Photo: Kieran Frost/Redferns via Getty Images
Sleater-Kinney And Wilco Announce It's Time Joint Tour
The bands made the announcement today, March 10, via a fun video on social media that had comedienne and Sleater-Kinney singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein showing off her skills
The It's Time tour will launch on Aug. 6 in Spokane, Wash., then head to Kansas City, Mo., Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston and more before its last stop in Chicago on Aug. 29. NNAMDÏ will join the bands on select dates.
The bands made the announcement today, March 10, via a fun video on social media that had comedienne and Sleater-Kinney singer/guitarist Carrie Brownstein showing off her skills.
In another tweet, the "Dig Me Out" band said they are "psyched" to tour with Wilco, who released their latest album Ode To Joy last year.
Sleater-Kinney released their latest album The Center Won't Hold last year after the departure of drummer Janet Weiss. Brownstein told the Recording Academy that they are focused on their future as a band: "After No Cities, I think we felt a sense of accomplishment in setting out what we'd hoped to do, which was to return to playing music in a way that wasn't nostalgia-based or playing into any sort of sentimentality, but that we knew there was sort of this next chapter of the band and that we wanted to focus on new music and moving forward," she said.
Presale tickets on sale Wednesday, March 11. For more information on the tour, go here.
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.
Photos (L-R): Peter Crosby, Mick Hutson/Redferns, Ken Weingart/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Songbook: A Guide To Wilco’s Discography, From Alt-Country To Boundary-Shattering Experiments
As they approach their 30th anniversary, Wilco are readying a familiar-yet-alien new album, 'Cousin.' It's a timely reminder that the prolific Chicago group are masters of infinite surprise.
As the axiom goes: surround yourself with people you can always learn from. This encapsulates the dynamic between Jeff Tweedy and Wilco. The beloved, enduring, four-time GRAMMY-winning group has been a vehicle for Tweedy's incisive songwriting for nearly 30 years.
Outside of Wilco, Tweedy is masterful: 2018's and 2019's raw-nerved, lived-in Warm and Warmer are proof positive of this. But although 99 percent of Wilco songs are Tweedy's, they've never been merely his backing band. Every incarnation of Wilco has contained visionaries and virtuosos.
Take the complicated and inventive Jay Bennett, Tweedy's foil for their first three masterpieces: Being There, Summerteeth, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Or Glenn Kotche, a key member since 2001 — not just a drummer and percussionist, but a 360° musical thinker.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. Wilco's current lineup, solidified since 2005, is stacked with masters.
Such as bassist John Stirratt, who's provided their subtle emotional undercarriage since their formation. And Nels Cline, one of the preeminent experimental guitarists of the 21st century. With each release, guitarist Pat Sansone and keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen's colors and shapes grow more iridescent.
On Sept. 29, Wilco will release their 13th album, Cousin — their second in just over a year, after 2022's Cruel Country. That self-consciously rootsy double album felt totally natural — essentially falling out of Tweedy's mouth and guitar.
But speaking to GRAMMY.com, Tweedy explained that Cousin would manifest like "an odd shape in the desert" — and it certainly does. Produced by consummate tinkerer Cate Le Bon, songs like "Infinite Surprise," "Levee" and "Meant to Be" coat Tweedy's rumpled, weatherbeaten tunes with a gently alien, digital feel.
As Tweedy put it in the press release, "Cate is very suspicious of sentiment, but she's not suspicious of human connection." Which makes her an ideal fit for a legacy band often preoccupied with distance, disorientation and loss in translation.
With Cousin on the horizon, GRAMMY.com took a spin through Wilco's discography — loosely trisected by era, and leaving out side projects and collaborative albums.
Uneasy Alt-Country (1994-2000)
Yes, the title refers to the form of broadcasting — hence the vintage radio on the cover. But the sunny, uncomplicated A.M. feels like the dawning of an important American band.
At the time, A.M. was unfavorably compared to Trace, the debut album by Son Volt — led by Jay Farrar, Tweedy's partner in the band Uncle Tupelo. (When they split in 1994, Tweedy got multi-instrumentalist Max Johnston, bassist Stiratt, and drummer Ken Coomer in the divorce.)
But 28 years later, the story of this rivalry has lost its luster: A.M. is a perfectly solid American album. Today, rootsy, power-popping tracks like "I Must Be High," "Box Full of Letters" and "Passenger Side" are perfectly enjoyable on their own terms.
Twelve albums later, A.M. remains the first and last Wilco album to feature basically no experimentation — a model that would dramatically flip in the next calendar year.
Being There (1996)
Sure, a few cuts on the double-disc Being There could snugly fit on A.M. — like the burbling "Forget the Flowers," the swaggering "Kingpin" and the rollicking "Dreamer in My Dreams."
But on the main, Being There is their Rubber Soul; while it shares superficial characteristics with their earlier creations, the band's works abruptly accrued a sense of windswept majesty.
This is obvious from the jump: where A.M. began with a friendly drum fill and some steely twang, Being There's opener, "Misunderstood," fades in with booming toms, thunderclap crashes and clamorous feedback.
So many of its small-town images stick in your craw: the taste of cigarettes, the promise of a party, the state of being "short on long-term goals."
"Misunderstood" ends with that unforgettable repetition of "I'd like to thank you all for nothing! / Nothing! / Nothing!" et al: the 18 ensuing songs seem to emanate from that wellspring of lonesome beauty.
The banjo-led "What's the World Got in Store" is aching and lovely; the spare, seven-minute "Sunken Treasure" is a canyon of feeling; baroque-pop "Outta Mind (Outta Sight)" foreshadows Summerteeth.
All these nascent ideas would take flower on ensuing albums, but Being There retains its partisans for very good reasons.
Summerteeth holds a unique distinction in Wilco's catalog: it's the most candy-coated and the most harrowing. Imagine Sgt. Pepper's with several variations on "I used to be cruel to my woman and beat her," and you're somewhere within spitting distance.
After zippy single "Can't Stand It" notes the arbitrary nature of divine blessings, the icy "She's a Jar" ends with a still-startling twist: "She begs me not to hit her."
The violence rolls on: "A Shot in the Arm" has a gory, hammering outro: "Something in my veins/ Bloodier than blood." At the top of centerpiece "Via Chicago," Tweedy has a recurring dream of committing homicide, and watching his victim bleed out.
But these lashings of aggression are well-timed, and in a vivid balance with the instrumentation: Summerteeth isn't an uncomfortably bleak listen, but an eclectic and unforgettable one.
"I'm Always in Love" is a sugar rush that threatens to shake apart. "My Darling," Bennett's ode to his niece in demo form, reads as a bedtime song from Tweedy to his son, and carries the paternal poignancy of John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy."
Despite the conspicuous advancements on Summerteeth, closer "In a Future Age" is its truest arrow to what was to come — despite it being a few chords, awash in atmosphere.
"Let's turn our prayers/ Into outrageous dares," Tweedy sings; the music feels like a blank page, ready for anything to be drafted on it.
Drummer Ken Coomer described Summerteeth as "two guys losing their minds in the studio," and that dynamic would come to a head very soon.
Uncharted Territory (2001-2006)
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
From interband drama to label warfare to 9/11 extrapolation, it seems like everything there is to write about Yankee Hotel Foxtrot has been written.
But besides every outtake you can imagine being available — via the GRAMMY-winning 20th century deluxe edition — a documentary being made about it, the album's actual making feels paradoxically enigmatic.
"They were replacing parts all the way up into the mix," Cheryl Pawelski, the compilation producer for Yankee Hotel Foxtrot: 20th Anniversary, tells GRAMMY.com. [Mixing engineer] Jim [O'Rourke] would send Glenn out and say, 'Play something like a marching band over the section.'"
The lush, abstracted production throughout Yankee Hotel Foxtrot gives it much of its character. But the spectacle wouldn't mean much without unforgettable songs.
Despite, or because of, its fragmented wordplay, "I Am Trying to Break Your Heart" digs into the center of your chest: a "Bible-black predawn" is many times more evocative than "early morning." "Radio Cure" is an extended hand through staticky space, a signal faintly perceptible in the noise.
From there, not a single track, or moment, feels out of place. The shivering, lovely "Jesus, Etc." is Wilco's most famous song for a reason. The admission "I know I would die if I could come back new," in "Ashes of American Flags," remains devastating.
It all ends with the astonishing "Reservations," one of Wilco's most vulnerable and guileless creations; the drone decays and decays, refusing to let go.
When Wilco played "Reservations" live for a run of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot 20th anniversary shows, Tweedy was lain flat by the experience.
"The audience just really calmed itself down and stayed with it for this long, drawn out fade-out," he told American Drunkard. "And that was the whole point of the record ending that way. It's gone and you're left with your interior thoughts.
"That response made me really proud, but also, it made me sad," he continued. "Every night. I cried every night." Two decades later, "Reservations" — as with all of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot — still reverberates through our bones.
A Ghost is Born (2004)
True to the album art — a single egg, balancing in a vacuum — Wilco followed their most visionary album with their most fragile: A Ghost is Born.
Counterweighing tunes of levity and light — like the bouncy, yearning "Hummingbird," the swinging, downtown-ish "Handshake Drugs" and the cult rock fan manifesto "The Late Greats" — are some of their most devastated, naked works.
"At Least That's What You Said" begins barely audibly, with Tweedy less singing than sleeptalking — then erupts into a seizure of electric guitar, performed with abandon by Tweedy himself.
If you subscribe to the Neil Young with Crazy Horse school of the instrument, A Ghost is Born is a treat: this is where we hear Tweedy let loose. "Spiders (Kidsmoke)" is their first true motorik workout; Tweedy's guitar punctures its even keel like a kitchen knife through office paper.
But as always with Wilco, the violence is counterweighed by a sighing beauty: "Muzzle of Bees" and "Wishful Thinking" are featherlight and swaddling; the side-eyed "Company in My Back" and punky "I'm a Wheel" are a reprieve from the album's tortured circumstances.
Speaking of: the most important moment of A Ghost is Born might also be the most skippable. At the end of the collapsed "Less Than You Think" is 13 minutes of noise, intended to represent Tweedy's migraines while addicted to painkillers.
"Even I don't want to listen to it every time I play through the album," Tweedy admitted. "But the times I do calm myself down and pay attention to it, I think it's valuable and moving and cathartic."
From here, the most outré Wilco fan may have braced themselves for a complete leap into the unknown. But Wilco would never pursue this degree of extremity again.
A Solidified Front (2007-present)
Sky Blue Sky (2007)
Featuring new guitarists Pat Sansone and Nels Cline, Wilco's heady, unwieldy 2005 live album Kicking Television whetted fans' thirst for even danker Wilco. As plenty of contemporaneous reviews groused: instead, they got Sky Blue Sky.
Granted, at the time, it felt like a retreat from the verge of something radical. Fueled by increasing suspicion of sound design, Tweedy sought a back-to-basics approach that harkened back to the classic rock that got Wilco going. (And via Nels Cline's chops, a helping of Tom Verlaine of Television.)
Sky Blue Sky is a pure, unadulterated listen — a window into the Wilco we know and love today.
Sometimes, the lyrics feel caught between abstracted musings ("You Are My Face") and quotidian imagery ("Hate it Here") — and when they're presented a la carte, they invite scrutiny.
But when the band simply lets it rip, they communicate more than words ever could; on "Impossible Germany" and "Side With the Seeds," Cline must be heard to be believed.
Wilco (The Album) (2009)
Sky Blue Sky welcomed in a new era of Wilco; as they approached their 15th anniversary, they decided to throw a party for themselves. (Hence the camel's birthday party on the cover.)
The choogling "Wilco (The Song)" remains something of a theme song for the band: the refrain "Wilco will love you, baby," a rallying cry.
What follows is a tour through the Wilco Museum: you get Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-level immersion ("Deeper Down"), a bloody fantasy worthy of Summerteeth ("Bull Black Nova") and a Stonesy rocker beamed from Being There ("Sonny Feeling").
Elsewhere, "You Never Know" is a highly commercial (and lovely) duet with Feist, suggesting a trajectory where A.M.'s simplicity remained the order of the day.
But like Sky Blue Sky, Wilco (The Album) peaks when the band takes flight, as on the majestic, lighters-up "One Wing" and the radiant, All Things Must Pass-like "You Never Know."
"Every generation thinks it's the end of the world," Tweedy sings in "You Never Know." Wilco (The Album) is permeated with that askance, self-referential attitude — which makes it right on time, another 15 years on.
The Whole Love (2011)
With The Whole Love, the new Wilco was now three albums in — and more simpatico than ever. Their sleek and jagged sides had found a rapprochement; Nils Cline played more in the shadows than on top of the others.
This synergy could suggest a lack of danger, which thrillingly pushed Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost is Born over the edge. If not for its first and last tunes in particular: "Art of Almost" and "One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley's Boyfriend)."
The former is as arcane a composition as Wilco ever dreamt up: the undulating, unpredictable co-creation has shades of Can and electric Miles, and eventually erupts into a string-snapping showcase from Cline.
As for the latter: it shows Tweedy's incisiveness as a writer hadn't dimmed a bit.
In its account of a son's cracked relationship with his late father, "One Sunday Morning" unspools like peak Dylan: it's immediately recognizable to anyone grieving a complicated, controlling parent: "Bless my mind, I miss/ Being told how to live."
In between, Wilco try on various costumes to satisfying results: sleek new wavers ("Born Alone," "Standing O"), '60s-style classicists ("Sunloathe," "Capitol City") and close-miked folkies ("Open Mind," "Rising Red Lung").
Star Wars (2015)
The Whole Love struck a mature balance of eclecticism and cohesion: four years later, Wilco shattered that facade with a shot of irreverence and cheek.
Which starts with a hell of a title. "The album has nothing to do with Star Wars. It just makes me feel good," Tweedy said. "It makes me feel limitless and like there's still possibilities and still surprise in the world, you know?"
Across a tight 33 minutes, Wilco keep the proceedings fat-free, forward-thinking and relentlessly uptempo. "More…" is needle-sharp art-pop, "Random Name Generator" kicks the goofy Marc Bolan energy up to 10, and "You Satellite" builds a heavenbound momentum.
But when Wilco aren't in attack mode, Star Wars achieves an even greater resonance. "Taste the Ceiling" possesses the type of sticky melody that seems to naturally fall out of Tweedy's guitar, and poignantly broaches communication breakdown: "Try the words in sequence/ But that's never how its done."
And the push-pull closer "Magnetized" is plainly one of the most fascinating, emotionally incisive songs in their entire catalog: "I sleep underneath a picture that I keep of you next to me," Tweedy sings — and the swelling instrumentation is like a knot in your throat.
Imagine the irreverence of Star Wars translated to acoustic instrumentation, and you've got a good handle on Schmilco.
About that flippant, Nilssonesque title: "It's really, to me, inhibiting to take it so seriously, to treat it like it's so precious," Tweedy said at the time. I guess that's just a way to illustrate that, to some degree. Like, 'Hey, Wilco Schmilco, f—, I just wanna keep moving.'"
Schmilco feels like an intentionally minor effort — which isn't a flaw; it gives it an appealing je nais se quoi.
The hushed "If I Ever Was a Child" is a sunbeam gradually peeking over the horizon; "Common Sense" is charmingly lumpy, amelodic and disagreeable; "We Aren't the World (Safety Girl)" flips the cornball charity classic into a sarcastic missile.
Only the roving "Locator" goes electric — which reveals a shared DNA strand with its predecessor, and underlines its nature as something of a Star Wars companion album.
Ode to Joy (2019)
Even before the pandemic, racial spasms and Jan. 6 rattled the world, the news was fairly traumatizing. In response, Wilco made a rattled, whisper-quiet album about finding embers of love in a wasteland.
Several songs on Ode to Joy feel like ragged marches: behind the kit, Kotche opts not to flow, but trudge with grim resolve. Goes Tweedy's first line, from opener "Bright Leaves": "I don't like the way you're treating me." And man's inhumanity to man haunts everything in its wake.
"Remember when wars would end?" Tweedy sings gravely in "Before Us." "Now, when something's dead/ We try to kill it again." And Cline responds with a distant, ominous guitar scrape.
This haunted vibe makes Ode to Joy one of the most resonant latter-day Wilco albums. But levity does creep in — albeit with an implicit threat. "Everyone Hides" wittily prods at the flight side of "fight or flight."
And "Love is Everywhere (Beware)" carries a mightily resonant message: "The song is a reminder to myself to act with more love and courage and less outrage and anesthetized fear," Tweedy said.
Indeed, when world events inflamed our basest instincts, Tweedy dug deep within himself — and wrote a song that belongs in the Wilco time capsule.
Cruel Country (2022)
Cruel Country was cleverly marketed from the outset as "Wilco goes country"; its goofy advance single, "Falling Apart (Right Now)," was honky-tonk straight from the therapist's couch.
But when the album — their first double album since Being There — actually landed, it proved to be a more teeming and complicated beast.
Most of the material wasn't country at all: tunes like "The Empty Condor" and "Bird Without a Tail/Base of My Skull" were actually on Wilco's more outré end. And "Hearts Hard to Find" dealt in yet another side of Wilco: swoony folk-pop for a midsummer evening, a la "California Stars."
For all its multitudes, Cruel Country is a flowing, enveloping listen. And what binds this wealth of material is Tweedy's psychological incisiveness ("Tonight's the Day," "Tired of Taking it Out on You"), as well as commentary on America's Music and the nature of patriotism.
"It's really gratifying to feel like we made something that we very, very profoundly, deeply know we couldn't have made five years ago," Tweedy told GRAMMY.com at the time, "without all the miles that we've traveled together in between."
He then mentioned that the album's successor would contain "songs that really wouldn't fit into the Cruel Country landscape" — that they'd come across like "somebody dropped a weird shape into the desert."
And Tweedy was correct — partly thanks to a visionary outside producer.
Wilco has been a self-contained enterprise for ages. In the congested music industry, they self-produce; record in their private wonderland, The Loft; and mostly disregard traditional album cycles.
Perhaps this could be a double-edged sword — Wilco could have fallen into old habits as their 30th anniversary loomed.
Whatever the case may be, for that "weird shape in the desert," the band drafted Welsh musician and producer Cate Le Bon — to give their tried-and-true aesthetic a refreshing twist.
This partnership paid off handsomely: while Tweedy's songwriting is still very much Tweedy, Cousin has a taste and feel that doesn't resemble any past Wilco album.
"Infinite Surprise" hangs in a droning, digital ether that puts it somewhere in the taxonomy of Joni Mitchell's Taming the Tiger; "Levee" shimmers and sparkles like Wilco songs haven't really in the past; "Pittsburgh" is a Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-level mind movie.
With Cousin, Wilco prove they can still find new avenues and corridors in their three-decade trajectory. And the continual state of guessing is what makes it so rewarding to be a Wilco fan. Or, in their words: infinite surprise.
Photo: Rachel Kupfer
A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.
It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.
Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.
Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.
In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.
Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.
There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.
Say She She
Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.
While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."
Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.
Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.
Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.
Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.
L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.
During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.
Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.
Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.
Photo: Steven Sebring
Living Legends: Billy Idol On Survival, Revival & Breaking Out Of The Cage
"One foot in the past and one foot into the future," Billy Idol says, describing his decade-spanning career in rock. "We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol."
Living Legends is a series that spotlights icons in music still going strong today. This week, GRAMMY.com spoke with Billy Idol about his latest EP, Cage, and continuing to rock through decades of changing tastes.
Billy Idol is a true rock 'n' roll survivor who has persevered through cultural shifts and personal struggles. While some may think of Idol solely for "Rebel Yell" and "White Wedding," the singer's musical influences span genres and many of his tunes are less turbo-charged than his '80s hits would belie.
Idol first made a splash in the latter half of the '70s with the British punk band Generation X. In the '80s, he went on to a solo career combining rock, pop, and punk into a distinct sound that transformed him and his musical partner, guitarist Steve Stevens, into icons. They have racked up multiple GRAMMY nominations, in addition to one gold, one double platinum, and four platinum albums thanks to hits like "Cradle Of Love," "Flesh For Fantasy," and "Eyes Without A Face."
But, unlike many legacy artists, Idol is anything but a relic. Billy continues to produce vital Idol music by collaborating with producers and songwriters — including Miley Cyrus — who share his forward-thinking vision. He will play a five-show Vegas residency in November, and filmmaker Jonas Akerlund is working on a documentary about Idol’s life.
His latest release is Cage, the second in a trilogy of annual four-song EPs. The title track is a classic Billy Idol banger expressing the desire to free himself from personal constraints and live a better life. Other tracks on Cage incorporate metallic riffing and funky R&B grooves.
Idol continues to reckon with his demons — they both grappled with addiction during the '80s — and the singer is open about those struggles on the record and the page. (Idol's 2014 memoir Dancing With Myself, details a 1990 motorcycle accident that nearly claimed a leg, and how becoming a father steered him to reject hard drugs. "Bitter Taste," from his last EP, The Roadside, reflects on surviving the accident.)
Although Idol and Stevens split in the late '80s — the skilled guitarist fronted Steve Stevens & The Atomic Playboys, and collaborated with Michael Jackson, Rick Ocasek, Vince Neil, and Harold Faltermeyer (on the GRAMMY-winning "Top Gun Anthem") — their common history and shared musical bond has been undeniable. The duo reunited in 2001 for an episode of "VH1 Storytellers" and have been back in the saddle for two decades. Their union remains one of the strongest collaborations in rock 'n roll history.
While there is recognizable personnel and a distinguishable sound throughout a lot of his work, Billy Idol has always pushed himself to try different things. Idol discusses his musical journey, his desire to constantly move forward, and the strong connection that he shares with Stevens.
Steve has said that you like to mix up a variety of styles, yet everyone assumes you're the "Rebel Yell"/"White Wedding" guy. But if they really listen to your catalog, it's vastly different.
Yeah, that's right. With someone like Steve Stevens, and then back in the day Keith Forsey producing... [Before that] Generation X actually did move around inside punk rock. We didn't stay doing just the Ramones two-minute music. We actually did a seven-minute song. [Laughs]. We did always mix things up.
Then when I got into my solo career, that was the fun of it. With someone like Steve, I knew what he could do. I could see whatever we needed to do, we could nail it. The world was my oyster musically.
"Cage" is a classic-sounding Billy Idol rocker, then "Running From The Ghost" is almost metal, like what the Devil's Playground album was like back in the mid-2000s. "Miss Nobody" comes out of nowhere with this pop/R&B flavor. What inspired that?
We really hadn't done anything like that since something like "Flesh For Fantasy" [which] had a bit of an R&B thing about it. Back in the early days of Billy Idol, "Hot In The City" and "Mony Mony" had girls [singing] on the backgrounds.
We always had a bit of R&B really, so it was actually fun to revisit that. We just hadn't done anything really quite like that for a long time. That was one of the reasons to work with someone like Sam Hollander [for the song "Rita Hayworth"] on The Roadside. We knew we could go [with him] into an R&B world, and he's a great songwriter and producer. That's the fun of music really, trying out these things and seeing if you can make them stick.
I listen to new music by veteran artists and debate that with some people. I'm sure you have those fans that want their nostalgia, and then there are some people who will embrace the newer stuff. Do you find it’s a challenge to reach people with new songs?
Obviously, what we're looking for is, how do we somehow have one foot in the past and one foot into the future? We’ve got the best of all possible worlds because that has been the modus operandi of Billy Idol.
You want to do things that are true to you, and you don't just want to try and do things that you're seeing there in the charts today. I think that we're achieving it with things like "Running From The Ghost" and "Cage" on this new EP. I think we’re managing to do both in a way.
Obviously, "Running From The Ghost" is about addiction, all the stuff that you went through, and in "Cage" you’re talking about freeing yourself from a lot of personal shackles. Was there any one moment in your life that made you really thought I have to not let this weigh me down anymore?
I mean, things like the motorcycle accident I had, that was a bit of a wake up call way back. It was 32 years ago. But there were things like that, years ago, that gradually made me think about what I was doing with my life. I didn't want to ruin it, really. I didn't want to throw it away, and it made [me] be less cavalier.
I had to say to myself, about the drugs and stuff, that I've been there and I've done it. There’s no point in carrying on doing it. You couldn't get any higher. You didn't want to throw your life away casually, and I was close to doing that. It took me a bit of time, but then gradually I was able to get control of myself to a certain extent [with] drugs and everything. And I think Steve's done the same thing. We're on a similar path really, which has been great because we're in the same boat in terms of lyrics and stuff.
So a lot of things like that were wake up calls. Even having grandchildren and just watching my daughter enlarging her family and everything; it just makes you really positive about things and want to show a positive side to how you're feeling, about where you're going. We've lived with the demons so long, we've found a way to live with them. We found a way to be at peace with our demons, in a way. Maybe not completely, but certainly to where we’re enjoying what we do and excited about it.
[When writing] "Running From The Ghost" it was easy to go, what was the ghost for us? At one point, we were very drug addicted in the '80s. And Steve in particular is super sober [now]. I mean, I still vape pot and stuff. I don’t know how he’s doing it, but it’s incredible. All I want to be able to do is have a couple of glasses of wine at a restaurant or something. I can do that now.
I think working with people that are super talented, you just feel confident. That is a big reason why you open up and express yourself more because you feel comfortable with what's around you.
Did you watch Danny Boyle's recent Sex Pistols mini-series?
I did, yes.
You had a couple of cameos; well, an actor who portrayed you did. How did you react to it? How accurate do you think it was in portraying that particular time period?
I love Jonesy’s book, I thought his book was incredible. It's probably one of the best bio books really. It was incredible and so open. I was looking forward to that a lot.
It was as if [the show] kind of stayed with Steve [Jones’ memoir] about halfway through, and then departed from it. [John] Lydon, for instance, was never someone I ever saw acting out; he's more like that today. I never saw him do something like jump up in the room and run around going crazy. The only time I saw him ever do that was when they signed the recording deal with Virgin in front of Buckingham Palace. Whereas Sid Vicious was always acting out; he was always doing something in a horrible way or shouting at someone. I don't remember John being like that. I remember him being much more introverted.
But then I watched interviews with some of the actors about coming to grips with the parts they were playing. And they were saying, we knew punk rock happened but just didn't know any of the details. So I thought well, there you go. If ["Pistol" is] informing a lot of people who wouldn't know anything about punk rock, maybe that's what's good about it.
Maybe down the road John Lydon will get the chance to do John's version of the Pistols story. Maybe someone will go a lot deeper into it and it won't be so surface. But maybe you needed this just to get people back in the flow.
We had punk and metal over here in the States, but it feels like England it was legitimately more dangerous. British society was much more rigid.
It never went [as] mega in America. It went big in England. It exploded when the Pistols did that interview with [TV host Bill] Grundy, that lorry truck driver put his boot through his own TV, and all the national papers had "the filth and the fury" [headlines].
We went from being unknown to being known overnight. We waited a year, Generation X. We even told them [record labels] no for nine months to a year. Every record company wanted their own punk rock group. So it went really mega in England, and it affected the whole country – the style, the fashions, everything. I mean, the Ramones were massive in England. Devo had a No. 1 song [in England] with "Satisfaction" in '77. Actually, Devo was as big as or bigger than the Pistols.
You were ahead of the pop-punk thing that happened in the late '90s, and a lot of it became tongue-in-cheek by then. It didn't have the same sense of rebelliousness as the original movement. It was more pop.
It had become a style. There was a famous book in England called Revolt Into Style — and that's what had happened, a revolt that turned into style which then they were able to duplicate in their own way. Even recently, Billie Joe [Armstrong] did his own version of "Gimme Some Truth," the Lennon song we covered way back in 1977.
When we initially were making [punk] music, it hadn't become accepted yet. It was still dangerous and turned into a style that people were used to. We were still breaking barriers.
You have a band called Generation Sex with Steve Jones and Paul Cook. I assume you all have an easier time playing Pistols and Gen X songs together now and not worrying about getting spit on like back in the '70s?
Yeah, definitely. When I got to America I told the group I was putting it together, "No one spits at the audience."
We had five years of being spat on [in the UK], and it was revolting. And they spat at you if they liked you. If they didn't like it they smashed your gear up. One night, I remember I saw blood on my T-shirt, and I think Joe Strummer got meningitis when spit went in his mouth.
You had to go through a lot to become successful, it wasn't like you just kind of got up there and did a couple of gigs. I don't think some young rock bands really get that today.
With punk going so mega in England, we definitely got a leg up. We still had a lot of work to get where we got to, and rightly so because you find out that you need to do that. A lot of groups in the old days would be together three to five years before they ever made a record, and that time is really important. In a way, what was great about punk rock for me was it was very much a learning period. I really learned a lot [about] recording music and being in a group and even writing songs.
Then when I came to America, it was a flow, really. I also really started to know what I wanted Billy Idol to be. It took me a little bit, but I kind of knew what I wanted Billy Idol to be. And even that took a while to let it marinate.
You and Miley Cyrus have developed a good working relationship in the last several years. How do you think her fans have responded to you, and your fans have responded to her?
I think they're into it. It's more the record company that she had didn't really get "Night Crawling"— it was one of the best songs on Plastic Hearts, and I don't think they understood that. They wanted to go with Dua Lipa, they wanted to go with the modern, young acts, and I don't think they realized that that song was resonating with her fans. Which is a shame really because, with Andrew Watt producing, it's a hit song.
But at the same time, I enjoyed doing it. It came out really good and it's very Billy Idol. In fact, I think it’s more Billy Idol than Miley Cyrus. I think it shows you where Andrew Watt was. He was excited about doing a Billy Idol track. She's fun to work with. She’s a really great person and she works at her singing — I watched her rehearsing for the Super Bowl performance she gave. She rehearsed all Saturday morning, all Saturday afternoon, and Sunday morning and it was that afternoon. I have to admire her fortitude. She really cares.
I remember when you went on "Viva La Bam" back in 2005 and decided to give Bam Margera’s Lamborghini a new sunroof by taking a power saw to it. Did he own that car? Was that a rental?
I think it was his car.
Did he get over it later on?
He loved it. [Laughs] He’s got a wacky sense of humor. He’s fantastic, actually. I’m really sorry to see what he's been going through just lately. He's going through a lot, and I wish him the best. He's a fantastic person, and it's a shame that he's struggling so much with his addictions. I know what it's like. It's not easy.
Musically, what is the synergy like with you guys during the past 10 years, doing Kings and Queens of the Underground and this new stuff? What is your working relationship like now in this more sober, older, mature version of you two as opposed to what it was like back in the '80s?
In lots of ways it’s not so different because we always wrote the songs together, we always talked about what we're going to do together. It was just that we were getting high at the same time.We're just not getting [that way now] but we're doing all the same things.
We're still talking about things, still [planning] things:What are we going to do next? How are we going to find new people to work with? We want to find new producers. Let's be a little bit more timely about putting stuff out.That part of our relationship is the same, you know what I mean? That never got affected. We just happened to be overloading in the '80s.
The relationship’s… matured and it's carrying on being fruitful, and I think that's pretty amazing. Really, most people don't get to this place. Usually, they hate each other by now. [Laughs] We also give each other space. We're not stopping each other doing things outside of what we’re working on together. All of that enables us to carry on working together. I love and admire him. I respect him. He's been fantastic. I mean, just standing there on stage with him is always a treat. And he’s got an immensely great sense of humor. I think that's another reason why we can hang together after all this time because we've got the sense of humor to enable us to go forward.
There's a lot of fan reaction videos online, and I noticed a lot of younger women like "Rebel Yell" because, unlike a lot of other '80s alpha male rock tunes, you're talking about satisfying your lover.
It was about my girlfriend at the time, Perri Lister. It was about how great I thought she was, how much I was in love with her, and how great women are, how powerful they are.
It was a bit of a feminist anthem in a weird way. It was all about how relationships can free you and add a lot to your life. It was a cry of love, nothing to do with the Civil War or anything like that. Perri was a big part of my life, a big part of being Billy Idol. I wanted to write about it. I'm glad that's the effect.
Is there something you hope people get out of the songs you've been doing over the last 10 years? Do you find yourself putting out a message that keeps repeating?
Well, I suppose, if anything, is that you can come to terms with your life, you can keep a hold of it. You can work your dreams into reality in a way and, look, a million years later, still be enjoying it.
The only reason I'm singing about getting out of the cage is because I kicked out of the cage years ago. I joined Generation X when I said to my parents, "I'm leaving university, and I'm joining a punk rock group." And they didn't even know what a punk rock group was. Years ago, I’d write things for myself that put me on this path, so that maybe in 2022 I could sing something like "Cage" and be owning this territory and really having a good time. This is the life I wanted.
The original UK punk movement challenged societal norms. Despite all the craziness going on throughout the world, it seems like a lot of modern rock bands are afraid to do what you guys were doing. Do you think we'll see a shift in that?
Yeah. Art usually reacts to things, so I would think eventually there will be a massive reaction to the pop music that’s taken over — the middle of the road music, and then this kind of right wing politics. There will be a massive reaction if there's not already one. I don’t know where it will come from exactly. You never know who's gonna do [it].