meta-scriptJennifer Hudson Delivers Touching Tribute To Kobe Bryant At The 2020 NBA All-Star Game | GRAMMY.com
Jennifer Hudson performs a tribute to Kobe Bryant at the 2020 NBA All-Star Game

Jennifer Hudson performs a tribute to Kobe Bryant at the 2020 NBA All-Star Game

 

Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

 

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Jennifer Hudson Delivers Touching Tribute To Kobe Bryant At The 2020 NBA All-Star Game

Following a moving speech from NBA legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the singer performed a heart-wrenching rendition of "For All We Know," from Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway

GRAMMYs/Feb 17, 2020 - 07:14 am

Jennifer Hudson brought the house down to tears when she performed a touching tribute to late NBA icon Kobe Bryant tonight (Feb. 16) at the 2020 NBA All-Star Game.

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Ahead of Hudson's performance, NBA legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson gave a moving speech in memory of Bryant and former NBA commissioner David Stern, who both died last month. 

"We'll never see another basketball player quite like Kobe… So we all are hurting. This is a tough time for the whole NBA family," Johnson said. 

Following Johnson's speech, Hudson—a native to Chicago, where this year's NBA All-Star Game is being hosted—came to the stage and performed a heart-wrenching rendition of "For All We Know," the classic song popularized by Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway in 1972, as images of Kobe displayed on a screen behind the emotionally distraught singer. 

Read: Queen Latifah Delivers Soulful Performance Of Stevie Wonder's "Love's In Need Of Love Today" At NBA All-Star 2020 Weekend

Hudson, a GRAMMY-, Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning singer and actress, is no stranger to delivering tearjerking tributes. In 2019, Hudson honored Aretha Franklin when she performed at the Aretha! A GRAMMY Celebration For The Queen Of Soul commemorative concert and TV special. At the 2019 Academy Awards, she also sang a powerful rendition of "I'll Fight," a featured song from RBG, the 2018 documentary on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; the song was nominated for Best Original Song at that year's award show. 

The two-time GRAMMY winner received her most recent GRAMMY win at the 59th GRAMMY Awards, held in 2017, when she won for Best Musical Theater Album for her performance in the Broadway musical "The Color Purple." She won her first GRAMMY at the 51st GRAMMY Awards, held in 2009, for Best R&B Album for her 2008 self-titled album. 

Hudson's tribute is part of a stacked musical lineup at the 2020 NBA All-Star Game and Weekend, which includes performances from: Chaka Khan, who sang the national anthem to officially open the game; Queen Latifah, who covered Stevie Wonder; and Chance The Rapper, who's confirmed to deliver a star-studded halftime show later tonight alongside DJ KhaledMigos rapper Quavo and Lil Wayne

Other artists who performed and appeared throughout the weekend include Common, Chance The Rapper's brother and fellow rapper, Taylor Bennett, Megan Thee Stallion, Normani, Jeremih and others. 

Watch Jennifer Lopez And Shakira Deliver Dazzling Halftime Show At Super Bowl 2020

Lana Del Rey performing in 2024
Lana Del Rey performs at the 2024 Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona.

Photo: Xavi Torrent/Redferns

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Levels Of Lana: 12 Songs To Explore Lana Del Rey's Career For Every Kind Of Fan

As Lana Del Rey's third album, 'Ultraviolence,' turns 10, build — or expand — your knowledge of the melancholy pop queen's catalog.

GRAMMYs/Jun 13, 2024 - 03:12 pm

When it comes to exploring Lana Del Rey's discography, it can be hard to know where to start. The pop songstress has a sprawling catalog, consisting of nine albums, four EPs, and a handful of other standalone singles.

You could begin with Born To Die, her highly influential major label debut, or its moody follow-up, Ultraviolence, her first to top the Billboard charts and ultimately establish her staying power as an artist. Perhaps you choose to start with her Album Of The Year GRAMMY nominees Norman F—ing Rockwell! or Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd.

Or maybe you're an incredibly diehard fan with encyclopedic knowledge who wants to start where it all began, on Rey's first album Lana Del Ray (note the spelling difference), which never saw official physical release and contained just a rough draft of the cultural force Del Rey would become.

Following Del Rey's career is rewarding, but requires some commitment to listen to, and understand, everything she's put out. It can be intimidating to approach an artist with such a robust, varied catalog. You can go with more mainstream pop offerings like her collaborations with Taylor Swift and The Weeknd, or dive into something more inspired by the orchestra like early track "National Anthem." This is true for fans with any amount of exposure to Del Rey, from those just discovering her music to those looking to become an expert.

As Ultraviolence turns 10, GRAMMY.com presents the levels of Lana, a series of jumping off points to explore all the music Del Rey has to offer. Dig into three songs across four different levels of fandom — Beginner, Intermediate, Expert, and Diehard — to further your Lana knowledge. These songs give a peek into various aspects of Del Rey's body of work, and serve as encouragement to continue exploring.

Beginner

"Summertime Sadness," Born to Die (2012)

The Beginner Level of Lana is for those who have heard of Del Rey, but have never sat down with her music before. This makes "Summertime Sadness," her biggest song to date, the perfect place to start.

It's reductive to simply label Del Rey's oeuvre "sad girl music," but for the uninitiated, it's a simple descriptor to start with. "Summertime Sadness" combines the pop production, elements of classical music, and existential despair that is present throughout Del Rey's career. And Cedric Gervais' remix has turned "Summertime Sadness" into a club banger to help her appeal to those who gravitate more to the dance floor.

"Young and Beautiful," The Great Gatsby: Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film (2013)

It speaks to Del Rey's cultural reach and musical vision that a non-album single is one of her most iconic songs. Written for the 2013 The Great Gatsby movie adaptation, "Young and Beautiful" also serves as a helpful thematic introduction to Del Rey.

Throughout her writing, Del Rey examines youth, Americana, and the American Dream, and how each of these uniquely American ideals are full of decay and liable to corruption and disappointment. On "Young and Beautiful," she asks if her lover will still care when she's no longer either of those things, and the somber tone indicates the likely answer. This song will introduce fans to Del Rey's penchant for using orchestral backing for her music, and illustrate how intertwined with popular culture she really is. 

"Mariners Apartment Complex," Norman F—ing Rockwell! (2019)

The past two songs have introduced Del Rey's "sad girl" persona, but over the years, she has evolved far past being so easily defined. "Mariners Apartment Complex" is the perfect next step for beginners, opening up the popular perception to her to reveal more of her complexity.

Lyrically, it finds Del Rey pushing back on sorrow being her only emotion. Musically, it's a great introduction to more of the ethereal, synth-filled sound that has come out of her partnership with superproducer Jack Antonoff. And in terms of placing her within the culture, "Mariners Apartment Complex" is the first single from her sixth album Norman F—ing Rockwell!, which earned Del Rey her first Album Of The Year nomination in 2019.

Intermediate

"Brooklyn Baby," Ultraviolence (2014)

At the Intermediate level, it's time to start getting into more of the nuances that Del Rey brings to her writing — and, in turn, how much she's influenced her peers, and how respected she is amongst them.

"Brooklyn Baby" is some of her sharpest writing, equal parts playful needling and affectionate tribute to the snooty New York art scene. One of the most indelible tracks off of Ultraviolence, the song epitomizes the entire record's move towards more rock instrumentation, with a guitar-based sound. It references legendary rock artist Lou Reed, who was slated to appear on the track before his death in late 2013, showing just how highly she's thought of by other artists.

"Love," Lust for Life (2017)

For as much as Del Rey recognizes how fallible many of our culture's ideals are, she's always been a romantic. "Love," the first single from 2017's Lust for Life, is a prime example of this.

The whole album is a big play on her love of classic Hollywood imagery, including the video for "Love," and the song is a dreamy throwback to '50s love songs. If "Mariners Apartment Complex" chides anyone thinking Del Rey can only be sad, "Love" is a full rebuke, as it's one of her most straightforwardly optimistic tracks. Commercially, "Love" was Del Rey's highest-charting feat since Ultraviolence (landing at No. 44 on the Billboard Hot 100), further establishing that she had longevity. 

"Chemtrails over the Country Club," Chemtrails over the Country Club (2021)

2020 and the pandemic did a number on everyone, radically altering lives and shaking faith in many of the institutions of everyday life. That unmooring is felt on Del Rey's seventh album, Chemtrails over the Country Club, and particularly on its title track.

Del Rey is as sharp as ever in exploring the pulse of American society on the dreamy, disaffected number. "You're in the wind, I'm in the water/ Nobody's son, nobody's daughter" is a breathtaking piece of writing that became a TikTok favorite, illustrating Del Rey's continuing ability to relate to the youth. 

Expert

"F—ed My Way Up To the Top," Ultraviolence (2014)

As we enter the realm of the Expert Lana Del Rey fan, we're firmly out of album singles territory. From here, it's all deep cuts and non-album tracks.

Del Rey has been no stranger to controversy — some warranted, some not. An early knock against her was that the mid-20th century aesthetic and perceived submissiveness in her music was anti-women or anti-feminist, a surface-level reading that in the years since has been largely dispelled. 

The singer has worked to combat it herself on tracks like Ultraviolence's "F—ed My Way Up To the Top," which takes that perceived notion to its extreme. At the same time, it's another in a long line of tracks in which Del Rey has embraced her own sexuality and sensuality as something to be celebrated and claimed, not something to be ashamed of. 

"Art Deco," Honeymoon (2015)

2015's Honeymoon isn't necessarily underappreciated, as it received positive reviews upon release debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, but "Art Deco" isn't likely to appear on many playlists. It should, though, as the track illustrates how much of musical chameleon Del Rey really is, with a sultry, hip-hop inspired rolling beat. 

It treads some familiar territory thematically with trying to find acceptance in night life, but Del Rey is really comfortable here. She shows more of her knowledge of art history by relating the subject of the song to the defining characteristics of the titular art movement, revealing just how much thought she puts into her aesthetic.

"Fingertips," Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd (2023)

Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd is arguably Del Rey's most intimate album, exploring details of her family and their history that fans have only previously seen brief glimpses of. At the same time, it is partially an examination of her own legacy and work, only natural for someone with as much output as Del Rey, let alone her frequent references to death and finality.

Both of these things combine in "Fingertips," a standout track from the album. A nearly six-minute long ballad, it's musically airy while emotionally devastating — and, for a true Del Rey fan, encapsulates so much of her legacy in just one song.

Diehard

"Yayo," Paradise (2012)

For fans in the Diehard level, everything before is old news. This is for fans who want to fully live the Lana life, who have all her albums on vinyl and have carefully built their image and fashion around her.

Speaking of her image, this section starts with "Yayo," an extremely early deep cut. This track originally appeared on Lana Del Ray before being reworked and rereleased on the Paradise EP in 2012. The song leans heavier than most into the '50s imagery and floats along at a dreamy, lilting pace. While not as refined as her later work, "Yayo" is an indicator Del Rey had a solid idea of who she wanted to be as soon as she started.

"Season of the Witch," Non-album Single (2019)

Del Rey has done several covers throughout her career, and quite successfully. Norman F—ing Rockwell! features her cover of Sublime's "Doin' Time," which is one of the highlight tracks from the record. Less known is Del Rey's spooky cover of '60s classic "Season of the Witch." 

Written for the 2019 horror film Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, the song fits Del Rey's style perfectly. The Americana/flower crown aesthetic of her younger years always leaned witch-adjacent, and Del Rey takes her soft vocals into playfully sinister territory. It's a fun cover, and shows just how many gems Del Rey has in her discography for those fans willing to dig. 

"Say Yes to Heaven," Non-album Single (2023)

"Say Yes to Heaven" was never supposed to be heard. A late cut from Ultraviolence, the track remained buried for years before being leaked in 2016. It lurked on the internet, only known to superfans, before gaining steam with the rise of TikTok and finally seeing an official release in 2023.

The deep cut is peak Del Rey ballad material, a tender love song imploring her partner to accept happiness. It's another rebuke of the idea that she can't be happy, and it gives insight into some of her earlier writing.

As a resurfaced older track, "Say Yes to Heaven" may not necessarily indicate the direction Lana Del Rey is set to go on her forthcoming album, Lasso (especially considering Del Rey has teased she's "going country" for her next release). But it's a beautiful reminder of the affecting narratives and arresting vocals that have made her beloved to so many, no matter the level of fandom.

Songbook: A Guide To Billie Eilish's Musical Ventures & Artistic Ingenuity

"American Idol" Season 1 Finale - Kelly Clarkson Performance Show
Kelly Clarkson performs on Season 1 of "American Idol."

Photo: Steve Granitz / GettyImages

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On This Day In Music: "American Idol" Premieres On Fox Network

For decades, "American Idol" has been instrumental in discovering some of music’s biggest names and pioneering the reality TV contest genre. As the show enters its 22nd run, here’s a look at how it has become an iconic household staple across the country.

GRAMMYs/Jun 11, 2024 - 04:23 pm

For countless Americans, "American Idol" is intertwined with core memories as a show that had families eagerly glued to their TVs twice a week. It brought generations together, creating moments of both suspense and excitement that are still remembered today, as the show continues to run in its 22nd season.

Created by visionary entrepreneur Simon Fuller, "American Idol" premiered on June 11, 2002, as a fresh spin-off of the British program "Pop Idol." It revolutionized how Americans engaged with reality TV through its interactive, viewer-driven voting system, which encouraged audience participation in the success of their favorite contestants. The show also offered viewers a glimpse into contestants' candid backstories and personal journeys, anchoring emotional investment and skyrocketing the show's popularity.

The show's debut season featured a dynamic trio of judges: singer Paula Abdul, TV personality Simon Cowell, and producer Randy Jackson. Their contrasting personalities brewed a chemistry as captivating as the hopeful performances. Abdul’s warmth, Cowell's blunt wit, and Jackson’s humor added extra layers of entertainment, making the twice a week broadcasts a must-watch.

The first season of "American Idol" also unforgettably introduced the country to Kelly Clarkson. Since her debut — with a heart-tugging backstory about being the average girl-next-door with big dreams — Clarkson has gone on to tour the world, host her own TV talk show, and secured her spot as one of music’s most beloved talents. 

"I had dreams since I was a little girl that I wanted to be on the GRAMMYs, or some award show and sing on there," Clarkson mentioned in her pre-audition interview. Flash forward 22 years, the pop singer has accumulated 17 GRAMMY nominations and three wins, propelled by a powerful vocal gift.

Other artists who launched their careers from the show's platform include Jordin Sparks, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, and Jennifer Hudson, who each serve as testament to the show’s impact in music.

"American Idol" has not only opened our eyes to some of our favorite musicians, but it also has given us some of our favorite pop culture moments.

A video that frequently resurfaces on social media captures a memorable moment between Katy Perry and contestant Noah Davis, where they bond over the slang term 'wig'

"No, it’s not your language. It’s just for us," Perry joked to her fellow judges, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, when they questioned the term’s meaning.

After two decades on air, "American Idol" has etched a lasting legacy in pop culture. It has paved the way for other reality TV music shows and created lasting memories for music fans along the way.

“The show transcends age, gender, ethnicity, everything,” Underwood told Billboard in 2005. 

How Many "American Idol" Winners Have Won GRAMMYs? A Rundown Of Wins And Nominations For Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood & More

Sabrina Carpenter
Sabrina Carpenter performing in 2024

Photo: Joseph Okpako/WireImage via Getty Images

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Sabrina Carpenter Releases New Single "Please Please Please": Everything We Know About Her New Album 'Short N' Sweet'

Sabrina Carpenter and her boyfriend are Bonnie and Clyde-style outlaws in the new video for "Please Please Please." Here's what we know about the album it belongs to, 'Short N' Sweet' — out Aug. 23.

GRAMMYs/Jun 7, 2024 - 05:27 pm

When Sabrina Carpenter announced her new album, Short n' Sweet, earlier this week, she also dangled a special treat in front of fans. "I also have a surprise coming for you on thursday night," she announced in an Instagram post, "so keep an eye out!!"

The surprise was a video for her new single, "Please Please Please," starring her boyfriend, Barry Keoghan. Directed by Bardia Zeinali, the clip is a high-octane rendering of Carpenter and Keoghan as a pair of bona fide outlaws, whose relationship rides a rollercoaster of criminality and incarceration.

The slinky track follows her viral hit "Espresso" from last spring — itself the lead single from Short n' Sweet. As the YouTube comments pour forth, flecked with adjectives like "obsessed" and "iconic," here's everything GRAMMY.com could dredge up about the forthcoming LP.

Short N' Sweet Will Be Released Aug. 23

Carpenter's been mum on many of the details of Short n' Sweet, but she did allow that the Jack Antonoff and Julian Bunetta-produced, 36-minute album willl be released Aug. 23.

"This project is quite special to me and i hope it'll be something special to you too," she wrote on said Instagram post; it's practically destined to soundtrack the dog days of summer as they fade to fall.

The Album Will Hop Between Genres

Speaking to Maya Hawke — who herself just released her third album, Chaos Angel in Interview Magazine, Carpenter discussed the contents of her next offering.

"I feel a lot freer and more excited about what I'm making now because I've realized that genre isn't necessarily the most important thing. It's about honesty and authenticity and whatever you gravitate towards," she stated. "There were a lot of genres in my last album, and I like to think I'll continue that throughout writing music."

Read more: Sabrina Carpenter's Big Year: The Pop Songstress Gushes On The Eras Tour, Her Christmas EP & More

The Title Is A Reference To Her Height

Speaking to Cosmopolitan about her opening slot on Taylor Swift's Eras Tour, Carpenter called performing those sets "a tall order."

"This is not even to sound like a pick-me, like when girls are like, 'I'm so small, I can't reach the top shelf' — I'm literally five feet tall," she said mirthfully. "So sometimes when I'm on that stage, it feels so huge that I just have to be larger than life in some capacity."

She's worked her height (or lack thereof) into the promotional machine behind
Short n' Sweet: billboards the country over say things like, "When I say I hate short people, Sabrina Carpenter is NEVER included."

We Have The Album Cover

On the cover of Short n' Sweet, the sunkissed singer looks over her shoulder with a kiss mark on her shoulder, against a striking azure sky, her blonde hair hanging down.

The Eras Tour Harkened A New One

As mentioned, Carpenter got the opening gig of a lifetime — warming up the Eras Tour across America, Australia and Asia. Speaking with Cosmo, she revealed the tour wasn't an end to itself, but a launching pad to new adventures.

Read more: Behind The Scenes Of The Eras Tour: Taylor Swift's Opening Acts Unveil The Magic Of The Sensational Concert

"I'm starting to feel like I've outgrown the songs I'm singing [on The Eras Tour]," she explained, "which is always an exciting feeling because I think that means the next chapter is right around the corner." Behold: that chapter is now.

Everything We Know About Halsey's New Album: Listen To New Song "The End"

Charli XCX Press Photo 2024
Charli XCX

Photo: Harley Weir

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Charli XCX's Road To 'Brat': How Her New Album Celebrates Unabashed Confidence & Eccentricity

As Charli XCX releases her sixth studio album, revisit the creative decisions and ventures that led to 'Brat' — and how it all helped her become one of pop's most innovative stars.

GRAMMYs/Jun 6, 2024 - 05:32 pm

Charli XCX is a product of the internet. A teen during MySpace's peak years, Charli — born Charlotte Aitchison — landed her first gigs thanks to the platform. Her first amateur album, 14, caught the attention of a promoter organizing illegal raves in London, and soon enough, she was performing at those parties as Charli XCX — fittingly, a former online username.

Even though 14 never had an official release (and Charli has declared her distaste for it, calling the project "terrible MySpace music"), her earliest beginnings became the throughline to her current work. MySpace was a breeding ground for creativity and Charli used it to explore niche — and unheard-of — genres. To date, she's touched on every iteration of pop, including electro-pop and dance-pop, even being heralded as the figurehead for hyperpop. As a result, she's not your stereotypical pop star.

Just over a decade after the release of her debut album, 2013's True Romance, Charli XCX is bringing everything she's done from her MySpace beginnings to present day with her sixth studio album, Brat. Leaning on the time spent performing at raves and clubs as a young teen, she embodies the same childlike and larger-than-life approach she had when she was first starting.

Charli XCX was signed to Asylum Records in 2010 but felt lost, according to an interview with The Guardian. The process of figuring out her artistry earned her a trip to meet with producers in Los Angeles, where she met American producer Ariel Rechtshaid. After they wrote her eventual single "Stay Away," everything started falling into place. "I was freaking out: I had found a piece of myself in this crazy world where people are trying to drag you apart and make you into something," she recalled. "That's when things started to come together."

Before she even released her debut album, Charli XCX first found global success as a songwriter. After penning the club-ready song "I Love It," she opted to give it away to Swedish synth-pop duo Icona Pop because it didn't suit the sound Charli was leaning into. But she did feature on the 2012 track, which became a global smash and landed at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 — solidifying Charli as an artist to watch.

Almost a year later, Charli XCX released her major label debut with True Romance, her first studio album, in 2013. Although it didn't land on any major charts or spawn any hits, what the album did have was a clear, catchy direction. When reflecting on the album to NME, she stated that she was "just a MySpace kid" inspired by things that seemed out of reach for her, like the plots in teen movies and party photos from club scenes. True Romance was also integral to Charli discovering herself "as a person"; she's said that the album helped her better understand her voice, confidence, style, and stage presence.

Although True Romance didn't immediately make Charli XCX into a household name, it did usher in new opportunities for her as an artist. One of those opportunities was working with then-up-and-coming rapper Iggy Azalea on the track "Fancy," which marked a breakthrough moment for both rising stars. Along with spending seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and scoring Charli XCX her first two GRAMMY nominations (Record Of The Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance), she has insisted that "Fancy" helped open the doors for her to write for bigger artists.

Following the taste of the mainstream after "I Love It" and "Fancy," Charli XCX seemingly veered towards a poppier and brighter sound — and soon found herself on the charts as a solo act. Charli XCX's first top 10 solo hit, "Boom Clap," was first featured in the 2014 film The Fault in Our Stars and eventually became the lead single to Charli XCX's sophomore record, Sucker. Working with the likes of Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo, Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, Benny Blanco, and more, Sucker showcased XCX's whip-smart songwriting and tongue-in-cheek aphorism, changing out gritty synths for glittery guitars and sky-soaring drums. 

But the new sound didn't necessarily indicate a new direction. She has admitted that she was chasing chart points with Sucker rather than writing songs that she enjoyed, and pieces of the album "feel fake" to her as a result. Still, Sucker helped validate what Charli already knew about herself, even if she got a little lost along the way. As she told The Guardian in 2018, rebelling on the outskirts of mainstream music is where she's meant to be, creating her "own language" and her "own world."

Shrugging off feeling rather stifled post-Sucker, Charli XCX began working with Scottish producer Sophie in March 2015. In October of that year, the singer released the track "Vroom Vroom" and unveiled an EP of the same name a few months after, both of which signaled that Charli was embracing a more experimental electronic sound and marking a change in sonic direction for her.

"I've worked with Sophie on the new EP and what we create together speaks for itself," Charli said about Vroom Vroom. "The album goes to other places and I can't wait for people to hear it. I feel the most creative I have in a long time and I couldn't be more excited for the next chapter." 

Although the EP didn't go over as sweetly as Sucker and True Romance did with critics and fans, Vroom Vroom is now heralded as a pioneering work in the hyperpop genre. When speaking with Vulture about the highs and lows of her career, she credits Sophie's production for the EP title track being a "f—ing masterpiece," noting that the song, in particular, was complex and niche, teetering between underground and mainstream. As she declared, it's why the song has "only retroactively found praise by those who now have a taste for that genre of pop."

Read More: Get Glitchy With These 7 Artists Essential To Hyperpop

In 2017, XCX's work in hyperpop continued with two Top 40 tracks, "After the Afterparty" and "Boys," the latter of which became an instantly viral track thanks to its sultry cameos from a slew of male celebrities. Both were meant to be part of Charli's third studio album, but after the album leaked, she opted to release two more electronic experimental mixtapes — 2017's Number 1 Angel and Pop 2 — rather than labelling them albums. Much like the way Charli approached her earlier recordings, the two mixtapes were her return to experimentation, and, by not calling them albums, she could freely create and avoid charting pressure from her label

From the fall of 2018 to the fall of 2019, XCX released a slew of singles with other artists — "1999" with Troye Sivan, "Blame It on Your Love" featuring Lizzo, "Gone" with Christine and the Queens, and a few others all leading up to the release of her third album, Charli. Equal parts explorative and expansive, Charli saw XCX explore every emotion in abundance. Although she didn't move too far away sonically, at the time Charli was the "most personal album" she had ever made. She told The Standard that it "encapsulated all sides" of who she is, because she'd rather create the music she wants to create instead of sacrificing her art for a thinly veiled attempt to become a bigger artist.

Five years separated Sucker and Charli, but the star only took eight months to release her next album, 2020's How I'm Feeling Now. A six-week DIY experiment throughout the early months of the COVID-19 lockdown, How I'm Feeling Now became Charli's pandemic album. Produced alongside longtime producer AG Cook, she crafted an album that touched on the universal experiences everyone was going through ("I'm so bored – what?/ Wake up late and eat some cereal") and bristled with longing to return to a sweaty and sticky dance floor. 

While Sucker was Charli trying to appease the public at the expense of her art, her snarky fifth studio album, 2022's Crash, leaned into that mindset tenfold. Playing a dramatized "soulless" caricature of herself, Charli wrote and promoted the conceptual album satirically, stating that it's her "major label sell-out" album by heavily leaning into the concept of selling one's soul to get what you want. And it worked: the album debuted at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart, her first time ever hitting No. 1 in the UK, in addition to debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard 200, which was her first top 10 and her highest-charting album to date in the United States. 

Looking back, XCX felt that Crash, much like Sucker, didn't resonate deeply with her. "There were songs on Crash that I would never listen to," she asserted to The Face earlier this year. Longing to change things up, yet again, brings Charli to Brat

For an artist who is truly a sonic shapeshifter, it makes sense that she'd eventually return to her club roots on Brat. "Von Dutch," the album's lead single, serves as a throwback to her teens with its punchy synth-driven electropop melody reminiscent of her earlier tracks. The album's second single "360," an electro-pop ear-worm, features Charli's signature on-the-nose songwriting, singing, "I went my own way and I made it, I'm your favourite reference baby." It's apt, then, that the music video brings together the internet's "It Girls" — Julia Fox, Gabbriette, Emma Chamberlain, and many others — to try and find the next viral sensation, all while poking fun at the ridiculousness of the influencer world.

"I just want to be able to make the music that I want to make without having to sacrifice any of my artistic decisions," Charli told The Standard during the release of Charli. "I don't ever want to become something that I'm not because I've done that before. I didn't even know myself properly as a person let alone as an artist. I think I've figured out who I am now."

Five years later, and the release of Brat is, in a way, her coming full circle. Pairing her origin story — illegal raves, club nights and the internet world — with a decade of working on her own music and collaborating with big-name artists has been the catalyst to Brat. But it's also her official declaration that she's staying true to her artistry, for herself but also for her fans.

As she told British GQ ahead of Brat's release, she still grapples with the temptation of tapping into a more commercial sound. "Sometimes I tempt myself with going there, but I think the problem is my fan base knows that that's not who I am, so they kind of smell a rat, and they're like, 'This is inauthentic.' But then I think that sometimes puts me in this position where the masses are like, 'What the f— is this?'

"But I would in no way be as happy, creatively satisfied or, honestly, as good as some of the people who are operating on a hugely commercial level," she adds, "because maybe I'm just not built for it."

And maybe she's not. But her unashamed and unfiltered confidence is exactly what's made her such a beloved star, as well as what brings Brat together — and it's likely what we'll continue to see from Charli XCX from now on.

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