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Ezra Koenig Elaborates On Vampire Weekend's "Emotional And Personal" 'FOTB'
"I always wondered if people pictured us banging our heads against the wall for six years. In a way, given that it's a lot of songs, it came about more quickly than usual," the GRAMMY-winning frontman said in a new Stereogum profile
Today, Vampire Weekend released their highly anticipated fourth studio album, Father of the Bride. It's been six years since the band released their last LP, the GRAMMY-winning Modern Vampires Of The City.
The indie stalwarts have been working up a buzz around FOTB for months, first when they revealed the album's title/eminent release and dropped the first double batch of singles, "Harmony Hall" and "2020" on Jan. 24, and then with a tour announcement, two more double-single releases and, finally, today's 18-track double album drop.
Now, in a deep-diving Stereogum profile, Ezra Koenig offers insight into the jubilant ease and complexity of the new release, how he and the group have grown, and how collaboration has helped the group expand its creativity and shine.
"I always wondered if people pictured us banging our heads against the wall for six years. In a way, given that it's a lot of songs, it came about more quickly than usual," Koenig told Stereogum.
Since Modern Vampire's release in 2013, a lot has happened for the group; Rostam Batmanglij departed, the other two remaining members, bassist Chris Baio and drummer Chris Tomson both released solo albums, and Koenig created an anime series on Netflix. In the interview, Koenig shares how he has, finally, fully embraced his role as the band's frontman.
"I never felt comfortable calling myself the leader because I felt like that was something that I had to earn. But I did start the band, so I had some degree of leadership. In the beginning, I made it clear that I was going to choose the songs. It wasn't important for me to write all of the songs, because I love writing songs with other people, but it was important for me to have that curatorial role."
And with Father Of The Bride, which Koenig first revealed they were working on and nearly 80 percent done with back in September 2017, both the collaboration and storyline are rich. It is the first time the group has brought in featured artists, with HAIM's Danielle Haim dueting on three songs, and The Internet's Steve Lacy making waves on two others.
Both Koenig and GRAMMY-winning producer Ariel Rechtshaid, who returned after co-producing Modern Vampires with the frontman, explain the collabs happened organically. As Rechtshaid put it, "The only people involved on the record were involved because it felt organic. It's an informal revolving door of the homies and the homegirls."
Koenig is evidently the type of artist always striving for growth and expansion, to always be covering new territory and pushing their group's creative boundaries. As a group with songs like the unabashedly nerdy "Oxford Comma," from their 2008 self-titled debut LP, their new material feels lighter and more lyrically accessible, but very much in the traditional Vampire Weekend vein of epic storytelling and upbeat sounds.
"Am I going to be throwing open the dictionary for every song? That doesn't feel exciting," Koenig said. He continued, "A lot of my favorite songs accomplish things I've never accomplished. What am I scared to say? What haven't I done? Part of it is emotional and personal, and part of it is the novelty of new artistic challenges."
He also explained how the duets he shared with Haim, one third of the GRAMMY-nominated sister trio of the same name, played a key role in this new artistic exploration. "A true duet is people in a shared situation with slightly different perspectives," he said. "That felt like the type of thing I hadn’t done before. It was hard. Lyrically, I think this is the most rigorous I've ever been."
Haim, meanwhile, emphasized the authentic nature of the collab. "I've known Ezra for a couple years now and have always been a fan. The first song he showed me was 'Hold You Now' and I loved it immediately. He asked if I would sing it with him and the rest kinda just happened naturally."
The album title, which Koenig shared had been "in the running three or four years ago," also ended up taking on a deeper meaning when Koenig recently became a father himself, with partner Rashida Jones.
"Why would a phrase like that be evocative to me? I think, naturally, you start looking at new themes as you get older. Father Of The Bride is meant to make you think of a wedding, a life cycle event, a moment of transition. I didn't know that I would be a father by the time this album came out… But it's not a crazy coincidence that a major life cycle event would happen to me in the years after I started thinking about what adulthood really was."
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The 2023 GRAMMYs Effect: Bad Bunny, Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo & More See Major Sales And Streams Boost After Record-Breaking Show
Take a look at the impressive gains that 2023 GRAMMYs winners and performers made in Spotify streams and album/song sales, from Beyoncé to Harry Styles.
The 2023 GRAMMYs weren't just historic, they were iconic — and the numbers show it.
The telecast itself saw a 30% increase in viewership, with more than 12.4 million viewers tuning into the Feb. 5 ceremony, the best ratings since 2020 per Nielsen data. In turn, several of the night's winners and performers saw major spikes in sales and streams.
Album Of The Year winner Harry Styles returned to the top 10 of the all-genre Billboard 200 albums chart, as Harry's House — which also took home the GRAMMY for Best Pop Vocal Album — earned 38,000 equivalent album units in the U.S., a 51% gain. His previous two albums, 2019's Fine Line and his 2017 self-titled debut also made gains, the former up 15% and the latter up 11%.
Kendrick Lamar and Adele also enjoyed increases in sales and streams on several albums. Lamar — who won three GRAMMYs this year, including Best Rap Album for Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers — had a 20% gain for his fifth LP, as well as a 26% gain for 2015's To Pimp a Butterfly, 11% for 2017's DAMN., and 6% for 2012's good kid, m.A.A.d city.
Adele's 30 had a 25% increase in equivalent album units, while her 2015 album 25 went up 14% and 2011 release 21 went up 10%. (30's lead single, "Easy On Me," earned Adele her fifth GRAMMY for Best Pop Solo Performance — a record in the category.)
After Beyoncé made GRAMMY history at the 2023 ceremony with her 32nd win, her Best Dance/Electronic Music Album-winning RENAISSANCE made a huge jump. The album earned 37,000 equivalent album units, up 109%, helping Bey move from No. 24 to No. 11 on the Billboard 200.
Rising jazz star Samara Joy also had a monumental night, scoring the coveted GRAMMY for Best New Artist. As a result, her 2022 album, Linger Awhile, made its debut on the Billboard 200, with an equivalent album units gain of 319% and a 5,800% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S. The project also hit No. 1 on the Jazz Albums, Traditional Jazz Albums and Heatseekers Albums charts for the first time, as well as the top 10 of the Top Album Sales and Top Current Album Sales charts.
Blues great Bonnie Raitt's win for Song Of The Year (for her 2022 track "Just Like That") served as one of the night's biggest surprises, but also served as a catalyst for some serious streams and sales success. The song spiked from about 10,000 daily on-demand streams in the U.S. on Feb. 3 to 697,000 the day after the GRAMMYs (Feb. 6) — a gain of around 6,700% — according to Luminate. The song's sales were even better, gaining more than 10,000% on Feb. 6; the rest of Raitt's discography also climbed 161%, from 333,000 on-demand U.S. streams on Feb. 3 to 869,000 on Feb. 6.
Most of the 2023 GRAMMYs performers also celebrated sales and streams increases post-telecast. Show opener Bad Bunny saw gains on his GRAMMY-winning albumUn Verano Sin Ti (up 16%), as well as his 2020 albums YHLQMDLG (up 11%) and El Ultimo Tour del Mundo (up 8%). One of the songs Bad Bunny performed, Un Verano Sin Ti single "Despues de la Playa," also saw a 100% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S. in the hour following the telecast.
Lizzo delivered a soaring medley of her Record Of The Year-winning smash "About Damn Time" and the title track from her AOTY-nominated LP Special, the latter of which saw a 260% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S. after the show. Special also moved 11,000 equivalent album units, up 52%.
Steve Lacy won his first GRAMMY in the Premiere Ceremony, Best Progressive R&B Album for his album Gemini Rights. He also took the GRAMMYs stage for a sultry rendition of his hit "Bad Habit," all helping Lacy see a 16% increase in equivalent album units for Gemini Rights.
Sam Smith and Kim Petras also celebrated a historic win at the 2023 GRAMMYs, taking home Best Pop Duo/Group performance for their viral hit "Unholy" — marking the first win in the category by a trans woman. That moment, combined with the pair's risqué performance, helped the song see an almost 80% increase in Spotify streams in the U.S.
The heartfelt In Memoriam segment catalyzed stream increases, the biggest coming from Quavo's "Without U," which he sang in tribute to his late Migos bandmate and nephew Takeoff; the song jumped 890% in U.S. streams following the show. Fleetwood Mac's "Songbird," which Mick Fleetwood, Bonnie Raitt, and Sheryl Crow sang in honor of late Fleetwood Mac member Christine McVie, experienced an almost 100% increase in U.S. streams.
In other U.S. Spotify stream gains for performers, Harry Styles' "As It Was," saw a more than 75% increase; Brandi Carlile's "Broken Horses" saw a more than 2,700% increase; DJ Khaled's star-studded "God Did" (featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and John Legend) saw a more than 650% increase; Mary J. Blige's "Good Morning Gorgeous" saw a more than 390% increase.
Streaming numbers are from DKC News, a PR representative of Spotify.
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Here's What Harry Styles, Brandi Carlile & More Had To Say Backstage At The 2023 GRAMMYs
Backstage at the 2023 GRAMMYs, established and emerging stars alike — from Harry Styles to Samara Joy — opened up about what Music’s Biggest Night meant to them.
Like every edition of Music’s Biggest Night, the 2023 GRAMMYs featured a wealth of funny, touching and inspiring onstage speeches — both at the Premiere Ceremony and the main telecast.
But artists tend to express themselves differently, more intimately, backstage — and this certainly applied to GRAMMY winners and nominees at this year’s ceremony.
In the litany of videos below, see and hear stirring, extemporaneous statements from artists all over the 2023 GRAMMYs winners and nominees list, from Album Of The Year winner Harry Styles to Americana star-turned-rocker Brandi Carlile to Best Global Music Performance nominee Anoushka Shankar and beyond.
Throughout, you’ll get a better sense of the good jitters backstage at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on Feb. 5, and hear exactly what the golden gramophone means to this crop of musical visionaries.
The list of videos begins below.
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Watch Kim Petras, Muni Long, Steve Lacy & More React To Winning Their First GRAMMY
Many first-time GRAMMY-nominees became first-time GRAMMY-winners on Sun. Feb. 5 at the 2023 GRAMMYs. Hear the first-time winners react after their GRAMMY-winning moments.
Many first-time GRAMMY-nominees struck gold at the 2023 GRAMMYs on Sunday, Feb. 5, where they received their very first golden gramophones.
Among the first-time nominees to become GRAMMY-winners were Samara Joy, winner of two GRAMMYs for Best New Artist and Best Jazz Vocal Album; Steve Lacy, who secured the GRAMMY for Best Progressive R&B Album for Gemini Rights; Kim Petras winning alongside Sam Smith for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance with "Unholy", and Germaine Franco of Encanto. Hear what these winners and many more had to say when they spoke with The Recording Academy and press after their GRAMMY-winning moments.
Head to live.GRAMMY.com all year long to watch all the GRAMMY performances, acceptance speeches, the GRAMMY Live From The Red Carpet livestream special, the full Premiere Ceremony livestream, and even more exclusive, never-before-seen content from the 2023 GRAMMYs.
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Steve Lacy Delivers An Intimate Performance Of "Bad Habit" | 2023 GRAMMYs
The experimental R&B star offered a glittering take on his inescapable hit at the 2023 GRAMMYs, which received three nominations including the coveted Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year.
After charming audiences around the world with his sophomore studio album Gemini Rights in July 2022, Steve Lacy eased into a comfortable sway with his 2023 GRAMMYs performance of the thrice-nominated single "Bad Habit."
Joined onstage by fellow Los Angeles experimentalist Thundercat, the singer/guitarist delivered a performance that got everyone from Lizzo to Machine Gun Kelly to sing along, Beyonce and Taylor Swift up and moving to the beat. Thundercat’s luxurious waterfall bass solo and Lacy’s Prince-esque sultriness felt just at home on the big stage, the Internet musician retaining his intimate vocal delivery even as the song radiated out through the arena.
"Bad Habit" has been a mainstay on TikTok since its release as a single in June 2022, with countless covers and live clips filtering through social media in the ensuing months. Drawing comparisons to everyone from Prince to ‘00s emo artists, the track spent three weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, and got an added boost when Lacy performed it on "Saturday Night Live" in November.
Earlier in the night, Lacy took the stage to celebrate a win for Best Progressive R&B Album for Gemini Rights, and earned nominations for Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance, and Record of the Year.
Check out the complete list of winners and nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs.