Photo: Alex Lake
Steven Wilson's Odyssey Of Elusivity: How The Porcupine Tree Leader Hit The Mainstream On His Own Terms
The leader of Porcupine Tree goes deep on the cult band's reunion album 'Closure/Continuation,' their recent artistic reinvention, and why they've always chosen to take an unpredictable path.
Sometimes when a band crests and then disappears for a while, their legend only grows. My Chemical Romance is one famous, recent example; they certainly proved that with their ongoing blockbuster tour. And Porcupine Tree is comparable in their own way, as the English band's recent return has generated a tremendous buzz among their acolytes.
As chronicled in his 2022 memoir Limited Edition of One, Porcupine Tree's founding guitarist, lead vocalist and songwriter Steven Wilson, became, for various reasons, dissatisfied with the band around 2010 — just as they headlined London's Royal Albert Hall. After his solo work took precedence, the group went on hiatus in 2012 and the members moved on to other projects.
Wilson's already-eclectic solo career then blossomed with albums like 2017's To The Bone and 2021's The Future Bites. This was in addition to immersive remixing forays for classic acts like King Crimson, Roxy Music, Def Leppard, Tears For Fears, and Jethro Tull. All the while, most of Porcupine Tree's members secretly and slowly chipped away at new material for the band.
What ultimately resurrected Porcupine Tree? The pandemic deserves some credit. With tours canceled, Wilson and drummer Gavin Harrison began working and jamming again on new and archived songs, with Wilson handling guitar and bass. Keyboardist Richard Barbieri also rejoined the fold. Then, at last, excited by their renewed synergy and songwriting, the group finished Closure/Continuation, their first new album since 2009's The Incident.
The title plays into the tentative current state of the band; they're back, but for how long? And while it bears little resemblance to their metal-leaning 2000s work, it's still an adventurous collection rich with superlative playing, wide-ranging dynamics and enigmatic lyrics. And Closure/Continuation has been well-received on both sides of the Atlantic, hitting No. 1 in both Germany (Offizielle Deutsche Charts) and the Netherlands (Dutch Charts). (Only Harry Styles blocked it from hitting No. 1 on the U.K.'s Official Albums Chart.)
Just prior to the commencement of Porcupine Tree's 10-date North American tour this past Saturday in Toronto, Steven Wilson sat down for a video chat with GRAMMY.com to discuss the creative rebirth that fueled Closure/Continuation, the absence of bassist Colin Edwin and the most personal song on the album.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Some of the latest songs are from after The Incident, and some are newer. How much did the older songs change during this process?
They really didn't. For example, "Chimera's Wreck" — probably the first song we wrote on the record — is pretty much exactly the way we recorded it back in 2012.
Even to the point that the first four minutes is the original live take of myself and Gavin playing together — the acoustic guitar and the drum part, with no click, no timecode. It speeds up and slows down, and it's lovely because of that.
Obviously, I refined the lyrics a little bit over the years. I'm only speaking for myself here — I can't speak for Richard and Gavin — but it spans a period of time in which my musical tastes and preferences have shifted massively.
In my solo career, I've been through more alternative-sounding records, more conventional, classic progressive-rock records, and more pop sensibilities. I've been through all of those things, and it's all reflected on Closure/Continuation. The very last track we did was "Walk The Plank," on which I play no guitar. It's myself and Richard essentially working with electronic sounds.
I think it is interesting to note that the album has spanned that shift in my musical interests, starting off with a track like "Chimera's Wreck," which is more conventionally classic rock/progressive rock, through to a song like "Walk The Plank," which is much more electronic and streamlined. And, one might say, much more relevant and contemporary.
In that sense, we probably could never and would never make another record quite like this. You can't take 12 years to make a record every time. I know there are some artists that do, but we're not going to do that. So, this is a unique set of parameters — a unique situation for us to have made a record like this, which spans this period of time.
I was watching the video for "Rats Return." One could say it's a commentary on dictatorships and totalitarianism, and at the same time, there's this other layer where it seems to be about the tyranny of narcissism and obsession with popularity.
Yeah, but it's also about the idea that politics now is as much a social-media game as anything else.
Whatever you think about Donald Trump — personally, I f—ing hate the guy like most sane people. But one of the things I think he understands — whether he's conscious of it or not — is that the truth is irrelevant now and the power of social media is almost everything.
I suppose that process began when you go back to the age of Ronald Reagan, who was an ex-actor. It started this idea that celebrity was going to become much more important in the world of politics, and I think Trump is the ultimate example of that in action.
Truth becomes irrelevant. All that matters is maintaining some kind of celebrity profile or social-media profile. People are more impressed by that than they are by truth, and they're more impressed by that than they are by policies — things that will actually help them live their lives.
Trump is a great example of someone that can be caught out in a lie, and it almost doesn't matter. It doesn't change the passion and the support that he has from his people one iota. He's demonstrably peddling lies, and yet people still choose to believe them.
Now, going deeper than that, there's a whole parallel there with the whole world of organized religion — but I don't want to get into that! So, the video was about the idea of turning the military and politicians into social-media celebrities.
Going back to a lot of Porcupine Tree's 2000s work, a lot of your songs are about how we get dehumanized by our obsession with technology or addiction to technology. I recall the character in "Fear of a Blank Planet" who declared "Xbox is a god to me."
When I was promoting The Future Bites, I think a lot of people took "Personal Shopper" as a very negative song, and actually I was at pains to correct them saying, "No, I love shopping. This is almost like a love letter to consumerism." But of course, it's never as simple as that. There are pros and cons to everything. I am not a purist.
I think there are amazing things about the modern world — the digital world. There are horrendous things about it, too. But that's true also of the analog world, so there's nothing black and white about it at all. There are amazing things about social media. But of course, there is a very, very sinister, insidious side as well.
I've always been the kind of person that's tended to dwell on the latter. If I sense something potentially dark about the world, I'll probably write a song about that rather than the good stuff.
People had this image of me which was based purely on two things: the music and the lyrics, [plus] the official publicity material. In promo shots and things, I would never smile. Cool rock stars don't smile in publicity shots. So, the idea that I was this very morose, rather depressed individual was based on the fact that I wouldn't smile in publicity shots, and the music and lyrics.
I think one of the nice things about social media — and being able to have clips on YouTube — is that people have been able to see I'm almost the antithesis of that.
"Personal Shopper" had vocal harmonies that could be on an R&B record — and then you had Elton John. But you didn't have him singing; you had him do spoken word. So, if you're going to do something poppy, you don't do it in a typical way. Some people aren't going to know that it's Elton John.
The caveat to all of this is I am a quite willful person. I understand that I'm very good at shooting myself in the foot, and so everything I do that maybe has the potential to reach a major [commercial peak], there'll always be something that will stop it.
I embrace that about my career, and I think that one of the frustrations has always been that what I do doesn't seem to me to be particularly difficult music to enjoy. Yet a lot of people have never had the opportunity to hear it and decide whether they like it or not. So, that's always frustrating.
But [in] the music world we live in, it doesn't get any easier. It gets harder and harder and harder and harder now to get anything that is even remotely edgy or remotely uncategorizable through.
I think [in] writing the book [Limited Edition of One], I wanted to explore my motivations for making music. I wanted to explore my journey discovering music, and discovering music which was also outside of the mainstream because essentially that's been my search, always to find these things on the periphery.
That's been my fascination. And, I suppose, in my own way, I've ended up being one of those artists myself.
You founded Porcupine Tree in 1987. Richard's been there since 1993. Colin didn't come back for this one, and he had been in the band since '93 as well. Was it awkward because you had to say to him, "Well, I already did the bass parts"? How does it feel now with this core trio now as opposed to the quartet?
We have two new guest musicians in the band who are just off-the scale-brilliant.
I'm not suggesting that Colin isn't also brilliant, but we had to find a bass player that could play the way I played bass on the album, which clearly isn't Colin. We have this incredible bass player called Nate Navarro. It's exciting to have new musicians that are on such an incredible level. It's a little strange.
I think it's probably going to be stranger for the fans than it is for us. I would argue the creative core of the band always was the three of us anyway — no disrespect to Colin.
But I think that the creative core was always Gavin's interest in rhythmic complexity and polyrhythms, my songwriting, and Richard's approach to sound design. Those three things are the basis of the DNA — certainly the modern, post-In Absentia sound of Porcupine Tree.
So to us, I think it's less of a shock than it might be to some of the fans. But we'll see. We might get some real hard times from the fans on this tour.
Do you think you'd work with Colin again?
Yeah, Colin's great. But Colin has a very, very specific way of playing the bass; it's not the way I play the bass. When I pick up a bass, I play it like a guitar, so I'm doing all this stuff up the top of the neck and playing melodies and playing really aggressively.
Colin is more Bill Laswell: deep, dubby. His favorite music is reggae and dub. So, clearly it's not the project for Colin, but Colin is great. When it comes to that approach to bass playing, Colin is incredible. So, I certainly wouldn't rule it out.
What's the most personal song on the new album for you?
There's nothing autobiographical, but there are songs on the record that I think resonate with the age I'm at now. The song "Dignity" dovetails with what we've been talking about, because it's literally a song about finding a homeless person on the street. But that person used to be somebody, and there's this whole kind of backstory.
Maybe they were a big, famous pop star. Maybe they were a big success in the city. There's this whole backstory that goes with this person that you don't give a second glance to, and all the pathos that goes along with that.
That fascinates me. Unfulfilled, unrealized potential — this idea that life is a very fleeting gift and the tragedy of not making the most of that gift. I'm not religious; I don't believe there's anything else after this life. I think this is it. We've got this opportunity to do something incredible with this freak gift that we've been given of life — whether we've got 50 years, 70 years, 90, whatever it is we've got.
I think the human emotion that appeals to me the most of all is this idea of regret: not having made the choices that you feel you should have made. What a really, really terrible thing to have got to a certain point in your life, and realize you made the wrong choice somewhere.
It might have been that you had the opportunity to be with the person you were supposed to be with in romantic terms, and you didn't take the opportunity. What a terrible thing to have to acknowledge to yourself. Or, you went down the wrong career path and ended up being in a career you hated for 40 years.
To me, that's the most tragic thing to have to hear: that you spent 40 years of your life doing something you hated because of a choice you made, for what you thought was the right reason at the time, and now you realize it wasn't.
I think the one thing I can say about my life that I'm happy about is that I did make the right choice being a musician. Although I haven't become quite the success I imagined I might be when I was a kid and fell in love with the idea of this magical thing called music. I would have loved to have been Elton John or Prince — notwithstanding that I have none of the talent of those people.
But I think, ultimately, I have to look back at my life and say to myself, "You spent most of your life doing exactly what you wanted, you haven't compromised, and you've had a pretty good career and a pretty good life out of that."
And it's so tragic to me to hear the other side of the coin. People that perhaps can't say that — that have ended up in careers or marriages or in situations that they've never been happy in. That's the most tragic reflection of the human condition of all to me, and I come back to it time and time and time again in different ways. "Dignity" is the latest incarnation of that kind of song.
Photo: Evening Standard / Stringer via Getty Images
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.
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."
Photos (L-R): Joseph Okpako/WireImage; Tim Mosenfelder/FilmMagic; Prince Williams/Wireimage; Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for Justin Combs Events; Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
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.
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.
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.
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.
RINI - UltraViolet
Release date: December 2
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
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.
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.
Photo: Beth Gwinn/Getty Images
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.
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.