Photo: Acacia Evans
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: GAYLE On The Real-Life Pain Behind "abcdefu," Nashville Beginnings And Taylor Swift
GAYLE’s very first label release became a viral smash and landed her a GRAMMY nomination for Song Of The Year. Now, the teenage star is ready for her next chapter, including a debut album and tour with Taylor Swift.
If you've had an issue with an ex in the past 18 months, GAYLE has probably provided some catharsis for you.
Born Taylor Gayle Rutherford, she's the singer behind 'abcdefu,' a kiss-off anthem that offers both deep emotion and inherent irreverence. And just as much as the song offered release for many listeners, it did for GAYLE herself, too.
The pop smash was based on a real-life relationship and subsequent heartbreak GAYLE would later refer to as toxic — making the breakup tune a powerful call for independence as well as an outright display of both anger and the strength of moving on.
"abcdefu" was also a depiction of teenage angst, as GAYLE was just 16 when she co-wrote the song as a fledgling artist in Nashville. Two years later, the song helped the now 18-year-old GAYLE earn her first GRAMMY nomination, and a coveted one at that: Song Of The Year.
The nomination comes on the heels of monumental commercial success for the young singer, with her hit going triple platinum, topping Billboard’s Global 200 chart and garnering more than a billion streams. Along the way, she’s released her first two EPS (the aptly-titled A Study of the Human Experience, Volumes One and Two). And just recently, Taylor Swift invited her to open several dates on the superstar’s highly anticipated (and Ticketmaster-breaking) Eras Tour, which kicks off in March.
Ahead of the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, GAYLE gets candid about the song that changed her life, the creative community in Nashville and what’s next.
Tell me about the genesis of "abcdefu" — where were you when it came together?
We were in Nashville, Tennessee. It was me and [co-writer] Dave Pittenger, along with Sara Davis, who I [have been] writing with since I was 12 and she was 15. Me and Sara were two young girls in Nashville who thought, We can curse in our songs and our moms won’t get mad at us? This is cool.
We’d write songs in my bedroom, but after a couple years of writing with each other, we started teaming up with producers and writing with guitars and pianos. We started writing with Dave, who had a lot of success with country music and less so pop, so we’d just write songs on a guitar.
Normally I come in with a vision, because I feel it’s your job as an artist to lead writers where you want to go. But it was in the middle of COVID, and this was my first in-person write in a long time. I said, "I have to be honest, I have no ideas. I really hate being that person." Dave laughed and he said, "Well, I have a bunch." Thank God for him.
For his first idea, he looked at us, looked back down and looked at us again and was like, "ABCD F— Off!" and me and Sara just burst out laughing. I had never heard that phrase.
The song centers on a breakup where you want nothing to do with your ex. Was there a real inspiration behind that?
My actual ex and my best friend hated each other; they had beef the whole entire time [my ex and I dated]. They never really hung out and I kept them very separated. I was also in a very self-deprecating place the whole entire relationship.
So you had all of this bottled-up energy you brought into the song?
I had written a million songs about this person, but I was really angry at him and was angry at the people who enabled him and his behavior. One of the reasons why he treats people improperly is because he was treated improperly. So I was mad at him and everyone who enabled him.
Did he actually have a dog?
He does have a dog! It’s a Shih-Poo.
Does this person know the song is about him, and have you heard from him?
I have not heard from him. I blocked him in February 2021, after hitting a point where I said, "I have to be done." It was a very specific moment in time, and I hope he has a happy life. I just want to be as far away from him as possible. I also don’t get any validation from him thinking anything I’m doing is impressive, even if he looked at the charts.
When did you realize your life was going to change thanks to the success of "abcdefu?"
The first moment I knew something was happening was when it started to hit the Shazam charts in other countries, like Poland or South Korea. That meant it was playing in random places and people were wondering what the song was. I think it was in the top five in Mexico, and it was weird to be in Nashville and know that it was playing somewhere else in a random coffeeshop.
[When a song is rising like that,] whenever it does one thing you hope it does another thing. If it gets on a playlist, you hope it goes higher up on that playlist. So for a while I was playing that game.
I remember the day it hit the Spotify playlist Today’s Top Hits. I was on tour with the band Winnetka Bowling League as their opener in small clubs. We were just jumping up and down backstage, so excited that it would reach that. But when it hit the radio, I knew that things were going to be different.
You’re also 18 years old experiencing all of this, but at the same time have been working at it for a while. Can you tell me about growing up with these dreams and creative goals, which you’re now experiencing the materialization of?
It’s interesting; why you get into music at 10 is a very different reason why you stay in it at 18. I’m very aware that I’m living my dreams and getting to do all the things I wanted to do as a kid, but at the same time, it’s very real, and there are difficulties that come with those things that I guess I didn’t always expect. [My success] has changed my life and benefited me in so many ways, but it also gave me new difficulties that I have to deal with.
After this past year, what I’m grateful for is that nobody can make me do something I don’t want to do. The music that I’m making, and the things that I’m doing, I really love and stand behind. I’m trying to appreciate things that happen in the moment and not be too scared for my future as well. I know I have time.
I just happened to put out my first song through a label that did what it did, and that is amazing. Now I want to build a career that I can stick with. So it’s very exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. Sometimes it’s hard to breathe, but I’m very hopeful for the next year.
You’ve said in the past that you feel kind of like an underdog in the sense that you’re a pop artist coming from Nashville, which is so known for its country scene. Can you elaborate on that?
It’s interesting because there is a lot of pop music in Nashville, and now more than ever, the lines are being blurred on genres. But one thing I really appreciate about the city is how the community really loves you if you’re developing and have nothing. I’ve never felt like I had more of a family than when I was up-and-coming here. I came to Nashville when I was 12, and found people I felt so connected to because we had this unexplainable and undying love and passion for music — [and we] couldn’t help but be a crazy person and move here.
Also, Nashville for a 12 year old is very different than LA for a 12 year old. In LA, people would always tell me who I was — "You’re this, you’re that." But any meeting I ever had in Nashville was, "Tell me who you are." I needed to find out who I was there in order to work in other places. It’s a community of writers who want to collaborate with each other, and that’s something really beautiful about the Nashville scene.
You’re now about to join Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour as an opener, one of the most culturally significant tours in many years. What does that mean to you, both personally and as an artist?
She’s been in the music industry for 15 years, so I was 3 when she got her start. As a young, female pop songwriter in Nashville, it means the absolute world that she’d believe in me enough to put me on that tour.
She’s been such an inspiration my entire time in Nashville, especially since I started out in country music and moved over to pop. I didn’t even know that was a possibility until I saw Taylor do that very successfully. I don’t know if my mom would have even moved me to Nashville if she didn’t see Taylor Swift’s parents do it first.
Has she ever given you advice?
It’s never been straightforward advice, but more about just the struggles beginning in music. When I met her, I genuinely was just so happy to have the opportunity to thank her for everything she’s done in the Nashville scene, and the writing community there as an iconic representative.
I barely know what I’m doing and I feel no guarantees about my future. I’m trying to work on having a stable career. I’ve been in the music industry for a year and I’m making my first album. So it’s like, "I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m really scared and tired" and she’s like "It’s okay, baby." She is the biggest star in the world, and [she understands] that is a double-edged sword.
She knows what it's like to be a young, up-and-coming woman in the industry with social media; it’s an exciting and terrifying time where the highs are really high and the lows are really low. For her to just take me under her wing in any way with belief, hope and inspiration and kindness [is amazing]. Because when all is said and done, [she sees] I’m just a teenage girl who really loves music.
Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images
A Brief History Of Hip-Hop At 50: Rap's Evolution From A Bronx Party To The GRAMMY Stage
Aug. 11, 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. To honor the legacy and influence of this now global culture, GRAMMY.com presents a timeline marking the genre's biggest moments.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, a cultural movement that rose from humble beginnings in New York to fuel a worldwide phenomenon.
Scholars may debate whether its roots precede Aug. 11, 1973, when DJ Kool Herc debuted his "merry-go-round" technique of playing funk breaks back-to-back to a roomful of teenagers in the Bronx. However, there’s little doubt that this event sparked a flowering of activity throughout the borough, inspiring DJs, breakdancers, graffiti artists, and, eventually, pioneering MCs like Coke La Rock and Cowboy.
The music industry eventually caught wind of the scene, leading to formative 1979 singles like the Fatback Band’s "King Tim III" — the funk band featured MC and hypeman Timothy "King Tim III" Washington — and the big one: the Sugarhill Gang’s "Rapper’s Delight."
Today, rap music is the most popular genre of music, led by superstars such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Future, Eminem, and many others. Despite its massive success, many artists retain their strong ties to communities of color, reflecting the genre’s origins as a form rooted in the streets.
To mark hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, press play on the playlist below, or head to Amazon Music, Apple Music and Pandora for a crash course in this quintessential stateside artform — further proof of the genius of Black American music.
At the 65th Annual GRAMMY Awards, the Recording Academy showcased the breadth of hip-hop's influence via a star-studded, generation-spanning performance. Curated by Questlove and featuring legends such as Grandmaster Flash, Run-D.M.C., Ice-T, Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, Missy Elliott, Nelly, and GloRilla, the 2023 GRAMMYs' hip-hop tribute showed that hip-hop remains one of the most exciting music cultures — and will likely remain so for the next 50 years.
A Timeline Of Hip-Hop's Development
1973 – On Aug. 11, 1973, Clive "Kool Herc" Campbell DJs a back-to-school party organized by his sister, Cindy Campbell, in the rec room at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, New York. The event is widely considered to be the beginning of hip-hop culture.
1979 – Longtime R&B star and producer Sylvia Robinson launches Sugar Hill Records with her husband, Joe. She discovers their first act in New Jersey, a trio of rapping teenagers — Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank, and Master Gee — and brands the Sugarhill Gang. The Gang’s first single, "Rapper’s Delight," sells millions of copies and becomes the first global rap hit.
1982 – Co-written by Duke Bootee and Melle Mel and produced by Clifton "Jiggs" Chase, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s hit single "The Message" becomes a turning point in the genre. Bootee and Melle Mel’s stark descriptions of poverty signal to fans and critics that hip-hop is capable of more than just party music.
1984 – Russell Simmons’ Rush Management organizes Fresh Fest, a groundbreaking arena tour featuring hot rap acts like Run-D.M.C., Whodini, Kurtis Blow, the Fat Boys, and Newcleus as well as b-boy crews such as the Dynamic Breakers. Held during the next two years, it signifies hip-hop’s growing popularity.
1986 – After bringing frat-boy chaos as the opening act on Madonna’s Virgin Tour, Def Jam understudies the Beastie Boys collaborate with producer Rick Rubin on Licensed to Ill. Spawning the hit single "Fight for Your Right," the album is certified diamond in 2015.
Beastie Boys in 1987 | Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images
1987 – Thanks to a remix by the late DJ/producer Cameron Paul, rap trio Salt-N-Pepa get teens everywhere twerking — and worry parents and school administrators — with the electro-bass classic, "Push It."
1988 – Public Enemy release their second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Reportedly featuring over 100 samples and focused on Chuck D, Flavor Flav and Professor Griff’s revolutionary lyrics, it’s often cited as one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time.
1988 – Thanks to lyrics criticizing law enforcement and depicting raw life in Compton, California, N.W.A spark national controversy with their influential second album, Straight Outta Compton.
1991 – Ice-T appears in New Jack City, becoming one of the first rappers to headline a major Hollywood film. That same year, he appears on the Lollapalooza tour with his metal group, Body Count, and performs an early version of "Cop Killer." The song becomes a flashpoint in the 1992 presidential election.
1993 – Wu-Tang Clan release their debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). With nine members led by rapper/producer the RZA, the highly unique Staten Island-based collective spawned dozens of solo albums and affiliated acts over the following decades.
1996 – After dominating most of 1996 with his fourth album, the diamond-certified double album All Eyez on Me, 2Pac is killed in Las Vegas. The unsolved murder of one of the greatest rappers of all time remains a watershed moment in music culture.
1997 – Days before the release of his diamond-certified second album, Life After Death, the Notorious B.I.G. is killed in Los Angeles. The slaying of two of hip-hop’s biggest artists prompts soul-searching across the music industry and inspired Biggie’s friend, Puff Daddy, to release the GRAMMY Award-winning hit, "I'll Be Missing You."
1997 – After writing and producing hits for MC Lyte and Aaliyah, Missy Elliott debuts as a solo artist with Supa Dupa Fly. With production help from Timbaland and kinetic music videos, Elliott establishes herself as one of the most innovative acts of the era.
Missy Elliott | Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images
1998 – After scoring multi-platinum hits with the Fugees, Lauryn Hill strikes out on her own with The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. The diamond-certified album earns her several GRAMMY Awards, including Album Of The Year.
1999 – Dr. Dre releases 2001, cementing his legacy as one of the most influential rap producers ever. The album features numerous collaborators, including longtime homie Snoop Dogg and rising lyricist Eminem.
2001 – On Sept. 11, Jay-Z releases his sixth album, The Blueprint. It becomes a career highlight for the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame rapper, and a breakout moment for rising producers Just Blaze and Kanye West.
2003 – Hit-making duo OutKast split their double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below into separate sides for Big Boi and Andre 3000 — the latter focusing on singing instead of rapping. Their fresh approach results in a diamond-certified project and a GRAMMY for Album Of The Year.
2008 – Lil Wayne mania peaks with Tha Carter III, which sells over 1 million copies in its first week and earns him a GRAMMY for Best Rap Album.
2010 – Nicki Minaj releases Pink Friday. The hit album makes her a rare female rap star during a dearth of prominent women voices in the genre.
2017 – By landing a Top 10 Billboard hit with "XO Tour Llif3" and topping the Billboard 200 with Luv Is Rage 2, Lil Uzi Vert signifies the rise of internet-fueled trends like "SoundCloud rap" and "emo rap."
2017 – With his fourth album Damn., Kendrick Lamar not only wins a GRAMMY for Best Rap Album, but he also becomes the first rap artist to win a Pulitzer Prize for Music, leading to the fanciful nickname "Pulitzer Kenny."
2018 – Cardi B releases her debut album Invasion of Privacy, scoring Billboard No. 1 hits such as "Bodak Yellow" and "I Like It." As the best-selling female rap album of the 2010s, the LP won Best Rap Album at the 61st GRAMMY Awards in 2019, making Cardi the first solo female rapper to win the Category.
Cardi B at the 61st GRAMMY Awards | Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
2020 – In early 2020, rising star Pop Smoke is killed in Los Angeles. Months later, his posthumous debut album, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, tops the charts, signifying the rise of drill as a major force in hip-hop culture.
2021 – At the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards in 2021, the Recording Academy introduced the Best Melodic Rap Performance Category, formerly known as the Best Rap/Sung Performance Category, to "represent the inclusivity of the growing hybrid performance trends within the rap genre."
2023 - At the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, seven-time GRAMMY winner Dr. Dre became the recipient of the inaugural Dr. Dre Global Impact Award for his multitude of achievements through his innovative, multi-decade career. Dre was first presented with the award at the Black Music Collective's Recording Academy Honors ceremony.
Photo: Ovidio Gonzalez/Getty Images for MC
Loving Olivia Rodrigo's "Vampire?" Check Out 15 Songs By Alanis Morissette, Miley Cyrus & More That Reclaim The Breakup Narrative
From the soft hums of Carole King's "It's Too Late" to GAYLE's fiery rage on "abcdefu," these 15 songs encapsulate the expansive emotions of women who put problematic exes in their place — far behind them.
Since the 2021 release of SOUR, critics and listeners alike have touted Olivia Rodrigo for her knack to eloquently pen the relatable woes of adolescence and the pitfalls of falling in love too hard. Her latest single, "vampire," is no different.
Despite trading in her "drivers license" teenage loverboy for an older man, the perfectly executed expression of agony remains. As Rodrigo wails on the chorus, "You made me look so naïve/ The way you sold me for parts/ As you suck your teeth into me/ Bloodsucker, famef—er/ Bleeding me dry like a g——n vampire."
But before there was Rodrigo, there was Avril Lavigne, Taylor Swift, and Alanis Morissette — none of which would be where they were without pioneers of diaristic songwriting, Carole King and Carly Simon. Thanks to the immortalization of their music, we can relive the shift from poetic disclosures of hurt, which King exemplifies on "It's Too Late," to more unrepentant, straightforward jabs (like Kate Nash says on "Foundations," "Don't want to look at your face 'cause it's making me sick") and harrowing battle cries (as Miley Cyrus roars, "I came in like a wrecking ball").
Below, revisit 15 songs by empowered women, from 1971 all the way to 2021, who reclaimed the breakup narrative with their fervent sentences of damnation — because, as the age-old saying goes, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
Carole King — "It's Too Late" (1971)
When Carole King released "It's Too Late" in 1971, it marked a new era of songwriting. Discussions about divorce were generally unheard of, but even more so when initiated by a woman. Yet, King carried on to unapologetically release "It's Too Late," which later won a GRAMMY for Record of the Year and is lauded by Rolling Stone as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
On this folky track, King and her husband's inevitable parting is on the horizon, but she isn't resentful per se. Instead, she's more troubled by the embarrassment of her husband's growing discontent, admitting, "I feel like a fool." And at this point, she's ready to move on and can be grateful for the times they've shared.
Carly Simon — "You're So Vain" (1972)
In her '70s chart-topper, Carly Simon narrates the tale of an arrogant man who believes every woman is enchanted by his aura. But the folk songstress wants to make it very clear she's not impressed by his embellished stories or luxurious closet.
Usually, it's easy to guess the subject of a breakup song, but "You're So Vain" has led to decades of speculation. Many have assumed it could be about James Taylor, who Simon married in 1972 and divorced in 1983, or Mick Jagger, who provided vocals to the track (a theory that was later debunked). To this day, she has only revealed the track's inspiration to a select few, including Taylor Swift, who names Simon as one of her role models.
Joan Jett And The Blackhearts — "I Hate Myself For Loving You" (1986)
Joan Jett might not give a damn about her bad reputation, but she despises nothing more than her ex-lover making her look like a lovesick fool.
On "I Hate Myself for Loving You," the '80s chanteuse wraps herself around a classic glam rock beat, unveiling her contempt for a man who's neglected her. Stripped of her pride, Jett begins to resent herself for holding onto her feelings — as evidenced by the song's title.
She tries to hide her dwelling desires ("I want to walk, but I run back to you") but ultimately fails to rid herself of the emotions, leaving her to fantasize about the sweet justice of one day roping him back in, just to leave him.
Alanis Morissette — "You Oughta Know" (1995)
It's impossible to talk about scathing breakup songs without acknowledging Alanis Morissette's quintessential heartbreak anthem, "You Oughta Know." At the time of its release, the Jagged Little Pill single contained some of the most honest and vitriolic lyrics in existence.
Morissette begins with an illusive statement, "I want you to know that I'm happy for you," which, by the second verse, crumbles into a revelation, "I'm not quite as well, you should know." As she culminates into her most confessional, the instrumental rises into an addicting ruckus, with Morissette revealing the thoughts most of us would be too ashamed to admit: "It was a slap in the face how quickly I was replaced/ And are you thinkin' of me when you f— her?"
Shania Twain — "That Don't Impress Me Much" (1997)
Shania Twain has a particular superpower of delivering each of her lyrics with an air of lightheartedness and confidence. So, when you hear a track like "That Don't Impress Me Much," her disappointment and irritation becomes undetectable.
A quick examination of Twain's story proves — despite the song's bouncy melodies — she's jaded by her ex's preoccupation with his vehicle, appearance and intelligence. Sure, he might be perfect on paper, but he lacks the qualities of a forever lover, and his unmerited ego should be reserved for true big shots like Elvis Presley and Brad Pitt.
Michelle Branch — "Are You Happy Now?" (2003)
In the opening verse of "Are You Happy Now?," Michelle Branch pleads, "No, don't just walk away/ Pretending everything's okay, and you don't care about me." At first, she is in disbelief that her once admirer would swiftly brush her off, but as she reaches the chorus, she begins to question whether his actions were a lie all along.
Her mind racing, Branch teeters between shameless questions of "Do you really have everything you want?" and "Could you look me in the eye and tell me you're happy now?" But by the song's end, she gets the most satisfying payback of all — peace without him: "I'm not about to break/ 'Cause I'm happy now."
Avril Lavigne — "My Happy Ending" (2004)
"My Happy Ending" finds 2000s pop-punk maven Avril Lavigne grasping onto the shards of a broken relationship and trying to pinpoint where everything went wrong. She could have said the "wrong" thing, or her partner's misfit friends might have spoken negatively about her. But there is one thing she does know with certainty: there is no way to pick up the pieces.
Coming to terms with the truth, Lavigne repositions her anger toward the other person for stripping her of her fairytale ending, sarcastically acknowledging him for their time spent together over a somber piano: "It's nice to know you were there/ Thanks for acting like you care/ And making me feel like I was the only one."
Kelly Clarkson — "Gone" (2004)
Kelly Clarkson has traversed almost every emotion in love, from her epic breakup anthems like "Behind These Hazel Eyes" to her most recent LP chemistry. But "Gone" may just be her most unrelenting to date.
Introduced by its Breakaway counterpart "Since U Been Gone," the mononymous "Gone" extends Clarkson's journey of healing — this time, with a more explicit and mature diatribe against her ex's character. Rather than using trivial attacks, Clarkson instead chooses to call out his assumption she'd run back into his arms, later declaring an end to her toleration: "There is nothing you can say/ Sorry doesn't cut it, babe/ Take the hit and walk away, 'cause I'm gone."
Lily Allen — "Smile" (2006)
With "Smile," Lily Allen gets her sweet revenge through the sight of her former flame's tears and misfortune. But the lyrics of Allen's breakthrough single doesn't exactly clarify the specifications of her antics, only an explanation for its origins.
After a cheating scandal ends her relationship, her mental health plummets — until he comes crawling back for her mercy. Upon hearing his pleas, she comes to a realization: "When I see you cry, it makes me smile." And as the conniving music video shows, anyone who cheats on her will get their karma — perhaps in the form of organized burglary, beatings, and a laxative slipped into their morning coffee.
Kate Nash — "Foundations" (2007)
Following in the footsteps of her mentor Lily Allen, Kate Nash vividly paints the tragedy of falling out of love, made prismatic by her plain-spoken lyrics ("Your face is pasty 'cause you've gone and got so wasted, what a surprise!") and her charming, thick London accent.
In this story, Nash has not quite removed herself from the shackles of her failing relationship. In fact, she'd like to salvage it, despite her boyfriend's tendency to humiliate her and her irresistible urge to sneer back with a sarcastic comment. By the end of the track, Nash, becoming more restless, packs on new ways to inconvenience him — but in the end, still wonders if there's any saving grace to preserve their once blazing spark out of a fear of loneliness.
P!nk — "So What" (2008)
The year P!nk wrote "So What," she already had a bevy of platinum singles under her belt. With a gleaming social status and peaking career, she was apathetic to the temporary separation from her now husband, Carey Hart. Feeling the highs of newfound singlehood, P!nk was ready to incite personal tyranny, whether that meant not paying Hart's rent, drinking her money, or starting a fight.
Ironically, Hart appears as the antagonist in the music video, which P!nk revealed via her official fan website was a testament of their growth: "Carey hadn't heard the song before he did the video. That's how much he trusts and loves me [...] He gets it. He gets me," she said.
Taylor Swift — "Picture To Burn" (2006)
Taylor Swift has long solidified herself as the reigning queen of love songs, from ballads honoring the most committed relationships to diss tracks of heartbreaking adolescent flings. The latter houses one of the earliest (and most twangy) hits in Swift's sweeping catalog: "Picture to Burn."
In this deceivingly upbeat tune, Swift vows to seek vengeance on a boyfriend after he leaves her to date one of her friends — from getting with his friends to having her father give him a piece of his mind. And along the way, she will gladly dish out a few insults: "You're a redneck heartbreak who's really bad at lying/ So watch me strike a match on all my wasted time/ As far as I'm concerned, you're just another picture to burn."
Miley Cyrus — "Wrecking Ball" (2013)
Closing the door on her Hannah Montana days, Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball" saw the childhood pop star in her most grown-up and vulnerable state to date. Months before the release, Cyrus had called off her engagement to her longtime boyfriend, Liam Hemsworth, paving the way for her thunderous performance on the Bangerz single.
Just as affecting as Cyrus' belting vocals is the track's iconic music video. Cyrus climaxes with a deafening cry — "All you did was wreck me" — as she swings across the screen on an actual wrecking ball, breaking down all her physical and metaphorical walls.
Halsey — "You should be sad" (2020)
By the mid-2010s, the industry had put angst on the back burner in exchange for feel-good EDM and trap beats. Well, that is, at least, until Halsey entered the picture.
After just two years in the limelight, Halsey had cultivated a vibrant assortment of sonic melodrama — from the dirt and grime of toxic, failed love on tracks "Bad at Love" and "Colors" to the Bonnie and Clyde-esque heated passion of "Him & I."
In 2020, Halsey rounded out her discography with the genre-bending, introspective Manic, where a track like "You should be sad" commands your attention with matter-of-fact, vindictive comments: "I'm so glad I never ever had a baby with you/ 'Cause you can't love nothing unless there's something in it for you."
GAYLE — "abcdefu" (2021)
Unlike most love songs, GAYLE refuses to point her fury on "abcdefu" solely toward her heartbreaker. The then-16-year-old singer, instead, rages against his mother, sister and pretty much anyone (and anything) he's associated with — other than his dog — across a searing melody with a bewitching bassline.
Earlier this year, GAYLE revealed to GRAMMY.com that she was "angry at him and was angry at the people who enabled him and his behavior." That animosity was palpable in "abcdefu," creating a magic as empowering as it is cathartic — and, like many songs that came before it, proving that there can be power in pain.
Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for the Recording Academy
The 2023 GRAMMYs Nominated For Three Emmys: See The Categories Below
In an awards show crossover to remember, the 2023 GRAMMYs telecast has been nominated in three prestigious categories at the 2023 Emmy Awards.
An Emmy for the GRAMMYs? It's happened before, and it could happen again.
The 2023 Emmys nominations list has been revealed, and Music's Biggest Night is well represented.
The 2023 GRAMMYs have been nominated for Emmy Awards in the Outstanding Production Design For A Variety Special, Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction For A Variety Special and Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Variety Series Or Special categories.
In the first category, the 2023 GRAMMYs compete with "The Oscars," "Encanto At The Hollywood Bowl," "Carol Burnett: 90 Years Of Laughter + Love," and "The Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show Starring Rihanna."
The second category also contains "Encanto At The Hollywood Bowl," as well as "2022 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony," "75th Annual Tony Awards," and "The Weeknd Live At SoFi Stadium."
Also nominated in the third category are "Bono & The Edge: A Sort Of Homecoming With Dave Letterman," "Elton John Live: Farewell From Dodger Stadium," "Saturday Night Live • Co-Hosts: Steve Martin & Martin Short," and "Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert."
Check out the complete list here, and watch this space to see if the GRAMMYs will take home the world's most prestigious TV award!
Photos (L-R): Natasha Moustache, Natasha Moustache, Scott Eisen, Octavio Jones, Octavio Jones; all photos TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management
Behind The Scenes Of The Eras Tour: Taylor Swift's Opening Acts Unveil The Magic Of The Sensational Concert
Everyone's obsessed with Taylor Swift's massive stadium tour — including her opening acts. From indie pop star Gracie Abrams to GRAMMY nominee GAYLE, hear backstage memories and reflections from the people who take stage right before the superstar.
Distilling a 17-year discography as iconic as Swift's into one show sounds impossible, but the star has proven that no task is too daunting for her. And while she has conquered stadiums with ease before, The Eras Tour transcends her foregoing concerts with its all-encompassing three-hour setlist, high-level production and powerful pathos: its worldwide magnificence is pure magic.
Enchanting hundreds of thousands since March, Swift's latest tour is as delightful as it is influential, providing a perfectly satisfying mix of nostalgia and surprises in true Swift fashion. Even though the musician is technically in her Midnights era, the celebration of her remarkable career is undoubtedly historic — and she's determined to share the moment with other artists during her trek across the globe.
The Eras Tour has featured a cohort of rising and established stars, from 2000s rock staples Paramore to indie rockers like beabadoobee and Phoebe Bridgers. They all have that same sparkle of charm and creativity that made Swift a sensation, and they also share a passion for her beloved discography. To understand what it's like playing a part in such a historic tour, GRAMMY.com spoke with some of Swift's opening acts about performing for sold-out stadiums.
"I shed a tear because I knew that it meant Taylor really believed in me," OWENN, who was a backup dancer on Swift's 1989 Tour, said of his invitation to open for the tour.
From special epiphanies to hilarious backstage moments, OWENN and his fellow openers Gracie Abrams, beabadoobee, girl in red, and GAYLE take us along their Eras Tour journeys — all the way back to the very first night.
These interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us about the moment you were offered an opening slot for The Eras Tour. What did the invitation mean to you?
Gracie Abrams: Prior to ever dreaming about my own shows I dreamt about going on tour with Taylor… The invitation to join the Eras Tour felt like the biggest prank of all time. I was like, "this can't be right…"
It made my world stop and I just couldn't believe the scale of the honor. I still can't believe it, two months into playing the tour. It's the best for every reason and in every way.
OWENN: I was offered The Eras slot while I was on tour choreographing for Lil Nas X. It was definitely [a] moment that I will never forget… It meant that Taylor really believed in me and that my life was going to be forever changed.
beabadoobee: A serious pinch me moment! It was the end of last year, around the time I was doing "Jimmy Fallon" in December, and I was speaking with my manager about joining Taylor's tour as the main support. Funny because years ago I did an interview and mentioned how she would be my dream artist to go on tour with. I was thrilled to be a part of her Eras Tour.
girl in red: I was so stoked when I was offered to be opening act on the Eras Tour! I had never been to a stadium show, let alone play one, and the fact that my favorite artist invited me is just the coolest thing.
GAYLE: My manager and I — Kristina Russo, who has been my manager since I was 14 — were in my hotel room when she got a call and had a formal offer with all of the dates. We cried, jumped around, and hugged.
My manager and I then surprised [my bandmates] by screaming "We're opening for Taylor Swift!" and they were shocked! We all hugged and cried, and I got two ice cream cakes from Uber Eats delivered to my hotel room, and we all ate them with plastic forks on the ground. It was truly one of the best days ever!
It was such an honor to be invited onto this tour. I know that's not a decision she takes lightly, so to be a part of that is the best thing ever.
Walk me through your first night on the tour. What was going through your mind? What was the energy like?
Abrams: The first day of tour I just remember walking into the stadium for soundcheck and crying laughing as soon as I heard my voice on the PA. It felt insane, to be honest, I felt crazy.
But then walking on stage, it was all of a sudden just about the community of people, the beyond dedicated die-hard fans who looked gorgeous and sparkly and committed to their outfits — it was about celebrating Taylor's legacy. It was like everyone in the room could feel the weight of it. I felt the most amount of gratitude, and I was also just internally bubbling with anticipation to watch her show on this tour for the first time.
OWENN: The first night on tour was insane! I rehearsed so much and trained really hard, but nothing could have prepared me for that level of energy and intensity ... from my vocals to me dancing in front of all of those people. It was definitely a surreal moment. Electrifying!
beabadoobee: Honestly every emotion. I would go through being extremely excited to terrified, to wanting to throw up all over myself and then back to being just so pumped to get out there.
The energy was incredible — the stadiums, the stage, the crew, and the fans were all so supportive too. I always caught some fans singing and dancing to my songs; that really surprised me!
girl in red: The first day we were playing I remember walking up on stage for soundcheck and getting really nervous about playing later cause it was so big. I was worried I'd mess up the words and make a fool out of myself, but luckily it went well!
GAYLE: Opening up for the first night on the Eras tour was such a high honor and I was so scared. I practiced a million times in my hotel room because I was so anxious that I was going to forget the setlist. I made my whole family and my best friend's family go to the first two shows in Arizona. I also randomly really, really, really wanted my brother to think I did a good job.
Everyone in the crowd was so excited to kick off the tour, and so many people hadn't seen Taylor live in so long! It was such a kind crowd, and there was so much excitement and energy. It will forever be a memory I keep very close to my heart.
How does this tour compare to other tours you've been part of? What makes it unique?
Abrams: Every single inch of this tour is unlike any other I've been a part of in the past. This is only my second year touring ever, and to have had the opportunity to see the inner workings of the biggest tour in the world so intimately is just the luckiest thing.
Everyone that I've gotten to know on the crew of the Eras Tour is an exceptional person. Everyone is so hard working and so passionate about their role in the tour, and that alone is inspiring, even more so to realize it is a direct result of Taylor's energy and attitude as a person and as a leader. I think everybody feels as proud and lucky as I do to be involved in any capacity.
OWENN: I feel like every tour is unique in its own way, but this one for sure is different for me because I'm singing instead of dancing in the background. A completely different experience!
beabadoobee: The sheer size of everything, how professional Taylor is, and of course how it felt like we entered her world. She played for three plus hours and she looked like she didn't break a sweat. She's a superstar through and through and one of the nicest people on top. Really inspiring to see her perform to like 100,000 people yet still make you feel like she's playing and singing to just you.
girl in red: I think the biggest difference is the scale of the venue and that people might not know who you are. People are there to see Taylor, so the crowd chemistry is a little different and you have to adapt to that!
GAYLE: Well, Taylor was my first stadium tour ever — which is the craziest thing to say ever. With other tours I've been on, I can distantly remember at what age I heard their songs and fell in love with their music. I fell in love with AJR when I was 12. I fell in love with P!nk when I was 10, thanks to my mother. I got obsessed with My Chemical Romance when I was 14, and I heard Tate McRae when I was about 15 and I loved her music. I've heard of Taylor Swift my whole entire life and there was never a point in my life where I didn't know and love her.
Share a special backstage moment — anything fun, silly, memorable that happened.
Abrams: I honestly just feel so lucky to be going through this tour with my crew and band, every one of whom are my second family now, the people I love more than anything and trust so deeply and laugh so hard with. I think for all of us having the opportunity to lean on each other as we've gone through these milestone firsts has been really formative.
OWENN: A very special backstage moment for me is when myself, my band and team all join hands in a circle and say a prayer. It's a beautiful moment for me as we're all connected and about to go on stage.
beabadoobee: We got to hang out backstage and just have fun, have a laugh and speak about our cats and whatever was on our minds. She's the loveliest person and even that she made the time meant a lot.
girl in red: I think the most memorable part of the tour, aside from playing my show, is getting to see Taylor play her show. After my show, I get ready to see her put on the performance of a lifetime and it feels like I'm in a very special time in my life. Very happy to be here.
GAYLE: I get very nauseous before and after I'm on stage and once, I walked off stage and started vomiting everywhere. The trash can was unfortunately right where Phoebe Bridgers was walking on stage, so I wished her and her band good luck as I was vomiting.
What have you learned from watching Taylor's show? What's been your favorite song to hear live or a memorable onstage moment?
Abrams: Watching Taylor's show is like watching an Olympian. Watching Taylor's show is also like sitting in a tiny room and sharing secrets with your best friend. There's a strength and a sensitivity to her show that is unlike anything I have ever seen or heard of in my entire life, with the exception of knowing her as a friend.
She is as rare a person as she is an artist and performer. I think the most popular opinion in the world right now is that Taylor's show is the best in the history of time. To watch and study the ways in which she's able to hold herself fully, while also carrying these stadiums of so many tens of thousands as they sob and dance and laugh and scream, is just unimaginable until you're lucky enough to see it for yourself.
OWENN: I actually have a couple of favorite things. When Taylor goes through the 1989 and reputation eras, I have flashbacks of those tours from the memories with her and the dancers to the actual choreography, it's so nostalgic!
And the opening of The Eras Tour! "Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince" is actually one of my favorite songs from Taylor so that's always a treat.
beabadoobee: I think the biggest take away is hearing her amazing songwriting. She really has a knack for making incredible songs and storytelling, being so direct with her words and lyric choices, I personally love that!
It was mind-blowing watching her go through each era and nail everything — all the costume changes, the acting theatrical elements to the show, and of course her insane stamina to go for more than three hours every night. I've never seen anything like that.
My favorite moment has to be when she dedicated "Our Song" to me and then played it on the first night. That song means so much to me and I mentioned in an interview a while back how it was my ringtone when I was younger and shaped my childhood. It was awesome!
girl in red: I've learned so much from seeing her performance, but I think what sticks out the most to me is how perfected the show is and how that truly just reflects Taylor as an artist. She has created all this beautiful and fantastic music and now she's made the most entertaining show. I'm so inspired by her work ethic and she really puts the work in – and that's why she is the best.
GAYLE: "Cruel Summer" is a hit and the best thing ever! Also "my tears ricochet" kills me, but also "champagne problems, " but also "Bejeweled." Also, watching Ice Spice and Taylor play "Karma" together was iconic!
I've learned that Taylor Swift is a beast and can do the impossible — sing for three and a half hours for three days straight, and for multiple weekends in a row. She paces herself beautifully and the way she paces her setlist is amazing. [She] is captivating from beginning to end.