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Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Baauer Talks 'PLANET'S MAD,' Daft Punk & Shaking The "Harlem Shake"

Baauer

Photo: Kylie Hoffman

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Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Baauer Talks 'PLANET'S MAD,' Daft Punk & Shaking The "Harlem Shake"

"To me, it's such a beautiful validation. It's like, 'Check this out—I made this album and boom, now I'm nominated for a GRAMMY,'" Baauer tells GRAMMY.com of his nomination

GRAMMYs/Feb 24, 2021 - 10:05 pm

It's been eight years since Brooklyn-based DJ/producer Baauer found viral fame with his bouncy debut single, "Harlem Shake," released on Diplo's Mad Decent label in 2012. He's followed up with numerous singles and two full-length albums, 2016's Aa and 2020's GRAMMY-nominated PLANET'S MAD.

Yet, as he explains, it's been hard to get past being the "'Harlem Shake' guy."

"To me, it's such a beautiful validation," Baauer, born Harrison Rodrigues, tells GRAMMY.com about PLANET'S MAD's recent nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album. "It's like, 'Check this out, I made this album and boom, now I'm nominated for a GRAMMY.'"

He also takes us into the fantastical musical and visual world he created for the GRAMMY-nominated project, how Brooklyn influences his sound and his lifelong love of Daft Punk (this interview was conducted before their breakup was announced).

First of all, congrats on your first GRAMMY nomination. How did you find out and what was your reaction?

Some people started texting me, "Congrats!" and I had no idea what was going on. I was like, "Oh wait, something's happening." I asked somebody who texted me, 'What are you talking about?' And they're like, "Oh, the GRAMMY nomination." It was amazing. I freaked out. I was jumping up and down, like, "Woooo!" It was one of those rare moments of pure joy.

That's awesome. And yeah, in a year that felt like a lot of sh*t, I'm sure it has an extra contrast.

Yeah, absolutely. After such a year, and a year putting so much work into the album, and at times feeling like, "Oh man, is anyone even going to listen to this? Or is this just going to fall on deaf ears?" and sometimes feeling a little bit down about the circumstances, it was just very amazing, fantastic—a validation of all that hard work.

Read: Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Arca Is Expanding Latin Music On Her Terms With Electronic Album ‘KiCK i’

What does it mean to you to be nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Album?

Oh, it means so much. It means the world. I've had a journey where I got my main exposure from the meme moment of "Harlem Shake." So I'm always, always working within the context of, "Oh, this is the 'Harlem Shake' guy." I've accepted it. And I'm grateful for it, but it's also something I'm constantly trying to move past and shake, you know what I mean?

How do you feel that your sound and approach to making music has shifted since releasing "Harlem Shake" in 2012, especially being that it was the first single you ever put out?

I feel good that I've never tried to cash in again after that happened. I had the chance to be like, "Okay, let's try to do 'Harlem Shake Two.'" And I just felt like, "Nah, don't do that. Keep trying new stuff, keep experimenting." And a lot of the things didn't work, a lot of experiments didn't work, but I'm proud that I, despite that, just kept trying to do different, new things.

And this album was absolutely one of those too. It's an experiment; it's kind of a risk. And this nomination is just an amazing lesson of a risk that absolutely paid off. It's good to know that sometimes if you roll the dice, you can get a reward.

I want to dive into the album a bit more. Can you take us into the vision behind PLANET'S MAD?

Absolutely. Basically, I wanted to make a new album and create a world for it, almost like making a movie. And so instead of just having a collection of 12 electronic tracks, I used this opportunity to create a world. And that was the basic inspiration for it. From there, it was just a matter of imagining this world and making characters. [Plus], going back to movies and albums that I took in when I was discovering music, and trying to recreate that. Like Daft Punk, Prodigy, The Avalanches and Fatboy Slim—all the albums that sort of created a universe.

Related: 'Tron: Legacy' At 10: How Daft Punk Built An Enduring Soundtrack

Is the movie something that you were thinking about while making the album, or is it something you decided to do after?

I definitely wanted some visual elements from the get-go. But whether or not it was going to be a full movie for the whole thing, I didn't have that in mind until I realized that that was possible a little later on. But visuals are definitely important. For a minute, I was thinking to maybe do a video game too. But that's something that, along the way, turned out to not be possible.

I found these awesome animators, Actual Objects. They were able to create these visuals inside of a video game engine, and they were able to do it so quickly that I realized we could actually make a full little movie here. So, yeah, it was in meeting these animators that that plan and the whole movie came about.

So, the video game didn't happen, but it led to the movie, which is cool.

Yeah, exactly. And it's kind of cool, because, since they built the whole world inside the video game engine, it is actually playable as a game. So that's something that maybe, who knows, down the line, we could still do. This stuff is pretty alien to me, but, as I understand it, with a click of a button, it could become a video game. It's something that's possible.

How did the collaborative process between you and the animators and anyone else involved in the movie go? How did you work with them to create the world in your mind?

I started off with a pretty general storyline. I worked with my brother, who is a writer trying to make it out in Los Angeles right now. He's a great writer, and he's very good at understanding basic story structure. I gave him some movie influences. A big one was The Fifth Element, which has been one of my absolute favorite movies for so long. So, I started off making a basic framework with him.

And I knew I wanted the little alien creature because I love character design. I'm so into Jim Henson, "Sesame Street" and the Muppets. From there, we developed the story. We knew it was going to be about a planet that came into Earth's atmosphere and people on Earth had a reaction to it. They were scared at first, then discovered it was peaceful and everyone became friends.

The story happened bit by bit. And I think, honestly, that means that there are some holes in it. But from what I can tell, that's how it goes sometimes with telling a story, whether it's in a movie or in a show or whatever. You build it as you go, and sometimes there are little holes in it. But sometimes, it doesn't matter, because you're so enraptured in the world that's created.

And you also released a Blu-ray DVD version of the movie with music video extras, which feels very throwback. What was the inspiration to release a physical version of it?

It was Dominic, who runs LuckyMe, the label [I'm on]. We've done a bunch of really cool videos in the past, and for one reason or another, maybe they didn't all get the big exposure [we wanted]. So he had the idea to compile them for this special edition thing. Making it a Blu-ray is kind of throwback, huh? But it's a pretty recent throwback—Blu-rays aren't from that long ago, but I don't have a Blu-ray player. But yeah, it's a cool physical item to have. It's a little look back and a way to have everything in one space.

Did you have any music DVDs growing up? I have a couple I had that I'm thinking of.

Yeah. I'm curious, which ones did you have?!

In sixth grade, I was really obsessed with Sugar Ray. Specifically, Mark McGrath. It was their Australian tour DVD and I watched it endlessly.

Wow. That's one of my favorite things [to learn about people]. You have that thing, like that DVD, that you watch over and over and over again.

The big one for me was Daft Punk's Interstella 5555. You know, they did like a whole anime film that goes along with their album Discovery, which of course is a huge influence of mine. That's a big one that I had and loved. I'm trying to think if I had any more, like, live ones. I'm not sure if I had any live DVDs. I definitely wanted some.

There are so many different sounds and textures on the album. So, I want to look at one song specifically that I really liked, "Pizzawala." Can you break down the different elements on that track?

It all started with a sample that came from a—speaking of old, now obsolete media—a sample CD. There were these CDs in the '90s and 2000s that had all kinds of samples on it—little vocal chops or drums or whatever. People would use them the way now you download a [sample] pack. On the CD is this guy singing a Middle Eastern-sounding chant. The song was all based around that vocal chant, which was actually also used in a Prodigy song. I only discovered that kind of recently, which is kind of crazy.

Around it, I built these drums and tried to use all kinds of different percussion—any cool percussion that sounded different or interesting to me. And the groove was definitely inspired by Timbaland, who's probably my favorite producer ever. I don't even know how to describe it, but [I created] a bouncy percussion based around this sort of chant sample.

And then around that, I built this melody of bells—[which are] still percussion, but more melodic percussion, like bells and marimbas. And I also put in vocals from an amazing writer. I recorded her on it like a year before, doing ad-libs and stuff. I don't even really know what she's saying. So yeah, an old sample, vocals I recorded and then a bunch of different, crazy percussions I found from all over the internet.

That's really cool. I want to find these boxes of sample CDs.

Yeah. I mean, honestly, it's not the coolest, but I just found it on YouTube. It was called, like, "old sample CDs." Even though it's from a CD, I still found it on the internet.

So when you first used the sample, you didn't realize that Prodigy had also used it?

Yeah. A friend of mine texted me after like, "Hey, did you sample Prodigy for that?" I looked up the song and it was using the same sample. I was like, "Oh my God." It's perfectly possible that they also got it from the same CD. Or maybe somewhere else. It's just a really old sample that's been used a bunch of times.

You've talked a bit about some of your inspirations both visually and musically, but was there an artist that made you want to get into DJing and producing yourself?

Yeah, it's tough. I mean, I mentioned them before, but Daft Punk is definitely one of the biggest. That's like the first CD I ever bought. I was so into them, I loved them so much. I saw them live as many times as I could. So, they'd probably be number one, but there are a million other people along the way that also gave me a boost. Prodigy is definitely another one.

When did you first start listening to Daft Punk?

I was probably 12 or 13. And at that time, there was already a lot to dig into. They had already been putting a lot of stuff out and had a cool history to get into and find new stuff and all that.

How does Brooklyn influence your sound and aesthetic?

Oh, wow, great question. It's tough to say. Throughout my whole musical career, I've always lived here, so I guess it's definitely soaked in, in some way or another, whether I knew it or not. It's more of a subconscious thing, I guess, like the type of music I hear from a car that's passing by.

Maybe it's walking around. It's my favorite thing to do, take random walks where I don't have anywhere to go. I think, in doing that, I soak in all the weird sights and sounds and everything about New York in general. That just seeps in and mixes with everything else and somehow inspires the music.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in Philly, then I moved to London until I was 12. Afterward, I moved back to the U.S., to Connecticut, then I moved back to London for one more year. I moved to New York when I was 18. So, I grew up between the U.S. and London. And being in London was huge, that's where electronic music was happening. It was on the radio all the time. That's definitely where I got the love for electronic music.

How will you be celebrating the GRAMMYs?

I'm going to try to get the nicest outfit I can and do it up as best I can!

GRAMMY Flashback: Watch The Evolution Of Style At The GRAMMYs From The 1960s To The Present

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GRAMMY SoundChecks With Gavin DeGraw

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

On Aug. 28 Nashville Chapter GRAMMY U members took part in GRAMMY SoundChecks with Gavin DeGraw. Approximately 30 students gathered at music venue City Hall and watched DeGraw play through some of the singles from earlier in his career along with "Cheated On Me" from his latest self-titled album.

In between songs, DeGraw conducted a question-and-answer session and inquired about the talents and goals of the students in attendance. He gave inside tips to the musicians present on how to make it in the industry and made sure that every question was answered before moving onto the next song.

 

Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

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Juan Gabriel named 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person Of The Year

Annual star-studded gala slated for Nov. 4 in Las Vegas during 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Week celebration

GRAMMYs/May 15, 2017 - 01:36 pm

 GRAMMY.com

 Internationally renowned singer/songwriter/performer Juan Gabriel will be celebrated as the 2009 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, it was announced today by The Latin Recording Academy. Juan Gabriel, chosen for his professional accomplishments as well as his commitment to philanthropic efforts, will be recognized at a star-studded concert and black tie dinner on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nev. 

The "Celebration with Juan Gabriel" gala will be one of the most prestigious events held during Latin GRAMMY week, a celebration that culminates with the 10th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards ceremony. The milestone telecast will be held at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas on Nov. 5 and will be broadcast live on the Univision Television Network at 8 p.m. Eastern/7 p.m. Central. 

"As we celebrate this momentous decade of the Latin GRAMMYs, The Latin Recording Academy and its Board of Trustees take great pride in recognizing Juan Gabriel as an extraordinary entertainer who never has forgotten his roots, while at the same time having a global impact," said Latin Recording Academy President Gabriel Abaroa. "His influence on the music and culture of our era has been tremendous, and we welcome this opportunity to pay a fitting tribute to a voice that strongly resonates within our community.

Over the course of his 30-year career, Juan Gabriel has sold more than 100 million albums and has performed to sold-out audiences throughout the world. He has produced more than 100 albums for more than 50 artists including Paul Anka, Lola Beltran, Rocío Dúrcal, and Lucha Villa among many others. Additionally, Juan Gabriel has written more than 1,500 songs, which have been covered by such artists as Marc Anthony, Raúl Di Blasio, Ana Gabriel, Angelica María, Lucia Mendez, Estela Nuñez, and Son Del Son. In 1986, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declared Oct. 5 "The Day of Juan Gabriel." The '90s saw his induction into Billboard's Latin Music Hall of Fame and he joined La Opinion's Tributo Nacional Lifetime Achievement Award recipients list. 

At the age of 13, Juan Gabriel was already writing his own songs and in 1971 recorded his first hit, "No Tengo Dinero," which landed him a recording contract with RCA. Over the next 14 years, he established himself as Mexico's leading singer/songwriter, composing in diverse styles such as rancheras, ballads, pop, disco, and mariachi, which resulted in an incredible list of hits ("Hasta Que Te Conocí," "Siempre En Mi Mente," "Querida," "Inocente Pobre Amigo," "Abrázame Muy Fuerte," "Amor Eterno," "El Noa Noa," and "Insensible") not only for himself  but for many leading Latin artists. In 1990, Juan Gabriel became the only non-classical singer/songwriter to perform at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and the album release of that concert, Juan Gabriel En Vivo Desde El Palacio De Bellas Artes, broke sales records and established his iconic status. 

After a hiatus from recording, Juan Gabriel released such albums as Gracias Por Esperar, Juntos Otra Vez, Abrázame Muy Fuerte, Los Gabriel…Para Ti, Juan Gabriel Con La Banda…El Recodo, and El Mexico Que Se Nos Fue, which were all certified gold and/or platinum by the RIAA. In 1996, to commemorate his 25th anniversary in the music industry, BMG released a retrospective set of CDs entitled 25 Aniversario, Solos, Duetos, y Versiones Especiales, comprised appropriately of 25 discs.   

In addition to his numerous accolades and career successes, Juan Gabriel has been a compassionate and generous philanthropist. He has donated all proceeds from approximately 10 performances a year to his favorite children's foster homes, and proceeds from fan photo-ops go to support Mexican orphans. In 1987, he founded Semjase, an orphanage for approximately 120 children, which also serves as a music school with music, recreation and video game rooms. Today, he continues to personally fund the school he opened more than 22 years ago.   

Juan Gabriel will have the distinction of becoming the 10th Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year honoree, and joins a list of artists such as Gloria Estefan, Gilberto Gil, Juan Luis Guerra, Julio Iglesias, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana among others who have been recognized. 

For information on purchasing tickets or tables to The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year tribute to Juan Gabriel, please contact The Latin Recording Academy ticketing office at 310.314.8281 or ticketing@grammy.com.

Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013
Grizzled Mighty perform at Bumbershoot on Sept. 1

Photo: The Recording Academy

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Set List Bonus: Bumbershoot 2013

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 04:22 am

Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.

By Alexa Zaske
Seattle

This past Labor Day weekend meant one thing for many folks in Seattle: Bumbershoot, a three-decade-old music and arts event that consumed the area surrounding the Space Needle from Aug. 31–Sept. 2. Amid attendees wandering around dressed as zombies and participating in festival-planned flash mobs to Michael Jackson's "Thriller," this year the focus was on music from the Pacific Northwest region — from the soulful sounds of Allen Stone and legendary female rockers Heart, to the highly-awaited return of Death Cab For Cutie performing their 2003 hit album Transatlanticism in its entirety.

The festival started off on day one with performances by synth-pop group the Flavr Blue, hip-hop artist Grynch, rapper Nacho Picasso, psychedelic pop group Beat Connection, lively rapper/writer George Watsky, hip-hop group the Physics, and (my personal favorite), punk/dance band !!! (Chk Chk Chk). Also performing on day one was Seattle folk singer/songwriter Kris Orlowski, who was accompanied by the Passenger String Quartet. As always, Orlowski's songs were catchy and endearing yet brilliant and honest.

Day one came to a scorching finale with a full set from GRAMMY-nominated rock group Heart. Kicking off with their Top 20 hit "Barracuda," the set spanned three decades of songs, including "Heartless," "Magic Man" and "What About Love?" It became a gathering of Seattle rock greats when, during Heart's final song, Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready joined for 1976's "Crazy On You."

Day two got off to an early start with performances from eccentric Seattle group Kithkin and Seattle ladies Mary Lambert and Shelby Earl, who were accompanied by the band Le Wrens. My highlight of the day was the Grizzled Mighty — a duo with a bigger sound than most family sized bands. Drummer Whitney Petty, whose stage presence and skills make for an exciting performance, was balanced out by the easy listening of guitarist and lead singer Ryan Granger.

Then the long-awaited moment finally fell upon Seattle when, after wrapping a long-awaited tour with the Postal Service, singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard returned to Seattle to represent another great success of the Pacific Northwest — Death Cab For Cutie. The band celebrated the 10-year anniversary of their album Transatlanticism by performing it from front to back. While a majority of attendees opted to watch the set from an air-conditioned arena, some of us recognized the uniqueness of this experience and enjoyed the entire set lying in the grass where the entire performance was streamed. 

Monday was the day for soul and folk. Local blues/R&B group Hot Bodies In Motion have been making their way through the Seattle scene with songs such as "Old Habits," "That Darkness" and "The Pulse." Their set was lively and enticing to people who have seen them multiple times or never at all.

My other highlights of the festival included the Maldives, who delivered a fun performance with the perfect amount of satirical humor and folk. They represent the increasing number of Pacific Northwest bands who consist of many members playing different sounds while still managing to stay cohesive and simple. I embraced the return of folk/pop duo Ivan & Alyosha with open arms and later closed my festival experience with local favorite Stone.

For music fans in Seattle and beyond, the annual Bumbershoot festival is a must-attend.

(Alexa Zaske is the Chapter Assistant for The Recording Academy Pacific Northwest Chapter. She's a music enthusiast and obsessed with the local Seattle scene.)

Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Neil Portnow and Jimmy Jam

Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images

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Neil Portnow Addresses Diversity & Inclusion, Looks Ahead During Speech At 2019 GRAMMYs

Jimmy Jam helps celebrate the outgoing President/CEO of the Recording Academy on the 61st GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMYs/Feb 11, 2019 - 10:58 am

As Neil Portnow's tenure as Recording Academy President/CEO draws to its end, five-time GRAMMY winner Jimmy Jam paid tribute to his friend and walked us through a brief overview of some of the Academy's major recent achievements, including the invaluable work of MusiCares, the GRAMMY Museum, Advocacy and more.

Portnow delivered a brief speech, acknowledging the need to continue to focus on issues of diversity and inclusion in the music industry. He also seized the golden opportunity to say the words he's always wanted to say on the GRAMMY stage, saying, "I'd like to thank the Academy," showing his gratitude and respect for the staff, elected leaders and music community he's worked with during his career at the Recording Academy. "We can be so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together," Portnow added.

"As I finish out my term leading this great organization, my heart and soul are filled with gratitude, pride, for the opportunity and unequal experience," he continued. "Please know that my commitment to all the good that we do will carry on as we turn the page on the next chapter of the storied history of this phenomenal institution."

Full Winners List: 61st GRAMMY Awards