Photo: Christian San Jose
SiR Is 'Chasing Summer' And, With A Little Help From Kendrick Lamar & Others, Making His Dreams Reality
"It feels different, it feels evolved and it feels like a great direction. And I'm really proud of the work to say the least," the Inglewood singer/producer says of his vibey new album
You may have already jammed out to SiR's big 2019 summer mood single, "Hair Down," featuring the one and only Kendrick Lamar. If so, you already have a good starting place for understanding who the smooth R&B singer/producer, born Sir Darryl Farris, from Inglewood is. The vibey track is driven by SiR's warm, rich vocals over a slow-bubbling trap beat, elevated even further into the golden summer sunset by Lamar's verse. It's confident but laid-back—two words which also describe the artist himself well—a true slow-burn of a fire track.
"Hair Down" is the first track and the lead single to SiR's third album, Chasing Summer, which he dropped during Labor Day Weekend, on Aug. 30. It is his second LP released since he was signed to heavy-hitting Los Angeles label Top Dawg Entertainment. As he explains, it sets the tone for the rest of the album and also marks a major point of growth in his musical career and self-confidence.
"This time I was more direct about what I wanted, and I think that's huge. Your intentions when you go into things have to be put in the forefront if it's important. So this time around when I went into sessions, I was very vocal about exactly what I wanted, and the sessions went a lot better when I did that," he recently told the Recording Academy over the phone.
You recently dropped Chasing Summer, which is just such a perfect mood as summer comes to an end. What has the experience of this release felt like for you?
Man, it's one of a kind. Being the type musician I am, I'm very involved with each release, and this one feels different than the last two. Everybody around me was locked in, not just me. All the musicians and all of my team, my management had the common goals set almost a year ago, and just were building on this idea. So, it feels different, it feels evolved and it feels like a great direction. And I'm really proud of the work to say the least.
That's amazing, and I'm sure that's a really just great feeling to sort of be marinating in right now.
Yeah. It's awesome. It's definitely new territory for me. I'm just trying to keep up with myself now, which is fun.
"It's a very honest album, and I think that's a big reason why people gravitate towards it because I didn't really hold back this time around. I kind of made sure I was as honest as I could be and I think that's shining through for sure."
I love that. Can you speak to what your main vision for this album was?
The vision for the album is, it was all based off of my life on the road and all my experiences that I had accumulated over the last three or four years. With seeing my peers and just dealing with personal relationships, business relationships and trying to balance home and the road, and just my evolution as a human. I kind of put a lot of it into wax. It's a very honest album, and I think that's a big reason why people gravitate towards it because I didn't really hold back this time around. I kind of made sure I was as honest as I could be and I think that's shining through for sure.
I feel like it really does. I wanted to talk about the producers on the album. You worked with a handful of different people including Kal Banx and Sounwave from TDE as well as Boi-1da and a few others. How do you feel that working with these different creative minds helped challenge you and shape the trajectory of the album?
I'm going to answer this question, but I have a very specific thing about me that I really like. I work with people that want to work with me, so I don't chase beats; there's no rhyme or scheme. I didn't select certain people. I just put my head down and kept writing songs until we felt like we had a body of work. And then, what I do with most of my production is I'll get players to come in and add actual instrumentation to a good beat so that it has more life to it. I'm hands-on with all my mixes and masters. With all of the production, I was blessed to have really talented musicians around to help just elevate the sound, and I think that helps so much, man.
Working with cats like Boi-1da was an honor, of course, but I wouldn't hold him in higher regard than I would a Kal Banx, who damn near had six records on the album that he helped me produce and work on. So, I feel like everybody added their own sauce to it and it ended up being way bigger than I expected. But as far as like who produced what, I think that's not as important as the overall body of work, and we all knew that. With Kal, he wasn't worried when I told him I got a new base plate on the recipe. He didn't ask any questions, he just knew it was going to be saucy. You know what I mean?
I think, like I said, we all had a common goal. Once I laid out the plan and the vision for everybody, they were on board. So, we went into the every session with a specific goal in mind and we executed properly and I think it's going to pay off for all of us in the long run. I'm so excited for Kal. I'm excited to share this moment with him and see the response to his hard work, and it's all a blessing, really and truly.
It really seems like it was everything you would hope for in the studio, that everything is moving forward and flowing together, even with all the different people.
Yeah. I learned a lot from November and just how I kind of let a lot of people in the process in certain points where I didn't really necessarily mean to. This time I was more direct about what I wanted, and I think that's huge. Your intentions when you go into things have to be put in the forefront if it's important.
So this time around when I went into sessions, I was very vocal about exactly what I wanted, and the sessions went a lot better when I did that, and I think that helped give people an idea of what they should be doing when they come around. If you're a producer, I might not need you to make a whole beat, but I might need you to make these drums, or I might need you to play keys. Just be prepared to translate what I need, I'm not coming to you to get what you need. I produce myself, so I think this time around I was able to really fine-tune things the way I like, and it shows, man. This is my baby for sure. I feel like this is a very special project.
The album opens with "Hair Down," featuring Kendrick Lamar, which you also released as the lead single. Can you give a little bit of the backstory on that song and video and what it was like working with him?
That was probably the first song I wrote for the album that we were probably going use as a single. We usually don't try to shoot for singles, you know what I mean? When we're building a project, we'll make sure that the songs can all stand on their own two legs. As soon as I did that one, it just felt like what I wanted the album to look like, and to me it was the perfect starting point. It was the perfect launch point for what we were trying to accomplish, and I didn't get the [Lamar] verse until two months ago or something like that. I wrote that song probably a year ago while we were on the road at [TDE's 2018] Championship Tour.
That's not something you ask for. It was something that we talked about, but that's not something that you ask for. It's like the Jill Scott thing, I didn't really ask for that. You got to let them make that decision. I think with working with artists like Kendrick, Jill Scott and Lil Wayne, it's a blessing and I think I do everything I can to just make myself someone that people want to work with. I think I do a good job of standing on my own two feet, and that's something that I had to embrace over the last two years.
Just working with your idols is always awkward. It's weird. I met [Childish] Gambino at the BET awards. I wish I could take that back because it was so awkward, you know what I mean? And I still go through the everyday life stuff of I'm human and if I see somebody that I'm not used to seeing, it's going to be weird. This year, I had to really step outside of that and become SiR, and really accept that. I think it shined through when I sat and talked to people about the project, they were more open to it because I was more confident in myself, and that really helped a lot, just giving me that confidence. [Lamar's] conversations are more important to me than that verse ever will be. I'm appreciative of the verse for sure, but I can really say that's my mentor. This dude really takes care of his team and really cares about us, man. So, it's definitely a blessing to have him on deck.
And what would you say the biggest thing you learned from the collaborators on this project?
Spread love. Because I feel like most of them, they didn't have to do what they did. Miss Jill, she's getting so much love on her acting career, as she should be. She really doesn't need to feature on anything. All of these artists, they got their own things. People are looking for them and checking for them.
When I get on, if I'm ever in a position to bless somebody, and I feel like they are working hard and they've got their thing together, I definitely would want to be what they are to me. I'd want to be a blessing and give back to the community. They see that I'm a part of the same community, I have the same common goal with music. It's not me trying to get on or be a flashy type. It's not that. I really care about the music. So, I think they saw that and they wanted to reciprocate the same kind of love I'm trying to get off it.
That's all it's really about, is spreading love and giving back to what you want to see thrive and flourish. And I think they really see something in what we got going, and I was just lucky. I really feel like it's the right place at the right time, but I don't want to make it that simple. But I feel like they really are just spreading love, man, and they blessed me. I'm still in shock. I can't really process it. It's all new territory for me. It's lovely though. I don't take it for granted.
How would you describe the L.A. music community now? From that explanation, it sounds very supportive and nurturing, but I'm interested in your perspective, whether it's just like that with TDE or just in your experience with who you've worked with.
L.A. is a weird place. It's very divided, with the people that are actually from L.A. to the people that come out here and claim L.A. The music industry's a weird place in general. I'm from L.A., so I definitely abide by the L.A. rules before I abide by the music industry rules. But when it comes to the music scene, there's a small community. What I'm learning is the further along I go in my career, the community gets smaller and smaller, and that's a great thing. You find people that are like-minded, and you got to let some friends go sometimes.
But for the most part, the goal is to find common ground that you can really build on. And I feel like I've found my community of people, from Mind Design to Kiefer to D.K. the Punisher to Kal Banx to all of my musician friends, The Catalyst, my band. My brothers, and just all of the musicians that I've been working with for the last 10 years, I still work with the same cats. L.A. is small, it's big, but at the time it's small, and I really want to keep it that way. I'd appreciate it if it stayed that way.
What does that summer mood look and sound like to you?
Well, summer mood has that sunset tint to it. It's like, to me, this album is best listened to riding down Malibu about six o'clock sunset. That's the vibe. I'm a Cali kid through and through, and I hope it translates through with the music. I think we hit it on the ball. If you want a glimpse at what summer's supposed to be, just take a listen to the album, close your eyes, and it should do the trick.
Stepping back, who are your biggest influences?
Oh man, Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway. These are people that my mother listened to when I was growing up. I grew up in the church, so I love Fred Hammond and Noel Jones. I don't know if you know who Noel Jones is, he's a preacher from L.A., his voice is so crazy. My mom sang background for Chaka Khan back in the day, and Michael Jackson. So, I grew up with an ear to R&B for sure, from the '60s, '70s, '80s. Of course I have hip-hop influences, but my spectrum is wide. We could have a 30 minute conversation about all the music I listen to, I promise you.
Lately, I've been listening to a lot of The Beatles. "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" has been on repeat for a couple of weeks, then Innervisions [Wonder's 1973 album]. I go back and forth between [Wonder's] Innervisions and Songs in the Key of Life. Then, my real guilty pleasure is John Mayer, I'm a huge fan.
I love it.
I think with music, and this is my advice to young people, it's like careers almost, you won't know what you want until you taste a few things. I think Gary Gee says that. You got to taste things to know what you want to be. I feel like music is like that too. You can't just listen to country music because you're from the South. You've got to listen to something else just to try it. You don't know, you might like classical music. If you never listen, you will never know.
I did a lot of that when I was younger and I found my vibes for sure. But I listened to some stuff that people probably wouldn't expect. But I think that helps to shape me as a musician in general. I definitely don't shy away from exploring and trying to find different vibes that I really like. One of the most fun parts about music to me, is exploring and finding new things that you never would expect you to enjoy, you know? So, yeah, my spectrum is wide, it's a rainbow for sure.
Growing up in a musical family, how do you feel like that impacted your journey to becoming an artist?
I can't really explain it because it's weird for me to be the artist in my family. I still wake up and kind of laugh because I never expected this. When I was younger, I didn't want to do music. When I was 14, my mom would make us sing in church every Sunday, and I got sick of it. That's when I kind of decided I didn't want to do music. I went on about my life, at about 19, 20 started working dumba jobs and that turned into me wanting to find something that I was passionate about, and turns out it music was it all along. I had to step away to kind of find it for myself.
But I started really getting serious about music when I was 22, and then I ended up going to school, graduated in 2011 from film school, and just never looked back from there. I think that was what I needed was to really find it for myself, because my brothers' all sing or write songs, and my mother is still active in the industry, and they always said it was what we needed to be doing. I just had to see it for myself and I think that made me a better musician. My life experiences helped shape how I write songs. I appreciate my time away from music, but also I'm glad I found my way back because I don't know what I'd be if I wasn't a musician. I'd probably be—let's not even talk about that.
I'm blessed. My family is amazing. My brother is an amazing singer/songwriter. My older brother Daniel, he's an amazing rapper and he's the writer, and we're all supportive of each other. I know that I probably wouldn't be where I am today without the support of my family and them pushing me to be a better writer and a better musician.
You come back to where you're supposed to be at some point. You touched on it a little when you talked about your influences, but what advice do you have for younger people that have a passion for music but aren't really sure where to start to pursue music professionally?
Don't be afraid to be wack. Don't be afraid to fall on your a. You got to start somewhere. But it's just like anything else in life, and I could preach this to the ends of the earth. It doesn't matter what you decide to do or when you decide to do it, but it's about staying dedicated to it and really working at what you want. If you want something then put it in the universe. Write it on a piece of paper, say it every day when you wake up and just don't worry about when it's going to happen. Just keep working.
I think that's the best thing I ever did for myself. I put my head down, I shut the f* up and I worked for five years on music, and didn't try to release anything, didn't try to do anything. I got to the point where I was so ready to go that I had three projects worth of music ready to go, and we started with Seven Sundays and from there worked our way into being with TDE and all that.
I really developed my craft first and made sure I was confident in what I wanted to hear. So, I think for anybody that wants it, just don't be afraid to fail, and keep working at it. It's not easy, none of this is. But I feel like if you want something, you can just really work at it and it'll come. You just got to be willing to f*ing eat dirt and mud for a little bit. Eventually, hard work pays off, no matter what you do. If you want to sell ice cream, sell ice cream every day. Get up, get your cones right, make sure your freezer's at the right temperature, make sure your music's playing and hit the block and get on that ice cream.
Photo: Amy Lee
New Music Friday: Listen To New Songs From Andre 3000, Drake, Ozuna & More
From long-awaited debut albums to surprising singles, listen to these six new releases from Nov. 17.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, this New Music Friday offers us a feast of new sounds from some of the music industry’s biggest artists.
Country star Maren Morris teamed up with Teddy Swims for a passionate duet version of his song "Some Things I'll Never Know," while Steve Aoki & ERNEST paired up for an energetic dance/country crossver, "Us," from Aoki’s HiROQUEST 2: Double Helix.
American band Bleachers unleash their wild side with "Alma Matter," from their upcoming self-titled album dropping March 8, 2024. Meanwhile, alternative rock band Bad Suns released their catchy, six-track EP Infinite Joy. Across the pond, long-time British rockers Madness released their 13th album, Theatre Of the Absurd Presents C’Est La Vie.
With sultry sounds from R&B songstress Ari Lennox to mellow, indie rhythms from Dermot Kennedy to upbeat, radiant vibes from the duo Surfaces, this Friday brings a kaleidoscope of sounds from across every genre.
Along with the slew of releases mentioned above, press play on releases from the likes of André 3000, Drake, Ozuna, Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, Danny Brown, and Bibi and Becky G — and be sure to add some new sounds to your rotation.
André 3000 - New Blue Sun
If you’ve seen Andre 3000’s impromptu flute performances in the past few years, then the GRAMMY winner's new sound won’t come as a shock. On his eight-track debut solo album New Blue Sun, the Outkast member experiments with wind instruments and percussion, creating serene and melodic compositions.
Across eight elaborately titled tracks — "I swear, I Really Wanted To Make A "Rap" Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time" and "That Night In Hawaii When I Turned Into A Panther And Started Making These Low Registered Purring Tones That I Couldn’t Control… Shyt Was Wild," — Andre details his artistic journey and the possibility of returning to rap music. Because, as Andre has told numerous outlets, New Blue Sun is not a rap album.
In the future, fans might see 3000 return to the rap universe but in the meantime, let’s enjoy the ambience of the blue sun.
Drake - For All The Dogs Scary Hours Edition
It’s not Scorpio season without a release from the scorpion king himself, Drake. In the latest installment of his Scary Hours series, Drake brought in a heavy-hitter lineup of producers including Lil Yatchy and Alchemist.
With songs surrounding themes of betrayal and broken trust (an the less-than-subtle chant "F— My Ex" more than 10 times in one song), For All The Dogs Scary Hours Edition shows how deep the Certified Lover Boy is in his feelings.
Drake brings out his Swiftie side in the track, "Red Button," shouting out Taylor Swift with lyrics "Taylor Swift the only n—- that I ever rated/ Only one could make me drop the album just a little later/ Rest of y’all, I treat you like you never made it." Seems that the big-ups and grudges heard on October's For All The Dogs translate to Scary Hours, too.
Ozuna - Cosmo
After receiving a nod for Best Reggaeton Performance and performing with David Guetta at the 2023 Latin GRAMMYs, Puerto Rican Singer Ozuna dropped his sixth album, Cosmo. Filled with soon-to-be dance floor staples, Cosmo highlights Ozuna's versatility.
Songs like "El Pin" and "La Chulita" are full of infectious dance and Afrobeats influences, yet stay true to his reggaeton roots. The 15-track record also includes collaborations with Jhayco, Chenco Corleone, Anuel and David Guetta.
"When you think of a colorful image, you think of youth. When people listen to this album, I want them to take it seriously," Ozuna said in an interview with the Fader. "People want to hear what’s real, what’s clear-cut, in black and white.”
The goal, he continued, is to allow "people to know who the real Ozuna is."
2 Chainz, Lil Wayne - Welcome 2 Collegrove
Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz have joined forces once again to release their second joint album, Welcome 2 Collegrove. The album’s title is a melding of 2 Chainz's hometown of College Park, Georgia, with Lil Wayne’s Hollygrove, Louisiana.
Welcome 2 Collegrove includes features from a cross-section of hip-hop and R&B greats, including Usher, 21 Savage, Rick Ross, Benny The Butcher and Fabolous. Tracks like "Presha" and "Long Story Short" bring back the duo’s classic rap sound from their 2016 project COLLEGROVE, and show their ability to create hip-hop anthems. The special guest artists add even more depth to their songs.
Danny Brown - Quaranta
After a four year break, Detroit rapper Danny Brown is back with his seventh album, Quaranta. A departure from his earlier, more club-centric music, the 11-track album offers a new perspective in Brown’s life.
Quaranta is a turning point in Brown's musical journey, where he reflects on themes of regret, self-destructive behavior, and growth. While songs like "Ain’t My Concern" and "Celibate" still include his signature flair of fast, high-pitched verses, this album takes on a more mature and introspective route.
Bibi feat. Becky G - "Amigos"
On "Amigos," South Korean singer Bibi teamed up with Latin star Becky G for a multicultural but ever-relatable track that focuses on being hung up on past lovers despite having someone new in their life. "I know we had a good time and that you always want more / But if my boyfriend calls, we’re just friends, nothing more," they sing in Spanish.
"Amigos" is rife with hip-hop influences — a genre Bibi loves.
"Expressing oneself through lyrics is so real and genuine," BIBI told AllKPop. "As I’m someone who wasn’t necessarily gifted with natural musical talent — I didn’t even know the difference between boom bap or trap beats until way later. I think the other factors of music organically followed as I grew as an artist."
Photo: Image Group LA via Getty Images
10 Halloween Songs That Have Won GRAMMYs: "Thriller," "Ghostbusters" & More
With Halloween celebrations in full swing this Oct. 31, revisit 10 eerie or ghoulishly titled songs that have all been awarded music's top honor, from the 'Exorcist' theme to Eminem and Rihanna's "The Monster."
If the holiday of trick or treating, pumpkin carving, and decorating your front porch with skeletons is your favorite of the year, then you'll no doubt already have a playlist stacked with creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky bangers ready to fire up on Oct. 31. But if you want to add a bit of prestige to your supernatural soundtrack, there's another list of Halloween-friendly songs to check out — one that highlights another celebrated annual occasion.
While the GRAMMYs might not yet have awarded Rob Zombie, Jukebox the Ghost, or And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead, it has embraced the odd musical spooktacular in several forms. In 1988, for example, it gave Halloween obsessive Frank Zappa Best Rock Instrumental Performance for Jazz from Hell. A year later, it handed Robert Cray Band Best Contemporary Blues Recording for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. And it's also dished out goodies (of the statuette, rather than the sweet, variety) to the likes of Mavis Staples' "See That My Grave Is Clean," Chick Corea's "Three Ghouls," and Mastodon's "A Sultan's Curse."
With Halloween 2023 fast approaching, here's a closer look at ten other tracks which left the music industry's biggest awards show completely bewitched.
Stevie Wonder — "Superstition" (1974)
It seems unlikely that Stevie Wonder walked under a ladder, crossed a black cat, or 'broke the lookin' glass' while recording "Superstition" — the squelchy Moog-funk classic kickstarted his remarkable run of 25 GRAMMY Awards when it won both Best Rhythm and Blues Song and Best R&B Vocal Performance Male in 1974. Taken from what many consider to be his magnum opus, Talking Book, "Superstition" also gave Wonder his first No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 in over a decade. And the soul legend further leaned into its supernatural theme in 2013 when he appeared as a witch doctor in a Bud Light Super Bowl commercial soundtracked by the Tamla favorite.
Mike Oldfield — "Tubular Bells" (1975)
Incredibly, considering how perfectly it complements all-time classic horror The Exorcist, Mike Oldfield's prog-rock epic Tubular Bells was recorded long before director William Friedkin came calling. Mike Oldfield, then aged only 19, used a variety of obscure instruments across its two mammoth pieces. Yet, it's the brilliantly creepy Steinway piano riffs which open Side One that are still most likely to bring anyone who experienced the movie's hysteria in a cold sweat. Oldfield was rewarded for helping to scar a generation of cinemagoers for life when a condensed version of his eerie masterpiece picked up the Best Instrumental Composition GRAMMY.
The Charlie Daniels Band — "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" (1980)
The Charlie Daniels Band certainly proved their storytelling credentials in 1979 when they put their own Southern country-fied spin on the old "deal with the devil" fable. Backed by some fast and furious fiddles, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" tells the tale of a young musician named Johnny who bumps into Beelzebub himself during a jam session in the Peach State. Experiencing a downturn in soul-stealing, the latter then bets he can win a fiddle-off, offering an instrument in gold form against Johnny's spiritual essence. Luckily, the less demonic party proves he's the "best that's ever been" in a compelling tale GRAMMY voters declared worthy of a prize, Best Country Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group.
Michael Jackson — "Thriller" (1984)
The 1984 GRAMMYs undeniably belonged to Michael Jackson. The King of Pop picked up a whopping 11 nominations for his first blockbuster album, Thriller, and then converted seven of them into wins (he also took home Best Recording for Children for his narration on audiobook E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial). Remarkably, the title track's iconic John Landis-directed video didn't feature at all: its making of, however, did win Best Music Film the following year. But the song itself did pip fellow superstars Prince, Billy Joel, and Lionel Richie to the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance crown. Jackson would also win a GRAMMY 12 years later for another Halloween-esque anthem, his Janet Jackson duet "Scream."
Duran Duran — "Hungry Like the Wolf" (1984)
Produced by Colin Thurston, the man behind another early '80s Halloween-friendly classic, (Bow Wow Wow's "I Want Candy"), "Hungry Like the Wolf" cemented Duran Duran's status as MTV icons. Alongside their much raunchier earlier clip for "Girls on Film," its jungle-themed promo was also responsible for giving the Second British Invasion pin-ups the inaugural GRAMMY Award for Best Music Video, Short Form; it featured on the Duran Duran compilation that was crowned Best Video Album, too. Frontman Simon Le Bon had been inspired to write their U.S. breakthrough hit by Little Red Riding Hood, giving the new wave classic its sinister, and appropriately predatory, edge.
Ray Parker Jr. — "Ghostbusters" (1985)
Ray Parker Jr. not only topped the Hot 100 for four weeks with his ode to New York's finest parapsychologists, he also picked up a GRAMMY. Just don't expect to hear "who you gonna call?" in the winning version: For it was in the Best Pop Instrumental Performance where "Ghostbusters" reigned supreme. The fact that Parker Jr. wrote, performed, and produced the entire thing meant he still took home the trophy. However, Huey Lewis no doubt felt he should have been the one making the acceptance speech. The blue-eyed soulman settled out of court after claiming the spooky movie theme had borrowed its bassline from "I Want a New Drug," a track Ghostbusters' director Ivan Reitman admitted had been played in film footage intended to inspire Parker Jr.
Ralph Stanley — "O Death" (2002)
Traditional Appalachian folk song "O Death" had previously been recorded by the likes of gospel vocalist Bessie Jones, folklorist Mike Seeger, and Californian rockers Camper Van Beethoven, just to name a few. Yet it was Ralph Stanley's 2002 version where GRAMMY voters first acknowledged its eerie a cappella charms. Invited to record the morbid number for the Coen brothers' period satire O Brother, Where Art Thou, the bluegrass veteran won Best Male Country Vocal Performance at the 2002 ceremony, also picking up a second GRAMMY alongside the likes of Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, and Emmylou Harris when the soundtrack was crowned Album Of The Year.
Skrillex — "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites" (2012)
David Bowie fans may well feel aggrieved that his post-punk classic "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" was entirely ignored by GRAMMY voters, while the bro-step banger it inspired was showered with awards. The title track from EP Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites added Best Dance Recording to Skrillex's 2012 haul: the asymmetrically haired producer also walked away with Best Dance/Electronica Album and Best Remixed Recording: Non-Classical for his work on Benny Benassi's "Cinema." Packed with speaker-blasting beats, distorted basslines, and aggressive synths, Skrillex's wall of noise is enough to scare anyone off their pumpkin pie.
Eminem and Rihanna — "The Monster" (2015)
Who says lightning can't strike twice? Just four years after picking up five GRAMMY nominations for their transatlantic chart-topper "Love the Way You Lie," unlikely dream team Eminem and Rihanna once again joined forces for another hip-pop masterclass. Unlike their previous collab, however, "The Monster" didn't go home empty-handed, winning Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 2015 ceremony. The boogeyman hiding under the bed here, of course, isn't a Frankenstein-esque creation, but the mix of paranoia, self-doubt, and OCD that leads the Real Slim Shady into thinking he needs a straitjacket.
Jason Isbell — "If We Were Vampires" (2018)
While the Twilight franchise may have failed to add a GRAMMY to its trophy cabinet, it did pick up several nominations. But four years after the Team Edward vs Team Jacob saga wrapped up, folk hero Jason Isbell proved mythical bloodsuckers weren't a barrier to awards success. Emerging victorious in only the fifth ever Best Americana Roots Song category, "If We Were Vampires" is a little less emo than the various Twilight soundtracks. Still, as a love song dedicated to wife Amanda Shires, and the quiet acceptance that the Grim Reaper will inevitably end their story, it's certainly no less emotional.
Photo © Apple Corps Ltd.
The Beatles' Final Song: Giles Martin On The Second Life Of "Now And Then" & How The Fab Four Are "Still Breaking New Ground"
The wait is over: The Beatles will release their final song, "Now and Then," on Nov. 2. Read an interview with remixer Giles Martin about the decades-in-the-making parting gift, as well as remixed, expanded 'Red' and 'Blue' albums.
The Beatles and grief have always been fundamentally intertwined. When John Lennon and Paul McCartney met as teenagers, they bonded over losing their mothers early on. Their manager, Brian Epstein, died in 1967 at only 32; as McCartney put it during the ensuing Get Back sessions, "Daddy's gone away now, you know, and we're on our own at the holiday camp."
Lennon's murder in 1980, at just 40 years old, imbued their story with bottomless longing — not just between this band of brothers, but a world that had to process the Beatles were never coming back. George Harrison's death from cancer, in 2001, was another catastrophic blow.
But the Beatles' message, among many, was that the light prevails. And from "In My Life" to "Eleanor Rigby" to "Julia" to "Let it Be" and beyond, almost nobody made sorrow sound so beautiful. And "Now and Then," billed as "the last Beatles song" — yes, the AI-assisted one you heard about throughout 2023 — is liable to move you to the depths of your soul.
A quick AI sidebar: no, it's not the generative type. Rather, it's the technology Peter Jackson and company used to separate theretofore indivisible instruments and voices for the Get Back documentary. It also worked in spectacular fashion for Giles Martin's — son of George — 2022 remix of Revolver.
The cassette edition of "Now and Then." Photo © Apple Corps Ltd.
With this tech, Martin and his team were able to lift a Lennon vocal from a late-'70s piano-and-vocals demo of "Now and Then," a song he was workshopping at the time. (Remember "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love," the reconstituted Beatles songs from the Anthology era? "Now and Then" was the third one they tried — and, until now, aborted.)
The final version of "Now and Then" features Lennon's crystal-clear, isolated vocal, as well as Harrison's original vocal and rhythm guitar from that 1995 session. McCartney adds piano and guitar, including a radiant slide guitar solo in homage to Harrison. Ringo Starr holds down the groove and joins on vocals.
"Now and Then" is more than a worthy parting gift from the most beloved rock band of all time. And you can experience it a la carte or as part of the Red and Blue albums — the Beatles' epochal, color-coded 1973 hit compilations, remixed by Martin, with expanded tracklistings, out Nov. 10.
Ahead of "Now and Then," which will arrive on Nov. 2, read an interview with Martin about his approach to the emotionally steamrolling single — and the host of Beatles classics that flank it on Red and Blue.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
What was the thinking behind the expansion of the Red and Blue albums?
That kind of stemmed from "Now and Then," really. You know, we finished "Now and Then," and then there was the thought about, OK, it can't go on an album. What are we going to put it on?
There was a thought about trying to respect people's listening tastes. And the fact that they've changed — and the No. 1s, for example, don't really reflect the most popular Beatles songs that people are listening to.
Then, we realized it was the 50th anniversary of Red and Blue. For a whole generation — much older than you, my generation — the Red and Blue albums have this sort of gravitas behind them. I know all the tracklistings; even though I think I was 3, when they came out, we had them at home.
So, we decided to do the Red and Blue albums — which took quite a long time, because there was quite a lot of stuff to do on them.
Since you've remixed all the Beatles albums from Sgt. Pepper's onward, I've been glued to the pre-1967 material — this is the first time I've heard your touch on their early work. Remixing songs as early as 1962 must have been a whole different ballgame.
In all honesty, that was the fun bit.
You know, we couldn't have worked on these songs six months ago; the technology had to be developed in place so we could do this — separate drums, bass and guitar, and have the different elements. And they sound good; it doesn't sound strange or artifact-y in any way.
I think people will talk about "Now and Then" for "Now and Then." But I [also] think the true innovations come back from the early Beatles stuff. The way that it pops out; the way that the records still sound like the same records. Hopefully, the character doesn't change, but the energy is different.
Ringo always said, "We're just a bunch of punks in the studios," and they sound like a bunch of punks in the studios. Now, they sound the age they were when they played it.
And that's so key to me, to making these records — that they sound like that. You know, they were way younger than Harry Styles is now, when they were making these records. People think they're old guys, and they're not.
That, to me, is important, in a way. We get old — I hate to break that to you, but we do get old. And recordings, by their nature, stay the same age. And the Beatles will always be that age on those records.
I think, now, they sound like a bunch of young guys in the studios bashing their instruments, and I think that's really exciting, and the technology we've applied has enabled us to, bizarrely, strip back the inadequacies of the technologies they had.
And I don't mean that in a pompous way. What I mean is that my dad never wanted the Beatles to be coming out of one speaker, and then coming out of another speaker. They didn't want the two tracks to be like that. He hated it. He hated it.
But now, we can have the drums coming out of the middle, like a record is now. He can luxuriate in that, and I think it's fun and exciting.
I'm noticing so many heretofore-obscured details in their early work. The vocal flub on "Please Please Me." The maniacal bongos that power "A Hard Day's Night."
I think you're right, but I think from experience — which, actually, I have a lot of now — there is a beauty in the reality.
What I mean by that is: so much music is perfect, and it's fabricated. There are checks and balances that go on, to make sure that everything is in tune, in time. And all this stuff goes on, which is fine and it suits a place. But it's a bit like the dangers of plastic surgery — everyone ends up looking the same.
And in records, everyone's sounding the same. We dial in so it's exciting, and it becomes boring, essentially, is what I mean.
The excitement you get from hearing a mistake in a song you've heard for years doesn't necessarily demean the song itself. It doesn't make you think, Oh my god, the band is s—. You think, Oh my god, what's exciting is these are humans. These are human beings in a room, making noise.
People go, "Well, who's responsible for the sound of the Beatles? Is it your dad? Is it Geoff Emerick? Is It Norman Smith…" blah, blah, blah. I go, "No, it's the Beatles. It's the fact they're four friends in a room. They make that noise."
And that's the thing about great bands; great bands make a great noise together, and they don't even know how they do it themselves. That's the beauty of it.
It's like, why do you love someone? "Well, because they're nice to me," or because they're whatever. You can't explain things; they just happen. And there's something about "Please Please Me," all that early stuff — you can hear it. It's something just happening, and that's so exciting. God, I sound like such an old hippie.
The Beatles in The Cavern, Liverpool, August 1962. Photo © Apple Corps Ltd.
Your first Beatles remix project, for Sgt. Pepper's, came out five years ago. On the other side of the coin, The Blue Album features songs from that dense, psychedelic era, like "I Am the Walrus," which is such a beast. That must have been a different kind of fun.
Yeah, well, "Walrus" is a beast. I've actually gone back and re-changed the stereo [mix] recently, because I got asked questions like, "Why did I change the end section so it didn't sound like the original?" I was thinking, Did I? I didn't do it deliberately. It's just the balance of speech versus vocals and stuff like that.
I was very lucky, because "Walrus" was on the Love album and show. I tackled a version of that before, and know how tricky it is.
Because by its nature, "Walrus" sounds technically bad, but it's beautiful. It's beautifully ugly as a record, and they're the hardest ones, because you don't want to take away the character. You don't want to remove the grime, because the grime is the record. I spent a lot of time looking at this and doing this — hopefully, we're in a good place with "Walrus."
You know, music's about, How does this make you feel? You don't want to feel secure around "Walrus" at any stage; you want to be unnerved by it. People sort of ask about plugins and technology, and it's like, it's not about that — something you can get on a shelf. How it makes you feel is the most important thing.
You once said that a White Album remix couldn't be too smooth — it's "slightly trashy. It's visceral. It slaps you in the face." I thought of that while listening to the remixed "Old Brown Shoe"; George's vocal is way grimy on that one.
This is going to sound really ridiculous — and I've been through this with a number of different people — but my job is to make a record sound like how you remember it sounding. Because records never sound like how we remember them sounding. And you go back and go, Was that really there?
Some people accuse me of doing stuff that I haven't done, or maybe forgot to do, or whatever. But the fact of the matter is that we kid ourselves all the time, and we fill in the blanks constantly.
It's like, "What about the vocal of 'Old Brown Shoe'? Why does it sound like this?" And I go, "Well, it sounds like that on the record." It's part of the character of the record. If it was too clean, it wouldn't sound [right].
George was very particular at that stage. He didn't get many goes, is the way I would say it, because he wasn't given enough songs.
There's a story [Beatles engineer] Ken Scott told about The White Album, of him doing "Savoy Truffle" — which is incredibly bright as a song, by the way. And my dad apparently went, "You know, it sounds quite bright, George." And he goes, "I know, and I like it." Like, "I know, and f— off," basically.
You have to respect the artists' wishes when you're doing these things, even though they're not there. Yeah, on "Old Brown Shoe," the vocal's quite strange. But that's what George wanted it to sound like, and [far be it from] me to say it shouldn't sound like that.
The Beatles in 1965. Photo © Apple Corps Ltd.
What's your understanding of the extent of the work the Beatles put into "Now and Then" back in 1995, before they aborted it?
I wasn't there, so I'm just going to speculate. What Paul played me — what we worked on together — was kind of after he'd looked at the material they did together.
Far be it from me to argue with a Beatle: there were some things that I thought we should change from that recording. There were a few synth [things], which I thought, once we decided to put strings on it, [weren't necessary].
You know, the key thing is that George is playing on it. Therefore, it is, by definition, a Beatles song, because all four of them are on it. People ask me, "Why is this the last Beatles song?" Well, there's not another song. There won't; there can't be another song where all four Beatles are playing on it.
So, there were bits and pieces that were used and not used. I don't think they spent a lot of time working on it, but essentially, what we kept was George — and obviously, John's vocal, which then we looked at.
Listening, I was thinking, Thank god that George tracked a rhythm guitar part and harmony vocal back then. Or else, this couldn't happen. Or, if it happened, you and your team would never hear the end of it.
What was interesting was, we did the string arrangement. I sat down with Paul in L.A., and there are lots of chugs and "Eleanor Rigby" kinds of ripoffs in the string arrangement.
And what essentially happened was, Paul spent a lot of time listening to what George was playing on the guitar, and it really changed the arrangement. It's in service to the guitar; it doesn't go against George's playing. They were completely respectful of the other Beatles, and made sure it was a collaboration, and it was all four of them.
As Yoko said to me, "John is just a voice now." And I think it sounds like the Beatles, "Now and Then."
Looking at the post-"Now and Then" Beatles landscape, I'm enticed by which Beatles albums you'll remix next. The select tracks on Red and Blue open a door to what Rubber Soul or Beatles For Sale redux might sound like.
Technology doesn't — and never has — made great records, but it creates a pathway. You can do certain things that you couldn't do in the past. And the most exciting thing for me is — as you say — it does open that door to that early material, which we couldn't have done before.
I suppose fortuitously, we kind of worked backwards, in a way — and it made sense to do that. I couldn't have done what I've done on The Red Album even six months ago, probably; it's that quick. I love the fact that the Beatles are still breaking new ground with technology that will pave the way for other artists.
The Beatles during a photo session in Twickenham, 9 April 1969. Photo: Bruce McBroom / © Apple Corps Ltd.
I can't imagine what this next week of "Now and Then" promotion will be like. There's an incredible weight to this. You must be feeling that.
Well, I mean, there's some perspective. My mom's just died. So, it's like [dark laugh] what's important in life?
It's a funny time. We just talked about her funeral arrangements, and she's getting buried the day, I think, the record comes out. So, there are personal things for me in this.
I've been doing interviews this week, and people have asked me, "How do you feel about what your motivation was?" Somebody was saying I'm talking about the Beatles as a resource, or whatever. I go, "You do these things and hope people get touched by stuff."
When you say you enjoy "Now and Then," that's really nice, because that's why we do it. We do it so people can listen to stuff and not just hear it. "Now and Then" sounds like a love song. It sounds like a song that John wrote for Paul, and the other Beatles: "I miss you/ Now and then."
It sounds like Paul has gone there, which I think he did. You know, no one told Paul to go and do it, and Paul didn't go, This would be a great exercise for the Red and Blue Album.
He was at home in the studio. He dug on the record and started working on it, because it's his mate. And he really misses John. I mean, that's the truth. They broke up, and John died nine years later. It really isn't very long.
So, I hope that people listen to the record and they think about loved ones. Or they think about things. That's what I hope. I don't really care about anything else — do you know what I mean? What I'm excited by is people being touched by it.
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016
Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.
Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.
A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.
This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system.
"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."
He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.
"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.
To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood."
Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes.