meta-scriptK-pop Legends SUPER JUNIOR Talk ‘The Renaissance’ And Reflect On Their Career | GRAMMY.com
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SUPER JUNIOR

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K-pop Legends SUPER JUNIOR Talk ‘The Renaissance’ And Reflect On Their Career

SUPER JUNIOR has achieved an enviable status in K-pop and on their 10th full-length album, 'The Renaissance,' released in March, there is the confidence and fluidity of a veteran act that has traversed the expanse of genres in their 15-year career

GRAMMYs/Apr 24, 2021 - 02:46 am

If ever there was a truth about K-pop, it is that its landscape is as unpredictable as it gets. Every year the industry churns out new acts and swallows up old ones. Longevity in an industry such as this, earmarked by new debuts and newer sensations every season, is an idealistic dream. 

Yet, as SUPER JUNIOR come off the 15th anniversary of their debut, Twins, the group, known as SUPER JUNIOR 05 at the time of its release, has achieved an enviable status in K-pop. Since the album launched in 2005, they’ve racked up 10 studio albums, two compilation albums, two EPs, and numerous live and video releases. Oh, and that’s not counting the members’ standalone releases, courtesy of the five subunits that the group siphoned off at different points in their career; or their solo work, given that each of the present nine members are consistently counted amongst some of South Korea’s most seasoned entertainers, hosts and presenters. In a genre defined by its generations, SUPER JUNIOR’s enduring dominance in the industry withstands several in K-pop history. 

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The group’s success has not come without change, however. SUPER JUNIOR began with a rotational system in which the members would graduate every year, leading to a constant lineup and name change. The first "generation" of SUPER JUNIOR launched as SUPER JUNIOR 05 with 12 members. Eventually, their agency SM Entertainment abandoned the rotational system, fixing the lineup at 13 with the latest addition being vocalist—and the OG evil maknae (the youngest member in a group)— Kyuhyun. The "05" was dropped and the SUPER JUNIOR as we know it was born. With their new name, they embarked on a trajectory that made them a fixture on the awards circuit. 

In 2009, came the era of Sorry, Sorry. The album’s title track became the best-selling single of their career and a rite of initiation for newbies, propelling them to the stratosphere. Within a month of its release, the album had become the best-selling South Korean release of 2009.

Although three members would depart in the years after the successful album, the group’s follow-ups Bonamana​ (2010), Mr. Simple (2011), and Sexy, Free & Single (2012) cemented their status as leading icons of the Hallyu Wave (the Korean wave). On their 10th full-length album, The Renaissance, released in March, there is the confidence and fluidity of a veteran act that has traversed the expanse of genres in their 15-year career. 

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From the nostalgia-laden disco-pop of "House Party"—reminiscent of not just the genre but also a time where physical contact was taken for granted—to the synth tunes on "Paradox," to the warm, familiar cocoon of "The Melody (‘우리에게’)" which came out in the run-up to the release of the album, SUPER JUNIOR flit from one genre to another with an ease that only comes with experience, as if reinventing themselves in the image of their past selves. There’s also a resurrection of the “classics,” as Leeteuk put it at the album’s release press conference, through "Raining Spell For Love," pulled from their 2014 album, Mamacita. 

As they kicked off a new era with The Renaissance, SUPER JUNIOR spoke to GRAMMY.com over email about their music, career and future plans. 

You kicked off The Renaissance with an animated teaser. The word refers to rebirthstarting afresh. What aspect of yourself as an act were you looking to overhaul with your 10th album? 

We wanted to show a new side to our music, especially to all our E.L.F., [our fandom] who have been waiting for this album. The only way we’re able to give back is through our music and this is something we think about every time we release an album. So, for this album as well, we had a lot of fun and that’s what we wanted to show.

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Despite the teasers hinting at a new beginning, I was surprised to see you kick off this era with a remake of "Raining Spell for Love," from your album MAMACITA. Were you surprised when E.L.F voted for this song? 

We were surprised because "Raining Spell for Love" is also one of our favorites. We had a great time working on it [for this album] because we knew our fans would love a remake of the track. We hope our fans will continue sharing such thoughts with us because we’d love to make more remakes and content like this. 

This was the first time in a while when all the members were back together in the studio, and it aligned with your 15th anniversary as well. Has your process of recording/making tracks changed?

We’re all veterans now! Everyone’s prepared and there’s definitely been an upgrade when it comes to the amount of time [creating] and recording as well. It’s much faster than before! Because we’ve also developed a deeper understanding of our tracks, it allows us to create even better music.

You also remain very active in releasing music as a group, more than any act I have seen. What’s the secret to this? 

There are many reasons, but the most obvious is that we’re only able to continue doing what we do because of our E.L.F. Though we have the company’s and each other’s support, it wouldn’t be possible for them either if it wasn’t for E.L.F.!

It’s really striking that you’ve never shied away from discussing misunderstandings between members, which is very rare and refreshing. Why did you decide to take this frank and straightforward approach to your profession?

We’re all aware that misunderstandings can lead to greater conflict, if it’s left unresolved. If it’s something you can think through and resolve alone, you don’t necessarily have to open up about it, but if not, then we do believe it’s important to share and sort out.

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In a 2015 interview, Leeteuk said the reason you have lasted this long is also because you understand how you’re different from each other. How did you develop this understanding? How has it affected your dynamic over the years?

Thinking back, it’s easy to think of what’s "different" as being "wrong." However, with time, we realized it might not have been a big deal. Because we’re all different people with different backgrounds, everyone’s thoughts might be right but [they’re] just "different." I think once you realize that, it’s much easier to understand one another.

How do you think the perception of idol groups has changed from when you debuted? 

When we debuted, idol [status] was simply something we perceived as part of our dream. However, with time, we’ve realized it’s much more. Through idols, people not only come to understand the country’s culture, but also become part of the culture and conversation, and are influenced by it as well. As an idol, it’s not only the music and fashion that’s important but humility and responsibility is also key. In that sense, as a brand, idols have great influential power.

If we look at the expansion of K-pop all over the world, there are so many things that are normal now that were new when you started out. The internet, for example, is everywhere, and tech has brought us closer to our idols than ever before. Everything changed so fast, how did you guys keep up with this fast-paced evolution?

As part of the "intact" era, it’s become very common to meet fans from all over the world without being restricted to a set location, which is all thanks to the development of the internet. Communication is important, and likewise, we’ve been communicating with our fans through social media which helps us to keep up since we can provide content without being limited to a specific location, and also understand our fans better.

If SUPER JUNIOR becomes the longest-running K-pop group in history, what do the members most want to be remembered for?

We hope you remember SUPER JUNIOR in connection with a specific memory. For example, "I used to dance to ‘Sorry Sorry’ with my friends in high school," "I was a huge star at my college trip because of 'Rokkugo'," or “I used to sing along to 'Cooking? Cooking!' when in elementary!" We want to be remembered as an artist who shared those precious memories with you.

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RM of BTS in 2023
RM attends W Korea‘s ‘Love Your W' breast cancer awareness event in Seoul, South Korea in November 2023.

Photo: The Chosunilbo JNS/Imazins via Getty Images

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Stream RM's New Album 'Right Place, Wrong Person': See The Tracklist, "LOST!" Video & Special Guests

The second solo album from BTS' RM further displays his knack for genre-bending experimentation, while also delving deeper into his vulnerable side. Listen to the new album here, and get to know the project's featured artists, tracklist and more.

GRAMMYs/May 24, 2024 - 04:08 pm

As the world patiently awaits the return of BTS in full force, each member continues to deliver solo projects to show off their individual talents. And 18 months after his last album, RM is back.

With a discography that hops between pop, R&B, and hip-hop, RM returns to the spotlight with his second solo album, Right Place, Wrong Person. The project tells the relatable story of an individual who is a creature of habit, but slowly comes to find solace in foreign spaces.

Below, listen to RM's latest album, and discover more about how he's revealing a new side of his artistry with Right Place, Wrong Person.

The Tracklist

After RM's debut solo album, 2022's Indigo, had 10 tracks (including features from the likes of Erykah Badu, Anderson .Paak), he ups the tally with an 11-song tracklist this time around.

Here is the complete tracklist for Right Place, Wrong Person:

1. Right People, Wrong Place
2. Nuts
3. out of love
4. Domodachi (feat. Little Simz)
5. ? (Interlude)
6. Groin
7. Heaven
8. LOST!
9. Around the world in a day (feat. Moses Sumney)
10. ㅠㅠ (Credit Roll)
11. Come back to me

The Creative Visuals

Two weeks before the album dropped, he unveiled the music video for "Come Back to Me," the lead single from Right Place, Wrong Person. Directed by the critically acclaimed actor Lee Sung Jin, the music video narrates the tale of feeling like an outsider and yearning for a sense of belonging in unfamiliar surroundings.

Then, on the day Right Place, Wrong Person arrived, RM added to release-day excitement with another intriguing visual, this time for "LOST!" The five-minute clip sees RM as the star of "The Lost! Show," where he and a group endure an eerie whirlwind of scenarios they can't seem to get out of. It's equal parts dramatic and slapstick, and another clever display of RM's creative versatility.

Noteworthy Guests

The featured artists on Right Place, Wrong Person — British rapper Little Simz on "Domodachi" and art-pop artist Moses Sumney on "Around the world in a day" — underscore RM's ability to interlace his own musical style with artists from various genres.

The album also has some notable behind-the-scenes collaborators as well. Production credits include Kim Han-joo, keyboardist and vocalist from the South Korean rock band Silica Gel, on "LOST!" and GRAMMY-nominated jazz duo DOMi & JD Beck on "? (Interlude)."

On "Come back to me" — which RM initially debuted last August during a surprise performance at BTS bandmate Suga's encore concert in Seoul — he delves into the album's central theme of wanting to venture into unknown areas, but feeling the intense urge to stay with what's already known. The track was composed and arranged by OHHYUK from the South Korean indie-rock band Hyukoh, but also features credits from artists Kuo, JNKYRD, and San Yawn.

But no matter who RM is working with, his own talent and prowess as a creator always shines. Right Place, Wrong Person presents a diverse array of tracks marked by sheer vulnerability, honesty, and sensitivity — a masterful continuation of a remarkable solo journey.

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Seventeen
Seventeen

Photo: PLEDIS Entertainment

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5 Songs To Get Into Seventeen, Ahead Of New Album '17 Is Right Here'

The 13-member K-pop group has been going strong, selling over 16 million albums since 2015. On April 29, they'll release '17 Is Right Here,' a compilation of some of their most impactful songs. Dive into the world of Seventeen with five essential songs.

GRAMMYs/Apr 29, 2024 - 02:40 pm

Seventeen is more than just a K-pop group; it's a musical phenomenon that challenges conventions and redefines what it means to be a star in the South Korean music scene. Formed in 2015, the group consists of 13 members who are divided into vocal, hip-hop, and performance sub-units.

S.Coups, Jeonghan, Joshua, Jun, Hoshi, Wonwoo, Woozi, Dk, Mingyu, The8, Seungkwan, Vernon, and Dino have garnered a growing and dedicated global fandom known as Carats, who closely follow their every move. For the group, their fans are a significant part of their growth.

"We're definitely more confident than before through our growth. The growth of our Carats and the amount of support that they show us just gives us so much confidence", member Joshua told GRAMMY.com in 2022.

The self-produced group has a clear philosophy: Create relevant and innovative music that resonates. They don't adhere to stereotypes or definitions, but constantly strive to evolve and explore new sonic territories. This creative and authentic approach has been an integral part of the group's enduring success.

Seventeen wrapped up 2023 with over 16 million albums sold. On April 29, they'll release 17 Is Right Here, a compilation of some of their most impactful songs. For those looking to dive into the world of Seventeen, here are five essential songs to kickstart this exciting musical journey.

"Don't Wanna Cry" (2017)

The lead single from the mini album Al1, "Don't Wanna Cry" details the struggle of dealing with pain and loss. The track delves into the complex feelings of no longer having a loved one around, while holding onto the hope that they might return.

"Don't Wanna Cry" is a striking example of the group's openness and vulnerability with their fans. The song's raw emotions are deeply personal and relatable, depicting a struggle with pain and loss.

"To You" (2021)

The lively and heartwarming track "To You," from the ninth mini album Attacca, is a beautiful reflection on love and gratitude. It's the kind of song that inspires you to throw your arms open wide, sing out loud, and feel every word with your eyes closed.

With its repeated phrase of "I always need you," the song emphasizes the comfort of having someone dependable in your life. "To You" exemplifies Seventeen's remarkable ability to seamlessly combine emotional depth with infectious dance rhythms, showcasing their talent for creating simultaneously heartfelt and energetic tracks.

"Hot" (2022)

A song to enjoy not just in the summer, but on any day of the year, "Hot" was released in 2022 as part of the album Face the Sun.

Through metaphors involving fire and the sun, the group repeatedly chants the word "Hot" reflecting a sense of confidence and the freedom to live passionately, while also encouraging listeners to express themselves boldly without fear. 

Reflecting the group's identity, "Hot" embraces themes of confidence, passion, and fearless self-expression — qualities that resonate with the group's image and message.

"Super" (2023)

An authentic anthem about unity, "Super" celebrates the power of teamwork and mutual support, as highlighted by the iconic chorus "I love my team, I love my crew." "Super" exemplifies how Seventeen functions as one cohesive group despite its numerous members, emphasizing their strong bond and collective spirit.

The song's title — a reference to Son Goku (손오공) from the famous anime "Dragon Ball" — is featured on the album FML, which in sold over 6.4 million copies in 2023 according to Pledis Entertainment, earning the title of the world's best-selling album.

"God of Music" (2023)

An anthem to the universal language of music and its remarkable ability to forge connections across continents, "God of Music," from Seventeen's 11th mini album, Seventeenth Heaven, is a track that moves you to dance from the very first beat.

The group emphasizes how music breaks down barriers, turning strangers into friends and uplifting people worldwide, regardless of language differences. In their accompanying music video, the members conclude with a heartfelt message: Music is a force that brings people together.

SEVENTEEN Performs A High-Octane Version Of "VERY NICE" | Press Play At Home

(G)I-DLE’s YUQI
YUQI

Courtesy of the artist

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(G)I-DLE’s YUQI Is "A Certified Freak," Just Like Everyone Else

"You only live once, live yourself whatever you want to do," YUQI says of her official solo debut, 'YUQ1,' which encourages listeners to embrace their uniqueness.

GRAMMYs/Apr 24, 2024 - 03:49 pm

On her debut solo EP, (G)I-DLE's YUQI has one wish: for all the "freaks" around the world to confidently sing along with her.

YUQ1 boasted a whopping 500,000 pre-order sales prior to its April 23 release, demonstrating the singer/songwriter's tremendous popularity. YUQI's creative flair permeates everything from the music itself to its accompanying visuals, as does her desire to stand alone. "I’m a certified freak," she sings, celebrating the liberation she feels when embracing her uniqueness.

YUQI is the third member of (G)I-DLE to make her solo debut, and the quintet's second member to release a solo EP. While YUQI has released her own music before — including the digital album A Page and singles "Bad Liar" and "Fire!" with Alan Walker and JVKE — YUQ1 marks her first lengthier release. 

YUQI added an additional level of authenticity to her EP by contributing compositions and lyrics to most of the tracks, meticulously working on crafting her unique artist identity as she dabbles in different genres. From the red rabbit mascot on the concept photos to the lyric in "FREAK" that mentions her Zodiac sign Libra, YUQ1 is a reflection of the singer's free-spirited yet delicate artistic qualities. 

This isn’t the first time YUQI has preached about being proud of yourself and your life. Her trendy 2021 house-inspired single "Bonnie & Clyde" (from A Page) similarly depicts a high level of confidence, as well as a fearlessness when it comes to facing whatever life throws at you. And YUQI has truly lived this bravery as an artist who moved from her home country to Korea, learned a new language, and experienced the strenuous K-Pop training system.

While YUQI has grown exponentially over the past six years as a member of (G)I-DLE and as a solo act, she still feels the need to be perfect. And while (G)I-DLE is the only K-Pop girl group to achieve a "perfect all-kill" on major domestic charts with four consecutive releases, YUQI believes she hasn't succeeded yet.  

As her understanding of creating her crafts deepens, YUQI’s self-awareness also grows. "The depth of my understanding of the songs I create has significantly changed and improved," YUQI tells GRAMMY.com. "I, personally [and] as an artist, have matured a lot!"

Perhaps she picked up some of these facets from her father. "Honestly, even without joking, my father taught me everything when I was 3 years old," she says with a laugh.

While in Seoul, YUQI sat down with GRAMMY.com to share why she thinks everyone is a "freak," and how this era marks the beginning for her as a solo artist.

The interview has been edited for clarity.

This is just your first mini-album, but do you already have a vision for your solo career?

I tried to capture the YUQI that’s real and confident in this album. No matter what other people say about me, I’m not the weird one. But, in fact, I think everyone is a "freak," too. 

This album expresses my confidence and emotional life through music. I wanted to convey that you just have to live confidently too, just as I do. When preparing for my solo album, I also tried different hairstyles that I’ve never tried as a (G)I-DLE member!

You've previously shared that moving to Korea alone to pursue this career was difficult, and your parents were strongly against it at first. Do you think those uncertainties and challenges played a huge role in making who you are?

Definitely! That situation did play a huge role in my career. I just kept on believing in myself and moving forward for my dream and what I wanted to achieve. And through the journey, I discovered that believing in yourself is the best way and that mindset helped me a lot.

I was insecure about my voice when I first came to Korea. But then, everyone told me how precious my voice was. Just like my unique voice, I believe there were many aspects of myself that I wasn't initially aware of, which contributed to my growth as an artist. 

I’m always open and working hard to listen to many people’s opinions so I’ll be able to have a broad perspective. It helps me and makes me develop myself in many ways!

Your music often tackles common worries about growing up, and some of the songs on YUQ1 are inspired by your personal experience such as "My Way" and "Everytime." How do you feel about sharing this side of yourself with the public?

When I talk about my worries and tell a story about them, I feel that everyone actually shares similar experiences regardless of the circumstances they’ve been through or will go through.

In a previous interview with GRAMMY.com, you said that your biggest takeaway since debuting in (G)I-DLE is to always be proud of yourself. Do you feel that way now, or is there a gap that you think you need to fill in order to achieve that pride?

Honestly, my thoughts have not changed over the years. I still feel proud of myself, always! Something that would not change, is that I would still [like to] challenge myself and try to do anything I want to go after. 

Also, I always think that I’m not perfect and always try to make up for what is lacking.

You believe you haven’t succeeded yet. However, you’ve already come so far in people’s eyes. At what point in time do you believe you can proudly say "I made it"?

When people only see me in the media, they would think that I have succeeded a lot. But for me, personally, I don't think so… I still have many things to do in order to succeed in my career. And I always try to keep moving forward with my goals.

My biggest dream, both now and in the past, has always been to live a happy life. It changes from time to time often, but I guess living a happy life is my ultimate goal.

You never forget to mention how you want to always keep improving in interviews. How would you describe YUQI who works really hard to showcase her growth right now?

While preparing for this album, I have experienced so many things that I haven't experienced fully before. For instance, there are so many genres I explored while preparing for this album. Also, it was the first time where I designed my own album, came up with the concept, and had a full album with all the songs that I composed! 

This album definitely allowed me to grow as an artist. Even though there were a lot of difficulties, I believe that those are part of the journey and made YUQI even more mature, have more responsibilities, and be aware of them.

Could you share some insights and walk us through your involvement in the songwriting process?

I have participated in composing and lyrics for (G)I-DLE’s songs in our previous albums. However, this was my first time composing an album on my own. 

It makes me think I can actually do more diverse things, and I believe I was able to do what I wanted to do for myself in this album. It was a great opportunity to include many songs in my own way and style and was able to show new aspects that I have never shown before with my group.

You worked with MINNIE, pH-1, and Lexie Liu on the album’s "Everytime," "Drink It Up," and "On Clap," respectively. What made you choose to feature them on those particular songs, and what was the experience like?

I think and feel that [MINNIE’s] unique voice always suits every song! I’ve always wanted to work with her and I’m glad that she was able to be part of my album. 

And pH-1 was an artist that I’ve always wanted to work with. There was a rap part in "Drink It Up" and I was trying to look for a rapper that would perfectly fit into that part, and pH-1 came into my mind. I had so much fun working with him and he perfectly matched the style that I thought of. Even though it was our first time working together, he was very friendly! 

Lexie and I have been close friends for a long time. We always promised to work together, and I thought this time was the perfect opportunity to do so. I’m thankful that we worked on a song together.

The main character on the track list photo is a red rabbit. It’s also in the music video and some of your concept photos. Could you tell us the backstory of who that is and what that represents?

I was born in the year of a Rabbit and my favorite color is red! So, I decided to have a red rabbit as my main character. And that represents YUQI itself. When you look at the track list, you can see that the rabbit’s facial expressions and comments change depending on the song. In that sense, I think it is a character that shows YUQI’s day in various aspects!

When most people think of a red rabbit, I think that what comes to their mind is that it could be mysterious and scary. And so, I wanted to add some fun elements to the music video and give that feel of a horror movie. 

What’s one line from a song on YUQ1 that hit you the most? And what's something you want the listeners to resonate with the songs?

[A line] from my title track "FREAK"! I think it’s going to be the chorus part, "I’m a certified FREAK." I often talk about my strength as an artist and I saw a lot of comments asking, "Why is she like that?" and "Why is she talking about her own strength?" 

These comments actually gave me a lot of inspiration while writing this song. People who judge me… that way, they are also "FREAK" like everyone else. This is the reason I chose this part. The song contains a message that since you only live once, live yourself whatever you want to do without worrying about what others think.

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

Photo: Joseph Okpako/WireImage

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

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

GRAMMYs/Apr 22, 2024 - 03:00 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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Cimafunk

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

Read more: At Getting Funky In Havana, Young Musicians Feel The Power Of Cross-Cultural Connection

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

L’Imperatrice

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

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

Skepta

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

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

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

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Mandy, Indiana

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

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

The Last Dinner Party

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

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

Young Fathers

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

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

Oneohtrix Point Never

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

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

Mdou Moctar

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

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

Atarashii Gakko!

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

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

Olivia Dean

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

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

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