Photo: Kristy Sparow/Getty Images, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for LARAS, Kevin Winter/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Stephen J. Cohen/Getty Images, Gustavo Garcia Villa
Listen To GRAMMY.com's LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 Playlist Featuring Demi Lovato, Sam Smith, Kim Petras, Frank Ocean, Omar Apollo & More
Celebrate LGBTQIA+ Pride Month 2023 with a 50-song playlist that spans genres and generations, honoring trailblazing artists and allies including George Michael, Miley Cyrus, Orville Peck, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande and many more.
In the past year, artists in the LGBTQIA+ community have continued to create change and make history — specifically, GRAMMY history. Last November, Liniker became the first trans artist to win a Latin GRAMMY Award when she took home Best MPB Album for Indigo Borboleta Anil; three months later, Sam Smith and Kim Petras became the first nonbinary and trans artists, respectively, to win the GRAMMY Award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their sinful collab "Unholy."
Just those two feats alone prove that the LGBTQIA+ community is making more and more of an impact every year. So this Pride Month, GRAMMY.com celebrates those strides with a playlist of hits and timeless classics that are driving conversations around equality and fairness for the LGBTQIA+ community.
New Music Friday: Listen To New Music From Jungkook & Jack Harlow, PinkPantheress, *NSYNC And More
As September comes to a close, listen to these new songs, albums and collaborations from Ed Sheeran, Lil Wayne and more.
As we close out the month, this New Music Friday has loads of fresh beginnings and highly anticipated reunions.
Two nostalgic releases arrived as well, with Lil Wayne's new album Tha Fix Before Tha Vi continuing his "Tha Carter" series, while *NSYNC fans were treated to the boy band's first new song in 20 years with "Better Place."
Dive into these seven new releases that blend the old generation with the new.
Jungkook ft. Jack Harlow — "3D"
BTS singer Jungkook takes us through a nostalgic journey with "3D," a song reminiscent of an early 2000s boy band hit. The hypnotizing lyrics illustrate his close connection to someone he can't reach, so he'll watch them in 3D.
"So if you're ready (So if you're ready)/ And if you'll let me (And if you'll let me)/ I wanna see it in motion/ In 3D (Uh-uh)," he sings in the chorus.
Jack Harlow pops in, dropping a few verses boasting about his global attraction with women. "Mr. First Class" claims he can "fly you from Korea to Kentucky," as he closes out the song.
Rolling Stones & Lady Gaga ft. Stevie Wonder — "Sweet Sounds of Heaven"
The Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder blended their talents, to create a harmonic symphony of a song that lives up to its heavenly title. Seven minutes of gospel- and blues-inspired rhythms, enriched by Gaga and Mick Jagger's distinct riffs, make this collaboration an immersive experience. Stevie Wonder grounds the track with his command of piano and melodic tempo.
The track is the second peek of the Rolling Stones' upcoming album, Hackney Diamonds, their first LP release in 18 years; their first release, "Angry," arrived Sept. 6. With production from GRAMMY-winning Andrew Watt, the soulful essence makes "Sweet Sounds of Heaven" an exciting taste of the long-overdue album.
*NSYNC — "Better Place"
Yes, you read correctly. After two decades and a recent reunion at the 2023 MTV Video Music awards, <em>NSYNC is back with a new single, "Better Place," appearing in the new animated Trolls* movie (due Nov. 17). With a nostalgic dance-pop beat, familiar production and breezy lyrics, this single is a remarkable comeback.
"Just let me take you to a better place/ I'm gonna make you kiss the sky tonight," they sing in the chorus.
The reunion was first teased Sept. 14, through a video of the group's emotional studio session, as Justin Timberlake shared on Instagram. "When the stars align… got my brothers back together in the studio to work on something fun and the energy was special," he wrote in the post.
PinkPantheress — "Mosquito"
Dive into this musical daydream as PinkPantheress serenades us on her new single, "Mosquito," a dreamy, lucid song reminiscent of old-school R&B. After recently hopping on the energetic remix of Troye Sivan's "Rush" and teaming up with Destroy Lonely on "Turn Your Phone Off," PinkPantheress is transporting us through a new era, full of charm and surprises.
"Cause I just had a dream I was dead/ And I only cared 'cause I was taken from you/ You're the only thing that I own/ I hear my bell ring, I'd only answer for you," she sings in the chorus.
Co-crafted by GRAMMY-winning producer Greg Kurstin, this song is a transcending, surreal experience. This single isn't about romance, instead she takes us through her entanglements with treasures and money. That's further portrayed in the lavish video, which features a European shopping spree starring "Bridgerton" stars Charithra Chandran, India Amarteifio and "Grown-ish" star Yara Shahidi.
Ed Sheeran — Autumn Variations
The era of mathematical-themed albums seems to be over, as Ed Sheeran has entered a new chapter with Autumn Variations, his second project this year. Sheeran is singing from his heart, sharing soulful tales from emotional events in his life including the death of his dearest friend Jamal Edwards and his wife's health challenges during pregnancy — an extension of the stories he told with May's Subtract.
Autumn Variations is very raw, stripped down and authentic as he takes us through his personal journey. Amidst this, Sheeran still brings in some buzzing tracks including catchy songs like "American Town," "Paper Bag" and "Amazing."
Lil Wayne — Tha Fix Before Tha Vi
Lil Wayne celebrated his 41st birthday with a special present to his fans: the release of a new album two days later. The alluring 10-track project,"Tha Fix Before Tha Vi" dives into past vibes with songs like "Tity Boi," a reference to 2 Chainz's initial stage name, which may be a reference to the upcoming joint album between the two. Each song has a different feel including "Tuxedo," which features a more punk-rock melody and "Chanel No.5 ft. Foushee," which features a sensational beat.
His first album since 2020, Tha Fix Before Tha Vi features rather unexpected collaborators, including Jon Batiste, Fousheé and euro. With different sounds and features than past projects, we could possibly be entering a new Weezy era.
Thomas Rhett & Morgan Wallen — "Mamaw's House"
Country superstars Morgan Wallen and Thomas Rhett unite for "Mamaw's House," a country-folk track relishing the memories of their grandparents' home and cozy fireplace tales.
"It's where I spent my summers and she put me to work/ Shellin' peas and shuckin' corn until my fingers hurt/ No tellin' who I'da been without Mamaw's house," Rhett sings in the second verse.
Rhett said the duo decided to write about their small-town culture — Rhett is from Valdosta, Georgia, while Wallen hails from Sneedville, Tennessee — and the significant presence of grandparents brought to their upbringings.
"This song just kind of brings up how our mamaws used to act when we were little kids," Rhett told Audacy.. "It's an ode to all the grandmas out there."
Photo: L. Busacca / Contributor
10 Ways Britney Spears' "...Baby One More Time" Changed Pop Music Forever
Released 25 years ago on Sept. 29, 1998, Britney Spears' iconic pop confection was a musical thunderbolt. GRAMMY.com revisits "...Baby One More Time," and 10 ways Spears' debut single changed the musical landscape forever.
The song announces itself with a now-iconic two note keyboard riff. Then, the track's introductory words, so simple yet sultry: "Oh, baby baby." An electronic drumbeat clicks in and once the groove gets going, we're well on your way to music infamy.
Released 25 years ago on Sept. 29, 1998, Britney Spears' debut single, "...Baby One More Time," was a perfect pop confection. The title track of Spears' 1999 debut album, "...Baby" made an instant superstar out of the Louisiana native and earned her a GRAMMY nomination for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
The momentous track also helped usher in a new era of pop music culture, sound and production. Aside from making a household name out Spears and inspiring countless pop songstresses in her wake, it kicked off a historic streak of smashes for its enigmatic producer Max Martin, became one of the MTV generation's most iconic music videos and, for a time, shifted the center of pop from Los Angeles to Stockholm, Sweden.
In honor of its milestone anniversary, from its earworm sound, infamous video and commercial success, read on for 10 ways "...Baby One More Time" changed pop music and American culture forever.
It Marked Britney Spears' Big Break
Long before Spears turned into one of music's most recognizable stars, she was just another fledgling young singer searching for her way in the ruthless industry.
After stints as part of "The New Mickey Mouse Club" and a turn on "Star Search," the young singer dodged two life paths that could have changed everything. First thinking that she'd develop a sound similar to Sheryl Crow, Spears then nearly joined the R&B girl group Innocence. But once the Kentwood, Louisiana native signed with Jive Records — which had a working relationship with a group of buzzy producers in Sweden — the teen singer's future was sealed.
The Song's Success Recentered Pop Production In Sweden
Jive executives had early success with the visionary Swedish producer Denniz Pop, who had a dream that his Nordic country would become the center of popular music. First producing hits for Ace of Base such as "All That She Wants," the mastermind subsequently crafted the Backstreet Boys' iconic sound (including "As Long as You Love Me"). His Cheiron Studios in Stockholm was named after the wise centaur who played a Lyre in Greek mythology.
Just as his dream was coming true however, the producer was diagnosed with stomach cancer and died one month before the release of "...Baby One More Time" in August 1998. But while sick, he passed on his techniques and vision to a range of mentees including Max Martin, a former rocker turned pop-producer. "(The Cheiron sound is) direct, effective, (and) we don't show off," Martin said in 2001.
It Launched Max Martin's Historic Career…
The melody of "...Baby" came to Martin as he was falling asleep. Not wanting it to escape him, he recorded it. "I remember listening back to (the tape) after (the song) blew up and you can hear me sort of go: 'Hit me baby one more time,' he recalled in a 1998 interview of the song he'd later write and producer. "Then I hear myself say, 'Yeah, it's pretty good.'"
"...Baby" later became his first No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit of his ongoing career, a feat he reached a whopping 25 times with songs ranging from Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off" and "Blank Space" and The Weeknd's "Can't Feel My Face" to name a few. In fact, Martin is second-only to Paul McCartney and John Lennon as the songwriter with the most No. 1 hits in the history of the charts.
…And Changed The Trajectory Of TLC's
TLC almost recorded the future smash. However, the R&B group were turned off by its lyrics, thinking that "Hit me" was meant to be taken literally.
Said TLC member T-Boz of the decision: "I was like: 'I like the song but do I think it's a hit? Do I think it's TLC?' … Was I going to say 'Hit me baby one more time'? Hell no!" TLC would go onto record "No Scrubs" and "Cool" and "Unpretty," both of which marked the end of their hit-making era.
It Established Spears' Signature Sound
Spears understood the melodic power of "... Baby One More Time" immediately.
"The whole song is about that stress that we all go through as teens," Spears told the Guardian in 2018. "I knew it was a great song. It was different and I loved it, (but) I don't think you can anticipate how a song is going to be received."
Martin was a big part of that. "I think Max is a genius. It all just came together and felt right. In my opinion Max is the greatest songwriter of all time." For their efforts, Rolling Stone later called "...Baby One More Time" the greatest debut single of all time.
It Ushered In A New Pop Era
The first time Spears heard her song, she just hopped off an airplane. "It was so weird because we'd just got in the car, I'd just shut the door, and it came on," she recalled to Variety. "It was so overwhelming, I just started screaming. It was really cool, though."
In the fall of 1998, it debuted at No. 17 and hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for two consecutive weeks, later spending 32 weeks on the Hot 100 and earned platinum status. Speaking to its influence, the radio programmer Clark Ingraham later told the Guardian, "We'd been through an alternative cycle in the early to mid-'90s, and something of an R&B cycle after that. Britney was among the first big artists in a pop cycle that began in the late 1990s and continued into the early 2000s."
The Music Video Is Iconic
One month before the song was released, Spears and director Nigel Dick descended on Venice High School in Los Angeles. Originally conceived as a cartoon, it was Spears who pushed for the now-infamous schoolgirl concept that exploded onto television screens.
"The beauty of the video on some level is there's nothing fancy about it," Dick told Billboard in 2018. "It's very… ho-hum isn't quite the word, but it's very ordinary on some level, which is, I think, one of the reasons (why) Britney shines is because it's all about Britney."
Nominated for four MTV Video Music Awards, the channel's "Total Request Live" called the video the Most Iconic of All Time.
The Video Turned Britney Spears Into A Sex Symbol
For better or worse, Spears's image was solidified with the video, which showed her scantily clad and landed her on magazine covers the world over.
When it comes to her schoolgirl look in the video, Dick told Billboard: "My producer and the executive producer from the label — who are both women — go, 'No, I think that's a really good idea,'" he says of dressing the young star. "Music magazines said this artist was conceived by a bunch of dirty old men in a conference room wearing raincoats. Which, in my experience, was not how it occurred at all."
It Earned Spears Her First GRAMMY Nomination
Aside from its immense commercial success, "...Baby One More Time" helped Spears earn nominations for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance at the 42nd GRAMMY Awards. She'd later win Best Dance Recording for "Toxic," among eight career nominations.
"...Baby One More Time" Influenced Future Pop Songstresses
Britney Spears's debut and subsequent success influenced generations of young performers who were inspired by her voice, talent and image, altering an industry in her wake.
Contemporaries including Christina Aguilera, later superstars including Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry, and modern names ranging from Dua Lipa to Billie Eilish have all pointed to Spears as major influences. "I have loved Britney Spears her whole career," Lady Gaga wrote in 2021. "I looked up to her and admired her strength. She empowered so many people, and still does."
It's a stunning legacy, and it all started with a certain, unmistakable keyboard riff. "Oh, baby baby!"
Photo: Renee Dominguez/Getty Images for Live Nation
Kim Petras Kicks Off Her Feed The Beast World Tour: Watch Performance Videos, Social Media Reactions
The GRAMMY winner opened her Feed The Beast World Tour in Texas on Sept. 27 with a sensational, scandalous performance of nearly two hours. Here’s what fans had to say on social media about the icon’s show.
Underneath the Austin sky, Kim Petras put on a show that was just as hot as the night around her.
The Feed The Beast World Tour — which opened on Sept. 27 at Austin's Moody Amphitheater at Waterloo Park and will continue for the next seven months — marks Petras’ most extensive journey yet. The pop princess performed hits from her various projects, even her 2018 Halloween-themed EP Turn Off the Light, Vol. 1.
Beyond embarking on a massive global tour, 2023 has been a year full of milestones for Kim Petras. The 31-year-old German singer performed at the 65th GRAMMY Awards and took home a golden gramophone for Best Pop Group/Duo Performance for "Unholy," her collaboration with Sam Smith.
Petras has been steadily releasing music for years, but her long-awaited debut album, Feed The Beast, was finally released this June. Just weeks before her tour began, Petras dropped the previously leaked album Problématique by surprise, taking power back into her own hands.
GRAMMY.com attended the opening night of Petras' Feed The Beast tour. Read on for a peek inside the powerful, larger-than-life show, as well as a hint of the spectacle to come.
Feed The Beast Got Tons Of Play & Praise From Fans
Petras opened the show with the title track from the tour's namesake. While Petras is performing many new songs live for the first time, she's also playing hits like "King of Hearts" and "Castle in the Sky."
A Spooky Section Featured Lots Of Throwbacks
Fans were ready to be transported into another world, and Petras delivered on multiple levels. During one of the show's many acts, she ventured into the dark side by playing songs from her first EP, Turn Off the Light. Petras performed darker-themed songs including "There will be Blood," "Wrong Turn," and "Demons."
Mesmerizing visuals and dancers heightened the sinister scene, leaving some fans speechless. The stage design blended into black and red, and Petras' commanding presence created an aura of royalty that hypnotized her audience.
Fans Were Passionate About The Lengthy Setlist
While some fans were grateful for the earlier hits in Petras' set, others took to social media to voice their opinions on what was missing.
Although the performance was nearly two hours long, it's impossible to please everyone in the audience. WhilePetras couldn’t cover the entirety of her extensive catalog, she wowed with more than 30 songs. There were still a few surprising omissions, however, including the fun and fruity hit "Coconuts."
There's Much To Look Forward To & Much Love To Share
Onstage, Petras constantly praised the crowd for their energy and was met with roaring cheers. After the extravagant opening show, she continued to share her appreciation online:
Both excitement and expectations were high for the Feed The Beast tour, and Petras' first show delivered a satisfyingly electric experience.
Photos: Antoine Antonio/Getty Images; Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for NARAS; Kevin Winter/Getty Images For MTV; Denise Truscello/Getty Images for iHeartMedia; Don Arnold/Getty Images; Harry Durrant/Getty Images
Behind Mark Ronson's Hits: How 'Boogie Nights,' Five-Hour Jams & Advice From Paul McCartney Inspired His Biggest Singles & Collabs
GRAMMY-winning multihyphenate Mark Ronson details the stories behind 11 of his favorite releases, from "Valerie" and "Uptown Funk" to 'Barbie The Album.'
Mark Ronson's fingerprints are everywhere in pop music.
Whether he's behind the board as a producer, penning earwormy hooks for some music's biggest names, or employing a crate digger's mindset to create his own records, you'd be hard-pressed to find something on your playlist that Ronson hasn't touched. The seven-time GRAMMY winner might as well be considered the industry’s Kevin Bacon — he's worthy of his own "six degrees" game.
Today, Ronson is on his way back to New York City from some time spent in the Hudson Valley — a much-need reprieve after a blockbuster summer that saw his Barbie movie soundtrack top charts around the world.
"I love this film so much and I did something I've never done before by executive producing and overseeing [its music]," he tells GRAMMY.com.
That Ronson still has things to check off his professional bucket list is something of a surprise. The stepson of Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones, Ronson got his start DJing in New York in the '90s, bridging his twin loves of funk and hip-hop. In the latter part of the decade, Diddy hired Ronson to DJ several parties, thus opening up the then-twentysomething to a world of A-list talent. Ronson's elite status only grew over decades — from DJing Paul McCartney's wedding in 2011 (for which he refused to accept payment), to creating the ubiquitous hit "Uptown Funk," and curating the final night of the iconic 2023 Montreux Jazz Festival.
Ronson has released five of his own albums — beginning with 2003's Here Comes The Fuzz and up to 2019's Late Night Feelings — each of which is a star-studded affair, featuring everyone from Miley Cryus and Camilla Cabello to Bruno Mars and Mary J. Blige (as well as the occasional lawsuit over interpolation and sampling). Over the years, he's developed a cadre of session musicians and production collaborators, creating an incredibly pop savvy sound often built on horn-driven funk and soul.
At the bedrock of Ronson's production — and among his best-known works — is Amy Winehouse's GRAMMY-winning album Back To Black. Since that 2006 release, Ronson has collaborated with an ever-increasing number of major acts, composing, arranging, producing, writing or playing on (and sometimes all of the above) works by Lady Gaga, Duran Duran, Dua Lipa, Adele, Queens of the Stone Age, and even Sir Paul himself.
Ronson will add another first to his list: author. A hybrid memoir and cultural history, the still-in-progress 93 'Til Infinity will cover the New York downtown club scene of Ronson's salad days.
"It's really fun to revisit that era, and it was a very specific time in DJing where DJs weren't really famous," he recalls. "There was no stage; sometimes the turntables were shoved in the corner at the end of the bar and you would have to crane your neck to even see the crowd. I sound like Grandpa Simpson, but I loved it."
Ronson is en route to a DJ gig as we speak, though the new dad says he'll be "kicking back into high gear on the book" soon. "[Writing it] requires really falling off for seven hours in the basement, like Stephen King says in his book. But I like that," he says.
Ahead of a celebration of Barbie The Album at the GRAMMY Museum on Sept. 27, Mark Ronson shared the stories behind some of his favorite productions – including the song that makes people "stupidly happy."
"Ooh Wee," Here Comes The Fuzz feat. Ghostface Killah, Nate Dogg, Trife and Saigon (2003)
I went to see Boogie Nights in the theater and I remember this scene where Mark Wahlberg's a busboy on roller skates and in the background there was this song playing that had just this string thing that just hit me so hard. I bought the Boogie Nights soundtrack and it wasn't on there — obviously this is 20 years before Shazam — then I figured out it was the song called "Sunny" by Boney M.
When I was making my first record, I was sort of locked up by myself in the studio on 54th Street just experimenting, making tracks all the time. That string line, I could never figure out what to do with the sample. I tried 80 different tempos and drum beats over it, and it wasn't until I just put that drum break behind it, the drums from the song, and it just all sort of gelled together.
Because that was an era in hip-hop where people weren't really using drum loops or drum breaks anymore. It was about chopping and having hard kicks and snares, like DJ Premiere and Timbaland. The DJ in me was like, f— it, let me just try putting a drum break under it. It all gelled and felt good.
I was a huge Wu-Tang fan, and at that point Ghostface was my favorite out of the group and I loved his solo records. I've never been more nervous in some weird way to talk to somebody — nervous and giddy, and what if I just sound so dorky?
I remember he was like, "Yeah, I get it. I think it's dope. It's like some Saturday Night Fever with Tony Manero s—." I guess because of the strings and it was so disco, and Ghost always had this pension for those disco kind of uptempo beats.
The album had to be handed in and I didn't have a hook that I liked on this song yet. Sylvia Rhone was the head of Elektra and she said, "I could try and get Nate Dogg on it." Of course that was the dream. I sent him the track, and it was probably two days before I had to master the album, on a Sunday. He sent me the files back, and all the waveforms were blank.
I had to call Nate Dogg at like 10 a.m. at home on a Sunday. While he's on the phone, he goes back in the studio and turns all his equipment on, trying to do the session.
The fanboy thing is still very real because I still work with people all the time that I'm a fan of. At that age, being in the studio with M.O.P., Mos Def, Q-Tip, Jack White, Freeway, Nate. I was just trying to keep it together some of the time.
"Rehab" - Amy Winehouse, Back to Black (2006)
"Rehab" just came about in general because Amy was telling me an anecdote. She was really together when we worked — she might not have been sober, but she got her whole life together. She was telling me about this time in her life that was difficult and she was in a really bad place. She said, "And my dad and manager came over and they tried to make me go to rehab and I was like, 'No, no, no.'"
I remember that it instantly sounded like a chorus to me, so we went back to my studio and we made the demo. That was when the Strokes and the Libertines were really big. I remember [the drums] sounded much more like an indie beat, even though it came from soul and Motown and the original rock 'n' roll. She would tease me; she's like, "You trying to make me sound like the bloody Libertines."
When [studio group] the Dap-Kings played it, they just brought it to life. I didn't really know anything about analog recording at that point. I only knew how to make s— sound analog by sampling records, so to hear them all play in the original Daptone studio, all the drums bleeding into the piano…. I felt like I was floating because I couldn't believe that anybody could still make that drum sound in 2006.
Amy couldn't be there for the recording, so I was taking a CD-J into the studio with me and I had her demo vocals on a cappella. I was playing it live with the band so that they could keep pace with the arrangement. I loved it so much.
"Valerie," feat. Amy Winehouse,Version (2007)
Amy had never met the Dap-Kings, even though they had been the band for all the songs that I had done on Back to Black. There was this really lovely day in Brooklyn where I took her to the studio to meet all the guys. The album was already out; there was a very good feeling about it [and] they obviously made something really special together. Amy loved the way the record sounded so much, she was so grateful. They loved her.
While we're all having this love-in in Bushwick, I was finishing my album Version and I said, "Maybe we could just cut a song for my record?" The whole theme of the record had sort of been taking more guitar indie bands like the Smiths, the Jam, the Kaiser Chiefs, and turning those into R&B or soul arrangements. I asked Amy if she knew any songs like that. She's like, "Yeah, they play this one song down at my local. It's called 'Valerie,'" and she played us all the Zutons' version. I didn't really hear it at first.
The first version we did was this very Curtis Mayfield kind of sweet soul. Part of me was just like, This is really good, but I feel like there's a hit version as well. I don't have that kind of crass thing where everything needs to be a hit, but…
Everybody was already packing up their instruments and I didn't know the guys that well yet, so it was kind of a pain in the ass to be like, "Hey, I know everybody just wants to go onto the f—ing bar and get a beer right now, but can we just do one more version where we speed it up a little?" Everybody flips open their guitar cases and we do like two more takes, and that's the version on my album.
"Alligator" - Paul McCartney, NEW (2013)
We've done other things together, but I've only really [worked on] three songs on his album, NEW. "New" I just loved as soon as he sent me the demo, because as a McCartney fan, it gives you the same feeling as "We Can Work It Out"; it just has that amazing uplifting feel. That's just his genius. I love "Alligator" maybe a little more because it's more weird.
He definitely gives you a day to f— up and be an idiot because you're just so nervous to be in the studio with McCartney. By the second day it's like, okay, get your s— together.
I remember running around just like, What sound can I find for Paul McCartney that every other amazing producer who ever recorded him [hasn't found already]? He was like, "Anybody can record a pristine acoustic guitar. Give me something with some characteristic that's iconic. That feels like someone just put the needle down on track one on an album."
That's something I always try to remember: don't just make it sound like a guitar, make it sound like a record.
"Uptown Funk" feat. Bruno Mars, Uptown Special (2015)
My enjoyment of the song is now gauged by the people that I'm playing it for. I was playing at this party at Public Records [in Brooklyn] on Sunday. I knew that I wasn't going to play that song on that night; it wasn't right for that crowd or something. And then an hour into my set, the vibe is really good, and I was just like, f— it and I dropped it, and people went crazy.
I'm a little extra critical sometimes on the more commercial songs, thinking nobody wants to hear this or this doesn't really have a place in this space. I think it's just a song that makes people stupidly happy, and that's cool.
The lyrics [to "Uptown Funk"] came really quick. We had the jam: Bruno was on drums, I was playing bass, Jeff Bhasker was on keys, and then Phil Lawrence was there and we jammed for five hours. We just chopped up our favorite parts of the instrumental jam, and then just started writing lyrics almost like a cipher. Bruno had been playing the Trinidad James song ["All Gold Everything"] in his live sets and playing it over a sort of uptempo, funky James Brown, "Get Up Off That Thing" groove.
We were just throwing about lyrics, throwing a little bit of the cadence of the Trinidad James song. Then when Jeff Bhasker said, "This s—, that ice cold/That Michelle Pfeiffer, that white gold." It was like a great rap line. Then everything started to elevate a little bit from there on up.
That first day, we had the whole first verse and it felt great. Every time we went back in the studio, a lot of the times it would feel labored and not as good as that first verse. So it really took a long time to get in. Sometimes we'd go in the studio for three days and then at the end of the whole session we realized, we actually only liked these four bars.
So we kept building on it, and luckily Bruno didn't really let it die. Bruno was touring Unorthodox Jukebox; I was just flying around the country with a five string bass just to get the song done.
"Uptown Funk" still ended at Daptone…to do the horns last with Dave [Guy] and Neil [Sugarman], me. It's almost like you've always got to go through Daptone to finish something.
Bruno came up with that horn line. He was like, "I know you're going to kill me because you're trying to get away from being the horn guy, but I have this horn line and I think it's kind of killer." He demoed it from whatever backstage room on tour and I was like, Okay, here we go.
"Shallow" - Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born Soundtrack (2018)
It's very rare that I write on a song that I don't have to produce as well. We wrote that song in the middle of sessions for [2016's] Joanne, and then Gaga produced the whole Star is Born soundtrack herself. I remember we all had some tingly feelings when we were writing it.
It wasn't meant to be a duet ever. Then Bradley wrote it into the film; it becomes the beginning of their love story. Bradley showed [me a rough cut] at his house, I remember just being like, he's taking this special song [and] made it put its hooks into you. This film, and the story, and the way this song is unfolding is so special.
Then also shout to Lukas Nelson, because that guitar that he came up with that opens the song was not in our demo, and that is such an iconic, memorable part of the song.
The film and the script was really powerful, and I think that me, [co-writers] Andrew [Wyatt], Anthony [Rossomando], Gaga were all in this sort of heartbreak place. We're all just going through our own dramas in the song. The juju was really good and a little spooky in the studio that night.
"Electricity" - Dua Lipa & Silk City feat. Diplo, Mark Ronson, Electricity (2018)
That song just always makes me happy. I don't have a lot of other songs [that sound] like that. I'm always psyched to play that in a set or to go see Diplo play it live.
When I came up DJing in the mid-'90s in New York, if you're a hip-hop DJ you had to be versed in dancehall, old R&B dance classics, and a little bit of house. So I knew 12 house records, but I love those records.
It came out of a fun jam, just me and Diplo — who I'd known probably at that point for 10, 15 years, but we never got in the studio together. He's just firing up drum s— and I'm just playing on this old tack piano that was in the studio I just moved into. But it also sounded quite housey.
We came up with those chords and [singer/songwriter] Diana Gordon came over. I never met her before and she just started freestyling some melodies, and it was just so soulful instantly.
We'd moved the key a little bit lower for Dua — she has this amazing husky voice — but we still left Diana's demo vocal in. She's singing these mumble, non-word melodies that sound like a sample.
We had that old studio where we did Version and all the Amy demos. It has an old-school elevator that was sort of manual and it would always break down. There were people that were just too afraid, like Cathy Dennis — the brilliant songwriter who wrote "Toxic" and "Can't Get You Out of My Head" — she would just always be like, "I'm taking the stairs." We were on the fifth floor and it was a steep, steep walk up. [Editor's note: The music video for "Electricity" features Ronson and Diplo stuck in an elevator. He notes that he's gotten stuck several times in real life.]
"Nothing Breaks Like a Heart" feat. Miley Cyrus, Late Night Feelings (2019)
I was in L.A. working in Sound Factory [Studios], and I had seen Miley a couple years back sing "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" on the "SNL" 40th anniversary; I had never heard her perform with that stripped-down arrangement. I was just so in love with her voice and the tone. I remember hounding my manager, because usually somebody who knows somebody, but Miley Cyrus was completely unreachable and just in another stratosphere.
I was in the studio with [Dap-King] Tommy Brenneck; he's just such a wonderful player, such a soulful touch. We got this thing going, and then Ilsey [Juber] was saying, like, "What about all these things that break, but nothing breaks like a heart?"
[I thought], You know what? I've been trying to hit this girl up for years and nothing ever happened, but let me just try it one more time. I sent it off to Miley, and I guess she was just in a really motivated part of life. She's like, "This is cool. Where are you guys? I'll be there Monday." She came down Monday to the studio, and then her and Illsey wrote the whole rest of the song.
"Break Up Twice" - Lizzo, Special (2022)
[I produced a few other songs on Special], but they didn't make the cut. There's one that I really love called "Are You Mad" that might hopefully see the light of day once.
We spent a lot of time together and I love working with her because she has a really eccentric/ avant garde music taste. Like, the Mars Volta is her favorite-ever band; she's a conservatoire flute player; then she has a strong Prince heritage because she spent time in Minneapolis and she's been to Paisley Park.
The thing that I really love about her is, even at the status that she was at when we were working, there was never anything too silly or too left field to try. It's really freeing when you're with a big artist who isn't afraid to just f— around and jam and make some s— that you know might not be the thing.
"Break Up Twice" was actually an instrumental that we had done at Diamond Mine with [Daptone family] Tommy [Brenneck], Leon [Michels], Victor [Axelrod] and Nick [Movshon]. I just played that, and it instantly spoke to her and she just started freestyling, adding the harmonies and the sax and the vocal arrangements. I just didn't quite know how versatile and talented that she was when we first went in the studio. I just remember constantly being impressed and amazed.
Barbie: The Album (2023)
I'm really proud of the Dom Fike song ["Hey Blondie"], the Sam Smith song ["Man I Am"], [Dua Lipa's] "Dance and Night," of course. Even the Billie [Eilish] song that we did the string arrangement for. I played the tiniest bit of synths on the Nicki [Minaj]i/Ice [Spice] song.
I love this film so much and I did something I've never done before by executive producing and overseeing it. There's so many songs that I had nothing to do with creatively; sometimes I was just doing admin, hounding Tame Impala to send in a demo.
I'm really proud of "I'm Just Ken." Of course Ryan Gosling is a superstar in a different kind of way, but the fact that he's not some superstar pop artist, and the fact that that song has managed to do what it's done….Obviously it's so much to do with the film and his performance, but I'm really proud of that song. I was so inspired by the script. I just instantly had the idea for that line.
There was never anything in the script that said Ryan was going to sing a song. It was just something where Greta [Gerwig] and him really loved the demo, and she loved it enough to write it into the film, which was just so exciting. It was happening in a way that felt wonderful and organic, and to then get Josh Freese and Slash, and Wolf Van Halen to play on it and even bring it to even this next level of sonic fullness.
On TikTok and Instagram, I've seen people singing it; [even] in Spanish, really intense, really earnest covers. We were never trying to write a parody song or anything that wasn't earnest, because there's nothing parody about the film. I guess the chords have a bit of heartbreak in them, a little melancholy, and Ryan's performance is really lovely.
Barbie score (2023)
We worked equally hard or harder [on the score]. It doesn't have quite the same shine because obviously it's not Billie Eilish, Lizzo, and Dua Lipa, but it's something Andrew [Wyatt] and I did. A piece called "You Failed Me" — that's during both Barbie and Ken's meltdown in the middle of the film — I'm quite proud of that. I really love the "Meeting Ruth" orchestral interpolation of the Billie tune as well.
I've contributed music to other films and little cues and things like that, but this is the first time that Andrew and I really did a whole movie from start to finish while also doing the soundtrack.
It's incredibly humbling, too, because when you make a song for someone's album, you're working. It's certainly the most important thing that's happening. In a film, it could be the second most important thing. You could sometimes say it's the third most important thing after dialogue and the sound effects. All that's programmed into your mind about hooks and things like that it's like, No, actually sometimes get the f— out of the way and just provide a lovely emotional texture for things to sit under things.
The thing that I guess is universal is you're reacting to an emotion. Especially if it's a film that you really feel emotionally partial to, you're watching this wonderful performance on screen and how could you not be inspired by that? We're so spoiled to have this as our first film where we're reacting to the emotional heart of this film, which is so rich.