meta-scriptRising R&B Star Arin Ray Drops 'Phases II' Surprise EP, Treks Europe With Ari Lennox | GRAMMY.com

Arin Ray

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Rising R&B Star Arin Ray Drops 'Phases II' Surprise EP, Treks Europe With Ari Lennox

The buzz-building singer/songwriter's new surprise release features his recent singles, including his collab with Kehlani, and more

GRAMMYs/Dec 19, 2019 - 01:46 am

Arin Ray surprised fans on Dec. 13 with an early Christmas present, his new EP, Phases II. The Cincinnati, Ohio singer/songwriter's new offering is a collection of his recent singles and more, including “Change” with GRAMMY-nominated superstar Kehlani.

Ray dropped the infectious "Change" earlier this year, and it appears here in the soulful, five-song EP set that also features his recent singles “A Seat” and “The Get Down."

Phases II arrives as the follow-up to Ray's 2018 major label debut, Platinum Fire, which featured guest appearences from the likes of YG, Ty Dolla $ign, DRAM, SIR and Babyface. The rising R&B star will come bearing more gifts early next year, according to a statement, as he plans to unveil a music video for his new single, “The Get Down,” which he co-produced with The Rascals and Sir Dylan.

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Currently, Ray is out on the road overseas opening for Ari Lennox on the 12-city European leg of her Shea Butter Baby Tour. You can find a full list of tour dates and more via his website.

SiR Is 'Chasing Summer' And, With A Little Help From Kendrick Lamar & Others, Making His Dreams Reality

June 2024 albums list hero
(Clockwise from top right): Kehlani, Tems, Gracie Abrams, Carly Pearce, Camila Cabello, and Peso Pluma.

Photos (Clockwise from top right): Tim Mosenfelder/WireImage, Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella, Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images, Jason Kempin/Getty Images for ABA, Cindy Ord/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue, Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images

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15 Must-Hear Albums In June 2024: Charli XCX, Kehlani, Peso Pluma, Normani & More

Lots of exciting releases ring in summertime this June, with highly anticipated albums from Tems, Meghan Trainor, Gracie Abrams, Camila Cabello and several other stars across genres.

GRAMMYs/Jun 3, 2024 - 01:08 pm

June's rising temperatures bring a heat wave of releases, and also important events. Pride Month, Black Music Month, and Juneteenth all happen in the next four weeks, and whether it's to celebrate or to console our hearts, a variety of new albums will soundtrack this journey.

The first Friday of the month packs a powerful group of women: Charli XCX's will release Brat, Meghan Trainor's returns with Timeless, Carly Pearce brings forward hummingbird, Tems makes her official debut with Born in the Wild, and DJ Peggy Gou will also put out her first LP, I Hear You.

Women continue to dominate later in the month, and former Fifth Harmony members Normani and Camila Cabello will both drop new material with Dopamine and C,XOXO, respectively. Gracie Abrams will return with The Secret of Us, as well as Kate Nash and her 9 Sad Symphonies, Joni Mitchell and The Asylum Albums (1976-1980), and Kehlani with Crash.

Of course, there will also be plenty of fresh music from male artists, too, like Peso Pluma's Éxodo, Imagine Dragons' Loom, Kygo's self-titled LP, Lucky Daye's Algorithm, as well as a new live album from Paul McCartney & Wings, titled One Hand Clapping. Closing out the month, all ears will be tuning in to Omar Apollo's God Said No, Lupe Fiasco's Samurai, Neil Young & Crazy Horse's Early Daze, a still unnamed Steve Aoki album, and many others.

Below, get to know more about 15 of the most exciting albums dropping in June 2024.

Charli XCX — Brat

Release date: June 7

The reception to Charli XCX's upcoming album cover — a low-res image of the word "brat" centered in a lime green background — was controversial, but that was precisely her intention. "I wanted to go with an offensive, off-trend shade of green to trigger the idea of something being wrong," the British singer told Vogue Singapore. "I'd like for us to question our expectations of pop culture — why are some things considered good and acceptable, and some things deemed bad? ... I'm not doing things to be nice."

Following 2022's Crash, Brat is Charli's sixth studio album, and boasts 15 club-ready tracks. Over on X (formerly Twitter), the pop provocateur stated that she "was born to make dance music," and that this is the album she's "always wanted to make." A preview of Brat's sleek, smacking sounds can be heard on singles "Von Dutch" and "360," plus a few other tracks shared in advance. The album also includes "So I," a tribute to late producer and DJ SOPHIE.

In support of the album, Charli lined up a slew of performances and DJ nights (dubbed Partygirl) in June, including stops in London, New York, and São Paulo. Later on, she will join Troye Sivan on their 2024 co-headlining Sweat Tour, set to kick off in September and hitting arenas around North America.

Tems — Born in the Wild

Release date: June 7

Nigerian singer Tems earned the eyes and the ears of international media with her Afrobeats-infused R&B. First raising attention with her feature in Wizkid's 2020 single "Essence," she later built up a devoted fandom through two EPs: 2020's For Broken Ears and 2021's If Orange Was a Place. In 2022, she was credited as a featured artist in Future's "Wait For U," which led her to win a GRAMMY for Best Melodic Rap Performance.

On June 7, Tems will release her long-awaited debut album, Born in the Wild. The official announcement came with a teaser video for the title track, disclosed one day after her Coachella set in April. "It's all over the news, all over the news, I know this/ Under the sun, struggling to find my focus/ When I was young, younger then/ I was always running away," she sings, reflecting on her childhood in Lagos. "I grew up in the wilderness/ Didn't know much about openness." 

The record's first single,"Love Me JeJe," came out on April 25, followed by the announcement of a world tour spanning Europe, North America, and Australia from June to November.

Carly Pearce — hummingbird

Release date: June 7

"When you hear this album — wherever you are on your journey, I hope it shows you that pain can be a lesson that shows you just how strong you are and what you truly deserve," Carly Pearce wrote on Instagram as she announced her fourth studio album, hummingbird, in March.

The release follows 2021's 29: Written in Stone, which documented the country star's journey through marriage and divorce at the age of 29. "The last few years have been a season of loss and growth, of healing and happiness," Pearce added. "A belief that if I did the inner work, I would rebuild myself stronger than I was before, and a knowing that I have done some living and will always be unapologetic about it."

Hummingbird holds 14 tracks that encapsulate the GRAMMY-winning singer's redemption and "true love for country music." Among them is her current single, "We Don't Fight Anymore" with Chris Stapleton, and the title track, and previously released tracks "country music made me do it", "heels over head," "my place," and "fault line." 

Peggy Gou — I Hear You

Release date: June 7

With 2023's "(It Goes Like) Nanana," DJ and singer Peggy Gou bounced from underground savant to worldwide summer queen. The single went viral on TikTok, entered charts across the globe, and led Gou to become one of the most in-demand electronic music artists in recent years — culminating with the title of first female DJ to headline Ushuaïa Ibiza.

Now, the South Korean-born, Berlin-based phenom is gearing up to release her debut LP, I Hear You, out June 7 via XL Recordings. According to a press release, the album depicts Gou "boldly claiming her voice through the kaleidoscopic lens of '90s house music." Featuring 10 tracks, it represents the "culmination of years of work," and includes the aforementioned "(It Goes Like) Nanana," 2021's "I Go," "I Believe in Love Again" with Lenny Kravitz, and lead single "1+1=11."

"I Hear You is more than just my debut album," Gou stated in the press release. "It embodies countless hours of dedication in my journey to create something timeless, and is a testament to the power of listening, to ourselves and to each other."

Bon Jovi — Forever

Release date: June 7

Rock icons Bon Jovi have been active for so long that it feels accurate to name their 16th studio album "Forever." In fact, the New Jersey band is celebrating their 40th anniversary with the release, set to drop on June 7.

"This record is a return to joy," said frontman Jon Bon Jovi in a statement. "From the writing, through the recording process, this is turn up the volume, feel good Bon Jovi." Forever follows 2020's 2020, and marks the band's first release after Bon Jovi's vocal surgery in 2022. Ushering in this new chapter, they also shared a Disney+ four-part documentary named Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story, and lofty single "Legendary."

In February of this year, Jon Bon Jovi was honored as the 2024 MusiCares Person Of The Year. The award recognized his extensive philanthropic work in a benefit gala during GRAMMY week — and granted the band yet another reason to celebrate.

The Decemberists — As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again

Release date: June 14

Following a six-year hiatus, The Decemberists are back with their ninth record, As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again. The double-LP holds 13 tracks that are split into four thematic sides, and features guest appearances from The Shins' James Mercer and R.E.M.'s Mike Mills.

After sharing the opener and lead single, "Burial Ground," the folk rock band from Portland, Oregon, shared the 19-minute prog closer "Joan in the Garden," which was inspired by the story of Joan of Arc — and ultimately teased As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again will have many musical layers. 

"I wanted to make my own version of Joan," vocalist Colin Meloy said in a press release. "But the song that came was as much about the creative process as it was about the actual woman, about angelic visitation and creative visitation and the hallucinogenic quality of both."

Last month, The Decemberists announced a lengthy North American summer tour, starting on April 30 in Kingston, New York, and wrapping it up with a special hometown show on Aug. 3 in Troutdale, Oregon. 

Normani — Dopamine

Release date: June 14

Since her highly addictive 2019 hit, "Motivation," Normani has kept fans on the tip of their toes for a solo debut LP. She even turned their questioning into a website: wheresthedamnalbum.com. At last, the wait is finally over: after five long years, Dopamine will come out on June 14.

The album is spearheaded by lead single "1:59," which features rapper Gunna and blooms with late '90s R&B inspiration. Normani also shared a sultry album teaser, "Dopamine (First Dose)," which features a snippet of her latest release from the album, the airy "Candy Paint."

"The album feels like liberation, like a season of freedom," said the former Fifth Harmony member in an interview for WhoWhatWear earlier this year. "Not just because the record is finally coming out, but because it's a celebration of everything I have been through to get to this moment … I know I needed time, experiences, and space coming out of [Fifth Harmony] in order to become the version of myself I needed to be."

Peso Pluma — Éxodo

Release date: June 20

Almost exactly a year after releasing his third studio album, Génesis, Mexican star Peso Pluma follows his GRAMMY-winning LP by doubling down. Éxodo, his fourth studio effort, is a double album comprising 24 tracks — 16 corridos tumbados, 8 urbano songs — and a stellar guest list featuring Cardi B, Rich the Kid and Quavo, Anitta, and more.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Pluma stated that this album will confront more directly the negative press that surrounds him. "[On Génesis] people already saw the good side, the superhero side. But I think this year, they're going to know a darker side," he added.

He's previewed Éxodo through seven tracks so far, including "LA DURANGO" with Junior H and Eslabón Armado, "Rompe La Dompe" also with Junior H and Oscar Maydon, and "LA PEOPLE II" with Tito Double P and Joel de la P. Pluma is currently on a massive arena tour throughout the U.S., set to conclude on October 11 in Montville, Connecticut.

Gracie Abrams — The Secret of Us

Release date: June 21

Sixteen months after releasing her debut album, Good Riddance, GRAMMY-nominated singer Gracie Abrams is already back with her second LP, The Secret of Us. Set to drop on June 21, the project holds 13 tracks and is led by the lively pop and sharp lyrics of "Risk."

The single was co-written by Abrams and her childhood best friend, Audrey Hobert, and co-produced by Abrams and The National's Aaron Dessner (who helmed the production of Good Riddance). On Instagram, Abrams shared that she and her team "had real, true fun writing this album," but that "there were also the occasional tears." The raspy-voiced star also revealed The Secret's track list, which includes a collaboration with Taylor Swift in the track "us."

Abrams opened several dates of Swift's The Eras Tour in 2023. She'll celebrate her new album later this year by returning to the Eras Tour lineup, joining Swift again for the final North American shows in October, November and December. 

Lake Street Dive — Good Together

Release date: June 21

"The ethos of Good Together can be described as 'joyful rebellion,' just as energetic and danceable as it is defiantly principled," reads a press release on Lake Street Dive's upcoming record. Produced by Mike Elizondo, the album's main goal is to "highlight our shared humanity" through the quintet's dynamic, genre-bending compositions.

"There's a lot to be angry about in the world right now, a lot of pain and rage and divisiveness, but it isn't sustainable to constantly live in that anger — you need something else to keep you going," drummer Mike Calabrese said in a statement. "Joy is a great way to sustain yourself, and we wanted to encourage everyone to stay aware of that. In a way this album is our way of saying, 'Take your joy very seriously.'" A glimpse of those feelings appear in the laid-back album singles "Better Not Tell You" and the title track.

Lake Dive Street have also announced the biggest world tour of the band's career, kicking off its North American leg on June 14 in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and wrapping on October 12 in Atlanta, Georgia. In January 2025, they head on to Europe and the U.K.

Kehlani — Crash

Release date: June 21

It's already summer in Kehlani's world — or at least this is what their single "After Hours" feels like. Marking the Californian singer's first release since 2022's Blue Water Road, "After Hours" samples Cordel "Scatta" Burrell's "Coolie Dance Riddim" and sets expectations high for their upcoming record, Crash.

While little else is known about the album, Kehlani has been teasing bits and pieces of it on social media. She also released a second track, a booming dedication to a loved one called "Next 2 U," which Kehlani declared is "my favorite one" from the album.

Though Kehlani has yet to announce a coinciding tour for Crash, she'll play three shows at LIV Nightclub Las Vegas, in the Fontainebleau hotel. The first took place on May 31 — just hours after "Next 2 U" arrived — and the other two are on July 21 and Aug. 2.

Camila Cabello — C,XOXO

Release date: June 28

Another Fifth Harmony alum will make a comeback this month: Camila Cabello is set to release her fourth album, C,XOXO, on June 28. The LP marks a new sonic and visual era for the Cuban-born, Miami-based artist, and its inaugural mark came in the form of platinum blonde locks.

"The voice that I found with my new album has this big baddie energy vibe," Cabello explained in a recent Billboard cover story. "Part of that spirit is taking risks, not giving a f— and doing whatever you want. I think the blonde was me staying true to that feeling." The first single off the project, "I LUV IT" with Playboi Carti, displays how this fearless persona takes shape through hyperpop synths and a sample from Gucci Mane's "Lemonade."

Cabello also realized that this LP was a love letter to the city of Miami. "So much of the inspiration for this album was driving, listening to music, rolling the windows down and hearing what people in the city are listening to," she added. Among its collaborators are names like City Girls ("DADE COUNTY DREAMING"), Lil Nas X ("HE KNOWS"), and Drake, who features on "HOT UPTOWN" and "UUUGLY."

Imagine Dragons — Loom

Release date: June 28

Upon announcing Imagine Dragons' upcoming album, Loom, vocalist Dan Reynolds shared on Instagram that "working on this record was a rollercoaster." As he explained, "some days the songs came from a place of sadness and heartache and others joy and jubilance."

A press release further elaborated that the quartet's sixth LP will "represent the pinnacle of their artistic journey of self-discovery," while also balancing their familiar sounds with fresh ones. Through nine tracks, including lead single "Eyes Closed," Loom intends to symbolize "new beginnings on the horizon, the excitement for a new day, moments yet to come." As Reynolds added in his Instagram post, "may the things that loom in the future and distance be a beautiful tapestry of joy and pain that you can hang on your wall to reflect on as life passes us by."

The festive vibes will extend throughout the year, as the Las Vegas outfit just announced a world tour, which kicks off on July 30 in Camden, New Jersey. So far, they will stop through multiple cities in the U.S. and Canada through Oct. 22, but international dates are expected for 2025.

Omar Apollo — God Said No

Release date: June 28

"I gave it my everything," Omar Apollo said in a press release. "And God said 'no.'" Fortunately, the singer wasn't talking about crafting his sophomore LP, God Said No, but rather what led him to do it.

The 14-track record is described as "a survey of the emotional wreckage that followed the end of a torrid love affair," and was partially recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London. To process his grief, Apollo spent three months in the British city, and soon began to shape his most "soul-bearing and immediate body of work" so far.

In addition to vulnerable singles "Spite" and "Dispose of Me," Apollo also collaborated with musician Mustafa on "Plane Trees," and confirmed a participation by actor Pedro Pascal in an unspecified track — likely to be his namesake, "Pedro."

Lupe Fiasco — Samurai

Release date: June 28

Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco is gearing up to release his ninth studio album, Samurai. Entirely produced by longtime collaborator Soundtrakk (who also produced Fiasco's previous effort, 2022's Drill Music In Zion), the record is "smooth, yet cerebral, brimming with ideas," according to a press release. It is also one of Fiasco's most personal works to date: "The album weaves things from my life as an artist, touching on things other artists go through," he said in a statement.

Samurai's eight tracks accompany the narrative of a battle rapper's career, from first honing his skills until mastering his craft. "Before rap even, martial arts was my whole life, and it still plays a huge role in my life," Fiasco added. "The overall themes of the album speak to the constant fight and the battle one goes through being in the entertainment industry. Some of the things we need to defend."

As for the title, Fiasco shared that "the word 'samurai' means to serve," and that his relationship to the word "meant that you need to be at the service of other people, either in the overall community, or in this instance, the rap community at large that I've been a part of for years."

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Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
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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Franc Moody
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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billy idol living legend
Billy Idol

Photo: Steven Sebring

interview

Living Legends: Billy Idol On Survival, Revival & Breaking Out Of The Cage

"One foot in the past and one foot into the future," Billy Idol says, describing his decade-spanning career in rock. "We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol."

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:19 pm

Living Legends is a series that spotlights icons in music still going strong today. This week, GRAMMY.com spoke with Billy Idol about his latest EP,  Cage, and continuing to rock through decades of changing tastes.

Billy Idol is a true rock 'n' roll survivor who has persevered through cultural shifts and personal struggles. While some may think of Idol solely for "Rebel Yell" and "White Wedding," the singer's musical influences span genres and many of his tunes are less turbo-charged than his '80s hits would belie.  

Idol first made a splash in the latter half of the '70s with the British punk band Generation X. In the '80s, he went on to a solo career combining rock, pop, and punk into a distinct sound that transformed him and his musical partner, guitarist Steve Stevens, into icons. They have racked up multiple GRAMMY nominations, in addition to one gold, one double platinum, and four platinum albums thanks to hits like "Cradle Of Love," "Flesh For Fantasy," and "Eyes Without A Face." 

But, unlike many legacy artists, Idol is anything but a relic. Billy continues to produce vital Idol music by collaborating with producers and songwriters — including Miley Cyrus — who share his forward-thinking vision. He will play a five-show Vegas residency in November, and filmmaker Jonas Akerlund is working on a documentary about Idol’s life. 

His latest release is Cage, the second in a trilogy of annual four-song EPs. The title track is a classic Billy Idol banger expressing the desire to free himself from personal constraints and live a better life. Other tracks on Cage incorporate metallic riffing and funky R&B grooves. 

Idol continues to reckon with his demons — they both grappled with addiction during the '80s — and the singer is open about those struggles on the record and the page. (Idol's 2014 memoir Dancing With Myself, details a 1990 motorcycle accident that nearly claimed a leg, and how becoming a father steered him to reject hard drugs. "Bitter Taste," from his last EP, The Roadside, reflects on surviving the accident.)

Although Idol and Stevens split in the late '80s — the skilled guitarist fronted Steve Stevens & The Atomic Playboys, and collaborated with Michael Jackson, Rick Ocasek, Vince Neil, and Harold Faltermeyer (on the GRAMMY-winning "Top Gun Anthem") —  their common history and shared musical bond has been undeniable. The duo reunited in 2001 for an episode of "VH1 Storytellers" and have been back in the saddle for two decades. Their union remains one of the strongest collaborations in rock 'n roll history.

While there is recognizable personnel and a distinguishable sound throughout a lot of his work, Billy Idol has always pushed himself to try different things. Idol discusses his musical journey, his desire to constantly move forward, and the strong connection that he shares with Stevens. 

Steve has said that you like to mix up a variety of styles, yet everyone assumes you're the "Rebel Yell"/"White Wedding" guy. But if they really listen to your catalog, it's vastly different.

Yeah, that's right. With someone like Steve Stevens, and then back in the day Keith Forsey producing... [Before that] Generation X actually did move around inside punk rock. We didn't stay doing just the Ramones two-minute music. We actually did a seven-minute song. [Laughs]. We did always mix things up. 

Then when I got into my solo career, that was the fun of it. With someone like Steve, I knew what he could do. I could see whatever we needed to do, we could nail it. The world was my oyster musically. 

"Cage" is a classic-sounding Billy Idol rocker, then "Running From The Ghost" is almost metal, like what the Devil's Playground album was like back in the mid-2000s. "Miss Nobody" comes out of nowhere with this pop/R&B flavor. What inspired that?

We really hadn't done anything like that since something like "Flesh For Fantasy" [which] had a bit of an R&B thing about it. Back in the early days of Billy Idol, "Hot In The City" and "Mony Mony" had girls [singing] on the backgrounds. 

We always had a bit of R&B really, so it was actually fun to revisit that. We just hadn't done anything really quite like that for a long time. That was one of the reasons to work with someone like Sam Hollander [for the song "Rita Hayworth"] on The Roadside. We knew we could go [with him] into an R&B world, and he's a great songwriter and producer. That's the fun of music really, trying out these things and seeing if you can make them stick. 

I listen to new music by veteran artists and debate that with some people. I'm sure you have those fans that want their nostalgia, and then there are some people who will embrace the newer stuff. Do you find it’s a challenge to reach people with new songs?

Obviously, what we're looking for is, how do we somehow have one foot in the past and one foot into the future? We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol. 

You want to do things that are true to you, and you don't just want to try and do things that you're seeing there in the charts today. I think that we're achieving it with things like "Running From The Ghost" and "Cage" on this new EP. I think we’re managing to do both in a way. 

**Obviously, "Running From The Ghost" is about addiction, all the stuff that you went through, and in "Cage" you’re talking about  freeing yourself from a lot of personal shackles. Was there any one moment in your life that made you really thought I have to not let this weigh me down anymore?**

I mean, things like the motorcycle accident I had, that was a bit of a wake up call way back. It was 32 years ago. But there were things like that, years ago, that gradually made me think about what I was doing with my life. I didn't want to ruin it, really. I didn't want to throw it away, and it made [me] be less cavalier. 

I had to say to myself, about the drugs and stuff, that I've been there and I've done it. There’s no point in carrying on doing it. You couldn't get any higher. You didn't want to throw your life away casually, and I was close to doing that. It took me a bit of time, but then gradually I was able to get control of myself to a certain extent [with] drugs and everything. And I think Steve's done the same thing. We're on a similar path really, which has been great because we're in the same boat in terms of lyrics and stuff. 

So a lot of things like that were wake up calls. Even having grandchildren and just watching my daughter enlarging her family and everything; it just makes you really positive about things and want to show a positive side to how you're feeling, about where you're going. We've lived with the demons so long, we've found a way to live with them. We found a way to be at peace with our demons, in a way. Maybe not completely, but certainly to where we’re enjoying what we do and excited about it.

[When writing] "Running From The Ghost" it was easy to go, what was the ghost for us? At one point, we were very drug addicted in the '80s. And Steve in particular is super sober [now]. I mean, I still vape pot and stuff. I don’t know how he’s doing it, but it’s incredible. All I want to be able to do is have a couple of glasses of wine at a restaurant or something. I can do that now.

I think working with people that are super talented, you just feel confident. That is a big reason why you open up and express yourself more because you feel comfortable with what's around you.

Did you watch Danny Boyle's recent Sex Pistols mini-series?

I did, yes.

You had a couple of cameos; well, an actor who portrayed you did. How did you react to it? How accurate do you think it was in portraying that particular time period?

I love Jonesy’s book, I thought his book was incredible. It's probably one of the best bio books really. It was incredible and so open. I was looking forward to that a lot.

It was as if [the show] kind of stayed with Steve [Jones’ memoir] about halfway through, and then departed from it. [John] Lydon, for instance, was never someone I ever saw acting out; he's more like that today. I never saw him do something like jump up in the room and run around going crazy. The only time I saw him ever do that was when they signed the recording deal with Virgin in front of Buckingham Palace. Whereas Sid Vicious was always acting out; he was always doing something in a horrible way or shouting at someone. I don't remember John being like that. I remember him being much more introverted.

But then I watched interviews with some of the actors about coming to grips with the parts they were playing. And they were saying, we knew punk rock happened but just didn't know any of the details. So I thought well, there you go. If ["Pistol" is]  informing a lot of people who wouldn't know anything about punk rock, maybe that's what's good about it.

Maybe down the road John Lydon will get the chance to do John's version of the Pistols story. Maybe someone will go a lot deeper into it and it won't be so surface. But maybe you needed this just to get people back in the flow.

We had punk and metal over here in the States, but it feels like England it was legitimately more dangerous. British society was much more rigid.

It never went [as] mega in America. It went big in England. It exploded when the Pistols did that interview with [TV host Bill] Grundy, that lorry truck driver put his boot through his own TV, and all the national papers had "the filth and the fury" [headlines].

We went from being unknown to being known overnight. We waited a year, Generation X. We even told them [record labels] no for nine months to a year. Every record company wanted their own punk rock group. So it went really mega in England, and it affected the whole country – the style, the fashions, everything. I mean, the Ramones were massive in England. Devo had a No. 1 song [in England] with "Satisfaction" in '77. Actually, Devo was as big as or bigger than the Pistols.

You were ahead of the pop-punk thing that happened in the late '90s, and a lot of it became tongue-in-cheek by then. It didn't have the same sense of rebelliousness as the original movement. It was more pop.

It had become a style. There was a famous book in England called Revolt Into Style — and that's what had happened, a revolt that turned into style which then they were able to duplicate in their own way. Even recently, Billie Joe [Armstrong] did his own version of "Gimme Some Truth," the Lennon song we covered way back in 1977.

When we initially were making [punk] music, it hadn't become accepted yet. It was still dangerous and turned into a style that people were used to. We were still breaking barriers.

You have a band called Generation Sex with Steve Jones and Paul Cook. I assume you all have an easier time playing Pistols and Gen X songs together now and not worrying about getting spit on like back in the '70s?

Yeah, definitely. When I got to America I told the group I was putting it together, "No one spits at the audience."

We had five years of being spat on [in the UK], and it was revolting. And they spat at you if they liked you. If they didn't like it they smashed your gear up. One night, I remember I saw blood on my T-shirt, and I think Joe Strummer got meningitis when spit went in his mouth.

You had to go through a lot to become successful, it wasn't like you just kind of got up there and did a couple of gigs. I don't think some young rock bands really get that today.

With punk going so mega in England, we definitely got a leg up. We still had a lot of work to get where we got to, and rightly so because you find out that you need to do that. A lot of groups in the old days would be together three to five years before they ever made a record, and that time is really important. In a way, what was great about punk rock for me was it was very much a learning period. I really learned a lot [about] recording music and being in a group and even writing songs.

Then when I came to America, it was a flow, really. I also really started to know what I wanted Billy Idol to be. It took me a little bit, but I kind of knew what I wanted Billy Idol to be. And even that took a while to let it marinate.

You and Miley Cyrus have developed a good working relationship in the last several years. How do you think her fans have responded to you, and your fans have responded to her?

I think they're into it. It's more the record company that she had didn't really get "Night Crawling"— it was one of the best songs on Plastic Hearts, and I don't think they understood that. They wanted to go with Dua Lipa, they wanted to go with the modern, young acts, and I don't think they realized that that song was resonating with her fans. Which is a shame really because, with Andrew Watt producing, it's a hit song.

But at the same time, I enjoyed doing it. It came out really good and it's very Billy Idol. In fact, I think it’s more Billy Idol than Miley Cyrus. I think it shows you where Andrew Watt was. He was excited about doing a Billy Idol track. She's fun to work with. She’s a really great person and she works at her singing — I watched her rehearsing for the Super Bowl performance she gave. She rehearsed all Saturday morning, all Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning and it was that afternoon. I have to admire her fortitude. She really cares.

I remember when you went on "Viva La Bamback in 2005 and decided to give Bam Margera’s Lamborghini a new sunroof by taking a power saw to it. Did he own that car? Was that a rental?

I think it was his car.

Did he get over it later on?

He loved it. [Laughs] He’s got a wacky sense of humor. He’s fantastic, actually. I’m really sorry to see what he's been going through just lately. He's going through a lot, and I wish him the best. He's a fantastic person, and it's a shame that he's struggling so much with his addictions. I know what it's like. It's not easy.

Musically, what is the synergy like with you guys during the past 10 years, doing Kings and Queens of the Underground and this new stuff? What is your working relationship like now in this more sober, older, mature version of you two as opposed to what it was like back in the '80s?

In lots of ways it’s not so different because we always wrote the songs together, we always talked about what we're going to do together. It was just that we were getting high at the same time.We're just not getting [that way now] but we're doing all the same things.

We're still talking about things, still [planning] things:What are we going to do next? How are we going to find new people to work with? We want to find new producers. Let's be a little bit more timely about putting stuff out.That part of our relationship is the same, you know what I mean? That never got affected. We just happened to be overloading in the '80s.

The relationship’s… matured and it's carrying on being fruitful, and I think that's pretty amazing. Really, most people don't get to this place. Usually, they hate each other by now. [Laughs] We also give each other space. We're not stopping each other doing things outside of what we’re working on together. All of that enables us to carry on working together. I love and admire him. I respect him. He's been fantastic. I mean, just standing there on stage with him is always a treat. And he’s got an immensely great sense of humor. I think that's another reason why we can hang together after all this time because we've got the sense of humor to enable us to go forward.

There's a lot of fan reaction videos online, and I noticed a lot of younger women like "Rebel Yell" because, unlike a lot of other '80s alpha male rock tunes, you're talking about satisfying your lover.

It was about my girlfriend at the time, Perri Lister. It was about how great I thought she was, how much I was in love with her, and how great women are, how powerful they are.

It was a bit of a feminist anthem in a weird way. It was all about how relationships can free you and add a lot to your life. It was a cry of love, nothing to do with the Civil War or anything like that. Perri was a big part of my life, a big part of being Billy Idol. I wanted to write about it. I'm glad that's the effect.

Is there something you hope people get out of the songs you've been doing over the last 10 years? Do you find yourself putting out a message that keeps repeating?

Well, I suppose, if anything, is that you can come to terms with your life, you can keep a hold of it. You can work your dreams into reality in a way and, look, a million years later, still be enjoying it.

The only reason I'm singing about getting out of the cage is because I kicked out of the cage years ago. I joined Generation X when I said to my parents, "I'm leaving university, and I'm joining a punk rock group." And they didn't even know what a punk rock group was. Years ago, I’d write things for myself that put me on this path, so that maybe in 2022 I could sing something like "Cage" and be owning this territory and really having a good time. This is the life I wanted.

The original UK punk movement challenged societal norms. Despite all the craziness going on throughout the world, it seems like a lot of modern rock bands are afraid to do what you guys were doing. Do you think we'll see a shift in that?

Yeah.  Art usually reacts to things, so I would think eventually there will be a massive reaction to the pop music that’s taken over — the middle of the road music, and then this kind of right wing politics. There will be a massive reaction if there's not already one. I don’t know where it will come from exactly. You never know who's gonna do [it].

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