meta-script5 Essential Power Pop Albums From 2022: Dazy, Young Guv, The Beths & More | GRAMMY.com
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Molly Rankin and Kerri MacLellan of Alvvays perform in London

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5 Essential Power Pop Albums From 2022: Dazy, Young Guv, The Beths & More

The beauty of well-executed power pop is how effortless it can sound, and as this year's releases have proven, even a song that clocks in under 2 minutes can make a long-lasting impact.

GRAMMYs/Dec 22, 2022 - 10:32 pm

Power pop may not necessarily be a genre en vogue, but there is something admirable about an artist who devotes their energy to crafting the perfect pop song with nothing but a guitar and a story to tell.

Like many things in music, its origins start with the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, and the Kinks. While the likes of Led Zeppelin, Cream and Jimi Hendrix were pushing the limits (and volume) of the delta blues, power pop upstarts like the Raspberries and Badfinger were trying their best to recapture the sound of Beatlemania. Cheap Trick, whose shows received Beatle-like hysteria abroad, brought power pop to the masses with songs like "Dream Police," "Surrender," and of course their effervescent jam "I Want You to Want Me."

But it was singer/songwriter Alex Chilton and his band Big Star who have remained power pop’s heroes. The band’s first two albums — #1 Record and Radio City — are considered cult classics in the genre. Chilton had a knack for writing catchy, danceable rock songs like  "September Gurls," "When My Baby’s Beside Me," and "In the Street," while at the same time delivering gentler ballads like "I’m In Love With A Girl" or "Thirteen" with the lovesick sincerity of a teenager with a crush.

Their music would go on to influence countless bands, many of whom had commercial success Big Star could only dream of. From Nick Lowe to the Cars, the Bangles to R.E.M., there is a long history of Chilton disciples who have plied their trade creating jangly and bright rock 'n' roll as sweet as candy-o.

Perhaps no disciple was more devoted than Paul Westerberg of Minnesotan misfits the Replacements. For Westerberg, Chilton was both his mentor and muse as a songwriter. "I never travel far without a little Big Star," he sang on the rollicking ode "Alex Chilton" from the Replacements' classic Pleased to Meet Me. On this track, Westerberg envisioned a world in which "children by the million sing for Alex Chilton." Thirty-five years later since that song was written, Westerberg’s power pop utopia has arrived.

2022 saw an explosion of vital power pop releases from artists who both carried that torch and pushed the genre in exciting new directions — a reminder that power pop isn't just fodder for grocery stores or radio replays, but rather music worthy of dissecting and embracing. The beauty of well-executed power pop is how effortless it can sound, and as this year's releases have proven, even a song that clocks in under 2 minutes can make a long-lasting impact. Here are five essential power pop albums from 2022 that you need to check out.

Young Guv – III & IV

For 15 years, Ben Cook was a guitarist for Canadian hardcore punk heroes F***ed Up, a band known for pummeling its listeners with loud guitar riffs and barking vocals. It’s about as far from power pop as you can get, which is why it’s surprising that since leaving that band, Cook has made a name for himself making gentler, catchy power pop under the moniker Young Guv.

In 2022, the band released not one but two albums: GUV III & GUV IV, each of which were recorded in the spring of 2020, when Young Guv’s tour was halted in Texas due to COVID. Cook and his bandmates spent the next nine months living at the foot of the Taos Mountains in New Mexico in an "earthship" made from Adobe clay, tires, and bottles. They spent their days writing music, swimming in the Rio Grande, and listening to a lot of Miles Davis, and emerged on the other side with two album’s worth of new music.

While the album covers may look similar, the two records have different feels. Songs on III like "It’s Only Dancing" and "Couldn’t Leave U If I Tried" offer a more immediate rush of danceable, jangle rock, while IV feels a bit more meditative and lived in — like the wilting "Change Your Mind" or minimalistic "Cry 2 Sleep." To put it in a different perspective, III is made for the days out swimming under the sun, while IV sounds like a night best spent gazing at the bright stars in the middle of the desert.

2nd Grade – Easy Listening

For more than a decade, Philadelphia has become the  hotspot for indie rock. Artists like The War on Drugs, Japanese Breakfast, Kurt Vile, and countless others have made a name for themselves in the City of Brotherly Love before becoming embraced by fans far beyond Broad Street. Peter Gill, frontman of Philadelphia’s 2nd Grade, may not be a household name just yet, but after releasing his band’s excellent new album Easy Listening in September, perhaps album opener "Cover of Rolling Stone" won’t be a work of fiction for very long.

The best power pop doesn’t take itself too seriously, and on Easy Listening, Gill writes with a childlike playfulness about Keith Richards’ guitar and the episode of "Seinfeld" when Kramer moves to L.A. Then there are songs like "Me & My Blue Angles" and "Teenage Overpopulation'' that feel as if they have been around forever — like old friends back in town for a beer. "Strung Out On You," in particular, sounds like a classic left off of one of Big Star’s first two records. Easy Listening is exactly as the album title advertises: a breezy and fun power pop gem that makes power pop sound easy.

DAZY – OUTOFBODY

James Goodson is a music publicist living in Richmond, Virginia who, on a whim during the pandemic, recorded and released songs as DAZY, a solo-project of loud, fuzzy power pop. Following a collection of demos MAXIMUMBLASTSUPERLOUD: The First 24 Songs and 2022’s "Pressure Cooker," the one-off hookfest of a collab single with Militarie Gun, DAZY unleashed a debut full-length.

Clocking in at just over 25 minutes, OUTOFBODY is a quick and dizzying hit of electric dopamine, delivered solely via computer and a guitar. These songs rip with huge refrains, thumping drum machines, and buzzy guitars.

Goodson was a child of punk rock, and grew up listening to the likes of Nirvana, Green Day and Rancid. "I wanted to tap into the music that I’ve always loved and will always love so it will never get old to me," Goodson told Stereogum.  Throughout the record, Goodson uses these  influences as a sort of cathartic expression of the existential dread he maps out on OUTOFBODY. You can hear that early pop-punk, college rock, and grunge on "Split" and "On My Way," as well as Oasis and Britpop within the hooks on "Ladder" and "Choose Yr Ramone."

Within all the noise, however, is the comfort in knowing that music you love will never leave your side.

The Beths – Expert in a Dying Field

It’s easy to take what the Beths do so well for granted. Since they first arrived on the scene with 2018’s Future Me Hates Me, the New Zealand quartet has done nothing but write sincere, lasting power pop. In 2022 the Beths released their best album yet, Expert in a Dying Field, a collection of songs that dive into the anxieties and heartbreak of everyday life.

On "Silence Is Golden," the album's loudest song, frontwoman Liz Stokes propels into the unending noise.  Elsewhere, on "Your Side," "Knees Deep," and the excellent title track, Stokes’ lovelorn characters toggle between relationship autopsies and dreams about what’s next, "mixing drinks and messages." "When You Know You Know" wouldn’t sound out of place next to Avril Lavigne on the radio, and features some of Stokes’ best turn of phrases ("Running down the road to jog the memory"). Whether or not the album title is a bit self-deprecating remains to be seen, but the Beths are the heroes that power pop needs.

Alvvays – Blue Rev

Toronto indie darlings Alvvays first arrived on the scene in 2014 with their self-titled debut that included the indie-pop anthem "Archie, Marry Me." They leveled up on their next record, 2017’s Antisocialites, and then… well… the band went silent. For a little while, it felt like Alvvays would never return, but it turns out that the band had to overcome roadblocks of biblical proportions to record their fantastic new record. Not a pandemic, a studio flood, and stolen demos could derail Blue Rev.

On Blue Rev, Alvvays teamed up with GRAMMY-winning producer Shawn Everett to turn power pop on its head and send it in new directions. Blue Rev is awash in shoegaze-y guitars and lush synths, and songs such as "After the Earthquake," "Many Mirrors," and "Easy On Your Own?" sound like if R.E.M.’s Murmur and Monster were put into a blender.

Meanwhile, singer/guitarist Molly Rankin has a unique talent for making life’s mundanities feel high stakes; she writes about running into an ex-lover’s sibling on "Pharmacist," a tale that lands with a gut-punch, singing "You know it happens all the time, it’s alright. I know I never crossed your mind." It’s endlessly captivating and inviting, and with Blue Rev, Alvvays have established themselves as power pop’s new pioneers.

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Alvvays

Image courtesy of the Recording Academy

interview

Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Alvvays' Molly Rankin On The Indie Darlings' Ascent, Dodging Expectations

Riding the headwinds of their breakthrough album 'Blue Rev,' Alvvays have scooped up a nomination for Best Alternative Music Performance at the 2024 GRAMMYs. Read an interview with their leader, Molly Rankin, and watch a clip of her in conversation.

GRAMMYs/Jan 16, 2024 - 06:08 pm

On a scale of one to 10, how crazy was 2023 for the rock band Alvvays?

“I would say an eight, probably,” frontwoman Molly Rankin deadpans to GRAMMY.com. If that's true, she doesn't show it. “I'm pretty sedate as a person,” she explains during an on-camera portion of the interview, “So, if you want anything with more energy, I can certainly try.”

This belies that Alvvays poured a lot of energy into Blue Rev, their imagination and melody packed third album, which put them on the map for many back in 2022.

Blue Rev's third single, “Belinda Says,” was an instant favorite among the indie set — and now, it's netted a nomination for Best Alternative Music Performance at the 2024 GRAMMYs.). (They're up against Arctic Monkeys (“Body Paint”), boygenius (“Cool About It”, Lana Del Rey (“A&W”), and Paramore (“This Is Why.”)

Sure, Rankin might have a stoic air. But she's clearly also thoughtful, intent on cannily navigating these unfamiliar waters, shoulder-to-shoulder with her bandmates: keyboardist Kerri MacLellan, guitarist Alec O'Hanley, bassist Abbey Blackwell, and drummer Sheridan Riley.

“Just being included or mentioned has been exciting, because when we started, we couldn't even get a show. I just want to have that same mentality,” Rankin says. “I just don't ever want to feel entitled to an award or a review or a piece.”

Whatever happens at the 2024 GRAMMYs, Rankin's holistic attitude will ease the way forward — and we'll always have Blue Rev as an exemplar of lush, witty indie rock, with more hooks than a tackle box.

Read on for an interview with Rankin about Alvvays' [pronounced always] whirlwind 2023, and their road to Music's Biggest Night — along with a bonus, exclusive clip of her in conversation with GRAMMY.com.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

You've said you “didn't want to get swept up” in the GRAMMYs thing. What do you mean by that?

Well, the truth is that you apply for GRAMMYs. So, for anyone to say that they're not intrigued by that, after applying or having someone apply on your behalf, it's a little bit strange.

What do the GRAMMYs mean? We've always watched them as kids. I don't know, in recent years if I've been so up to date, but [there have been] a lot of big performances.

When we were recording Blue Rev, we were sitting on [engineer/producer] Shawn Everett's couch and he had probably four or something GRAMMYs just sitting on his console. It is a large presence.

Where do you personally place the GRAMMYs in your musical universe?

I think that it's cool to see lesser known artists crack into that world, whatever that ends up meaning. But awards as a concept have had such a low bar for expectation, and I've always just thought that every development with us has been this really rare bonus. Expecting anything, for me, has not been the right approach.

What do you remember about guiding the band out of the bar circuit — aiming your arrow a little higher?

We generally tried to play in the United States as much as we could, because staying in Canada and becoming a Canadian band can be limiting. I don't really know why, but it can be.

We always just wanted to crack into other regions and see if we could sustain ourselves. But I have so many friends who are so much more talented than I am that haven't gotten to do things like that with their music. So, again, it's all just exciting to us.

What do you remember about the biz 10 years ago as opposed to now?

It did seem like there were more venues. Maybe it was easier, in a way, to blow up.

Like, if you were mentioned on a blog, that would just be kind of like a platform for you to just take off and tour and be everywhere. But it's not so much that anymore. I think just with the cost of everything, and people [not being] so reliant on reviews, they can pick and choose what they like.

Things have changed. I don't know where things are going to go. We're all just hanging onto the bumper.

As streaming continued its grip on everything and touring became even more of an insane, expensive ordeal, what do you remember about keeping the band ballasted?

We didn't have an overnight success type thing. Our album was out for probably a year before we really felt like we were touring in a really big way. And everything felt so gradual that we did have time to have those growing pains, but we also had jobs.

So, I don't know. Everything has been so incremental for us, even though maybe it doesn't seem like that to some people. But Alec's been in so many other bands and paid a lot of his dues — worked at various poutine restaurants. I'm trying to think of how to extrapolate on that.

What were you aiming to do with Blue Rev, as per your creative and professional trajectories?

Well, first, the goal was to write more songs, and that seems like a mountain to climb sometimes.

And then, to actually complete an album, for Alec and I to have the same opinion on where a song has ended up versus what the demo sounded like. And just coming to a place where we both feel the same way. That is such a process for us, and a labor of love.

But finishing the record was all that I was really pinning my hopes and dreams on, and everything else has so much more to do with the timing and who is believing you and listening to you and understanding what you're saying. And people put out things all the time that don't land, and a lot of it is not really in their hands.

I guess with this album, I did want everything to be a little bit more reflective of our live show, too, because I think that we can be a pretty aggressive band, guitar-wise, and can be an energetic band. But I'm not sure that was necessarily reflected in our previous recordings.

What do you remember about bringing Blue Rev to the finish line?

I think that there were so many different nights where me, Kerri, Alec, and Sean just never slept. And that can bring out the best in you and the worst in you.

But we did have a lot of fun doing it. And we did it in person, we did it on computers, like this [remote video interview], and Sean was there with us the whole way to help us through it.

Just going back at the end of mastering and listening to all the demos that I had lived with for years, and felt so unhealthily attached to, and realizing that every finished song was vastly better than those artifacts — that was really gratifying.

I recently interviewed Adrian from the Black Pumas about working with Shawn Everett; he remembers Shawn cranking up a minor detail until it became the soul of the song. Were there any particular instances like that?

He [Shawn] has such a great sense of moments of impact, and he just understands when something needs to feel moving and when something needs to shift.

I really think that we connected on that in a big way. And he has such a grasp of expansive sound. But yeah, he also hears things. He hears hooks, and is a musician in his own regard. So there were so many things that I feel like we've learned from him.

There's a bridge in this song called “Very Online Guy,” where he created this whole other experimental portion melodically in the chunk of the bridge because he will just take a random thing you say and copy and paste it into a song just as an experiment.

So that was basically what he did, and it ended up working with some editing. But he is a very unpredictable person and not afraid to be rejected, which is so important.

How are you preparing for the GRAMMYs? And what are you looking forward to in 2024 and beyond?

I think just us showing up and going there is really surreal for us. So we're excited to just put on an outfit and sit in a seat for six hours and watch the crazy production that is the GRAMMYs.

But I want to just keep making music that I like and that I feel good about putting out into the world. And hopefully that'll continue to be in the form of albums and pop songs that I like to write and mess around with.

I'm so lucky to have also the people that are in the band with us. And Alec has always been such a fruitful collaborator, and that collaboration is something that I really feel passionately about — and editing each other and bouncing ideas off of one another It's this really intangible element that I really appreciate, and just to continue to do that would be ideal.

Are you planning to go for the full monty on the red carpet? Are you guys going to serve looks or stay out of that racket?

I don't know if we're capable of being polished to that degree, but we'll see what's in store for us. I know that we have a lot of people that care about us. They might come through for us and get us some new pants. God knows we need them.

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Joy Oladokun
Joy Oladokun

Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

video

Outside Lands 2023: Watch Interviews With Alvvays, Aespa, Joy Oladokun, Lovejoy, & More

On Aug. 11-13, Outside Lands returned to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park for the 15th time. Check out some stellar performances from the multi-day music and food festival.

GRAMMYs/Aug 15, 2023 - 03:30 pm

In the midst of an unseasonably chilly August — a San Francisco trademark — Outside Lands raged once again.

Some 75,000 attendees flocked to the Bay Area to enjoy delicious food and an eclectic array of entertainment — among them Janelle Monáe, Foo Fighters, Kendrick Lamar, and other leading lights of today's music.

GRAMMY.com was there to soak up the tunes and the atmosphere — and film some truly inspired sets. Below, revisit Outside Lands — or, if you weren't there, experience it from afar — with some top-tier performances.

aespa

Lovejoy

Becky Hill

Blond:ish

Matt Hansen

Alvvays

Joy Oladokun

Henry Mancini in a recording studio
Henry Mancini

Photo: A. Schorr/ullstein bild via Getty Images

list

10 Essential Henry Mancini Recordings: From "Moon River" To The 'Pink Panther' Theme

Composer, arranger, conductor and pianist Henry Mancini won 20 GRAMMY Awards over his legendary career. On what would be his 100th birthday, revisit 10 timeless Henry Mancini compositions.

GRAMMYs/Apr 16, 2024 - 01:34 pm

Henry Mancini had a gift for melodies of an ethereal, almost supernatural beauty.  

His prolific discography — albums of jazzy orchestral pop, dozens of film and television soundtracks — established him as a cultural icon and transformed the role that melody and song played in the art of movie narrative. Once you encounter a Henry Mancini tune, it’s almost impossible not to start humming it.

A composer, arranger, conductor and pianist of tireless discipline, Mancini won a staggering 20 GRAMMY Awards and was nominated 72 times. All of his wins — including the first-ever golden gramophone for Album Of The Year at the inaugural 1951 GRAMMYs — will be on display at the GRAMMY Museum to honor his centennial birthday, April 16. 

To mark what would be his centennial birthday, Mancini's children will travel to Abruzzo, Italy — where Mancini’s parents migrated from. And on June 23, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra will present a program of his music with a gallery of guest stars including singer Monica Mancini, the maestro’s daughter.

Although Mancini died in 1994 at age 70, his compositions remain timeless and ever-relevant. Read on for 10 essential Henry Mancini compositions to cherish and rediscover.  

"Peter Gunn" (1958)

In 1958, Mancini was looking for work and used his old Universal studio pass to enter the lot and visit the barber shop. It was outside the store that he met writer/director Blake Edwards and got the chance to write the music for a new television show about private detective Peter Gunn. 

Seeped in West Coast Jazz, Mancini’s main theme sounds brash and exciting to this day – its propulsive beat and wailing brass section evoking an aura of cool suspense. The "Peter Gunn" assignment cemented his reputation as a cutting-edge composer, and the accompanying album (The Music From Peter Gunn) won GRAMMYs in the Album Of The Year and Best Arrangement categories.

"Mr. Lucky" (1959)

Half of the "Peter Gunn" fan mail was addressed to Mancini. As a result, CBS offered Blake Edwards a second television show, as long as the composer was part of the package. Edwards created "Mr. Lucky," a stylish series about the owner of a floating casino off the California coast. 

1959 was an exhausting year for Mancini, as he was scoring two shows at the same time on a weekly basis. Still, his music flowed with elegance and ease. The "Mr. Lucky" ambiance allowed him to explore Latin rhythms, and the strings on his wonderful main theme shimmer with a hint of yearning. It won GRAMMY Awards in 1960 for Best Arrangement and Best Performance by an Orchestra.

"Lujon" (1961)

As part of his contract with RCA Victor, Mancini was committed to recording a number of albums featuring original compositions in the same velvety jazz-pop idiom from his television work. "Lujon" is the standout track from Mr. Lucky Goes Latin, a collection of Latin-themed miniatures that luxuriate in a mood of plush languor.

 Inspired by the complex harmonics of French composer Maurice Ravel, "Lujon" steers safely away from lounge exotica thanks to the refined qualities of the melody and arrangement.

"Moon River" (1961)

Performed on a harmonica, the main melody of "Moon River" is nostalgic to the bone, but also life affirming. A majestic string section makes the music swoon, like gliding on air. And the harmonies in the vocal chorus add gravitas — a touch of humanity. 

It took Mancini half an hour to write "Moon River," but the Breakfast at Tiffany’s anthem made him a global superstar. Among the many artists who covered the song, pop crooner Andy Williams turned it into his personal anthem. Mancini won an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and GRAMMY Awards for Record Of The Year, Song Record Of The Year and Best Arrangement. The album soundtrack earned two additional gramophones.

Theme from Hatari! (1962)

After two failed attempts with different composers, legendary director Howard Hawks invited Mancini to write the score for Hatari! — the wildly episodic but oddly endearing safari film he had shot in Tanganyika with John Wayne. Mancini jumped at the opportunity, and Hawks gave him a few boxes from the trip that contained African percussive instruments, a thumb piano and a tape of Masai tribal chants. Two chords from that chant, together with a slightly detuned upright piano formed the basis for the movie’s main theme. 

Mancini’s sparse arrangement and melancholy melody conspired to create one of the most gorgeous themes in the history of film.

"Days of Wine and Roses" (1962)

Throughout the decades, Mancini provided musical accompaniment to Blake Edwards’ filmography, which switched from slapstick comedy to stark melodrama. There is a perverse beauty to the theme of Days of Wine and Roses — a movie about a couple of lifelong alcoholics — as the lush choral arrangement seems to glorify the innocence of better times. 

It won an Academy Award for Best Original Song — Mancini’s second Oscar in a row — and three GRAMMYs: Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Background Arrangement.

"The Pink Panther Theme" (1963)

Directed by Edwards and starring Peter Sellers as part of an ensemble cast, the original Pink Panther was a frothy caper comedy that had none of the manic touches of comedic genius that Sellers would exhibit in subsequent entries of the franchise. It was Mancini’s ineffable main theme that carried the movie through.

Jazzy and mischievous, Mancini wrote the melody with the light-as-a-feather playing of tenor saxophonist Plas Johnson in mind. It won GRAMMYs in three categories: Best Instrumental Arrangement, Best Instrumental Compositions (Other Than Jazz), and Best Instrumental Performance – Non-Jazz.

Charade (1963)

Mancini’s gift for cosmopolitan tunes and jazzy arrangements found the perfect vehicle in the score for Stanley Donen’s Charade — a droll Hitchcockian thriller shot in Paris and starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. 

The main theme is a waltz in A minor, and opens with pulsating percussion. When the central melody appears, it evokes a melancholy reflection and a certain thirst for the kind of globetrotting adventure that the film delivers in spades. It was Johnny Mercer’s favorite Mancini melody, and he wrote exquisite lyrics for it. 

The best version probably belongs to jazz singer Johnny Hartman, who released it as the opening track of his 1964 album I Just Dropped By To Say Hello.

Two For The Road (1967)

Friends and family remember Mancini as a humble craftsman who ignored the trappings of fame and focused on the discipline of work. In 1967, after Audrey Hepburn cabled to ask him about writing the music for the Stanley Donen film Two For The Road, Mancini agreed, but was taken aback when the director rejected his initial theme. Leaving his ego aside, he returned to the drawing board and delivered a lovely new melody – and a spiraling piano pattern seeped in old fashioned tenderness.

"Theme from The Molly Maguires" (1970)

Even though Mancini enjoyed most accolades during the ‘60s, his protean level of inspiration never wavered. In 1970, he was brought in to rescue the soundtrack of Martin Ritt’s gritty secret societies drama The Molly Maguires, about Irish-American miners rebelling against their mistreatment in 19th century Pennsylvania. 

The main theme makes time stand still: a sparse arrangement that begins with a solitary harp, until a recorder ushers in a haunting, Irish-inspired melody. The score reflected a more restrained Mancini, but was still intensely emotional.

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Excited fans in a crowd shot at Coachella 2024
Fans at weekend one of Coachella 2024

Photo: Christina House / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

feature

Meet The Coachella Die-Hards: 5 Super Fans You'll Find In The Desert

It's not only influencers and celebrities heading to Indio, California. The "real Coachella" brings together people from across the country, including super fans who come year after year for the killer live show, community, and the occasional beer chug.

GRAMMYs/Apr 16, 2024 - 01:32 pm

After 25 years, Coachella is like a live music holiday. Every year, thousands of people from all walks of life descend upon the Empire Polo Club in Indio, California to enjoy artists whose music is as diverse as the crowd assembled. No matter what style anyone prefers, an artist they love is playing at Coachella.

This year alone, attendees can enjoy the classic Britpop sounds of Blur, trendy house music beats from John Summit, a reunion of the ska-punk icons, Sublime (featuring the late frontman's son, Jakob Nowell), and a headlining set from enigmatic rapper Tyler, The Creator.

Coachella also offers the opportunity for audiences to see artists they may never see elsewhere, like a rare American performance by the jazz-house master St.Germain, a shared set from the now-defunct dance music supergroup J.E.S.u.S. (Jackmaster, Eats Everything, Seth Troxler, and Skream), or pop legend Jai Paul’s first live show ever. 

Then, of course, there are the Coachella sets that will live in infamy: From Daft Punk’s debut of The Pyramid, which is largely credited with launching the popularity of electronic music in the United States, to Tupac’s resurrection in hologram, to Beyoncé's marching band of HBCU students soundtracking a reunion of Destiny’s Child.

The people of Coachella revel in these eclectic and epic offerings. Approximately 125,000 people per day touch down on the grass at the Empire Polo Club, and upwards of 100,000 have been reported to gather for a single set. And while hundreds of thousands of people are on the ground worshiping the music, 40 million people are watching the magic through YouTube, wishing they were there.

Coachella is a spectacle. So often the people who went one year bring their friends or family the next, and those people become obsessed. Others meet people at the festival and become best friends, family, and lovers — relationships born from a shared reverence for live music. 

With its massive popularity, it's easy to assume influencers and celebrities have taken over the polo grounds. A key moment in Billie Eilish’s documentary, Billie Eilish: The World's a Little Blurry, the young pop sensation meets her lifelong hero, Justin Bieber, for the first time at Coachella. But any long-time attendee will tell you, that the celebrities and influencers don’t engage with the true Coachella.

"The Kardashians are having one experience, and I’m having a different experience out in the field," says Ashton Aellarose who’s attended Coachella 12 times in eight years. "If you don’t want to be that, then you don’t see that…there’s the real Coachella for real people."

Real fans of Coachella stay all day and night, braving the heat and the dust, to engage with the epic performances and their fellow music lovers. Alaskan Alex Rodriguez creates an Artist of the Day post on the Coachella Reddit, posting every day from when the lineup drops until the festival. He flies in from the Last Frontier because Coachella provides something that other festivals simply can’t.

"Whether it be over-the-top productions, unexpected guest appearances or simply the chance to let others hear your unfamiliar sound to others, Coachella invites performances that you simply won’t see anywhere else," Rodriguez tells GRAMMY.com via email. 

Coachella’s community is built on the idea that music is the universal language. Whether you’re coming for the first time or the 25th time, whether you’re a senior citizen, a new parent, or a college kid on spring break, Coachella is a space for live music fans to celebrate what they love more than anything, and celebrate each other. GRAMMY.com spoke to five Coachella die-hards — attendees who count Coachella as an annual, important part of their year — to learn what Coachella means to them.

From Fan To Music Industry Professional: The 25-Year Attendee 

Coachella Die-Hards: 5 Fans To Meet In The Desert Josh Brooks

Josh Brooks DJing in 2011┃Josh Brooks

Name: Josh Brooks

Number of Coachellas attended: 26

Favorite set: The Chemical Brothers, 1999

Josh Brooks has attended every year of Coachella since the first edition in 1999, and credits the festival for his career in music. To date, he's worked as a booking agent, tour manager, and DJ who has played Coachella on several occasions. In 2023, he played a slot during the after-hours silent disco in the campgrounds. 

Back in 1999, Brooks had just started college at UCLA and was studying physical science, geology, and geography. He went to Coachella on a whim because tickets were $50 per day to see Rage Against The Machine, Tool, Beck, Morrissey, and the Chemical Brothers. Everything in his musical life snowballed from there. 

"[Coachella] really opened my eyes to this whole world of music that I didn’t know existed," Brooks tells GRAMMY.com. "I’ve played music my whole life. I played clarinet, trumpet, and saxophone. I was in the California Young Musicians Orchestra for a year in high school. Music has always been really important to me. But that’s where I really started to find myself musically." 

In 2011, Brooks found himself as a part of Coachella. That year, Global Inheritance — the nonprofit that organizes all of Coachella’s sustainability efforts —hosted a human-powered stage called the Energy Factory. Brooks submitted a DJ mix as part of a contest to play a slot on that stage, and he won. 

"I just played at the festival that I have been enamored with for the last 12 years. I just made a dream come true," Brooks said.

A year after that, he got laid off as a high school science teacher, and he’s been working in music ever since. Currently, he’s the booking agent and tour manager for respected house music artist Sacha Robotti, and revitalizing their SLOTHACID brand. But in between his workload, he’s still taking time for a trip to the desert for some live music. 

The Fan That Made Coachella A Family Affair

Meet The Coachella Die-Hards: A family affair

The Glazer family┃MIkey Glazer

Name: Mikey Glazer

Number of Coachellas attended:  16

Favorite set: M.I.A., 2008

Every year at Coachella, you see a handful of parents celebrating live music with their children. In fact, there are meetups for families at the festival. Among this somewhat unusual sight, you'll find Mikey Glazer and his 5-year-old son, Axwell. 

Glazer has been attending Coachella since 2003, and used to be one of the festival's more typical attendees (a 20-something attending for the party and the tunes). Now, at age 47, Coachella has become his yearly family vacation. Glazer and his wife, Melissa, brought Axwell to the festival four times: three in the flesh, and once in utero.

During the pandemic, Mikey, Melissa, and Axwell listened to music as a family. Especially electronic artists like Skrillex and Tiësto. (Axwell is also the artist moniker of one of the members of the GRAMMY-nominated electronic trio Swedish House Mafia.) When the family went to Coachella together, they saw Axwell express that love of music in full force.

"Seeing a DJ and the visuals, he just loved it. To see it through his eyes is absolutely amazing," Glazer says. "Nobody who doesn’t have kids would ever want to have a kid with them at Coachella. But when you spend every day with your kid, you’re going through new music Friday; he’s picking out songs he likes, and you listen to music together every day; when you get to Coachella, to see him enjoy it is great."

Ranking Coachella: The Fan Who Listens To Every Single Artist 

Fans inside the ferris wheel at Coachella

Brian Downing (second from right) with friends from Cincinnati┃Brian Downing

Name: Brian Downing

Number of Coachellas attended: 4

Favorite set: Madeon, 2022

For decades, Brian Downing has been ranking all the live artists he sees. He saw hundreds of artists the year he turned 50, and condensed all of them into a top 20 list.

When he comes to Coachella, he does the same thing, except instead of creating a list over the course of a year, he does it for three days. In the weeks leading up to the festival, he listens to every one of the 150 artists performing at the festival and gives them all a ranking.

"There are so many acts I don’t know going into it," Downing says. "Someone else might look at [the lineup] and go, ‘Oh my god, this is so overwhelming.’ I look at it and go, ‘Oh my god, I get to rank so many things’."

He ranks every artist on the lineup 1–10 and organizes the rankings on a spreadsheet that he shares with his friends who come to Coachella with him. A 10 is reserved for someone he is going to see, no matter what; one signifies someone he’s going to skip. That way, his group will know who they may or may not enjoy as well. 

Brian also frequently adds commentary to each artist. Here’s what he has to say about the drag-ready pop star Chappel Roan, who is performing on Friday at Coachella this year:

"I do loves me some Chapell Roan! She is an indie pop darling, and for good reason. Red Wine Supernova is an absolute bop! But she has so many other great songs too that haven't been hits yet. Don't want to miss this fun show! Side note: Remember to learn the entire H-O-T-T-O-G-O dance. You’re gonna thank me later. 10’s all day, baby! - 10."

The Fan Who Would Spend Eternity At Coachella 

Coachella Die-Hards: 5 Fans To Meet In The Desert Ashton Aellarose

At Coachella 2011┃Ashton Aellarose

Name: Ashton Aellarose

Number of Coachellas attended:  9

Favorite Set: Postal Service, 2013

Throughout her life, Ashton Aellarose has lived in many places: Northern California, North Carolina, Colorado, even a few extended stints abroad. But no matter where she was residing, Aellarose would see the Coachella lineup in copies of SPIN magazine and dream of going somewhere with such vast musical offerings.

Now she’s attended nine Coachellas, and Coachella is the one place she calls home. Simply put, her life wouldn’t be the same without Coachella.

When she attended in 2014, Aellarose worked at an on-site lemonade stand. Not only did the experience lead to her working in festival vendor management for a time, but Aellarose met her best friend during her very first shift at the stand. That same friend introduced Aellarose to her boyfriend, whom she brought to Coachella for the first time last year. 

When she brought him, she showed him all the traditions she’d developed over numerous editions: Picking up last-minute camping supplies at the Wal-Mart in Indio; watching the first sunset performance of the weekend (one of her favorites was Violent Femmes in 2013); enjoying her favorite foods like the spicy pie and the arepas.

"It’s nice to have this place that’s so spiritual and consistent in such an inconsistent world," Aellarose says. "I thought it was cool when Skrillex said during the TBA set [in 2023], ‘This is the biggest party in the world right now where you’re at.’ I say that every year."

Coachella is such an important place for Aellarose, that she would like it to be her final resting place: "When I die, I want my ashes thrown around Coachella. No joke."

Creating Community With Beer & Cheer: The Fan Who Learned To Love At Coachella 

Coachella Die-Hards: 5 Fans To Meet In The Desert Joe Stamey

Joe Stamey and friend┃Joe Stamey

Name: Joe Stamey

Number of Coachellas attended: 16

Favorite Set:  Beyoncé, 2018

At 1:32:14 in the Coachella documentary, Coachella: 20 Years in the Desert, Joe Stamey says:

"I come because I genuinely love music. I’ve seen more music here than I’ve seen in my entire life in other places. I see acts here that I will never see at the other festivals all over."

The filmmakers followed multiple attendees around the festival in 2019. Stamey is the only one who made it into the documentary. His love of music is a significant factor in why.

But more than his love of music, he genuinely wants everyone at Coachella to have an amazing time enjoying the live music like he does. Before our call is over, he even offers me to stay at his campsite. 

"​​I meet people that are my friends now forever because of things that I've done like that. Caring for people," Stamey says. "The festival did that to me."

Every year, Stamey organizes a beer chug at 10:40 a.m. on Friday in the campgrounds through the Coachella subreddit. Mikey Glazer (who you met above) attends every year as well. 

"It's literally just hundreds of people sitting around chugging beers at 10:40 a.m. And I just give everyone I can as big a hug as I can," Stamey says. "It’s a huge friend reunion. I run into so many people from 15 years of my life, and I love them all."

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