meta-script9 Times Queer Artists Made History At The GRAMMYs: From Elton John's Collab With BSB To Kim & Sam's "Unholy" Union | GRAMMY.com
9 Times Queer Artists Made History At The GRAMMYs: From Elton John's Collab With BSB To Kim & Sam's "Unholy" Union
Lil Nas X performs during the 64th Annual GRAMMY Awards

Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

list

9 Times Queer Artists Made History At The GRAMMYs: From Elton John's Collab With BSB To Kim & Sam's "Unholy" Union

​​In celebration of Pride Month, GRAMMY.com has collected nine of the most meaningful and thrilling performances by queer artists from the ceremony’s history, which helped uplift the global LGBTIQA+ community.

GRAMMYs/Jun 13, 2023 - 06:26 pm

The 60-plus years of the GRAMMY Awards encompasses some of the most awe-inspiring and breathtaking moments in music history — and it should be noted that queer performers have produced some of the most dazzling highlights. From Elton John’s 1999 GRAMMY Legend Award to Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ 2023 performance of "Unholy," there is no shortage of iconic queer moments in GRAMMY history.

But more than merely honoring and showcasing queer artists, the ceremony is also the only major award to have moved beyond the outdated gender binary in its categories, an important step in ensuring that every artist feels welcomed. And as queer stars continue to deliver stunning performances in addition to award wins on Music's Biggest Night, young artists have meaningful representation and inspiration. 

​​In celebration of Pride Month, GRAMMY.com has collected nine of the most meaningful and thrilling performances by queer artists from the ceremony’s history. These moments commemorate some of the most impressive artists of the last few decades and helped uplift members of the LGBTIQA+ community around the world. 

Elton John & The Backstreet Boys - "Philadelphia Freedom" (2000)

When one LGBTIQA+ icon writes a song that honors another queer trailblazer, it’s bound to make for a special moment on stage. 

Performed at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards — the same night the Rocket Man was honored as MusiCares Person Of The Year, and a year after taking home the Legend Award — Elton John performed the bright and swinging "Philadelphia Freedom." With backing from the Backstreet Boys, the performance filled the room with sunshine.

The song was inspired by John’s close friend, tennis icon Billie Jean King. His piano flanked by the five Boys, John delivers a rollicking take on the number one hit, the mythic megastar in top form from every swaggery vocal growl to each thumping piano chord.

Melissa Etheridge & Joss Stone - "Piece Of My Heart" (2005)

Melissa Etheridge has always been an incredibly vulnerable artist, but when she walked onto the stage during the 47th GRAMMY Awards, her head bald due to chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer, her legend of raw strength reached a new level. 

A loving grin plastered on her face and chopping out an explosive guitar riff, Etheridge didn’t waste a second, joining soul pop star Joss Stone for a tribute to queer icon Janis Joplin. Every syllable of "Piece of My Heart" coming out of Etheridge’s mouth shines sharply like a rough-cut gem, but her explosive howl as the song comes to its climax is the stuff of legend. 

The fact that Etheridge made it through her cancer treatment and can still rock stages to this day is only further testament to just how powerful this moment of defiance turned out to be.

Lady Gaga - "Born This Way" (2011)

While the conversation surrounding Lady Gaga’s early ‘10s award ceremony run will always center on her extravagant and boundary-pushing attire and stagecraft, she made sure to put her queer advocacy at full volume during her take on "Born This Way." 

Sure, she entered the 53rd GRAMMY Awards in an egg and took time in her performance to play a snippet of Bach made famous in "The Phantom of the Opera" on a keyboard topped with mannequin heads. But in the very next moment, she ensured that the whole track slowed to a righteous halt to deliver a core message: "No matter gay, straight or bi/lesbian, transgender life/ I’m on the right track/ I was born to survive." 

The white latex and space egg are important, but Lady Gaga wants to make sure you understand that the art is all in support of a message of inclusion, that stripped down to our strangest basics we’re all human.

Frank Ocean - "Forrest Gump" (2013)

Frank Ocean has proven to be one of the most mercurial stars in R&B, releasing just two studio albums since 2011 despite some of the most rabid anticipation in the music world. His changed plans, canceled performances, and vague updates only fuel that fire — but it’s performances like "Forrest Gump" that encapsulate that whole fandom experience. 

The 55th Grammy Awards were a big night for Ocean, with six nominations and two golden gramophones coming his way, but his tender, raw love song was perhaps the most memorable of a night full of impressive tributes and star power. Homosexual love songs don’t get televised too often, and that’s what "Forrest Gump" is: pure, unabashed and straightforward; a young, mesmerizing vocalist and songwriter laid bare, playing a keyboard and backed by a video screen. There’s nothing to distract from his voice and his words: "You run my mind, boy/ Running on my mind, boy/ Forrest Gump."

Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert, Madonna & Queen Latifah - "Same Love/Open Your Heart" (2014)

There may not be a bigger performance of queer love in awards history than Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ elaborate staging of "Same Love" from the 56th GRAMMYs. Their performance of the anthem included lesbian vocalist Mary Lambert and queer icon Madonna — oh, and Queen Latifah literally overseeing marriage ceremonies for 33 couples of varying sexual identities and orientations, when same-sex marriage hadn’t yet been federally recognized. 

Macklemore and Lewis won big at the ceremony, thanks in large part to inescapable upbeat hip-hop like "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us." But instead of getting everyone in the room with some easy fun, the duo opted for "Same Love" — a track in support of marriage equality and a protest to a tendency towards homophobia in the genre. Together, they provided a powerful statement of acceptance and love that surely opened eyes for audiences around the world.

Kesha, Camilla Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Julia Michaels, Andra Day, and Bebe Rexha - "Praying" (2018)

The whole world was changing for Kesha on the runup to the 60th GRAMMY Awards. After years of struggle against her alleged abuser and an attempt to fully reclaim her career and life, she had not only taken powerful steps in that direction — she was doing so on Music's Biggest Night. 

Her new album, Rainbow, had netted two nominations, and she was asked to perform. She opted for "Praying" (co-written by Ryan Lewis), a paean to the power of change and hope, even in the darkest hours. Surrounded by a cadre of powerful women and clad in white and embroidery of blooming flowers, Kesha’s performance shows a moment of new life and transformation, an inspirational moment that continues to grow with promise of even more new music.

Janelle Monáe - "Make Me Feel" (2019)

Janelle Monáe’s performance at the 61st GRAMMY Awards felt like a celebration of her quest to share her truest self. During a performance of the sensual, stylized, sci-fi epic take on "Make Me Feel," Monáe incorporated snippets of other Dirty Computer highlights into the breakdown — including the line "let the vagina have a monologue" from "Pynk" (probably the first time that request had been made on the GRAMMYs stage). 

Her black-and-white clad synchronized backup dancers gave shades of Robert Palmer, but Prince (another Black icon comfortable in gender-fluidity) was the true touchstone. But that’s in no way to say that Monáe is anything but an unparalleled icon of her own, whether on the guitar, in her dance steps, or on the mic.

Lil Nas X - "Dead Right Now"/"Montero (Call Me By Your Name)"/"Industry Baby" (2022)

After years of controversy and criticism (notably from talking heads and members of the public who had or would not listen to his music), Lil Nas X’s performance at the 65th GRAMMY Awards had a real sense of catharsis. 

Not that the Georgia-born rapper necessarily needed it — he’s proven plenty capable of pushing back and insisting on his identity on the daily, in social media and interviews. Still, the wide range of styles (both musical and visual) and performance versatility on display that evening felt special. His interstellar take on "Dead Right Now" proved he was capable of rising above all the noise; the hip-swiveling dazzle of "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" showed he was unafraid to show his sensual side; and the stomp-along "Industry Baby" (complete with an appearance from Jack Harlow) demonstrated that Lil Nas X is just flat-out one of the most exciting vocal talents in hip-hop.

Kim Petras and Sam Smith - "Unholy" (2023)

Trans representation on the GRAMMYs stage took a big step forward at the most recent ceremony, thanks to Kim Petras. Not only did the German-born pop star become the first openly trans woman to win a GRAMMY Award, but her blistering performance of "Unholy" with Sam Smith likely ignited more than a little bit of inspiration, intensity, and passion in the viewing audience. 

Cast in a red glow, the duo embraced the fires of lust, Petras playing the fiery cage dancer to Smith’s devilish ringmaster. Every second of the performance dripped with sweat and sex, refusing to bow to any expectation or censure, Petras humping a corner of the cage as Smith gyrated around a cane. The smoking hot fever dream more than earned the FCC complaints and the zealous fans who went on to devour more of Smith and Petras’ music. 

Listen To GRAMMY.com's LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 Playlist Featuring Demi Lovato, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Frank Ocean, Omar Apollo & More

Britney Spears' Biggest Songs: 15 Of The Pop Icon's Most Beloved Tracks, From "Toxic" To "Hold Me Closer"
Britney Spears performs in 2016.

Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

list

Britney Spears' Biggest Songs: 15 Of The Pop Icon's Most Beloved Tracks, From "Toxic" To "Hold Me Closer"

As Britney Spears celebrates the 20th anniversary of one of her all-time classics, "Toxic," GRAMMY.com rounds up 15 tracks that encapsulate the star's peak performances and iconic moments.

GRAMMYs/Jan 12, 2024 - 06:57 pm

Britney Spears recently posted a message on Instagram that asserted she'd never return to the music business. She later deleted it, which could be taken as a sign that she hasn't made this big decision with such finality. But it was certainly an alarming statement to her diehard fans eagerly awaiting new music.

It's fair to hold out hope that Spears will want to be a public entertainer and recording artist again in some ways — after all, she did just release a memoir, The Woman in Me, in October, and the book reveals a healing woman. And, of course, she scored a worldwide hit in 2022 with Elton John in "Hold Me Closer." 

Even if she never releases another piece of music, Spears already has quite the legacy. Between five No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, six No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200, and a GRAMMY win, her mark on pop music is undeniable. Part of that impact is courtesy of "Toxic," the danceable smash that was released as a single in January 2004 (and won Spears her GRAMMY in 2005).

In honor of the 20th anniversary of "Toxic," GRAMMY.com surveyed the pop superstar's hits and deep cuts from 1998 to the present in order to break down some of the most essential tracks in Spears' catalog. Between beautiful ballads and brazen bops, let the reminiscing commence.

"...Baby, One More Time," ...Baby One More Time (1998)

Written and co-produced by powerhouse Swedish pop producer Max Martin — a frequent collaborator throughout Spears' career — the singer's debut single was rewarded with some of the highest honors of the music industry when she was just 17 years old.

"...Baby, One More Time" topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards. It has since sold over 10 million copies, and to this day remains one of her defining hits. (And to think it almost wasn't hers: According to Yahoo! News Australia, the song was reportedly originally offered to the Backstreet Boys.)

The song's instantly meteoric success was undoubtedly catapulted by its memorable video, which sees Spears dance her way through private school halls in a (now iconic) skimpy uniform. Seeing it performed visually cemented her image as a young, belly-baring flirt with girl-next-door looks, approachable style and enviable dancing skills, an archetype that little girls everywhere wanted to emulate.

"Oops!... I Did It Again," Oops!... I Did It Again (2000)

Spears further played with her innocent image on "Oops!... I Did It Again," a sassy song that suggests suitors aren't exactly safe with their heart in her hands. It was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 43rd GRAMMYs.

"I think I did it again," she sings at the top of the track. "I made you believe we're more than just friends." Spawning another classic video and another trademark look (this time, a red catsuit), "Oops" emphasized Spears' further pivot into naughtiness and had thousands learning her choreography in a pre-YouTube era. 

Another Max Martin and Rami Yacoub production, "Oops" stuck at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, but the album of the same name debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and set first-week records for sales by a woman artist at the time with 1,319,913 copies sold.

"Lucky," Oops!... I Did It Again (2000)

"Lucky" is a peppy song with a sprinkle of sadness on top. Its titular character is a Hollywood girl who seems to have it all, but there's no one to share her success with, so she is lonely and cries at night. It was a poignant sentiment, given her fame at the time, and was re-examined by fans in recent years as she fought for freedom from her conservatorship overseen by her father, Jamie Spears.

While it didn't manage to break the top 20 of the Hot 100, "Lucky" has always been a fan favorite. The song did break through internationally, though, becoming a No. 1 hit in three European countries as well as on Europe's overall pop chart.

"Dear Diary," Oops!... I Did It Again (2000)

Spears has worked with a global roster of songwriters and producers over the years, but the Oops! ballad "Dear Diary" marked a special moment for the star: it was the first album cut that she co-wrote.

While Oops!... I Did It Again largely showed a maturing Spears, the innocence and sweetness of "Dear Diary" served as a reminder that she was still just a teenager in the beginning of her stardom. The track also seemingly gave her the confidence to co-write more of her songs, as she had a hand in writing almost half of 2001's Britney and almost all of 2003's In the Zone.

"I'm a Slave 4 U," Britney (2001)

Spears went rather gritty on the lead single to her third, self-titled album. While earlier singles may have had a sexy wink within their words, the lyrics of "I'm a Slave 4 U" took a deeper plunge into the erotic zone. "All you people look at me like I'm a little girl," she sings defensively. "Well, did you ever think it'd be okay for me to step into this world?"

Along with the racy lyrics, Spears' visual performances of the song — a music video depiction of a steamy basement club night and a VMA performance that included dancing with an Albino Burmese python around her neck — added more cultural moments to her repertoire. 

"Overprotected," Britney (2001)

Spears' massive fame made her an early paparazzi magnet and led her to be sheltered by her management, record label and family. These topics are addressed head-on over the soaring notes of "Overprotected."

"Say hello to the girl that I am/ You're gonna have to see through my perspective," she declares on the opening verse. "I need to make mistakes just to learn who I am/ And I don't wanna be so damn protected."

The anthem foreshadowed her future hit "Piece of Me" — and the struggle for independence she'd later fight for during her conservatorship — but ultimately showed that she isn't afraid to speak her mind and fight for what's hers.

"I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman," Britney (2001)

After two bold statements with Britney's first two singles ("I'm a Slave 4 U" and "Overprotected"), Spears pumped the brakes on the notion of her growing up too fast in the ballad "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman." The song appeared on her third album, Britney, and in the soundtrack for the road trip dramedy Crossroads.

"There is no need to protect me," she sings powerfully on the track, which appears to mirror her experience in real life at that moment in time. "It's time that I/ Learn to face up to this on my own/ I've seen so much more than you know now/ So don't tell me to shut my eyes." 

"Toxic," In the Zone (2003)

"Toxic" is an uptempo whirlwind of sampled Bollywood strings and Swedish pop drama crafted by the popular dance pop producers Bloodshy & Avant. Another single that took on a life of its own visually, the video served up another set of iconic looks: the deadly assassin, the sparkly nude bodysuit and the perky flight attendant.

"Toxic" remains Spears' biggest hit as of press time, now certified six-times platinum by the RIAA and the only song with more than one billion streams on Spotify. It also won Spears her one GRAMMY, for Best Dance Recording at the 47th GRAMMY Awards.

And 20 years after its release as a single, "Toxic" has had remarkable staying power on the pop charts. As of 2023, the song appeared on the Hot 100 in three different incarnations: the original track and the mash-ups "Toxic Pony" by Altégo and "Toxic Las Vegas" by Jamieson Shaw. 

"Everytime," In the Zone (2003)

By this era of Spears' discography, fans were more than used to autotune and other processed treatments on her singing — but "Everytime" is Spears in a more vulnerable and unplugged state. Co-written by Spears, the slow, melancholic ballad hit even harder because it was released after her public breakup with Justin Timberlake.

Fans hadn't heard anything quite as sad from Spears in her career as the pining lyrics of the chorus on "Everytime": "And every time I try to fly I fall/ Without my wings/ I feel so small/ I guess I need you, baby." The song became a fan favorite for the rawness of her vocal delivery, and was also a personal favorite for Spears during her Las Vegas concert residency.

"Womanizer," Circus (2008)

Spears' father began his role as her conservator in February 2008. Seven months later, she released "Womanizer," the lead single to her sixth album, Circus — which proved that no one was going to hold her down.

"You say I'm crazy," she sneers on the chorus of the engine-roaring uptempo track, which pokes fun at recent troubles with her ex-husband Kevin Federline. "I got your crazy!" she adds, sarcastically.

While the song's message focused on telling off a, well, womanizer, its commercial success showed Spears' new conservatorship meant nothing for her staying power. "Womanizer" was her first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 since "...Baby, One More Time" topped the chart in January 1999; it also earned Spears her seventh GRAMMY nomination, for Best Dance Recording at the 2010 GRAMMYs.

"If You Seek Amy," Circus (2008)

If the title to the sing-songy "If You Seek Amy" is said out loud, it sounds like a sexual proposition. And that's exactly what makes this Max Martin-produced track so enjoyable.

Despite everything she was experiencing in her personal life, it offered evidence that Spears still knew how to poke fun at her staying at the center of attention. It's a perfect time capsule to an era when she was most wanted by the paparazzi.

"Hold It Against Me," Femme Fatale (2011)

Spears' "Hold It Against Me" flips an old chauvinistic joke into girl power — another clever piece added to the singer's puzzle. After being objectified so much over the course of her career, this song was her bid to put an end to it.

"Hold It Against Me" continued Spears' late 2000s hot streak into the 2010s. It earned the singer her fourth No. 1 on the Hot 100, following the chart-topping success of "3," her cheeky ode to threesomes, in 2009. 

"Work B—," Britney Jean (2013)

Spears assumes a faux British accent for "Work B—," a bossy cut made for gyms or the club. "You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti? You want a Maserati?" she asks over an insistent beat. "You better work, b—… now get to work, b—!"

Shortly after the track was released in 2013, Spears told English talk show host Alan Carr that the song is a tribute to her gay male friends, with whom she uses the word b— playfully and affectionately as a term of endearment. It became both a gay club anthem and a top 20 hit on the Hot 100 chart, and the video revived interest in Spears' dancing chops.

"Slumber Party (feat. Tinashe), Glory (2016)

A slightly different sound for Spears compared to her pop and dance productions, "Slumber Party" features Tinashe with a lyrical cadence that is more in the R&B singer's realm. It's perhaps the Spears song with the most urban radio feel since "I'm a Slave 4 U."

Fans may also remember "Slumber Party" fondly for what was once a romantic reason: Spears' now ex-husband Sam Asghari was cast as the leading man in the lingerie-heavy music video; it's how they first met each other.

"Hold Me Closer" with Elton John, The Lockdown Sessions (2022)

What better way to celebrate a big feat than with a massive collaboration? Nine months after Spears' long-fought conservatorship was terminated, she dropped a team-up with none other than Sir Elton John.

The unexpected duo released "Hold Me Closer," a soaring duet that interpolates parts of John's beloved hits "Tiny Dancer," "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" and "The One" into a singular modern mix. And though Spears is more of a background vocalist, her first release in six years marked quite the comeback: "Hold Me Closer" topped the Billboard Adult Top 40 and the Hot Dance/Electronic Songs charts, and reached No. 6 on the Hot 100.

As of press time, "Hold Me Closer" is the last song that Spears has released to date. While it's possible that there may not be any more recordings to follow, it's also safe to say she has surprised the world more than once before.

How Many GRAMMYs Has Britney Spears Won? 10 Questions About The "Hold Me Closer" Singer Answered

New Music Friday: Listen To Songs From Ariana Grande, Lil Nas X, Jay-Z & More
Ariana Grande on 'The Voice' set in 2021.

Photo: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

list

New Music Friday: Listen To Songs From Ariana Grande, Lil Nas X, Jay-Z & More

The year is already off to a massive start, with Jan. 12 spawning new releases from 21 Savage, ITZY, Jennifer Lopez and many more. Check out some of the hotly anticipated tracks here.

GRAMMYs/Jan 12, 2024 - 04:50 pm

January always marks fresh starts and clean slates as the world collectively turns the page from one year to the next. The world of music is no exception: the second week of 2024 is filled with artists embarking on new eras and album cycles.

On the full-length front, 21 Savage unveiled his third solo LP, american dream, with guest assists from the likes of Summer Walker ("Prove It"), Doja Cat ("N.H.I.E."), Young Thug and Metro Boomin ("Pop Ur S–t") and more while Kali Uchis celebrates her just-announced first pregnancy with longtime boyfriend Don Toliver by delivering her second Spanish-language studio set Orchídeas.

Meanwhile, Reneé Rapp brings the new Mean Girls musical movie to life as Gen Z's Regina George, with a soundtrack that also features Megan Thee Stallion, Auli'i Cravalho, Angourie Rice and more, and K-pop act ITZY makes a statement on their sophomore Korean-language album, Born To Be, which gives all five members a chance to shine with individual solo tracks on top of swaggering bangers like "Untouchable" and the title track.  

In addition to star-studded album drops, Jan. 12 sees several big single releases too. Press play on hotly anticipated musical resets from Ariana Grande and Lil Nas X, lead singles from Jennifer Lopez and Sheryl Crow, and a monumental collaboration between D'Angelo and Jay-Z for the new movie The Book of Clarence below.

Ariana Grande — "yes, and?"

Ariana Grande is officially back and ready to own everything. For "yes, and?" — her first new musical offering since 2020's Positions — the superstar is doling out heavy-hitting words to live by, disguised as a glossy pop confection that takes an irresistible cue from Madonna's "Vogue."

Both an exercise in self-affirmation and a runway-ready Pride anthem, "yes, and?" finds Grande unapologetically sharing her truth in a way she hasn't since 2018's "thank u, next." Her voice dripping with honey, the soon-to-be Wicked star slyly addresses the recent tabloid fodder surrounding her personal life. 

"Now I'm so done with caring/ What you think, no, I won't hide/ Underneath your own projections/ Or change my most authentic life," she vows in between spine-tingling harmonies and plenty of vocal fireworks. Ari only gets more blunt from there, clapping back with her whole chest about the obsession with her body, relationship status, sex life and more. In her words, "Yes…and?" 

Jennifer Lopez — "Can't Get Enough"

Jennifer Lopez's ninth studio album, This Is Me… Now, has been a long time coming. But if lead single "Can't Get Enough" is any indication, the sequel to 2002's This Is Me… Then will be well worth the wait when it arrives Feb. 16. The track, which samples the late Alton Ellis' 1967 release "Still in Love," is a fizzy, funky delight that pops like a blast of champagne straight out the bottle.

On the song's chorus, the multi-hyphenate superstar giddily professes just how much she loves being in love (and back in love with now-husband Ben Affleck). And while the accompanying music video pokes fun at her trio of past marriages, fans can rest assured she's singing the lovestruck lyrics to the same Dunkin'-lovin' guy she was serenading 21 years ago on This Is Me… Then.

Jeymes Samuel x D'Angelo x Jay-Z — "I Want You Forever"

A new D'Angelo single would be a major event. So would a new Jay-Z single. After all, it's quickly coming up on 10 years since the neo-soul star released his last album, 2014's Black Messiah and the rap mogul's last solo single was the title track off 2017's 4:44.

However, director Jeymes Samuel managed to coax both men back into the studio to join forces for the soundtrack of his new biblical film The Book of Clarence starring Lakeith Stanfield. On "I Want You Forever," D'Angelo holds court with a hypnotic, repetitive hook before ceding the mic to Hov for the song's lone, pleading verse. 

Lil Nas X — "J CHRIST"

Nearly three years after giving the devil a lap dance in the hellish music video for his No. 1 hit "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)," Lil Nas X is flipping the script and ascending to heaven on his new single "J CHRIST." Well, not for too long — turns out a giant stripper pole connects the celestial realm with the fires of purgatory, and Lil Nas X is equally at home in each.

The track's high-concept, cinematic music video has it all: angelic doppelgängers of everyone from Taylor Swift, Mariah Carey and Oprah to Michael Jackson and Barack Obama; Lil Nas cooking up a cauldron filled with human limbs; and yes, even the rapper pinned to a cross in a visual sure to enrage the critics who were already up in arms before the track was even released. But by song's end, as Lil Nas X takes on the role of Noah emerging from a worldwide flood, the GRAMMY winner makes clear the hip-hop banger isn't just religious cosplay — it's a new beginning.

Sheryl Crow — "Evolution"

Sheryl Crow is uncharacteristically on edge on "Evolution," the lead single and title track of her forthcoming 11th studio album. The queen of bright singer/songwriter jams like "All I Wanna Do" and "Soak Up the Sun" (and newly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer) takes aim at the encroaching threat of artificial intelligence to the music industry and creativity at large on the spacey track. 

To top it all off, she even recruited Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine to concoct a supercharged guitar solo that ratchets the uneasiness up to 11 as Crow warns, "Where are we headed in this paradise?/ We are passengers and there's no one at the wheel."

30 Must-Hear Albums Coming Out In 2024: Green Day, Usher, Tyla & More

New Year's Songs: 16 Tracks To Give You A Fresh Start In 2024, From The Beatles To Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift performs during night one of the Eras Tour in Kansas City in July 2023.

Photo: John Shearer/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management

list

New Year's Songs: 16 Tracks To Give You A Fresh Start In 2024, From The Beatles To Taylor Swift

Whether you're looking to vibe with J Balvin or roar with Katy Perry, let these tracks welcome you to a prosperous and hopeful new year.

GRAMMYs/Dec 31, 2023 - 05:50 pm

The beginning of a new year often results in moments of reflection as well as anticipation about what lies ahead. And with the myriad of feelings that ensue upon New Year's Eve, music serves as a powerful source for both introspection and inspiration.

There are countless songs that give listeners a chance to reflect and resonate with the possibilities of what's yet to come. Whether it's the pulsingly hopeful beat of Jamie xx's "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)," the inspiring narrative of The Notorious B.I.G's "Juicy," or Elton John's pumped-up "I'm Still Standing," a good soundtrack is the perfect catalyst for starting a new year on the right note.

As you envision what the coming year has in store, enjoy this playlist from GRAMMY.com — curated not just to celebrate the moment the clock strikes 12, but to infuse the coming year with inspiration and cheer.

79.5 — "B.D.F.Q"

Inspired by singer Kate Mattison's experiences in Detroit, 79,5's "B.D.F.Q." is about perseverance in the face of a music industry marred by misogyny. Short for "B—, Don't F—ing Quit," "B.D.F.Q." amplifies a mood of independence and strength with the declaration, "They! Don't mean a thing/ Don't mean a thing, just do your thing!" While the message is timeless, "B.D.F.Q." will certainly amp you up for any challenges the new year presents.

The Beatles — "Here Comes The Sun"

Whether you spin the 1969 original or the reinvigorated 2019 mix, the Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun,"  remains a classic symbol of continuation and hope. A track from the Fab Four's iconic Abbey Road album, this George Harrison composition is celebrated for its uplifting melody and serene lyrics that playfully describe a new dawn and brighter days ahead.

Elton John — "I'm Still Standing"

Elton John delivered an upbeat ode to durability and the ability to bounce back with "I'm Still Standing," a 1983 track that resonates 40 years on. Between its catchy melody and John's energetic performance (particularly in the beach-set music video), the song conveys a triumphant message about overcoming challenges and emerging stronger.

"Hamilton" — "My Shot"

Of the many dynamic numbers in Lin-Manuel Miranda's renowned musical "Hamilton," "My Shot" is arguably the most inspirational and universal. A powerfully charged manifesto that embodies ambition and determination — delivered with an electrifying blend of hip-hop and theatrical flair — "My Shot" celebrates seizing opportunities and making a mark. It's a welcome New Year's song choice for those compelled to channel their inner strength and embrace new challenges in the year ahead.

J Balvin — "6 AM" feat. Farruko

This vibrant reggaeton track from J Balvin's 2013 album La Familia encapsulates the spirit of spontaneity. Its infectious beat and catchy lyrics manifest as a celebration of lively nights and the adventures that unfold in the early after hours — hence, the 6 a.m. title. This one's for the night owls, who may see the sun rise at the turn of the new year.

Jamie xx — "I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" feat. Young Thug, Popcaan

"I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)" by Jamie xx is as upbeat and optimistic as hip-hop tracks come. Featuring Young Thug and Popcaan, the 2015 track melds elements of dance and reggae for an infectious ode to good times ahead — an enduring NYE sentiment.

Jimmy Chamberlin Complex — "Life Begins Again"

The title track of their 2005 album, "Life Begins Again"  is an intricate and evocative composition that blends elements of jazz and rock with a bit of emo sentiment. The track showcases Jimmy Chamberlin's exceptional drumming prowess while promising that life is cyclical — every day can be the first of your life with the right attitude.

John Lennon — "Just Like Starting Over"

With themes of rekindling love and starting anew, John Lennon's "[Just Like] Starting Over" is a fitting tribute to fresh starts and the enduring power of renewal in all aspects of life. And as the final single released while he was alive, it's a bittersweet testament to Lennon's enduring legacy.

Katy Perry — "Roar"

Katy Perry's "Roar," from her 2013 album Prism, is a proud declaration of self-empowerment and finding one's voice. An electrifying track with a booming chorus and spirited lyrics, it embodies the journey from silence to strength. Its message of embracing one's true self and speaking out makes it an inspiring celebration of new beginnings.

Lisa LeBlanc — "Pourquoi faire aujourd'hui"

For those looking to give themselves a little break as the new year begins, Lisa LeBlanc's "Pourquoi faire aujourd'hui" may be the song for you. A single from her 2021 album Chiac Disco, the energetic, disco-inspired French language track features playful lyrics about procrastination, with its titular line asking, "Why do today what you could do tomorrow?" — starting the year off in laid-back fashion. If tu ne parles pas Français, LeBlanc's catchy dance beats are fuel for a joyful New Year's Eve atmosphere.

Lizzo — "Good As Hell"

Like many of Lizzo's songs, "Good as Hell" captures a vibrant, empowering spirit. It celebrates self-care and resilience in the face of adversity, blending a lively rhythm with Lizzo's dynamic vocals. Its uplifting lyrics and infectious energy encourage a sense of confidence and self-appreciation — a powerful anthem of positivity any time of the year.

Nina Simone — "Feeling Good"

A timeless classic first made famous by Nina Simone, "Feeling Good" is a powerful anthem of rejuvenation and hope. Simone's jazz-infused rendition was released in 1965; its resolute delivery captures a spirit of personal transformation and empowerment, offering an enduring sentiment going into the new year: "It's a new dawn/ It's a new day/ It's a new life for me, ooh/ And I'm feeling good."

Notorious B.I.G. — "Juicy"

Although The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy" is a personal account of the late rapper's rise to the top, the song encapsulates a spirit of triumph that can inspire anyone with a dream. From its bouncy beat to the iconic "If you don't know, now you know" hook, "Juicy" will have you reaching for the stars.

Otis Redding & Carla Thomas — "New Year's Resolution"

Memphis legends Otis Redding and Carla Thomas' aptly titled 1967 album King & Queen is notable for being the final studio release before Redding passed away that December. The album also spawned a NYE classic: "New Year's Resolution." With lyrics that explore the concept of ​​making resolutions and embracing change in the new year. While the song lacks Redding's trademark soulful wail, "New Year's Resolution" is temperate and contemplative — a reprieve from the let-it-all-out powerful Stax sound to ease your way into the new year.

Peter Cat Recording Co. — "Portrait of a Time"

Both modern and nostalgic, Peter Cat Recording Co.'s "Portrait of a Time" blends jazz, and indie rock for an eclectic and nostalgic, introspective jam. The song carries a reflective mood of contemplation and transition, with lyrics that encourage leaving "confusion and darkening clouds" in the past and hopping in the Lamborghini of life for a new wild ride.

Taylor Swift — "New Year's Day"

After all of the bold, empowered statements on Taylor Swift's 2017 album reputation, she closes the LP with a tender, piano-driven ballad that captures the quiet intimacy and hopeful sentiments of a new year. Aptly titled "New Year's Day," the song's reflective and heartfelt lyrics contemplate love and loyalty found in life's fleeting moments. Swift's delicate vocal delivery and the track's gentle melody evoke a sense of warmth and enduring connection, making it a poignant choice to embrace the new year with a sense of closeness.

TikTok's Musical Class Of 2023: 8 Artists Who Transformed Virality Into Stardom, From Tyla to FIFTY FIFTY

2023 Year In Review: 5 Trends That Defined R&B
(From left) Babyface, Emily King, SZA, Usher & Summer Walker

**Photos: **Steve Granitz/FilmMagic; Rob Kim/Getty Images for The Recording Academy; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Webby Awards; Paras Griffin/Getty Images for ABA; Paras Griffin/Getty Images

news

2023 Year In Review: 5 Trends That Defined R&B

R&B dominated in 2023, with women leading the vocal-charge behind R&B’s biggest recognitions. From deep confessional projects to the comeback of Usher, check out this year’s R&B biggest trends

GRAMMYs/Dec 27, 2023 - 05:42 pm

R&B lovers were spoiled in 2023. 

Talented legends received well-deserved flowers, while focused newcomers celebrated many exciting firsts. Usher set his sights on an epic comeback, and Best New Artist nominees Coco Jones and Victoria Monét (who are nominated in the category alongside Gracie Abrams, Fred again.., Ice Spice, Jelly Roll, Noah Kahan, and The War And Treaty) set the R&B charts ablaze while embarking on their first headlining tours.

R&B in particular is set up for a big year at the 2024 GRAMMYs: SZA earned the most nominations at the 66th GRAMMY Awards with a total of nine, followed by Monét with seven nods. What's more, women led the way in the genre this year — four out of the five Best R&B Album and Best R&B Song nominees are ladies.

As R&B music continues to evolve and shatter naysayers' expectations, revisit some of the biggest trends that defined the genre in 2023.

The Ladies Dominated

Women ate and left no crumbs in 2023. Vulnerable as ever, self-discovery through romantic heartbreak was a common theme — as evidenced by Emily King and Summer Walker's confessional projects (more on those later).

R&B-infused bangers from Tyla and Tems took the male-dominated Afrobeats genre by storm, while Chlöe and Halle Bailey's solo endeavors set the sisters apart creatively. Janelle Monáe's first album in five years saw her basking in the fierceness of sexual freedom. Part of R&B's new class, Kiana Ledé joined forces with London-born Ella Mai for a "strong R&B girl moment" and her first release of 2023, "Jealous," is set to appear on Ledé's upcoming sophomore album.

Women were the highlight of Babyface's collaborative Girls Night Out — which is nominated for Best R&B Album at the 2024 GRAMMYs alongside Coco Jones' What I Didn't Tell You (Deluxe), Victoria Monet's JAGUAR II, Emily King's Special Occasion, and Summer Walker's CLEAR 2: SOFT LIFE. Singers Ari Lennox, Kehlani, Muni Long, Queen Naija, and a host of other female R&B artists shined bright as they belted out tunes about the highs and lows of love.

But the year in R&B unequivocally belonged to SZA, who boasts the most nominations at the 2024 GRAMMYs, including Record of the Year, Song Of The Year, and Album Of The Year.

Women Made Vulnerability Their Superpower

The ladies of R&B took the confessional route with their 2023 projects. On Special Occasion, Emily King channeled the inevitable pain brought on by the end of her 15-year relationship but not without leaving room for joy — from the delightful opening track "This Year" to feeling regretful on "Bad Memory." Summer Walker similarly left it all on the table with CLEAR 2: SOFT LIFE, a nine-track EP that chronicles her frustration with feeling undervalued in relationships. The frankness of "Hardlife" speaks to the emotional burdens many Black women face in their relationships and beyond.

SZA's SOS (nominated for Album Of The Year alongside Jon Batiste's World Music Radio, boygenius' the record, Miley Cyrus' Endless Summer Vacation, Lana Del Rey's Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, Janelle Monáe's The Age Of Pleasure, Olivia Rodrigo's GUTS, and Taylor Swift's Midnights) was the gift that kept on giving in 2023. Self-described as "bizarre acts of self-embarrassment," SOS solidifies SZA as a generational talent as she fearlessly toys with folk ("Special") and grunge ("F2F") and spits rap verses ("Smoking on My Ex Pack") like it's nothing all while wearing her heart on her sleeve. That unapologetic candor is what makes SOS such a standout.

R&B Veterans Made A Comeback

Nostalgia was front and center in 2023 as acts like New Edition announced a 2024 Las Vegas residency and Y2K-era duos like Ashanti and Nelly gave love (and touring) a second chance.

After two show-stopping runs in 2021 and 2022, Usher's acclaimed Las Vegas residency continued well into 2023 and solidified him as the "New King of Vegas." In between shows, the eight-time GRAMMY winner released "Good Good" featuring Summer Walker and 21 Savage — signaling a new and exciting era that also includes a headlining spot at the 2024 Super Bowl halftime show. The performance will coincide with a global tour and the release of Coming Home, marking Usher's first studio album in nearly a decade. 

Babyface kicked off 2023 with "As a Matter of Fact," his first solo record in eight years. It spent five consecutive weeks atop Billboard’s Adult R&B Airplay chart, becoming his longest-running single. In June, Babyface crammed four decades' worth of music into his NPR Tiny Desk Concert, which included snippets of his own hits like "Whip Appeal" and beloved songs he penned for other artists like Whitney Houston's "Exhale (Shoop Shoop)" and Tevin Campbell's "Can We Talk." The latter song is sampled in his duet with Ella Mai, "Keeps On Fallin'." 

Meanwhile, vocal powerhouse Cheryl Lynn's 1983 hit "Encore" went viral on TikTok. Penned by the legendary duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the song's resurgence 40 years later even took Lynn by surprise. "What in the world is going on?" she tweeted. The "Got to Be Real" singer now boasts over 500 million Spotify streams.

New Names Shined Bright

While icons like Usher, Babyface, and Cheryl Lynn took us down memory lane, Best New Artist nominees Coco Jones and Victoria Monét achieved critical and commercial success while proving that the future of R&B is in gifted hands.

Thousands of miles away in South Africa, 21-year-old Tyla's "Water" cracked the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first solo song by a South African artist to chart since Hugh Masekela's "Grazing in the Grass" 55 years ago. "Water" is nominated for Best African Music Performance at the 2024 GRAMMYs alongside ASAKE & Olamide's "Amapiano," Burna Boy's "City Boys," Davido's "UNAVAILABLE" featuring Musa Keys, and Ayra Starr's "Rush."

Two weeks after inking a new deal with Epic Records, Mariah the Scientist kept the celebratory vibes going by dropping her third studio album, To Be Eaten Alive, on her 26th birthday. Lead single "From a Woman" not only answers boyfriend Young Thug's "From a Man," but it explores relationship-centric vulnerability and surrender through the lens of empowerment. "I close my eyes and trust your plan / Won't let no one force my hand," she sings softly against a smooth beat — illustrating that the studio is indeed a creative lab for the former biology student.

EPs Stole The Show

Many emerging artists are choosing to release EPs over studio albums as a more cost-effective way of establishing their fan base while creating anticipation for future full-length projects. In fact, two of the five nominated works in this year's Best R&B Album category are categorized as EPs.

After many years of putting out music independently, Coco Jones' debut EP, What I Didn't Tell You, repositioned the 25-year-old "Bel-Air star" as someone worth watching on the charts. "Sometimes people see me as the characters I play, but these stories are my own script," Jones shared in a press release. Becoming her first-ever entry on the Hot 100, Jones' "ICU" is nominated for Best R&B Song (alongside Halle Bailey's "Angel," Robert Glasper's "Back To Love" featuring SiR & Alex Isley, Victoria Monét's "On My Mama," and SZA's "Snooze"). The sizzling ballad is also up for Best R&B Performance (alongside Chris Brown's "Summer Too Hot," Glasper's "Back To Love, Victoria Monét's "How Does It Make You Feel," and SZA's "Kill Bill").

Following the success of Summer Walker's 2021 sophomore effort, Still Over It, many fans awaited another studio album from the 27-year-old mother of three. But in late spring, Walker surprised audiences by dropping an EP titled, CLEAR 2: SOFT LIFE. Walker is diaristic in detailing her journey toward joy and self-compassion, from being fed up in "Mind Yo Mouth" to holding herself accountable on closer "Agayu's Revelation."

Whether you prefer the old or new school, R&B's biggest names are putting their own spin on a decades-old sound, proving that the genre knows no bounds.

2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Pop Music