meta-scriptJAY-Z & Beyoncé, Taylor Swift & Joe Alwyn: 9 Couples Who Have Been Nominated For GRAMMYs — And One Notable Set Of Exes | GRAMMY.com
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Beyoncé & JAY-Z

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JAY-Z & Beyoncé, Taylor Swift & Joe Alwyn: 9 Couples Who Have Been Nominated For GRAMMYs — And One Notable Set Of Exes

Some of music's biggest power couples have made sweet music together — and subsequently, earned GRAMMY nominations. As Taylor Swift & Joe Alwyn and Maren Morris & Ryan Hurd celebrate 2022 nominations, take a look at eight other GRAMMY-worthy pairings.

GRAMMYs/Mar 17, 2022 - 10:48 pm

From modern-day country music fairy tales to bona fide pop dynasties, several sets of lovebirds have earned GRAMMY nods — and even trophies — together.

While many have proven to be superstars in their own right, their GRAMMY prowess has been amplified by coming together with a musical partner. JAY-Z and Beyoncé are perhaps the prime example of that, putting the "power" in "power couple": As JAY-Z adds three more nominations in 2022, they're officially the most-nominated couple in GRAMMY history with 162 combined nods.

Though Bey and Jay aren't nominated together this year, there are a handful of couples who are, including Taylor Swift and her actor beau, Joe Alwyn. The pair collaborated on Swift's evermore, which is up for Album Of The Year — an award they won together for folklore last year.

There's even one 2022 GRAMMY nominee who famously found musical success while romantically linked: ABBA. Though their romantic relationships didn't work out, the '70s group earned their first-ever GRAMMY nomination for a project they released after a four-decade break.

Below, get to know some of the couples who have won or been nominated for GRAMMYs.

JAY-Z & Beyoncé

JAY-Z and Beyoncé's love story is one for the musical history books. From being "Crazy in Love" to confronting cheating rumors in their respective projects 4:44 and Lemonade, the music monoliths have been through just about every up and down of love (and fame) since they were first linked in 2001.

Even despite their public struggles, the couple have kept plenty of their life together private. Through it all, they've braided their personal love story with their art.

Their musical pairing started when JAY-Z recruited Beyoncé for his 2002 single "'03 Bonnie & Clyde." But their status as one of music's most powerful couples came with Beyoncé's 2003 smash "Crazy In Love," a duet with JAY-Z that won the duo their first GRAMMYs together (for Best R&B Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration).

They've since gone on to earn 13 total nominations together, winning five. Their hit collab "Drunk In Love" won Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance in 2015, and their collaborative album, Everything is Love (which they released as The Carters), won Best Urban Contemporary Album in 2019.

Separately, Beyoncé and Jay-Z hold two GRAMMY records. Beyoncé has won more GRAMMYs than any other female artist, bringing home 28 in total. JAY-Z has 83 total nominations — including three this year — making him the most-nominated artist of all time. (He has won 23.)

Johnny Cash & June Carter

Arguably the greatest country music love story of all time, Johnny Cash and June Carter's romance began backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in 1956. At the time, Carter — who was born into the legendary Carter family, and had been performing since the age of 10 — was singing backup for Elvis Presley.

Songs like "I Walk the Line" and "Ring of Fire," both of which have since been inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame, immortalize their fiery early attraction and enduring devotion to each other. Still, it took some time (and several proposals) for Carter to agree to marry Cash. They were married for 35 years, up until Carter's death in 2003, and during that time, Carter helped Cash overcome his chronic struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. They were parents to one son, John Carter Cash.

They were also an iconic musical duo. Cash, who has received 13 GRAMMY trophies and 35 nominations, won his very first GRAMMY Award in 1968 thanks to "Jackson," one of his most well-known collaborations with Carter. The duo were nominated for four GRAMMYs together, sharing one more win in 1971 for their hit "If I Were A Carpenter," which took home Best Country Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group.

Carter also won three GRAMMYs for her own music, winning Best Traditional Folk Album for her solo albums Press On and Wildwood Flower — the latter of which also earned her a Best Female Country Vocal Performance gramophone for "Keep On The Sunny Side."

Taylor Swift & Joe Alwyn

Taylor Swift and her "London Boy," actor Joe Alwyn, may keep much of their relationship away from the spotlight. But in the last couple of years, they've teamed up in the studio — and have seen GRAMMY-winning results.

Alwyn served as a co-producer on Swift's folklore, which won Album of the Year at the 2021 GRAMMYs. Like much of their life together, Alwyn's participation in folklore was a bit shrouded in mystery. But Alwyn's contributions were revealed in Swift's film about the album, Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions, as the singer confirmed that William Bowery — a co-writer on two of the tracks — was actually a pseudonym for Alwyn. Alwyn also co-produced six songs on the project, Swift revealed when his producer credit became public.

The actor returned for folklore's sister record, evermore, co-writing three songs (including the album's title track). The project's December 2020 release made it eligible for the 2022 GRAMMYS, where it earned Swift and Alwyn another joint Album Of The Year nod.

The couple began dating in late 2016, according to diary entries dated from early January 2017 that Swift would later release as part of the album notes to her Lover album. They've remained fiercely private, though they are occasionally spotted together at events, on red carpets and in each other's social media pictures.

Cardi B & Offset

While Cardi B and Offset's path to wedded bliss has been anything but smooth — the couple has surmounted cheating scandals, a divorce filing, public breakups and equally public reconciliation efforts — they've proven to be great partners in the studio.

The two rappers first started dating in early 2017, teaming up for "Lick" before they were even publicly a couple. Later that year, Cardi hopped on "Motorsport" with Offset and his Migos bandmates, and Offset proposed to Cardi during their first performance of the song.

Migos featured on Cardi B's GRAMMY-winning album, 2019's Invasion Of Privacy, but Offset and Cardi first celebrated a GRAMMY nomination together with "Clout," a track from his solo debut, Father of 4. Cardi has nine GRAMMY nods to date, and Offset has three nominations in total.

Tim McGraw & Faith Hill

From their first meeting at a Nashville country radio event to their recent co-starring roles on the Yellowstone prequel, 1883, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill have grown and changed throughout their 25-year marriage. But they've always remained devoted to each other.

Their story began after McGraw invited Hill to be an opening act on his tour in 1996, quickly falling in love and marrying the same year. The following year, they released "It's Your Love" — not only the first of many duets, but the first of six GRAMMY nominations they would eventually earn together.

Hill and McGraw celebrated their first GRAMMY win in 2001, when their power ballad, "Let's Make Love." They took home another gramophone five years later thanks to their hit "Like We Never Loved At All" (ironically, a breakup song).

The country stars have continued to find ways to be together: Long before they teamed up to star on the same TV show, they embarked on a series of joint tours (titled Soul2Soul) in 2000, 2006 and 2017/2018. They've also joined forces for a number of other duets, including "It's Your Love" and "The Rest of Our Life" — the title track to their 2017 joint album.

Maren Morris & Ryan Hurd

This modern-day Nashville fairy tale began when Maren Morris and Ryan Hurd were both up-and-coming songwriters who were paired together for a co-writing session in 2013. The result? A song called "Last Turn Home" that wound up on Tim McGraw's 2014 album, Sundown Heaven Town.

Morris and Hurd stayed friends for a couple of years, but in 2015, their relationship turned romantic — and like any songwriting couple, they detailed their love story in their songs. Hurd's "Love in a Bar" and "Diamonds or Twine" were inspired by Morris, while Morris' "To Hell & Back" is a love letter to Hurd.

The pair married in 2018, and welcomed their son, Hayes, in 2020. Music is still the foundation of their relationship — and it's proving to be more impactful than ever. They earned their first No. 1 country radio hit (via Mediabase) together with 2021's "Chasing After You," a song that also earned them a GRAMMY nomination for Best Country Duo/Group Performance this year.

Julia Michaels & JP Saxe

Singer/songwriters Julia Michaels and JP Saxe have a love story that's truly built on their shared passion for music. They met for the first time when they wrote "If the World Was Ending," which Saxe released in 2019 as the lead single off his Hold it Together EP.

Not only did the song bring the lovebirds together, but it helped earn the pair a GRAMMY nomination for Song Of The Year in 2021. The nom was Saxe's first and Michaels' third; Michaels has an Album Of The Year nod at the 2022 GRAMMYs thanks to her contributions on H.E.R.'s album, Back Of My Mind.

Saxe and Michaels officially confirmed their relationship in January of 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic made "If the World Was Ending" take on a whole new life. The pair even released a star-studded charity video that benefitted Doctors Without Borders.

As their romance has bloomed, both Michaels and Saxe have continued to musically influence each other. In separate 2021 interviews with People, they each revealed that their respective projects — Michaels' Not In Chronological Order and Saxe's Dangerous Levels of Introspection — were inspired by their relationship.

Rhiannon Giddens & Francesco Turrisi

Banjo player and singer/songwriter Rhiannon Giddens has been collaborating for much of her career. Perhaps best known as a founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Giddens was also a member of the roots outfit Our Native Daughters. What's more, she dueted with country star Eric Church on his 2016 single "Kill a Word."

But in 2019, her love for collaboration resulted in real love: Giddens made her 2019 album, there is no Other, with her then-relatively new partner, Italian jazz player Francesco Turrisi. The project was as complex and multifaceted as the pair's own musical backgrounds, and amalgamation of Giddens' old-time musical roots with songs like "Wayfaring Stranger" and Turrisi's European influence with songs like "Pizzica di San Vito."

The couple's second collaborative album, They're Calling Me Home, resulted in two nominations at the 2022 GRAMMYs: Best Folk Album, and Best American Roots Song for the track "Avalon."

Laura Sullivan & Eric Sullivan

While Laura and Eric Sullivan's love story might not be as high-profile as some of the other GRAMMY-nominated couples, they are prolific, classically-informed New Age musicians with a lengthy history of being partners in both music and in life.

A pianist and composer, Laura makes music that bridges genres: You can hear her compositions on TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance and 48 Hours, but her style also extends into World Music, Native American Music and classical music. Meanwhile, her husband, Eric, is her producer and talent manager.

He's also the co-owner of Sentient Spirit Records, the label behind much of Laura's work. Her new album, Pieces of Forever, is currently up for Best New Age Album at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards.

If they win, Eric and Laura will share the award, since Eric produced the project. It's the second album to take them to the GRAMMYs; Eric produced Laura's 2013 album, Love's River, which won Best New Age Album in 2014.

ABBA

Though there aren't technically any current couples in ABBA, there are a couple of exes. Upon their 1972 formation, the Swedish pop quartet consisted of one married couple — Agnetha Fältskog and Björn Ulvaeus, who'd gotten married a year prior — and another pair, Benny Andersson and Anni-Frid Lyngstad, who would eventually marry in 1978.

Neither marriage lasted: By 1981, both sets of couples had called it quits. The group dissolved the following year, and it seemed as if their musical partnership had soured as quickly as their romantic relationships.

However, after a staggering four-decade break between albums, ABBA made a triumphant return in 2021. Releasing the album Voyage in November 2021, the project both served as the band's highest-charting album and earned ABBA their first-ever GRAMMY nomination (the appropriately titled single, "I Still Have Faith In You," is up for Record Of The Year).

While the bandmates never found romantic reconciliation, they arguably found something better: The power of lasting friendship and musical camaraderie.

Nnenna And Pierce Freelon Are The First Mother & Son Nominated Individually At The Same GRAMMYs Ceremony: How They Honor A Husband & Father Through Music

LL Cool J

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Celebrate 40 Years Of Def Jam With 15 Albums That Show Its Influence & Legacy

From the Beastie Boys' seminal 'License To Ill' and Jay-Z's 'Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life,' celebrate Def Jam with 15 of the label's essential albums.

GRAMMYs/Jun 24, 2024 - 01:31 pm

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Def Jam Recordings, the New York label that made history in hip-hop, R&B, pop, and even thrash metal since its founding, and continues to do so today.

A label that began out of an NYU dorm room in 1984 quickly became an artistic (and business) powerhouse. Early acts like LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy were raw, adventurous, and risk-taking. Def Jam's roster opened new pathways in a still-young genre, seemingly every few months. 

After that initial explosion, the label experienced a brief lull in the early 1990s when one label founder departed and the other expanded into fashion and comedy. Def Jam came roaring back beginning in 1994, and by 1998 the label was home to some of the most popular and influential artists in the game — including burgeoning megastars DMX and Jay-Z. To this day, Def Jam maintains a roster of both commercially successful and critically beloved artists in hip-hop, R&B, and pop.

To commemorate the anniversary of the label that gave us, well, pretty much everyone, here’s a list of 15 of Def Jam’s essential releases. While Def Jam brought audiences plenty of singles, EPs and remixes, this list primarily focuses on albums. Each project has a mix of artistic merit, popularity, influence and longevity, originality, and played a key role in the story of Def Jam as a whole. Think of it as a chronological run through the key albums that built one of the most lasting labels in modern music. 

And finally: it must be said that in recent years, a dark shadow has begun to loom over Def Jam’s legacy. Label co-founder Russell Simmons been accused over the past seven years of numerous instances of sexual assault, dating back decades. In spite of these accusations, the label (in which Simmons hasn’t been involved for a quarter-century) remains on top, safeguarding its valuable archive while looking forward to another four decade run as fruitful as the first one.

T La Rock & Jazzy Jay - "It’s Yours" (1984)

The one single on this list is also the first piece of music ever released with the now-famous Def Jam logo. "It’s Yours" was a single produced by Def Jam co-founder Rick Rubin — his very first hip-hop production. Instrumentally, it was perhaps only comparable to Larry Smith and Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmons’ contemporaneous work with Run-D.M.C. Both "It’s Yours" and D.M.C.’s early work were severely stripped-down, consisting of a few drum sounds, an instrumental stab, and some scratches. 

Lyrically, though, "It’s Yours" is worlds apart from "Sucker M.C.’s" — or pretty much anything else going on in hip-hop at the time. T La Rock, the brother of Treacherous Three member Special K, came from a family of educators, and he put every ounce of his erudition into the track. It begins, "Commentating, illustrating/ Description giving, adjective expert" and goes from there.

LL Cool J - 'Radio' (1985)

In the early 1980s, the state of the hip-hop album was very grim. Only a few existed, and they almost exclusively consisted of a few singles mixed with often-confusing filler. Two things changed that. First, Run-D.M.C.’s 1984 self-titled debut, which GRAMMY.com examined in depth a few months ago. Second was LL Cool J’s debut album Radio, the very first full-length album Def Jam ever released.

In many ways, Radio kicked off hip-hop’s Golden Age. The record shows LL, then still in his teens, as a versatile artist who can be boastful, funny, aggressive, lyrical. The album shows many different sides of his personality, and helped set the template for what a rap album could be.

Read more: 20 Iconic Hip-Hop Style Moments: From Run-D.M.C. To Runways

Beastie Boys - 'Licensed to Ill' (1986)

The Beasties would release more complex and enlightened albums than Licensed to Ill, and one of the members would eventually apologize for some of its lyrics. But there’s no denying that it was a smash hit. It was the first rap album to ever top the Billboard 200, got the group onstage with Madonna, and would eventually sell over 10 million copies

Was some of that success due to their race? Sure. They were a credible group, signed to a hot rap label, at a time when it was still novel for white people to be performers in hip-hop. And yet, that’s not the whole story.

Licensed to Ill is a catchy, unique, energetic album, and the group members show undeniable chemistry. To this day, shout-filled, guitar-heavy anthems like "No Sleep till Brooklyn" and the ubiquitous "Fight for Your Right" can still get the party started.

Read more: The Beastie Boys Provide A License To Party

Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back' (1988)

There’s not too much you can say about this album that hasn’t already been said in the years of books, conferences, academic papers, and deluxe re-issues. It has ended up at or near the top of many all-time best lists. Its abrasive, collage-like approach to composition was never equalled (and, in light of current laws and practices around sampling, can never even be approached). The comic stylings of Flavor Flav bring just the right amount of levity to balance Chuck D’s takes on life-and-death issues. 

Decades after its release, the album still sounds urgent. And sadly, in an America still roiled with tensions over race, incarceration, drugs, and the media, its concerns remain as relevant as ever.

Read more: 5 Things We Learned At "An Evening With Chuck D" At The GRAMMY Museum

Slick Rick - 'The Great Adventures of Slick Rick' (1988)

Slick Rick is the ultimate rap storyteller, and his debut album is the best example of his artistry. "I wrote them like an essay," Rick once said of creating the batch of songs that make up Great Adventures. He also compared it to doing stand-up. So you have exactly what those two reference points imply: stories that are well-constructed, and also frequently riotously funny.

Rick is the master of the telling detail (remember "Dave, the dope fiend shooting dope/ Who don’t know the meaning of water nor soap" from "Children’s Story"?), the humorous twist, the morality tale, the bedtime story, the character voice. His influence lives on in perhaps his most devoted protege, Ghostface Killah, as well as in any rapper who has tried to craft a song with a beginning, middle, and end.

Learn more: Essential Hip-Hop Releases From The 1980s: Slick Rick, RUN-D.M.C., De La Soul & More

Warren G - 'Regulate… G Funk Era'(1994)

A bit of an edge case here, as technically the record was put out by Violator Records and Rush Associated Labels, the latter of which was a sort of umbrella organization Def Jam ran in the mid-1990s. Many albums that could have made this list, including projects by Redman, Onyx, Domino, and Nice & Smooth, were released under the RAL banner. But Warren G’s debut, a giant hit in an era where Def Jam really needed it, became inextricably associated with the label, to the point where an article about the album on Universal Music’s website mentions Def Jam five times in the first two paragraphs.

Regulate is a pop-savvy take on the G-funk sound that was then ascendant. It was a huge success in a year that saw the introduction of tons of amazing rappers into the game. And Warren G being associated with Def Jam meant that the East Coast-centric label had expanded its geographic footprint. 

Read more: Warren G Revisits 'Regulate: The G-Funk Era': How The 1994 Album Paved The Way For West Coast Hip-Hop's Dominance

Foxy Brown - 'Ill Na Na' (1996)

Def Jam wasn’t always a friendly place for female artists (despite many of the most important employees being women, including one-time president Nana Ashhurst). In fact, the label didn’t release a rap album by a woman until Nikki D’s Daddy’s Little Girl in 1991. So Foxy Brown’s impact — on Def Jam and on the rap world as a whole — cannot be overstated. Ill Na Na was an album that changed everything for female rappers. It had songs for the clubs, the block, and the radio. Foxy’s sexuality, versatility, and first-class rhyming would have an influence on countless rappers, most famously her number one fan Nicki Minaj, who has been effusively praising Foxy for more than a decade.

Read more: Ladies First: 10 Essential Albums By Female Rappers

DMX - 'It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot' (1998)

No less an authority than Nas referred to 1998 as "The year DMX took over the world." It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot is how he did it. The album set fire to Bad Boy’s so-called "shiny suit era" by embodying its polar opposite: a dark, grimy vision full of gothic synths; raspy, full-throated lyrics; and, sometimes, actual barks. Without DMX, there’s no NYC street rap return: no G-Unit mixtape run, no Diplomats.

The record is consistent and captivating from start to finish, and its thematic centerpiece comes, appropriately, about halfway through with "Damien," which reminds all of us that the most difficult battles we fight are the ones with ourselves.

Jay-Z - 'Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life' (1998)

Jay-Z has made more critically beloved albums than Vol. 2 (Reasonable Doubt and The Blueprint both fall in that category). He has made albums with bigger hits (The Blueprint 3 had a No. 1 hit with "Empire State of Mind"). But he has never made a more important LP.

Vol. 2 was the album that made Jay a superstar. Its Annie-sampling title track (produced by the late 45 King) sent him to the stratosphere — a process he actually documented on his follow-up album. But the record wasn’t just a commercial novelty. It showed Jay at the absolute top of his game: cocky, funny, and brilliant. Case in point: his novel approach to storytelling in "Coming of Age (Da Sequel)," where all the important action takes place in just a few seconds, inside the characters’ heads.

Read more: Songbook: How Jay-Z Created The 'Blueprint' For Rap's Greatest Of All Time

Ludacris - 'Word of Mouf' (2001)

Around the turn of the millennium, Def Jam had its sights set on conquering new territory. Specifically, the South. So they set up Def Jam South and hired Scarface to head it up. The entity’s biggest success came from an Atlanta DJ who went by Chris Luva Luva on the air, but began rapping as Ludacris.

Word of Mouf was Luda’s second album, but it was the one that really cemented his stardom with songs like "Rollout (My Business)," "Area Codes," and the immortal "Move Bitch" (the last of which has had an artist-approved second life as a protest chant). The album proved that the South was here to stay, and that Def Jam would have a role in determining its hip-hop future.

Learn more: A Guide To Southern Hip-Hop: Definitive Releases, Artists & Subgenres From The Dirty South

Scarface - 'The Fix' (2002)

Speaking of Scarface and Def Jam South, Face had no intention of dropping music while running the label. But, in his telling, Def Jam exec Lyor Cohen insisted on it, paying handsomely for the privilege.

"There were so many things working in my favor on that album," Scarface wrote in his memoir Diary of a Madman. "For the first time, I was working on an album for a label that believed in me 100 percent and didn’t want anything from me except for me to make the dopest album I could possibly make. And they went out of their way to make that possible."

Def Jam’s history of putting out classics inspired Face on The Fix, he writes in that book. And in the end, the album stands up there with any of them. It is one of only a small handful of rap records to earn a perfect five-mic rating from The Source, and it belongs in that rarified air with projects like Illmatic and Aquemini

Kanye West - 'The College Dropout' (2004)

Yes, today Kanye West is the worst: a Hitler-loving, Trump-supporting, paranoid, antichoice, antisemite who stands accused of sexual harrassment. But two decades ago, the world met a Mr. West who at least seemed very different. 

The College Dropout presented an artist who was already extremely well-known as a beatmaker. But Kanye’s carefully crafted persona as the bridge between mainstream rap and the underground — "First n— with a Benz and a backpack," as he put it — meant that he appealed to pretty much everyone. The College Dropout wasn't West at the top of his rap game, but it did show his skill at developing song concepts, at beats, and at creating an artistic vision so powerful, and so relatable, that it captivated an entire generation.

Cam’ron - 'Purple Haze' (2004)

It’s impossible to talk about Def Jam without discussing Roc-A-Fella. Jay-Z’s label hooked up with Def Jam in 1997, and had a years-long hot streak with artists like Kanye, Beanie Sigel, Freeway, the Young Gunz, and of course Cam’ron’s Diplomats crew — Cam, Juelz Santana, and the overall group all released projects there.

Purple Haze came at the very tail end of Roc-a-fella’s golden age. It has Cam at the absolute peak of his absurdist rhyming powers, keeping computers ‘puting and knocking out eight-syllable multis about Paris Hilton like it was nothing. During the Purple Haze era, it was Cam’s world, and we were all just lucky to be living in it.

Rihanna - 'Good Girl Gone Bad' (2007)

Rihanna’s first two projects were full of Caribbean sounds and ballads. But when her third album came along, she needed a change. Riri wanted to go "uptempo," and history shows that was the right choice. Good Girl Gone Bad began the singer’s transformation into the megastar we know today. It spawned five singles and two separate quickie tie-in albums (Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded and Good Girl Gone Bad: The Remixes).

"Umbrella" was the way forward. Rihanna had a No. 1 record prior, but she’d never made a sensation like this. The song (with a guest verse by then-Def Jam president Jay-Z) not only made it to the top slot, it also won a GRAMMY and was undeniably the song of the summer. The album also contained the sensation "Don’t Stop the Music," a track that kickstarted the EDM/pop hybrid that dominated the late aughts. Without Good Girl Gone Bad, it’s safe to say we’d be living in a very different, Fenty-less world.

Read more: Songbook: The Ultimate Guide To Rihanna's Reign, From Her Record-Breaking Hits To Unforgettable Collabs

Frank Ocean - 'Channel Orange' (2012)

One could fill a whole blurb about Channel Orange simply by quoting the extreme praise it received. "A singular achievement in popular culture." "Landed with the crash and curiousness of a meteor." Two days after its release, Pitchfork was already saying that it "feels like a classic."

And yet, somehow even that kind of acclaim doesn’t do the album justice. You really had to be there when it came out, when Frank looked into his soul and, in doing so, connected deeply with so many listeners

Read more: Frank Ocean Essentials: 10 Songs That Embody The Elusive Icon's R&B Genius

"Channel Orange is the most concentrated version of 2012 in 2012 so far," wrote Sasha Frere-Jones at the time, in one of the most dead-on statements about the album. It expressed the contradictions we all lived in. Its fragmentation mirrored the social media that was beginning to take over all of our lives. Ocean left bits of his biography scattered throughout the album, but they almost didn’t matter. He was speaking for all of us, in the way only great artists can. 

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Peso Plum press photo
Peso Pluma

Photo: Arenovski

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Peso Pluma's Road To 'ÉXODO': The GRAMMY Winner Navigates The Consequences Of Global Stardom On New Album

"Fans really get to see the other side of the coin; there are two sides to me. It's darker, rawer," Peso Pluma says of his latest album 'ÉXODO'

GRAMMYs/Jun 21, 2024 - 01:13 pm

Peso Pluma marked his musical destiny with a Tupac tribute tattoo in the center of his clavicle: "All Eyez On Me." 

The Mexican artist, born Hassan Emilio Kabande Laija, doesn't remember exactly what year he inked his chest. He knows it was well before his debut in music. Those four words reflected Peso's irrefutable confidence that the world's eyes would eventually be on him. 

The world's eyes are indeed on Peso Pluma. In less than two years, the singer achieved global fame by singing corridos tumbados, traversing a path never before trodden by a música Mexicana artist. 

At 25, Peso Pluma is at the forefront of a new generation of música Mexicana artists that have successfully modernized traditional Mexican rhythms, such as corridos, by infusing them with elements from urban music and a hip-hop aesthetic. The weight of representing an entire genre and a country could be great for some. But pressure doesn't affect Peso Pluma; on the contrary, it motivates him to keep working to exalt his roots. 

"We've come a long way, but we still have a long way to go. And that doesn't mean we have to slow down; it doesn't mean everything is over. This is the beginning of everything," Peso Pluma said in a TikTok video before a performance at the Toyota Arena in Ontario, Canada, a little over a year ago. 

Out June 20, Peso's extensive new album ÉXODO seeks to cement his global star status further. Over 24 tracks, the singer continues to explore corridos tumbados and digs into his urban side via much-awaited collaborations with reggaeton and hip-hop icons. Among those big names is Peso's teenage idol, the American rapper and producer Quavo, as well as further afield collaborations with Cardi B.  

"ÉXODO is a project I've been working on for over a year before we even won the GRAMMY. GÉNESIS was an incredibly special project, and I knew we couldn't make the same diamond twice," the singer tells GRAMMY.com in a written interview. 

Peso Pluma's path to the global stage has been lightning-fast. While he started releasing songs in 2020, Peso will remember March 2023 as the month that propelled him into global mega-stardom. His collaboration with Eslabón Armado on "Ella Baila Sola" led him to become a household name outside his native Mexico.  

The hit resonated with an audience eager for new sounds, accompanying social media videos and surpassing a billion streams on Spotify. "Ella Baila Sola" became the first Mexican music track to top the platform's global chart. On Billboard, it conquered No. 1 on the magazine's Global 200 chart for six weeks and reached the coveted No. 4 spot on the Hot 100 chart. The mega-hit took Peso Pluma and Eslabon Armado to make their Latin GRAMMY stage debut in November with an electrifying performance.  

Another collaboration, "La Bebe (Remix)" with Mexican reggaeton artist Yng Lvcas, released a day after "Ella Baila Sola," also contributed to Peso Pluma's virality in a completely different genre, but one in which he feels comfortable: urban music. 

Learn more: Peso Pluma's 10 Biggest Collabs: From "Bzrp Sessions" To "Ella Baila Sola" &"Igual Que Un Ángel" 

As Peso Pluma gained traction with a global audience, his February 2022 single with Raúl Vega, put him, for better or worse, on the map in Mexico. The warlike content of "El Belicón" lyrics and video clip attracted attention for the way it allegedly promoted narcoculture. 

Despite growing criticism, Peso Pluma remained tight-lipped regarding references to high-profile members of the Mexican drug trade, as well as drug use and trafficking. In a rare admission to GQ magazine, the singer explained this is a "delicate subject to talk about, but you have to touch on it with transparency — because it's the reality of things." 

"In hip-hop, in rap, just like in corridos, and other urban music like reggaeton, it talks about reality. We're not promoting delinquency at all. We're only talking about things that happen in real life," the singer explained.

With the success of "El Belicón" and "Ella Baila Sola" under his belt, Peso Pluma released GÉNESIS in June 2023. Despite being his third album, Peso considers it his true debut in music. 

"I didn't want to delete my previous albums [Efectos Secundario and Ah Y Que?] because they represent my beginnings," Peso told Billboard in a cover story published a few weeks after the release of GÉNESIS. In the same conversation, the singer said he saw himself winning his first GRAMMY and breaking more records. 

Read more: 5 Takeaways From Peso Pluma's New Album 'GÉNESIS' 

In February 2024, Peso Pluma did just that. He took home the golden gramophone for Best Música Mexicana Album (Including Tejano) his first GRAMMY Award. This victory didn't weigh on him as he approached his next production. "It pushed me to want to create something different that the fans haven't heard from me before," Peso Pluma tells GRAMMY.com. 

While GÉNESIS and ÉXODO may differ in substance, they share similarities beyond music. That both records pull from the Bible for their names is not a random occurrence; the opening book of the Hebrew and Christian Bible delves into the genesis of creation, while the Book of Exodus explores the themes of liberation, redemption, and Moses' role in leading the Israelites through the uncharted waters of the Red Sea. 

"ÉXODO is the continuation of GÉNESIS, which was the beginning," Peso Pluma explains to GRAMMY.com. "ÉXODO means new beginnings, a new era for me. We are preparing for the next chapter, and that's what we are doing for Mexican music, paving the way, laying the groundwork for what's next because it doesn't stop here."  

His "sophomore" album is divided into two discs: the first is corridos, and the second is urban. It also continues the line of collaborations, with twenty tracks where Peso Pluma shares the limelight. 

"Some of my fans were craving música Mexicana, and some were craving urbano, and I wanted to give them everything while still staying true to myself and choosing songs and lyrics that spoke to me," he continues.  

ÉXODO's disc one starts with "LA DURANGO," the album's fourth single, featuring Eslabon Armando and Junior H. In the record, he also invites collaborators such as Natanael Cano and Gabito Ballesteros for "VINO TINTO" and Mexican rising star Ivan Cornejo on the melancholic "RELOJ," among others. 

For Side B, Peso enlisted heavyweights from the urban genre in the Anglo and Latin markets: Anitta in the steamy "BELLAKEO," Rich The Kid in the bilingual "GIMME A SECOND," and Quavo in the existential trap "PA NO PENSAR." Cardi B, Arcángel, Ryan Castro, Kenia OS, and DJ Snake complete ÉXODO's genre crossover. 

In ÉXODO, luxury, drugs, alcohol, and women continue to take center stage in the lyrics, accompanied by fast-paced guitar-driven melodies and reverb-dense vocals. However, the production sheds light on the vulnerable side of Peso and explores the unexpected consequences of becoming globally famous. 

"Fans really get to see the other side of the coin; there are two sides to me. It's darker, rawer," Peso says about the record. 

In the songs "HOLLYWOOD" and "LA PATRULLA," for example, Peso details how this musical path keeps him up at night, as well as his aspirations, and how he remains the same despite his success. 

Perhaps one of the deepest and rawest songs on the album is "14:14," a track inspired by the Bible verse 14:14 from the Book of Exodus, which, the singer explains, was fundamental amidst the turbulence he faced on the way to global stardom. 

"[The] verse 14:14 says 'The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.' This verse couldn't be truer," Peso Pluma says. "Over time, I learned to really trust in this and believe that some things are not up to me and I should trust the process."  

In the song — one of the few on the album without a collaboration — Peso references the challenges of his profession and how his faith has kept him afloat amid the vicissitudes. "Things from the job that no one understands/I hide the rosary under my shirt so I don't poison myself, so I don't feel guilty/because whatever happens, the Boss will forgive me," he sings.

In "BRUCE WAYNE," Peso Pluma croons about the passionate feelings his career arouses: "First they love you, and then they hate you/wishing the worst, envy and death," the song says. 

The singer resorts to comparing himself to a superhero figure again. In an unusual twist, Peso crosses comic universes, moving from his now traditional reference to Spider-Man to one from the DC Comics world: Bruce Wayne, Batman's secret identity. A wealthy man, part of Gotham's high society, Bruce Wayne is known for transforming his darkness into power while remaining reserved and isolated.  

"Everyone has two sides of them, even me," Peso tells GRAMMY.com. "Peso Pluma on stage is a high-energy person, someone who is powerful and dominates a show and isn't afraid of anything. And then there is Hassan, who's chill and more relaxed and who deals with all the realities of life." 

During the year and a half it took him to complete ÉXODO, Peso Pluma had to deal with the diverse nuances of a global star's life, including a widely publicized breakup from Argentine rapper/singer Nicki Nicole, the cancellation of one of his shows in October 2023 after a Mexico drug cartel issued a death threat against him, and a media frenzy over his alleged admission to a rehabilitation clinic, the latest a rumor he laid to rest during a March interview with Rolling Stone for his Future of Music cover story. 

"The reality is, all these days, I've been in the studio working on ÉXODO," the artist explained to Rolling Stone. 

Most of 2023 was a successful balancing act for Peso Pluma, who combined touring, an album release, rare media engagements, two Coachella appearances, all the while developing another record. According to the singer, ÉXODO was created in Los Angeles, Miami, New York, and Mexico. "We go to the studio everywhere!" Peso says. "It doesn't really matter where we are; I love to get into the studio and work when we have free time." 

Like GÉNESIS, ÉXODO will be released via Peso Pluma's Double P Records, of which he is the CEO and A&R. Much of the talent the Mexican singer has signed to his label took part in the album's production, and songwriting process. 

"For the Mexican music side, I had the whole [touring] band with me; I like to have them involved in the process so that we can all give our input on how it sounds, discuss what we think needs to be changed, create new ideas," he explains. 

Peso Pluma knows that echoing the success of 2023 is no easy task. He was the most streamed artist in the U.S. on YouTube, surpassing Taylor Swift and Bad Bunny, and was the second most-listened to Latin artist in the country, amassing an impressive 1.9 billion streams, according to Luminate. 

Música Mexicana emerged as one of the most successful genres in 2023, witnessing a remarkable 60 percent surge in streaming numbers, adds Luminate's annual report, crediting Peso Pluma along Eslabon Armado, Junior H, and Fuerza Regida as part of this success. 

Collaborations on and off the mic have undoubtedly played a significant role in the rise of Música Mexicana on the global stage. Peso knows that the key to continuing onward is teaming up with renowned artists inside and outside his genre. 

"All of us coming together is what pushed música Mexicana to go global," the singer affirms. "We showed the world what Mexico has to offer, and now no one can deny the power and talent we have in our country."  

Shakira's Road To 'Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran': How Overcoming A Breakup Opened A New Chapter In Her Artistry 

Moby performing on stage
Moby

Photo: Mike Formanski

interview

"Let Yourself Be Idiosyncratic": Moby Talks New Album 'Always Centered At Night' & 25 Years Of 'Play'

"We're not writing for a pop audience, we don't need to dumb it down," Moby says of creating his new record. In an interview, the multiple-GRAMMY nominee reflects on his latest album and how it contrasts with his legendary release from 1999.

GRAMMYs/Jun 11, 2024 - 01:29 pm

Moby’s past and present are converging in a serendipitous way. The multiple-GRAMMY nominee is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his seminal work, Play, the best-selling electronic dance music album of all time, and the release of his latest album, always centered at night. 

Where Play was a solitary creation experience for Moby, always centered at night is wholly collaborative. Recognizable names on the album are Lady Blackbird on the blues-drenched "dark days" and serpentwithfeet on the emotive "on air." But always centered at night’s features are mainly lesser-known artists, such as the late Benjamin Zephaniah on the liquid jungle sounds of "where is your pride?" and Choklate on the slow grooves of "sweet moon." 

Moby’s music proves to have staying power: His early ‘90s dance hits "Go" and "Next is the E" still rip up dancefloors; the songs on Play are met with instant emotional reactions from millennials who heard them growing up. Moby is even experiencing a resurgence of sorts with Gen Z. In 2023, Australian drum ‘n’ bass DJ/producer Luude and UK vocalist Issey Cross reimagined Moby’s classic "Porcelain" into "Oh My." Earlier this year, Moby released "You and Me" with Italian DJ/producer Anfisa Letyago. 

Music is just one of Moby’s many creative ventures. He wrote and directed Punk Rock Vegan Movie as well as writing and starring in his homemade documentary, Moby Doc. The two films are produced by his production company, Little Walnut, which also makes music videos, shorts and the podcast "Moby Pod." Moby and co-host Lindsay Hicks have an eclectic array of guests, from actor Joe Manganiello to Ed Begley, Jr., Steve-O and Hunter Biden. The podcast interviews have led to "some of the most meaningful interpersonal experiences," Moby tells GRAMMY.com. 

A upcoming episode of "Moby Pod" dedicated to Play was taped live over two evenings at Los Angeles’ Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The episode focuses on Moby recounting his singular experiences around the unexpected success of that album — particularly considering the abject failure of his previous album, Animal Rights. The narrative was broken up by acoustic performances of songs from Play, as well as material from Always Centered at Night (which arrives June 14) with special guest Lady Blackbird. Prior to the taping, Moby spoke to GRAMMY.com about both albums. 

'Always centered at night' started as a label imprint then became the title of your latest album. How did that happen? 

I realized pretty quickly that I just wanted to make music and not necessarily worry about being a label boss. Why make more busy work for myself?

The first few songs were this pandemic process of going to SoundCloud, Spotify, YouTube and asking people for recommendations to find voices that I wasn’t familiar with, and then figuring out how to get in touch with them. The vast majority of the time, they would take the music I sent them and write something phenomenal.

That's the most interesting part of working with singers you've never met: You don't know what you're going to get. My only guidance was: Let yourself be creative, let yourself be idiosyncratic, let the lyrics be poetic. We're not writing for a pop audience, we don't need to dumb it down. Although, apparently Lady Blackbird is one of Taylor Swift's favorite singers 

Guiding the collaborators away from pop music is an unusual directive, although perhaps not for you? 

What is both sad and interesting is pop has come to dominate the musical landscape to such an extent that it seems a lot of musicians don't know they're allowed to do anything else. Some younger people have grown up with nothing but pop music. Danaé Wellington, who sings "Wild Flame," her first pass of lyrics were pop. I went back to her and said, "Please be yourself, be poetic." And she said, "Well, that’s interesting because I’m the poet laureate of Manchester." So getting her to disregard pop lyrics and write something much more personal and idiosyncratic was actually easy and really special. 

You certainly weren’t going in the pop direction when making 'Play,' but it ended up being an extremely popular album. Did you have a feeling it was going to blow up the way it did?

I have a funny story. I had a date in January 1999 in New York. We went out drinking and I had just gotten back the mastered version of Play. We're back at my apartment, and before our date became "grown up," we listened to the record from start to finish. She actually liked it. And I thought, Huh, that's interesting. I didn't think anyone was going to like this record. 

You didn’t feel anything different during the making of 'Play?'

I knew to the core of my being that Play was going to be a complete, abject failure. There was no doubt in my mind whatsoever. It was going to be my last record and it was going to fail. That was the time of people going into studios and spending half a million dollars. It was Backstreet Boys and Limp Bizkit and NSYNC; big major label records that were flawlessly produced. Play was made literally in my bedroom. 

I slept under the stairs like Harry Potter in my loft on Mott Street. I had one bedroom and that's where I made the record on the cheapest of cheap equipment held up literally on milk crates. Two of the songs were recorded to cassette, that's how cheap the record was. It was this weird record made by a has-been, a footnote from the early rave days. There was no world where I thought it was going to be even slightly successful. Daniel Miller from Mute said — and I remember this very clearly — "I think this record might sell over 50,000 copies." And I said, "That’s kind of you to say but let's admit that this is going to be a failure. Thank you for releasing my last record."  

Was your approach in making 'Play' different from other albums? 

The record I had made before Play, Animal Rights, was this weird, noisy metal punk industrial record that almost everybody hated. I remember this moment so vividly: I was playing Glastonbury in 1998 and it was one of those miserable Glastonbury years. When it's good, it's paradise; it's really special. But the first time I played, it was disgusting, truly. A foot and a half of mud everywhere, incessant rain and cold. I was telling my manager that I wanted to make another punk rock metal record. And he said the most gentle thing, "I know you enjoy making punk rock and metal. People really enjoy when you make electronic music." 

The way he said it, he wasn't saying, "You would help your career by making electronic music." He simply said, "People enjoy it." If I had been my manager, I would have said, "You're a f—ing idiot. Everyone hated that record. What sort of mental illness and masochism is compelling you to do it again?" Like Freud said, the definition of mental illness is doing the same thing and expecting different results. But his response was very emotional and gentle and sweet, and that got through to me. I had this moment where I realized, I can make music that potentially people will enjoy that will make them happy. Why not pursue that? 

That was what made me not spend my time in ‘98 making an album inspired by Sepultura and Pantera and instead make something more melodic and electronic. 

After years of swearing off touring, what’s making you hit stages this summer? 

I love playing live music. If you asked me to come over and play Neil Young songs in your backyard, I would say yes happily, in a second. But going on tour, the hotels and airports and everything, I really dislike it.  

My manager tricked me. He found strategically the only way to get me to go on tour was to give the money to animal rights charities. My philanthropic Achilles heel. The only thing that would get me to go on tour. It's a brief tour of Europe, pretty big venues, which is interesting for an old guy, but when the tour ends, I will have less money than when the tour begins. 

Your DJ sets are great fun. Would you consider doing DJ dates locally? 

Every now and then I’ll do something. But there’s two problems. As I've become very old and very sober, I go to sleep at 9 p.m. This young guy I was helping who was newly sober, he's a DJ. He was doing a DJ set in L.A. and he said, "You should come down. There's this cool underground scene." I said, "Great! What time are you playing?" And he said "I’m going on at 1 a.m." By that point I've been asleep for almost five hours.

I got invited to a dinner party recently that started at 8 p.m. and I was like, "What are you on? Cocaine in Ibiza? You're having dinner at 8 p.m.  What craziness is that? That’s when you're putting on your soft clothes and watching a '30 Rock' rerun before bed. That's not going out time." And the other thing is, unfortunately, like a lot of middle aged or elderly musicians, I have a little bit of tinnitus so I have to be very cautious around loud music.

Are you going to write a third memoir at any point? 

Only when I figure out something to write. It's definitely not going to be anecdotes about sobriety because my anecdotes are: woke up at 5 a.m., had a smoothie, read The New York Times, lamented the fact that people are voting for Trump, went for a hike, worked on music, played with Bagel the dog, worked on music some more went to sleep, good night. It would be so repetitive and boring. 

It has to be something about lived experience and wisdom. But I don't know if I've necessarily gotten to the point where I have good enough lived experience and wisdom to share with anyone. Maybe if I get to that point, I'll probably be wrong, but nonetheless, that would warrant maybe writing another book.

 Machinedrum's New Album '3FOR82' Taps Into The Spirit Of His Younger Years 

 

 

Billie Eilish performs at Lollapalooza Chile 2023.
Billie Eilish performs at Lollapalooza Chile 2023

Photo: Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images

feature

The Environmental Impact Of Touring: How Scientists, Musicians & Nonprofits Are Trying To Shrink Concerts' Carbon Footprint

"It’s not just [about] a single tour, it’s every tour," singer Brittany Howard says of efforts to make concerts more sustainable. From the nonprofit that partnered with Billie Eilish, to an MIT initiative, the music industry aims to curb climate change.

GRAMMYs/Jun 10, 2024 - 01:30 pm

Beloved by fans around the globe, yet increasingly unaffordable for many artists, concert tours are central to the world of entertainment and local economies. After the pandemic-era global shuttering of concert venues large and small, tours are back, and bigger than ever.  

Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour is smashing records, selling more than four million tickets and earning more than $1 billion. But that tour made headlines for another reason: as reported in Business Insider and other outlets, for a six-month period in 2023, Swift’s two jets spent a combined 166 hours in the air between concerts, shuttling at most a total of 28 passengers. 

Against that backdrop, heightened concerns about the global environmental cost of concert touring have led a number of prominent artists to launch initiatives. Those efforts seek both to mitigate the negative effects of touring and communicate messages about sustainability to concertgoers. 

A 2023 study sponsored by Texas-based electricity provider Payless Power found that the carbon footprint of many touring bands was massive. In 2022, concert tours in five genres — country, classic rock, hip-hop/rap, metal and pop — were responsible for CO2 emissions totaling nearly 45,000 metric tons. A so-called greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide contributes to climate change by radiative forcing; increased levels of CO2 also contribute to health problems.  

No serious discussion of climate issues suggests a worldwide halt to live music touring, but there exists much room for improvement. Both on their own and with the help of dedicated nonprofit organizations, many artists are taking positive steps toward mitigating the deleterious effects that touring exerts upon the environment.  

Smart tour planning is one way to lessen an artist’s carbon footprint. Ed Sheeran’s 2022 European run minimized flights between concert venues, making that leg of his tour the year's most environmentally efficient. Total carbon dioxide emissions (from flights and driving) on Sheeran’s tour came to less than 150 metric tons. In contrast, Dua Lipa’s tour during the same period generated 12 times as much — more than 1800 metric tons — of CO2 

In July, singer/songwriter and four-time GRAMMY nominee Jewel will embark on her first major tour in several years, alongside GRAMMY winner Melissa Etheridge. During the planning stage for the 28-city tour, Jewel suggested an idea that could reduce the tour’s carbon footprint.

"I always thought it was so silly and so wasteful — and so carbon footprint-negative — to have separate trucks, separate lighting, separate crews, separate hotel rooms, separate costs," Jewel says. She pitched the idea of sharing a backing band with Etheridge. "I’ve been trying to do this for 25 years," Jewel says with a laugh. "Melissa is the first person who took me up on it!" 

The changes will not only reduce the tour’s carbon footprint, but they’ll also lessen the cost of taking the shows on the road. Acknowledging that there are many opportunities to meet the challenges of touring’s negative impact upon the environment, Jewel emphasizes that “you have to find [solutions] that work for you.”

Sheeran and Jewel aren’t the only popular artists trying to make a difference. A number of high profile artists have become actively involved in creating the momentum for positive change. Those artists believe that their work on sustainability issues goes hand in hand with their role as public figures. Their efforts take two primary forms: making changes themselves, andadvocating for action among their fans.  

The Climate Machine 

Norhan Bayomi is an Egypt-born environmental scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a key member of the Environmental Solutions Initiative, a program launched to address sustainable climate action. She’s also a recording artist in the trance genre, working under the name Nourey 

The ESI collaborates with industry heavyweights Live Nation, Warner Music Group and others as well with touring/recording acts like Coldplay to examine the carbon footprint of the music industry. A key component of the ESI is the Climate Machine, a collaborative research group that seeks to help the live music industry reduce carbon emissions. "As a research institution, we bring technologies and analytics to understand, in the best way possible, the actual impact of the music industry upon climate change," says John Fernández, Director of the ESI.  

"I’m very interested in exploring ways that we can bridge between environmental science, climate change and music fans," Bayomi says. She explains that the tools at the ESI’s disposal include "virtual reality, augmented reality and generative AI," media forms that can communicate messages to music fans and concertgoers. Fernández says that those endeavors are aimed at "enlisting, enabling and inspiring people to get engaged in climate change." 

The Environmental Solutions Initiative cites Coldplay as a high-profile success. The band and its management issued an "Emissions Update" document in June 2024, outlining its success at achieving their goal of reducing direct carbon emissions from show production, freight, band and crew travel. The established target was a 50 percent cut in emissions compared to Coldplay’s previous tour; the final result was a 59 percent reduction between their 2022-23 tour and 2016-17 tour.  

A significant part of that reduction came as a result of a renewable-energy based battery system that powers audio and lights. The emissions data in the update was reviewed and independently validated by MIT’s Fernández.  

Change Is Reverberating 

Guitarist Adam Gardner is a founding member of Massachusetts-based indie rockers Guster, but he's more than just a singer in a rock band. Gardner is also the co-founder of REVERB, one of the organizations at the forefront of developing and implementing climate-focused sustainability initiatives.  

Founded in 2004 by Gardner and his wife, environmental activist Lauren Sullivan, REVERB  began with a goal of making touring more sustainable; over the years its focus has expanded to promote industry-wide changes. Today, the organization promotes sustainability throughout the industry  in partnership with music artists, concert venues and festivals.  

REVERB initiatives have included efforts to eliminate single-use plastics at the California Roots Music & Arts Festival, clean energy projects in cooperation with Willie Nelson and Billie Eilish, and efforts with other major artists. Gardner has seen sustainability efforts grow over two decades 

"It’s really amazing to see the [change] with artists, with venues, with fans," Gardner says. "Today, people are not just giving lip service to sustainable efforts; they really want to do things that are real and measurable."  

The Music Decarbonization Project is one tangible example of REVERB’s successes. "Diesel power is one of the dirtiest sources of power," Gardner explains. "And it’s an industry standard to power festival stages with diesel generators." Working with Willie Nelson, the organization helped switch the power sources at his annual Luck Reunion to clean energy. At last year’s festival, Nelson’s headlining stage drew 100 percent of its power from solar-powered batteries. "We set up a temporary solar farm," Gardner says, "and the main stage didn’t have to use any diesel power."  

Billie Eilish was another early supporter of the initiative. "She helped us launch the program," Gardner says. Eilish’s set at Lollapallooza 2023 drew power from solar batteries, too.  

With such high-profile successes as a backdrop, Gardner believes that REVERB is poised to do even more to foster sustainable concerts and touring. "Our role now," he says, "isn’t just, ‘Hey, think about this stuff.’ It’s more how do we push farther, faster?"  

Adam Gardner believes that musicians are uniquely positioned to help make a difference where issues of sustainability are concerned. "When you’re a musician, you’re connecting with fans heart-to-heart. That’s what moves people. And that’s where the good stuff happens."  

Small-scale, individual changes can make a difference — especially when they’re coordinated and amplified among other concertgoers. Gardner provides real-world examples. "Instead of buying a plastic bottle, I brought my reusable and filled it up. Maybe I carpooled to the show." Conceding that such steps might seem like drops of water in a giant pool, he emphasizes the power of scale. "When you actually multiply [those things for] just one summer tour, it adds up," he says. "And it reminds people, ‘You’re not alone in this; you’re part of a community that’s taking action."  

Gardner understands that REVERB’s arguments have to be framed the right way to reach concertgoers. "Look," he admits, "It’s a concert. We’re not here to be a buzzkill. Our [aim] now is making sure people don’t lose hope." He says that REVERB and its partners seek to demonstrate that, with collective action and cultural change, there is reason for optimism.  

"There’s a wonderful feedback loop between hope and action," Gardner says with a smile. "You can’t really have one without the other."  

Sustainable Partnerships 

Tanner Watt is Director of Partnerships at REVERB; he works directly with touring artists to develop, coordinate and implement initiatives that bring together his organization’s objectives and the specific personal concerns of the artists. "I get to come up with all the fun, big ideas," he says with a wide smile.  

Watt acknowledges that like every concertgoer, each touring artist has a certain level of responsibility where sustainability is concerned. "And everyone can be doing something," he says, noting a number of straightforward actions that artists can put in place while on tour. "They can eliminate single-use waste. They can donate hotel toiletries that [would otherwise] hit the landfill."  

Watt stresses that artists can lead by example. "Nobody wants to listen to an artist telling them what to do if they’re not doing it themselves," he says. "But we believe that everybody cares about something." He suggests that if an artist has cultivated a following, "Why not use [that platform] to be that change you want to see in the world?"  

Each artist has his or her own specific areas of concern, but Watt says that there’s a base level of "greening" that takes place on every REVERB-affiliated tour. Where things go from there is up to the artist, in coordination with REVERB. Watt mentions Billie Eilish and her tour’s sustainability commitment. "The Venn diagram of food security, community health, access to healthy food, and the impact on the planet is a big cause for her," he says. "So there’s plant-based catering for her entire crew, across the entire tour." 

Speaking to Billboard, Eilish's mother Maggie Baird said championing sustainability starts with artists. "If artists are interested, it does really start with them telling their teams that they care and that it’s foremost in their thoughts." In the same conversation, Eilish called the battle for sustainability "a never-ending f–king fight."  

Watt acknowledges that with so many challenges, it’s important for a concerned artist to focus on the issues that move them the most, and where they can make the biggest difference. "Jack Johnson is a great example," he says. While Johnson is a vocal advocate for many environmental issues, on tour he focuses on two (in Watt’s words) "cause umbrellas": single-use plastics solutions and sustainable community food systems. Each show on the tour hosts tables representing local nonprofit organizations, presenting concertgoers with real-world, human-scale solutions to those specific challenges.  

Four-time GRAMMY winner Brittany Howard is another passionate REVERB partner. "Knowing that I wanted to make my tours more sustainable was a start," she tells GRAMMY.com, "but working with REVERB really helped me bring it to life on the road. REVERB has helped us with guidelines and a green rider to keep our stage, greenrooms and buses more sustainable." 

After listing several other specific ways that her tour supports sustainability, Howard notes, "By supporting these efforts, I am helping ensure future generations have access to clean water, fish, and all that I love about the outdoors." A dollar from every ticket sold to a Brittany Howard concert goes toward support of REVERB’s Music Decarbonization project. "I’m also excited to see industry-wide efforts that are reducing the carbon pollution of live music," Howard continues. "Because it’s not just [about] a single tour, it’s every tour." 

There’s a popular aphorism: "You can’t manage what you can’t measure." From its start, REVERB has sought not only to promote change, but to measure its success. "As long as I’ve been at REVERB, we’ve issued impact reports," says Tanner Watt. "We include data points, and give the report to the artists so they understand what we’ve done together." He admits that some successes are more tangible than others, but that it’s helpful to focus on the ones that can be quantified. "We’re very excited that our artists share those with their fans."  

Watt is clear-eyed at the challenges that remain. "Even the word ‘sustainable’ can be misleading," he concedes, suggesting that the only truly sustainable tour is the one that doesn’t happen. "But if folks don’t step it up and change the way we do business in every industry — not just ours — we’re going to get to a place where we’re forced to make sacrifices that aren’t painless." Getting that message across is REVERB’s aim. "We can’t stop the world," Watt says. "So we find ways to approach these things positively."  

Watt says that the fans at concerts featuring Jack Johnson and the Dave Matthews Band — both longtime REVERB partners — are already on board with many of the sustainability-focused initiatives which those artists promote. "But there are lots of artists — and lots of fan bases — out there that aren’t messaged to, or have been mis-messaged to," he says. "I’m really excited to find more ways to expand our reach to them, beyond mainstream pop music. Because these are conversations that are meaningful for everyone, regardless of political affiliation or other beliefs."  

Reimagining The Planet’s Future 

Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Adam Met does more than front AJR, the indie pop trio he founded in 2005 with brothers Jack and Ryan. Met has a PhD in sustainable development and is a climate activist; he's also the founder/Executive Director of Planet Reimagined, a nonprofit that promotes sustainability and activism through its work with businesses, other organizations and musicians.  

"I’ve spent years traveling around the world, seeing the direct impact of climate change," Met says. He cites two recent and stark examples. "When we pulled up to a venue in San Francisco, the band had to wear gas masks going from the bus into the venue, because of forest fires," he says. AJR’s road crew had to contend with a flash flood in Athens, Greece that washed out their hotel. "And in Rome, some of our crew members fainted because of the heat."  

Encouraged by representatives from the United Nations, Met launched Planet Reimagined. Met’s approach focuses on tailored, city-specific actions to empower fans and amplify diverse voices in the climate movement. Through social media and live shows, Met strives to galvanize climate activism among AJR fans. And the methods he has developed can be implemented by other touring artists.  

Met points out that one of the most climate-unfriendly parts of the entire concert tour enterprise is fans traveling to and from the concerts. And that’s something over which the artist has little or no control. What they can do, he says, is try to educate and influence. Working closely with Ticketmaster and other stakeholders, Met’s nonprofit initiated a study — conducted from July to December 2023, with results published in April 2024 — to explore the energy that happens at concerts. "In sociology," he explains, "that energy is called collective effervescence." The study’s goal is to find ways to channel that energy toward advocacy and action.  

Polling a quarter million concertgoers across musical genres, the study collected data on attitudes about climate change. "Seventy-three percent of fans who attend concerts believe that climate change is real, and that we need to be doing more about it," Met says. "Seventy-eight percent have already taken some sort of action in their lives." He believes that if his organization can activate even a fraction of the estimated 250 million people annually who attend concerts around the globe, "that’s the ballgame."  

Met’s goal is to do more than, say, get concertgoers to switch from plastic to paper drinking straws. "At scale those things make a difference. But people want to see actions where there’s a track record," he says; a return on investment.  

AJR will be putting a plan into action on the second half of their upcoming arena tour. Part of the initiative is encouraging concertgoers to register to vote, and then actually vote. Beyond that, Met has specific actions in mind. "At every single stop, we’re putting together materials around specific policies that are being debated at the local level," he explains. "We give people a script right there, so they can call their elected representative and say, ‘I want you to vote [a certain way on this issue].’"  

He believes the initiative will lead to thousands of people contacting – and hopefully influencing – their representatives. With regard to sustainability issues, Met is convinced that "the most impact that you can have as an artist is when you give fans ways to pick up the mantle themselves." 

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