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The Magic Of 'Melodrama': How Lorde’s Second Album Solidified Her & Producer Jack Antonoff As Global Stars
The writing and production of 'Melodrama' — released on June 16, 2017 — turned Lorde into a relatable icon of the late 2010s and Antonoff into the producer pop artists are now clamoring to work with.
The New Zealand singer/songwriter first made a name for herself at just 16 with her GRAMMY-nominated debut album, 2013's Pure Heroine. Aside from the 2013-2014 Pure Heroine Tour, Lorde spent much of the intervening four years living a mostly secluded life — until Nov. 6, 2016, the eve of her 20th birthday, when she revealed that her sophomore album did in fact exist.
"Writing Pure Heroine was my way of enshrining our teenage glory, putting it up in lights forever so that part of me never dies, and this record — well, this one is about what comes next," she wrote in a Facebook post, as she left her teenage years behind.
At the same time, Jack Antonoff had gone from fun. guitarist/drummer and Bleachers frontman to producing songs for major pop players like Carly Rae Jepsen and Taylor Swift. (Antonoff has credited Swift for getting his production career off the ground; he has two Album Of The Year GRAMMYs thanks to his work on 2014's 1989 and 2020's folklore). But until Melodrama, Antonoff had yet to take on a lead producer role for another artist.
Antonoff and Lorde shared a friend in Swift, and after hitting it off at a GRAMMY party in 2014, they tried out their chemistry in the studio. As detailed in a 2017 New York Times profile, Antonoff's innate balance "between the intimate and the outsize" was a perfect fit for the musical world Lorde was looking to create with Melodrama — and the result was massive.
Melodrama — released five years ago today, on June 16th, 2017 — not only cemented Lorde's legacy as a defining voice of pop's new generation, but altered pop around the sound Antonoff and Lorde created together.
The Lorde of Melodrama is very different from the Lorde of Pure Heroine, not only in sound but in demeanor. In 2013, Lorde was not that far removed from just being Ella Yelich-O'Connor, a kid from a suburban New Zealand town of less than 10,000. Early singles like "Tennis Court'' and "Royals" emphasize Lorde's humble upbringing, noting how she'd never seen a diamond or even been on a plane.
Even on tracks without such direct acknowledgements of her youth, Pure Heroine found Lorde wide-eyed and eager to explore the world opening up to her, with its Joel Little production matching the starstruck, humble demeanor of the lyrics. The charming honesty about her lack of worldliness combined with simple, sparse production resonated, with the album going triple platinum by 2016 and earning Lorde two GRAMMYS, including Song of the Year for "Royals."
As the title implies, Melodrama isn't quite as jubilant. The late teenage years can often be a tumultuous time for anyone, and Lorde is no exception. In the four years between albums, Lorde's long-term relationship with photographer James Lowe ended, and she had to suddenly grapple with being one of the most famous people on the planet before she even turned 18.
As Lorde expressed in her birthday-eve post, she was "reckless and graceless and terrifying and tender." This shows up immediately on "Green Light," the album's opening track and lead single. Thematically, it unveiled a Lorde who was in a more liberated and mature, yet messy part of her life. Emphasized by a triumphant chorus, the song's message of getting the "green light" to simply live freely welcomed listeners into a more complicated world than the one she inhabited in 2013 — one that was also quite beautiful.
While "Green Light" opens with simple piano chords that wouldn't be out of place on Pure Heroine (notably, it's one of only two tracks that Little co-produced), it quickly ramps up into something so much more. By the time the first chorus hits, it's clear something new is happening with Lorde's music on Melodrama. The piano has given way to a dense jungle of euphoric production, built around synths and a looping melodic hook as she proclaims, "I'm waiting for it, that green light, I want it." It's a tone-setter both emotionally and musically for Melodrama as a whole, and a perfect introduction to this new era for both its pop star and producer.
The album also marked new territory for Antonoff, as he was deeply ingrained in the entire process of Melodrama. Antonoff co-wrote and co-produced 10 of the 11 tracks alongside Lorde, the only exception being the more club-oriented "Homemade Dynamite" (which still featured a heavy-hitting co-writer, indie-pop darling Tove Lo).
Antonoff's production style can be described in two simple words: catchy and more. He finds a great hook and builds a towering sound in support of it, like on the richly nuanced "I Wanna Get Better" from Bleachers' debut LP, 2014's Strange Desire. In that way, the pairing of Antonoff and Lorde came at the perfect time for both of them: While Antonoff was beginning to push his production towards higher aspirations, Lorde was also wrapped up in the idea of more.
Throughout the album — and her life as a young adult — the singer strives for doing more, feeling more, and just being more. Some of the album's most touching moments are her journey towards more, as well as the moments of doubt on whether more has become too much, like on "Liability" and "Writer in the Dark." Antonoff deftly dialed back his production on these tracks, though his rich layering still shines.
The often-complicated quest of Melodrama reflects the journey of a teenager finding themselves — particularly, those in the late 2010s. As social media became a ubiquitous part of everyday life and the news, it simultaneously gave everyone more room to explore who they are and exposed them to more adult, existential issues. The climate crisis, which later inspired Lorde's trip to Antarctica in 2019, loomed large even in 2017; it's hard not to hear the urgency to live life in the face of looming disaster on Melodrama, especially on tracks like "Perfect Places."
Lorde treats these issues with the same weight as the fraught relationships and breakups of the late teenage years — because for a teenager, they can carry the same weight. "All the glamor and the trauma/ And the f<em></em>*in melodrama," she growls on "Sober II," an encapsulation of the entire project.
Upon its release, Melodrama was immediately lauded by critics and fans. The album received glowingreviews, earning both Lorde and Antonoff a lot of praise, including a GRAMMY nomination for Album of the Year in 2018. And even five years later, Melodrama still proves to be a pivotal moment for each of their careers.
The acclaim for the sounds of Melodrama resonated across the industry, and it certified Antonoff an in-demand collaborator. While he'd still be recruited for singles from artists like BANKS, his role became much more prominent on some of pop's biggest albums that were to come.
Swift had Antonoff produce six tracks on her experimental 2017 album, reputation, the majority of her 2019 LP Lover, and a handful of folklore tracks; he produced almost all of Lana Del Rey's universally acclaimed 2019 album, Norman F</em>cking Rockwell!, and its followup, 2021's Chemtrails Over The Country Club; the Chicks put their 2020 comeback album, Gaslighter,* in his hands.
Across all of these albums, Antonoff brought his big, layered sound along with him, melding it with the often disparate styles all of the artists had previously employed. It can be heard in the constant buildup and stacking of instrumental lines on Del Rey's sprawling "Venice B<em></em><em></em>," the way the vocal harmonies resonate on the Chicks' "Gaslighter," or on the towering "King" from Florence + The Machine's latest album Dance Fever. Antonoff and Lorde also reunited in 2021 for her third album, Solar Power, proving their collaboration could work across a brighter sound palette as well.
As pop packed in more production for sounds to become bigger and bolder going into the 2020s, it can certainly be traced back to Melodrama. The pairing of Lorde and Jack Antonoff raised both of their stars immeasurably — at the same time, spawning an album that captured the mood of growing up in a fast-moving world, and coining a sound that the biggest names in pop are still chasing today.
Photos: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic; Steve Granitz/WireImage; ABC via Getty Images; Amy Sussman/Getty Images; Prince Williams/WireImage
Here Are The Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical GRAMMY Nominees At The 2024 GRAMMYs
The five nominees for Producer Of The Year at the 2024 GRAMMYs have been pivotal to the landscape of pop, rock and hip-hop. Read on for how Hit-Boy, Jack Antonoff, D'Mile, Metro Boomin and Daniel Nigro have raised the bar over the past year.
The golden gramophone for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical is perhaps the ultimate accolade for anyone whose talents are best served behind a mixing desk. Phil Ramone, Rick Rubin, and Max Martin are just a few of the legendary behind-the-scenes names who've received the coveted award since it was added to the ceremony in 1975. But winners such as Pharrell Williams, Mark Ronson, and Stevie Wonder have also proven that the Recording Academy are open to honoring those who can take center stage, too.
This year's crop have undoubtedly all been pivotal to the pop, rock and hip-hop landscapes of the past 12 months. Two-time winner Jack Antonoff continued on his mission to conquer the charts for all of eternity by joining forces with two of his superstar regular cohorts, while first-time nominee Daniel Nigro helped not just one but two teen stars parlay their early success into adulthood.
Hit-Boy and Metro Boomin both vied for the title of hardest-working rap producer with an exhausting list of credits. At the other end of the scale, D'Mile, focused most of his attention on just one burgeoning talent.
Here's a closer look at the nominees for Producer Of The Year at the 2024 GRAMMYs.
Jack Antonoff will be hoping to replicate Babyface's mid-'90s dominance by becoming only the second-ever artist to win the Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical GRAMMY three times in a row. The pop maestro is on the cusp of history thanks to fruitful working relationships with two of the era's most prolific female singer-songwriters.
Antonoff has been recognized for co-producing the entirety of Taylor Swift's Midnights, the dreamlike concept album which spawned a record-breaking 10 U.S. Top 10 singles in the same week including Lana Del Rey collaboration "Snow on the Beach." The latter's equally alluring Did You Know There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd also benefited from Antonoff's magic touch on all but three of its 16 tracks including a guest appearance from his own alt-pop outfit Bleachers.
Antonoff's production empire further grew this year when he entered the studio with another Swift-adjacent (albeit briefly) act, The 1975, for their fifth LP, Being Funny In A Foreign Language. But despite his chart ubiquity, the New Jersey native insists he has little interest in courting the mainstream.
"I do think that there's a misconception about what I do and what pop music is," he told The Face in September. "There's a certain group of people who think it's about appealing to the masses, [which is] not how I feel. I've never made anything hoping that everyone would like it."
Alongside his own individual accolades, Antonoff has previously shared GRAMMYs with his first band fun. (Best New Artist, Song of the Year for "We Are Young") Swift (Album of the Year for both 1989 and Folklore), and St. Vincent (Best Rock Song for "Masseduction" and Best Alternative Music Album for Daddy's Home).
But proving that all the awards glory hasn't gone to his head, Antonoff dedicated much of his acceptance speech last year to the unsung hero who joined him on stage: "I sit in the studio all day with one person — this is Laura, who engineers and mixes the records with us. We just sit there all f—ing day. We were there yesterday, we'll be there tomorrow, and this is all completely for Laura."
Dernst "D'Mile" Emile II
While last year's nomination came for his work with a modern R&B legend, Mary J. Blige, this year's is courtesy of a relatively new diva on the block.
Dernst Emile II, a.k.a. R&B/hip-hop producer D'Mile took the production reins on 10 of the 11 tracks on Victoria Monét's long-awaited full-length debut Jaguar II. The lush melting pot of disco, dancehall, funk, and soul firmly established the Ariana Grande hitmaker as a star in her own right.
It certainly lived up to the expectations that D'Mile, who also worked on Monét's Jaguar EP, put forward to GRAMMY.com last year: "We dug a little deeper. She is an artist that I feel really comfortable with. There might be a couple of songs that you wouldn't expect from her, and then there are songs that are just incredible records."
Of course, D'Mile has already made GRAMMY history having become the first-ever songwriter to pick up consecutive Song Of The Year awards, first winning with H.E.R.'s "I Can't Breathe" and then with Silk Sonic's "Leave the Door Open."
D'Mile sadly didn't get to accept the former in person due to COVID-19 protocols. But thankfully, the hitmaker did get to join Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak on stage for the latter where he dedicated the award to his late Haitian vocalist mother Yanick Étienne (the same Philly soul throwback also picked up Record Of The Year and Best R&B Song).
When asked about his pioneering feat by Vulture, D’Mile still appeared to be in a state of shock: "Man, these past two — even three — years have been just a wild ride for me. I definitely didn't expect to set a record. Even when I heard that it was possible, I was like, Wow, really? No one's ever done that? It's just wild to me that I'm at the GRAMMYs, let alone winning..."
D'Mile better get used to the feeling. The New Yorker was also victorious at the 2022 GRAMMYs thanks to his contributions on Lucky Daye's Best Progressive R&B Album Table for Two. And this second consecutive nod suggests it's only a matter of time before Producer of the Year - Non-Classical is added to the trophy cabinet that also includes an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
From Ty Dolla $ign and Big Sean to Travis Scott and ASAP Rocky — name pretty much any major hip-hop star of the last 20 years and there's a good chance Chauncey Alexander Hollis Jr., a.k.a. Hit-Boy, has given them some audacious beats.
The Californian already has three GRAMMY Awards to his name, having co-produced Kanye West and Jay-Z's "N— in Paris," showcased his own lyrical flow on Nipsey Hussle's "Racks in the Middle," and worked on all 13 tracks on Nas' King's Disease.
Hit-Boy's prolific new partnership with the latter rap god has undoubtedly helped him pick up a second Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical GRAMMY nomination, specifically his work on the two Magic sequels and King's Disease III. Likewise, his production skills on Dreamville's "Just Face It" and Don Toliver's "Bus Stop."
But the aptly-named beatmaker has also been celebrated for his own headlining efforts, including the Surf and Drown mixtape, the Alchemist collaboration "Slipping Into Darkness," and the Victims and Villains LP recorded alongside nu-soul crooner Musiq Soulchild, all of which arrived within the space of just three months.
Hit-Boy's work schedule may sound truly exhausting, but as he told GRAMMY.com in 2020, the star thrives on keeping busy: "It's too many artists trying to tap in for me to just work on one thing at a time, but I still am able to give my focus. It's like quantity and quality. I don't know how to explain it right now."
And Hit-Boy will certainly be appreciative if it proves to be second time lucky. Discussing his first Producer of the Year nod, he told Variety, "It would definitely be a dream come true … Just to be recognized is amazing, but to win? That would be major, man. Just for the people that have followed my story and know how much I've stayed down, that would be major."
Perhaps surprisingly, considering he's been behind Hot 100 No.1s by Migos and The Weeknd, trap genius Metro Boomin is the only Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical nominee this year without a GRAMMY already to his name. In fact, he's only ever received one nomination — Album of the Year for his sole contribution to Coldplay's Music of the Spheres.
Could 2024 be the year this changes? Well, it wouldn't be for the want of trying. The man born Leland Tyler Wayne has laid down beats for everyone from Travis Scott ("Til Further Notice") and Lil Durk ("War Bout It") to Drake ("More M's") and Young Thug ("Oh U Went") over the period of eligibility.
And like his fellow studio wizard Hit-Boy, Metro Boomin has also been recognized for his own material including his Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse cuts "Am I Dreaming" and "Calling," and three tracks from his sophomore Heroes and Villains ("Creepin'," "Superhero," and "Trance"),
Luckily, the St. Louis native seems likely to take it in his stride if he once again misses out on a golden gramophone. Metro Boomin was seen as a shoo-in for the 2018 Producer Of The Year category but the award went to Greg Kurstin. The hitmaker told Billboard, "You know, we don't be tripping off stuff like that. We just keep it moving, man … I'm just here to service the people. As long as that happens what I do, that's really all that what matters to me."
That doesn't mean Boomin believes he's unworthy of the accolade, though, with the star recently telling Ebony, "I knew I was here to stay before I even really got here, because I knew how much time I was putting into this…..I'm always trying to outdo myself. This is one of the first times in my career that I can really feel the ascension; I can feel something happening, and I'm well aware of it."
Mid-2000s emo rock outfit As Tall as Lions might not have got anywhere near the most prestigious night on the music industry calendar. But frontman Daniel Nigro is now racking up the GRAMMY nominations as one of the go-to guys for Gen-Z.
All four of the New Yorker's previous nods were for his work with Disney Channel graduate Olivia Rodrigo, including the Best Pop Album category in which Sour reigned supreme. But in his first Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical showing, Nigro has also been acknowledged for collaborating with some other cool names.
That includes Chappell Roan, the dark-pop singer-songwriter who called on Nigro to produce the entirety of her debut album The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess. Irish troubadour Dermot Kennedy ("Divide") and former Chairlift vocalist Caroline Polachek ("Welcome To My Island") have also helped the one-time jingle writer to build a GRAMMY-worthy discography over the past 12 months.
Of course, it's Nigro's second effort with Rodrigo, Guts, that may best put him in contention for the big prize. He produced and co-wrote all 12 tracks on the pop-punk chart-topper, a committed approach he told Billboard is far preferable to being a songwriter-for-hire: "I know I'm definitely a pop producer [now], but I think I struggled a long time with that whole, 'You're part of a record' … I never felt satisfied doing just a song or two with an artist. I always felt detached. I come from a world where when something happens I want to call you up and celebrate the wins and vent about the losses and be a part of it [all]."
Nigro seems keen to continue guiding the careers of those young enough to be his kids. "I think it's just about being honest and talking about what's going on in their lives," Nigro replied when asked by Vulture what he admires about artists such as Rodrigo and Conan Gray.
"I think in their generation, something that they gravitate towards is the specificity of lyrics and honesty, which is always interesting," he continued to Vulture. "Whereas our generation was much more about metaphor and vagueness in lyrics, something that's left for interpretation, you know? It seems this generation is much more into something that's right on the nose."
The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.
The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy’s Voting Membership.
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7 Ways Taylor Swift's '1989' Primed Her For World Domination
With the arrival of '1989 (Taylor's Version),' take a look at seven ways the original album prepared the country-turned-pop star for a global takeover.
When Taylor Swift released "Shake It Off" — the lead single from her fifth studio album, 1989 — in August 2014, she couldn't have known just how apt the lyrics "I never miss a beat/ I'm lightning on my feet" would be to her career nine years later.
Since then, Swift has never missed a chance to shake up the industry, whether she's redefining artist and fan relationships or fighting for her masters. And Oct. 27 marks a special day in the Swift world, as it's not only the day her groundbreaking, genre-defying, and two-time GRAMMY-award-winning album arrived in 2014 — it also marks the day Swift takes it back with the release of 1989 (Taylor's Version).
At the time of the original's release, its name was inspired by the singer's birth year to mark a symbolic shift as she transitioned from a country singer to a pop star. She was tired of speculation around her love life, finding creative inspiration in other things, like a move from Nashville to New York and her friend's romances.
1989 sold over 1.2 million copies in its first week, making Swift the first artist ever to have three albums sell over one million copies in their first week. The album also helped Swift make history at the 2016 GRAMMYs, as its Album Of The Year win made Swift the first female solo artist to win the accolade twice. (She's since furthered her record with a third AOTY win for folklore in 2021.)
In the original liner notes, Swift touched on 1989 being an album about "coming into your own, and as a result... coming alive." In a way, she was prophesying everything she'd do in the subsequent nine years — from surprise albums to a larger-than-life tour to everything in between — by consistently reimagining and redefining what it means to be a pop artist today.
Now, the 1989 rerecording represents a different type of rebirth — one that, through the rerecording process, has given Swift a new perspective that has allowed her to come into her own all over again. "I was born in 1989, reinvented for the first time in 2014," Swift wrote in a note to fans on Instagram upon the (Taylor's Version) release, "and a part of me was reclaimed in 2023 with the re-release of this album I love so dearly."
As you blast 1989 (Taylor's Version), dig into seven ways the original recording helped pave the way for Swift to become a global superstar.
It Proved Swift A Successful Genre Shapeshifter
After Swift's Red saw pushback from the country community for blurring the lines between country and pop, 1989 would see the singer take a hairpin turn and go full-on pop. The catalyst for a full-length pop album was Red's loss for Album Of The Year at the 2014 GRAMMYs — something that Swift admitted caused her to cry "a little bit" and then decide it was time to make the leap.
Like Shania Twain before her, Swift's move from country to pop caused controversy both within the music industry and in her own team. Her record label at the time were skeptical of the change — even prompting to suggest she still record some country songs — and required a "dozen sit-downs" to better understand why she wanted to leave country music behind.
Realizing that if she "chased two rabbits" by pursuing both country and pop she would end up losing them both, Swift opted to fully embrace the new chapter of her life that came with moving to New York, cutting her hair, and shaking off the media by leaning into where her music was taking her.
With racing production and synthesized saxophones, 1989's lead single, "Shake It Off," was a reintroduction to Swift's artistry — and hinted at the true mainstream pop star she'd soon become.
She Took A Stand Against Naysayers
As part of the campaign for 1989, Swift spoke about the critiques she's received as a female singer/songwriter that her male counterparts don't often face. In particular, she touched on artists like Ed Sheeran and Bruno Mars, who also write songs about their love lives, but don't get similar pushback. Due to the autobiographical nature of her songwriting, love is a constant theme in Swift's work. But on 1989 she looked at it differently — and did so by taking aim at the media.
Where Red's "Mean" was written for the critics who never have anything nice to say, the tongue-in-cheek "Blank Space" is pointed directly at all those who suggest she's a maneater. Almost like a B-side to "Shake It Off" — which reminds that "the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate" — "Blank Space" serves as a satirical version of herself that gives a slight nod to how warped the media's perception is of her, singing "Got a long list of ex-lovers/ They'll tell you I'm insane/ 'Cause you know I love the players/ And you love the game."
She Enlisted Powerful Pop Producers
After working with Max Martin and Shellback on two of Red's biggest hits, "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and "I Knew You Were Trouble," Swift recruited them again to bring their expertise and pop flair for her new era. (Martin co-wrote and co-produced seven of the 13 tracks, while Shellback worked on six of those seven; both were involved on two of the three deluxe tracks.) As a songwriter, Swift liked just how much writing with a pop mindset helped push her out of her own comfort zone, something she explored with Martin on Red.
Swift further expanded her list of pop-superproducer collaborators by teaming with Ryan Tedder on two tracks, "I Know Places" and "Welcome To New York." While it's the only time the two have worked together, it checked another dream collab off of Swift's bucket list.
1989 was also the first album Swift worked on with Jack Antonoff, who has since become one of her biggest collaborators. Though he only co-wrote/co-produced three songs ("Out of the Woods," "I Wish You Would" and deluxe track "You Are In Love"), Antonoff's work soon proved majorly successful for Swift and several other pop stars, including Lorde and Lana Del Rey. Antonoff even credits Swift as the "first person who recognized" his talent as a producer.
It Expanded On Her Narrative-Driven Storytelling
As Swift was growing up and becoming reflective, her music was mirroring that maturity. This led her to explore themes and moments in her life that would weave their way through the album and become part of a larger story. The secret messages she placed throughout 1989 detail how different songs work together as a larger picture.
After the release of "Shake It Off" and the announcement that 1989 would be a pop-centric album, some fans and critics were fearful that Swift's storytelling would weaken when placed in a typical pop format. Instead, the ethos of 1989 is entirely shaped by Swift's love of autobiographical writing. After becoming irritated by the media's obsession with her love life and calling her promiscuous, she pulled from larger creative artistic inspiration.
On the synth-heavy "Welcome To New York," the album's opening track, she sings about finding freedom after moving to the place that once intimidated her, whereas "New Romantics" is a call-to-arms that references the very synth-pop cultural movement in music in the '80s — something that inspired 1989 as a whole (more on that soon).
Songs like "You Are In Love," which was inspired by Jack Antonoff's relationship with then-girlfriend Lena Dunham, exhibits her ability to write about her friends' relationships. Even if she found inspiration in her own romantic life, she looked at it from a changed perspective — like on "Out of the Woods" which sound mirrored the anxiety she felt due to a fragile relationship. By using pop music as her own personal playground, she took what she learned as a songwriter in country music and created a place where pop music could be both catchy and emotional.
It Incorporated '80s Synth-Pop Production
At the time of release, 1989 was lauded as the most cohesive out of all of Swift's albums, due in part to the fact that she, Shellback, and Martin used 1980s synth-pop as inspiration. Citing the '80s decade being a defining era for experimentation in pop music, Swift saw how it mimicked her own journey as a redefined pop artist.
Despite 1989's exploration of heartbreak and pain, Swift and her producers juxtaposed the heavier themes with sounds that are similar to the larger-than-life tracks of the '80s, yet still resonated with listeners. It's a pairing and influence that Swift has incorporated throughout the albums that followed, like on "Paper Rings" from Lover, "Getaway Car" from reputation, and "Long Story Short" from evermore.
It Marks The Beginning Of Swift's More Mature Songwriting
Since most of Swift's songs were, at that point, mostly autobiographical and focused on her own love life, many cynics claimed that Swift should reflect and figure out why all of her relationships end in heartbreak. On 1989, she looks back on the experiences that shaped her — like losing a friend as heard on "Bad Blood" or predicting just how badly a relationship will haunt you on "Wildest Dreams."
"Clean," the final song on 1989, demonstrates Swift's prowess at using bigger concepts to both touch on her own personal experiences and still make it universally relatable. On the final track of the standard edition, she explores a broken relationship by using vices as a metaphor for being addicted to someone. It's a track that, since its release, has become a fan-favorite because of its relatable topics, like grief and healing.
Although songs across 1989 are tied together by love and heartbreak, Swift approaches the themes in a more introspective and independent way. Where earlier tracks like Taylor Swift's "Should've Said No" and Speak Now's "Better Than Revenge" are bathed in anger, on 1989 Swift views love with more experience, understanding that not everything is black and white — as heard on "Style" ("He says, 'What you heard is true, but I/ Can't stop thinkin' 'bout you and I'/ I said, 'I've been there too a few times'") and "This Love" ("When you're young, you just run/ But you come back to what you need.")
She Took Artist-To-Fan Engagement To A New Level
What has always set Swift apart from other artists is her level of fan engagement, whether on social media or in person. With 1989, she doubled down on her relationship with fans, introducing the Secret Sessions.
In the lead-up to release week, Swift hand-selected 89 fans from across the US and invited them into her home. Swift personally entertained the crowd by playing them music from the album ahead of its release date and gave them bigger insight into the album-making process. She continued the Secret Sessions with 2017's reputation and 2019's Lover.
As she continues on the Eras Tour and releases 1989 (Taylor's Version), Swift also continues to redefine what it means to be a pop artist. Her era of pop stardom officially began with the release of 1989, and with its re-recorded counterpart, we get to relive that era all over again.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images
5 Ways Lorde's 'Pure Heroine' Helped Pave The Way For The Unconventional Modern Superstar
On the 10th anniversary of Lorde's massive debut album, 'Pure Heroine,' take a look at five ways the star's defiant spirit — on and off the LP — influenced a generation.
Over 10 years after Lorde released her breakout hit, "Royals," its opening line presents a profound sense of irony: "I've never seen a diamond in the flesh."
In the song, Lorde depicts a disillusionment with the lifestyle and status associated with diamonds — one based on excess, ostentation, and a departure from reality. But her scorned sentiment is so relatable that "Royals" itself has become a diamond.
In December of 2017, the single reached the rarely achieved diamond certification from the Recording Industry Association of America for selling 10 million units. The single now has over 1 billion streams on Spotify, and when it was in the throes of release, topped the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks, before earning two GRAMMYs: Song Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at the 2014 ceremony.
"Royals" was the lead single for Pure Heroine, Lorde's debut album, which turns 10 this month. Like its first hit, the album demonstrated Lorde's foresight into the next generation of pop star — so much so that none other than David Bowie had proclaimed her as "the future of music."
In many ways, the title Pure Heroine is apposite to Lorde herself. In the early 2010s, she was a heroine with a pure message — a message of honesty and humanity that resonated with everyone, from fans to her fellow musicians. Even critics were intrigued: "In a moment when too many new artists seem afraid to offend or go off script, Lorde is an exciting contradiction," Pitchfork wrote in their review of Pure Heroine.
Going "off script" permeates everything about Pure Heroine, but it also goes beyond the album and into what Lorde represented for music and humanity at large.
As Pure Heroine turns 10, here are five aspects of Lorde's rise that demonstrate that she helped create the blueprint for the modern superstar.
Defiance Of Industry Expectations
Lorde has been signed to Universal Music Group since she was 12 years old, after being discovered because of a performance at a talent show. However, she didn't let such a grand association play a role in her approach to her music.
"I've been dealing with the world's biggest record company for so long so I've never had that 'Holy Shit' moment with it being a major label or anything," Lorde told Spin in 2013. "It's just something I grew up with."
Even prior to the album, Lorde was prescient in her defiance of the industry when she released her 2012 EP, The Love Club, on Soundcloud for free. Per The Guardian, she told UMG, "Leave it alone — don't promote it, no ads, let it grow organically." This ended up working in her favor when singer/songwriter Grimes reposted Lorde's Soundcloud after "some random" alerted her to it.
And when the time came for Lorde to make her first album, Universal initially suggested doing a series of soul covers, but she refused. "They got straight away that I was a bit weird, that I would not be doing anything I didn't want to do, and they completely went with that," she told The Guardian in 2013.
What Lorde considered "a bit weird" in 2013 is now, rightfully, considered brave and forward-thinking because it was all in service to her simply being herself, regardless of what anyone in the industry expected of her.
That mentality also bled into her appearance. "I'm not the sort of artist that TMZ can write about like, 'She stepped out with no makeup today!' Because 80 percent of the time I'm not wearing any makeup," Lorde told The Fader in 2013.
She also didn't care for the comparisons to other massive artists like her: "I read a piece the other day that said, 'Why Lorde is this generation's Nirvana,' and I was like, PLEASE DON'T! Don't do that to me! They meant it as a compliment, obviously, but what's the point in even making the parallel?" she said to Rookie in 2014.
Lorde has only ever wanted to do things her way, and that not only fueled the magic of Pure Heroine, but her career as a whole.
A Simple One Writer, One Producer Formula
One thing Lorde wanted to do on her debut album was write all of her own lyrics, even though she had never written a song before in her life. And she clearly aimed to have as much creative control as possible, opting to work with only one producer on the album, Joel Little.
Little and Lorde are the only two credits for both writing and production throughout Pure Heroine, a stark contrast to other albums released in 2013 including Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience, and Beyoncé's self-titled, all of which followed the modern pop standard of gathering numerous songwriters and producers together on an album.
Now, 10 years on from Pure Heroine, some of the biggest artists and albums follow the Pure Heroine approach. For example, on both of Billie Eilish's studio albums, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO? (2019) and Happier Than Ever (2022) the only credits are herself and her brother, Finneas.
Another is Olivia Rodrigo, who — other than an occasional extra producer or songwriter and a few interpolation credits to artists like Hayley Williams and Taylor Swift — wrote and produced the entirety of her two studio albums, SOUR (2021) and GUTS (2023) alongside producer Daniel Nigro.
A more intimate creative process makes sense given the candid nature of these artists' music, and the central topic of Lorde's honesty in Pure Heroine can be summed up by the pre-chorus in "Royals": "Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece/ Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash/ We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair."
Ten years ago, the de facto motto of pop music was "the bigger the better," emphasized by songs like "Love Me" from Lil' Wayne and Drake, "F—in' Problems" from A$AP Rocky, 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake, and "Suit & Tie" from Justin Timberlake and JAY-Z. Then in comes a teenager from New Zealand who literally says "We don't care." She didn't care about the lifestyle pop music purported — and without a boardroom of writers and producers, her message rang out unimpeded.
A DIY Social Media Approach
Given her rise was in the early 2010s, Lorde was also one of the first stars of her generation to engage in the never-ending battle of social media — and, naturally, she only engaged with it as she saw fit.
"I would get an email from one of the record companies saying, 'Just realized that you're not social-networking to your fullest potential. Here's how! Use lots of hashtags! Only focus on the music, Do 'follow sprees' and constantly reply to fans!'" Lorde recalled to Rookie in 2014. "I was like, 'You've just got to trust me. Everyone will hate me in two months if I do that.'"
Yet another gem of foresight from the young Kiwi, given that numerous Gen-Z notables — from the country breakout star Bailey Zimmerman to the hip-hop/electronic crossover artist PinkPantheress — launched their careers from TikTok by posting DIY clips of their creative processes.
As of late, Lorde's Instagram account is rather bare. There are two posts: the cover of her latest album, 2021's Solar Power, and a carousel of her swimming with a cryptic caption about "a light on inside."
However, there is a highlight on her profile entitled "INSTITUTE" which gives a glimpse into the last year or so of touring. Within these slides Lorde's authentic approach to social sharing is unambiguous. There are numerous high-quality performance shots, of course, but there are also images of "TOUR BUS SHELLFISH" alongside shots of porcupines and her eating sushi in the bath.
In the timeline of Lorde's social media, there are examples that demonstrate even less concern with curation and presentation. She even started an account dedicated to onion rings in 2017 (though it unfortunately hasn't had a post since 2021).
While she was certainly public about her feelings towards social media, there are also hints of that disdain throughout Pure Heroine. Like on the album's second single, "Tennis Court": "It's a new artform showing people how little we care."
Honesty In Lyrics And Beyond
One thing Lorde surely does care about is her audience, which is likely a major reason why the songs on Pure Heroine speak to inner value. She is on their side, and one simple method of demonstrating this is the shift from "I" to "We."
"This dream isn't feeling sweet/ We're reeling through the midnight streets/ And I've never felt more alone/It feels so scary, getting old," Lorde sings on "Ribs," recounting one of the aspects of life she finds most stressful: aging.
As "Ribs" suggests, the 10 songs on Pure Heroine are for real people in the real world — people who are complex and have varying life experiences. One minute, Lorde is celebrating her elevated status ("Getting pumped up on the little bright things I bought/ But I know they'll never own me," Lorde sings on opener "Tennis Court") and next, she's lamenting her declining ability to be carefree as she gets older ("I'm kind of over gettin' told to throw my hands up in the air/ So there/ I'm kind of older than I was when I reveled without a care/ So there," she quips in "Team," the album's third single).
This kind of honesty also extends beyond lyrics for Lorde, who, since the time of Pure Heroine, has been unfiltered in her opinions on topics including her fellow pop stars.
"I think a lot of women in this industry maybe aren't doing so well for the girls," Lorde told Fader in 2013. "She's great, but I listened to that Lana Del Rey record and the whole time I was just thinking it's so unhealthy for young girls to be listening to, you know: 'I'm nothing without you.'"
In that vein, you won't find a single breakup song on Pure Heroine, but instead, honesty in the form of her love/hate relationship with her sudden explosion into fame on "Still Sane": "All business, all day keeps me up a level/All work and no play, lonely on that new s—, yeah."
But even as she acknowledges her rising profile, through "White Teeth Teens" she maintains she hasn't lost sight of who she truly is, that she is still on the side of her people: "I'll let you in on something big/I am not a white teeth teen/I tried to join, but never did/The way they are, the way they seem/Is something else, it's in the blood."
And even when she does broach the topic of heartbreak on songs like "Liability," from Pure Heroine's 2017 successor, Melodrama, Lorde goes deep within herself instead of running back to her ex: "So I guess I'll go home/Into the arms of the girl that I love/The only love I haven't screwed up/She's so hard to please, but she's a forest fire."
Pure Heroine set the tone for the kind of honesty Lorde will always bring in her music — one that's more self-reflective than self-pitying.
A Punk Attitude
Lorde was not concerned with the standards of the music industry when she was making Pure Heroine, and there is a genre of music that is celebrated for this same lack of concern: punk.
While it might seem that a major pop star like Lorde and punk rockers like the Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys have absolutely nothing in common, the ethos of how they approach their music and persona are actually quite similar. Because punk isn't simply not caring; punk is not caring what people tell you to care about.
If Sonic Youth truly didn't care about anything, they wouldn't have written "Youth Against Facism," their scathing indictment of the U.S. government. It's the same reason Anti-Flag wrote the plainly titled "F— Police Brutality." They use music to predicate change.
Lorde's lyrical approach may not be as on-the-nose as punk, but given the state of pop music at the time of Pure Heroine, ideas presented in "Royals" were well against what the general pop sphere was beckoning people to care about it: "My friends and I, we've cracked the code/ We count our dollars on the train to the party/ And everyone who knows us knows/ That we're fine with this, we didn't come from money."
Here, the "code" is being happy and content without the gold teeth and the Grey Goose. That she and her friends (once again, alluding to her fans) have value that goes beyond money.
Although Lorde's November 1996 birthday technically lands her just shy of the Gen-Z cutoff, her values in standing up for the common person is a central tenet of Gen-Z culture. This generation is being forced to pick up the pieces of a climate and an economy ravaged by generations prior, and Gen-Zers are facing that necessary change head-on the same way Lorde faced the necessary change in the music industry at the start of her career.
Just before Pure Heroine reached its 10th birthday on Sept. 27, Lorde took to email to share a candid update on what's been happening in her life in the last year, denoting everything from hints at new music to health struggles, to laments on the decade past.
"I know I'm gonna look back on this year with fondness and a bit of awe, knowing it was the year that locked everything into place, the year that transitioned me from my childhood working decade to the one that comes next — one that even through all this, I'm so excited for. It's just hard when you're in it," Lorde wrote, according to a Tumblr account called "Lorde's Email Archive."
Lorde considers the last 10 years her "childhood working decade." In that decade, she redefined what it meant to be a superstar — who knows what she may redefine in the next decade.