Photo: Joseph Okpako/WireImage/Getty Images
Enrique Iglesias Celebrated As A Changemaker By Save The Children
The GRAMMY- and Latin GRAMMY-winning pop star harnessed the power of his huge global fan base to raise over $353,000 for kids in need around the world
GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY winner Enrique Iglesias has been named a Changemaker for Children by the Save The Children. Everyone's favorite "Hero" has harnessed the power of his huge global fan base to raise over $353,000 for the charity, to support kids in need around the world, including with literacy and arts programs.
An active supporter of the organization since 2015, he has been recognized for his support, among the 60-plus other Changemakers. Save The Children has honored this group of "people who raise their voices to drive change for children in need" as they celebrate their 100th birthday.
Enrique Iglesias & fans | Photo: Courtesy of artist
"I have the best fans on the planet," Iglesias said in a press release. "They never cease to amaze me with their incredible compassion and support. I am so proud of what we have accomplished and I am thankful for my partnership with Save the Children. Together, we are making the world a little better for children."
Iglesias encouraged fans to donate to important cause via online contributions, fundraisers and auctions, special merchandise and even meet and greets with the star himself. These efforts raised $353,000 (and counting!), of which $75,000 is earmarked for the org's HEART (Healing and Education Through the Arts) programs in Mexico.
With help from Microsoft, he also donated $200,000 of software for literacy programs for elementary school-age children in El Salvador, Guatemala and Peru.
Earlier this month, on Oct. 4, Iglesias released Greatest Hits, celebrating 24 years of his catchy Spanish and English ballads and pop jams.
For more information on how to make a donation to Save the Children on behalf of Iglesias, and to shop his exclusive charity-supporting merch, visit his website.
Photo: Kelly Samson, Gallery Photography
Photo: Timothy Norris/FilmMagic
The Sonic And Cultural Evolution Of Reggaeton In 10 Songs
Reggaeton is now firmly in the mainstream, with stars like Bad Bunny and Karol G topping charts with consecutive hits. But the genre has had a complex history and development over decades; read on for 10 songs that track reggateon's evolution.
Once a marginalized genre associated with lewdness and criminality — much like the genres from which it draws so much influence, dancehall and hip-hop — reggaeton is now firmly in the mainstream. While dominant across Latin America in the new millennium, reggaeton has made huge inroads with English-speaking audiences in the past decade, particularly with crossover hits like "Bailando," "Despacito," and numerous Bad Bunny songs from the past three years.
Although many associate reggaeton with Puerto Rico, the roots of the genre can be found in Panama, with artists like El General and Nando Boom taking Jamaican dancehall riddims — like dembow, first introduced in the Shabba Ranks song of the same name — and rapping in Spanish over them in the early 1990s. In Puerto Rico, early reggaeton was called "underground," and gained popularity in the mid-1990s through mixtapes put out by DJs like Playero and Negro, who utilized hip-hop techniques to alter the dancehall riddims as an instrumental track for local rappers and singers like Daddy Yankee.
Reggaeton has long been a male-dominated genre (with Ivy Queen being the main exception to the rule), but in recent years female singers have become more prominent. Colombian singer Karol G, for example, is currently one of the genre’s biggest stars, and Spanish singer Rosalía pivoted to reggaeton for her 2022 album Motomami, which won a Latin GRAMMY for Album Of The Year.
Colombian artists have also been making their way to the top of the reggaeton charts in recent years — alongside Karol G, there’s J Balvin and Maluma — although Puerto Rican artists still dominate the genre, with current stars like Rauw Alejandro and Anuel AA.
Reggaeton will only continue to evolve and develop; read on for 10 songs that represent the sonic and cultural evolution of the genre in the past three decades.
El General - "Tu Pum Pum" (1990)
Years before the term reggaeton was invented, Panamanian rapper El General (Edgardo Franco) was the first artist to gain recognition recording reggae en español. Given the history of West Indian immigration to Panama to build the Canal, it’s not surprising that the story of reggaeton begins there. This proto-reggaeton style emulated Jamaican dancehall much more closely than later styles would. El General and his friends got started by taking Jamaican riddims like the genre-defining dembow and rapping in Spanish over them; they used to board buses in Panama City and perform for fellow riders. El General was known as a skilled improvisor.
He moved to New York to study in the late 1980s, and hooked up with fellow Panamanian and producer Michael Ellis, who is said to have invented the term "reggaeton." El General’s first hit, "Tu Pun Pun" is a Spanish-language version of Jamaican dancehall artist Little Lenny’s 1990 song "Punnany Tegereg" that’s quite faithful musically to the original.
The title of the song is slang for female genitals, and the lyrics chronicle El General’s sexual prowess in graphic detail. Its chorus chants, "Your pum pum, baby baby, won’t kill (tame) me." The song became a hit in the U.S. and El General went on to have a successful, albeit brief, career.
Tego Calderón - "Pa’ Que Retozen" (2003)
One of the biggest tracks on Tego Calderón’s debut album, El Abayarde, "Pa’ Que Retozen" was a party anthem and one of the first reggaeton hits in the U.S. It represents the culmination of many musical shifts that took place during the 1990s in Puerto Rico. By the mid-1990s, the dembow riddim began to dominate the Puerto Rican underground scene. As the millennium approached, DJs and producers began to incorporate elements of Latin popular music genres as well.
"Pa’ Que Retozen" is a good example of this trend, as bachata-style guitar riffs play underneath Calderón’s rapping. The background track switches up several times in this song, including an incredibly catchy, high-pitched synth riff heard in the second verse. Other tracks on El Abayarde also incorporate Latin genres and instruments — like bongó drums on "Abayarde," Afro-Puerto Rican bomba percussion on "Loíza," and a full salsa orchestra and vocals on "Planté Bandera."
Ivy Queen - "Quiero Bailar" (2002)
Known as the "Queen of Reggaeton," Ivy Queen was the only prominent female reggaeton artist for nearly two decades. She released two albums in the late 1990s, but it was her third album, Diva, in 2003, that really broke through. Ivy Queen intentionally wrote from a female perspective, as she had come up in a male-dominated scene in San Juan where women were constantly being objectified.
With her deep, throaty vocal tone, Ivy Queen proclaims on "Quiero Bailar" that although she wants to dance — even in the sexualized perreo style that had become synonymous with reggaeton — that doesn’t necessarily mean she wants to have sex with her dance partner. The song is still an important anthem for women who want to feel free to bump and grind and express themselves on the dancefloor without men expecting a sexual encounter.
Don Omar - "Dile" (2003)
Three of the genre’s most influential artists exploded on the scene at roughly the same time: Calderón, Daddy Yankee and Don Omar, with the latter two involved in a rivalry for the title of "King of Reggaeton." However, Don Omar always stood out among the three for the lyricism of his voice — he was a more gifted singer than many of his peers.
His debut album, The Last Don, is considered to be a classic, utilizing a similar approach as Calderón of injecting more melodic Latin styles, like bachata and salsa, into his music. The Dominican production team Luny Tunes, who was instrumental in expanding the sound of reggaeton and distinguishing it further from its Jamaican roots, produced about half the album’s tracks.
Like "Pa’ Que Retozen," Don Omar’s first major single, "Dile" relies heavily on a bachata guitar line, but his vocal style is quite different from the deep, resonant rapping of Calderón. The combination of Don Omar’s tenor voice with the melodic instrumentals of "Dile" makes for a very aesthetically pleasing, yet danceable song. In addition, he interpolates a salsa song, Joe Arroyo’s "La Noche," into a bridge-like section in the middle of "Dile."
The subject matter is also more emotional than many reggaeton songs had been up to this point, as he’s pleading with a woman to tell her boyfriend that she wants to be with someone else (Don Omar).
Daddy Yankee - "Gasolina" (2004)
The first reggaeton song to be nominated for Record Of The Year at the Latin GRAMMYs, "Gasolina" still stands as the genre’s most iconic and recognizable song. The song catapulted not only Daddy Yankee into the mainstream, but also the genre itself. It appeared on Daddy Yankee’s third studio album, Barrio Fino, which broke numerous records and won many awards.
Barrio Fino took a broad approach, which proved incredibly successful. Many of the album’s tracks were produced by Luny Tunes, including its two biggest hits, "Gasolina" and "Lo Que Pasó, Pasó." The album also features a salsa-reggaeton fusion and an R&B-inflected rap song that sounds like it could have been recorded by Big Pun.
As for the concept behind "Gasolina," Daddy Yankee was living in a San Juan housing project with his family, where he often heard people on the street shouting, "iComo le gusta las gasolina!" ("How she likes gasoline!"), referring to women who accept rides from men with nice cars. He took that phrase and ran with it, creating the famous hook "A mí me gusta la gasolina, dame más gasolina" ("I like gasoline, give me more gasoline"). A decade later he laughed at the idea that the term "gasolina" referred to drugs — as many people assumed — claiming that he used it literally, to refer to cars.
"Oye Mi Canto" - N.O.R.E., feat. Nina Sky, Gem Star, Daddy Yankee, and Big Mato
Reggaeton exploded in popularity in the mid-aughts, which explains why there are so many classic songs from that time period. "Oye Mi Canto" was the first collaboration between an American rapper (N.O.R.E.) and reggaeton artists, and included verses in English and Spanish.
The song originally featured Tego Calderón but Daddy Yankee replaced him in the video. It also signaled an acceptance of reggaeton by New York hip hop artists — Fat Joe also appears in the video. It peaked at No. 12 on the Billboard Top 100, a first for a reggaeton song.
The song utilizes a common feature of commercial hip hop at the time, a catchy R&B hook sung by a female vocalist, Nina Sky. The hook borrows from and adapts the recognizable chorus "Boricua, morena, Boricua, morena," which was heard on Big Pun’s massive 1998 hit "Still Not A Player," but extends it to include other Latino ethnicities beyond "Boricua" (Puerto Rican).
Calle 13 -"Atrévete-te-te" (2005)
Hardly a traditional reggaeton group, Calle 13 nonetheless created one of the genre’s most popular, beloved songs in 2005 with their irreverent hit "Atrévete-te-te." Rapper Residente and instrumentalist/producer Visitante, step-brothers, founded the group in 2004, and gained fame with a song about the FBI killing of Puerto Rican independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Ríos called "Querido FBI."
Residente is the most politically outspoken rapper within reggaeton, a genre the two musicians have tended to distance themselves from, preferring not to be labeled. The group’s music has always been eclectic, using live instrumentation and unusual timbres. These elements undoubtedly relate to the fact that Visitante plays dozens of instruments. The brothers still hold the record for most Latin GRAMMY Awards in history, a whopping 27 each!
"Atrévete-te-te" is an infectious cumbia-reggaeton hybrid featuring an unforgettable high-register clarinet. Residente’s lyrics are raunchy, witty, and replete with American pop culture references and anglicisms. He dares a "Miss Intellectual" to get down off her culturally elitist high horse and let loose: "I know you like Latin pop rock, but reggaeton gets into your intestines, under your skirt like a submarine, and brings out your ‘Taino’ (indigenous people native to Puerto Rico)." He reinforces his point later, singing, "Who cares if you like Green Day? Who cares if you like Coldplay?"
"Bailando" - Enrique Iglesias feat.Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona (2014)
In the 2010s reggaeton’s popularity continued to grow, and "Bailando" was one of the songs that significantly raised the genre’s visibility among English-language audiences. Nonetheless, Spanish pop singer Enrique Iglesias originally didn’t like the song.
"Bailando" was written and recorded by Cuban singer/songwriter Descemer Bueno and Cuban reggaeton duo Gente de Zona, who had become one of the island’s biggest musical groups. When Iglesias heard Bueno’s recording, he changed his mind and they added his vocals.
Garnering many awards, and winning Song of the Year at the 2014 Latin GRAMMYs, "Bailando" was flamenco-infused reggaeton designed for mass appeal. It follows a traditional pop song format, with Iglesias singing the verses and trading off with Gente de Zona and Bueno in the extended chorus sections. The lyrics are standard love song fare, and don’t include any of the rapped vocals or Cuban slang that had made Gente de Zona so popular in Cuba. Nonetheless, it peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent a record-breaking 41 weeks at the top of the U.S. Latin charts.
"Despacito" - Luis Fonsi featuring Daddy Yankee, with a remix feat. Justin Bieber (2017)
Love it or hate it, it’s impossible to ignore the cultural impact of "Despacito." It was already a huge hit in its original version, by Puerto Rican singer Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. But when Justin Bieber called Fonsi up to inquire about doing a remix, it became 2017’s song of the summer.
Like "Bailando," the original version was already as much Latin pop as it was reggaeton, and although Daddy Yankee has some rapped vocals in the second verse, he’s mainly singing as well. The producers decided to use a Puerto Rican cuatro, which opens the song, in addition to an acoustic guitar in order to give the song a more local feel. One unique element was the insertion of a rhythmic break right before the chorus "Despacito" (which translates to "slowly") comes in. The way Fonsi breaks up the three syllables in the title word, taking his time with them, is a nice touch.
The Justin Bieber remix was released three months later, and maintained the song’s original rhythms and Daddy Yankee’s verses. An English verse was added for Bieber at the beginning of the song, and he sang the "Despacito" choruses in Spanish — the first time he’d ever sung in Spanish. It quickly rose to No. 1 on the Hot 100 charts, which gave Fonsi and Daddy Yankee their first No. 1 hit. It stayed at the top of the charts for 16 weeks, tying with "One Sweet Day," by Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men, and remained the longest-leading No. 1 single until 2019. "Despacito" also won Song and Record Of The Year at the Latin GRAMMYs.
"Titi Me Preguntó" - Bad Bunny (2022)
Bad Bunny is not only the most prominent artist in contemporary reggaeton — he was the biggest artist in the world in 2022. It’s impossible to list all of the accolades Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio has attained in his short career, but here are a few: His latest, Un Verano Sin Tí, was the first Spanish-language one to be nominated for Album Of The Year at the 2023 GRAMMYs, he's been Spotify's most streamed artist in the world for three straight years.
Un Verano Sin Tí was a masterful achievement, showcasing a wide variety of contemporary Latin music beyond reggaeton, including Dominican dembow and mambo, bachata, electro-cumbia, and even indie rock — all anchored by Bad Bunny’s emo vocal style. The album is a celebration of Spanish Caribbean identity, paying homage as much to Dominican as to Puerto Rican music.
"Titi Me Preguntó" is not only one of the album’s biggest hits, but also one of its most complex tracks, featuring several discrete sections. It begins with a bachata guitar intro, followed by Bad Bunny’s rapped vocals accompanied by a sparse backbeat. His aunt is asking why he goes out with so many girls and won’t settle down. The body of the song speeds way up, keeping a sparse accompaniment, as Bad Bunny lists the names and cities of different girlfriends.
But there’s an interesting shift at the 2:15 mark, where the bachata guitar returns and we hear a woman’s voice admonishing him for being an f-boi. It’s followed by anguished Bad Bunny vocals singing, "I’d like to fall in love but I can’t." The music changes back to the sparse backbeat accompaniment when he sings: "I don’t even trust myself," and notes how many women say they want to have his first-born child. The singing returns, as a spooky electronica melody is added into the background mix: "Listen to your friend, I’ll only break your heart…I don’t know why I’m like this."
This is a man struggling with interpersonal demons, and this vulnerable masculinity (and his past refusal to conform to rigid gender norms) is precisely why Bad Bunny is so beloved by his female fans.
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.
Photo: Aysia Marotta
Noah Kahan's Big Year: How The "Stick Season" Singer Became A Folk-Pop Hero
On the heels of announcing an arena and stadium tour for 2024, Noah Kahan revisits some of the biggest moments that have led to it, from going viral with "Stick Season" to collaborating with Post Malone.
In July 2019, Noah Kahan made a promise to his fans via Twitter: "I prolly won't sell out Madison square garden, or even all the shows on my tour but I'll keep writing songs for you all for as long as you'll have me."
Four years later, he's made good on his word about continuing to write songs. But he's also proved himself wrong; not only has the Vermont-born star sold out his entire 2023 tour, but 2024 will see him play a sold-out Madison Square Garden — twice.
While Kahan himself asserts that he's always had a "very dedicated" fan base — whether from his days of posting to SoundCloud and YouTube or since he signed with Republic Records in 2017 – he admits he still finds it hard to process the level to which it's grown. "It's f—ing unbelievable," he says. "It feels so fake that it's almost like, the more time I spend thinking about it, the more abstract it becomes."
His humility is a large part of his appeal (as well as his sense of humor, both on Twitter and on stage), which carries into his folk-pop music. It's matched with extreme vulnerability, as Kahan has been open about his struggles with mental health. Even one of his biggest hits has revealing lyrics: "So I thought that if I piled something good on all my bad/ That I could cancel out the darkness I inherited from Dad," he sings the second verse of "Stick Season."
"Stick Season" became Kahan's breakout song in 2022, first making waves on social media — catching the attention of stars like Zach Bryan and Maisie Peters — and earning him his first radio hit. Its namesake album earned Kahan top 5 spots on Billboard's Top Alternative Albums, Top Rock Albums and Top Rock & Alternative Albums charts in October 2022, but it was the 2023 deluxe edition that really showed his trajectory: all 18 tracks debuted on Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Charts, making him one of only five artists to ever land 18 songs on the chart in one week.
Kahan's disbelief in his success is only going to continue into the new year, as his 2024 tour will also include L.A.'s Hollywood Bowl and two nights at Boston's Fenway Park. At this rate, he's seemingly on his way to Taylor Swift-level stardom — though, as he jokes, three-hour shows will never be in the cards: "From a physical health standpoint, this is as big as it can get."
In the midst of his Stick Season Tour, Kahan reminisced on the wild ride he's been on for the past 18 months. Below, he details seven of his most career-defining moments to date.
Watching "Stick Season" Blow Up
I wrote the song in 2020 and I posted the first verse and the chorus [on social media] the next morning. It was kind of an awkward time, because I had another album coming out right after that video was posted [2021's I Was / I Am] , and I had to promote that, and people were like, "What about that other song?" I'd be at shows and people would be like, "Play 'Stick Season'!"
I started to play it live, which is really what stoked the fire in terms of us realizing that it could be a big song. I played it in Syracuse, New York — and we hadn't posted any snippets besides what I would do on my Instagram Lives, or I'd perform it here and there on social media. Everyone in the room knew every single word to it. That was the song that got the biggest reaction all night, and it was a song that wasn't even out yet. That definitely opened my eyes to the desire for that song to be out in the world.
A lot of my set at the time was more pop-leaning, and this song is definitely more folk-leaning. I could really see the desire for sing-along folk anthems after that performance. [I remember] talking to my team and being like, "I think this song is gonna be around for a long time."
It gave confidence to something that I had been trying to do for a long time, even subconsciously. I think I was always making folk music, and I would always gravitate toward those songs, but a part of me would be like, This isn't who you are, you make pop. So I would stay away from it.
It took this one song — and playing it the way that I wanted to, and having people really respond — it opened my eyes to the audience that I didn't realize was there. It also opened my eyes to that confidence in myself that really comes through in this kind of songwriting. It let me look at folk music and storytelling as a bigger focus in my life instead of something that I did for fun or in the privacy of my home.
Seeing The Success Of Stick Season
When I was a kid, I would write my name on a blank CD, and I'd put it next to my Green Day CD, and I would pretend that we were the same. For a second it feels real, but it's really not.
Seeing my name on the charts and in conversations with all of these incredible famous artists, it kind of gave me the same feeling where I felt like, This just can't be real — I must be back in my childhood bedroom writing my band name on blank CDs. Because this doesn't happen to people making folk music, really. I was just kind of stunned into disbelief to the point where it took people reminding me that it was happening to actually process it.
I was in love with everything about the process of making this album, and honestly, that was enough for me. I felt so fulfilled. The organic nature of how it all came together felt so real to me, and it felt so important to me. And doing it in Vermont, and having the record be about Vermont and New England — it really felt like the album I've been waiting to make my whole life.
I think my fans could see how much it meant to me, and it meant the same to them. We kind of shared this real emotional attachment to this album together.
It just felt like a huge change in the way my life was gonna be. It meant that I could make music that fulfilled me that would fulfill others. I guess you could say it reinvigorated my faith in music in a lot of ways.
The chart success, and the radio play, and the co-signs from other really great artists and songwriters was incredible and overwhelming. I still haven't really processed it all.
It definitely changed my life and put me into a place where I'm selling out shows, and there's lots of people that want me to work with them. It feels so nice, because it all came from following my heart — in the least cliché way.
Playing Boston Calling
It started to feel monumental when I got there. It's, like, three minutes away from my house, which is crazy. So I took a van from my house and I started walking around the festival, and it felt like I was Justin Bieber — people were chasing me around the festival and screaming.
It was one of the first times I've played in Boston since the deluxe [version of Stick Season] came out, and it was the second festival of the tour, so we were not expecting this crazy reaction. We get on stage and the crowd is just a sea of people. It looked like the crowd for a headliner, and it was only, like, 6 p.m.
We had a really good performance — objectively, we kind of crushed it — and all the fans were losing their minds, and then later, I went on stage with the Lumineers, which was so insane. It just felt like this moment of this hometown crowd really coming out in full force, showing their support and showing the world that I had this kind of fan base. I felt like I was kind of stepping out into a new world in a lot of ways when I got on stage.
Singing "Homesick" was pretty incredible. It has a line about the Boston [Marathon] bombers, and we were literally right next to Watertown where the Boston bombers were caught. And hearing like 40,000 New Englanders sing "I'm mean because I grew up in New England" was incredible — it made me tear up watching videos the next day. Seeing all those people connect over this common understanding of who we are, and that region, all at once was really, really special. It was just such a Boston moment.
Ever since then, it was kind of just crazy show after crazy show. And every hometown show has been so unbelievable. It was kind of the start of the madness.
Headlining Red Rocks
A show that felt particularly special was Red Rocks. Having gone from being an opener there to a headliner in a little less than a year was really special for me. The growth was so evident.
The crowds at Red Rocks are in this trance of community and love — it felt like the crowd was connecting with each other, and watching that happen was really incredible. Every single person there had a smile on their face. I think that everybody there had an amazing time, and that made me so happy.
Another thing that I've loved about all the shows, but Red Rocks in particular, is that some of these songs are filled with painful feelings and thoughts, and things that, for me, required a lot of vulnerability. And when the crowd is singing every single word, it just means that a whole crowd of — in Red Rocks' case, 9,900 people — are just being vulnerable, and yelling it out loud.
That's the greatest gift a musician can ever get — watching people express themselves and free themselves from any kind of shame at a show. That's what I try to do with my music, and I feel like I saw thousands of people shedding their guilt, their fear and their shame, and singing the lyrics.
We were playing the song "Maine," and there's a line that's like, "If there were cameras in the traffic lights, they'd make me a star," and I remember looking up at the crowd — that line is really about knowing that you have something special, but not knowing if anyone can ever see it.
I remember singing that song and that line, and I looked up to the crowd — 9,,000 people, that's four times bigger than everyone in my hometown — screaming that line back to me, and I cried. I couldn't believe where I was in my life.
And I still can't, but there are moments that I get numb to all of it and there are moments when the absurdity of it all slaps me in the face. That was definitely a moment where I felt just shocked by where I had gotten to, and how things have grown.
Launching The Busyhead Project
The Busyhead Project is an endeavor to raise a million dollars for mental health awareness, and these organizations that are doing so much for fighting the stigma and supporting people who suffer around North America. We wanted to start this organization because I have spent a lot of my career thinking and about my own journey with mental health, but I always felt like I was not doing enough, or just kind of providing lip service.
I never wanted to feel like I was accessorizing it or commodifying it. So I wanted to do something that felt boots-on-the-ground, tangible, [and] would make a real difference. We set out with a goal to raise a million dollars [for these organizations], and we're getting really close. [Editor's note: As of press time, The Busyhead Project has raised $977,055.]
I think it just comes down to putting your money where your mouth is. Like, I'm playing bigger venues and I sell merch — I'm starting to make money, and part of my philosophy on wealth and making money is that you're supposed to use it to help other people.
I don't need a lot for myself. I live on a diet of sunflower seeds and bananas — I'm literally eating both of them right now — so I wanted to give back as much as I can. It's really that simple; trying to raise money for people that really need it, and organizations that are doing miraculous work. We're definitely not going to stop at a million — I hope not, because that would be kind of lame. [Laughs.] If we can raise more money, we should raise it.
When I was a kid, I would look up "Artists with depression" or "Artists on medication." I didn't find a lot of 'em, but when I did find somebody, it would feel like I was, like, saved by God or something. That became like religion to me, to see that someone who was in the music industry was also struggling with what I was really struggling with as a kid. I want to provide that for some kid making music out there.
Breaking Onto The Hot 100 (And Collaborating With Post Malone) With "Dial Drunk"
The chart is kind of, like, the one thing from movies about the music industry that signify when the band is doing well — like The Rocker, or Rockstar, where it's like, "Oh my god, the music's on the charts!" And they're doing a montage where the chart spins, and they're on a magazine cover, you know what I mean? And what's always followed by that is a horrible downward spiral, so I think when I saw the song charting well, I was like, Oh God, this is where my career starts to go bad.
But I was really excited, and it was super cool — and, again, one of those things that's hard to actually understand from a human level.
It was also really nice because I always feel like the last thing I did is the best thing I did, so after "Stick Season" was a big success, I was like, I have to have another song! And I was touring so much, and I was on Zoloft, so I was feeling emotionally kind of numbed-down. Writing this song was kind of a wake-me-up from what was going on.
It was kind of a personal victory in a lot of ways — I challenged myself to make something new, and I did, and then it had this massive success. It felt like I can get through anything and do this again if I have to. It reminded me that what was happening in my career wasn't lightning in a bottle, but a real reflection of an audience being hungry for my music.
So then when Post Malone started recording his verse in the song, I felt like I was in a fever dream. I felt like it was gonna elevate my career to a new place, and I think it did.
He's always been an inspiration to me in the way he approaches music. I literally just reached out to him on DMs randomly one day, I was like, "Bro, I think you might like this song, we should do it together." He responded two months later, like, "Yeah, I f—ing love it!" It felt really natural.
We sat cross-legged and drank beers at the show in Massachusetts that I went out with him [to perform "Dial Drunk"]. It was so Post Malone — we talked about adult diapers and The Dewey Cox Story. He was just so funny and fun to be around.
Announcing An Arena & Stadium Tour For 2024
They had been talked about for a while when we were starting the tour in the spring, but they never felt real — I always kind of think, That'll happen later. At the point that I'm doing those shows, I'll feel like I belong in those rooms.
Having these shows scheduled is truly surreal. I just don't know how we're gonna sell that many tickets. [Laughs.] I think I'll believe it when I'm in the room — like, Madison Square Garden, to me, has always felt like just where Paul McCartney goes, and I can't believe that I get to be having my name on the marquee.
I told my managers on the phone when they booked Fenway, "I'm actually going to retire after this." [Laughs.] There's really no way to describe what that means to someone from New England.
As someone who grew up loving the Red Sox, going to Fenway Park all the time with my friends — getting drunk and stealing somebody's seats, and screaming at the opposing players over the dugout — that place has meant so much to me and so many people in my life. And the fact that I'm going to be one of not many people that have headlined that venue is just the craziest f—ing thing in the entire world. It feels like there's no other higher peak than playing songs about New England in the mecca of New England.
There was, like, a limit to my dreams when I was a kid — what I could do for a living and how big it could be. I'm trying to have my 8-year-old self be proud of me. I don't think he could even imagine where I'd be now.
I'm so proud of the people I work with, I'm so proud of myself, because I have really worked hard for this, and I've sacrificed a lot of things in my life to make music happen. To get to this place, it just feels like all those hard decisions were worth it.
I'm grateful for all the people that have supported me, and the people that have taken time out of their day to believe in my music when I couldn't believe in it. I'm just happy to feel like I belong here.