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Big Questions And 'Little Oblivions': Julien Baker On How Her Latest Album Navigates Healing & Forgiveness

Julien Baker

Photo: Alysse Gafkjen

 

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Big Questions And 'Little Oblivions': Julien Baker On How Her Latest Album Navigates Healing & Forgiveness

Tennesseean indie folk artist Julien Baker expands her palette for songs of introspection and recovery on 'Little Oblivions'

GRAMMYs/Feb 26, 2021 - 02:34 am

There’s a fluidity to the way Julien Baker hops between discussing the "hopeless zones" of life that influenced her new record and the joy she gets out of making dinner for her roommates. This rapid shifting between the ecstatic and the somber should be familiar to many of us. In a year with too many calamities and surrealities to detail, the experience of swiftly bouncing between cherishing small joys and dissecting previously unknown darkness has become commonplace.

On her latest album, Little Oblivions—due February 26th via Matador—Baker explores her list of pains, staring down her tornado of experiences with stunning, present clarity.

The 25-year-old Tennessean’s catalog packs an immense emotional weight, her lithe vocals and vivid songwriting ensuring the songs bore ever deeper into the listener’s heart. A voracious reader of theology, philosophy and sociology, Baker’s lyrics find acute precision even in the uncertain examination of existence’s biggest questions.

"Like so many people raised in the Western world, specifically evangelical Americans, I have such an issue with guilt and shame," she tells GRAMMY.com. "But you can't go back and excuse or undo the hurt that has happened."

Little Oblivions captures the potency and immediacy of Baker’s debut, Sprained Ankle, combined with the widened scope of Boygenius, her collaborative project with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus. It’s telling, too, that the record is inspired more by gray areas than revelations—including her ongoing journey with sobriety and addiction, dealing with her religious upbringing and current spiritual questing, and developing a relationship with the concepts of forgiveness and healing.

Little Oblivions doesn’t offer grand answers yet retains a certain strength of statement, both in Baker’s poetics and the increasingly welcoming structures. As evidenced by the steamy "Heatwave," she weaves a striking and painful image of Orion’s Belt as a noose. On "Bloodshot," her lyrics dig deeper into the vein than ever before: "Oh, there is no glory in love/ Only the gore of our hearts/ Oh, let it come for my throat/ Take me and tear me apart."

Baker spoke with GRAMMY.com about taking time away from music to go back to college, the value of setting boundaries, the danger of conflating identity and career, and how Little Oblivions grows from its predecessor, Turn Out the Lights.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Having a new album and not being able to tour must be so unbelievably strange. Have you been able to use this time to rest a little? How do you navigate your free time?

I haven’t thought of that before. I took some time off in 2019 because I had just been touring since 2015. I went back to school, and then I got the band back together to rehearse. We were all stoked for this summer tour we were going to do, and then an even longer hold was placed on my life. 

At first, it was kind of maddening. It's always different when you make the decision, but it’s very different when your ability to work is no longer possible. My micro life has been pretty stable. I just got done working on a score. I work from home. I have a little studio up in the attic. 

But as a function of everything that happened this year, I’ve learned how to better articulate and respect boundaries.

That’s been a difficult lesson for so many of us. How does that lesson function alongside looking toward the future?

Before I went back to school, I was originally supposed to go to South America to tour and make a record in London and then go to Australia. I was saying yes to all these things because the last time I took a significant amount of time off, I didn't know what to do with it! When you take a person who is used to being stable at a certain momentum and then slow them down, everything gets off balance.

But in conversations with my friends and people that I tour with, it was clear it wasn’t going to work out anymore. I was super burnt out and not being healthy. So I took some time off and went back to school. At that time, I realized that I have a deep love for the artistic ideal of music, but if music isn't the thing that I do to make money, it's going to be fine, and it's not going to mean that my life is less important or less fulfilling. I just dialed back the arbitrary anxieties that I had constructed and put on myself, like who I needed to be and what service I needed to provide in my job.

It's been freeing. It's been challenging but ultimately super healthy for me—which is a privileged thing to say because it's been an economic disaster for some people. It's been fatal for people.

But it's good to acknowledge the little things that you've overcome as well. There's a sense of chaos when you're constantly moving around. You don't have time for the little moments, like waiting for a kettle to boil and seeing some crumbs on your counter. When you stop moving suddenly, you're like, "Okay, I notice this, but then what am I without it?"

Yes! One thing that I've talked to with a couple of my friends is how our relationship to constant productivity has been reexamined. For a while, it had swung the opposite way for me where I kept thinking, "I have no excuse not to be doing something productive all the time because I work from home now." But people remembered that we still have an emotional bandwidth of how much we can engage with. 

All the information that we can absorb in one day is overwhelming, and it comes at us from 500 channels. My expectation for myself, the negative self-talk that I would have about not being productive, has helped me set more realistic expectations for everyone else and to realize the anxiety that I take out on others.

There is a lot of joy in figuring those things out and knowing that tomorrow it can be completely different. It isn't about lessening expectations for oneself. It's about shifting your goalposts, knowing that you will achieve something at some point if you put your mind to it and not putting that pressure on yourself.

Oh gosh, exactly. Not even expectations, but... Okay, yeah, I'm going to talk about it. I was just thinking, "Do I talk about capitalism?" It's only been like 10 minutes!

How can we not?

How can we not? We live in this consumer-product relationship-based society, and even though I know this is BS, it's hard enough for me to feel like this is my job because there are people digging ditches. 

But it has also shifted how I quantify what my job and my life are worth. As you said, it's shifting goalposts. What metrics do I want to use on whether I'm doing the right thing? It's incredibly meaningful for me to be able to be like, "You know what? I'm so tired of looking at these emails about magazine articles and stuff that may or may not happen. 

They're a mechanism of me being in the consumerist music industry," and just shut my laptop and go make my roommates a big yummy dinner. I've been cooking so much in quarantine. The other day I made curry from leaves. My ass was up there at the international market, like, "Let's see how this goes. I'm going to try."

You're giving yourself time to enjoy those things. And it's very problematic when those things don't bleed into the things you do for a living. When you get caught up in this concept of, "I play this music with this guitar, this is me," all the other things don't matter.

I fixated so much on my identity. I tried to make my identity and my career the same. Sometimes, taking every opportunity comes at the cost of not understanding when things are special or doing things performatively. 

And it was all predicated in the back of my mind on this weird looming feeling, like, "Or what? If you don't play the show, then people aren't going to care about your music. If you don't do this, then you're not going to make money." And then still it comes back around to this weird thing where I'm fixated on my career security, when I should know better than anyone how imaginary career security is. 

It's been a trip, but there can be time just to sit and look at your dog and be like, "You're a doofus. You're not worried."

There's that duality between concern and freedom on songs like "Hardline," this thin line between poison and medicine where the same thing can be redemptive and also destroy you. That concept seems to be so important to this moment in time.

For all of my understanding of the need for balance, it's something that you can regurgitate as a theory but not understand for so long. I could be like, "Sexuality is on a spectrum, everything's on a spectrum, but the thing that isn't on a spectrum is good and bad or right and wrong." 

I'm not saying, "Do whatever! There's no right and wrong," but it ends up that when you reevaluate the things that you felt so strongly about, and they end up not being the most important thing, it's this wild loss. It's a very heavy loss to think, "Oh, the parameters that governed my life before are gone, and I don't know what to do without them. I don't even know if I was happy or if I was just doing what I was doing."

For that reason, the idea of hope and redemption amid darkness is complex on the album. How do you feel sharing that honest yet complicated relationship to hope?

Yeah, which is wild since the events on the record take place in some pretty hopeless zones of my life. On Turn Out the Lights, I was looking back on tragic or traumatic events but that were four and five years away from me, where I had distance and had processed. 

I had this binary attitude about that bad person I was versus the better me I've become. And when I circled back around to see that I still had unhealthy coping mechanisms and they were just manifesting in new ways that were equally as bad, it shocked me. I had no idea what forgiveness or healing was about because receiving forgiveness involves a lot of pain.

It's a very humbling experience that gave me a very different idea about what love entails and what healing feels like. It's not always the alleviation of negative feelings. Sometimes there's a whole bunch of appropriate guilt. It's a new mental territory for me to be in that is better, hopefully.

I expected my first record, Sprained Ankle, to flop. In the deal that we signed with the smaller label that put it out before Matador, I was like, "I'm not gonna sign this deal unless my band is also signed," because I thought it would be seen as a solo album from the girl that was in this band. But it did well, and I wasn't prepared for it. And then I had this crisis four years ago when Trump got elected, and I was supposed to be taking time off to write a record. 

I had this call with my manager and my booking agent, like, "I gotta be out on the road interacting with people. I've got to do something about this with the power of my art!" [Laughs] I wanted to craft this record where I was feeling a whole bunch of super dark things but had begun to feel like healing is possible, and I could get to a better place. 

I felt this need to represent and reiterate that to listeners. But at the same time, it does feel good sometimes not to have to put a happy or hopeful caveat on the end of a song.

From a writing perspective, that must be freeing—which is itself a sense of forgiveness.

Yeah, exactly. I'm an anxious person. I've always struggled with anxiety. I have so many thoughts all day long where I'm like, "Did that person take this this way?" It got to the point where I was like, "I can't think about this this much anymore because it's a problem, and it's giving me a week-long panic attack." So I just do a mental exercise where I follow whatever new thing I'm catastrophizing in my head out to its most logical end. Like, "Do I think they're going to hate me forever, or do I think they're going to think something was a little rude." 

Before, I just couldn't handle other people's emotions. But, weirdly, that's not giving them space to feel angry or annoyed or stressed. And so accepting how another person is feeling and then being like, "Can I live with this? Can I make a mental note not to do this again? Or can I make a mental note to do something more considerate and learn from this? Because obsessing over it right now is only going to lead me to panic and over-apologize and infuriate the person even more."

I want to preface this by saying that I'm not necessarily asking about specific experiences of addiction and sobriety but rather about the process of sharing. I've been sober for eight years, and discussing my experience has become second nature to the point that doing so almost steps me out of it. It almost takes on its own life and then depends on the listener to respond to it. How does that relate to how you share this experience via songwriting?

When I was writing Turn Out the Lights, it was having been multiple years sober and not having recent experience with those things. And it's super humbling to return to a place… it almost feels like some of this record is made up of songs that were cringing not out of spite towards who's listening to them or who they're about, but more just at myself. Like, "Can I get down to the ugliest thing that I can admit about myself? And then can I have that be the starting place?" 

It's this weird masochistic thing. I want to be a good person really bad, but I've got so much anxiety about if I'm doing it right. And then I was like, "Well, what if I just admit that I'm not doing it right?" And it's just the adrenaline rush of when you cancel plans. Like, "I've just confirmed to my friends yet again that I'm a flake. I can have them not expect anything from me."

That’s what happened here. I was like, "Well, what if I'm still struggling with substance abuse? Or what if I radically change what I believe about God?" I thought I was doing so much to sculpt my personality and my identity. When I was the worst me possible, it was super freeing because all of my friends were still there being annoyed.

But the reason they were friends with me in the first place was never the things I cultivated about myself or that I tried to live up to crazy expectations. That made me feel like I could trust my friends to be my friends. I can trust people not to hold my mistakes over my head. I had had very specific and stringent ideals about politics, and about being straight-edge, and about how I would let my faith out in the world and what that meant. 

And really, what I needed was problem-solving skills, patience and communication. It wasn't like, "I need just to read all of these anarchist zines, and then I'll know the right ideology to have." I just need to be a kinder, more stable person instead of fixating on some random thing. 

Palehound Is Learning To Love Herself

Met Gala 2023: All The Artists & Celebrities Who Served Fierce Looks & Hot Fashion On The Red Carpet, From Rihanna To Dua Lipa To Billie Eilish To Bad Bunny To Cardi B To Doja Cat & More
Rihanna attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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Met Gala 2023: All The Artists & Celebrities Who Served Fierce Looks & Hot Fashion On The Red Carpet, From Rihanna To Dua Lipa To Billie Eilish To Bad Bunny To Cardi B To Doja Cat & More

Fashion and music have always been inextricably linked, and the strong longs were on fully on display at the 2023 Met Gala — one of the most anticipated style events of the year. See the red carpet outfits from Rihanna, Lil Nas X, Anitta & more.

GRAMMYs/May 1, 2023 - 11:46 pm

It's that time again! The 2023 Met Gala — one of the fashion bonanzas of the year — is in full force. And given that fashion has always been the yin to music's yang, GRAMMY winners and nominees were among the stars studding this glamorous, fashion-forward event.

Presented by gala co-chair Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue and global editorial director of Condé Nast, the Met Gala this year is co-chaired by Penélope Cruz, Michaela Coel, Roger Federer and three-time GRAMMY winner Dua Lipa.

GRAMMY winners and nominees as well as today’s leading artists in music are already setting the Met Gala red carpet on fire, with everyone from Dua Lipa, Phoebe Bridgers, Rita Ora, David Byrne, rising rap sensation Ice Spice, and more showing off their fierce fashion looks. Plus, Rihanna and her partner ASAP Rocky made a last-minute surprise arrival on the 2023 Met Gala red carpet, setting the fashion and music worlds ablaze.

This year's Met Gala celebrates the indelible legacy of the late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld; the dress code is "In honor of Karl…")

Below, check out some of the most eye-catching red carpet fashion looks from music’s biggest stars at the 2023 Met Gala.

Rihanna attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City

Rihanna attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Dua Lipa arrives for the 2023 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2023, in New York

Dua Lipa arrives for the 2023 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1, 2023, in New York | Photo: ANGELA WEISS / AFP

(L-R) Finneas O'Connell and Billie Eilish attend The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City

(L-R) Finneas O'Connell and Billie Eilish attend The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/MG23/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Bad Bunny attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City

Bad Bunny attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Jennifer Lopez attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City

Jennifer Lopez attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Cardi B attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City

Cardi B attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/MG23/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Doja Cat attends the 2023 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City

Doja Cat attends the 2023 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Lil Nas X attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City

Lil Nas X attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/MG23/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Usher attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City

Usher attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Sean "Diddy" Combs attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City.

Sean "Diddy" Combs attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Phoebe Bridgers attends the 2023 Met Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City

Phoebe Bridgers attends the 2023 Met Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Anitta attends the 2023 Met Gala the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City

Anitta attends the 2023 Met Gala the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Halle Bailey attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City.

Halle Bailey attends the 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Kevin Mazur/MG23/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

Janelle Monáe attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City

Janelle Monáe attends The 2023 Met Gala Celebrating "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line Of Beauty" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 01, 2023 in New York City | Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

7 Mind-Blowing Sets From Coachella 2023 Weekend 2: Gorillaz, Boygenius, Eric Prydz & More
Bjork performs during weekend two of the 2023 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

Photo: Santiago Felipe/Getty Images for ABA

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7 Mind-Blowing Sets From Coachella 2023 Weekend 2: Gorillaz, Boygenius, Eric Prydz & More

Weekend two of Coachella 2023 was packed with drama and intrigue, concluding with surprise headlining sets from Blink-182 and DJ trio Skrillex, Four Tet & Fred Again.. Read on for the weekend's biggest moments and exciting surprises.

GRAMMYs/Apr 25, 2023 - 05:25 pm

Coachella 2023 has now come to a close. The second weekend of the Southern California mega-festival concluded with another series of bespoke performances that continued to build the event’s reputation as a place where legendary moments become history.

Weekend two was packed with drama and intrigue, led by the last-minute removal of Frank Ocean from the Sunday lineup due to injury. Fans were already buzzing following his controversial first weekend performance, while organizers worked quickly to replace his headlining set. The results were top notch, closing Coachella on a very energetic and celebratory note.

As a result, Blink-182 — who had a surprise set on Friday afternoon of the first weekend — were given a main stage slot on Sunday night, followed by an act to be announced. 

The mystery act didn't remain hush-hush for long, though. Sunday's headliners were revealed to be the supergroup DJ trio of Skrillex, Four Tet, and Fred Again.., who in their brief time playing music together have become one of the most sought-after acts in the world. (So much so that they sold out Madison Square Garden in two minutes after announcing the show.) 

Beyond the Sunday scramble, weekend two of Coachella 2023 brought much of the same excitement as the previous week — replete with more stand-out sets than even the most experienced festival goer could manage to catch. Below, relive seven sets that showcase Coachella’s reign as one of the most popular festivals in the world. 

Wet Leg Encourages Communal Release 

The British alternative rock band only has one self-titled album’s worth of material, which they've been diligently touring around the globe. And yet they still managed to bring a sense of zeal and authentic excitement to their second Coachella set.

Wet Leg's Rhian Teasdale and Hester Chambers set the example of this energy. Throughout the performance, they shared excitable looks, occasionally dropping lyrics in favor of laughter. Other times, they led the crowd in an epic scream, just for the sake of it. Dave Grohl even showed up to scream with them.

The climax of the performance at the Mojave stage on Friday afternoon was "Chaise Longue," the upbeat rock and roll heater that earned the group a 2022 GRAMMY for Best Alternative Performance. When Teasdale would ask, "Excuse me," the crowd would shout back "What?!" with all their might. Then the rapid fire guitar came in, and everyone in the crowd understood that the assignment was to dance.

Gorillaz Take Special Guests Appearances To The Next Level

Gorillaz last performed at Coachella in 2010 as Sunday headliners, and brought headliner energy to Friday night's penultimate set. When it comes to special guests — a Coachella tradition already ingrained in Gorillaz's music — the group stepped up their game. 

By the third song, the L.A. alternative legend Beck was on stage to sing his feature on "Valley of the Pagans" from Gorillaz’s 2020 album, Song Machine, Season One: Strange Timez. From there, more than half of the 17-song set included a guest.

Thundercat came on for his contribution to the title track of Gorillaz's latest, Cracker Island, Little Simz performed "Garage Palace" off 2017's Humanz, and Yasiin Bey, formerly known as Mos Def, joined Gorillaz along with the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble for "Sweepstakes" from 2010’s Plastic Beach. Minutes before his own headlining set, Bad Bunny came out in a mask to perform "Tormenta," his feature on Cracker Island. 

An IRL Bad Bunny collab may have been the ultimate surprise guest coup de grâce, but Gorillaz weren't finished yet. In a touching moment of unity, Gorillaz paid tribute to their late collaborator David Jolicoeur after the surviving members of De La Soul joined Gorillaz for a performance of "Feel Good, Inc."

Eric Prydz Brings Artificial Into Reality With His HOLO Show

If Eric Prydz had decided to simply play a DJ set, he still likely would have landed one of the festival's top booking slots; instead, he brought his HOLO show to Indio. 

This unique live production is known in the global dance music circuit for pushing the limits of visuals in the live space. There are hundreds of videos on the internet heralding its epicness, but those videos don’t compare to experiencing it in person.

Prydz’s closing set at Outdoor Theater on Saturday night was scheduled to begin at 10:20 p.m., but when the time rolled around, the screens remained dark. However, a keen ear could tell that the scene had actually begun; a subtle line emanated through the speakers and, for 20 minutes, kept getting louder and extending in its repetition.

At 10:40, a giant mechanical hand appeared on the screen, as if it was floating out into the audience. With an iPhone between its Transformers-esque fingers, the hand took photos as a wash of electronic music started building. Then as the hand flipped the phone to show an image of the audience on its screen, the first track of the set took full form, and a tidal wave of energy was released from the crowd.

For the remainder of the set, every new song was accompanied by an evermore impressive audiovisual creation. One frame was Prydz himself wearing a spacesuit. Another was a team of spacemen firing laser guns at the crowd. It felt so real that someone probably ducked to avoid the virtual projectiles.

Christine & The Queens Do So Much With Not-So-Much

Coachella is a festival where most artists like to do a lot, but Christine & The Queens demonstrated that you can actually do a lot with a little. 

Production during the Sunday sunset slot at Mojave was minimalistic: two separate platforms on stage, one for Christine and her three-piece band, the other open for use. Like her stage setup, Christine & The Queens' music is generally minimalistic — though Christine doesn't require much to completely enthrall her audience. 

Songs began calmer, exemplified by the use of Red Hot Chili Peppers' alt-rock ballad of "By The Way" as a transition into her hit song, "Tilted." As that steady and simple beat moved along the intensity only increased. Christine threw her body around, ending up on the floor, on the platform, all the while nailing every note with her serenading tones.

Other than her soothing yet powerful vocals and mesmerizing stage presence, Christine was just as much a preacher as a musician. She decried patriarchal capitalism and stood strong in her belief that music is the greatest weapon against it.

"You are not going to surrender!" she shouted as her drummer threw down a high speed solo. 

Boygenius Provide A Musical Safe Space

When the indie supergroup took the Outdoor stage for the first set of Saturday night in complete darkness, everyone was primed and ready to feel all the things. Thus commenced the musical therapy session that was boygenius' Coachella performance, as members Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker sang the first few lines of "Without You Without Them" together on a single mic.

"I want to hear your story and be a part of it," the trio sang — their message a call to everyone in earshot, from the audience to the security guards and production workers. 

Although the crowd wasn’t the biggest that the Outdoor stage would see throughout the weekend, the environment allowed for plenty of space for the audience to be with themselves under the stars. Then as the band went through the various moods on their debut album, the record, the audience responded to their energy in kind.

When the trio were rocking out on songs like "$20" and "Satanist," the energy was high and lively as everyone took in Bridgers' towering shouts before returning with their own. Then when the volume came down for the raw, unfiltered honesty in songs like "True Blue" and "Emily I’m Sorry," the people who were shouting before began to gently sway, murmuring the lyrics to themselves word for word, experiencing them on a personal level.

Björk Reworks Her Classics With An Orchestra 

Iceland’s own Björk last performed at Coachella in 2007, when she headlined Friday. For her first Coachella set in over 15 years, the artist returned with a full orchestra that performed original interpretations of her past works.

Backed by the Hollywood String Ensemble and conducted by fellow Icelander, Bjarni Frímann, pleasant indie songs such as "Aurora" and "Come To Me" became operatic epics. The orchestra allowed her to accurately and succinctly reproduce "Freefall," a song from her latest album, 2022’s Fossora, which integrates orchestral composition with alternative production. 

Closing the set, Björk embarked on an exploration of orchestral techno, as Hollywood String Ensemble rearranged her industrial masterpiece, "Pluto."

Visually, Björk satisfied expectations on all levels. Her dress was reminiscent of a spider web, with feathers caught in the adhesive like several birds all flew through at the precise angle. Above the stage, an aerial drone show reacted to her voice as if her tones were literally reaching the heavens.

Skrillex, Four Tet & Fred Again.. Party In The Round

Saving the day, Skrillex, Four Tet, and Fred Again.. took their last-minute headlining set to epic proportions. The trio of DJs performed in the round on the satellite stage, while extra speakers were brought in so fans in every part of the field could bathe in their electronic sounds.

Their set was just a straight party, complete with plumes of glowsticks flying into the air during various drops. Then when they fell other people would scavenge the field and pick them up so they could throw them on the next great drop.

At other performances like MSG where they were the sole act, the trio had as long as five hours to explore all the music they wanted. This time they had less than two, and filled the set with as many bangers as they could. 

Some examples were the scraping dubstep track "COUNTRY RIDDIM" by the rising dubstep producer HOL!, "RATATA," a breakbeat tune supported by a vocal feature from Missy Elliott, and even "Party In The USA" by Miley Cyrus.

But the glue holding together the set were the booming bass tones of UK grime rapper Flowdan. The new trio made new versions of his hook from the massive collaboration with Skrillex and Fred Agan.., "Rumble." 

7 Jaw-Dropping Sets From Coachella 2023 Weekend 1: BLACKPINK, Bad Bunny, Blink-182 & More

11 Electric Coachella Surprise Guest Moments From Weekend 1: Post Malone, Billie Eilish, Rauw Alejandro & More
Rauw Alejandro comes out as surprise guest at Coachella 2023 during fiancé Rosalía's set.

Credit: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Coachella

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11 Electric Coachella Surprise Guest Moments From Weekend 1: Post Malone, Billie Eilish, Rauw Alejandro & More

Weekend 1 of Coachella 2023 has come and gone, but not without countless surprises and viral moments. Take a look at some of the most exhilarating surprise guests — from Billie Eilish and Rauw Alejandro — from one of the year's biggest music festivals.

GRAMMYs/Apr 17, 2023 - 08:05 pm

As delightfully dizzying as its famous ferris wheel, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival fills Indio's Colorado Desert with never-ending fun.

This year, Coachella booked history-making headliners Bad Bunny, BLACKPINK, and Frank Ocean, along with more than 150 other artists to perform across six stages. But one of the festival's most exciting parts, however, is its surprise performers.

The first weekend of Coachella is traditionally known for its big surprises and busy crowds — and this year didn't disappoint, offering surprise performances from global superstars to underground darlings.

From Tyler, The Creator to The Weeknd, here are some of the standout surprise guests from Coachella Weekend 1.

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Metro Boomin Astonished With Not One, But 7 Star Guests

In perhaps the most star-studded performance of the weekend, Metro Boomin welcomed a slew of collaborators to color his already spectacular set at the Sahara Tent. Throughout the night, The Weeknd, Future, 21 Savage, Don Toliver, Diddy, John Legend, and Mike Dean all joined the producer on stage to perform highlights from Heroes & Villains, Savage Mode, and more. Metro Boomin ended the evening with a live debut of "Creepin" alongside 21 Savage and Diddy.

MUNA Brought Out boygenius For "Silk Chiffon"

Life's so fun, life's so fun. While many festival goers anticipated Phoebe Bridgers to join MUNA for their bubbly collaboration "Silk Chiffon," the band shocked their audience by bringing out not just Bridgers, but Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus as well — all members of the supergroup boygenius, who performed their own lively set at Coachella the next day.

Bad Bunny Tapped Post Malone, Jhayco & More Stars

Now a headliner four years after making his Coachella debut, Bad Bunny made sure to pull out all the stops for his highly-anticipated performance. The Puerto Rican superstar brought out Post Malone for guitar-driven renditions of “La Canción” and “Yonaguni"; Jhayco (and a jet ski) for “Dákiti”; and Ñengo Flow and Jowell & Randy for “Safaera.”

Among Many Guests, Gorillaz Brought Out De La Soul To Dedicate "Feel Good Inc." To Late David Jolicoeur

On the festival's main stage, Gorillaz brightened their already glowing set with many surprise stars. Thundercat appeared first for "Cracker Island," shortly followed by individual performers Peven Everett, Jamie Principle, Bootie Brown, and Slowthai.

De La Soul appeared for their collaboration "Feel Good Inc.," dedicating the song to their late member, David ‘Trugoy The Dove’ Jolicoeur. For the closer "Clint Eastwood," Del The Funky Homosapien returned to the stage, after assisting with "Rock The House" earlier in the set.

Becky G Enlisted Marca MP, Jesús Ortiz Paz, Peso Pluma & Natti Natasha

Becky G made her Coachella debut this year, and she made sure to fill her 45-minute set with several guest stars. Marca MP joined her for “Ya Acabó," and Jesús Ortiz Paz of Fuerza Regida sang “Te Quiero Besar" and "Bebe Dame" alongside the star. Fans went wild when Peso Pluma showed up to perform his collaboration “Chanel," and after an outfit change, Becky G welcomed Natti Natasha for their joint track “Sin Pijama.”

Kali Uchis Amazed With Tyler, The Creator, Omar Apollo & Don Toliver

Kali Uchis' performances are always magical, and her surprise guests helped enchant audiences during her Coachella set. Tyler, The Creator joined Uchis to perform their Flower Boy collaboration “See You Again,” and later, Omar Apollo and Don Toliver took the stage to perform "Worth the Wait" and “Fantasy" respectively, both duets from her hypnotic latest album Red Moon In Venus.

Charli XCX And Troye Sivan Took It Back To "1999"

For one of the last few explosive shows of her CRASH era, Charli XCX brought the lightning by inviting Troye Sivan on stage to perform their poppy joint song "1999." Donning shades and silver accessories, the close friends and collaborators wore all-black attire but still shined during their shared performance.

DOMi & JD Beck Welcomed Mac DeMarco & Thundercat

During their bouncy set on Friday, innovative jazz duo DOMi & JD Beck surprised with two high-profile guests: Mac DeMarco and Thundercat. At the Mojave Tent, the four celebrated DOMi & JD Beck's bright debut album NOT TIGHT.

Rosalía Shared Stage With Fiancé Rauw Alejandro

Partway through an already invigorating, dance-filled set, Rosalía took her show to a new level: her fiancé, Rauw Alejandro, joined her to perform "Beso" and "Vampiros" from their joint EP RR. The music video for the former song announced the global superstar couple's engagement last month, showing off Rosalía’s stunning diamond ring.

Ellie Goulding Was The "Miracle" Calvin Harris' Set Needed

With his set starting around midnight, Calvin Harris was just getting Coachella's party started on Saturday. After playing several high-profile collaboration mixes, Harris finally introduced his one guest of the evening — and a major one at that. Frequent collaborator Ellie Goulding appeared to perform "Miracle," the duo's single that dropped last month.

Labrinth Surprised Everyone With Billie Eilish

Loneliness didn't last long at Labrinth's Saturday set. The singer's massive crowd was pleased to see former Coachella headliner Billie Eilish stop by to perform the pair's latest collaboration, "Never Felt So Alone." The track originally premiered on HBO's Euphoria, and Labrinth and Eilish made its live debut at Eilish's headline show at California's Kia Forum back in December.

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15 Must-Hear New Albums Out This Month: Boygenius, Kali Uchis, Lana Del Rey, Miley Cyrus & More
(Clockwise from left) Nia Archives, Kali Uchis, Miley Cyrus, Chloe Bailey, Ellie Goulding, Frankie Rose, Lana Del Ray, Satomi Matsuzaki

Photos: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Universal Music; Stephane Cardinale-Corbis via Getty Images; Vijat Mohindra/NBC via Getty Images; Kayla Oaddams/WireImage; Dave J Hogan/Getty Images; Frank Hoensch/Redferns via Getty Images; NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images; Robin Little/Redferns

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15 Must-Hear New Albums Out This Month: Boygenius, Kali Uchis, Lana Del Rey, Miley Cyrus & More

From bold returns and buzzy debuts from the likes of Chloe Bailey and metal groundbreakers such as Entheos, March is filled with exciting new music from a plethora of female artists

GRAMMYs/Mar 3, 2023 - 04:40 pm

It would be a near-impossibility to cover all the diverse women making art during Women's History Month — and celebrating creators every day, week and month is the goal — but any opportunity to elevate deserving female musicians is one to jump on.

This March, GRAMMY.com shines a spotlight on female-identifying music-makers. This month's 15 releases include entries from the Phoebe Bridgers-Lucy Dacus-Julien Baker supergroup boygenius, Chloe (of R&B sister duo Chloe x Halle), and indie creators like Lana Del Rabies and Jen Cloher; and Radie Peat of Irish dark folkies Lankum.

From bold returns (Sophie B. Hawkins) and buzzy up-and-comers (Nia Archives) to superstars (Miley Cyrus) to metal groundbreakers (Entheos), GRAMMY.com offers up a guide to the must-hear music from women this March.  

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect the new release date for Ellie Goulding’s album.

Kali Uchis - Red Moon in Venus

Release date: March 3

Kali Uchis is clearly universal and boundary-crossing in her collaborations and appeal: She was nominated for a 2017 Latin GRAMMY Award for "El Ratico" (with Juanes); won a GRAMMY for Best Dance Recording for her feature on Kaytranada's single "10%" and was nominated for Best R&B Performance. Uchis (who sings in Spanish and English) has also toured with Lana Del Rey, worked with Diplo, Tyler, the Creator.

On Red Moon in Venus, her third studio album, the Colombian American singer continues her hot streak. Uchis describes her 15-track LP as a " timeless, burning expression of desire, heartbreak, faith, and honesty, reflecting the divine femininity of the moon and Venus."

Jen Cloher – I Am The River the River Is Me

Release date: March 3

On I Am The River the River Is Me, the fifth album from Aussie-born singer/songwriter Jen Cloher digs deep into their Māori roots. The LP features songs about theirancestry, with powerful choruses/phrases in the te reo Māori language. The gently intimate single "Mana Takatāpui" is rife with sweet ‘70s-sounding guitar work, and celebrates queerness as a Māori woman. 

In contrast, the irresistible "Being Human" is delivered with a driving rock ‘n’ roll urgency, dynamics and shimmering and quirky guitar tones.  "My Witch" also mines creative ‘70s guitar sounds, and as Cloher told NPR, "It feels immediately fresh. It feels catchy. It's in your ear straight away." I Am The River the River Is Me arrives via indie label Milk! Records, run by Cloher in part with Courtney Barnett.

Entheos – Time Will Take Us All

Release date: March 3

The progressive metal genre may not be packed with women, but Entheos singer Chaney Crabb is a powerhouse on stage and in the metal scene. Time Will Take Us All, the band’s third release and first for Metal Blade Records, is darker and heavier than previous outings with a wealth of influences.

The dynamic and melodic "I Am The Void" illustrate the album’s concept of "growth and self-reflection that focuses on the true human commonality – that our time on Earth is fleeting," according to a release. Entheos furthers that "what we choose to do with that knowledge is up to each of us as individuals." Entheos, normally a two-piece with drummer and band co-founder Navene Koperweis, will bring an expanded, powerful live lineup on European and American tour dates in 2023.     

Nia Archives – Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall

Release date: March 10

Mining her life for material, Nia Archives told NME that on Sunrise Bang Ur Head Against Tha Wall, she’s "broadly talking about growing up as a person, reaching new levels of maturity, love and loss, rejection, estrangement, the come-up and the comedown… It’s six tracks with six different moods soundtracking the recent chapter in my life." 

The year 2022 was a big one for the English record producer, DJ and songwriter, whose "future classic" sound uses jungle, drum and bass and neo-soul.  Along with European and UK dates, look for Archives, who is a 2023 nominee for a  Brit Award for Rising Star, to perform her new single "Conveniency" — and more — at this year's Coachella.

Miley Cyrus – Endless Summer Vacation

Release date: March 10

Miley Cyrus has clearly empowered legions of listeners with "Flowers,'' its lyrics asserting, "I can take myself dancing / I can hold my own hand / I can love me better than you can." With more than 560 million Spotify streams, it's likely that "Flowers" and the album it’s on, Endless Summer Vacation, will be laurel in Cyrus’ crown. 

According to a release, the music and imagery of Endless Summer Vacation serves as a "reflection of the strength she’s found in focusing on both her physical and mental well-being." Cyrus, who produced her album with Kid Harpoon, Greg Kurstin, Mike WiLL Made-It and Tyler Johnson, describes the album as her love letter to LA, where the album was recorded.  

Fever Ray – Radical Romantics

Release date: March 10

Swedish singer/songwriter/producer Karin Dreijer, aka Fever Ray, has long earned her music bona fides, kickstarting  a career with guitar band Cool Honey, then electronic music duo the Knife, formed with brother Olof Dreijer. Dreijer released their debut solo album under the alias Fever Ray in 2009, and now, the third Fever Ray album features Nine Inch NailsTrent Reznor and Atticus Ross along with sibling Olof.  

A visual and musical shape-shifter, Dreijer explained the title Radical Romantics: "Everything needs to be dissected and loved and torn and built back up again and we're dreamers aren't we?" On the lead single "Carbon Dioxide," shades of Nina Hagen and ‘80s new wave lead the bubbling, electro-pop tune.

Frankie Rose – Love as Projection

Release date:  March 10

With a lengthy resume that includes Crystal Stilts, Dum Dum Girls, Vivian Girls and Beverly, Frankie Rose has an impressive legacy, and further cements her status with Love As Projection. 

The drummer/guitarist/singer's sixth solo album melds '80s influences with contemporary electronic pop; the single "Anything" sounding like it could be on the soundtrack of a John Hughes movie. (Fittingly, Rose interpreted the Cure’s iconic Seventeen Seconds LP in 2019.) "This album is about having to focus our collective energies on the small things…we can control to find joy," Rose told the Vinyl Factory. "A distraction from the larger systemic problems that feel so overwhelming and are so very out of our collective hands… for now."

Lankum – False Lankum

Release date: March 24

"Go Dig My Grave" from 2023’s False Lankum is nearly 9 minutes long, featuring singer Radie Peat’s plainspoken singing and ominous, mesmerizing musicality inspired by the Irish tradition of keening (lament). Together, these effects create a marching doom vibe. The dark folk lineup (Cormac Dermody, and brothers Ian and Daragh Lynch), utilize traditional Irish instruments, including uilleann pipes, along with guitars, percussion, fiddle, banjo, piano and double bass. Peat employs bayan, concertina, harmonium, organ, electric organ, harp, mellotron for a sound that mines the traditional for a modern context. 

The end result, as The Guardian described, contains "ambient textures of Sunn O))) and Swans, plus the sonic intensity of Xylouris White and My Bloody Valentine." False Lankum follows the Dublin doom folk quartet’s 2019 breakthrough The Livelong Day, which garnered the band numerous awards in Ireland, including the RTE Choice Music Prize (Ireland’s equivalent to the Album of the Year GRAMMY). 

Sophie B. Hawkins – Free Myself

Release date: March 24

Sophie B. Hawkins' 2023 "anti-Valentine" song "Better Off Without You" features wrenching words about an ex: "We changed the world / Until you took my best friend to bed." The song and sentiment appear on Free Myself, the singer/songwriter’s first album in more than a decade. 

Tracks such as "Love Yourself" and "I’m Tired Of Taking Care Of You" further themes of romantic empowerment. The Free Myself, Hawkin's seventh studio album, shows the multi-instrumentalist in top form:  raw, poetic but accessible and relatable, as inclusion of her tracks in cinematic and moody television shows "Ozark," "Stranger Things" and "Euphoria" have proven.

Lana Del Rabies – STREGA BEATA

Release date: March 17

Lana Del Rabies is the alter-ego of Phoenix-based musician, producer and multimedia artist Sam An. In her Del Rabies guise, as hinted at by the moniker, An seeks to  "re-contextualize  the more ominous aspects of modern pop music made by women," creating what she calls a "dark electronic, genre-bridging solo project." As such, she’s done a spare, industrial take on Tori Amos’ "Cornflake Girl,'' plus two LPs, including the boldly titled In the End I Am a Beast

On her third full-length album, STREGA BEATA (loosely translated as "Blessed Witch") Del Rabies delves into dark themes, buoyed by elements of industrial, gothic noise, metal, darkwave and ambient. From opener "Prayers of Consequence" to the final cut, "Forgive," the album, as its creator explains, "is told through the evolving perspective of a cryptic and obscure "Mother" creator figure, specifically echoing the mother and crone goddess archetypes."

Lana Del Rey - Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd

Release date: March 24

Lana Del Rabies is the alter-ego of Phoenix-based musician, producer and multimedia artist Sam An. In her Del Rabies guise, as hinted at by the moniker, An seeks to  "re-contextualize  the more ominous aspects of modern pop music made by women," creating what she calls a "dark electronic, genre-bridging solo project." As such, she’s done a spare, industrial take on Tori Amos’ "Cornflake Girl,'' plus two LPs, including the boldly titled In the End I Am a Beast

On her third full-length album, STREGA BEATA (loosely translated as "Blessed Witch") Del Rabies delves into dark themes, buoyed by elements of industrial, gothic noise, metal, darkwave and ambient. From opener "Prayers of Consequence" to the final cut, "Forgive," the album, as its creator explains, "is told through the evolving perspective of a cryptic and obscure "Mother" creator figure, specifically echoing the mother and crone goddess archetypes."

Boygenius – The Record

Release date: March 31

Boygenius is made up of the girl geniuses Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus, together a super-group collective whose debut EP expanded minds in 2017. As Baker told Newsweek, the trio of friends took the tongue-in-cheek band name because of "the archetype of the tortured genius, [a] specifically male artist who has been told since birth that their every thought is not only worthwhile but brilliant." 

The trio’s debut full-length, The Record, offers bright indie rock bounce on "$20," a low-key haunting on "Emily I'm Sorry" and to the straight-ahead fullness on "True Blue." Other intriguing song titles from the full-length include "Leonard Cohen" "Satanist." In addition to a headlining tour, boygenius will appear at Coachella in 2023.  

Deerhoof – Miracle-Level

Release date:  March 31

Deerhoof singer/bassist/songwriter Satomi Matsuzaki’s origin story is the stuff of dreams: She joined Deerhoof within a week of immigrating to the United States from Japan in May 1995 to attend college. And in 2023, the singer and self-taught bassist is front and center on Miracle-Level, Deerhoof’s 19th LP and the first sung in Satomi’s native Japanese. It’s also the influential DIY band’s first to be made totally in a professional recording studio with a producer (Mike Bridavsky). 

Miracle-Level kicks off with the joyful noise of "Sit Down, Let Me Tell You a Story," and contains the delightfully oddball "My Lovely Cat!" plus one song that’s as awkward but interesting as its title: "Phase-Out All Remaining Non-Miracles by 2028."

Critical praise has been near-universal over the lineup’s career, the New Yorker praising an "adventurous compositional style that features complex rhythms, electronica, atonal flourishes, and the pacific singing of Satomi Matsuzaki, whose sonic detachment from the group’s noisier and more aggressive side is curiously affecting." 

Chloe Bailey - In Pieces

Release date: March 31

As half of the GRAMMY-nominated powerhouse R&B duo Chloe x Halle, Chloe debuted as a solo artist in 2021 with platinum single "Have Mercy." The singer/dancer/producer’s full-length solo debut, In Pieces, launches with the sonorous "Pray It Away" before then teaming with Chris Brown for her "How Does It Feel" single. Inspired by naysayers, Chloe posted about In Pieces on her Instagram, writing "My tears are like the water. My heart is like the sun. Through chaos, beauty grows. There’s power in my pain.. It’s me breaking free."

Ellie Goulding – Higher Than Heaven

Release date: April 17 (adjusted)

On the energetic new single "Like a Saviour,"  Ellie Goulding expresses what so many felt during the last several years: "Trying to find my faith in tomorrow" and wishing for a saviour to lead her "out of the dark." The tune, off Higher Than Heaven, the English singer-songwriter’s fifth album, was inspired by the pandemic. But it’s not a wallow in darkness. In short: Expect musical and lyrical celebrations of love and sex, plus the wisdom and power of cutting out when things go bad.

As Goulding teased on Instagram: "‘Let it Die’ is about when a relationship plays out much longer than it needed to. Instead of giving love to yourself you spend it all on someone else and have nothing left, which is when it can become toxic and harmful." "Let It Die," which has notched 13 million streams, preceded the LP, along with  "Easy Lover" (featuring Big Sean) and "All by Myself."  Given the singles’ out-of-the-box success, it’ll be no surprise if  Goulding has another "Love Me Like You Do" (from the  Fifty Shades of Gray soundtrack) on her hands, the hit that  earned Goulding her first GRAMMY nom for Best Pop Solo Performance. 

Listen To GRAMMY.com's Women's History Month 2023 Playlist: Swim In The Divine Feminine With These 40 Songs By Rihanna, SZA, Miley Cyrus, BLACKPINK & More