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Meet The Record Of The Year Nominees At The 2023 GRAMMYs

The 2022 Record Of The Year nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs are hits from some of the biggest names in music, old and new: ABBA, Adele, Beyoncé, Brandi Carlile and Lucius, Doja Cat, Harry Styles, Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo, Mary J. Blige, and Steve Lacy.

GRAMMYs/Nov 15, 2022 - 05:38 pm

Looking at this year's roster of the 2022 Record Of The Year nominees for the 2023 GRAMMY Award show, there's two stories to be told: superstar comebacks made a killing, and the new crop of stars are proving to be equally as powerful.

The past year has given us much-anticipated returns from titans like Adele, Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, and Mary J. Blige, and even ABBA made a triumphant comeback after nearly 40 years. And while genre-melding mainstays Lizzo, Doja Cat and Brandi Carlile continued to crank out hits, Steve Lacy had a true breakthrough moment, and Harry Styles’ latest evolution solidified him as a pop icon.

Suffice to say, the race for Record of the Year — which is awarded to the artist and the producer(s), recording engineer(s) and/or mixer(s) and mastering engineer(s) — is going to be hotly contested at the 2023 GRAMMY Awards show. From Beyoncé's foray into dance music to Styles' unstoppable chart-topper, the winner is far from a sure thing. 

Before tuning into the 2023 GRAMMYs on Feb. 5, 2023, get fully acquainted with this year's 2022 Record Of The Year nominees below. 

The 2023 GRAMMY nominations are officially here. See the complete list of nominees across all 91 GRAMMY categories.

ABBA — "Don't Shut Me Down"  

After almost four decades away from the limelight, Swedish pop royalty ABBA made a joyous return in 2021 with the dual single, "I Still Have Faith In You" and "Don't Shut Me Down." The latter opens with the ageless sound of Agnetha Fältskog's voice over gently plucked strings, evoking the opening swell of a Broadway musical. Then the disco guitars hit, and we're right back in ABBA's world.

"Don't Shut Me Down" helped usher in an unexpected next act for the beloved group, including a new album, Voyage, and a groundbreaking live show featuring their de-aged "digital avatars." As band member Björn Ulvaeus told The Guardian, their new music was written "absolutely trend-blind" to preserve its essential ABBA-ness. Luxuriating in the rich, open-hearted sound of "Don't Shut Me Down," you'd think no time had passed at all. 

Adele — "Easy On Me"

Adele has built a highly decorated career on the gale-force strength of her emotions, and 'Easy On Me' is no exception. Released as the lead single from the British superstar's first album in six years, 30, "Easy On Me" taps into the pain of her divorce and its toll on her son.

Written as a plea for understanding from a mother to her child, the result is a rousing piano-led torch song as only Adele can make. With her emotions laid bare, "Easy On Me" set the stage for the 15-time GRAMMY winner's latest era. 

"There's something hopeful about it, as well as sad," Adele told Radio 1 of her comeback ballad. "Obviously I bawled my eyes out when I was writing it and singing it." As ever, her toil was our gain. 

Beyoncé — "BREAK MY SOUL"

Back in June, Beyoncé set the internet alight by casually updating her Instagram and Twitter bios with the message, "6. BREAK MY SOUL midnight ET." Fittingly for its late-night drop, "BREAK MY SOUL" saw the 28-time GRAMMY winner coming for house dance floors.

With a four-to-the-floor beat that references Robin S's classic "Show Me Love," Bey's banger also pulls in elements of hip-hop and bounce music to thrilling effect. Reteaming with Tricky Stewart and The-Dream — the co-producers on Bey’s Song Of The Year-winning smash "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" — the pop hitmaker skillfully paid homage to house music's Black queer roots in the context of a post-pandemic anthem. 

Generous and bursting with life, "BREAK MY SOUL" provided the perfect entrance to Beyoncé's seventh album, Renaissance, which followed the next month with heavyweight club credentials. 

Mary J Blige. — "Good Morning Gorgeous"

In the week before she took to the stage at the 2022 Super Bowl for over 100 million viewers, R&B icon Mary J. Blige seized the moment to release her 14th studio album, Good Morning Gorgeous. On the rousing title track, Blige moves past heartbreak to preach self-love above all else — a message embraced and amplified by fans on TikTok.

That silky, yet powerful voice — familiar from 2000s classics like "Family Affair" and "Be Without You" — is once again the centerpiece on "Good Morning Gorgeous," backed by warm bass and steadily strumming guitars. Blige co-produced the song with her frequent collaborator D'Mile and five-time GRAMMY winner H.E.R., the latter of whom considered the assignment a dream come true. 

Ever honest in her music, Blige told "Good Morning America" she "had to learn how to love myself out of a negative place." Self-acceptance looks great on her. 

Brandi Carlile featuring Lucius — "You and Me on the Rock"

After revisiting the past in her bestselling memoir, Broken Horses, Brandi Carlile returned to her pen and paper to conjure her seventh album, In These Silent Days. The album opens strikingly with Carlile's GRAMMY-nominated hit, "Right On Time," before easing into "You and Me on the Rock" — now, another GRAMMY-nominated single.

Deeply personal and quietly romantic, "You and Me on the Rock" reflects on the solid foundation of Carlile's home life with her wife, Catherine, and their two daughters. "Me out in my garden and you out on your walk/ Is all the distance this poor girl can take," the six-time GRAMMY winner sings to her love, evoking a scene of  blissfully domestic groundedness. 

Produced by folk and country lifers Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings, "You and Me on the Rock" also features Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of indie-pop group Lucius on backing vocals. As Carlile described it to Stereogum, "The song just felt really feminine to me."  

Doja Cat — "Woman"

On her GRAMMY-nominated third album, Planet Her, Doja Cat invited listeners into a world entirely of her own creation. After seeing success with the album’s first three singles — the GRAMMY-winning SZA collab "Kiss Me More," the Weekend-featuring hit "You Right" and the top-10 jam "Need To Know" — Doja kept the momentum alive with "Woman."

To craft the song's distinctive Afrobeats-inspired sound, Doja turned to a brains trust of producers who are practiced in dancehall, reggae, pop and R&B: Crate Classics, Linden Jay, Aynzli Jones and Yeti Beats. For all the sleekness of the production, Doja holds center stage, stepping lithely between singing and rapping on the theme of female empowerment. Top it all off with her immaculately choreographed dancing in the song’s music video, and consider Doja Cat a triple threat.

Steve Lacy — "Bad Habit"

"You can't surprise a Gemini," Steve Lacy croons with breezy nonchalance on "Bad Habit," the second single from his 2022 album, Gemini Rights. That sentiment might be true, but even someone as effortlessly cool as Lacy was surprised by the runaway success of his breakout hit.

A laidback rumination on a could-have-been love affair, "Bad Habit" caught fire on TikTok before beginning its unlikely ascent to No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100, unseating the weeks-long reign of Harry Styles' "As It Was." (Now, the two meet again in this very category.)

With its loping guitar, funk synths and Lacy's never hurried vocals, "Bad Habit" isn't your typical chart hit. Before taking off on his own, Lacy honed his pared-back melodies and Prince-inspired hooks as part of alternative R&B group the Internet, as well as in collaboration with the likes of Solange and Kendrick Lamar. Those experiences all inform "Bad Habit" — but even Lacy admits that his newfound solo success "still doesn't feel real yet."

Kendrick Lamar — "The Heart Part 5"

Having secured his place in the hip-hop pantheon, Kendrick Lamar is not one to coast on reputation. On "The Heart Part 5" — a brilliantly dense rap masterclass released ahead of his fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers — Lamar sounds as urgent as ever. The "Heart" series of standalone releases began in 2010, with each signaling the start of a new era for the Compton rapper.

"The Heart Part 5" sees the 14-time GRAMMY winner lay out his state of the union over a restless beat that samples Marvin Gaye's "I Want You," helmed by production outfit Beach Noise. Flipping that song's sultry strut, Lamar raps in long, detailed verses about the challenges and contradictions of Black life, delivering diamond-cut lines like, "Desensitized, I vandalized pain." Accompanied by a video that uses deepfake technology to morph Lamar into Black celebrities, "The Heart Part 5" is a pure artistic statement that deepens on each listen. 

Lizzo — "About Damn Time"

As Lizzo was nearing completion on her fourth album, Special, the three-time GRAMMY winner got the feeling something was missing. Eager to channel the uplifting confidence of her 2019 hit, "Good As Hell," Lizzo created "About Damn Time" — and found that positivity and then some.

Co-produced by Lizzo’s trusted producer Ricky Reed and hitmaking songwriter/producer Blake Slatkin, "About Damn Time" delivers an infectious disco-funk beat and a slew of instantly quotable (and very Lizzo-esque) lines. With a viral TikTok dance to boot, "About Damn Time" hit its stride as summer warmed up, and landed Lizzo her second No. 1 hit. 

After the "major traumas and hard experiences" of recent years, Lizzo told Audacy she "wanted to write a song that allowed us to take a moment and celebrate our survival, and celebrate how far we've come." Mission accomplished.**

Harry Styles — "As It Was"

Harry Styles staked his claim on 2022 with the announcement of his third album, Harry's House, offering up "As It Was" as an early gift. The lead single rushes along with gleaming synth-pop melodies and an achingly catchy chorus, elevating the pop-rock sounds of Styles’ previous album, 2019’s Fine Line — and subsequently launching him into an even bigger superstar stratosphere.

From the moment of its release, "As It Was" went on an unstoppable run, becoming the longest-running U.S. No. 1 by a UK act on the Billboard Hot 100, with 15 weeks in the top spot. Ironically, "As It Was" is lyrically centered on loneliness, but its racing melody disguises the song as a feel-good hit — and that might just be what makes "As It Was" so special.

It also marks a big moment for Styles and his right-hand men, co-producers/co-writers Tyler Johnson and Kid Harpoon. "As It Was" earned Styles his first nominations for Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year, and Harrys House notched his first Album Of The Year nod.

2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List

 The 2023 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 65th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.

The eligibility period for the 65th GRAMMY Awards is Friday, Oct. 1, 2021 – Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. All eligible awards entries must be released within this timeframe.

The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy’s Voting Membership.

Metro Boomin Performs at Future & Friends' One Big Party Tour in 2023
Metro Boomin performs during Future & Friends' One Big Party Tour in 2023

Photo: Prince Williams/Wireimage 

list

Metro Boomin's Essential Songs: 10 Must-Know Tracks, From "Creepin" To "Like That"

The 2024 GRAMMY nominee for Producer Of The Year is one of hip-hop's most in-demand minds. Between his collab albums with Future and some highly debated beefs with rap's biggest stars, it's the perfect time to revisit the Metro-verse.

GRAMMYs/Jun 4, 2024 - 01:38 pm

Metro Boomin has spent more than a decade redefining rap music. The gloomy, 808-induced trap beats that flood radio airwaves and blare from nightclub speakers are a symbol of his influence. But now, the Atlanta-based superproducer is on one of his biggest musical runs to date.  

In April, Metro released the second of two joint albums with Future, hinted at a third release this year, sold out a concert at the Kundalini Grand Pyramids in Egypt, and clinched the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 with "Like That" featuring Kendrick Lamar. He also delivered a first-of-its-kind instrumental diss aimed at Drake called "BBL Drizzy," accusing the Toronto rapper of going under the knife.  

The diss was in response to Drake’s "Push Ups" and subsequent disses toward Kendrick Lamar. "Metro shut your hoe ass up and make some drums" he rapped. The verbal blow inspired Metro to release the hilarious instrumental, which he encouraged fans to rap on for a chance to win a free beat.  

Months before the feud, Metro celebrated two nominations for Best Rap Album and Producer of the Year, Non-Classical at the 66th GRAMMY Awards. While he didn’t take home a coveted golden gramophone, the momentum has elevated his career to new heights.  

Before the St. Louis-bred producer kicks off the We Trust You tour with Future on July 30, revisit 10 of Metro Boomin's biggest releases.  

"Karate Chop" (2013) 

A 19-year-old Metro crafted his first charting single right before making a life-changing move to Atlanta. With piercing synths and bubbly arpeggios, the song was the lead single for Future’s highly anticipated sophomore album, Honest. 

But Metro, a freshman at Morehouse College at the time, wasn’t sold on its success. "I never really like it," Metro told XXL. "Then every time people would come into the studio, he would always play the record and I was like, ‘Why are you so stuck on this s—? We have way harder records.’"  

But after cranking out a new mix on the original track, "Karate Chop" went on to become his first placement on a major label album. The remix with Lil Wayne further elevated the record and, by virtue, Metro’s profile as a musical craftsman.  

"Jumpman" (2015) 

 Metro mastered the late-summer anthem in 2015 with "Jumpman." The song was the most notable hit from Drake and Future’s collaborative mixtape, What a Time to Be Alive, and went on to shut down bustling nightclubs and obscure strip joints. And while the record didn’t perform as well as other songs on this list, it secured Future his first Top 20 hit.  

The song — which features Metro’s signature bass and a screeching raven sound effect — also saw a streaming boost after an Apple Music commercial featuring Taylor Swift rapping to the song. According to Adweek, the campaign helped generate a 431 percent increase in global sales 

 What makes "Jumpman" even more special is that a collab between Future, Metro, and Drake may never happen again. Reportedly, the duo is at odds with Drake because the OVO artist decided to link with 21 Savage on Her Loss instead of doing a follow-up project with Future.  

"Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" (2016) 

"Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" is the song that set Kanye West’s album, Life of Pablo, ablaze. Opening with a clip of gospel musician and singer T.L. Barrett’s Father I Stretch My Hands,” Metro’s signature producer tag kicks the record into full gear. The pulsating synthesizers and bouncy percussion match West’s raunchy and sexually explicit lyrics.  

Metro’s production received significant praise, with several publications pointing to his contributions on end-of-year listings. And in the eight years since its release, "Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1" has been certified six times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, making it one of Ye’s most-sold records of all time. 

"Congratulations" (2016) 

After the success of "White Iverson," a young Post Malone was on the hunt for the hottest producers in the rap game. He managed to land Metro, who worked with fellow producers Frank Dukes and the prolific Louis Bell on the triumphant trap record "Congratulations."  

On a 2022 episode of the podcast "Full Send," Metro revealed that the celebratory song was made after watching the world’s greatest athletes eclipse historic feats of their own. "I remember the Olympics was on TV, and just how the music was sounding, it sounded like some champion s—," he said.  

"Congratulations" marked Post Malone’s second Top 20 hit following his debut, "White Iverson." The song was certified diamond after totaling more than 11 million combined sales. Today, it remains one of Metro’s biggest achievements.

"Bad and Boujee" (2017) 

Fueled by virality and a shoutout from Donald Glover at the 2017 Golden Globes, the Migos and Lil Uzi Vert’s "Bad and Boujee" landed Metro Boomin his first No. 1 Billboard hit as a producer.  

The song has every element Metro fans have grown to love: moody keys, hard-hitting bass, and plenty of room for the artists’ adlibs to pierce through the track.  

Two months before its eventual ascension, the song had a steep hill to climb atop the Billboard charts. But Metro’s production and the chemistry between Quavo, Offset, and Uzi helped the record shoot up to its rightful place. It continues to garner praise In the years since its 2016 release, too. It was ranked No. 451 on Rolling Stone’s "500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list 

"Mask Off" (2017) 

When "Mask Off" dropped in 2017, it scorched the Billboard charts. Hip-hop was flirting with flutes (as heard on songs like Drake’s "Portland" and Kodak Black’s "Tunnel Vision" — another Metro-produced beat) — but "Mask Off" stands out as the biggest song of the short-lived era.  

Metro infused jazz-like undertones to perfectly meld the flute lick into the dark and mystic beat. The record led to the remix with Kendrick Lamar, with his verse breathing new life into the already-seismic hit. It’s now certified nine times platinum.  

Years after the song’s release, Future said "Mask Off" initially put radio programmers in disarray. In his East Atlanta rapper’s Apple Music documentary The WIZRD, he revealed that the song dropped before Carlton WIlliams’ "Prison Song" sample was officially cleared. "Out of all the songs, ‘Mask Off’ wasn’t even legit," he said. "The s— was on the radio, they’re thinking it’s not a sample, but it got so big they were like, ‘It’s a sample.’" 

"Heartless" (2019) 

The Weeknd's "Heartless" is a pop and electro-clash classic that fires on all cylinders. The visuals are atmospheric, the lyrics are ultra-stimulating, and the production — partly handled by Metro — makes for a lasting club banger.  

The leading single for The Weeknd’s fourth studio album, After Hours, topped the Billboard charts. It marked the Toronto-born crooner’s fourth No. 1 hit and unveiled the depths of Metro’s musical arsenal.  

Metro produced four tracks on After Hours: "Faith," "Escape from L.A.," "Until I Bleed Out" and "Heartless." On the latter and in his other collaborations with The Weeknd, James Blake, and Solange, Metro’s creative sorcery was tested. He proved, once again, that he could generate a hit outside the confines of trap music.  

"Creepin" (2022)

After a solid outing on his first album Not All Heroes Wear Capes, Metro returned with another series of hard-hitting records. His second solo venture, Heroes & Villains, featured John Legend, Don Tolliver, Travis Scott, and other premiere artists. But the biggest song to come out of the star-studded lineup was "Creepin’" featuring 21 Savage and The Weeknd 

The only single to Metro’s second solo album struck sonic gold. The Weeknd’s flowy vocals overlay the silky and harmonic record, which transitions to a more trap-induced beat once 21 Savage’s verse kicks in. The remake of Mario Winans’ "I Don’t Wanna Know" was a notable departure from Metro’s past singles, which heavily lean on his trap roots. But it still managed to connect with his audience – and even beyond it. "Creepin" peaked at No. 3 on Billboard, which was Metro’s highest-charting solo record up until that point.

Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse (2023) 

Following the success of "Creepin’" and his other smash singles, Metro extended his creative powers to the film world. He was given the green light to executive produce the soundtrack for Sony’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. 

Metro Boomin told Indie Wire that he crafted songs from rough animations and selected scenes "just to get in the world and the story of Miles [Morales] and what he’s going through," He even exchanged phone calls and texts with the film’s composer Daniel Pemberton to ensure the soundtrack and score were on the same accord.  

From the classical serenade "Am I Dreaming" to the Latin swing of "Silk & Cologne" and the Timbaland-stomping "Nas Morales," the result was an equally transformative musical experience. Each record ranged in musicality and tone while beautifully complementing the vibrant animated superhero flick.

"Like That" (2024) 

"Like That" is easily one of the best beats in Metro’s catalog, and may end up being one of the most memorable. Samples from Rodney O & Joe Cooley’s "Everlasting Bass" and Eazy-E’s 1989 classic "Eazy-Duz-It" shaped the bouncy trap beat, sinister synths, and spine-chilling baseline. But Kendrick Lamar’s verse turned it into a heat-seeking missile.  

With the song’s thunderous bass and rapid hi-hats in the background, Kendrick dissed J. Cole and Drake for their recent claims of rap supremacy, particularly on 2023’s "First Person Shooter." The lyrical nuke sparked the Civil War-style rap feud, which led to a seven-song exchange between Kendrick and Drake.  

The initial musical blow made the genre stand still. It also led to the massive success of the record, which notched Future and Metro another No. 1 hit song. It also helped the pair’s album, We Don’t Trust You, claim the top spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart.  

Inside The Metro-Verse: How Metro Boomin Went From Behind-The-Scenes Mastermind To Rap's Most In-Demand Producer 

Shaboozey Press Photo 2024
Shaboozey

Photo: Daniel Prakopcyk

interview

Shaboozey On His New Album, Beyoncé & Why He'll Never Be A "Stereotypical" Artist

After Beyoncé introduced Shaboozey to a global audience via 'COWBOY CARTER,' his genre-shattering third album arrives on the wings of his own international smash, "A Bar Song (Tipsy)" and makes a declaration: 'Where I've Been, Isn't Where I'm Going.'

GRAMMYs/May 31, 2024 - 03:40 pm

The last two months have been monumental for Shaboozey. On March 29, Beyoncé fans around the world embraced his two guest collaborations on her COWBOY CARTER album, "SPAGHETTII" and "SWEET HONEY BUCKIIN'" — and they were instantly interested in what else the Nigerian-American singer had to offer. According to his label, EMPIRE, Spotify listens of Shaboozey's music (including his first two albums, 2018's Lady Wrangler and 2022's Cowboys Live Forever, Outlaws Never Die) rose by 1000 percent after COWBOY CARTER dropped.

Six weeks later, his growing fandom sent his breakthrough single, "A Bar Song (Tipsy)," to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country chart — ironically, dethroning Queen Bey's "Texas Hold 'Em" in the process. The song instantly proved to have crossover appeal, also peaking at No. 3 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart, along with reaching the top spot on pop charts in Australia, Canada, Norway, and Sweden.

With his third album, Where I've Been, Isn't Where I'm Going, the man born Collins Chibueze is eager for audiences new and old to get a deeper look into his ever-evolving artistry, which he's been honing for more than a decade. He leans into country and the soundtrack of the open road on "Highway" and "Vegas," while also tapping into his talent as an MC on "Drink Don't Need No Mix" with Texas rapper BigXthaPlug. He displays a softer side, too, with tracks like "My Fault," an apologetic and pleading country ballad performed with Noah Cyrus, and "Steal Her From Me," which finds Shaboozey smoldering with his own Southern slow jam.

Shaboozey's massive global recognition may be fresh, but he's here to remind listeners that he's not a new artist. In a candid interview with GRAMMY.com, the singer discusses how he's put in a decade of hard work in order to appear to be an overnight success.

You've topped the country charts as well as pop charts around the world. Do you think we are witnessing a more welcoming era in country music right now?

I think it's definitely a lot more welcoming. All these genres of music now, just because of the internet age and the access to information — like, now I can go watch Tubi, which has thousands of Western movies, and then Spotify, I can jump from listening to a Townes Van Zandt album or a Leonard Cohen album, and then I can go play Future, you know what I mean?

And then I can jump from them, and go listen to The Marías, who are friends of mine. I can listen to some indie rock music, and then I can listen to some Fred again.. or something like that. So having all that at your fingertips, I think, it's allowed for some interesting combinations in all genres of music.

I think we're the generation of paint splatter! I do think it is very welcoming. As artists we are able to connect. We can have our own micro communities. There's not just one way to connect with people now, there are so many other ways. It's different out there now, it's really different.

You're releasing your second album with EMPIRE — how has the company helped you to develop?

EMPIRE has been super awesome. I was signed to Republic for a while, for a year or two, and I saw some article where it talked about Universal partnering with EMPIRE to handle some distribution stuff. I remember talking to my manager at the time, and being like, "We should go there!"

Major labels can get pretty cluttered. Sometimes they just don't have the bandwidth to develop acts that aren't going to take off in a couple weeks or a month or a quarter. They have these quarterlies they have to meet.

So for an artist like me, who is — a lot of people like to describe me as disruptive. It's weird to describe yourself as that. I'm just being me, and people are like, "That's disruptive." But for someone like me, who's like that, it's very important for me to be innovative and push things, and change the way people consume.

I never came in the game wanting to be stereotypical, or just your usual artist. I came in just trying to be like, Man, I love art. I love being creative and that's what I am. Sometimes that's hard to package to everyone. It's like, what is it? For major labels, sometimes, they love to be like, this is pop, this is country, this is just that.

And so for EMPIRE to bring me into what they had going on, and to stick with me within these three or four years I've been with them, knowing that there has been a lot of ups and downs. There've been a lot of [times] that we thought were going to do something that [we] didn't. Because it's a process with artistry, it doesn't happen overnight. They say it takes 10 years to have an overnight success, and it's true.

Your new album flows so well. Was it written to be taken in as one complete piece?

I'm a lover of a concept album. I love film, I love stories, I love payoffs. I love the hero's journey, they call it.

There is a way to tell a story in a three-act structure. And within those structures you have your rising action, you have your hero's call to action. They lead the world, you have your climax, and then you have, was the hero changed? Did they get the thing they were looking for at the end of it?

I'm a huge fan of film, huge on concepts, world building. I want something to feel immersive, so arrangement is big to me.

But before, I used to be super picky about [ensuring that] everything needs to connect, and I had to learn to let that go and just know that that's a part of me as an artist. As I create, I'm telling these stories naturally, so I stopped being too hard on myself about things needing to connect because that would cripple me at certain points. But now, again, I'm just learning how to let it go, and let it come naturally. It's cool to see that people are still saying with this project that there's still a concept there. And I'm like, oh, there is still a concept there. There is still a story.

My last project [Cowboys Live Forever, Outlaws Never Die] was super inspired by western films. Old western films, like, spaghetti westerns, and the whole nature of outlaw, just like period piece western culture. So I was huge on everything needing to feel like it was period. It needed to feel like this 1800s western, and this Black outlaw and his gang.

Obviously, I wanted the [visual] content to reflect that. And then you're realizing…  Wait, every video shoot I'm having to rent western wardrobe and chaps? It's a lot to do all the time, you know? It was a commitment… and I don't wear that everyday, so it wasn't really 100 percent being authentically myself in that moment. It was like, I'm creating a character and this character is separate from me.

That's hard to do all the time. Especially when it's a period piece in the 1800s and you're in 2024. So at some point I was like, hey, I want this project to be more like, I can put something on in my closet and go shoot some content, versus having to find a western town, or a world or environment that fits the 1800s.

Do you think that Beyoncé was inspired by that album?

I definitely think so. I think that's what was cool about her project, and her entry into country. I saw a lot of similarities between the things that inspired us.

What I love about country is, I really love the old stuff that really does play into the old West, the Wild West — and I saw that Beyoncé, she would talk about little things like that, too. Like the outlaws, hangmen and six shooters, and stuff like that. So you can see that she's really inspired by that stuff as well. I was told by her team that she would definitely watch a lot of old Western films through the process of doing her project.

How has the Beyhive treated you since you appeared on COWBOY CARTER?

I love that community. Seriously, that community, they've been extremely supportive from what I've seen, because Beyoncé's message has been about shining light on people that may have been overlooked. So they definitely carry out the mission of supporting the people that Beyoncé supports. They've been amazing.

I would like to say that early on with "Bar Song," they were definitely pre-saving it, they were sharing it as much as they could on Twitter, and there were a lot of posts that I was making that were getting high viewership. You could tell that there were a lot of impressions before the "Bar Song" came out. So they're great.

Did you ever think you'd be on an album with Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton?

I hoped for those things when I was creating my album. I wanted to see more hip-hop artists collaborating with people like that. I was always like, man, if I was given a $10 million budget to make a project, I'd get Willie Nelson or Hank Williams Jr. or someone like that to jump on it. I want to see something like that.

As someone whose parents grew up in Nigeria, what do you think of the global breakthrough of Nigerian artists like Burna Boy and Wizkid?

It's amazing to see. Afrobeat is definitely universal now, global like that. I think Wizkid was one of the pioneers of getting that music across the water in such a way. Burna Boy, too — if you check out his aesthetic, it's influenced by a lot of different things. He's not just wearing traditional Nigerian garments, he's wearing designer stuff, and he's got the jewelry pieces and Cartier. It's presented in a way that that style of music wasn't really represented [before] in that sense.

I lived in Nigeria for a year or two, and when I was there, there was no wifi or the internet. Now I go back and my cousins are on Netflix and on Instagram and all these places. So yeah, everything is spreading out. But as far as Afrobeat, I mean, that music is incredible, the production. It's so infectious when you hear it, but it's cool to see people of Nigerian descent, me as well, having our reach everywhere.

Davido, he reached out to me a couple days ago, he's like, "I need you to get on this record." There's a lot of Nigerian artists now that are hitting me up, and are like, "Hey, will you jump on this, will you jump on that?" I'm hearing some of those guys are trying to get into country music. It's cool to kind of have my own Burna Boy moment right now!

The new album sounds like you really worked on developing your voice as an instrument, with more singing than rapping. Is that a fair assumption?

Yeah. Being from Virginia, we didn't have those outlets to kind of hone in on. I didn't have a vocal coach, or a songwriting program, or anything like that. We kind of had to figure it out on our own.

I think that's why you have so many artists that come from Virginia where they're all very eclectic, they all have this kind of rawness to them. Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Pharrell, even Tommy Richman. He's got that song going crazy viral too. You know the song, the "Million Dollar Baby" song. It's a guy singing falsetto [like] Bee Gees over a hip-hop beat. I'm like, where did you learn to structure a song like this?

This album was that project for me. My manager here [told me] it's working, because I'm learning how to arrange music and write songs that have a broader appeal, but I didn't know that at the time. We were just having fun, just learning how to do it with whatever resources we had. It can get kind of funky.

I think my first project was very funky, and then this one was [made after] 10 years of being in it. You start to figure it out a little bit more.

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Leon Michels, center, poses with Black Thought, Kirby and members of El Michels Affair backstage at "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon."
Leon Michels, center, poses with Black Thought, Kirby and members of El Michels Affair backstage at "The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon."

Photo: Rosalind O'Connor/NBC via Getty Images

interview

Behind Leon Michels' Hits: From Working With The Carters & Aloe Blacc, To Creating Clairo's New Album

Multi-instrumentalist turned GRAMMY-nominated producer Leon Michels has had a hand in a wide range of pop and hip-hop music. Read on for the stories behind his smash hits with Norah Jones, Black Thought, Kalis Uchis, Aloe Blacc, and others.

GRAMMYs/May 27, 2024 - 03:17 pm

A child of New York’s ultra-niche soul revival scene of the early 2000s, multi-instrumentalist turned producer Leon Michels has had an extensive reach into global pop music. As both producer and session man, Michels has worked with the Carters, Norah Jones, Black Thought, the Black Keys, Kalis Uchis, and Aloe Blacc — to name a few.

He has held to a specific creative vision for more than two decades, first through his heavily sampled El Michels Affair projects and a healthy schedule of releases through Truth & Soul records and later, Big Crown, the label he co-founded with DJ Danny Akalepse in 2016. He runs a studio in upstate New York called the Diamond Mine North, where he does most of his work since relocating from New York City in 2017. He has two GRAMMY nominations to his name, for Mary J. Blige’s Good Morning Gorgeous and Lizzo’s Special.

Trained originally on piano, he took up drums and eventually saxophone through the guidance of his high school music teacher, Miss Leonard. "[She] is actually the person I owe it all to. She started this jazz band when I was in fifth grade, and there's no drummer, so she asked me if I would learn drums," he tells GRAMMY.com. "I did that, and she would give me Duke Ellington cassettes, Sydney Bichet, Johnny Hodges. She would just feed me music."

Daptone Records co-founder Gabe Roth recruited and mentored Michels while he was still in high school, and the teenager soon became a regular touring member of what would become the Dap-Kings, backing singer Sharon Jones during an early run of success in the mid-2000s. " I joined Sharon Jones when it was the Soul Providers. We went on tour in Europe with them. Somehow my parents let me do it. I don't even understand. Gabe came over and sweet-talked them."

Michels left the group in 2006 after seven intense years, wanting to spend more time recording than enduring the grind of touring. His chosen timing caused him to miss out by mere "months" on the group’s recording sessions for Amy Winehouse’s four-time GRAMMY winner Back To Black. Despite what appeared to be a major missed opportunity, he turned his focus to his group El Michels Affair after initial encouragement from the 2005 album Sounding Out The City, released on Truth & Soul, the label he had co-founded. 

Finding his inspiration in the intersections of soul and hip-hop, as a fully committed instrumentalist producer, he was able to develop an analog soundscape that quickly caught the ears of artists including Raekwon and other Wu-Tang Clan alumni, with whom he toured in 2008. This led to the follow-up album Enter The 37th Chamber in 2009. Samples from El Michels Affair, including those by Ghostface Killah, Jay-Z, Just Blaze, J. Cole, and Travis Scott quickly proliferated and opened doors. Via the Lee Fields album My World, Michels' work caught the attention of Dan Auerbach, with whom he and his longtime collaborator and bassist Nick Movshon toured from 2010 to 2012.

Producing the Aloe Blacc song "I Need A Dollar" in 2010 further enhanced his credentials and provided the financial stability to allow him to be true to his creative spirit, which he has done successfully over the last decade.

Leon Michels spoke to GRAMMY.com about some key career recordings, including his latest release with singer Clairo.

Clairo – "Sexy to Someone" (Charm, 2024)

I met Clairo almost three years ago. I made a record with her that took three years to complete, which is actually one of the longest stretches I've ever spent on a record.

She’s made two records before this. Her first record, Immunity, came out when she was 19. It's a pop record, and it was very successful. But she's a total music nerd like me. She’s constantly scouring the Internet for music. The way people, especially young people, ingest music these days is just insane. She's got great taste.

Her first record was super successful. She made her second record, Sling, with Jack Antonoff, and it was an ambitious folk record, and a huge departure from her first record. I think it caught her audience off guard, but it was kind of a perfect move because now she can make whatever she wants. 

When she came to me, I was excited but slightly confused. What do I do? Because in those situations, you think, well, I need to facilitate a successful pop record, but she just wanted all the weird s—.

It’s this cool mix of pop elements, but some of the music sounds like a Madlib sample. All of it is steeped in pretty cool references and older music, but her perspective is a 25-year-old’s, and she’s an incredible songwriter. It's a really cool mix.

Norah Jones - "Running"  (Visions, 2024)

Norah used to hit up me and Dave Guy, trumpet player in the Menahan Street Band and the Roots, if she needed horns.

As we were coming out of the pandemic, she hit me up and wanted to make some music. We made a few songs and then after that, she asked me to produce her Christmas record, which was super fun because I've never listened to Christmas music. I started to enjoy it, which was weird because I had thought I hated Christmas music. I mean, once you start to dig for Christmas records, pretty much all of your favorite artists have them. I was listening to Christmas music from March to October the entire year. 

After that, we made Visions, which is all original stuff. Norah's just so talented. Her musicianship is actually some of the most impressive I've ever seen or worked with. She's so good that when I play with her, I get intimidated and I forget basic harmony and music theory!

Read more: 5 Inspirations Behind Norah Jones' New Album 'Visions': Nightly Dreams, Collabs, Harmony Stacks & More

We cut that record,  mostly just the two of us. There's a couple of songs where we got a band, but most of it was in my upstate studio. She would just come over from nine to three. She would come after she dropped her kids at school and then have to leave to pick them up. It was super fun to make, essentially just jamming all day.

[Overall] it’s not a huge departure for Norah, but sonically it is a departure, and it's got this very loose, "un-precious" quality. That's maybe a little different from her other stuff.

"Running" was her choice as a single. When it comes to singles — the songs that have actually been most successful — I've wanted to take those off the record. I have no idea what's going to be the hit or not.

Black Thought - "Glorious Game" (Glorious Game, 2023)

That was a total pandemic record — at the start of the pandemic when everyone was completely locked in, we had no idea what was going on.

Black Thought texted me out of the blue, and I think he was just trying to stay busy. So he just said, "Can you send me songs?" I sent him maybe two songs and then he sent back finished verses three or four hours later. Most of that record was just me sending him s— and him sending it back, and then going like that. We had probably 20 songs. 

The time I did spend in the studio with him was, he's a total savant. He sits there while you're playing a song, and it kind of looks like he's on Instagram or f—ing around, you know what I mean? Does this guy even like this song? And then 45 minutes later, he’ll be like "Aight, ready." And he goes in there and, and he'll rap four pages of lyrics in one take. It's insane. He remembers everything;  we'll do a song and then three years later, he'll have to redo it, but he'll know the lyrics from memory.

There's a couple of things that I figured out on that record. One: The thing I love about sampled hip-hop production the most is it's almost always pitch-shifted, which makes a giant difference in the sound. And if the piano has decay or vocals have vibrato, when you pitch it up, it becomes something that is so uniquely hip-hop. The second thing was, with hip hop, one of the best parts about sampling is the choices a producer has to make when they are limited to chopping a two-track mix.  If you have multi-tracks, there are too many options. 

I think that record resonated with people who are hip-hop aficionados who really love the art of emceeing. 

Aloe Blacc - "I Need A Dollar" (Good Things, 2010)

We had just recorded the Lee Fields record, My World. Eothen Alapatt, who used to be a label manager at Now Again, was a friend of mine. [Jeff Silverman and I] started Truth & Soul, but we had no infrastructure. We thought My World would have a bigger reach if Stones Throw took care of the press and distribution. And so Eothen said "Yeah, we can do that, but instead of paying us, just make a record with this artist we have, Aloe Blacc."

I had no idea who he was. And so that was the business deal. We didn't get paid for the record initially. The payment was that they were going to promote Lee Fields record for us. So [Aloe] came to New York, and I did it with my partner at the time, Jeff Silverman, also Nick Movshon, who played on the entire record.

He wanted to do this Bill Withers thing. "I Need A Dollar" was probably my least favorite song on the record. I think I have this aversion to anything that's slightly cheesy, but I've gotten better at it. But at the end of the day, it's just a good song. It got picked up as the theme song to an HBO pilot called "How To Make It In America." And then, it just blew up in Europe. It was No. 1 everywhere. But it never hit in America.

It kind of set me off on a weird path for a minute, because I got a taste of success. And made some poor career decisions. I tried to a do lot of songwriting sessions with strangers.  It was maybe four years until I decided to just make El Michels Records.  

The Carters - "SUMMER" (EVERYTHING IS LOVE, 2018)

At the time, I was making these sample packs and sending them out to producers. One of them was this slow jam, and so the producers called me up and said "We used one of your samples. It's for a giant artist. We can't tell you who it is. You have to approve it now. And you can't hear it, but it's going to change your life." That’s what they kept saying to me. Then they said "It's coming out in two weeks."

So I figured they used one of my samples and chopped it up and did their thing to it.  And so when the record came out, it was Beyoncé and Jay-Z. It was the first track on that record they did together, the Carters. And it was mostly just my original sample with some new bass and string section. So basically it was just Beyoncé and Jay-Z over an El Michael's Affair track. The track was called "Summer," and my original never came out. 

So just hearing Beyoncé, hearing these giant pop voices that I associate with absolute hits, over my song, that was pretty cool.

Liam Bailey - "Dance With Me" (Zero Grace, 2023)

Me and him just have a very crazy chemistry when it comes to music, because it all happens super fast and with very little thought. Sometimes I'll listen to Liam's stuff, and I actually don't know how we did it. That is actually the goal. That’s why Lee "Scratch Perry" is the greatest producer of all time, because he could access that instant input, instant output type of creativity. It just passes through him and then it's on the record. Making music with Liam is like that; I'll make some instrumental, or I'll have an idea and then he'll freestyle lyrics one or two times.

To me, it sounds gibberish, but then he'll go through it and change one or two words and all of a sudden has this crazy narrative, and it's about his childhood [for example]. When I’ve worked with him, he has this same process where it's just kind of "hand to God" s—, just let it happen. I was trying to make something the way Jamaicans did, [like] that brand of Jamaican soul from the mid-'60s. 

Brainstory - "Peach Optimo" (Sounds Good, 2024)

I met those guys through Eduardo Arenas, who's the bass player from Chicano Batman, and he had recorded a couple of demos from them. And they had one song in particular that really caught my attention, which made it onto their first record called "Dead End."

They’re three jazz kids. Their dad was a gospel singer and loved soul and Stevie Wonder. So they grew up on all that stuff as well. Producing a band like Brainstory is super easy, because they rehearse all the time. Most of their songs are written; all I have to do is maybe shuffle around sections or just essentially cut stuff out. Because a lot of times when bands write music and rehearse every day, they just love to play, so sections are endless. 

I'll…have a sound in mind for the record, some reference for me and the engineering hands to kind of work from. And in the case of Sounds Good, the reference for the whole sound of the record was that this is Gene Harris song called "Los Alamitos Latin Funk Love." This is kind of the vibe of the entire record. We just cut that record over the course of a year, but it was two sessions that were maybe six days each. 

Kevin is the main vocalist and he's amazing. He can do that sweet soul background stuff perfectly. And when he does [his own] background vocals, it's this thing that not a lot of people can do where he changes his personality. So he becomes three different people. Then the background sounds like an actual group. 

Behind Mark Ronson's Hits: How 'Boogie Nights,' Five-Hour Jams & Advice From Paul McCartney Inspired His Biggest Singles & Collabs

Doja Cat headlines at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Sunday, April 14, 2024
Doja Cat headlines at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

Photo: Dania Maxwell / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

list

7 Incredible Sets From Coachella 2024 Weekend 1: Doja Cat, No Doubt, Raye & More

With a weekend full of surprise guests, exciting reunions and breakout performances from first-time performers, this weekend in Indio was one for the books. Read on for seven of the top performances at the first weekend of Coachella 2024.

GRAMMYs/Apr 16, 2024 - 02:37 am

While every headliner at last year’s Coachella held some sort of historical cultural significance, Coachella 2024’s roster instead represented a series of graduations from opening slots and side stages to top-tier main stage titan status.

Friday featured Lana Del Rey, whose sole previous Coachella performance was at the Outdoor Theatre in 2014. Saturday was capped by Tyler, The Creator appearing for the third time in Indio (his last appearance as runner up to Haim and Beyoncé on the main stage in 2018). And on Sunday, Doja Cat occupied the uppermost spot after her penultimate main stage appearance in 2022.

Yet Coachella Weekend 1 this year’s attendees got astronomically more bang for their buck than they counted on, due to a surprise-guest-heavy lineup. The bulk of those special moments came from  A-list talent, from Billie Eilish with Lana Del Rey to Olivia Rodrigo with No Doubt, Justin Bieber joining Tems, Kesha with Reneé Rapp, most of the Fugees performing alongside YG Marley, Will Smith performing "Men in Black" with J Balvin … the list goes on. 

When all was said and done, the diversity, quality and impact of the weekend’s performances were tremendous. Even without elite bonus appearances, there were plenty of performances — quite a few of them newcomers, recent buzzbands and imminent breakthroughs — that made this year’s Coachella more than worthy of an early accolade for one of the first-rate fests of 2024. Read on for seven of the best sets from Coachella 2024.

Faye Webster Thrills Loyal Fans With Supreme Confidence

Underneath the shaded canopy of the Mojave Tent, Faye Webster held her sprawling audience in the palm of her hand during her Coachella debut on Friday. Deafening cheers rang out at the start of every song, which seemed to infuse the 26-year-old singer/songwriter with a level of energy unparalleled up to this point in her career.

Webster deftly worked her way through 11 tracks, each one received with wild cheers from fans, who sang with such gusto that they often nearly overpowered her own vocals. The crossroads of her confidence and creativity fully manifested during closing tune "Kingston," which saw her pausing to let the audience belt out the remainder of the line, a beckoning gesture that exuded self-assuredness. 

Notably, three of six new songs ("Wanna Quit All the Time," "He Loves Me Yeah!" and "Lego Ring") from her recently released fifth album Underdressed at the Symphony were live debuts. The fact that Webster saved them for Coachella showed a clear intention to ensure the set was extra special. Beyond any shadow of doubt, she succeeded. 

Lana Del Rey Taps Billie Eilish, Jon Batiste & Others For Standout Friday Set

With her notoriously downtempo demeanor, Lana Del Rey wasn’t the obvious choice for a Friday headlining spot on the main stage, but when all was said and done, her 20-song set delivered plenty to position her as a standout performer. 

Dressed in an elegant baby blue gown, her entrance — a slow ride on the back of a motorbike through the lanes of the crowd all the way to the stage — worked wonders to build excitement. And her first three song choices, a shortened version of "Without You" (not performed since 2014) and two more gems from the vault — "West Coast" (debuted 10 years ago to the day at her first Coachella appearance) and her superb cover of Sublime’s "Doin’ Time" — signaled her intention to make this show a truly special occasion (neither of the latter two tunes have appeared on a setlist since 2019).

From there it was a parade of hits culled from her robust catalog, as the GRAMMY-nominated singer waltzed her way across the expanse of a fairytale palace stage production, at several points venturing up flights of stairs to a towering terrace. Four of her 10 albums feature production from Jack Antonoff (who played with Bleachers on Saturday), so it was unsurprising when he took the helm of the white grand piano toward the end for a strikingly serene duet with a hologram Lana on "Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have — But I Have It."

Jon Batiste (who performed his own set on Saturday) also assisted on piano for an alluring take on "Candy Necklace," but the pinnacle moment arrived during performances of "ocean eyes" and "Video Games" alongside surprise guest Billie Eilish. Sitting side by side atop a balcony, the two harmonized through much of those tracks, and the occasions when Lana sat back to let Billie sing several sections solo were absolutely arresting. The two superstars stared adoringly at each other throughout, clearly just as awe-inspired by the unprecedented collaboration as the audience, which erupted with rapturous applause that rivaled the decibels of the set’s glittering fireworks finale.

Raye Races Toward Superstardom During Emotional Debut

After just one song of Raye’s Saturday afternoon performance, there was no question that her Coachella debut would be remembered as one of the most striking in recent years. The British songwriter and chanteuse, who shattered the record for most wins and nominations in a single year at this year’s BRIT Awards, poured every ounce of her soul into her 45-minute set. The crowd inside the Mojave tent hung on every note and went absolutely berserk all the way from the sultry intro of "The Thrill is Gone" to gloriously anthemic closer "Escapism."

Backed by a powerhouse band of eight backup singers, three string players, four brass aces and the standard guitar, drums and bass, each song was a showstopper. Without question, the most impactful moment came on "Ice Cream Man," which deals with her own experience with sexual assault and rape.

"I want you to know it’s not an easy song to sing," she started. And before she could continue, the audience released a loud roar of support, to the point that the singer shed tears. When she composed herself, she continued, "But it’s important to be loud .. and to be brave. This allows me to be loud about something I’ve been quiet about my entire life. I am very f—ing strong."

That moment — which culminated into a big band-style belter that evoked the power of Amy Winehouse and Billie Holiday — likewise drew tears from many in the audience. Further, it defined Raye as an artist destined for superstardom on the merits of genuine talent, an infinitely infectious spirit, and incomparably hard work ethic. To that end, it should be no surprise she’s the songwriter behind tunes from GRAMMY-winning artists including Beyoncé, no big deal. 

Sublime Revives Their Definitive Sound Alongside Jakob Nowell

Though many were referring to Sublime’s Saturday afternoon appearance on the Coachella main stage as a "reunion" in the days leading up to the festival, new frontman Jakob Nowell — son of the band’s deceased original singer Bradley Nowell — made it abundantly clear that wasn’t precisely the case.

"My name is Jakob Nowell and this is Sublime," he said following the conclusion of opening song "April 29, 1992," gesturing toward the beloved Southern California ska-punk band’s surviving members bassist Eric Wilson and drummer Bud Gaugh.

Read more: Sublime's Jakob Nowell On Leading His Father's Legendary Band & What To Expect At Coachella

His resistance to co-opt his dad’s legacy was admirable, which was an issue for some when Rome Ramirez joined Wilson and Gaugh in 2009 to form Sublime with Rome, a chapter that ended for those original members when Gaugh left the band in 2011 and Wilson subsequently exited in February. With all the pieces in place, the next hour played out as a fantastically fun alliance of old and new.

Jakob sounded strikingly like his dad during most moments, though he asserted his own spin on the classic sound by adding a hardcore-esque growl at various points in the set. Among the 14 songs, they revived early-era material that hadn’t been played live since the mid '90s, including "Date Rape," "Badfish" and "Doin’ Time." One cut, "Romeo," had not been performed live since 1988. The band likewise included tunes that Bradley never got to perform from the band’s final self-titled album, including some of their biggest commercial successes. Tracks such as "What I Got" and "Santeria" were sung by thousands, a chorus oozing with celebratory mass catharsis. 

By the end, there could be only one conclusion: the most definitive version of a revived Sublime has arrived and, should they choose to continue on, they’ll be received by fans with open arms. 

No Doubt Snatches Headliner Status During Jubilant Reunion

Though the reunion of No Doubt was billed as the runner-up to Tyler, the Creator’s Saturday night finisher, it’s absolutely valid to argue that the beloved Southern California outfit — playing their first show since 2015 — was the evening’s true headliner. The eye-popping expanse and unerring enthusiasm of the audience (the largest of the weekend), combined with the group’s sheer joy and explosive energy, drove the feeling home.

Every member of the core group — bassist Tony Kanal, guitarist Tom Dumont, drummer Adrian Young and frontwoman Gwen Stefani — emanated pure exultation, wide grins plastered permanently on their faces. Stefani was especially fired up; after the band powered through five treasured tracks — including opener "Hella Good" (performed at the end of long catwalk), "Ex-Girlfriend," and "Different People" (featured for the first time since 2009) — the singer stopped to address the sea of screaming fans.

"Wow … you showed up to Coachella Saturday night 2024 to see No Doubt play together on this stage for the first time in nine years. Are you crazy?!" Stefani said. "If I could just somehow explain the amount of love [we feel] and how much I wanna slap the s— out of you guys tonight!"

The sentiment was meant endearingly, but every song did hit intensely. In particular, a rendition of "Bathwater" featuring special guest Olivia Rodrigo — as hyped as Stefani with her never-ending spinning and bouncing antics — left a lasting mark. For old school fans, the Return to Saturn single was a special treat, and with Rodrigo in the mix, it elicited equal exuberance from younger audience members.

For the finale of the 16-song setlist, the band fulfilled the promise of euphoric nostalgia with a hard-hitting trio of tracks off 1995 breakthrough third album Tragic Kingdom: "Just a Girl," "Don’t Speak" and "Spiderwebs." The timeless tunes incited a sudden surge of fans toward the stage, and one would’ve been hard pressed to spot anyone not participating in the jubilant singalongs. It was a moment of multi-generational unity and unbridled joy — unquestionably unforgettable, and hopefully just the precursor to a triumphant new era of No Doubt.

Olivia Dean Enters the Stateside Festival Scene With Humbling Authenticity

Watching the first few moments of British neo-soul singer Olivia Dean’s Sunday afternoon performance in the Gobi tent, you’d never know this was her first American festival appearance. And what an incredible debut, at one of the States’ most prestigious festivals with only one album under belt (2023’s Messy) to boot. The 25-year-old stunned with utmost finesse and confidence, working the stage like a long-established diva and immediately eliciting rapturous applause after each of the first two songs, "OK Love You Bye" and "Echo."

While it can sometimes be off-putting when an artist introduces every song with a tidbit explaining what it’s about, this method had the opposite effect for Dean. Her context made each moment feel intensely personal, and the audience reaction was overwhelming. One of many tunes with a distinctly Motown bop, "The Hardest Part," was prefaced with the remark that it "recently changed [her] life," and spoke to the process of overcoming grief. After the final note was sung, she received a deafening standing ovation, prompting her to endearingly cover her face in response. And there was so much power in her anecdote before "Carmen," a tribute to how her grandmother made everything possible for her. 

"My granny came to London when she was 18 … had never been on a plane … left her life behind and had my mom, and my mom had me," she said, already being drowned out by cheers before the final remark: "This song is for my granny and anyone brave enough to move and any immigrant in the crowd right now."

As she wrapped up her short set with the bewitching single "Dive," the sun broke through the clouds, illuminating her with the loveliest natural spotlight to complement a performer who already naturally, effortlessly shines on her own.

Doja Cat Exudes Total Command & Flawless Flow For Sunday Finale 

It cannot be overstated: Doja Cat’s fest-closing performance on the main stage was a visionary masterpiece, and the strongest headlining set of the first weekend. That wasn’t certain from the stripped-down beginning moments when the GRAMMY-winning singer/rapper appeared on a circular b-stage mid-audience, dressed in a hazmat suit and encircled by a black and yellow biohazard pattern.

But excitement built steadily as she bombastically delivered opening song "ACKNOWLEDGE ME," which, even in an abbreviated format, lived up to its title and created a palpable air of anticipation. From there, she strutted back toward the main stage via a connected catwalk, meeting briefly in the middle with South African quintet the Joy (set to release their self-titled debut album on June 21) offering up fiery raps amidst the group’s arresting a cappella.

Shortly after, Doja appeared on the main stage dressed in a knee-length platinum blonde weave, flanked by an army of dancers who all wore matching getups covered in the same synthetic hair. The effect when they all converged, their movements completely in sync, created an optical illusion of one enormous hairy creature moving across the stage to punctuate the ferocity of "Demons." 

That was just the first taste of a breathtaking series of visual sequences over the course of the 70-minute show, each profoundly enhanced by cinematography that created the effect of watching a top-quality music video on the main stage’s massive screens. If you witnessed the camera work during Beyoncé’s Homecoming show back in 2018 or Rosalía’s production in 2023, you’ll understand the aesthetic. 

Other key moments when the video work was utterly astonishing arrived during the live debut of "OKLOSER" (one of five first-time song features) where the previously smooth camera went rogue, shakily weaving through the gang of dancers to create the effect of maneuvering through a chaotic house party; again during "Attention" as the lens wove through dancers in fur coats wielding Cruella de Vil-inspired cabrioles until it settled on Doja at the end of the line; and finally during closing track, "Wet Vagina," where Doja and her dancers rolled and writhed (in perfect choreographed unison) on the b-stage filled with brown mud, the sequel ending in a stunning birds-eye shot. 

Backtracking a few moments earlier, maybe the most jaw-dropping production element came on "WYM Freestyle" in the form of a giant T-Rex skeleton following Doja down the catwalk while flames erupted from the stage behind her. The precise reason for that wasn’t evident, but it certainly boosted the ferocity of her raw rap delivery.

The unending visual feast only served to amplify Doja’s already flawless flow. She never missed a vocal mark, whether singing or rapping. She didn’t even once pause to banter with the audience, creating the effect of total focus and command. Big bonuses: 21 Savage materializing mid-set to serve up "n.h.i.e.," Teezo Touchdown’s cameo on "MASC" and A$AP Rocky (who likewise performed with Tyler, the Creator on Saturday) swooping in for "URRRGE!!!!!!!!!!" before Doja dazzled with super-hit "Paint the Town Red."

When all was said and done, Doja Cat more-than-earned her graduation to festival headliner, and while she’s already set for an arena tour this year, she’s clearly destined to stun at stadiums not far in the future. 

Coachella 2024 Weekend 1 Recap: 20 Surprises And Special Moments, From Billie Eilish & Lana Del Rey To Olivia Rodrigo With No Doubt