Photo: Recording Academy
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here Are The Nominees For Best Pop Dance Recording At The 2024 GRAMMYs
Take a look at the inaugural list of nominees for Best Pop Dance Recording — one of three new categories at the 2024 GRAMMYs — which features hits from dance legends and pop superstars.
One of three new categories debuting at the 2024 GRAMMYs, Best Pop Dance Recording will be hotly contested in its first year.
The inaugural round of Best Pop Dance Recording nominees features not one, but two David Guetta collaborations ("Baby Don’t Hurt Me" with Anne-Marie and Coi Leray, and "One In A Million" with Bebe Rexha), and the long-awaited reunion of Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding on "Miracle." The new category also features two earworms from Australian pop dance exports: Kylie Minogue’s "Padam Padam" and Troye Sivan’s "Rush."
Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs on Feb. 4, 2024, get to know the five nominees in this newly minted category.
David Guetta, Anne-Marie & Coi Leray -"Baby Don't Hurt Me"
In a year defined by dance producers putting a modern spin on dance music’s past, David Guetta reached back to 1993 to interpolate Haddaway’s dance-pop hit, "What Is Love," for "Baby Don’t Hurt Me." The song is a fitting follow-up to Guetta and Bebe Rexha’s 2022 hit, "I’m Good (Blue)", which winkingly rekindled Eiffel 65’s Eurodance anthem, "Blue (Da Ba Dee)".
"Baby Don’t Hurt Me" brings Haddaway’s irresistible hook into 2023 with distinctive verses from British vocalist Anne-Marie (who memorably joined Marshmello on 2018’s smash "Friends") and fast-rising Boston rapper Coi Leray.
Paired with a video that references ‘90s clubbing and cult movie A Night at the Roxbury, "Baby Don’t Hurt Me" is a familiar sugar rush that plays to the individual strengths of its perhaps unlikely trio.
Calvin Harris featuring Ellie Goulding - "Miracle"
Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding are a dance music dream team, having previously released "I Need Your Love" (2012) and "Outside" (2014). After waiting almost a full decade to reunite, the pair returned in 2023 with their third collaboration, "Miracle."
An out-and-out trance-meets-Eurodance throwback (think inspirations like Robert Miles' "Children"), "Miracle" aims straight for the nostalgic pleasure centers. Harris told Apple Music that he needed Goulding's "angelic" vocal talents, and the British singer skillfully plays off the song's maximal production. Working alongside his longtime studio partner Burns, Harris packs the rave euphoria into a crisp three minutes, right through to the unexpected breakbeat outro.
The non-album single signaled a new phase for Harris, and follows 2022's Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 2 as well as his ravier experiments as Love Regenerator. In July, Harris returned to the trance sounds of his teen years with "Desire" featuring Sam Smith, proving these faster tempos are not just a passing phase.
Kylie Minogue - "Padam Padam"
Now 16 albums into a glittering career, Kylie Minogue is a true icon of international pop. However, not even the most ardent Kylie fans could've predicted her 2023 glow-up, courtesy of viral sensation "Padam Padam."
The song first came to Minogue in a demo version by Norwegian singer/songwriter Ina Wroldsen and UK producer Lostboy, which immediately caught her ear. "Straightaway, I was in," she recalled to GRAMMY.com, noting that she knew it was "perfect for me."
The first single from the Australian singer's latest album, Tension, the instantly danceable beat and one-word hook of "Padam Padam" inspired countless TikTok videos and memes. "I finally get TikTok. Yes, I've been slow but I finally am there," Minogue admitted upon Tension's release.
Minogue also celebrated the queer community and Gen Z's embrace of her runaway hit. "I hope to continue having fun with that," she added. "It was really organic. I don't think you can force that. It happened and I loved every second of it."
Bebe Rexha & David Guetta - "One In A Million"
Ever since co-writing Eminem and Rihanna's "The Monster" in 2013, Brooklyn-born Bebe Rexha has mastered the art of collaboration. Over a prolific decade, including three albums of her own, the pop singer/songwriter has teamed up with a diverse range of artists, including Nicki Minaj, Doja Cat, Florida Georgia Line and Dolly Parton, to feature on her songs.
In the pop dance world, French hitmaker David Guetta is Rexha's most reliable collaborator. After striking gold on 2022's "I'm Good (Blue)" — which peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 at the top of 2023 — the pair returned with a new standalone single, "One In A Million."
With a piano line that evokes Guetta's own "When Love Takes Over," "One In A Million" channels the giddy feeling of new love over a racing beat. The song arrived in a typically whirlwind year of collaborations for Guetta, who also mined the past alongside Jason Derulo, Oliver Tree and Zara Larsson.
Troye Sivan - "Rush"
After a long wait between solo releases, Australian pop chameleon Troye Sivan boldly announced a new era with "Rush." Released at the height of summer as the lead single from Sivan's third album, Something To Give Each Other, "Rush" instantly hit its mark as a celebration of queer pleasure-seeking. In a statement, Sivan described the single as an accumulation of "all of my experiences from a chapter where I feel confident, free and liberated."
The song's lusty bassline, exultant piano-house keys and chanted chorus perfectly play off Sivan's falsetto, creating a heady mood of dance floor abandon. (Fittingly, the Berlin-shot music video is a parade of sweaty bodies in motion.) A ready-made anthem, "Rush" set the stage perfectly for the assured and life-affirming Something To Give Each Other, leaving no doubt that Sivan is thriving in 2023.
The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.
The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy's Voting Membership.
Photo: Image Group LA via Getty Images
10 Halloween Songs That Have Won GRAMMYs: "Thriller," "Ghostbusters" & More
With Halloween celebrations in full swing this Oct. 31, revisit 10 eerie or ghoulishly titled songs that have all been awarded music's top honor, from the 'Exorcist' theme to Eminem and Rihanna's "The Monster."
If the holiday of trick or treating, pumpkin carving, and decorating your front porch with skeletons is your favorite of the year, then you'll no doubt already have a playlist stacked with creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky bangers ready to fire up on Oct. 31. But if you want to add a bit of prestige to your supernatural soundtrack, there's another list of Halloween-friendly songs to check out — one that highlights another celebrated annual occasion.
While the GRAMMYs might not yet have awarded Rob Zombie, Jukebox the Ghost, or And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead, it has embraced the odd musical spooktacular in several forms. In 1988, for example, it gave Halloween obsessive Frank Zappa Best Rock Instrumental Performance for Jazz from Hell. A year later, it handed Robert Cray Band Best Contemporary Blues Recording for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. And it's also dished out goodies (of the statuette, rather than the sweet, variety) to the likes of Mavis Staples' "See That My Grave Is Clean," Chick Corea's "Three Ghouls," and Mastodon's "A Sultan's Curse."
With Halloween 2023 fast approaching, here's a closer look at ten other tracks which left the music industry's biggest awards show completely bewitched.
Stevie Wonder — "Superstition" (1974)
It seems unlikely that Stevie Wonder walked under a ladder, crossed a black cat, or 'broke the lookin' glass' while recording "Superstition" — the squelchy Moog-funk classic kickstarted his remarkable run of 25 GRAMMY Awards when it won both Best Rhythm and Blues Song and Best R&B Vocal Performance Male in 1974. Taken from what many consider to be his magnum opus, Talking Book, "Superstition" also gave Wonder his first No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 in over a decade. And the soul legend further leaned into its supernatural theme in 2013 when he appeared as a witch doctor in a Bud Light Super Bowl commercial soundtracked by the Tamla favorite.
Mike Oldfield — "Tubular Bells" (1975)
Incredibly, considering how perfectly it complements all-time classic horror The Exorcist, Mike Oldfield's prog-rock epic Tubular Bells was recorded long before director William Friedkin came calling. Mike Oldfield, then aged only 19, used a variety of obscure instruments across its two mammoth pieces. Yet, it's the brilliantly creepy Steinway piano riffs which open Side One that are still most likely to bring anyone who experienced the movie's hysteria in a cold sweat. Oldfield was rewarded for helping to scar a generation of cinemagoers for life when a condensed version of his eerie masterpiece picked up the Best Instrumental Composition GRAMMY.
The Charlie Daniels Band — "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" (1980)
The Charlie Daniels Band certainly proved their storytelling credentials in 1979 when they put their own Southern country-fied spin on the old "deal with the devil" fable. Backed by some fast and furious fiddles, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" tells the tale of a young musician named Johnny who bumps into Beelzebub himself during a jam session in the Peach State. Experiencing a downturn in soul-stealing, the latter then bets he can win a fiddle-off, offering an instrument in gold form against Johnny's spiritual essence. Luckily, the less demonic party proves he's the "best that's ever been" in a compelling tale GRAMMY voters declared worthy of a prize, Best Country Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group.
Michael Jackson — "Thriller" (1984)
The 1984 GRAMMYs undeniably belonged to Michael Jackson. The King of Pop picked up a whopping 11 nominations for his first blockbuster album, Thriller, and then converted seven of them into wins (he also took home Best Recording for Children for his narration on audiobook E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial). Remarkably, the title track's iconic John Landis-directed video didn't feature at all: its making of, however, did win Best Music Film the following year. But the song itself did pip fellow superstars Prince, Billy Joel, and Lionel Richie to the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance crown. Jackson would also win a GRAMMY 12 years later for another Halloween-esque anthem, his Janet Jackson duet "Scream."
Duran Duran — "Hungry Like the Wolf" (1984)
Produced by Colin Thurston, the man behind another early '80s Halloween-friendly classic, (Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy"), "Hungry Like the Wolf" cemented Duran Duran's status as MTV icons. Alongside their much raunchier earlier clip for "Girls on Film," its jungle-themed promo was also responsible for giving the Second British Invasion pin-ups the inaugural GRAMMY Award for Best Music Video, Short Form; it featured on the Duran Duran compilation that was crowned Best Video Album, too. Frontman Simon Le Bon had been inspired to write their U.S. breakthrough hit by Little Red Riding Hood, giving the new wave classic its sinister, and appropriately predatory, edge.
Ray Parker Jr. — "Ghostbusters" (1985)
Ray Parker Jr. not only topped the Hot 100 for four weeks with his ode to New York's finest parapsychologists, he also picked up a GRAMMY. Just don't expect to hear "who you gonna call?" in the winning version: For it was in the Best Pop Instrumental Performance where "Ghostbusters" reigned supreme. The fact that Parker Jr. wrote, performed, and produced the entire thing meant he still took home the trophy. However, Huey Lewis no doubt felt he should have been the one making the acceptance speech. The blue-eyed soulman settled out of court after claiming the spooky movie theme had borrowed its bassline from "I Want a New Drug," a track Ghostbusters' director Ivan Reitman admitted had been played in film footage intended to inspire Parker Jr.
Ralph Stanley — "O Death" (2002)
Traditional Appalachian folk song "O Death" had previously been recorded by the likes of gospel vocalist Bessie Jones, folklorist Mike Seeger, and Californian rockers Camper Van Beethoven, just to name a few. Yet it was Ralph Stanley's 2002 version where GRAMMY voters first acknowledged its eerie a cappella charms. Invited to record the morbid number for the Coen brothers' period satire O Brother, Where Art Thou, the bluegrass veteran won Best Male Country Vocal Performance at the 2002 ceremony, also picking up a second GRAMMY alongside the likes of Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, and Emmylou Harris when the soundtrack was crowned Album Of The Year.
Skrillex — "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" (2012)
David Bowie fans may well feel aggrieved that his post-punk classic "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" was entirely ignored by GRAMMY voters, while the bro-step banger it inspired was showered with awards. The title track from EP Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites added Best Dance Recording to Skrillex's 2012 haul: the asymmetrically haired producer also walked away with Best Dance/Electronica Album and Best Remixed Recording: Non-Classical for his work on Benny Benassi's "Cinema." Packed with speaker-blasting beats, distorted basslines, and aggressive synths, Skrillex's wall of noise is enough to scare anyone off their pumpkin pie.
Eminem and Rihanna — "The Monster" (2015)
Who says lightning can't strike twice? Just four years after picking up five GRAMMY nominations for their transatlantic chart-topper "Love the Way You Lie," unlikely dream team Eminem and Rihanna once again joined forces for another hip-pop masterclass. Unlike their previous collab, however, "The Monster" didn't go home empty-handed, winning Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 2015 ceremony. The boogeyman hiding under the bed here, of course, isn't a Frankenstein-esque creation, but the mix of paranoia, self-doubt, and OCD that leads the Real Slim Shady into thinking he needs a straitjacket.
Jason Isbell — "If We Were Vampires" (2018)
While the Twilight franchise may have failed to add a GRAMMY to its trophy cabinet, it did pick up several nominations. But four years after the Team Edward vs Team Jacob saga wrapped up, folk hero Jason Isbell proved mythical bloodsuckers weren't a barrier to awards success. Emerging victorious in only the fifth ever Best Americana Roots Song category, "If We Were Vampires" is a little less emo than the various Twilight soundtracks. Still, as a love song dedicated to wife Amanda Shires, and the quiet acceptance that the Grim Reaper will inevitably end their story, it's certainly no less emotional.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photos: Kate Green/Getty Images & Venla Shalin/Redferns
How Skrillex & Fred Again.. Became Dance Music's Favorite Friendship: A Timeline
Before they both play Ill Points in Miami this October, journey back through the highlights of Skrillex and Fred again..'s party-starting bromance.
Few friendships in dance music have burned as brightly as the bromance between Fred Gibson, aka Fred again.., and Sonny Moore, a.k.a. Skrillex. In a few short years, the English phenom and Los Angeles-born bass don have forged a dynamic bond as DJ partners, co-producers, and mutual muses.
Brought together as fellow Ed Sheeran collaborators, their partnership went legit on "Rumble," an instant wobbly-bass classic featuring grime MC Flowdan, which Fred teased in his star-making 2022 Boiler Room set. Mere months after "Rumble" officially dropped that January, they closed Coachella with a historic set alongside their buddy and studio secret weapon Four Tet.
Alongside all the music and viral moments, the friendship has clearly given Skrillex — a producer always looking for his next musical evolution — a new lease on life.
After a pinch-yourself start to the year that also included a sold-out show with Four Tet at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Skrillex and Fred again.. will meet again this October at Ill Points in Miami. While billed separately, there’s no keeping these two apart. With much more expected from this superstar pairing, we’re taking a look back through their friendship so far.
2019: Before his breakthrough as a solo artist, Fred again.. earned his stripes as a producer for U.K. grime acts like Headie One, Stormzy and AJ Tracey, and pop stadium-filler Ed Sheeran. While hailing from different sides of the Atlantic, he and Skrillex were destined to meet some day.
Returning as a producer on Sheeran’s 2019 album, No.6 Collaborations Project, Fred again.. intersected with Skrillex (and producer/engineer Kenny Beats) on "Take Me Back to London," featuring Stormzy. Fusing pop hooks with grime swagger, the song hinted at the crisp basslines and drums to come from future Skrillex/Fred team-ups.
In this period, Fred played Skrillex an early iteration of "Rumble," which he’d been trading back and forth with Flowdan. "The first time I ever met Sonny, I played him the first version we had," Fred recalled in an interview with BBC Radio 1’s Jack Saunders.
Skrillex requested the "stems" (the individual isolated parts of a recording) and made a version that he worried missed the mark. "I didn’t like it," he also told Saunders. "I thought I ruined the song." He and Fred tweaked the elements until it clicked — and their friendship was born.
2021: With COVID-19 keeping artists grounded, Fred again.. released Actual Life (April 14 - December 17 2020), a collection of achingly personal electronic elegies that cemented his signature sound.
He followed it later that year with Actual Life 2 (February 2 - October 15 2021), which explored themes of grief and catharsis through a collage of electronic production, samples and audio clips from the producer’s "actual life." Skrillex, meanwhile, kicked off the year by releasing his collaboration with Four Tet and Starrah, "Butterflies," setting the stage for more transatlantic collaborations.
June 2022: To kick off summer, fast friends Skrillex and Fred again.. rented a house in the idyllic English village of Pangbourne to work on new music. As Skrillex recalled on Instagram, he had an album to finish, while Fred again.. was finalising music for his then-imminent Boiler Room debut. Four Tet agreed to come and hang out for a bit, bringing his toothbrush just in case he was compelled to stay. As Skrillex put it on Instagram, "This moment marked the birth of the Pangbourne House Mafia."
July 2022: When Fred again.. rolled up to his Boiler Room debut in London, no one could’ve predicted the energy to come. Surrounded on all sides by sweaty, screaming admirers, the producer blazed through a hybrid DJ-live set that blended house, U.K. garage, grime, drum & bass, and pop.
He also used the set to preview a few of his collaborations with Skrillex, including "Rumble," which sent fans clamouring for clues online. The Boiler Room session blew up on YouTube (where it now has 22 million views), catapulting Fred again.. and his to-be-released collaborations to a whole new level.
October 2022: While promoting his third album, Actual Life 3 (January 1 - September 9 2022), Fred again.. sat down for an interview with Apple Music’s Zane Lowe at Skrillex’s house in Los Angeles. "We’ve done a home swap at the moment," the producer told Lowe, "so he’s staying at mine in London and I’m at his in L.A." Now, that’s true friendship.
January 2023: After making fans wait, Skrillex and Fred again.. Kicked off the year with a bang and finally released "Rumble" via Skrillex’s OWSLA label. The pair also grabbed Four Tet for a surprise back-to-back-to-back DJ set at London’s Electric Ballroom, which featured a whirlwind of new and unreleased music. What started as a one-off show rolled into three extremely sold-out nights at different venues, with the trio of DJs clearly having the time of their lives.
February 2023: In a career-defining month, Skrillex released his much-anticipated album Quest for Fire, which featured collaborators like Porter Robinson, Missy Elliot, Mr Oizo, Bobby Raps, and — of course — Fred again.. and Four Tet. To celebrate the release, the "Pangbourne House Mafia" casually announced a show at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden, which sold out within three minutes. To warm up, the trio created pandemonium with an impromptu DJ set in Times Square, where they trialled some new edits ahead of the big show.
April 2023: After selling out Madison Square Garden without breaking a sweat, and releasing team-up track, "Baby again.." in March, the unlikely supergroup of Fred, Skrillex and Four Tet went looking for the next high.
As it happened, that opportunity came on the second weekend of Coachella. With Frank Ocean relinquishing his Sunday headlining spot after a divisive weekend performance, the festival left a tantalizing TBA in the final slot. Before long, the cat was out of the bag, and dance music’s new favorite trio were headed to the desert with memeable merch bearing the slogan, OMG TBA.
"I didn’t think I was gonna be back with my brothers like this for a longgggg time," Fred again.. wrote on Instagram. "Until last night. And here we are."
Appearing on a circular stage deep in the crowd, the DJs closed down Coachella with the excitement of three friends who couldn’t quite believe their luck.
June 2023: With the members of the "Pangbourne House Mafia" returning to life as solo artists after Coachella, Fred again.. announced a three-night run at New York’s Forest Hills Stadium in October, followed by Ill Points in Miami, and then eight shows at Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles. With LA being Skrillex’s hometown, the two producers are sure to cook up something new - after, this is one friendship with a lot more to give.