meta-scriptJustice On Creating New Album 'Hyperdrama': "We'll Always Try To Make Everything Sound A Bit Like A Space Odyssey" | GRAMMY.com
Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé of Justice
Xavier de Rosnay and Gaspard Augé of Justice

Photo: Julie Vincent

interview

Justice On Creating New Album 'Hyperdrama': "We'll Always Try To Make Everything Sound A Bit Like A Space Odyssey"

"Every time we go back to the studio, we start a bit from zero again, mainly because we try to get rid of old habits every time we start something new," Justice's Xavier de Rosnay says of creating their fourth studio album, 'Hyperdrama.'

GRAMMYs/Apr 25, 2024 - 07:21 pm

GRAMMY-winning French electro duo Justice have always moved to the tune of their own drum machine.

Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay's debut release, 2003's "We Are Your Friends," was a radical reimagining of a tune from experimental psych-rock group Simian. Originally a remix made for a Parisian college radio contest, "We Are Your Friends" didn't win, but grabbed the attention of Daft Punk's manager Pedro Winter, who had just founded his impactful indie dance label Ed Banger Records. The track eventually became an anthem of the bloghouse era.

Response to their second single — 2005's glitchy, fuzzy "Waters of Nazareth" — nearly made them reconsider their decision to switch careers from graphic design to electronic music. Two years later, the duo had another major hit — along with their first GRAMMY nominations and some international chart success — with their third single, "D.A.N.C.E.", a joyous bop sung by a youth chorus. 

While their core influences of disco, electro, funk and psych rock remain, Justice is not interested in rehashing the same sounds. They are interested in making you feel, and the sounds that get them the most excited in the studio are the strange and boundary-pushing ones.

They're beloved for their high-production live show, where they mashup and reimagine their biggest tunes into a frenzy of sound and lights. They debuted a new live show at Coachella 2024, which features a dizzying new light contraption created over 18 months by their long-time lightning designer Vincent Lérisson. After each studio album, they produce a live album from the subsequent tour, a costly and time-consuming project which they recently told Billboard nearly bankrupts them every time. Yet their last, 2018's Woman Worldwide, won a GRAMMY award for Best Dance/Electronic Album.

Justice is just as meticulous in the studio. For their first studio album in eight years, Hyperdrama, (out on April 26 on Ed Banger/Because Music), they created hundreds of versions of each track and spent an extra year on the album stitching the best parts together. While they've produced for and remixed plenty of big names over the years, the new album is their first to feature recognizable stars like Tame Impala, Miguel and Thundercat, along with Rimon, Connan Mockasin and the Flints.

GRAMMY.com caught up with Xavier de Rosnay to dive deep into the creation of Hyperdrama, the album's new collabs, Justice's new live show, and more.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

How were your performances at Coachella?

It was good. It was only the second show of the tour. And the beginning of the tool is generally where there's a lot of space for improvement. We could definitely feel that we did better [on weekend 2] than the week before because we were a bit more relaxed, a bit more accustomed to the stage setup and to what we used to conduct the music and everything. Everything felt more fluid. But there can be a difference between what we feel and how the crowd feels, and that's impossible for us to say.

How did you envision this new live show and what are you excited about bringing it around the world?

The way we envision it is as has been the same since the beginning, it's just now we have access to a larger array of technologies to be able to do that. We've always liked the idea of instead of hiding the technical aspects of the stage, enhancing them in every way possible. Everything you see on stage at the beginning [of the show] is stuff that is very mechanical, technical and that are meant to be on stage. As it evolves, everything is moving and lit up.

We hope that there's a lot of moments where the audience can actually get lost [in the moment] and not fully understand what's happening on stage because of the way things are lit. We know the matrix of the stage in and out, but sometimes we see things we don't really understand because it creates a dimensional space that is difficult to comprehend at times. For us, that's the best, it's when we have kind of magic moments.

And musically, same thing, it's always the same as from the beginning but better, freer, bigger. Justice live is Justice's greatest hits; we're not the kind of band that won't play the hits and will force feed the weird [tracks]. For us, it has to be a big party, it has to be fun from top to bottom. Although it's only our fourth album, now we feel we have enough of a catalog to make something that is relentless and fun from the beginning to the end.

I definitely feel a cinematic journey on the new album, is that intentional? And what's the story you're trying to tell with Hyperdrama?

Well, it's intentional in the way that the most powerful music is music that brings images to the mind. Classical pieces of music, like Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, are the biggest hits ever and they have no drums, no beats, no lyrics. But they've been the biggest hits for centuries because they have a very powerful, evocative strength. For us, music is first and foremost meant to reveal this. So we never make music with the idea that it has to be for dancing or pop or anything, we always make music to try to convey powerful emotions. Although we didn't work with a theme like cinematic in our mind, we're happy to hear that some listeners are feeling that way.

The way the album is structured is very classic in the sense that it's structured like a lot of narrative forms. The beginning of the record, let's say the first third, is setting the tone and feeling at home. After our first album, we entertained the idea of starting every album with the theme of "Genesis," a bit like when you go to the cinema and hear the 20th century theme.

You feel good for three, four songs, you go on cruise control and then things start to drift a bit. For [Hyperdrama], that's "Moonlight Rendez-Vous" and "Explorer" — when things start to turn wrong a bit and, and then you go into a sort of vortex, like on "Muscle Memory," "Harpy Dream." In a film, that would be when the goofy sidekick of the protagonist dies. At that moment, you think everything is at its worst, then you have the final drop with "Saturnine" and "The End," which is a bit like the homecoming and happy ending situation — you're back at home again and hopefully you end on a positive note.

Is it kind of a Justice Space Odyssey?

Yeah, totally. I think for as long as we make music, we'll always try to make everything sound a bit like a space odyssey. It's funny that you mentioned space odyssey because [Hyperdrama] has four different sections that are very distinct. That's something that we love too — connecting things that don't really make sense at first glance.

Within some tracks, for example "Incognito," we're going from this almost psychedelic funk intro, and then you have a straight cut and you're in the future, everything is electronic. Things don't really make sense at first, but you listen to it and you get used to [this kind of transition].

And that was something where we really worked on a lot on this album, to make those different universes coexist and sometimes in a not very peaceful way. It can be a bit off-putting at first listen, but that's what's great with the record. You can feel it's a bit strange and you return to it and hopefully you start getting used to these kinds of things until they become almost natural.

The two of us have been working closely for a long time, so getting surprised and sometimes getting a bit unsettled is really what we're looking for in the studio. Generally, when we start to track and we're having a laugh because we are feeling we're going too far, it's something we've haven't done before, or we're making something ridiculous, that's a very good sign. These are typically the things we're looking for when we write a track or produce a song. 

"Incognito" feels very classic Justice, although you've said Travis Scott's "Sicko Mode" kind of inspired its shifts. How did "Incognito" come together and how did it shake up your songwriting process? 

I think the "Sicko Mode" thing is getting a bit bigger than what it is. It was not like we had an epiphany hearing that song. We think it's a great track, but for us, it was more of a reminder that it's always possible in any context to approach things in a very naïve way in a sense, and that it's possible to escape the canon of classical structures and classical writing and still achieve something that is surprising and free and that is legible for a vast amount of people. The principle of juxtaposing things that are foreign next to each other is not new, but to see it on such a big song always gives us a lot of hope about music in general. 

"Incognito," "One Night/All Night," "Generator," "Afterimage" and "Dear Alan" all work a bit on that principle that we had where we recorded several versions of the same track, of the same riff separately. For "Incognito," we had a plan of the song very precisely from the demo. But when we produced it, we recorded the intro and outro, that was one track that we mixed and produced separately. All the electronic parts were another track, all the disco parts in the middle were another. We produced and mixed them separately and only during mastering, we brought them back together. We really wanted to feel like it was separate songs that we'd put together.  

Would you say you are perfectionists? 

No, because there is no such thing as perfection. For us, the best we can do is make something that we feel good about, and this is when we know it's done. It's not perfection because we're not looking to make something that checks all the boxes of what perfection should be. 

Most of the music that we listen to is not perfect to any extent. But for us, it's perfect when it's faithful to the original feeling and idea we had when we started putting those songs together.

I've been really obsessed with "One Night/All Night." What was it like working with Tame Impala's Kevin Parker, and how did you find that mesh between your sounds?

We didn't think of "One Night/All Night" as a song with vocals at first.  We played [the demo] for Kevin and he was like, "I can hear something in that one." His vocal topline really adds some sort of weird sadness and melancholy to the track. The main riff is so simple, I think the simplest we've ever made, the dun dun dun. That's what is great with collaborating, a topline can very much shape a song. We fell in love with that new emotion that he brought to the song.

We really wanted to sound like we had found an unused Kevin Parker song, and sampled it and made a futuristic song with it. So we re-recorded the disco parts; it's almost like the disco part in the middle was the original record and what's before and after is the modernized version of it. And in the intro, his voice is in a key that is a bit off-putting. It builds up slowly and when the first chorus hits, you have his real voice that is instantly recognizable and very powerful and everything comes together — it's a beautiful moment to us.

It was really fun working with him. I mean, it was fun working with everyone [on Hyperdrama]. We almost felt like a mouse in a hole just looking out at things; you get to see everybody's idiosyncrasies and the way they think about music.

Why did you want to make a sonic tribute to Alan Braxe on "Dear Alan"? 

It's more of an inside joke than anything, but in the realm of electronic music, he's been an inspiration for us from the beginning. He's always had this kind of melancholic thing to his music that a lot of other bands from the French Touch first wave don't really have. For us, the French Touch first wave is more like shiny club music that's very euphoric. Alan Braxe was always a bit less dance-y but a bit more melancholic and elegant in a way, and that touches us a lot more than straight dance music. 

We also love his persona. The guy has been releasing maybe one song every three years for the past 20 years. This guy is even less productive than we are. But every time he puts one song out, it's always a gem, it's perfect. I don't think he's ever released one bad track.

The track is based on the sample of "Dear Brian" by Chris Rainbow. Chris Rainbow is a musician from the '70s and '80s that was doing post-Beach Boys music and "Dear Brian" was to Brian Wilson. For a long time, the working name of our track was "Dear Brian" and when we had to give it a proper name, we were like, Okay, the vocal sample reminds us of Alan Braxe, let's call it Dear Alan. It's a way for us to pay tribute to Alan Braxe and also Chris Rainbow.

When you think back to 2007 and "D.A.N.C.E." and having that kind of fast success on a global scale, what memories remain for you from that early era of Justice?

The truth is that it was not fast. There were four years between the moment we started the band and "D.A.N.C.E." and our first album came out. It was four years of doubts and thinking we were doing artistic suicide, for real. All those tracks took a lot of time to actually reach an audience.  

In the meantime, we did our first commercial suicide with "Waters of Nazareth" in 2005. We felt really bad about that track for a couple of months because we had no positive feedback about it. When we would play at festivals, as soon as the song would start, the technical people from the festival would run on stage to see if everything was plugged in correctly. Finally, a year after, it started to reach the underground, people more coming from rock music that felt there was something cool about it. 

Once that was settled, we released "D.A.N.C.E." which was not at all what people wanted us to make, because that was a disco track with a kid singing on it. It took some months, but then it made [an impact]. Then we made "Stress" and had a huge backlash on the video.

Our first album sold a lot of units, but it was over the course of maybe two years. It was really at the end of 2008, beginning of 2009 that it had reached its kind of cruise speed. So, retrospectively, it looks a bit like we came out of nowhere and found a spot for us, but it was made over five, six years; it was a proper development in a way. 

How do you feel you've grown as individuals and as producers since that early Justice era?

 We didn't grow up too much, to be honest. Every time we go back to the studio, we start a bit from zero again, mainly because we try to get rid of old habits every time we start something new. We also change the instruments that we use. The first months of Hyperdrama were really almost like R&D. We were trying to find new ways of making sounds. We didn't produce much music then, we were just trying things and getting accustomed to the new setup. We learn everything as we're making a record and especially on this one. We also wanted to get rid of all habits we have in terms of writing and producing. 

To us, knowledge, a lot of times, can be the enemy of the good. We're trying to find the good balance between, of course, using what we've learned throughout the years to make things that get better hopefully with time and at the same time not to get stuck into patterns that can make you feel old. We're very aware that we're entering a phase of being an old band in a lot of ways. 

We really hope that Hyperdrama does not translate as an old record made by an old band. Hopefully it still sounds fresh and naive and playful, as if it was a record from a young man.

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Moby performing on stage
Moby

Photo: Mike Formanski

interview

"Let Yourself Be Idiosyncratic": Moby Talks New Album 'Always Centered At Night' & 25 Years Of 'Play'

"We're not writing for a pop audience, we don't need to dumb it down," Moby says of creating his new record. In an interview, the multiple-GRAMMY nominee reflects on his latest album and how it contrasts with his legendary release from 1999.

GRAMMYs/Jun 11, 2024 - 01:29 pm

Moby’s past and present are converging in a serendipitous way. The multiple-GRAMMY nominee is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his seminal work, Play, the best-selling electronic dance music album of all time, and the release of his latest album, always centered at night. 

Where Play was a solitary creation experience for Moby, always centered at night is wholly collaborative. Recognizable names on the album are Lady Blackbird on the blues-drenched "dark days" and serpentwithfeet on the emotive "on air." But always centered at night’s features are mainly lesser-known artists, such as the late Benjamin Zephaniah on the liquid jungle sounds of "where is your pride?" and Choklate on the slow grooves of "sweet moon." 

Moby’s music proves to have staying power: His early ‘90s dance hits "Go" and "Next is the E" still rip up dancefloors; the songs on Play are met with instant emotional reactions from millennials who heard them growing up. Moby is even experiencing a resurgence of sorts with Gen Z. In 2023, Australian drum ‘n’ bass DJ/producer Luude and UK vocalist Issey Cross reimagined Moby’s classic "Porcelain" into "Oh My." Earlier this year, Moby released "You and Me" with Italian DJ/producer Anfisa Letyago. 

Music is just one of Moby’s many creative ventures. He wrote and directed Punk Rock Vegan Movie as well as writing and starring in his homemade documentary, Moby Doc. The two films are produced by his production company, Little Walnut, which also makes music videos, shorts and the podcast "Moby Pod." Moby and co-host Lindsay Hicks have an eclectic array of guests, from actor Joe Manganiello to Ed Begley, Jr., Steve-O and Hunter Biden. The podcast interviews have led to "some of the most meaningful interpersonal experiences," Moby tells GRAMMY.com. 

A upcoming episode of "Moby Pod" dedicated to Play was taped live over two evenings at Los Angeles’ Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The episode focuses on Moby recounting his singular experiences around the unexpected success of that album — particularly considering the abject failure of his previous album, Animal Rights. The narrative was broken up by acoustic performances of songs from Play, as well as material from Always Centered at Night (which arrives June 14) with special guest Lady Blackbird. Prior to the taping, Moby spoke to GRAMMY.com about both albums. 

'Always centered at night' started as a label imprint then became the title of your latest album. How did that happen? 

I realized pretty quickly that I just wanted to make music and not necessarily worry about being a label boss. Why make more busy work for myself?

The first few songs were this pandemic process of going to SoundCloud, Spotify, YouTube and asking people for recommendations to find voices that I wasn’t familiar with, and then figuring out how to get in touch with them. The vast majority of the time, they would take the music I sent them and write something phenomenal.

That's the most interesting part of working with singers you've never met: You don't know what you're going to get. My only guidance was: Let yourself be creative, let yourself be idiosyncratic, let the lyrics be poetic. We're not writing for a pop audience, we don't need to dumb it down. Although, apparently Lady Blackbird is one of Taylor Swift's favorite singers 

Guiding the collaborators away from pop music is an unusual directive, although perhaps not for you? 

What is both sad and interesting is pop has come to dominate the musical landscape to such an extent that it seems a lot of musicians don't know they're allowed to do anything else. Some younger people have grown up with nothing but pop music. Danaé Wellington, who sings "Wild Flame," her first pass of lyrics were pop. I went back to her and said, "Please be yourself, be poetic." And she said, "Well, that’s interesting because I’m the poet laureate of Manchester." So getting her to disregard pop lyrics and write something much more personal and idiosyncratic was actually easy and really special. 

You certainly weren’t going in the pop direction when making 'Play,' but it ended up being an extremely popular album. Did you have a feeling it was going to blow up the way it did?

I have a funny story. I had a date in January 1999 in New York. We went out drinking and I had just gotten back the mastered version of Play. We're back at my apartment, and before our date became "grown up," we listened to the record from start to finish. She actually liked it. And I thought, Huh, that's interesting. I didn't think anyone was going to like this record. 

You didn’t feel anything different during the making of 'Play?'

I knew to the core of my being that Play was going to be a complete, abject failure. There was no doubt in my mind whatsoever. It was going to be my last record and it was going to fail. That was the time of people going into studios and spending half a million dollars. It was Backstreet Boys and Limp Bizkit and NSYNC; big major label records that were flawlessly produced. Play was made literally in my bedroom. 

I slept under the stairs like Harry Potter in my loft on Mott Street. I had one bedroom and that's where I made the record on the cheapest of cheap equipment held up literally on milk crates. Two of the songs were recorded to cassette, that's how cheap the record was. It was this weird record made by a has-been, a footnote from the early rave days. There was no world where I thought it was going to be even slightly successful. Daniel Miller from Mute said — and I remember this very clearly — "I think this record might sell over 50,000 copies." And I said, "That’s kind of you to say but let's admit that this is going to be a failure. Thank you for releasing my last record."  

Was your approach in making 'Play' different from other albums? 

The record I had made before Play, Animal Rights, was this weird, noisy metal punk industrial record that almost everybody hated. I remember this moment so vividly: I was playing Glastonbury in 1998 and it was one of those miserable Glastonbury years. When it's good, it's paradise; it's really special. But the first time I played, it was disgusting, truly. A foot and a half of mud everywhere, incessant rain and cold. I was telling my manager that I wanted to make another punk rock metal record. And he said the most gentle thing, "I know you enjoy making punk rock and metal. People really enjoy when you make electronic music." 

The way he said it, he wasn't saying, "You would help your career by making electronic music." He simply said, "People enjoy it." If I had been my manager, I would have said, "You're a f—ing idiot. Everyone hated that record. What sort of mental illness and masochism is compelling you to do it again?" Like Freud said, the definition of mental illness is doing the same thing and expecting different results. But his response was very emotional and gentle and sweet, and that got through to me. I had this moment where I realized, I can make music that potentially people will enjoy that will make them happy. Why not pursue that? 

That was what made me not spend my time in ‘98 making an album inspired by Sepultura and Pantera and instead make something more melodic and electronic. 

After years of swearing off touring, what’s making you hit stages this summer? 

I love playing live music. If you asked me to come over and play Neil Young songs in your backyard, I would say yes happily, in a second. But going on tour, the hotels and airports and everything, I really dislike it.  

My manager tricked me. He found strategically the only way to get me to go on tour was to give the money to animal rights charities. My philanthropic Achilles heel. The only thing that would get me to go on tour. It's a brief tour of Europe, pretty big venues, which is interesting for an old guy, but when the tour ends, I will have less money than when the tour begins. 

Your DJ sets are great fun. Would you consider doing DJ dates locally? 

Every now and then I’ll do something. But there’s two problems. As I've become very old and very sober, I go to sleep at 9 p.m. This young guy I was helping who was newly sober, he's a DJ. He was doing a DJ set in L.A. and he said, "You should come down. There's this cool underground scene." I said, "Great! What time are you playing?" And he said "I’m going on at 1 a.m." By that point I've been asleep for almost five hours.

I got invited to a dinner party recently that started at 8 p.m. and I was like, "What are you on? Cocaine in Ibiza? You're having dinner at 8 p.m.  What craziness is that? That’s when you're putting on your soft clothes and watching a '30 Rock' rerun before bed. That's not going out time." And the other thing is, unfortunately, like a lot of middle aged or elderly musicians, I have a little bit of tinnitus so I have to be very cautious around loud music.

Are you going to write a third memoir at any point? 

Only when I figure out something to write. It's definitely not going to be anecdotes about sobriety because my anecdotes are: woke up at 5 a.m., had a smoothie, read The New York Times, lamented the fact that people are voting for Trump, went for a hike, worked on music, played with Bagel the dog, worked on music some more went to sleep, good night. It would be so repetitive and boring. 

It has to be something about lived experience and wisdom. But I don't know if I've necessarily gotten to the point where I have good enough lived experience and wisdom to share with anyone. Maybe if I get to that point, I'll probably be wrong, but nonetheless, that would warrant maybe writing another book.

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L'Impératrice press photo
L'Impératrice

Photo: Manu Milon

interview

On 'Pulsar,' L'Impératrice Are Guided By Vibes: "Expressing Your Feelings Is Really Infused In This Album"

On their first self-produced album, L'Impératrice employed new methods of communication. Whether that was deciding what language to sing in, or offering a song to rapper Erick The Architect, 'Pulsar' indeed has a new beat.

GRAMMYs/Jun 5, 2024 - 04:14 pm

Back in 2011, the Parisian artist Charles de Boisseguin was making funky music by himself. But he knew that his music was too groovy to restrict to recordings. He wanted to do more than be a DJ; de Boisseguin wanted the chemistry of a full band.  

He formed L'Impératrice, a six-piece modern disco and funk project featuring de Boisseguin on keys, Hagni Gwon on keys and strings, drummer Tom Daveau, bassist David Gaugué, guitarist Achille Trocellier, and vocalist Flore Benguigui. The group released their third album, Pulsar, on June 7.  

Prior to Benguigui's arrival in 2015, L'Impératrice were purely instrumental. "Vocals were another instrument we wanted in our music, but we discovered we had to change our way of composing,"says Gwon. "When you don't have any vocals, you're free to put everything you want as a musician. Sometimes too many things. But when you have vocals, you have to be very balanced. It wasn't easy at first." 

However, L'Impératrice's creative process coalesced and, soon, their floaty, dance-forward style  had garnered a passionate international fanbase. In support of their second album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, they played all over North America, Europe, and the UK to sold-out crowds and packed festival stages at Coachella, Lollapalooza, and Outside Lands. "It's not usual for a French project or band, especially a band, to be known abroad. So, it’s like a dream coming true all the time," Gwon notes. 

Pulsar L'Impératrice's first self-produced effort —was inspired by these international travels, and showcases the band's diverse backgrounds and interests. "It's kind of paradoxical, because it's the first album we made ourselves. But it's the first time we collaborated with that many people," Benguigui says. 

On Pulsar, Benguigui writes and sings in three languages; Neapolitan vocalist Fabiana Martone sings in Italian on the joyous dance jig, "Danza Marilù." Hip-hop/neo soul singer Maggie Rogers' somber and soulful tones are a harmonious addition to the seductive "Any Way." The Flatbush Zombies’ Erick The Architect increases the velocity of his rhymes to accommodate the band’s upbeat funk on "Sweet & Sublime." 

"We wanted to bring back the raw energy of the live shows. To make it a bit rougher, uptempo, more representative of what we are doing live," Gwon says, adding that no producer outside the band would truly know such intricacies. "That's something that only we could think about."  

With Pulsar out in the world, L'Impératrice is putting renewed focus on their live show. They'll begin a tour of North America and Europe in September, and are ready to give their international fans everything they have. Following a tour rehearsal at Coopérative de Mai in Clermont-Ferrand, members of the band chatted with GRAMMY.com about working with different collaborators, writing in multiple languages, and the legacy of funky French music. 

One of the songs on the album is called "Love from the Other Side." What is it like for you to have love from the other side, i.e., from fans all over the world? 

Trocellier: It feels amazing. We’re very lucky. 

Benguigui: We don't really know why. I sing in French most of the time. In the beginning, they wanted me to translate the French lyrics and do English versions. The first album actually was also released in English which really didn't work abroad.  

Gwon: At the first concert we did in New York, people were telling us, "Why are you singing your songs in English? The original ones are in French, and we like them better than the ones in English." So just be yourself. 

Benguigui: So we decided not to be worried about it and just let this happen. And actually, it's very surprising how much people love the French language abroad. 

You shouldn't change your original intentions in order to satisfy the audience. 

Benguigui: Exactly. I think it also really changed the emotion of the vocals. If it's in a different language, it can really be a different song. It’s too important to change. 

When I sing in French, I'm more likely to use metaphors and images. For example, the song "Pulsar" is a very metaphorical song about the state I was in when I was writing it. When I'm singing in French, it's somehow closer to me; because it's my language, I need to hide behind some images. In English, I'm way more straightforward because it's not my language. I'm a bit more first-degree in English. Sometimes it’s nice to be first-degree. 

Gwon: I think we are lucky to be at the right period of time. Thirty years ago or 20 years ago, that [interest in foreign language music] wouldn't have been possible, even in the U.S. But now everyone is much more open to other languages. It's not a handicap. It's something that is great.  

Funky French music has always had a huge audience in America: Daft Punk, Justice. Kavinsky. What is it like to continue that legacy? 

Trocellier: It's an honor to be close to these guys. 

Gwon: We don't even know how to place ourselves compared to them, because for us, they’re big influences. We grew up with their music. We are very happy when people tell us that we might be in the same circle. 

Benguigui: There's also a bit of pressure to feel like we represent France abroad. It's nice to be able to spread French culture in countries that might not have heard loads of French music before.  

This album has more English vocals than either of your past albums — both from Flore and your featured artists. Why was it time to explore that language? 

Benguigui: We really rarely say, "Okay, that should be in English or in French." It happened, actually, once on this album. But it was for the Italian song. These guys made the demo, and they were like, "We feel this like an Italian groove." It should be Italian. 

Daveau: An Italo-Disco groove. 

Benguigui: I happened to be in touch with [Fabiana Martone] at that moment. So we made it happen. But it's really the only case. When I make the melody, I'm mumbling over an instrumental, and that’s when I can feel the language I'm gonna use. It was the same for the guests we have on this album: We knew these people liked our music, and so they happened to be English-speaking, or Italian-speaking for Fabiana. It was a nice coincidence, but it could have been a French guest if it was the right one at the right time for the right song. 

Gwon: It's more about the vibe of the track; the vibe that Flore feels when she composes her melody. Maybe one or two times you started with another language. 

Benguigui: [Lyricaly] I can't say the same things in my native language and a foreign language. It's a different way to show feelings. That's why I used the Spanish phrase in "Me Da Igual." I felt I needed this language to hide something or to present it in a different way.  

On "Any Way," before we had Maggie Rogers, you guys were saying we needed something kind of dramatic in the vocals, and it's not really my thing being dramatic. So we were thinking of some vocalists, and all the references that came into our minds were English. So that's also why we had the huge honor to have Maggie on this track. 

Honestly, I was a bit paralyzed when I was with her because she's so talented. She was making the melody and lyrics at the same time. We had just met, and she was just so confident. She knew how to do her job. She's so on it. I was just in the corner watching and being absolutely amazed.  

I added my vocal parts afterward. So that was not a magical moment of the two of us singing together, because, honestly, I was petrified. But it was very interesting. I learned a lot watching her. 

"Sweet & Sublime" with Erick The Architect is on the faster side for a rap song. Were you intending to have a rapper on this track, or did that unfold later? 

Gwon: Flore made a demo where she was semi-rapping, and so we kept that. But we are also very fond of hip-hop. We thought it might be time to ask someone to add this little touch of hip-hop. 

Benguigui: But it was tricky because we didn't have much time. And so, as a security, I recorded two verses. There was a bit of space after my first verse for some rap if someone was interested. And so we sent it to Eric, who we really like. We had not met him before, actually. We met him through FaceTime, and we explained the vibe of the song. 

I remember telling him this is not another love song. It's a song about friendship; it's a song about your gang, but in a very non-violent and positive way. He came back to us with one verse after my first verse. We listened to it, and it was too good to have him just at the beginning. So we asked him, "Okay, man, we're gonna remove my second verse. Can you please just come back in the song later?" He did it. And it sounds super cool.  

This was your first album you produced on your own. What was it like to experiment in this way without the limitations of another producer? 

Trocellier: It was a big relief. We were very happy about trusting ourselves, and at the same time, it was a bit scary because we never worked like this on albums. 

Gwon: For the instrumentals this time, we made small teams. And then we mixed up all the teams. So, during the whole process of the album, everyone worked with everyone. That was the first time it was so well balanced between everyone.  

It has been 12 years now that we’ve worked together. We know what we can do. And we know what we can't do. If we want things that we can't do, we know that we have to ask other people, but for what we can do, let's try to do it ourselves. 

Justice On Creating New Album 'Hyperdrama': "We'll Always Try To Make Everything Sound A Bit Like A Space Odyssey" 

Sofia Ilyas Q&A hero
Sofia Ilyas

Photo: Grace Phillips

interview

Beatport's Sofia Ilyas On Creating A More Equitable & Connected Music Industry

"What I love about the music industry is there are so many gaps, and so many observations you can make and sort of insert yourself in and create something quite special itself," Sofia Ilyas of carving out a career as a music professional.

GRAMMYs/May 7, 2024 - 01:42 pm

Given that Beatport Chief Community Officer Sofia Ilyas has dedicated the last 15 years or so of her life supporting burgeoning artists, subgenres and underrepresented groups, it's somewhat surprising that she grew up in a household without music.

As a teen, a Sony Walkman with a radio and mixtapes featuring the likes of Radiohead were a lifeline to a world Ilyas' family didn't want her to participate in. She was even kept home during school field trips to the National Gallery museum in London, where she's since hosted her Piano Day music and art event, and will soon be curating a room for their 200th anniversary celebration.

Ilyas has had to sacrifice a lot — namely, a relationship with her strict Muslim family — to carve out a career in music, and hers is a story of patience and resilience. After leaving her home in Cardiff, Wales for London to pursue higher education (against her family's wishes), she found solace and connection in live music. She'd hang out around the sound booth and introduce herself and ask questions about how things worked. Slowly but surely, she befriended people that worked at labels and venues, and even artists — Four Tet grew to know her by name after she kept coming back to his shows.

After years of being a part of the London scene as a dedicated fan, at age 30, Ilyas became co-manager of indie record label Erased Tapes, where she helped popularize neoclassical music and one of its purveyors, experimental German pianist Nils Frahm. Alongside Frahm, Ilyas launched Piano Day, where a diverse range of artists help them celebrate the past, present and future of the instrument alongside contemporary dancers and painters.

Now, as the first Chief Community Officer at major dance music platform Beatport, Ilyas is building community within and across disparate global electronic communities. She aims to bring more women and people of color into the mix.

"We're living in a time where people are feeling incredibly lonely and disconnected from community," Ilyas tells GRAMMY.com. "I [want to] facilitate people to come in to hear from each other, especially women, in a room that feels safe to hold discussion."

GRAMMY.com recently caught up with Ilyas for an insightful, engaging conversation on her work to support women and people of color in electronic music, making piano cool, her hopes for a more equitable music industry, and much more.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

You recently hosted your Piano Day annual events in Melbourne and London — tell me your vision for Piano Day.

When we launched Piano Day in London with Nils [Frahm], it gave me an excuse to try my own events. I had the artists performing in different corners of the room and a painter in the middle, watching and being inspired. I've always looked at different arts and wondered why they can't also be present in the music world and why we can't support each other across various industries. I've had a contemporary dancer at almost every event I've done in London. Piano Day was my way of having my own event that I could own and really show off my curation. Even with the first event, people were saying the space was beautiful and the curation was so good. I felt really validated.

[For Piano Day,] I always ask artists what they can do that's a little bit different, beyond performing their album or recent EP. I had one artist who had never played piano before, and he made a few mistakes and everyone was applauding him like it's okay. It's really important to me that Piano Day offers something that maybe the audience will never see again and they feel they've experienced something very special. An even bigger extension of that is the lineup that I curate for the National Gallery; coupling a piano player with a dancer who had never met before, and multiple artists only ever played piano maybe three times. I love that the artists have felt safe to trust me and that it's the type of event where they can take a risk.

I'm always looking for acts that are open to trying something a bit different and to be challenged by the fact that it's solo piano predominantly. And to also be inspired by the space, the National Gallery is such a prestigious, iconic venue. It's quite an unusual event because you've got people who've come to see the artists and regular visitors who have just come to see the paintings and they happen to stumble across what's happening. What's even more special for me is the audience is full of children. [I've been wondering] how we can do more music events that kids can come to, because I saw how inspired they were.

You'll be returning to the National Gallery in May to help curate their 200th anniversary event. How are you thinking about everything it stands for while bringing it into the future with music and women and people of color?

I've always had an attachment to the Gallery because there were school trips to it and my parents would never let me go. So for them to email me, "Hey, we've been to a couple of your events, would you like to bring Piano Day to the National Gallery?" I was just overwhelmed and hugely complimented.

I went to each room, sat down and thought about the feelings [it brought up]. I ended up landing on the blue room, it's got a lot of English paintings in it. I liked the idea of English artists against old English paintings, sort of breaking that mold of stiffness and classical looks to be like, this is now the future of London coming into the gallery. We placed the piano right in front of this really famous huge horse painting to really make that statement.

I am very mindful of having a diverse and interesting lineup. I always have one artist that starts the event that is a nod to the traditional kind of way of playing [piano]. It usually evolves to some artists playing the neoclassical sounds and then it moves into more the dance element and vocalist and then it ends on "this is the future" type of thing. I always like having that momentum.

Let's talk about your new record label RISE. What's your vision is with it and who are the artists you're currently working with?

I started Rise last year for artists that want help to get to the next level and get the attention of the label they want. I wanted to do a label that was within my bandwidth because I have a full-time job. If there're artists that I can help get from point A to B, then they go on to C, that's a great thing. I have Frank Hopkins on the label, who's an electronic artist, and Kareem Kumar, who's a Black artist who is known for playing in the streets of London. [Kumar] has built an incredibly huge audience on socials that has been a real inspiration to so many youngsters during COVID. They played together for the first time at the National Gallery, where Frank added some really nice ambient sounds and Kareem played the piano.

Too often, labels are quite a stiff experience, they want to assign that artist forever. If there are any artists that want help on press releases, overall branding and PR, that's exactly what RISE is there for. We can help them release some records, sort their online profile and offer guidance to basically uplift the artist so they can get the attention of booking agents, a label etc.

I see the future of labels where they are this sort of incubator-type of model, where they help an artist and the artists can grow into their own team or go off into another label. I envisage more labels existing like mine, where they're helping the artists onto that next level.

What do you think needs to shift for the music industry to be more supportive — financially and otherwise — of artists, particularly young people of color?

One thing that could be great is the labels that are doing well commercially — I'm sure they do this to a certain extent — choose two artists every year for an incubator program and make it more visible. Right now, most labels' A&R is a very closed thing. I think [it would help] if the labels made a very clear way of sending them demos. I know it is difficult because these days, even [people at] labels are so overworked and they don't have time to think about things like this. Maybe a music organization or a body out there could pick this idea up and take it to some of the major labels.

On the live side, [we need] more community spaces where an artist can come by and play regularly to fans and bring their friends and family around. Most venues are so hard to get on the bill, [so there's a need for] smaller 100-capacity-or-so spaces that open the doors more to local artists. We rely on the same names over and over again, whether it's festivals or local clubs, etc.

With your work as Beatport's Chief Community Officer, what are you actively doing to bring in and celebrate more women and people of color in dance music?

I've always been aware of diversity and my color and who I am in the music industry. Especially when I was around all those white male composers who knew everything about production and I knew nothing, that was very daunting. Even things like drinking — I don't drink and the amount of times it feels uncomfortable to be in the music industry. Many people in South Asian communities, especially Pakistani, grew up in a non-drinking culture, and we should have awareness to make those people feel comfortable otherwise they're never going to join the music industry.

What's been incredible is that Robb [McDaniels, Beatport's CEO] and the team have been, "You own it, you do what you believe." In the first few months, I hired a DEI consultant named Vick Bain, who was an amazing mentor for me. I'm a real big believer in experts. I was able to really upskill myself very fast through having her around.

Putting aside diversity, we're living in a time where people are feeling incredibly lonely and disconnected from community. That's why I'm doing panel events with DJ sets with Beatport. I [want to] facilitate people to come in to hear from each other, especially women, in a room that feels safe to hold discussion.

How have you taken it upon yourself to bring more women and artists of color with you along the way, and do you make space and advocate for people?

It's always something that's on the top of my mind because being a South Asian woman in music is already quite difficult at moments. You look around wondering Is there any support for me? And with my journey of having walked away from my family, part of me is already exhausted from that experience and existing in the music industry in an environment that often feels very alien to me.

Just being a woman in a C-Suite position isn't not easy. I've never been in a role where the focus is to champion women and that's why I'm so grateful for Beatport.

Throughout my career, I've always given out a lot of free PR and guidance, and quite often that's been for women. I've always wanted to be available and I'm always happy to give my time. If anyone reads this, and they want to email me and ask me any questions, I'm always really happy to help.

What's some advice you have for young women of color that want to work in the music industry but don't know where to start?

What I love about the music industry is there are so many gaps, and so many observations you can make and sort of insert yourself in and create something quite special itself. Once you start getting to know your local community, [you can get] so much support from others. I made a lot of my friends by going to vinyl markets and going up to my favorite labels and saying hi. When I was trying to work in the music industry and sending a ton of emails, I got nothing in return. But as soon as I started being a bit more active in the live [music] side, I met so many people.

Don't think you need to do it alone. For so many years, I kept what I was experiencing to myself and I would always present this polished person on Instagram. Lately, I've started really opening up more about how I feel. When I turned 43 recently, I posted on Instagram about how I sometimes overwork to avoid [loneliness]. I was surprised by how many people, especially men, messaged me and said I feel that way too. I'm learning to be more vulnerable.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. You just have to get over ego and fear. I can't sugarcoat it; unfortunately, there are [some] people who are going to make you feel really stupid for asking. Lean on your friends and know you're on the right path. Know that we need more women and more diversity in the industry. Look at people that inspire you. When I used to look at Four Tet, I'd be like, Oh my God, an Indian man on stage, that's so cool. So, look for your inspiration points and be vulnerable with your friends, because it is going to be difficult sometimes. And you can definitely email me anytime. [Chuckles.]

What does a more equitable music industry look like to you?

Well, that's a big question. I think [it would involve] everyone being more conscious. Whether it's a booking agent or a label looking to sign someone, if everyone is thinking around diversity and consciously looking and making their spaces more open to women. I always think about open doors. How can everyone open their doors more while considering the space people are entering into. It's one thing opening your door but it's another thing if that person enters a space and doesn't feel safe.

For me, a place where everyone's consciously thinking about this, and it isn't just on the organization or a few artists or someone like me in my role to try and figure it out. I think if everyone was conscious of it, things would just happen more seamlessly.

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July Albums List Hero
(L-R, clockwise): Stevie Nicks, Jennifer Lopez, Taylor Swift, Josh Kiszka of Greta Van Fleet, Post Malone, Pitbull, NCT Dream

Photo: Erika Goldring/WireImage, Daniele Venturelli/Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images for Luisaviaroma, Scott Legato/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management, Astrida Valigorsky/Getty Images, Don Arnold/WireImage, Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Atlantis Paradise Island, Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

list

15 Must-Hear Albums This July: Taylor Swift, Dominic Fike, Post Malone, NCT Dream & More

From the highly anticipated 'Barbie' soundtrack to a celebration of Joni Mitchell's iconic Newport Folk Festival return, check out 15 albums dropping this July.

GRAMMYs/Jul 3, 2023 - 04:05 pm

The first half of 2023 is already behind us, but July gives us much to look forward to. The warm sun, tours and festivals abound, and a heap of exciting releases — from Colter Wall's country music to NCT DREAM's K-pop — will surely make this season even more special.

We start it off with Taylor Swift and her third re-recorded album, Speak Now (Taylor's Version) on July 7, the same day Pitbull returns with his twelfth studio album, Trackhouse. Post Malone will deliver his fourth LP, AUSTIN, and Blur returns with their first album in eight years. And for the classic music lovers, folk legend Joni Mitchell will release At Newport — a recording of her first live performance since 2015 — and rock maven Stevie Nicks will drop her Complete Studio Albums & Rarities box set.

To welcome the latter half of a year filled with great music so far, GRAMMY.com offers a guide to the 15 must-hear albums dropping July 2023.

Taylor Swift, Speak Now (Taylor's Version)

Release date: July 7

Taylor Swift fans are used to gathering clues and solving puzzles about the singer's intricate, ever-expanding discography. Therefore, in her hometown of Nashville concert last May, when she announced that Speak Now (Taylor's Version) would come out on July 7, it was not much of a surprise to the audience, but rather a gratifying confirmation that they had followed the right steps.

"It's my love language with you. I plot. I scheme. I plan. And then I get to tell you about it," Swift told them after breaking the news. "I think, rather than me speaking about it ... I'd rather just show you," she added, before performing an acoustic version of Speak Now's single, "Sparks Fly." 

Shortly after, she took it to Instagram to share that "the songs that came from this time in my life were marked by their brutal honesty, unfiltered diaristic confessions and wild wistfulness. I love this album because it tells a tale of growing up, flailing, flying and crashing … and living to speak about it."

Speak Now (Taylor's Version) is Swift's third re-recorded album, following 2021's Red (Taylor's Version). It will feature 22 tracks, including six unreleased "From the Vault" songs and features with Paramore's Hayley Williams and Fall Out Boy. "Since Speak Now was all about my songwriting, I decided to go to the artists who I feel influenced me most powerfully as a lyricist at that time and ask them to sing on the album," she shared on Twitter. Swift is currently touring the U.S. with her acclaimed The Eras Tour, which will hit Latin America, Asia, Australia, UK, and Europe through August 2024.

ANOHNI and the Johnsons, My Back Was a Bridge For You To Cross

Release date: July 7

"I want the record to be useful," said ANOHNI about her upcoming sixth studio album, My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross. The English singer says she learned with her previous LP, 2016's HOPELESSNESS, that she "can provide a soundtrack that might fortify people in their work, in their activism, in their dreaming and decision-making," therefore aiming to make use of her talents to further help and inspire people.

Through 10 tracks that blend American soul, British folk, and experimental music, ANOHNI weaves her storytelling on inequality, alienation, privilege, and several other themes. According to a statement, the creative process was "painstaking, yet also inspired, joyful, and intimate, a renewal and a renaming of her response to the world as she sees it."

My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross "demonstrates music's unique capacity to bring harmony to competing, sometimes contradictory, elements" — qualities that can be observed in the album's contemplative pre-releases "It Must Change" and "Sliver Of Ice."

Pitbull, Trackhouse

Release date: July 7

GRAMMY-winning singer/rapper Pitbull has recently broadened his reach into an unexpected field: stock cars. Together with Trackhouse Entertainment Group founder Justin Marks, he formed Trackhouse Racing in 2021, an organization and team that participates in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Now, to unite both passions, the Miami-born singer is releasing Trackhouse, his twelfth studio album and first release since 2019's Libertad 548. "In no way, shape, or form is this some kind of publicity stunt," said Mr. Worldwide of the upcoming album during a teleconference in April. "This is real. This is all about our stories coming together, and that's why the fans love it. […] This right here is about making history, it's generational, it's about creating a legacy."

Preceded by singles "Me Pone Mal" with Omar Courtz and "Jumpin" with Lil Jon, it seems that Trackhouse, despite its innovative inception, will continue to further Pitbull's famed Latin pop brand. This fall, he will also join Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin on The Trilogy Tour across the U.S. and Canada.

Dominic Fike,  Sunburn

Release date: July 7

Multitalented singer, songwriter and actor Dominic Fike also joins the roll of summer comebacks. His second studio album, Sunburn, comes out July 7, and follows 2020's acclaimed What Could Possibly Go Wrong.

In recent years, the Florida star found great exposure after landing a role in the HBO hit series "Euphoria" as well as the upcoming A24 drama Earth Mama, which is slated to release on the same day as Sunburn. The past three years were also marked by collaborations with a handful of artists, from Justin Bieber ("Die For You") to Paul McCartney ("The Kiss of Venus") to his Euphoria co-star Zendaya on "Elliot's Song" from the show's soundtrack.

Sunburn marks Fike's joyful return to music, aiming to portray "the aching and vulnerable revelations of a young artist still growing and putting their best foot forward," according to a press release. Through 15 tracks, including singles "Dancing in the Courthouse," "Ant Pile," and "Mama's Boy," Fike will explore themes of "heartbreak and regret, addiction, sex, and jealousy." 

One week after Sunburn's arrival, Fike will embark on a tour across North America and Canada, starting July 13 in Indianapolis.

Lauren Spencer Smith, Mirror

Release date: July 14

Lauren Spencer Smith said on TikTok that she's been working on her debut album, Mirror, for years. "It has been with me through so much in my life, the highs and the lows, and it means more to me than I can put into words. It tells a story of reflection, healing and growth," she added.

The 19-year-old, British-born Canadian singer is unafraid to dive deep into heartbreak and sorrow — as she displayed on her breakthrough hit "Fingers Crossed" —  but offers a way out by focusing on her growth. "I went through a hard breakup, and the album tells the story of that all, the journey of that and now being in a more happy relationship. The title comes from the one thing in my life that's seen me in every emotion through that journey — my bedroom and bathroom mirror."

Like a true Gen Zer, Smith has been teasing the 15-track collection and its upcoming world tour all over social media. On July 14, the day of the album release, she kicks off the North American leg of the tour in Chicago, before heading to the UK, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

Colter Wall, Little Songs

Release date: July 14

"You might not see a soul for days on them high and lonesome plains/ You got to fill the big empty with little songs," sings Colter Wall on the titular track off his fourth studio album, Little Songs. The Canadian country star says in a press release that he wrote these songs over the last three years, and that "I penned most of them from home and I think the songs reflect that."

Born and raised in the prairies of Battle Creek, Saskatchewan, Wall found inspiration in the stillness of his surroundings. With this album, he bridges "the contemporary world to the values, hardships, and celebrations of rural life" while also opening "emotional turns as mature and heartening as the resonant baritone voice writing them," according to a press release.

Little Songs is composed of 10 tracks — eight originals and two covers (Hoyt Axton's "Evangelina," and Ian Tyson's "The Coyote & The Cowboy.") He'll celebrate the album's release with a performance at Montana's Under The Big Sky festival on the weekend of the LP's arrival.

Mahalia, IRL

Release date: July 14

British singer Mahalia celebrated her 25th birthday on May 1 by announcing IRL, her sophomore album. Out July 14, the R&B star claims the album to be "a real reflection of the journeys I've had, what actually happened, and a celebration of everyone who got me there."

The 13-track collection will feature names like Stormzy and JoJo, the latter of whom appears on the single "Cheat." Before the release, Mahalia also shared "Terms and Conditions," a self-possessed track that pairs her silky voice with delightful early-aughts R&B.

"I'm so proud of this album, and so proud of how much I challenged myself to just let those stories out," she said in a statement. "We're all fixated on how we can make ourselves better but I want people to also reminisce on lovely or painful situations they've lived through and how they've helped shape the people they are now."

IRL is Mahalia's follows 2019's highly-acclaimed Love and Compromise. In support of the release, she has announced UK and Europe tour dates from October through November.

NCT DREAM, ISTJ

Release date: July 17

The Myers-Briggs Personality Test (also known as MBTI) is a current craze in South Korea, therefore, it was only a matter of time until a K-pop group applied its insights on their music. Although none of NCT DREAM's seven members has the ISTJ personality type, that's what they decided to call their upcoming third studio album, out on July 17.

The 10-track collection comes in two physical versions: Introvert and Extrovert, the first letters and main differentiators in any MBTI personality. Spearheaded by the soaring "Broken Melodies," where they display an impressive set of vocals, their comeback announcement on Twitter promises "The impact NCT DREAM will bring to the music industry."

Since September, the NCT sub-group embarked on The Dream Show 2: In A Dream World Tour, which crossed Asia, Europe, North America. The group will wrap up July with four concerts in Latin America.

Blur, The Ballad of Darren

Release date: July 21

"The older and madder we get, it becomes more essential that what we play is loaded with the right emotion and intention," said Blur's guitarist Graham Coxon in a statement about The Ballad of Darren, the band's ninth studio album set to arrive on July 21.

Maybe that explains why The Ballad is their first release in eight years, and represents "an aftershock record, reflection and comment on where we find ourselves now," according to frontman Damon Albarn. During a press conference in May, bassist Alex James reinforced the positive moment that they find themselves in, stating that "there were moments of utter joy" while recording together.

Produced by James Ford, the album contains 10 tracks, including the wistful indie rock of lead single "The Narcissist." On July 8 and 9, Blur is set to play two reunion gigs at London's Wembley Stadium, followed by a slew of festivals across Europe, Japan and South America.

Barbie: The Album

Release date: July 21

The most-awaited summer flick of 2023 also comes with a staggering soundtrack. Scored by producers Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt, Barbie: The Album features songs by hot stars like Dua Lipa, Lizzo, and Ice Spice, as well as some surprising additions, such as psychedelic star Tame Impala and K-pop rookie sensation Fifty Fifty.

As undecipherable and alluring as the actual movie plot, the album tracklist only increases expectations for Greta Gerwig's upcoming oeuvre. Is it all a satire? Is it a serious take on "life in plastic" and consumerism? Is it about nothing at all? You can try to find some clues through pre-release singles "Dance the Night" by Dua Lipa, "Watati" by Karol G, and "Angel" by PinkPantheress.

Greta Van Fleet, Starcatcher

Release date: July 21

Fans who attended the three final shows of Greta Van Fleet's Dreams in Gold Tour this March already got a sneak peek of the band's upcoming third studio album, Starcatcher. Among their most popular hits, the quartet played five new songs — or half of Starcatcher — including singles "Meeting the Master," "Sacred the Thread," and "Farewell for Now."

In a statement about the album, drummer Danny Wagner said that they "wanted to tell these stories to build a universe," and that they wanted to "introduce characters and motifs and these ideas that would come about here and there throughout our careers." Bassist Sam Kiszka adds: "When I imagine the world of Starcatcher, I think of the cosmos. It makes me ask a lot of questions, like 'Where did we come from?' or 'What are we doing here?' But it's also questions like, 'What is this consciousness that we have, and where did it come from?'"

Just a few days after release, Greta Van Fleet will embark on a world tour. Starting in Nashville, Tennessee on July 24, they will cross the U.S. and then head over to Europe and the UK in November.

Post Malone, AUSTIN

Release date: July 28

In a shirtless, casual Instagram Reel last May, hitmaker Post Malone announced his upcoming fourth studio album, AUSTIN, to be released on July 28. Titled after his birth name, the singer shared that "It's been some of the funnest music, some of the most challenging and rewarding music for me, at least" — a very different vibe from the more mellow, lofi sounds of 2022's Twelve Carat Toothache — and that the experience of playing the guitar on every song was "really fun."

Featuring 17 tracks (19 on the deluxe version), AUSTIN is preceded by the dreamy "Chemical" and the angsty "Mourning," and sees Malone pushing his boundaries in order to innovate on his well-established sound. The album will also be supported by a North American 24-date trek, the If Y'all Weren't Here, I'd Be Crying Tour, starting July 8 in Noblesville, Indiana and wrapping up on August 19 in San Bernardino, California.

Stevie Nicks: Complete Studio Albums & Rarities box set

Release date: July 28

To measure Stevie Nicks' contribution to music is an insurmountable task. The Fleetwood Mac singer and songwriter has composed dozens of the most influential, well-known rock classics of the past century ("Dreams," anyone?), also blooming on her own as a soloist since 1981, when she debuted with Bella Donna.

In the four decades since, seven more solo albums followed, along with a trove of rarities that rightfully deserve a moment in the spotlight. Enter: her upcoming vinyl box set, Stevie Nicks: Complete Studio Albums & Rarities. The 16xLP collection compiles all of her work so far, plus a new record with the aforementioned rarities, and is limited to 3,000 copies. It's also the first time that Trouble in Shangri-La, In Your Dreams, and Street Angel are released on vinyl. For those who can't secure the limited set, a version of Complete Studio Albums & Rarities with 10xCDs will be available digitally.

Joni Mitchell, At Newport

Release date: July 28

Last year's Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island was one to remember. During one evening of the fest, a surprise guest graced the "Brandi Carlile and Friends" stage: it was none less than legendary folk star, Joni Mitchell. And what's more? It was her first live appearance since 2015, when she suffered a debilitating aneurysm.

During that time, the 79-year-old singer quietly held "Joni Jams" at her home in Los Angeles — inviting musicians that ranged from Elton John to Harry Styles to participate — with organizational support offered by Carlile. With Mitchell's special appearance at Newport, the coveted experience of a Joni Jam was available for thousands of fans.

This month, the release of At Newport eternalizes the headlining-making moment, bringing her talents to an even bigger audience. Among the classics in the tracklist are "Carey," "A Case of You," and "The Circle Game," proving that Mitchell is still as magical as when she stepped on the Newport Folk Festival stage for the first time, in 1969.

Jennifer Lopez, This Is Me… Now

Release date: TBD

In 2002, J.Lo was everywhere. Her relationship with actor Ben Affleck ensued heavy attention from the media, and her This Is Me… Then album — which featured hits like "Jenny from the Block" — was a commercial success, with over 300,000 first-week sales in the U.S.

How funny is it that, 20 years later, the singer and actress finds herself in a similar situation. After rekindling with Affleck in 2021, she announced the sequel to her 2002 release, This Is Me… Now, and stated in an interview with Vogue that the album represents a "culmination" of who she is.

A press release also describes This Is Me… Now as an "emotional, spiritual and psychological journey" across all that Lopez has been through in the past decades. Fans can also expect more details on the new-and-improved Bennifer, as many of the titles among its 13 tracks suggest, especially "Dear Ben Pt. II."

Although an official release date has not yet been revealed, on June 29, Lopez posted a cryptic image on social media with the caption "album delivery day" — suggesting that the highly anticipated This Is Me update may not be far away.

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