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How Contemporary Musicians Are Embracing The Spoken Word Album

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How Contemporary Musicians Are Embracing The Spoken Word Album

From Mike Posner to Dave, popular artists across genres are leaning into the art of spoken word like never before

GRAMMYs/Oct 8, 2020 - 10:17 pm

The Best Spoken Word Album GRAMMY category has typically provided an opportunity for figures outside the music industry to get their hands on one of those coveted gold-plated trophies. In recent years its winners have flitted between the fields of ex-White House figures (Michelle Obama, Jimmy Carter) and beloved showbiz veterans (Joan Rivers, Carol Burnett, Carrie Fisher), while cult filmmaker John Waters and celebrated humorist David Sedaris are both regular nominees.

Contemporary music, though, has found a wide range of pop/rock talent merging into spoken word territory. Seemingly out of nowhere, spoken word has become the art form of choice for the more poetically-minded musician keen to prove they know their Poes from their Plaths.  

Lana Del Rey, a six-time GRAMMY nominee for her more familiar brand of femme fatale pop, has had an impressively prolific 18 months; the sadcore queen has recorded two regular LPs and written two poetry collections, the first of which she’s also released in audio form.

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Of course, with her tales of tragic romance and warped depictions of the American Dream, Del Rey’s output has always had a literate quality. She’s regularly spoken of finding inspiration in the works of Allen Ginsberg and Walt Whitman – the former’s "Howl" and the latter’s "I Sing the Body Electric" were even recited in her 2013 short film Tropico.

But Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass allowed Del Rey to fully embrace her poetic ambitions. Penned amidst a bout of writer’s block while working on what many consider to be her masterpiece, Norman F***ing Rockwell, the audiobook doesn’t entirely abandon musical accompaniment. Regular cohort Jack Antonoff provides plenty of electronic shimmers and delicate piano backing throughout. But the focus here is very much on Del Rey’s expressive tones and freestyle musings on everything from indecision and alienation to the fallacy of worshipping Jim Morrison.     

Backed by the claim that she "tore apart every word until I was able to write the perfect poem," Del Rey’s spot of moonlighting arrived during an unexpected boom period for the spoken word album. Only a month previously Imelda May, an Irish songstress renowned for her jazz-tinged rockabilly, had also displayed her wordsmithery on Slip of the Tongue.

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As with Del Rey, May also uses subtle musical arrangements to add texture to her words on womanhood, sexuality and spirituality. But frustrated by how her previous record had been misinterpreted as a marriage break-up album, the Dubliner ensures her lyrical themes are far clearer this time around with a delivery every bit as commanding as her signature 1950s quiff.  

Soon after, The Kills' frontwoman Alison Mosshart proudly declared her gearhead tendencies on Sound Wheel, a companion piece to a book of photography, poetry and paintings titled Car Ma. Although there’s the occasional concession to the gutsy blues rock of her day job, the majority of its 47 (yes, 47) tracks are unaccompanied reflections on the "never-ending search for the spirit under the hood" delivered in Mosshart’s unmistakable tobacco and whisky-soaked speaking voice.

Elsewhere, Mercury Prize nominees Black Midi have released Tales of Suspense and Revenge, an anthology of short stories by the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Robert Tressell read over some typically experimental jams. And even Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page has got in on the action, adding bursts of feedback and echo as producer of poet girlfriend Scarlett Sabet’s debut album Catalyst.

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Of course, well-known artists channeling their inner poet is nothing new. See the likes of David Bowie ("Future Legend"), The Velvet Underground ("The Gift") and Morrissey ("Sorrow Will Come in the End"). The Shangri-Las ("Past, Present and Future"), James Brown ("King Heroin") and Daft Punk ("Giorgio by Moroder") even graced the Billboard charts with their spoken word efforts. But dedicating entire albums to the craft used to be the preserve of full-time storytellers like Gil-Scott Heron, Henry Rollins and John Cooper Clarke.

So what’s encouraging such artists to speak rather than sing into their microphone? Well, a new wave of spoken word performers are now proving that the art form can work on a bigger platform. Album of the Year winner Dave stole the show at this year’s BRIT Awards with a powerful piece of performance poetry addressing his homeland’s institutional racism.  

Ted Hughes Award recipient Kae Tempest, meanwhile, has brought their Wu-Tang Clan-meets-William Blake vibe to the masses with several high-profile festivals slots including Glastonbury. Spoken word has even reached prime-time TV thanks to the inspirational speeches of Californian Brandon Leake, "America’s Got Talent"'s first-ever poet finalist, and indeed winner.

And then there’s the rise of the InstaPoet. Artists like Rupi Kaur and R.M Drake have amassed millions of followers with their daily words of wisdom. Perhaps as a result, a SSPA study in 2017 showed that more Americans (28 million, in fact) are engaging with poetry in the social media age than they’ve done the rest of the 21st Century.

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Few pop star poets better exemplify this than Mike Posner. Three years after topping charts across Europe with a super-meta ode to dropping Molly in Ibiza, the party boy dropped a 16-track spoken word collection verbosely titled i was born in detroit on a very very very very very very very cold day.

"It's all just water and it's coming out of different faucets," Posner told Billboard about the unlikely poetic streak he developed on his 2016 tour. Tear Drops and Balloons, a more expansive collection featuring poems titled "My Favorite Stain" and "i'm thinking about horses," arrived just two months later.  

You wouldn’t be surprised if Billie Eilish committed to the concept, either. Last year's five-time GRAMMY winner has acknowledged Del Rey as a major influence and has already ventured into spoken word territory with "Not My Responsibility," a short film featuring a defiant statement against body shaming.

It’s easy to see the appeal. Sure, artists have more platforms to speak directly and candidly to their audience than ever before. But most Instagram captions and Twitter posts get lost in the social media ether within hours of their upload. Spoken word offers both freedom of expression and a capturing for posterity away from the confines of the 280-character box. And there’s no need to pander to any Spotify algorithms, either. It may not be a stretch to say that former presidents and comedic legends should expect to face some spoken word category competition in the future.

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Official Coachella 2024 Lineup: Headliners Lana Del Rey, Tyler, The Creator And Doja Cat To Lead A Pack of Performers Including No Doubt & Others
Lana Del Rey, Tyler, The Creator, and Doja Cat will headline the 2024 Coachella festival.

Photos (L to R): Kristy Sparow/Getty Images; Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Coachella; Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella

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Official Coachella 2024 Lineup: Headliners Lana Del Rey, Tyler, The Creator And Doja Cat To Lead A Pack of Performers Including No Doubt & Others

GRAMMY.com digs into the official Coachella 2024 lineup — featuring Doja Cat’s return at the top of the bill with other California natives and more international acts than ever before heading to the Southern California desert April 12-14 and April 19-21.

GRAMMYs/Jan 17, 2024 - 12:32 am

The much-anticipated lineup for Coachella’s waitlisted 2024 festival was officially announced by producers Goldenvoice on Jan. 16. Festival headliners include GRAMMY-winning rapper and record producer Tyler, the Creator, GRAMMY-winning pop and hip-hop artist Doja Cat, and GRAMMY-nominated singer/songwriter Lana Del Rey. These beloved acts lead a pack of top-tier talent sure to resonate well with a global audience. 

Coachella, which kicks off the 2024 festival season, will take place April 12-14 and April 19-21, returning to Indio’s Empire Polo Club in Southern California’s Colorado Desert. Let the good times roll.

Other notable performers include No Doubt, and 2024 GRAMMY nominees Jon Batiste, Ice Spice and Dom Dolla. Best Rap Song nominee Lil Uzi Vert also received top-billing among a plethora of rappers and hip-hop artists including Coi Leray and Lil Yachty.

A welcome sign of growing diversity among the acts, more international musicians than ever have appeared on the roster, including corridos tumbados musicians Peso Pluma, 2024 GRAMMY nominees for Best Música Mexicana Album, who also recently performed at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs. K-pop acts are also getting shine at Coachella 2024, with ATEEZ and LE SSARAFIM on the bill.

Since its inception in 1999, Coachella has evolved from a simple music festival to a cultural touchstone that encapsulates evolving trends in music, arts, fashion, and social expression. Coachella's lineup has become a barometer of pop culture — marking current and future music trends as well as the tone of the industry. 

Across multiple stages and tents, the festival is a sandbox showcase for experimental work. It’s a place for artists to debut new music, collaborate with other musicians during surprise guest performances and reunions, and make a statement. Beyonce’s culturally significant 2018 performance and celebration of Black college culture that inspired her Netflix documentary “Homecoming” and the unforgettable virtual resurrection of Tupac Shakur in 2012 via hologram serve as prime examples of this phenomena.

Catch the official line-up below and stay tuned for our takeaways from this year’s lineup announcement coming soon.

2024 Coachella Festival Lineup

California Love Is On Full Display

Californians dominate the 2024 Coachella lineup. Major headliners Tyler, the Creator and Doja Cat both hail from the Golden State and although Lana Del Rey (Friday, April 12 and 19) was born in Lake Placid, New York, she calls California her home and source of inspiration. Lana Del Rey is currently nominated in five categories at the 2024 GRAMMY Awards including Album Of The Year and Song Of The Year; Doja Cat is nominated in three categories including Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Rap Song.  

Surprise act No Doubt, which includes vocalist Gwen Stefani, guitarist Tom Dumont, bassist Tony Kanal, and drummer Adrian Young also count Southern California as their original home base. The group formed in 1986 in Anaheim and, over three decades, have netted two GRAMMY Awards and nine nominations. 

Rock Reunions Take Center Stage

Perhaps the biggest surprise act on the bill, No Doubt will reunite for their first major show in almost a decade since their last live performances together in 2015 — much to the delight of the band and Gwen Stefani’s dedicated fanbase. 

Other surprise reunions include new millennium rock band Blur, best known for punchy vocals and kick snare-emboldened tracks. The Britpop act will perform their first U.S. shows in nine years, receiving top billing for both Saturdays. Sublime, who have been performing live for years as Sublime with Rome will also perform on Saturday, though the singular billing begs the question of whether late founding band member Bradley Knowell will appear holographically á la Tupac in 2012. 

The 2024 Lineup Is An International Showcase

Global acts are taking over for one of the most diverse bills in Coachella history, filled with acts from Korea, Japan, Latin America, Africa, France and more.  

Furthering a breakout year in U.S. popularity, K-Pop boy band ATEEZ will perform on Friday. Girl group Atarashii Gakko! alongside superduo Yaosobi will represent Japan. A plethora of artists representing Latin America will perform both weekends: Coachella's lineup includes J Balvin (Columbia), Cimafunk (Cuba) and a roster of Mexican artists including Peso Pluma, Santa Fe Klan, Latin Mafia, Son Rompe Pera and Carin León. Nigerian natives Burna Boy and Tyla, both nominated for Best African Music Performance (one of three brand new categories at the 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards) are billed along with fellow Nigerian, Tems.

Electronic Music Makes A House Call

Highlighting a shift in the sands of music festival lineups over the last few years, electronic, dance, EDM, and trance artists account for a majority of the acts performing at Coachella in 2024. 

Legendary French performer Gesaffelstein, whose work has intertwined with artists like The Weeknd, adds a layer of dark, magnetic allure to the lineup while Justice, known for their GRAMMY-winning electronic beats, round out an electrifying experience. 

Celebrated acts like techno queen Charlotte de Witte and up-and-comers like Dom Dolla — a first-time GRAMMY nominee currently nominated for his remix of the Gorillaz track "New Gold" featuring Tame Impala — represent a nod to electronic music's recent and significant impact within the U.S.

Multiple Acts Return To The Desert

Coachella Valley is set to welcome back multiple seasoned acts in a return to the desert, including inventive linguist Tyler, the Creator, who surprised attendees with an impromptu appearance during Kali Uchis' set on the main stage in 2022. Doja Cat is also making a comeback, ascending to the top of the bill as a headliner after two years. 

J Balvin will bring the reggaeton party back to paradise following his Coachella premiere in 2019. Meanwhile, DJ Snake — the GRAMMY-nominated maestro of trap and electronic fusion will stage a return after first performing in 2016. Techno/house DJ and producer John Summitt will keep the beat alive after his house sound and pulsing rhythms created an electrifying performance 2022. The ever-transcendent and avant garde Grimes will stage a cosmic return to the Coachella stage after last performing in 2016. 

New Music Friday: Listen To Releases From Beyoncé, Lana Del Rey, ATEEZ & More
ATEEZ perform during their Fellowship: Break The Wall tour

Photo: Adrián Monroy/Medios y Media/Getty Images

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New Music Friday: Listen To Releases From Beyoncé, Lana Del Rey, ATEEZ & More

December begins with a blast of new music from some of music's biggest stars. Press play on five new releases Jung Kook & Usher, Tyla and others, out on Dec. 1.

GRAMMYs/Dec 1, 2023 - 06:09 pm

While 2023 may be coming to an end, the first releases of December prove that it's far from time to wind down.

From Taylor Swift — who released "You’re Losing Me," a song originally recorded for her 2022 smash album — to Dua Lipa’s extended edit of her single "Houdini," and Lana Del Rey's cover of "Take Me Home, Country Roads," listeners are being treated to new tracks from familiar favorites today.

But surprise releases were the theme of the day as Beyoncé dropped "MY HOUSE," a single accompanying her Renaissance concert film.

Dec. 1 also sees a bevy of reissue and archival releases, exciting new projects from artists like singer/songwriter Dove Cameron, and the second studio album from K-pop group ATEEZ

Start off your month by listening to these tracks and albums from seven artists that will jumpstart your month.

Beyoncé - "MY HOUSE"

Queen Bey surprised fans with an early Christmas present by dropping "MY HOUSE," her first single since 2022’s Renaissance. This track was featured during the credits of her new Renaissance concert film.

Written and produced by The-Dream, this song showcases Beyoncé’s rapping skills, as she effortlessly weaves verses over a powerful horn melody. There's a vibe check in the song's second half, where the music becomes a smooth, electronic dance groove reminiscent of Renaissance’s ballroom vibe. 

Jung Kook & Usher - "Standing Next To You (Remix)"

BTS' pop singer Jung Kook is back with a remix to his track "Standing Next To You," this time joined by an R&B sensation. The remix features a new verse from  Usher, who adds a delicate touch to the vibrant, high-paced song.

The original track was released last month as a single on Jung Kook’s debut album, GOLDEN. This could be fans' last time hearing Jung Kook's music for a while — the "golden maknae" of BTS announced he’s enlisting for mandatory military service this month.

Tyla - "Truth or Dare"

GRAMMY-nominated Afrobeats star Tyla is closing the year with a sneak peek of her upcoming self-titled album. The hypotonic single "Truth or Dare," following the success of her GRAMMY-nominated song "Water" (the song is nominated for Best African Music Performance at the 2024 GRAMMYs alongside "Amapiano" by ASAKE & Olamide, "City Boys" by Burna Boy, Davido's "UNAVAILABLE" feat. Musa Keys, and "Rush" by Ayra Starr).

In this new song, Tyla revisits an old flame — this time with newfound wisdom and assurance that she won’t fall for his charm anymore: "So let's play truth or dare, dare you to forget / That you used to treat me just like anyone."

Tyla announced her upcoming self-titled album on social media, captioning, "African music is going global and I’m so blessed to be one of the artists pushing the culture. I’ve been working on my sound for 2 years now and I’m so ready for the world to hear it."

Lana Del Rey - "Take Me Home, Country Roads"

After performing during "Christmas At Graceland," a televised tribute to Elvis Presley, Lana Del Rey dropped a surprise cover of John Denver’s 1971 hit "Take Me Home, Country Roads."

This cover might not come as a shock for fans after she referenced a line from Denver’s 1972 "Rocky Mountain High" on her track "The Grants" from GRAMMY-nominated album Did You Know There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd. (At the 2024 GRAMMYs, Did You Know is nominated for Album Of The Year alongside Jon Batiste's World Music Radio, Olivia Rodrigo's Guts, Swift's Midnights, Janelle Monae's The Age Of Pleasure, SZA's SOS, Miley Cyrus' Endless Summer Vacation and the record by boygenius. Did You Know is also nominated for Best Alternative Music Album alongside The Car by Arctic Monkeys, PJ Harvey's I Inside The Old Year Dying, Gorillaz's Cracker Island and boygenius' album.)

The track features Del Rey’s signature soothing vocals, as a Western-style melody balances the instrumentation. She brings her own sultry style to this '70s country classic, while continuing to show her musical versatility.

ATEEZ - The World EP:FIN:WILL

Five years after their debut album, K-pop group ATEEZ  have returned with The World EP:FIN:WILL. The 12-track album is led by "Crazy Form," an Afrobeats/dancehall-influenced track, and also features many solo and unit tracks from the group.

Members Hong Joong and Seonghwa took the reins on "Matz," a dynamic hip-hop track, while Yeosang, San and Wooyoung collaborated for the R&B-influenced "It’s You." 

During a Seoul press conference, Lead Hong Joong spoke about the group’s evolution and how fans should look forward to future releases. 

"This year marks our fifth debut anniversary and so far, our greatest achievement has been establishing a strong relationship with our fans around the world. We hope to continue presenting music that can make our fans proud of us," he said. 

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Here Are The Song Of The Year Nominees At The 2024 GRAMMYs
(Clockwise) Lana Del Rey, Jon Batiste, SZA, Dua Lipa, Miley Cyrus, Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift

Photos: Image from TiVO; Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen; Prince Williams/WireImage; SAMIR HUSSEIN/WIREIMAGE; Arturo Holmes/Getty Images; Image from TiVO; Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

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Here Are The Song Of The Year Nominees At The 2024 GRAMMYs

The eight nominees for Song Of The Year at the 2024 GRAMMYs are hits from some of music’s biggest names: Lana Del Rey, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Jon Batiste, Taylor Swift, SZA and Dua Lipa.

GRAMMYs/Nov 10, 2023 - 04:24 pm

The Song Of The Year GRAMMY Award honors the best releases in the music business, and the eight nominees for the golden gramophone at the 2024 GRAMMYs come from a variety of established singer/songwriters. From dance anthems to pop bops, ballads and R&B smashes, the nominees for Song Of The Year showcase the breadth of emotions of the past year.

Before tuning into the 2024 GRAMMYs on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, learn more about this year's Song Of The Year nominees below.

"A&W" - Lana Del Rey

Songwriters: Jack Antonoff, Lana Del Rey & Sam Dew

The second single from her ninth studio album, Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, "A&W" is a refreshing addition to Lana Del Rey’s expansive discography.

Another shattered portrait of the American Dream, the seven-minute epic, oscillates from madness to exhaustion, as Del Rey described feeling burned out by being objectified and perceived as an "American whore." What begins as a psychedelic folk ballad erupts into a defiant trap number interpolated with a doo-wop standard by the four-minute mark of the chaotic number.

"I’m a princess, I’m divisive/Ask me why I’m like this/Maybe I just kinda like this," Del Rey anxiously warbles. Later, she expresses her resignation surrounding rape culture: "If I told you that I was raped/ Do you really think that anybody would think/ I didn't ask for it? I didn't ask for it/ I won't testify, I already f—ed up my story."

"Anti-Hero" - Taylor Swift

Songwriters: Jack Antonoff & Taylor Swift

"Anti-Hero" showcased a new side of Taylor Swift — a rare moment where the 33-year-old pop star confronted her flaws in the public eye.

"I really don’t think I’ve delved this far into my insecurities in this detail before," Swift said of the track in an Instagram video. "Not to sound too dark, but, like, I just struggle with the idea of not feeling like a person."

The self-loathing synth-pop anthem — with its cheeky chorus — catapulted "Anti Hero" into virality. With its ubiquitous meaning, the song topped charts and became a staple of pop radio. Now, it’s enjoying the highest praise as a contender for Song Of The Year. 

"Butterfly" - Jon Batiste

Songwriters: Jon Batiste & Dan Wilson

Beyond its sound, what makes Jon Batiste’s "Butterfly" so stunning is the story behind it. The touching jazz-soul fusion track is an iteration of the lullabies Batiste penned while his wife Suleika Jaouad was hospitalized during her cancer treatment.

"It’s just such a personal narrative song in relation to my life and what my family has gone through and my wife and all of the things she’s been able to overcome," the 36-year-old GRAMMY winner told PEOPLE.

"Butterfly" is featured on Batiste's latest album, World Music Radio. Like much of his discography, "Butterfly" is inherently uplifting but there’s an underlying yearning for freedom. "Butterfly in the air/ Where you can fly anywhere/ A sight beyond compare," Batiste croons over stripped-down keys.

"Dance The Night" (From Barbie The Album) - Dua Lipa 

Songwriters: Caroline Ailin, Dua Lipa, Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt

With the release of her pop-funk epic Future Nostalgia during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dua Lipa proved she could master the art of escapism. On "Dance The Night," a thrilling dance-pop number from the star-studded Barbie soundtrack, she channels that same inspiration with a side of glitter and glam.

"Greta said that the whole film was inspired by disco. There’s a lot of very glittery and pop moments in it," the 28-year-old singer said of how the track fits into the movie in an interview with Dazed.

Over a sleek synth, the pop star reflects the unwavering joy Barbie outwardly emanates while she’s crumbling inside: "Even when the tears are flowin' like diamonds on my face/I'll still keep the party goin', not one hair out of place (yes, I can)."

"Flowers" - Miley Cyrus

Songwriters: Miley Cyrus, Gregory Aldae Hein & Michael Pollack

Miley Cyrus has perfected the art of reinventing herself. With the post-breakup number "Flowers," she reclaimed her independence and took a hard turn from gritty rock back into pop music. "I can take myself dancing, yeah/ I can hold my own hand/ Yeah, I can love me better than you can," she belts over a disco-pop beat.

While the 30-year-old musician wouldn’t share if "Flowers" was indeed about her ex-husband Liam Hemsworth, the song became an empowering earworm from a more refined version of the longtime musician.

"The song is a little fake it till you make it," she said of "Flowers" in an interview with British Vogue. "Which I’m a big fan of." It turns out she made it with a nomination for Song Of The Year at the 2024 GRAMMY Awards.

"Kill Bill" - SZA

Songwriters: Rob Bisel, Carter Lang & Solána Rowe

On the psychedelic R&B groove of "Kill Bill," which references the legendary Quentin Tarantino film, SZA dreams up her own unfiltered revenge fantasy. "I might kill my ex / Not the best idea / His new girlfriend's next / How'd I get here?" she ponders over an airy melody.

The song stands out on the R&B singer’s latest album, SOS, for not only its cheeky wordplay but for how visceral she portrayed the devastation of a breakup. 

Despite its popularity, the 34-year-old singer initially thought one of the other songs on her 23-track album would have topped the charts. "It's always a song that I don't give a f— about that's just super easy, not the s— that I put so much heart and energy into. 'Kill Bill' was super easy — one take, one night," the singer told Billboard of "Kill Bill’s" success.

"Vampire" - Olivia Rodrigo

Songwriters: Daniel Nigro & Olivia Rodrigo

Like her explosive debut "Drivers License," Olivia Rodrigo opted for a swelling power ballad for the lead single of her sophomore album Guts. On "Vampire," the singer/songwriter recalls a parasitic relationship with a swelling power ballad that erupts into a booming guitar breakdown. "Bloodsucker, famef—er/ Bleedin' me dry, like a goddamn vampire," she sings with a bitter lilt.

While many speculated the song was about a toxic relationship, Rodrigo claimed it’s more nuanced than that. "It’s more about my regret and kind of beating myself up for doing something that I knew wasn’t gonna turn out great and kind of just taking ownership of that and dealing with those feelings," she told Sirius XM Hits 1.

Regardless, the 20-year-old artist turned something bitter into something sweet by landing a Song Of The Year nomination.

"What Was I Made For?" [From The Motion Picture "Barbie"] - Billie Eilish

Songwriters: Billie Eilish O'Connell & Finneas O'Connell

Not only was the Barbie movie a massive hit, its soundtrack was, too, thanks to a slew of chart-topping artists including Dua Lipa, HAIM and Sam Smith. So it’s no surprise that Billie Eilish made that list as well, and delivered a gutting ballad that soundtracked one of the most heartbreaking moments of the film.

The wistful single, which arrives at the devastating realization that you’re not real and are instead meant to be consumed, aptly embodies the narrative arc of the box office smash. "Looked so alive, turns out I'm not real/ Just something you paid for/ What was I made for," the 21-year-old musician sings with a heartbreaking lilt. 

While writing the sobering number, Eilish tried to embody the essence of the life-sized doll herself. "I was purely inspired by this movie and this character and the way I thought she would feel, and wrote about that," she told Zane Lowe of Apple Music

The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.

The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy’s Voting Membership.

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

Here Are The Album Of The Year Nominees At The 2024 GRAMMYs
(Clockwise): Jon Batiste, Olivia Rodrigo, Janelle Monae, Lana Del Rey, Miley Cyrus, boygenius, SZA, Taylor Swift

Photos (clockwise, from top left): Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen; Image from TiVO; Mason Rose; Image from TiVO; Arturo Holmes/Getty Images; Image from TiVO; Prince Williams/WireImage; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

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Here Are The Album Of The Year Nominees At The 2024 GRAMMYs

The 2024 GRAMMY nominees for Album Of The Year have arrived: Jon Batiste, boygenius, Miley Cyrus, Lana Del Rey, Janelle Monáe, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift, and SZA.

GRAMMYs/Nov 10, 2023 - 04:16 pm

In a world dominated by singles and streaming, it's even more important for albums to be cherished and preserved. The Recording Academy celebrates albums as essential, beloved formats of artistic expression, especially in the coveted Album Of The Year Category.

From gutsy pop to psychedelic soul, the eight nominees for Album Of The Year at the 2024 GRAMMYs — which are notably dominated by women, people of color, and the queer community — are a reflection of the joyous diversity within the music community.

Below, take a deeper dive into who's in the running for Album Of The Year on Music's Biggest Night.

Jon Batiste — World Music Radio

On the opening track of World Music Radio, Jon Batiste importantly reminds listeners that music is not just a passive recreation, but an experience. Or, at least the interstellar radio host Billy Bob does.

Narrated by Billy Bob, Batiste's 21-song concept album is made to sound like it's an actual radio station; amid intermittent static and between-song messaging, the station welcomes a slew of high-profile musical guests, ranging from Lana Del Rey to NewJeans to Lil Wayne. Including everything from smooth DJ interludes to crystal-clear saxophone solos to sparkling piano riffs, World Music Radio has something for everyone within its one-hour runtime.

With five GRAMMYs under his belt — including one for Album Of The Year — Batiste understands the significance of pushing boundaries in music. Consequently, World Music Radio questions genre as much as it questions how we can make the world a more inclusive place.

According to an Instagram post, Batiste's album aims to "'re-examine and redefine terms like world music as they exist in the culture."' The "'re"' prefix is what music is all about: reliving memories, reinventing what's been done before, and redefining things we previously thought we understood. Riding the airwaves all the way to an Album Of The Year nomination, Batiste's latest visionary work reminds us to reconsider what we think we know — and then, dial in.

boygenius — the record

On the vinyl version of the record, a locked groove leaves listeners perpetually listening to a single word: "'waiting."' The lyric goes eternally unfinished.

But good things come to those who wait, and for boygenius, a year like 2023 has never made this more discernible. Less than a year after the group debuted at Coachella and embarked on not one but two tours, they're now in the running for the GRAMMY for Album Of The Year.

Skyrocketing to headliner fame this year, the indie rock supergroup composed of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus released their debut album back in spring. Preceded only by a singular, successful EP from five years prior, the record proves itself to be very much worth the wait: chock-full of dreams of arson, $20 bills, and calls to kill the bourgeois, it froths with charisma and jocular amity.

This marks boygenius' first collective GRAMMY nomination, as well as the first nominations for Baker and Dacus. Bridgers' Punisher made her a 4-time GRAMMY nominee at the 63rd GRAMMY Awards. But it's not the group's only nod at the 2024 show — boygenius earned six nominations in total, including Record Of The Year.

What makes the record so momentous is its testament to the trio's vibrant, long-standing friendship — specifically, a companionship rooted in queerness, as well as in opposition to the idea that women in the industry should be pitted against each other. the record intensely and unmistakably feels the gravity of their organic bond, and in this way, it stands for so much more than 12 songs.

Miley Cyrus — Endless Summer Vacation

It's time to give Miley Cyrus her flowers. The GRAMMY-nominated artist already struck gold earlier this year, with her liberating lead single "'Flowers"' breaking records left and right. The track blossoms with the sweet nectar of independence, and this embrace of freedom is the heart of Endless Summer Vacation.

Her album's title denotes a perpetual stretch into eternity, but if there's one thing Cyrus is known for, it's change. Whether it's radically altering her style or switching up her aesthetic, the longtime pop queen knows that creative adaptability is one of her many strengths.

Endless Summer Vacation spotlights this versatility, from Cyrus warmly soaking up "'Violet Chemistry"' to reflecting on when she "'Used To Be Young."' Her signature gravelly drawl suits the album's disco-infused, beachy production — a major shift from the unyielding, punk rock of predecessor Plastic Hearts (2020), or the power pop-trap spotlighted on her 2019 EP, SHE IS COMING.

Notably, this marks Cyrus' first Album Of The Year nomination for her own work (she received a nod for her feature on Lil Nas X's 2021 LP Montero). The honor praises not just Endless Summer Vacation as a salient career highlight, but also applauds the singer's resilience after years of musical shapeshifting — Cyrus was due for a well-deserved vacation.

Lana Del Rey — Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd

On her ninth studio album, Lana Del Rey honors kintsugi, or the ​​Japanese art of repairing broken pottery pieces with gold. Now, with an Album Of The Year nomination, she could be taking home GRAMMY gold.

Del Rey's last nomination in this Big Four category was for Norman Fucking Rockwell! at the 2020 GRAMMYs. While NFR! freewheeled along the West Coast, paving a soft rock landscape inspired by '70s Americana, Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd leans away from Del Rey's habitual worldbuilding. Instead, the singer let spirituality guide her music-making process, dabbling in everything from gospel to trap.

Even though Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd is Del Rey's most natural album yet, the work still feels otherworldly. Throwing caution to the wind, she delves into the multifaceted nature of her identity, candidly examining personal matters relating to religion, mortality and family.

In the same way a pottery artist might delicately approach kintsugi, Del Rey approaches making music with a keen eye and open heart. She searches for ways to sculpt beauty from flaws and fractures — after all, that's how the light gets in.

Janelle Monáe — The Age Of Pleasure

The rush of a crush, the sigh from a single touch — euphoria comes in many beautiful forms, and on her latest album, Janelle Monáe wants you to experience all of them.

The Age Of Pleasure ushers in Monáe's vision of rapture, dreamily blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. The 10-time GRAMMY-nominated artist has long defied labels, whether it be regarding genre or their personal identity, and their latest album celebrates love in all its color and fluidity.

It's all smooth sailing in The Age Of Pleasure. Soulfully, the multihyphenate singer swims through romantic R&B, plunges into funky rap, and bathes in soft pop radiance — but above all, Monáe floats. She's untroubled and unbothered, and that's more than enough to warrant raising a glass.

Monáe's nomination for Album Of The Year acknowledges not just the thrill of living a life carefree, but also celebrates the divinity of all-encompassing love. The album is more than hips and lips galore: beyond giving into passion, it's about cherishing community and, most importantly, choosing joy for yourself.

Olivia Rodrigo — GUTS

Though she's the youngest nominee on the list, Olivia Rodrigo knows she has nothing to prove.

Already a 3-time GRAMMY winner before her 20th birthday, the "'drivers license"' singer/songwriter unsurprisingly resisted the sophomore slump. On her plucky second album GUTS, she leans a little more into punkish pent-up rage than the crying-on-the-bathroom-floor heartache of her 2021 debut, SOUR — and impressively, her determination earned her a second consecutive GRAMMY nomination for Album Of The Year.

Whether her self-reflection appears in the form of piano-led balladry or pop-rock headbangers, Rodrigo tackles wilted relationships, growing pains and everything in between with her characteristically refreshing charm. From the gritty, Joan Didion-inspired "'all american b—"' to the leave-him-to-rot breakup anthem "'vampire,"' GUTS knows how to make a statement without forgetting to have a bit of fun.

Rodrigo, who won the GRAMMY for Best New Artist at the 2022 ceremony, understands the resonant power of her pen, and the singer's swift ascent to fame mirrors her swelling talent. It's already been almost two years since the smash success of "'drivers license,"' but Rodrigo isn't taking her foot off the gas.

Taylor Swift — Midnights

Best believe Taylor Swift is still bejeweled.

Of the megastar's extensive discography, Midnights might just be its crowning jewel thus far. Swift's tenth studio album dives deeper into pop experimentalism, steering away from the indie folk journeys that folklore and evermore so calmly encompassed; Midnights silhouettes the life of a beloved, high-profile "'Anti-Hero"' and assertively offers some of Swift's most ambitious work yet.

It's this fearless ambition that makes Swift no stranger to the GRAMMYs. On top of nearly 50 nominations total, the 12-time GRAMMY winner is the first and only woman solo artist to win Album Of The Year three times for her solo recordings. As Swifties know, she loves to break her own records — and if Midnights takes home GRAMMY gold, Swift would become the artist with the most Album Of The Year wins of all time.

This Midnights nomination marks a climax for Swift's career, and even though the singer has collected countless milestones, this year might be her most colossal yet. As she continues to bring all of her musical eras to life, Swift isn't just reliving her musical past — she's writing her future.

SZA — SOS

SZA knows how to build anticipation. Keeping her fans in suspense for five years, the prolific GRAMMY winner released her 2022 sophomore album SOS to wide critical acclaim — and while its title suggests a sense of helplessness, SOS puts forth plenty of strength.

SZA understands the vast power of vulnerability, and she wields this power expertly, whether it be forcefully or delicately. During the album's wade through loneliness and insecurity, the singer occasionally employs features from friends like Don Toliver, Phoebe Bridgers, and Travis Scott, but above all, SZA's self-discovery remains in the spotlight.

The R&B star scored her first GRAMMY just two years ago, sharing the award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance with Doja Cat for their lovable collaboration "'Kiss Me More"' at the 2022 GRAMMYs. While the pop-rap collaboration bubbles with lost-in-the-moment delight, SOS looks at life with a wider lens; in her single "'Shirt,"' SZA admits that she's "'in the dark right now/ feeling lost but I like it,"' and it's these glimmers of self-assurance that show her a light at the end of the tunnel.

This Album Of The Year nomination nods to the singer's personal growth since her 2017 debut Ctrl. Although SZA sings about a fear of letting other people define her, SOS rejects other people's terms and soars as a bold reclamation: by defying others, she rediscovers herself.

The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.

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2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List