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Mon Laferte Talks First Coachella Performance, 'Norma' & More

The Latin GRAMMY-winning singer-songwriter touches on her first-ever Coachella performance, her diverse range of influences, and why storytelling is the most important part of her artistry

GRAMMYs/Apr 13, 2019 - 08:30 pm

Chilean Latin GRAMMY-winning singer/songwriter Mon Laferte's music is hard to categorize, but that's precisely what makes it so enjoyable. Her latest album, 2018's Norma, explores lots of an eclectic mix of sounds, textures and moods, all of which she brought to her Friday set at Coachella.

Performing songs like "Tormento," "Mi buen amor," and "Amárrame," Mon Laferte—born Norma Monserrat Bustamante Laferte—also did a cover of Dua Lipa's "New Rules" during her set.

The Recording Academy caught up with the singer after her performance, where she revealed what it felt like to play the renowned Indio fest for the very first time. 

What did it feel like to share your music for the first time at Coachella?

I was very nervous at the beginning. It's my first time at Coachella. But once I got onstage, I felt relaxed, I felt happy, and it was like, "Wow! I'm at Coachella!" 

A lot of people were really excited to see a more diverse lineup at Coachella this year, especially in Latin music. How does it feel to be a part of that?

It's very excting, it's a moment where you feel that locally we're much more open to different genres, and to be part of that moment, when there's something better and more exciting coming.

What's been your favorite part of the festival so far? Have you seen any fellow performers?

I haven't seen many artists because since I've gotten offstage I've been doing promo and interviews back-to-back. But I do want to catch a couple of performances, and so far the experience has just been very beautiful. It's a beautiful festival, the backstage, the ambiance. What you breathe and what you feel—it's amazing. Lots of flowers. 

Can you tell us more about your most recent album—your sixth album!—Norma?

So, Norma is an album created conceptually as the storytelling of 10 chapters of a relationship—in songs. [I wanted to bring in] my roots, not only where I come from, but more Pan-regional sounds—so you have mambo, you have salsa, you have many other genres. 

Who are your musical influences?

I have a very diverse range of influences that goes all the way from singers like Janis Joplin, but it also goes to other genres. I was very influenced by salsa and very strong female [performers], like Billie Holiday.

What's the message you want to share with your music, both at home in Chile, in the U.S., and in the world at large?

So essentially, I am a storyteller. And I like to tell stories. Music and the beat are very important, but more important is telling that story. Through my music, I open different spaces, spaces that, especially in festivals like this one, you open the window to experiencing a lot of other genres. Not only what's trending—maybe urban, maybe reggaeton—but also many other things that are happening within the Latin world. 

Festivals are now revisiting both their genre diversity and gender diversity in their lineups. As a woman in music, what are some ways you feel women can best support each other in the industry and in the community?

So in my case, it's a lot of creating awareness and visibility and bringing this awareness and visibility towards parity. Towards being able to balance out the amount of females that are working both onstage and offstage within the industry and making sure that people have that consciousness. Maybe in festivals like Coachella you see a lot more balance, but in Latin America, we're still far away from that. 

Just with the possibility of being able just, you know, to be here, performing on the main stage you're already creating that space for many other women to come and do the same thing. 

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The Woman. Collective Wants Music Festivals To Be A Safe Space For "Every One"

Luiza Lian singing
Luiza Lian

Photo: Filipa Aurélio

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5 Artists Leading A New Wave Of Latin Trip-Hop & Downtempo: Céu, Natalia Clavier & More

As Latin GRAMMY winner Mon Laferte embarks on a U.S. tour of her new, trip-hop flavored album 'Autopoetica,' get to know five acts who are also fusing traditional Latin rhythms with downtempo beats.

GRAMMYs/May 6, 2024 - 01:54 pm

The explosive Latin music scene is moving in many directions: from brassy corridos tumbados to pounding perreo tracks. Yet another, slower movement is quietly brewing: Latin trip-hop and downtempo. 

Trip-hop originated in the 1990s and typically refers to downtempo music with a degree of electronic experimentation and an elusive sense of eeriness. While it's a contentious term that has been shunned by the very artists’ whose sound it was coined to describe (Portishead’s Geoff Barrow once tweeted "call it anything else but that";), it has been widely embraced in Latin America, which has imprinted on the genre since it’s infancy.

In 2001, the Franco-Argentine act Gotan Project poured tango into trip-hop musings to create their seminal record La revancha del Tango. Brazilian bossa nova has also featured heavily in the peripheral trip-hop scene: London-Brazilian outfit Smoke City’s 1997 Flying Away was awash with the rhythms of Rio de Janeiro. 

Latin GRAMMY winner Mon Laferte recalls listening to the sounds of Portishead in the 1990s, gazing out the window of her Chilean home in portside city Viña del Mar. "I loved Beth Gibbons’ voice," she says. "I remember the television was showing a Portishead concert, and I thought, Who is this captivating voice?"

That interest has followed Laferte throughout her career. On 2023's Autopoetica, Laferte brings back the Latin twist on trip-hop — drawing on traditional styles that have been a staple to her previous catalog (bolero, salsa, cumbia), then blending them into a downtempo electro canvas. "40yMM," a song that navigates the ups and downs of turning 40, begins with atmospheric strings, whispered vocals, and slow, pulsating beats, before unexpectedly branching into a rhythmic salsa. 

Laferte is one of a new wave of artists exploring the boundaries of traditional Latin styles through poignant, reflective experimentation — whether it be pasting a hypnotic double cumbia beat onto a trippy electro soundscape, or combining regional folk guitar with shuddering synths. Read on for five artists who are at the forefront of a new wave of Latin trip-hop and downtempo.

Karen y Los Remedios 

Hailing from Mexico, Karen y Los Remedios is a Mexican trio that makes "existential Cumbia." Their 2023 debut album, Silencio, is a gorgeously dark exploration of the realizations that occur through silence. On "Cartas Marinas," Ana Karen G Barajas asks "What would your voice be without mine?/What would your hand be without mine?"; her profound, prophetic tone that chills the spine.

The trio, formed by Barajas, guitarist Guillermo Berbeyer and producer Jonathan Muriel (Jiony), first met on projects under Jiony's Mexico City label, VAA, which specializes in electro, techno, funk and traditional Latin sounds. The trio eventually teamed up to put out two EPs, cumbia-driven
Botanas, Vol15, in 2020, and lo-fi hip hop effort Recuerdos de Expiación in 2021.

Federico Aubele

Singing with shivering stillness, Federico Aubele’s music is soft, pensive and haunting. Mixing jazz, trip-hop and folk, the Argentine is signed to ESL Music, which is headed by U.S. electro act Thievery Corporation. His musical footprint is similarly global: Aubele released his debut album, Gran Hotel Buenos Aires, in 2004 while living in Berlin, and then spent time making music in Barcelona, before settling in New York.

His latest album, 2023's
Time Drips On My Bed, is a meditative reflection on the past inspired by his early life in Buenos Aires, a city he grew up in, but is at once a stranger to. His music is informed by Latin classical guitars, nodding to the tango and folk styles present in Argentina, and mixing in contemporary electronic elements to hone his eclectic and exploratory style. 

Luiza Lian 

Signed to international independent label ZZK Records, Luiza Lian is a Sao Paulo-based musician who toys with experimental techniques, bouncing basslines and erratic vocal arrangement. On the latest album, 7 Estrelas | quem arrancou o céu?, she uses voice manipulation to explore themes of reality and deception, holding a mirror up to a consumerist world to question where our real values should lie. 

Lian’s deep mediations on the record translate to an immersive live show that has won awards in her native Brazil. With frantic projections, flashing lights and costume design that form part of the stage backdrop, she creates a deliberately disorientating and harrowing mood, encouraging viewers to join her reflection on humanity. 

Natalia Clavier

Like Abuele, Buenos Aires vocalist Clavier is another protegee of the Thievery Corporation and spent a large part of her early career as the band’s lead vocalist. Clavier kindled a love for singing as a child after listening to her grandmother’s jazz records and eventually grew to love electronic music after discovering the sounds of Massive Attack, Björk and Portishead. 

After spending the first chapter of her music career as a session and live vocalist, Clavier released her debut album,
Nectár, in 2008. She's since crafted a body of solo work that combines hushed, jazzy vocals with gorgeously downtempo tracks. Her most recent album with Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton, 2023’s Corazón Kintsugi, combines Bossa Nova, dub, and trip-hop into a rich soundscape. 

Céu 

Maria do Céu Whitaker Poças, known as Céu, is a Sao Paulo musician whose music veers into a particularly dub vein of downtempo. 

Since releasing her first self-titled album in 2005, Céu has worked with a mixture of jazz, reggae and samba, her blissfully smooth vocals weaving between the genres. The self-titled album was a critical success, earning her a Latin GRAMMY nomination for Best New Artist in 2006, and a GRAMMY nomination for Best Contemporary World Music Album in 2008.

Céu continues to make soft, blissfully melodic music with an electronic edge. On 2024 single Coração Âncora, she teams up with producer RDD to sing a breezy, summery ode the "anchored heart," committed and assured. 

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Blur in Tokyo in November 1994
Blur in Tokyo in November 1994.

Photo: Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/Getty Images

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7 Ways Blur's 'Parklife' Served As The Genesis Of Britpop

On the heels of their Coachella return, Blur celebrates the 30th anniversary of their opus, 'Parklife,' on April 25. Take a look at how the album helped bring Britpop to the mainstream.

GRAMMYs/Apr 25, 2024 - 02:33 pm

In April 1993, journalist Stuart Maconie coined the term Britpop for a Select magazine article celebrating the UK's fight back against the dominance of American rock. Remarkably, London four-piece Blur weren't even mentioned in the story. And yet, frontman Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James, and drummer Dave Rowntree would provide the catalyst for the scene's mainstream breakthrough.

Just a year later, Blur released what many consider to be Britpop's defining statement. Parklife served as a colorful, vibrant, and incredibly infectious love letter to all things Anglocentric, drawing upon the nation's great cultural heritage while also foreshadowing what was to come. And it instantly struck a chord with homegrown audiences desperate for guitar music that wasn't drowning in abject misery, and better reflected their day-to-day lives.

Remarkably, Albarn had predicted Parklife's success four years earlier. As he declared to music writer David Cavanagh in 1990, "When our third album comes out, our place as the quintessential English band of the '90s will be assured. That is a simple statement of fact."

Three decades after its game-changing release, here's a look at how Parklife forever changed both Blur's career trajectory and the history of British rock.

It Kickstarted Britpop's Greatest Rivalry

In one of those great rock coincidences, Blur's third LP hit the shelves just 24 hours after "Supersonic" gave a then-relative unknown Manchester outfit named Oasis their first ever UK Top 40 single. And the two bands would remain intertwined (perhaps begrudgingly so) from then on, culminating in the most high-profile chart battle in British music history.

You could argue that Oasis' Noel Gallagher threw the first stone, describing Parklife as "Southern England personified" in a manner that suggested it wasn't exactly complimentary. And according to his manager Alan McGee, Definitely Maybe cut "Digsy's Dinner" was written as a deliberate "piss-take of Blur."

An increasingly bitter war of words then broke out in the summer of 1995 as the "Country House" versus "Roll With It" war swept the nation. Blur emerged victorious, although Oasis had the last laugh when (What's The Story) Morning Glory spent 10 weeks atop the UK album chart.

It Brought Storytelling Back To Indie Pop

Heavily inspired by Martin Amis novel London Fields, Parklife was inhabited by a cast of intriguing fictional characters, essentially doubling up as a series of short stories. "Tracy Jacks," for example, is about a golf-obsessed civil servant who ends up getting arrested for public indecency before bulldozing his own house.

"Magic America" is the tale of Bill Barret, a Brit who commits to a life of excess during a Stateside holiday ("Took a cab to the shopping malls/ Bought and ate until he could do neither anymore"), while "Clover Over Dover" explores the mindset of a manipulative boyfriend threatening to jumping off the titular white cliffs.

Over the following 18 months, everything from Pulp's "Common People" and Space's "Neighbourhood" to Supergrass' "Caught by the Fuzz" and The Boo Radleys' "It's Lulu" were combining classic British guitar pop with witty Mike Leigh-esque vignettes of modern life.

It Originated The Big Indie Ballad

Dramatic ballads aren't necessarily the first thing that come to mind with Parklife, a record famed for its jaunty, "knees-up Mother Brown" ditties. But it boasts two examples: "To The End," an alternate Bond theme featuring a burst of Gallic flair from Stereolab's Laetitia Sadler, and the swoonsome "This Is A Low." Turns out the "mystical lager-eater" the record was designed to embody could also get a little vulnerable from time to time.

This appeared to give all of their laddish peers some pause for thought. Oasis, the most fervent advocates of the "cigarettes and alcohol" lifestyle, later scored their biggest hit with acoustic ballad "Wonderwall." And bands including Cast ("Walkaway"), Shed Seven ("Chasing Rainbows") and Menswear ("Being Brave") all enjoyed UK hits revealing their softer sides. No doubt Coldplay, Travis, and every other sensitive post-Britpop outfit that emerged in the late 1990s were taking notes, too.

It Paid Respect To The Greats

The Britpop scene was renowned for its slavish devotion to the first time British guitar bands ruled the airwaves, the Swinging Sixties. Oasis freely admitted they modeled themselves on the Beatles, while the likes of Ocean Colour Scene, Kula Shaker and The Paul Weller all released albums that sounded like they'd been discovered in a vintage record shop.

And while Blur would later distance themselves from the past with a sense of invention (which Albarn would also parlay into his various side projects, including the virtual band Gorillaz), they were more than happy to get all nostalgic on Parklife. See "Far Out," their only track to feature James on lead vocal, which resembled the trippy psychedelia of Pink Floyd in their Syd Barrett era, and the Sgt. Pepper-esque brassy instrumental "The Debt Collector," while there are also echoes of the Walker Brothers, The Kinks, and Small Faces. Suddenly, retro was the new cool.

It Turned Blur Into Britain's Biggest Guitar Band

The UK Top 10 success of 1991's "There's No Other Way" proved to be something of a false start for Blur, with the band soon falling by the wayside like every other baggy pop outfit that emerged at the turn of the decade. "Popscene," the 1992 single intended to revolutionize both their career and British guitar music in general, stalled at No. 32, while 1993 sophomore Modern Life is Rubbish sold just 40,000 copies.

But Parklife single-handedly turned Blur into Britain's biggest guitar band, reaching No. 1 in their homeland, spending 82 weeks in the Top 40, and eventually becoming a million-seller. It went on to pick up four BRITs, a Mercury Prize nomination, and has been recognized as an all-time great by Spin, Pitchfork, and Rolling Stone. Further proof of its glowing reputation came in 2009 when Royal Mail selected it as one of 10 albums worthy of commemorating on a postage stamp.

It Spawned A String Of Classic Singles

Parklife's campaign was kicked off in March 1994 with "Girls and Boys," a glorious dissection of British vacationers — which, surprisingly in the days when genre-hopping was frowned upon — evoked the '80s synth-pop of Duran Duran and Pet Shop Boys. Rowntree was even replaced by a drum machine, not that he particularly minded, luckily.

This indie floorfiller was followed up by the hugely underrated "To The End" and then the much-quoted title track. Everything about "Parklife" the song is larger than life: the Cockney geezer narration from Quadrophenia's Phil Daniels, the festival-friendly sing-along chorus, and the brightly colored video in which James — perhaps tipping his hat to Queen's "I Want to Break Free" -– donned soap opera drag. But fourth release "End of a Century," a melancholic tale of domestic drudgery complete with mournful trombone solo, once again proved there was a depth beyond their cheeky chappy personas.

It Made Brits Proud To Be British Again

Unable to connect with the oppressive angst and flannel shirts of the grunge movement that had plagued their first major North American tour in 1992, Blur first started to embrace their inherent Englishness on the following year's Modern Life is Rubbish. Unfortunately, this throwback to the original British Invasion was met with a resounding shrug of the shoulders on both sides of the Atlantic.

Undeterred, however, the band doubled down on all things Anglocentric on its follow-up, from its original title of London, to its greyhound racing cover art, to its celebrations of bank holidays, Club 18-30 holidays, and shipping forecasts. This time around, they managed to capture the zeitgeist (at home, at least), as the rise of New Labour and the forthcoming hosting of Euro '96 made everyone proud to be British again. Within 12 months, the UK charts were littered with homegrown guitar bands selling the idea of the English dream — and it all started with Parklife.

Coachella 2024 Weekend 1 Recap: 20 Surprises And Special Moments, From Billie Eilish & Lana Del Rey To Olivia Rodrigo With No Doubt

Photo of Skepta performing at Wireless Festival on September 11, 2021, in London, England. Skepta is wearing dark black sunglasses, a black shirt, and a vest made of bullets.
Skepta performs a headline set at Wireless Festival on September 11, 2021, in London, England

Photo: Joseph Okpako/WireImage

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10 Must-See Artists At Coachella 2024: Skepta, The Last Dinner Party, Mdou Moctar, Cimafunk & More

Peso Pluma, Lana Del Rey, Doja Cat, Tyler, The Creator, J Balvin and a reunited No Doubt may be some of the biggest draws at Coachella 2024, but the beloved festival will host a multitude of must-see artists whose names appear in smaller text.

GRAMMYs/Apr 22, 2024 - 03:00 pm

Ah, springtime. For the average person, that means sunshine, flora in bloom, perhaps a figurative fresh start in the new year. But for music festival fans, it signals another season starter: Coachella.

An estimated 125,000 people will flock to the Empire Polo Fields in Indio, California for the first weekend (April 12-14) of the 23rd Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. While the first weekend is already sold out, tickets are still available for the second weekend (April 19-21).

Coachella's headliners have been busy: Both Lana Del Rey (headlining Friday) and Doja Cat (slated to close out Sunday) just wrapped extensive tours at the end of 2023 and, while Saturday closer Tyler, the Creator's only other 2024 festival date is at Lollapalooza, he did stage a large-scale appearance in 2023 at the Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival in Los Angeles. Still, it stands to reason that there are scores of fans who missed out on those tour stops, and Coachella would be an ideal chance to catch them in a particularly special setting. 

There's also the potential to see a slew of surprise guests (a long-standing Chella tradition) and much-hyped reunions. Coachella 2024 attendees will likely flock to see a reunited No Doubt and Sublime, the latter with a Nowell back at the helm (Bradley’s son, Jakob).

Then there’s the economic logic behind opting to see those bigger acts at a festival: for a price not much more than what you’d pay for an arena ticket, you get the bonus of catching dozens of other incredible artists while you’re at it. The diversity and quality of music throughout even the lower tiers of the Coachella lineup is staggering, so overall the price for a pass is quite the steal. Read on for the inside scoop on 10 of this year’s most exciting undercard performances.

Read More: Music Festivals 2024 Guide: Lineups & Dates For Lollapalooza, Coachella, Bonnaroo & Much More

Cimafunk

Cuban artist Cimafunk has been relatively quiet since releasing a third studio album, El Alimento, in 2021. But the success of that record — which garnered his first GRAMMY nomination for Best Latin Rock or Alternative album at the 2023 GRAMMY Awards — appears to have propelled him to new career heights. He will be the first Cuban-born artist to perform at the festival, kicking off a string of worldwide shows that begin with his appearance at Coachella on April 12 and 19. 

Read more: At Getting Funky In Havana, Young Musicians Feel The Power Of Cross-Cultural Connection

Cimafunk’s sole release since his last album was the December 2023 single “Te tango en salsa,” which expands upon his self-designated brand of Afro Cuban Funk with accents of disco and grooves filled with New Orleans-style horns. Though the track hasn’t been publicly connected to any upcoming EP or album, one might presume that his impending run of concerts is a precursor to a complete body of new music. Perhaps Coachella will function as a testing ground, and considering the inclusion on El Ailmento of prominent artists George Clinton, CeeLo Green and Lupe Fiasco, who knows what other surprises might be in store at the desert festival known for delighting audiences with plenty of guest features.

L’Imperatrice

Through the years following their inception in 2012, French pop band L’Imperatrice have played primarily in Europe and surrounding regions, so it’s no small feat that they’re poised to make their second appearance at Coachella in two years. They first played the fest in 2022, a makeup show for Coachella's 2020 COVID-19 cancellation. 

Their slots on April 12 and 19, stops on their just-launched Double Trouble Tour, follow the 2018 release of debut full-length Matahari and performances at prominent festivals like Austin City Limits and Outside Lands. Self-produced sophomore album Pulsar arrives on June 7, and its infectiously groovy and sensual debut single “Me Da Iqual” promises a Coachella set sure to incite emotional release among the masses — ideally during one of the fest’s famed golden hours to match the music’s euphoric vibes. 

Skepta

Regarded as one of the most influential rappers in the UK grime scene, Skepta is set to commence his latest return to stateside stages with appearances at Coachella on both Fridays, which marks his second time at the festival after lauded dual appearances in 2017. 

Following a semi-secret DJ set at Austin’s South by Southwest festival in March, these shows will preview a run of summer dates in the UK and Europe and the release of upcoming sixth solo album Knife and Fork

With that record’s release date still in question but imminent, it’s a good bet that he’ll introduce new material to build upon the January drop of lead single "Gas Me Up (Diligent)," which adopts a flow and melodic structure more akin to popular American rap. To that end, Skepta’s previous collaborations with U.S. rappers like Drake, Ye and members of ASAP Mob could lead to a loaded lineup of guests during his Coachella set. It has the potential to be a huge moment, though his reputation for high-energy and rowdy gigs are reasons enough to prioritize his performance. 

Read More: UK Drill Is An International Sensation. Will It Be Censored To Death?

Mandy, Indiana

English-French noise rock upstarts Mandy, Indiana make music that isn’t necessarily easy to digest. Minimalist and chaotic compositions, primarily from their widely celebrated 2023 debut album I’ve Seen a Way, resonate as tunes tailor-made for technically minded music nerds. Still, danceable moments emerge among the sonic helter-skelter, which combines experimental elements of industrial, classic house music and samples aplenty (think Death Grips with more palatable melodies and exclusively French lyrics). 

So far, the dynamic four-piece hasn’t played much on this side of the pond — their debut shows at Coachella arrive on the heels of a handful of U.S. appearances in 2023 that included the SXSW Music Festival. Which means Mandy, Indiana’s sets on April 13 and 20 will mark relatively rare (and therefore must-see) chances to embrace their overtly wonderful weirdness in the desert among the more prominent pop-leaning artists on the roster.

The Last Dinner Party

If you’re not yet keen on British indie rock band the Last Dinner Party, it’s time to get with the program. With only one album under their belt, Prelude to Ecstasy (released Feb. 2) — which echoes various influences ranging from Siouxsie and the Banshees to Kate Bush and ABBA —the quintet has already earned multiple awards and accolades, including topping the UK Album Chart. To boot, they opened for the Rolling Stones in London’s Hyde Park two years prior to putting out their record.

The band’s performances are reportedly jaw-dropping, further evidenced by the complete sell-out of their current U.S. tour. That jaunt wraps with their April 20 appearance at Coachella (they also play during the first weekend on April 13), so, unless you want to pay ridiculous resale prices for one of their club shows, this is a prime chance to see them live with the added benefit of catching many more amazing acts while you’re there.

Young Fathers

Young Fathers are often categorized under the umbrella of hip-hop, but it would be wrong to pigeonhole them that way. True, one can pinpoint elements of a spitting, old-school style — especially on debut album Dead (winner of the prestigious Mercury Prize in 2014.. However, their sound spans the landscape of many genres, often weaving in threads of electronic, industrial, and trip-hop. It should be telling that they’ve collaborated multiple times with Massive Attack.

The music clearly resonates with a substantial audience. They’ve reached prime positions on the UK Album charts, their fourth and latest album Heavy Heavy (released Feb. 3, 2023) won them their third Scottish Album of the Year Award, and this year marks their second invitation to Coachella (catch them on Sundays: April 13 and 20). With a full year gone since putting out new songs, there’s no telling if they’ll serve up anything fresh. Regardless, fans of heavy-hitting experimental music, assuredly energizing at any time of day or night, should prioritize seeing their set.

Oneohtrix Point Never

It’s a wonder that Oneohtrix Point Never has never played Coachellal until now given his string of consistent releases since emerging in the early 2000s (with never more than three years between albums) and Coachella’s penchant for historically championing experimental electronic artists. Following the Feb. 29 release of his latest EP “Oneohtrix Point Never - Ambients,” he debuts in the desert on April 13, with his second weekend encore on April 20. 

The Massachusetts-bred beatmaker’s music swings from sparse to compositionally complex. It's not geared toward a typical EDM dance party, but always cinematic and hypnotizing, creating a space where listeners can truly lose themselves in the sonics. Given his style, it’s safe to assume he’ll occupy an evening time slot, so if you’re the type who prefers something a little more raw to the mainstream big-timers topping the bill, Oneohtrix Point Never might be just the ticket.

Mdou Moctar

If there’s one artist on this year’s Coachella lineup that will truly thrive in a desert setting, it’s Mdou Moctar. The Niger-based musician plays rock music steeped in the style of Tuareg, guitar-based blues-rock fusion that originates in the Sahara region. However, Moctar’s music decidedly transcends the traditional sound, often reverberating as sublimely psychedelic.

His performances in Indio on April 14 and 21 precede the release of his sixth album Funeral For Justice (arriving May 3). Based on the two singles made available from that record so far (title track “Funeral for Justice” and “Imouhar”), the people of Coachella are in for a true desert trip.

Atarashii Gakko!

When Japanese “girl group” Atarashii Gakko! make their Coachella debut on April 14 and 21, anticipate the unexpected. The four singers’ have a stated goal of “redefining what it means to be a girl group.” They’re technically categorized as J-Pop, but among the many catchy choruses, their music also incorporates shades of speed metal, trap beats and alt-rap à la Rage Against the Machine, all of which you can hear on their latest album ICHIJIKIKOKU.

What you can certainly expect is an outrageously high-energy show chock-full of nonstop, self-designed choreography performed in colorful sailor-fuku uniforms (essentially sailor suits worn by Japanese students in the ‘70s and ‘80s … think Sailor Moon but intentionally less provocative). If you need an adrenaline boost on the final day of the fest, look no further than Atarashii Gakko!.

Olivia Dean

Dear America, it’s time to give a proper welcome to an artist destined for stardom:  Olivia Dean. With only a handful of U.S. shows in the bank, the 25-year-old British neo-soul singer’s debut at Coachella on April 14 — arguably her biggest U.S. gig yet — will serve as the most well-deserved of receptions. 

Sure, her nominations for the 2023 Mercury Prize (for debut album Messy) and 2024 Brit Awards (Best Pop Act, British Artist of the Year and Best New Artist) should merit attention enough for those who don’t know her. But even a few moments of listening to key album tracks “Dive” and “The Hardest Part” (don’t sleep on the alternate version featuring Leon Bridges) are the real deal-sealers. The richness of Dean’s recorded vocals are absolutely arresting, evocative of and equal to top-tier divas who preceded her. It’s thrilling just thinking about the impact she’ll make at Coachella — do yourself a favor if you have the chance and go witness it firsthand. 

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Chappell Roan at Coachella 2024 Weekend 1
Chappell Roan performs during Weekend 1 of Coachella 2024.

Photo: Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

interview

Chappell Roan's Big Year: The 'Midwest Princess' Examines How She Became A Pop "Feminomenon"

Just after Chappell Roan made her festival debut at Coachella, hear from the pop starlet about some of the defining moments of her career thus far — and how it all helped earn her a spot at one of music's biggest fests.

GRAMMYs/Apr 19, 2024 - 07:49 pm

Before this year, Chappell Roan had never even been to Coachella. Now, not only can she say she's attended — she's performed in the desert, too. 

Roan played an evening set on the Gobi Stage on April 12, and is set to return for Weekend 2. Fans clad in everything from cowboy boots, Sandy Liang-inspired bows and, perhaps most importantly, jorts, gathered to celebrate their shared love of Roan's radiance, karmic kink and gay cowgirl doctrine.  

Throughout her performance, bubbles breezed through the air as Roan belted out her infectious (and aptly titled) track "Femininomenon," which speaks to lover girls forced to live in an online-dating hellscape. "Ladies, you know what I mean?/ And you know what you need and so does he/ But does it happen? No!" Following collective screams of pure joy, the already enlivened crowd roused to match Roan beat-for-beat, shouting back in perfect unison, "Well, what we really need is a femininomenon!" 

In an era of bedroom pop and sad-girl music, Roan has been hailed by both critics and fans for bringing fun back to pop music. Along with her staunch sense of self, Roan's penchant for explicit lyrics that are equally parts introspective and horny makes her dance-pop anthems all the more infectious. 

Roan's ambitiously experimental debut album, 2023's The Rise and Fall of a Midwest Princess, cemented her status as one of the most exciting pop stars on the rise. While she only recently landed her first single on the Billboard Hot 100 with "Good Luck, Babe!," her rapidly growing fan base — and an opening slot on Olivia Rodrigo's sold-out GUTS World Tour — indicate that she's on her way to superstardom.

Perhaps part of Roan's magic is that it was all on her own terms. After parting ways with her first label, Atlantic Records, she built a loyal following as an independent artist before signing with Island Records last year. Even as a major label artist, she's determined to only do things her way; her indefatigable commitment to her craft — as well as writing her own rules when it comes to fashion and makeup — is precisely why her fans are so enraptured by both her music and persona. 

Her fearlessness was on full display during her first Coachella set, where the words emblazoned on her bodysuit read "Eat Me." She talks the talk, and walks the walk (in fabulous, knee-high boots, of course), matching her unabashed aesthetic with equally bold career moves; for one, the openers for her headlining tour are local drag queens.

With eyeliner winged to the heavens, near-perfect vocal stability and fiery curls ablaze, Roan's shimmering Coachella Weekend 1 performance proved that her stage presence is equally dynamic. And if she had any doubters, she had one thing to say to them: "B—, I know you're watching!" 

In between rehearsals for her Coachella debut, Roan took a look back on her journey to one of music's most coveted stages. Below, hear from Roan about five of the most impactful milestones in her career — so far. 

Releasing Her Debut Album, The Rise And Fall Of A Midwest Princess

I ended up signing [with Island Records in 2023] because this project honestly got too big to be independent anymore. I just wasn't willing to give up anything, any creative control or for any amount of money. 

Being an independent artist was really special because I proved to myself that I could do all these hard things that I had never done. I built it with an entire friend group and many, many years of work. So it wasn't just me, but it proved a lot to me.

It proved I can make it through hard circumstances — with no money. You truly can. You do not need a label to do a lot of what an artist's career requires. You don't need a label to put on your own show, or make a music video, or even write a song, or find creative people. You don't need that s—t. I mean, a label is just money, you know? You don't need a lot of money to do this. To make it grow is, I think, where it takes a lot of money. That's what was difficult.

Music allows me to express anything, even things that I've never experienced before. It allows me to express queerness, even if it was only daydreams at that point. It allows me to express parts of me that I'm not even ready to accept yet.

I don't give a f— if you don't  f— with the music. You don't have to come to the concert. That's the whole point of it. You don't have to like it. I think throughout the year, I'm like, "What can I get away with?" Because right now it's pretty tame for what it is like to be a gay artist. But I just want to push it to see how far can I go — with the most controversial outfits or things to rile people up. I'm not really afraid to do that.

Having a song [like "Casual] with the lyric, "Knee deep in the passenger seat/ And you're eating me out," and it's being considered to go to radio. That's kind of a big thing to get away with. 

It's not even that big of a thing. What's that song? Is it Flo Rida? That's like, "Can you blow my whistle, baby/ whistle baby." Okay, that's obviously about like a f—ing blowjob. [Laughs.] No one cares about that. To me, I'm like, Let's talk about eating out on the radio. I actually think it has to be bleeped, but still, if I can get away with it, that's cool.

Feeling Financial Freedom & Stability

Not making money at all just sucked. But I learned how to do my own makeup and bedazzle and sew a little bit. I think that the scrappiness came from [the idea that] it's scrappy if it's fun. 

I think that's what kept me going — because if this wasn't fun, I would not even be here. But it was scrappy and fun, and it was with my friends. It didn't feel dire. I was also just working at a coffee shop, and I was a nanny, and I was working at a donut shop. I was doing part time jobs all on the side too. So it was all just rough [in the beginning].

I have freedom because now [singing] is my full-time job. It provides for me now. As the project grows, I can do bigger shows and be like, I want outfit changes now, and I want more lights, and I want confetti. I can afford confetti now! 

It's about expanding the universe in a thoughtful way. And not just like throwing a s— ton of money at things to make things look expensive or wear all this designer s— for no reason. 

I just try to look at how we are starting to gain momentum financially and see how can I intentionally use that to, one, pay the team in a way where they're not bare bones anymore, and two, [ask ourselves] how can we honor this project and this album and the queer community? Can we pay drag queens more? Can we bring drag on the road? Now, financially, doors have opened where we can walk through them with love and intention. Just recklessly, throwing money at s— to see if it works. 

Opening Olivia Rodrigo's Arena Tour

Olivia [Rodrigo] just asked. It was official, we went through our management. But I was like, Oh my God

Preparing a 40-minute set is a different vibe than headlining, obviously. You are going out to an audience that is not there for you and doesn't necessarily care if you're there or not.

This is, like, my fourth or fifth artist I've opened for. But for an arena tour, I just needed to gather my nerves. I think that's the difference between any other show. Like, F—, there's 20,000 people out there right now. I've never performed in front of that many people. I don't know what this emotion is, and I just have to tame it right now.

Standing Up For Herself Creatively, Even When There's Pushback

I stand up for myself, I would say, every day. Sometimes, you get this opportunity, a huge opportunity with a lot of money on the table. [Yet,] I'm just like, That just doesn't make sense creatively. That doesn't align with my values. I'm not doing that. 

One huge creative decision was I stood up and pushed the entire headlining Midwest Princess tour back to the fall. The album was supposed to come out while we were on tour. I was like, "This is a horrible idea!" 

That caused a big ruckus, but it ended up being fine, and I was right. I'm usually right. [Laughs.] It's like a mother with her kid — a mother knows best. I feel like [that] when it comes to the integrity of my project.

I know how it is to not be able to afford a ticket or even f—ing food. A concert ticket, a lot of times, means multiple meals for someone. I get it, I couldn't afford some artists' tickets. That's why it's really important to me to try to keep them as low as I can and my merch as low as I can. 

There's pushback of ticket prices being low and we're playing rooms that are so expensive. The fee to even play them is so expensive. So, you have to raise the ticket prices to just even be able to afford to play the room. There's always an argument [with my team] there, every tour. I'm in control of stuff and if I'm saying this is how it's going to be —- it's just going to be that way.

Performing At Coachella For The First Time 

[After the first weekend of Coachella] I am feeling very relieved. I was so stressed about many things. How is the outfit going to work? Will the crowd really be engaged? It went so well, I have no qualms with anything. I loved every second of it.

It feels like I am partying with [my fans]. I am not performing to them; I’m performing with them. [I want people to remember] a really fun, freeing show. Very campy but very meaningful too. 

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