Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella
On 'Gemini Rights' Steve Lacy Gets Personal About Red Flags & Trusting His Instincts
On 'Gemini Rights', the artist best known as a collaborator with Kendrick Lamar, the Internet, Solange, and Vampire Weekend delves into break-ups, personal discovery, and playing director with his mother and siblings.
The ever-elusive Steve Lacy has come out to share his latest, Gemini Rights, out July 15. The wunderkind producer, musician and guitarist for GRAMMY-nominated band the Internet — whoj has collaborated with the likes of Chlöe x Halle, Blood Orange and Kendrick Lamar, among others — announced his sophomore album (his first release with RCA Records) during a live performance of the then-untitled "Mercury."
The album's lead single combines '60s Brazilian bossa nova and '70s funk with Lacy’s soaring falsetto, adding a more majestic mystique to the Compton native’s discography. Gemini Rights continues the singer-guitarist’s growth, and is an even more personal offering than his 2019 debut solo effort, Apollo XX1 or his 2020 deep-cut demo offering, The Lo-Fi.
Majorly self-produced by Lacy, Gemini Rights has only one guest appearance. On "Sunshine," Lacy and emerging singer and multi-instrumentalist Fousheé, present a "savage, hilarious, tender, sexy, and gender-fluid" escape that "wears its heart on its sleeve in the best way possible," as he shared with Apple Music 1’s Zane Lowe.
Lacy spoke with GRAMMY.com about his new album, how exploring his own red flags on Gemini Rights helped him to trust his instincts, and why playing director with his mother and siblings was "too much" for him.
For those who are now just hearing the first two singles, can you share a bit about the story surrounding Gemini Rights?
Gemini Rights is essentially me coming into myself after a breakup. It’s a story that is very fluid [and] very fun. To me, the subject matter could be sad if you look at it that way, but I feel like it is way more hopeful — and that’s the story: finding happiness. I’m finding myself after a heartbreak and I am excited for people to hear this record.
Even with "Sunshine" a song with myself and Fousheé, I feel like that song is perfect. It ["Sunshine"] sums up Gemini Rights because it has all of this anger and animosity towards the person who affected me, but, as you’ll hear in mine and Fousheé’s verse — I still want to f—. [Laughs]. I still love them, which, to me, is some real s—. And that spectrum of emotions sums up the whole of Gemini Rights.
Between Syd’s Broken Hearts Club and your latest, love and break-ups are an interesting thread when it comes to y’all’s discography. Do you and the rest of the band talk about love and relationships as friends? Do you have any advice for those who want to have an enjoyable "shoot your shot" summer?
I don’t know if we really talk about love that much together as a group, but I know I’ve talked about it more with Matt [Martian]. We always talk about love, but in a way that is free, unconditional, and letting people be who they are. We’re not into that love that’s like, you need to do this and be this way. I appreciate a love that is more like just do your thing.
When it comes to shooting your shot, that’s a good question, but I’d say just do whatever feels good to you.
Has Gemini Rights helped you to work through, or work on, any red flags that you might personally have?
I think [that] red flags come from us not trusting our instincts. So, I learned that instead of pointing a finger at someone else, I have to trust those emotions inside of me. That’s the biggest thing that I learned about myself on this album — trusting my instincts. Because you can see red flags within yourself and others, but you’ll bypass them if you don’t check in and listen to yourself. You can find yourself blaming everybody else, saying that you have trust issues, but it’s only because of a boundary that you didn’t set up or didn’t say.
I’m learning that it’s all on me. I’m responsible for what I want and how I interact with others. I tell all of my friends that everybody has a choice. Because I’m not the friend that’s just going to agree with you when you’re in a sad place. I’ll ask, "Well, what’d you do?" I love to talk about all perspectives because emotions, feelings, and how people handle things are all so different and we all handle them differently. So, I’m always trying to open myself up and free myself [from any limitations].
What were some memorably weird moments that happened to you while in the studio?
I’ve been blessed to work with the most amazing people on this planet. And it’s such a good feeling to be around those whose music translates to others based on the interaction you have with them. Plus, I get to maintain these relationships with these wonderful people as well. Thankfully, though, I’ve never had a weird studio experience myself.
Fousheé has been incredible when it comes to her own work, and you two together certainly make magic with this record. How has it been working with her on Gemini Rights?
It was really natural. We were just hanging out and building a friendship while working. It wasn’t transactional in any way. We didn’t want anything from each other, but [putting together Gemini Rights] just felt right. Those moments are rare — and I never felt anything like that until I met Fou. She found me when I was in a slump about what to do next because everything [at the time] was weighing on me so heavy.
At one point, I’m wondering where to go next [with my music] and how to deal with the [end] of my relationship. And she was just like, "just chill out." We would then just start writing and having conversations where we’re coming up with bars that we just loved, and kept adding to. But then there we some days where we’d just get stoned, laugh on the mic, and just do dumb s—. [Laughs] Altogether, making Gemini Rights was fun.
By the time we got to "Sunshine," which was one of the last songs written for Gemini Rights, Fousheé and I were in a good groove. The way that we’d work is by writing, and then when a new idea pops up, we’d just sing together on two mics. When "Sunshine" comes about, we’re freestyling that s—. It’d get up to about 20 minutes long and [then] we’d chop it up to be shorter. With "Sunshine," though, she just had this hook and we were harmonizing for a moment on that part. It became the chorus, and then I was like, "You might as well just be on this song. Just be the only feature on my album."
She thought it was cool or "whatever," [laughs], and that’s why I think our process was so supernatural. We were just in a natural groove [and] I like that.
How does it feel to have Gemini Rights as your first RCA release? Does this moment impress upon you what you’d like to see once the Internet’s deal with Columbia Records ends?
It’s so far, so good, to be honest. I was really happy being independent for a while, but then I was talking to [RCA Records CEO] Peter Edge, and we had a really good conversation before finishing the Gemini Rights demo. He’s just been very patient and respectful of me and my artistry. [RCA] had a roster that I appreciated out of anyone in the game. And from what I knew of RCA, they allowed their artists to have their own narrative and help put it all together.
As for [the Internet’s] situation, we’re going to see what happens. Ask me that question next year and I’ll have a clear answer for you.
A while back you previewed "Mercury" during a live performance, which had a positive reaction. What feelings, if any, go into sharing yet-to-be-released work like that or demos like The Lo-Fis?
It makes me feel good to see people take it for themselves and interpret it how they want to. I don’t have too much ownership of how I want this [music] to be taken. Performing it live, specifically before it came out, is a risk that I took — but it felt really good. It felt natural.
I felt good to be the leader of the energy at that time. I’m genuinely excited and it was cool to look around and [see] they’re also excited. We’re just sharing this excitement together. In all of this, I am learning to express my bandwidth when it comes to performing in front of a crowd of people, which is kind of crazy.
Your family is also heavily featured on Gemini Rights. Can you talk about how it was to direct your mother and siblings? Also, where do they appear on the album?
Yes, yes! They sing the "la-la" part on "Helmet." They do the "oohs" and "aahs" and the "ba-ba-ba-ba" part on "Mercury," but they were a little pitchy [laughs], so I couldn’t use it. I got them on "Amber," singing on the big swell when the bass comes in. They’re all on that part. I then added them to "Give You The World," where they’re on the "goodbye" part, and that was it.
How was it to play bandleader and director for those moments?
[Laughs] It was too much, man. No, to be honest, it was fun and really sweet. My family is funny as hell, but I think they caught me on a day when I was really tired. They have a lot of energy. It’s three women — my mother and two sisters — and we’re all our own very different people. We have a very special camaraderie that makes being together funny as hell.
My mom kept screaming into the mic and I’m like, "Girl, stop! Voice control. If you’re going to belt, you go further [away from the mic. Why [are] you going closer to scream?" It was hilarious, though. I got the footage. Maybe I’ll post it one day.
Does this mean there will be a Gemini Rights: The B-Sides as well?
Maybe, yeah? I make a lot of stuff, so I learned with this album two things: the superpower of editing and that you got to make trash. Doing that freed me. When I used to think that I would dream up something perfect, I realized that I just had to let it come [to me.] Just blurt words out and vomit them out, let it go, and edit, edit, edit. I would treat [Gemini Rights] like how a rapper would and that made it way more fun.
With that said, how do you feel about your own evolution as a songwriter and producer after hearing the final version of Gemini Rights?
I thought that [the final result] was great. And I know that I’m still growing in that space. I’m confident in this work that we did, but [I] also know that it is all practice. I’m going to get better on the next one, and I [know that] I am never fully satisfied because this is all practice for me and I want to constantly get better. [With Gemini Rights,] I’m confident where I am at right now, but I am going to do so much more.
I love the craft of music and developing sounds using the knowledge that I have of music, where meshing so many things together just creates unique experiences for myself and others is exciting to me.
So, what expectations or predictions do you have for fans who will hear Gemini Rights when it drops on July 15th?
My predictions are that it will make people feel more unconditional love for one another.
Find Out Who's Nominated For Best Urban Contemporary Album | 2020 GRAMMY Awards
Steve Lacy, Lizzo, Georgia Anne Muldrow, NAO and Jessie Reyez all receive nominations
The 2020 GRAMMYs are just around the corner, and now the nominations are in for the coveted honor of Best Urban Contemporary Album. While we'll have to wait until the 62nd GRAMMY Awards air on CBS on Jan. 26 to find out who will win, let's take a look at which albums have been nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album.
Apollo XXI - Steve Lacy
Apollo XXI is the solo debut studio album from lo-fi funk performer Steve Lacy, arriving in May of this past year. Lacy was nominated in the Best Urban Contemporary Album field at the 58th GRAMMY Awards for Ego Death.
Cuz I Love You – Lizzo
The third studio album and debut major label LP by flute-playing rapper/singer Lizzo was released through Nice Life and Atlantic Records on April 19, 2019. Featuring guest appearances from Missy Elliott and Gucci Mane, Cuz I Love You covered a host of topics the singer holds near and dear, such as self-love and positivity. "Vulnerability and strength is what this album is all about," she recently told the Recording Academy in an Up Close & Personal interview.
"When you write these songs you get really excited about them and mind you, I had a song like 'Juice' just under my armpit in the darkness and nobody knew what it sounded like," the singer continued. "Or keeping it a secret that I had Missy Elliott on a song, at that point you just want to explode and when the album was out, I was so excited to just share the songs with people and the world."
Overload - Georgia Anne Muldrow
Overload is the 17th studio album by L.A. experimental funk musician Georgia Anne Muldrow, released in October 2018.
Saturn - NAO
Saturn is the second studio album from British singer-songwriter Nao, released in October 2018 and housing the singles "Another Lifetime" and "Make It Out Alive.”
Through her two albums, For All We Know and Saturn, the singer has transitioned from a sound she called "wonky funk" (because there was no other way to describe her mix of R&B, electronic and funk) to what she called a more solidified sound on her sophomore effort.
Regarding being open and honest in the studio, she recently told the Recording Academy, "Being vulnerable is really easy when you're in the studio on your own, and I guess I kinda forget that. But in general what we understand about being vulnerable is how much it helps other people. I really understand now the power of music and the power of healing and the power of sharing your story in your words and how it can comfort so many people."
Being Human In Public - Jessie Reyez
Canadian singer/songwriter Jessie Reyez’s sophomore EP Being Human In Public came out in October 2018 and featured the singles “Apple Juice” and “Sola,” among others.
"Canada has this really cool way — specifically Toronto — of encouraging you to wave both flags, if you've been born there, like wave your flag and then wave your parent's flag too and be proud of it," she told the Recording Academy in 2018. "Some people's parents listened to the Beatles ... but my family is Alquimia, Celia Cruz and Carlos Vives, this old, rich Colombian music. I loved hearing that while I was growing up."
Photo: Burak Cingi/Redferns/Getty Images
Ezra Koenig Elaborates On Vampire Weekend's "Emotional And Personal" 'FOTB'
"I always wondered if people pictured us banging our heads against the wall for six years. In a way, given that it's a lot of songs, it came about more quickly than usual," the GRAMMY-winning frontman said in a new Stereogum profile
Today, Vampire Weekend released their highly anticipated fourth studio album, Father of the Bride. It's been six years since the band released their last LP, the GRAMMY-winning Modern Vampires Of The City.
The indie stalwarts have been working up a buzz around FOTB for months, first when they revealed the album's title/eminent release and dropped the first double batch of singles, "Harmony Hall" and "2020" on Jan. 24, and then with a tour announcement, two more double-single releases and, finally, today's 18-track double album drop.
Now, in a deep-diving Stereogum profile, Ezra Koenig offers insight into the jubilant ease and complexity of the new release, how he and the group have grown, and how collaboration has helped the group expand its creativity and shine.
"I always wondered if people pictured us banging our heads against the wall for six years. In a way, given that it's a lot of songs, it came about more quickly than usual," Koenig told Stereogum.
Since Modern Vampire's release in 2013, a lot has happened for the group; Rostam Batmanglij departed, the other two remaining members, bassist Chris Baio and drummer Chris Tomson both released solo albums, and Koenig created an anime series on Netflix. In the interview, Koenig shares how he has, finally, fully embraced his role as the band's frontman.
"I never felt comfortable calling myself the leader because I felt like that was something that I had to earn. But I did start the band, so I had some degree of leadership. In the beginning, I made it clear that I was going to choose the songs. It wasn't important for me to write all of the songs, because I love writing songs with other people, but it was important for me to have that curatorial role."
And with Father Of The Bride, which Koenig first revealed they were working on and nearly 80 percent done with back in September 2017, both the collaboration and storyline are rich. It is the first time the group has brought in featured artists, with HAIM's Danielle Haim dueting on three songs, and The Internet's Steve Lacy making waves on two others.
Both Koenig and GRAMMY-winning producer Ariel Rechtshaid, who returned after co-producing Modern Vampires with the frontman, explain the collabs happened organically. As Rechtshaid put it, "The only people involved on the record were involved because it felt organic. It's an informal revolving door of the homies and the homegirls."
Koenig is evidently the type of artist always striving for growth and expansion, to always be covering new territory and pushing their group's creative boundaries. As a group with songs like the unabashedly nerdy "Oxford Comma," from their 2008 self-titled debut LP, their new material feels lighter and more lyrically accessible, but very much in the traditional Vampire Weekend vein of epic storytelling and upbeat sounds.
"Am I going to be throwing open the dictionary for every song? That doesn't feel exciting," Koenig said. He continued, "A lot of my favorite songs accomplish things I've never accomplished. What am I scared to say? What haven't I done? Part of it is emotional and personal, and part of it is the novelty of new artistic challenges."
He also explained how the duets he shared with Haim, one third of the GRAMMY-nominated sister trio of the same name, played a key role in this new artistic exploration. "A true duet is people in a shared situation with slightly different perspectives," he said. "That felt like the type of thing I hadn’t done before. It was hard. Lyrically, I think this is the most rigorous I've ever been."
Haim, meanwhile, emphasized the authentic nature of the collab. "I've known Ezra for a couple years now and have always been a fan. The first song he showed me was 'Hold You Now' and I loved it immediately. He asked if I would sing it with him and the rest kinda just happened naturally."
The album title, which Koenig shared had been "in the running three or four years ago," also ended up taking on a deeper meaning when Koenig recently became a father himself, with partner Rashida Jones.
"Why would a phrase like that be evocative to me? I think, naturally, you start looking at new themes as you get older. Father Of The Bride is meant to make you think of a wedding, a life cycle event, a moment of transition. I didn't know that I would be a father by the time this album came out… But it's not a crazy coincidence that a major life cycle event would happen to me in the years after I started thinking about what adulthood really was."
Photo: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
The Internet's Syd On Healing, Plant Parenthood & New Music From Steve Lacy
The frontwoman of GRAMMY-nominated alt-rap/R&B ensemble the Internet opens up about not letting bitterness take root on her sophomore album, 'Broken Hearts Club.'
As with any time someone chooses to put their heart on the line, there’s a chance that it can be broken and kicked to the curb. For a decade, Syd, frontwoman for alt-rap/R&B group the Internet, has used this truth to bravely take audiences on an emotional rollercoaster ride. Listeners have experienced emotional loop-de-loops of sadness, reflection, and sensuality — all punctuated by memorable lyrics and melodies.
On her latest release, Broken Hearts Club, the Los Angeles native is in an even more reflective mood. The 13-track audio motion picture follows Syd as she heals from the worst breakup she’d ever had. The end of the relationship — which intertwined with the pandemic — caused her to completely rethink her place in the world, and within the music industry.
Released in April, Broken Hearts Club — a follow-up to her 2017 debut solo album, Fin — reflects those complex feelings, her signature airy voice cascading over production by Brandon Shoop ("CYBAH") and GRAMMY-winning acts like Troy Taylor ("Fast Car"), G Koop ("Out Loud"), and Rodney "Darkchild" Jenkins ("Control"). Yet, "after writing [it], I couldn’t go out [and perform] with what those songs sounded like,” Syd tells GRAMMY.com of the album's early development, post-breakup. Instead of letting that energy disrupt her peace — and creative process — Syd used Broken Hearts Club as a catalyst for her to practice healing and self-care.
In this exclusive sit-down with GRAMMY.com, Syd operates from a place of honesty. She discusses the importance of not letting bitterness take root, shares advice on finding peace as a plant parent, discusses the future of the Internet, and opines about her favorite record from Steve Lacy’s upcoming sophomore solo effort.
Let’s start with Broken Hearts Club, Syd. What were some of the standout moments you had while recording that you hope listeners have begun to learn after delving into the album?
I want people to hear this album and be reminded to cherish the good moments in a relationship. Even though it’s a project about a broken heart, most of it [contains] love songs. Sometimes we forget that heartbreak only lasts a few months, whereas my relationship, this specific relationship, lasted two years — and it was great for that time being.
Those three, four months that I was hurt, spoiled my memory of this beautiful relationship. I wanted to take this album and make it as beautiful as the union was. [I did not] even dwell on the fact that it ended or that I was so hurt. [Instead] I focused more on the love that we did have, the good times, and the triumphs of overcoming something as painful as heartbreak.
My situation went from a 10 to a one and all I could think to myself was, Dang, what did I do? She says, ‘Nothing,’ and I’m wondering aloud if there was anything I could do to fix it? It was a situation where I thought I must have done something, but all it was was that she wanted to date the opposite sex again. There’s nothing I can do about that. It made me feel hopeless [and] that was so tough.
It is important to protect your energy and live your truth. It doesn’t make sense to waste anyone’s time. In reading about how you dealt with your heartbreak, you became a plant parent. What advice would you give to people experiencing similar feelings who are first-timers diving into plant therapy after a breakup?
Great question! It’s quality over quantity [is how I’d start off.] Ironically, most plants prefer to be left alone. They just want to live. [Laughs] Just give them a little food, give them a little water, and leave their a<em></em> alone.
The hardest plants [in my home] have been the ones that I was too involved in. When you start with one plant, you just want to love on it so much. [But] sometimes the best way to love something is to leave it alone.
You mentioned having some bitterness in those early Broken Hearts Club songs that you were working on. What was the editing process like for you when carving away from those darker entries to get to this lightness that makes up the album?
I had to heal first. I had to dead-a<em></em> stop, go on a hiatus, and purposely not work on the album. Maybe it’s my Zodiac sign, but for me, my favorite form of "revenge" is a success. I said to myself, Well, f</em><em></em> it, I’m going to take this album and make something [out] of this pain. In trying to do that, it only created more pain and more* bitterness.
I would hit the playback and think that it sounded so gross. And personally, I don’t listen to low vibrational music. I love high vibes, music that’s uplifting, [but] doesn’t necessarily have to be happy. I mean Broken Hearts Club is not a happy-ass album. But I don’t really like sad songs, [and] so I wrote two sad songs and said, "This ain’t even me! Who is this? This is the most bitter I’ve ever sounded."
It was a reflection [of how I was feeling], but after writing a song, you get to sleep on it. I couldn’t go out with what those songs sounded like. Instead, it forced me to have to heal first and then get back to the music. "Dear April" by Frank Ocean helped me heal in a therapeutic way. I just cried a lot to that song and it helped me to have a release.
After that, I wrote two bitter songs before writing a third, which was "Goodbye My Love," and ended up on the album. I couldn’t record that song until I had healed. I wrote it in tears. Matter of fact, that beat came in and I was supposed to write to it for someone else’s album, and I had to text the producer to say I couldn’t sing this s<em></em>* without crying.
He was cool, saying, "Don’t worry about it. When the time is right, it’ll work," and that’s what happened. Eventually, I had healed from the relationship and I just had one more song to record…. [When] I could sing "Goodbye My Love" without crying and knew then and there that I had experienced some good healing.
It’s official that the next Internet album will be the final one, but does this mean that it’s an end for the band?
No, no, no. It’s just the last album in this era or iteration of how you’ve come to see us. The band has plans [laughs]. It will be our last Internet album for quite a while because everybody’s really happy and content right now. We’re enjoying life and chilling. We just want to live life before getting back into a studio, which we’re lucky enough to be able to do, so for us to take time off is important.
This is our last album with Columbia [Records], which has been a relationship we’ve been in for 10 years. We’ve been talking about creating our own label [and] signing ourselves. We want to create a situation for ourselves where we can work on our own ideas and trust each other's intentions because we’re real friends.
We don’t need to consult with anybody or play the industry game. We’ve always been independent at our core in just the way we operate. And so I think we’re excited to try a new structure of a deal. Mind you, we have a great relationship with Columbia, but we’re really looking toward the future and I would love for my next solo project to come out on an Internet-led label.
That’s a good segue into learning how you feel about how your music and the group have impacted music lovers around the world?
I hope that what I’ve done, what we’ve done as musicians, which is just expanding our horizons of what music can sound like, has inspired people to continue to live this thing called life. For me, music can sound as simple or as collegiate as you want it to. It can sound as weird or as basic as you want it to. We’ve given creatives, bedroom creatives at that, hope in numerous ways.
The Internet started out in two little bedrooms back in the day. I really hope that, if anything, we’ve inspired people to make the music they want to make just like how our music shaped us.
Speaking of how music shaped you all, I wanted to get your thoughts on that unreleased Steve Lacy song that he performed during 420. Everyone is hyped to hear what’s next from him, but what did you think when you heard it?
That song, which I don’t think has a name yet, is one of my favorites from his upcoming album. It might have been one of the first songs that I heard off his new record. He made it a while back, but it has been everybody’s favorite, low-key. There is another song that he played me that I think is going to close out the record that is ridiculous. It’s just beautiful and gorgeous at the same damn time.
But when I heard the album a few months ago, he said he was just adding some finishing touches. His mom and all of his sisters came through to hear my record before going into the booth to lay background vocals on a song for him. They did a few records, I believe, because his whole family sings — his mom, sisters, everybody.
Now that you’ve exited from the Broken Hearts Club and shared your feelings about experiencing an emotional loss — how do you see your next album shaping up?
I definitely want the next one to be more general topic-wise, more about what have we learned from this past experience. I’m already excited to get started, but I’ll probably wait until next year to get into it once this tour is over and when my deal is actually finished legally.
But just to let you know, I’m really happy to talk about what I’ve learned about myself and how much self-aware, self-confidence, and self-esteem I gained from that experience. I think it is just all-encompassing of knowing who I am, so let me tell you who I am. I think that’ll be the basis of the next album.
Maybe it’ll be self-titled or something [laughs], who knows?
Meet The Record Of The Year Nominees At The 2023 GRAMMYs
The 2022 Record Of The Year nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs are hits from some of the biggest names in music, old and new: ABBA, Adele, Beyoncé, Brandi Carlile and Lucius, Doja Cat, Harry Styles, Kendrick Lamar, Lizzo, Mary J. Blige, and Steve Lacy.
Looking at this year's roster of the 2022 Record Of The Year nominees for the 2023 GRAMMY Award show, there's two stories to be told: superstar comebacks made a killing, and the new crop of stars are proving to be equally as powerful.
The past year has given us much-anticipated returns from titans like Adele, Beyoncé, Kendrick Lamar, and Mary J. Blige, and even ABBA made a triumphant comeback after nearly 40 years. And while genre-melding mainstays Lizzo, Doja Cat and Brandi Carlile continued to crank out hits, Steve Lacy had a true breakthrough moment, and Harry Styles’ latest evolution solidified him as a pop icon.
Suffice to say, the race for Record of the Year — which is awarded to the artist and the producer(s), recording engineer(s) and/or mixer(s) and mastering engineer(s) — is going to be hotly contested at the 2023 GRAMMY Awards show. From Beyoncé's foray into dance music to Styles' unstoppable chart-topper, the winner is far from a sure thing.
Before tuning into the 2023 GRAMMYs on Feb. 5, 2023, get fully acquainted with this year's 2022 Record Of The Year nominees below.
The 2023 GRAMMY nominations are officially here. See the complete list of nominees across all 91 GRAMMY categories.
ABBA — "Don't Shut Me Down"
After almost four decades away from the limelight, Swedish pop royalty ABBA made a joyous return in 2021 with the dual single, "I Still Have Faith In You" and "Don't Shut Me Down." The latter opens with the ageless sound of Agnetha Fältskog's voice over gently plucked strings, evoking the opening swell of a Broadway musical. Then the disco guitars hit, and we're right back in ABBA's world.
"Don't Shut Me Down" helped usher in an unexpected next act for the beloved group, including a new album, Voyage, and a groundbreaking live show featuring their de-aged "digital avatars." As band member Björn Ulvaeus told The Guardian, their new music was written "absolutely trend-blind" to preserve its essential ABBA-ness. Luxuriating in the rich, open-hearted sound of "Don't Shut Me Down," you'd think no time had passed at all.
Adele — "Easy On Me"
Adele has built a highly decorated career on the gale-force strength of her emotions, and 'Easy On Me' is no exception. Released as the lead single from the British superstar's first album in six years, 30, "Easy On Me" taps into the pain of her divorce and its toll on her son.
Written as a plea for understanding from a mother to her child, the result is a rousing piano-led torch song as only Adele can make. With her emotions laid bare, "Easy On Me" set the stage for the 15-time GRAMMY winner's latest era.
"There's something hopeful about it, as well as sad," Adele told Radio 1 of her comeback ballad. "Obviously I bawled my eyes out when I was writing it and singing it." As ever, her toil was our gain.
Beyoncé — "BREAK MY SOUL"
Back in June, Beyoncé set the internet alight by casually updating her Instagram and Twitter bios with the message, "6. BREAK MY SOUL midnight ET." Fittingly for its late-night drop, "BREAK MY SOUL" saw the 28-time GRAMMY winner coming for house dance floors.
With a four-to-the-floor beat that references Robin S's classic "Show Me Love," Bey's banger also pulls in elements of hip-hop and bounce music to thrilling effect. Reteaming with Tricky Stewart and The-Dream — the co-producers on Bey’s Song Of The Year-winning smash "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" — the pop hitmaker skillfully paid homage to house music's Black queer roots in the context of a post-pandemic anthem.
Generous and bursting with life, "BREAK MY SOUL" provided the perfect entrance to Beyoncé's seventh album, Renaissance, which followed the next month with heavyweight club credentials.
Mary J Blige. — "Good Morning Gorgeous"
In the week before she took to the stage at the 2022 Super Bowl for over 100 million viewers, R&B icon Mary J. Blige seized the moment to release her 14th studio album, Good Morning Gorgeous. On the rousing title track, Blige moves past heartbreak to preach self-love above all else — a message embraced and amplified by fans on TikTok.
That silky, yet powerful voice — familiar from 2000s classics like "Family Affair" and "Be Without You" — is once again the centerpiece on "Good Morning Gorgeous," backed by warm bass and steadily strumming guitars. Blige co-produced the song with her frequent collaborator D'Mile and five-time GRAMMY winner H.E.R., the latter of whom considered the assignment a dream come true.
Ever honest in her music, Blige told "Good Morning America" she "had to learn how to love myself out of a negative place." Self-acceptance looks great on her.
Brandi Carlile featuring Lucius — "You and Me on the Rock"
After revisiting the past in her bestselling memoir, Broken Horses, Brandi Carlile returned to her pen and paper to conjure her seventh album, In These Silent Days. The album opens strikingly with Carlile's GRAMMY-nominated hit, "Right On Time," before easing into "You and Me on the Rock" — now, another GRAMMY-nominated single.
Deeply personal and quietly romantic, "You and Me on the Rock" reflects on the solid foundation of Carlile's home life with her wife, Catherine, and their two daughters. "Me out in my garden and you out on your walk/ Is all the distance this poor girl can take," the six-time GRAMMY winner sings to her love, evoking a scene of blissfully domestic groundedness.
Produced by folk and country lifers Dave Cobb and Shooter Jennings, "You and Me on the Rock" also features Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of indie-pop group Lucius on backing vocals. As Carlile described it to Stereogum, "The song just felt really feminine to me."
Doja Cat — "Woman"
On her GRAMMY-nominated third album, Planet Her, Doja Cat invited listeners into a world entirely of her own creation. After seeing success with the album’s first three singles — the GRAMMY-winning SZA collab "Kiss Me More," the Weekend-featuring hit "You Right" and the top-10 jam "Need To Know" — Doja kept the momentum alive with "Woman."
To craft the song's distinctive Afrobeats-inspired sound, Doja turned to a brains trust of producers who are practiced in dancehall, reggae, pop and R&B: Crate Classics, Linden Jay, Aynzli Jones and Yeti Beats. For all the sleekness of the production, Doja holds center stage, stepping lithely between singing and rapping on the theme of female empowerment. Top it all off with her immaculately choreographed dancing in the song’s music video, and consider Doja Cat a triple threat.
Steve Lacy — "Bad Habit"
"You can't surprise a Gemini," Steve Lacy croons with breezy nonchalance on "Bad Habit," the second single from his 2022 album, Gemini Rights. That sentiment might be true, but even someone as effortlessly cool as Lacy was surprised by the runaway success of his breakout hit.
A laidback rumination on a could-have-been love affair, "Bad Habit" caught fire on TikTok before beginning its unlikely ascent to No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100, unseating the weeks-long reign of Harry Styles' "As It Was." (Now, the two meet again in this very category.)
With its loping guitar, funk synths and Lacy's never hurried vocals, "Bad Habit" isn't your typical chart hit. Before taking off on his own, Lacy honed his pared-back melodies and Prince-inspired hooks as part of alternative R&B group the Internet, as well as in collaboration with the likes of Solange and Kendrick Lamar. Those experiences all inform "Bad Habit" — but even Lacy admits that his newfound solo success "still doesn't feel real yet."
Kendrick Lamar — "The Heart Part 5"
Having secured his place in the hip-hop pantheon, Kendrick Lamar is not one to coast on reputation. On "The Heart Part 5" — a brilliantly dense rap masterclass released ahead of his fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers — Lamar sounds as urgent as ever. The "Heart" series of standalone releases began in 2010, with each signaling the start of a new era for the Compton rapper.
"The Heart Part 5" sees the 14-time GRAMMY winner lay out his state of the union over a restless beat that samples Marvin Gaye's "I Want You," helmed by production outfit Beach Noise. Flipping that song's sultry strut, Lamar raps in long, detailed verses about the challenges and contradictions of Black life, delivering diamond-cut lines like, "Desensitized, I vandalized pain." Accompanied by a video that uses deepfake technology to morph Lamar into Black celebrities, "The Heart Part 5" is a pure artistic statement that deepens on each listen.
Lizzo — "About Damn Time"
As Lizzo was nearing completion on her fourth album, Special, the three-time GRAMMY winner got the feeling something was missing. Eager to channel the uplifting confidence of her 2019 hit, "Good As Hell," Lizzo created "About Damn Time" — and found that positivity and then some.
Co-produced by Lizzo’s trusted producer Ricky Reed and hitmaking songwriter/producer Blake Slatkin, "About Damn Time" delivers an infectious disco-funk beat and a slew of instantly quotable (and very Lizzo-esque) lines. With a viral TikTok dance to boot, "About Damn Time" hit its stride as summer warmed up, and landed Lizzo her second No. 1 hit.
After the "major traumas and hard experiences" of recent years, Lizzo told Audacy she "wanted to write a song that allowed us to take a moment and celebrate our survival, and celebrate how far we've come." Mission accomplished.<em></em>
Harry Styles — "As It Was"
Harry Styles staked his claim on 2022 with the announcement of his third album, Harry's House, offering up "As It Was" as an early gift. The lead single rushes along with gleaming synth-pop melodies and an achingly catchy chorus, elevating the pop-rock sounds of Styles’ previous album, 2019’s Fine Line — and subsequently launching him into an even bigger superstar stratosphere.
From the moment of its release, "As It Was" went on an unstoppable run, becoming the longest-running U.S. No. 1 by a UK act on the Billboard Hot 100, with 15 weeks in the top spot. Ironically, "As It Was" is lyrically centered on loneliness, but its racing melody disguises the song as a feel-good hit — and that might just be what makes "As It Was" so special.
It also marks a big moment for Styles and his right-hand men, co-producers/co-writers Tyler Johnson and Kid Harpoon. "As It Was" earned Styles his first nominations for Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year, and Harry’s House notched his first Album Of The Year nod.
The 2023 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 65th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.
The eligibility period for the 65th GRAMMY Awards is Friday, Oct. 1, 2021 – Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. All eligible awards entries must be released within this timeframe.
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