meta-scriptHow Japanese Breakfast Found Joy On Her New Album 'Jubilee' |
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Japanese Breakfast

Photo: Peter Ash Lee


How Japanese Breakfast Found Joy On Her New Album 'Jubilee'

After years of deep, consuming sadness following her mother's passing, Michelle Zauner, aka Japanese Breakfast, lets some light back in on her upcoming album, 'Jubilee,' which sees her exploring the optimism within her

GRAMMYs/May 29, 2021 - 01:21 am

Up until now, Michelle Zauner's albums as Japanese Breakfast were mired in grief. It's more than understandable: They were written in the wake of her mother's death. But while Psychopomp (2016) and Soft Sounds from Another Planet (2017) mourned her mother's cancer and passing—both depicted in harrowing detail in Zauner's new memoir, Crying in H Mart, where she also reckons with her Korean identity—her upcoming third album, Jubilee, lets some light back in.

Of course, one can't emerge from grief by discarding it entirely; Zauner sits with the darker moments, too. On "In Hell," she describes keeping her mother's pain at bay near the end of her life: "I snowed you in / With hydrocodone / Layer by layer 'til you disappeared." Notably, that song is a former bonus track, reinvigorated for Jubilee. Why, then, does she put that track, and the similarly reimagined "Posing in Bondage," on her new, optimistic album? For Zauner, it's a "good reminder of where I've come from." Her mother passed six years ago, and she's processed that grief to the point where "time has healed a gaping wound, and it's something that I will live with forever, but it's less debilitating." Most importantly, she said, "I want to write about something else."

So on Jubilee, Zauner strives for joy. She said she feels "like I'm able to do things in my life now that aren't all clouded over with grief," and she wanted to explore that optimism in herself. From the bright, horn-heavy opener "Paprika" to gothic, dancey tracks, Zauner's Jubilee hinges on possibility and hope: She reminds herself that she's allowed to feel joy after this deep, consuming sadness. caught up with Michelle Zauner to dive deep into Jubilee, which drops on Dead Oceans June 4.

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I'm really curious about the timeline of working on the album and working on the memoir—did they overlap?

I was working on the book pretty intensely from probably 2017 to 2020. I sent out my first draft to my editor in October or September of 2019, so I kind of had this built-in break for three to five months where I just could not think about it, and it was in her hands, and I could go off and work on another big project. It was really time for us to start recording a new record, so I started writing and recording largely in 2019.

They are separate but, not to be cliche, they are interrelated in so many ways. Did you apportion certain ideas to one [project] or did they influence each other?

A good deal of the record has to do with my personal life in some ways, and a lot of it was the aftermath of where the book left off, [that] is actually the content of the songs. I think if anything, I wrote two albums that were largely focused on grief and then this whole book that really dove into that experience, [and then] I felt like I was actually really ready to fling myself to the other end of the spectrum and write about this other part of my life that is a bit more joyful.

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That's actually what I was going to ask you about—this album is titled Jubilee, which means celebrating the passage of time. Was there a moment or catalyst, like "it's time to turn towards joy," or was it a slow realization?

I don't know if there was a catalyst, I think it was the slow processing of grief over the past six years, and it just made space for me—time has healed a gaping wound, and it's something that I will live with forever, but it's less debilitating, it's less of my primary focus. I feel like I'm able to do things in my life now that aren't all clouded over with grief.

It was definitely a conscious choice to be like, "OK, I've written two very dark albums and a whole book about grief, I want to write about something else," because I feel ready to do that and I'm interested in these other parts of my life and joy in particular. I think a lot of what I was going through was: "You're allowed to feel again, you're allowed to feel joy." A lot of the record is about struggling or figuring out how to do that or making decisions for myself that allow me to embrace that again.

I feel like "Paprika" really encapsulates everything you're trying to do on this record — it's very naturalistic, there's so much possibility. And then there are songs on the record like "Savage Good Boy" and "Kokomo, IN" which are more narrative and use personas. Why did you decide to do that?

It just happened organically. It's something that I've done before and I've always had a lot of fun with, and I think it's just like flexing this different type of muscle. I think I read something about billion-dollar bunkers in the news, and it inspired this whole narrative about a billionaire coaxing a young woman to live with him as the world burns around them.

"Kokomo, IN" happened because I was taking a lot of guitar lessons at the time and so of course I was learning a lot of Beatles songs, and adding all these sort of more interesting chord changes, a lot of major-7s and major-4s, these same type of very classic chord changes that made me write this very sweet, classic song of longing and teenage feeling. I just followed the natural narrative that the song created for itself.

You mention in your new memoir, Crying in H Mart, about being seen as a "bad girl" when you were a kid. The song "Slide Tackle" brings that up, too. Do you still think of yourself like that?

As a bad girl? [Laughs.] I'm so obsessed with striving to be a good person. My brain is very occupied, and I think a lot of my songs really boil down to "I want to be better, I want to be a better person." That song starts with "I want to be good / I want to navigate this hate in my heart / somewhere better." A lot of my songs are like that—I actually had to catch myself, because I'm like, "You can't start every song with 'I want.'" [Laughs.]

And "Diving Woman" [on Soft Sounds from Another Planet] also starts that way: "I want to be a woman of regimen." A lot of these are very simple ideas of "I want to be a more regimented person, I want to be in control of my emotions, I want to be kind to people," and I'm still a moody little f***er, but I try to get a better handle of that as I've gotten older and I definitely don't value that part of myself. I always want to be a better person.

You mentioned your guitar lessons, and I know you did a lot of work as a songwriter as you were creating this album.

I felt a little stuck and needed some brushing up. I've always been very willfully ignorant of music theory and thought it would hinder my natural songwriting ability, and I realized after years of touring and working professionally as a musician, I got to meet so many stunning musicians who have this incredible education that I've become quite envious of. I feel like that really inspired me to get back in and see what it could bring out in me that was new.

Did you like it?

I really liked it, actually. I was like, "This whole time there have been this many chords?" [Laughs.] I felt really stupid that I'd kept myself away from it for so long.

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Between "Posing in Bondage" and "Posing for Cars"—this might just be me being prosaic—I thought a lot about  the word "posing," like posing for art, or even posturing. Those songs are so chilling and isolated.

["Posing in Bondage"] feels really fraught with tension and I think it's very delicate but also kind of industrial. The song was something that we put out with Polyvinyl on a 4-track series, and it was a very, very low-fi version of it that I don't feel like did the song justice and it's always been a song that I really liked. This was another song that I co-produced with Jack Tatum of the band Wild Nothing. He is just a real sonic wizard, he's a real tinkerer of tone, and he found this perfect balance of tension and these really unique sounds that give it this very fragile, vulnerable feeling. I really was happy to get it where it needed to be, and there's this almost Enya-esque vocals at the end.

Can you tell me a little about how "In Hell" came together?

That was actually a bonus song for Soft Sounds, for the Japanese deluxe edition. It was just one of those songs that stuck around and has haunted me for a very long time. I think it's a very beautiful and intense song and some of the greatest lyric writing I've done. It's very melodic and pleasant…I just felt like it didn't deserve to die as an exclusive bonus track, I really wanted more people to hear it. I think it's almost more devastating because it's on a record that's about joy, with a lot of warmer songs. I think it finds a good place there, sonically it fits, and it's a good reminder of what I've endured and that it's possible to experience happiness after these two incredibly dark moments in my life and comparing them. That song's literally about euthanizing my dog and comparing it to snowing my mom under with drugs, and it's spun into a little pop number.

Even as we keep talking about grief and sadness, we go back to Jubilee as a tribute to joy. What, right now, brings you joy?

I have a really great life, honestly. I have the greatest job, and I value that so much. I was kind of a late bloomer in this industry and it's allowed me to be so grateful that I've won this lottery and get to be a creative person for a living. I'm so overjoyed that I've found love in my life that's incredibly stable and very fulfilling, just endlessly fulfilling. Those two things alone—I've just won the life lottery, in that sense.

Listen: Celebrate AAPI Month 2021 With This Playlist Featuring Artists Of Asian & Pacific Islander Descent

AAPI Month Playlist 2024 Hero
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Leap Into AAPI Month 2024 With A Playlist Featuring Laufey, Diljit Dosanjh, & Peggy Gou

Celebrate AAPI artists this May with a genre-spanning playlist spotlighting festival headliners and up-and-coming musicians. From Korean hip-hop to Icelandic jazz-pop, listen to some of the most exciting artists from the Asian diaspora.

GRAMMYs/May 1, 2024 - 02:47 pm

With spring just around the corner, it’s time to welcome AAPI Month in full blossom. From rising musical artists to inspiring community leaders, it’s essential to recognize AAPI members of the artistic world and their achievements.

While AAPI Month is a U.S. holiday, the Recording Academy takes a global approach in celebrating artists and creators from across the Asian and Asian American diaspora. This aligns with the Recording Academy's growing mission to expand its reach on a global scale and celebrate international creators outside of the U.S.  

Musicians of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander heritage have not only helped establish the music industry, but have transformed it. From Diljit Dosanjh being the first artist to play a Coachella set entirely in Punjabi to Laufey winning a GRAMMY for her jazz-inspired pop, AAPI artists continue to influence music by both honoring tradition and reshaping modern standards.

It’s thrilling to see AAPI musicians continue to take centerstage — from Atarashi Gakko! to Tiger JK’s memorable sets at Coachella, to surprise appearances from Olivia Rodrigo, Dominic Fike, and Towa Bird. As festival season gets underway, examples of the AAPI starpower from every corner of the world abound.

As one of many ways to celebrate AAPI Month, listen to the playlist below — as a reminder to give AAPI musicians not just their May flowers, but their flowers all year-round!


Photo: Courtesy of Siiickbrain


ReImagined: Watch Siiickbrain Deliver A Grungy Cover Of Nirvana’s GRAMMY-Nominated Single, “All Apologies”

Alternative newcomer Siiickbrain offers her take on Nirvana’s “All Apologies,” a track about shamelessly looking beyond societal norms.

GRAMMYs/Apr 30, 2024 - 05:40 pm

Over two decades ago, Kurt Cobain famously declared his unapologetic stance — from supporting gay rights to his skepticism about reality — in Nirvana's 1993 GRAMMY-nominated single "All Apologies."

Cobain probed in the opening verse, "What else should I be?/ All apologies," Cobain questioned in the opening verse. "What else could I say?/ Everyone is gay/ What else could I write/ I don't have the right."

In this episode of ReImagined, alternative newcomer Siiickbrain delivers her rendition of the In Utero track, channeling the '90s aesthetic with a vintage camera. Like Cobain, Siiickbrain uses her songwriting to confront and address her mental health.

"[My struggles with mental health] made me want to speak on it within my music, and it kind of gave me a foundation for what I'm doing," Siiickbrain said in an interview with Kerrang! "It gave me a purpose to write about certain things and bring awareness to how common these feelings are."

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Press play on the video above to hear Siiickbrain's cover of Nirvana's "All Apologies," and remember to check back to for more new episodes of ReImagined.

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Abby Sage performs at home
Abby Sage

Photo: Courtesy of Abby Sage


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GRAMMYs/Apr 23, 2024 - 03:56 pm

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"Feed my hunger/ No shame, I'm just a beginner," she croons in the chorus. "It's my own wonder/ Don't press, I'm just a beginner."

In this episode of Press Play, watch Sage deliver an acoustic performance of the single from her debut album, The Rot, which she released on March 1. According to a statement, the project is largely about "the decomposition and reconstruction of everything I was taught," including sex, anxiety, and more.

Sage said "Hunger" is "the most important song to me on the album" adding, "I wish I heard a song like this when I was first exploring my sexuality and my sexual journey, and for that reason, I hope it reaches people."

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Watch the video above to hear Abby Sage's empowering performance of "Hunger," and remember to check back to for more new episodes of Press Play.

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Photo of Skepta performing at Wireless Festival on September 11, 2021, in London, England. Skepta is wearing dark black sunglasses, a black shirt, and a vest made of bullets.
Skepta performs a headline set at Wireless Festival on September 11, 2021, in London, England

Photo: Joseph Okpako/WireImage


10 Must-See Artists At Coachella 2024: Skepta, The Last Dinner Party, Mdou Moctar, Cimafunk & More

Peso Pluma, Lana Del Rey, Doja Cat, Tyler, The Creator, J Balvin and a reunited No Doubt may be some of the biggest draws at Coachella 2024, but the beloved festival will host a multitude of must-see artists whose names appear in smaller text.

GRAMMYs/Apr 22, 2024 - 03:00 pm

Ah, springtime. For the average person, that means sunshine, flora in bloom, perhaps a figurative fresh start in the new year. But for music festival fans, it signals another season starter: Coachella.

An estimated 125,000 people will flock to the Empire Polo Fields in Indio, California for the first weekend (April 12-14) of the 23rd Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. While the first weekend is already sold out, tickets are still available for the second weekend (April 19-21).

Coachella's headliners have been busy: Both Lana Del Rey (headlining Friday) and Doja Cat (slated to close out Sunday) just wrapped extensive tours at the end of 2023 and, while Saturday closer Tyler, the Creator's only other 2024 festival date is at Lollapalooza, he did stage a large-scale appearance in 2023 at the Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival in Los Angeles. Still, it stands to reason that there are scores of fans who missed out on those tour stops, and Coachella would be an ideal chance to catch them in a particularly special setting. 

There's also the potential to see a slew of surprise guests (a long-standing Chella tradition) and much-hyped reunions. Coachella 2024 attendees will likely flock to see a reunited No Doubt and Sublime, the latter with a Nowell back at the helm (Bradley’s son, Jakob).

Then there’s the economic logic behind opting to see those bigger acts at a festival: for a price not much more than what you’d pay for an arena ticket, you get the bonus of catching dozens of other incredible artists while you’re at it. The diversity and quality of music throughout even the lower tiers of the Coachella lineup is staggering, so overall the price for a pass is quite the steal. Read on for the inside scoop on 10 of this year’s most exciting undercard performances.

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Cuban artist Cimafunk has been relatively quiet since releasing a third studio album, El Alimento, in 2021. But the success of that record — which garnered his first GRAMMY nomination for Best Latin Rock or Alternative album at the 2023 GRAMMY Awards — appears to have propelled him to new career heights. He will be the first Cuban-born artist to perform at the festival, kicking off a string of worldwide shows that begin with his appearance at Coachella on April 12 and 19. 

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Cimafunk’s sole release since his last album was the December 2023 single “Te tango en salsa,” which expands upon his self-designated brand of Afro Cuban Funk with accents of disco and grooves filled with New Orleans-style horns. Though the track hasn’t been publicly connected to any upcoming EP or album, one might presume that his impending run of concerts is a precursor to a complete body of new music. Perhaps Coachella will function as a testing ground, and considering the inclusion on El Ailmento of prominent artists George Clinton, CeeLo Green and Lupe Fiasco, who knows what other surprises might be in store at the desert festival known for delighting audiences with plenty of guest features.


Through the years following their inception in 2012, French pop band L’Imperatrice have played primarily in Europe and surrounding regions, so it’s no small feat that they’re poised to make their second appearance at Coachella in two years. They first played the fest in 2022, a makeup show for Coachella's 2020 COVID-19 cancellation. 

Their slots on April 12 and 19, stops on their just-launched Double Trouble Tour, follow the 2018 release of debut full-length Matahari and performances at prominent festivals like Austin City Limits and Outside Lands. Self-produced sophomore album Pulsar arrives on June 7, and its infectiously groovy and sensual debut single “Me Da Iqual” promises a Coachella set sure to incite emotional release among the masses — ideally during one of the fest’s famed golden hours to match the music’s euphoric vibes. 


Regarded as one of the most influential rappers in the UK grime scene, Skepta is set to commence his latest return to stateside stages with appearances at Coachella on both Fridays, which marks his second time at the festival after lauded dual appearances in 2017. 

Following a semi-secret DJ set at Austin’s South by Southwest festival in March, these shows will preview a run of summer dates in the UK and Europe and the release of upcoming sixth solo album Knife and Fork

With that record’s release date still in question but imminent, it’s a good bet that he’ll introduce new material to build upon the January drop of lead single "Gas Me Up (Diligent)," which adopts a flow and melodic structure more akin to popular American rap. To that end, Skepta’s previous collaborations with U.S. rappers like Drake, Ye and members of ASAP Mob could lead to a loaded lineup of guests during his Coachella set. It has the potential to be a huge moment, though his reputation for high-energy and rowdy gigs are reasons enough to prioritize his performance. 

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Mandy, Indiana

English-French noise rock upstarts Mandy, Indiana make music that isn’t necessarily easy to digest. Minimalist and chaotic compositions, primarily from their widely celebrated 2023 debut album I’ve Seen a Way, resonate as tunes tailor-made for technically minded music nerds. Still, danceable moments emerge among the sonic helter-skelter, which combines experimental elements of industrial, classic house music and samples aplenty (think Death Grips with more palatable melodies and exclusively French lyrics). 

So far, the dynamic four-piece hasn’t played much on this side of the pond — their debut shows at Coachella arrive on the heels of a handful of U.S. appearances in 2023 that included the SXSW Music Festival. Which means Mandy, Indiana’s sets on April 13 and 20 will mark relatively rare (and therefore must-see) chances to embrace their overtly wonderful weirdness in the desert among the more prominent pop-leaning artists on the roster.

The Last Dinner Party

If you’re not yet keen on British indie rock band the Last Dinner Party, it’s time to get with the program. With only one album under their belt, Prelude to Ecstasy (released Feb. 2) — which echoes various influences ranging from Siouxsie and the Banshees to Kate Bush and ABBA —the quintet has already earned multiple awards and accolades, including topping the UK Album Chart. To boot, they opened for the Rolling Stones in London’s Hyde Park two years prior to putting out their record.

The band’s performances are reportedly jaw-dropping, further evidenced by the complete sell-out of their current U.S. tour. That jaunt wraps with their April 20 appearance at Coachella (they also play during the first weekend on April 13), so, unless you want to pay ridiculous resale prices for one of their club shows, this is a prime chance to see them live with the added benefit of catching many more amazing acts while you’re there.

Young Fathers

Young Fathers are often categorized under the umbrella of hip-hop, but it would be wrong to pigeonhole them that way. True, one can pinpoint elements of a spitting, old-school style — especially on debut album Dead (winner of the prestigious Mercury Prize in 2014.. However, their sound spans the landscape of many genres, often weaving in threads of electronic, industrial, and trip-hop. It should be telling that they’ve collaborated multiple times with Massive Attack.

The music clearly resonates with a substantial audience. They’ve reached prime positions on the UK Album charts, their fourth and latest album Heavy Heavy (released Feb. 3, 2023) won them their third Scottish Album of the Year Award, and this year marks their second invitation to Coachella (catch them on Sundays: April 13 and 20). With a full year gone since putting out new songs, there’s no telling if they’ll serve up anything fresh. Regardless, fans of heavy-hitting experimental music, assuredly energizing at any time of day or night, should prioritize seeing their set.

Oneohtrix Point Never

It’s a wonder that Oneohtrix Point Never has never played Coachellal until now given his string of consistent releases since emerging in the early 2000s (with never more than three years between albums) and Coachella’s penchant for historically championing experimental electronic artists. Following the Feb. 29 release of his latest EP “Oneohtrix Point Never - Ambients,” he debuts in the desert on April 13, with his second weekend encore on April 20. 

The Massachusetts-bred beatmaker’s music swings from sparse to compositionally complex. It's not geared toward a typical EDM dance party, but always cinematic and hypnotizing, creating a space where listeners can truly lose themselves in the sonics. Given his style, it’s safe to assume he’ll occupy an evening time slot, so if you’re the type who prefers something a little more raw to the mainstream big-timers topping the bill, Oneohtrix Point Never might be just the ticket.

Mdou Moctar

If there’s one artist on this year’s Coachella lineup that will truly thrive in a desert setting, it’s Mdou Moctar. The Niger-based musician plays rock music steeped in the style of Tuareg, guitar-based blues-rock fusion that originates in the Sahara region. However, Moctar’s music decidedly transcends the traditional sound, often reverberating as sublimely psychedelic.

His performances in Indio on April 14 and 21 precede the release of his sixth album Funeral For Justice (arriving May 3). Based on the two singles made available from that record so far (title track “Funeral for Justice” and “Imouhar”), the people of Coachella are in for a true desert trip.

Atarashii Gakko!

When Japanese “girl group” Atarashii Gakko! make their Coachella debut on April 14 and 21, anticipate the unexpected. The four singers’ have a stated goal of “redefining what it means to be a girl group.” They’re technically categorized as J-Pop, but among the many catchy choruses, their music also incorporates shades of speed metal, trap beats and alt-rap à la Rage Against the Machine, all of which you can hear on their latest album ICHIJIKIKOKU.

What you can certainly expect is an outrageously high-energy show chock-full of nonstop, self-designed choreography performed in colorful sailor-fuku uniforms (essentially sailor suits worn by Japanese students in the ‘70s and ‘80s … think Sailor Moon but intentionally less provocative). If you need an adrenaline boost on the final day of the fest, look no further than Atarashii Gakko!.

Olivia Dean

Dear America, it’s time to give a proper welcome to an artist destined for stardom:  Olivia Dean. With only a handful of U.S. shows in the bank, the 25-year-old British neo-soul singer’s debut at Coachella on April 14 — arguably her biggest U.S. gig yet — will serve as the most well-deserved of receptions. 

Sure, her nominations for the 2023 Mercury Prize (for debut album Messy) and 2024 Brit Awards (Best Pop Act, British Artist of the Year and Best New Artist) should merit attention enough for those who don’t know her. But even a few moments of listening to key album tracks “Dive” and “The Hardest Part” (don’t sleep on the alternate version featuring Leon Bridges) are the real deal-sealers. The richness of Dean’s recorded vocals are absolutely arresting, evocative of and equal to top-tier divas who preceded her. It’s thrilling just thinking about the impact she’ll make at Coachella — do yourself a favor if you have the chance and go witness it firsthand. 

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