meta-scriptBlack Sounds Beautiful: How Megan Thee Stallion Turned Viral Fame Into A GRAMMY-Winning Rap Career | GRAMMY.com
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Megan Thee Stallion

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Black Sounds Beautiful: How Megan Thee Stallion Turned Viral Fame Into A GRAMMY-Winning Rap Career

In this episode of Black Sounds Beautiful, revisit Megan Thee Stallion's rapid rise to fame — from viral hits "Hot Girl Summer," "Savage," and "WAP" to winning a GRAMMY with Beyoncé.

GRAMMYs/Jun 21, 2023 - 05:31 pm

Born Megan Pete, the Houston native was introduced to music at an early age because her mother — an underground hip-hop artist who went by the name Holly-Wood — brought her to recording sessions. Megan began regularly writing lyrics and freestyling, which led to a clip of a rap battle going viral, jump-starting her career.

By 2020, Megan earned her first two Billboard Hot 100 chart-toppers, "Savage" and "WAP" featuring Cardi B. The former caught the attention of fellow Houston-bred diva Beyoncé, who later hopped on the track for a remix, and snagged Megan two GRAMMY wins in a full-circle moment — during her acceptance speech, Megan revealed her dream was to become "the rap Beyoncé."

Beyond Megan's massive musical achievements, the rap princess has also been a champion of Black women internationally.

"It's ridiculous that some people think the simple phrase 'Protect Black women' is controversial,"  she wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. "We deserve to be protected as human beings. And we are entitled to our anger about a laundry list of mistreatment and neglect that we suffer."

Press play on the video above to learn more about Megan Thee Stallion's groundbreaking career, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more episodes of Black Sounds Beautiful.

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Atarashii Gakko!, Ikura of Yoasobi, Hiroa Fukuda and Moeka Shiotsuka of Hitsuji Bungaku, King Gnu
(Clockwise from upper left): Atarashii Gakko!, Ikura of Yoasobi, Hiroa Fukuda and Moeka Shiotsuka of Hitsuji Bungaku, King Gnu

Photos: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella, Dana Jacobs/Getty Images, Justin Shin/Getty Images, Gene Wang/Getty Images

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10 Neo J-Pop Artists Breaking The Mold In 2024: Fujii Kaze, Kenshi Yonezu & Others

Japan’s domestic pop market has incredible depth and growing Western interest. From Vocaloid acts to anime-centric productions and a plethora of genre-bending releases, the country's musicians and solo artists are breaking ground and making noise.

GRAMMYs/May 23, 2024 - 01:38 pm

At this year’s Coachella, Japan’s music industry made a statement: out with the old, in with the new. Where previous years hosted legacy acts like Utada Hikaru and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, up-and-coming hitmakers YOASOBI and cult favorites Atarashii Gakkou! played to sizable crowds in 2024. They represent just the tip of the iceberg for Japanese musicians touring stateside: J-R&B star Fujii Kaze will tour the country this month, and numerous acts have seen exposure abroad thanks to anime soundtrack work and streaming playlists such as Spotify’s Gatcha Pop.

Anime, by far the country’s biggest cultural export, is a major factor in Japan’s music industry, with songs composed for animated films, TV, and streaming projects — and to a lesser extent video games — making up a growing number of the country’s most dominant pop hits. "Anison," or anime songs, have become extremely prestigious commissions for the country’s pop musicians, especially for younger artists who have seen anime gain traction both in Japan and internationally. 

That younger generation is now taking control of the charts, and making inroads into international markets by leaning into what makes their music and culture unique. For musicians like Kenshi Yonezu, vocal synthesizer software Vocaloid allowed them to develop their own musical voice on their own terms. The most famous Vocaloid artist, Hatsune Miku, also played Coachella this year as a video-projected anime avatar. There’s also remarkable freedom to play with genre in J-pop. Acts freely swap between sounds —from alternative rock to funky city pop, or R&B to electro-pop — in the span of a few songs. 

These factors have made Japan’s domestic pop market one of the most interesting to watch in the world. It’s gotten to the point where top English-language artists aren’t seeing the success they used to in the country, largely because the Japanese public has shifted its attention toward Korean and domestic artists. For Westerners, Japan can seem like another world, and this is especially true for its music scene. 

To bridge the gap, GRAMMY.com has created a primer to 10 of Japan’s most interesting new acts. Who knows, you might just see them stateside soon. 

Ado

Japan isn’t exactly a happy country. Social pressure is high, the economy has been stagnant for years even before its current monetary crisis and its brutal work culture is not exactly the envy of the world. Young people often feel as though they have nothing to look forward to but misery, so when someone comes along and says it’s okay to tell the adults in your life to f— off, it resonates.

This is essentially how 22-year-old singer Ado (born 2002) became the voice of Gen Z. Late in 2020 amid the stresses of the COVID-19 pandemic, she burst onto the J-pop scene with "Useewa," a rock-centric track composed by Vocaloid producer Syudou whose title translates, roughly, to "Shut the f— up." Detailing the angst of having to grin and bear the conformity of adulthood and the satisfaction of rejecting it, the song clearly struck a chord with young people in Japan. The song’s brash lyrics also sparked a moral panic from parents and the media over its anti-conformist message.

Ado’s charismatic, fiery vocal delivery, coupled with a nasty anime visual, really sells the whole package, making it a rage-filled counterpart to YOASOBI’s similarly disaffected "Yoru ni Kakeru." 

"Usseewa" topped the Billboard Japan Hot 100, the Oricon Digital Singles and Streaming charts, and the Spotify Viral 50 Japan. The video reached 100 million views on YouTube within 150 days of release. Ado has since earned more hits, furthering her wild persona with the even louder and wilder "Show." She also earned a starring role as a singer in One Piece Film: Red, the most recent theatrical installment of the biggest manga franchise in the world. 

Atarashii Gakko! 

There’s a saying in Japan about the risks of refusing to conform to society’s expectations: "The nail that sticks out gets hammered down." When it comes to finding success on the international music market, however, the opposite seems to be true. The world loves Japan when it’s at its zaniest and most distinctive, and artists that lean into this are often able to build a following abroad.

Case in point: A rapping girl group wearing vintage-inspired sailor-suit school uniforms called Atarashii Gakko! (translation: New School). The group just played Coachella and, prior, performed on "Jimmy Kimmel Live." To be sure, a lot of the foursome’s appeal is in the visual department. The group’s wild, Beastie Boys-esque video for "Tokyo Calling" pairs their sukeban girl gang-style outfits with a plethora of retro visual references: kaiju films like Godzilla, Super Sentai, even Bollywood-style dance. Musically, they’re just as mixed up, having taken on ‘80s city pop in "Otonablue" as well as adding to Japan’s legacy of unique hip-hop on "NAI NAI NAI." 

The group’s ethos since forming in 2015 has been to shine a new path for Japan’s youth by embracing individuality and nonconformity, and it’s paid dividends so far. Their new album, AG! Calling, is set for release June 7.

Creepy Nuts

There’s a lot of bizarre, potentially conflicting elements in Creepy Nuts’ hit song "Bling-Bang-Bang-Born." There’s the sound-effect-bubble title, the anarchic rapping of vocalist R-Shitei, and producer DJ Matsunaga’s use of a Jersey Club beat (a trend with forward-thinking East Asian pop acts). There’s also the fact that it was composed for an anime about…wizards with muscles

In any case, the theme song for the TV anime "Mashle: Magic and Muscles" has pulled some chart magic of its own, topping the Billboard Japan Hot 100 for eight weeks straight earlier this year, largely thanks to the viral "BBBB dance" challenge. The duo have also taken the song worldwide, reaching No. 8 on Billboard U.S.’s Global 200 and performing the song on Global Spin. If you want to find the biggest J-Pop hit of this exact moment, look no further. 

Fujii Kaze

Raised in small-town Okayama prefecture in the western reaches of Japan, Fujii Kaze is being positioned as the next big artist to emerge from the country. He toured Asia in 2023 and will come to America this May; he also launched the Japanese version of Tiny Desk Concerts earlier this year. He’s also been working with international talent, such as Kendrick Lamar and 21 Savage producer DJ Dahi on the piano-driven hip-hop track "Workin’ Hard."

The video for "Matsuri," in which Fujii (the artist lists his surname first) traipses around a Japanese garden and parties with foreigners at a traditional mansion, feels almost like a tourist advertisement for the country, projecting an image of refined, effortless Japanese cool. Recent song "Hana," produced by Charli XCX and Utada Hikaru collaborator A. G. Cook, feels even more like a play for the international market with a ‘70s California soft rock backing track and a visual that puts Fujii on a journey through the desert.

Herein lies the secret to Fujii Kaze’s appeal: he’s hot and cool at the same time. His success is predicated not just on good looks and buttery croon, but on a smooth, easygoing persona that feels native and international at the same time. "Matsuri," with its chill yet glamorous R&B production and can’t-be-bothered lyrics ("there’s no reason to suffer / no need to be disappointed / I really couldn’t care less") exemplifies his laid-back mentality. He’s also, notably, shunned the anime market, preferring to put his songs in basketball promos and telecoms commercials – anime is cool enough for Megan Thee Stallion but not for Fujii, it seems. 

Hitsujibungaku

Just as grunge reignited America’s love of rock music in the ‘90s, Japan also embraced guitar-oriented, pop-rock in the same decade thanks to bands like B’z, Number Girl, Southern All-Stars, Asian Kung-Fu Generation, and Visual Kei groups like L’Arc-en-Ciel and X Japan. As the U.S. began to embrace hip-hop and dance-pop in the 2000s, rock and metal persisted in the Japanese mainstream. New bands continue to perform at "live house" venues in hip areas like Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa neighborhood, while groups playing niche styles like math rock, shoegaze, and metalcore have found support. CHAI, tricot, Alexandros, Otoboke Beaver, and Official Hige Dandism are just a few bands that have emerged from this milieu in recent years to success at home and abroad.

Tokyo-based trio Hitsujibungaku offers a good starting point of where Japan’s rock scene is going. The majority-female group found success on the anime song circuit last year, delivering the end credits track for mega-popular TV anime "Jujutsu Kaisen." "More than words" which became the lead single for their recent album 12 hugs like butterflies, immediately stuck out for its shuffling, nostalgic melody, and evocative, fuzzy layering of guitar tone influenced by shoegaze. 

Kenshi Yonezu

More than most mega-successful J-pop artists, Kenshi Yonezu owes his success to the Vocaloid and internet music communities in which he forged his artistry. Raised in rural Tokushima, he began his career as a teenager in the late 2000s, uploading music to the video site Nico Nico Douga under the name Hachi, and soon found his most successful tracks were the ones that used Vocaloids like Hatsune Miku. Like many artists in the digital age, Yonezu’s early work was entirely DIY, as thanks to Vocaloid he was able to produce, write, and even design artwork for his music all on his own.

Eventually, Yonezu signed to a major label and began to split time between his Vocaloid tracks as Hachi and music made under his own name. His album Bootleg won Album Of THe Year at the Japan Record Awards in 2018, and he became known for tender, uptempo ballads like "Uchiage Hanabi" and "Lemon" (the latter of which still reigns as the most-viewed video by a Japanese musician on YouTube with over 800 million views). 

Two high profile anime commissions have driven Yonezu’s star beyond Japan. In 2022, he produced the opening theme for the highly-anticipated adaptation of Tatsuki Fujimoto’s acclaimed manga Chainsaw Man. "Kick Back" departed from Yonezu’s biggest hits by leaning into the show’s action premise with drum and bass beats and an aggressive guitar melody. Buoyed by the anime’s success, "Kick Back" topped the Oricon and Billboard Japan singles charts and even charted in the U.K., Canada, and the U.S., where it became the first Japanese-language song to be certified gold by the RIAA. 

Then in 2023, he produced and sang "Spinning Globe," the end credits theme for Hayao Miyazaki’s first film in a decade, The Boy and the Heron. It was the first time the anime auteur, who usually uses older pop music or score from usual composer Joe Hisaishi, had chosen a contemporary pop artist to write for him. 

King Gnu

King Gnu aren’t afraid to mix it up. They gained acclaim in Japan by pursuing a pop rock sound that’s one part city pop, one part hip-hop. Tracks like "Hakujutsu" and "Kasa" pair sick riffs and boogie basslines with turntable scratching and delicate, yet powerful vocals from Daiki Tsuneta and Satoru Iguchi.

Last year they scored a major hit with "Specialz," which was used as an opening theme for popular anime "Jujutsu Kaisen." Setting the mood for the show’s bleak second season with metallic techno drums and brawny guitar riffs, the menacing song peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 and currently has over 166 million Spotify streams. Tsuneta also leads the collective millennium parade, who lean toward electronic music and scored a hit with "U," from the Mamoru Hosoda musical anime BELLE

MAISONdes

Conceptual projects are much more common in the Japanese pop landscape than one might expect. Case in point: MAISONdes. While not a band or a collective, MAISONdes is an imaginary apartment building where lonely hearts find solace in song. The virtual building is accessible through a website, and each song produced for the project is assigned a room number and created by a randomly-paired team of producers and vocalists that changes with each track. Participants have included chart star Aimer and VTubers such as KAF and Hoshimachi Suisei. 

Too complicated? Too weird? At least the music is good, focused on high-energy electro pop reminiscent of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, idol pop, and the Vocaloid, anisong, and netlabel acts of recent decades. As such, the most high-profile MAISONdes tracks have been those produced for anime and promotional campaigns. They’ve done all the opening and ending themes for the recent TV anime reboot of classic comedy manga "Urusei Yatsura," and their most recent track, "Popcorn" was a collab with Sanrio celebrating the 50th anniversary of Hello Kitty, one of the original kawaii culture icons. The hyperactive song gained a million views on YouTube within three days of being posted. 

Vaundy

City pop — the ‘70s and ‘80s musical movement that blended American funk and AOR with disco and synthpop — looms large in the J-pop landscape. Although its revival has somewhat peaked following the pandemic, that hasn’t stopped guys like Vaundy from channeling the sound into their own music.

His breakout hit "Tokyo Flash" paired the grooves of the city pop era with a more down-to-earth arrangement with simpler production. Further attempts to modernize the sound have also found success: "Todome no Ichigeki," written for the popular anime "Spy x Family," featured a grand, orchestral instrumental and a guest verse from rapper Cory Wong. With romantic lyrics reminiscent of City Pop king Tatsuro Yamashita, it’s a true return to the retro style. 

Of course, like most J-pop musicians, Vaundy isn’t a stylistic purist. He’s also applied his confident vocal style to several brisk rock tracks, resulting in chart success. His heavy metal jam for the Chainsaw Man TV anime soundtrack, "CHAINSAW BLOOD," peaked at 13 on the Billboard Japan Hot 100, while the poppier "Kaijuu no Hana Uta" went to No. 2 after he performed the song on the "2022 Kohaku Uta Gassen" New Year’s Eve show. 

YOASOBI

Inarguably the focal point of contemporary J-pop, no other act has defined the current era in Japan more than YOASOBI. The duo of Ayase and Ikura burst onto the scene in 2019 with the song "Yoru ni Kakeru," based on a short story posted on the site Monogatary. Pairing an upbeat instrumental with bleak, literary lyrics about death and suicide, it’s the most unlikely of pop hits. Released in late 2019, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began to grip Japan a few months before the rest of the world. "Yoru ni Kakeru" became a massive, award-winning smash. Billboard Japan named it the first song in its chart history to pass 1 billion streams, and Oricon named it the most-streamed song of the Reiwa era just last month. 

Read more: From Tokyo To Coachella: YOASOBI's Journey To Validate J-Pop And Vocaloid As Art Forms

Since then the band have become major hitmakers and fixtures of the anison production line, writing theme tracks for hit anime like "Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury" and "Frieren: Journey’s End." They scored another era-defining hit with "Idol," their opening song for the controversial 2023 showbiz satire "Oshi no Ko." Responding to the anime’s twisted tale of a mysterious J-pop idol with dark secrets, the duo paired a bombastic instrumental with lyrics that perfectly capture the cardinal rule of stardom: tell all and reveal nothing. 

The song became such a cultural phenomenon in Japan that YOASOBI performed it at last year’s "Kohaku Uta Gassen" New Year’s TV special flanked by dozens of J-Pop and K-Pop idols, including members of NewJeans, LE SSERAFIM, and Nogizaka46. 

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Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X
Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X

Photo: Courtesy Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X

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New Music Friday: Listen to Songs From Megan Thee Stallion, Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X, BTS' RM & More

May 10 is quite the stacked day of new music across all genres — from Post Malone & Morgan Wallen's country collab, to Stray Kids' team-up with Charlie Puth, to The Chainsmokers and Kings of Leon. Check out some fresh releases to enjoy this weekend here.

GRAMMYs/May 10, 2024 - 06:55 pm

As the summer quickly approaches, artists from every genre continue to unveil new music for warmer weather. Friday May 10 is particularly packed with anticipated and surprise releases from both emerging talents and established names.

The new albums alone prove just that: pop songsmith Alec Benjamin's 12 Notes, folk-rock band Judah & the Lion's The Process, regional Mexican stars Grupo Frontera's Jugando a Que No Pasa Nada, and GRAMMY-winning R&B singer Andra Day's Cassandra, to name a few.

Meanwhile, a big, cool glass of major rap releases is here to help wash down the piping hot Kendrick and Drake beef served up over the last week. Full album releases debuted from Gunna, Chief Keef, and Ghostface Killah — the latter featuring guest spots from Nas, Kanye West, Raekwon, Method Man and more. Hottie Megan Thee Stallion's powerful new single, "BOA", sets the stage for her Hot Girl Summer tour which officially starts on May 14. New songs from Ice Spice, Kodak Black, NLE Choppa, Coi Leray, G-Eazy, Yung Gravy, Ski Mask the Slump God set the playlist for a weekend full of slappers.

There's tons of collaborations, too, including the much-teased pairing of Post Malone and Morgan Wallen with "I Had Some Help," a track that showcases Malone's furtherance into country in a catchy, reflective anthem. But country music lovers also have more to enjoy this weekend: Orville Peck's duets project, Stampede Vol.1, features the likes of Willie Nelson and Elton John," while Scotty McCreery's Rise & Fall and Avery Anna's single "Blonde" fill the fuel tank for a rodeo-ready summer. 

BTS's RM delivers another solo track "Come Back to Me" and Stray Kids dropped a new collaboration with Charlie Puth, coming fresh off the K-pop group's appearance at the Met Gala earlier this week. And the electronic and rock scenes are not left behind, with A.G. Cook exploring a new twist on Britpop and Sebastian Bach's release of Child Within The Man.

Dive into today's releases from Megan Thee Stallion, The Chainsmokers, RM, Stray Kids with Charlie Puth, Camila Cabello with Lil Nas X, Post Malone and Morgan Wallen below. 

Megan Thee Stallion, "BOA"

Megan Thee Stallion's new single "BOA" continues to play up the themes of empowerment and self-realization that define her current musical phase and comes just days ahead of her Hot Girl Summer Tour starting on May 14. The song's cover art features Megan with a striking snake, a recurring symbol of rebirth that has been significant in her recent work, appearing in tracks like the Billboard Hot 100 hit "Hiss" and the 2023 song "Cobra." 

"BOA" is a continuation of Megan's snake-themed narrative, but serves as a saccharine homage to her favorite late-'90s and early 2000s anime and video game classics. The music video features references to Scott Pilgrim, One Piece, Dance Dance Revolution, and iconic 3D fighting games like Mortal Kombat, complete with visuals and Gantz-inspired outfits.

Speaking to Women's Health about her upcoming summer album, Megan discussed the personal growth and renewal she has experienced, inspiring this new era of music. "I was inspired to create this album about rebirth because I feel I am becoming a new person physically and mentally," she shared.

Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X, "HE KNOWS"

Camila Cabello teams up with Lil Nas X for the tantalizing new song "He Knows," delivering a radio-friendly track that's as catchy as it is lustful. The new music mirrors the infectious energy of their recent appearance at FKA Twigs' Met Gala afterparty, where they both were seen dancing the night away behind the DJ booth. 

"He Knows" serves as a precursor to Cabello's highly anticipated fourth solo album, C,XOXO, — set to drop on June 28 — and teases a glimpse of Cabello's evolving artistic direction. The single follows on the heels of her recent hit "I LUV IT" featuring Playboi Carti, part of the  reimagining of her sound and artistic brand.

RM, "Come Back To Me"

BTS member RM has released a new single, "Come Back To Me," accompanied by a music video. The relaxed track gives fans a taste of his upcoming second solo album, Right Place, Wrong Person, set to release on May 24. 

In the song, RM explores themes of right and wrong, capturing the complex emotions of wanting to explore new avenues while wishing to stay comfortable in the present. "Come Back To Me" features contributions from OHHYUK of the South Korean band HYUKOH, and Kuo of the Taiwanese band Sunset Rollercoaster. Additional credits include JNKYRD and San Yawn from Balming Tiger. RM first performed "Come Back To Me" during a surprise appearance at BTS bandmate Suga's concert in Seoul last summer, noting it as a favorite from his forthcoming album. 

The music video for "Come Back To Me" was written, directed, and produced by Lee Sung Jin, known for his work on the Netflix show "Beef." The video features actress Kim Minha from the Apple TV+ series "Pachinko" and faces themes of identity and self-reflection, showing RM confronting different versions of himself. Its cast includes notable Korean and American actors such as Joseph Lee, Lee Sukhyeong, and Kim A Hyun.

Post Malone & Morgan Wallen, "I Had Some Help"

Post Malone and Morgan Wallen blend their distinct musical styles in the much-anticipated release of their collaborative single "I Had Some Help." Merging Malone's versatile pop sensibilities while leaning into his country roots with Wallen's, well, help, the duet is a unique crossover that has had fans clamoring to hear more since the two first teased the song earlier this year. 

Finally premiering during Wallen's headlining performance at Stagecoach Festival on April 28, the uptempo song explores themes of mutual support and shared experiences, encapsulated by the lyric, "It ain't like I can make this kind of mess all by myself."

The collaboration has sparked significant buzz and showcases the duo's chemistry and shared knack for storytelling. This single highlights their individual talents as well as their ability to bridge genre divides, already promising to be a hit on the charts and a favorite among fans.

The Chainsmokers, No Hard Feelings

Maestros of mainstream emotion, The Chainsmokers continue to master the art of turning personal reflections into global anthems with their latest EP, No Hard Feelings. The six-song project see Alex Pall and Drew Taggart exploring the emotional highs and lows of modern relationships, weaving their signature dance beats with pop sensibilities as they have since 2015's "Roses." 

The duo's latest release serves as a soundtrack to both sun-kissed days and introspective nights. The collection includes the single "Friday," a collaboration with Haitian-American singer Fridayy, described by the duo as a direct descendant of "Roses." Other tracks, such as "Addicted," also underscore the Chainsmokers' knack for capturing the zeitgeist of contemporary love and loss.

Kings of Leon, Can We Please Have Fun

Kings of Leon return with their signature blend of rock and introspection on their ninth studio album, Can We Please Have Fun. The LP finds the band infusing their established sound with fresh, unbridled energy, reminiscent of their early days yet matured by years of experience. The album features standout tracks like "Mustang" and "Nothing To Do," which mix playful lyrics with serious musical chops, showcasing Kings of Leon's unique ability to combine rock's raw power with catchy, thoughtful songwriting.

The band is set to bring Can We Please Have Fun to life on their 2024 world tour, starting in Leeds, United Kingdom on June 20 and wrapping in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on Oct. 5. Fans can expect a high-energy series of performances that blend new tracks with beloved classics, all delivered with the Kings of Leon's legendary fervor.

Stray Kids & Charlie Puth, "Lose My Breath"

Stray Kids have teamed up with Charlie Puth for their latest release, "Lose My Breath," a track that blends K-pop dynamism with Western pop flair, written by Stray Kids' own producer team 3racha (Bang Chan, Changbin, and Han) along with Puth. The TK song details a whirlwind of emotions, describing symptoms of breathlessness and heart-palpitating moments encapsulated in the lyrics: "I lose my breath when you're walking in/ 'Cause when our eyes lock, it's like my heart stops." 

"Lose My Breath" is described as a "warm-up" for Stray Kids' forthcoming album, set for release this summer. The track further highlights the global appeal of Stray Kids ahead of their highly anticipated headlining set at Lollapalooza in August. It also continues Puth's engagement with K-pop, following his previous work with other K-pop acts including his collab with BTS' Jungkook, "Left and Right," and "Like That," a song he co-wrote for K-pop girl group BABYMONSTER

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Megan Thee Stallion at the 2021 GRAMMYs
Megan Thee Stallion at the 2021 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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GRAMMY Rewind: Megan Thee Stallion Went From "Savage" To Speechless After Winning Best New Artist In 2021

Relive the moment Megan Thee Stallion won the coveted Best New Artist honor at the 2021 GRAMMYs, where she took home three golden gramophones thanks in part to her chart-topping smash "Savage."

GRAMMYs/Apr 5, 2024 - 05:25 pm

In 2020, Megan Thee Stallion solidified herself as one of rap's most promising new stars, thanks to her hit single "Savage." Not only was it her first No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100, but the "sassy, moody, nasty" single also helped Megan win three GRAMMYs in 2021.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit the sentimental moment the Houston "Hottie" accepted one of those golden gramophones, for Best New Artist.

"I don't want to cry," Megan Thee Stallion said after a speechless moment at the microphone. Before starting her praises, she gave a round of applause to her fellow nominees in the category, who she called "amazing."

Along with thanking God, she also acknowledged her manager, T. Farris, for "always being with me, being by my side"; her record label, 300 Entertainment, for "always believing in me, sticking by through my craziness"; and her mother, who "always believed I could do it."

Megan Thee Stallion's "Savage" remix with Beyoncé also helped her win Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance that night — marking the first wins in the category by a female lead rapper.

Press play on the video above to watch Megan Thee Stallion's complete acceptance speech for Best New Artist at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards, and remember to check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

Black Sounds Beautiful: How Megan Thee Stallion Turned Viral Fame Into A GRAMMY-Winning Rap Career

Beyoncé accepts the Innovator Award onstage during the 2024 iHeartRadio Music Awards at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on Monday, April 1.
Beyoncé accepts the Innovator Award onstage during the 2024 iHeartRadio Music Awards at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California, on Monday, April 1.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartRadio

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Beyond Country: All The Genres Beyoncé Explores On 'Cowboy Carter'

On 'COWBOY CARTER,' Beyoncé is free. Her eighth studio album is an unbridled exploration of musical genres — from country to opera and R&B — that celebrates the fluidity of music and her Texas roots.

GRAMMYs/Apr 3, 2024 - 08:50 pm

"Genres are a funny little concept, aren't they? In theory, they have a simple definition that's easy to understand. But in practice, well, some may feel confined."

With those words, spoken on "SPAGHETTII" by Linda Martell — the first commercially successful Black female artist in country music and the first to play the Grand Ole Opry solo — Beyoncé provides a proxy response to her original call on Instagram 10 days before COWBOY CARTER was released: "This ain’t a Country album. This is a “Beyoncé” album." 

She delivered on that promise with intent. Through a mix of homage and innovation, Beyoncé's latest is a 27-track testament to her boundless musicality and draws  from a rich aural palette. In addition to its country leanings, COWBOY CARTER includes everything from the soulful depths of gospel to the intricate layers of opera. 

Beyoncé's stance is clear: she's not here to fit into a box. From the heartfelt tribute in "BLACKBIIRD" to the genre-blurring tracks like "YA YA," Beyoncé uses her platform to elevate the conversation around genre, culture, and history. She doesn't claim country music; she illuminates its roots and wings, celebrating the Black artists who've shaped its essence.

The collective album proves no genre was created or remains in isolation. It's a concept stoked in the words of the opening track, "AMERIICAN REQUIEM" when Beyonce reflects, "Nothing really ends / For things to stay the same they have to change again." For country, and all popular genres of music to exist they have to evolve. No sound ever stays the same.

COWBOY CARTER's narrative arc, from "AMERICAN REQUIEM" to "AMEN," is a journey through American music's heart and soul, paying tribute to its origins while charting a path forward. This album isn't just an exploration of musical heritage; it's an act of freedom and a declaration of the multifaceted influence of Black culture on American pop culture.

Here's a closer look at some of some of the musical genres touched on in act ii, the second release of an anticipated trilogy by Beyoncé, the most GRAMMY-winning artist of all-time: 

Country 

Before COWBOY CARTER was even released, Beyoncé sparked critical discussion over the role of herself and all Black artists in country music. Yet COWBOY CARTER doesn't stake a claim on country music. Rather, it spotlights the genre through collaborations with legends and modern icons, while championing the message that country music, like all popular American music and culture, has always been built on the labor and love of Black lives. 

It's a reckoning acknowledged not only by Beyoncé's personal connection to country music growing up in Texas, but the role Black artists have played in country music rooted in gospel, blues, and folk music. 

Enter The World Of Beyoncé

Country legends, Dolly Parton ("DOLLY P", "JOLENE," and "TYRANT"), Willie Nelson ("SMOKE HOUR" and "SMOKE HOUR II"), and Martell ("SPAGHETTII and "THE LINDA MARTELL SHOW") serve mainly as spoken-word collaborators, becoming MCs for Queen Bey. Some of the most prolific country music legends receiving her in a space where she has been made to feel unwelcome in music (most notably with the racism surrounding her 2016 CMA performance of "Daddy Lessons" with the Dixie Chicks) provides a prolific release of industry levies. Martell, a woman who trod the dark country road before Bey, finally getting her much-deserved dues appears as an almost pre-ordained and poetic act of justice. 

"BLACKBIIRD," a version of the Beatles' civil rights era song of encouragement and hope for the struggle of Black women is led softly by Beyoncé, backed by a quartet of Black female contemporary country songbirds: Tanner Adell, Brittney Spencer, Tiera Kennedy, and Reyna Roberts. 

Beyoncé holds space for others, using the power of her star to shine a light on those around her. These inclusions rebuke nay-sayers who quipped pre-release that she was stealing attention from other Black country artists. It also flies in the faces that shunned and discriminated against her, serving as an example of how to do better. The reality that Beyoncé wasn't stealing a spotlight, but building a stage for fellow artists, is a case study in how success for one begets success for others. 

Read more: 8 Country Crossover Artists You Should Know: Ray Charles, The Beastie Boys, Cyndi Lauper & More

Gospel, Blues, & Folk (American Roots)

As is Beyoncé's way, she mounts a case for country music with evidence to back up her testimony. She meanders a course through a sequence of styles that serve as the genre's foundation: gospel, blues, and folk music.

"AMERIICAN REQUIEM" and "AMEN" bookend the album with gospel-inspired lyrics and choir vocals. The opener sets up a reflective sermon buoyed by  the sounds of a reverberating church organ, while the closer, with its introspective lyrics, pleads for mercy and redemption. The main verse on "AMEN", "This house was built with blood and bone/ The statues they made were beautiful/ But they were lies of stone," is complemented by a blend of piano, and choral harmonies. 

Hymnal references are interlaced throughout the album, particularly in songs like "II HANDS II HEAVEN" and in the lyrical nuances on "JUST FOR FUN." In the later track, Beyoncé's voice soars with gratitude in a powerful delivery of the lines, "Time heals everything / I don't need anything / Hallelujah, I pray to her." 

The gospel-inspired, blues-based "16 CARRIAGES" reflects the rich history of country songs borrowing from the blues while simultaneously calling back to songs sung by field laborers in the colonial American South. "Sixteen dollars, workin' all day/ Ain't got time to waste, I got art to make" serves as the exhausted plea of an artist working tirelessly long hours in dedication to a better life. 

Rhiannon Giddens, a celebrated musician-scholar, two-time GRAMMY winner, and Pulitzer Prize recipient, infuses "TEXAS HOLD 'EM" with her profound understanding of American folk, country, and blues. She plays the viola and banjo, the latter tracing its origins to Sub-Saharan West Africa and the lutes of ancient Egypt. Through her skilled plucking and bending of the strings, Giddens bridges the rich musical heritage of Africa and the South with the soul of country, blues, and folk music.

Pop, Funk, Soul & Rock 'n' Roll 

All in, Beyoncé is a pop star who is wrestling with labels placed on her 27-year career in COWBOY CARTER. Fittingly, she brings in two other pop artists known for swimming in the brackish water between country and pop, Miley Cyrus and Post Malone. Her intentional inclusion of two artists who have blurred genres without much cross-examination begs the question, Why should Beyoncé's sound be segregated to a different realm? 

On "YA YA" Linda Martell returns as the listener's sonic sentinel, introducing the track like a lesson plan: "This particular tune stretches across a range of genres. And that’s what makes it a unique listening experience." The tune sinks into the strummed chords of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" before leaping into a fiery dance track that features reimagined lyrics from the Beach Boys, with soulful vocal flourishes and breaks that show the throughline connection between '60s era rock, funk, and pop music.

Robert Randolph lends his hands on "16 CARRIAGES" with a funk-infused grapple on his pedal-steel guitar. It's a style he honed through his early years touring and recording with his family band and later in his career as an in-demand collaborator working with names including the Allman Brothers, and Norah Jones

The lesson is solidified as the album transitions into an interlude on "OH LOUISIANA," featuring a sped-up sample of a classic track by Chuck Berry. This moment emphasizes the pop superstar's nod to civil rights era music history, spotlighting a controversial artist celebrated for his pioneering contributions to rock 'n' roll. (It's a part of music history Beyoncé knows well, after starring as Etta James in the 2008 film Cadillac Records, a veiled biopic of the legendary Chicago label Chess Records.)

Classical & Opera

Opera was missing from many listeners' Beyoncé Bingo card, but didn't surprise those that know her background. Beyoncé was trained for over a decade starting at an early age by her voice teacher David Lee Brewer, a retired opera singer who once lived with the Knowles family. 

COWBOY CARTER gives sing-along fans a 101 opera class with "DAUGHTER." In Italian, Beyoncé sings passages from the 1783 Italian opera "Caro Mio Ben," composed by Giuseppe Tommaso Giovanni Giordani. The aria is a classic piece of vocal training that fittingly shows off her full range — taking us back to the earliest days of her vocal teachings.

Hip-Hop & R&B

Midway through the album on "SPAGHETTII" Beyoncé announces, "I ain't no regular singer, now come get everythin' you came for," landing right where expectations have confined her: in the throes of a romping beat, experimenting with sounds that blend hip-hop with R&B and soul. The track notably highlights the talent of Nigerian American singer/rapper Shaboozey, who also shows up to the rodeo on "SWEET HONEY BUCKIN'" brandishing his unique mix of hip-hop, folk-pop, and country music. 

Beyoncé worked with longtime collaborator Raphael Saadiq on this album, a career legend in the R&B industry, who lends his mark to several tracks on which he wrote, produced, and played multiple instruments. Beyoncé also utilizes the Louisiana songwriter Willie Jones on "JUST FOR FUN," an artist who draws on a contemporary blend of country, Southern rap, and R&B in the hymnal ballad. 

The violin-heavy "TYRANT" and "SPAGHETTII" both underscore hip-hop's long love affair with the classical string instrument (See: Common's "Be," and Wu Tang Clan's "Reunited" as the tip of that particular iceberg) with a blend of soulful R&B lyrics paired with beat-based instrumentalization. 

In a world quick to draw lines and label sounds, Beyoncé's COWBOY CARTER stands as a vibrant mosaic of musical influence and innovation. Ultimately, Beyoncé's COWBOY CARTER isn't seeking anyone's acceptance. As a Texan once told she didn't belong, her critical response claps back at this exclusion.  It's also a reminder that in the hands of a true artist, music is limitless.

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