meta-scriptK-Pop Phenom Eric Nam Talks New Mini-Album 'The Other Side' And Life As One Of Korea's Biggest Stars | GRAMMY.com
Eric Nam

Eric Nam

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K-Pop Phenom Eric Nam Talks New Mini-Album 'The Other Side' And Life As One Of Korea's Biggest Stars

The breakout Korean-American singer tells GRAMMY.com about the challenges he faced in writing and creating his newest project in the middle of a pandemic: "It was not easy"

GRAMMYs/Aug 13, 2020 - 10:40 pm

Eric Nam's journey into K-pop stardom is a fairy-tale-like story that almost didn't happen.

Born and reared in Atlanta, Ga., the breakout Korean-American singer had hopes of being a performer. (His parents, on the other hand, did not share his vision.) As a kid, he took up several music-centric extracurricular activities as a means of getting into a good university: He trained as a member of the Atlanta Boy Choir and played in his high school orchestra.

After graduating from Boston College, where he majored in international studies and minored in Asian studies, in 2011, he began a career path that initially took him in the opposite direction of his dreams. He landed a consultant job at Deloitte, the multinational business advisory and accounting firm, which he ultimately deferred to follow nonprofit initiatives in India. Life as a world-class singer was put on pause.

Things began to change, however, while he was in India. His YouTube videos of him singing K-pop covers landed him a spot on "Star Audition: Birth Of A Great Star 2," South Korea's answer to "American Idol." He placed in the top five in the show's 2011 season, and his journey into music took flight.

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Nam has since worked his way to become one of the most recognized names and faces in Korea's mammoth entertainment industry today. Over the course of nine years, he's released four EPs and one English-language album, 2019's Before We Begin

His latest mini-album, The Other Side, released in late July, is a melting pot of playful, upbeat sounds that combines elements of pop and house music. Largely written during the coronavirus pandemic, the album contains a message of freedom, as heard on the lead track, "Paradise."

"It was not easy," Nam tells GRAMMY.com about the making of The Other Side. "Luckily, two or three of the songs we had already written prior to the pandemic. We did a lot of Zoom calls. But I also found it challenging in terms of content, because the only thing that was on my mind is everybody being locked down and the realities that we're living in. So I was a little stressed about that, but then I realised this is something that everybody is feeling right now. The frustration, the heartbreak, the pent-up energy—whatever it may be, let's write to that. That's kind of how 'Paradise' and 'How You Been' came to life."

Outside of his music career, Nam has hosted multiple TV shows in South Korea, including "KCON:TACT" and "After School Club," as well as the podcast, "K-Pop Daebak w/ Eric Nam." As South Korea's go-to host for Hollywood stars, he's interviewed Lupita Nyong'o, Benedict Cumberbatch, Will Smith and many others. It's no wonder he was declared one of GQ Korea's Men Of The Year in 2016 and featured in Forbes' 30 Under 30 Asia list in 2017. 

GRAMMY.com spoke with Eric Nam about his new mini-album, The Other Side, his double life as a host to Hollywood's elite stars and the urgent need for dialogue and social change within the entertainment world and beyond.

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You're a singer, songwriter, TV personality and host. Was this always your dream growing up?

Not really. I fell into it in many ways. It was a dream to be a singer/performer, but I never thought I had a chance or had a real shot; I never thought I was good enough. And I think a big part of it was [that] I never saw an Asian face on TV or doing music, particularly in the U.S. where I was born and raised. So it was never a realistic possibility for me, but I think it's fascinating that I am doing it, and I'm very thankful.

Did you have a backup plan? Did you say to yourself, "I'm going to give myself X amount of years in Korea"? Or was it success as a singer and nothing else?

I think it was the former. I said, "Let's give it two to three years. And within three years, if it's not going to work out, then let's not waste valuable time in my 20s." And for me, the backup plan [was] to go back to consulting or finding another job. 

Watch: Get To Know K-Pop Kings BTS | For The Record

What are the differences between your new mini-album, The Other Side, and your last album, Before We Begin?

I think Before We Begin may have been a little more understated and mature in the musicality. I think this one is a little more playful, a little more upbeat, a little brighter. And I think that draws more from the K-pop side.

Why did you pick "Paradise" as the lead single?

I really wanted to experiment with sounds in a way that I hadn't done before. I wanted something that hasn't often been heard, particularly in the K-pop world. A lot of my peers, be seniors or juniors, they'll text me or they'll call me and they'll say, "Thank you for doing the music that you do because it pushes the genre forward in different ways." It's a very rewarding thing to hear.

How was the process of making an album during the pandemic?

It was not easy. Luckily, two or three of the songs we had already written prior to the pandemic. We did a lot of Zoom calls. But I also found it challenging in terms of content, because the only thing that was on my mind is everybody being locked down and the realities that we're living in. So I was a little stressed about that, but then I realized this is something that everybody is feeling right now. The frustration, the heartbreak, the pent-up energy—whatever it may be, let's write to that. That's kind of how "Paradise" and "How You Been" came to life. 

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Young K from DAY6 wrote four out of the five songs on the mini-album. How did that collaboration happen?

I'd worked with him in the past on some songs that haven't been released, but he's a great lyricist. I was in California and I texted him, "Hey, I have a bunch of songs. I need lyrics. Would you be down to work on these with me?" And he quickly responded "yes" on them all. And then we just started the process of collaborating. 

You've worked with some amazing producers in the past, including Timbaland. Are there any other producers you would like to work with in the future?

Oh man, so many. Ryan Tedder, Max Martin, Jack Antonoff. Lauv, [with whom] I've worked with, but not directly. I'd love to work with him again, and Michael Pollack.

2020 has seen some real shifts in social dynamics: racism against East Asians in the U.S., the killing of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement. Do you think those social dynamics are going to impact the Korean music industry?

I really don't know how it's going to affect the Korean industry, because I feel like in Korea, people feel very far-removed from the realities that are going on outside of Korea. So I'm sure while people may be more sensitive to it, and maybe more cognizant to what's going on, I don't know exactly how that will change the industry itself. Does that make sense? 

It does.

The one thing that we strive for—not as a Korean artist or not as somebody working [or] living in Korea, just as humans, as a citizen of the world—is for more dialogue and for social change. I think it's something that's needed. I think it's something that's way overdue. I can't wait for somebody to say, "OK, let's open up dialogue and have public discourse in a healthy manner so that we can all learn from these experiences that we're having."

If there were any three songs in the entire history of music that you wish you could have written, what three songs would they be?

Adele's "Someone Like You". I think that was a song that truly captivated the entire world. And it was a song that anyone and everybody could relate to globally. "Blackbird" by The Beatles. And I'm going to go with a collaboration: Alicia Keys and Usher, "My Boo." I love that song: two of my most favorite artists growing up in one song together.

What was the moment in your career where you wanted to pick up the phone and say, "Mom, I made it"?

I feel like I have an imposter syndrome where I'm like, "Why am I here?" You think about it, like, I was this kid from Atlanta, Ga. I can barely speak Korean. I'm the one of the few active people from three seasons of that one TV show. But I think it's the tours. It's so wild to be able to say that I can do shows in front of thousands of people and have them sing my songs in Korean and in English—that is wild to me. 

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How did you become the go-to person in South Korea for A-list Hollywood interviews?

I had to do all these different TV shows all the time. They were putting me on TV to become a reporter for international people coming in. That really kick-started my career, because for the first time in Korea, I was asking very straightforward questions. One of my first interviews was Robert Downey Jr. for Iron Man. Then the movie houses started calling: "Hey, we'll fly you out to London to meet with the cast of Justice League. We'll fly you out to Hong Kong to meet with Benedict Cumberbatch. And that's kind of how it happened. 

Is there anything else about The Other Side you'd like to share?

I think this is an album that is, hopefully, just going to continue to help progress my music. But my hope is that in the next year or two, I can really start to make bigger moves on a more international level, in the States and Europe [and] in Latin America, that are interesting. Fight for acceptance, fight for representation, but also at its core, great music and content. 

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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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Photo of Sexyy Red performing onstage during at the 2024 Rolling Loud Festival in Los Angeles. She is wearing a blue bikini top with white stars, red and white shorts, white sunglasses, and bright red hair.
Sexyy Reds perform onstage at the 2024 Rolling Loud Festival in Los Angeles

Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

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New Music Friday: Listen To New Albums & Songs From Sexyy Red, Charlie Puth, Vince Staples, Aaron Carter & More

Don't slide into your Memorial Day weekend without stocking your New Music Friday playlist with fresh tunes. Here are new albums and songs from Willie Nelson, Maya Hawke, Arooj Aftab, Trueno, and many more.

GRAMMYs/May 24, 2024 - 02:11 pm

Memorial Day weekend is upon us, which means we're inching closer to another music-filled summer. Less than halfway through 2024, we've received a veritable bounty of new music from Green Day, Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish, Kacey Musgraves, Zayn … the list goes on and on.

Clearly, no matter which musical world you inhabit, 2024 has had something for you — and the slate of today's releases continues that streak. Pull up your favorite streaming service — or dust off your record player — and check out this slate of new music that's fresh out of the oven.

Sexyy Red — In Sexyy We Trust

The #MakeAmericaSexyyAgain train is unstoppable. Amid numberless recent accolades — including five nominations at the 2024 BET Awards, including Best Female Hip Hop Artist and Best New Artist — Sexyy Red has dropped a new EP, In Sexyy We Trust. By the sound of "Awesome Jawsome," we all live in Sexyy's lascivious, irresistible universe: "Give me that awesome jawsome, suck it, baby, use your teeth / Shake your dreads between my legs, do it for a G." (Take that under advisement.) And with more than 8.3 million YouTube views for her "Get it Sexyy" music video, legions are clamoring for her second official release without a doubt.

Charlie Puth — "Hero"

"You smokеd, then ate seven bars of chocolate / We declared Charlie Puth should be a bigger artist." So recounted the one and only Taylor Swift in the title track to her new album, The Tortured Poets Department, which rocketed Puth's name even further into the public consciousness. This shine partly inspired Puth to release "Hero": "I want to thank @taylorswift for letting me know musically that I just couldn't keep this on my hard drive any longer," he stated on Instagram. "It's one of the hardest songs I've ever had to write, but I wrote it in hopes that you've gone through something similar in your life, and that it can fill in the BLANK for you like it did for me," he continued. Leave it to a hero to shake that loose for Puth.

Vince Staples — Dark Times

If you're currently rounding a difficult corner in your life, Vince Staples' latest album is a trusty companion. Take the first single "Shame on the Devil," where he licks his wounds amid thick isolation and friction with loved ones. "It's me mastering some things I've tried before that I wasn't great at in the beginning," he said in a statement. "It's a testament to musical growth, song structure — all the good stuff." By the sound of this haunted yet resolute single, Dark Times could materialize as Staples' most realized album to date — and most hard-won victory to boot.

Willie Nelson — The Border

By some counts, Willie Nelson has released more than 150 albums — try and let that soak in. The Red Headed Stranger tends to crank out a Buddy Cannon-produced album or two per year in his autumn years, each with a slight conceptual tilt: bluegrass, family matters, tributes to Harlan Howard or the Great American Songbook. The earthy, muted The Border is another helping of the good stuff — this time homing in on songwriters like Rodney Crowell ("The Border"), Shawn Camp ("Made in Texas") and Mike Reid ("Nobody Knows Me Like You.") Elsewhere, Nelson-Cannon originals like "What If I'm Out of My Mind" and "How Much Does It Cost" fold it all into the 12-time GRAMMY winner's manifold musical universe.

Listen: Listen To GRAMMY.com's Outlaw Country Playlist: 32 Songs From Honky Tonk Heroes Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard & More

Maya Hawke — Chaos Angel

"What the Chaos Angel is to me," Maya Hawke explained in a recent Instagram video, "is an angel that was raised in heaven to believe they're the angel of love, then sent down to do loving duties." Needless to say, the wicked world had different plans. Chaos Angel, the third album by Maya Hawke, out via Mom+Pop Records, is fitting: Smoldering tracks like "Dark" and "Missing Out" plumb themes of betrayal and bedlam masterfully.

Arooj Aftab — Night Reign

Arooj Aftab landed on the scene with the exquisitely blue Vulture Prince, which bridged modern jazz and folk idioms with what she calls "heritage material" from Pakistan and South Asia. The album's pandemic-era success threatened to box her in, though; Aftab is a funny, well-rounded cat who's crazy about pop music, too. Crucially, the guest-stuffed Night Reign shows many more sides of this GRAMMY-winning artist, whose most transcendent work seems still ahead of us. By the strength of songs like "Raat Ki Rani" and "Whiskey," this Reign is for the long haul.

Explore More: Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer & Shahzad Ismaily On New Album Love In Exile, Improvisation Versus Co-Construction And The Primacy Of The Pulse

Aaron Carter — The Recovery Album

By all means, we should have Aaron Carter alive, healthy and, yes, recovered. But the beloved singer unexpectedly died in November 2022. (He accidentally drowned in his bathtub after taking sedatives and inhaling a spray cleaner.) Still, the 2000s-era teen star, who gave us "I Want Candy," "Aaron's Party (Come Get It)" and "That's How I Beat Shaq," left us with a poignant, posthumous statement in The Recovery Album: "Tomorrow is a new day / Tryin' to shake the pain away / 'Cause I'm still in recovery," he sings in the title track. Carter, who was open about his struggles with addiction, substance abuse and mental health, is also in the news for a rough ride of a documentary, Fallen Idols: Nick and Aaron Carter. But if you'd rather focus on Carter the artist, The Recovery Album shows that his considerable talent remains undimmed.

DIIV — Frog in Boiling Water

The idiom of a frog in boiling water is a familiar one, but it's never quite unfolded in music like this — and DIIV, one of rock's most impressionistic acts, is the band for the job. In a press statement, the group, led by Zachary Cole Smith, called Frog in Boiling Water a reflection of "a slow, sick, and overwhelmingly banal collapse of society under end-stage capitalism." To wit, tracks like "Brown Paper Bag," "Raining on Your Pillow" and "Soul-net" sound like dying in a beautiful way. "Everyone Out," another album highlight, provides a clear, critical directive.

Shenseea — Never Gets Late Here

To hear Jamaican leading light Shenseea tell it, she's been boxed in as a "dancehall artiste," but she's so much more than that. "By next year I want to be international," she said back in 2018. "An international pop star." Her second album, Never Gets Late Here, might be that final boost to the big time she's chasin. Throughout the sticky-sweet album, the genre traverser tries on disco vibes ("Flava" with Voi Leray), an Afrobeats tint ("Work Me Out" with Wizkid), and a bona fide, swing-for-the-rafters anthem in the power ballad "Stars." "Everyone is looking at everything I'm going through," she recently told Revolt, "which is special because they can see the fight I'm getting, but still see me pushing and persevering."

Trueno — EL ÚLTIMO BAILE

Argentine phenom Trueno — a rapper, singer and songwriter of equal fire — has been on a sharp rise ever since his debut, 2020's Atrevido. This time, he's especially leaning into his rap skills as he pays homage to his beloved hip-hop. And, as he explained to Rolling Stone, he's been diligently crafting this artistic culmination. "We also don't want to rush anything. We're working day and night on it," he said of EL ÚLTIMO BAILE. "I'm an artist who's all about albums and big projects, so I'm immersed in this." We're about to be, too.

Yola — My Way

Yola has been nominated for six GRAMMYs to date; this impressive feat has thickened the momentum behind her latest batch of music. For her new My Way EP, the British singer/songwriter tapped GRAMMY-nominated producer Sean Douglas, who's worked with everyone from Lizzo to Madonna to Sia. Not that this synthesist of progressive R&B, synth pop, electronica, and more needs a reintroduction. But if you're not already on board with this musically keen, lyrically conscious artist, songs like "Future Enemies" should lure you there.

2025 GRAMMYs To Take Place Sunday, Feb. 2, Live In Los Angeles; GRAMMY Awards Nominations To Be Announced Friday, Nov. 8, 2024

Kate Hudson Press Photo 2024
Kate Hudson

Photo: Guy Aroch

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Kate Hudson Is A Singer Now — And She Doesn't Care What You Think

With her debut album, 'Glorious,' actress Kate Hudson transforms her lifelong love of music into a full-fledged venture as a singer/songwriter. As she details, the album is the truest form of her creativity: "I've never felt more present."

GRAMMYs/May 22, 2024 - 07:37 pm

When legendary songwriter Linda Perry discovered that Kate Hudson could sing, she enabled the actress' childhood dream to come true.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Perry happened to be on a virtual school program during which Hudson sang a rendition of Katy Perry's "Firework." Soon after, Perry called Hudson in for a studio session — and before they knew it, they were creating Hudson's debut album.

But their interaction was much more serendipity than it was coincidence. And perhaps you could say the same for Hudson's breakthrough role as the music-obsessed "band-aide" Penny Lane in 2000's Almost Famous. Music was always Hudson's first love, now manifested as Glorious — a glittering musical coronation.

Across 12 tracks, Hudson shows off her sultry voice over an array of pop-rock melodies, conjuring the enchanting air of Stevie Nicks and the dynamic vocal power of Sheryl Crow. While some may remember hearing Hudson sing in the 2009 film adaptation of the musical Nine or her short stint as a sassy dance instructor on season 5 of "Glee," Glorious shows an entirely new side of the actress. She feels right at home as she rocks the soulful opener "Gonna Find Out," hits you in the heart on the tender ballad "Live Forever," and surprises with belting power on the soaring title track.  

A musical venture has been on Hudson's vision board, first recognizing the pop star prowess of Madonna and Belinda Carlisle when she was just 5 years old. That lifelong aspiration has led her to feeling more assured in her debut album than anything she's done in her career thus far. As she declares, "I've never felt more present in something in my life." 

She's already felt that synergy on stage, too. Hudson made her performance debut in Los Angeles the day after Glorious lead single, "Talk About Love," premiered in January; she's since shocked viewers of "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" and "The Voice" with her prowess ("Who knew Kate Hudson could sing?" one "Voice" fan tweeted). And while her singing career doesn't mean her acting chapter is closed, she's ready for a tour: "I can't wait to actually go out and meet people that I've never been able to meet before."

Below, Hudson details her journey to Glorious in her own words — from letting go of potential criticism, to gaining confidence in her voice (with help from Sia!), to simply enjoying a particularly special life moment.

I would always say no if someone asked me to sing. [Whether] it was a charity [event] or some sort of show, I just always had this thing where I didn't want to put myself out there like that.

I realized I had a fear of being on stage. And I was like, You know what, I've got to just start saying yes. So it started with that — I'm just going to say yes to singing, even if it scares me to death. 

It's my happy place, singing and writing. The only thing that would have been holding me back was the fear of what people might say about it. And that is, I think, the worst possible thing to do — not make art because you're afraid of the criticism. 

I'm always writing, but when Linda [Perry] said, "Will you come in and sing this song?" and I did, and then she asked if I wrote music, and she's like, "We should write together," that was sort of the beginning of what this album became. Getting in the studio with Linda, we had no expectation, we didn't know what it was going to be — one song, four songs. It ended up being, like, 20-plus songs.

It was a real passion project, versus being a younger artist, and wanting that to be my number one vocation. So I was able to be more present in the process and with no expectation. It sort of had that domino effect of starting the writing and then really just loving it — becoming kind of all-encompassing. Once you open the floodgates, there's so much to write about. I can't wait to get back in the studio already.

I think [my hesitation to sing before] was more about, Why am I singing? I find music so precious that, if I wasn't ready, ready, ready, I just didn't want to do it. And it's kind of my personality too. I was the little girl that wouldn't do anything unless I felt like I had perfected it and had the confidence to be doing it.

And then COVID [hit]. Honestly, it was like, Okay, I'm not getting any younger. I want music to be a part of my life in a bigger way. I can sort of see myself, as I get older, being more surrounded by music and writing music, and being more immersed in music like that, because I love it so much. 

I was thinking about this the other day — lately, Danny [Fujikawa, Hudson's musician/actor fiancé] and I write, like, a song a week, and sometimes multiple. I love it, we love doing it together. So it's something that I can't wait to, hopefully, be able to do just more of.

The performance thing is so new for me that it's wild. This past month of performing, and being in front of people, and sharing music, and sharing my voice like that, is something brand new. I call it, like, putting on a new pair of shoes and wearing them in a little bit — going to different places and your voice sounds different in different rooms. 

Trying to really understand what that feels like is so much fun for me, and so interesting, and so exhilarating. But I find that they're two very different things to love, singing live and writing.

When I was little, I just loved pop stars — like, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Belinda Carlisle. I was also very fashion-forward. My mom always let me wear my own outfits, and sometimes I was so insane. When I was, like, 5, I dressed like I was living out my pop star life. So, I think, the whole thing with music, and fashion, and dancing, that was my dream when I was little.

For a lot of performers — people who like to be [doing] musical theater, love to sing, love to dance — we kind of get into all of it. To me, it's the performing aspect. I say to my kids, "Do all of it. You need to get into movement. You need to get into voice. You use all of it." As you see, a lot of great actors are wonderful singers, and love to do musical theater, and started out doing musical theater. Whether it be Leslie Odom Jr., Josh Gad, Annie Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Hugh Jackman — a lot of these people are just so musical and have incredible instruments. 

I never focused on the instrument. I never took real vocal classes. I would sing instinctually, but I never was "in voice" or anything like that. When I would get into writing, it's a little bit of a different thing. Finding that feeling, that energy of, like, what your voice is as a singer/songwriter is a really interesting process. But I've kind of secretly been doing that since I was like, 19 in my living room. [Laughs.]

It took me a lot to find confidence in my voice. Because some instruments have bigger range, some instruments are more intricate — and by instruments, I mean voices. And if I was to compare myself [to anyone], I think it would take away from the freedom I feel when I just love to sing. 

Certain people that I admire that I've worked with, [have] allowed me to feel more confidence in opening up my voice, being able to really just go for it. Like, working with Sia on Music, the film that we did [in 2021], was huge for me. She really helped me feel more confidence in my big, belting voice.

I've always been writing [songs]. It's always been my outlet for myself, whether I think they're good or terrible. [Laughs.] I'd say 19 [is when] I picked up guitar, and I always played a little piano when I was younger, but then I got more into piano at like, 20. People always say, "Where's your happy place?" and I've always said, "My piano." When I'm really sad and depressed, it's just where I go to get it out. And then the opposite, too — when I'm ready to have fun, it's my favorite place to be. 

There's a lot of people that just have a connection to music, love it so much, and don't know what they would do without it. I find it to be the most connective art form. Large groups of people get to feel something at the same time, together, and have these experiences that, I think, are just so important for the human experience, to be that connected through something.

[When I was filming Almost Famous],I still probably felt like, at some point, I will do music, whether it be in a movie, a musical or in my life. And, to be honest, I'm not a calculated person. I really have never been someone who was like, I'm going to do this and then I'm going to do that, and then I have to do that, and that's going to look like this. 

I'm such an Aries. I just want to have fun where I'm at. I like being spontaneous, I like being open to things, and I like being present in where I am. So if you took me back there, I was just so happy to be a working actress. I wasn't thinking, like, Now what?

In reflection, at that time, crossing over [into music] was sort of looked poorly upon— if you're starting to become successful in one thing, you need to stick to that. You have to understand, like, if someone even did a commercial, the perception of it would be like, "Oh that person's career is over."

Now, the world has completely shifted and it just doesn't matter anymore. Which is such a nice thing for a lot of artists.

At the end of the day, these are art forms that we really care about. It's really important to us to make the right movies — when you're creating a character, or when you're writing an album. People might not see [that] from the outside in. It fuels something that is just like, you couldn't live without it. 

So when you get to a certain place that you are being known for what you love, for the art form, and you become a celebrity, the criticism is so extreme. It's so extreme that it's like, if you feed into it, it will stop you from wanting to take any risks as an artist. You start to become precious about things — you get nervous to step out on a limb because it could destroy things that you've been really working hard to build. But the irony of that is, you aren't really an artist unless you're taking those chances. 

Entering this phase of my life age-wise, I've been through all of that harsh criticism so many times that after a while, you realize like it just doesn't matter. What matters is that you're putting your best foot forward, you know?

I'm so happy in my home life. I feel very cozy in my familial unit — my parents, and my brothers, and my partner, and my kids. That allows the safety to feel good putting myself out there like this.

Obviously music is in our life all the time, but [my kids] love it. It's a very comfortable place for all of us — being on tour, being in all these different stages. It's just so funny, I think, for them to see me in that position, versus their dad. [Editor's note: Hudson has three kids; son Ryder with the Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson, son Bing with Muse singer Matt Belamy, and daughter Rani with Fujikawa.] It's been really fun for them to watch. At least that's what they tell me. 

I think what's really fun for them is to see that the thing that they know that I love, that they've been surrounded by their whole life — which is me singing and writing — I think it's fun for them to actually see that I decided to pursue the thing I love the most.

I'll never forget the first time [performing live] because I felt like I was surrounded by all of my closest friends and family, and they all know what the process has been for me. So it was very special. 

I'm just so happy singing on stage. I can't wait to actually go out and meet people that I've never been able to meet before and have that connection. I can't wait to get into like, the weird places in the world, and experience what it feels like to connect with people in Cleveland, or in Kansas City, or Dusseldorf, Germany!

I was reading something about women and imposter syndrome, and how many women feel that way about all of the things that we've done — it doesn't matter what it is. It's a very popular thing for women to feel when they become successful in something, [that] they don't really deserve it.

I've had that before in my acting career. Those kinds of feelings creep up all the time. I think they do for a lot of women. But, I'm a worker bee. I work really hard, and I put the things out in the world that I feel connected to, and that I hope people love. And if there's success in it, the only thing that would ever make me feel like I didn't deserve it would be someone else, not the work I've put into it.

And the truth is, I think all artists [are] always striving to be better than how we are right now. I think that's part of the deal. If you've thought, like, Yeah, I'm the best. That's kind of weird. That's problematic. For most artists, it's never enough. You're always striving to make things better.

I'm old enough, at this point, to have a good sense of what not to worry about. I would love for people to like what I'm doing, it would make me feel so good. But I also know that everyone's gonna have a different opinion.What I've learned the most is put your head down, do good work and have fun — enjoy every moment and don't overthink it. So that's kind of what I'm leaning into in this process [with].

I definitely want to make more music. That's the thing I know, is that no matter where, or what it's for — whether it's for musicals, film, television, another album — writing is just something I'm never going to stop doing. I started this with no expectations, and I've taken each moment in the moment it presents itself. And I'm gonna stay there.

I've never felt more present in something in my life. Even though it's so crazy right now — I don't even know what day it is. It's been a wildly busy time. But having music being a part of my life like this has just been the greatest, cathartic, joyful transition. I don't ever want that to go away.

I definitely have moments where I wake up and I feel this immense amount of gratitude that I'm getting to share music and that people are hearing it. And the warmth that I'm receiving has felt really special. It does not go unnoticed. 

It's been the most special moment of my life. So far, it's been great. I'm sure my sophomore experience will feel very different. [Laughs.] But right now, I'm just having so much fun.

12 Actors Who Have Bands: Ryan Gosling, Keanu Reeves, Zoë Kravitz & More

Billie Eilish Songbook Hero
(L-R) Billie Eilish in 2018, 2020 and 2023.

(L-R) Scott Legato/Getty Images for Live Nation, Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Global Citizen

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

On the heels of Billie Eilish's new album 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT,' take a deep dive into the albums, visuals and performances that have shaped her award-winning, generation-defining artistry.

GRAMMYs/May 21, 2024 - 06:18 pm

Being a once-in-a-generation artist isn't an easy crown to wear, but Billie Eilish has made it look effortlessly badass. The singer's unabashed honesty and equally raw vocal talent led her to becoming one of the industry's most decorated Gen Z artists before she even reached her twenties.

Eilish first caught our ears in 2016 when the then-13-year-old uploaded "ocean eyes" to SoundCloud. The tender ballad — written and produced by her brother and steadfast collaborator, FINNEAS — was shared with Eilish's dance teacher with the intention of using it as a choreography track. The intimate song transformed the budding artist into an overnight sensation that led to an Interscope record deal that year.

From there, Eilish released her stunning 2017 debut EP, Don't Smile at Me. The trajectory continued at a whirlwind pace with 2019's debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? and her 2021 follow-up, Happier Than Ever, both of which topped the Billboard 200 chart. The albums' successes made her an award show darling, and in 2020, she became only the second artist and first woman to win all four General Field Categories (Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best New Artist) at just 18 years old. As of press time, Eilish has nine GRAMMY Awards and 25 nominations. And at her current age of 22, she's still only just getting started.

The singer may have emerged onto the scene with a subdued voice, but what a red herring that was. Eilish has been a force to be reckoned with from the start, and this edition of Songbook celebrates each chapter of her shape-shifting career thus far, including her recently launched HIT ME HARD AND SOFT era. 

Below, dive into Eilish's music highlights — from her personal projects to soundtrack masterpieces — that have laid the foundation for her growing longevity.

The Melancholic Songstress

Don't Smile at Me (2017)

Don't Smile at Me is a perfectly blunt way to sum up teen angst. With signature songs like the teary "ocean eyes" and the equally earnest ballad "idontwannabeyouanymore," the eight-track project showcased Eilish's propensity for transforming moodiness into art. 

The EP navigated themes of depression and heartbreak, which were funneled through lyrics seemingly ripped out of Eilish's diary. That refreshing intimacy is what makes her such a revered artist, and Don't Smile at Me provided just a glimpse into what her sound would grow into.

WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? (2019)

Depression can often feel like one is drowning in a bottomless pool, and Eilish doubled down on that heaviness with her debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? The lyrics were pulled from Eilish's nightmares and bouts with depression, and with the help of her brother FINNEAS' production and co-writing pen, it all came to life like a wicked horror film. 

If the album is a night terror, then "bad guy" is the sleep paralysis demon smirking in the bedroom corner. It might be the poppiest of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP's singles (it even spawned a remix featuring one of Eilish's idols, Justin Bieber), but the balance of the zany electro and claims of being the "Make-your-girlfriend-mad type/ Might-seduce-your-dad type" shows this flavor of pop is not the bubblegum kind. Other highlights — The Office samples dotted throughout, the eerie taunts of "you should see me in a crown" and "bury a friend," and even an ASMR-worthy Invisalign intro — made the album a thrilling exploration of Eilish's unconventional artistry.

Happier Than Ever (2021)

After WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? saw Eilish in a living nightmare, Happier Than Ever found her confronting those demons — and as a result, feeling and sounding much lighter. Sporting a Marilyn Monroe-esque blonde bob at the time (a complete 180 from her black and electric lime-colored locks), the album presented an even more vulnerable artist. Eilish's overnight success not only came with a tireless music industry demanding more hits from her, but also stalkers, toxic relationships and social media-fueled misogyny — and she addressed all of it on Happier Than Ever.

"Things I once enjoyed just keep me employed now," she grieves on the "Getting Older" opener, coming to terms with the reality of being a pop star. The vulnerability continues with songs like "Not My Responsibility," a response to people constantly dissecting and sexualizing her body; the trip-hop "NDA," which finds Eilish pleading for privacy; and the boisterous title track that sees Eilish belting for the first time. Happier Than Ever wasn't the typical coming-of-age moment that we're used to. But it was born out of an ugly truth, which is an admirable endeavor for an artist who hadn't even reached her twenties. 

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT (2024)

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT almost plays like a "Best of Billie" album, highlighting her award-winning sonic tropes and guiding them into new, expansive territories. She heavily plays on the concept of her third album's title, with both tender ballads and heart-pounding uptempos. 

She also celebrates the menacing teen version of the Billie Eilish many were first introduced to on WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? Only this time, she's even more confident in her artistry; her vocals are the strongest they've ever been, as heard on "BIRDS OF A FEATHER" and "THE GREATEST." There's a beautiful maturity that envelopes HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, making it even more exciting to see how else she'll experiment with this album era.

The Big-Screen Auteur

13 Reasons Why (2017)

Eilish's music is as cinematic as it's poetic, so it's not surprising that she's established herself as a soundtrack queen. Her first foray was for Netflix's hit series "13 Reasons Why," which aired just before Eilish's debut EP release, making it the perfect pairing. The singer contributed the flippant song "Bored" to the series' first season, showcasing the ballad brilliance that was to come from the rising star.

Roma (2018)

Water plays a big part in the critically acclaimed Roma — a feature that's also frequent in Eilish's own music videos, and she further heightened that inspiration for the film's soundtrack highlight, "When I Was Older." With her voice sounding submerged under water, the singer and FINNEAS create a chilling atmosphere that reflects the characters' turmoil. Roma ended up becoming an Oscar-winning film, a not-so-subtle foreshadowing of what would happen to Eilish's own career soon after.

No Time To Die (2020)

The James Bond theme songs often have a somber tone, so it made sense for Eilish to join the likes of Adele and Sam Smith as a contributor. "No Time To Die" is as beautiful as it is haunting, with the singer's voice bellowing with the sweeping orchestra. The song owned awards season, scoring a GRAMMY for Best Song Written For Visual Media and Best Original Song trophies from the Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and more.

Euphoria (2021)

Both Eilish and Rosalía make achingly tender music, and the Spanish singer led Eilish to new, atmospheric heights with Euphoria's "Lo Vas a Olvidar." The song was first previewed in the trailer for Jules' special episode, then was later played in a vulnerable scene where the character reveals how much her girlfriend Rue's relapsing affected her. The pained lyrics ("Tell me if you still miss me / Tell me if you still don't forgive me / What will you do with all this poison?") reflects Jules' heartache. "Lo Vas a Olvidar" marked the first time Eilish sang in Spanish, making her harmonies with Rosalía even more elegiac.

Turning Red (2022)

Under Eilish's edgy demeanor is a pure pop fan, so it was fitting that she teamed up with Pixar to contribute three songs to their Turning Red film. The singer and FINNEAS wrote "Nobody Like U," "U Know What's Up" and "1 True Love," all songs performed by a fictional boy band, 4*Town, a nod to boy bands of the late '90s and early aughts. 

Eilish had made playful songs in the past, but these tunes traded her signature cynical undertone for more nostalgic fun, further revealing her pop versatility. "Writing the songs has literally been the most fun we've had writing," Eilish shared during a Disney press run. "Mei and her friends' passion for 4*Town, it really resonated with me just because I was the same. It's so accurate of how it feels when you're that kind of fan."

Barbie (2023)

Last summer's Barbie was a mammoth at the box office and the charts, partly thanks to Eilish's soundtrack contribution. Reverting back to her teary-eyed ballads, "What Was I Made For?" summarizes the film's central theme of navigating life as a woman in a misogynistic world. 

The beautifully painful tune resonated in and outside of the film, earning an Academy Award for Best Original Song and two GRAMMY Awards for Song of the Year and Best Song Written for Visual Media in 2024. The accolades marked another history-defining moment for Eilish: "What Was I Made For?" became just the tenth song in history to win both an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a GRAMMY for Song Of The Year.

The Poignant Performer

Tours

The bombastic production in Eilish's music practically begs for an audience, so it's bound to be electrifying whenever she hits the stage. She began small in 2017 with the 11-show dont smile at me tour — her first headlining trek — but quickly expanded to arenas. 

She truly hit her stride with 2022's Happier Than Ever, The World Tour. Keeping the staging minimal while sporting her signature baggy looks, she let her vocals (and some electrifying strobe lights) command the attention. Her energy never falters throughout the nearly two-hour long show and neither does the audience, who lovingly shout every single lyric. And it won't be long before she brings HIT ME HARD AND SOFT to the stage — the tour (her seventh) kicks off Sept. 29 in Québec, Canada.

Award Shows

Eilish's fan base goes far beyond the hyper teenagers who flood her concerts. The singer's award show performances also reveal how much her peers admire her. 

With nine GRAMMY wins under her belt, Eilish's GRAMMY performances over the years have helped prove why she's earned them. Following her stage debut in 2020, she returned the following year to perform the Record Of The Year-winning "everything I wanted" as fellow nominees Black Pumas and Harry Styles cheered her on in the crowd. The singer's thunderous "Happier Than Ever" performance received equally roaring applause. 

Eilish reminded of her vocal prowess and ethereal stage presence at both the GRAMMYs and Oscars this year, delivering delicate renditions of "What Was I Made For?" with just FINNEAS and a piano for each show. As those performances displayed, relatability and heightened emotion — as seen with other award show performances, like the cinematic version of "No Time To Die" at the 2022 Oscars and the fiery "all the good girls go to hell" at the 2019 American Music Awards — are what make Eilish's performances so unforgettable.

Concert Film

Eilish transported the vulnerability and intimacy of Happier Than Ever to the silver screen for 2021's GRAMMY-nominated Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles concert film. As its title suggests, the film sees Eilish (a native Angeleno) paying homage to her hometown with a performance at the Hollywood Bowl — even performing alongside the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, which she grew up singing in. 

But the concert film also addresses the pressures of fame like Happier Than Ever the album did. There's a stark contrast between the Eilish on stage, who is seemingly comforted by the lack of an audience inside the Hollywood Bowl, and an animated version of the star, who drives past Happier Than Ever billboards before arriving at a premiere with an overwhelming number of fans and flashing cameras. The film is more than a tribute to her hometown — it shows Eilish coming to terms with her own stardom.

Festivals

As Eilish's star status has ascended, so has her name on festival lineups. Just like her own tours, she gives it her all for these performances, many of which become career-defining moments. 

She first emerged on the scene at SXSW in 2017 and appeared at one of Lollapalooza's smaller stages the following year. But the budding star quickly rose among the ranks, securing bigger stages at festivals like Tyler the Creator's Camp Flog Knaw and Reading & Leeds. She officially graduated in the festival sphere in 2022 when she headlined Coachella and Glastonbury, making her the youngest headliner in the latter's festival history; she's since headlined Coachella, several iterations of Lollapalooza, and even recently became the latest Fortnite Festival headliner. 

Eilish had another full-circle moment at Coachella 2024, when Lana Del Rey — one of Eilish's biggest influences — brought her out as a surprise guest. The pair performed Eilish's "ocean eyes" and Lana's "Video Games," a fitting pairing as fans have often drawn comparisons between the two tracks. "This is the voice of a generation!" Del Rey exclaimed to the crowd following the duets. She might be onto something.

The Visionary

"When The Party's Over" (2018)

Music videos play an integral role in Eilish's artistry, helping to set a visual stage for her narrative lyrics, with many of her videos connecting with each other. The video for the somber piano ballad "when the party's over" wasn't her first, but it officially exhibited the shock factor that she's now known for. 

Arriving a few months before WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, the video shows the then blue-haired singer drinking a cup of black goo, which soon pours from her tear ducts, a visual that was inspired by a drawing gifted by a fan. The video was released a week before Halloween, making it a ghoulish holiday treat for Eilish fans.

"Bury A Friend" (2019)

The singer brought her debut album's nightmarish themes to life for "bury a friend." The video — reminiscent of films and series like The Exorcist, American Horror Story: Asylum and The Haunting of Hill House — accentuates the song's spookiness with dead eyes and needles pierced into Eilish's back. As she told Rolling Stone at the time, it's a visual representation of "honing in on people's fears," a concept that has remained in Eilish's visuals to this day; she continues to face her own fear of water, as seen on HIT ME HARD AND SOFT's submerged album cover.

"Bad Guy" (2019)

"bad guy" may be the singer's most colorful music video to date, but don't let that fool you. Eilish's signature edgy tropes still remain intact — from her bloody nose, to decapitated heads in plastic bags, to the dimly lit crimson bedroom amplifying the trap-inspired switch at the song's end. In between those scenes, though, she pops out her Invisalign before going on a mini-cart joyride, proving that her personality can be just as goofy as it is moody. 

"All The Good Girls Go To Hell" (2019)

The "all the good girls go to hell" video picks up from where "bury a friend" left off, suggesting that Eilish's music isn't just meant to be listened to as standalone singles. Rather, there's intentional connective tissue that is revealed in her videos. 

The syringes injected into Eilish's back gave her 25-foot-long white wings; she dramatically falls from the sky and into a black tar pit. She walks through a grim town while leaving a trail of oil behind her, causing fires to ignite with each step. A big advocate for climate change awareness, Eilish used "all the good girls go to hell" visual to show that her creative vision can spread important messages, too. 

"Happier Than Ever" (2021)

The title track of Eilish's sophomore album, Happier Than Ever, instantly became a fan favorite due to its contrasting two parts, beginning tender and soulful before lashing out into an alternative rock banger. The singer maintained the thrilling transition for the self-directed video, which showcases her knack for visual storytelling. 

The video starts off with Eilish in a vintage-looking room before the lights begin to flicker. She then opens a door that fills the room with water, mimicking the track's flood of emotions. With a powerful song and video like this, she's clearly taken some cinematic tips from her film experiences.

"What Was I Made For?" (2023)

Barbie soundtrack highlight "What Was I Made For?" is a tender hug for women everywhere, including Eilish herself. The singer directed the accompanying video, which shows her donning a '50s-inspired Barbie look as she reflects on the past. 

Sitting at a school desk, she hangs up miniature versions of her own outfits, including looks from videos like "Bellyache" and "bad guy" and the Gucci get-up she wore for her history-making night at the 2020 GRAMMYs. The video was a cleansing of sorts, as Eilish closed a chapter of her career before entering a new one with this year's HIT ME HARD AND SOFT. Though her first video for her third album era — the '90s VHS-inspired "LUNCH" — showed more of her playful side, Eilish has certainly proven that she has plenty more tricks up her sleeve.

All Things Billie Eilish