meta-script9 Korean Alternative Artists To Know: Jiwoo, Zior Park, Huh & More | GRAMMY.com
9 Korean Alternative Artists To Know
Huh performs during SXSW Sydney 2023

Photo: James Gourley/Getty Images for Spotify

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9 Korean Alternative Artists To Know: Jiwoo, Zior Park, Huh & More

When it comes to finding artists outside of the K-pop spectrum, one is almost spoilt for choice. These rising alternative artists are slowly but steadily turning themselves into champions of a new independent era.

GRAMMYs/Dec 26, 2023 - 05:03 pm

Despite popular misconceptions, Korean music hasn’t always thrived on the glittering giant of K-pop. Even as the genre went mainstream and set the blueprints of the company/trainee system, South Korea has boasted a network of independent acts in a variety of genres.

In fact, when it comes to finding artists outside of the K-pop spectrum, one is almost spoilt for choice. To wit, Korea's rock spirit is alive and well, and labels like Illionaire Records, AOMG, and H1GHR Music became the flag-bearers of hip-hop and R&B. These independent, alternative artists often had unconventional beginnings. Where mainstream pop traditionally favors an insular and straightforward approach, Korea's alt artists often make music based on amalgamation of genres and inspirations. 

The growth of "alternative" genres can be largely attributed to the success of TV shows like "Show Me The Money," which popularized hip-hop and R&B, eventually launching names that have now become mainstays in the genre. South Korea’s sophisticated digital infrastructure has made it easier for independent acts, labels, and collectives to bring much-needed diversity and experimentation to the Korean music industry. 

Below, GRAMMY.com has rounded up some rising alternative acts in Korean music. Each has spent the last few years slowly but steadily turning themselves into champions of a new independent era. 

Jinsol Woo

You might not know the name Jinsol Woo yet, but you may have heard of the accessory brand OHTNYC. For years, Woo was the creative force behind OHTNYC — with pieces found glittering on stars like Olivia Rodrigo, Keshi, Felix from Stray Kids, and BIBI. 

In 2022, Woo stepped into the musical spotlight, dropping his debut single "Internet Love," a medley of contrasting dreamy visuals and pared-down trap. He followed that up with his debut EP Attachment. Woo approaches music with the same wild fervor and liberation that reflects in his eccentric designs, drawing liberally from motifs of a young, digital age and visuals that belong more in a home-shot virtual diary than the airbrushed pages of a magazine. 

Huh 

"He doesn’t have talent, he should just study / Now that I’ve made it, they try to suck up to me / How do you feel?" Huh spits on his track "HDYF," released shortly after he placed second on the popular Korean music show "Show Me The Money." The song was a bit of long-overdue catharsis: Previously known as Rose De Penny, Huh started out as an independent rapper on season eight of "Show Me The Money" in 2019, but was eliminated early on. He returned to the show the following season, only to experience the same fate. 

But Huh is nothing if not persistent. By the time he made his third appearance on the show — he finished second, coolly claiming that was his goal all along — the 24-year-old rapper had come to be known for his tenacity, fiery candor, and attitude. Those traits became the base for scathing clapbacks like "HDYF" and introspective tracks like "926," (from an album of the same name) which provided an inverted picture of South Korea’s oppressive rat-race corporate culture by showing an artist’s average day.

In 2023, Huh’s vision landed him a place on Spotify’s RADAR Korea list.

LØREN

Even if you’ve never heard LØREN’s own music as a singer and guitarist, chances are you’ve heard the artists he’s produced. By the time he took off his producer hat and released his debut EP Put Up A Fight in 2023, he’d spent nearly a decade affiliated with YG Entertainment.Under the entertainment behemoth, LØREN made music for the likes of G-Dragon and wrote several songs for BLACKPINK (eagle-eyed fans will also recognise him as the male lead in the group’s music video "Lovesick Girls"). 

But where LØREN’s work for other artists stayed ensconced in the territories of hip-hop and pop, his own music carries the imprints of his roots in grunge and punk rock, the latter of which he called a "dead" genre in South Korea not too long ago. Call it perseverance or simply naiveté (though, knowing his sense of humor, he might lean towards the latter), but the singer’s music isn’t just about rebellion for the sake of it. Between sandpaper guitar riffs and defiant lyrics, LØREN is brining a much-welcomed grittier aesthetic to the otherwise glittery skylines of K-pop. 

Dvwn

Just like the quiet time of day his name is inspired by, Dvwn is known for his somber, soothing, introspective melodies fit for the wee hours of the night. His sensitive storytelling and rich instrumentation — the result of melding an array of genres like lo-fi, jazz, and smooth R&B — have turned him into an indie icon, but they also stand as testimonies of his humble beginnings and persistence to explore and expand. 

Dvwn started uploading music to Soundcloud in 2017, dropping his debut EP, Panorama, a year later. He was contacted by KOZ Entertainment founder (and renowned rapper) Zico in 2019 and Dvwn's sophomore EP, It’s Not Your Fault, followed. The EP was nominated for the Best R&B and Soul – Album at the Korean Music Awards, one of the most prestigious music accolades in the country. The singer/songwriter has since picked up writing and composing credits for artists like SHINee, Big Naughty, Zico, NCT Dream and more, turning his laid-back style into a signature genre. 

87Dance

Named after the BPM and genre of the first song they ever wrote, 87Dance was formed by childhood friends Betheblue and Park Seong-ho. While they released their debut EP Palchilldance (the pronunciation of their name) in 2019, the band's popularity soared following the release of their 2022 track "How can I forget you girl." 

Released right on the tails of a retro resurgence in South Korea (largely prompted by the wildly successful K-drama "Hospital Playlist"), the song’s seamless blend of moody grooves, funk, and new-tro (new retro) became an instant hit. Since then, the band has become a staple on the Korean indie scene, known for their fluvial tracks and engaging storytelling. 

BIG Naughty

"Three years, I’ll be big in Korea," a fresh-faced, 15-year-old BIG Naughty proclaimed on "Show Me The Money" in 2019. Now, at 20, one wouldn’t be too surprised if he claimed to be clairvoyant. BIG Naughty’s indomitable drive and unique sing-song rap caught the attention of H1GHR Music, and he’s called it home since. 

While hip-hop and R&B may have propelled him to fame, BIG Naughty never pigeonholed himself into making any specific type of music. On "Bravo," from his 2021 EP Bucket List, he  effortlessly flows from one bar to another, but on later singles like "Vancouver," he swaps out the polished, suave sound for a rougher rock one. 

The singer/songwriter is keen to refute any labels. "I’m not a rapper, an R&B singer, or a band," he told the Korea Herald in 2022, making the BIG Naughty sound as surprising and diverse as the man himself. 

Jiwoo 

Before officially debuting as a soloist under Colde’s label Wavy, Jiwoo had spent considerable time as part of the R&B Collective WYBH and as a DJ, rapper, and hip-hop producer working under the moniker Hayake. His 2019 solo debut EP Maison established a surprising new mellow identity as a solo artist.  

A self-proclaimed man of details, Jiwoo’s sound is decidedly understated, focusing on building an all-encompassing atmosphere through intentional layering and complex sound effects rather than conventional progressions. On the EP's "Comme des Garçons," Jiwoo whispers in low tones against a moody, bare-bones arrangement. On the single "ANTIRIVER" — the title track from an EP released a year later — he married jazz and R&B with an eerie, distorted rock framework. 

0Wave

While they have a more direct connection to K-pop — member VIIN is a former member of the K-pop group Treasure  — 0Wave are more of a musical collective than a K-pop group. As of late, the quintet are honing their R&B and hip-hop influences.

On their solo releases, members Aiboy, Yukon, VIIN, MODS, and wooseojun each have a distinct sound — spanning everything from pop covers, to hyperpop, to hip-hop — which they use to transform their work as a group into a playground of genres. "Hey," from their debut *EP\[off the wall\]*, carried heavy trap influences, while later singles like "bad hab1t" brought a lighter, '90s hip-hop and R&B-inspired sound with old-school visuals to boot. As a result, every release is as surprising and diverse as the next one. 

Zior Park 

"I’m still f—ing Christian / though I’m wearing new Christian," Zior Park screams on his EP Where Does The Sasquatch Live? Pt. 1. The EP is his first foray into exploring how individual identity develops — despite resistance and questioning — in the face of collective conformity. Even a cursory glance into his work, however, reveals that he’s somewhat of an expert at this. 

Park has spent the past few years developing an eclectic artistry that rejects normality, embraces eccentricity, and celebrates diversity. On "Queen," for example, he powerfully rebukes societal double standards, which wants something authentic yet dismisses differences as abnormal. On "Through The Darkness," he extends a helping hand and kind word to those struggling. 

As arresting as his music videos are (which are often inspired by Alice in Wonderland or Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory), Park wins with his acute and empathetic observations of the human psyche. Through music, Park demonstrates the need to just be oneself and be understood openly. 

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Photo of country singer/artist Anne Wilson wearing a brown jacket with pink designs, a white shirt, and light blue jeans.
Anne Wilson

Photo: Robby Klein

feature

Anne Wilson Found Faith In Music After Her Brother’s Death. Now She’s One Of Country’s Young Stars: "His Tragedy Wasn’t Wasted"

The Kentucky-based musician first arrived on the scene as a Christian artist in 2022. On her new album 'Rebel,' the singer/songwriter star melds the sounds of her "true north" with a mainstream country sensibility.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2024 - 02:40 pm

After breaking out in the world of contemporary Christian music, Anne Wilson wants to take the country world by storm. 

Out April 19, Wilson's sophomore album embraces the many aspects of her self. Rebel sees the Kentuckian lean into her country and horse farm roots just as she leans into her faith — a subject already deeply intertwined in country music — more than ever before. 

"I’ve never viewed it as switching over to country or leaving Christian music," Wilson tells GRAMMY.com. "With this new record I wanted to write something that was faith-based but also broad enough to positively impact people who don’t have a strong faith as well."

Rebel is just the latest chapter in a journey of triumph and glory first set into motion by tragedy. Wilson started playing piano when she was six but didn’t begin taking it more seriously until the sudden death of her older brother, Jacob Wilson, in 2017. Despite the weight of the moment, Wilson, then 15, returned to the piano to channel her grief — a move that culminated in her first live singing performance when she belted out Hillsong Worship’s "What A Beautiful Name" at his funeral.

"My life forever changed in that moment," admits Wilson. "I already knew that life was very short on this side and that we only have a small window of time here so I wanted to make mine count. It was a special, but really hard moment that has gone on to spawn my entire career. Hearing just how much my songs have impacted fans makes me feel like his tragedy wasn’t wasted and that it was used for good."

Soon after she posted a cover of "What A Beautiful Name" to YouTube that netted over 800,000 views and caught the attention of the brass at Capitol Christian Music Group, who promptly signed her to a deal. Her first release with them, My Jesus, earned a GRAMMY nomination in 2023 for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album in addition to its title track hitting the top spot on Billboard’s Christian Airplay chart. 

Similar to My Jesus, Rebel sees Wilson doubling down on her religious roots while continuing to preserve the memory of her beloved brother. Although she grew up in a devout Christian household in Lexington, Kentucky, Wilson says that she didn’t fully connect with her faith until Jacob’s passing. 

Nowadays she couldn’t see herself living without it.

"When it came to dealing with the loss and tragedy of my brother I knew I couldn’t have survived that without [faith]," she says. "As I started writing songs and moved to Nashville my faith quickly became everything to me."

The 16-song project hits the bullseye between contemporary Christian and country twang, with an assist from special guests including Chris Tomlin ("The Cross"), Jordan Davis ("Country Gold") and Lainey Wilson ("Praying Woman"). Of the Lainey feature, Wilson says the two wrote "Praying Woman" upon their first day of meeting, with the elder Wilson growing into big sister and mentor of sorts for Anne. The song was inspired by the power of prayer Wilson and Lainey each experienced from their mothers growing up.

"We’d been talking about memories from growing up and remembering our mother’s coming into our rooms, getting on their knees and praying for us," recalls Wilson. "There was a conviction in how they prayed and expected them to be answered that was so powerful and special that we wanted to capture the feeling of it in song."

Rebel's strong motherly influence continues on "Red Flag," a rockin' number that Anne Wilson wrote as guidance to her younger fan base about what to look for in lasting love. While she largely had to ad lib the concept, having no bad breakup or relationship experiences to pull from, many of the "green flags" she notes were the result of years of advice. Things like going to church, being down to Earth, hunting, fishing, and respecting the American flag were traits and hobbies Wilson's mother had been passing down to her for years.

"Growing up she was always teaching me about relationship red and green flags, what to expect and to never settle," explains Wilson. "I have a song on my last record called ‘Hey Girl’ that ['Red Flag' is] almost a continuation of. It started out as a fun joke and turned out to be an actual serious song about red flags that’s one of my favorites on the whole record."

Another tune that began lighthearted before adopting a more serious tone is "Songs About Whiskey." Playing into country music and her home state's obsession with songs about brown liquor, the upbeat banger is intended to instead illustrate how Wilson gets her high from G-O-D rather than A-B-V or C-B-D through lines like, "I guess I’m just kind of fixed on/ The only thing that’s ever fixed me/ That’s why I sing songs about Jesus/ Instead of singing songs about whiskey."

"It’s supposed to be fun, make you laugh and fill you with joy," describes Wilson. "But it’s also meant to show how my faith is my true north, not those other things that are going to try to fill you up, but never do."

Through all of Rebel Wilson not only proves how her faith is her true north, but also shows others yearning to get there a path toward. This feeling culminates on the record’s title track, which frames her open love of Jesus as an act of rebellion in today’s world. A lesson in "what it means to have faith, not backing down from it and clinging to what we know is true," Wilson says the song was also inspired by previously having a song turned away at Christian radio for sounding "too country."

"I’m not going to try to please Christian music and I’m not going to try to please country music, I’m just going to be who I’ve always been and let the songs fall where they want to," asserts Wilson. "That was fuel not just for the song, but going against the grain on this entire album to be my most authentic self yet."

At the end of the day, genre labels, accolades and being included in the Grand Ole Opry’s NextStage Class of 2024 are secondary to Wilson’s adoration for the man above and her brother who, albeit tragically, set her on the journey she’s on now.

"I want to make sure I’m honoring him in everything that I do," reflects Wilson, "because he’s the reason I started doing music in the first place." 

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Photo of Noah Kahan (L) and Olivia Rodrigo (R) perform during the GUTS World Tour in New York City
Noah Kahan (L) and Olivia Rodrigo (R) perform during the GUTS World Tour in New York City

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation

list

10 Record Store Day 2024 Releases We're Excited About: The Beatles, Notorious B.I.G. & More

In honor of Record Store Day 2024, which falls on April 20, learn about 10 limited, exclusive drops to watch out for when browsing your local participating record store.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2024 - 02:20 pm

From vinyl records by the 1975 and U2, to album reissues and previously unreleased music, record stores around the world are stocking limited and exclusive releases for Record Store Day 2024

The first Record Store Day kicked off in 2008 and every year since, the event supporting independently owned record stores has grown exponentially. On Record Store Day 2024, which falls on April 20, there will be more than 300 special releases available from artists as diverse as  the Beatles and Buena Vista Social Club. 

In honor of Record Store Day 2024 on April 20, here are 10 limited and exclusive drops to watch out for when browsing your local participating record store. 

David Bowie — Waiting in the Sky (Before The Starman Came To Earth

British glam rocker David Bowie was a starman and an icon. Throughout his career, he won five GRAMMY Awards and was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. 

On RSD 2024, Bowie's estate is dialing it back to his Ziggy Stardust days to make Waiting in the Sky (Before The Starman Came To Earth) available for the first time. The record features recordings of Bowie's sessions at Trident Studios in 1971, and many songs from those sessions would be polished for his 1972 album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

The tracklisting for Waiting in the Sky differs from Ziggy Stardust and features four songs that didn’t make the final album.

Talking Heads — Live at WCOZ 77

New York City-based outfit Talking Heads defined the sound of new wave in the late '70s and into the next decade. For their massive influence, the group received two GRAMMY nominations and was later honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2021.

While promoting their debut album Talking Heads: 77, the quartet recorded a live performance for the New Albany, Pennsylvania radio station WCOZ in 1977. The Live at WCOZ 77 LP will include 14 songs from that performance at Northern Studios, including seven that will be released for the first time. Among the previously unheard cuts are "Love Goes To A Building On Fire" and "Uh-Oh, Love Comes To Town." During that session, Talking Heads also performed songs like "Psycho Killer" and "Pulled Up."

The Doors — Live at Konserthuset, Stockholm, September 20, 1968

The Doors were at the forefront of the psychedelic rock movement of the 1960s and early '70s. One of Jim Morrison's most epic performances with the band will be available on vinyl for the first time. 

Live at Konserthuset, Stockholm, September 20, 1968 includes recordings from a radio broadcast that was never commercially released. The 3-LP release includes performances of songs from the Doors’ first three albums, including 1967’s self-titled and Strange Days. In addition to performing their classics like "Light My Fire" and "You're Lost Little Girl," the Doors and Morrison also covered "Mack the Knife" and Barret Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)" live during this session. 

Dwight Yoakam — The Beginning And Then Some: The Albums of the '80s

Over the course of his 40-year career, country music icon Dwight Yoakam has received 18 GRAMMY nominations and won two golden gramophones for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1994 and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals in 2000.

On Record Store Day 2024, Yoakam will celebrate the first chapter of his legacy with a new box set: The Beginning And Then Some: The Albums of the '80s. His debut album Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. and 1987’s Hillbilly Deluxe will be included in the collection alongside exclusive disc full of rarities and demos. The 4-LP set includes his classics like "Honky Tonk Man," "Little Ways," and "Streets of Bakersfield." The box set will also be available to purchase on CD.  

The Beatles — The Beatles Limited Edition RSD3 Turntable

Beatlemania swept across the U.S. following the Beatles’ first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in February 1964, setting the stage for the British Invasion. With The Beatles Limited Edition RSD3 Turntable, the band will celebrate their iconic run of appearances on Sullivan’s TV program throughout that year.

The box set will include a Beatles-styled turntable and four 3-inch records. Among those records are the hits "I Want To Hold Your Hand," "Till There Was You," "She Loves You," and "I Saw Her Standing There," which the Beatles performed on Sullivan's TV across several appearances. 

Among 23 GRAMMY nominations, the Beatles won seven golden gramophones. In 2014, the Recording Academy honored them with the Lifetime Achievement Award.   

Olivia Rodrigo and Noah Kahan — From The BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge LP

Olivia Rodrigo and Noah Kahan are two of the biggest pop stars in the world right now — Rodrigo hitting the stage with No Doubt at Coachella and near the end of her global GUTS Tour; Kahan fresh off a Best New Artist nomination at the 2024 GRAMMYs. Now, they're teaming up for the split single From The BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge LP, a release culled from each artist's "BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge" sessions. 

The special vinyl release will include Rodrigo's live cover of Kahan's breakout hit "Stick Season." The single also includes Kahan’s cover of Rodrigo’s song "Lacy" from her second album, GUTS. This month, they performed the song live together on Rodrigo’s Guts World Tour stop in Madison Square Garden.  

Buena Vista Social Club — Buena Vista Social Club

Influential Cuban group Buena Vista Social Club popularized genres and sounds from their country, including son cubano, bolero, guajira, and danzón. Buena Vista Social Club's landmark self-titled LP won the GRAMMY for Best Tropical Latin Album in 1998.

The following year, a documentary was released that captured two of the band's live performances in New York City and Amsterdam. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the documentary, the Buena Vista Social Club album will be released on a limited edition gold vinyl with remastered audio and bonus tracks.

Buena Vista Social Club is one of the 10 recordings to be newly inducted into the GRAMMY Hall Of Fame as part of the 2024 inductee class.

Danny Ocean — 54+1

Venezuelan reggaeton star Danny Ocean broke through on a global level in 2016 with his self-produced debut single "Me Rehúso," a heartbreaking track inspired by Ocean fleeing Venezuela due to the country's economic instability and the lover he had left behind. 

With "Me Rehúso," Ocean became the first solo Latin artist to surpass one billion streams on Spotify, on the platform with a single song. "Me Rehúso" was included on his 2019 debut album 54+1, which will be released on vinyl for the first time for Record Store Day.

Lee "Scratch" Perry & The Upsetters — Skanking With The Upsetter

Jamaican producer Lee "Scratch" Perry pioneered dub music in the 1960s and '70s. Perry received five GRAMMY nominations in his lifetime, including winning Best Reggae Album in 2003 for Jamaican E.T.

To celebrate the legacy of Perry's earliest dub recordings, a limited edition run of his 2004 album Skanking With The Upsetter will be released on Record Store Day. His joint LP with his house band the Upsetters will be pressed on transparent yellow vinyl. Among the rare dub tracks on the album are "Bucky Skank," "Seven & Three Quarters (Skank)," and "IPA Skank." 

Read more: Lee "Scratch" Perry Documentary Director Sets The Record Straight On The Reggae Icon's Legacy — Including A Big Misconception About Bob Marley

Notorious B.I.G. — Ready To Die: The Instrumentals

The Notorious B.I.G. helped define the sound of East Coast rap in the '90s. Though he was tragically murdered in 1997, his legacy continues to live on through his two albums. 

During his lifetime, the Notorious B.I.G. dropped his 1994 debut album Ready to Die, which is widely considered to be one of the greatest hip-hop releases of all-time. In honor of the 30th anniversary of the album (originally released in September '94), his estate will release Ready To Die: The Instrumentals. The limited edition vinyl will include select cuts from the LP like his hits "Big Poppa," "One More Chance/Stay With Me," and "Juicy." The album helped him garner his first GRAMMY nomination in 1996 for Best Rap Solo Performance. The Notorious B.I.G. received an additional three nominations after his death in 1998. 

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Singer and actor Ben Platt seated and posing
Ben Platt

Photo: Vince Aung

interview

Inside Ben Platt's 'Honeymind': How Queer Love, Live Performance & More Led To His Most Authentic Album Yet

Ben Platt's expansive artistry has taken him from Broadway to the recording studio, and his new album continues this evolution. 'Honeymind' shows Ben Platt at his most honest and vulnerable, embracing a new sound.

GRAMMYs/Apr 18, 2024 - 01:47 pm

Ben Platt has never allowed the world to dictate his fate. The GRAMMY, Tony, and Emmy-winner's artistic outpouring has been relentless, and he's still early in his career. 

The 30-year-old actor and singer has performed in Broadway musicals like "Parade" and "Dear Evan Hansen," sold out Madison Square Garden and the Hollywood Bowl as a solo artist, and starred and co-wrote the film Theater Camp. Each project has marked a step into a new direction, but none more so than Honeymind — an album that captures what it's like to chase tender and safe intimacy in partnership, and the ecstasy that follows once found. 

His professional growth between 2021's Reverie and Honeymind is apparent not just thematically, but sonically and in production. This latest album sounds natural and lush, with input from GRAMMY-winning producer Dave Cobb and producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Alex Hope. While  Honeymind shows a version of Platt some listeners may not be accustomed to, he's never sounded more comfortable in his own skin. 

To celebrate the release of Honeymind, Platt will headline a three-week residency in New York City's Palace Theatre and a subsequent nationwide summer tour and serve as the keynote speaker at this year’s GRAMMY U Conference. He spoke with GRAMMY.com about his latest album, upcoming residency, and the beautiful and, at times, tricky trappings of romantic love.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Honeymind shifts away from the '80s electro-pop of Reverie and your Broadway roots. What made you gravitate towards a more tender, folky sound that exudes warmth and serenity?

The biggest catalyst was that I wanted to go and write Nashville because I admired so many songwriters there. When I started with my first round of writing sessions for this record — which was back in the spring of 2022 — what just very naturally started coming out was this super unadorned, very storytelling-forward type of music. 

When I made my first record [2019], it was very close after I had been on Broadway for a long time, and it was theatrically linked. Then, I experimented with leaning into pop and this Peter Gabriel vibe, but it felt like a landing pad this time. I closed my eyes and went, What's the most natural way to communicate in terms of what is specific to me? This seemed to fit really nicely. 

You worked with renowned producers like Dave Cobb on this album. There are times when the producer’s work stands out most, but Honeymind sounds like you. How did you ensure that all tracks sounded distinctly like you versus a Dave Cobb song?

​​I loved the idea of working with Dave! His specialty is unadorned things that are as essential as they can be. When it comes to my own sound, my priority is always obviously storytelling and songwriting, but certainly, to have the vocal performance be very much the focus. Dave was very amenable to that. 

I went and wrote the songs with my co-writers before starting work with Dave, and I sort of came in with all of his songs completed. He did a beautiful job of preserving the integrity of the songs I’d written. [He wanted] to present them in as organic and straightforward a way as possible, as opposed to trying to sort of put a secondary sound onto it. 

Your previous work has been personal to varying degrees, but your lead single, "Andrew," feels particularly candid.

I wrote that song with Alex Hope, one of my favorite longtime collaborators, and I had a session earlier in the week with someone else who was also wonderful. [This first songwriter] was talking to me about her son, who was 10 or 11, and how he had his best friend, a boy he loved so much. She shared that she had an inclination that more love was going towards this friend and was coming back to him [than] he could even really communicate. 

It reminded me so deeply and immediately of so many different experiences growing up: having straight friends in high school and middle school, who you just love and who aren't doing anything wrong, but just by virtue of chemicals and how we're born, you develop feelings that just can't be reciprocated. [That's] such a special kind of melancholy. It's no one's fault, and I hadn't heard that strain of unrequited love and that particular type of melancholy expressed in a song. 

The next day, I went in with Alex and pitched them a song, and they're queer as well and understood the perspective, so it came out very quickly.

What about queer love do you find most challenging to articulate?

Developing feelings for people that just don't have it in their blood to feel the same way is a uniquely queer experience, [as is] boundarylessness both positively and negatively. It's very particular to queer love in the sense that there are a lot less societal examples, and sort of prerequisites, for what queer relationships look like or shouldn't be. Which is so freeing and wonderful and makes for a really beautiful, honest relationship. Still, it's also a little scary because you're flying blind in a way that is very particular to being a queer person. 

There's an inherent sort of rebellion and statement that you have to be making every day when you're out in the world with your partner as a queer person because there remain so many people who are intolerant, don't understand, and are still fearful and judgmental. It requires an extra bit of courage just to engage in the relationship.

You have a three-week residency at New York City's Palace Theatre, where legends like Elvis Presley, Diana Ross, and Judy Garland performed and will tour afterward.  How are you feeling as you prepare for these concerts?

When I finish the record and sit on it, it exists in limbo; I start to second-guess it, feel like I'm losing my connection to it, or forget. I don't feel like I'm in the same place as I was when I wrote these things because they're so intimate. 

But for me, the whole shebang has always been getting to perform live, and that's just my greatest joy. The songs are the most mine when I'm singing them live. I also love sharing music with people, and hearing in person and online conversations, about how it applies to their lives, how it reminds them of things, and how they use it. The tour is always the part where I'm the most in love with the album, and when the tour ends, I'm ready to let it out into the world and say goodbye for a minute.

Beyond the risk of trying something new in your career, what roles do failure, trial, and error play in your creative process or other parts of your life?

For every song I've written that I love or even come out, there are eight to 10 that I never want to see in the light of day. 

It's hard to find the good things until you throw everything at the wall, and if you're too afraid to fall, then you'll never really try in the first place. And I was privileged because I started working quite young; things went from A to B to C in the sense that they went steadily. As I get older, I learn that a career is more about this longer journey that is not at all linear. Now that I have some hindsight, it's easy to appreciate the down moments and the valleys because that's the only way you recognize when something is going well. I try to be grateful for those moments of failure or misstep when they come because it's an essential part of being an artist — not the funnest part always, but necessary. 

You'll be the keynote speaker at the 2024 GRAMMY U Conference for young professionals. What do you want to share most with conference attendees?

I must share my transparency and experiences and try to help learn by failure and success. I've found, in all facets, that specificity begets universality, and I'm trying to be as specifically honest about my role in how I approached songwriting in my own artistry — whether that's something someone will directly connect to, create a tangential connection to something else, or be an example of something that doesn't work for someone. 

Art is so tailor-made, so it's just about sharing ideas and seeing what sticks.

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Chike
Chike

Photo: Courtesy of Michael Jason Lloyd

video

Global Spin: Watch Chike Light Up The Stage With A Technicolor Performance Of “Egwu”

Nigerian Afrobeats singer Chike celebrates the joy that music brings to the spirit in this electrifying performance of his latest single, “Egwu.”

GRAMMYs/Apr 17, 2024 - 10:53 pm

Nigerian Afrobeats singer Chike recognizes music's ability to release inhibitions freely. Instantly, it'll improve your mood or make you want to dance — and his new track, "Egwu," is a celebration of that movement.

“Music need no permission to enter your spirit,” Chike declares in the chorus of the song. “Anywhere, anyhow, you know say you go feel/ Life is life, life is life.”

In this episode of Global Spin, watch Chike deliver a vibrant live performance of “Egwu,” made complete by his intricately patterned colorful suit and neon stage lighting.

The original version of “Egwu,” released on Dec. 15 via Brothers Records, features the late Nigerian rapper Mohbad: “I made a ton of music with a great guy, and I’m happy I can share the first one with the world,” Chike revealed on Instagram. On March 29, he dropped a remix of “Egwu” with DJ Call Me.

In another social media post, Chike announced that he will offer “an intimate musical experience as well tell stories of love, romance, and life” at his upcoming show, Apple of London’s Eye, in England this July.

Press play on the video above to watch Chike’s technicolor performance of “Egwu,” and don’t forget to keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of Global Spin.

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