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The Evolution of Video Game Music: From 8-Bit To The Metaverse And The GRAMMYs

Photo: Poppy Thomas Hill/Flickr

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The Evolution of Video Game Music: From 8-Bit To The Metaverse And The GRAMMYs

Recognizing the impact of video game music, the Recording Academy created a new GRAMMY Award category: Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media. Industry experts discuss what's next for the billion dollar video game music market.

GRAMMYs/Aug 16, 2022 - 03:05 pm

From the introduction of the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1985, video games have proliferated global markets — from massive, online interactive worlds to free smartphone apps. Like music, video games have become an integral part of daily lives, while sound and music are an increasingly important aspect of gaming.

According to a Deloitte survey, 83 percent of Millennials and 87 percent of Gen Zers play some format of video games at least once a week. Fifty-eight percent of adult gamers and 70 percent of teen gamers stated that video games help them to stay connected with their friends, make connections, and express themselves. As such, the music within video games are a vital part of the experience and identity of a game.

"Music and games have always been intertwined in my mind," says Tayler Backman, Sound Designer and Composer at Hyper Hippo. "Whenever I hear a theme from 'Super Mario 64,' I’m immediately brought back to my childhood and some of my favorite memories playing the game with friends."  

Music helps weave the tapestry that heightens a gaming experience through "emotion, immersion, and story," adds sound designer and composer David Fairfield. Games can also inspire; long-time gamer Jon Batiste told the Washington Post that he has been influenced by video game music since childhood.

Video games have given a broader platform to established artists and working musicians as well. Consider the connection between "Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater" and punk and ska music — the 1999 game introduced those genres to hundreds of thousands of new, young listeners — or the way the "Crazy Taxi" soundtrack featured Bad Religion and the Offspring. System Of A Down's Serj Tankian contributed to the soundtrack for "Metal Hellsinger" while jazz has been used in a variety of games.

The connection between video games and music has evolved into a massive market that's projected to exceed $200 billion globally this year. Recognizing its significant cultural impact, the Recording Academy has even created a new category: Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media.

Music will continue to evolve, but its fundamentals and importance will not. "In the beginning, video games reflected global culture. Over the next generation, video games began to influence culture," says Steve Schnur, Worldwide Executive & President of Music at video game company Electronic Arts. "Today, video games have become culture. And their principal cultural driver will always be music." 

The Past: Getting Into The Groove

From its inception, video games have maintained a complementary relationship with music. Yet the way music is used in video games has evolved substantially over the last 40 years (and its genesis can be traced back to the 50s before the first video game even existed). 

Early '80s gaming platforms like the 8-bit Commadore 64 home computer could only produce three notes; while the NES was a vast improvement, its musical output was still highly limited. Back then, a developer couldn’t make music and sound effects play simultaneously. This climate required composer-developers to exercise the full breadth of their creativity. 

"When video games first started, the composer was often a developer on the same project. It was a solo endeavor," Fairfield says. Working alone has its limits. It's understandable, then, that the sound of a game would take a backseat to its functionality. 

Still, the music and sounds from these older games are classics, and have had an undeniable influence on modern music, from EDM to synthwave. Today, game studios have entire departments dedicated to music and sound effects.

"We are now entering a time when technology enables greater collaboration and community. We inspire, push, challenge, and encourage each other to greater levels," Fairfield continues. "Game studios that recognize the value in creative collaboration will find better ways to enable it, and reap the rewards." 

The Present: Getting Into The Game

Video game music has several formats and pushes music forward in various ways. "It can be defined as the music composed natively for specific games or artists that activate/integrate themselves into existing games," notes Mark Rasoul, founder of MARK THE FUTURE and former VP of Marketing for 100 Thieves, a brand and gaming organization. "Ultimately, it’s important to understand the benefits from three different groups — the game publisher/studio, the musician/artist, and the actual gamers themselves, each of which has different POVs, needs and opportunities." 

The way composers and artists find their way into video game music is somewhat similar to the traditional music industry. Both require putting in the work to develop your talent, find your voice, and get your work out there. But the video game industry also requires a level of technical know-how, as well as knowledge about how sounds work in a digital or virtual platform. These particulars have left the music industry attempting to navigate a new landscape. 

"Video games have been making waves with new revenue streams for some time," says Uziel Colón, the former Senior Project Manager, Latin & Music For Visual Media at the Recording Academy, who played a role in the development of the new GRAMMY category. "There are lots of platforms through which people are monetizing video games, and the Metaverse brings even more new revenue streams. In the future, video games and music will merge — it’s already happening." 

As the music world catches up to gaming, be prepared to see fascinating innovations — not just in how music is distributed and marketed, but how it is created and how it interacts with fans.

That said, some aspects of the music composition side of things will remain the same. It’s important for artists to follow what drives them, not be driven by what to follow. "I think the best way to get started is to just spend as much time as you can making music that means something to you and that you're proud of. How things sound sonically really matters in such a competitive field," advises composer Jonas Friedman, who has created music for video games such as "Splinterlands."

The best way into the industry is preparation; Fairfield suggests 10,000 hours of learning is a good target.  "That's around 5 years of full-time employment, or 10 years of part-time evenings and weekends. I started earning my hours in middle school with my first [Digital Audio Workstation]," he notes. "Create, fail, learn, fix, and repeat. GET YOUR REPS IN. From there, it was evenings and weekends, side-projects, and tours." 

Any evolving and competitive market requires time and knowledge. It’s also important to know the gaming landscape, as well as its various fanbases, because this is also your fanbase.

The Present: Global Access

Gaming has a monumental global platform, offering the music within games an international recognizability that may otherwise take years or decades to cultivate. According to Deloitte, 34 percent of Gen Z gamers look up the music they hear in games to buy or stream; nearly a quarter share music recommendations with fellow gamers.

"Video games are bigger than the film and music industries combined," says Schnur. "And I believe one of the main reasons is that gaming has never feared technology. We’ve embraced technology from the very beginning, and often evolved it. Video games are an entertainment medium that always shifts towards the consumer. That’s why the future of this industry is driven solely by players’ imagination."

With constant enhancements in technology, access to music and the ability to create it will also increase. Fairfield believes that the decade-plus trend of proliferant music-making tech will only continue. 

"This will bring in a new pool of talented creators into our industry….The downside of this accessibility is that it will flood the industry with mid to low quality content, and potentially drive prices down due to supply and demand (we've seen this with Spotify)," he says. "It means that game studios will have a lot of unique talent available to them — when they learn how to parse through the noise — which will lead to some really amazing innovation."

The Future: AI And Evolution

Gaming is ingrained in Gen Z's culture and its earnings are projected to be over $260 billion by 2025, notes Rasoul. There are over 2.7 billion current casual gamers worldwide —  over a third of the world’s total population. Consider that number for a second: video games are a nearly unparalleled musical platform; it's like hitting a Konami code to access.

As video game music continues to evolve, there will be a whole host of new opportunities. These opportunities have yet to be fully capitalized on in the music industry, but the turn has already begun. 

"I think it will be a continuation of what we’re seeing now with more opportunities for game soundtracks and composers to be recognized and reach new audiences," echoes Friedman, adding his enthusiasm for the new GRAMMY category. "That sort of acknowledgement for the artists behind the music, and respect for the industry as a whole, I think will become more commonplace." 

Some even believe that musicians will soon prefer placing songs in a video game over films and television. 

"Movies are much more fleeting and moments in time. Video games, behaviorally, bring people back, over and over to play," Rasoul says, positing that the nature of video games makes them a more dynamic and evergreen platform. "Games update over time, which gives the artist more opportunities to re-engage their music and audience." With the metaverse peeking its head into the conversation, this interaction has the potential to become even more lively, organic, and customizable. 

In the future, Rasoul strongly believes musicians will inform gaming. "Artists will simply produce their own game experiences to communicate their music stories, versus needing a partnership with an existing title. Development resources are more abundant than ever, and creating their own franchises can produce long term fan engagement." 

Backman, the composer, agrees, suggesting that mainstream artists may release an album within a video game, or curate a radio station within the game's universe (like Flying Lotus and others did in "Grand Theft Auto"). "We just saw Dr. Dre in their last [downloadable content]; your mission involves helping him get his stolen phone back, but you also see him and Anderson .Paak record a song together. I think we’re only going to see more and more of this type of merging of video game music and mainstream artists."

GRAMMY-winning composers have created scores and themes for video games, among them Hans Zimmer ("Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2") and Danny Elfman ("Fable"). "The work that’s happening in game themes and music is already incredible, but I think our part of the craft of game making might gain a little more notice and prestige if we have an Oscar winner composing the theme to the next 'Uncharted' game," continues Backman.

Video games create new worlds — some familiar, some fantastical — but they all have music. The future of video game music is full of endless possibilities, with the chance to tell new stories in different ways, to have music interact with fans on a completely new level, and with unprecedented levels of global access.

 We're Probably On An Irreversible Course Into The Metaverse. What Role Will Music Play In It?

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Remembering Christine McVie Of Fleetwood Mac Through Her GRAMMY Triumphs, From 'Rumours' Onward
Christine McVie in 1969

Photo: Evening Standard / Stringer via Getty Images

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Remembering Christine McVie Of Fleetwood Mac Through Her GRAMMY Triumphs, From 'Rumours' Onward

Unflashy and undramatic, McVie's contributions to Fleetwood Mac led to some of their greatest contributions to popular song — with two GRAMMY wins to boot.

GRAMMYs/Dec 2, 2022 - 08:32 pm

In an acclaimed career that spanned more than half a century, Christine McVie staked her claim as one of the most potent singer-songwriters of her generation. A beloved original member of the seminal rock group Fleetwood Mac, with whom she sang, wrote and played keyboard, she and her bandmates catapulted to fame in the early '70s, scoring GRAMMY gold and influencing generations of musicians.

"As a GRAMMY Award winner and 2018 Person of the Year honoree, the Recording Academy has been honored to celebrate Christine McVie and her work with Fleetwood Mac throughout her legendary career," Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. stated. In an announcement of her death, the remaining members of Fleetwood Mac mourned her passing by saying "She was truly one-of-a-kind, special, and talented beyond measure."

McVie, who passed away Nov. 30 at 79 after a brief illness, may have not been as flashy, or as dramatic, as fellow Fleetwood Mac members Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks. But McVie's contributions to the band led to some of their greatest contributions to popular song, with two GRAMMY wins among seven nominations.

The tour de force that is Rumours is one of the most acclaimed and best-selling albums of all time and an inductee into GRAMMY Hall Of Fame. The masterpiece earned McVie her first GRAMMY (for Album of the Year no less) at the 20th Annual Ceremony in 1978, also earning a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Group.

Fleetwood Mac's 11th studio album, Rumours was actually McVie's 7th album with the band after making her name in the English blues scene, rising through the ranks as part of the band Chicken Shack, and even releasing a solo album.

In 1971, McVie joined Fleetwood Mac alongside her then-husband John McVie. The potent combination of the McVies, along with Mick Fleetwood, Buckingham and Nicks, catalyzed and detonated into the stratospheric Rumours.

"It's hard to say (what it was like) because we were looking at it from the inside," McVie said about the iconic album earlier this year.  "We were having a blast and it felt incredible to us that we were writing those songs. That's all I can say about it, really."

McVie's coyness may stem from the fact that prior to its production, Christine and John divorced after eight years of marriage. Meanwhile, Buckingham and Nicks were having a tumultuous relationship themselves. 

McVie is credited as sole songwriter on a handful of instant-classic Rumours tracks, all written during a perilous moment. "I thought I was drying up," explained McVie. "I was practically panicking because every time I sat down at a piano, nothing came out. Then, one day,  I just sat down and wrote in the studio, and the four-and-a-half songs of mine on the album are a result of that."

That includes "Don't Stop," an ironically peppy ode considering the turmoil McVie and her bandmates were grappling with at the time. With lyrics that staunchly proclaim "Yesterday's gone!," the song was reportedly written as a plea from Christine to John to move on from their relationship.

"I dare say, if I hadn't joined Fleetwood Mac, we might still be together. I just think it's impossible to work in the band with your spouse," McVie later said. John, meanwhile, was oblivious to the song's message during its production and early acclaim. He revealed in 2015: "I've been playing it for years and it wasn't until somebody told me, 'Chris wrote that about you.' Oh really?"

John was also equally ignorant to the source inspiration of "You Make Loving Fun"; McVie told him the joyful song ("Sweet wonderful you/ You make me happy with the things you do") was about her dog. In reality, it was about an affair with the band's lighting designer.

"It was a therapeutic move," McVie later mused of her lyrical penchant for hiding brutal honesty in plain sight. "The only way we could get this stuff out was to say it, and it came out in a way that was difficult. Imagine trying to sing those songs onstage with the people you're singing them about."

When McVie was asked earlier this year what song she written she was most proud of, it was an easy answer: the Rumours track "Songbird."

"For some peculiar reason, I wrote "Songbird" in half an hour; I've never been able to figure out how I did that," she told People. "I woke up in the middle of the night and the song was there in my brain, chords, lyrics, melody, everything. I played it in my bedroom and didn't have anything to tape it on. So I had to stay awake all night so I wouldn't forget it and I came in the next morning to the studio and had (producer) Ken Callait put it on a 2-track. That was how the song ended up being. I don't know where that came from."

McVie's most recent GRAMMY nominations were for her contributions to The Dance, Fleetwood Mac's 1997 live album that featured her stand-outs from Rumours along with the McVie penned-tracks "Say You Love Me" and "Everywhere."

The album earned McVie and the band GRAMMY nominations for Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal (for the Lindsay Buckingham-written "The Chain") and  Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal (for "Silver Springs," penned by Stevie Nicks). It also landed a nomination for Best Pop Album. It was her final album with the band before a 15-year self-imposed retirement.

In her final years, McVie was a vital member of Fleetwood Mac, including in 2018 when they became the first band honored as MusicCare's Person of the Year.

Speaking to the Recording Academy before the ceremony, Nicks expressed that her initial goal upon joining the group was a humble one: "Christine and I made a pact. We said we will never, ever be treated as a second-class citizen amongst our peers."

Lindsey Buckingham Holds Forth On His New Self-Titled Album, How He Really Feels About Fleetwood Mac Touring Without Him

15 Must-Hear New Albums Out This Month: SZA, Neil Young, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, NCT Dream & More
(L-R): A Boogie wit da Hoodie, SZA, Jacquees, Metro Boomin, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer

Photos (L-R): Joseph Okpako/WireImage; Tim Mosenfelder/FilmMagic; Prince Williams/Wireimage; Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Justin Combs Events; Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

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15 Must-Hear New Albums Out This Month: SZA, Neil Young, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie, NCT Dream & More

Rounding out the year, here are the can't-miss releases and massive new albums dropping in December 2022 from Weezer, Metro Boomin, NOFX, Jacquees, Ab-Soul, and many others.

GRAMMYs/Dec 2, 2022 - 07:20 pm

And just like that, 2022 is almost done — but not before we get another round of must-hear albums. December's slate of releases is set to send the year out on a high note, with something for all tastes.

This month heralds much-anticipated returns from R&B innovator SZA, with S.O.S., and rap super-producer Metro Boomin, with the mysterious HEROES & VILLAINS. December's riches also include Bad MFs from West Coast hip-hop supergroup Mount Westmore, indie-rock lifers Weezer dropping SZNZ: Winter and a loaded, possibly final album from punk-rock misfits NOFX. There's also new-generation R&B (RINI’s Ultraviolet EP and Jacquees' Sincerely For You), dark techno (Terence Fixmer's Shifting Signals), soul-baring indie (Sophie Jamieson's Choosing), and much more.

Below, check out a guide to the 15 essential albums dropping just in time for the festive season. — Jack Tregoning

Contributed reporting by Ashlee Mitchell

SZA - S.O.S.

Release date: TBD

Five years after her GRAMMY-nominated debut album, Ctrl, it's about to be SZA season all over again. While details are still pending, the alternative R&B star is expected to drop her second album, S.O.S., this month, following the single "Shirt" and its teaser follow-up, "PSA."

In a revealing Billboard cover story, SZA spoke frankly about the pressure she feels to release the album while navigating the music industry and her fans' expectations. As always with SZA, the music itself speaks volumes, and the darkly seductive "Shirt" (accompanied by a music video co-starring SZA and Academy Award nominee LaKeith Stanfield in a riff on Bonnie and Clyde) suggests S.O.S. will be something to savor. — J.T.

Related: Ari Lennox's Age/Sex/Location Explores Online Dating, Never Settling & Old School Romance

Metro Boomin - HEROES & VILLAINS

Release date: December 2

To prepare fans for his new album, HEROES & VILLAINS, sought-after rap producer Metro Boomin went all-out on a short film starring his collaborators Young Thug and Gunna alongside celebrated actors Morgan Freeman and LaKeith Stanfield. Following that flex, the artist's first solo LP in four years is set to feature a who's who of rap, with an exact tracklist still to be announced.

Metro Boomin's previous album, 2018's Not All Heroes Wear Capes, featured the likes of Travis Scott, 21 Savage and Gucci Mane rapping over the producer's dark, trap-centric beats. This time around, he's keeping his cards close to his chest, slyly sharing a video of the studio sessions on his Instagram with the caption, "When the sequel is even better than the first." All will be revealed on Dec. 2. — J.T.

Related: For The Record: Kendrick Lamar's 'Good Kid, M.A.A.d City' Launched A New Era In Storytelling & West Coast Rap

Neil Young - Harvest (50th Anniversary Edition)

Release date: December 2

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Neil Young's seminal folk-rock album Harvest, released to great acclaim in 1972. Featuring indelible songs like "Heart of Gold," "Old Man" and "The Needle and The Damage Done," Harvest was the best-selling album of that year in the US.

To celebrate the milestone, Young is releasing a special anniversary edition, available in either CD or vinyl box-set. Extras include a new two-hour documentary called Harvest Time, an official release of Young's BBC In Concert performance, and a hardcover book featuring never-before-seen photos and notes by legendary rock photographer Joel Bernstein. Consider this the festive gift for the Neil Young completist in your life. — J.T.

After breaking out with his 2021 debut album, Constellations, RINI returns this month with the seven-track EP, Ultraviolet. The Filipino-Australian R&B talent, who now calls Los Angeles home, pairs his indelible voice with slinky, late-night production that pulls the listener close.

Ahead of Ultraviolet, RINI has released the singles "Haunt Me" and "Selfish," featuring GRAMMY-winning rapper BEAM, which pair his themes of love and longing with gauzy, head-nodding beats. "I want to be able to show the world and myself that I'm growing, not just in music, but as a person," RINI told Uproxx in May. On Ultraviolet, which also features the slick bedroom jams "Something to Feel" and "Your Eyes," that evolution is evident. — J.T.

Related: R&B Isn't Dead: Listen To 51 Songs By Summer Walker, Josh Levi & More Artists Who Are Pushing The Genre Forward

NOFX - Double Album

Release date: December 2

SoCal punk veterans NOFX have always kept up a prolific output, and this month the band returns with their 15th LP, Double Album. Following last year's Single Album, the conveniently titled Double Album features 10 new songs with perfectly NOFX titles like "Punk Rock Cliché" and "Is It Too Soon if Time Is Relative?" Lead single "Darby Crashing Your Party" showcases the band at their hard-riffing, rowdy best, with frontman Fat Mike clearly relishing lyrical volleys like, "A middle-class clown waging lower class war/A Beverly Hillbilly peeled off the floor."

In a statement announcing the new album, Fat Mike revealed the songs were recorded at the same time as Single Album, then finished off later. "I think it's a very enjoyable album, and maybe our funniest," he added. It could also be NOFX's parting gift — responding to a fan’s Instagram comment, Fat Mike announced that 2023 will be the band's "last year" after an "amazing run." — J.T.

Related: 5 Women Essential To Punk: Exene Cervenka, Poly Styrene, Alice Bag, Kathleen Hanna & The Linda Lindas

Terence Fixmer - Shifting Signals

Release date: December 2

French producer Terence Fixmer has been one of the most intriguing figures in the electronic music scene for well over a decade. Over six past solo albums, numerous EPs and standalone releases, Fixmer has perfected a dark, gritty sound that melds techno with the looser industrial spirit of electronic body music (EBM).

Fixmer's seventh album, Shifting Signals, continues in that vein while allowing for new textures to creep in. "On each album I aim for something different but I retain the core sound, which is always there and often dark and melancholic," the producer wrote in a statement. "Sometimes the balance tips slightly and on this album, I'm striving to be freer and open myself up more to melody."

That openness to different modes is showcased on the atmospheric, piano-led "Synthetic Minds," which evokes a John Carpenter film score, while fellow singles "Corne de Brume" and "No Latitude for Errors" are built for heady techno dance floors. — J.T.

Related: Going Underground: House DJ Claude VonStroke On Making Soul Decisions & Keeping Electronic Music Grimy

Sophie Jamieson - Choosing

Release date: December 2

On her debut album, Choosing, London-based singer-songwriter Sophie Jamieson doesn't shy from difficult or uncomfortable emotions. Lead single, "Sink" lays bare her push-pull relationship with alcohol over a lulling bed of piano and drums. That theme of emotional vulnerability carries through the LP's 11 songs, which foreground Jamieson's enchanting voice and plain-spoken lyrics.

"The title of this album is so important," Jamieson wrote in a statement. "Without it, this might sound like another record about self-destruction and pain, but at heart, it's about hope, and finding strength. It's about finding the light at the end of the tunnel and crawling towards it." Choosing arrives via Bella Union, the tastemaking label led by Simon Raymonde, formerly of Scottish dream pop band Cocteau Twins. — J.T.

Related: Hear The 2022 Nominees For Best Alternative Music Performance At The 2023 GRAMMY Awards

White Lung - Premonition

Release date: December 2

Canadian punk rockers White Lung weren't expecting to take six years to follow up 2016's celebrated Paradise. As the story goes, the band got together in their hometown of Vancouver in 2017, expecting to rip out their final album before parting ways. In the studio, frontwoman Mish Barber-Way discovered she was pregnant with her first child — which, along with a global pandemic and another child, put the album plans on ice.

Fast forward to 2022, and White Lung's fifth and final album, Premonition, is finally here. With all that extra time to marinate, Premonition is a thrilling return from the trio, mining deeper themes with the same raucous, kick-down-the-door energy that fans expect. The album opens furiously with "Hysteric", and also features the singles "Date Night" and "Tomorrow," which match Barber-Way's impassioned vocals with muscular punk-rock riffing.

"We felt like this record was the right endpoint and we are happy the songs will finally be released," the band wrote in a statement. — J.T.

Related: Like Turnstile And Code Orange? 10 More Bands Expanding The Boundaries Of Hardcore

A Boogie Wit da Hoodie - Me vs. Myself

Release date: December 9

New York's A Boogie wit da Hoodie has been steadily hyping the release of his fourth album, Me Vs Myself, throughout 2022. Originally scheduled for November, the album will drop this month, right in time for A Boogie's hometown album launch at the iconic Apollo Theater in Harlem.

Me Vs Myself was preceded by a pair of singles, "Take Shots," featuring Tory Lanez, and "Ballin," which both showcase the rapper's supremely confident flow and wavy beats. While the full tracklist is not yet confirmed, A Boogie's previous album, ARTIST 2.0, covered the R&B and rap spectrum with guests like Summer Walker, Khalid, Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert, without pulling focus from the main star. The rapper has already lined up dates for the Me Vs Myself tour stretching into 2023, so it's a great time to bet on A Boogie. — J.T.

Related: Meet The 2022 Nominees For Best Rap Album At The 2023 GRAMMY Awards

Mount Westmore - Snoop, Cube, 40, $hort

Release date: December 9

When living legends Snoop Dogg, E-40, Too Short and Ice Cube formed the supergroup Mount Westmore, West Coast rap heads took notice. After several hints that a collaborative album was coming, Mount Westmore made the surprise decision to release their debut, Bad MFs, exclusively as an NFT via the blockchain-based platform Gala Music.

The album arrives on streaming services this month under a new title, Snoop, Cube, 40, $hort, featuring additional songs not included on the NFT version. A spirit of loose fun and ride-or-die friendship carries through all the singles released so far, including the swaggering "Bad MFs" and the bass-heavy, light-hearted "Big Subwoofer." As Snoop put it to HotNewHipHop, "You bring the legends of the West Coast together, something great will always happen." — J.T.

Related: Take The Power Back: How Rage Against The Machine's Debut LP Created Rap-Rock With A Message

Leland Whitty - Anyhow

Release date: December 9

Best known as a member of Toronto-based jazz ensemble BADBADNOTGOOD, Leland Whitty is a true multi-instrumentalist. On his seven-track solo release, Anyhow, Whitty oversaw all production and composition, moving deftly between guitar, synthesizer, woodwinds and strings.

Following his scores for indie films Disappearance at Clifton Hill and Learn to Swim, Whitty was inspired to combine cinematic composition with rock and jazz instrumentation in his own project. Lead single "Awake" perfectly strikes that balance with twinkling keys, mournful strings and an insistent drum beat, while follow-up "Glass Moon" conjures a similarly beguiling mood. Members of BADBADNOTGOOD and Whitty's musician brother also joined the studio sessions, making Anyhow a family affair. — J.T.

Related: Robert Glasper & Terrace Martin On Removing Their Egos And Creating Their GRAMMY-Nominated Collaboration Dinner Party: Dessert

Jacquees - Sincerely For You

Release date: December 16

On "Say Yea", the sultry bedroom anthem he dropped back in May, Jacquees croons, "Girl, you overdue for some romantic s—." That simple line is something of a mission statement for the R&B casanova, whose third album, Sincerely For You, drops this month.

The LP features "Say Yea" alongside 16 more R&B jams, including singles "Tipsy," which captures the singer's blurry plea to a lover, and the smoothly boastful "Still That." Elsewhere, Sincerely For You offers up guest turns from Future (who also executive produced the album), 21 Savage and Tory Lanez, plus the R&B dream team of 6lack and Summer Walker on "Tell Me It's Over." On his socials, Jacquees dedicated the album to "everybody who been there for me along the way" and promised to deliver only "real R&B." — J.T.

Related: Durand Bernarr's 'Wanderlust': The R&B Singer Explains Why He's "Constantly In A State Of Arriving"

Ab-Soul - Herbert

Release date: December 16

Six hard-won years after his last album, the divisive, conspiracy theory-heavy Do What Thou Wilt., Ab-Soul has found his drive again. The rapper from Carson, California returns this month with a deeply personal album that shares his birth name, Herbert.

Ab-Soul's new outlook was previewed in lead single "Do Better," which reckons with the scars of his past and looks to the future with powerful clarity. The next single, "Gang'Nem," featuring Houston rapper FRE$H and produced by fellow Top Dawg Entertainment mainstay Sounwave, also revisits his upbringing and pays respect to L.A. street culture over a woozy, hard-hitting beat.

For fans of Ab-Soul's dense lyrical style and gravelly flow, Herbert is an eagerly-anticipated return to the rap limelight. — J.T.

Related: From "Rap Sh!t" To "Pistol" And "Treme": 8 Must-See TV Series For Music Lovers

NCT DREAM - Candy

Release date: December 19

NCT Dream, the youngest sub-group of Neo Culture Technology (NCT), has seen exponential growth since they rebranded as a fixed unit in 2020. The septet is set to release a winter special EP called Candy on Dec. 19. The mini-album's six tracks, include lead single "Candy," which was originally performed by H.O.T. in 1996. The album will be the first holiday release for any NCT sub-group, following a slew of successful releases from NCT Dream this year.

The group released their second studio album, Glitch, in March 2022, followed by their repackaged Beatbox in May. Their first feature film, NCT Dream The Movie: In a Dream, released worldwide on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 and documents the opening days of their tour in Seoul. The group will finish their tour in Japan by February 2023. — Ashlee Mitchell

Related: K-Pop Icon B.I Isn't Afraid To Explore Growth And Freedom On 'Love Or Loved Pt. 1'

Weezer - SZNZ: Winter

Release date: December 21

This has been a remarkably good year to be a Weezer fan. Always pleasingly prolific, in 2022 the band decided to release a four-EP series under the name SZNZ, each timed to coincide with a new season.

Following Spring, Summer and Autumn editions, SZNZ: Winter arrives just in time for peak coziness. While the complete tracklist is not yet known, Weezer performed the EP in full for an intimate crowd at the Troubadour in Los Angeles (using their favored alias Goat Punishment), with new highlights including "I Want A Dog" and "The One That Got Away."

While frontman Rivers Cuomo has described SZNZ: Winter as having a sad vibe that suits snowed-in days, you can always count on Weezer to cut the melancholy with some power-pop verve. — J.T.

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GRAMMY Rewind: Dua Lipa Champions Happiness As She Accepts Her GRAMMY For Best Pop Vocal Album In 2021
Dua Lipa at the 2021 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

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GRAMMY Rewind: Dua Lipa Champions Happiness As She Accepts Her GRAMMY For Best Pop Vocal Album In 2021

As Dua Lipa held her new GRAMMY, she reflected on how "jaded" she felt before putting out 'Future Nostalgia' — and how the album taught her the importance of happiness.

GRAMMYs/Dec 2, 2022 - 06:00 pm

Three-time GRAMMY-winner Dua Lipa already had two golden gramophones to her name going into the 2021 GRAMMYs. But her third win — and her first for Best Pop Vocal Album — may have been the happiest of them all.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit the special moment when Dua Lipa took the stage to claim her trophy for her album, Future Nostalgia. The second studio album of the singer's career, Future Nostalgia earned her six nominations, including the coveted Album Of The Year as well as Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year for lead single "Don't Start Now."

As she held her new trophy, Lipa reflected on what she's learned through the process of making Future Nostalgia, making special mention of the power of happiness, and putting out happy music.

"I felt really jaded at the end of my last album, where I felt like I only had to make sad music to feel like it mattered," she explained. "And I'm just so grateful and so honored, because happiness is something that we all deserve, and it's something that we all need in our lives."

The singer also threw a spotlight on her fans, team and co-writers during her time onstage. "This means so much," she concluded, adding a shout-out to her family and friends who were watching from home. "I love you, thank you."

Press play on the video above to watch Dua Lipa's complete acceptance speech at the 63rd GRAMMY Awards, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com every Friday for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind. 

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Listen To GRAMMY.com's Outlaw Country Playlist: 32 Songs From Honky Tonk Heroes Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard & More
Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson perform in 1988

Photo: Beth Gwinn/Getty Images

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Listen To GRAMMY.com's Outlaw Country Playlist: 32 Songs From Honky Tonk Heroes Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard & More

Ahead of the GRAMMY Museum's Dec. 5 event previewing the new documentary 'They Called Us Outlaws,' listen to a 32-song playlist of outlaw country greats.

GRAMMYs/Dec 2, 2022 - 05:19 pm

Outlaw: a noun meaning someone unconventional, rebellious, or active outside the law.

In the mid-1970s, journalist Hazel Smith, country’s self-described "mother hen," coined the term "outlaw music" to describe artists like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings that did not fit the Music Row mold. These renegades rejected the norms — replacing saccharine sounds with storied songs. 

Long before this country subgenre had a name, Hank Williams ("I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry"), Johnny Cash ("Folsom Prison Blues'')  and Merle Haggard ("Mama Tried") were the original outlaws. In the early 1970s, Nelson's Shotgun Willie further forged the style of outlaw country.

Nashville initially ignored them. But, in 1976, after the compilation Wanted! The Outlaws became the first country album certified platinum, these outsiders earned industry respect. Today, the music endures. SiriusXM has a station devoted to these misfits. And a new six-part docuseries — They Called Us Outlaws: Cosmic Cowboys, Honky Tonk Heroes and the Rise of Renegade Troubadours (narrated by Jack Ingram) — will debut in 2023. 

The GRAMMY Museum will hold an event on Dec. 5 to preview part of this new 12-hour documentary. Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiflett will lead a discussion with the filmmakers, and the evening will feature performances from Tyler Childers, John R. Miller and Abby Hamilton, Shooter Jennings and Jesse Daniel. 

Get in the outlaw spirit by pressing play on the Spotify Playlist below, or listen on the Recording Academy's Pandora, Apple Music and Amazon Music stations.