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(Sandy) Alex G Plots World Tour, Releases Puppet Music Video For New Song "Hope"

(Sandy) Alex G

Photo: Burak Cingi/Redferns

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(Sandy) Alex G Plots World Tour, Releases Puppet Music Video For New Song "Hope"

The Philadelphia indie songwriting sensation will embark on a 46-show run across North America and Europe starting with a pair of Chicago dates including Lollapalooza

GRAMMYs/Jul 16, 2019 - 12:11 am

Chances are you've heard or read some version of (Sandy) Alex G's parenthetical name somewhere recently. The Philadelphia-based Indie singer/songwriter has been busy building buzz and amasing a large and varied body of work, drawing critical acclaim, comparisons to Elliott Smith and praise from other artists such as Wallows. Now, Alex G has announced an extensive world tour stretching into 2020 and released the music video for his new song, "Hope."

"Hope" come from Alex G's new album, House Of Sugar, due out Sept. 13. Last month he released its first single, "Gretel" prompting Vice to call the forthcoming album, "one of the most anticipated LPs of the year so far."

The world tour begins with a pair of Chicago dates, Aug. 3 at Empty Bottle and the following day at Lollapalooza. The trek with then cross North America through October and November before picking back up in February 2020 in Europe, wrapping in Groningen, Netherlands on Mar. 6.

For a full list o Alex G's f tour dates and ticket info is available via Ticketmaster.

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Global Spin: Singer-Songwriter And Producer Ferraz Offers A Minimalist, Soulful Performance Of "Espérame"
Ferraz

Photo: Maria Gabriela Stempel

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Global Spin: Singer-Songwriter And Producer Ferraz Offers A Minimalist, Soulful Performance Of "Espérame"

The singer-songwriter, DJ and producer pulls from a variety of different styles to create his own signature blend of Latin R&B — and in this performance of "Espérame," he leans into his soul influences.

GRAMMYs/Sep 27, 2022 - 04:58 pm

Venezuelan singer-songwriter, producer and DJ Ferraz draws from various elements and sonic styles to create his signature blend of R&B. And in "Espérame," one of the tracks from his 2021 album Fino, he leans into gentle, lilting soul.

In this episode of Global Spin, Ferraz delivers a laid-back live performance of his song. Flanked by his gear and set against a plain white backdrop, the singer accompanies himself on electric guitar.

This minimalist, self-contained performance proves that Ferraz can create a sound-world all his own. Ferraz incorporates elements of Latin folk-rock and bossa nova into his performance, with classic R&B rhythms kicking in in the chorus.

Funk, house and hip-hop further influence Ferraz's music-making process, coming together to form a style of R&B both versatile and pliant.

As one of the singer's more reflective and laidback tracks, "Espérame" exemplifies his easygoing, luminous vocal delivery — a signature element of even his bouncier tracks, like 2022's "Seratonina."

Ferraz debuted in 2019 with his Rumbo album, and continued to grow his sound and style with the release of Fino two years later. Most recently, he put out Remixes FINO, a collection of reimagined versions of the songs from his Fino project.

Press play on the video above enjoy Ferraz's soulful "Espérame" performance, and keep checking back to GRAMMY.com for more episodes of Global Spin.

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11 Essential Brazilian Albums: From Bossa Nova To MPB
Gal Costa performs at Montreux Jazz Festival in 1980.

Photo: Donald Stampfli/RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images

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11 Essential Brazilian Albums: From Bossa Nova To MPB

The South American giant has always boasted a voracious appetite for assimilating foreign influences into its own, vibrant cultural stew. From samba and bossa nova, to Música Popular Brasileira, here are 11 essential Brazilian albums for your playlist.

GRAMMYs/Sep 27, 2022 - 02:14 pm

You would need at least 500 albums to delineate a comprehensive aural snapshot of Brazil — one of the most passionate nations in the world when it comes to creating and consuming music.

From the foundational samba and its cosmopolitan cousin, the bossa nova, to the fertile movement of MPB (Música Popular Brasileira), the funky axé and the rich fields of Brazilian rock, metal, hip-hop and electronica, the South American giant has always boasted a voracious appetite for assimilating foreign influences into its own, vibrant cultural stew.

Leaving aside the more obvious choices — we assume you’ve already heard "The Girl from Ipanema" once or twice — this list focuses on 11 legendary LPs that distill the essence of Brazilian music. 

Sylvia Telles - The Music of Mr. Jobim (1966)

When we think bossa nova, the name of Elis Regina comes instantly to mind, especially because of the classic Elis & Tom LP that she recorded in 1974 with genre architect Antonio Carlos Jobim. Before Elis, however, there was another singer who summed up the frothy lightness and poetry that make people fall crazy in love with the bossa.

Born in 1934, Sylvia Telles had an unforgettably jazzy and mercurial voice. This, her last album, was recorded in 1965 expressly for the American market and includes definitive renditions of standards like Dorival Caymmi’s "... Das Rosas" and Jobim’s exhilarating "Samba de Uma Nota Só." Telles has been unjustly forgotten by everyone but bossa collectors because she died, together with her boyfriend, in a car accident in 1966. She was 32. 

Roberto Carlos - Roberto Carlos (1969)

A misunderstood genius, Roberto Carlos is widely known as the Brazilian equivalent of Julio Iglesias. Before he went pop, he was part of the jangly jovem guarda movement in the late ‘60s, as South America fell in love with the Beatles and the Stones.

This transitional album finds his songwriting partnership with Erasmo Carlos (no relation) in full bloom. From the feel-good sunlight of "Do Outro Lado da Cidade" and the defiant funk of "Nao Vou Ficar," to the torrid balladry of "Sua Estupidez" (made famous by Gal Costa in an epic live version), this 1969 masterpiece pulsates with an indelible sense of nostalgia. Some of these songs were included in the film Roberto Carlos e o Diamante Cor-de-rosa, a colorful riff on the Beatles’ Help. 

Wilson Simonal - Simonal (1970)

A teen idol throughout the ‘60s, Wilson Simonal has been altogether ostracized from Brazilian cultural history due to his alleged political decisions during the ‘70s — a time of darkness and turmoil in South America.

This is somewhat unfair, as the man died more than 20 years ago at age 62. He left behind a prodigious discography that places his soulful vocals at the service of ballads and boleros, brassy funk and samba-rock. The brio of opening cut "Sem Essa" is worth the price of admission.  

Vinicius de Moraes with Maria Creuza and Toquinho - En La Fusa (1970)

There is something endearing about Argentina’s ongoing love affair with Brazilian music. When the royalty of bossa nova — lyricist Vinicius de Moraes, guitarist Toquinho and singer Maria Creuza — descended on Buenos Aires for a season of shows at the bohemian La Fusa club, it was quickly decided that the show should be recorded for posterity.

The resulting album was taped live in a studio, then augmented with audience noise from the actual venue. Few albums have captured the disarming beauty of this music so effortlessly. The unavoidable standards (yes, even "Ipanema") are enriched with light-as-a-feather gems like Jorge Ben’s "Que Maravilha" and Caetano Veloso’s "Irene." 

Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges - Clube Da Esquina (1972)

Hailing from the state of Minas Gerais, Milton Nascimento doesn’t really make records.

They’re more like a religious ritual, a celebration of sadness and joy, the flesh and the spirit. This transformational double LP was made by Nascimento and a collective of like-minded musicians, including the brilliant — if slightly esoteric — Lô Borges. There’s samba art-rock, psychedelia, Beatlesque melodies and a smoldering cascade of longing that permeates every single moment and refuses to let go. Its sequel, released in 1978, is just as good. 

Chico Buarque - Meus Caros Amigos (1976)

Look up the word warmth in the dictionary and you will probably find a picture of this album, dripping analog goodness and a million smiles.

The young Buarque’s 1966 hit "A Banda" was a defining moment in the emergence of the MPB sound. By the time he released this 1976 session, he was an established master of the Brazilian groove. Every track here is a classic: the fairy tale sweetness of "Você Vai Me Seguir"; the carnivalesque swirl of "Passaredo"; the homeric sorrow of "Mulheres De Atenas." Milton Nascimento guests on the samba-with-strings movie theme "O Que Será." 

Gal Costa - Gal Tropical (1979)

The bluesy voice of MPB diva Gal Costa is one of the most gorgeous sounds ever to come out of Brazil. Even though she appeared during the tropicália boom of the late ‘60s, the ‘70s was her best decade, with classic LPs such as Índia (1973), Cantar (1974) and this lavish session of tropi-pop that sold a million copies.

An eclectic song selector, Gal can focus her attention on a carnival march from the 1930’s ("Balance"), then melt hearts with a sparse ballad penned by Caetano Veloso ("Força Estranha.") Betraying subtle hints of post-disco decadence, her sultry reading of the Antonio Carlos Jobim/Dolores Duran oldie "Estrada do Sol" is haunting. 

Karnak - Karnak (1994)

Brazil was missing an album matching the ambitious scope of a Sgt. Pepper’s, and it arrived with the debut of Karnak, the cosmopolitan, genre-bending orchestra of musical globetrotter André Abujamra.

So many years later, this criminally underrated masterpiece sounds as fresh and inventive as it did in 1994. It combines field recordings of citizens from all over the world with fragments of reggae, funky Afro-pop, Arabic scales, tribal drums and operatic chanting in fictitious tongues. Delirious and exhilarating, it serves up the delights of a thousand records all wrapped up into one. 

Tribalistas - Tribalistas (2002)

Decade after decade, Brazilian music has always survived the decay of time by knowing when to renew itself. The life-affirming debut by MPB supergroup Tribalistas was one such sleight of hand, as was their self-titled collection of translucent songs for idealists of all ages  .

Singer/songwriter Marisa Monte had already proven herself as MPB’s bright new hope through her solo work. But there’s power in numbers, and the addition of percussion genius Carlinhos Brown and the gravelly-voiced Arnaldo Antunes resulted in one dazzling song after another — and over three million albums sold. 

Los Hermanos - Ventura (2003)

There are no grandiloquent gestures in the third album by this Rio de Janeiro indie-rock quartet. The songs are tuneful, emotionally direct and oddly bittersweet. Enriched by a brass section, arena favorites such as the punchy "Último Romance" and the jagged "O Vencedor" show how seamlessly the influence of Anglo rock can find fertile terrain layered into Brazil’s melting pot. Many critics have singled out Ventura as one of the best albums in Brazilian history, and it’s easy to see why.

Céu - Tropix (2016)

Originally from São Paulo, Céu appeared on the scene at the same time as a large wave of neo-bossa singers — but the sound of her 2005 self-titled album went against the grain. Jagged and unpredictable, her MPB futurism draws from dub and Afrobeat, post-disco and indietronica.

Céu’s songwriting was remarkably sharp from the beginning, but she found a state of grace on Tropix, her fourth LP. The digital beats throb and quiver on elegantly sculpted tracks like "Perfume Do Invisível" and "Varanda Suspensa," while the quiet fire in her voice ignites a delicious kind of tension — as eye opening as the Brazilian classics of the ‘70s.

1972 Was The Most Badass Year In Latin Music: 11 Essential Albums From Willie Colón, Celia Cruz, Juan Gabriel & Others

Ari Lennox’s 'Age/Sex/Location' Explores Online Dating, Never Settling & Old School Romance
Ari Lennox

Photo: Gizelle Hernandez

interview

Ari Lennox’s 'Age/Sex/Location' Explores Online Dating, Never Settling & Old School Romance

A torrid take on hyper-passionate soul, 'Age/Sex/Location' sees Ari Lennox exploring her real-life hiccups with intimacy and growing empowerment.

GRAMMYs/Sep 27, 2022 - 01:32 pm

During a cool evening at the tail-end of a New York summer, Ari Lennox and I are eating dinner at the Sixty Hotel on the Lower East Side. She is coming off a whirlwind of a week, partaking in the slew of New York Fashion Week festivities and the release of her sophomore album Age/Sex/Location, which dropped Sept. 9.

Amidst her busy schedule, Lennox has love on the brain.

"I'm not searching for love anymore," Lennox says, leaning in close. The singer, a self-described old soul, continues that she's fed up with the modern dating world. "But, I'm back on online dating so I feel like I am lying because I know I want love."

Over 12 tracks, the Dreamville artist explores her real-life hiccups with intimacy, longing for old-school romance, and the toil of dealing with men who aren’t good for her. While she finds empowerment in being single — no matter how lonely it may feel at times — the end goal of Lennox's self-discovery quest on ASL is to secure a lover.

ASL — an online acronym those who grew up flirting on AIM and Yahoo chatrooms might find familiar —  coalesces Lennox's soulful intonations with more contemporary production and featured collaborators such as Lucky Daye, J. Cole, Jermaine Dupri and Missy Elliott. A follow-up to Shea Butter Baby, Lennox's widely-cherished diaristic 2019 debut, ASL was released alongside a surprise, R&B-forward EP called Away Message.

ASL is three years in the making and the result of significant collaboration. "There were definitely a lot of intentional sessions with the family," Lennox says, name-checking Theo Croker, Elite, Summer Walker and Chlöe.

This family affair resulted in a torrid album of hyper-passionate soul that pays sentimental reverence to the genre’s inception. The first single, the J. Cole-produced "POF," has Lennox harmonically damned, singing about swiping through a sea of options and major disappointments in an Erykah Badu-influenced R&B cadence.

The sensual  "Hoodie" — released along with a series of visuals that includes Lennox toying with TDE rapper Isaiah Rashad, floating on top of an encased water tank with a man trapped inside — underscores Lennox’s romanticization of a man she has never spent time with. 

She continues to air out her situationships in "Waste My Time," applies more "Pressure" and shows she's privy to the emotional games in "Mean Mug." Her exhaustion with romance shows in "Boy Bye" with Lucky Daye, before Lennox officially cuts it off on the funky "Blocking You." 

The LP concludes with "Queen Space" featuring Summer Walker, a falsetto ode to self-worth and independence that meditates on the sacredness of their bodies, energy, and time.

Back at dinner, Lennox sardonically laments that she "just went on a terrible date the other day in New York. He was 20 minutes late and invited me to the studio before the date happened." 

GRAMMY.com dug deep with the vocalist to talk about this transitional phase she is experiencing with her sexuality, new music, and the power she has rediscovered in artistic solitude. 

What artistic and personal evolutions have you experienced in the past three years that led to the culmination of this hyper-soulful project?

Well, allowing collaboration to happen. I'll say working with all of these writers — Jai’Len Josey, Crystal, Nettie, Dijon styles, and J. Cole, there was a lot of collaborative effort in this project. The difference between Shea Butter Baby and ASL was me letting go of control, really, because I wrote all of my debut album.

The intro track, "POF" has this beautiful narrative about even though there is sorrow in not finding the right one, there are always more people and experiences out there. Why did you choose to start with this neo-soul track?

To me, "POF" just sets the tone. Even, sonically and musically, it is just so soulful. I'm talking my s—. People have to know, at least with this project, that I am exhausted and tired of guys trying me. The song is just so sassy and so grown and so just authentic, you know?

What about the discreet titles of your Away Message EP and Age/Sex/Location album lend themselves to who you are at your age now?

They basically represent a time when I'm seeing dating as way clearer with wisdom. More than I've ever had before and there's just less naivete. There is a lot more self-awareness of my f—k-ups and then, the why of why I'm drawn to darkness sometimes. In this music, there are a lot more times of me standing my ground and not ignoring my opinions and my worth and sense of self.

What sort of enlightenment have you achieved through the music-making process behind Age/Sex/Location?

I learned more about how to notice red flags and how to not be so quick to ignore them. I am now more likely to give people the benefit of the doubt and see them through. Now I trust my intuition way more and trust God, or whoever you believe in, to see red flags as signs. That is some precious energy that is trying to help you not get hurt.

ASL is an online acronym used for identification in virtual spaces, specifically dating sites. Was exploring the early dating world when you were growing up difficult?

Yahoo! Chatrooms is literally the beginning of my love life because it was so hard to approach guys in real life. There were guys that were into me. This guy named Ricky Davidson had the biggest crush on him and he knew I had a crush on him. Nothing ended up ever happening because I wouldn't say anything. I was really socially awkward, like really bad until ninth grade. 

I started being more open and comfortable with communicating with guys, and now it's nonstop with writing and being open about dating. The title, Age/Sex/Location comes from online dating and it hasn't been the easiest, you know what I'm saying? In general, you have to be careful that you're not entertaining someone that may try to kill you.

How has your search for love in these recent months been?

My dating life is still just a heinous mess, but we are hopeful. I find myself love bombing, I guess because I do tend to love someone fast and ghost [them]. 

This book called Attached I have been reading is really fire; it helps me realize the different attachment styles in life. It is a science and these studies helped me feel validated that I'm an anxious person and if I'm drawn to an avoidant person, how are we supposed to not clash?I'm excited to see what a secure relationship feels like.

You have embraced your sexuality so much in this project, you talk of toiling with lovers in "Stop By" and really go there in "Leak It" featuring Chlöe. Have you felt more liberated and evolved embodying your sexuality?

Sexuality has always felt very natural and easy for me to express myself in a way. Now, I'm just being more direct about what I want. The importance of feeling safe with someone and thinking damn, what we've made was so beautiful. I don't mind if the world sees it. God forbid somebody hacks the iCloud. Well, it was a beautiful time we shared.

What values of self-love did you preach to yourself while producing Age/Sex/Location?

Communicating my concerns. Many times, I've been so docile and quiet for so long that I could keep a person around in this kind of co-dependent nature. I can't be afraid to lose any more people because the reality is, that they're not meant to be. I was being honest about how I felt and expressing it to them in a gentle way. It is nice to experience men and see their different reactions. 

Some people refuse to say sorry and be accountable. Then, there are other people who are overly sorry. What I will say about the guy I went on a date with, he didn't mind apologizing. He was very sweet about the fact that he was late. But I'm not even used to someone being accountable and it was nice to experience it that was sexy. 

I love how the closing song on the album, "Queen Space," highlights how you view your own prowess and independence. How would you define a queen space?

Wow. A queen space to me is self-love and accountability. It is the protection of my own peace and, by any means, not neglecting myself to please someone else. It really is honoring my morals, my values, my mind, my body, and talking my s—t when I need to. Setting those standards and setting those boundaries very clearly because moving in life with intention is how I get through romance, relationships, and friendships.

How was collaborating with such soulful musicians on Age/Sex/Location?

It was a dream to have Lucky be so supportive and come into the studio. Same with Summer — for her to take all the time out of her day to give me an incredible verse and to take "Queen Space" somewhere that I would have never thought just gives me chills every time. I love feeling like the record is not complete until you have that certain artist hop on it. Chlöe just came into my life and was the literal completion of "Leak It."

Your vocals are really pushed on this album and, sonically, you elevated into another dimension of Ari Lennox. 

Certain songs will bring certain things out of you, certain melodies out of you. I kind of just wanted to push myself like, what would a Chaka Khan do? Or, what would Adina Howard do?

If you could build out a Destiny’s Child-style girl group, who would you scout to share the stage?

Can I just join Chlöe and Halle? Or, even VanJess? There are so many phenomenal people in the game right now. Victoria Monet, Tanerélle, Muni Long, Kehlani, and more. So many legends out here doing their own thing. 

If you could sit down and share champagne with any soul artist who passed away or is alive today, who would you love to sit down with and share some studio time with?

There is only one person hands down and that is Marvin Gaye because he was so fine. I would just love to drink wine with him in another life.  I know this is inappropriate, but flirt with him and see if that would be nice or works. Or, Minnie Riperton, I would love to listen to her about how she feels about music, music theory, and life. I would just love for her to train me vocally.

What was the main song on A/S/L that gave you the premonition that this was going to be a timeless project?

It is a tie between "Hoodie" and "Mean Mug." Those records were the glue of this sophomore album for me because "Hoodie" was so natural and I was so excited about it. They are about these intense crushes I had on men that I'd never even hung out with before; I was literally talking about romanticizing romance. It is me just loving the idea of love.

Do you have thoughts about the claim that the genre of R&B will eventually disappear?

I say that those people are delusional. I'm just going to be really direct because we can't invalidate all of the phenomenal R&B artists that are contributing greatly to this genre. You know, Brent Faiyaz? There are so many legendary people and it's not like Brandy ever stopped. It's not like Monica ever stops. Jazmine Sullivan and Ella Mai are killing it. 

What are you surrounding yourself with? Who are your friends? Are they only listening to trap or only listening to soft rock? Find the friends that do love R&B, let them guide you, and explore with them. Some people want to be stuck only in certain eras and you should all be inspired by all of them; both past, present, and future.

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Black Sounds Beautiful: How Ozuna Leverages His Status As A Reggaeton Superstar To Open Doors For Other Latin Artists
Ozuna

Photo: Mindy Small/FilmMagic

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Black Sounds Beautiful: How Ozuna Leverages His Status As A Reggaeton Superstar To Open Doors For Other Latin Artists

A global superstar and two-time Latin GRAMMY winner, Ozuna’s historic rise to superstardom is helping to bring Spanish language music and Latin culture to the center of the U.S. musical mainstream.

GRAMMYs/Sep 26, 2022 - 08:49 pm

Before artists like Bad Bunny and J Balvin rose into the spotlight, Puerto Rican singer and rapper Ozuna — born Juan Ozuna Rosado Delano — was making mainstream waves with his signature brand of Reggaeton and trap music.

Coming of age in the mid-2010s as part of a rejuvenated interest in Reggaeton, Ozuna topped the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart with his 2017 debut, Odisea — a project that also cracked the Top 30 on the US Billboard 200.

Its track listing featured contributions from J Balvin, Annuel AA, Zion & Lennox and more, and collaboration would quickly emerge as a hallmark of Ozuna's artistry, and a major part of furthering both his own career and the new wave of Latin-based music in general.

Many of Ozuna's biggest hits have been group efforts, such as "Taki Taki," a late 2018 release that featured the singer alongside Cardi B, DJ Snake and Selena Gomez. That song enjoyed success both on the charts and in the streaming world, rapidly reaching 20 million YouTube view and becoming the most-streamed song on Spotify.

Another all-star collab, "China," also hit the top of the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart the following year, and helped earn Ozuna four Guinness World Record titles, naming him as the artist with the most YouTube videos notching over a billion views, as well as honoring his status as the most-nominated and most-awarded artist at the Billboard Latin Music Awards in 2019.

Speaking to ET Online in 2019, Ozuna pointed to his mainstream collaborations as the reason for his breakthrough into global superstardom.

"After ['Taki Taki'], North Americans went wild, and starting paying attention to Latinos more," he explained. "Before, it was all surface-level. It was like, 'Let's see what these Latinos have going on,' cautiously. Now all the North Americans want to record with Latinos."

Ozuna's global success has never been solely about himself: He sees his career as a chance to advance other artists who share his background to the forefront. "Elevating Latinos is my responsibility," he states, and he works hard to promote younger artists careers in the same way he got his own breakthrough: through collaboration.

"There's so much new young talent," he explains. "Lunay, Rauw Alejandro and Lyanno are some of the artists who I gave a break to the same way Farruko and Arcangel gave me my big break on 'Si No Te Quiere.'"

Press play on the video above to take a look back at Ozuna's career, and keep checking GRAMMY.com for more episodes of Black Sounds Beautiful.

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How Rihanna's "Work" Reinvigorated Dancehall
Rihanna performs in Italy during her Anti World Tour in 2016

Photo: Marco Piraccini\Archivio Marco Piraccini\Mondadori via Getty Images

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How Rihanna's "Work" Reinvigorated Dancehall

Released in 2016, "Work" was a triumphant return to the Caribbean sound Rihanna had stepped away from upon her mainstream arrival. For the GRAMMY-nominated hit, Rihanna embraced the use of Patois as well as a sexually defiant, empowered point-of-view.

GRAMMYs/Sep 26, 2022 - 05:19 pm

Rihanna’s single "Work" announces itself the same way steam rises. It bubbles, gulps and bellows upward until it reaches the surface; we're already hot and sweaty by the time her voice arrives. The Barbados singer’s trance-like repetition of the word "work" grinds itself against the dancehall sound that first made her famous.

Released in 2016 as the first single from her eighth studio album, ANTI, "Work" was a return to roots. The track harkened back to the Caribbean musicality and pronunciation of her debut album, which had been slowly fazed out in favor of more pop-driven albums Good Girl Gone Bad and Rated R

With "Work," Rihanna brought dancehall culture and pathos into the mainstream, continuing the work of fellow Caribbean singers like Carroll Thompson, Ginger Williams and Donna Rhoden. By boldly using a Caribbean and Jamaican-influenced song as the lead single on ANTI, Rihanna made a political statement as much as a musical one. "Work" can be read as rejection of the whitewashing of her work and of the Americanized image created for her by Def Jam.

Rihanna was at a career high when "Work" was released, and the return to her origins pushed her to new heights. The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 — the first dancehall track to top the chart since"Rude Boy" in 2010 — and later earned nominations for Record Of The Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 59th Grammy Awards.

Written by Jamaican American artist, PartyNextDoor and produced by Kingston, born Boi-1da, "Work" takes production cues from mid-90s Dancehall hits, the Beenie Man and Mr. Vegas collaboration "Badman Nuh Flee" and Sean Paul’s "Fit and Legit." Boi-1da employs hand-claps, auto-tuned harmonizing, muffled piano and flute, as Rihanna shouts into the void. When added to samples of the late-90s hit "Sail Away (Riddim)," "Work's" chorus, verse and bridge bleed into a single, pulsating orgy of sound.

The single was initially met with suspicion by American audiences, some of whom were confused by the simplicity of the song's bare-bones composition and use of Patios, a West African-influenced creole language spoken in the Jamaican diaspora. This dialect can be heard in many modern rap songs, and Rihanna incorporated Patios in singles such "Rude Boy" and "Man Down." 

Her use of Patios was a step away from the manufactured, white-washed image created by the major studio machine and a return to her roots — all while continuing to embrace her sexually defiant, female point-of-view. In "Work," Rihanna's voice is steely and unbothered, yet vulnerable and present. The chorus’ monotony borders on a parody of the rinse and repeat pop "Work" inspired and elevated. 

Rihanna makes clear her Caribbean intonation, delivering the lyrics to "Work" in a leisurely, laissez-faire style. What many white critics confused for simplicity or obscurification, Rihanna is simply singing for her people in the Afro diaspora. As Rihanna told Vogue of the song, "I felt like if I enunciated the words too perfectly, it would just not be the same attitude or the same sass... This song is definitely a song that represents my culture, and so I had to put a little twist on my delivery."

"Work" can be loosely translated as a Jamaican patois for sex and this insider understanding drenches the song in a steamy subtext, making Rihanna’s repeated use of "work" a personal yearning for intimacy. The word "work" melds into itself, becoming a wordless amalgamation of sex and sweat, and the more Rihanna repeats herself, the more empowered the song becomes. 

Read More: The Women Essential To Reggae And Dancehall

Throughout Rihanna’s career, she has asserted herself within the praxis of power. Songs like "Bitch Better Have My Money," "S&M" and "Rude Boy" show the singer consistently in control, delivering lyrics as raunchy and robust as Jamaica's Ranking Slackness, who penned infamously double-entendre odes.

As Jamaican music scholar Frederick R. Dannaway wrote, "woman’s sexuality is a powerful force, and is slightly feared, from the days of Nanny Maroon who repelled bullets with her pum pum." Rihanna has known this since she released her first single, "Pon de Replay," a dancehall track with a title taken from Bajan Creole, the spoken language of Barbados.

In "Work," Rihanna connects to dancehall’s legacy of sexual innuendo and erotic lyricism. That PartyNextDoor claims to have written the single as a break-up song shows the level of ambiguity and complexity Rihanna brings to the vocals. 

Rihanna begins the song by showing her discontent with her current lover, echoing PartyNextDoor’s break-up intentions, "Dry! Me a desert him / Nuh time to have you lurking." She feels used by her lover, who only sees her as a sexual conquest. But by the second verse, she expresses vulnerability, admitting her own mistakes in the seemingly toxic relationship, "Baby don't you leave" and "If I get another chance to / I will never, no, never neglect you / I mean who am I to hold your past against you." 

Not everyone is up to the task of Rihanna’s table-setting skills. Drake fails to deliver as the song’s guest rapper, who tries to appear nonchalant with his slow, "rolled-out-of-bed" delivery. Rihanna could have easily made this a solo single, but her year's worth of Drake dalliances make the rapper the perfect foil for her lyrics' intended target. When his verse arrives, Rihanna has gone from disgruntled damsel to passion’s inevitability. 

That "Work" is both infectious and unknowable, simple yet complex, is indicative of the identities attached to Millennials and continued by Gen Z.  With "Work," Rihanna created her definitive masterpiece of a long and storied oeuvre. That her greatest hit is a Caribbean riddim, only adds to Rihanna’s rich legacy as her generation's ambassador and innovator in Caribbean music.

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