meta-scriptHow Lola Kirke's 'Country Curious' EP Is A Full-Circle Moment In Many Ways | GRAMMY.com
Lola Kirke Press Photo 2024
Lola Kirke

Photo: Alexa King Stone

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How Lola Kirke's 'Country Curious' EP Is A Full-Circle Moment In Many Ways

While hearing Lola Kirke sing country music might be surprising to some fans, the actress/singer details to GRAMMY.com how her new EP, 'Country Curious,' is actually one of the most authentic projects she's done to date.

GRAMMYs/Feb 21, 2024 - 03:41 pm

You've likely seen Lola Kirke a time or two on the big screen or your favorite streaming platform. However, the London-born, New York City-raised performer — who's been featured everywhere from Amazon Prime Video's Mozart In The Jungle to HBO's Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty — is now looking to be recognized in a different way: country music star.

Country Curious, her third project due out Feb. 16, aims to reinforce her oftentimes overlooked honky tonk credentials, to both fans and critics alike. She turns old-school tropes on their head with a cheeky blend of nostalgic sounds and contemporary, female-forward storytelling.

"I've joked that a lot of these new songs are like bro-country for women," Kirke tells GRAMMY.com. "I just wanted to mimic those sounds to see if I could create something more feminine by singing about it as a woman instead."

On its four songs, Kirke goes from gushing over a southern accent ("He Says Y'all") to saying adios to those not worth her time ("All My Exes Live in L.A." and "My House"). It's been a calculated adventure for Kirke, who's slowly expanded on her country sound with each passing record, moving from the glimmering 70's and 80's influenced Heart Head West and Lady For Sale to the empowered contemporary stylings that dominate Country Curious

The title of her EP also stems from a childhood infiltrated with country music that she credits to her father, who played in classic rock bands and introduced her to artists like Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline. Despite her long fascination with the genre — and even fronting an all-female country band in college — Kirke acknowledges that, from the outside looking in, she doesn't look the part of a cowgirl.

"As a girl from New York City who was half Jewish and half English, it wasn't exactly up there," she jokes about the possibility of a career in country music. "For whatever reason I delusionally believed I could be an actress and that would be easier, and it worked for a while. One thing I've always loved about music is that I don't need a green light from people like I do as an actress, I can always raise hell and sing a song."

Calling from her Nashville home between rehearsals for a new acting role, Kirke spoke candidly about her path to country music, imposter syndrome and how acting and making music compare.

Country music is often tied to a place, but it can also come from the heart — something people often neglect when debating authenticity in the genre. Is that idea what you're hitting back on at the beginning of "He Says Y'all" when you sing "I've got my Wrangler's starched and I'm pearl snap pretty, which is kind of strange 'cause I'm from New York City?"

I definitely want to empower more people to listen to country music. But these days it doesn't seem like I have to because it's becoming increasingly ubiquitous, which I love since it's my favorite kind of music. 

The most authentic thing we can do in this world is love something with every ounce of our being. That's what should be the price of entry, because in the end that's all that really matters. If you love something then you're going to do right by it — and I love country music, so I hope to do right by it.

What are some differences and similarities of how you approach acting and musical pursuits?

Well, for acting I would never take a shot of tequila before I did a scene, but maybe I should because it could be very fun! [Laughs.]

I'm able to do that more when I'm performing due to the social element of it, which is really exciting. I do try to bring my whole self to whatever it is I'm doing, whether I'm on a stage singing or I'm in front of a camera acting. That being said, the Lola Kirke that I am when I'm playing music is not the Lola Kirke that I necessarily am at home.

For one, I look like s— when I'm at home, but on stage I really love wearing fun costumes. On that note, with acting, I was starting to get a lot of feedback about the way I looked that wasn't positive and made me sad, hearing I was too fat for roles. I didn't want to be part of an industry that did that. I'm not naive to the idea that music can be kinder to female artists, but so far I haven't felt that same pressure in my music to look a certain way because I have a lot of control in how I look when I'm doing it.

There was always this confusion with me as an actress where I felt like a really glamorous person even though I was constantly playing an assistant. You can be a glamorous assistant for sure, but there was a leading lady role I wanted to step into that I just wasn't being cast as. I feel like with the role I've created for myself with my music that I've been able to embody that.

In some of your songwriting and in past interviews you've alluded to your battle with imposter syndrome, especially in terms of your music and moving to Nashville. What's motivated you to be so open about those struggles?

It's really important to try new things in life and to test your own limits of what you believe is possible. If you get into the habit of doing that a lot, you'll often find yourself feeling like an imposter because you're constantly learning and growing. There's a healthiness and bravery in allowing yourself to feel like that.

However, that feeling of not deserving anything I have is something I've also dealt with a lot.  It can seem self-centered at times, but it's made me realize that life doesn't have to be as hard as I make it. You don't have to be scared all the time that everyone's gonna come down on you for doing something wrong. 

Overcoming my imposter syndrome has been a lot of looking at my own judgmental nature because I have a lot of negative self-talk that I'm working on. While it's nice when somebody else validates you, that ultimately has to be an inside job.

Is that what you're singing about in "My House," not only getting toxic people out of your life but your own toxic thoughts and insecurities as well?

I think all of my romantic or heartbreak songs have a double meaning. On "All My Exes Live In LA," while it is a true story, it's also about leaving behind the proverbial abusive ex-boyfriend of Hollywood and being like, "I don't want this anymore. I'm gonna go find my own place in this world and maybe I'll come back, but if I do it'll be more whole and not defined by you."

Sometimes it's easier to write about these bigger ideas through the foil of a man or love because somehow it sounds less cheesy — even though we break up with a lot of things in this life, not just romantic partners. I hope listeners find double meaning in all of my songs about breaking up with a man, or being empowered by a relationship, to be a different thing because we have relationships with a lot more things than just lovers.

Regarding "Exes in LA," I love the inclusion of First Aid Kit on the song. They're not a band that I necessarily think of when country music comes to mind, but I love them jumping on these and feel like they really nailed the vibe. How'd the opportunity to collaborate with them come about?

It all came from a mediocre 6.4 review that Pitchfork gave my last record, Lady For Sale. Overall it wasn't a bad review aside from mentioning it was egregious that someone from New York City like me was making country music. That became the thesis of a TikTok I posted that the First Aid Kit gals commented on jumping to my defense, saying they loved my music and would be interested in hearing what Pitchfork had to say about them making country music from Sweden. 

After that we became close friends online and I got to go on tour with them throughout the UK, which was so special. A real friendship blossomed from that, so when I was dreaming up collaborations for [Country Curious] they were at the top of my list with Rosanne Cash.

I imagine that your collaboration with Rosanne, "Karma," was a pretty serendipitous and full-circle experience, since she's one of your biggest country influences?

Many years ago during a moment of heartbreak, I was consulting a psychic — as one does — and she told me that I really needed to listen to the song "Seven Year Ache" because it'll be a huge window into my future. The song doesn't have the most optimistic perspective so I thought that was weird. 

Then when I was sitting down with [Lady For Sale producer Austin Jenkins] he mentioned it'd be really fun to make a record like Seven Year Ache and it brought me back to that moment. We ended up making this record that was very inspired by Rosanne's. 

Eventually, I got back on the phone with the psychic again, where she re-emphasized the importance of working with Rosanne Cash. I remember thanking her but inside thinking she was crazy — until a couple years later and I was lying in bed one night after a pretty rough day professionally, and refreshed my email one last time to see if any opportunities trickled through. Lo and behold, a message popped up from Rosanne Cash. 

She said she'd been trying to reach me for a while to see if I'd like to do this workshop project in New York with her for a theater piece. It was such an honor and such a beautiful experience as an actress and musician to get to work with her in both capacities. When it came to this dream EP I reached out fully expecting a no in response, but to my surprise she said yes.

I love "Karma," particularly for its double-edged sword dynamic that has you referring to karma as your friend one moment and declaring you don't mess with her because she can be a b— moments later.

That's a song I wrote for a dear friend of mine. I originally thought of it as more of a quippy Pistol Annies upbeat number, but when my co-writer Jason Nix sent me a tape of him playing it in this really sad way that I thought was brilliant, so we did that with it instead.

You talked earlier about being steeped in old country influences growing up and on past recordings. I feel like "Karma" very much sees you with one foot planted in the nostalgia of '70s and '80s country and the other in its contemporary, pop-tinged present.

A lot of that also came from Elle King's influence as producer of Country Curious. She has much more of a rootsy sensibility that I was really happy she brought because it was able to ground this more contemporary sound in a lot of the classic country influences that I really love.

From your early days in London and the Big Apple to the bright lights of Hollywood and now Nashville, what is something that music has taught you about yourself?

Music has taught me that I can do things that I never thought I could do. Through disappointments in other areas of my life, I've been empowered to discover hidden talents that I would've never honed because I grew up thinking that only really gifted people made music. 

While I may have raw talent somewhere as a musician, what I've loved most is the constant working you have to do at it to get better, and how you can see the results when you do. That's also probably why I didn't enjoy playing music as a kid, because I never wanted to practice the piano, but as I've gotten older I've become much more interested in practicing and expanding in that way. 

Music has made me realize I'm more capable than I ever thought, which comes back to the imposter syndrome. We contain multitudes as humans, and music has helped me to see that.

Why 2024 Is The Year Women In Country Music Will Finally Have Their Moment

Tanner Adell performs in 2024
Tanner Adell performs at the 3rd Annual "BRELAND & Friends" benefit concert in Nashville, Tennessee in 2024.

Photo: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for BRELAND & Friends

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12 Must-See Acts At Stagecoach 2024: Tanner Adell, Charley Crockett & More

Before the country music festival returns to the California desert April 26-28, get to know some of the most buzzworthy artists set to take this year's Stagecoach Festival by storm.

GRAMMYs/Apr 23, 2024 - 11:28 pm

In a matter of days, some of country music's best and most promising acts will come together in Indio, California for Stagecoach Festival 2024. The annual event has spotlighted an eclectic mix of talent since 2007, but this year's impressive roster of performers helped Stagecoach earn its largest number of ticket sales in the festival's 17-year history.

Held April 28-30 at the Empire Polo Club — the same scenic desert landscape as the long-running Coachella Music and Arts Festival — this year's Stagecoach Festival offers a diverse blend of artists that spans from headliners like Miranda Lambert and Eric Church to surf-pop icons the Beach Boys, hit rockers Nickelback and hip-hop star Post Malone

Along with this diverse roster of superstars, the 2024 Stagecoach lineup is filled with a captivating list of artists on the rise. From a singer/songwriter enjoying a much-deserved comeback to a skillful 25-year-old putting his own spin on the '90s country sound, this year's crop of talent is paving the way for the future of country music.

Stagecoach Festival 2024 is completely sold out, but country fans who didn't snag their ticket in time can still enjoy all the festivities by streaming performances live via Amazon Prime all weekend long. Before you head out into the California sun or get cozy in front of your TV, take a moment to learn more about these 12 must-see acts coming to Stagecoach this year.

Tanner Adell

Since the release of Beyoncé's country-inspired album COWBOY CARTER, singer/songwriter Tanner Adell has become one of the genre's most talked about new artists. Before she was tapped as a guest vocalist on Beyoncé's cover of the Beatles' classic "Blackbird," and original track "AMERIICAN REQUIEM," Adell had already garnered a dedicated fan base online. 

Thanks to viral hits like "Buckle Bunny," the playful title track of her 2023 debut album, the Nashville-based talent has earned praise from both critics and country listeners worldwide. From heartfelt ballads to beat-driven bops made to get you on the dance floor, Adell blends elements of radio-ready modern country and rhythmic hip-hop with ease.

Adell's Saturday performance at Stagecoach promises to be a fiery and fun showcase of her polished pop-country songbook.

Zach Top

While growing up in Washington state, Zach Top forged a deep connection to the sound of traditional country music. From Marty Robbins to Keith Whitley, the influence of the genre's past is deeply entwined in every track of the talented 25-year-old's brand new record, Cold Beer & Country Music

Top's 12-track LP has earned plenty of buzz for its new take on the neo-traditionalist style that dominated country radio in the late 1980s and early '90s. With engaging vocals reminiscent of the late Daryle Singletary and thoughtful lyricism, Zach Top provides a fresh new take on a familiar and formative sound.

Brittney Spencer

Over the past five years, Brittney Spencer has repeatedly proven why she's one of the most important and captivating voices within modern country music. From her acclaimed 2021 single "Sober & Skinny'' to her celebrated collaboration with country supergroup The Highwomen, Spencer's vocals are consistently as emotive as they are effortless.

Spencer's charismatic personality and boundless energy take center stage through every performance, making her live shows a can't-miss event. Her Sunday afternoon set at Stagecoach offers a chance to hear cuts from her stellar debut album, My Stupid Life, which dropped in January.

Vincent Neil Emerson

Texas native Vincent Neil Emerson first earned widespread praise with the 2019 release of his debut album, Fried Chicken and Evil Women, earning him comparisons to influential artists like Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. His narrative-driven lyrics and hauntingly raw vocals have won the hearts of country fans far outside the Texas plains.

Over the years, he's collaborated with fellow alt-country favorite Colter Wall and recruited the creative genius of Rodney Crowell, who serves as producer on Emerson's self-titled 2021 LP. With his most recent album, the Shooter Jennings-produced The Golden Crystal Kingdom, Emerson once again channels the old-school magic of the traditional country that only comes from a rare type of Texas troubadour.

Katie Pruitt

Although Katie Pruitt has been locally lauded as among the best of Nashville's modern crop of singer/songwriters for years, her rise into the mainstream is still overdue. The Georgia native's stunning 2020 debut album, Expectations, was hailed for its raw honesty and effortless vocal intricacies. 

When she takes the stage during the final day of Stagecoach 2024, Pruitt will be armed with a brand new batch of awe-inspiring songs. Released on April 5, her sophomore album, Mantras, delivers an unpredictable, genre-bending sound that displays a sense of artistry far beyond her years. Don't miss your chance to see Pruitt's mesmerizing live set, which is guaranteed to have you dancing and maybe even wiping away a few tears.

Carin León

In just a few short years, beloved Mexican singer/songwriter Carin León has evolved from a regional hitmaker to an internationally known talent. His reflective and honest songs have connected with audiences globally, becoming one of Spotify's most streamed modern Mexican artists. 

Earlier this year, the two-time Latin GRAMMY-winner made his Grand Ole Opry debut, and will serve as the opening act for rock legends the Rolling Stones' Hackney Diamonds Tour when it heads to Glendale, Ariz. this May. (And just one week before his Stagecoach debut, he also made his Coachella debut.) Fans who catch his Friday set may be lucky enough to see a live rendition of "It Was Always You (Siempre Fuiste Tú)," his fresh collaboration with fellow Stagecoach 2024 artist Leon Bridges.

Trampled By Turtles 

Thanks to their unique blend of bluegrass, folk, country, and a dash of rock and roll, Minnesota-based outfit Trampled by Turtles has become a music festival staple — and will make their third Stagecoach appearance (and first in 10 years) on Saturday. Their high-energy live sets channel the psychedelic magic of rock's jam band scene, subbing plucky acoustic instrumentation in the place of rolling electric guitar.

The long-running band will treat fans to an array of tracks from their impressive career, which spans 10 albums, including their critically praised 2022 LP, Alpenglow. Even if you aren't already familiar with Trampled by Turtles' extensive list of releases, you're sure to be captivated by their hypnotizing performance style and positive energy that radiates from the live stage.

Charley Crockett

Texas-born talent Charley Crockett is one of few modern artists who have proven worthy enough for the coveted title of "troubadour." The seasoned singer/songwriter's appearance at Stagecoach will coincide with the release of $10 Cowboy, his soulful and synth-tinged 16th studio album.

Crockett's mix of traditional country and thoughtful folk, infused with gritty 1970s pop, creates a nostalgic charm that captivates the live stage. His descriptive story songs and distinctive twang echo the genre's early greats while expanding those classic country themes into new and surprising sonic territory. His Stagecoach 2024 set is sure to deliver a blend of fresh album cuts along with fan favorites from his already-expansive catalog.

Lola Kirke

You may know Lola Kirke as an accomplished actress in both television and film, but the British talent is also one of country music's most surprising new artists. Her stylized mix of traditional country and edgy pop-rock is refreshingly fun and tailor-made for Stagecoach's good-time vibe. 

In recent months, Kirke has shared a string of infectious singles leading up to the release of her latest EP, Country Curious. In March, she dropped a stellar take on the Paula Cole classic "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" featuring Stagecoach 2023 alumni Kaitlin Butts. Make sure you clean off your boots before Kirke's set, because there's a good chance she'll have a very special line dance lesson ready for the crowd.

Willie Jones

For nearly a decade, Louisiana-born talent Willie Jones has captivated country fans with fresh and genre-bending tracks, propelled by deep, rich vocals. Since first making waves with his rendition of Josh Turner's "Your Man" during an audition for "The X-Factor" in 2012, Jones has been paving his own path in the genre. 

He's recorded two full-length records, including his irresistible 2023 LP Something to Dance To. His Stagecoach set will certainly be a boot-stomper, offering concertgoers a chance to experience the magic captured on his latest EP, The Live Sessions, which arrived on April 5.

Sam Barber

Missouri native Sam Barber has evolved from a hopeful musician to a viral sensation with a major-label record deal. While passing the time at college, the gifted 20-year-old began recording covers of his favorite country tracks and shared them on TikTok, quickly garnering thousands of eager listeners. His down-to-earth charm, paired with surprisingly seasoned and gritty vocals, also earned the attention of Atlantic Records. 

In 2023, they shared Barber's debut EP, Million Eyes, which spawned the breakthrough radio single "Straight and Narrow." Now, fresh off the release of Live EP 001 and a string of new singles, Barber will bring his thoughtful yet edgy country sound to Stagecoach, marking another rapidfire career accomplishment.

Luke Grimes

Although you may know him best for his role as the chaotic charmer Kayce Dutton on the acclaimed television series "Yellowstone," Luke Grimes' creative talents expand far outside the small screen. A lifelong musician and lover of country music, Grimes took the stage at Stagecoach 2023 in support of his debut EP, Pain Pills or Pews. The project's raw and honest tracks earned critical acclaim and quickly led Grimes back into the studio, tapping Dave Cobb as producer for his vulnerable new self-titled LP, which arrived on March 8.

Whether you're a longtime fan of his acting or an already devoted listener, Grimes' set marks a pivotal moment in his ever-evolving musical career — and one of many can't-miss moments at this year's Stagecoach Festival.

Why 2024 Is The Year Women In Country Music Will Finally Have Their Moment

Tina Turner
Tina Turner

Photo: Paul Natkin/GettyImages

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Revisiting ‘Private Dancer’ At 40: How Tina Turner’s Liberation Album Remains A Musical Salvation

Released in May 1984, ‘Private Dancer’ was a musical tour de force. The record saw Tina Turner shed her assured vocal talents, exposing some fragility while adding in some sultriness too, to share a powerful tale of finally finding liberation.

GRAMMYs/May 30, 2024 - 02:50 pm

“How it all came about was a miracle,” says Terry Britten, the co-writer and producer of Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” 

The enduring single on Turner's 1984 album Private Dancer, released 40 years ago this month, was the songstress' ultimate emancipating act. It liberated her from the strictures of a music career bound to former husband Ike Turner, and debuted a new, self-possessed persona that highlighted her own rich talents as a solo artist. Decades on, the album remains a searing testament to resilience and the power of raw, honest expression.   

Private Dancer, her fifth solo outing, was the beginning of Turner's renaissance and next era. Still, some of its most powerful songs — including “What’s Love” — almost didn’t make the cut. In fact, the song’s woeful quality and halted vocals proved an obstacle for Turner. 

“After all this time, I’ve realized what the problem was and why she didn’t like it: because she was so damn vulnerable in it,” Britten tells GRAMMY.com. “She’d never been that vulnerable before in a song.” 

Turner had long wrestled with her public image and allowing listeners into her inner world. Despite her success in the '70s and the subsequent 1976 breakdown of her abusive marriage to Ike (which left her penniless), followed by less successful Las Vegas revue shows, Turner was wary of conceding defeat. 

Her career revival was largely born after Turner had made a cameo appearance in 1982 on the synth-inspired remake of The Temptations' “Ball of Confusion.” Masterminded by pop band Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware, the song netted Turner a singles deal with Capitol Records. Her next pairing with Ware, a remake of Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together,” was a runaway success, charting at number six in the UK and No. 26 on the Billboard Hot 100, in late 1983 and early 1984 respectively.

Chart success had eluded Turner for years, so by February 1984 Capitol quickly demanded a full album — with two weeks to deliver it. With Turner already on tour in the UK then, her manager, Roger Davies, raced around London seeking potential tracks. Davies had been old friends with Britten back in Australia, and reached out about available songs. 

Co-written with Graham Lyle, Britten's "What’s Love” had been skipped over by British rock singer Cliff Richard. Its rumination on sexual over romantic desire awaited a new voice. 

Turner's powerhouse vocals gave the track the justice it so called for. Just as her vocal prowess was put on display, "What's Love" also underscored Turner's ability to bring both fragility and sultriness to a song. The combination would soon propel Turner to worldwide domination. 

In the studio, Britten leaned on Turner’s dancing background to make the meditative ballad work. Turner struggled with the song’s languid rhythm, so Britten suggested she jog on the spot. “We jogged at the mic,” he says. “Soon enough, she got it!” 

Britten believes “What’s Love” showed Turner, for the first time, how empowering vulnerability could be. “She realized she could act out these songs,” he reflects. “The whole direction of her career changed in that moment.” 

Released in May 1984, “What’s Love” slowly scaled the charts, competing for prime position with the likes of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and Lionel Ritchie’s “Stuck on You.” “What’s Love” ultimately landed at No. 1 in August 1984 — staying there for three weeks — and fast-tracked Turner’s forceful musical renaissance. 

The arrival of Private Dancer only galvanized the transformation. 

The album was a mixture of old and new, figuratively stitching together a reinvigorated yet still rock ’n’ roll Turner. There were completely new tracks and sounds, like the synth-infused “What’s Love” and spunky, pulsating “Show Some Respect” (another Britten number). Covers of the Beatles’ “Help!” and David Bowie’s “1984,” meanwhile, were reimagined with searching gospel energy and symphonic orchestral strings.

There was an emphasis on storytelling across Private Dancer, with lyrical explorations of respect, love, and desire, paired with Turner’s frayed timbre. “I Might Have Been Queen” was penned by Jeannette Obstoj and Rupert Hine in response to hearing Turner’s life story. From a youth picking cotton in Tennessee to her years as a double act with Ike, Obstoj took Turner’s trying life (and lifelong interest in Ancient Egypt) to craft an earthy narrative textured by stories of grief and self-understanding. The stomping funk result was an anthemic tribute, celebrating Turner as she sang proudly of being a “sole survivor.” 

Allowed into Turner’s inner sanctum, listeners could better understand and relate to the singer’s past life — whether these were real stories or imagined tales. Songs like “Private Dancer,” seemingly about a dancer who keeps a firm psychological distance from her job as a means of self-protection, couldn’t help but be tied back to Turner’s former life as the mistreated singing partner to Ike. Turner’s coarse vocals — retelling regret with the ballad “Better Be Good to Me,” or celebrating self-confidence on “Show Some Respect” — underscored her toughness as she sang about respect and recognition. 

Tina Turner’s emotional depth and lyrical confessions resonated with critics and listeners, affirming Turner as sensitive, soulful and, above all, an iconic solo artist. The success of the record at the 1985 GRAMMYs only affirmed Turner's status. 

Britten, who won two gramophones for his work and joined Turner on stage to collect the GRAMMY for Record Of The Year, said that the audience — there and even at home watching — manifested her three wins that night. “In between introductions, you could hear the whole crowd going, ‘Tina! Tina! Tina!’” he says. “It was like the whole auditorium wanted her to win. In fact, they willed her to win.” 

The entire musical project was a frenzied worldwide phenomenon: the confident comeback story of a 45-year-old liberated woman. Private Dancer represents a rare redemption for a female artist over 40 — a script contemporaries have taken cues from.   

Madonna enjoyed a return serve with her revealing 1998 spiritual album Ray of Light, a record that saw her achieve renewed commercial success — and perhaps most important to her, critical acclaim. After the abject failure of 2001’s Glitter, Mariah Carey stormed the charts (and GRAMMYs) in 2005 with her confessional but defiant album, The Emancipation of Mimi. Janet Jackson, no longer suffering public shame after the infamous Superbowl incident and finally free to release music under her own label, returned revealing a more mature, reflective artist with 2015’s Unbreakable. Each album privileged some aspect of self-exposure and sonic difference to mount a comeback where audiences were invited in.    

Publicly sharing some vulnerability while also celebrating fortitude, continues to enliven the story of Private Dancer — and the listening experience decades on. After Tina Turner's death in 2023, critics reappraised the record and the seismic impact of “What’s Love.” Some said the song was an enduring “call to action” on finding independence, while others concluded that Private Dancer alone “lifted [Turner] into the pop stratosphere.” 

The record represents one of history’s greatest musical comebacks. Its emotional depth, paired with a tough if sometimes frayed sound, gave listeners a deeply resonant tale about overcoming. 

“She gave me such trust,” Britten says of recording with Turner. “I can’t tell you what a moving experience it was.” With Private Dancer, Turner entrusted listeners with her own vulnerable admissions, many of which continue to resonate and inspire today. 

Remembering The Artistry Of Tina Turner, "The Epitome Of Power And Passion"

Richard Thompson
Richard Thompson

Photo: David Kaptein

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10 Essential Tracks By Richard Thompson: "Night Comes In," "Shoot Out the Lights," "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," & More

Richard Thompson's gobsmacking guitar playing, keen storytelling and evocative voice changed folk and rock forever. Ahead of new album 'Ship to Shore,' press play on 10 essential tracks.

GRAMMYs/May 30, 2024 - 02:03 pm

Richard Thompson remains something of a cult rocker rather than a bona fide rock star — but there are few similarly worthy candidates for the genre's personification on earth.

First of all, he's one of rock's undersung triple threats. "Richard's been one of my favorite guitar players for a very long time," said Jeff Tweedy, who produced and played on Thompson's 2015 album Still. "When I think about it, he's also one of my favorite songwriters and favorite singers."

Thompson's 2021 memoir, Beeswing, renders him something like rock's Forrest Gump: By the tender age of 19, he'd co-founded Fairport Convention, seen Hendrix shred and turned down a birthday invite from Paul McCartney.

He had also pretty much solidified his artistry as an emotion-forward, English-Scottish yawp who was equally virtuosic on acoustic and electric guitar. And Thompson's probing lyrics continue to twist the knife, again and again.

His guitar work has inspired scores of imitators, but nobody's played the instrument like Thompson. In retrieving the bagpipe's drone, his music didn't become old-timey or quaint; rather, it enabled him to tear the roof off.

Crank up his introductory calling card "Roll Over Vaughn Williams"; his roiling last album, 13 Rivers; and anything in between: Thompson's electric guitar will spin your head like a top. And on the acoustic, he's muscular, searching and incisive: both his Acoustic Classics discs will ravish you.

Happily, Thompson is still making some of the strongest music of his career. His new album, Ship to Shore, is a taut yet spacious new offering. After the sturm und drang of the modern-rocking 13 Rivers, mellower, rootsier tracks like "Freeze," "The Day That I Give In" and "Life's a Bloody Show" seem to loop back to the artist's essence.

With a whopping 19 studio albums since the early 1970s — six with his ex-wife Linda Thompson — to boil down Thompson's discography into essential tracks is a bit daunting. From here, seek out underrated '80s albums like Hand of Kindness; middle-of-the-road yet satisfying '90s works like Mock Tudor, and of course, his inspired work in the 2010s and 2020s.

But for now, if you're a Thompson newbie, read on for 10 songs you must hear by the three-time GRAMMY nominee.

"Roll Over Vaughn Williams" (Henry the Human Fly, 1972)

"If [Henry the Human Fly] was a statement of intent, then the opening track was the distillation of the statement," Thompson wrote in Beeswing.

Indeed, while "Roll Over Vaughn Williams" isn't the strongest song he ever wrote, it's a perfect opening salvo: a 22-year-old Thompson, emancipated from English folk-rockers Fairport Convention, sounds his strange, beautiful clarion call.

"Live in fear," Thompson commands between bramble-like guitar runs — a thesis he'd fully air out on I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, his first classic album.

"The Calvary Cross" (I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, 1974)

I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight is typically bandied about as Thompson's masterpiece, with or without Linda. Arguably, that honorific might go to Shoot Out the Lights; when Thompson's age caught up to his precocious, world-weary persona, the results were pure magic.

That's nitpicking, though. Front to back, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight is phenomenal, and a crucial entryway to Thompson's musicality and worldview.

Every song is terrific, but the doomy, circuitous "The Calvary Cross" is the first to smack you in the face. (It also invents Jason Molina, right down to the fragile whine in the Magnolia Electric Co. frontman's tenor.)

"The End of the Rainbow" (I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, 1974)

Probably the darkest non-metal song ever written by a 23-year-old, "The End of the Rainbow" begins with Thompson addressing "you little horror/ Safe at your mother's breast."

The unknowing infant has no idea what they're in for: your father is a bully, your sister is a whore, tycoons and barrow boys will take everything you've got. "Every loving handshake is just another man to beat," Thompson sings, steely-eyed — knowing too much, too early.

"Night Comes In" (Pour Down Like Silver, 1975)

The year I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight dropped, the Thompsons converted to Sufism. Their faith would inform a couple of inessential albums, like 1978's First Light and 1979's Sunnyvista — but first, they'd release a work of gobsmacking potency and spirituality.

Pour Down Like Silver is the only Thompsons album that truly goes toe-to-toe with Shoot Out the Lights. Its first masterpiece, "Night Comes In," is a long walk home — a majestic meditation on Thompson's Sufi initiation.

"Lose my mind in dance forever," he sings, as the languid verse flows into the vertiginous chorus. "Turn my world around."

"Dimming of the Day" (Pour Down Like Silver, 1975)

Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, David Gilmour, and others covered this astonishing ballad for very good reasons.

"Dimming of the Day" is a love song genuinely worthy of the Old Testament, sung with quiet power by Linda, accompanied only by her husband's acoustic guitar, backing vocal, banjo, and other light overdubs.

Has there ever been a lyric of romantic devotion like "You pull me like the moon pulls on the tide"? Or "I'm living for the night we steal away"?

The track concludes Pour Down Like Silver with a perfect denouement in a solo guitar performance of James Scott Skinner's "Dargai." Six years later, the Thompsons would smack down their romantic dream for good.

"Shoot Out the Lights" (Shoot Out the Lights, 1982)

"I know people call Shoot Out the Lights a break-up album, but I can honestly say that was never the intention," Thompson later told Uncut. "[The songs] were all written a year before we split up, so people can think what they like."

Luckily, this pesky fact doesn't undermine the unique power of Shoot Out the Lights — a perfect, eight-song monument to disillusionment featuring Richard's sharpest writing and Linda's most empathetic singing.

The title track, one of Thompson's ultimate guitar showcases, is an unquestionable highlight. The lyrics, about some sort of crepuscular gunman sneaking through the night, are beside the point; his neck-snapping soloing tells the entire story.

"Wall of Death" (Shoot Out the Lights, 1982)

Much like Thompson, rock heroes R.E.M. knew how to conjure pop catharsis from the shadows; it's no surprise they recorded a killer version of "Wall of Death."

Shoot Out the Lights' astonishing closer tosses Richard and Linda into a highly metaphorical fun fair. There's Noah's Ark! The mouse! The crooked house! But the doomed couple opt to whirl in a loop, caught in centrifugal force, wherever it may lead.

The best part of "Wall of Death" is when Thompson launches into his solo, cracking like a bullwhip, as the ride cymbal doubles up, barrelling the album — and this musical couple — toward its end. The Tunnel of Love ends here.

"1952 Vincent Black Lightning" (Rumor and Sigh, 1991)

For all of the absolute bangers and weepers above, Thompson's most revered song by some margin actually came along during the '90s.

After his requisite '80s wilderness period, Thompson slugged out the deliciously new wavey Rumor and Sigh, which gave him a hit with the jangly sardonic "I Feel So Good." The other lynchpin track was "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," a popular knockout despite never being a single.

The fictional story of James' bequeathment of the titular motorbike to Red Molly re-cemented Thompson as a consummate storyteller, his avuncular voice and percolating guitar driving it all home.

"The Ghost of You Walks" (You? Me? Us?, 1996)

As with many Thompson deep cuts, he bettered "The Ghost of You Walks" on the must-have Acoustic Classics Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. But this version on You? Me? Us? will do similar heartwork on you, from its butterflies-inducing arpeggios to Thompson's tender chorus.

"Blue murder on the dance floor / French kisses in the rain," Thompson sings, at a relationship's dimming of the day. "Blood wedding in the water 'til I see you again / Dutch courage is the game." Plainly, "The Ghost of You Walks" is one of the most beautiful songs Thompson ever wrote.

"She Never Could Resist a Winding Road" (Still, 2015)

Jeff Tweedy has found himself on the shortlist to give lifers a jolt in the studio; he's helmed albums by Bill Fay, Mavis Staples, Low, and more. Still arguably holds up the best, possibly because Thompson's personality permeates it completely.

Still has a lighter touch than most of the albums that surround it, which means Thompson's sticky melodic instincts take the forefront.

The opener, "She Never Could Resist a Winding Road," makes an ancient-sounding melody gloriously unspool, culminating in an exhilarating solo by Thompson.

Still's title says it all: Thompson isn't simply an old master still doing the thing. As on the wondrous Ship to Shore, he's revered equally for what he's creating right now.

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Crosby, Stills & Nash
Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1970

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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5 Things You Didn't Know About 'Crosby, Stills & Nash': The Folk-Rock Classic At 55

Featuring classics including "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," "Wooden Ships" and "Helplessly Hoping," Crosby, Stills and Nash's self-titled 1969 debut album is the ultimate entryway to the folk-rock supergroup. Here are five lesser-known facts about its making.

GRAMMYs/May 29, 2024 - 01:33 pm

They'd been on ice since 2015, yet the death of David Crosby in 2023 forever broke up one of the greatest supergroups we'll ever know.

Which means Crosby, Stills & Nash's five-decade career is now capped; there's no reunion without that essential, democratic triangle. (Or quadrangle, when Neil Young was involved.) "This group is like juggling four bottles of nitroglycerine," Crosby once quipped. Replied Stephen Stills, "Yeah — if you drop one, everything goes up in smoke."

Looking back on that strange, turbulent, transcendent career, one fact leaps out: there's no better entryway to the group than their 1969 debut, Crosby, Stills & Nash, which turns 55 this year. Not even its gorgeous 1970 follow-up, Déjà Vu — which featured a few songs with one singer and not the others — their sublimation was about to blow apart, leaving shards to fitfully reassemble through the years. (The Stills-Young Band, anyone? How about the Crosby-Nash gigs?)

Pull out your dusty old LP of Crosby Stills & Nash, and look in the eyes of the three artists sitting on a beat-up couch in their s—kickers. The drugs weren't yet unmanageable; any real drama was years, or decades away. Do they see their infamous 1974 "doom tour"? The album cover with hot dogs on the moon? That discordant, Crosby-sabotaged "Silent Night" in front of the Obamas (which happened to be the trio's last public performance)?

At the time of their debut, the three radiated unity, harmony and boundless promise — and classic Crosby, Stills & Nash cuts like "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" bottled it for our enjoyment forever. Here are five things you may not know about this bona fide folk-rock classic.

There Was Panic Over The Cover Photo

As silly as it seems today — nobody's going to visually mistake Crosby for Stills, or Stills for Nash — that the three were photographed out of order prompted a brief fire alarm.

"We were panicked about it: 'How could you have Crosby's name over Graham Nash?'" Ron Stone of the Geffen-Roberts company recalled in David Browne's indispensable book Crosby, Stills, Nash And Young: The Wild, Definitive Saga Of Rock's Definitive Supergroup. (The explanation: it was still in flux whether they were going to be "Stills, Crosby & Nash" instead.)

The trio actually returned to the site of the photograph to reshoot the cover, but by that time, that decrepit old house on Palm Avenue in West Hollywood had been torn down. (It's a parking lot today, in case you'd like to drag a sofa out there.)

It Could Have Been A Double Album

At one point during Crosby, Stills & Nash's gestation, the idea was floated to render it a double album — one acoustic, one electric.

"Stephen was pushing them to do a rock-and-roll record instead of a folk album because he was the electric guy," session drummer Dallas Taylor said, according to Browne's book. "He wanted to play." (Back in the Buffalo Springfield, Stills and Young would engage in string-popping guitar duels on songs like "Bluebird," foreshadowing Young's impending electric workouts with Crazy Horse.)

Happily, the finished product blended both the band's electric and acoustic impulses; rockers like "Long Time Gone" happily snuggled up to acoustic meditations like "Guinnevere" sans friction.

Famous Friends Were Soaking Up The Sessions

As Browne notes, there was a "no outsiders decree" as this exciting triangulation of Buffalo Springfield, Hollies and Byrds members was secretly forged.

But rock royalty was in and out: at one point, Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun rolled up in a limo with an "eerily quiet" Phil Spector. Joni Mitchell, Cass Elliott, and Judy Collins also turned up — and, yes, Judy Collins, Stills' recent ex, was the namesake for the epochal "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes."

"It started out as a long narrative poem about my relationship with Judy Collins," Stills said in 1991. "It poured out of me over many months and filled several notebooks." (The "Thursdays and Saturdays" line refers to her therapy visits. "Stephen didn't like therapy and New York," Collins said in the book, "and I was in both.")

"Long Time Gone" Almost Didn't Make It On The Album

Crosby's probing rocker "Long Time Gone" meant a lot to him. He'd less written than channeled it from the ether, immediately after the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

"It wasn't just about Bobby," he told Browne in the book. "He was the penultimate trigger. We lost John Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and then we lost Bobby. It was discouraging, to say the least. The song was very organic. I didn't plan it. It just came out that way."

It was always considered for Crosby, Stills & Nash, but it was proving hard to capture it in the studio. It might have died on the vine had Stills not sent Crosby and Nash home so he could work on the arrangement — which took an all-nighter to get right.

When he played the others his new arrangement, an exhilarated Crosby tossed back wine, and dove into the song "with a new, deeper tone," as Browne puts it — "almost as if he were underwater tone, almost as if he were underwater and struggling for air."

Ertegun Boosted The Voices — And Thank Goodness He Did

For all the prodigious, multilayered talent in Crosby, Stills & Nash, it's their voices that were at the forefront of their art — and should have always been.

However, the original mix had their voices relatively lower in the mix; Ertegun, correctly perceiving that their voices were the main attraction, ordered a remix, and thank goodness he did. The band initially pushed back, but as Stills admitted, "Ahmet signs our paychecks." As they say, the rest is history.

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