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Rising From Down Under

Cut Copy, Gotye, Karnivool, Lorde, and the Naked And Famous are making a big splash in foreign waters

GRAMMYs/Dec 3, 2014 - 05:06 am

Australia and New Zealand have a long history of exporting influential music to the Northern Hemisphere by way of chart-climbing acts such as AC/DC, Crowded House, INXS, Men At Work, Split Enz, and Wolfmother, among many others. Today, a new wave of artists making the long trek to these shores such as GRAMMY winners Gotye and Kimbra and new pop/rock sensation Lorde are storming the charts and breaking down preconceived notions about what defines the sound from Down Under.

"We don't even know what the Australian sound is," says guitarist Tim Hoey of Melbourne, Australia-based electronic band Cut Copy. "A lot of people associate it with AC/DC, punk rock type of stuff, but there's an amazing bunch of bands that have come out of Australia that I wouldn't necessarily claim have an Australian sound. In this band we are all into really different kinds of music, not necessarily house music or abrasive guitar music. It's kind of everything."

"New Zealand gets most of its culture from places like the UK and America, and that stands for music as well," says David Beadle, bassist for Auckland, New Zealand, natives the Naked And Famous. "I guess in that regard the [New Zealand] sound is a combination of the two."

After garnering acclaim in his homeland, Australian sensation Gotye broke through in the United States with his 2011 album Making Mirrors. In addition to Best Alternative Music Album honors at the 55th GRAMMYs, he won awards for Record Of The Year Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for the single "Somebody That I Used To Know" featuring Kimbra, the video for which has racked up nearly 450 million views on YouTube. Thanks to her Top 5 debut album Pure Heroine and her No. 1 single "Royals," New Zealand vocalist Lorde is stirring up a  buzz, while Kiwi singer/songwriter Gin Wigmore emerged as a breakout star on the summer 2013 Vans Warped Tour. And more artists are poised to follow.

"I think the culture in Australia at the moment permits you the ability to chase your dream," says Kim Benzie, frontman for Brisbane, Queensland's Dead Letter Circus, whose 2010 major label debut album This Is The Warning debuted at No. 2 on the Australian album charts. Growing Internet interest led to a few "test runs" in the UK, a sold-out performance in London and a small foray into the United States. Dead Letter Cirucs are currently in the midst of their fourth U.S. tour.

"It's really, really fun being the underdog," says Benzie, who is enjoying the grueling nature of touring clubs across the United States after conquering big theaters at home. "We're not on a bus here yet, we're in a van sleeping while sitting up, driving 10 hours and rocking a show. It's an awesome adventure."

"This [movement] is part of the whole internationalization of music," notes Mark Hosking, guitarist for Perth, Australia-based band Karnivool, who started touring globally after fielding numerous queries from around the world. "The Internet has brought people so close. It's taken geography off the map and made this a musical community that just happens to live in different countries."

According to Beadle, the Naked And Famous never had a plan or "dreams of grandeur," but once the song "Young Blood" took off via YouTube and other online venues, it "instantly traversed across oceans to new countries and to new places. That's what got us off New Zealand, but we never had that expectation."

After the Naked And Famous' full-length debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You was released in the United States and Europe in 2010, song licensing deals came in for TV shows ("The Vampire Diaries"), films (the snowboarding documentary The Art Of Flight) and videogames ("SSX").

Given that their genre-blending dance sounds emerged during Australia's new rock revival in the mid-2000s, Cut Copy sought out audiences in Europe and the United States.

"We felt like we were doing a lot more overseas, then it flooded back to Australia and a lot of people started taking notice, which is a very common thing in Australia," says Hoey. "There are bands who don't necessarily find an audience at home initially, then start doing great things overseas, and news travels back home."

"I think ideally for any band to do something in America or build in America, you can't do it like anywhere else in the world," explains Hosking. "You've got to set up a shop there and really tackle it, which some Australian bands are doing. It's such a big place and is a totally, entirely different market that is constantly changing."

Eclectic hip-hop/rock trio the Wyld hope to come to the States and the UK because they feel their music would resonate well in those countries.

"We find that we're too mainstream for college radio and too alternative for mainstream radio [in New Zealand]," observes vocalist Brandon Black. "I think over half of our fan base is American. The main problem for artists these days is that everyone is connected through the Internet, but there are still geographical issues."

Black says the Wyld have been invited to play South by Southwest, North by Northeast, and various New York and L.A. gigs, but it's a matter of accruing the finances to make the journey feasible.

As an indie band, Karnivool self-finance their U.S. tours.

"Australia is our bread and butter, and we've really used that as a launching point to fund ourselves overseas and push it each time," says Hosking. "To play overseas costs us a lot of money in freight and miles, so it kind of comes with the territory of living so far away from everybody else. You expect these costs to be high."

Benzie says that unless artists are taking risks with their personal money, labels in Australia are staying focused on the big artists.

"It costs $18,000 to $20,000 to bring us here every time, and we are at the point where maybe people will start taking a bit of a risk on us," says Benzie. "I'm pretty sure Gotye brought himself over here. Hopefully people will roll the dice because the quality is there. You can make a serious splash with Australian artists, it's just taking the risk."

(Bryan Reesman is a New York-based freelance writer.)

GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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5 Ways Lorde's 'Pure Heroine' Helped Pave The Way For The Unconventional Modern Superstar
Lorde performs in Los Angeles in 2013.

Photo: Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images

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5 Ways Lorde's 'Pure Heroine' Helped Pave The Way For The Unconventional Modern Superstar

On the 10th anniversary of Lorde's massive debut album, 'Pure Heroine,' take a look at five ways the star's defiant spirit — on and off the LP — influenced a generation.

GRAMMYs/Sep 27, 2023 - 11:01 pm

Over 10 years after Lorde released her breakout hit, "Royals," its opening line presents a profound sense of irony: "I've never seen a diamond in the flesh."

In the song, Lorde depicts a disillusionment with the lifestyle and status associated with diamonds — one based on excess, ostentation, and a departure from reality. But her scorned sentiment is so relatable that "Royals" itself has become a diamond.

In December of 2017, the single reached the rarely achieved diamond certification from the Recording Industry Association of America for selling 10 million units. The single now has over 1 billion streams on Spotify, and when it was in the throes of release, topped the Billboard Hot 100 for nine weeks, before earning two GRAMMYs: Song Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at the 2014 ceremony.

"Royals" was the lead single for Pure Heroine, Lorde's debut album, which turns 10 this month. Like its first hit, the album demonstrated Lorde's foresight into the next generation of pop star — so much so that none other than David Bowie had proclaimed her as "the future of music."

In many ways, the title Pure Heroine is apposite to Lorde herself. In the early 2010s, she was a heroine with a pure message — a message of honesty and humanity that resonated with everyone, from fans to her fellow musicians. Even critics were intrigued: "In a moment when too many new artists seem afraid to offend or go off script, Lorde is an exciting contradiction," Pitchfork wrote in their review of Pure Heroine.

Going "off script" permeates everything about Pure Heroine, but it also goes beyond the album and into what Lorde represented for music and humanity at large. 

As Pure Heroine turns 10, here are five aspects of Lorde's rise that demonstrate that she helped create the blueprint for the modern superstar.

Defiance Of Industry Expectations

Lorde has been signed to Universal Music Group since she was 12 years old, after being discovered because of a performance at a talent show. However, she didn't let such a grand association play a role in her approach to her music.

"I've been dealing with the world's biggest record company for so long so I've never had that 'Holy Shit' moment with it being a major label or anything," Lorde told Spin in 2013. "It's just something I grew up with."

Even prior to the album, Lorde was prescient in her defiance of the industry when she released her 2012 EP, The Love Club, on Soundcloud for free. Per The Guardian, she told UMG, "Leave it alone — don't promote it, no ads, let it grow organically." This ended up working in her favor when singer/songwriter Grimes reposted Lorde's Soundcloud after "some random" alerted her to it. 

And when the time came for Lorde to make her first album, Universal initially suggested doing a series of soul covers, but she refused. "They got straight away that I was a bit weird, that I would not be doing anything I didn't want to do, and they completely went with that," she told The Guardian in 2013. 

What Lorde considered "a bit weird" in 2013 is now, rightfully, considered brave and forward-thinking because it was all in service to her simply being herself, regardless of what anyone in the industry expected of her. 

That mentality also bled into her appearance. "I'm not the sort of artist that TMZ can write about like, 'She stepped out with no makeup today!' Because 80 percent of the time I'm not wearing any makeup," Lorde told The Fader in 2013.

She also didn't care for the comparisons to other massive artists like her: "I read a piece the other day that said, 'Why Lorde is this generation's Nirvana,' and I was like, PLEASE DON'T! Don't do that to me! They meant it as a compliment, obviously, but what's the point in even making the parallel?" she said to Rookie in 2014.

Lorde has only ever wanted to do things her way, and that not only fueled the magic of Pure Heroine, but her career as a whole.

A Simple One Writer, One Producer Formula

One thing Lorde wanted to do on her debut album was write all of her own lyrics, even though she had never written a song before in her life. And she clearly aimed to have as much creative control as possible, opting to work with only one producer on the album, Joel Little.

Little and Lorde are the only two credits for both writing and production throughout Pure Heroine, a stark contrast to other albums released in 2013 including Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines, Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience, and Beyoncé's self-titled, all of which followed the modern pop standard of gathering numerous songwriters and producers together on an album.

Now, 10 years on from Pure Heroine, some of the biggest artists and albums follow the Pure Heroine approach. For example, on both of Billie Eilish's studio albums, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO? (2019) and Happier Than Ever (2022) the only credits are herself and her brother, Finneas.

Another is Olivia Rodrigo, who — other than an occasional extra producer or songwriter and a few interpolation credits to artists like Hayley Williams and Taylor Swift — wrote and produced the entirety of her two studio albums, SOUR (2021) and GUTS (2023) alongside producer Daniel Nigro.

A more intimate creative process makes sense given the candid nature of these artists' music, and the central topic of Lorde's honesty in Pure Heroine can be summed up by the pre-chorus in "Royals": "Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece/ Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash/ We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair."

Ten years ago, the de facto motto of pop music was "the bigger the better," emphasized by songs like "Love Me" from Lil' Wayne and Drake, "F—in' Problems" from A$AP Rocky, 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake, and "Suit & Tie" from Justin Timberlake and JAY-Z. Then in comes a teenager from New Zealand who literally says "We don't care." She didn't care about the lifestyle pop music purported — and without a boardroom of writers and producers, her message rang out unimpeded.

A DIY Social Media Approach

Given her rise was in the early 2010s, Lorde was also one of the first stars of her generation to engage in the never-ending battle of social media — and, naturally, she only engaged with it as she saw fit.

"I would get an email from one of the record companies saying, 'Just realized that you're not social-networking to your fullest potential. Here's how! Use lots of hashtags! Only focus on the music, Do 'follow sprees' and constantly reply to fans!'" Lorde recalled to Rookie in 2014. "I was like, 'You've just got to trust me. Everyone will hate me in two months if I do that.'"

Yet another gem of foresight from the young Kiwi, given that numerous Gen-Z notables — from the country breakout star Bailey Zimmerman to the hip-hop/electronic crossover artist PinkPantheress — launched their careers from TikTok by posting DIY clips of their creative processes.

As of late, Lorde's Instagram account is rather bare. There are two posts: the cover of her latest album, 2021's Solar Power, and a carousel of her swimming with a cryptic caption about "a light on inside."

However, there is a highlight on her profile entitled "INSTITUTE" which gives a glimpse into the last year or so of touring. Within these slides Lorde's authentic approach to social sharing is unambiguous. There are numerous high-quality performance shots, of course, but there are also images of "TOUR BUS SHELLFISH" alongside shots of porcupines and her eating sushi in the bath.

In the timeline of Lorde's social media, there are examples that demonstrate even less concern with curation and presentation. She even started an account dedicated to onion rings in 2017 (though it unfortunately hasn't had a post since 2021). 

While she was certainly public about her feelings towards social media, there are also hints of that disdain throughout Pure Heroine. Like on the album's second single, "Tennis Court": "It's a new artform showing people how little we care."

Honesty In Lyrics And Beyond

One thing Lorde surely does care about is her audience, which is likely a major reason why the songs on Pure Heroine speak to inner value. She is on their side, and one simple method of demonstrating this is the shift from "I" to "We."

"This dream isn't feeling sweet/ We're reeling through the midnight streets/ And I've never felt more alone/It feels so scary, getting old," Lorde sings on "Ribs," recounting one of the aspects of life she finds most stressful: aging.

As "Ribs" suggests, the 10 songs on Pure Heroine are for real people in the real world — people who are complex and have varying life experiences. One minute, Lorde is celebrating her elevated status ("Getting pumped up on the little bright things I bought/ But I know they'll never own me," Lorde sings on opener "Tennis Court") and next, she's lamenting her declining ability to be carefree as she gets older ("I'm kind of over gettin' told to throw my hands up in the air/ So there/ I'm kind of older than I was when I reveled without a care/ So there," she quips in "Team," the album's third single).

This kind of honesty also extends beyond lyrics for Lorde, who, since the time of Pure Heroine, has been unfiltered in her opinions on topics including her fellow pop stars.

"I think a lot of women in this industry maybe aren't doing so well for the girls," Lorde told Fader in 2013. "She's great, but I listened to that Lana Del Rey record and the whole time I was just thinking it's so unhealthy for young girls to be listening to, you know: 'I'm nothing without you.'"

In that vein, you won't find a single breakup song on Pure Heroine, but instead, honesty in the form of her love/hate relationship with her sudden explosion into fame on "Still Sane": "All business, all day keeps me up a level/All work and no play, lonely on that new s—, yeah."

But even as she acknowledges her rising profile, through "White Teeth Teens" she maintains she hasn't lost sight of who she truly is, that she is still on the side of her people: "I'll let you in on something big/I am not a white teeth teen/I tried to join, but never did/The way they are, the way they seem/Is something else, it's in the blood."

And even when she does broach the topic of heartbreak on songs like "Liability," from Pure Heroine's 2017 successor, Melodrama, Lorde goes deep within herself instead of running back to her ex: "So I guess I'll go home/Into the arms of the girl that I love/The only love I haven't screwed up/She's so hard to please, but she's a forest fire."

Pure Heroine set the tone for the kind of honesty Lorde will always bring in her music — one that's more self-reflective than self-pitying.

A Punk Attitude

Lorde was not concerned with the standards of the music industry when she was making Pure Heroine, and there is a genre of music that is celebrated for this same lack of concern: punk.

While it might seem that a major pop star like Lorde and punk rockers like the Sex Pistols and Dead Kennedys have absolutely nothing in common, the ethos of how they approach their music and persona are actually quite similar. Because punk isn't simply not caring; punk is not caring what people tell you to care about.

If Sonic Youth truly didn't care about anything, they wouldn't have written "Youth Against Facism," their scathing indictment of the U.S. government. It's the same reason Anti-Flag wrote the plainly titled "F— Police Brutality." They use music to predicate change.

Lorde's lyrical approach may not be as on-the-nose as punk, but given the state of pop music at the time of Pure Heroine, ideas presented in "Royals" were well against what the general pop sphere was beckoning people to care about it: "My friends and I, we've cracked the code/ We count our dollars on the train to the party/ And everyone who knows us knows/ That we're fine with this, we didn't come from money."

Here, the "code" is being happy and content without the gold teeth and the Grey Goose. That she and her friends (once again, alluding to her fans) have value that goes beyond money.

Although Lorde's November 1996 birthday technically lands her just shy of the Gen-Z cutoff, her values in standing up for the common person is a central tenet of Gen-Z culture. This generation is being forced to pick up the pieces of a climate and an economy ravaged by generations prior, and Gen-Zers are facing that necessary change head-on the same way Lorde faced the necessary change in the music industry at the start of her career.

Just before Pure Heroine reached its 10th birthday on Sept. 27, Lorde took to email to share a candid update on what's been happening in her life in the last year, denoting everything from hints at new music to health struggles, to laments on the decade past.

"I know I'm gonna look back on this year with fondness and a bit of awe, knowing it was the year that locked everything into place, the year that transitioned me from my childhood working decade to the one that comes next — one that even through all this, I'm so excited for. It's just hard when you're in it," Lorde wrote, according to a Tumblr account called "Lorde's Email Archive."

Lorde considers the last 10 years her "childhood working decade." In that decade, she redefined what it meant to be a superstar — who knows what she may redefine in the next decade.

For The Record: How Taylor Swift's 'Speak Now' Changed Her Career — And Proved She'll Always Get The Last Word

5 Artists Influenced By Paul Simon: Harry Styles, Lorde, Conor Oberst & More
Paul Simon onstage at the Auditorium Theater in Chicago, 1980

Photo: Paul Natkin/Getty Images

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5 Artists Influenced By Paul Simon: Harry Styles, Lorde, Conor Oberst & More

Paul Simon’s songs linger long, and are examples of excellence for generations of musicians. Ahead of "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute to the Songs of Paul Simon," re-airing Wednesday, May 31, on CBS, artists reflect on Simon's profound influence.

GRAMMYs/Dec 16, 2022 - 06:10 pm

Updated Monday, May 22, to include information about the re-air date for "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute To The Songs Of Paul Simon."

"Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute To The Songs Of Paul Simon" will re-air on Wednesday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, and will be available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

Paul Simon is a living legend. For nearly six decades, the New Yorker has gifted his songs to the world. An innovator — not just a folk singer — Simon’s curiosity led to constantly discovering new soundscapes. He incorporated these rhythms and instrumentation into his melodies, and then added poetic lyrics to create character-driven narratives.

These compositions are like old friends; they linger long after the needle lifts or the stream ends. Generations have sung Simon’s songs — finding joy in their playful rhythms and sorrow in their beauty.   

The accolades and awards are endless: a two-time inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, a 16-time GRAMMY winner, multiple recordings in the GRAMMY Hall of Fame and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy to name just a few.

In a clip from "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute to the Songs of Paul Simon," which will re-air on Wednesday, May 31, at 9 p.m. ET/PT on the CBS Television Network, Elton John calls him "one of the greatest songwriters of all time" — high praise from an artist with 35 GRAMMY nominations and five wins. Simon’s contemporaries are not the songwriter’s only fans: The writer of iconic songs such as "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Graceland," "The Boxer," and "50 Ways to Lose Your Lover," has generations of artists as worshippers of his art who continue to discover his deep catalog.

Singer-songwriters, pop stars, country artists and rappers all claim Simon as a musical mentor. For example, Kid Cudi sampled "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover" on his debut mixtape A Kid Named Cudi in the referentially titled  "50 Ways to Make a Record." In a Forbes Q&A, Canadian songwriter Donovan Woods cites "Obvious Child" as his all-time favorite.  

In advance of the GRAMMY salute to Simon next week, here are five artists that credit the songwriter as a key to their musical education.  

Read More: How To Watch "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute To The Songs Of Paul Simon"

Harry Styles

Listen to Harry Styles’ turn of phrase and poetic lyrics, and hints of Simon’s influence are evident. Even back in his One Direction days, Styles cited Simon as a touchstone. In an MTV interview, following the release of the boy band’s 2015 bestseller Made in the A.M., Styles said his favorite track was "Walking in the Wind" since it was inspired by Simon. 

"I’m a big Paul Simon fan and I think the inspiration behind it is Graceland," Styles said. "The way in which the verse is so conversational and informal, and it’s not like melody melody melody — it’s like spoken word, and kind of drifts and peaks and troughs. I love that album and when I listen to it I love hearing the influence from that in his song."

In a 2019 Rolling Stone interview, Styles again gave a nod to Simon. "I wish I had written '50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,'" he said. "That’s the greatest verse melody ever written, in my opinion. So minimal, but so good — that drum roll."

Conor Oberst

In a 2011 New York magazine profile on Paul Simon, the singer-songwriter from Omaha, Nebraska, is quoted talking about what a major influence the writer of "The Boxer" is on his art. "I grew up with my folks listening to him," Oberst told writer Alan Light. "But as I got into songwriting, I realized how profound what he does actually is. His work over the years is a treasure trove of ideas."

Listen to Oberst’s cover of "Kodachrome," recorded with his alt-country band the Mystic Valley Band, which he once performed at the Austin City Limits Festival in 2008, telling the audience it was a popular sing-along on the tour bus.  

Vampire Weekend

These New York indie rockers burst onto the scene in the mid-2000, and comparisons to Simon abounded beginning with their 2008 self-titled debut. Listen to "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" from their debut; the Simon influence is undeniable — especially his Graceland period. 

In a 2019 interview with Radio X, frontman Ezra Koenig was asked about a show that would stay with him forever. He paused, then answered Simon’s Homeward Bound Farewell Tour in 2018. "He is such a legend…We’ve been compared to him many times and he is an influence. We are from the same part of the country…I have a lot to look up to and find in common with him." 

Shawn Colvin

The three-time GRAMMY winner Shawn Colvin considers Simon a key piece of her songwriting education. Colvin’s father played guitar and taught her early on; he also played many of the singer-songwriters of the day that included the boy from New York. 

Particularly at the start of her career, Colvin always performed "Kathy’s Song" in her sets. In a 2015 interview, the songwriter cited Simon as one of her mentors. "Joni Mitchell was a big time [influence on] me, but also James Taylor, Paul Simon and Bob Dylan to an extent," she said. 

Lorde

The expressive and introspective New Zealand singer-songwriter considers Simon the benchmark for excellence in her craft — a bar she reaches for each day. In a 2017 profile in The Guardian she revealed the following goal:. "I want to be really, really good one day. I think I’m pretty good now. I think I’ve made a good start. But I want to be Paul Simon."   Four years later, Lorde named Simon’s "Graceland" as the song she wishes she’d written in this Vogue 73 vide interview

Listen to Lorde and Jack Antonoff (Bleachers) perform a stripped down duet of "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" at the 2017 Outside Lands Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. 

8 Highlights From "Homeward Bound: A GRAMMY Salute To The Songs Of Paul Simon"

A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 

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A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea

James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.

Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.

Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.

In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.

Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.

There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Say She She

Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.

While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."

Moniquea

Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.

Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.

Shiro Schwarz

Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.

Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.

L'Impératrice

L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.

During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.

Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.

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