Yungblud performs on "MTV Unplugged At Home"
'MTV Unplugged At Home' Announces Virtual Lineup: FINNEAS, Monsta X, Alessia Cara, Wyclef Jean, Yungblud And More
The quarantine-friendly version of MTV's celebrated "MTV Unplugged" series will feature stripped-down and acoustic performances from artists directly from their homes
Today (April 3), MTV announced its initial artist lineup for its newly debuted, quarantine-friendly version of its celebrated "MTV Unplugged" series: "MTV Unplugged At Home." The series will feature at-home performances from GRAMMY winners FINNEAS, Alessia Cara, Shaggy and Melissa Etheridge, as well as Monsta X, CNCO, Jewel and Bazzi. They join previously announced artists Wyclef Jean, Yungblud, himself a digital concert rock star, and JoJo. Additional artists will be announced at a later date.
Much like its namesake, "MTV Unplugged At Home" will feature stripped-down and acoustic performances from quarantined artists directly from their homes. The series will be streamed regularly across MTV's YouTube, Instagram and Twitter channels.
"Reimagining the beloved music series as a multi-platform digital experience, the new mini-concert series will feature stripped-down, acoustic sets from artists performing their greatest hits, enabling music enthusiasts to find comfort in their new realities alongside fellow fans," a statement regarding the show said, according to Rolling Stone. "In addition to the roster of global artists, MTV's international channels will feature performances by local acts in their respective countries around the world."
"MTV Unplugged At Home" coincides with MTV's #AloneTogether global social media campaign, which aims to educate young fans and followers about social distancing in an attempt to control and reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since early March, the global music industry has been grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused a worldwide shutdown of the festival and concert business. Major festivals and events to have canceled or postponed their 2020 installments include Governors Ball, Glastonbury, Bonnaroo, New Orleans Jazz Fest, Coachella and Stagecoach, Ultra Music Festival, SXSW, Lollapalooza Argentina and many more around the world.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc
11 Reasons Why 1993 Was Nirvana's Big Year
While 1991 was the year Nirvana broke, the Seattle grunge pioneers continued their impressive streak. With the release of 'In Utero,' multiple massive shows and now-legendary appearances on MTV programs, 1993 ended up being Nirvana’s most productive year.
By most measures, 1992 was a massive year for Nirvana. The Seattle grunge pioneers achieved international fame when their major label debut, Nevermind, topped the charts and was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the 34th GRAMMY Awards.
But the band (and lead singer/guitarist Kurt Cobain in particular) quickly became overwhelmed by their unexpected success. Nirvana retreated for most of the year, only playing about a month’s worth of shows and delaying work on a follow up album.
So there was much ground to make up in 1993.
But Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl rose to the challenge. There were a few bumps along the way — such as a kerfuffle when it was reported that Nirvana bowed to record company pressure to remix tracks on their new album, thus making them "sellouts" (the band insisted they alone decided what changes needed to be made) — but '93 ended up being one of Nirvana’s most productive years.
Thirty years ago, Nirvana released an acclaimed third album (In Utero), an indie single ("Oh, The Guilt"), and created one of their most haunting videos ("Heart-Shaped Box"). And throughout their first U.S. tour since 1991, the band proved again and again what a powerful live act they were — whether playing a former movie house or a mega stadium — showing that a noisy band could still pack a punch by going acoustic.
In honor of the 30th anniversary of In Utero (and a forthcoming reissue), GRAMMY.com revisits 11 of Nirvana’s most memorable moments from 1993.
Nirvana Affirm Their Indie Cred With "Oh, The Guilt"
Nirvana recorded three songs during their sole studio session in 1992. "Curmudgeon" ended up as the B-side of "Lithium," "Return of the Rat" appeared on a Greg Sage compilation, and "Oh, The Guilt" finally turned up as part of a split single with Jesus Lizard on Touch and Go Records.
Back in 1988, Cobain had sent several copies of Nirvana’s first demo to the Chicago-based Touch and Go. Following the major label success of Nevermind, Nirvana clearly wanted to make the effort to keep in touch with their indie roots.
"Nirvana became like the Beatles of the ’90s, but they still wanted to do it," Jesus Lizard’s David Yow told Seattle music magazine The Rocket. "And we had to figure out, well, do we want to do this and look like we’re riding on Nirvana’s coattails, or we could just do it and not worry about it, which is what we ended up doing."
Released on Feb. 22, the grinding "Oh, The Guilt" set the stage for the rawer sound of Nirvana’s next album.
The Band Played "One Of The Best Shows Of Their Lives" At The Cow Palace
Nirvana had played only five major U.S. concerts in 1992, so there was much anticipation for this concert in Daly City, just south of San Francisco. Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic organized the show, a benefit for the Tresnjevka Womens’ Group, a Zagreb-based organization aiding Bosnian War rape survivors and refugees.
"The Cow Palace show was high-stakes," says Michael Azerrad, author of Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana (due to be reissued next month in an expanded edition), who was at the show. "Some of the people who worked with Nirvana were a little dubious about the material the band had recently recorded for In Utero. Kurt, Krist and Dave knew they had something to prove. But they hadn’t played live in a couple of months — and now they had to get up in front of an audience and play one of the best shows of their lives. And they did just that."
At the April 9 show, the band came roaring out of the gate with "Rape Me," and went on to deliver a fiery 23-song set, debuting a number of songs from In Utero, and encoring with a noise jam that ended with the obligatory instrument destruction. In Azerrad’s view, "The Cow Palace show was truly a triumph."
Fans Got A Taste Of Pre-Fame Nirvana In 1991: The Year Punk Broke
When David Markey packed up his Super-8 camera to follow various indie bands on a European tour in 1991, he had no idea he’d be capturing Nirvana on the verge of becoming the biggest band in the world. In Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana Cobain recalled this as the period when "there’s so much excitement in the air you can just taste it," and it’s riveting to see the band without the baggage of worldwide fame dragging them down.
Markey's documentary, 1991: The Year Punk Broke, was released on home video in April 1993. "Smells Like Teen Spirit," not yet released as a single, sounds fresh and invigorating; older numbers like "School" and "Negative Creep" are sizzling.
"That tour was easily the most fun I've ever had on any tour, anywhere, anytime," says Markey. "And that feeling was shared by everyone who was on it, I promise. Forget the fact that Nirvana and Sonic Youth were on fire at every stop along the way. Same with the other bands: Dinosaur Jr. Babes In Toyland. Gumball. And of course the Ramones.
"I remember nothing but smiles and laughter," he continues. "The fact that I was tasked with documenting it with nine hours of Super-8 film cartridges shoved into a giant suitcase seemed like an afterthought. It wasn’t just a job. It was everything."
The "Sliver" Video Offers A Glimpse Into Cobain's World
In December 1992, DGC, the same label that put out Nevermind, released Incesticide, a collection of Nirvana’s non-album tracks. The video for "Sliver" was belatedly released to promote it in May 1993, but what’s more interesting is the glimpse it gives into Cobain’s private world.
Originally released as a single on Sub Pop Records, the song is a childhood reminiscence that showed Nirvana charting a new course into more pop-driven territory. The band members look like giddy teenagers practicing in their parent’s garage, and the location is, indeed, Cobain’s own garage. It’s a room filled with ephemera: a wind-up toy of a monkey playing the cymbals, a can of Prairie Belt sausages, a copy of Better Homes and Gardens with the words "Indie punx still sucks" scrawled on the mailing label. It’s no surprise to see a poster of Mudhoney on the wall — but Mikhail Gorbachev as well? As a bonus, Cobain’s daughter Frances Bean Cobain pops up repeatedly throughout the proceedings.
Nirvana Go Bigger, And Acoustic, At The Roseland Ballroom
Nirvana was a last-minute addition to the roster of acts performing during the New Music Seminar, a summer convention for music industry professionals in New York City. The July 23 performance served as a dry run for Nirvana’s Unplugged performance later in the year.
The band also experimented with filling out their sound by adding a second guitarist (John Duncan as a temporary fill in). They performed most of the songs from In Utero, sounding a good deal tougher live than on record. Then, to the audience’s surprise, the band sat down and brought on cellist Lori Goldston for a short acoustic set. The set is initially hampered by a poor sound mix (Novoselic can be heard calling out "More cello!") and disinterest on the part of some loudly talking audience members.
Listening now, it’s an impressive moment, as the band works to make their performance more than simply a standard run through of the hits. As Everett True wrote in his review of the show for Melody Maker, "Cobain is, in his way, a master manipulator, a brilliant strategist who understands that noise alone is not drama and that good hooks always draw blood."
Nirvana Raised Money For The Mia Zapata Investigative Fund
Theater in Seattle raised money to help solve the murder of Gits’ singer Mia Zapata, who had been killed the previous month, with TAD headlining. Nirvana was added to the bill to boost sales.
While the crowds turned up, according to guitar tech Earnie Bailey, they nearly missed out. The show was running overtime, meaning a full changeover of gear between TAD’s and Nirvana’s sets would mean Nirvana could only play one or two songs. Instead, the TAD crew allowed Nirvana to use their gear, and Nirvana went on to have great fun with their set, throwing in covers of Led Zeppelin’s "No Quarter," and, more unexpectedly Terry Jacks’ weeper "Seasons in the Sun."
The show has never been released in any form, so there was great excitement when a 20-minute excerpt appeared on YouTube this past August. It was Nirvana’s last show as a trio.
Cobain & Co. Release Their Third Album, In Utero
Nirvana’s long-awaited third album was first released in the U.S. on vinyl on Sept. 14; the CD version, the dominant audio format at the time, followed on Sept. 21, and debuted on Billboard’s Top Albums chart at No. 1.
In Utero stands as Cobain’s most personal work, his response to the turbulent events of 1992: the sudden rush of fame, substance abuse, parenthood, and the demonization of his wife. In contrast to the commercial sheen of Nevermind, In Utero has a harsh, confrontational sound; songs like "Scentless Apprentice," and "tourette’s" are frightening in their intensity. And even if you don’t take lines like "What is wrong with me?" ("Radio Friendly Unit Shifter") and "Look on the bright side is suicide" ("Milk It") as foreshadowing, they’re nonetheless indicative of the pervasive sense of unease that permeates the record.
From the opening salvo of "Serve the Servants" that caustically rejects fame ("Teenage angst has paid off well/Now I’m bored and old") to the plea for transcendence in the closing "All Apologies," In Utero is an album of emotional pain that rivals John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. A 30th anniversary release of In Utero is set for October 2023.
"Heart-Shaped Box" Single And Video Are Released
Released in September, "Heart-Shaped Box" shares the same sonic dynamics as "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (quiet verse, loud chorus), but is tempered by an underlying melancholy, along with striking imagery ("meat-eating orchids," "umbilical noose"). The song’s video was equally compelling — and spooky. The main set is a creepy forest where fetuses dangle from the trees and an elderly man in a Santa Claus hat climbs on a cross to be crucified.
In the director’s cut of the video, the last verse shows Cobain lying asleep in a field as mist slowly rises around him, an image that became even more haunting to look at after his death (in the initial cut, Cobain is shown singing the final verse). The hospital sequences echo the album’s themes of illness and decay. Cobain later told MTV, "That video has come closer to what I’ve seen in my mind, what I’ve envisioned, than any other video."
Nirvana Appear On "Saturday Night Live"
This was the first opportunity for most fans to see how In Utero’s songs translated to live performance. First up is "Heart-Shaped Box," more powerful than on record, Cobain’s vocals transitioning easily between the subdued verses and the raging chorus.
"Rape Me" debuted on the 1991 tour; Cobain subsequently added a bridge attacking media hypocrisy, and this performance burns with righteous fury. The show also marked the debut of Pat Smear, formerly guitarist with L.A. punk act the Germs, to the lineup, sharing guitar duties with Cobain. He’s certainly the most animated band member, bouncing around the stage with high-spirited energy. And don’t overlook how forcefully Grohl attacks his drum kit.
Nirvana Do A Masterful Performance On MTV’s "Unplugged"
The idea of an incendiary band like Nirvana doing an "unplugged," sans their raging volume, seemed an oxymoron. Even the group seemed uncertain how to handle the task. The show’s producer, Alex Coletti, later recalled how MTV execs were unhappy that the band didn’t want to perform their signature hits, and that their choice of musical guest was not a similar headliner like Eddie Vedder, but a lesser-known indie act, the Meat Puppets. Before the taping on Nov. 18, the band hadn’t even done a complete run through of the set.
It was a situation ripe for disaster. Instead, Nirvana pulled off what’s considered one of their most masterful performances. The band chose their more acoustically-driven numbers ("About a Girl") and songs that worked in a stripped down format ("Come As You Are"), though they weren’t entirely unplugged; Cobain’s guitar was put through a Fender Twin Reverb amp and effects boxes.
The covers proved to be the most interesting choices — David Bowie’s "The Man Who Sold the World" was mesmerizing — and the Meat Puppets’ numbers underscored Nirvana’s own idiosyncratic indie roots. "I thought the Meat Puppets’ inclusion was especially magical," says Lori Goldston, cellist during Nirvana’s fall tour. "Curt [Kirkwood, Meat Puppets’ guitarist] was used to being the lead, not an accompanist, and afterwards he mentioned that it felt luxurious to play guitar without having to worry about doubling as a vocalist," a hint at how collaborations with other artists might have gone.
The band finished up with an extraordinary performance of Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter’s "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" that left the audience stunned.
Nirvana Close Out 1993 With MTV’s Live and Loud
Pearl Jam’s loss was Nirvana’s gain. After Eddie Vedder declined to appear at MTV’s New Year’s Eve gig (which was actually taped on December 13), Pearl Jam was cut from the lineup and Nirvana’s set was extended (other acts included Cypress Hill and the Breeders).
The band had been on the road for two months now, and were firing on all pistons; the relentless "Radio Friendly Unit Shifter" proved to be a powerhouse opening number and there was a scorching performance of "Scentless Apprentice." One moment not seen in the original broadcast (the entire show’s since been released on DVD) was when an audience member shrieked out "MTV sucks!" In response, Cobain smiled and quite sensibly asked, "Then why are you here?" But he perhaps revealed his own feelings about the network when, during the closing jam/end-of-show destruction, he looks straight into the camera and spits onto the lens.
The final destruction sequence was particularly intricate on this night, starting out simply enough with Novoselic strumming his bass, then rising and falling in volume over the course of ten minutes, climaxing with Cobain swinging his guitar and decapitating one of the stage props. It brought Nirvana’s year to a suitably explosive close.
Photo: Munachi Osegbu
Michaël Brun Talks New EP 'Fami Summer,' SummerStage Blowout: "It Feels Like A Little World That We Created"
Michaël Brun just released three sun-scorched new tracks and performed a guest-stuffed blowout at NYC's SummerStage. In this interview, he discusses his connections to Haiti and its diaspora, and goes deep on his collaborators on 'Fami Summer.'
Michaël Brun's new EP has almost three times as many guests as it does tracks. And he's keen on you knowing about them.
The first tune on Fami Summer, which arrived July 21, features SAINt JHN, Charly Black and J Perry, with an uncredited J Balvin verse. "Shut Up & Dance" is augmented by King Promise, Kes and Anthony Ramos. The third and final cut, "Closer," enlists Stalk Ashley and Kojey Radical.
But it's not guests for the sake of guests: the Haitian DJ and producer does everything with keen intentionality. "Everybody has a perspective," Brun tells GRAMMY.com. "The chance, the opportunity, to bring my culture and all these amazing artists from Haiti and around the world in one space was something that I've always wanted to do."
He's referring to his volcanic SummerStage performance in New York's Central Park, a day after Fami Summer's release. But it applies to that EP, and his artistic presence writ large.
Brun was brought up in Haiti, where he was exposed to a multiplicity of sounds and styles; as the years rolled on, he acutely perceived the Caribbean's ripple effects, between its various islands and around the world. Accordingly, "I felt like the EP could really encapsulate all the different things that made me who I am as an artist today," he says.
Read on for an in-depth interview with Brun about his globe-spanning Summerstage performance, his impressive roster of guests on Fami Summer and the complicated and evolving role of Haiti in the global music landscape.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Tell me about your recent Summerstage performance. How did it feel up there?
That was, like, a personal achievement. I've been dreaming about a show like that most of my life. I got to bring out so many iconic artists from Haiti. We had, like, 5,000 people out there.
Tell me about those artists you brought onstage.
I had a really, really big group of artists that joined. For the opening, there was DJ KOLO, a great DJ from Haiti. Right now, he has his own scene that he's been working on in the north. He has a lot of house music influences, Afrotech influences.
And then, Paul Beaubrun, who's a really good friend — one of the original people I started with, like seven years ago. He has an incredible band.
So, they performed, and then during my set, the idea behind this show is: I DJ and MC, but then bring out all these different surprise guests throughout the night. Each of the surprise guests is really meaningful to me in different ways, and some of them are from Haiti.
One example is Naika. There was another artist called Anie Alerte. One more is J Perry, who [worked with me on] my new song, "Jessica," on my EP.
So, those are some of the Haitian artists, but then I also had Saint Levant, who worked on my recent song, "Sak Pase." And Joeboy from Nigeria. Anthony Ramos. So, there's a really interesting mix of all kinds of artists from around the world that I've collaborated with.
For the people who came to the show, they were just hearing the set, and there were surprises every five minutes, which is pretty nuts.
I love Joeboy. I've known him for a few years through Mr Eazi, because I worked really closely with Mr Eazi for a while; now, he's become a really close friend.
[Joeboy and I] actually have a new song that's going to come out soon, called "Game Over." We premiered it at the show, and actually shot the music video the day before. So, he came from Nigeria, and that was one of the really big surprises I'm happy we got to make.
You released three singles earlier in 2023; now, you're back with new music. Tell me about your creative path to this new EP, Fami Summer.
This year's releases are my first releases with a major. My entire career, I've been indie. I just always felt like I didn't want to do any kind of label partnership until I found partners that really believed in the vision that I had.
As an artist, I've always wanted to make music that builds bridges around the world. So, I felt like with the first three releases, we really focused in on specific areas around the world.
So, "Clueless" was Nigeria, with Oxlade. "Charge It" really felt that confluence. That was with Bayka, who's actually from Kingston; Masego has Jamaican heritage; every time I ever linked with Jozzy, she always talked about how much she loved the dancehall. Then, "Sak Pase" with Saint Levant and Lolo [Zouaï] was very Arabic influenced.
With the EP … I really wanted to bring together my personal heritage as much as possible, which is a mixed Caribbean heritage. There's as much Haitian influence as there is Guyanese influence as there is Jamaican as there is West African, by way of the UK and Europe.
I think because I grew up in Haiti, I was exposed to so many different styles — so many different languages and sounds. So, I felt like the EP could really encapsulate all the different things that made me who I am as an artist today.
Musically, where do all these strains of influence connect for you?
I feel like around Haiti in particular, there's such an interesting history of multiple countries having links to that part of the world.
So, whether it's European presence, whether it's the incredible West African presence that still exists today … if you even look at the different languages that are spoken throughout the Caribbean, whether it's English or Creole or French mixed with our local languages … In Haiti, we have Creole; but then in Jamaica, there's patois.
All those things are kind of related. If you didn't really know that, you might see them as disparate parts of the world. But really, I think the Caribbean is just as Latin as it is African as it is European as it is local and native. I feel like that diversity of sound is what makes the Caribbean what it is — about diversity of culture.
I grew up traveling to Guyana, and I grew up in Haiti. Sometimes, I would come to the States, and I had a chance to go to Europe and West Africa. All of these different influences, I think, made me appreciate different sounds.
That's how I approached every single song: I wanted this to be the truest version of myself, to the music and the collaborators as well.
Can we do a lightning round where you talk about the special guests on the EP, starting with Anthony Ramos?
Anthony, I linked with a couple of years ago now, and we've been working on music and became such good friends. He's one of the most talented people I've ever met. I think most people know him as an actor, but he's also an amazing dancer and singer. He can rap; he can write. It inspires me a lot.
Charly Black is such a legend. Like, "Gyal You a Party Animal" is one of the biggest Jamaican hits, I think, in the last decade. And that's one of the songs that truly crosses over, because it's something you can hear at any bar, anywhere in the world.
When I went to Kingston earlier this year and had a chance to work with him — especially on the song "Jessica," to get his voice and perspective — that was so cool.
J Perry is actually my cousin; we grew up making music together. He also happens to be, in my opinion, the best hook maker in the world. So undeniable, so catchy, and I think every time we've ever worked together, there's been only great stuff that's come from it.
Kes is from Trinidad, and he has really been my doorway into soca culture and Trinidadian culture. He also has become such a great friend. I feel like the way that he approaches his craft is very similar to my own. It's been so cool with that cultural exchange; we talk a lot about history, actually.
King Promise is, in my opinion, one of the rising stars of Ghana. His hook on "Shut Up & Dance" was so infectious. I remember I sent him that beat a few years ago, and he came back within, like, five minutes. We actually met finally properly in person on Saturday, at my show. He's such a cool guy and really embraced being part of this project.
We linked up last year for the first time, and I was a huge fan of his project. I felt like his artistry, aesthetic and vision are so unique. He's really, really versatile. His voice is really powerful. I'm grateful to see an artist always open-minded to try new things, but also very much themselves the whole way through.
My guy and my brother. We linked up five or six years ago. I feel like he played me his first collection way, way back through a mutual friend. To see his career rise and everything that he's done has been so cool.
Finally, we have Stalk Ashley.
I actually also met her on my Kingston trip earlier this year, and she is so amazing. Such a sweet person — super, super talented. We actually worked on that song together, maybe the second day that I was in Jamaica, and it just came so naturally. She's really inspiring, and I'm a fan of her music.
From there, can you talk about the role J Balvin plays in the EP, and in your musical world at large?
We've worked on so many projects over the years. We first linked up for the World Cup in 2018, and had a song called "Positivo," and then worked on his  album Positivo.
We won a Latin GRAMMY from that, and have also been working on a lot of other projects throughout the years and become really, really close friends. He's been an amazing mentor, and also a great collaborator, and I've learned so much through him.
He also introduced me to so many amazing people, like Ed Sheeran. I think with the song "Jessica," it's our first true collaboration for my project. It couldn't have been a more perfect time, because it was right in the center of where our tastes align.
We've been working for years and years, and I feel like we're going to keep working, as well, in the future. To hear him sing in Creole on our song is really, really exciting. I'm grateful to him for opening his world to my songs and my audience, and I feel like we've influenced each other quite a bit.
Before we go, I'd love to hear your thoughts on this: as borders continue to evaporate in the music industry, where does Haiti fit into this puzzle?
I think Haiti's impact in music and culture has been around, like, low-key.
So, even if we go to the most obvious Haitian success story, which, in my opinion, is Wyclef and the Fugees, I think their impact is maybe a little bit understated still today — because The Score is still [one of the top] selling rap albums in history.
To have a Haitian voice have such a huge impact, and then be such a prolific producer, bringing a Haitian flag on TV on the biggest award shows like the GRAMMYs and all kinds of really incredible places — I think that paved the way for future success stories.
I think the Haitian success stories have been there, but they're not, I think, going to start becoming way more forward facing, as opposed to being more in the background, just because the world's starting to be more open to different languages and new sounds.
I feel like my place in all this is: I feel like a bridge between the diaspora and Haiti. I feel like I'm super connected to both sides of my heritage. I've worked so hard to create a space that feels very welcoming, that feels like a way for people to reconnect with their culture.
Photo: Rich Fury/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
9 Times Queer Artists Made History At The GRAMMYs: From Elton John's Collab With BSB To Kim & Sam's "Unholy" Union
In celebration of Pride Month, GRAMMY.com has collected nine of the most meaningful and thrilling performances by queer artists from the ceremony’s history, which helped uplift the global LGBTIQA+ community.
The 60-plus years of the GRAMMY Awards encompasses some of the most awe-inspiring and breathtaking moments in music history — and it should be noted that queer performers have produced some of the most dazzling highlights. From Elton John’s 1999 GRAMMY Legend Award to Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ 2023 performance of "Unholy," there is no shortage of iconic queer moments in GRAMMY history.
But more than merely honoring and showcasing queer artists, the ceremony is also the only major award to have moved beyond the outdated gender binary in its categories, an important step in ensuring that every artist feels welcomed. And as queer stars continue to deliver stunning performances in addition to award wins on Music's Biggest Night, young artists have meaningful representation and inspiration.
In celebration of Pride Month, GRAMMY.com has collected nine of the most meaningful and thrilling performances by queer artists from the ceremony’s history. These moments commemorate some of the most impressive artists of the last few decades and helped uplift members of the LGBTIQA+ community around the world.
Elton John & The Backstreet Boys - "Philadelphia Freedom" (2000)
When one LGBTIQA+ icon writes a song that honors another queer trailblazer, it’s bound to make for a special moment on stage.
Performed at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards — the same night the Rocket Man was honored as MusiCares Person Of The Year, and a year after taking home the Legend Award — Elton John performed the bright and swinging "Philadelphia Freedom." With backing from the Backstreet Boys, the performance filled the room with sunshine.
The song was inspired by John’s close friend, tennis icon Billie Jean King. His piano flanked by the five Boys, John delivers a rollicking take on the number one hit, the mythic megastar in top form from every swaggery vocal growl to each thumping piano chord.
Melissa Etheridge & Joss Stone - "Piece Of My Heart" (2005)
Melissa Etheridge has always been an incredibly vulnerable artist, but when she walked onto the stage during the 47th GRAMMY Awards, her head bald due to chemotherapy treatment for breast cancer, her legend of raw strength reached a new level.
A loving grin plastered on her face and chopping out an explosive guitar riff, Etheridge didn’t waste a second, joining soul pop star Joss Stone for a tribute to queer icon Janis Joplin. Every syllable of "Piece of My Heart" coming out of Etheridge’s mouth shines sharply like a rough-cut gem, but her explosive howl as the song comes to its climax is the stuff of legend.
The fact that Etheridge made it through her cancer treatment and can still rock stages to this day is only further testament to just how powerful this moment of defiance turned out to be.
Lady Gaga - "Born This Way" (2011)
While the conversation surrounding Lady Gaga’s early ‘10s award ceremony run will always center on her extravagant and boundary-pushing attire and stagecraft, she made sure to put her queer advocacy at full volume during her take on "Born This Way."
Sure, she entered the 53rd GRAMMY Awards in an egg and took time in her performance to play a snippet of Bach made famous in "The Phantom of the Opera" on a keyboard topped with mannequin heads. But in the very next moment, she ensured that the whole track slowed to a righteous halt to deliver a core message: "No matter gay, straight or bi/lesbian, transgender life/ I’m on the right track/ I was born to survive."
The white latex and space egg are important, but Lady Gaga wants to make sure you understand that the art is all in support of a message of inclusion, that stripped down to our strangest basics we’re all human.
Frank Ocean - "Forrest Gump" (2013)
Frank Ocean has proven to be one of the most mercurial stars in R&B, releasing just two studio albums since 2011 despite some of the most rabid anticipation in the music world. His changed plans, canceled performances, and vague updates only fuel that fire — but it’s performances like "Forrest Gump" that encapsulate that whole fandom experience.
The 55th Grammy Awards were a big night for Ocean, with six nominations and two golden gramophones coming his way, but his tender, raw love song was perhaps the most memorable of a night full of impressive tributes and star power. Homosexual love songs don’t get televised too often, and that’s what "Forrest Gump" is: pure, unabashed and straightforward; a young, mesmerizing vocalist and songwriter laid bare, playing a keyboard and backed by a video screen. There’s nothing to distract from his voice and his words: "You run my mind, boy/ Running on my mind, boy/ Forrest Gump."
Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, Mary Lambert, Madonna & Queen Latifah - "Same Love/Open Your Heart" (2014)
There may not be a bigger performance of queer love in awards history than Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ elaborate staging of "Same Love" from the 56th GRAMMYs. Their performance of the anthem included lesbian vocalist Mary Lambert and queer icon Madonna — oh, and Queen Latifah literally overseeing marriage ceremonies for 33 couples of varying sexual identities and orientations, when same-sex marriage hadn’t yet been federally recognized.
Macklemore and Lewis won big at the ceremony, thanks in large part to inescapable upbeat hip-hop like "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us." But instead of getting everyone in the room with some easy fun, the duo opted for "Same Love" — a track in support of marriage equality and a protest to a tendency towards homophobia in the genre. Together, they provided a powerful statement of acceptance and love that surely opened eyes for audiences around the world.
Kesha, Camilla Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Julia Michaels, Andra Day, and Bebe Rexha - "Praying" (2018)
The whole world was changing for Kesha on the runup to the 60th GRAMMY Awards. After years of struggle against her alleged abuser and an attempt to fully reclaim her career and life, she had not only taken powerful steps in that direction — she was doing so on Music's Biggest Night.
Her new album, Rainbow, had netted two nominations, and she was asked to perform. She opted for "Praying" (co-written by Ryan Lewis), a paean to the power of change and hope, even in the darkest hours. Surrounded by a cadre of powerful women and clad in white and embroidery of blooming flowers, Kesha’s performance shows a moment of new life and transformation, an inspirational moment that continues to grow with promise of even more new music.
Janelle Monáe - "Make Me Feel" (2019)
Janelle Monáe’s performance at the 61st GRAMMY Awards felt like a celebration of her quest to share her truest self. During a performance of the sensual, stylized, sci-fi epic take on "Make Me Feel," Monáe incorporated snippets of other Dirty Computer highlights into the breakdown — including the line "let the vagina have a monologue" from "Pynk" (probably the first time that request had been made on the GRAMMYs stage).
Her black-and-white clad synchronized backup dancers gave shades of Robert Palmer, but Prince (another Black icon comfortable in gender-fluidity) was the true touchstone. But that’s in no way to say that Monáe is anything but an unparalleled icon of her own, whether on the guitar, in her dance steps, or on the mic.
Lil Nas X - "Dead Right Now"/"Montero (Call Me By Your Name)"/"Industry Baby" (2022)
After years of controversy and criticism (notably from talking heads and members of the public who had or would not listen to his music), Lil Nas X’s performance at the 65th GRAMMY Awards had a real sense of catharsis.
Not that the Georgia-born rapper necessarily needed it — he’s proven plenty capable of pushing back and insisting on his identity on the daily, in social media and interviews. Still, the wide range of styles (both musical and visual) and performance versatility on display that evening felt special. His interstellar take on "Dead Right Now" proved he was capable of rising above all the noise; the hip-swiveling dazzle of "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" showed he was unafraid to show his sensual side; and the stomp-along "Industry Baby" (complete with an appearance from Jack Harlow) demonstrated that Lil Nas X is just flat-out one of the most exciting vocal talents in hip-hop.
Kim Petras and Sam Smith - "Unholy" (2023)
Trans representation on the GRAMMYs stage took a big step forward at the most recent ceremony, thanks to Kim Petras. Not only did the German-born pop star become the first openly trans woman to win a GRAMMY Award, but her blistering performance of "Unholy" with Sam Smith likely ignited more than a little bit of inspiration, intensity, and passion in the viewing audience.
Cast in a red glow, the duo embraced the fires of lust, Petras playing the fiery cage dancer to Smith’s devilish ringmaster. Every second of the performance dripped with sweat and sex, refusing to bow to any expectation or censure, Petras humping a corner of the cage as Smith gyrated around a cane. The smoking hot fever dream more than earned the FCC complaints and the zealous fans who went on to devour more of Smith and Petras’ music.