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One Direction And Zayn Malik: Now What?

With fan hysterics having subsided, Nick Jonas and industry experts help make sense of the possible future courses for One Direction and Zayn Malik

GRAMMYs/Feb 2, 2016 - 12:55 am

"This was the first time [a band] deciding to work separately became worldwide news, treated almost as a death," wrote the UK's The Guardian. No, this wasn't a reference to Zayn Malik's recent departure from One Direction. The split to which the paper was referring goes back to 1970, when Paul McCartney announced the end of the Beatles.

It was a breakup so significant that CBS News, reporting from the Beatles' Apple headquarters at the time, called the news "so momentous that historians may one day view it as a landmark in the decline of the British Empire."

Right now it's hard for Directioners in mourning over Malik's surprise exit from One Direction to believe it, but they are not alone. Whether it was the Beatles in 1970, Diana Ross departing from the Supremes that same year, the end of the Eagles' long run in 1980, Lionel Richie jumping ship from the Commodores in 1982, Duran Duran losing Roger Taylor in 1985, Lindsey Buckingham leaving Fleetwood Mac in 1987, the Spice Girls saying goodbye to Geri Halliwell in 1998, 'N Sync taking a "temporary hiatus" in 2002, the Backstreet Boys suffering through Kevin Richardson leaving in 2006, the disbanding of Destiny's Child in 2006, the Jonas Brothers' split in 2013, or One Direction and Malik severing ties a month ago, every generation of ardent fans has felt the pain of an era coming to a close. (And obviously, the Beatles, with their standing as arguably the most influential band of all time, are a unique entity, as dictated by the fact they are seemingly the only group that saw all four members go on to impactful solo careers.)

Poll: Which GRAMMY winner who left a popular group went on to have the greatest impact as a solo artist?

At the very least, 1D fans can take some solace in knowing that other fans have experienced similar anguish. Breakups have affected fans of pop, rock, dance/electronic music — evidenced by Swedish House Mafia's disbanding in 2012 — and even hip-hop. After West Coast hip-hop pioneers N.W.A. split in the early '90s, the group's former members released a series of "diss" tracks aimed at each other, prompting fans to pick sides. Bands who don't last are far more common than rarities such as Aerosmith, ZZ Top or U2, all of whom have been together for decades with original members. Such 30-year and 40-year relationships within a band are as uncommon as the 50-year storybook Hollywood marriage between Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

Yes, as much as Directioners — who have tweeted about the loss, lamented how they miss Malik in cute pictures, threatened to run away from home, and shared their collective pain via Vine — may not believe it, one member of a successful band wanting to go it alone is as much a part of music as money, fame, fan adulation, and ego.

What are the exact reasons that led to Malik leaving One Direction? And what career direction will he plot next? Only he knows for sure. But when it comes to artists striking out on their own, longtime industry experts have seen it all. Once described in Vanity Fair as the "best music manager in the business," Peter Katsis has managed the careers of artists such as the Backstreet Boys, Jane's Addiction and Smashing Pumpkins. He cites a number of reasons why a member might leave a successful group.

"I've seen it happen for health reasons, I've seen it happen for changes in musical direction, I've seen it for just the fact people don't like each other anymore," says Katsis.

The transition to solo artist can be a tricky one, with changes coming in unexpected areas. The Jonas Brothers, who rode a tidal wave of popularity with two No. 1 albums and a Best New Artist GRAMMY nomination for 2008, came to an abrupt end in October 2013. The brotherly trio cancelled a much-anticipated tour days before it was scheduled to start, citing a "deep rift within the band" over "creative differences." Nick Jonas, who recently has resurfaced with his Top 10 self-titled solo album and the Top 10 hit "Jealous," says there are pros and cons to leaving a group behind.

"I think just getting used to travelling on my own and spending more time on my own, it's something I've had to get adjusted to," says Jonas. "I think the biggest pros have been being able to create music that I love and really pushing myself as an artist to continue to grow and build a new fan base with the old fan base that I had. And all in all, it's been incredibly amazing these last couple of months."

After more than a decade of success, including platinum albums and two GRAMMYs, Seattle grunge architects Soundgarden called it quits in 1997. Chris Cornell, the group's frontman, stepped into the spotlight two years later with his solo debut, Euphoria Morning. In the midst of a creative groove, Cornell spoke with me in 2007 during the time of the release of his second solo album, Carry On.

"I've gotten so many ideas as a solo artist, and I also think at this point in my life I'm a person that probably shouldn't be in a band," said Cornell. "Someone that writes songs as much as me and has the energy and focus in terms of songwriting and performing is probably someone who's more akin to a solo artist than someone who should be in a band."

Proving that sentiments can change with the passage of time, Cornell ultimately reunited with his Soundgarden bandmates in 2010. And like other artists in this day and age, he enjoys the best of both career worlds. Cornell has recently toured and released albums with Soundgarden, but he also just revealed he finished recording his fourth solo album.

Idiosyncratic guitarist Lindsey Buckingham, who similarly does double duty as a solo artist and member of GRAMMY-winning collective Fleetwood Mac, likens the dichotomy to the film world. "It's like having the large movie and the small movie," Buckingham told me in 2011. "It's the independent movie that's going to help you grow and take chances."

Fleetwood Mac recently wrapped a successful U.S. concert trek following the return of longtime member Christine McVie. But the group's classic Rumours-era lineup, which tried to go on without Buckingham in 1987 after he left due to feeling stifled creatively, and then later without Stevie Nicks, is proof of what can happen to a band behind when a key member departs. The band's first album sans Buckingham, 1990's Behind The Mask, went gold in the States, a far cry from previous efforts. And without both Buckingham and Nicks, 1995's Time didn't even dent the Billboard 200, a dismal performance for a band that has sold more than 100 million albums.

One of the more recent bands to experience soap-opera-style drama is Blink-182. In January, Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker revealed that Tom DeLonge had "indefinitely" left the group. DeLonge responded via Facebook, stating he "never quit the band." While the issue has yet to reach a formal resolution, Barker and Hoppus recruited Alkaline Trio guitarist Matt Skiba to fill DeLonge's shoes. With Skiba, the trio headlined the Musink Tattoo Convention and Music Festival in Southern California in March. Meanwhile, since his indefinite departure from Blink-182, DeLonge has debuted a new video from his new solo album, To The Stars.

Sometimes the sting of a band relationship gone wrong is prone to leave a lingering bitter aftertaste. Ringo Starr recently gave a telling interview to The Times, telling the paper he was "drunk" for much of the '70s and '80s following the demise of the Beatles.

"I was mad," said Starr. "For 20 years. I had breaks in between of not being."

Of course, Starr went on to a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-worthy solo career and, given his iconic status as one of the four Beatles, has remained an appealing live draw. Very few acts are in that stratosphere, however, so being able to balance a career duality — a la Buckingham and Cornell — is important. Artists who strike out on their own and make it are few and far between. The likes of Richie, Ross and Justin Timberlake are more the exception than the rule.

AEG Live's Brian Murphy is a veteran in the concert promotion game, having previously run leading Los Angeles concert promoter Avalon Attractions for decades. He recalls working with the Eagles' Don Henley in the '80s on a solo tour. At that point, Henley was a commercial and critical success as a solo artist, having won a GRAMMY for the smash "The Boys Of Summer." But as a touring act, Henley the solo artist was different than a touring behemoth like the Eagles, according to Murphy.

"His … solo records [Building The Perfect Beast and The End Of The Innocence] were hugely successful, but the business that he did when he went out on the road, I think we aimed too high and I don't mean that just from the perspective of an agent or a manager, I think the promoters as well," Murphy says. "We all bought into [the notion that] he should still be able to do arenas. But as it turned out it was like [8,000] or 9,000 seats. The Eagles were the Eagles and I think therein lies a big significant difference."

Spotify Playlist: Band Breakups Are Hard To Do

These days, platinum acts can yield big revenue on the touring front. And One Direction are a touring juggernaut. The group is coming off a huge year in 2014, when they grossed $282.2 million in touring revenue to place No. 1 on Pollstar's worldwide tours list. The Malik-less One Direction lineup has upcoming world tour dates scheduled from June through October. While the long-term effect of the group's lineup change on touring is hard to predict, business looks to stay robust in the near future, evidenced by a six-night run at The O2 in London in September.

A member leaving behind a career with a successful touring act creates an interesting conundrum in this current musical climate as Murphy explains.

"There's a very big difference today in touring artists than there was when I got into the business and the way I grew up in the business," says Murphy. "At one time bands toured to sell record product and with record product came the royalties from publishing. The least important economic factor was the concert ticket."

Given that artists such as Henley and Buckingham, as big as the bands they were in, weren't able to translate their massive stature into arena shows in their own right, the likelihood that Malik will maintain headliner status as a solo act isn't favorable.

"I think history has taught us that if Mick Jagger cannot make a solo career a success then it's pretty daunting," singer/actor/radio personality Michael Des Barres says. "This does not mean it can't be done, but it does seem hard. It's like a TV star trying to be a movie star."

From a business perspective, today's artists who try and strike out on their own are leaving behind a potentially huge part of their revenue. Shirley Halperin, news director at Billboard, agrees. "It is more of a gamble today," she says.

In the case of One Direction, both fans and industry professionals will have to bet on which member might be able to pull off a successful solo career because the history of boy bands indicates it's very likely that only one member, if any, will go on to be a solo star.

"There can only be one, that never changes," says Halperin. "You had Bobby Brown from New Edition, Justin Timberlake [from 'N Sync], who will it be from One Direction? Who will have the best chance for solo success? There can't be more than one so you have to bet on the right one. You have to hope you pick the Robbie Williams or Justin Timberlake that can cross over."

Having worked with countless acts over the years, Katsis knows a great deal about guiding artists and he has advice that applies to an artist thinking of going solo, returning back to the Beatles to make his point.

"The first guy that really stepped out was McCartney and, as with anything else our industry is driven by, the songs are really what made it possible for him," says Katsis. "When he came up with melodies like 'Maybe I'm Amazed,' it really set a tone that the music was just so good. And I think that's always going to be the case. That's the key: If you're really gonna do it you have to come through with the goods. If there's only one good song on that album you'll never have a shot."

Though Malik has yet to formally release new music, a demo of his supposed first solo song was leaked via SoundCloud less than a week following his departure from the band. But with a source close to Malik telling the Daily Mail the song was in fact an old demo, 1D fans have been left to hang in the balance, speculating as to Malik's next career move.

Speaking from recent experience, Jonas knows such a solo career move is a difficult one, but it can be successfully accomplished with hard work. "I think that there are always obstacles to overcome when transitioning from being in a group to going solo and it's just about staying dedicated and motivated to continue to grow and push your audience to come with you," he says.

It's not to say that Malik would not be able to succeed on his own, only that history says it's going to be an uphill battle. What most experts do agree on is that One Direction should be fine. The Backstreet Boys remained a successful touring act and scored two Top 10 albums following Richardson's departure. Duran Duran also continued to thrive as a touring act and had huge success with their 1993 eponymous album featuring the hits "Come Undone" and "Ordinary World" after Taylor left.

However, as successful as both acts remained, they never matched the frenzy of their respective complete original lineups. The Backstreet Boys' full-fledged reunion with Richardson in 2011 brought them back to arenas and when all five members of Duran Duran reunited in 2005 for an intimate show at the Roxy, I covered the gig for Rolling Stone and watched in disbelief as someone offered me $1,000 for my ticket (which was turned down).

In more proof of the power of reunion nostalgia, the Eagles settled their differences to reunite in 1994 for arguably the biggest reunion in music history, marked by a monumental three-year world tour and the GRAMMY-nominated Hell Freezes Over reunion album. In 2013 'N Sync reunited for a performance at the MTV Video Music Awards and, earlier this year, Destiny's Child reunited for a one-off live performance — both situations leaving millennials to salivate about possible reunions down the road. And a recently rumored Spice Girls reunion recently had their fans saying "zig-a-zig-ah."

But for now, One Direction and Malik are going their separate ways. According to a band statement, One Direction are "looking forward to recording the new album and seeing all the fans on the next stage of the world tour." Making his first public appearance since the breakup on April 17 at the Asian Awards in London, a newly shorn Malik took the stage to pay tribute to his One Direction bandmates. "I'd also like to take this moment to thank four of the best guys that I ever met whilst being in the band and doing all the amazing things that I did. Some of the things that we did will stay with me for the rest of my life," he said.

While there is little doubt that 1D can continue to sell out arenas or even stadiums, and though the future is unknown for Malik, fans will likely long for the magic of the original five members being together. Unless they are that very rare case that, as Katsis points out, "is just over it," a reunion could be in the cards at some point. In other words, history offers some hope that hell could one day freeze over for One Direction and their devout Directioners.

(Steve Baltin has written about music for Rolling StoneLos Angeles TimesMojoChicago Tribune, AOL, LA Weekly, Philadelphia WeeklyThe Hollywood Reporter, and dozens more publications.)

"American Idol" Season 1 Finale - Kelly Clarkson Performance Show
Kelly Clarkson performs on Season 1 of "American Idol."

Photo: Steve Granitz / GettyImages

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On This Day In Music: "American Idol" Premieres On Fox Network

For decades, "American Idol" has been instrumental in discovering some of music’s biggest names and pioneering the reality TV contest genre. As the show enters its 22nd run, here’s a look at how it has become an iconic household staple across the country.

GRAMMYs/Jun 11, 2024 - 04:23 pm

For countless Americans, "American Idol" is intertwined with core memories as a show that had families eagerly glued to their TVs twice a week. It brought generations together, creating moments of both suspense and excitement that are still remembered today, as the show continues to run in its 22nd season.

Created by visionary entrepreneur Simon Fuller, "American Idol" premiered on June 11, 2002, as a fresh spin-off of the British program "Pop Idol." It revolutionized how Americans engaged with reality TV through its interactive, viewer-driven voting system, which encouraged audience participation in the success of their favorite contestants. The show also offered viewers a glimpse into contestants' candid backstories and personal journeys, anchoring emotional investment and skyrocketing the show's popularity.

The show's debut season featured a dynamic trio of judges: singer Paula Abdul, TV personality Simon Cowell, and producer Randy Jackson. Their contrasting personalities brewed a chemistry as captivating as the hopeful performances. Abdul’s warmth, Cowell's blunt wit, and Jackson’s humor added extra layers of entertainment, making the twice a week broadcasts a must-watch.

The first season of "American Idol" also unforgettably introduced the country to Kelly Clarkson. Since her debut — with a heart-tugging backstory about being the average girl-next-door with big dreams — Clarkson has gone on to tour the world, host her own TV talk show, and secured her spot as one of music’s most beloved talents. 

"I had dreams since I was a little girl that I wanted to be on the GRAMMYs, or some award show and sing on there," Clarkson mentioned in her pre-audition interview. Flash forward 22 years, the pop singer has accumulated 17 GRAMMY nominations and three wins, propelled by a powerful vocal gift.

Other artists who launched their careers from the show's platform include Jordin Sparks, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, and Jennifer Hudson, who each serve as testament to the show’s impact in music.

"American Idol" has not only opened our eyes to some of our favorite musicians, but it also has given us some of our favorite pop culture moments.

A video that frequently resurfaces on social media captures a memorable moment between Katy Perry and contestant Noah Davis, where they bond over the slang term 'wig'

"No, it’s not your language. It’s just for us," Perry joked to her fellow judges, Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan, when they questioned the term’s meaning.

After two decades on air, "American Idol" has etched a lasting legacy in pop culture. It has paved the way for other reality TV music shows and created lasting memories for music fans along the way.

“The show transcends age, gender, ethnicity, everything,” Underwood told Billboard in 2005. 

How Many "American Idol" Winners Have Won GRAMMYs? A Rundown Of Wins And Nominations For Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood & More

Beatles Let it Be
The Beatles during the 'Let it Be' sessions in 1969

Photo: Ethan A. Russell / © Apple Corps Ltd

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5 Lesser Known Facts About The Beatles' 'Let It Be' Era: Watch The Restored 1970 Film

More than five decades after its 1970 release, Michael Lindsay-Hogg's 'Let it Be' film is restored and re-released on Disney+. With a little help from the director himself, here are some less-trodden tidbits from this much-debated film and its album era.

GRAMMYs/May 8, 2024 - 05:34 pm

What is about the Beatles' Let it Be sessions that continues to bedevil diehards?

Even after their aperture was tremendously widened with Get Back — Peter Jackson's three-part, almost eight hour, 2021 doc — something's always been missing. Because it was meant as a corrective to a film that, well, most of us haven't seen in a long time — if at all.

That's Let it Be, the original 1970 documentary on those contested, pivotal, hot-and-cold sessions, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. Much of the calcified lore around the Beatles' last stand comes not from the film itself, but what we think is in the film.

Let it Be does contain a couple of emotionally charged moments between maturing Beatles. The most famous one: George Harrison getting snippy with Paul McCartney over a guitar part, which might just be the most blown-out-of-proportion squabble in rock history.

But superfans smelled blood in the water: the film had to be a locus for the Beatles' untimely demise. To which the film's director, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, might say: did we see the same movie?

"Looking back from history's vantage point, it seems like everybody drank the bad batch of Kool-Aid," he tells GRAMMY.com. Lindsay-Hogg had just appeared at an NYC screening, and seemed as surprised by it as the fans: "Because the opinion that was first formed about the movie, you could not form on the actual movie we saw the other night."

He's correct. If you saw Get Back, Lindsay-Hogg is the babyfaced, cigar-puffing auteur seen throughout; today, at 84, his original vision has been reclaimed. On May 8, Disney+ unveiled a restored and refreshed version of the Let it Be film — a historical counterweight to Get Back. Temperamentally, though, it's right on the same wavelength, which is bound to surprise some Fabs disciples.

With the benefit of Peter Jackson's sound-polishing magic and Giles Martin's inspired remixes of performances, Let it Be offers a quieter, more muted, more atmospheric take on these sessions. (Think fewer goofy antics, and more tight, lingering shots of four of rock's most evocative faces.)

As you absorb the long-on-ice Let it Be, here are some lesser-known facts about this film, and the era of the Beatles it captures — with a little help from Lindsay-Hogg himself.

The Beatles Were Happy With The Let It Be Film

After Lindsay-Hogg showed the Beatles the final rough cut, he says they all went out to a jovial meal and drinks: "Nice food, collegial, pleasant, witty conversation, nice wine."

Afterward, they went downstairs to a discotheque for nightcaps. "Paul said he thought Let it Be was good. We'd all done a good job," Lindsay-Hogg remembers. "And Ringo and [wife] Maureen were jiving to the music until two in the morning."

"They had a really, really good time," he adds. "And you can see like [in the film], on their faces, their interactions — it was like it always was."

About "That" Fight: Neither Paul Nor George Made A Big Deal

At this point, Beatles fanatics can recite this Harrison-in-a-snit quote to McCartney: "I'll play, you know, whatever you want me to play, or I won't play at all if you don't want me to play. Whatever it is that will please you… I'll do it." (Yes, that's widely viewed among fans as a tremendous deal.)

If this was such a fissure, why did McCartney and Harrison allow it in the film? After all, they had say in the final cut, like the other Beatles.

"Nothing was going to be in the picture that they didn't want," Lindsay-Hogg asserts. "They never commented on that. They took that exchange as like many other exchanges they'd had over the years… but, of course, since they'd broken up a month before [the film's release], everyone was looking for little bits of sharp metal on the sand to think why they'd broken up."

About Ringo's "Not A Lot Of Joy" Comment…

Recently, Ringo Starr opined that there was "not a lot of joy" in the Let it Be film; Lindsay-Hogg says Starr framed it to him as "no joy."

Of course, that's Starr's prerogative. But it's not quite borne out by what we see — especially that merry scene where he and Harrison work out an early draft of Abbey Road's "Octopus's Garden."

"And Ringo's a combination of so pleased to be working on the song, pleased to be working with his friend, glad for the input," Lindsay-Hogg says. "He's a wonderful guy. I mean, he can think what he wants and I will always have greater affection for him.

"Let's see if he changes his mind by the time he's 100," he added mirthfully.

Lindsay-Hogg Thought It'd Never Be Released Again

"I went through many years of thinking, It's not going to come out," Lindsay-Hogg says. In this regard, he characterizes 25 or 30 years of his life as "solitary confinement," although he was "pushing for it, and educating for it."

"Then, suddenly, the sun comes out" — which may be thanks to Peter Jackson, and renewed interest via Get Back. "And someone opens the cell door, and Let it Be walks out."

Nobody Asked Him What The Sessions Were Like

All four Beatles, and many of their associates, have spoken their piece on Let it Be sessions — and journalists, authors, documentarians, and fans all have their own slant on them.

But what was this time like from Lindsay-Hogg's perspective? Incredibly, nobody ever thought to check. "You asked the one question which no one has asked," he says. "No one."

So, give us the vibe check. Were the Let it Be sessions ever remotely as tense as they've been described, since man landed on the moon? And to that, Lindsay-Hogg's response is a chuckle, and a resounding, "No, no, no."

The Beatles' Final Song: Giles Martin On The Second Life Of "Now And Then" & How The Fab Four Are "Still Breaking New Ground"

Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, and Selena Gomez
(L-R) Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, and Selena Gomez during the 2008 Teen Choice Awards.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/TCA 2008/WireImage/Getty Images

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Disney's Golden Age Of Pop: Revisit 2000s Jams From Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez & More

As Disney Music Group celebrates its defining era of superstars and franchises, relive the magic of the 2000s with a playlist of hits from Hilary Duff, Jesse McCartney and more.

GRAMMYs/Apr 23, 2024 - 06:41 pm

"...and you're watching Disney Channel!" For anyone who grew up in the 2000s, those five words likely trigger some pretty vivid imagery: a glowing neon wand, an outline of Mickey Mouse's ears, and every Disney star from Hilary Duff to the Jonas Brothers

Nearly 20 years later, many of those child stars remain instantly recognizable — and often mononymous — to the millions of fans who grew up with them: Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. Nick, Kevin and Joe

Each of those names has equally memorable music attached to it — tunes that often wrap any given millennial in a blanket of nostalgia for a time that was, for better or for worse, "So Yesterday." And all of those hits, and the careers that go with them, have the same starting point in Hollywood Records, Disney Music Group's pop-oriented record label.

This time in Disney's history — the core of which can be traced from roughly 2003 to 2010 — was impactful on multiple fronts. With its music-oriented programming and multi-platform marketing strategies, the network launched a procession of teen idols whose music would come to define the soundtrack to millennials' lives, simultaneously breaking records with its Disney Channel Original Movies, TV shows and soundtracks.

Now, two decades later, Disney Music Group launched the Disney 2000s campaign, honoring the pivotal, star-making era that gave fans a generation of unforgettable pop music. The campaign will last through August and lead directly into D23 2024: The Ultimate Fan Event with special vinyl releases of landmark LPs and nostalgic social media activations occurring all summer long. April's campaign activation was Disney 2000s Weekend at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, which featured special screenings of 2008's Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert and 2009's Hannah Montana: The Movie and Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience.

But before Miley and the JoBros, Hollywood Records' formula for creating relatable (and bankable) teen pop stars began with just one name: Hilary Duff. At the time, the bubbly blonde girl next door was essentially the face of the network thanks to her starring role in "Lizzie McGuire," and she'd just made the leap to the big screen in the summer of 2003 with The Lizzie McGuire Movie. In her years with Disney, Duff had dabbled in recording songs for Radio Disney, and even released a Christmas album under Buena Vista Records. However, her first album with Hollywood Records had the potential to catapult her from charming tween ingénue to bonafide teen pop star — and that's exactly what it did.

Released on August 26, 2003, Duff's Metamorphosis sold more than 200,000 copies in its first week and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The following week, the bubblegum studio set performed the rare feat of rising from No. 2 to No. 1, making the then-16-year-old Duff the first solo artist under 18 to earn a No. 1 album since Britney Spears.

The album's immediate success was no fluke: Within a matter of months, Metamorphosis had sold 2.6 million copies. Music videos for its radio-friendly singles "So Yesterday" and "Come Clean" received constant airplay between programming on the Disney Channel. (The latter was eventually licensed as the theme song for MTV's pioneering teen reality series "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County," giving it an additional boost as a cultural touchstone of the early '00s.) A 33-date North American tour soon followed, and Hollywood Records officially had a sensation on their hands. 

Naturally, the label went to work replicating Duff's recipe for success, and even looked outside the pool of Disney Channel stars to develop new talent. Another early signee was Jesse McCartney. With a soulful croon and blonde mop, the former Dream Street member notched the label another big win with his 2004 breakout hit "Beautiful Soul."

"When 'Beautiful Soul' became the label's first No. 1 hit at radio, I think that's when they really knew they had something," McCartney tells GRAMMY.com. "Miley [Cyrus] and the Jonas Brothers were signed shortly after that success and the rest is history.

"The thing that Disney really excelled at was using the synergy of the channel with promoting songs at pop," he continues. "I did appearances on 'Hannah Montana' and 'The Suite Life of Zack & Cody' and my music videos were pushed to Disney Channel. The marketing was incredibly brilliant and I don't think there has been anything as connected with an entire generation like that since then."

By 2006, Disney had nearly perfected its synergistic formula, continually launching wildly popular tentpole franchises like High School Musical and The Cheetah Girls, and then giving stars like Vanessa Hudgens and Corbin Bleu recording contracts of their own. (Curiously, the pair's HSM co-star Ashley Tisdale was never signed to Hollywood Records, instead releasing her first two solo albums with Warner.) 

Aly Michalka showed off her vocal chops as sunny girl next door Keely Teslow on "Phil of the Future," and fans could find her off-screen as one half of sibling duo Aly & AJ. In between their 2005 debut album Into the Rush and its electro-pop-charged follow-up, 2007's Insomniatic, Aly and her equally talented younger sister, AJ, also headlined their own Disney Channel Original Movie, Cow Belles. (Duff also helped trailblaze this strategy with her own early DCOM, the ever-charming Cadet Kelly, in 2002, while she was simultaneously starring in "Lizzie McGuire.")

Even after years of proven success, the next class of stars became Disney's biggest and brightest, with Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers all joining the network — and record label — around the same time. "Hannah Montana" found Cyrus playing a spunky middle schooler by day and world-famous pop star by night, and the network leveraged the sitcom's conceit to give the Tennessee native (and daughter of '90s country heartthrob Billy Ray Cyrus) the best of both worlds. 

After establishing Hannah as a persona, the series' sophomore soundtrack introduced Miley as a pop star in her own right thanks to a clever double album that was one-half Hannah's music and one-half Miley's. It's literally there in the title: Hannah Montana 2: Meet Miley Cyrus.

From there, Cyrus' stardom took off like a rocket as she scored back-to-back No.1 albums and a parade of Top 10 hits like "See You Again," "7 Things," "The Climb," "Can't Be Tamed," and the ever-so-timeless anthem "Party in the U.S.A."

At the same time, Gomez had top billing on her own Disney Channel series, the magical (but less musical) "Wizards of Waverly Place." That hardly stopped her from launching her own music career, though, first by fronting Selena Gomez & the Scene from 2008 to 2012, then eventually going solo with the release of 2013's Stars Dance after the "Wizards" finale aired.

For her part, Lovato — Gomez's childhood bestie and "Barney & Friends" costar — got her big break playing Mitchie Torres in Camp Rock alongside the Jonas Brothers as fictional boy band Connect 3, led by Joe Jonas as the swaggering and floppy-haired Shane Gray. Much like Duff had five years prior in the wake of The Lizzie McGuire Movie, Lovato released her debut solo album, 2008's Don't Forget, just three months after her DCOM broke records for the Disney Channel. 

Building off their chemistry from the movie musical, nearly the entirety of Don't Forget was co-written with the Jonas Brothers, who released two of their own albums on Hollywood Records — 2007's Jonas Brothers and 2008's A Little Bit Longer — before getting their own short-lived, goofily meta Disney series, "Jonas," which wrapped weeks after the inevitable Camp Rock sequel arrived in September 2010.

As the 2000s gave way to the 2010s, the Disney machine began slowing down as its cavalcade of stars graduated to more grown-up acting roles, music and careers. But from Duff's Metamorphosis through Lovato's 2017 LP, Tell Me You Love Me, Hollywood Records caught lightning in a bottle again and again and again, giving millennials an entire generation of talent that has carried them through adulthood and into the 2020s.

To commemorate the Disney 2000s campaign, GRAMMY.com crafted a playlist to look back on Disney's golden age of pop with favorite tracks from Hilary Duff, Vanessa Hudgens, the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus and more. Listen and reminisce below.

Taylor Swift performs with Stevie Nicks at the 2010 GRAMMYs
Taylor Swift performs with Stevie Nicks at the 2010 GRAMMYs

Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

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11 Artists Who Influenced Taylor Swift: Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Tim McGraw & More

From Paul McCartney to Paramore, Emily Dickinson and even "Game of Thrones," read on for some of the major influences Taylor Swift has referenced throughout her GRAMMY-winning career.

GRAMMYs/Apr 22, 2024 - 11:24 pm

As expected, much buzz followed the release of Taylor Swift's 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, on April 19. Fans and critics alike have devoured the sprawling double album’s 31 tracks, unpacking her reflections from "a fleeting and fatalistic moment in time" in search of Easter eggs, their new favorite lyrics and references to famous faces (both within the pop supernova’s closely guarded orbit and the historical record). 

Shoutouts abound in The Tortured Poets Department: Charlie Puth gets his much-deserved (and Taylor-approved) flowers on the title track, while 1920s screen siren Clara Bow, the ancient Greek prophetess Cassandra and Peter Pan each get a song titled after them. Post Malone and  Florence + the Machine’s Florence Welch each tap in for memorable duets. Relationships old (Joe Alwyn), new (Travis Kelce) and somewhere in between (1975’s Matty Healy) are alluded to without naming names, as is, possibly, the singer’s reputation-era feud with Kim Kardashian. 

Swift casts a wide net on The Tortured Poets Department, encompassing popular music, literature, mythology and beyond, but it's far from the first time the 14-time GRAMMY winner has worn her influences on her sleeve. While you digest TTPD, consider these 10 figures who have influenced the poet of the hour — from Stevie Nicks and Patti Smith to Emily Dickinson, William Wordsworth, Arya Stark and more.

Stevie Nicks

If Taylor Swift is the chairman of The Tortured Poets Department, Stevie Nicks may as well be considered its poet laureate emeritus. The mystical Fleetwood Mac frontwoman earns an important mention on side A closer "Clara Bow," in which Swift ties an invisible string from herself to a pre-Rumours Nicks ("In ‘75, the hair and lips/ Crowd goes wild at her fingertips"), and all the way back to the 1920s It Girl of the song’s title.

For her part, Nicks seems to approve of her place in Swift’s cultural lineage, considering she penned the poem found inside physical copies of The Tortured Poets Department. "He was in love with her/ Or at least she thought so," the Priestess of Rock and Roll wrote in part, before signing off, "For T — and me…"

Swift’s relationship with Nicks dates back to the 2010 GRAMMYs, when the pair performed a medley of "Rhiannon" and "You Belong With Me" before the then-country upstart took home her first Album Of The Year win for 2009’s Fearless. More recently, the "Edge of Seventeen" singer publicly credited Swift’s Midnights cut "You’re On Your Own, Kid" for helping her through the 2022 death of Fleetwood Mac bandmate Christine McVie.

Patti Smith

Swift may see herself as more "modern idiot" than modern-day Patti Smith, but that didn’t stop the superstar from name-dropping the icon synonymous with the Hotel Chelsea and punk scene of ‘70s New York on a key track on The Tortured Poets Department. Swift rather self-deprecatingly compares herself to the celebrated Just Kids memoirist (and 2023 Songwriters Hall of Fame nominee) on the double album’s synth-drenched title track, and it’s easy to see how Smith’s lifelong fusion of rock and poetry influenced the younger singer’s dactylic approach to her new album. 

Smith seemed to appreciate the shout-out on "The Tortured Poets Department" as well. "This is saying I was moved to be mentioned in the company of the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Thank you Taylor," she wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of herself reading Thomas’ 1940 poetry collection Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog.

Emily Dickinson

When it comes to iconic poets, Swift has also taken a page or two over her career from Emily Dickinson. While the great 19th century poet hasn’t come up explicitly in Swift’s work, she did reference her poetic forebear (and actual sixth cousin, three times removed!) in her speech while accepting the award for Songwriter-Artist of the Decade at the 2022 Nashville Songwriter Awards.

"I’ve never talked about this publicly before, because, well, it’s dorky. But I also have, in my mind, secretly, established genre categories for lyrics I write. Three of them, to be exact. They are affectionately titled Quill Lyrics, Fountain Pen Lyrics and Glitter Gel Pen Lyrics," Swift told the audience before going on to explain, "If my lyrics sound like a letter written by Emily Dickinson’s great-grandmother while sewing a lace curtain, that’s me writing in the Quill genre," she went on to explain.

Even before this glimpse into Swift’s writing process, Easter eggs had been laid pointing to her familial connection to Dickinson. For example, she announced her ninth album evermore on December 10, 2020, which would have been the late poet’s 190th birthday. Another clue that has Swifties convinced? Dickinson’s use of the word "forevermore" in her 1858 poem "One Sister Have I in Our House," which Swift also cleverly breaks apart in Evermore’s Bon Iver-assisted title track ("And I couldn’t be sure/ I had a feeling so peculiar/ That this pain would be for/ Evermore").

The Lake Poets

Swift first put her growing affinity for poetry on display during her folklore era with "the lakes." On the elegiac bonus track, the singer draws a parallel with the Lake Poets of the 19th century, wishing she could escape to "the lakes where all the poets went to die" with her beloved muse in tow. In between fantasizing about "those Windermere peaks" and pining for "auroras and sad prose," she even manages to land a not-so-subtle jab at nemesis Scooter Braun ("I’ve come too far to watch some name-dropping sleaze/ Tell me what are my words worth") that doubles as clever wordplay on the last name of Lake Poet School members William and Dorothy Wordsworth.

Swift revealed more about why she connected to the Lake Poets in her 2020 Disney+ documentary folklore: the long pond studio sessions. "There was a poet district, these artists that moved there. And they were kind of heckled for it and made fun of for it as being these eccentrics and these kind of odd artists who decided that they just wanted to live there," she explained to her trusted producer Jack Antonoff. "So ‘the lakes,’ it kind of is the overarching theme of the whole album: of trying to escape, having something you wanna protect, trying to protect your own sanity and saying, ‘Look, they did this hundreds of years ago. I’m not the first person who’s felt this way.’"

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney and Swift have publicly praised one another’s work for years, leading to the 2020 Rolling Stone cover they posed for together for the special Musicians on Musicians issue. The younger singer even counts Sir Paul’s daughter Stella McCartney as a close friend and collaborator (Stella designed a capsule collection for Swift’s 2019 studio set Lover and earned a shout-out of her own on album cut "London Boy").

However, Swift took her relationship with the Beatles founder and his family a step further when it was rumored she based Midnights deep cut "Sweet Nothing" on McCartney’s decades-long romance with late wife Linda. While the speculation has never been outright confirmed, it appears Swift’s lyrics in the lilting love song ("On the way home, I wrote a poem/ You say, ‘What a mind’/ This happens all the time") were partially inspired by a strikingly similar quote McCartney once gave about his relationship with Linda, who passed away in 1998. To add to the mystique, the Midnights singer even reportedly liked a tweet from 2022 espousing the theory.  

The admiration between the duo seems to go both ways as well, with the former Beatle admitting in a 2018 BBC profile that the track "Who Cares" from his album Egypt Station was inspired by Swift’s close relationship with her fans.

The Chicks

From her days as a country music ingénue to her ascendance as the reigning mastermind of pop, Swift has credited the Chicks as a seminal influence in her songwriting and career trajectory. (Need examples? Look anywhere from early singles like "Picture to Burn" and "Should’ve Said No" to Evermore’s Haim-assisted murder ballad "no body, no crime" and her own Lover-era collab with the band, "Soon You’ll Get Better.") 

In a 2020 Billboard cover story tied to the Chicks’ eighth album Gaslighter, Swift acknowledged just how much impact the trio made on her growing up. "Early in my life, these three women showed me that female artists can play their own instruments while also putting on a flamboyant spectacle of a live show," she said at the time. "They taught me that creativity, eccentricity, unapologetic boldness and kitsch can all go together authentically. Most importantly, they showed an entire generation of girls that female rage can be a bonding experience between us all the very second we first heard Natalie Maines bellow ‘that Earl had to DIE.’"

"Game of Thrones"

When reputation dropped in 2017, Swift was on a self-imposed media blackout, which meant no cover stories or dishy sit-down interviews on late-night TV during the album’s roll-out. Instead, the singer let reputation speak for itself, and fans were largely left to draw their own conclusions about their queen’s wildly anticipated comeback album. Two years later, though, Swift revealed the dark, vengeful, romantic body of work was largely inspired by "Game of Thrones."

"These songs were half based on what I was going through, but seeing them through a 'Game of Thrones' filter," she told Entertainment Weekly in 2019. "My entire outlook on storytelling has been shaped by ["GoT"] — the ability to foreshadow stories, to meticulously craft cryptic story lines. So, I found ways to get more cryptic with information and still be able to share messages with the fans. I aspire to be one one-millionth of the kind of hint dropper the makers of 'Game of Thrones' have been."

Joni Mitchell

Swift has long made her admiration of Joni Mitchell known, dating back to her 2012 album Red, which took a cue from the folk pioneer’s landmark 1971 LP Blue for its chromatic title. In an interview around the time of Red’s release, the country-pop titan gushed over Blue’s impact on her, telling Rhapsody, "[Mitchell] wrote it about her deepest pains and most haunting demons. Songs like ‘River,’ which is just about her regrets and doubts of herself — I think this album is my favorite because it explores somebody’s soul so deeply."

Back in 2015, TIME declared the "Blank Space" singer a "disciple of Mitchell in ways both obvious and subtle" — from her reflective songwriting to the complete ownership over her creative process, and nearly 10 years later, Swift was still showing her appreciation for Mitchell after the latter’s triumphant and emotional appearance on the GRAMMY stage to perform "Both Sides Now" on the very same night Taylor took home her historic fourth GRAMMY for Album Of The Year for Midnights.

Fall Out Boy & Paramore

When releasing the re-recording of her third album Speak Now in 2023, Swift cited two unexpectedly emo acts as inspirations to her early songwriting: Fall Out Boy and Paramore

"Since Speak Now was all about my songwriting, I decided to go to the artists who I feel influenced me most powerfully as a lyricist at that time and ask them to sing on the album," she wrote in an Instagram post revealing the back cover and complete tracklist for Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), which included Fall Out Boy collaboration "Electric Touch" and "Castles Crumbling" featuring Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams.

Tim McGraw

For one of Swift’s original career inspirations, we have to go all the way back to the very first single she ever released. "Tim McGraw" was not only as the lead single off the 16-year-old self-titled 2006 debut album, but it also paid reverent homage to one of the greatest living legends in the history of country music. 

In retrospect, it was an incredibly gutsy risk for a then-unknown Swift to come raring out of the gate with a song named after a country superstar. But the gamble clearly paid off in spades, considering that now, when an entire generation of music fans hear "Tim McGraw," they think of Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift's 'The Tortured Poets Department' Is A Post-Mortem Autopsy In Song: 5 Takeaways From Her New Album