Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for MRC
2021 In Review: 8 Trends That Defined Rock
It isn't just not dead; it's thriving. In 2021, rock became less male, less straight, more genre-fluid and further enshrined modern-day elders — all with a healthy reverence for the past
By the looks of the 2022 GRAMMY nominations, rock in 2021 was about looking backward.
There's some credence to this idea: AC/DC, Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney, Wolfgang Van Halen, Weezer, Kings of Leon and the late Chris Cornell had banner years. Even Black Pumas' twice-nominated Capitol Cuts was something of another permutation of their 2019 self-titled debut — to say nothing of their retro-soul sound. But the real story is more complicated than that.
Beneath the stratum of these legacy acts (and, in Black Pumas' case, an up-and-comer), rock expanded in a multitude of directions. For one, the idea of it being a straight, white male's game was put to pasture: women singer/songwriters from Olivia Rodrigo to Lucy Dacus — as well as a host of acclaimed LGBTQ+ artists — took the wheel.
And when it comes to the sound of rock in 2021, things got more exciting than inclusion alone. Just beneath the mainstream and big-box indie, Turnstile blended floor-punching hardcore with wavy R&B and electronic textures, thanks in part to forward-thinking guest Dev Hynes, a.k.a. Blood Orange. Hardcore-adjacent bands like Fiddlehead and Militarie Gun wove the angular indie and emo of the '90s into their strongest songs to date.
Certainly, some cultural currents from prior years washed into 2021's rock sphere — namely, classic rock proving as sturdy as ever, pop-punk and emo riding high and Foo Fighters saturating all media. But here are a few other happenings more-or-less squarely in the province of 2021.
Women Stepped Forward
Most importantly, their perspectives were front and center. And while Olivia Rodrigo's Sour was saturated in heterosexual breakup woes, women wrote songs about everything this year, from grief to joy to sobriety to solitude.
If the Bechdel test — which ascertains whether a work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man — applied to guitar-based music, 2021 would pass with flying colors.
Representation Expanded Beyond Gender
Two-thirds of rising pop-punk trio Meet Me @ The Altar — who released their Fueled By Ramen debut, an EP titled Model Citizen, in August — identify as LGBTQ+, but that's hardly where queer representation in 2021 rock ended.
Snail Mail's Lindsey Jordan, who is openly gay, put out her acclaimed album Valentine. St. Vincent's Annie Clark, who once said "I don't really identify as anything," released Daddy's Home to widespread praise.
And Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner, who is bisexual, had a massive year with her new album, Jubilee — which contained the hit single "Be Sweet" — and bestselling memoir, Crying in H Mart.
Plus, the half-Asian, half-Latinx, all-female band the Linda Lindas (of "Racist Sexist Boy" fame) signed to Epitaph Records in 2021 — which bodes well for a women-first 2022 in punk.
The Old Became New
On Glow On, Turnstile interpolated Sly and the Family Stone lyrics and their aforementioned punk peers whipped up a noise akin to Unwound or Sunny Day Real Estate. But those and other bands didn't just dig around in music's past; they made sounds from the past new again.
Across the pond, English duo Royal Blood's Typhoons brought back a bass-and-drums stomp reminiscent of the White Stripes or Death From Above 1979, reminding listeners the world over that rock is rightfully dance music.
They're not the only ones mining the past to new ends — a tidal wave of nervy bands in the U.K., like Squid, Dry Cleaning and Fontaines D.C., are recalling the sounds of post-punkers like Wire and the Fall.
Plus, Olivia Rodrigo's interpolation of Paramore's "Misery Business" into megahit "Good 4 U" showed the new guard is bringing back Myspace-era emo. (Machine Gun Kelly did a lot to weave that connection, as evidenced with his successful 2020 album Tickets To My Downfall.)
International Sounds Resonated
Måneskin's ascent in 2021 seemed to come out of nowhere.
Led by conspicuously codpieced singer Damiano David, the Italian rock band managed to lodge Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' 1967 hit "Beggin'" into youngsters' imaginations via a big win at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest and, eventually, TikTok virality. This year, they dropped their second album, Teatro d'ira: Vol. I, to critical applause.
And the year-end critics' polls featured another geographic outlier: Nigerian guitarist Mdou Moctar's new album Afrique Victime burned an indelible impression of Tuareg desert-blues into rock fans' consciousnesses.
Genres Became Elastic
Weezer tested the boundaries of their tried-and-true power-pop on 2021's OK Human, and it paid off — especially on the single "All My Favorite Songs," which swapped buzzsaw guitars for chamber orchestration.
There's also a separate discussion to be had about how emo — originally a rock subgenre — has come to subsume almost everything from hip-hop to pop to trap, from Juice WRLD to The Kid Laroi and beyond. (Pop-punk, its sister style, turns up in K-pop bands like ENHYPEN and Tomorrow x Together, too.)
A whole article could be dedicated to Glass Animals' genre fluidity — something they've been known for since their start with 2014's Zaba. But their psychedelic smash, "Heat Waves," launched the UK indie-rock group onto pop radio and beyond.
The track made Glass Animals arguably 2021's biggest rock success and scored them their first hit on the Billboard Hot 100, where it reached No. 7. (Spin its parent album, 2020's Dreamland, and Glass Animals' 2021 single, "I Don't Wanna Talk [I Just Wanna Dance]" for several other permutations of their sound-bending stylings.)
Finally — to bring up Turnstile's Glow On one more time — has a hardcore album ever veered so close to Arthur Russell or PinkPantheress territory without betraying its roots?
Bands Embraced Traditional Song Structures
Is this exactly a 2021 rock phenomenon? Maybe not, but it arguably reached a new apex this year.
After years of "vibes" in indie rock — from slacker-songwriters like early WAVVES and Best Coast to the noise storms of No Age and Bass Drum of Death — it seems like songs are back in style.
Check out pretty much any of the 2021 offerings cited above — they offer verses, choruses, bridges and/or legible lyrics. Is it possible that while textures and references are an integral part of memorable songs, listeners are demanding a little more meat to the bone?
A Rock Veteran Mentored The Next Gen
After high-profile collaborations with Post Malone and Machine Gun Kelly in 2020, he partly spent 2021 mentoring the 24-year-old rocker KennyHoopla (the pair collaborated on SURVIVOR'S GUILT: THE MIXTAPE) and helping Willow Smith transition from alt-R&B to pop-punk by featuring on three cuts from her album lately i feel EVERYTHING.
In addition, he hopped on tracks with MOD SUN and grandson, and furthered the emo rap craze with features on songs from blackbear, Trippie Redd, Sueco, LILHUDDY, and Jack Kays, among others.
The rock veteran also helped a fellow longtime punk star begin a new chapter, too: Barker signed Avril Lavigne to his label, DTA Records, in November, also featuring on her first single on the imprint, "Bite Me."
These Rock Heroes Saturated Everything
Grohl was just about everywhere this year. Not only did Foo Fighters release their 10th studio album, Medicine at Midnight; they performed at Biden's inauguration, entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received the first-ever global icon award at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards. (Plus: a bestselling memoir, an upcoming horror-comedy… the list goes on.)
If it's possible to ascertain a future classic rock artist, Grohl is probably your safest bet. And even if Foo Fighters want to take it easy after such a whirlwind year, the irrepressibly enthusiastic hitmaker clearly isn't going anywhere in this decade.
Photos: Image from TiVO; Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen; Prince Williams/WireImage; SAMIR HUSSEIN/WIREIMAGE; Arturo Holmes/Getty Images; Image from TiVO; Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Here Are The Song Of The Year Nominees At The 2024 GRAMMYs
The eight nominees for Song Of The Year at the 2024 GRAMMYs are hits from some of music’s biggest names: Lana Del Rey, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Jon Batiste, Taylor Swift, SZA and Dua Lipa.
The Song Of The Year GRAMMY Award honors the best releases in the music business, and the eight nominees for the golden gramophone at the 2024 GRAMMYs come from a variety of established singer/songwriters. From dance anthems to pop bops, ballads and R&B smashes, the nominees for Song Of The Year showcase the breadth of emotions of the past year.
Before tuning into the 2024 GRAMMYs on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, learn more about this year's Song Of The Year nominees below.
"A&W" - Lana Del Rey
Songwriters: Jack Antonoff, Lana Del Rey & Sam Dew
The second single from her ninth studio album, Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, "A&W" is a refreshing addition to Lana Del Rey’s expansive discography.
Another shattered portrait of the American Dream, the seven-minute epic, oscillates from madness to exhaustion, as Del Rey described feeling burned out by being objectified and perceived as an "American whore." What begins as a psychedelic folk ballad erupts into a defiant trap number interpolated with a doo-wop standard by the four-minute mark of the chaotic number.
"I’m a princess, I’m divisive/Ask me why I’m like this/Maybe I just kinda like this," Del Rey anxiously warbles. Later, she expresses her resignation surrounding rape culture: "If I told you that I was raped/ Do you really think that anybody would think/ I didn't ask for it? I didn't ask for it/ I won't testify, I already f—ed up my story."
"Anti-Hero" - Taylor Swift
Songwriters: Jack Antonoff & Taylor Swift
"Anti-Hero" showcased a new side of Taylor Swift — a rare moment where the 33-year-old pop star confronted her flaws in the public eye.
"I really don’t think I’ve delved this far into my insecurities in this detail before," Swift said of the track in an Instagram video. "Not to sound too dark, but, like, I just struggle with the idea of not feeling like a person."
The self-loathing synth-pop anthem — with its cheeky chorus — catapulted "Anti Hero" into virality. With its ubiquitous meaning, the song topped charts and became a staple of pop radio. Now, it’s enjoying the highest praise as a contender for Song Of The Year.
"Butterfly" - Jon Batiste
Songwriters: Jon Batiste & Dan Wilson
Beyond its sound, what makes Jon Batiste’s "Butterfly" so stunning is the story behind it. The touching jazz-soul fusion track is an iteration of the lullabies Batiste penned while his wife Suleika Jaouad was hospitalized during her cancer treatment.
"It’s just such a personal narrative song in relation to my life and what my family has gone through and my wife and all of the things she’s been able to overcome," the 36-year-old GRAMMY winner told PEOPLE.
"Butterfly" is featured on Batiste's latest album, World Music Radio. Like much of his discography, "Butterfly" is inherently uplifting but there’s an underlying yearning for freedom. "Butterfly in the air/ Where you can fly anywhere/ A sight beyond compare," Batiste croons over stripped-down keys.
"Dance The Night" (From Barbie The Album) - Dua Lipa
Songwriters: Caroline Ailin, Dua Lipa, Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt
With the release of her pop-funk epic Future Nostalgia during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dua Lipa proved she could master the art of escapism. On "Dance The Night," a thrilling dance-pop number from the star-studded Barbie soundtrack, she channels that same inspiration with a side of glitter and glam.
"Greta said that the whole film was inspired by disco. There’s a lot of very glittery and pop moments in it," the 28-year-old singer said of how the track fits into the movie in an interview with Dazed.
Over a sleek synth, the pop star reflects the unwavering joy Barbie outwardly emanates while she’s crumbling inside: "Even when the tears are flowin' like diamonds on my face/I'll still keep the party goin', not one hair out of place (yes, I can)."
"Flowers" - Miley Cyrus
Songwriters: Miley Cyrus, Gregory Aldae Hein & Michael Pollack
Miley Cyrus has perfected the art of reinventing herself. With the post-breakup number "Flowers," she reclaimed her independence and took a hard turn from gritty rock back into pop music. "I can take myself dancing, yeah/ I can hold my own hand/ Yeah, I can love me better than you can," she belts over a disco-pop beat.
While the 30-year-old musician wouldn’t share if "Flowers" was indeed about her ex-husband Liam Hemsworth, the song became an empowering earworm from a more refined version of the longtime musician.
"The song is a little fake it till you make it," she said of "Flowers" in an interview with British Vogue. "Which I’m a big fan of." It turns out she made it with a nomination for Song Of The Year at the 2024 GRAMMY Awards.
"Kill Bill" - SZA
Songwriters: Rob Bisel, Carter Lang & Solána Rowe
On the psychedelic R&B groove of "Kill Bill," which references the legendary Quentin Tarantino film, SZA dreams up her own unfiltered revenge fantasy. "I might kill my ex / Not the best idea / His new girlfriend's next / How'd I get here?" she ponders over an airy melody.
The song stands out on the R&B singer’s latest album, SOS, for not only its cheeky wordplay but for how visceral she portrayed the devastation of a breakup.
Despite its popularity, the 34-year-old singer initially thought one of the other songs on her 23-track album would have topped the charts. "It's always a song that I don't give a f— about that's just super easy, not the s— that I put so much heart and energy into. 'Kill Bill' was super easy — one take, one night," the singer told Billboard of "Kill Bill’s" success.
"Vampire" - Olivia Rodrigo
Songwriters: Daniel Nigro & Olivia Rodrigo
Like her explosive debut "Drivers License," Olivia Rodrigo opted for a swelling power ballad for the lead single of her sophomore album Guts. On "Vampire," the singer/songwriter recalls a parasitic relationship with a swelling power ballad that erupts into a booming guitar breakdown. "Bloodsucker, famef—er/ Bleedin' me dry, like a goddamn vampire," she sings with a bitter lilt.
While many speculated the song was about a toxic relationship, Rodrigo claimed it’s more nuanced than that. "It’s more about my regret and kind of beating myself up for doing something that I knew wasn’t gonna turn out great and kind of just taking ownership of that and dealing with those feelings," she told Sirius XM Hits 1.
Regardless, the 20-year-old artist turned something bitter into something sweet by landing a Song Of The Year nomination.
"What Was I Made For?" [From The Motion Picture "Barbie"] - Billie Eilish
Songwriters: Billie Eilish O'Connell & Finneas O'Connell
Not only was the Barbie movie a massive hit, its soundtrack was, too, thanks to a slew of chart-topping artists including Dua Lipa, HAIM and Sam Smith. So it’s no surprise that Billie Eilish made that list as well, and delivered a gutting ballad that soundtracked one of the most heartbreaking moments of the film.
The wistful single, which arrives at the devastating realization that you’re not real and are instead meant to be consumed, aptly embodies the narrative arc of the box office smash. "Looked so alive, turns out I'm not real/ Just something you paid for/ What was I made for," the 21-year-old musician sings with a heartbreaking lilt.
While writing the sobering number, Eilish tried to embody the essence of the life-sized doll herself. "I was purely inspired by this movie and this character and the way I thought she would feel, and wrote about that," she told Zane Lowe of Apple Music.
The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.
The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy’s Voting Membership.
Photos: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen; Image from TiVO;Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images; Paras Griffin/Getty Images for BET;Arturo Holmes/Getty Images; Image from TiVO;Prince Williams/WireImage; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Here Are The Record Of The Year Nominees At The 2024 GRAMMYs
The 2024 Record Of The Year nominees at the 2024 GRAMMYs are hits from some of music’s biggest names Jon Batiste, boygenius, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish & FINNEAS, Victoria Monét, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift and SZA.
Throughout the past year, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo and Taylor Swift delivered inescapable pop anthems, while Victoria Monét and SZA proved that R&B deserves a place in the spotlight. Jon Batiste continued to evolve his artistry, while indie supergroup boygenius made an anticipated comeback.
With so many standout moments, the golden gramophone 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 shaping up to be a thrilling contest at the 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards.
Before tuning into the 2024 GRAMMYs on Feb. 4, 2024, learn more about this year's Record Of The Year nominees below.
Jon Batiste - "Worship"
Album highlight "Worship" encapsulates the LP’s message of unification and community by fusing various global sounds. The song is quite the joyride, beginning with bellowing organs before a choir joins with a glorious harmony and finally explodes with a Latin samba party. "We are born the same / Return to that place" Batiste repeats throughout the song, driving home his inclusive mission.
"Worship" is a joyous anthem and, following his Album Of The Year win at the 2023 GRAMMYs for We Are, it’s clear the five-time GRAMMY winner is keeping the celebration going.
boygenius -"Not Strong Enough"
The LP beautifully captured just how well the women rockers work together, and their chemistry is best seen in "Not Strong Enough." The single’s lush harmonies and feather-light guitars are a contrast to the candid lyricism, which attempts to juggle insecurities and having a God complex.
"The two wolves inside us can be self-hatred and self-aggrandizing," Bridgers explained to Rolling Stone. "Being like, ‘I’m not strong enough to show up for you. I can’t be the partner that you want me to be.’ But also being like, ‘I’m too f—ed up. I’m unknowable in some deep way!’"
"Not Strong Enough" marks a career milestone for boygenius, as it's the group’s first nomination for Record Of The Year.
Miley Cyrus - "Flowers"
A truly great pop star knows how to make a break-up anthem for the ages. Miley Cyrus already had a few under her belt, but she kicked off the year with her strongest offering to date.
"Flowers" was suggested to be inspired by Cyrus’ divorce from Liam Hemsworth, but the song’s messaging goes well beyond the singer’s personal life. Many can relate to having to pick up the pieces of a broken heart, but Cyrus’ confident vocals paired with the soaring disco-inspired melody reassure that self-love is the ultimate healer.
"The chorus was originally: ‘I can buy myself flowers, write my name in the sand, but I can’t love me better than you can,’" the singer told British Vogue of the song’s original lyrics. "It used to be more, like, 1950s. The saddest song. Like: ‘Sure, I can be my own lover, but you’re so much better.’"
The subtle decision to flip the "can’t" into a "can" showcases the brilliance of Cyrus’ songwriting, which ultimately makes the meaning of "Flowers" that much more empowering.
Billie Eilish & FINNEAS - "What Was I Made For?"
The Barbie movie was arguably this year’s biggest pop culture phenomenon, so of course the soundtrack had equally big names. But among the midst of fast-paced and glittery pop songs, Billie Eilish’s contribution tugged at heartstrings. The seven-time GRAMMY winner teamed with her brother and go-to collaborator FINNEAS for "What Was I Made For?"
It’s a tender, melancholic ballad that ties in the movie’s themes of autonomy and balancing feminism in a patriarchal world, with Eilish still holding on to hope: "I don’t know how to feel / But someday I might." The song reflects a universal experience for many women, including Eilish herself — although she didn’t realize it at first.
"I was purely inspired by this movie and this character and the way I thought she would feel and wrote about that," Eilish told Zane Lowe for Apple Music 1. "Over the next couple days, I was listening and [realized] I was writing for myself and I don’t even know it." That relatability is one of the beauties of music, for listeners and artists alike.
Victoria Monét - "On My Mama"
Victoria Monét has a long songwriting history, penning hits for the likes of Brandy, BLACKPINK, Chloe x Halle and longtime friend Ariana Grande. And while she’s released solo music in the past, her debut album Jaguar II cements her place within R&B’s new crop of stars. Third single "On My Mama" took the scene by storm, bringing together millennials and Gen Z’s shared love of ‘00s nostalgia.
Sampling Chalie Boy’s 2009 song "I Look Good" and lined with Monét’s signature horns, the song is a celebration of Black southern culture. As Monét described it on "The Ebro Show" on Apple Music 1, "It’s an anthem for affirmations, positive self-talk, manifestations, living in abundance, [and] speaking things into existence."
Olivia Rodrigo - "Vampire"
What makes Olivia Rodrigo a captivating artist is her honesty. Her ability to capture her generation’s emotional nature is why 2021’s debut album Sour took pop music by storm (and also made her a three-time GRAMMY winner). And she’s continued the movement with "Vampire", the lead single from her sophomore album, Guts.
The song is a red herring of sorts, beginning with melancholic piano keys that often kickstart the singer’s tunes. But rather than shed tears, she unleashes the fury of a woman scorned, dishing out insults to a manipulative ex-lover that ripped her heart out. "Bloodsucker, famef—er / Bleedin' me dry, like a goddamn vampire" she seethes on the chorus. The best revenge is always served cold.
Taylor Swift - "Anti-Hero"
Taylor Swift has grown to be even more self-aware as her status ascends. She knows being a pop superstar comes with its challenges, and “Anti-Hero” reveals the woman behind the glitzy veil. Inspired by her nightmares, the chart-topping smash from tTaylor Swift has become even more self aware as her status ascends. She knows being a pop superstar comes with its challenges, and "Anti-Hero" reveals the woman behind the glitzy veil.
Inspired by her nightmares, the chart-topping smash from the 12-time GRAMMY winner’s tenth album Midnights is a personal journal into feelings of self-doubt and anxiety. But in natural Swift fashion, the dark lyricism is anchored by hopeful pop synths courtesy of longtime collaborator and co-producer Jack Antonoff. The video heightens the song’s themes, as Swift confronts various versions of her former selves.
"We all hate things about ourselves, and it's all of those aspects of the things we dislike and like about ourselves that we have to come to terms with if we're going to be this person," Swift shared with fans on Instagram. That refreshing honesty is what makes "Anti-Hero" one of the singer’s most successful songs to date.
SZA - "Kill Bill"
Leave it to SZA to make murder sound so sweet. On SOS standout single "Kill Bill," the singer takes a page from director Quentin Tarantino by nodding to his 2003 film, as she lives out her vengeful fantasies.
The GRAMMY winner’s raging jealousy landed "Kill Bill" atop the Billboard Hot 100, making it her first-ever solo No.1 hit. SZA brought the fatal single to life with a cinematic music video, which pays homage to Kill Bill with fierce action scenes and an appearance from Vivica A. Fox, who starred as a Deadly Viper and Thurman's enemy Vernita Green in the film.
"I've never raged the way that I should have. This is my villain era, and I'm very comfortable with that," the singer shared with Glamour about her album’s themes. "It is in the way I say no. It's in the f–ked up things that I don't apologize for." And with lyrics like "I did all of this sober" on "Kill Bill," you have no choice but to believe her.
Photos (clockwise, from top left): Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen; Image from TiVO; Mason Rose; Image from TiVO; Arturo Holmes/Getty Images; Image from TiVO; Prince Williams/WireImage; Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Here Are The Album Of The Year Nominees At The 2024 GRAMMYs
The 2024 GRAMMY nominees for Album Of The Year have arrived: Jon Batiste, boygenius, Miley Cyrus, Lana Del Rey, Janelle Monáe, Olivia Rodrigo, Taylor Swift, and SZA.
In a world dominated by singles and streaming, it's even more important for albums to be cherished and preserved. The Recording Academy celebrates albums as essential, beloved formats of artistic expression, especially in the coveted Album Of The Year Category.
From gutsy pop to psychedelic soul, the eight nominees for Album Of The Year at the 2024 GRAMMYs — which are notably dominated by women, people of color, and the queer community — are a reflection of the joyous diversity within the music community.
Below, take a deeper dive into who's in the running for Album Of The Year on Music's Biggest Night.
Jon Batiste — World Music Radio
On the opening track of World Music Radio, Jon Batiste importantly reminds listeners that music is not just a passive recreation, but an experience. Or, at least the interstellar radio host Billy Bob does.
Narrated by Billy Bob, Batiste's 21-song concept album is made to sound like it's an actual radio station; amid intermittent static and between-song messaging, the station welcomes a slew of high-profile musical guests, ranging from Lana Del Rey to NewJeans to Lil Wayne. Including everything from smooth DJ interludes to crystal-clear saxophone solos to sparkling piano riffs, World Music Radio has something for everyone within its one-hour runtime.
With five GRAMMYs under his belt — including one for Album Of The Year — Batiste understands the significance of pushing boundaries in music. Consequently, World Music Radio questions genre as much as it questions how we can make the world a more inclusive place.
According to an Instagram post, Batiste's album aims to "'re-examine and redefine terms like world music as they exist in the culture."' The "'re"' prefix is what music is all about: reliving memories, reinventing what's been done before, and redefining things we previously thought we understood. Riding the airwaves all the way to an Album Of The Year nomination, Batiste's latest visionary work reminds us to reconsider what we think we know — and then, dial in.
boygenius — the record
On the vinyl version of the record, a locked groove leaves listeners perpetually listening to a single word: "'waiting."' The lyric goes eternally unfinished.
But good things come to those who wait, and for boygenius, a year like 2023 has never made this more discernible. Less than a year after the group debuted at Coachella and embarked on not one but two tours, they're now in the running for the GRAMMY for Album Of The Year.
Skyrocketing to headliner fame this year, the indie rock supergroup composed of Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus released their debut album back in spring. Preceded only by a singular, successful EP from five years prior, the record proves itself to be very much worth the wait: chock-full of dreams of arson, $20 bills, and calls to kill the bourgeois, it froths with charisma and jocular amity.
This marks boygenius' first collective GRAMMY nomination, as well as the first nominations for Baker and Dacus. Bridgers' Punisher made her a 4-time GRAMMY nominee at the 63rd GRAMMY Awards. But it's not the group's only nod at the 2024 show — boygenius earned six nominations in total, including Record Of The Year.
What makes the record so momentous is its testament to the trio's vibrant, long-standing friendship — specifically, a companionship rooted in queerness, as well as in opposition to the idea that women in the industry should be pitted against each other. the record intensely and unmistakably feels the gravity of their organic bond, and in this way, it stands for so much more than 12 songs.
Miley Cyrus — Endless Summer Vacation
It's time to give Miley Cyrus her flowers. The GRAMMY-nominated artist already struck gold earlier this year, with her liberating lead single "'Flowers"' breaking records left and right. The track blossoms with the sweet nectar of independence, and this embrace of freedom is the heart of Endless Summer Vacation.
Her album's title denotes a perpetual stretch into eternity, but if there's one thing Cyrus is known for, it's change. Whether it's radically altering her style or switching up her aesthetic, the longtime pop queen knows that creative adaptability is one of her many strengths.
Endless Summer Vacation spotlights this versatility, from Cyrus warmly soaking up "'Violet Chemistry"' to reflecting on when she "'Used To Be Young."' Her signature gravelly drawl suits the album's disco-infused, beachy production — a major shift from the unyielding, punk rock of predecessor Plastic Hearts (2020), or the power pop-trap spotlighted on her 2019 EP, SHE IS COMING.
Notably, this marks Cyrus' first Album Of The Year nomination for her own work (she received a nod for her feature on Lil Nas X's 2021 LP Montero). The honor praises not just Endless Summer Vacation as a salient career highlight, but also applauds the singer's resilience after years of musical shapeshifting — Cyrus was due for a well-deserved vacation.
Lana Del Rey — Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd
On her ninth studio album, Lana Del Rey honors kintsugi, or the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery pieces with gold. Now, with an Album Of The Year nomination, she could be taking home GRAMMY gold.
Del Rey's last nomination in this Big Four category was for Norman Fucking Rockwell! at the 2020 GRAMMYs. While NFR! freewheeled along the West Coast, paving a soft rock landscape inspired by '70s Americana, Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd leans away from Del Rey's habitual worldbuilding. Instead, the singer let spirituality guide her music-making process, dabbling in everything from gospel to trap.
Even though Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd is Del Rey's most natural album yet, the work still feels otherworldly. Throwing caution to the wind, she delves into the multifaceted nature of her identity, candidly examining personal matters relating to religion, mortality and family.
In the same way a pottery artist might delicately approach kintsugi, Del Rey approaches making music with a keen eye and open heart. She searches for ways to sculpt beauty from flaws and fractures — after all, that's how the light gets in.
Janelle Monáe — The Age Of Pleasure
The rush of a crush, the sigh from a single touch — euphoria comes in many beautiful forms, and on her latest album, Janelle Monáe wants you to experience all of them.
The Age Of Pleasure ushers in Monáe's vision of rapture, dreamily blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. The 10-time GRAMMY-nominated artist has long defied labels, whether it be regarding genre or their personal identity, and their latest album celebrates love in all its color and fluidity.
It's all smooth sailing in The Age Of Pleasure. Soulfully, the multihyphenate singer swims through romantic R&B, plunges into funky rap, and bathes in soft pop radiance — but above all, Monáe floats. She's untroubled and unbothered, and that's more than enough to warrant raising a glass.
Monáe's nomination for Album Of The Year acknowledges not just the thrill of living a life carefree, but also celebrates the divinity of all-encompassing love. The album is more than hips and lips galore: beyond giving into passion, it's about cherishing community and, most importantly, choosing joy for yourself.
Olivia Rodrigo — GUTS
Though she's the youngest nominee on the list, Olivia Rodrigo knows she has nothing to prove.
Already a 3-time GRAMMY winner before her 20th birthday, the "'drivers license"' singer/songwriter unsurprisingly resisted the sophomore slump. On her plucky second album GUTS, she leans a little more into punkish pent-up rage than the crying-on-the-bathroom-floor heartache of her 2021 debut, SOUR — and impressively, her determination earned her a second consecutive GRAMMY nomination for Album Of The Year.
Whether her self-reflection appears in the form of piano-led balladry or pop-rock headbangers, Rodrigo tackles wilted relationships, growing pains and everything in between with her characteristically refreshing charm. From the gritty, Joan Didion-inspired "'all american b—"' to the leave-him-to-rot breakup anthem "'vampire,"' GUTS knows how to make a statement without forgetting to have a bit of fun.
Rodrigo, who won the GRAMMY for Best New Artist at the 2022 ceremony, understands the resonant power of her pen, and the singer's swift ascent to fame mirrors her swelling talent. It's already been almost two years since the smash success of "'drivers license,"' but Rodrigo isn't taking her foot off the gas.
Taylor Swift — Midnights
Best believe Taylor Swift is still bejeweled.
Of the megastar's extensive discography, Midnights might just be its crowning jewel thus far. Swift's tenth studio album dives deeper into pop experimentalism, steering away from the indie folk journeys that folklore and evermore so calmly encompassed; Midnights silhouettes the life of a beloved, high-profile "'Anti-Hero"' and assertively offers some of Swift's most ambitious work yet.
It's this fearless ambition that makes Swift no stranger to the GRAMMYs. On top of nearly 50 nominations total, the 12-time GRAMMY winner is the first and only woman solo artist to win Album Of The Year three times for her solo recordings. As Swifties know, she loves to break her own records — and if Midnights takes home GRAMMY gold, Swift would become the artist with the most Album Of The Year wins of all time.
This Midnights nomination marks a climax for Swift's career, and even though the singer has collected countless milestones, this year might be her most colossal yet. As she continues to bring all of her musical eras to life, Swift isn't just reliving her musical past — she's writing her future.
SZA — SOS
SZA knows how to build anticipation. Keeping her fans in suspense for five years, the prolific GRAMMY winner released her 2022 sophomore album SOS to wide critical acclaim — and while its title suggests a sense of helplessness, SOS puts forth plenty of strength.
SZA understands the vast power of vulnerability, and she wields this power expertly, whether it be forcefully or delicately. During the album's wade through loneliness and insecurity, the singer occasionally employs features from friends like Don Toliver, Phoebe Bridgers, and Travis Scott, but above all, SZA's self-discovery remains in the spotlight.
The R&B star scored her first GRAMMY just two years ago, sharing the award for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance with Doja Cat for their lovable collaboration "'Kiss Me More"' at the 2022 GRAMMYs. While the pop-rap collaboration bubbles with lost-in-the-moment delight, SOS looks at life with a wider lens; in her single "'Shirt,"' SZA admits that she's "'in the dark right now/ feeling lost but I like it,"' and it's these glimmers of self-assurance that show her a light at the end of the tunnel.
This Album Of The Year nomination nods to the singer's personal growth since her 2017 debut Ctrl. Although SZA sings about a fear of letting other people define her, SOS rejects other people's terms and soars as a bold reclamation: by defying others, she rediscovers herself.
The 2024 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 66th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.
The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy's Voting Membership.
Photo: Mike Lewis Photography/Redferns via Getty Images
New Music Friday: Listen To New Music From RIIZE, Norah Jones & Dave Grohl, Mr. Eazi & More
As we hurtle into spooky season, listen to these spooky tracks from Mr. Eazi, RIIZE, Norah Jones & Dave Grohl and more.
As Halloween approaches, this New Music Friday offers a potion of nostalgia, emotions and fresh sounds.
From RIIZE — K-pop's rising stars, who are mesmerizing listeners with their pop hit "Talk Saxy" — to Norah Jones & Dave Grohl uniting for an unexpected collaboration with "Razor," many different genres are being represented today.
Keeping old times alive, Taylor Swift released her highly-anticipated Taylor’s Version of 1989, and Duck Sauce is bringing back their 2011 "Barbra Streisand" sound with their new dance single, "LALALA."
Listen to these seven new tracks and albums that will gear you up for spooky season 2023.
RIIZE - "Talk Saxy"
K-pop’s rising stars, RIIZE, are making a vibrant musical return with their new single, "Talk Saxy," a hypnotic dance track that adds a level of depth to their sound even including a catchy saxophone riff. The lyrics focus on attraction to a stranger, and wanting to get their attention.
"Talk to me exactly what you feel / Hide nothing, show me all and everything / It’s okay, let your heart do what it wants / Get it straight to the point / Talk Saxy," RIIZE croons on the chorus.
This track follows their debut single "Get a Guitar," which launched their announcement that they’d signed with RCA Records. RIIZE is the first boy band group to hail from SM Entertainment since Kpop group NCT. RIIZE members, Shotaro and Sungchan, are notably from NCT, and departed from the K-pop group this year.
Norah Jones & Dave Grohl, "Razor"
Dave Grohl, the frontman of Foo Fighters, graced jazz-pop singer Norah Jones’ podcast with special musical performances, including a cover of "Razor," a rare gem from the Foo Fighters 2005 In Your Honor album.
The track features a calm beat with a tranquil melody and guitar strings and piano, blending their strengths seamlessly. This track follows their collaboration on the In Your Honor track "'Virginia Moon."
During this podcast, Jones announced the release of a Black Friday Exclusive LP Record dropping on Nov. 24. Featuring a collection of podcast episodes with fellow musicians, this looks to be a real treat for fans of Jones and/or her estimable guests.
Jacob Collier feat. Michael McDonald and Lawrence - "Wherever I Go"
Jazz musician Jacob Collier has dropped the song "Wherever I Go," a look into his forthcoming album, Djesse Vol. 4. A track inspired by idols from his childhood including the Doobie Brothers, Stevie Wonder and more, he’s made a standout collaboration with Michael McDonald and Lawrence to craft a memorable record.
The two-minute track, which includes a strong bassline and soulful vocals, paints an illustration of loneliness from their lover.
The four-part journey of Djesse has gained him five GRAMMY awards and 11 nominations. With Djesse Vol. 4, collaborations such as "Little Blue" with Brandi Carlile to Ty Dolla $ign and Kirk Franklin are showcasing Collier’s versatility and knack for genre syntheses.. He also announced a 2024 North American tour with musicians Kemba and Emily King, celebrating the release of this album.
Mr Eazi - The Evil Genius
Afrobeats sensation Mr. Eazi has unveiled his debut album The Evil Genius. The 16-track record shows Eazi’s ability to blend his rhythms from his hometown Nigeria, with hypnotic grooves from Ghana where he spent most of his years.
The Evil Genius takes listeners through his roots, family, love and loneliness in three acts. His skill in blending different styles of music like Gospel and Ghanian styles, makes him the global phenomenon he is. Eazi chose 13 African artists from eight countries to collaborate on this album, bringing together different parts of Africa.
Enhancing the music album, he has introduced a global art exhibition in Ghana, which features work from young artists across Africa.
Tiësto with Tears for Fears, NIIKO X SWAE, GUDFELLA - "Rule The World (Everybody)"
American DJ & singer Tiësto dropped a fresh new track with Tears For Fears, NIIKO X SWAE and GUDFELLA for a reimagining of the 1985 "Everybody Wants To Rule The World." This heart-racing banger has blended stylistic worlds to imbue a classic song with an even catchier, dance-flavored beat.
NIIKO X SWAE originally released an unofficial remix on Soundcloud, which then went viral on social media.. "Rule The World (Everybody)" could certainly become a new party anthem to put on your ‘Halloweekend’ playlist.
Maria José Llergo - ULTRABELLEZA
Spanish singer María José Llergo released her newest album ULTRABELLEZA, following her 2020 Sanación. The album features songs that transverse between genres like "NOVIX," which features a intricate, Latin rhythm and "Superpoder," a star-studded pop song.
"Flamenco is like the blues," she said in a NY Times interview. Liergo discusses how she incorporated Flamenco, a Spanish art form, into her album in hopes of keeping her cultural traditions rooted in the lyrics that "tell stories of survival — it’s always been a way for the most oppressed to escape."
Duck Sauce - "LALALA"
The hitmakers behind 2010 classics "Barbra Streisand" and "Big Bad Wolf" are back with another dubsmash single called, "LALALA." This duo has made another infectious dance track, which makes listeners transports them to the wildest party of their dreams. "LALALA" feels reminiscent of their past collaborations together, keeping up the nostalgia theme on this special Friday.
The GRAMMY-nominated producers behind Duck Sauce, Armand Van Helden and A-Trak, have recently joined Defected Records’ D4 D4NCE imprint. Keep checking GRAMMY.com on Fridays for a sampler platter of new sounds!
Global Spin: JINI Is Impatient In Love During This Passionate Performance Of Her Debut Solo Single, "C'mon"