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Normani Talks Solo Debut, Learning From Fifth Harmony & Touring With Ariana Grande
"Even though I'm a new artist, I've also taken what I've learned from the last seven years that I was in Fifth Harmony," the singer told the Recording Academy
Emerging singer Normani was right at home during her ESSENCE Fest performance on Sunday. The New Orleans native, who recently hit the road for the first leg of Ariana Grande's Sweetener tour, has experienced plenty of success since her former pop group Fifth Harmony went on indefinite hiatus last year—and performing in her hometown only added to the glow.
"I'm stronger than I give myself credit for," the singer says about one of the things she learned since going solo. "There's so many things I've learned not only as an artist, but also as a business woman."
Normani has built her name around major collabs that tug at your heart strings: "Dancing With A Stranger" wth Sam Smith and "Love Lies" with Khalid. Her latest single, "Waves" feat. 6lack, lets her powerfully magnetic vocals shine alone.
"Even though I'm a new artist, I've also taken what I've learned from the last seven years that I was in Fifth Harmony," she said. Regarding openning on tour for the "7 Rings" singer, she said they have more than a working relationship.
"It's been amazing. It's been the best experience ever and I'm just really grateful that I get to support such an amazing artist, I mean the biggest pop star in the world right now ... I genuinely can call her a friend of mine and I don't take that word lightly."
Her solo debut album is in the works and it's something she's been taking her time with. While her fans are at the edge of their seat, taking it slow has meant she's been able to put her all into it, as she said: "I want this album to represent and encompass all that Normani is."
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20 Years Of 'Wicked': On This Day, The Culture-Shifting, GRAMMY-Winning Musical Premiered
Twenty years after its premiere on Broadway, the deliciously corrupted musical 'Wicked' is still going strong.
Twenty years ago, the Broadway-shaking musical 'Wicked' opened its doors in New York City — and the theatre world was never the same.
Based on Gregory Maguire's book Wicked: The Life And Times Of The Wicked Witch Of The West — itself influenced by L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz — the musical debuted on Broadway on Oct. 30, 2003, six months after it premiered in San Francisco, California on May 28.
Two years later, the musical was honored by the world's leading society of music people; it won the golden gramophone for Best Musical Theatre Album at the 2005 GRAMMYs.
Fifteen years and numberless inspired performances after its premiere, Ariana Grande, Ledisi and Adam Lambert as well as GRAMMY winners Pentatonix performed with original cast members Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth to celebrate 'Wicked,' in a performance dubbed the "Wicked 15 Anniversary Concert."
Also back in 2018, the play about the green witch named Elphaba also garnered a special called A Very Wicked Halloween, starring the aforementioned musical luminaries.
"The themes of the show, the love and friendship aspects," "Wicked" star Kristin Chenoweth told the San Francisco Chronicle at the time. "We can look at these two characters looking forward to seeing everything."
For Mitch Grassi from Pentatonix, it was a full-circle moment for him to perform in the special. "It's a full circle moment, we grew up with this show and the [album] kind of shaped us as performers," Grassi told Playbill.
'Wicked' is still on Broadway — and is about to be on the silver screen! On Nov. 27, 2024, Cynthia Erivo and Grande will star in Wicked: Part One, a film adaptation of the play. (The sequel, Part Two, is scheduled to release on Nov. 26, 2025.)
And on the stage proper, the team behind 'Wicked' is plotting a special anniversary show at the Gershwin Theatre — and on Oct. 30, the anniversary proper, the Empire State Building will light up green in commemoration of the show.
On Halloween, the New York Public Library will hold a free panel discussion about the musical, featuring panelists in book writer Winnie Holzman, producer David Stone and composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz.
And after spooky season concludes, traveling iterations of the show will continue to roll on throughout the world — with a home base in London providing the (slightly altered) experience for Wicked fans in the United Kingdom.
Whether or not you're able to catch the film, these celebration shows, or just a good old performance, keep a little wickedness in your heart in tribute this Halloween!
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.
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New Music Friday: Listen To New Releases From Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Blackpink & More
The summer of 2023 may be winding down, but its musical offerings remain white-hot. Check out some new songs and albums that arrived on Aug. 25, from Maluma to Burna Boy.
The faintest hint of fall is in the air, but the summer of 2023's musical deluge continues unabated. Across genres, scenes and styles, the landscape continues to flourish.
We have Miley Cyrus's first song since Endless Summer Vacation — a vulnerable, proudly "unfinished" offering. On the opposite end of the vibe spectrum, Selena Gomez has thrown caution to the wind with the carefree "Single Soon."
Miley Cyrus — "Used To Be Young"
On her first song since Endless Summer Vacation arrived in March, two-time GRAMMY nominee Cyrus avoids tidiness, and pursues honest reflection.
"The time has arrived to release a song that I could perfect forever. Although my work is done, this song will continue to write itself everyday," she said in a statement. "The fact it remains unfinished is a part of its beauty. That is my life at this moment ….. unfinished yet complete."
"Used to Be Young" belongs to the pantheon of "turning 30" jams; therein, Cyrus looks back on her misspent youth, and the attendant heat of the spotlight. "You say I used to be wild/ I say I used to be young," she sings.
In the stark video, she gazes unflinchingly into the lens, without varnish or artifice.
Selena Gomez — "Single Soon"
Where Cyrus' new song bittersweetly gazes backward, Gomez's carbonated new jam "Single Soon" is focused on the promised reverie of tomorrow — sans boyfriend.
"Should I do it on the phone?/ Should I leave a little note/ In the pocket of his coat?" the two-time GRAMMY nominee wonders, sounding positively giddy about her unshackling from Mr. Wrong.
As the song unspools, Gomez gets ready for a wild night out; the song ends with the portentous question, "Well, who's next?" If you're ready to slough off your summer fling, "Single Soon" is for you.
Ariana Grande — Yours Truly: Tenth Anniversary
The two-time GRAMMY winner and 15-time nominee's acclaimed debut album, Yours Truly, arrived on Aug. 30, 2013; thus, it's time to ring in its tin anniversary.
Granted, these aren't "new songs," per se: rather, in a weeklong celebration, Grande is reintroducing audiences to Yours Truly.
Dive in, and you'll find "Live From London" versions of multiple songs. Plus — perhaps most enticingly — the sprawling re-release contains two new versions of "The Way," her hit collaboration with late ex Mac Miller.
Maluma — Don Juan
Papi Juancho is dead; long live Don Juan. "Fue un placer," Maluma wrote on Instagram last New Year's Eve. (It translates to "It was a pleasure.")
And with that, the Colombian rap-singing heavyweight ushered in a new character. He's now Don Juan — in a reference both to the fictional libertine and his birth name of Juan Luis Londoño Arias.
Now, Don Juan's out with his titular album — which he dubs a "mature" blending of the musics that got him going, like reggaeton, house, salsa, and hip-hop.
Burna Boy & Dave — "Cheat On Me"
Just over a year after his latest album, Love, Damini, Burna Boy is back with I Told Them… The Nigerian star offers another forward-thinking missive with his seventh album.
Featuring the likes of 21 Savage, J. Cole, and Wu-Tang Clan's GZA and RZA, I Told Them… is one highlight after the next — and "Cheat On Me" is one of them. For the advance single, the GRAMMY-winning Afro-fusion dynamo teamed up with London rapper Dave.
Therein, the pair expound on getting out of their own way. The chorus, powered by a sample from British-Ghanian singer/songwriter Kwabs, sums it all up: "I couldn't see/ I was cheating on, cheating on me."
Blackpink — "The Girls"
BLACKPINK are a bona fide cross-cultural sensation, but they won't stop at the music: they're a game now.
A little over a year after their second studio album, Born Pink, the acclaimed South Korean girl group has released a mobile app, succinctly called "The Game." Therein — and above — players can watch the video for "The Girls," their first post-Born Pink jam.
Don't say Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa didn't warn you: "Stop sign, we're burning it down/ Better watch out, we coming in loud/ Bang, bang, just playing around/ Don't mess with the girls, with the girls, with the girls."
The Killers — "Your Side of Town"
The Killers' beloved debut album, Hot Fuss, turns 20 next year; as a ramp-up, here's "Your Side of Town," a new slice of electro-pop from the Vegas crew.
The sleek, aerodynamic, Auto-Tuned "Your Side of Town" is their first single since their acclaimed pair of albums, 2020's Imploding the Mirage and 2021's Pressure Machine.
Here, the five-time GRAMMY nominees take a Pet Shop Boys-like tack with the music; lyrically, they're still putting the "heart" in heartland rock.
"I'm hanging on your side of town/ I notice when you're not around," frontman Brandon Flowers sings on the chorus. "Can't keep my cool, I'm burning inside/ A broken heartbeat, barely alive."
But the Killers — like everyone on this list — remain very alive.
Photo: Eric Liebowitz/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images
Ariana Grande's Road To 'Wicked': How The Pop Star Manifested Her Theater Kid Dreams In The Most Full-Circle Way Possible
As 'Wicked' fans await Ariana Grande's debut as Glinda the Good Witch in the 2024 film adaptation of the Broadway smash, revisit the journey that led the self-proclaimed "theater nerd" to her biggest career milestone yet.
Long before Ariana Grande was known as a global pop superstar, Broadway's Kristin Chenoweth was one of the first to recognize her inimitable talent.
"She was maybe seven or eight," Chenoweth recalled of meeting the singer for the first time during a 2019 stop at "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen." At the time, the Broadway veteran was starring as the original Glinda in "Wicked," and a young Ariana had won an auction to meet her backstage at the Gershwin Theater.
"Her mom and grandma brought her back and she sang a little bit of 'Popular,'" Chenoweth continued. "And I thought, 'Well you're pretty good.'"
Fast forward to more than 15 years later, and Grande herself is stepping into the role made famous by Chenoweth for the upcoming big screen adaptation of "Wicked" — a dream casting that has Ozians, munchkins and Arianators alike exclaiming, "We couldn't be happier!"
Directed by Jon M. Chu, the musical prequel to The Wizard of Oz will also star Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba opposite Grande and tell the enchanting story of Glinda and Elphie's unlikely friendship before they became the witches of Ozian lore. A massive undertaking translating beloved songs like "The Wizard and I," "What Is This Feeling?" and "Defying Gravity" to the silver screen, the film will be split in two parts; the first is set to hit theaters nationwide just in time for Thanksgiving next year. (As of press time, production on the two films is currently on pause amid the ongoing SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes.)
The role of Glinda is a complete full-circle moment for Grande, a proudly self-described "theater kid" — one whose professional career actually started out on the Broadway stage.
On September 16, 2008, a then-14-year-old Ari made her Broadway debut as Charlotte in Jason Robert Brown's all-teen musical 13. The composer had won acclaim (and a Tony Award) for his previous works like Parade and The Last Five Years, but the show — which was centered around a group of 13-year-olds growing up, hitting puberty and surviving the horrors of middle school in small-town Indiana — only ran for a total of 105 performances before closing in January of the following year.
Even still, the show gave Grande a small taste of the spotlight, and in an unearthed interview with MTV News from the time, the future pop star adorably predicted exactly where the next 15 years would take her. "Whatever I end up doing with my career, I really hope that it's in this sort of business. Whether it's, you know, being on Broadway or recording albums, I really just hope I'm always singing and acting and dancing and, you know, making movies would work, too!" she manifested, citing everyone from Christina Aguilera and Mariah Carey to India.Arie and Imogen Heap as a few of her musical idols.
Though her time on the Broadway stage was short-lived, Grande quickly pivoted to television, landing the role of Cat Valentine on the Nickelodeon sitcom Victorious, (which ran from 2010 to 2013), and its subsequent spin-off, Sam & Cat, alongside Jennette McMurdy. The pair of kiddie sitcoms gave the teenaged star a platform to both build a fanbase of loyal tweens and regularly show off her musical prowess — a harbinger of the international pop fame soon to come.
By late 2011, the burgeoning triple threat had signed with Republic Records (then known as Universal Republic) and released her debut single "Put Your Hearts Up." However, it was "Popular Song," her 2012 collaboration with MIKA, that landed Ariana her very first entry on the Billboard Hot 100. And what do you know? The campy duet interpolated none other than "Popular," the very same song from "Wicked" that she'd sung to Kristin Chenoweth all those years earlier.
Grande's debut album, Yours Truly, arrived in September 2013, with "Popular Song" joining the tracklist alongside hits like "The Way" featuring Mac Miller, "Baby I" and the Big Sean-assisted "Right There."
Over the course of her next two records, 2014's My Everything and 2016's Dangerous Woman, Ariana shot to the pop stratosphere. She landed seven more top 10 hits on the Hot 100 (including "Break Free," "Bang Bang," "Love Me Harder" and "Side to Side") and headlined two sold-out arena tours, joining the upper echelon of singers she'd spent her life admiring.
But even as she became a bonafide household name, the singer stayed connected to her theater roots. Months before Dangerous Woman arrived, Grande popped up as a special guest at one of Jason Robert Brown's cabaret-style concerts in Los Angeles, where she sang "The Lamest Place in the World" and "Brand New You" from 13 — the latter with Broadway luminary Shoshana Bean — as well as deep cut "Getting Out" from 2005's Wearing Other People's Clothes.
The two also got to reunite for the deluxe version of Dangerous Woman for the aptly titled "Jason's Song (Gave It All Away)." While the jazzy, piano-inflected bonus cut was an undeniable outlier to the album's more R&B-leaning sound, it still served as the project's third and final promotional single; Grande even performed it live on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in September 2016.
By the end of that year, Grande tapped into her musical theater roots again, but with an altogether different kind of role: Penny Pingleton in NBC's Hairspray Live! Alongside the likes of Dove Cameron, Jennifer Hudson, Garrett Clayton and Broadway royalty like Chenoweth, Harvey Fierstein and Martin Short, the superstar brought both a daffy charm and her powerhouse voice to the show's lovable sidekick and certified "checkerboard chick," belting out fan favorite numbers like "Mama, I'm a Big Girl Now," "Without Love" and "You Can't Stop the Beat."
"I started doing theater when I was younger, I have always been a huge theater nerd," Grande gushed from the Hairspray Live! press junket red carpet, Chenoweth by her side. "And a lot of people don't actually know that this is, like, my soul. It's like my heart." ("Her DNA!" Chenoweth proudly piped in.)
"So being able to do this production that I grew up singing every single day in the car… I worship this role," she added. "And also working with so many people who I have grown up worshiping is just, I can't say it enough times, it's so inspiring and so crazy and so beautiful and it'll never get old to me."
In between her next two albums — 2018's Sweetener and 2019's thank u, next, which both debuted atop the Billboard 200 — the megastar returned to NBC for "A Very Wicked Halloween," a special musical celebration of "Wicked"'s first 15 years on Broadway. For her supreme performance of Elphaba's Act 1 showstopper "The Wizard and I," Grande sported dazzling green lips as footage of Chenoweth and Idina Menzel played on a giant projector behind her.
Though most of thank u, next chronicled Grande's headline-making, whirlwind romance (and breakup) with comedian Pete Davidson, she once again found a way to inject a little Broadway on the album. But this time, the theater tribute became one of the biggest hits of her career: a little post-breakup bop known as "7 Rings."
Spinning the real-life tale of Ari treating her besties to a shopping spree at Tiffany & Co. in the wake of her split with Davidson, the trap-pop hit's ingenious melody came from quite the unexpected ditty — an interpolation of "My Favorite Things" from Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music.
Instead of waxing nostalgic over raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, though, the superstar cooed over, "Breakfast at Tiffany's and bottles of bubbles/ Girls with tattoos who like getting in trouble/ Lashes and diamonds, ATM machines/ Buy myself all of my favorite things" on the braggadocious track. (Interestingly, she also chose to sign 90 percent of the song's royalties over to the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization ahead of its release — a truly unheard-of split in the age of the modern music industry, particularly for a song that went on to spend eight weeks at the top of the Hot 100.)
The song became Grande's second consecutive hit to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (following "thank u, next"), breaking numerous streaming records in the process. And for the self-described "theater nerd," the fusion of pop and musical theater was not just a commercial success — it was also an authentic recalibration of her point of view as a recording artist.
"We started at home base — me," she said in a 2018 Billboard cover story honoring her as Woman of the Year. "And then we went in this place where I kind of played the game for a little bit, and did the big, big, big pop records. Then we slowly started incorporating my soul back into it — and that's where we've landed again with thank u, next."
Grande spent the majority of 2019 touring in support of Sweetener and thank u, next, including headlining Coachella and launching the Sweetener World Tour. The latter — which was later released as the live album k bye for now (swt live) and the Netflix concert documentary Ariana Grande: Excuse Me, I Love You — featured another Broadway homage, as the singer performed a coquettish cover of "My Heart Belongs to Daddy" from the 1938 Cole Porter musical "Leave It to Me!" for the show's final intermission.
The tour's third and final leg officially concluded on December 22, 2019, just months before the entire world shut down due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Like many homebound artists, Grande used her sizable talents to make a difference during the crisis. And though everyone surely remembers her delectable take on "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)" for the Disney Family Singalong (playing both Meg and, yes, all five of the Muses at once), the singer also joined forces with Jason Robert Brown once again for a special one-night-only concert benefiting musicians affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the occasion, Grande delivered a touching rendition of "Still Hurting" from The Last Five Years. In a statement following the virtual concert, Brown acknowledged just how remarkable her talent remains.
"I've known Ari since she was an astonishingly talented 14-year-old," he said. "We've gotten to make music together a couple of times throughout the years, and whenever it happens, I am struck by how comfortable our collaboration is and how relentlessly hard she works to get things exactly right. My text said, 'Do you know my song "Still Hurting"?' And her response was, 'Am I a person?' Ari was in."
By 2021, the world had begun to cautiously rouse itself from its pandemic slumber, and that November, Ariana and Erivo were announced as Glinda and Elphaba in the long-awaited adaptation of "Wicked" on the silver screen. (Even Erivo knew the scale of Grande's casting, sending her a bouquet of flowers with a note that read, "the part was made for you.")
When filming reached the halfway point this past April, Grande shared a photo of herself standing under a rainbow on set alongside a gratitude-filled (and awestruck) caption. "I don't know what to do or say," she wrote, "to be here in Oz where everyday is a life changing one."
Even more than two decades after her fateful first meeting with Chenoweth, it seems Grande's heart remains in Oz — proving that her childhood wish really has taken her somewhere over the rainbow.
"Savoring every millisecond left with my Galinda (although she'll be with me irrevocably, forever). she shows me so many new things every day," Grande added in her April post. "I hope this isn't all a dream because as present as i am attempting to be, it sure does feel like one… my fellow Ozians. my heart will be stuck here forever."