K.Flay Talks Inspiration, Politics & The Argument That Led To Her Making Music


Photo: Daniel Mendoza/Recording Academy


K.Flay Talks Inspiration, Politics & The Argument That Led To Her Making Music

The versatile singer/songwriter opens up about staying positive, facing challenges and nurturing her vulnerability

GRAMMYs/Dec 13, 2019 - 02:43 am

In many ways, K.Flay is truly an artist of our times. Her music can't be contained to a single genre, she beleives songwriters have a responsibilty to speak for those who cannot and her success grows out of the ability to express her most vulnerable moments. Even as her music style evolves, her authenticity remains the through line. 

This summer, K.Flay dropped her third LP, Solutions, led by the singles, "Bad Vibes" and "Sister." The album represented another bold step forward in her musical evolution, following her 2017 effort, Every Where Is Some Where, which earned her two GRAMMYs, including Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical and Best Rock Song for "Blook In The Cut."

We recently sat down with K.Flay to hear, among other insights, how it all began...

"I started making music in college because of an argument I had with somebody, my R.A.," she shared. I was complaining about what was on the radio, and he was like, 'well you don't make music. You don't know how to make a song.' So I was like, 'Okay then, I'll make a song."

K.Flay's undeniable creativity took off from there. A graduate of Stanford, where she double-majored in psychology and sociology, she arrived as the self-proclaimed the Suburban Rap Queen. From day one through her foray into rock and exploration of pop on Every Where Is Some Where, she's always found freedom through her own hardships.

"Always, always, my best shows are when I'm struggling somehow," she said. "Vulnerability is really important to nurture." 

Hear more from K.Flay in the interview above, including how she sees politics and music, the importance of collaboration and more.

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Justin Tranter On Writing For Pop's Vanguard, Ruling The Myspace Era & Remaining Fearless
Justin Tranter

Photo: Christopher Patey


Justin Tranter On Writing For Pop's Vanguard, Ruling The Myspace Era & Remaining Fearless

Justin Tranter was taught to be courageous from childhood, which meant they were enabled in adulthood to pursue any creative pursuit they desired. Here's how Tranter balances writing for megastars with their array of other pursuits.

GRAMMYs/Aug 11, 2022 - 02:21 pm

Most songs can be placed somewhere on a spectrum between specificity and universality — between confessional detail and mass applicability. Justin Tranter has written for everyone from Ariana Grande to Måneskin to Janelle Monae; how does this GRAMMY-nominated songwriter strike that balance?

The answer partly lies, Tranter says, in the differential functions of the verse and chorus.

"The chorus should explain the whole song, and it should be universal enough that everybody would want to sing that chorus," Tranter, who uses they/them pronouns, tells "Then, you can use the verses — and sometimes the pre-chorus — to make it a clear, specific story."

This axiom seems simple enough on paper — but when you truly absorb it, the entire songwriting canon opens up. It applies to tunes by everyone from those pop stars to singer/songwriters of yore, like John Prine or Tom Petty. Go as specific as you want in the verses; just connect them to a chorus that's emotionally available to all.

But the magic of Tranter isn't just that they have songwriting down to a science; it's that they've run headfirst into everything from publishing to activism to jewelry-making, often to smashing success. 

In this in-depth interview, learn not only about Tranter's songwriting chops, but how a sense of fearlessness made their entire multifarious life possible — from their old band, Semi Precious Weapons, onward into a possibility-stuffed future.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

You're not only a major songwriter; you're active in the label, publishing and activism spaces. Have you always wanted a career like this?

Yes, I did. I always wanted to do lots of things. Fortunately, I was born pretty fearless, and my parents let me continue to be fearless. So, when it comes to the activism side of things or when it comes to going big, I never had any fear in doing that. So, I always dreamed of this. I always imagined this.

How were you raised to be fearless? A lot of kids grow up in fear, and then they become fearful adults.

First of all, I'm very lucky that I'm the youngest of four kids. So, I think my parents had really figured out parenting by the time they got to me — and I was a really big personality from the get-go.

I was very obviously feminine and queer very early, and no one — well, not a lot of people — told me I shouldn't be that way. My parents never told me I shouldn't be that way. My oldest brother was very supportive of it. Some of my other brothers weren't as supportive of it, but between my parents and my oldest brother, [I was] really loved.

I think I was raised to be fearless because anytime I was fearless and truly myself, they really enjoyed it. At least three of the five other people in my household thought it was fabulous and commended me — when I told people they were being mean or turned the other cheek at the appropriate moments.

There was just a lot of reinforcement that: yep, you can date exactly who you want, and we're going to celebrate and applaud it. And when you're funny, we're going to laugh at it. I think all those things were there for me. Every day, I realize how lucky I am to have had that.

Getting a band off the ground is a Herculean effort for so many people — but you did it with Semi Precious Weapons. How did you make it work?

I had built a solo singer/songwriter, piano-based thing for myself in New York, and I was hosting a night — every Sunday night — at the SideWalk Cafe in the East Village. It was called Justin Tranter's Flaming Sunday, and it was a night of queer singer/songwriters.

Once a month, I would do a full set, but every week, I would do a couple of songs and then just host and introduce the other people I had booked for the night. So, I had built a little bit of a following on my own in New York. And then, when the band happened, it really blew up.

The amount of guerilla marketing that took place — everything from literally tagging things, like spray painting our gun-and-heart logo all over the city, to putting stickers and matchbooks all over the city with that logo that would have the website so people could connect the dots.

It was the Myspace era, and I was deep, deep into trying to find any way to find fans on [there] — [like] messaging kids who liked music that was similar or liked people who looked like me, because my look was so specific and so over the top.

We'd just spend hours and hours and hours on Myspace, which ended up really working for me. We got on some big people's Top 8s, which led to more exposure for the band.

Another thing that happened is that for our first show, I designed necklaces, which were the gun-and-heart logo, and the heart had a bullet hole through it. I think I made 10 of them, and people loved them so much that I was like, "Huh, maybe there's a thing here." And I worked at jewelry stores as my day job.

So, I knew how to make this happen, and I ended up selling the band jewelry at Urban Outfitters — all over the country and the world. 

This is so era-specific. Urban Outfitters and Myspace — what a time to be alive!

Every single display card the necklaces were on would talk about the band and have a link to the band's website. Then, the jewelry ended up at Barneys and had 14-carat gold and diamond versions. 

It was this whole, insane journey. We found ways from guerilla marketing to a f—ing jewelry line! And that's how people heard about the band, I guess.

None of it could have happened without that fearlessness, I'll bet.

I look back to it, and I'm like, "Starting a jewelry line is the hardest thing in the world!" And the fact it ended up at Urban Outfitters and Barneys — I was just like, "Well, why the f— shouldn't I have a jewelry line? Who's to tell me I shouldn't?" Yeah, the fearlessness really helps the whole way.

You've written for a laundry list of A-listers. Who was the first major artist you wrote for, and how did that come about?

The band's last album, we made with Tricky Stewart — an amazing producer who did "Umbrella" and "Single Ladies" and a bunch of other unbelievable songs. Including the new Beyoncé — "Break My Soul."

He said to me a couple of times, "You're a f—ing great songwriter, and yes, your band is alternative." The last [work] we made with him was in much more of an alternative side of things that it was on the glam rock thing with the early days. He was like, "You're writing pop songs, and you should look into this."

The band had a publishing deal. I asked the publisher to cut us some sessions, and I really enjoyed stepping out of myself and just focusing on the best song — not on the best song for me to perform. I was doing it for three months, and it was a whole bunch of no, no, no, nos. 

I was like: Maybe I shouldn't. Maybe this isn't for me. The band is really known for our live shows. And now that I know this side of the business, three months is nothing. That's a very short amount of time, but I finally stopped trying to chase trends that were happening. 

Because I thought that's what pop writers did: you chase the trend. And that's what some pop writers do, and they're very f—ing good at it. I just wasn't good at it.

So, I wrote a song with some people I'd met for the first time. One of them, I'm still really, really close with — a writer named Ryland Blackinton. We wrote a song I really loved ["Nostalgic"] and Kelly Clarkson recorded it, like, a week later. I'm such a huge fan of her voice that it was a very exciting thing to happen to me.

If you were to place all songs on a spectrum between ultra-specific and candid and vulnerable, and perhaps more general and one-size-fits-all, where does your work lie? Is it a balance to strike most of the time?

If the artist does write, so much of what I do is writing with them and having a conversation about where they're at. And it's casual — I'm not interviewing them, but having a conversation and finding the song in that conversation.

And then, if the artist doesn't write — or does write, but doesn't need to — sometimes they're just looking for other songs, outside songs. I still like to either talk to them or find out about their life through them, or through somebody else in their life, and find a song that's really about them.

And if they really want, I want the artists to feel like this song is theirs. And hopefully this song is going to be good and big enough that they're going to need to sing it for the next 40 years. I want them to really feel like they can own it.

So, I don't actually write about my life that much anymore. In terms of the specificity of their life — and also something the world can relate to — I always say that we should know what the whole song is about inside the chorus. The chorus should explain the whole song, and it should be universal enough that everybody would want to sing that chorus.

Then, you can use the verses — and sometimes the pre-chorus — to make it a clear, specific story, specific to the artist and what they're going through, or have been through.

So, that's kind of how I like to [do it] — the chorus is easy to understand, because it's pop music, but the verses can uncover details for listeners. After many, many listens, they finally realize what's actually underneath there.

We could talk for hours about your material for everyone from Leon Bridges to Dua Lipa to Måneskin. Could you single out a couple of songs that you feel are particularly special, or cornerstones of your artistry?

Let's see if I can pull that off. Well, because you mentioned it first, I'll talk about Leon Bridges' "Beyond." It's one of my favorite songs I've ever been a part of. We had a very short time to work. It was, like, an 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. session — very quick.

As I said to you before, I normally try to keep the conversations very casual to find where the song is, but there wasn't time. So, I just said, "Hey, I'm going to just start asking you really awkward questions right off the bat so we can find a song here quickly.

Maybe the second or third I asked him was, "Are you in love right now?" He said, "No, but I did meet someone, and I feel like there might be something there." Which then turned very quickly into the lyric: "She might just be my everything and beyond."

Julia Michaels' "Issues" — that was nominated for [a GRAMMY for] Song Of The Year. That was a really special one for me because Julia and I are so close — and what she was going through that day was very very real.

Especially when you're younger, those moments in your relationships feel like the end of the world. And as an older person, you never want to tell them it's not the end of the world, because they just think you sound old.

So, really embracing that moment with her in the studio — and being able to write that song, have that be the song that the world finally got to hear her sing, and be nominated for [a GRAMMY for] Song Of The Year is such a beautiful, beautiful thing to be part of.

Daya Talks The Magic Of Combining Words & Melodies, Her New EP The Difference & Working With The Chainsmokers

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Remembering Lamont Dozier: 6 Essential Tracks By The Prolific Motown Songwriter
Lamont Dozier in 1969.

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives / Handout


Remembering Lamont Dozier: 6 Essential Tracks By The Prolific Motown Songwriter

Lamont Dozier helped define the sound of Motown, co-writing, arranging, and producing a string of classic hits with brothers Brian and Eddie Holland. He passed away on Aug. 8 at age 81. commemorates his legacy.

GRAMMYs/Aug 10, 2022 - 04:03 pm

Prolific singer-songwriter Lamont Dozier penned hits for the Marvelettes, the Supremes, <a href="Marvin Gaye">Marvin Gaye</a>, Martha and the Vandellas, the Four Tops, the Isley Brothers and many more over his decades-long career. Dozier helped define the signature sound of Motown Records — one which has been covered, sampled, interpolated and used in soundtracks for generations.

Through his musical collaboration with brothers Brian and Eddie Holland, Dozier co-wrote, arranged and produced a string of classic hits in the 1960s. Among his extensive canon are songs like "You Keep Me Hangin' On," "Heat Wave," "I Can't Help Myself," and "Nowhere to Run." Without Dozier's ability to craft catchy hooks and grooves, Motown may have never become the powerhouse label that changed the course of music history. 

Dozier's creative offerings inspired artists across many genres, so when his publicist announced news of his passing at the age of 81, social media was flooded with heartfelt tributes from notable collaborators and admirers of his work, including Brian Wilson, Mitch Hucknall of Simply Red, Paul Stanley of KISS, and singer-songwriter Carole King.

Diana Ross — who first met Dozier in the '60s when he co-wrote 10 No. 1 singles for the Supremes, including "Baby Love" and "Come See About Me" — paid tribute to the late songwriter on Twitter: "He will always be remembered through all the beautiful songs that he wrote for me and the Supremes, and so many other beautiful songs."

Motown Records founder Berry Gordy played a major role in getting Dozier's career off the ground. "Lamont was a brilliant arranger and producer who balanced the talents of the great Eddie and Brian Holland, helping to pull it all together," Gordy said in a statement. "H-D-H, as we called them, gave the Supremes not only their first No. 1 record, ‘Where Did Our Love Go,' but they followed that with multiple No. 1s over the next three years. Unheard of…In the 1960s, their sound became synonymous with the 'Motown Sound.'"

Remembering Lamon Dozier in studio

 (L-R) Diana Ross, Lamont Dozier (at piano), Mary Wilson, Eddie Holland, Florence Ballard (seated) and Brian Holland in the Motown studio circa 1965. | Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Dozier's journey to the top of the charts began in Detroit, where he was born and raised in the Black Bottom district. Raised by a single mother who worked hard to provide for him and his siblings, Dozier was a creative, ambitious kid and a bit of a romantic — he was known as "the love doctor" at his junior high where he sold love letters to classmates. He knew he wanted to make music, so he began writing songs as he figured out his next moves.

In high school, Dozier took a major step toward achieving his music dreams when his interracial doo-wop group, the Romeos, stumbled into a recording contract with a newly formed independent label. The group's single "Fine, Fine Baby" soon caught the attention of Atlantic Records, which bought the song from them. Dozier viewed the sale as a sign of good things to come and promptly dropped out of high school to devote all of his time to making music, much to the dismay of his mother. But the Romeos' success was short-lived — Dozier overplayed his hand during negotiations with Atlantic, abruptly ending the group's collaboration with the label. They disbanded shortly thereafter.  

 After the group split, Dozier set out to earn a living as a solo artist. In 1960, Dozier recorded his first solo project with Anna Records, a label co-founded by Gordy's sister Gwen. He recorded two tracks for the label, a midtempo ballad and a funky B-side called "Popeye." A young Marvin Gaye played drums on "Popeye," which became a regional hit before the label was forced to pull the record because of its references to the trademarked spinach-loving cartoon character.

When Gwen and her husband sold Anna Records to Motown and in 1962, Gordy came a-knockin.' After years of circling each other, Dozier agreed to join Motown as a songwriter/performer and partnered with songwriter Brian Holland to pen tracks for the Contours and the Marvelettes. They soon recruited Holland's brother Eddie, and each H-D-H member had a critical role: Eddie would be the lyricist; Dozier, the idea man who created the lyrical concepts, and Brian would write the music. 

According to the Songwriters Hall of Fame, H-D-H composed over 400 songs, 70 top 10 singles, and 40 No. 1 hits for Motown before leaving due to contract disputes in 1972. (The trio has since been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.)

Though the trio continued working together infrequently under a different moniker, Dozier's focus was on his burgeoning solo career, during which he released 12 albums. While he could not replicate H-D-H's success with his own pursuits, the hitmaker earned accolades for his solo efforts and other collaborations, including an Academy Award nomination and a GRAMMY win for his work on Phil Collins' 1988 song "Two Hearts." 

Alongside his creative pursuits, Dozier was heavily involved in music education throughout his career. The veteran songwriter helped develop the Pop Music Program at USC Thornton School of Music and worked closely with emerging young artists as the school's Artist-in-Residence. "I discovered that I draw a lot of energy and inspiration from working with students who love music and are hungry to learn the craft," he wrote in his 2019 memoir, How Sweet It Is

When he wasn't composing, teaching, or spending time with his family, Dozier held multiple leadership positions within the Recording Academy and left an indelible impression on those who crossed paths with him. "Lamont poured his heart and soul into his craft, shaping the sound of Motown and eternally influencing the art of songwriting," wrote Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr.  "We will remember his natural ability to pen legendary music that connected people across the world." 

"Lamont was a national treasure and wrote some of the most iconic songs of any generation. He was kind, humble and a leader in the Recording Academy family," adds Susan Stewart, Managing Director of the Songwriters & Composers Wing. "Most recently, he served as an Honorary Chair for the Songwriters & Composers Wing, a role that honored his love and respect for his fellow writers. He will be so deeply missed by all of us."

Over his six-decade career, Lamont Dozier helped craft a unique blend of R&B, gospel and pop music that not only defined the Motown Sound but took flight for artists beyond Motor City f. Here are some essential tracks produced, co-written and arranged by the prolific hitmaker.

"How Sweet It Is" - Marvin Gaye

Released in 1964, "How Sweet It Is (to be Loved by you)" was an instant hit for Marvin Gaye, who recorded the song in one take. The love song hit No. 6 on the singles charts and became Gaye's most successful song to date.

The single's success was bittersweet for Dozier, who had intended to record the song for his solo career. "Once Marvin had his hit with [‘How Sweet It Is'], I accepted that an artist career just wasn't in the cards for me," Dozier wrote. "I still wanted it, but I was constantly bombarded with demand for more songs, and more productions for [Motown's] growing roster of artists."

After penning countless tracks for other artists, Dozier was eventually able to make his dream come true — he released a dozen solo albums throughout his career.

"Where Did Our Love Go?" - The Supremes

The Supremes' first No. 1 hit charted for 14 weeks, but without Dozier's persistence, the group may have never recorded it. H-D-H had originally penned the track for the Marvelettes, who rejected it, which led Dozier to bring it to Diana Ross and The Supremes, who were also not fans of the sound.

The songwriter was caught between a rock and a hard place: if he couldn't sell the single, the label would make H-D-H absorb the production costs, so giving up was not an option. Luckily for H-D-H,  the Supremes had yet to score a hit single, so they were in no position to pass on the song. Thanks to Dozier's tenacity and Berry Gordy's stamp of approval, the trio gave in and agreed to release the star-making hit that would launch them into the mainstream.

"You Keep Me Hangin' On" - The Supremes

A sound effect from a radio news bulletin inspired the attention-grabbing foundation of this hit song. "I remembered that staccato effect that preceded the news," Dozier wrote. So he employed a guitarist to recreate the news alert on the track. "I thought that would be a cool way for us to sonically say, ‘Hey, pay attention.'" And the world did.

The song topped the charts and inspired new iterations from artists across various genres and generations including Vanilla Fudge, Kim Wilde, Rod Stewart and Reba McEntire.

"I think that's probably one of my favorite songs in our catalog because of the way it has continued to resonate with different people through different versions for different generations over all these years," Dozier wrote.

"Baby I Need Your Loving" - The Four Tops 

What came first: the music or the lyrics? In the case of "Baby, I Need Your Loving," the music came three years before the lyrics.

Dozier and Brian Holland arranged and composed the music for this hit song during a three-hour creative session, but Dozier wouldn't crack the lyrical concept until a year later when the muse deposited a couple of lines into his creative bank: "Baby, I need your love. Got to have all your love." The two iconic lines helped introduce the Four Tops to a wider audience, garnering them their first Top 20 hit. (The song peaked at No. 11.)

"Stop! In the Name of Love" - The Supremes

This classic track was inspired by an argument that Dozier had with a woman he was seeing. "I was trying to defuse the argument, and it came out, ‘Stop in the name of love,'" Dozier told Rolling Stone.

"I was trying to be facetious, but the girl didn't think it was that funny. But then I thought about it, and there was a cash register ringing. The next day I brought it into the guys, and Brian was playing this thing that seemed to fit it, and we had it right off the bat."

"Two Hearts" - Phil Collins

"Phil Collins and I became friends and admirers of one another from the first time we met," Dozier wrote. The songwriting vet partnered with the drummer-turned-solo superstar to produce this track for the 1988 motion picture "Buster," which earned the duo a GRAMMY Award, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award nomination.

This wasn't the first collaboration between Collins and Dozier — the duo had worked on tracks for Eric Clapton's "August" — and it wouldn't be the last. Both Collins and Clapton made guest appearances on Dozier's "Inside Seduction" album. 

Celebrating Olivia Newton-John, "A Beloved Artist And An Inspiration To Many"

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Celebrating Olivia Newton-John, "A Beloved Artist And An Inspiration To Many"
Olivia Newton-John performs at London's Royal Albert Hall in March 2013.

Photo: Neil Lupin/Redferns via Getty Images


Celebrating Olivia Newton-John, "A Beloved Artist And An Inspiration To Many"

Dame Olivia Newton-John passed away at 73 on Aug. 8. commemorates her legacy as an '80s pop icon and an adored movie star.

GRAMMYs/Aug 10, 2022 - 03:19 pm

"Very often the things that you're most afraid of are the things that you really need to just go for," Dame Olivia Newton-John said in a 2021 interview with Today. "It's one of my most successful records, and I never would've dreamt that could've happened."

She was referring to the tremendous success of "Physical," the blockbuster song that made her one of the biggest pop stars of her time and won a GRAMMY for Video of the Year in 1982. 

"Today the lyrics are like a lullaby, don't you reckon? But in those days…," the singer lightheartedly explained of the sexually charged sentiment of the track. "I remember listening to it and going, 'That's a really great song,' and didn't really tune in to what it was about. And then when I recorded it, I started to panic, and I called my manager and said, 'I think I've gone too far with this song. It's just too much.' And he said, 'Well, it's too late love, it's taken off everywhere.'"

Then, a plan was hatched: If a video was released depicting Newton-John exercising, then the lyrics could be interpreted in a more G-rated fashion. The scheme worked, and "Physical" shot to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. It stayed there for 10 weeks, making it the single the biggest hit of the 1980s.

But the success of "Physical" was only one impressive chapter of a generation-spanning career, cut short on Aug. 8 when the superstar died at 73 in California. "Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer," a statement from her husband, John Easterling, read.

For Newton-John, the numbers speak for themselves: 5 No. 1 hits, 14 gold albums and sales north of 100 million copies. What's more, Olivia Newton-John won four GRAMMYs  and received 12 GRAMMY nominations overall. (In addition to "Physical," she took home trophies for Record of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for "I Honestly Love You" in 1975, and Best Country Vocal Performance, Female for "Let Me Be There" in 1974.)

In her wake, Newton-John leaves behind a world of admirers inspired by her fearlessness, talent and longevity. "Since I was 10 years old, I have loved and looked up to Olivia Newton-John. And, I always will," the singer Kylie Minogue wrote on Twitter. Mariah Carey — who was also influenced by Newton-John as a little girl — remembered getting the chance to perform with the star in Australia, calling her "one of the kindest, most generous and lovely people I've ever met."  

"Olivia Newton-John was a beloved artist and an inspiration to many," Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, said in a statement. "Her music both on and off the screen will be forever cherished by our community. She will be missed dearly."

Elton John shared a similar sentiment, calling Newton-John "a beautiful voice and a warm and loving friend," while her Grease co-star John Travolta gushed, "Your impact was incredible." Singer Dionne Warwick said Newton-John simply was "One of the nicest people I had the pleasure of recording and performing with."

In fact, Warwick served as an early inspiration for Newton-John, who cited her along with singers Joan Baez and Nina Simone as a few of the vocal powerhouses she looked up to as a child herself. But while the Britain-born, Australia-raised singer knew she had a passion for performing, she initially did not pursue it professionally. 

"I don't know if wanting to be a performer was a conscious thing," Newton-John explained on 'The Rosie O'Donnell Show' in 1998. "But [as a child] I was always dressing up, and doing shows, and singing and writing songs and poetry all the time… I loved to sing."

A turning point came when she was hanging out in her brother-in-law's coffee shop. "I'd just sit there next to the guy who was singing on stage," she recalled to O'Donnell. "He invited me up one night and I started singing along with him and it kind of went from there." 

She decided to enter a singing contest in her native Australia at just 15 years old, belting out the Broadway classic "Everything's Coming Up Roses" — a performance that helped her not only win the competition, but seal her superstar fate.

Initially, Newton-John cemented an image as a sweet young singer with country twang, making her American TV debut on 'The Dean Martin Show' in 1972. Throughout the '70s, she released hit after hit, many of them heartfelt and melancholy ballads, including 1974's GRAMMY-winning "I Honestly Love You," and 1975's GRAMMY-nominated "Have You Never Been Mellow," all sung with a purity that embodied both her voice and image.

It was an inherent innocence that famed producer Alan Carr noticed. In the late '70s, Carr was sitting on the rights for a long-gestating '50s-set musical, originally intending to cast Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret. At the time, Newton-John had minimal movie-star aspirations, telling the New York Times in 1978, "I wasn't desperately looking for a movie and always felt when things are right they will happen. I'm a fatalist so I just sit back and wait." 

But once Carr met Newton-John at a dinner party thrown by the singer Helen Reddy (of "I Am Woman" fame), he noticed her inherent it-factor, telling the NYT that he was "knocked out" by his then-28 year-old dinner party companion. "I told her immediately she was everything a movie star should be." 

The movie Carr cast Newton-John in was, of course, Grease. In 1978, it became the highest-grossing musical-film ever at the time, and the second-best selling album of the year. The soundtrack was nominated for a GRAMMY for Album of the Year in 1979, with Newton-John's ballad "Hopelessly Devoted to You" also scoring a GRAMMY nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female (it also received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song).

But no matter how massive her movie stardom — whether in Grease or the 1980 cult-fantasy film Xanadu — Newton-John never let her Hollywood success overtake her recording career. Though her onscreen roles did help usher in a new image: In a few short years, she went from playing the innocent '50s schoolgirl Sandy to a sultry pop star in the form of "Physical," a groundbreaking song in both the nature of its salacious lyrics and trailblazing music video (which would become a hallmark of her fame in the 1980s). 

Along the way, Newton-John also transformed into the confident performer she dreamed of being when she was a child. "In the old days, I was just too nervous to have a good time. It may not have shown, but leading up to when I went out on stage, it was always very nerve-wracking," she told Entertainment Weekly in 2008. "Now I really enjoy it. I guess [that's the result of] experience and aging. Nothing much more can happen, so this one's gonna have fun! Let go, right? Let go and enjoy yourself."

Newton-John released 26 albums throughout her five-decade run, releasing her final solo LP in 2008 and three collaborative projects in the 2010s: Christmas albums with Travolta and Australian star John Farnham in 2012 and 2016, respectively, and an uplifting project with Beth Nielsen Chapman and Amy Sky in 2016. 

In later years, Newton-John would become a passionate advocate for cancer awareness and research, as she battled the disease on numerous occasions since 1992. She also launched her own successful charity, the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund.

Above all of her career achievements, it was her artistry as a singer that she held in the highest regard. "I [consider myself] a singer who acts," she said in 2015. "I just enjoy it. Singing is a part of me. Music is a part of who I am. I can't do this forever, so I am enjoying every minute that I can still do it."

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Relive The Music, Fashion & Excitement Of Outside Lands 2022 In This Photo Gallery
The Linda Lindas perform at Outside Lands on Saturday.

Photo: Alive Coverage


Relive The Music, Fashion & Excitement Of Outside Lands 2022 In This Photo Gallery

Experience a taste of Outside Lands 2022 with this photo gallery and get lost in the musical woods of Golden Gate Park.

GRAMMYs/Aug 9, 2022 - 07:46 pm

Over 200,000 people attended the annual Outside Lands music and arts festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park Aug. 5-7. Over three days and on six stages, attendees — many of whom donned ‘90s and early aughts-inspired attire or their colorful festival best — were treated to a wide variety of dance music, rap, rock and indie acts.

The festival featured headliners 
SZAGreen Day, Post Malone and Kali Uchis, in addition to dozens of DJs, artists and bands. In addition to music, Outside Lands offered extensive food and drink options (a nod to San Francisco’s wide-ranging culinary scene), as well as a cannabis marketplace and consumption area. 

In the below photo gallery, revisit Outside Lands 2022 if you were there — and if you weren't, enjoy the sights of San Francisco and keep your ear to the ground for next year’s lineup.

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ReImagined At Home: Netta Gives MC Hammer's '90s Classic "U Can't Touch This" A Modern-Day Makeover

Photo: Courtesy of Netta


ReImagined At Home: Netta Gives MC Hammer's '90s Classic "U Can't Touch This" A Modern-Day Makeover

MC Hammer's GRAMMY-winning hit "U Can't Touch This" gets a playful update in this imaginative homage from pop singer/songwriter Netta.

GRAMMYs/Aug 9, 2022 - 05:03 pm

Born in January 1993, singer/songwriter and looping artist Netta wasn't even alive when MC Hammer released his classic "U Can't Touch This" in 1990.

But in this episode of ReImagined at Home, Netta puts her signature stamp on a cover performance of "U Can't Touch This," paying homage to the original with an equally joyful — and colorfully revamped — rendition that's brimming with her own infectious personality. 

Atop a bed made of netting, Netta sits suspended some 10 or 15 feet in the air, her microphone suspended from the ceiling and BOSS tabletop looper at her feet. With a big smile on her face, she adds layer after layer of melody and harmony to create a lush, danceable and modern track that's still recognizable as "U Can't Touch This."

Toward the tail end of her performance, Netta also tips her hat to another aspect of the song's history, singing "She's a very kinky girl" over the beat. That's a line from Rick James' "Super Freak," which is prominently sampled in MC Hammer's original recording of "U Can't Touch This." (When "U Can't Touch This" won the GRAMMY for Best Rhythm & Blues Song in 1991, both MC Hammer and James took home trophies. The song also won Best Solo Rap Performance.)

As a star who first rose to fame when she won the Eurovision Song Contest 2018 — repping her home country of Israel — Netta is no stranger to cover performances. During her stint on HaKokhav HaBa, Israel's televised national selection for the Eurovision Song Contest, she won fans over with cover performances of artists like Kesha, the Spice Girls and David Guetta.

Since winning the big contest with her own original song, "Toy," Netta has been steadily mounting her personality-packed, harmony-laden, signature brand of electropop. She'll continue to build that vision with her next song, "Playground Politica," set for release on August 31. 

In the meantime, press play on the video above to watch Netta's spin on "U Can't Touch This," and keep checking back to for more episodes of ReImagined at Home. 

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