Photo: Christopher Patey
Justin Tranter On Writing For Pop's Vanguard, Ruling The Myspace Era & Remaining Fearless
Justin Tranter was taught to be courageous from childhood, which meant they were enabled in adulthood to pursue any creative pursuit they desired. Here's how Tranter balances writing for megastars with their array of other pursuits.
Most songs can be placed somewhere on a spectrum between specificity and universality — between confessional detail and mass applicability. Justin Tranter has written for everyone from Ariana Grande to Måneskin to Janelle Monae; how does this GRAMMY-nominated songwriter strike that balance?
The answer partly lies, Tranter says, in the differential functions of the verse and chorus.
"The chorus should explain the whole song, and it should be universal enough that everybody would want to sing that chorus," Tranter, who uses they/them pronouns, tells GRAMMY.com. "Then, you can use the verses — and sometimes the pre-chorus — to make it a clear, specific story."
This axiom seems simple enough on paper — but when you truly absorb it, the entire songwriting canon opens up. It applies to tunes by everyone from those pop stars to singer/songwriters of yore, like John Prine or Tom Petty. Go as specific as you want in the verses; just connect them to a chorus that's emotionally available to all.
But the magic of Tranter isn't just that they have songwriting down to a science; it's that they've run headfirst into everything from publishing to activism to jewelry-making, often to smashing success.
In this in-depth interview, learn not only about Tranter's songwriting chops, but how a sense of fearlessness made their entire multifarious life possible — from their old band, Semi Precious Weapons, onward into a possibility-stuffed future.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
You're not only a major songwriter; you're active in the label, publishing and activism spaces. Have you always wanted a career like this?
Yes, I did. I always wanted to do lots of things. Fortunately, I was born pretty fearless, and my parents let me continue to be fearless. So, when it comes to the activism side of things or when it comes to going big, I never had any fear in doing that. So, I always dreamed of this. I always imagined this.
How were you raised to be fearless? A lot of kids grow up in fear, and then they become fearful adults.
First of all, I'm very lucky that I'm the youngest of four kids. So, I think my parents had really figured out parenting by the time they got to me — and I was a really big personality from the get-go.
I was very obviously feminine and queer very early, and no one — well, not a lot of people — told me I shouldn't be that way. My parents never told me I shouldn't be that way. My oldest brother was very supportive of it. Some of my other brothers weren't as supportive of it, but between my parents and my oldest brother, [I was] really loved.
I think I was raised to be fearless because anytime I was fearless and truly myself, they really enjoyed it. At least three of the five other people in my household thought it was fabulous and commended me — when I told people they were being mean or turned the other cheek at the appropriate moments.
There was just a lot of reinforcement that: yep, you can date exactly who you want, and we're going to celebrate and applaud it. And when you're funny, we're going to laugh at it. I think all those things were there for me. Every day, I realize how lucky I am to have had that.
Getting a band off the ground is a Herculean effort for so many people — but you did it with Semi Precious Weapons. How did you make it work?
I had built a solo singer/songwriter, piano-based thing for myself in New York, and I was hosting a night — every Sunday night — at the SideWalk Cafe in the East Village. It was called Justin Tranter's Flaming Sunday, and it was a night of queer singer/songwriters.
Once a month, I would do a full set, but every week, I would do a couple of songs and then just host and introduce the other people I had booked for the night. So, I had built a little bit of a following on my own in New York. And then, when the band happened, it really blew up.
The amount of guerilla marketing that took place — everything from literally tagging things, like spray painting our gun-and-heart logo all over the city, to putting stickers and matchbooks all over the city with that logo that would have the website so people could connect the dots.
It was the Myspace era, and I was deep, deep into trying to find any way to find fans on [there] — [like] messaging kids who liked music that was similar or liked people who looked like me, because my look was so specific and so over the top.
We'd just spend hours and hours and hours on Myspace, which ended up really working for me. We got on some big people's Top 8s, which led to more exposure for the band.
Another thing that happened is that for our first show, I designed necklaces, which were the gun-and-heart logo, and the heart had a bullet hole through it. I think I made 10 of them, and people loved them so much that I was like, "Huh, maybe there's a thing here." And I worked at jewelry stores as my day job.
So, I knew how to make this happen, and I ended up selling the band jewelry at Urban Outfitters — all over the country and the world.
This is so era-specific. Urban Outfitters and Myspace — what a time to be alive!
Every single display card the necklaces were on would talk about the band and have a link to the band's website. Then, the jewelry ended up at Barneys and had 14-carat gold and diamond versions.
It was this whole, insane journey. We found ways from guerilla marketing to a f—ing jewelry line! And that's how people heard about the band, I guess.
None of it could have happened without that fearlessness, I'll bet.
I look back to it, and I'm like, "Starting a jewelry line is the hardest thing in the world!" And the fact it ended up at Urban Outfitters and Barneys — I was just like, "Well, why the f— shouldn't I have a jewelry line? Who's to tell me I shouldn't?" Yeah, the fearlessness really helps the whole way.
You've written for a laundry list of A-listers. Who was the first major artist you wrote for, and how did that come about?
The band's last album, we made with Tricky Stewart — an amazing producer who did "Umbrella" and "Single Ladies" and a bunch of other unbelievable songs. Including the new Beyoncé — "Break My Soul."
He said to me a couple of times, "You're a f—ing great songwriter, and yes, your band is alternative." The last [work] we made with him was in much more of an alternative side of things that it was on the glam rock thing with the early days. He was like, "You're writing pop songs, and you should look into this."
The band had a publishing deal. I asked the publisher to cut us some sessions, and I really enjoyed stepping out of myself and just focusing on the best song — not on the best song for me to perform. I was doing it for three months, and it was a whole bunch of no, no, no, nos.
I was like: Maybe I shouldn't. Maybe this isn't for me. The band is really known for our live shows. And now that I know this side of the business, three months is nothing. That's a very short amount of time, but I finally stopped trying to chase trends that were happening.
Because I thought that's what pop writers did: you chase the trend. And that's what some pop writers do, and they're very f—ing good at it. I just wasn't good at it.
So, I wrote a song with some people I'd met for the first time. One of them, I'm still really, really close with — a writer named Ryland Blackinton. We wrote a song I really loved ["Nostalgic"] and Kelly Clarkson recorded it, like, a week later. I'm such a huge fan of her voice that it was a very exciting thing to happen to me.
If you were to place all songs on a spectrum between ultra-specific and candid and vulnerable, and perhaps more general and one-size-fits-all, where does your work lie? Is it a balance to strike most of the time?
If the artist does write, so much of what I do is writing with them and having a conversation about where they're at. And it's casual — I'm not interviewing them, but having a conversation and finding the song in that conversation.
And then, if the artist doesn't write — or does write, but doesn't need to — sometimes they're just looking for other songs, outside songs. I still like to either talk to them or find out about their life through them, or through somebody else in their life, and find a song that's really about them.
And if they really want, I want the artists to feel like this song is theirs. And hopefully this song is going to be good and big enough that they're going to need to sing it for the next 40 years. I want them to really feel like they can own it.
So, I don't actually write about my life that much anymore. In terms of the specificity of their life — and also something the world can relate to — I always say that we should know what the whole song is about inside the chorus. The chorus should explain the whole song, and it should be universal enough that everybody would want to sing that chorus.
Then, you can use the verses — and sometimes the pre-chorus — to make it a clear, specific story, specific to the artist and what they're going through, or have been through.
So, that's kind of how I like to [do it] — the chorus is easy to understand, because it's pop music, but the verses can uncover details for listeners. After many, many listens, they finally realize what's actually underneath there.
We could talk for hours about your material for everyone from Leon Bridges to Dua Lipa to Måneskin. Could you single out a couple of songs that you feel are particularly special, or cornerstones of your artistry?
Let's see if I can pull that off. Well, because you mentioned it first, I'll talk about Leon Bridges' "Beyond." It's one of my favorite songs I've ever been a part of. We had a very short time to work. It was, like, an 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. session — very quick.
As I said to you before, I normally try to keep the conversations very casual to find where the song is, but there wasn't time. So, I just said, "Hey, I'm going to just start asking you really awkward questions right off the bat so we can find a song here quickly.
Maybe the second or third I asked him was, "Are you in love right now?" He said, "No, but I did meet someone, and I feel like there might be something there." Which then turned very quickly into the lyric: "She might just be my everything and beyond."
Julia Michaels' "Issues" — that was nominated for [a GRAMMY for] Song Of The Year. That was a really special one for me because Julia and I are so close — and what she was going through that day was very very real.
Especially when you're younger, those moments in your relationships feel like the end of the world. And as an older person, you never want to tell them it's not the end of the world, because they just think you sound old.
So, really embracing that moment with her in the studio — and being able to write that song, have that be the song that the world finally got to hear her sing, and be nominated for [a GRAMMY for] Song Of The Year is such a beautiful, beautiful thing to be part of.
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Photo: Tommaso Ottomano
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Måneskin On Redefining Success, Staying Inspired & Honoring Italy
The Italian quartet first exploded onto the scene with a viral cover of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, but Måneskin have continued to exalt and evolve vintage rock thrills on their own terms — all on the way to their first GRAMMY nomination.
A dizzy smile spreads across Måneskin vocalist Damiano David’s face as he attempts to capture the group’s fervent energy in words.
"Going into a room where there's silence and going out with a song. Stepping on stage and then the crowd screams for you. Doing interviews where you can talk about how you think about music," he says. "It's such an open art language, such an open world."
While Måneskin’s inimitable swagger have led to a recent international meteoric rise, the Italian quartet have tapped the glitter and grime of rock’s glory days since forming as teens in 2016. Just a year later, the group made a massive leap, winning the Italian edition of reality competition show "X Factor." But it was Måneskin’s hard rock take on Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ "Beggin'" was inescapable following their 2021 Eurovision win — a smash success that led many eager new fans to dig into Måneskin’s catalog of chart-topping albums in their native Italy.
That prowess, ability to connect with the full spectrum of listeners, and a raucous live show netted Måneskin a GRAMMY nomination for Best New Artist at the 2023 GRAMMYs, which take place Sunday, Feb. 5, at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET / 5-8:30 p.m. PT. They are also a living rebuke to those questioning rock’s staying power, whose grandiose energy and adventurous fashion begs for a yet wider audience.
"This combination is really magical. It gives us the opportunity to play something that doesn't exist so much in the charts," says guitarist Thomas Raggi. "We are rock, of course, in attitude, in the music, but we can reach really different people from different places and different ages."
Global success hasn't changed Måneskin much, as their new record, Rush!, teases. Due Jan. 20, the album only reinforces their bombast via singles like grimy party-starter "Mammamia" and the slinky and suave "Supermodel" — not to mention a guest appearance from Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello on the recently released "Gossip."
GRAMMY.com caught up with Måneskin — David, Raggi, bassist Victoria De Angelis, and drummer Ethan Torchio — to talk about the shock of their GRAMMY nomination, how they’ve evolved into their upcoming new album, and trying to find good espresso everywhere on tour.
This conversation has been edited for clarity.
I want to wish you congratulations on your first GRAMMY nomination. After winning "X Factor" and earning various accolades, has this sort of honor started to feel natural?
Victoria De Angelis: Not really natural, but very cool. It's the craziest thing you can possibly think of.
Damiano David: Of course, when we started, we only thought the biggest thing that could happen was being big in Italy. And then everything happened, so of course our dreams got bigger and of course we thought about it as a possibility in the remote future. Not, like, now. [Laughs.]
That's such a beautiful sentiment. The bigger doors start opening to places that you never could imagine. I can imagine that puts a whole new spin on what it is to be a band, what it is to be a musician.
De Angelis: It really does. Especially touring and everything, even six months makes so much difference. We look back at the things we did six months before and we say, "Okay, now we can add this, we can change this." It's constantly developing. So that's really inspiring and keeps us in a creative process all the time.
David: We've had so many crazy things happen these last two years. We played for the Stones. We played with Iggy Pop. We met like 50 percent of our childhood idols. At the end, wrapping it all up with the GRAMMY nomination, it's a pretty huge deal. The whole journey has been remarkable and we're gonna think about it for a long time.
It seems that you’ve remained remarkably close-knit as a band, which must be so important in the midst of that. How have you remained creatively inspired by one another and that you are constantly pushing yourselves as musicians through all the fame and success?
Ethan Torchio: Fame and success, it's just a coincidence. We don't really focus on that. It's part of our life, part of our journey. But it's an important point: We've always been friends with each other, and we've shared half of our lives together.
David: It's very important to us to be close because, otherwise, this project wouldn't be what it is now. We are four [individuals], and we are very human and curious about ideas. It's not just about what we are or we feel inside, it's also what we live outside. I truly think that [embracing] the new and something that has not been created before is part of our mindset.
De Angelis: As you said, being four, we actually inspire one another even more. We are very different personalities and also have very different taste. And being four, the amount of music we can discover, it happens every day. And also we love to go see shows, so maybe some of us go to one show and then we are like, "Hey, I got this idea from this show." Being four, it keeps us in this creative environment where everyday there is something new.
Touring constantly and being away from home can make you question your identity. How do you keep tied to your roots?
David: It's still pretty easy for us because even if we travel so much, we still live in Italy. When you move from your country and you live in another country for five, 10 years, then you start changing the way you live. But now we kind of bring this huge Italian suitcase with us. We're still asking for espresso everywhere. [Laughs.] With very bad results. How we interact between us and with people, our clothes, our style in general, it's always Italian in a certain way.
It's a difficult needle to thread, needing to mold to a comfortable stance wherever you are while also standing out. Being nominated for a GRAMMY must be an extraordinary test of that balance, so it's amazing to hear that you're still like keeping so true to yourselves.
De Angelis: I think that's always been kind of easy for us in some way, because we've always had such a strong and clear idea about our identity and what we like to do. Just look at this: [points to her shirt, which reads Italians Do It Better]. We've been lucky to never experience this kind of issue. On the other hand, what we experienced is that we had a very clear idea and then maybe it was hard to keep it safe and not let other people get into it or change it. But when it comes to what we stand for, we're always very sure about that.
Talk to me a little bit about that process, then. You all seem to find clever ways to reimagine classic genres and scenes while still honoring their essence.
David: We've been very, very lucky because our only rule has always been being true to what we like — even if we are very, very different one from each other. Vic [De Angelis] and Thomas Raggi especially have a very rock and roll classic background. I'm more into mainstream and low-tempo music. And Ethan [Torchio] actually listens to everything, from very mainstream music, classical music, to crazy experimental [music].
We've always tried to keep the balance between the four of us, and especially in the next album. We really wanted to embrace the difference between the four of us. It has created a personality for the group that also made the four of us very recognizable. People can feel represented from [each of the] four of us and from the group. Every achievement that we get, for us it's not, "Okay, we want this so we have to keep doing the same thing." It's more like, "Okay, we want this because this is our mindset. We have to keep this mindset, not because it makes you win awards but because it makes you recognizable and it gives you an identity and it puts you in a specific place in the market and in the industry.
I'm curious whether your writing and recording processes changed much on your new album, Rush! With first albums, sometimes a band will throw everything at the wall to see if it sticks. On the second one, they might shift things based on audience reaction, and then the third record can either attempt to capture a true self again or push to try even more new things.
De Angelis: It was 50-50, because some of the songs we actually wrote a while ago. There's a song we wrote three years ago, for example, on the record. The whole record was written in different moments. Some of the songs we wrote in the countryside in Italy; we went to this home studio and just jammed all together. And then others we wrote here in L.A., but then we also kept doing them in Japan and in Brazil while we were on tour.
So it's been really crazy. We can hear the moment we wrote the song and the emotion we had in the moment. And it portrays this whole journey we've been through. I think it's cool that we didn't only write it in one month, but it was through the years. It shows the different faces of our personalities and development.
I wanted to ask about the song "Kool Kids", which you recently debuted live. The lyrics have this self-aware edge, where you poke at the idea of whether rock is dead — I'm sure because you’ve been bombarded by that question nonstop.
David: We talk about rock and roll because it's a part of what we do, but I think that you can apply this kind of thought to every music genre. There's no music genre that is actually ever gonna die because trends are constantly changing. The music is developing and sometimes things become other things or change slightly because of the age where they're living. But I think that what we do [is] a new way to do rock and roll, but it's not the way to do it. There's many different ways to do it. You can be super classic, you can do rock and roll music even without analog instruments and go full electro while creating rock and roll structures.
Raggi: Nothing really ends. Nothing really starts. Everything changes.
De Angelis: It's always in development. The motion that rock music created and that pushes us to do it is just that sense of rebellion towards the norms, or when people try to put you in boxes or limit you. This kind of human feeling will always exist. And that's the reason why all these musicians through the past years have been making this kind of music — to oppose something and to talk about it.
Why was music the path you chose to express that perspective?
De Angelis: I think we all started as kids so we didn't even think it did that much. It was just something in us that we had to get out in some way, to express. It just came natural for us to do it as music. When we started playing together we were like 14 years old. We were struggling, all of us individually, to find other kids that were as passionate about it and wanted to invest all their time in this.
It was crazy that we were 13 years old and wanting to be, like, six hours in a rehearsal room every day instead of going out with friends or whatever. But for us it was such a fulfilling experience when we got in the rehearsal room that we just went full in and didn't care about anything else. It just took over us. It was just something so pure that we felt in that moment. The passion came out because we felt we were being ourselves and expressing what we had inside that couldn't come out in other ways. Since then, it has developed in so many ways that it's just who we are nowadays. We couldn't even imagine who we would be without the music.
Raggi: I remember also when I saw my first guitar outside of that guitar shop. No one in my family plays instruments or stuff like that. It was something that just called to me.
Another thing you are all known for is your sense of style. You always go big! Do you have plans for the GRAMMYs red carpet yet?
De Angelis: We're gonna surprise you. [Laughs.] We won't be boring. Promise.
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Photo: Ralph Bavaro/NBC via Getty Images
Listen: Get Jolly With New Holiday Music From Dolly Parton, Phoebe Bridgers, Pentatonix, Alicia Keys & More
This year saw several new holiday albums and singles from artists of all genres, from Backstreet Boys to Gloria Estefan. Get in the spirit with this festive 30-song playlist.
As we're all stringing up colorful lights and scrambling to buy last-minute gifts, music shines as the one constant in our lives amid the rush of the holiday season.
Some playlists have been bursting with holiday music since early autumn, with releases such as Dolly Parton's "A Smoky Mountain Christmas" dropping back in August and Joss Stone's Merry Christmas, Love releasing in September. Since then, several more holiday albums arrived, whether they were new projects from artists such as Alicia Keys and Thomas Rhett or polished deluxe editions from the likes of Reba McEntire and Norah Jones.
Beyond releasing albums, many artists have also found their holiday spirit by releasing festive singles. Remi Wolf brings her bubbly personality to warm covers of "Last Christmas" and "Winter Wonderland," Dan + Shay remind us to throw a "Holiday Party" with loved ones, and Phoebe Bridgers shares her annual holiday cover, this year a rendition of the Handsome Family's "So Much Wine." And even stars such as RuPaul, Jimmy Fallon and Ryan Reynolds surprised with holiday singles this season.
Groups such as Pentatonix and Backstreet Boys joined in on the fun with their own cheery holiday albums, and Gloria Estefan and her family capture the joys of love in a snowglobe on Estefan Family Christmas. Collaborations sparkle with holiday magic as well; Ingrid Michaelson and A Great Big World team up for "It's Almost Christmas," and Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande perform "Santa, Can't You Hear Me" in a thrilling live version.
So bundle up, grab some hot cocoa, and listen to some new holiday music in this very merry playlist — check it out on Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music.
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
GRAMMY Rewind: Dua Lipa Champions Happiness As She Accepts Her GRAMMY For Best Pop Vocal Album In 2021
As Dua Lipa held her new GRAMMY, she reflected on how "jaded" she felt before putting out 'Future Nostalgia' — and how the album taught her the importance of happiness.
Three-time GRAMMY-winner Dua Lipa already had two golden gramophones to her name going into the 2021 GRAMMYs. But her third win — and her first for Best Pop Vocal Album — may have been the happiest of them all.
In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit the special moment when Dua Lipa took the stage to claim her trophy for her album, Future Nostalgia. The second studio album of the singer's career, Future Nostalgia earned her six nominations, including the coveted Album Of The Year as well as Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year for lead single "Don't Start Now."
As she held her new trophy, Lipa reflected on what she's learned through the process of making Future Nostalgia, making special mention of the power of happiness, and putting out happy music.
"I felt really jaded at the end of my last album, where I felt like I only had to make sad music to feel like it mattered," she explained. "And I'm just so grateful and so honored, because happiness is something that we all deserve, and it's something that we all need in our lives."
The singer also threw a spotlight on her fans, team and co-writers during her time onstage. "This means so much," she concluded, adding a shout-out to her family and friends who were watching from home. "I love you, thank you."
Press play on the video above to watch Dua Lipa's complete acceptance speech at the 63rd GRAMMY Awards, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com every Friday for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.
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Photo: Rachel Kupfer
A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.
It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.
Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.
Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.
In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.
Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.
There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.
Say She She
Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.
While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."
Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.
Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.
Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.
Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.
L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.
During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.
Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.
Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.
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