meta-scriptMeet This Year's Record Of The Year Nominees | 2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show | GRAMMY.com

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Meet This Year's Record Of The Year Nominees | 2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show

Take a look at the tracks that are up for Record Of The Year by ABBA, Jon Batiste, Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Brandi Carlile, Doja Cat & SZA, Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, Olivia Rodrigo, and Silk Sonic

GRAMMYs/Nov 23, 2021 - 10:53 pm

Editor's Note: The 2022 GRAMMYs Awards show, officially known as the 64th GRAMMY Awards, has been rescheduled to Sunday, April 3, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The below article was updated on Tuesday, Jan. 18, to reflect the new show date and location.

Right off the bat, 2021 showed promise for another year of massive hits with unforgettable hooks thanks to Olivia Rodrigo's record-breaking smash "driver's license." 

Less than two months later, Anderson .Paak and Record Of The Year veteran Bruno Mars kicked off the Silk Sonicera with the instantly memorable jam "Leave the Door Open." In the months that followed, Billie Eilish struck again with her sophomore album, Doja Cat and SZA teamed up for one hell of an earworm, and both Lil Nas X and ABBA shook the world (for very different reasons).

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 a tight one at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards show. 

With ABBA, Jon Batiste, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, Brandi Carlile, Lil Nas X, Billie Eilish, Doja Cat and SZA, Olivia Rodrigo, Silk Sonic, and Justin Bieber, Daniel Caesar and Giveon delivering equally impactful tunes, it's really anyone's to win. 

Before tuning into the show on April 3, 2022, get fully acquainted with this year's ROTY nominees below.

Nominations for the 2022 GRAMMYs Awards show are officially here! See the full list of nominations.

ABBA — "I Still Have Faith in You"

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ABBA sent the world into a frenzy upon their much-anticipated return in September, when they released the first two songs from Voyage, their first album in 40 years. 

"I Still Have Faith In You," a heartfelt ode to their friendships that have endured throughout their time apart, is a song that the group wrote in 2018 along with its partner single, "Don't Shut Me Down." 

"New spirit has arrived/ The joy and the sorrow/ We have a story and it survived," the Swedish superstars sing on the chorus over a majestic rhythm, building to a series of dazzling harmonies for the song's epic finish. It's a musical odyssey that is oh-so-classic ABBA.

Believe it or not, this nomination marks ABBA's first GRAMMY nomination in their career. ("Dancing Queen," however, was inducted into the Recording Academy's Grammy Hall of Fame in 2015.) 

Considering that the group's Agnetha Fältskog has suggested that this album (and forthcoming tour) might be their last, there will likely be many fans glued to their TV to find out if ABBA get to call themselves GRAMMY winners.

Jon Batiste — "FREEDOM"

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In an era where more and more artists are advocating acceptance, New Orleans musician Jon Batiste brought a big-band flair to an important message. 

Backed by jazzy instrumentation and a snappy beat, "FREEDOM" is an anthem for simply feeling good and feeling free. "Free to live (How I wanna live)/ I'm gon' get (What I'm gonna get)/ 'Cause it's my freedom," Batiste proclaims in the chorus.

The three-time GRAMMY nominee encapsulated the culture and energy of his hometown in three uplifting minutes, his soulful and impassioned voice bringing listeners on a joyful journey of celebrating themselves.

Ultimately, "FREEDOM" is lyrically and melodically what today's sociopolitical climate needs.

Read More: Jon Batiste Talks New Album We Are, His Brain-Breaking Itinerary & Achieving "Freedom" From Genre

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga — "I Get a Kick Out Of You"

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Who would've ever thought that a song first sung in 1934 would be nominated for a GRAMMY — let alone the coveted Record of the Year — in 2021? 

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett made that possible with their take on the classic "I Get a Kick Out of You," the lead single from Love for Sale, the duo's second collaborative album of jazz standards by composer Cole Porter. 

Their adoring, decade-long friendship is apparent on the lively track, which builds from a mellow piano beginning into full jazz and swing orchestration by the song's end.

Between the two of them, Gaga and Bennett have 30 GRAMMYs (12 and 18, respectively). Yet, taking home Record of the Year would mark a special moment for the pair, as Gaga has never won the award and Bennett's last ROTY win was in 1963. 

What's more, Love for Sale is said to be Bennett's last album, as the 95-year-old was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in 2016, just before he and Gaga began recording the LP.

Take A Look Back: For The Record: The Liberating Joy Of Lady Gaga's Born This Way At 10

Justin Bieber Featuring Daniel Caesar & Giveon — "Peaches"

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Just one year after Justin Bieber released his R&B-tinged LP, Changes, he unveiled what would become his biggest R&B hit to date, "Peaches." 

The suave track, which features R&B stars Daniel Caesar and Giveon, incorporates swirling production and a wavy melody, creating a perfect soundtrack for a windows-down cruise. 

The fifth single from Bieber's sixth studio album, Justice, "Peaches" has been highly praised as an album standout. The stats prove it: With nearly 1 billion streams on Spotify alone, the song gave Bieber his eighth Hot 100 No. 1 (and his only No. 1 from Justice). 

But the achievement that may be Bieber's proudest is notching a No. 1 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, a feat he couldn't quite manage with last year's GRAMMY-nominated "Yummy." 

It also marks his first Record of the Year nomination as the lead artist (he received a nod for his role on Luis Fonsiand Daddy Yankee's "Despacito" in 2017), making "Peaches" a true career highlight for the Biebs.

Read More: The 64th GRAMMY Awards: Everything You Need To Know About The 2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show & Nominations

Brandi Carlile — "Right On Time"

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Another timely tune, Brandi Carlile's "Right On Time" is a commentary on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, reflecting on conflict and regret. 

The piano-laced ballad put Carlile's powerful vocals at the forefront, particularly on the dynamic chorus that's reminiscent of the singer's previous ROTY nominee, 2017's "The Joke." Perhaps that's because Carlile herself has said she believes in "Right On Time" as much as she did "The Joke," something she has been waiting to feel for years.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the singer/songwriter expounded on the song's meaning: "There's something really human about the obstacles that we've put in front of ourselves, and then deciding to just somehow explode through it and say, maybe I didn't come out of this right, maybe I didn't handle this the right way, maybe it wasn't right, but something had to happen — so it was right on time."

GRAMMY Flashback: Backstage At The 63rd GRAMMYs: Brandi Carlile Praises The "Artistic Threads That Chain Us All Together" Ahead Of Music’s Biggest Night

Doja Cat feat. SZA — "Kiss Me More"

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If the hook of "Kiss Me More" sounds familiar, try listening to Olivia Newton-John's 1981 hit "Physical." 

Doja Cat and SZA's bouncy collab brilliantly interpolates the single, but swelling production and a punchy beat make "Kiss Me More" anything but a cheap ripoff. The lead single from Doja Cat's highly acclaimed third album Planet Her, the track spotlights the star's prowess as both a singer and a rapper, bringing in SZA for a flawless match-up of female power.

The song's rolling melody made it an instant radio hit (and, in turn, inescapable), earning Doja Cat her second No. 1 at pop radio and SZA her first. 

It reached No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it became the longest-running all-female top 10 hit in the chart's history, surpassing Brandy and Monica's GRAMMY-winning 1998 duet "The Boy Is Mine." 

Read More: From Meme Queen To Popstar: Revisiting Doja Cat's Inevitable Breakout

Billie Eilish — "Happier Than Ever"

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After two back-to-back Record of the Year wins, Billie Eilish strikes again with "Happier Than Ever." 

The five-minute track is essentially two songs in one: The first half focuses on Eilish's softer register as she begins to tear into everything that was wrong in a past relationship ("When I'm away from you/ I'm happier than ever," she declares in the chorus); the second part elevates into a gritty guitar-driven, cathartic tell-off as Eilish demands at the song's finish, "Just f–kin leave me alone."

Eilish calls "Happier Than Ever," the titular track from her sophomore album, "probably the most therapeutic song I've ever written or recorded, like ever, ever, ever, 'cause I just screamed my lungs out," according to Genius.

But like much of Eilish's catalog, she presents that therapy session with a captivating melodic ride that keeps listeners hanging on with every word.

It's an amalgamation of everything Eilish has brought to the table in her whirlwind career thus far: haunting vocals, raw lyrics and a mosh-pit-worthy finale.

Read More: Billie Eilish's Road To Happier Than Ever: How The Superstar Continues To Break Pop's Status Quo

Lil Nas X — "MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)"

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It's hard to imagine that Lil Nas X could make a song more ubiquitous than 2019's "Old Town Road," but he put a solid player in the ring with "MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name)." 

The track became the talk of the industry upon the release of its controversial video, which featured raunchy scenes with the devil himself (yes, you read that right).

But beyond the shock factor, "MONTERO" played an important role in Lil Nas X's career, as it was his first official single to address his sexuality since he publicly came out as gay in 2019 ("C7osure [You Like]" from his debut EP, 7,touched on it, but was not released as a single). 

It also ushered in a new sound for the rapper, leaning more into hip-hop and trap and eliminating any country influence he brought with his first project.

The pivot worked: "MONTERO" debuted atop the Hot 100, earning Lil Nas X his second No. 1. The song has more than 1 billion streams on Spotify — and though that's only half of the stream count for "Old Town Road," "MONTERO" ultimately proved that Lil Nas was no one-hit wonder.

Take A Look Back: Lil Nas X, BTS & Billy Ray Cyrus Enter The "Old Town Road" Multiverse At The 2020 GRAMMYs

"driver's license" — Olivia Rodrigo

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Whether you're 16 or 65, Olivia Rodrigo tugged at your heartstrings this year with her anthemic power ballad of teenage heartbreak, "driver's license." 

The piano-driven smash first gained traction when Rodrigo teased a snippet on social media last year, resulting in an almost unbelievable debut for the then 17-year-old upon its January release. 

The song broke the Spotify record for the most single-day streams for a non-holiday song, subsequently debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it stayed for eight consecutive weeks — earning Rodrigo the title of the youngest artist to debut atop the chart as well as the longest-running number-one debut.

Starting off with an apropos car engine start (a sound that seamlessly flows into the song's plinking piano), "driver's license" allows Rodrigo's tender voice to shine before she lets out howls of heartbreak on the chorus. 

The narrative becomes a full-on sing-along at the song's climax, a bridge you can't help but belt out. 

With so many layers and infectious hooks, the single became such a phenomenon that it even got its own sketch on "Saturday Night Live." Therein, one character summed it up perfectly: "If Olivia taught us anything, it's that pain can be creatively generative."

"Leave the Door Open" — Silk Sonic

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A week after Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak announced that they were joining forces for a superduo back in February, the pair — together, named Silk Sonic — released their first single, "Leave the Door Open." 

And it did not disappoint: The sensual track calls back to the '70s funk and soul music that inspires both singers (after all, Bootsy Collins did bestow them their name), with twinkling instrumentation and a finger-snapping beat that immediately gets you tapping your toes. 

The tune showcases each of their vocal specialties in masterful form, also incorporating their knack for lyrics as smooth as they are cheeky (for one, "And if you're hungry, girl, I got filets"). 

While Mars is no stranger to No. 1s, "Leave the Door Open" gave Anderson his first No. 1 on the Hot 100, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs, and Rhythmic Airplay. 

If the song takes home Record of the Year, it'll be the four-time GRAMMY winner's first ROTY win, and the 11-time winning Mars' third.

2022 GRAMMYs Awards Show: Complete Nominations List

Queer country feature hero
(L-R) Orville Peck, Allison Russell, Lily Rose, Adeem the Artist, Jaime Wyatt

Photos (L-R): Jeff Hahne/Getty Images, Erika Goldring/Getty Images, Erika Goldring/Getty Images, Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Americana Music Association, Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Stagecoach

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How Queer Country Artists Are Creating Space For Inclusive Stories In The Genre

As country music continues its global explosion, the genre is seeing a growing number of artists in the LGBTQIA+ community — including Adeem the Artist, Lily Rose and Jaime Wyatt — blaze a trail toward acceptance.

GRAMMYs/Jun 18, 2024 - 04:36 pm

When country singer/songwriter Jaime Wyatt announced she was queer with the release of her second album, 2020's Neon Cross, she was convinced doing so would destroy her career. Instead, something shifted — not only was she more free to be herself and to date women openly, but many fans reacted positively, too.

"Several times on the road I've had fans come up to me with their same sex partner, and they're like, 'Hey, we feel safe here. It's so awesome because we both love country music, and we're not out of the closet, and we're not out to our families, but we can be here,'" Wyatt says.

Modern country music is generally perceived as a conservative genre, and deep-rooted cultural and industry biases have long excluded LGBTQIA+ (and BIPOC) artists and stories from the genre. For example, in 2010, when successful mainstream country artist Chely Wright came out, her career stalled and record sales halved. Kacey Musgraves was criticized for lyrics supporting same-sex love in her beloved anthem, "Follow Your Arrow." More recently, even, Wyatt walked out of a recording session after the owner of the space asked if she was singing "'some gay s—.'"

But Wyatt is also one of a growing number of country artists who, in recent years, have blazed a trail through country music and toward acceptance. Among them, Adeem the Artist, Mya Byrne, Brandi Carlile, Brandy Clark, Mary Gauthier, Lizzy No, Orville Peck, Lily Rose, and Allison Russell. Together, they're celebrating queerness alongside their love for the genre, and pushing it into diversity with patience, tenacity, and darn good country music.

"If you listen to popular music, or if you listen to hip-hop music, it feels like there's a broader diversity to a lot of subcultures as far as what you're able to access," nonbinary country singer/songwriter Adeem the Artist says. "Whereas with country music, it's very linear, it's very myopic, and singular in its expression."

By way of broadening country's storytelling, Adeem plays a honky-tonk blend of classic and '90s country music that's sonically aligned with the deep musical traditions in Tennessee, where they now live. Lyrically, though, their propensity for gorgeous, frankly worded songs complicate stereotypical southern narratives in rare and provocative ways. On White Trash Revelry, their 2022 studio album, they grapple with racism, economic entrapment, gun violence, and family heritage. And their latest, Anniversary, released in May, includes songs about mental health, the poignance of parenthood, and the pain and fear of being a queer person in a world that threatens their existence.

Indeed, some of the places in the U.S. with the strongest ties to country music remain the least hospitable to queer people. Just last year, Tennessee, home of Nashville, the country music capital of the world, passed a total of 10 bills aimed at LGBTQIA+ people, while Texas, perhaps country music's second-best known state, passed 20 percent of all anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation in the U.S. What's more, LGBTQIA+ people and culture have been targeted by numerous attacks around the world — including the Pulse nightclub and Club Q shootings stateside — in the last few years alone.

For many, the consequences of not coming out, of not sharing their full selves with the world, are risky, too. Growing up, Wyatt had no role model to show her it was okay to be queer. She struggled for years with mental health and substance abuse and was convicted of robbing her heroin dealer as a young adult. "I needed to see someone who looked like me when I was a young child," Wyatt says. "And maybe I wouldn't have been a dope fiend in jail."

But while straight white men comprise most of country music's standard slate of forebearers, women and people in the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities have contributed to the genre since its beginning. Notably, it was Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a queer Black woman, who in the 1950s introduced reverb to gospel and rhythm and blues music — and in doing so, she forever changed guitar playing, and inspired some of country music's biggest trailblazers, from Elvis to Johnny Cash.

In 1973 — four years after the Stonewall uprising kickstarted a widespread gay liberation movement — Patrick Haggerty and his band Lavender Country released what is generally considered the first gay country album. But after it sold out its first pressing of 1000 copies, the album was mostly forgotten until 1999, when the Journal of Country Music published an article hailing Haggerty as "the lost pioneer of out gay country music." Haggerty began performing again and in 2014, indie label Paradise of Bachelors reissued the Lavender Country album, securing Haggerty status as a grandfather figure to queer country.

Haggerty's reissue landed in a different world than the album's original run. In the interim, a handful of artists released more queer country music, including Jeff Miller, aka "John Deere Diva," known for his George Strait parody, "Not Really Strait," as well as Doug Stevens and the Outband's When Love Is Right and Sid Spencer's Out-N-About Again, which put lyrically gay songs to country music.

In 2011, shortly before the Lavender Country reissue, queer country singer/songwriter and music scholar Karen Pittleman convened the first Gay Ole Opry in Brooklyn's now defunct Public Assembly performance space, launching more than a decade of queer country events, tours and a far-reaching network of performers and supporters. And in 2015, gay marriage became legal nationwide.

As progress has accelerated culturally in the near decade since, it has in country music, too. In 2018, Paisley Fields' debut album Glitter and Sawdust merged cowboy grit with queer raunch. In 2019, Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" provoked country music to re-consider the nature and identity of country music. In 2021, T.J. Osborne of the Brothers Osborne became the first openly gay male artist signed to a major record label; a year later, the duo's song "Younger Me" — which was written in response to T.J.'s coming out — became the first country song with an LGBTQIA+ theme to win a GRAMMY. And this Pride Month, longtime LGBTQIA+ supporter (and GLAAD's 2023 Excellence in Media Award recipient) Maren Morris declared on Instagram, "happy to be the B in LGBTQ+."

Read More: 9 Times Queer Artists Made History At The GRAMMYs: From Elton John's Collab With BSB To Kim & Sam's "Unholy" Union

"We as queer fans deserve to have songs that speaks specifically to us," says Rachel Cholst, a queer writer and educator. "And if that means putting in same gender pronouns, then we deserve that too. And if that makes a straight person uncomfortable, I don't know what to tell you. I've grown up my entire life having to internally change the pronouns to the love songs that really moved me."

Cholst started writing about music when she realized she couldn't be the only queer country fan out there. Her work aims to make queer country music accessible, and she has run the Adobe and Teardrops blog for more than a decade. In 2022, Cholst launched Rainbow Rodeo, a zine about queer country music, which appears bi-annually in print and regularly online.

"Everyone just assumed that country music is this one thing, and it never occurred to them to go look for it. That tells you a lot about how country music wants to present itself as an industry," Cholst says. "If we erase anyone who's not straight, anyone who's not white, then what you're saying is, you want those people to be erased from the conversation, from the culture."

Beyond using she/her pronouns in love songs (which she didn't get to do on her first album, Felony Blues), Wyatt's powerful, steely queer country music complicates social consciousness. Incisive and elegant in her delivery, she's equally compelling chronicling her conviction and jail time on Felony Blues, confronting demons and figuring out who she is on her Shooter Jennings-produced second album, Neon Cross, and outlining her hopes and frustrations for the world on her third album, 2023's sultry, groovy, Feel Good.

Wyatt's knack for catchy and advocacy-laced country bangers is clearest in "Rattlesnake Girl," one of her most popular songs. In it, she offers an anthemic celebration of joy unfettered: "I see my sweet friends out on the weekend/ They all look happy and gay," and a barbed warning to anyone who might impinge on that happiness: "Thank you kindly, don't walk behind me/ I've seen people slip that way/ And if you try me, boot heels beside me/ I might have to make your day."

Queer country music means something a little different to each artist. For many, it's about much more than simply being a queer person performing country music. Adeem the Artist considers queer country its own genre, complete with specific rules — many of which have nothing to do with sexual or gender orientation.

"It is explicitly political in nature. It is often kind of raunchy," they assert. "There's an element to queer country that is confrontational, that is willing to create discomfort for the sake of a relief that leans towards some greater social awareness."

To some degree, raising awareness and representation — which is essential for inclusion and acceptance — requires a bit of self-tokenization, Adeem says. "The very, very basic act of referring to me as a person who is queer, who is trans, who is nonbinary, who is whatever, those labels only do good as much as they illuminate the differences between us and the fact that I am more difficult for some people to relate with."

Adeem and Wyatt both operate within the alt-country scene, which has been marginally more inclusive than mainstream country over the years. Recently, though, rising country musician Lily Rose cracked through with her viral breakup single, 2020's "Villain." On her latest EP, Runnin' Outta Time (which she released in May), she sings a high-octane pop/country mix about her values and relationships. It's a well-worn country music landscape that has been almost exclusively dominated by heterosexual white men.

"To be one of the first to literally [and] figuratively, carry the flag... it makes me really proud. And it has its heavy moments for sure," Rose says. "Night after night, when I get to meet fans and see comments on social media that they feel seen for the first time in the genre, it's really special and it makes every single second of hard work to get here worth it."

The day after Runnin' Out of Time dropped, Rose made her Grand Ole Opry debut with two songs from the album, "Back Pew" and "Two Flowers"; Adeem and Wyatt also played the Opry for the first time in the last year as well. The Opry, one of country music's oldest and most lauded tastemakers, has welcomed a number of queer artists in the last few years, signaling a subtle shift toward a more inclusive country music institution. (In addition, all three artists recently scored high-profile touring spots: Rose with Shania Twain and Sam Hunt, Adeem with Tyler Childers and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit; and Wyatt wrapped up her first headlining tour.)

For Pittleman, an essential part of making music is ensuring space for anyone who wants to make music to do so, regardless of how they look or identify. "Most people who like country music, they just want to hear country music," Pittleman says. "I want to have a good time, too. But you have to ask at a certain point, 'Who is invited to the good time?'"

As she insists, there's a long way to go. In a digital world, radio play doesn't offer a complete picture, but it remains a dominant force in country music. For decades, women have been played sparingly on country radio and artists of color and queer musicians featured far less, a shortcoming which SongData's principal investigator, Jada Watson, spent years studying. Her research concludes that women country artists are played roughly 29 percent of the time, Black artists 5 percent, and other artists of color 7 percent. Queer artists, Watson estimates, make up less than 1 percent of radio play.

"The real problem is who's making those decisions; who has the power and as a result, who has the power and the resources to record their music, to distribute their music, to get it out on a broader scale," Pittleman suggests. "We have to make sure that everyone who's called to make the music has the resources and the power to make it and bring it into the world."

And in spite of multitude setbacks and naysayers, queer artists are creating country music. As Pittleman wrote in a 2020 essay in the Journal of Popular Music Studies titled "You're My Country Music," one of the joys of singing queer country music is making country music, plain and simple. "The point is to mark the deepest moments of human connection, our truest hopes and heartbreaks, and turn them into a sound that gives us joy and strength," she says.

"Because sometimes you love a culture that doesn't love you back," Pittleman continues on the Gay Ole Opry's about page. "We do it because we love the music and want to build a community to support queer country musicians. We do it because everybody needs a honky-tonk angel to hold them tight. We do it because we believe in country music for all."

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Billie Eilish performs at Lollapalooza Chile 2023.
Billie Eilish performs at Lollapalooza Chile 2023

Photo: Marcelo Hernandez/Getty Images

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The Environmental Impact Of Touring: How Scientists, Musicians & Nonprofits Are Trying To Shrink Concerts' Carbon Footprint

"It’s not just [about] a single tour, it’s every tour," singer Brittany Howard says of efforts to make concerts more sustainable. From the nonprofit that partnered with Billie Eilish, to an MIT initiative, the music industry aims to curb climate change.

GRAMMYs/Jun 10, 2024 - 01:30 pm

Beloved by fans around the globe, yet increasingly unaffordable for many artists, concert tours are central to the world of entertainment and local economies. After the pandemic-era global shuttering of concert venues large and small, tours are back, and bigger than ever.  

Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour is smashing records, selling more than four million tickets and earning more than $1 billion. But that tour made headlines for another reason: as reported in Business Insider and other outlets, for a six-month period in 2023, Swift’s two jets spent a combined 166 hours in the air between concerts, shuttling at most a total of 28 passengers. 

Against that backdrop, heightened concerns about the global environmental cost of concert touring have led a number of prominent artists to launch initiatives. Those efforts seek both to mitigate the negative effects of touring and communicate messages about sustainability to concertgoers. 

A 2023 study sponsored by Texas-based electricity provider Payless Power found that the carbon footprint of many touring bands was massive. In 2022, concert tours in five genres — country, classic rock, hip-hop/rap, metal and pop — were responsible for CO2 emissions totaling nearly 45,000 metric tons. A so-called greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide contributes to climate change by radiative forcing; increased levels of CO2 also contribute to health problems.  

No serious discussion of climate issues suggests a worldwide halt to live music touring, but there exists much room for improvement. Both on their own and with the help of dedicated nonprofit organizations, many artists are taking positive steps toward mitigating the deleterious effects that touring exerts upon the environment.  

Smart tour planning is one way to lessen an artist’s carbon footprint. Ed Sheeran’s 2022 European run minimized flights between concert venues, making that leg of his tour the year's most environmentally efficient. Total carbon dioxide emissions (from flights and driving) on Sheeran’s tour came to less than 150 metric tons. In contrast, Dua Lipa’s tour during the same period generated 12 times as much — more than 1800 metric tons — of CO2 

In July, singer/songwriter and four-time GRAMMY nominee Jewel will embark on her first major tour in several years, alongside GRAMMY winner Melissa Etheridge. During the planning stage for the 28-city tour, Jewel suggested an idea that could reduce the tour’s carbon footprint.

"I always thought it was so silly and so wasteful — and so carbon footprint-negative — to have separate trucks, separate lighting, separate crews, separate hotel rooms, separate costs," Jewel says. She pitched the idea of sharing a backing band with Etheridge. "I’ve been trying to do this for 25 years," Jewel says with a laugh. "Melissa is the first person who took me up on it!" 

The changes will not only reduce the tour’s carbon footprint, but they’ll also lessen the cost of taking the shows on the road. Acknowledging that there are many opportunities to meet the challenges of touring’s negative impact upon the environment, Jewel emphasizes that “you have to find [solutions] that work for you.”

Sheeran and Jewel aren’t the only popular artists trying to make a difference. A number of high profile artists have become actively involved in creating the momentum for positive change. Those artists believe that their work on sustainability issues goes hand in hand with their role as public figures. Their efforts take two primary forms: making changes themselves, andadvocating for action among their fans.  

The Climate Machine 

Norhan Bayomi is an Egypt-born environmental scientist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a key member of the Environmental Solutions Initiative, a program launched to address sustainable climate action. She’s also a recording artist in the trance genre, working under the name Nourey 

The ESI collaborates with industry heavyweights Live Nation, Warner Music Group and others as well with touring/recording acts like Coldplay to examine the carbon footprint of the music industry. A key component of the ESI is the Climate Machine, a collaborative research group that seeks to help the live music industry reduce carbon emissions. "As a research institution, we bring technologies and analytics to understand, in the best way possible, the actual impact of the music industry upon climate change," says John Fernández, Director of the ESI.  

"I’m very interested in exploring ways that we can bridge between environmental science, climate change and music fans," Bayomi says. She explains that the tools at the ESI’s disposal include "virtual reality, augmented reality and generative AI," media forms that can communicate messages to music fans and concertgoers. Fernández says that those endeavors are aimed at "enlisting, enabling and inspiring people to get engaged in climate change." 

The Environmental Solutions Initiative cites Coldplay as a high-profile success. The band and its management issued an "Emissions Update" document in June 2024, outlining its success at achieving their goal of reducing direct carbon emissions from show production, freight, band and crew travel. The established target was a 50 percent cut in emissions compared to Coldplay’s previous tour; the final result was a 59 percent reduction between their 2022-23 tour and 2016-17 tour.  

A significant part of that reduction came as a result of a renewable-energy based battery system that powers audio and lights. The emissions data in the update was reviewed and independently validated by MIT’s Fernández.  

Change Is Reverberating 

Guitarist Adam Gardner is a founding member of Massachusetts-based indie rockers Guster, but he's more than just a singer in a rock band. Gardner is also the co-founder of REVERB, one of the organizations at the forefront of developing and implementing climate-focused sustainability initiatives.  

Founded in 2004 by Gardner and his wife, environmental activist Lauren Sullivan, REVERB  began with a goal of making touring more sustainable; over the years its focus has expanded to promote industry-wide changes. Today, the organization promotes sustainability throughout the industry  in partnership with music artists, concert venues and festivals.  

REVERB initiatives have included efforts to eliminate single-use plastics at the California Roots Music & Arts Festival, clean energy projects in cooperation with Willie Nelson and Billie Eilish, and efforts with other major artists. Gardner has seen sustainability efforts grow over two decades 

"It’s really amazing to see the [change] with artists, with venues, with fans," Gardner says. "Today, people are not just giving lip service to sustainable efforts; they really want to do things that are real and measurable."  

The Music Decarbonization Project is one tangible example of REVERB’s successes. "Diesel power is one of the dirtiest sources of power," Gardner explains. "And it’s an industry standard to power festival stages with diesel generators." Working with Willie Nelson, the organization helped switch the power sources at his annual Luck Reunion to clean energy. At last year’s festival, Nelson’s headlining stage drew 100 percent of its power from solar-powered batteries. "We set up a temporary solar farm," Gardner says, "and the main stage didn’t have to use any diesel power."  

Billie Eilish was another early supporter of the initiative. "She helped us launch the program," Gardner says. Eilish’s set at Lollapallooza 2023 drew power from solar batteries, too.  

With such high-profile successes as a backdrop, Gardner believes that REVERB is poised to do even more to foster sustainable concerts and touring. "Our role now," he says, "isn’t just, ‘Hey, think about this stuff.’ It’s more how do we push farther, faster?"  

Adam Gardner believes that musicians are uniquely positioned to help make a difference where issues of sustainability are concerned. "When you’re a musician, you’re connecting with fans heart-to-heart. That’s what moves people. And that’s where the good stuff happens."  

Small-scale, individual changes can make a difference — especially when they’re coordinated and amplified among other concertgoers. Gardner provides real-world examples. "Instead of buying a plastic bottle, I brought my reusable and filled it up. Maybe I carpooled to the show." Conceding that such steps might seem like drops of water in a giant pool, he emphasizes the power of scale. "When you actually multiply [those things for] just one summer tour, it adds up," he says. "And it reminds people, ‘You’re not alone in this; you’re part of a community that’s taking action."  

Gardner understands that REVERB’s arguments have to be framed the right way to reach concertgoers. "Look," he admits, "It’s a concert. We’re not here to be a buzzkill. Our [aim] now is making sure people don’t lose hope." He says that REVERB and its partners seek to demonstrate that, with collective action and cultural change, there is reason for optimism.  

"There’s a wonderful feedback loop between hope and action," Gardner says with a smile. "You can’t really have one without the other."  

Sustainable Partnerships 

Tanner Watt is Director of Partnerships at REVERB; he works directly with touring artists to develop, coordinate and implement initiatives that bring together his organization’s objectives and the specific personal concerns of the artists. "I get to come up with all the fun, big ideas," he says with a wide smile.  

Watt acknowledges that like every concertgoer, each touring artist has a certain level of responsibility where sustainability is concerned. "And everyone can be doing something," he says, noting a number of straightforward actions that artists can put in place while on tour. "They can eliminate single-use waste. They can donate hotel toiletries that [would otherwise] hit the landfill."  

Watt stresses that artists can lead by example. "Nobody wants to listen to an artist telling them what to do if they’re not doing it themselves," he says. "But we believe that everybody cares about something." He suggests that if an artist has cultivated a following, "Why not use [that platform] to be that change you want to see in the world?"  

Each artist has his or her own specific areas of concern, but Watt says that there’s a base level of "greening" that takes place on every REVERB-affiliated tour. Where things go from there is up to the artist, in coordination with REVERB. Watt mentions Billie Eilish and her tour’s sustainability commitment. "The Venn diagram of food security, community health, access to healthy food, and the impact on the planet is a big cause for her," he says. "So there’s plant-based catering for her entire crew, across the entire tour." 

Speaking to Billboard, Eilish's mother Maggie Baird said championing sustainability starts with artists. "If artists are interested, it does really start with them telling their teams that they care and that it’s foremost in their thoughts." In the same conversation, Eilish called the battle for sustainability "a never-ending f–king fight."  

Watt acknowledges that with so many challenges, it’s important for a concerned artist to focus on the issues that move them the most, and where they can make the biggest difference. "Jack Johnson is a great example," he says. While Johnson is a vocal advocate for many environmental issues, on tour he focuses on two (in Watt’s words) "cause umbrellas": single-use plastics solutions and sustainable community food systems. Each show on the tour hosts tables representing local nonprofit organizations, presenting concertgoers with real-world, human-scale solutions to those specific challenges.  

Four-time GRAMMY winner Brittany Howard is another passionate REVERB partner. "Knowing that I wanted to make my tours more sustainable was a start," she tells GRAMMY.com, "but working with REVERB really helped me bring it to life on the road. REVERB has helped us with guidelines and a green rider to keep our stage, greenrooms and buses more sustainable." 

After listing several other specific ways that her tour supports sustainability, Howard notes, "By supporting these efforts, I am helping ensure future generations have access to clean water, fish, and all that I love about the outdoors." A dollar from every ticket sold to a Brittany Howard concert goes toward support of REVERB’s Music Decarbonization project. "I’m also excited to see industry-wide efforts that are reducing the carbon pollution of live music," Howard continues. "Because it’s not just [about] a single tour, it’s every tour." 

There’s a popular aphorism: "You can’t manage what you can’t measure." From its start, REVERB has sought not only to promote change, but to measure its success. "As long as I’ve been at REVERB, we’ve issued impact reports," says Tanner Watt. "We include data points, and give the report to the artists so they understand what we’ve done together." He admits that some successes are more tangible than others, but that it’s helpful to focus on the ones that can be quantified. "We’re very excited that our artists share those with their fans."  

Watt is clear-eyed at the challenges that remain. "Even the word ‘sustainable’ can be misleading," he concedes, suggesting that the only truly sustainable tour is the one that doesn’t happen. "But if folks don’t step it up and change the way we do business in every industry — not just ours — we’re going to get to a place where we’re forced to make sacrifices that aren’t painless." Getting that message across is REVERB’s aim. "We can’t stop the world," Watt says. "So we find ways to approach these things positively."  

Watt says that the fans at concerts featuring Jack Johnson and the Dave Matthews Band — both longtime REVERB partners — are already on board with many of the sustainability-focused initiatives which those artists promote. "But there are lots of artists — and lots of fan bases — out there that aren’t messaged to, or have been mis-messaged to," he says. "I’m really excited to find more ways to expand our reach to them, beyond mainstream pop music. Because these are conversations that are meaningful for everyone, regardless of political affiliation or other beliefs."  

Reimagining The Planet’s Future 

Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Adam Met does more than front AJR, the indie pop trio he founded in 2005 with brothers Jack and Ryan. Met has a PhD in sustainable development and is a climate activist; he's also the founder/Executive Director of Planet Reimagined, a nonprofit that promotes sustainability and activism through its work with businesses, other organizations and musicians.  

"I’ve spent years traveling around the world, seeing the direct impact of climate change," Met says. He cites two recent and stark examples. "When we pulled up to a venue in San Francisco, the band had to wear gas masks going from the bus into the venue, because of forest fires," he says. AJR’s road crew had to contend with a flash flood in Athens, Greece that washed out their hotel. "And in Rome, some of our crew members fainted because of the heat."  

Encouraged by representatives from the United Nations, Met launched Planet Reimagined. Met’s approach focuses on tailored, city-specific actions to empower fans and amplify diverse voices in the climate movement. Through social media and live shows, Met strives to galvanize climate activism among AJR fans. And the methods he has developed can be implemented by other touring artists.  

Met points out that one of the most climate-unfriendly parts of the entire concert tour enterprise is fans traveling to and from the concerts. And that’s something over which the artist has little or no control. What they can do, he says, is try to educate and influence. Working closely with Ticketmaster and other stakeholders, Met’s nonprofit initiated a study — conducted from July to December 2023, with results published in April 2024 — to explore the energy that happens at concerts. "In sociology," he explains, "that energy is called collective effervescence." The study’s goal is to find ways to channel that energy toward advocacy and action.  

Polling a quarter million concertgoers across musical genres, the study collected data on attitudes about climate change. "Seventy-three percent of fans who attend concerts believe that climate change is real, and that we need to be doing more about it," Met says. "Seventy-eight percent have already taken some sort of action in their lives." He believes that if his organization can activate even a fraction of the estimated 250 million people annually who attend concerts around the globe, "that’s the ballgame."  

Met’s goal is to do more than, say, get concertgoers to switch from plastic to paper drinking straws. "At scale those things make a difference. But people want to see actions where there’s a track record," he says; a return on investment.  

AJR will be putting a plan into action on the second half of their upcoming arena tour. Part of the initiative is encouraging concertgoers to register to vote, and then actually vote. Beyond that, Met has specific actions in mind. "At every single stop, we’re putting together materials around specific policies that are being debated at the local level," he explains. "We give people a script right there, so they can call their elected representative and say, ‘I want you to vote [a certain way on this issue].’"  

He believes the initiative will lead to thousands of people contacting – and hopefully influencing – their representatives. With regard to sustainability issues, Met is convinced that "the most impact that you can have as an artist is when you give fans ways to pick up the mantle themselves." 

Artists Who Are Going On Tour In 2024: The Rolling Stones, Drake, Olivia Rodrigo & More 

 

Photo of Lady Gaga performing during The Chromatica Ball in Stockholm, Sweden, in July 2022. Lady Gaga is wearing a pink costume pink head dress with goggles.
Lady Gaga performs during The Chromatica Ball in Stockholm, Sweden, in July 2022.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation

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Lady Gaga's Biggest Songs: 15 Tracks That Show Her Avant-Garde Pop Prowess

As fans relive the exhilarating spectacle of Lady Gaga's 2022 stadium tour with a new HBO Max concert film, 'GAGA CHROMATICA BALL,' jam out to 15 of her signature songs, from "Poker Face" to "Rain on Me."

GRAMMYs/May 23, 2024 - 07:29 pm

Nearly two years after bringing her 2020 album Chromatica to life with a sold-out stadium tour, Lady Gaga is bringing The Chromatical Ball to your living room. GAGA CHROMATICA BALL, an HBO Original special that premieres May 25 exclusively on MAX, will take Little Monsters into the mesmerizing, colorful world the 13-time GRAMMY winner crafted with her sixth studio set. 

The Chromatica Ball was a joyful cultural triumph as the world emerged from lockdown, hitting 20 stadiums across Europe, North America and Asia in the summer of 2022. While it was named after Chromatica and featured the majority of the dance-driven album's track list — including the smash Ariana Grande duet, "Rain On Me," and lead single "Stupid Love" — the tour was a celebration of the breadth of her acclaimed career as a whole, which has spanned decades, genres, styles, and entire industries. 

GAGA CHROMATICA BALL documents Lady Gaga's sold-out September 2022 show at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, which was one of the biggest venues on the tour. Showcasing a stage inspired by brutalist architecture and a set list stretching from the pop star's 2008 debut album, The Fame, to her Top Gun: Maverick track, "Hold My Hand," the film will also take fans inside the raw passion Gaga brings to each and every live show. 

In celebration of the concert film, GRAMMY.com revisits 15 of Gaga's most career-defining songs to date, from early hits like "Poker Face" to stunning deep cuts like Chromatica's "Free Woman."

"Just Dance" (feat. Colby O'Donis), The Fame (2008)

Lady Gaga burst onto the scene in 2008 with a fully realized point of view and pop star persona, but her debut single actually wasn't an immediate smash on the charts. Instead, "Just Dance" served as the sleeper hit that kick-started Gaga's legendary career, landing at the precipice of the Billboard Hot 100 after a 22-week climb from its initial entry at No. 76 to the nascent pop star her very first No. 1 hit. 

A polished dance floor banger produced by RedOne and co-written with Akon, "Just Dance" perfectly crystallizes the dance-pop resurgence of the late 2000s that Gaga not only helped spearhead, but masterfully rode into the upper echelon of 21st century pop stardom. Notably, the song also earned Gaga the first GRAMMY nomination of her career for Best Dance Recording in 2009 — a full year before her debut album would announce itself as a major force at the 2010 ceremony.

"Poker Face," The Fame (2008)

If "Just Dance" set expectations sky high for the music Gaga had up her well-manicured sleeve, "Poker Face" majorly surpassed them — and subsequently, became one of the defining pop songs of the decade. With its relentless rhythm, sing-song  "Po-po-po-poker face, po-po-poker face" refrain, and winkingly naughty lyrics ("'Cause I'm bluffin' with my muffin," anybody?), the song proved Gaga knew how to expertly construct an earworm while delivering a high-concept visual spectacle in spades. 

"Poker Face" became the singer's second consecutive No. 1 single on the Hot 100, marking the first time a brand-new artist had accomplished the feat since Christina Aguilera's one-two punch of "Genie in a Bottle" and "What a Girl Wants" a full decade prior. By year's end, "Poker Face" had become top-selling single of 2009 across the globe, and the following year, it earned Gaga her first nods for both Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year at the 2010 GRAMMYs, with The Fame also being nominated for Album Of The Year.

Though the song and LP ultimately lost in the major categories, they respectively took home the golden gramophones for Best Dance Recording and Best Electronic Dance Album, officially making Gaga a GRAMMY-winning artist after less than two years in the industry. 

"The Fame," The Fame (2008)

While it was never released as an official single, the title track off Gaga's 2008 debut album serves as something of an early thesis statement for the avant garde star who so confidently declared, "POP MUSIC WILL NEVER BE LOWBROW" as she burst from New York City's underground scene to the global stage.

Gaga lays bare her ambitions with brazen clarity on the punchy electronic track, as she gushes over her single-minded love for "runway models, Cadillacs and liquor bottles" and sings, "Give me something I wanna be/ Retro glamor, Hollywood, yes we live for the fame/ Doin' it for the fame/ 'Cause we wanna live the life of the rich and famous." Later on the song's bridge, the pop star vows, "Don't ask me how or why/ But I'm gonna make it happen this time," and in retrospect, there's no denying Gaga accomplished everything she set out to achieve at the start of her career. 

"Bad Romance," The Fame Monster (2009)

The Fame heralded Gaga as the next big thing in pop music. But rather than spend a couple years fine-tuning her follow-up, the newly minted star decided to double down while the iron was red hot by reissuing the album as The Fame Monster, complete with eight new songs. And in doing so, she catapulted herself to superstar status with just five syllables: "Ra-ra-ah-ah-ahh." 

If the Gaga of "Just Dance" and "Poker Face" was a flashy striver fighting her way to the center of the cultural zeitgeist, "Bad Romance" presented Gaga as a high-fashion pop queen ready to turn her coronation into a victory lap. Not only did "Bad Romance" score Gaga her fifth consecutive top 5 hit on the Billboard 200, it also won her the GRAMMYs for Female Pop Solo Performance and Music Video/Short Form in 2011. (The Fame Monster, meanwhile, took home the golden gramophone for Pop Vocal Album — the first of Gaga's four nominations and counting in the category.)

"Telephone" (featuring Beyoncé), The Fame Monster (2009)

"Hello, hello, baby, you called, I can't hear a thing…" On its face, "Telephone" may sound like a garden variety electro-pop bop, but Gaga turned the track into an unforgettable club banger of the highest order by recruiting the one and only Beyoncé. The two superstars play off one another with panache as they shrug off responsibility and incessant calls from home in favor of giving into the music.

The single's murderous, Jonas Åkerlund-directed visual remains one of the most iconic in Gaga's storied visual history. Fourteen years after Gaga and Honey B drove off in the Pussy Wagon with the promise to never come back, Little Monsters and the Beyhive are still clamoring for a follow-up. Need proof? Just look at the internet frenzy Queen Bey caused when she appeared driving a similarly hued taxi in a teaser for the album that became COWBOY CARTER earlier this year.

"Born This Way," Born This Way (2011)

Almost from the moment she emerged onto the national consciousness, Gaga was considered a gay icon in the making, proudly advocating for the queer community — and in turn, cultivating a passionate, devoted LGBTQ+ fan base who worshiped at the feet of Mother Monster. So, naturally, she used her 2010 sophomore album to gift the masses with the Pride anthem of a generation

Drawing comparisons to Madonna's "Express Yourself," "Born This Way" became a defining hit of the 2010s and helped empower listeners from the clubs, to the streets, to the inside of the closet to embrace what makes them special and fearlessly declare, "Baby, I was born this way!" Additionally, the gay anthem holds the distinction of being the 1,000th No. 1 hit in the history of the Billboard Hot 100, as well as Gaga's first single to bow at the top of the chart upon its debut.

"Yoü And I," Born This Way (2011)

Though she would go on to explore the genre further in 2016's Joanne, Gaga pretty much perfected her interpretation of classic Americana with the country-rock stomp of "Yoü and I" in 2011. Released as the fourth single from Born This Way, the gutsy power ballad found the singer driving a muscle car right through the glitzy, electro-pop aesthetic of her past as she wailed, "This time I'm not leavin' without you" over a sample of Queen's "We Will Rock You" and an original electric guitar line by none other than Brian May himself.

The music video for "Yoü And I," meanwhile, was classically high-concept in the most Gaga of terms. It saw the star transform into a number of alter egos including Yüyi the mermaid and the snarling, chain-smoking Jo Calderone. Whether running through the Nebraska cornfields of the song's setting or being brought back to life a la bride of Frankenstein by future ex-fiancé Taylor Kinney, Gaga proved that she could make a visit to America's heartland as avant-garde as ever.

"Marry The Night," Born This Way (2011)

Among Born This Way's litany of hits, "Marry the Night" is widely regarded among Little Monsters as something of a cult favorite. Though it didn't ascend quite as high up the charts as preceding singles like "Judas" or "The Edge of Glory," the track's music video might just be the most autobiographical visual the New York City native has ever released. 

As the fantastical clip opens on an unconscious Gaga lying prone in a hospital bed wearing "next season Calvin Klein" and custom Giuseppe Zanoti, the singer lays out her entire approach to her artistry. "When I look back on my life, it's not that I don't want to see things exactly as they happened, it's just that I prefer to remember them in an artistic way," she explained. "And truthfully, the lie of it all is much more honest because I invented it…

"It's sort of like my past is an unfinished painting," she continues. "And as the artist of that painting, I must fill in all the ugly holes and make it beautiful again. It's not that I've been dishonest; it's just that I loathe reality." Gaga's rejection of the ordinary in favor of artistic reinterpretation has given fans not only the creative explosion of "Marry the Night," but the entirety of the pop star's avant-garde oeuvre.

"The Lady Is a Tramp" (with Tony Bennett), Duets II (2011)

Smack dab in the middle of Gaga's Born This Way era, Tony Bennett invited Gaga to duet on his 2011 album, Duets II. The pair's charming, spunky rendition of the Rodgers and Hart classic "The Lady is a Tramp" not only opened the album, but it showcased an irrepressible chemistry between the two stars that led to two more collaborative full-length albums, 2014's Cheek to Cheek and 2021's Love For Sale — both of which won GRAMMYs for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. 

The song ultimately became something of a cheeky hallmark to how much Gaga and Bennett adored one another; even after they'd released an album full of jazz standards like Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" and Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek," the young pop ingénue chose to sing "The Lady Is a Tramp" for Bennett's 90th birthday celebration at Radio City Music Hall, dedicating it to her friend as he beamed from the front row.

The pair's sweet friendship would continue on all the way until Bennett's death in 2023 following a years-long battle with Alzheimer's disease. In a heartfelt social media tribute, Gaga shared the impact of Bennett's friendship: "Sure he taught me about music, about showbiz life, but he also showed me how to keep my spirits high and my head screwed on straight."

"Applause," ARTPOP (2013)

She lives for the applause! For the lead single for her 2014 album ARTPOP, Gaga shined a spotlight back on the parasocial relationship and adoration that comes with fame. This time, though, the pop star demands listener participation rather than simple voyeurism as she belts, "Give me that thing that I love/ Put your hands up, make 'em touch!" 

In the song, Gaga also shares the complex philosophy behind the album's title ("Pop culture was in art, now art's in pop culture in me.") But between shouting out famed sculpturist Jeffrey Koons (whom she commissioned to create the iconic ARTPOP cover art) and referencing everything from Botticelli's The Birth of Venus to the pop iconography of Andy Warhol in the surrealist music video, Gaga's message was deceptively simple: She lives for the A-P-P-L-A-U-S-E, baby.

"Aura," ARTPOP (2013)

When it came time to present the highbrow themes of ARTPOP to the masses, Gaga chose to open the 2013 iTunes Festival with "Aura," a frenetic exploration of fame, celebrity, suppression and identity built over a skittering sonic palette inspired in equal parts by Middle Eastern music, spaghetti Westerns and mariachi.

Though she initially faced some backlash over accusations that she had appropriated the wearing of a Muslim burqa in the song's lyrics, "Aura" effectively set the stage for ARTPOP as a piece of sophisticated performance art unlike anything Gaga had created before — all while promising fans a glimpse "behind the curtain" at the girl underneath the camp and artistry. And though ARTPOP may have been more than a bit misunderstood at the time of its release, it arguably remains the boldest and bravest album in Gaga's manifold discography.

"Joanne," Joanne (2016)

Gaga found inspiration for her fifth studio album from the life and death of her late aunt (and namesake), Joanne Stefani Germanotta. The singer never met her relative, but Joanne's spirit was imbued throughout the album, from its homespun lyricism to its stripped-back sonic palette that found the singer exploring the sounds of country, soft rock and Americana.

Nowhere on the record is Gaga's profound connection to her aunt more evident than the title track, which she recorded two different versions of and released as the album's third and final single. "Take my hand, stay Joanne/ Heaven's not ready for you/ Every part of my aching heart/ Needs you more than the angels do," she sings softly over a spare piano line on "Joanne (Where Do You Think You're Goin'?)."

With its roots in her family tree, the song clearly holds a special place in Gaga's heart — especially considering she chose to mix it with "Million Reasons" for her performance at the 2018 GRAMMYs. (A full year later, she took home the GRAMMY for Best Pop Solo Performance in 2019 for the acoustic piano version.)

"Shallow" (with Bradley Cooper), A Star Is Born (2018)

"I can see myself in the movies/ With my picture in city lights," Gaga memorably sang in "The Fame." And a decade later, she manifested her dream into reality with a starring role in the 2018 remake of A Star Is Born

Opposite Bradley Cooper, the singer proved she had plenty of star quality on the silver screen on top of her status as a pop supernova. The movie musical's soundtrack was also dominated by Gaga's vulnerability and vocal abilities, fully giving herself over to the story of a star-crossed love that ends in superstardom and tragedy — particularly on the emotional keystone that is "Shallow." In fact, by the time she lets out her famous, guttural wail in the song's emotional bridge, it's easy to forget that "Shallow" is, in fact, a duet rather than a dazzling showcase of Gaga's chops. 

On top of being an essential touchstone in Gaga's canon, "Shallow" is also memorable for being the song that turned Mother Monster into an Oscar winner after she, co-writer Mark Ronson and the rest of their collaborators took home the trophy for Best Original Song at the 2019 Academy Awards. (The song also won a GRAMMY for Best Pop/Duo Group Performance that year.)

"I've worked hard for a long time," Gaga said through tears while accepting her Oscar. "And it's not about winning, but what it's about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it. There's a discipline for passion, and it's not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down or you're beaten up. It's about how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep on going." 

"Rain On Me" (with Ariana Grande), Chromatica (2020)

Gaga's Chromatica era began with "Stupid Love" and its colorful, Power Rangers-chic video, but the star hit peak pop excellence by joining forces with Ariana Grande on the album's second single "Rain on Me." 

"I'd rather be dry but at least I'm alive/ Rain on me, rain, rain," the two superstars harmonized on the house-fueled disco fantasia's upbeat refrain, before letting the beat drop and giving in to the impulse to dance it out. Released in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, the track provided hope, joy and a message of hard-fought resilience at a scary, unpredictable and unprecedented time when it felt like the world was ending as we knew it.

The following year, Gaga and Grande won the GRAMMY for Best Pop/Duo Group Performance at the 2011 ceremony, becoming the first female collaborators to take home the award in GRAMMYs history. 

"Free Woman," Chromatica (2020)

"Free Woman" was a bit overlooked when it was released as Chromatica's fourth and final single in the spring of 2021, but the narrative Gaga shares on the jubilant track is central to her personal history and experiences in the music industry. Over a thumping Eurodance-leaning beat, she recounts the PTSD she suffered from after being sexually assaulted by an unnamed producer early in her career.

Gaga also offers a rallying cry for her beloved LGBTQ+ fan base on the song, particularly those in the trans community, as she belts, "This is my dance floor I fought for/ Ain't hard, that's what I'm livin' for…We own the downtown, hear our sound." Ultimately, that empowering lyric is a notion that encapsulates the overarching theme of Gaga's career thus far — one that fans around the world can revel in again and again with GAGA CHROMATICA BALL.

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Billie Eilish Songbook Hero
(L-R) Billie Eilish in 2018, 2020 and 2023.

(L-R) Scott Legato/Getty Images for Live Nation, Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Global Citizen

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Songbook: A Guide To Billie Eilish's Musical Ventures & Artistic Ingenuity

On the heels of Billie Eilish's new album 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT,' take a deep dive into the albums, visuals and performances that have shaped her award-winning, generation-defining artistry.

GRAMMYs/May 21, 2024 - 06:18 pm

Being a once-in-a-generation artist isn't an easy crown to wear, but Billie Eilish has made it look effortlessly badass. The singer's unabashed honesty and equally raw vocal talent led her to becoming one of the industry's most decorated Gen Z artists before she even reached her twenties.

Eilish first caught our ears in 2016 when the then-13-year-old uploaded "ocean eyes" to SoundCloud. The tender ballad — written and produced by her brother and steadfast collaborator, FINNEAS — was shared with Eilish's dance teacher with the intention of using it as a choreography track. The intimate song transformed the budding artist into an overnight sensation that led to an Interscope record deal that year.

From there, Eilish released her stunning 2017 debut EP, Don't Smile at Me. The trajectory continued at a whirlwind pace with 2019's debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? and her 2021 follow-up, Happier Than Ever, both of which topped the Billboard 200 chart. The albums' successes made her an award show darling, and in 2020, she became only the second artist and first woman to win all four General Field Categories (Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best New Artist) at just 18 years old. As of press time, Eilish has nine GRAMMY Awards and 25 nominations. And at her current age of 22, she's still only just getting started.

The singer may have emerged onto the scene with a subdued voice, but what a red herring that was. Eilish has been a force to be reckoned with from the start, and this edition of Songbook celebrates each chapter of her shape-shifting career thus far, including her recently launched HIT ME HARD AND SOFT era. 

Below, dive into Eilish's music highlights — from her personal projects to soundtrack masterpieces — that have laid the foundation for her growing longevity.

The Melancholic Songstress

Don't Smile at Me (2017)

Don't Smile at Me is a perfectly blunt way to sum up teen angst. With signature songs like the teary "ocean eyes" and the equally earnest ballad "idontwannabeyouanymore," the eight-track project showcased Eilish's propensity for transforming moodiness into art. 

The EP navigated themes of depression and heartbreak, which were funneled through lyrics seemingly ripped out of Eilish's diary. That refreshing intimacy is what makes her such a revered artist, and Don't Smile at Me provided just a glimpse into what her sound would grow into.

WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? (2019)

Depression can often feel like one is drowning in a bottomless pool, and Eilish doubled down on that heaviness with her debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? The lyrics were pulled from Eilish's nightmares and bouts with depression, and with the help of her brother FINNEAS' production and co-writing pen, it all came to life like a wicked horror film. 

If the album is a night terror, then "bad guy" is the sleep paralysis demon smirking in the bedroom corner. It might be the poppiest of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP's singles (it even spawned a remix featuring one of Eilish's idols, Justin Bieber), but the balance of the zany electro and claims of being the "Make-your-girlfriend-mad type/ Might-seduce-your-dad type" shows this flavor of pop is not the bubblegum kind. Other highlights — The Office samples dotted throughout, the eerie taunts of "you should see me in a crown" and "bury a friend," and even an ASMR-worthy Invisalign intro — made the album a thrilling exploration of Eilish's unconventional artistry.

Happier Than Ever (2021)

After WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? saw Eilish in a living nightmare, Happier Than Ever found her confronting those demons — and as a result, feeling and sounding much lighter. Sporting a Marilyn Monroe-esque blonde bob at the time (a complete 180 from her black and electric lime-colored locks), the album presented an even more vulnerable artist. Eilish's overnight success not only came with a tireless music industry demanding more hits from her, but also stalkers, toxic relationships and social media-fueled misogyny — and she addressed all of it on Happier Than Ever.

"Things I once enjoyed just keep me employed now," she grieves on the "Getting Older" opener, coming to terms with the reality of being a pop star. The vulnerability continues with songs like "Not My Responsibility," a response to people constantly dissecting and sexualizing her body; the trip-hop "NDA," which finds Eilish pleading for privacy; and the boisterous title track that sees Eilish belting for the first time. Happier Than Ever wasn't the typical coming-of-age moment that we're used to. But it was born out of an ugly truth, which is an admirable endeavor for an artist who hadn't even reached her twenties. 

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT (2024)

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT almost plays like a "Best of Billie" album, highlighting her award-winning sonic tropes and guiding them into new, expansive territories. She heavily plays on the concept of her third album's title, with both tender ballads and heart-pounding uptempos. 

She also celebrates the menacing teen version of the Billie Eilish many were first introduced to on WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? Only this time, she's even more confident in her artistry; her vocals are the strongest they've ever been, as heard on "BIRDS OF A FEATHER" and "THE GREATEST." There's a beautiful maturity that envelopes HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, making it even more exciting to see how else she'll experiment with this album era.

The Big-Screen Auteur

13 Reasons Why (2017)

Eilish's music is as cinematic as it's poetic, so it's not surprising that she's established herself as a soundtrack queen. Her first foray was for Netflix's hit series "13 Reasons Why," which aired just before Eilish's debut EP release, making it the perfect pairing. The singer contributed the flippant song "Bored" to the series' first season, showcasing the ballad brilliance that was to come from the rising star.

Roma (2018)

Water plays a big part in the critically acclaimed Roma — a feature that's also frequent in Eilish's own music videos, and she further heightened that inspiration for the film's soundtrack highlight, "When I Was Older." With her voice sounding submerged under water, the singer and FINNEAS create a chilling atmosphere that reflects the characters' turmoil. Roma ended up becoming an Oscar-winning film, a not-so-subtle foreshadowing of what would happen to Eilish's own career soon after.

No Time To Die (2020)

The James Bond theme songs often have a somber tone, so it made sense for Eilish to join the likes of Adele and Sam Smith as a contributor. "No Time To Die" is as beautiful as it is haunting, with the singer's voice bellowing with the sweeping orchestra. The song owned awards season, scoring a GRAMMY for Best Song Written For Visual Media and Best Original Song trophies from the Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and more.

Euphoria (2021)

Both Eilish and Rosalía make achingly tender music, and the Spanish singer led Eilish to new, atmospheric heights with Euphoria's "Lo Vas a Olvidar." The song was first previewed in the trailer for Jules' special episode, then was later played in a vulnerable scene where the character reveals how much her girlfriend Rue's relapsing affected her. The pained lyrics ("Tell me if you still miss me / Tell me if you still don't forgive me / What will you do with all this poison?") reflects Jules' heartache. "Lo Vas a Olvidar" marked the first time Eilish sang in Spanish, making her harmonies with Rosalía even more elegiac.

Turning Red (2022)

Under Eilish's edgy demeanor is a pure pop fan, so it was fitting that she teamed up with Pixar to contribute three songs to their Turning Red film. The singer and FINNEAS wrote "Nobody Like U," "U Know What's Up" and "1 True Love," all songs performed by a fictional boy band, 4*Town, a nod to boy bands of the late '90s and early aughts. 

Eilish had made playful songs in the past, but these tunes traded her signature cynical undertone for more nostalgic fun, further revealing her pop versatility. "Writing the songs has literally been the most fun we've had writing," Eilish shared during a Disney press run. "Mei and her friends' passion for 4*Town, it really resonated with me just because I was the same. It's so accurate of how it feels when you're that kind of fan."

Barbie (2023)

Last summer's Barbie was a mammoth at the box office and the charts, partly thanks to Eilish's soundtrack contribution. Reverting back to her teary-eyed ballads, "What Was I Made For?" summarizes the film's central theme of navigating life as a woman in a misogynistic world. 

The beautifully painful tune resonated in and outside of the film, earning an Academy Award for Best Original Song and two GRAMMY Awards for Song of the Year and Best Song Written for Visual Media in 2024. The accolades marked another history-defining moment for Eilish: "What Was I Made For?" became just the tenth song in history to win both an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a GRAMMY for Song Of The Year.

The Poignant Performer

Tours

The bombastic production in Eilish's music practically begs for an audience, so it's bound to be electrifying whenever she hits the stage. She began small in 2017 with the 11-show dont smile at me tour — her first headlining trek — but quickly expanded to arenas. 

She truly hit her stride with 2022's Happier Than Ever, The World Tour. Keeping the staging minimal while sporting her signature baggy looks, she let her vocals (and some electrifying strobe lights) command the attention. Her energy never falters throughout the nearly two-hour long show and neither does the audience, who lovingly shout every single lyric. And it won't be long before she brings HIT ME HARD AND SOFT to the stage — the tour (her seventh) kicks off Sept. 29 in Québec, Canada.

Award Shows

Eilish's fan base goes far beyond the hyper teenagers who flood her concerts. The singer's award show performances also reveal how much her peers admire her. 

With nine GRAMMY wins under her belt, Eilish's GRAMMY performances over the years have helped prove why she's earned them. Following her stage debut in 2020, she returned the following year to perform the Record Of The Year-winning "everything I wanted" as fellow nominees Black Pumas and Harry Styles cheered her on in the crowd. The singer's thunderous "Happier Than Ever" performance received equally roaring applause. 

Eilish reminded of her vocal prowess and ethereal stage presence at both the GRAMMYs and Oscars this year, delivering delicate renditions of "What Was I Made For?" with just FINNEAS and a piano for each show. As those performances displayed, relatability and heightened emotion — as seen with other award show performances, like the cinematic version of "No Time To Die" at the 2022 Oscars and the fiery "all the good girls go to hell" at the 2019 American Music Awards — are what make Eilish's performances so unforgettable.

Concert Film

Eilish transported the vulnerability and intimacy of Happier Than Ever to the silver screen for 2021's GRAMMY-nominated Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles concert film. As its title suggests, the film sees Eilish (a native Angeleno) paying homage to her hometown with a performance at the Hollywood Bowl — even performing alongside the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, which she grew up singing in. 

But the concert film also addresses the pressures of fame like Happier Than Ever the album did. There's a stark contrast between the Eilish on stage, who is seemingly comforted by the lack of an audience inside the Hollywood Bowl, and an animated version of the star, who drives past Happier Than Ever billboards before arriving at a premiere with an overwhelming number of fans and flashing cameras. The film is more than a tribute to her hometown — it shows Eilish coming to terms with her own stardom.

Festivals

As Eilish's star status has ascended, so has her name on festival lineups. Just like her own tours, she gives it her all for these performances, many of which become career-defining moments. 

She first emerged on the scene at SXSW in 2017 and appeared at one of Lollapalooza's smaller stages the following year. But the budding star quickly rose among the ranks, securing bigger stages at festivals like Tyler the Creator's Camp Flog Knaw and Reading & Leeds. She officially graduated in the festival sphere in 2022 when she headlined Coachella and Glastonbury, making her the youngest headliner in the latter's festival history; she's since headlined Coachella, several iterations of Lollapalooza, and even recently became the latest Fortnite Festival headliner. 

Eilish had another full-circle moment at Coachella 2024, when Lana Del Rey — one of Eilish's biggest influences — brought her out as a surprise guest. The pair performed Eilish's "ocean eyes" and Lana's "Video Games," a fitting pairing as fans have often drawn comparisons between the two tracks. "This is the voice of a generation!" Del Rey exclaimed to the crowd following the duets. She might be onto something.

The Visionary

"When The Party's Over" (2018)

Music videos play an integral role in Eilish's artistry, helping to set a visual stage for her narrative lyrics, with many of her videos connecting with each other. The video for the somber piano ballad "when the party's over" wasn't her first, but it officially exhibited the shock factor that she's now known for. 

Arriving a few months before WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, the video shows the then blue-haired singer drinking a cup of black goo, which soon pours from her tear ducts, a visual that was inspired by a drawing gifted by a fan. The video was released a week before Halloween, making it a ghoulish holiday treat for Eilish fans.

"Bury A Friend" (2019)

The singer brought her debut album's nightmarish themes to life for "bury a friend." The video — reminiscent of films and series like The Exorcist, American Horror Story: Asylum and The Haunting of Hill House — accentuates the song's spookiness with dead eyes and needles pierced into Eilish's back. As she told Rolling Stone at the time, it's a visual representation of "honing in on people's fears," a concept that has remained in Eilish's visuals to this day; she continues to face her own fear of water, as seen on HIT ME HARD AND SOFT's submerged album cover.

"Bad Guy" (2019)

"bad guy" may be the singer's most colorful music video to date, but don't let that fool you. Eilish's signature edgy tropes still remain intact — from her bloody nose, to decapitated heads in plastic bags, to the dimly lit crimson bedroom amplifying the trap-inspired switch at the song's end. In between those scenes, though, she pops out her Invisalign before going on a mini-cart joyride, proving that her personality can be just as goofy as it is moody. 

"All The Good Girls Go To Hell" (2019)

The "all the good girls go to hell" video picks up from where "bury a friend" left off, suggesting that Eilish's music isn't just meant to be listened to as standalone singles. Rather, there's intentional connective tissue that is revealed in her videos. 

The syringes injected into Eilish's back gave her 25-foot-long white wings; she dramatically falls from the sky and into a black tar pit. She walks through a grim town while leaving a trail of oil behind her, causing fires to ignite with each step. A big advocate for climate change awareness, Eilish used "all the good girls go to hell" visual to show that her creative vision can spread important messages, too. 

"Happier Than Ever" (2021)

The title track of Eilish's sophomore album, Happier Than Ever, instantly became a fan favorite due to its contrasting two parts, beginning tender and soulful before lashing out into an alternative rock banger. The singer maintained the thrilling transition for the self-directed video, which showcases her knack for visual storytelling. 

The video starts off with Eilish in a vintage-looking room before the lights begin to flicker. She then opens a door that fills the room with water, mimicking the track's flood of emotions. With a powerful song and video like this, she's clearly taken some cinematic tips from her film experiences.

"What Was I Made For?" (2023)

Barbie soundtrack highlight "What Was I Made For?" is a tender hug for women everywhere, including Eilish herself. The singer directed the accompanying video, which shows her donning a '50s-inspired Barbie look as she reflects on the past. 

Sitting at a school desk, she hangs up miniature versions of her own outfits, including looks from videos like "Bellyache" and "bad guy" and the Gucci get-up she wore for her history-making night at the 2020 GRAMMYs. The video was a cleansing of sorts, as Eilish closed a chapter of her career before entering a new one with this year's HIT ME HARD AND SOFT. Though her first video for her third album era — the '90s VHS-inspired "LUNCH" — showed more of her playful side, Eilish has certainly proven that she has plenty more tricks up her sleeve.

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