive into the albums, visuals and performances that have shaped her award-winning, generation-defining artistry.

GRAMMYs/May 21, 2024 - 06:18 pm

Being a once-in-a-generation artist isn't an easy crown to wear, but Billie Eilish has made it look effortlessly badass. The singer's unabashed honesty and equally raw vocal talent led her to becoming one of the industry's most decorated Gen Z artists before she even reached her twenties.

Eilish first caught our ears in 2016 when the then-13-year-old uploaded "ocean eyes" to SoundCloud. The tender ballad — written and produced by her brother and steadfast collaborator, FINNEAS — was shared with Eilish's dance teacher with the intention of using it as a choreography track. The intimate song transformed the budding artist into an overnight sensation that led to an Interscope record deal that year.

From there, Eilish released her stunning 2017 debut EP, Don't Smile at Me. The trajectory continued at a whirlwind pace with 2019's debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? and her 2021 follow-up, Happier Than Ever, both of which topped the Billboard 200 chart. The albums' successes made her an award show darling, and in 2020, she became only the second artist and first woman to win all four General Field Categories (Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best New Artist) at just 18 years old. As of press time, Eilish has nine GRAMMY Awards and 25 nominations. And at her current age of 22, she's still only just getting started.

The singer may have emerged onto the scene with a subdued voice, but what a red herring that was. Eilish has been a force to be reckoned with from the start, and this edition of Songbook celebrates each chapter of her shape-shifting career thus far, including her recently launched HIT ME HARD AND SOFT era. 

Below, dive into Eilish's music highlights — from her personal projects to soundtrack masterpieces — that have laid the foundation for her growing longevity.

The Melancholic Songstress

Don't Smile at Me (2017)

Don't Smile at Me is a perfectly blunt way to sum up teen angst. With signature songs like the teary "ocean eyes" and the equally earnest ballad "idontwannabeyouanymore," the eight-track project showcased Eilish's propensity for transforming moodiness into art. 

The EP navigated themes of depression and heartbreak, which were funneled through lyrics seemingly ripped out of Eilish's diary. That refreshing intimacy is what makes her such a revered artist, and Don't Smile at Me provided just a glimpse into what her sound would grow into.

WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? (2019)

Depression can often feel like one is drowning in a bottomless pool, and Eilish doubled down on that heaviness with her debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? The lyrics were pulled from Eilish's nightmares and bouts with depression, and with the help of her brother FINNEAS' production and co-writing pen, it all came to life like a wicked horror film. 

If the album is a night terror, then "bad guy" is the sleep paralysis demon smirking in the bedroom corner. It might be the poppiest of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP's singles (it even spawned a remix featuring one of Eilish's idols, Justin Bieber), but the balance of the zany electro and claims of being the "Make-your-girlfriend-mad type/ Might-seduce-your-dad type" shows this flavor of pop is not the bubblegum kind. Other highlights — The Office samples dotted throughout, the eerie taunts of "you should see me in a crown" and "bury a friend," and even an ASMR-worthy Invisalign intro — made the album a thrilling exploration of Eilish's unconventional artistry.

Happier Than Ever (2021)

After WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? saw Eilish in a living nightmare, Happier Than Ever found her confronting those demons — and as a result, feeling and sounding much lighter. Sporting a Marilyn Monroe-esque blonde bob at the time (a complete 180 from her black and electric lime-colored locks), the album presented an even more vulnerable artist. Eilish's overnight success not only came with a tireless music industry demanding more hits from her, but also stalkers, toxic relationships and social media-fueled misogyny — and she addressed all of it on Happier Than Ever.

"Things I once enjoyed just keep me employed now," she grieves on the "Getting Older" opener, coming to terms with the reality of being a pop star. The vulnerability continues with songs like "Not My Responsibility," a response to people constantly dissecting and sexualizing her body; the trip-hop "NDA," which finds Eilish pleading for privacy; and the boisterous title track that sees Eilish belting for the first time. Happier Than Ever wasn't the typical coming-of-age moment that we're used to. But it was born out of an ugly truth, which is an admirable endeavor for an artist who hadn't even reached her twenties. 

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT (2024)

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT almost plays like a "Best of Billie" album, highlighting her award-winning sonic tropes and guiding them into new, expansive territories. She heavily plays on the concept of her third album's title, with both tender ballads and heart-pounding uptempos. 

She also celebrates the menacing teen version of the Billie Eilish many were first introduced to on WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? Only this time, she's even more confident in her artistry; her vocals are the strongest they've ever been, as heard on "BIRDS OF A FEATHER" and "THE GREATEST." There's a beautiful maturity that envelopes HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, making it even more exciting to see how else she'll experiment with this album era.

The Big-Screen Auteur

13 Reasons Why (2017)

Eilish's music is as cinematic as it's poetic, so it's not surprising that she's established herself as a soundtrack queen. Her first foray was for Netflix's hit series "13 Reasons Why," which aired just before Eilish's debut EP release, making it the perfect pairing. The singer contributed the flippant song "Bored" to the series' first season, showcasing the ballad brilliance that was to come from the rising star.

Roma (2018)

Water plays a big part in the critically acclaimed Roma — a feature that's also frequent in Eilish's own music videos, and she further heightened that inspiration for the film's soundtrack highlight, "When I Was Older." With her voice sounding submerged under water, the singer and FINNEAS create a chilling atmosphere that reflects the characters' turmoil. Roma ended up becoming an Oscar-winning film, a not-so-subtle foreshadowing of what would happen to Eilish's own career soon after.

No Time To Die (2020)

The James Bond theme songs often have a somber tone, so it made sense for Eilish to join the likes of Adele and Sam Smith as a contributor. "No Time To Die" is as beautiful as it is haunting, with the singer's voice bellowing with the sweeping orchestra. The song owned awards season, scoring a GRAMMY for Best Song Written For Visual Media and Best Original Song trophies from the Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and more.

Euphoria (2021)

Both Eilish and Rosalía make achingly tender music, and the Spanish singer led Eilish to new, atmospheric heights with Euphoria's "Lo Vas a Olvidar." The song was first previewed in the trailer for Jules' special episode, then was later played in a vulnerable scene where the character reveals how much her girlfriend Rue's relapsing affected her. The pained lyrics ("Tell me if you still miss me / Tell me if you still don't forgive me / What will you do with all this poison?") reflects Jules' heartache. "Lo Vas a Olvidar" marked the first time Eilish sang in Spanish, making her harmonies with Rosalía even more elegiac.

Turning Red (2022)

Under Eilish's edgy demeanor is a pure pop fan, so it was fitting that she teamed up with Pixar to contribute three songs to their Turning Red film. The singer and FINNEAS wrote "Nobody Like U," "U Know What's Up" and "1 True Love," all songs performed by a fictional boy band, 4*Town, a nod to boy bands of the late '90s and early aughts. 

Eilish had made playful songs in the past, but these tunes traded her signature cynical undertone for more nostalgic fun, further revealing her pop versatility. "Writing the songs has literally been the most fun we've had writing," Eilish shared during a Disney press run. "Mei and her friends' passion for 4*Town, it really resonated with me just because I was the same. It's so accurate of how it feels when you're that kind of fan."

Barbie (2023)

Last summer's Barbie was a mammoth at the box office and the charts, partly thanks to Eilish's soundtrack contribution. Reverting back to her teary-eyed ballads, "What Was I Made For?" summarizes the film's central theme of navigating life as a woman in a misogynistic world. 

The beautifully painful tune resonated in and outside of the film, earning an Academy Award for Best Original Song and two GRAMMY Awards for Song of the Year and Best Song Written for Visual Media in 2024. The accolades marked another history-defining moment for Eilish: "What Was I Made For?" became just the tenth song in history to win both an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a GRAMMY for Song Of The Year.

The Poignant Performer

Tours

The bombastic production in Eilish's music practically begs for an audience, so it's bound to be electrifying whenever she hits the stage. She began small in 2017 with the 11-show dont smile at me tour — her first headlining trek — but quickly expanded to arenas. 

She truly hit her stride with 2022's Happier Than Ever, The World Tour. Keeping the staging minimal while sporting her signature baggy looks, she let her vocals (and some electrifying strobe lights) command the attention. Her energy never falters throughout the nearly two-hour long show and neither does the audience, who lovingly shout every single lyric. And it won't be long before she brings HIT ME HARD AND SOFT to the stage — the tour (her seventh) kicks off Sept. 29 in Québec, Canada.

Award Shows

Eilish's fan base goes far beyond the hyper teenagers who flood her concerts. The singer's award show performances also reveal how much her peers admire her. 

With nine GRAMMY wins under her belt, Eilish's GRAMMY performances over the years have helped prove why she's earned them. Following her stage debut in 2020, she returned the following year to perform the Record Of The Year-winning "everything I wanted" as fellow nominees Black Pumas and Harry Styles cheered her on in the crowd. The singer's thunderous "Happier Than Ever" performance received equally roaring applause. 

Eilish reminded of her vocal prowess and ethereal stage presence at both the GRAMMYs and Oscars this year, delivering delicate renditions of "What Was I Made For?" with just FINNEAS and a piano for each show. As those performances displayed, relatability and heightened emotion — as seen with other award show performances, like the cinematic version of "No Time To Die" at the 2022 Oscars and the fiery "all the good girls go to hell" at the 2019 American Music Awards — are what make Eilish's performances so unforgettable.

Concert Film

Eilish transported the vulnerability and intimacy of Happier Than Ever to the silver screen for 2021's GRAMMY-nominated Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles concert film. As its title suggests, the film sees Eilish (a native Angeleno) paying homage to her hometown with a performance at the Hollywood Bowl — even performing alongside the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, which she grew up singing in. 

But the concert film also addresses the pressures of fame like Happier Than Ever the album did. There's a stark contrast between the Eilish on stage, who is seemingly comforted by the lack of an audience inside the Hollywood Bowl, and an animated version of the star, who drives past Happier Than Ever billboards before arriving at a premiere with an overwhelming number of fans and flashing cameras. The film is more than a tribute to her hometown — it shows Eilish coming to terms with her own stardom.

Festivals

As Eilish's star status has ascended, so has her name on festival lineups. Just like her own tours, she gives it her all for these performances, many of which become career-defining moments. 

She first emerged on the scene at SXSW in 2017 and appeared at one of Lollapalooza's smaller stages the following year. But the budding star quickly rose among the ranks, securing bigger stages at festivals like Tyler the Creator's Camp Flog Knaw and Reading & Leeds. She officially graduated in the festival sphere in 2022 when she headlined Coachella and Glastonbury, making her the youngest headliner in the latter's festival history; she's since headlined Coachella, several iterations of Lollapalooza, and even recently became the latest Fortnite Festival headliner. 

Eilish had another full-circle moment at Coachella 2024, when Lana Del Rey — one of Eilish's biggest influences — brought her out as a surprise guest. The pair performed Eilish's "ocean eyes" and Lana's "Video Games," a fitting pairing as fans have often drawn comparisons between the two tracks. "This is the voice of a generation!" Del Rey exclaimed to the crowd following the duets. She might be onto something.

The Visionary

"When The Party's Over" (2018)

Music videos play an integral role in Eilish's artistry, helping to set a visual stage for her narrative lyrics, with many of her videos connecting with each other. The video for the somber piano ballad "when the party's over" wasn't her first, but it officially exhibited the shock factor that she's now known for. 

Arriving a few months before WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, the video shows the then blue-haired singer drinking a cup of black goo, which soon pours from her tear ducts, a visual that was inspired by a drawing gifted by a fan. The video was released a week before Halloween, making it a ghoulish holiday treat for Eilish fans.

"Bury A Friend" (2019)

The singer brought her debut album's nightmarish themes to life for "bury a friend." The video — reminiscent of films and series like The Exorcist, American Horror Story: Asylum and The Haunting of Hill House — accentuates the song's spookiness with dead eyes and needles pierced into Eilish's back. As she told Rolling Stone at the time, it's a visual representation of "honing in on people's fears," a concept that has remained in Eilish's visuals to this day; she continues to face her own fear of water, as seen on HIT ME HARD AND SOFT's submerged album cover.

"Bad Guy" (2019)

"bad guy" may be the singer's most colorful music video to date, but don't let that fool you. Eilish's signature edgy tropes still remain intact — from her bloody nose, to decapitated heads in plastic bags, to the dimly lit crimson bedroom amplifying the trap-inspired switch at the song's end. In between those scenes, though, she pops out her Invisalign before going on a mini-cart joyride, proving that her personality can be just as goofy as it is moody. 

"All The Good Girls Go To Hell" (2019)

The "all the good girls go to hell" video picks up from where "bury a friend" left off, suggesting that Eilish's music isn't just meant to be listened to as standalone singles. Rather, there's intentional connective tissue that is revealed in her videos. 

The syringes injected into Eilish's back gave her 25-foot-long white wings; she dramatically falls from the sky and into a black tar pit. She walks through a grim town while leaving a trail of oil behind her, causing fires to ignite with each step. A big advocate for climate change awareness, Eilish used "all the good girls go to hell" visual to show that her creative vision can spread important messages, too. 

"Happier Than Ever" (2021)

The title track of Eilish's sophomore album, Happier Than Ever, instantly became a fan favorite due to its contrasting two parts, beginning tender and soulful before lashing out into an alternative rock banger. The singer maintained the thrilling transition for the self-directed video, which showcases her knack for visual storytelling. 

The video starts off with Eilish in a vintage-looking room before the lights begin to flicker. She then opens a door that fills the room with water, mimicking the track's flood of emotions. With a powerful song and video like this, she's clearly taken some cinematic tips from her film experiences.

"What Was I Made For?" (2023)

Barbie soundtrack highlight "What Was I Made For?" is a tender hug for women everywhere, including Eilish herself. The singer directed the accompanying video, which shows her donning a '50s-inspired Barbie look as she reflects on the past. 

Sitting at a school desk, she hangs up miniature versions of her own outfits, including looks from videos like "Bellyache" and "bad guy" and the Gucci get-up she wore for her history-making night at the 2020 GRAMMYs. The video was a cleansing of sorts, as Eilish closed a chapter of her career before entering a new one with this year's HIT ME HARD AND SOFT. Though her first video for her third album era — the '90s VHS-inspired "LUNCH" — showed more of her playful side, Eilish has certainly proven that she has plenty more tricks up her sleeve.

All Things Billie Eilish

Dillon Francis and Diplo GRAMMY Museum Event 2024
Dillon Francis (left) and Diplo at the GRAMMY Museum on May 15, 2024.

Photo: Courtesy of the Recording Academy™️/photo by Rebecca Sapp, Getty Images

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Dillon Francis & Diplo In Conversation: 5 Things We Learned From The GRAMMY Museum Event

In honor of Dillon Francis' breakthrough hit "Get Low" turning 10 this year, the DJ/producer sat down with one of his longtime dance buds, Diplo, at the GRAMMY Museum. Check out five revelations from the career-spanning (and highly entertaining) chat.

GRAMMYs/May 20, 2024 - 08:30 pm

Dillon Francis and Diplo have respectively built massive careers within dance music — but as they proved on May 15, they may have been just as successful doing stand-up comedy.

The two producers came together at the GRAMMY Museum's Clive Davis Theater for a wisecracking exchange, marking the 10-year anniversary of Francis' breakthrough song with DJ Snake, the platinum-certified "Get Low." It also felt like a celebration of 

their longstanding friendship — which predates "Get Low" — as the conversation was filled with humorous anecdotes, insider stories about key moments in Francis' career, and some of Francis' favorite memories with Diplo.

Since "Get Low," Francis has had a mercurial music trajectory. Though he's released three studio albums and a number of EPs, his landmark mixtapes — 2015's This Mixtape Is Fire and last year's This Mixtape is Fire TOO — are the key highlights. Like many dance acts, collaboration has been at the core of Francis' work, particularly within the electronic community; he's teamed up with the likes of Skrillex, Calvin Harris, Martin Garrix, Kygo, Alison Wonderland, Illenium, Alesso, and even Diplo's trio Major Lazer

More recently, Francis has released collaborations with Ship Wrek, Space Rangers and Sophie Powers, and the moombahton Pero Like EP with Good Times Ahead. The EP includes the bouncy "LA On Acid," whose video — which premiered at the South By Southwest Festival in March — features Diplo in its opening sequencing, along with cameos from Euphoria's Chloe Cherry, Righteous Gemstones' Tony Cavalero and Master of None's Eric Wareheim.

Three days after stopping by the GRAMMY Museum, Francis headed out to Las Vegas to perform at North America's largest electronic dance music festival, Electric Daisy Carnival, on May 18. It was one of many festival appearances for Francis this summer, along with one of several trips to Las Vegas, as he has a residency at the Wynn's XS Nightclub.

Below, take a look at five takeaways from Francis' spirited conversation with Diplo at the GRAMMY Museum.

Francis Met Diplo By Sliding Into His Twitter DMs

The two met in person 16 years ago in Francis' hometown of Los Angeles. Before that, Francis would send Diplo demos for consideration for the latter's record label, Mad Decent. Once Francis realized Diplo had heard his song "Masta Blasta," he slid into Diplo's Twitter DMs — and never left. "I was harassing him so much," Francis quipped. "'Let's please hang out right now. God, please let me come and hang out.'"

Diplo invited him to a bar, and they watched the Phillies (Diplo's team) lose. "It was one of my first blind dates," Diplo said. "I tried to make [Dillon] my ghost producer." 

Shortly after their first meeting, the pair worked together on a dubstep remix for Kelly Rowland's "Motivation" — and the more exposure he had to Francis' production skills, the more convinced Diplo was of his talent. "[Dillon is] too good to be my ghost producer. He's already better than me. We got to do a real record with this guy."

Francis' Superior Social Media Skills Began As A Class Assignment In High School

Francis' comedic online presence is the perfect combination of humor and authenticity, adding another layer to his appeal alongside his music. He traced his savvy skills back to his time at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and a new genres course he took. His teacher considered everything as art, and their creations could be whatever they wanted.

"My friend and I would make comedy videos, basic sketch shows, and we passed the class with flying colors," Francis recalled. "When Vine came around, I did what I did in that class. It was another way of doing stuff I love to do, which is making people laugh."

Diplo then chimed in with a hilariously fitting observation. "You are the Weird Al Yankovic of electronic music," he said. "You had bangers, but you made them funny and you made them accessible to people."

He also commended Francis for opening his eyes to what social media can do for a creator. "You put me onto interaction on social media in different ways," Diplo added. "I don't think any other electronic music DJs were putting their personality out there like you did. You were the first one to do that properly."

Francis' Musical Education Came From Collaboration

As Francis revealed, he dropped out of college after a semester. But as someone who has built his career on collaboration, he's learned everything he needs to know by working with other artists. In fact, he thinks of working with other producers as interning. 

"It's my favorite thing to do," he said. "They're going to learn the way that you produce, you're going learn the way they produce. You can cross-pollinate your ideas and come away with new ways to make music. I feel like it also helps with evolving as an artist."

Diplo agreed, noting that Francis' time as a young producer, interning at studios, learning from producers and gaining relationships in the process was essential to his career. "Not to encourage more people to drop out of college," he joked.

Furious 7 Was A Key Player In The Success Of "Get Low"

Diplo pointed out that "Get Low" had its crossover moment after being included in the soundtrack for Furious 7, the 2015 installment of the Fast and Furious franchise. He asserted that it is special for a producer to have a song in a big movie, as he experienced with M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" (which he co-wrote and co-produced) after it was featured in 2008's Pineapple Express.  

As Francis recalled, "Get Low" was already well-received and being played by the DJ community, with about five million plays on Spotify before Furious 7. But once it was part of Furious 7 — first in the trailer and then in the film — it ramped up significantly (and now has more than 200 million Spotify streams as of press time).

"This is when people were buying music on iTunes," Francis remembers. "From the trailer, it peaked at number 5 or something like that, which is huge for any artist in dance music. We're not usually on that chart. To be right next to Selena Gomez with a song that says, 'Get low when the whistle goes,' is crazy."

He Had A Life-Altering Turning Point At 18

After Diplo concluded his questions, Francis took a few from the audience. In response to one fan about what he would have done differently early in his career, Francis opened up about one of the worst moments in his life — which actually turned into a great learning experience. 

As he explained, at the age of 18, Francis was charged with a DUI (which was eventually downgraded to wet reckless). His parents spent their savings on a lawyer; he lost his car; he lost his license for a year; he did the DUI classes. And all of it put things into perspective.

"That was the first moment where I realized, things can get messed up and lost," he said. "I was like, 'I need to figure out my career. I'm going to go make money and I'm going to pay [my parents] back.' That was a very big driving factor for me."

Now 36, Francis views the incident as one of the best things to ever happen to him — and, in turn, for his path in dance music. "If that didn't happen, I don't think I would be sitting here on the stage today."

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Billie Eilish in Brooklyn, New York in May 2024
Billie Eilish at the 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT' release party in Brooklyn, New York on May 15, 2024.

Photo: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for ABA

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Billie Eilish Fully Embraces Herself On 'Hit Me Hard And Soft': 5 Takeaways From The New Album

On her third album, Billie Eilish returns to "the girl that I was" — and as a result, 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT' celebrates all of the weird, sexual, beautiful, vulnerable parts of her artistry.

GRAMMYs/May 17, 2024 - 07:50 pm

Billie Eilish has never been one to shy away from her feelings. In fact, she doubles down on them.

Since her debut EP, 2017's Don't Smile At Me, the pop star has held listeners' hands as she guides them through the darkest pages of her diary. The EP found a teenage Eilish navigating heartbreak while her blockbuster debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? — which swept the General Field Categories (Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best New Artist) at the 2020 GRAMMYs — was a chilling and raw look into her depression-fueled nightmares. And 2021's Happier Than Ever had her confronting misogyny and the weight of fame.

She could have easily succumbed to the pop star pressures for her third studio album, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, out today (May 17). Instead, she reverts to her sonic safe space: creating intimate melodies with her brother and day-one collaborator, FINNEAS. Only this time, the lyrics are more mature and the production is more ambitious.

"This whole process has felt like I'm coming back to the girl that I was. I've been grieving her," Eilish told Rolling Stone about how HIT ME HARD AND SOFT revisited elements of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? "I've been looking for her in everything, and it's almost like she got drowned by the world and the media. I don't remember when she went away."

Here are five takeaways from Billie Eilish's new album, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, where Old Billie is resuscitated and comforted by New Billie. 

Heartbreaking Ballads Are Her Sweet Spot

Tenderness remains at Eilish's core, and it's beautifully highlighted on HIT ME HARD AND SOFT. Despite her love for eccentric electro-pop beats, ballads have always been the singer's strong suit. After she first displayed that in her debut single, 2015's "ocean eyes," Eilish won two GRAMMYs and an Oscar for her delicate Barbie soundtrack standout, "What Was I Made For?" — and the magic of her melancholic balladry returned on the new album.

HIT ME's album opener, "SKINNY," mimics the self-reflection of Happier Than Ever's "Getting Older" opener, where she painfully sings about Hollywood's body image standards. "People say I look happy just because I got skinny/ But the old me is still me and maybe the real me/ And I think she's pretty," she muses. 

"WILDFLOWER" cuts in the album's center like a knife to the chest. Eilish's comparisons to a lover's ex-girlfriend are devastating over a bare piano melody — the simplest production on the LP: "You say no one knows you so well/ But every time you touch me, I just wonder how she felt."

HIT ME Isn't Afraid To Get A Little Weird

What makes Eilish so intriguing is her effortless balance between misery and mischief. On lead single "LUNCH," the singer/songwriter taps into the playful attitude of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? smash "bad guy."

Over an upbeat and kooky production, she lets her carnal fantasies about devouring a woman run wild. The fantasies continue on "THE DINER," with Eilish stepping into the stalker mindset that may be inspired by her own life (she was granted a five-year restraining order against an alleged stalker last year). "I came in through the kitchen lookin' for something to eat/ I left a calling card so they would know that it was me," she winks on the chorus.

She Lays The "Whisper Singing" Criticism To Rest

Eilish's subdued voice has been chided as much as it's been lauded. She first gave naysayers the middle finger on Happier Than Ever's title track, nearly screaming in the song's latter half. On her latest album, she showcases her range even further, from bold belts to delicate falsettos.

The gauzy synths and vocal yearning of "BIRDS OF A FEATHER" is the perfect summer anthem, soundtracking the feeling of kissing your lover as the salty Los Angeles breeze runs through your hair. On the second half of "THE GREATEST," she unleashes a wail-filled fury. 

"HIT ME HARD AND SOFT was really the first time that I was aware of the things that I could do, the ways I could play with my voice, and actually did that," she recently told NPR Music. "That's one thing I feel very proud of with this album — my bravery, vocally."

Her Vulnerability Hasn't Waned

Eilish is quite the paradox, as her superpower is her emotional fragility. Her music has doubled as confessionals since the beginning of her career, and that relatable vulnerability threads HIT ME together. Despite its lighthearted nature, "LUNCH" marks the first time the singer has discussed her sexuality in a song.

"That song was actually part of what helped me become who I am, to be real," Eilish told  Rolling Stone of "LUNCH." "I wrote some of it before even doing anything with a girl, and then wrote the rest after. I've been in love with girls for my whole life, but I just didn't understand — until, last year, I realized I wanted my face in a vagina. I was never planning on talking about my sexuality ever, in a million years. It's really frustrating to me that it came up."

Then there's "SKINNY," which is a raw insight into how much social media's discussions of her body and fame affected her. "When I step off the stage, I'm a bird in a cage/ I'm a dog in a dog pound," she sings. "BLUE," the album's closer, finds Eilish accepting her state of post-breakup sorrow: "I'd like to mean it when I say I'm over you, but that's still not true."

FINNEAS Has Unlocked A New Production Level

FINNEAS — Eilish's brother, producer and confidant — has grown as much as his younger sister since they first began creating music together. He continues to challenge himself both lyrically and sonically to excitedly push Eilish to her creative limits. He explores a myriad of sounds on the album, with many playing like a two-for-one genre special. Named after Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away heroine, the glittery melody and thumping bassline on "CHIHIRO" transport you into an anime video game. 

The first half of "L'AMOUR DE MA VIE" is deceptively simple with its plucking acoustic guitar strings, but soon finds itself under the glare of a disco ball with Eilish's vocals funneled through a vocoder. "BITTERSUITE" is arguably the best reflection of Finneas' experimentation: it starts out with Daft Punk-esque synths before dragging itself across a grim, bass-heavy floor. Then, it crawls into cheeky elevator music territory before ending with an alien-like taunt.

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT is begging to be played live, as seen with fans' raucous reactions after the singer's listening parties at Brooklyn's Barclays Center and Los Angeles' Kia Forum. Fortunately for fans in North America, Australia and Europe, it won't be long before she brings the album to life — HIT ME HARD AND SOFT: THE TOUR  kicks off on Sept. 29 in Québec, Canada.

All Things Billie Eilish

New Kids On The Block Press Photo 2024
New Kids On The Block

Photo: Austin Hargrave

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New Kids On The Block's Joey McIntyre Shares His Favorite Career Moments With The Iconic Boy Band

From conquering the Apollo in the '80s to writing songs on NKOTB's celebratory new album 'Still Kids,' the group's Joey McIntyre reflects on a stellar 40-year career in pop music.

GRAMMYs/May 16, 2024 - 09:33 pm

Before Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC ruled the pop roost in the '90s, New Kids On The Block were busy building the boy band template that everyone later followed for international chart success and incredibly ardent fan followings. And it's a legacy they're continuing to celebrate nearly four decades later.

On May 17, NKOTB dropped Still Kids, the group's first new album in 11 years and eighth overall. Standouts such as "Magic," "Runaway," and the album's lead single "Kids" are every bit as light, joyful and catchy as early hits like "Step By Step" and "Hangin' Tough." But they sound more mature than they did as teenagers; their harmonies are stronger and sweeter, while the beats and production sounds more sophisticated and contemporary. Fellow '80s/'90s stars DJ Jazzy Jeff and Taylor Dayne also guest star on the album to help them lean into the nostalgia while still staying current. (Jazzy Jeff will also join them on the Magic Summer Tour, which will make stops around North America from June 14 through Aug. 25 and further continue the throwbacks with Paula Abdul as the third tourmate.)

Of course, it's not a total surprise that New Kids would want their new work to celebrate the old. The group — brothers Jordan and Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood — has sold over 80 million albums, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and even an annual New Kids On The Block Day in Boston (for 35 years running!). Their fans, affectionately known as Blockheads, still come out in large numbers to see them perform; according to NKOTB's new label, BMG, they've sold over four million concert tickets since reuniting in 2007 after a 14-year hiatus.

But for McIntyre, the true career highlights aren't the major accolades — it's the moments that really saw NKOTB's talent, and love for one another, shine. In celebration of the release of Still Kids, McIntyre shared five of his most cherished memories from the group's meteoric pop career.

Hollywood Talent Nights At Lee School Before They Were Famous

Lee School is a public school in Dorchester — actually, very close to Jamaica Plain. We all grew up in different towns in Boston. The rest of the guys were from Dorchester and I was from Jamaica Plain, that was like our clubhouse. 

Through the grace of God, there was a lot going on for the people that wanted it. And these community people that just did it out of the goodness of their hearts and would set up a space for kids to come and number one, stay out of trouble, and number two, give it a shot and have a place to dance and sing and dream. 

We would have these Hollywood Talent Nights that [group creator] Maurice [Starr] would put on, and then there were other talent nights. I don't know how often they were, but even if there were three or four a year, maybe even less, it was something to work towards. And we would rehearse, if we weren't rehearsing at Jordan and John's [Knight's] house, in their basement, we would rehearse at the Lee School. 

In the basement of the Lee School, in the backstage, you would walk down the stairs and we'd perform in these little rooms. It was like dressing rooms. They had mirrors; it wasn't big mirrors, but they had mirrors for the waist up and that was a big deal. So we would perform there, and rehearse there, and it was exciting. We had a place to take chances and be inspired and have a ton of fun as well.

It started with the Lee School and then radio shows [on] WILD, the AM station, the only station that would think about playing us at the time — and it was like, How are we going to surprise them this time? There was a ferocity about it. 

Donnie [Wahlberg] is a born leader. Jordan would tell stories about how Donnie would get on the school bus and he'd run the show. He'd tell jokes, he'd rap, he'd make everyone feel good — it's just in his bones. I think we all had the fire, but there was definitely a ride or die vibe about every show we did. 

He worked at a sneaker store, so we'd save up and pool our money together for new outfits, and one time we came on with basketball warmups, those Patrick Ewing basketball warmups. We came on in sweatsuits. First of all, I was freakin' five feet tall, so I was swimming in everything that we had, but we'd come on and for our number we'd sing whatever, and at the perfect moment we'd rip off the sweatsuits and have red glitter suits on. We'd just try to win the crowd over every time.

I think we still have that spirit. We never want to rest on our laurels, we want to surprise people, otherwise it's just not worth it. We've been lucky enough to do what we love to do.

Performing At The Apollo Theater In 1988

We've been able to celebrate that a lot over the years. It really is, in so many ways, the pinnacle for the history of R&B and black music and soulful music, but also rock and roll. The world knew that if you could make it there and survive the Apollo, then you had what it takes to at least give it a shot in the music business.

And we were in that world. In Boston, we played for all-Black audiences. We loved R&B music. That's what we grew up on, so we weren't really necessarily fish out of water because, although we were very excited, and of course had lots of nerves, we'd been hustling as a bunch of young kids for a few years.

We got a chance to perform at the Apollo by literally pounding the pavement. And it was one of those days where Maurice was taking us around, and we were going to people's offices with a boombox, playing music and singing and dancing. And these people, even if they didn't like us, they were impressed. They couldn't argue with the guts that we had and the passion. 

The guy who ran the Apollo — I'm blanking on his last name, his first name was Al — he would host those nights, and we saw him on the street. Maurice was like, "Hey, Al! We want to come up!" So we came up and performed three songs in his office — it wasn't a very big office, either — and he said, "We'll have you down."

We weren't in the competition, we were a special guest, because I think it was on a Wednesday and they had a live night, and then they had a TV show [Showtime at the Apollo]. So we did the live night first, and then we did the TV show and they just went crazy for us. I was a little too young to be in tears, but the rest of the guys, we went up to the dressing room and everybody was in tears. 

We would hang out at the Apollo. The basement in the Apollo, man, you'd have Heavy D and Chuck D and Kool Moe Dee — you know, all the Ds! I just finished one of RuPaul's books… I met RuPaul in the stairwell of the Apollo Theater. He was going up and I was going down and we looked up at each other: "Hey, how you doin'?"

This was a long time ago but, you know, it was just a special place. Back then you had to connect in person. Now we have social media. It's wonderful, you can connect. You can DM people and suddenly connect with your heroes or collaborators and it's great, but back then, you had to be in the place. And that's what the Apollo represented for us. So we were just like kids in a candy store.

Getting Their First Tour Bus

There's nothing like jumping on your first tour bus. Our first manager, Mary Alford, had a two-door Mustang, I would have to sit on somebody's lap in the front seat, and then three dudes would be stuck in the back, and she'd be driving. The big splurge was getting a bigger four-door car to drive down to New York for those trips. We'd still be mashed up. 

You know, just to know you are literally going on the road for the first time. I'm 15, the other guys are, like, 18, 19, and there's really nothing cooler. But we were very emotional for a lot of reasons. For having a chance to do our thing and saying goodbye to our family, our hometown, knowing this is part of making it. So it was pretty cool. 

Working With New Edition

Before I was even in the New Kids, the New Edition album with "Cool It Now" was my [favorite] album. The fact that they were from Boston was amazing, a massive bonus, and we were all, just, goo goo ga ga any time we could meet them or think we could meet them. 

So over the years we would touch base, and then we got to sing together on our album The Block in 2008. But then a couple years ago we did a big mashup performance on the AMAs and I cried like a baby, like, three times. I cried on the phone with Donnie just thinking about it as we started rehearsals. Then I cried afterwards. 

A couple days later was Thanksgiving. We went around the table and talked about what we were grateful for, and the tears just came to my eyes. I couldn't think of anything better to be more thankful for than to work with your heroes. They've just been so gracious, so gracious, over the years. And from where they came and how they really set the standard for us. They really did. 

You don't realize it until the more you live and the more you are in this business. To have people walk the walk and talk the talk, and then be kind and supportive at the same time, it's very cool. Just to be friends with those guys is a dream.

Making Still Kids

You want to give the people what they're looking for and also surprise them at the same time, and I think this album has a good combination. I feel great about the fact that I ended up co-writing half of the album. I've just been writing more, so that was important to me. And I've been lucky enough to write for the group over the years, but this felt a little different. I think it takes guts to stretch and grow with the group, within the dynamics of the group. It's not easy but we've always said, "Let's go, let's give it a shot."

So this was a good combo, this album. It's new, we're definitely harking back to the good old days, but it definitely reflects that we're not 18 anymore. But I think they're that spirit. 

As we get older, we're always reaching back. We want to have that fire and that curiosity we had as kids. We don't want to let the cynicism of life pull us down and at the same time, all that fuels the writing and the expression. So it's exciting to feel good about an album that has the right balance. 

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