meta-scriptTour Diary: See Parker McCollum's Favorite Photos & Memories From His Biggest Year On The Road Yet | GRAMMY.com
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Parker McCollum performs in Youngstown, Ohio in June 2023.

Photo: Chris Kleinmeier

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Tour Diary: See Parker McCollum's Favorite Photos & Memories From His Biggest Year On The Road Yet

Go backstage with country star Parker McCollum on his sold-out North American tour, which has seen him play the most iconic venues of his career, from the Houston Rodeo to Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

GRAMMYs/Aug 16, 2023 - 03:07 pm

From the beginning of Parker McCollum's career, touring has been ingrained in what he does — down to his very first single, 2013's "Highway," which was inspired by life on the road.

"Lord have mercy on a young man's soul/ There ain't nobody gonna love me livin' on this road," he sings in the first verse. "Gotta keep on moving/ Keep on traveling strong."

Luckily for McCollum, the lonesome tale of "Highway" hasn't become his touring life. Not only has the Texas-born country star found a lifelong partner to join him on the road — his wife, Hallie Ray Light — but he's continued to play bigger and bigger venues. And 2023 has marked his most remarkable touring year so far.

McCollum has headlined arenas and amphitheaters around the United States, played stadiums as direct support for Morgan Wallen, and most recently sold out Colorado's iconic Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Aug. 10.

"Being out on the road this year has been one of the most hectic, challenging and rewarding years of touring I've ever done," the singer tells GRAMMY.com. "My album Never Enough is some of the best work of my career so far, and seeing fans respond to those songs is really special."

WIth three country radio No. 1s in a row — 2020's "Pretty Heart," 2021's "To Be Loved By You" and 2022's "Handle On You" — and his latest single, "Burn It Down," currently climbing, McCollum's unique brand of soulful, rock-influenced country music is clearly resonating. But in his eyes, the fans are the "driving force."

"Night after night they keep blowing me away with their support," McCollum adds. "Playing some of these massive venues with a sea of people singing the songs you worked your butt off on — man, that feeling really can't be put into words."

And McCollum isn't slowing down anytime soon. He has dates plotted all the way through the end of the year, closing out 2023 with a fitting return to Texas for New Year's Eve.

As McCollum continues his massive year, he shared photos and memories from some of his favorite shows. Take a look at the behind-the-scenes pics and hear from the singer/songwriter on why these shows were so special.

All photos by Chris Kleinmeier.

Parker McCollum Houston Rodeo

Feb. 28, Houston, Texas: Playing RodeoHouston has been a dream of mine since I was a kid. I was blown away being asked to perform in 2022, and having a sold-out crowd that night filled with family and friends was everything I always dreamed it would be. Then, being asked to come back this year for RodeoHouston opening day to kick off the season — man, life really does feel like a movie sometimes.

Parker McCollum New Mexico

April 16, New Mexico: Shooting the music video for my current single, "Burn It Down," was a wild experience. Probably my favorite video I've done so far! We decided to head out to the New Mexico desert and blow some stuff up! I even set my feet on fire for this one. The whole day was awesome — my band being there with me, and Hillary Lindsey (background vocals and one of my co-writers) being on set brought it all together.

Parker McCollum Stagecoach

April 30, Indio, California: My first time playing Stagecoach Festival in Indio, CA earlier this year. It was a hot one that day, but the crowd showed up and was with me from start to finish!

Parker McCollum Austin Texas

May 12, Austin, Texas: This was a really special day. I was back home in Texas for the release of my album, Never Enough, and stopped by Waterloo Records in Austin for an in-store event with fans. Even got to play a few of my favorites from the record. Thanks for bein' there y'all!

Parker McCollum Wilmington NC

June 3, Wilmington, North Carolina: Being lucky enough to travel the country and meet all the amazing folks who continue to support me and my music is incredible. I wouldn't be able to do this without them, and seeing your faces each night, singing back every word, is something special. Thank y'all! This was a hell of a show.

Parker McCollum Dallas

June 10, Dallas, Texas: Having the opportunity to get on stage night after night doing what I love is something I'll never take for granted. Especially those nights when you're playing a show alongside a country music hero of mine, Gary Allan — makes it even better when it's in Dallas!

Parker McCollum Chicago

June 23, Chicago, Illinois: The most beautiful woman in the world right here! My wife has been supporting me, pushing me and making me the man I've always wanted to be since the day we met. I love you Hallie Ray and thank you for bein' on this crazy ride with me.

Parker McCollum St Louis

July 6, St. Louis, Missouri: As a performer I'm always looking to keep pushing myself and growing. When I get to join tours with incredible artists like Morgan Wallen at this show in St. Louis, I learn so much about what makes them tick and watching them do their thing up there. I'm inspired by just how much they give and see how much that means to the fans.

Parker McCollum Red Rocks

Aug. 10, Morrison, Colorado: Selling out at Red Rocks Amphitheatre is an incredible feeling. The venue itself is so iconic and makes for a really cool and unique concert experience for both the fans and the performers. Even had a legend on-stage with me that night! Thanks for coming out. Peyton Manning!

Meet Bailey Zimmerman, Country's Biggest New Star Who Still Can't Believe He's Famous

15 Must-Hear New Albums Out may 2023
(Top) Nick and Kevin Jonas, Summer Walker, Ed Sheeran (Center) Paul Simon, Lewis Capaldi, Sparks, Parker McCollum, Arlo Parks (Bottom) Juanes, Lola Young, Tinariwen, LP Giobbi

(Top) Jim Dyson/Getty Images, Astrida Valigorsky/WireImage, Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic (Center) Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Frank Hoensch/Redferns, Munachi Osegbu, Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images for CMT, Dave Benett/Getty Images (Bottom) Dave Benett/Getty Images for Givenchy Beauty, Jim Dyson/Getty Images, Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

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15 Must-Hear Albums Out In May: Jonas Brothers, Summer Walker, Paul Simon & More

From Sparks' offbeat 'The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte' to the heartfelt storytelling on Lewis Capaldi's 'Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent,' and growth set to R&B from Lola Young and Arlo Parks, check out 15 albums dropping this May.

GRAMMYs/May 1, 2023 - 01:07 pm

Spring is in full bloom, and with it comes a slew of inspiring records and unmissable tours. May brings upon us the return of giants and some promising newcomers, and whether you like the country music of Parker McCollum or the Mexican pop of AQUIHAYAQUIHAY, this month's releases offer something to please every taste.

This month, the Jonas Brothers finally make their awaited return with The Album, while Ed Sheeran completes his math symbols series with Subtract. Paul Simon will turn dreams into reality with Seven Psalms, and Tuareg collective Tinariwen will continue their desert blues exploration on Amatssou. Early aughts pop-punk outfit the Exploding Hearts will get a remastered, expanded reissue, and dance music maven LP Giobbi will make her studio album debut with Light Places.

Below is a guide with 15 must-hear albums dropping May 2023. Read on for known names that might reignite your passion, and budding acts who will make your curiosity flourish.

Ed Sheeran - Subtract 

Release date: May 5

Completing Ed Sheeran’s series of albums titled after mathematical symbols, Subtract (stylized as -), will feature 14 cuts that deal with the singer’s "fear, depression, and anxiety" throughout the hardships that shaped his past year, according to an Instagram post.

Sheeran added that his wife’s tumor diagnosis while pregnant, the death of his best friend Jamal Edwards, and a 2022 plagiarism trial "changed my life, my mental health, and ultimately the way I viewed music and art," prompting him to scrap "a decade’s worth of work with my deepest, darkest thoughts."

Produced by the National’s Aaron Dessner, Subtract is billed as an acoustic album, ranging from "pared back, folk-leaning textures to bolder, full-band/orchestral arrangements," which can be seen through pre-release "Boat" and lead single "Eyes Closed."

Jonas Brothers - The Album

Release date: May 12

The Jonas Brothers’ sixth studio album has been teased since 2020, but after several delays (including the COVID-19 pandemic), the The Album will be unleashed into the world. The trio told Variety that the follow-up to 2019’s Happiness Begins "features elements of classic ’70s pop and Americana with a modern edge," and was inspired by another sibling trio — the Bee Gees — as well as rock bands the Doobie Brothers and America.

Produced by Jon Bellion (who is also the album’s only featured artist), most of its tracks were performed at the Jonas Brothers’ fifth and final Broadway show on March 18, 2023. However, expectations remain high as the album release will be accompanied by a yet-to-be-announced tour.

Kaytraminé - Kaytraminé

Release date: May 12

Fusing the talents of top-rated producer/DJ Kaytranada and rapper Aminé might have been one of the most ambitious efforts of 2023. 

Although they have been frequent collaborators since 2013, including Kaytranada producing three songs out of Aminé's 2015 mixtape Calling Brio, this is the first time they unite forces for a whole record as Kaytraminé.

The project's first single, "4EVA," features the Neptunes' Pharrell Williams on vocals and co-production. Judging by its vibe, it seems like summer already has an official soundtrack.

Parker McCollum - Never Enough

Release date: May 12

2021’s Gold Chain Cowboy set Parker McCollum on the path to becoming a country music star. The major label debut followed two self-released albums — 2015’s The Limestone Kid and 2017’s Probably Wrong, and ended up winning New Male Artist of the Year at the American Country Music Awards — as well as a double-platinum single, "Pretty Heart," and a gold-certified single, "To Be Loved by You."

McCollum continues to look forward with Never Enough. Among its 15 tracks, there is the first time he ever said "beer" in a song, as well as singles "Handle on You," "Stoned," "I Ain’t Going Nowhere," and "Speed." The singer is also extending his tour through the summer, with the participation of fellow country artists like Larry Fleet, Randy Rogers Band, and Flatland Cavalry on some dates.

LP Giobbi - Light Places

Release date: May 12

Boundary-bender musician, producer and entrepreneur LP Giobbi believes in "letting yourself get lost and finding out it’s exactly where you were supposed to be." 

The statement, and title of her debut studio album Light Places, follows lyrics from the Grateful Dead’s "Scarlet Begonias": "Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places / if you look at it right." Giobbi, who is also a confessed Deadhead, said that the lyrics are one of her father’s favorites, "and almost a philosophy for the way he lives and taught my brother and me to live." 

Produced almost entirely during flights while she toured the world with her "one-woman jam band" DJ sets, Light Places expands Giobbi’s classical jazz training into buoyant dance rhythms, and features collaborations with DJ Tennis, SOFI TUKKER, Caroline Byrne, and more. As a preview, she recently released singles "Can’t Let You Go (feat. Little Jet)" and "All I Need."

AQUIHAYAQUIHAY - NO ME BUSQUES DONDE MISMO

Release date: May 12

The forerunners of M-pop (Mexican pop) and a self-professed "anti-boyband," AQUIHAYAQUIHAY are known for blending traditional Latin genres with R&B and hip-hop. The 20-something quintet are set to release a new album, NO ME BUSQUES DONDE MISMO.

Formed in 2016, AQUIHAYAQUIHAY released their debut album, DROPOUT in 2019 and signed with DJ/producer Steve Aoki’s Latin underground label, Dim Mak en Fuego. The group  dropped two EPs in 2021, titled :) and :(.  

Although the sounds and influences in NO ME BUSQUES have yet to be revealed, the band released two preview singles, "Duelo" and "B-day," a TikTok teaser, and announced a Mexican tour in June.

Summer Walker - Clear 2: Soft Life 

Release date: May 19

"Y’all ready for some new music?" Summer Walker asked the crowd during her set at April’s Dreamville Festival. The question was preceded by the announcement of her upcoming EP, Clear 2: Soft Life.

Clear 2 is a sequel to Walker’s first EP, 2019’s Clear, which was released just nine months before her breakout debut studio album, Over It. Debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart, the LP earned the biggest streaming week ever for an R&B album by a woman, and set the singer as a force to watch. Her 202 sophomore album, Still Over It, surpassed its predecessor and debuted at No. 1 on the same chart.

"This one — I want it to be a lot longer so I can really get that sound out," Walker recently told Billboard about her upcoming EP. "I make what I got to make for the radio, but I’m very excited for [Clear 2]. Hopefully, my budget will be permitted."

Lewis Capaldi - Broken By Desire To Be Heavenly Sent

Release date: May 19

"If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it" seems to be a saying that Lewis Capaldi currently lives by. The Scottish sensation said in a press release that he doesn’t want to "create a new sound for myself, or reinvent myself," and therefore his much-awaited second studio album, Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent, will follow his usual emotionally-driven delivery.

The album was recorded with a minimal set-up, consisting of only a "small interface, laptop, speakers, and a Shure SM7B vocal mic," as well as the same team who worked on his first album, 2019’s best-seller Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent: TMS, Phil Plested, Nick Atkinson and Edd Holloway.

Preceded by singles "How I'm Feeling Now," "Forget Me," "Pointless," and "Wish You the Best" — of which the last three topped the UK Singles Chart — it looks like Capaldi’s right to bet on his tried and true formula, with enough skills to spark curiosity from the audience, over and over again.

Paul Simon - Seven Psalms

Release date: May 19

Seven Psalms is Paul Simon’s fifteenth album, and his first of new material since 2016’s Stranger to Stranger. According to the six-decade-spanning singer, the project came to him in a dream and was inspired by the Book of Psalms.

Including seven acoustic tracks that are meant to be listened to as one uninterrupted piece, the album also features British vocal group VOCES8 and a participation by Simon’s wife, singer/songwriter Edie Brickell.

Seven Psalms is said to be a departure from any of his previous work, which encompasses the illustrious Simon & Garfunkel albums Bridge Over Troubled Water, Sounds of Silence, and more. An accompanying documentary, In Restless Dreams, is also set for release.

Juanes - Vida Cotidiana

Release date: May 19

While Juanes found immense success in 2021 with his cover album Origen, winning Best Pop/Rock Album at the Latin Grammy Awards and Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album at the GRAMMY Awards, his latest original work dates back to 2019, with the LP Más futuro que pasado.

Considering the events the world went through, 2019 feels more like a century ago. Therefore, Vida Cotidiana (or "daily life," in Spanish) arrives as a testament to the Colombian star’s reflections and changes during this turbulent time.

The 11-track collection also marks Juanes’ return to rock and Latin American folk foundations, while examining "love, marriage, family, and his country," according to a press release. So far, he released three lovelorn advance singles off the album: "Amores Prohibidos," "Gris" and "Ojalá."

Tinariwen - Amatssou

Release date: May 19

Amatssou means "beyond the fear" in Tamashek, the native language of the Tuareg collective Tinariwen — which, in turn, means "deserts." Known for their sociopolitical resistance and commitment to portraying the struggles of Mali, Amatssou stands as a fitting title for the band's ninth studio album.

Recorded inside a makeshift studio tent in Algeria, the record was produced in L.A. by GRAMMY winner Daniel Lanois) and features country musicians Wes Corbett and Fats Kaplin, furthering the collective’s link to the musical style. In a press release, Tinariwen are said to "have always been a country band, albeit a North African take on that most North American of genres."

Tinariwen will embark on a U.S. and Europe tour starting on May 27 in Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. They will also perform at festivals including Glastonbury and Roskilde. 

Arlo Parks - My Soft Machine

Release date: May 26

Contrasting with her delicate voice, British singer/songwriter Arlo Parks said in a statement that her sophomore album, My Soft Machine, is all about "the mid-20s anxiety, the substance abuse of friends around me, the viscera of being in love for the first time, navigating PTSD and grief and self-sabotage and joy." In summary, it’s a record about "what it’s like to be trapped in this particular body."

With an exceptional talent to transcribe raw emotions into contemplative, spacious music, Parks has given a taste of what to expect from this release through the singles "Blades," "Impurities," and "Weightless." She will also celebrate this moment by touring Europe and Asia in the following months, including performances at Spain and Portugal editions of Primavera Sound Festival

Lola Young - My Mind Wanders and Sometimes Leaves Completely

Release date: May 26

"And I like to think that I'm growing up and that I'm learnin'/But I've no idea what's underneath," reflects the south Londoner Lola Young on "Stream of Consciousness," the lead single for her upcoming album, My Mind Wanders and Sometimes Leaves Completely.

Following up on her 2021 EP After Midnight, the release is said to reflect Young’s "journey towards being a woman and figuring out who I am." Through her poignant lyrics, the 21-year-old gives a glimpse into the joys and pains of love in the 2020s. "I swear it don't hurt / You're looking at her / I'm looking at you," she muses in "Annabel’s House (From The Train)."  

Nominated for the Rising Star Award at the 2022 BRIT Awards, she also revealed in an interview for NME that the album will be "slightly different" from her previous work, featuring more retro, alt-rock, and indie influences with a "raw edge."

The Exploding Hearts - Guitar Romantic (Expanded & Remastered)

Release date: May 26

The short-lived but still impactful Exploding Hearts will get a brand new chance of reaching more fans this spring. Their 2003 album of power-pop classics, Guitar Romantic, is being reissued to celebrate its 20th anniversary.

Soon after the album release in 2003, three members of the band tragically passed away in a van accident while returning home from a gig in San Francisco. Surviving members King Louie Bankston (who passed away last year) and bassist Terry Six maintained their legacy through the duo Terry & Louie. Now, Six partnered with the band’s original producer, Pat Kearns, for the album reissue, and plans to play tribute shows in the upcoming months.

Guitar Romantic (Expanded & Remastered) will feature unreleased material, like conversations from the members, a King Louie Mix of "I’m A Pretender," and an unheard version of "So Bored."

Sparks - The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte

Release date: May 26

"So many people are crying in their latte" is the kind of musing about the contemporary world that only outlandish duo Sparks could have transformed into an engaging, nifty track. The lyrics come right off "The Girl is Crying In Her Latte," a preview single from their upcoming studio album of the same name.

Starring Cate Blanchett and her dandy dance moves in the music video, the track is proof that Sparks still have their finger on the pulse of culture, even after five decades of activity. "Veronica Lake," the second single off the project, keeps that same vein, bringing a modern spin to the narrative of actress Veronica Lake changing her hairstyle in order to protect factory workers during World War II.

The Girl Is Crying In Her Latte arrives after 2020’s A Steady Drip, Drip, Drip, and will be their first release under Island Records in 47 years. The pop rock pair is also scheduled to tour multiple cities in the U.S., Europe, and Japan in the summer.

Behind Shania Twain’s Hits: How A Hospital Stay, A Balmy Porch And A Hair Nightmare Inspired Her Biggest Hits & Videos

Sade in 1985
Sade Adu poses in Chicago in 1985.

Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images

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8 Ways Sade's 'Diamond Life' Album Redefined '80s Music & Influenced Culture

As Sade's masterpiece 'Diamond Life' turns 40, see how the group's debut pushed R&B forward and introduced them as beloved elusive stars.

GRAMMYs/Jul 16, 2024 - 04:34 pm

"I only make records when I feel I have something to say," Sade Adu asserted in 2010 upon the highly anticipated release of Sade's GRAMMY-winning Soldier of Love album, which arrived after a 10-year hiatus. "I'm not interested in releasing music just for the sake of selling something. Sade is not a brand."

This lifetime of dedication toward achieving musical excellence helped Sade — vocalist Adu, bassist Paul S. Denman, keyboardist Andrew Hale, and guitarist/saxophonist Stuart Matthewman — gain prominence in the mid-80s, also garnering enormous respect from fans, critics, and peers alike. Formed in 1982, the English band is one of the few acts that can still be met with a hungry audience after disappearing from the spotlight for multiple years.

In an industry where churning out a new body of work is expected every couple of years, the four meticulous members of Sade move on their own time, putting out a mere six studio albums since 1984. Every project becomes more exquisite than the last, but it all began 40 years ago with Sade's illustrious debut album, Diamond Life. Ubiquitous hits like "Smooth Operator" and "Your Love Is King" appealed to listeners young and old — offering a unique blend of R&B, jazz, soul, funk, and pop that birthed a new sound and forced the industry to take notes from the jump.

As Sade's Diamond Life celebrates a milestone anniversary, here's a look at how the album helped push R&B forward, and why it's just as relevant today.

It Helped Set Off The "Quiet Storm" Craze

By mid-1984, Michael Jackson, was riding high off of winning the most GRAMMYs in a single night (including Album Of The Year) for his blockbuster album Thriller, Madonna celebrated her first top 10 hit with "Borderline," and Prince's Purple Rain was just days away from its theatrical release. Duran Duran, Culture Club, Billy Idol, and the Police were mainstays, while "blue-eyed soul" in particular had also hit an all-time high thanks to Hall and Oates, Wham, Simply Red, and others. What's more, many Black artists like Lionel Richie and Whitney Houston opted for more of a pop sound to appeal to broader audiences during MTV's golden era. 

Diamond Life was refreshing at the time, as it fully embraced soul and R&B. The album offered a chic sophistication amid the synth-heavy pop and rock music that ruled the charts.

Singles like "Your Love Is King" and "Smooth Operator" introduced jazz elements into mainstream radio. In turn, Sade helped usher in the "quiet storm" genre — R&B music at its core, with strong undertones of jazz for an ultra-smooth sound. Sade and Diamond Life also laid some of the groundwork for neo-soul, which saw a surge in the '90s à la Lauryn Hill, Maxwell, and Erykah Badu.

It Made GRAMMY History

In the 65-year history of the GRAMMYs, a small number of Nigerian artists, including Burna Boy and Tems, have won a golden gramophone. In 1986, a then 27-year-old Sade Adu made history as the first-ever Nigerian-born artist to win a GRAMMY when she and her band was crowned Best New Artist at the 29th GRAMMYs. Still, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg had to accept the award on Sade's behalf — signaling Adu's elusive nature as she rarely attends industry events or grants interviews.

Since then, Sade has gone on to earn three more GRAMMYs, including Best Pop Vocal Album in 2001 for their fifth studio album, Lovers Rock. The win signified their staying power in the new millennium.

It Birthed The Band's Signature Song…

While Diamond Life spawned timeless hits like "Your Love Is King" and "Hang On to Your Love," "Smooth Operator" became the album's highest-charting single — and remains the most iconic song in their catalog. The seductive track about a cunning two-timer propelled the band into international stardom: "Smooth Operator" skyrocketed to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and hit No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.

Even non-Sade fans can identify "Smooth Operator" in an instant, from Adu's unmistakable vocals to that now-iconic instrumental saxophone solo. As of press time, it boasts over 400 million Spotify streams alone, and has remained a set list staple across every one of Sade's tours.

…And It Houses Underrated Gems

"Smooth Operator" may be Sade's commercial classic, but deep cuts like "Frankie's First Affair," "Cherry Pie," and "I Will Be Your Friend" are fan favorites that embody the band's heart and soul.

"Frankie's First Affair" offers a surprisingly enchanting take on infidelity: "Frankie, didn't I tell you, you've got the world in the palm of your hand/ Frankie, didn't I tell you they're running at your command." And, it's impossible to resist the funky groove that carries standout track "Cherry Pie," which served as a catalyst for some of Sade's later, more dance-oriented hits, including "Never As Good As the First Time" and "Paradise." Some of Sade's most poignant statements about lost love, including "Somebody Already Broke My Heart" from 2000's Lovers Rock, can be traced back to "Cherry Pie."

Diamond Life's penultimate song, "I Will Be Your Friend," offers both solace and companionship — another recurring theme throughout Sade's music, from 1988's "Keep Looking" to 2010's "In Another Time."

It Was The Best-Selling Debut Album By A British Female Singer For More Than Two Decades

Sade has sold tens of millions of albums worldwide, but Diamond Life remains the band's most commercially successful LP with over 7 million copies sold. Most of Sade's other platinum-selling LPs, including Diamond Life's follow-up, 1985's Promise, boast sales between four and six million copies.

The 7 million feat helped Sade set the record for best-selling debut album by a British female singer. She held the title for nearly 25 years until Leona Lewis' 2008 album Spirit, which has sold over 8 million copies globally.

It Introduced Sade Adu As A Style Icon

When we first met Adu, her signature aesthetic consisted of a long, slicked-back ponytail, red lip, and gold hoops. Sade's impeccable style is front and center in early videos like "When Am I Going to Make a Living," in which she sports an all-white ensemble paired with a pale gray, ankle-length trench coat and loafers.

Adu rocked the model off-duty style long before it became a trend. Her oversized blazers, classic trousers, and head-to-toe denim looks were as effortless as they were chic and runway-ready — proving that less was more amid the decade of excess.

"It's now so acceptable to be wacky and have hair that goes in 101 directions and has several colours, and trendy, wacky clothes have become so acceptable that they're… conventional," Adu, who briefly worked as a fashion designer and model before pursuing music, told Rolling Stone in 1985. "I don't like looking outrageous. I don't want to look like everybody else."

It Shined A Light On Larger Societal Issues

While most of Diamond Life leans into love's ebbs and flows, a handful of tunes deal with financial strife coupled with a dose of optimism, as evidenced by "When Am I Going to Make a Living" and "Sally." The latter song characterizes the Salvation Army as a young charitable woman: "So put your hands together for Sally/ She's the one who cared for him/ Put your hands together for Sally/ She was there when his luck was running thin."

Meanwhile, Adu, a then-starving artist, scribbled down portions of "When Am I Going to Make a Living" on the back of her cleaning ticket. The soul-stirring "We are hungry, but we won't give in" refrain emerges as a powerful mantra in the face of adversity and still holds relevance in 2024. Similar themes appear throughout Sade's later work, including unemployment ("Feel No Pain"), unwanted pregnancy ("Tar Baby"), survival ("Jezebel"), prejudice ("Immigrant"), and injustice ("Slave Song").

Diamond Life closer "Why Can't We Live Together" is a well-done cover of Timmy Thomas' 1972 hit about the staggering Vietnam War deaths. The band wisely doesn't veer too far from the original recording, but Adu's distinctive contralto voice brings a haunting quality that's reminiscent of Billie Holiday.

It Ignited The Public's Ongoing Fascination With Sade Adu

Since 1984, Sade has only released six studio albums, and a remarkable 14 years have passed since the group's last offering, 2010's Soldier of Love. Ironically, that scarcity — both in terms of music and access to the artist — has actually added to Adu's appeal. Case in point: Sade's sold-out Soldier of Love Tour grossed over $50 million in 2011, and the band still brings in close to 14 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

Adu's striking beauty, mysterious persona, and knack for letting her music do all the talking has earned the admiration of her peers across genres and generations. Everyone from Beyoncé to Kanye West to Snoop Dogg have sung her praises. Drake even has two portrait-style tattoos of the singer on his torso. Prince reportedly described 1988's "Love Is Stronger Than Pride" as "one of the most beautiful songs ever." Metalheads Chino Moreno of the Deftones and Greg Puciato of the Dillinger Escape Plan have also cited Adu as inspiration — showing that her influence runs far and wide.

In 2022, reports circulated that Sade was recording new music at Miraval Studios in France. But upon Diamond Life's 40th anniversary, "Flower of the Universe" and "The Big Unknown" from the respective soundtracks to 2018 films A Wrinkle in Time and Widows stand as Sade's latest releases.

Whether fans get new music anytime soon remains to be seen, but the impressive repertoire of Adu, Denman, Hale, and Matthewman is one that aims to be truth-seeking and inspiring while exploring life's peaks and valleys. Diamond Life in particular holds up as one of the purest representations of the group's creative legacy, both commercially and musically. 

From quadruple platinum status to resonating with several generations, Diamond Life will forever stand as a remarkable debut — one that continues to influence music in a multitude of ways.

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Remi Wolf press photo
Remi Wolf

Photo: Ragan Henderson

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On New Album 'Big Ideas,' Remi Wolf Delivers Musical Poetry In Motion

Alt-pop favorite Remi Wolf took inventory of her psychological state while on "back-to-back-to-back" tours, and the result is a winning second album: 'Big Ideas.'

GRAMMYs/Jul 16, 2024 - 02:04 pm

How can you write a song, when you have nothing to sing about? One trusty well to return to is life on the road;  the musical canon is filled with odes to whizzing highway dividers, beds in strange places and, on occasion, a deteriorating home life.

The buzzy and prolific singer/songwriter Remi Wolf just folded these experiences into Big Ideas — her second full-length album, and one born of perpetual travel, transit and transition. (And, it should be said: her Carmen Sandiego traversals led her to NYC’s 2024 GRAMMY U Conference.)

"Well into my 20s, it was like a second puberty, because essentially, I was reborn as this touring musician," the thoughtful and loquacious indie-popper tells GRAMMY.com, over Zoom from her rehearsal space. (Even then, she's in motion, ducking from room to room to evade clamorous comings and goings.)

She evokes her breakout 2021 debut album: "I'd never toured like that before. My whole entire life felt so new after Juno was released."

This led to a white-hot writing streak. Big Ideas' highlights, like advance singles "Toro" and "Alone in Miami," directly address change and upheaval. Goes the former: "Dancing around and spilling wine/ You look good in my hotel robe." Goes the latter: "Met up with Maine, bought cocaine/ Clothes in the lobby waiting for me."

"There's no frills in that s—," Wolf says. "They're quite literally about real life." Read on for a full interview with Wolf about Big Ideas — a locus of that life, in all its nuances and dimensions.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

I love how funky and rhythmic 'Big Ideas' is. Which rhythms from the musical canon got you going? Are you a Purdie head? A Dan head? 

Oh, all of the above. I love a Purdie shuffle. The Purdie shuffle is a pretty legendary groove. I'm a huge fan of Steely Dan. I went to music college; I feel like as a music school student, you kind of have to love Steely Dan. Well, some of the kids choose to hate them, but I chose to love them. 

But yeah, I love a funky groove, a funky beat. I also like simple s—, but we love syncopation in this household. 

What'd you grow up listening to on that front? 

Honestly, not much. I feel like as a young kid, I would just listen to what my parents were listening to, and my dad listened to a lot of '80s classic rock, and my mom really liked Prince 

And then, also, my first album I ever owned was Speak Now by Lindsay Lohan, which is a completely different direction, and I was about eight when I got that album. 

I didn't know she made music. 
 
She had a music career. It was brief, but it was mighty, truly. She had all the best songwriters in the industry at the time working on this album. So honestly, even though it wasn't the pinnacle of musicianship, the writing was really good. Great songs. 

I just flashed back to Hilary Duff jewel cases in grade school. 

Oh, yeah, that's another classic, but I was a little bit more alternative than that. Lindsay Lohan was kind of on more of a pop-punk, like emo front-facing type of songwriting and energy. A little bit more like Alanis Morissette vibes. 

If I ever encounter a Lohan song in the wild, I'll remember your recommendation. 

When I was a high schooler, that's kind of when I started really listening to a bunch of staff that wasn't playing in my house. And that's when I got into Stevie Wonder and the Beatles and Cake. 

I ride for Cake. Great band. 

I ride for Cake, too. Honestly, they're one of my favorite bands of all time. I don't know, I feel super similar to them sometimes. Their lyrics are so wacky and sad, kind of — and bizarre, but they're so funky, and the songs are just great, but they're weird.

Take the readers through the span of time between your first album, 'Juno,' up to this sophomore album. What seed was planted? 

I released Juno at the end of 2021, and I guess the seed that was birthed after that was that I've essentially been on tour ever since. 

This new album, Big Ideas, is kind of the product of: I would go out on tour and come home for a week at a time, because I was on back-to-back-to-back tours. I went on 10 tours in one year; I was only home for about six weeks of all of 2022. And then, going into 2023, I kept touring, and kept doing the same thing. 

Watch: GRAMMY Museum Spotlight: Remi Wolf 

This album is a collection of all these moments and memories, and getting really focused, short amounts of time with me getting home and kind of exploding songwriting-wise — then, going back on tour and building up s— to talk about, and then exploding once again. 

There were about five concentrated week-and-a-half to two-week-long periods of writing that became this album. 

Do you get a charge out of touring? I couldn't imagine doing it again. 

Yeah. I think that there is an adrenaline that I like about it. I like traveling. I like seeing different cities, even if it's for a couple hours. I really like that. 

I like the communal aspect of it. I like getting really close to people and having a routine, to be honest. It's the most routine time of my life. Other than that, when I'm home, I'm just all over the place and doing a bunch of s—, which also has its perks. 

But I don't know, there's something about waking up and doing the same thing every day that kind of is nice for me. And it's cool to be able to just focus on one thing, getting to the next city and playing the show and making people happy. 

What about your life disappearing temporarily? Leaving a partner, your houseplants… 

No, that's really difficult. I luckily don't have a partner right now, but I think that tour is really capable of ruining a lot of relationships, unless you've got a really strong one where they understand the lifestyle and everything. But I've had many houseplants die. It's actually really sad. 

Your life just kind of is on pause. It's like a time machine, or a time capsule. Especially living in L.A. where the weather's the same every single day, you come home, and it's exactly the same as when you left the city. 

Once the emotional and conceptual pieces were on the floor, how did you assemble 'Big Ideas?' 

There are so many iterations of what it could have been. Because like I said, I had five two-week long sections of writing a f— ton of songs. And I'm not kidding, I wrote full albums within those weeks. I would be hunkered. 

I had one week in L.A. where it was five days, and we wrote 10 songs. And then I had another week in L.A. We wrote seven songs. And I had another week in New York, and we wrote nine songs. And then another week in New York, and we wrote 12 songs. And then another week finally back in L.A., and we wrote four songs that time. 

But essentially, I was kind of just doing what felt right. Until I felt like we had an entire album that was cohesive but expansive in its palette, I kept writing. And then finally, at a certain point, I was like, OK, I feel like we have the record. 

But there were moments where I was like, oh, I just wrote an album. I don't have to do anything else. And then a month would go by and I'd be like, I need to do more. 

In terms of choosing the songs, I think I was drawn to the songs that felt the most real to me — that continued to feel the most exciting and real to me. 

Define "real" in this context. 

That is a very difficult question to answer, and I think it is such a gut thing. It's beyond language. I don't know how to describe that. I don't know. If I feel invested. There are certain songs that you write and you like them, but you don't have that same feeling of investment in them. 

Does this really need to be heard? Does anybody need this? 

Yeah. Or: Do I need this? Honestly, it's so inexplicable. 

Do you ever try to work the songwriting muscle of making something specific, universal? Is that part of your calculus? 

Typically, it's not, but there's one song that I tried to do it on very intentionally: "Soup." 

[I had] the intention of making it a song that was built for an arena in terms of the sonics and the expansiveness of the drums and the four-on-the-floor. In my head, I was like, OK, I want this song to play, and then you see the arena with the people pumping their fists and feet. 

I think I'd recently seen Coldplay at Wembley Stadium, and I was like, Holy s—, this is so wild. Their stuff is so arena, stadium-bound. I was inspired by essentially the four-on-the-floor feel — hearing the reverb in the rafters of an arena like that. 

Going into writing that song, I was like, this is the song where it would make sense for me to be blunt and universal with my lyrics. And I think it was a cool experiment and honestly quite vulnerable for me, because I think sometimes I shy away from that type of lyric writing, whether it be out of just wanting to be a little bit more artsy. 

Sometimes I think it's fear-based, in the sense of: I want to hide, I want to be able to be the only one to really know what I'm talking about sometimes. And I think with "Soup," I kind of just let it fly and let that universality shine through a little bit more. 

You don't need to know what songs mean all the time. You mentioned the Beatles: John sang, "Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog's eye." 

Yeah. It's syllables, and imagery. This s— can be anything you want to be, and I always try to remember that. 

What's coming up in your musical life? 

I'm going on tour in the fall; today is our first day of rehearsals. We're starting to put together a big show. More travel, more motion. I never stop moving, essentially. Hopefully I'll be writing more soon.

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Derrick Hodge press photo
Derrick Hodge

Photo: Oye Diran

interview

Meet Derrick Hodge, The Composer Orchestrating Hip-Hop's Symphony

From Nas' 'Illmatic' to modern hip-hop symphonies, Derrick Hodge seamlessly bridges the worlds of classical and hip-hop music, bringing orchestral elegance to iconic rap anthems.

GRAMMYs/Jul 16, 2024 - 01:01 pm

Over the last 50 years, hip-hop culture has shown it can catalyze trends in fashion and music across numerous styles and genres, from streetwear to classical music. On June 30, Nas took his place at Red Rocks Amphitheater in a full tuxedo, blending the worlds of hip-hop and Black Tie once again, with the help of Derrick Hodge

On this warm summer eve in Morrison, Colorado, Nas performed his opus, Illmatic, with Hodge conducting the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. The show marked a belated 30-year celebration of the album, originally released on April 19, 1994. 

As Nas delivered his icy rhymes on classics like "N.Y. State of Mind," "Memory Lane (Sittin' in da Park)," and "Halftime," the orchestra held down the beat with a wave of Hodge's baton. The winds, strings, and percussion seamlessly transitioned from underscoring Nas's lyrics with sweeping harmonic layers to leading melodic orchestral flourishes and interludes. For the album's final track, "Ain't Hard to Tell," the orchestra expanded on Michael Jackson's "Human Nature," expertly sampled originally by producer Large Professor.

Derrick Hodge is a pivotal figure in modern music. His career spans writing and performing the famous bassline on Common's "Be," composing for Spike Lee's HBO documentary "When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts," and his own solo career that includes his latest experimental jazz album, COLOR OF NOIZE. Hodge also made history by bringing hip-hop to the Kennedy Center with orchestra accompaniments for Illmatic to celebrate the album's 20th anniversary in 2014.

"That was the first time hip-hop was accepted in those walls," Hodge says sitting backstage at Red Rocks. It was also the first time Hodge composed orchestral accompaniments to a hip-hop album.

Since then, Hodge has composed symphonic works for other rappers including Jeezy and Common, and is set to deliver a symphonic rendition of Anderson .Paak's 2016 album, Malibu, at the Hollywood Bowl in September.

Hodge's passion for orchestral composition began when he was very young. He played upright bass by age seven and continued to practice classical composition in his spare moments while touring as a bassist with Terence Blanchard and Robert Glasper. On planes. In dressing rooms. In the van to and from the gig.

"It started as a dream. I didn't know how it was going to be realized. My only way to pursue that dream was just to do it without an opportunity in sight," Hodge says. "Who would've known that all that time people were watching? Friends were watching and word-of-mouth." 

His dedication and word-of-mouth reputation eventually led Nas to entrust him with the orchestral arrangements for Illmatic. He asked Hodge and another arranger, Tim Davies, to write for the performance at the Kennedy Center.

"[Nas] didn't know much about me at all," Hodge says. "For him to trust how I was going to paint that story for an album that is very important to him and important to the culture, I have not taken that for granted." 

Read more: How 'Illmatic' Defined East Coast Rap: Nas’ Landmark Debut Turns 30

Those parts Hodge wrote for the Kennedy Center are the same parts he conducted at Red Rocks. Over a decade later, he channels the same drive and hunger he had when he was practicing his compositions between gigs. "I hope that I never let go of that. I feel like these opportunities keep coming because I'm approaching each one with that conviction. Like this could be my last." 

Before this latest performance, GRAMMY.com spoke with Hodge about bridging the worlds of classical and hip-hop, influencing the next generation of classical musicians, and how his experience as a bassist helps him lead an orchestra.

Throughout history, orchestral music has been celebrated by the highest echelons of society, whereas hip-hop has often been shunned by that echelon. What is it like for you to bring those two worlds together?

I love it. I've embraced the opportunity since day one. I was a young man showing up with Timberlands on and cornrows in my hair, and I knew the tendency to act and move in a certain perception was there. I knew then I have to represent hope in everything I do. I choose to this day to walk with a certain pair of blinders on because I feel like it's necessary. Because of that I never worry about how the classical world perceives me. 

Oftentimes I'll stand before them and I know there may be questions but the love I show them, what I demand of them, and how I show appreciation when they take the music seriously…almost every situation has led to lifelong friendships. 

I believe that's been part of my purpose. It's not even been to change minds or change perceptions. In serving the moment, even when people have preconceptions, they're in front of me playing music I wrote. How do I serve them best? How do I bring out the best in them just like I'm trying to bring out the best in the storyline of a hip-hop artist that may not relate to their story at all? The answer is just to be selfless. That's eliminated the distraction of trying to convince minds.

With that unifying principle, would you consider conducting the orchestra the same thing as playing bass with Robert Glasper?

The way I try to be selfless and serve the moment, it's no different. Maybe the skillset that's required. For example, conducting or working within a framework of composed music requires a certain way of making sure everybody's on the same page so we can get through these things on time and keep going. But I serve that moment no differently than when myself and Robert Glasper, Chris Dave, Casey Benjamin RIP, are creating a song in the moment.

I actually don't even think about how one thing is affecting the other. I will say the beauty of the bass and the bassists that have influenced me — from Ron Carter to the great Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten — is the way they can stand out while never abandoning the emotion of the moment. Remembering what is perceived as the role of the bass and how it glues things in a unique way. Harmonically and rhythmically. Being aware of the responsibility of being aware of everything.

I think that's one thing that's carried over to orchestrating and thinking about balances and how to convey emotion. I think some things are innate with bassists. We're always navigating through harmony and having a conversation through a lens of placement with drums. Placement with the diction if they're singers or rappers. There are a lot of decisions bass players are making in the moment that we don't even think about. It's just secondhand. But it's how are we serving what's necessary to make the conversation unified. I think that's one thing that's served me well in composition.  

What's one song you're particularly excited to dive into for the Anderson .Paak arrangements?

So I'm intentionally not thinking in that way because we decided to treat it like a movie. Start to finish no matter what. With that in mind, I'm trying to approach it as if the whole thing is an arcing story because I didn't realize the succession of how he placed that record was really important to him. 

**Hip-hop is often a very minimalist genre while an orchestra is frequently the opposite with dozens of instruments. How do you maintain that minimalist feel when writing orchestra parts for hip-hop albums like Illmatic?**

I'm so glad you asked that because that was the biggest overarching thing I had to deal with on the first one. With Nas. Because Illmatic, people love that as it is. Every little thing. It wasn't just the production. Nas's diction in between it, how he wrote it, how he told the story, and the pace he spoke through it. That's what made it. So the biggest thing is how do I honor that but also try to tell the story that honors the narrative of symphonic works? [The orchestra is] fully involved. How do I do things in a way where they are engaged without forcing them? 

Illmatic was a part of my soundtrack. So I started with the song that meant the most to me at that time: "The World is Yours." That was the first piece I finished, and I emailed Pete Rock and asked "How is this feeling to you?" If the spirit of the song is speaking to him then I feel like this is something I can give to the people no matter how I feel about it. And he gave the thumbs up. 

So instead of overly trying to prove a point within the flow of the lyrics, how do we pick those moments when the orchestra is exposed? Let them be fully exposed. Let them tell a story leading into that. Make what they do best marry well into what Nas and the spirit of hip-hop and hip-hop sampling do best. And then let there be a dance in between. 

That first [Illmatic] show was a great experiment for me. I try to carve out moments whenever I can. Let me figure out what's a story that can combine this moment with this moment. That's become the beauty. Especially within the rap genre. To let something new that they're not familiar with lead into this story. 

Derrick Hodge with orchestra

*Derrick Hodge conducts the Colorado Symphony Orchestra at Red Rocks* | Amanda Tipton

The orchestra is just as excited to play it as Nas is to have them behind him. 

And that reflects my story. I try to dedicate more time to thinking about that, and that normally ends up reciprocated back in the way they're phrasing. In the way they're honoring the bones. In the way they're honoring the breaths that I wrote in for them. They start to honor that in a way because they know we're coming to try and have a conversation with these orchestras. That's one thing I try to make sure no matter what. It's a conversation and that goes back to the moment as well. 

I've seen other composers put an orchestral touch on hip-hop in recent years. For example, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson wrote orchestral parts to celebrate Biggie's 50th birthday. Would you say integrating an orchestra into hip-hop is becoming more popular? 

It has become popular, especially in terms of catching the eyes of a lot of the different symphonies that might not have opened up their doors to that as frequently in the past. These opportunities — I appreciate the love shown where my name is mentioned in terms of the inception of things. But I approach it with a lot of gratitude because others were doing it and were willing to honor the music the same. There are many that wish they had that opportunity so I try to represent them. 

With these more modern applications of orchestral music, I feel like there will be an explosion of talent within the classical realm in the next few years. Kids will think it's cool to play classical again.

The possibility of that just brings joy to me. Not just because it's a spark, but hopefully the feeling in the music they relate to. Hopefully there is something in it, aside from seeing it done, that feels that it relates to their story. I have confidence if I'm true to myself, hopefully, each time in the music it's going to feel like it's something relevant to the people. The more I can help foster platforms where people are free to be themselves, and where they can honor the music—I hope that mentality becomes infectious.

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