meta-scriptMad Cool 2021 Lineup: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Carly Rae Jepsen, The Killers, Pixies, Twenty One Pilots, FEVER 333 & More | GRAMMY.com
Carly Rae Jepsen

Carly Rae Jepsen

Photo: Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage/Getty Images

news

Mad Cool 2021 Lineup: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Carly Rae Jepsen, The Killers, Pixies, Twenty One Pilots, FEVER 333 & More

The fifth anniversary edition of the Madrid music festival was postponed until July 2021 and will feature many of the artists from the original 2020 lineup, including Mumford & Sons, Deftones, Placebo, Faith No More, Foals, Major Lazer and more

GRAMMYs/Jul 9, 2020 - 12:01 am

Today, July 8, Madrid's Mad Cool Festival revealed the first-wave lineup for their postponed fifth anniversary event. The headliners for the four-day fest, taking place July 7-10, 2021, are GRAMMY winners Red Hot Chili Peppers, Twenty One Pilots, Mumford & Sons, Deftones, GRAMMY nominees the Killers and Faith No More, and Pixies, Placebo and Royal Blood.

GRAMMY nominees Carly Rae Jepsen, Black Pumas, Fever 333, Alt-J, as well as The Rapture, Puscifer, Angel Olsen and Waxahatchee are also among the 94 acts making up the initial lineup. Mad Cool notes that 132 total will make up the final billing, which includes three more headliners, and will be shared "as soon as possible."

Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Black Pumas On Their Breakout Year, Creative Process And "New Chapter"

Other artists playing the big 2021 event include London Grammar, Yungblud, Foals, Pale Waves, Alec Benjamin, Glass Animals and Shura. The fest's electronic music stage, The Loop, also reveals a solid offering: GRAMMY winner Diplo and his  Major Lazer project, GRAMMY nominees Four Tet, RÜFÜS DU SOL, along with electro heavyweights Floating Points, Octa Octa, Nina Kraviz, Hayden James, Modeselektor, ANNA and more.

Since the event was officially rescheduled to 2021 on June 26, organizers have been working to book as many of the artists from the original 2020 announcement, although headliner Taylor Swift will not be able to play the 2021 edition.

"You have asked a lot about Taylor Swift, unfortunately we are sad to tell you that she won't be able to attend our next edition. We have been working with her agent & management to try to make it happen for our 5th anniversary, but it hasn't been possible. Hopefully we will have her in one of our future editions," today's statement reads.

Listen: Shea Diamond, Tom Morello, Dan Reynolds & The Bloody Beetroots Call Listeners To Action In "Stand Up"

Tickets for Mad Cool 2021 went on sale today, starting at €75 for single-day tickets. 2020 ticket holders have until the next lineup announcement to request refunds; those who decide to keep their tickets get 25 percent off of merch and tickets to the Mad Cool Vibra Mahou tour. Please visit Mad Cool's website for more info on tickets and the lineup.

Yvonne Orji On Her First-Ever HBO Comedy Special, Faith & Celebrating Black Joy

Dillon Francis and Diplo GRAMMY Museum Event 2024
Dillon Francis (left) and Diplo at the GRAMMY Museum on May 15, 2024.

Photo: Courtesy of the Recording Academy™️/photo by Rebecca Sapp, Getty Images

list

Dillon Francis & Diplo In Conversation: 5 Things We Learned From The GRAMMY Museum Event

In honor of Dillon Francis' breakthrough hit "Get Low" turning 10 this year, the DJ/producer sat down with one of his longtime dance buds, Diplo, at the GRAMMY Museum. Check out five revelations from the career-spanning (and highly entertaining) chat.

GRAMMYs/May 20, 2024 - 08:30 pm

Dillon Francis and Diplo have respectively built massive careers within dance music — but as they proved on May 15, they may have been just as successful doing stand-up comedy.

The two producers came together at the GRAMMY Museum's Clive Davis Theater for a wisecracking exchange, marking the 10-year anniversary of Francis' breakthrough song with DJ Snake, the platinum-certified "Get Low." It also felt like a celebration of 

their longstanding friendship — which predates "Get Low" — as the conversation was filled with humorous anecdotes, insider stories about key moments in Francis' career, and some of Francis' favorite memories with Diplo.

Since "Get Low," Francis has had a mercurial music trajectory. Though he's released three studio albums and a number of EPs, his landmark mixtapes — 2015's This Mixtape Is Fire and last year's This Mixtape is Fire TOO — are the key highlights. Like many dance acts, collaboration has been at the core of Francis' work, particularly within the electronic community; he's teamed up with the likes of Skrillex, Calvin Harris, Martin Garrix, Kygo, Alison Wonderland, Illenium, Alesso, and even Diplo's trio Major Lazer

More recently, Francis has released collaborations with Ship Wrek, Space Rangers and Sophie Powers, and the moombahton Pero Like EP with Good Times Ahead. The EP includes the bouncy "LA On Acid," whose video — which premiered at the South By Southwest Festival in March — features Diplo in its opening sequencing, along with cameos from Euphoria's Chloe Cherry, Righteous Gemstones' Tony Cavalero and Master of None's Eric Wareheim.

Three days after stopping by the GRAMMY Museum, Francis headed out to Las Vegas to perform at North America's largest electronic dance music festival, Electric Daisy Carnival, on May 18. It was one of many festival appearances for Francis this summer, along with one of several trips to Las Vegas, as he has a residency at the Wynn's XS Nightclub.

Below, take a look at five takeaways from Francis' spirited conversation with Diplo at the GRAMMY Museum.

Francis Met Diplo By Sliding Into His Twitter DMs

The two met in person 16 years ago in Francis' hometown of Los Angeles. Before that, Francis would send Diplo demos for consideration for the latter's record label, Mad Decent. Once Francis realized Diplo had heard his song "Masta Blasta," he slid into Diplo's Twitter DMs — and never left. "I was harassing him so much," Francis quipped. "'Let's please hang out right now. God, please let me come and hang out.'"

Diplo invited him to a bar, and they watched the Phillies (Diplo's team) lose. "It was one of my first blind dates," Diplo said. "I tried to make [Dillon] my ghost producer." 

Shortly after their first meeting, the pair worked together on a dubstep remix for Kelly Rowland's "Motivation" — and the more exposure he had to Francis' production skills, the more convinced Diplo was of his talent. "[Dillon is] too good to be my ghost producer. He's already better than me. We got to do a real record with this guy."

Francis' Superior Social Media Skills Began As A Class Assignment In High School

Francis' comedic online presence is the perfect combination of humor and authenticity, adding another layer to his appeal alongside his music. He traced his savvy skills back to his time at Los Angeles County High School for the Arts and a new genres course he took. His teacher considered everything as art, and their creations could be whatever they wanted.

"My friend and I would make comedy videos, basic sketch shows, and we passed the class with flying colors," Francis recalled. "When Vine came around, I did what I did in that class. It was another way of doing stuff I love to do, which is making people laugh."

Diplo then chimed in with a hilariously fitting observation. "You are the Weird Al Yankovic of electronic music," he said. "You had bangers, but you made them funny and you made them accessible to people."

He also commended Francis for opening his eyes to what social media can do for a creator. "You put me onto interaction on social media in different ways," Diplo added. "I don't think any other electronic music DJs were putting their personality out there like you did. You were the first one to do that properly."

Francis' Musical Education Came From Collaboration

As Francis revealed, he dropped out of college after a semester. But as someone who has built his career on collaboration, he's learned everything he needs to know by working with other artists. In fact, he thinks of working with other producers as interning. 

"It's my favorite thing to do," he said. "They're going to learn the way that you produce, you're going learn the way they produce. You can cross-pollinate your ideas and come away with new ways to make music. I feel like it also helps with evolving as an artist."

Diplo agreed, noting that Francis' time as a young producer, interning at studios, learning from producers and gaining relationships in the process was essential to his career. "Not to encourage more people to drop out of college," he joked.

Furious 7 Was A Key Player In The Success Of "Get Low"

Diplo pointed out that "Get Low" had its crossover moment after being included in the soundtrack for Furious 7, the 2015 installment of the Fast and Furious franchise. He asserted that it is special for a producer to have a song in a big movie, as he experienced with M.I.A.'s "Paper Planes" (which he co-wrote and co-produced) after it was featured in 2008's Pineapple Express.  

As Francis recalled, "Get Low" was already well-received and being played by the DJ community, with about five million plays on Spotify before Furious 7. But once it was part of Furious 7 — first in the trailer and then in the film — it ramped up significantly (and now has more than 200 million Spotify streams as of press time).

"This is when people were buying music on iTunes," Francis remembers. "From the trailer, it peaked at number 5 or something like that, which is huge for any artist in dance music. We're not usually on that chart. To be right next to Selena Gomez with a song that says, 'Get low when the whistle goes,' is crazy."

He Had A Life-Altering Turning Point At 18

After Diplo concluded his questions, Francis took a few from the audience. In response to one fan about what he would have done differently early in his career, Francis opened up about one of the worst moments in his life — which actually turned into a great learning experience. 

As he explained, at the age of 18, Francis was charged with a DUI (which was eventually downgraded to wet reckless). His parents spent their savings on a lawyer; he lost his car; he lost his license for a year; he did the DUI classes. And all of it put things into perspective.

"That was the first moment where I realized, things can get messed up and lost," he said. "I was like, 'I need to figure out my career. I'm going to go make money and I'm going to pay [my parents] back.' That was a very big driving factor for me."

Now 36, Francis views the incident as one of the best things to ever happen to him — and, in turn, for his path in dance music. "If that didn't happen, I don't think I would be sitting here on the stage today."

8 Essential Latin Electronic Releases: Songs And Albums From Bizarrap, Arca & More

Steve Albini in his studio in 2014
Steve Albini in his studio in 2014

Photo: Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

list

Without Steve Albini, These 5 Albums Would Be Unrecognizable: Pixies, Nirvana, PJ Harvey & More

Steve Albini loathed the descriptor of "producer," preferring "recording engineer." Regardless of how he was credited, He passed away on the evening of May 7, leaving an immeasurable impact on alternative music.

GRAMMYs/May 8, 2024 - 08:17 pm

When Code Orange's Jami Morgan came to work with Steve Albini, he knew that he and the band had to be prepared. They knew what they wanted to do, in which order, and "it went as good as any process we've ever had — probably the best," he glowed.

And a big part of that was that Albini —  a legendary musician and creator of now-iconic indie, punk and alternative records —  didn't consider himself any sort of impresario. 

"The man wears a garbage man suit to work every day," Morgan previously told GRAMMY.com while promoting Code Orange's The Above. "It reminds him he's doing a trade… I f—ing loved him. I thought he was the greatest guy."

The masterful The Above was released in 2023, decades into Albini's astonishing legacy both onstage and in the studio. The twisted mastermind behind Big Black and Shellac, and man behind the board for innumerable off-center classics, Steve Albini passed away on the evening of May 7 following a heart attack suffered at his Chicago recording studio, the hallowed Electrical Audio. He was 61. The first Shellac album since 2014, To All Trains, is due May 17.

Albini stuck to his stubborn principles (especially in regard to the music industry), inimitable aesthetics and workaday self-perception until the end. Tributes highlighting his ethos, attitude and vision have been flowing in from all corners of the indie community. The revered label Secretly Canadian called Albini "a wizard who would hate being called a wizard, but who surely made magic."

David Grubbs of Gastr Del Sol called him "a brilliant, infinitely generous person, absolutely one-of-a-kind, and so inspiring to see him change over time and own up to things he outgrew" — meaning old, provocative statements and lyrics.

And mononymous bassist Stin of the bludgeoning noise rock band Chat Pile declared, "No singular artist's body of work has had an impact on me more than that of Steve Albini."

“We are very sad to hear of Steve Albini’s passing,” stated the Recording Academy’s Producers & Engineers (P&E) Wing. “He was not only an accomplished musician in the various groups he played with, but also an iconic producer and engineer who contributed to some of the greatest albums in indie rock, from artists such as Nirvana, the Pixies and PJ Harvey. Steve was a true original. He will be greatly missed, but his influence will continue to live on through the many generations of artists he inspired.”

To wade through Albini's entire legacy, and discography, would take a lifetime — and happy hunting, as so much great indie, noise rock, punk, and so much more passed across his desk. Here are five of those albums.

Pixies - Surfer Rosa (1988)

Your mileage may vary on who lit the match for the alternative boom, but Pixies — and their debut Surfer Rosa — deserve a place in that debate. This quicksilver classic introduced us to a lot of Steve Albini's touchstones: capacious miking techniques; unadulterated, audio verite takes; serrated noise.

PJ Harvey - Rid of Me (1993)

Some of Albini's finest hours have resulted from carefully arranging the room, hitting record, and letting an artist stalk the studio like a caged animal.

It happened on Scout Niblett's This Fool Can Die Now; it happened on Laura Jane Grace's Stay Alive; and it most certainly happened on PJ Harvey's Rid of Me, which can be seen as a precedent for both. Let tunes like "Man-Size" take a shot at you; that scar won't heal anytime soon.

Nirvana - In Utero (1993)

Nirvana's unintended swan song in the studio was meant to burn the polished Nevermind in effigy.

And while Kurt Cobain was too much of a pop beautician to fully do that, In Utero is still one of the most bracing and unvarnished mainstream rock albums ever made. Dave Grohl's drum sound on "Scentless Apprentice" alone is a shot to your solar plexus.

"The thing that I was really charmed most by in the whole process was just hearing how good a job the band had done the first time around," Albini told GRAMMY.com upon In Utero's 20th anniversary remix and remastering. "What struck me the most about the [remastering and reissue] process was the fact that everybody was willing to go the full nine yards for quality."

Songs: Ohia - The Magnolia Electric Co. (2003)

When almost a dozen musicians packed into Electrical Audio to make The Magnolia Electric Co., the vibe was, well, electric — prolific singer/songwriter Jason Molina was on the verge of something earth-shaking.

It's up for debate as to whether the album they made was the final Songs: Ohia record, or the first by his following project, Magnolia Electric Co. — is a tempestuous, majestic, symbolism-heavy, Crazy Horse-scaled ride through Molina's troubled psyche.

Code Orange - The Above (2023)

A health issue kept Code Orange from touring behind The Above, which is a shame for many reasons. One is that they're a world-class live band. The other is that The Above consists of their most detailed and accomplished material to date.

The band's frontman Morgan and keyboardist Eric "Shade" Balderose produced The Above, which combines hardcore, metalcore and industrial rock with concision and vision. And by capturing their onstage fire like never before on record, Albini helped glue it all together.

"It was a match made in heaven," Morgan said. And Albini made ferocity, ugliness and transgression seem heavenly all the same.

11 Reasons Why 1993 Was Nirvana's Big Year

Sofia Ilyas Q&A hero
Sofia Ilyas

Photo: Grace Phillips

interview

Beatport's Sofia Ilyas On Creating A More Equitable & Connected Music Industry

"What I love about the music industry is there are so many gaps, and so many observations you can make and sort of insert yourself in and create something quite special itself," Sofia Ilyas of carving out a career as a music professional.

GRAMMYs/May 7, 2024 - 01:42 pm

Given that Beatport Chief Community Officer Sofia Ilyas has dedicated the last 15 years or so of her life supporting burgeoning artists, subgenres and underrepresented groups, it's somewhat surprising that she grew up in a household without music.

As a teen, a Sony Walkman with a radio and mixtapes featuring the likes of Radiohead were a lifeline to a world Ilyas' family didn't want her to participate in. She was even kept home during school field trips to the National Gallery museum in London, where she's since hosted her Piano Day music and art event, and will soon be curating a room for their 200th anniversary celebration.

Ilyas has had to sacrifice a lot — namely, a relationship with her strict Muslim family — to carve out a career in music, and hers is a story of patience and resilience. After leaving her home in Cardiff, Wales for London to pursue higher education (against her family's wishes), she found solace and connection in live music. She'd hang out around the sound booth and introduce herself and ask questions about how things worked. Slowly but surely, she befriended people that worked at labels and venues, and even artists — Four Tet grew to know her by name after she kept coming back to his shows.

After years of being a part of the London scene as a dedicated fan, at age 30, Ilyas became co-manager of indie record label Erased Tapes, where she helped popularize neoclassical music and one of its purveyors, experimental German pianist Nils Frahm. Alongside Frahm, Ilyas launched Piano Day, where a diverse range of artists help them celebrate the past, present and future of the instrument alongside contemporary dancers and painters.

Now, as the first Chief Community Officer at major dance music platform Beatport, Ilyas is building community within and across disparate global electronic communities. She aims to bring more women and people of color into the mix.

"We're living in a time where people are feeling incredibly lonely and disconnected from community," Ilyas tells GRAMMY.com. "I [want to] facilitate people to come in to hear from each other, especially women, in a room that feels safe to hold discussion."

GRAMMY.com recently caught up with Ilyas for an insightful, engaging conversation on her work to support women and people of color in electronic music, making piano cool, her hopes for a more equitable music industry, and much more.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

You recently hosted your Piano Day annual events in Melbourne and London — tell me your vision for Piano Day.

When we launched Piano Day in London with Nils [Frahm], it gave me an excuse to try my own events. I had the artists performing in different corners of the room and a painter in the middle, watching and being inspired. I've always looked at different arts and wondered why they can't also be present in the music world and why we can't support each other across various industries. I've had a contemporary dancer at almost every event I've done in London. Piano Day was my way of having my own event that I could own and really show off my curation. Even with the first event, people were saying the space was beautiful and the curation was so good. I felt really validated.

[For Piano Day,] I always ask artists what they can do that's a little bit different, beyond performing their album or recent EP. I had one artist who had never played piano before, and he made a few mistakes and everyone was applauding him like it's okay. It's really important to me that Piano Day offers something that maybe the audience will never see again and they feel they've experienced something very special. An even bigger extension of that is the lineup that I curate for the National Gallery; coupling a piano player with a dancer who had never met before, and multiple artists only ever played piano maybe three times. I love that the artists have felt safe to trust me and that it's the type of event where they can take a risk.

I'm always looking for acts that are open to trying something a bit different and to be challenged by the fact that it's solo piano predominantly. And to also be inspired by the space, the National Gallery is such a prestigious, iconic venue. It's quite an unusual event because you've got people who've come to see the artists and regular visitors who have just come to see the paintings and they happen to stumble across what's happening. What's even more special for me is the audience is full of children. [I've been wondering] how we can do more music events that kids can come to, because I saw how inspired they were.

You'll be returning to the National Gallery in May to help curate their 200th anniversary event. How are you thinking about everything it stands for while bringing it into the future with music and women and people of color?

I've always had an attachment to the Gallery because there were school trips to it and my parents would never let me go. So for them to email me, "Hey, we've been to a couple of your events, would you like to bring Piano Day to the National Gallery?" I was just overwhelmed and hugely complimented.

I went to each room, sat down and thought about the feelings [it brought up]. I ended up landing on the blue room, it's got a lot of English paintings in it. I liked the idea of English artists against old English paintings, sort of breaking that mold of stiffness and classical looks to be like, this is now the future of London coming into the gallery. We placed the piano right in front of this really famous huge horse painting to really make that statement.

I am very mindful of having a diverse and interesting lineup. I always have one artist that starts the event that is a nod to the traditional kind of way of playing [piano]. It usually evolves to some artists playing the neoclassical sounds and then it moves into more the dance element and vocalist and then it ends on "this is the future" type of thing. I always like having that momentum.

Let's talk about your new record label RISE. What's your vision is with it and who are the artists you're currently working with?

I started Rise last year for artists that want help to get to the next level and get the attention of the label they want. I wanted to do a label that was within my bandwidth because I have a full-time job. If there're artists that I can help get from point A to B, then they go on to C, that's a great thing. I have Frank Hopkins on the label, who's an electronic artist, and Kareem Kumar, who's a Black artist who is known for playing in the streets of London. [Kumar] has built an incredibly huge audience on socials that has been a real inspiration to so many youngsters during COVID. They played together for the first time at the National Gallery, where Frank added some really nice ambient sounds and Kareem played the piano.

Too often, labels are quite a stiff experience, they want to assign that artist forever. If there are any artists that want help on press releases, overall branding and PR, that's exactly what RISE is there for. We can help them release some records, sort their online profile and offer guidance to basically uplift the artist so they can get the attention of booking agents, a label etc.

I see the future of labels where they are this sort of incubator-type of model, where they help an artist and the artists can grow into their own team or go off into another label. I envisage more labels existing like mine, where they're helping the artists onto that next level.

What do you think needs to shift for the music industry to be more supportive — financially and otherwise — of artists, particularly young people of color?

One thing that could be great is the labels that are doing well commercially — I'm sure they do this to a certain extent — choose two artists every year for an incubator program and make it more visible. Right now, most labels' A&R is a very closed thing. I think [it would help] if the labels made a very clear way of sending them demos. I know it is difficult because these days, even [people at] labels are so overworked and they don't have time to think about things like this. Maybe a music organization or a body out there could pick this idea up and take it to some of the major labels.

On the live side, [we need] more community spaces where an artist can come by and play regularly to fans and bring their friends and family around. Most venues are so hard to get on the bill, [so there's a need for] smaller 100-capacity-or-so spaces that open the doors more to local artists. We rely on the same names over and over again, whether it's festivals or local clubs, etc.

With your work as Beatport's Chief Community Officer, what are you actively doing to bring in and celebrate more women and people of color in dance music?

I've always been aware of diversity and my color and who I am in the music industry. Especially when I was around all those white male composers who knew everything about production and I knew nothing, that was very daunting. Even things like drinking — I don't drink and the amount of times it feels uncomfortable to be in the music industry. Many people in South Asian communities, especially Pakistani, grew up in a non-drinking culture, and we should have awareness to make those people feel comfortable otherwise they're never going to join the music industry.

What's been incredible is that Robb [McDaniels, Beatport's CEO] and the team have been, "You own it, you do what you believe." In the first few months, I hired a DEI consultant named Vick Bain, who was an amazing mentor for me. I'm a real big believer in experts. I was able to really upskill myself very fast through having her around.

Putting aside diversity, we're living in a time where people are feeling incredibly lonely and disconnected from community. That's why I'm doing panel events with DJ sets with Beatport. I [want to] facilitate people to come in to hear from each other, especially women, in a room that feels safe to hold discussion.

How have you taken it upon yourself to bring more women and artists of color with you along the way, and do you make space and advocate for people?

It's always something that's on the top of my mind because being a South Asian woman in music is already quite difficult at moments. You look around wondering Is there any support for me? And with my journey of having walked away from my family, part of me is already exhausted from that experience and existing in the music industry in an environment that often feels very alien to me.

Just being a woman in a C-Suite position isn't not easy. I've never been in a role where the focus is to champion women and that's why I'm so grateful for Beatport.

Throughout my career, I've always given out a lot of free PR and guidance, and quite often that's been for women. I've always wanted to be available and I'm always happy to give my time. If anyone reads this, and they want to email me and ask me any questions, I'm always really happy to help.

What's some advice you have for young women of color that want to work in the music industry but don't know where to start?

What I love about the music industry is there are so many gaps, and so many observations you can make and sort of insert yourself in and create something quite special itself. Once you start getting to know your local community, [you can get] so much support from others. I made a lot of my friends by going to vinyl markets and going up to my favorite labels and saying hi. When I was trying to work in the music industry and sending a ton of emails, I got nothing in return. But as soon as I started being a bit more active in the live [music] side, I met so many people.

Don't think you need to do it alone. For so many years, I kept what I was experiencing to myself and I would always present this polished person on Instagram. Lately, I've started really opening up more about how I feel. When I turned 43 recently, I posted on Instagram about how I sometimes overwork to avoid [loneliness]. I was surprised by how many people, especially men, messaged me and said I feel that way too. I'm learning to be more vulnerable.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. You just have to get over ego and fear. I can't sugarcoat it; unfortunately, there are [some] people who are going to make you feel really stupid for asking. Lean on your friends and know you're on the right path. Know that we need more women and more diversity in the industry. Look at people that inspire you. When I used to look at Four Tet, I'd be like, Oh my God, an Indian man on stage, that's so cool. So, look for your inspiration points and be vulnerable with your friends, because it is going to be difficult sometimes. And you can definitely email me anytime. [Chuckles.]

What does a more equitable music industry look like to you?

Well, that's a big question. I think [it would involve] everyone being more conscious. Whether it's a booking agent or a label looking to sign someone, if everyone is thinking around diversity and consciously looking and making their spaces more open to women. I always think about open doors. How can everyone open their doors more while considering the space people are entering into. It's one thing opening your door but it's another thing if that person enters a space and doesn't feel safe.

For me, a place where everyone's consciously thinking about this, and it isn't just on the organization or a few artists or someone like me in my role to try and figure it out. I think if everyone was conscious of it, things would just happen more seamlessly.

How LP Giobbi & Femme House Are Making Space For Women In Dance Music: "If You Really Want To Make A Change, It Can Be Done"

A graphic with showing (Clockwise from bottom left): Kamasi Washington, Mdou Moctar, Billie Wilish, Arooj Aftab, Zayn, Twenty-One Pilots, Dua Lipa
(Clockwise from bottom left): Kamasi Washington, Mdou Moctar, Billie Wilish, Arooj Aftab, Zayn, Twenty-One Pilots, Dua Lipa.

Photos: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella; Ebru Yildiz; Kelia Anne MacClusky; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images; Ashley-Osborn; Kevin Winter/Getty Images For The Recording Academy

list

15 Must-Hear Albums In May 2024: Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, Sia, Zayn & More

A fresh crop of spring releases is on the way in May from much-loved pop, rock, and alternative artists. From Dua Lipa's 'Radical Optimism,' to Sia's return on 'Reasonable Woman,' read on for 15 thrilling May releases.

GRAMMYs/May 1, 2024 - 02:18 pm

As a month that welcomes rising temperatures and blooming flowers, May will also bring a flurry of new albums. In its first week, Dua Lipa will put forth her third LP and inject the world with a good dose of Radical Optimism. She will be joined by Sia and her tenth album, Reasonable Woman, and by R&B newcomer 4Batz, who will debut with the mixtape U Made Me St4r.

On May 17, it's Billie Eilish's turn to drop the much-awaited Hit Me Hard and Soft, as well as the return of Cage the Elephant with Neon Pill, and former One Direction member Zayn experimenting with new sounds on Room Under the Stairs.

Later on, Twenty One Pilots drop their final concept album, Clancy, and Sam Tompkins and Tems will both make their studio album debuts with hi my name is insecure and Born in the Wild, respectively. The month will close off with Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab's Night Reign, but before that, there's plenty of other releases to explore.

GRAMMY.com compiled a list with 15 must-listen albums dropping in May 2024 so that you can take a stroll at this month's burgeoning, diverse garden.

Dua Lipa - Radical Optimism

Release date: May 3

"A couple years ago, a friend introduced me to the term 'radical optimism'," said Dua Lipa in a press statement about her upcoming third album, out May 3. "It struck me — the idea of going through chaos gracefully and feeling like you can weather any storm."

This perspective on life inspired the British-Albanian singer both personally and musically. Radical Optimism comes brimming with the "pure joy and happiness of having clarity in situations that once seemed impossible to face." With 11 tracks and production by Danny L Harle and Kevin Parker, the record spins psychedelia and Britpop into a "tribute to UK rave culture," as Lipa described it in an interview for Rolling Stone.

Read more: Dua Lipa Danced The Night Away with "Training Season" & "Houdini" | 2024 GRAMMYs Performance

A preview of the sounds she will approach in the successor of 2020's Future Nostalgia can be seen through singles "Houdini," "Training Session," and "Illusion." Starting June, Lipa will perform a string of concerts in Europe and headline Glastonbury Festival in the U.K.

Kamasi Washington - Fearless Movement

Release date: May 3

It's been six years since jazz virtuoso Kamasi Washington released his latest album, 2016's Heaven and Earth. Hence, his return is highly anticipated: Fearless Movement will come out on May 3, and is described in a press release as Washington's first "dance album." 

"It's not literal," he explained. "Dance is movement and expression, and in a way it's the same thing as music — expressing your spirit through your body. That's what this album is pushing."

Fearless Movement was also inspired by the here-and-now, and the changes that Washington went through since the birth of his first child. "Being a father means the horizon of your life all of a sudden shows up," he shared. "My mortality became more apparent to me, but also my immortality — realizing that my daughter is going to live on and see things that I'm never going to see. I had to become comfortable with this, and that affected the music that I was making."

Washington's daughter also earned songwriting credits in "Asha The First," after coming up with a melody while playing on the piano. In addition to her, the LP also features appearances from André 3000 on the flute, Terrace Martin, Thundercat, Patrice Quinn, George Clinton, BJ The Chicago Kid, and more.

Soon after the release, Washington will kick off a North American tour throughout June, and then head over to Europe and the U.K. in October and November.

Charlotte Day Wilson - Cyan Blue

Release date: May 3

Following her acclaimed 2021 debut LP, Alpha, Canadian multihyphenate Charlotte Day Wilson dives into Cyan Blue for her sophomore release. "You passed through me like a light, but part of you would always remain," she shared about the record on Instagram. "Imprinted, stacked, a palimpsest of love and pain that left me with a world of blue. These are the stories and the palette I was given to paint them with."

Read more: Press Play At Home: Watch Charlotte Day Wilson Perform A Lithe Version Of "I Can Only Whisper"

Day Wilson has a gift for turning intimate reflections into timeless artwork, and this album sees her experimenting with a more carefree approach. "Before, I was extremely intentional about creating music with a strong foundation, a bed of artistic integrity…" she shared in a press release. "But that was a bit stifling, like, ‘Let me just make a great piece of art that will stand the test of time, no pressure.' Now, I think I'm getting out of this frozen state of needing everything to be perfect. I'm more interested in capturing feelings in the moment as they happen and leaving them in that moment."

Cyan Blue will feature 13 tracks, including singles "I Don't Love You" and "Canopy." For those lucky to experience Day Wilson's inimitable voice live, she will be touring North America from May through July.

Mdou Moctar - Funeral for Justice

Release date: May 3

"This album is really different for me," shares Mdou Moctar, the band's namesake, singer, and guitarist, in a press release about their upcoming release, Funeral for Justice. "Now the problems of terrorist violence are more serious in Africa. When the U.S. and Europe came here, they said they're going to help us, but what we see is really different. They never help us to find a solution."

Funeral For Justice doesn't hold back on examining the struggles of Niger and of the Tuareg people (of which Moctar, guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane and drummer Souleymane Ibrahim belong.) Recorded during the two years that the band spent touring after the release of 2021's acclaimed Afrique Victime, it is described as "louder, faster, and more wild," with fiery guitar solos and "passionately political" lyrics that permeate nine meteoric tracks.

"Mdou Moctar has been a strong anti-colonial band ever since I've been a part of it," adds bassist and producer Mikey Coltun. "France came in, f****d up the country, then said ‘you're free.' And they're not." So far, the band shared lead single "Funeral for Justice" and the mesmerizing "Imouhar" — an elegy to their Tamasheq language, which is at risk of dying out. "People here are just using French," said Moctar. "They're starting to forget their own language. We feel like in a hundred years no one will speak good Tamasheq, and that's so scary for us." 

After performing at Coachella in April, the band is set to tour the U.S. in June and Europe and the U.K. in August. The run includes several festival appearances, like Bonnaroo, Green River, and Glastonbury.

4Batz - U Made Me A St4r 

Release date: May 3

Viral R&B and hip hop singer 4Batz initially announced his debut mixtape, U Made Me A St4r, for April, but the release was postponed for a month. "Been making some of the best s**t of my life the last couple weeks," he shared on Instagram. "So ima push the mixtape to 5.3.24 so it can be perfect for yall." 

The contrast between 4Batz's tough appearance and high-pitched love songs propelled him to the stars. He garnered the attention of artists like Kanye West, Robin Thicke, and Drake — who ultimately signed him to his record label OVO in order to release this mixtape. Drake also featured on a remix of 4Batz's 2023 hit, "act ii: date @ 8."

Although there's not much info on the tracklist or any upcoming activities, the Dallas-born singer is excited by the mystery: "I'm really in love with this EP," he told Billboard in a recent interview. This EP's gon' break the f**kin' internet, world, all this s**t."

Sia - Reasonable Woman

Release date: May 3

Since the release of lead single "Gimme Love" in September 2023, fans have been eagerly awaiting for Australian superstar Sia's new album. Titled Reasonable Woman and set to drop on May 3, this is her 10th studio release overall, and her first proper pop solo LP since 2016's This Is Acting.

Anticipation only grew as Sia shared a number of lofty singles in past months, including the Kylie Minogue collaboration "Dance Alone," "Incredible" featuring Labrinth, and the recent "Fame Won't Love You," with Paris Hilton. Through the LP's 15 tracks, the singer collaborated further with Chaka Khan, Tierra Whack, Missy Elliott, Kaliii and Jimmy Jolliff.

Behind the scenes, Reasonable Woman also held a star-studded list of producers, engineers, and writers, such as Greg Kurstin, Jesse Shatkin, Benny Blanco, Bülow, Cashmere Cat, Mark "Spike" Stent, Rosalía and more.

Billie Eilish - Hit Me Hard and Soft

Release date: May 17

In April, when a series of billboards and posters with lyric snippets and Billie Eilish's signature "blosh" logo appeared in major global cities, fans knew that her anticipated third LP would be announced soon. A few days later, the GRAMMY and Oscar-winning artist shared a video teaser for Hit Me Hard and Soft, set to release on May 17.

Eilish took it to Instagram to disclose her excitement, and that she is "not doing singles i wanna give it to you all at once." As usual, the record was written by herself and brother, producer, and musical collaborator Finneas O'Connell. According to a press release, Hit Me Hard and Soft includes ten tracks, and "does exactly as the title suggests; hits you hard and soft both lyrically and sonically, while bending genres and defying trends along the way." The album launch also focuses on sustainability by using "the most sustainable practices available" with a page on her website dedicated to ecological production details. 

In an interview with Apple Music's Zane Lowe, the musician teased title track "Hit Me Hard and Soft" and b-side "Chihiro," which references the main character in Studio Ghibli's 2001 animation, Spirited Away. "I feel like every time you put anything out, it feels like your nudes leaked a little bit, and I think this [album], specifically, is like that," Eilish added. "Something that Finneas and I said to a couple of people when we were starting to play it for people was that we kind of made the album that if somebody had said, you know, ‘I want you to make an album, and no one is gonna hear it'... We pretty much, with exceptions, made that album. We made an album without really any — or much — thought of other people."

Of Montreal - Lady on the Cusp

Release date: May 17

Lady on the Cusp is the 19th album from of Montreal, the band project of multi-instrumentalist and singer Kevin Barnes. Inspired by a relocation from Athens, GA — where Barnes lived for nearly three decades — to Vermont together with his partner, songwriter Christina Schneider (aka Locate S,1), Lady is shaped by his reflections on that experience.

According to a press statement, the album is a "reintroduction" to of Montreal, comprising 10 "funny and sad, sexy and brooding, playful and serious" tracks. This carefree approach can be seen on lead single "Yung Hearts Bleed Free," which was influenced by Leos Carax's 1984 film Boy Meets Girl and by Bootsy's Rubber Band, as well as on the laid back "Rude Girl on Rotation."

Two weeks after dropping the album, of Montreal will embark on a major tour across the U.S., starting in Athens, GA, and wrapping it up on July 2 in Asheville, NC.

Cage the Elephant - Neon Pill

Release date: May 17

After winning Best Rock Album at the 2020 GRAMMYs for Social Cues, Cage the Elephant went through a rough patch. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, lead vocalist Matt Shultz weathered a mental health crisis, and the band lost several close family members and friends, including Matt and Brad Shultz's father.

Five years later, the alt-rock sextet is ready to reemerge with their sixth studio album, Neon Pill, out May 17. "To me, Neon Pill is the first record where we were consistently uninfluenced, and I mean that in a positive way," said Matt in a statement. "Everything is undoubtedly expressed through having settled into finding our own voice. We've always drawn inspiration from artists we love, and at times we've even emulated some of them to a certain degree. With this album, having gone through so much, life had almost forced us into becoming more and more comfortable with ourselves… We just found a uniqueness in simply existing."

Produced by John Hill, the record spans 12 tracks that "alchemized a season of tragedy and turbulence" into a whirlwind of riffs and emotions. A preview of Neon Pill can be seen through the title track and singles "Out Loud" and "Good Time." To celebrate their return, the band will tour North America throughout the summer, including performances at Bonnaroo, Hangout Music Festival, and Oceans Calling.

Zayn - Room Under the Stairs

Release date: May 17

For his fourth full-length album, Room Under the Stairs, British singer and One Direction alum Zayn enlisted an unforeseen co-producer: Dave Cobb. Known for his work with Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Bruce Springsteen, and Lady Gaga, Cobb is responsible for aiding Zayn to step into a new musical direction.

Swiping his signature moody R&B, Zayn dives into country and adult contemporary for the upcoming release, as can be seen in debuted singles "What I Am" and "Alienated." In an interview for the Call Her Daddy podcast last year, the singer shared, "I'm doing a record I don't think people are really gonna expect. It's a different sound for me. And it's got some more narrative going on, like real-life experiences and stuff. My daughter's mentioned in there a couple of times".

"I think the intention behind this album fully is for the listener to get more insight on me personally as a human being," Zayn explained in a teaser video. The 15-track collection follows up 2021's Nobody Is Listening, and was written over the course of several years at Zayn's home in rural Pennsylvania. "That's why it's raw," he added. "It's just me writing this. I didn't want anybody else to be in between me and the music and the music and the people listening to it."

Twenty One Pilots - Clancy

Release date: May 17

On May 17, 2015, Twenty One Pilots released their breakthrough LP, Blurryface. The record also marked the beginning of an intricate concept album series — which is due to come to a conclusion almost a decade later, on May 17 of this year.

Titled Clancy, the final piece of the puzzle states that "a new chapter begins," while making several references to the GRAMMY-winning duo's past works. On lead single "Overcompensate," for example, they mirror the outro of "Levitate" and rehash lyrics from "Bandito," both tracks off their 2018 LP, Trench. Clancy was produced by frontman Tyler Joseph and Paul Meany, and contains 13 tracks.

Most recently, TOP shared the single "Next Semester," alongside dates for an extensive world tour that will cross North America, Australia, New Zealand, The U.K., and Europe.

Sam Tompkins - hi, my name is insecure

Release date: May 24

"I really like being in the company of my friends," shared rising British singer Sam Tompkins in a press statement. "But if you take me out of my comfort zone, and have me hang out at a party or an event or whatever, I just go inside myself and I find any excuse to get out of it."

That statement helps explain why Tompkins titled his anticipated debut album hi, my name is insecure, set to drop on May 24. Despite a genuine talent to produce stirring songs, the Brighton native still struggles with social anxiety and depression — themes that appear often in his lyrics, and contribute to his global resonance.

Tompkins is "championing authenticity without taking himself too seriously," and that might be why his work is so relevant. A tracklist for the LP has yet to be revealed, but Tompkins's sensitive writing can be seen in a slew of singles, including "phones in heaven," "someone else," and "see me."

Tems - Born in the Wild

Release date: TBA 

Nigerian singer Tems earned the eyes and the ears of international media with her Afrobeats-infused R&B. First raising attention with her feature in Wizkid's 2020 single "Essence," she later built up a devoted fandom through two EPs: 2020's For Broken Ears and 2021's If Orange Was a Place. In 2022, she was credited as a featured artist in Future's "Wait For U," which led her to win a GRAMMY for Best Melodic Rap Performance.

This month, Tems will finally release her long-awaited debut album, Born in the Wild. The official announcement came with a teaser video for the title track, disclosed one day after her Coachella set in April. "It's all over the news, all over the news, I know this/ Under the sun, struggling to find my focus/ When I was young, younger then/ I was always running away," she sings, reflecting on her childhood in Lagos. "I grew up in the wilderness/ Didn't know much about openness." 

Born in the Wild follows Tems' 2023 singles, "Me & U" and "Not an Angel." The singer has yet to reveal further info about the record, as well as a definite release date.

Kameron Marlowe - Keepin' the Lights On

Release date: May 31

Powerhouse country singer Kameron Marlowe is gearing up to release his sophomore effort, Keepin' the Lights On, at the end of May. "The namesake of the album came from a conversation with my dad over the holidays about how he's always thanking the man upstairs for keeping it all together, especially when times get tough," he shared in a statement.

"For me, this record is a reminder of hard work, dedication and keeping the promises that we make," he continued. Featuring 16 tracks, including previously released singles "Quit You," "Strangers" with Ella Langley, and "Tennessee Don't Mind," Marlowe stated that the LP "explores everything from loss to love, depression to joy, and overcoming the voices in your head telling you you're not good enough."

"It's still crazy to me that people are listening to a small town boy from Kannapolis, North Carolina, but here I am releasing my second album. I can't wait for y'all to hear it," he added. Marlowe is currently on his Strangers 2024 North American tour, where he plays some of his new tracks. 

Arooj Aftab - Night Reign

Release date: May 31

Just like the night, Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab's voice is deep and mysterious. Unsurprisingly, the night is also her "biggest source of inspiration," as she shared in a recent press release about her upcoming record, Night Reign, out May 31. 

Following 2021's Vulture Prince (from which single "Mohabbat" won Best Global Music Performance at the 2022 GRAMMYs), the album is a nine-song compilation about how "some nights are for falling in love, some are for solitude and introspection, some are to be annoyed at a forced social gathering — and so go the stories of Night Reign." The list of collaborators include the soulful Cautious Clay, musical ensemble Chocolate Genius, jazz artist James Francies, and more.

Aftab shared the single "Raat Ki Rani" as a preview of the album, and announced a North America, U.K., and Europe tour throughout the rest of the year. She will also support Khruangbin for a run of fall shows in Washington, DC, St. Louis, MO, and New Orleans, LA.

Inside Neil Young & Crazy Horse's 'F##IN' UP': Where All Nine Songs Came From