Photo: Pol Kurucz
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Saweetie On Her Long-Awaited Album 'Pretty B**** Music' & Why Women Rappers "No Longer Need A Co-Sign"
Between star-studded collaborations and her debut album on the horizon, Saweetie is one of rap's busiest rising stars. With a handful of major business partnerships to boot, she's preparing to become the next rapper with a full-on empire.
Saweetie has been buzzing since her first single, "Icy Grl," went viral in 2018. But in the years since, the SoCal rapper has proven to be much more than a fleeting viral star.
Born Diamonté Harper, Saweetie has been grinding nonstop — and it has paid off. Along with releasing multiple EPs, she's landed several Billboard Hot 100 hits (and three No. 1s on its Rhythmic Airplay chart), and teamed up with the likes of Dua Lipa, Jhené Aiko, and Tyga and YG.
She's making sure she builds an empire beyond her music, too. In 2021 alone, Saweetie made her TV debut on the Freeform sitcom grown-ish, hosted a Netflix comedy special called Sex: Unzipped, and secured brand partnerships with McDonalds, Sinful Colors and Prettylittlething, to name a few.
Her efforts certainly aren't going unnoticed: Saweetie is the only female rapper nominated for Best New Artist at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards. What's more, her collaboration with Doja Cat, "Best Friend," is also nominated for Best Rap Song. And to think she doesn't even have a full-length album to her name.
Saweetie's highly anticipated debut LP, Pretty B</em><em></em><em> Music, is reportedly being released this year. No matter when the album arrives, though, the rap star is already making 2022 another busy year: She released a MAC Cosmetics campaign with Cher in January, dropped a collab with H.E.R. in February, and was recently announced as Champion's Global Cultural Consultant.
From celebrating her heritage as a Blasian entertainer, to empowering women and people of color to be their best and most confident selves, Saweetie has created a lane all her own. For Saweetie, her authenticity is inspired by her family, strong women, and the icons that have come before her. With a newfound focus on, as she puts it, "health is wealth," Saweetie wants to better herself and her community — ultimately making her one of rap's most multifaceted female voices.
Ahead of the 64th GRAMMY Awards, GRAMMY.com caught up with Saweetie to discuss her impressive work ethic, why it's important for her to represent women and POC, and how she'll bring healing with Pretty B</em><em></em><em> Music.
What does being GRAMMY-nominated mean to you? Was this a milestone you were looking forward to or did it catch you by surprise?
It definitely caught me by surprise since I don't have an album out. But I am very appreciative. I think GRAMMYs — along with any award show — it's great for your work to be recognized. I work really hard along with my team, so to be acknowledged by [the GRAMMYs] is a huge accomplishment. I'm just so grateful.
You're the only female rapper nominated for Best New Artist. How does that make you feel, and what do you think about more women gaining respect in hip-hop?
I feel like this year, a lot more respect has been given to females in hip-hop. I know that we no longer need a co-sign. We've proven — especially through social media — that we can create our own fanbase, our own culture, our own brands.
It was a great year for women in hip-hop. To be the only one in that category nominated, I'm just so happy to represent, because it's a great group of women out right now.
What do you think should change in hip-hop to make it more inclusive for women?
That's a great question. I think the more representation we have, the more inclusive it'll be for all the women who work hard in hip-hop. I definitely hope that next year more women in hip-hop will be nominated, because I know I'm working hard, I know they're working hard, and hip-hop is the culture right now. So I would love to see more of my women in hip-hop nominated in more categories because we are highly, highly influential right now.
You're in the same category as J. Cole [Best Rap Song], who you once rapped for outside of a show. Why was he the rapper you felt comfortable performing for? What would you tell yourself then with what you've learned now?
Honestly, I've always just been a risk taker, overly ambitious. I saw an opportunity and I took it. I admire his music, I listened to all the mixtapes — The Warm Up, Friday Night Lights, there's two other ones. In high school, I used to play his mixtapes every morning — you know, the CDs — and play them on my radio. I just wanted a moment to connect with one of my favorite artists.
You got a degree before fully pursuing music, which isn't common. Do you think you gained anything from that experience?
One thing that I learned about college, and a gift that it gave me, was to be comfortable in any room. I went to a predominantly white school, so sometimes I'd be the only Black girl in class. And my high school wasn't that way, so I had to adjust and I had to be comfortable in uncomfortable environments.
What I also had to realize was I was making myself uncomfortable, because I was intimidated. I might have felt that I wasn't smart enough — and I actually was, obviously, since I got accepted.
I had to realize that I was my own worst enemy. After I acknowledged that, and after I became more courageous with participation and interacting with other students, I had a better experience. It taught me how to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations. It taught me how to read a room, and it taught me how to adjust to any group of people who I may be in the room with.
You're involved in philanthropy, specifically for Asian and Black communities. Can you speak more about the Icy Baby Foundation and what work you hope to do with it?
With the Icy Baby Foundation, I actually founded it with my grandmother. I was raised around her, and she was always giving back. I thought she was a perfect partner for this foundation. With this foundation, we strive to teach brown and Black kids about financial literacy. We really need to teach Black and brown kids how to manage their money, how to save their money, how to invest their money, how to create generational wealth. That's really important, because even for me, saving isn't enough.
Then also, we would love to focus on women. This is something that we kind of discussed, but it would be a safe haven for women — whether they're dealing with domestic violence, they're in an unhealthy living home or space, or they need shelter for their kids. But I'll definitely be focused on financial literacy in low income communities and women who need help, essentially.
I love how you rep both sides of your cultural identity. You performed at Head in the Clouds Festival highlighting Asian artists, and you're obviously tapped into the hip-hop world. Your Met Gala look also highlighted this. Do you see fan responses to this representation, and does it motivate you to continue doing it?
Absolutely. The reason why I share both sides is because I know there are Asian kids at home, Black kids at home, and it's dope to represent where you're from — because if I can do it, I know they'll feel like they can do it.
I try to share as much as my background as possible, so that kids who need inspiration can identify with me — and so they know that if Saweetie can do it, they can too.
Some people say you have pretty privilege to downplay what you've accomplished. What's your response to criticism or judgment on your career based on your looks? How have you been working to develop as an artist?
So what is pretty privilege? I would like to know what that means, because one thing I do know is I worked hard for everything in life. I worked hard to make the volleyball team. I worked hard to get 4.0s. I worked hard to get into USC. I worked hard to be self made as a businesswoman and as a rapper. All of these hurdles have made me a wiser and stronger woman. I just don't see privilege in that DNA at all.
And obviously being a woman of color, there's a whole set of other issues.
Right, absolutely. Women are oppressed, and Black people are oppressed. So when you combine the two, you're double oppressed. And it's like two different battles you're trying to fight — woman of color, and just being a woman period.
I think that the obstacles in life have made me a stronger woman, but I definitely didn't get no handouts. I was always taught not to take a shortcut. My parents were hard workers, and I think that's where I get my hard-work ethics from.
What's the hardest obstacle you've faced lately, and how did you bounce back?
A really hard obstacle is just working a lot. I'm starting to feel the burnout. So I went to Turks [and Caicos], my mom was there, it was like a mini mental health vacation. I shaved my hair there, I was meditating a lot, praying a lot, just trying to get clarity in life.
My mom was talking to me, and she was talking about my work ethic. She was like, "You really need to start taking care of yourself before it starts catching up to you." It really created a lightbulb in my head, because I'm sure all my other ambitious people out there — my go-getters — we just think we're invincible, you know? We feel like we're superheroes and we can just accomplish anything, but we're humans, not robots. That's something I struggled with [in 2021] by allowing myself to work too much. I hope to find balance between resting and work.
I've heard your album is coming out soon. What can we expect from it? What direction did you go in artistically?
I was going to curate either a song or two just to introduce people to Pretty Bitch Music. With this album, I want to create art. That's why I shaved my hair off. It's time for a fresh start, it's time for clarity, it's time for a rebirth, and it's time for a reboot. I want a clean slate with my artistry.
I want to really have time to create, and I actually [had] the first three months [of 2022] blocked off to finish, and to keep creating this album. With the visuals, the instruments I choose, it needs to feel like art, inspiration. It needs to be empowering, because I feel like the world needs healing right now.
With this music, I hope to heal. That's why I really want to take my time with it. I think I know what the purpose of this album is — it's to inspire, and to heal.
One of my songs is a meditation song, because meditation has really helped me. It's helped me calm down my brain. It's helped me center my spirit, because with the music industry, it gets chaotic sometimes, and peace is so important. I hope to just promote love and peace with this album.
Are you going to go into different genres, or is it still going to be hip-hop?
It's still going to be Saweetie. It's gonna be an elevated Saweetie. A couple people asked me, with me shaving my hair off, was I going to take a different direction. I'm just like, "It's not a new me, it's an elevated me."
I'm still the Icy Girl, but this time, I really want to take time with my music. With High Maintenance, with the Icy EP, all of those were done under crunch time. I want to create a whole bunch of amazing songs, and then my good problem is having to cut down the songs. Instead of just trying to rush and put something out, art can't be rushed. I'm really excited about this.
I know you dropped the Pretty Summer Playlist and you've been doing a lot of collaborations. Why was it important to you to highlight smaller artists?
I know what it feels like to be a smaller artist. Honestly, I wouldn't change anything about my journey, but what I would say, as a smaller artist — because I know what it feels like to be there — we do appreciate moments of appreciation with someone else sharing their platform. Because I love all these artists, I wanted to share my platform.
Little artists matter, too. The following, the success, that's not what makes me want to collaborate with the artist. I truly love to meet an artist, and then collaborate with them.
Do you have a dream collab?
I would love to collaborate with Rihanna.
It's a big part of your brand to empower women. Is that something you're cognizant of when making songs and choosing brand deals?
You know what's so funny? I don't think it's cognitive, I think it's innate. I grew up with a lot of loving, supportive women, so for me, it's not even a brand — it's not something that I strategically do. I just love women.
I come from confident, business-oriented, beautiful women, who I watched as a little girl hustle. I watched them get ready, I saw them not tolerate no bullshit. I'm really happy I'm from a strong village of women, because they were able to pass that down to me.
I love that. What else is in the works right now?
I'm working on creating a true company. I'm actually looking for a warehouse right now, so that the Icy Business has a campus — almost like Facebook. Right now I'm looking for a warehouse so I can establish my parent company, Icy, which will house merchandise, makeup and all of my other cool quirky ideas.
So you're building an empire.
Yes, ma'am. I really want to have everything in-house. I want to make my own merch, perfume — I want to make my own full line.
I'm on this spiritual and body journey, too. I'm going to document it and post it on Youtube, it'll be a whole rollout. I really want people to take care of their bodies and their brains. Everything that I need to be a successful artist, I would love to share that with the world through the products I make.
(L - R): Machine Gun Kelly, Charli XCX, Saweetie, Earl Sweatshirt, Rosalía
(Source Photos L - R): Rich Fury/Getty Images for dcp; Jason Koerner/Getty Images; Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for iHeartRadio; Marc Grimwade/WireImage; Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
30 Must-Hear Albums In 2022: Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B, Rosalía, Machine Gun Kelly, Charli XCX, Saweetie & More
2022 has no shortage of new albums to keep your shuffle hard at work. GRAMMY.com compiled a list of 30 upcoming releases — from Kid Cudi, Earl Sweatshirt, Combo Chimbita, Dolly Parton, and Guns N' Roses — to keep you moving in the new year.
Editor's Note: This piece has been updated to reflect release dates and album titles announced after publishing.
While it may feel like there's not much to look forward to during yet another wave of COVID-19, music fans around the world are eagerly waiting to load their playlists with new releases as 2022 gets underway.
And there's certainly plenty to look forward to: Along with The Weeknd, who released his fifth studio album, Dawn FM, on Jan. 7, superstars like Machine Gun Kelly, Camila Cabello, Dolly Parton, Guns N' Roses, and Rosalía have all announced or teased albums coming this year.
The pandemic may have slowed things down, but there's no stopping artists in 2022. Keep an eye out for these 30 albums from ENHYPEN, Mitski, Saweetie, Bastille, and many more.
The Weeknd, Dawn FM
Release date: Jan. 7
Only a year removed from his incendiary Super Bowl Halftime Show performance, the crowned pop prince of Canada returns with the semi-surprise Dawn FM, a hotly anticipated follow-up to his record-breaking 2020 release, After Hours (you know, the one with "Blinding Lights" and "Save Your Tears" on it).
As The Weeknd's album teasers promised, Dawn FM delivered sinister synthesizers, a vocal appearance from Jim Carrey, and old-man makeup that's arguably only slightly less distressing than his wax-faced After Hours persona.Max Martin is back (on lead single "Take My Breath"), and other guests include Tyler, the Creator and Oneohtrix Point Never.
As for what the three-time GRAMMY winner wants his listeners to take away from his latest work? "Picture the album being like the listener is dead," The Weeknd told Billboard. Capisce? — Brennan Carley
ENHYPEN, DIMENSION : ANSWER
Release date: January 10
Seven-piece boy group ENHYPEN may still be relatively new to the K-pop scene (the band formed in 2020 on the Korean survival competition show "I-Land"), but they're already making moves to put themselves in the ranks of BTS and EXO. Their latest release, DIMENSION : ANSWER, marks the group's first studio repackage album, expanding on their 2021 debut set, DIMENSION : DILEMMA.
DIMENSION : ANSWER will feature three new tracks,: "Polaroid Love," "Outro : Day 2," and lead single "Blessed-Cursed." Fans got a first taste of the three B-sides thanks to an album preview the group released on Jan. 4, which teased a wide array of sounds: punchy pop-sprinkled production on "Polaroid Love," sultry R&B vocals with "Outro : Day 2," and guitar-heavy rock on "Blessed-Cursed." With such vast musical prowess, DIMENSION : ANSWER may just be the group's ticket to K-pop superstardom. — Taylor Weatherby
Cordae, From a Bird's Eye View
Release date: Jan. 14
Cordae set the bar high with his GRAMMY-nominated debut album The Lost Boy and emerged as one of the most exciting new talents of 2019, making his return to the game with his hotly anticipated second album.
The Maryland-raised rapper held fans over with his Just Until… EP last April before launching into his album rollout with the braggadocious hit, "Super" and a collaboration with Lil Wayne, "Sinister." The 24-year-old wordsmith — known for his reflective, carefully-crafted raps — said From a Bird's Eye View was inspired by "a life-changing trip to Africa, enduring the loss of a friend gone too soon and evolving as an artist and a man."
The album will also mark Cordae's first full-length effort since the official disbanding of his YBN collective in 2020. — Victoria Moorwood
Animal Collective, Time Skiffs
Release date: Feb. 4
Followers of experimental pop adventurers Animal Collective have waited six years for a new album following 2016's Painting With. At last, the four-piece will release Time Skiffs, an album full of otherworldly harmonies and mind-opening melodies.
Animal Collective has released two singles from the LP so far: the gently psychedelic "Prester John" and the equally trippy "Walker." The latter is a tribute to Scott Walker, the prolific singer-songwriter who died in 2019. Its beautifully intricate music video, directed by band member Dave Portner and his sister Abby, brings the Time Skiffs album cover to life in vivid detail. — Jack Tregoning
Avril Lavigne, Love Sux
Release date: Feb 25
Like everything Y2K, pop-punk is making a comeback. And nearly 20 years since the release of her seminal pop-punk debut Let Go, Avril Lavigne brings back her pop-punk princess persona in all its glory — combat boots and all. In early November, the "Sk8r Boi" singer shared her the angsty anthem "Bite Me," first new single in over two years, featuring Travis Barker.
With the new music, Lavigne also shared she had signed to the drummer extraordinaire's label DTA Records. Her seventh studio album is set to be the artist's first LP since her more traditional pop LP Head Above Water in 2019. — I.K.
Release date: Jan. 14
Like everyone else around the world, electronic shapeshifter Simon Green had a very unusual past two years. The British musician and DJ, better known as Bonobo, found himself grounded in his adopted home of Los Angeles, itching for new inspiration to get through the pandemic. His wanderings took him from a tent in the Californian desert to a new appreciation for modular synths back home in lockdown, all with a nervous eye on the precarious state of the world.
This activity fed into a flood of music which we'll soon hear on Bonobo's seventh studio album, Fragments, out on Ninja Tune. Fragments features guests including Jamila Woods, Joji and Kadhja Bonet, while channeling influences from UK bass, Detroit techno and global music through Bonobo's widescreen lens. The producer is already up for two Best Dance/Electronic Recording awards at this year's GRAMMYs, for "Heartbreak," his collaboration with Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, and "Loom," with Ólafur Arnalds. Bonobo begins a tour of the US in February, giving fans a few precious weeks to soak up the album before its live debut. — J.T.
Earl Sweatshirt, SICK
Release date: Jan. 14
With a decade-plus of acclaimed projects such as 2018's Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt is both an underground hero and a critic's darling. He hasn't achieved the same level of mainstream success as former Odd Future colleagues Tyler, the Creator and Syd – which is fine with him.
Judging from SICK's lead track "2010," where he pays homage to his mother in cryptic terms, the 10-track album promises to be another collection of stylized verses, dusty beats and autobiographical confessions (albeit rendered in a clearer voice than his previous album, 2019's lo-fi affair Feet of Clay). As its title suggests, SICK was inspired by the pandemic. "My whole thing is grading things on the truth, you know what I mean? However expansive or detailed the truth is," he told Rolling Stone. — Mosi Reeves
iann dior, On To Better Things
Release date: January 21
After blasting onto the scene with his 24kgoldn team-up (and runaway smash) "Mood" in 2020, iann dior hasn't slowed down, releasing an EP and countless other collabs. On To Better Things marks dior's first full-length album since 2019, serving up 15 tracks that will help the rapper truly come into his own.
Like the Lil Uzi Vert-assisted "V12" and the racing single "Let You," On To Better Things will see dior further explore his capabilities as a rapper while also tapping into his alt-pop/rock sensibilities. Judging by his previous releases, dior won't be afraid to get raw and real on his latest project as he opens up about love, relationships and loyalty. There may be glimmers of hope on the album, though, as dior captioned a post teasing the album, "life is better now." — T.W.
Combo Chimbita, IRÉ
Release date: Jan. 28
The melding of cumbia beats and psychedelic vibes was embraced during the '70s by many pioneering outfits in Peru and Colombia. Since the release of their 2017 debut, New York quartet Combo Chimbita has built on that foundation, amping up the mystical tinge of its material through the soulful chanting of extraordinary vocalist Carolina Oliveros.
Always ready to speak up on social and political issues, Chimbita uses cumbia as a starting point, adding swashes of funk and soul, Afro guitar lines and atmospheric samples. The band's new album expands its palette, enhancing lead single "Oya" with a video shot at the ruins of Puerto Rico's abandoned Intercontinental Hotel. A tour with the awesomeLido Pimienta will follow soon. — Ernesto Lechner
Release date: January 2022
Anticipation surrounding Aaliyah's fourth album has been building since 2012, when Blackground Records released "Don't Think They Know," which paired the late singer's vocals with Chris Brown, and a Drake collaboration, "Enough Said." The long-awaited arrival of her back catalog to streaming last fall added fresh fuel for a project that has been controversial, with some diehard fans questioning whether it honors Aaliyah's legacy.
Unstoppable includes guests like Snoop Dogg, Future and Ne-Yo. The first single, a woozy ballad titled "Poison," features The Weeknd as well as lyrics originally written by the late Static Major. "Some of the people Aaliyah liked are on the album. She loved Snoop Dogg," Blackground CEO and Aaliyah's uncle Jomo Hankerson told Billboard. "Everything I do at Blackground is always with her in my heart and my mind." — M.R.
Bastille, Give Me the Future
Release date: Feb. 4
If the pandemic had even a glimmer of a bright side, it comes courtesy of musicians like Bastille pivoting and positioning their art to address the present, as Give Me the Future promises to do.
Bandleader Dan Smith had already begun work on the English pop-rock group's fourth album before COVID-19 threw a wrench in his plans, but the pandemic made the album's probing themes seem that much more prescient. Glistening songs like "Thelma + Louise" and the vocoded "Distorted Light Beam" dig more deeply into Bastille's exploration of escapism when the troubles of the world are thundering outside our windows, all with the help of new collaborators Rami Yacoub and One Republic's Ryan Tedder. We promise it's way more fun than it sounds. — B.C.
Mitski, Laurel Hell
Release date: Feb. 4
Mitski almost pressed pause on her music career which, according to a Rolling Stone interview, was "shaving away my soul little by little." After a final performance, "I would quit and find another life." Fortunately, though, Mitski has stuck with it.
Three years since the release of her fifth studio album Be the Cowboy, the indie singer-songwriter is set to share her forthcoming project Laurel Hell. While the majority of the LP was penned in 2018, it wasn't mixed until 2021, making it the longest the singer has spent on one of her records. What listeners can expect is a transformative set of songs that pair Mitski's signature vulnerability with uptempo dance beats and, ultimately, catharsis. — Ilana Kaplan
Guns N' Roses, Hard Skool EP
Release date: Feb. 25
In 2021, 36 years after the band first formed in the hard rock hotbed of Los Angeles, Guns N' Roses returned with two new singles. This productive streak was remarkable enough in itself given the group's notoriously haphazard release schedule. The singles "ABSUЯD" and "Hard Skool" are doubly remarkable, though, because they usher in a new EP that brings beloved members Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan together again after 28 years.
Reinterpreted from the band's Chinese Democracy sessions, "ABSUЯD" features a raw, punk-tinged sound that surprised some fans before rewarding repeat listens. "Hard Skool," meanwhile, harkens back to the classic sound that Guns N' Roses perfected in the late 1980s. The Hard Skool EP will feature the two 2021 singles alongside live renditions of GNR favorites "Don't Cry" and "You're Crazy." To mark this new era, the band is touring arenas throughout 2022, reuniting Axl, Slash and Duff as a powerhouse onstage trio. — J.T.
Take a Look Back: Guns N' Roses' 'Appetite For Destruction' | For The Record
Charli XCX, CRASH
Release date: March 18
Pop polymorph Charli XCX has been promising fans her sellout era for months now ("tip for new artists: sell your soul for money and fame," she tweeted last July), ushered in with last summer's "Good Ones" and buoyed into the holidays with "New Shapes," a powerhouse team-up with Caroline Polachek and Christine and the Queens.
CRASH is the fifth and final album she owes Atlantic Records — a benchmark not lost on fans or Charli herself. For it, Charli promises edge-of-your-seat appearances from Rina Sawayama, frequent collaborator A. G. Cook, and frequent Weeknd cohort Oneohtrix Point Never. Come for the bloody album artwork, stay for the cheeky, self-aware pop concoctions contained within. — B.C.
Dolly Parton, Run, Rose, Run
Release date: March 2022
The beloved, multi-GRAMMY Award-winning singer-songwriter Dolly Parton has built a career as a trailblazer, so it stands to reason that her next musical effort would carry on that grand tradition. Run, Rose, Run is an album of original tunes taking its energetic moniker from a companion novel that Parton co-authored with the acclaimed writer James Patterson.
According to Parton, the accompanying album consists of "all new songs written based on the characters and situations in the book" and centers on a tale about a girl who treks to Nashville to pursue her dreams. Adds Patterson, "the mind-blowing thing about this project is that reading the novel is enhanced by listening to the album and vice versa." Both projects are dropping in tandem. It's a unique undertaking that celebrates a smoldering passion for music; but if you've been following the legend's career, would you expect anything less? — Rob LeDonne
Maren Morris, Humble Quest
Release date: March 25
GRAMMY-winning singer Maren Morris has conquered modern country music with her soulful solo material and even forayed into pop (just mentioning "The Middle" will glue its sticky chorus to your every waking moment for the next week). So whatever magic Morris might make with her highly anticipated third album, Humble Quest, is cause enough for celebration.
Morris kicked off her next LP with "Circles Around This Town," an expansive, freewheeling single that blends the echoing production of her 2016 debut HERO and super-personal lyrics of 2019's GIRL. The album will be Morris' first since the untimely 2019 passing of her longtime creative partner busbee, but her partnership with pop hitmaker Greg Kurstin (who produced "Circles Around This Town" as well as four GIRL tracks) hints that this next project is going to be a timeless trip and an emotional walloping. — B.C.
Thomas Rhett, Where We Started / Country Again: Side B
Release date: April 1 / Fall 2022
Though country music has always been the core of what Thomas Rhett has done since his debut album (2013's It Goes Like This), the star's 2021 set, Country Again: Side A, was more traditional than his past projects. Clearly his roots (along with the unexpected pandemic-induced downtime) sparked a bout of inspiration, as Rhett announced in November that he'll be releasing Side B as well as another LP, titled Where We Started, in 2022.
Surprisingly, Side B won't be coming first. But it will create one cohesive Country Again narrative once it arrives, as Rhett promised in an interview with Rolling Stone last year — though he did hint that Side B will feature production that's "a smidge more experimental" than Side A. His latest single, the wistful "Slow Down Summer" hints that Where We Started will also bring back more of the pop-leaning production he's incorporated in his previous albums.
Still, that doesn't mean he'll lose sight of the country boy that has been unleashed: In writing all of this music, Rhett told his producers (per Rolling Stone), "This is the direction I'm headed in, and I think I'm gonna be here for a long time." — T.W.
Jack White, Fear of the Dawn / Entering Heaven Alive
Release date: April 8 / July 22
Epic ambition fuels the very essence of rock 'n' roll and Jack White has embodied the genre's weakness for glamour, dissonance and excess since his days with The White Stripes. The reckless propulsion of "Over and Over and Over" — off 2018's Boarding House Reach — proved that he has kept the bravado in his songwriting very much alive.
2022 will find the multi-GRAMMY Award winning singer/guitarist releasing two full-length albums: Fear of the Dawn, led by the wonderfully bombastic single "Taking Me Back," will also include a collaboration with rapper Q-Tip. No details are available on July's Entering Heaven Alive, but the appearance of two albums in the same year is the kind of grandiloquent gesture that rock is in need of more than ever before. — E.L.
Swedish House Mafia, Paradise Again
Release date: TBA, ships April 15
When GRAMMY-nominated Swedish House Mafia announced they were getting back together (and this time for good), fans were cautiously optimistic. The trio of DJ-producers — Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso and Axwell — promised a host of new music to mark their return, and so far they've kept to their word. The comeback began with the dark, guest-free "It Gets Better," which deviated from the big-room EDM sound championed by the Swedes up to their split in 2013.
From there, the trio delivered "Lifetime," featuring Ty Dolla $ign and 070 Shake, and "Moth to a Flame," featuring The Weeknd, which became their first major hit of the new era. This flurry of activity sets the stage for Swedish House Mafia's first full album, Paradise Again. As Ingrosso told NME, the album will combine their trademark "Scandinavian melodies with dark production and hard sounds." Starting July 2022, the DJs embark on their first tour in a decade, playing 44 dates throughout the US, UK and Europe. — J.T.
Jason Aldean, Georgia
Release date: April 22
Jumping on country music's 2021 double album trend, Jason Aldean issued Macon, the first half of his own two-disc set, Macon, Georgia, in November. The title is an homage to his hometown, which he refers to as a "melting pot" that shaped his music, according to Country Now. Yet, the 30-song project expands on Aldean's signature country-rock sound without steering too far away from what fans have grown to love, as evidenced with both Macon and Georgia's crooning lead single, "Whiskey Me Away."
Like its predecessor, Georgia will include 10 new songs and five live recordings of his biggest hits, essentially creating Aldean's first-ever live album.With the aptly titled track "Rock and Roll Cowboy" to boot, Georgia helps make Macon, Georgia a career highlight for Aldean. — T.W.
Machine Gun Kelly, Born with Horns
Release date: TBD
The upcoming sixth studio album from enigmatic rocker Machine Gun Kelly, ominously titled Born with Horns, was rumored to drop on New Year's Eve 2021, but it seems Kelly had a change of heart tweeting "See you in 2022." While the release date continues to be murky, there is some solid information about the highly anticipated fresh slate of music from the multi-hyphenate rockstar.
For one, the album is produced by fellow rock luminary Travis Barker and includes the decidedly dark single "Papercuts." "It feels more guitar-heavy for sure, lyrically it definitely goes deeper, but I never like to do anything the same," Kelly said of Born with Horns in an interview with Sunday TODAY, noting it'll also mark a personal evolution. "I'm not scared anymore, there's nothing holding me back from being my true self — and my true self can't be silenced, can't be restrained." — R.L.
Camila Cabello, Familia
Release date: TBD
There's perhaps never been a better advertisement for an album than Camila Cabello's edition of NPR's Tiny Desk. Released last fall, the session begins with three old songs and ends with two Familia cuts strong enough to bowl you over. In just 20 minutes, the former Fifth Harmony singer genuflects at the altar of pop's past while steering its ship into the future.
"Don't Go Yet" brims with the promise of comfort as it opens with a warm flamenco guitar. "La Buena Vida" is a Mariachi-based explosion of emotion and evocation, anchored by Cabello's arresting vocals. Whereas her prior albums sought to cement the 24-year-old amidst her contemporaries, the uber-personal Familia seems likely to propel her into a whole new pedigree of artistry. — B.C.
Release date: TBD
In 2018, Rosalía's cinematic El Mal Querer signified a before-and-after for the music of Spain and Latin America. A visionary blend of flamenco, hip-hop and confessional torch song, the album introduced her to the world as an intellectual, musicologist and pop diva wrapped up into one slick sonic package. Subsequent singles (2019's "Haute Couture" was a gorgeous slice of electro-pop) demonstrated that Rosalía's path to global domination relies on a voracious curiosity for disparate styles and high-profile collaborators such as Billie Eilish and Bad Bunny.
Titled MOTOMAMI, Rosalía's much anticipated release includes "LA FAMA," a deliciously distorted bachata duet with The Weeknd. We can only imagine what other wonders Rosalía's remarkable imagination has dreamed up for this, her first full-length album since becoming a cultural icon. — E.L.
Saweetie, Pretty Bitch Music
Release date: TBD
Saweetie is set to finally release her debut album, Pretty Bitch Music, this year. After first announcing the project in 2020, the Bay Area native's star power has exploded, reaching new heights last year with major endorsements, her first GRAMMY nominations and a "Saturday Night Live" debut. Pretty Bitch Music was initially slated to arrive in 2021, but Saweetie postponed the effort for some additional fine-tuning.
"I'm just living with it to ensure it's perfect," she told Hollywood Life in August. "I'm really challenging myself and I just want to ensure that I put out a body of work that [will] symbolize art."
Pretty Bitch Music is expected to include Saweetie's 2x Platinum-certified collaboration with Doja Cat, "Best Friend" and her single "Tap In" with production by Timbaland, Lil Jon and Murda Beatz, among other heavy-hitters. — V.M.
Kid Cudi, Entergalactic
Release date: TBD
Three years after it was announced, Kid Cudi's animated music adventure for Netflix is set to arrive this summer, as the rapper declared during his set at Rolling Loud California in December. "I got some tasty surprises," he told fans before offering a snippet of unreleased music that may be on the soundtrack.
Not much else is known about the project, which takes its title from a song on Cudi's 2009 debut Man on the Moon: The End of Day, and which co-creator Kenya Barris referred to as "the most ambitious thing" in a 2019 interview with Complex.
Entergalactic might not be where Kid Cudi stops in 2022, either: Amid his Rolling Loud teases, he said, "I want to drop another album before [Entergalactic]... I really am excited about all this new s, this new music to give to you guys. So that's why I'm teasing this s now, 'cause it's comin' out soon." — M.R.
Beach House, Once Twice Melody
Release date: throughout 2022
Nearly four years since the release of their seventh studio album aptly titled 7, Beach House is slowly unveiling their latest record Once Twice Melody. But instead of dropping all 18 tracks at once, the dreamy indie duo has been giving fans a taste of their new sound in four chapters.
Once Twice Melody is a significant shift as it's the first album produced in full by the band. Beach House also thought about its structure completely differently than they had in the past. "It didn't just feel like a regular, like another album of ours, it felt like a larger, newer kind of way of looking at our music," singer Victoria Legrand told Apple Music. Instead, they view it as "cinematic" and "literary." What fans can expect, they say, is "a lot of love" and "a sacredness of nature." — I.K.
Kendrick Lamar, TBA
Release date: TBD
One of our most celebrated artists of his generation may make his triumphant return this year. Although it's been nearly five years since Kendrick Lamar released his GRAMMY- and Pulitzer Prize-winning album DAMN, Lamar has remained busy. In 2018, Lamar curated the Black Panther soundtrack and he's also made guest appearances on tracks by artists as varied as Nipsey Hussle, Anderson .Paak, U2 and his cousin, Baby Keem.
But Lamar has been mostly mum about his own music, save for an August blog post titled "nu thoughts." "Love, loss, and grief have disturbed my comfort zone, but the glimmers of God speak through my music and family," he wrote, adding that his next album will be his last with Top Dawg Entertainment. It's the sort of thoughtful, precise announcement (and perhaps a hint to his album's content) that fans have come to expect from the notoriously private rapper. Lamar will thankfully make an appearance at this year's Super Bowl in February. — Britt Julious
Cardi B, TBA
Release date: TBD
Despite the slow-burning success of her single "Bodak Yellow," few could have predicted the popularity of Cardi B'sdebut album, Invasion of Privacy. A critical and commercial success, "Invasion of Privacy" won Best Rap Album at the 61st Grammy Awards, making Cardi the first woman to win in the category. That's why anticipation for her sophomore record is so high.
Cardi's brand of hip-hop is provocative and fun, and her two singles (possibly from the record) seem to confirm that same mood is still present in her music. In 2020, she dropped "WAP," a cultural reset of a collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion, and in 2021, she released "Up," which later inspired a viral TikTok dance challenge. As with many artists, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the release of Cardi's new album. But late last year on Instagram Live, Cardi said she has "lots of jobs now" and one of them is to "put out this album next year." Hopefully fans won't have to wait too long. — B.J.
Release date: TBD
If Koffee's latest single is any indication, the youngest GRAMMY Award winner for Best Reggae Album is planning a glorious homecoming in 2022. Sung with a wide smile you can nearly hear, "West Indies" is a dancehall love letter to the islands and an upbeat promise for what the singer has in store on her first full-length.
"I want to speak of a solution and of a way that we can come together and get along, even when things are going wrong," Koffee told Rolling Stone.
Although the pandemic halted her album recording and nixed her first Coachella performance, Koffee defies the dour attitude of much of the past two years. On "West Indies," Koffee assures that she's partying and having the time of her life — her as-yet-untitled album will likely soundtrack yours while you do the same. — Jessica Lipsky
Read More: The Women Essential To Reggae And Dancehall
Girl Ultra, TBA
Release date: TBD
Few musical experiences are as uplifting as listening to a singer/songwriter's follow-up to a brilliant debut, where they enhance the scope of their craft with new influences and sounds. Nuevos Aires, Girl Ultra's first full-length album, was just that – a breath of fresh air for Latin R&B, anchored on the purity of her voice and collaborations with Ximena Sariñana and Cuco (for the languid hit "DameLove.")
Following that 2019 release, the artist also known as Mariana de Miguel returns with a new EP. Lead single "Amores de Droga" evokes the sophistication of Everything But The Girl, combining smoldering vocalizing with cool electro grooves. A study in contrasts, it finds the Mexico City chanteuse reaching a pinnacle of inspiration. — E.L.
Photo: Brian Ziff
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: How Illenium Went From An "Obsessed" Dance Music Fan To An Arena-Filling DJ & Producer
With his fourth LP, 'Fallen Embers,' Illenium kicked off a new era that blends his love for electronic music and pop-punk. As he celebrates a GRAMMY nod, the producer looks back on his journey to stardom and shares how the dance genre changed his life.
Growing up, Nick Miller never really listened to dance music. Now, he's one of the genre's most prolific stars, better known as Illenium — and is celebrating a GRAMMY nomination as a result.
Illenium's fourth album, 2021's Fallen Embers, is up for Best Dance/Electronic Music Album at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards. It's a pinnacle moment for Miller, who became "obsessed" with the electronic music world in 2009, launched his career with a self-released EP in 2013, then made his major-label debut in 2016.
Since then, Illenium has put out three more LPs and countless singles, teaming up with fellow dance titans like Gryffin and the Chainsmokers, as well as a variety of singers, from Georgia Ku to Jon Bellion. His versatility is perhaps most apparent on Fallen Embers, which features Tori Kelly, iann dior and Thirty Seconds to Mars, among others.
Though he's already teasing new music — which will debut during Illenium's set at Miami's Ultra Music Festival on March 26 — the producer/DJ feels the next chapter of his career truly began with Fallen Embers. With a GRAMMY nomination to validate his new direction, it may really just be the beginning.
GRAMMY.com sat down with Illenium to discuss the importance of Fallen Embers, how he transitioned from the crowd to the stage, and the role music played in changing — and saving — his life.
What initially made you realize that you were interested in producing — and that you were actually pretty good at it?
I started messing around in GarageBand in high school, and it introduced me to the idea of spending time creating something — even though that stuff back then was really bad. I moved to Colorado, and had some life-changing moments, and I started putting a lot of my time into it. A lot of the encouragement I got from friends, even though it was just mediocre music, was really exciting.
I was writing for music blogs, and I just loved the whole electronic music scene at that time. I would try to create what my idols were doing, and try to learn how they were doing it. I became obsessed, passionate and excited. I got addicted to trying to make songs. The feeling of doing it yourself, and being able to control every aspect of that, was really addicting.
I went to a Red Rocks show in 2012, and seeing that community, especially in Colorado — the Denver-based music scene is really tight-knit and communal, and it's really genuine. It was just really special. It was an experience that really drove me to want to succeed in it.
Was dance music your No. 1 genre growing up?
No, not at all. I didn't listen to much dance music until, like, 2009. I first got into it when I was living in San Francisco. I really liked a lot of the house stuff and trance, and then once I moved to Colorado, it turned into the bass music scene.
I grew up listening to a lot of pop-punk and rock, and my family listens to country a lot. A lot of hip-hop [too]. So I was all over the place in middle school and high school.
That's kind of all I listen to now. I listen to some pop, and a little bit of hip-hop, but it's almost all rock music and pop-punk.
Considering you were a teenager during the pop-punk explosion of the mid-2000s, that makes sense.
Totally. I feel like there's so much emotion and — it's not even aggression, but it's like, intensity, in that kind of music, where it can be really pretty melodically or lyrically, but the instrumental stuff behind it just like, hits. It hits me more than a lot of electronic music does nowadays. So I think that's why I'm transferring it into my type of thing.
Fallen Embers is the first album that doesn't start with "A," but its title still fits into the overall theme that Ashes, Awake and Ascend present. What's the story behind that?
My logo is a phoenix, [because] the imagery behind the phoenix really relates to me and the music that I make, and why I make music in the first place. So my first three albums were kind of this whole birth cycle of a phoenix. They all started with "A," it was a trilogy of that cycle. So Fallen Embers was kind of my take on what pieces were left — the embers fallen from the phoenix throughout that whole journey.
I made that album when I wasn't touring, and that's the first album I made in a long time [that] I wasn't touring, because I've been touring like crazy. It turned out much more calm and much more like a recharge album for me. Lyrically, it [details] the ebbs and flows of a relationship — it doesn't have to be a relationship, but just through finding yourself, and forgiving yourself for making mistakes and moving on.
Sonically, Fallen Embers has more rock elements. It's definitely calmer than Ascend. I love emotional music, so my music is always going to have an emotional aspect to it. That is not going to change. But I don't want to just keep repeating and chasing [the same sound], so now I'm moving very — like, totally — different, post-Fallen Embers. Fallen Embers, for me, was like a farewell, almost. I just wanted to be very clear that that was a trilogy, and now we're departed.
When you announced Fallen Embers, you said this is "the start of a new chapter." So is that kind of what you were talking about?
Yeah. I've been in LA five out of the past six months to start from scratch and write rock songs, and heavy aggressive s<em></em>*, because I feel like I took a break and made music that's kind of calm. Now I'm [going] a little more aggressive and adding some metal aspects.
There's this middle ground of electronic, rock and metal that can be really cool. And I feel like there's a lot of people doing similar stuff, but the songs can be really authentic and healing to people — right now, especially.
You also said this album was "an incredibly personal journey for me." Since it was so personal for you, did you see an even more meaningful impact from these songs?
Yeah. I mean, these past two years have been really challenging for a lot of people, myself included. Especially since shows have come back, you can definitely see in people the excitement to get a release of some sort. And to [just] enjoy — it's hard after a long time of people just going through the motions.
Especially in the electronic music scene, a lot of these people use these shows and the music for their healing and their escape. And that's really important for 'em. So to be able to give them a show and also give them new music, and see how that music has been their kind of crutch this past year, has been really beautiful for me.
You had everyone from Tori Kelly to Angels and Airwaves on Fallen Embers. What goes into finding the right vocalist for a track?
It's a mix. A lot of it is availability-based. When I first am working on a song, especially if it's a demo, it'd be like, "Who would sound good on this?" The "Blame Myself" demo had Emily Warren, who has a really amazing voice, and a very unique tone. So it's hard to fill that.
You get this thing called "demoitis," where you're used to the demo so much, it's hard to separate. But you've got to just find the right vocalist that is gonna bring her own or his own whole attitude to it. And you just kind of have to sit with it for a second because you're so obsessed with the first version.
It's not about, necessarily, the skill of singing. It's a lot of tone. Sonically, how you make a whole song, and you have a vocal in there, you need someone that fits that exact same spot. And that can be really challenging.
For "Paper Thin" with Tom and Angels and Airwaves, that was just a bucket list [thing] for me, I've always wanted to work with him. When we sent it to him, we were like, "They're probably not going to do this." Same with Jared [Leto, Thirty Seconds to Mars' frontman]. I'm the biggest fan of all of the people I collaborated with, so it's really been special.
I feel like a lot of people who aren't as familiar with the dance music scene may assume that producers like you, who aren't on their tracks vocally, might not write them. But you, and people like Kygo and Zedd — all of these huge names in the producer world — have proven that wrong. Do you feel like that's a common misconception?
I think there's always gonna be a misconception of a DJ/producer type thing. I don't think there's any way to get around it, unfortunately. But at the end of the day, it's okay. People [who like] different music have a whole different perspective.
When people see "DJ," they're like, "Oh, like, Vegas DJ. Throw a party!" They have no idea the complexities that go behind that. There are some producers out there that can do insane stuff. It's hard to even start describing that. There's some songs where we start with a guitar, and we write from scratch. It's just about having an ear for what is going to be successful, and also just having an ear of what you enjoy.
In 2018, you shared a really personal story about how music changed your life. Was it a certain song, album or artist that did that for you? Or was it being able to use the music that you were creating as your outlet? Or a combination of both?
It's definitely a mixture of both. When I turned my life around from that time period, it was a mixture of getting so curious about music production, but I was also obsessed with music — I was like, "How do these producers create these things?"
That little thought sparked so much curiosity in me, and [I] wanted to figure out how to implement my love for music and love for different genres. For it to change my life, it had to have all of those aspects — being obsessed with music, loving other people's music, and wanting to create my own.
Doing an action in one of those phases every day is what got me going and got me into the scene, and into my career. But also [made me] confident with myself and feeling like I had some sort of purpose. It was a really healing process for me, because I was kind of a s<em></em>*show before that. I needed something to put all of my energy into, and something that my family supported, and I had friends that supported me. So that was just really cool.
When I was so low, I had no faith in myself at all. You just have no confidence, and you're pretty broken. For you to even have an idea of "I might be good at something" or "I might get good at something if I work hard enough at it and I love it," then it's just full speed ahead.
What does 2012 Nick at Red Rocks think of 2022 Nick being a GRAMMY-nominated producer?
It's just mind-blowing. You know, I told myself when I saw the Red Rocks show in 2012, I was like, "Maybe in 10 years, I'll get to play at Red Rocks." I wasn't even saying headline or anything, just play at Red Rocks. I apparently set a very low goal for myself. [Laughs.]
Constantly having goals set and then reaching them throughout my whole career has been amazing, but it's crazy to think about being a GRAMMY-nominated artist. That is a whole different world that I never even thought — I just got into bass music and EDM, you know? To think of that transition, that's crazy.
Megan Thee Stallion
Photo: Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for BET
Poll: From Megan Thee Stallion To Olivia Rodrigo, What Will The 2021 Song Of The Summer Be?
For the latest GRAMMY.com poll, we want to know which 2021 bop you think should be crowned the song of the summer
Happy July! Now that we're officially in the midst of summer and a holiday weekend is approaching, it's the perfect time to get outside and blast your favorite new tunes.
While there is still some time for the 2021 song of the summer to be crowned—or released—the topic has been on our minds.
So, for our latest GRAMMY.com poll, we want to know what 2021 bop you think will hit hardest across the country this summer.
The songs below from Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Saweetie, Doja Cat, BTS, Olivia Rodrigo, Silk Sonic, Lil Nas X, Lorde, WILLOW, City Girls and Justin Bieber have already been making waves—not to mention getting us ready to splash in the waves!
Vote above to let us know which one you think will be the top summer jam, and have a safe and happy holiday weekend filled with great music!
Saweetie at 2020 Pre-GRAMMY Gala
Photo: Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images
Billie Eilish, Saweetie, Selena Gomez, John Legend & More Will Share "Why I'm Voting"
The iHeartMedia campaign is focused on sharing the personal stories on why people are voting in the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election, and is also offering listeners the chance to submit their own message
Saweetie, Billie Eilish and FINNEAS, Selena Gomez, John Legend, Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons and others will be encouraging their massive fan bases to vote in iHeartMedia's "Why I'm Voting" campaign, Billboard revealed today.
The 2020 non-partisan voter initiative has kicked off with a new podcast—sharing the same name and also launched today—with the first four episodes featuring 2020 Producer Of The Year FINNEAS, Jewel and comedians Will Ferrell and Baratunde Thurston.
The campaign is focused on sharing the personal stories on why people are voting in the upcoming 2020 Presidential Election, and is also offering listeners the chance to submit their own 20-second message.
Another important part of the campaign, iHeartMedia is asking people to text the word "VOTER" to 26797 to learn about election info in their area, voter registration deadlines and more.