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Sylvester

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For The Record: Explore The Colorful, Inclusive World Of Sylvester's 'Step II'

In the latest episode of For The Record, learn how disco maverick Sylvester crafted 'Step II,' a touchstone of the genre and a clarion call for LGBTQ+ culture

GRAMMYs/Jun 14, 2021 - 12:50 am

Let's face it: "Disco Sucks" sucks. The late-'70s backlash against the popularity of disco music and films like Saturday Night Fever, which crescendoed with the infamous Disco Demolition Night on a Chicago ballfield in 1979, is now generally understood as wrongheaded, if not bigoted.

Because the discotheque wasn't simply some hedonistic phenomenon: It was often the last place where marginalized people, like Black, gay singer/songwriter Sylvester, could be themselves.

"You've come out of the closet. It's been difficult," Sylvester's biographer, Rick Karr, told NPR in 2018. "Many people [at the time] have moved out of their homes of origin, their families of origin, with great pain, and moved to a more liberated place, like San Francisco. And then ... this person comes out into public life that sounds like what you were feeling when you made yourself free."

Granted, by 1979, Sylvester had already been around for six years and had released five albums. But it was his 1978 album, Step II, that genuinely delivered his message of liberation to the world. Step II, which included his chart-topping signature song "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)," hit the Billboard charts hard and received gold certification by the RIAA in the late '70s.

Both the album and the song left a profound mark on disco and are today considered touchstones of the genre and clarion calls for LGBTQ+ culture. Hailed as one of the definitive LGBTQ+ Pride anthems of all time, "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" was inducted to the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry in 2019.

The world lost Sylvester too soon; he died in 1988, at 41, of AIDS. But when considering the strides the LGBTQ+ community has made in music, art and all other media, we can partly thank this fearless, out-and-proud musical dynamo.

In the latest episode of For The Record, GRAMMY.com takes you into the colorful, inclusive world of Step II, the classic album from disco maverick Sylvester that still sounds like it could have been recorded this morning.

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Lana Del Rey performing in 2024
Lana Del Rey performs at the 2024 Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona.

Photo: Xavi Torrent/Redferns

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Levels Of Lana: 12 Songs To Explore Lana Del Rey's Career For Every Kind Of Fan

As Lana Del Rey's third album, 'Ultraviolence,' turns 10, build — or expand — your knowledge of the melancholy pop queen's catalog.

GRAMMYs/Jun 13, 2024 - 03:12 pm

When it comes to exploring Lana Del Rey's discography, it can be hard to know where to start. The pop songstress has a sprawling catalog, consisting of nine albums, four EPs, and a handful of other standalone singles.

You could begin with Born To Die, her highly influential major label debut, or its moody follow-up, Ultraviolence, her first to top the Billboard charts and ultimately establish her staying power as an artist. Perhaps you choose to start with her Album Of The Year GRAMMY nominees Norman F—ing Rockwell! or Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd.

Or maybe you're an incredibly diehard fan with encyclopedic knowledge who wants to start where it all began, on Rey's first album Lana Del Ray (note the spelling difference), which never saw official physical release and contained just a rough draft of the cultural force Del Rey would become.

Following Del Rey's career is rewarding, but requires some commitment to listen to, and understand, everything she's put out. It can be intimidating to approach an artist with such a robust, varied catalog. You can go with more mainstream pop offerings like her collaborations with Taylor Swift and The Weeknd, or dive into something more inspired by the orchestra like early track "National Anthem." This is true for fans with any amount of exposure to Del Rey, from those just discovering her music to those looking to become an expert.

As Ultraviolence turns 10, GRAMMY.com presents the levels of Lana, a series of jumping off points to explore all the music Del Rey has to offer. Dig into three songs across four different levels of fandom — Beginner, Intermediate, Expert, and Diehard — to further your Lana knowledge. These songs give a peek into various aspects of Del Rey's body of work, and serve as encouragement to continue exploring.

Beginner

"Summertime Sadness," Born to Die (2012)

The Beginner Level of Lana is for those who have heard of Del Rey, but have never sat down with her music before. This makes "Summertime Sadness," her biggest song to date, the perfect place to start.

It's reductive to simply label Del Rey's oeuvre "sad girl music," but for the uninitiated, it's a simple descriptor to start with. "Summertime Sadness" combines the pop production, elements of classical music, and existential despair that is present throughout Del Rey's career. And Cedric Gervais' remix has turned "Summertime Sadness" into a club banger to help her appeal to those who gravitate more to the dance floor.

"Young and Beautiful," The Great Gatsby: Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film (2013)

It speaks to Del Rey's cultural reach and musical vision that a non-album single is one of her most iconic songs. Written for the 2013 The Great Gatsby movie adaptation, "Young and Beautiful" also serves as a helpful thematic introduction to Del Rey.

Throughout her writing, Del Rey examines youth, Americana, and the American Dream, and how each of these uniquely American ideals are full of decay and liable to corruption and disappointment. On "Young and Beautiful," she asks if her lover will still care when she's no longer either of those things, and the somber tone indicates the likely answer. This song will introduce fans to Del Rey's penchant for using orchestral backing for her music, and illustrate how intertwined with popular culture she really is. 

"Mariners Apartment Complex," Norman F—ing Rockwell! (2019)

The past two songs have introduced Del Rey's "sad girl" persona, but over the years, she has evolved far past being so easily defined. "Mariners Apartment Complex" is the perfect next step for beginners, opening up the popular perception to her to reveal more of her complexity.

Lyrically, it finds Del Rey pushing back on sorrow being her only emotion. Musically, it's a great introduction to more of the ethereal, synth-filled sound that has come out of her partnership with superproducer Jack Antonoff. And in terms of placing her within the culture, "Mariners Apartment Complex" is the first single from her sixth album Norman F—ing Rockwell!, which earned Del Rey her first Album Of The Year nomination in 2019.

Intermediate

"Brooklyn Baby," Ultraviolence (2014)

At the Intermediate level, it's time to start getting into more of the nuances that Del Rey brings to her writing — and, in turn, how much she's influenced her peers, and how respected she is amongst them.

"Brooklyn Baby" is some of her sharpest writing, equal parts playful needling and affectionate tribute to the snooty New York art scene. One of the most indelible tracks off of Ultraviolence, the song epitomizes the entire record's move towards more rock instrumentation, with a guitar-based sound. It references legendary rock artist Lou Reed, who was slated to appear on the track before his death in late 2013, showing just how highly she's thought of by other artists.

"Love," Lust for Life (2017)

For as much as Del Rey recognizes how fallible many of our culture's ideals are, she's always been a romantic. "Love," the first single from 2017's Lust for Life, is a prime example of this.

The whole album is a big play on her love of classic Hollywood imagery, including the video for "Love," and the song is a dreamy throwback to '50s love songs. If "Mariners Apartment Complex" chides anyone thinking Del Rey can only be sad, "Love" is a full rebuke, as it's one of her most straightforwardly optimistic tracks. Commercially, "Love" was Del Rey's highest-charting feat since Ultraviolence (landing at No. 44 on the Billboard Hot 100), further establishing that she had longevity. 

"Chemtrails over the Country Club," Chemtrails over the Country Club (2021)

2020 and the pandemic did a number on everyone, radically altering lives and shaking faith in many of the institutions of everyday life. That unmooring is felt on Del Rey's seventh album, Chemtrails over the Country Club, and particularly on its title track.

Del Rey is as sharp as ever in exploring the pulse of American society on the dreamy, disaffected number. "You're in the wind, I'm in the water/ Nobody's son, nobody's daughter" is a breathtaking piece of writing that became a TikTok favorite, illustrating Del Rey's continuing ability to relate to the youth. 

Expert

"F—ed My Way Up To the Top," Ultraviolence (2014)

As we enter the realm of the Expert Lana Del Rey fan, we're firmly out of album singles territory. From here, it's all deep cuts and non-album tracks.

Del Rey has been no stranger to controversy — some warranted, some not. An early knock against her was that the mid-20th century aesthetic and perceived submissiveness in her music was anti-women or anti-feminist, a surface-level reading that in the years since has been largely dispelled. 

The singer has worked to combat it herself on tracks like Ultraviolence's "F—ed My Way Up To the Top," which takes that perceived notion to its extreme. At the same time, it's another in a long line of tracks in which Del Rey has embraced her own sexuality and sensuality as something to be celebrated and claimed, not something to be ashamed of. 

"Art Deco," Honeymoon (2015)

2015's Honeymoon isn't necessarily underappreciated, as it received positive reviews upon release debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, but "Art Deco" isn't likely to appear on many playlists. It should, though, as the track illustrates how much of musical chameleon Del Rey really is, with a sultry, hip-hop inspired rolling beat. 

It treads some familiar territory thematically with trying to find acceptance in night life, but Del Rey is really comfortable here. She shows more of her knowledge of art history by relating the subject of the song to the defining characteristics of the titular art movement, revealing just how much thought she puts into her aesthetic.

"Fingertips," Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd (2023)

Did you know that there's a tunnel under Ocean Blvd is arguably Del Rey's most intimate album, exploring details of her family and their history that fans have only previously seen brief glimpses of. At the same time, it is partially an examination of her own legacy and work, only natural for someone with as much output as Del Rey, let alone her frequent references to death and finality.

Both of these things combine in "Fingertips," a standout track from the album. A nearly six-minute long ballad, it's musically airy while emotionally devastating — and, for a true Del Rey fan, encapsulates so much of her legacy in just one song.

Diehard

"Yayo," Paradise (2012)

For fans in the Diehard level, everything before is old news. This is for fans who want to fully live the Lana life, who have all her albums on vinyl and have carefully built their image and fashion around her.

Speaking of her image, this section starts with "Yayo," an extremely early deep cut. This track originally appeared on Lana Del Ray before being reworked and rereleased on the Paradise EP in 2012. The song leans heavier than most into the '50s imagery and floats along at a dreamy, lilting pace. While not as refined as her later work, "Yayo" is an indicator Del Rey had a solid idea of who she wanted to be as soon as she started.

"Season of the Witch," Non-album Single (2019)

Del Rey has done several covers throughout her career, and quite successfully. Norman F—ing Rockwell! features her cover of Sublime's "Doin' Time," which is one of the highlight tracks from the record. Less known is Del Rey's spooky cover of '60s classic "Season of the Witch." 

Written for the 2019 horror film Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, the song fits Del Rey's style perfectly. The Americana/flower crown aesthetic of her younger years always leaned witch-adjacent, and Del Rey takes her soft vocals into playfully sinister territory. It's a fun cover, and shows just how many gems Del Rey has in her discography for those fans willing to dig. 

"Say Yes to Heaven," Non-album Single (2023)

"Say Yes to Heaven" was never supposed to be heard. A late cut from Ultraviolence, the track remained buried for years before being leaked in 2016. It lurked on the internet, only known to superfans, before gaining steam with the rise of TikTok and finally seeing an official release in 2023.

The deep cut is peak Del Rey ballad material, a tender love song imploring her partner to accept happiness. It's another rebuke of the idea that she can't be happy, and it gives insight into some of her earlier writing.

As a resurfaced older track, "Say Yes to Heaven" may not necessarily indicate the direction Lana Del Rey is set to go on her forthcoming album, Lasso (especially considering Del Rey has teased she's "going country" for her next release). But it's a beautiful reminder of the affecting narratives and arresting vocals that have made her beloved to so many, no matter the level of fandom.

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Sabrina Carpenter
Sabrina Carpenter performing in 2024

Photo: Joseph Okpako/WireImage via Getty Images

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Sabrina Carpenter Releases New Single "Please Please Please": Everything We Know About Her New Album 'Short N' Sweet'

Sabrina Carpenter and her boyfriend are Bonnie and Clyde-style outlaws in the new video for "Please Please Please." Here's what we know about the album it belongs to, 'Short N' Sweet' — out Aug. 23.

GRAMMYs/Jun 7, 2024 - 05:27 pm

When Sabrina Carpenter announced her new album, Short n' Sweet, earlier this week, she also dangled a special treat in front of fans. "I also have a surprise coming for you on thursday night," she announced in an Instagram post, "so keep an eye out!!"

The surprise was a video for her new single, "Please Please Please," starring her boyfriend, Barry Keoghan. Directed by Bardia Zeinali, the clip is a high-octane rendering of Carpenter and Keoghan as a pair of bona fide outlaws, whose relationship rides a rollercoaster of criminality and incarceration.

The slinky track follows her viral hit "Espresso" from last spring — itself the lead single from Short n' Sweet. As the YouTube comments pour forth, flecked with adjectives like "obsessed" and "iconic," here's everything GRAMMY.com could dredge up about the forthcoming LP.

Short N' Sweet Will Be Released Aug. 23

Carpenter's been mum on many of the details of Short n' Sweet, but she did allow that the Jack Antonoff and Julian Bunetta-produced, 36-minute album willl be released Aug. 23.

"This project is quite special to me and i hope it'll be something special to you too," she wrote on said Instagram post; it's practically destined to soundtrack the dog days of summer as they fade to fall.

The Album Will Hop Between Genres

Speaking to Maya Hawke — who herself just released her third album, Chaos Angel in Interview Magazine, Carpenter discussed the contents of her next offering.

"I feel a lot freer and more excited about what I'm making now because I've realized that genre isn't necessarily the most important thing. It's about honesty and authenticity and whatever you gravitate towards," she stated. "There were a lot of genres in my last album, and I like to think I'll continue that throughout writing music."

Read more: Sabrina Carpenter's Big Year: The Pop Songstress Gushes On The Eras Tour, Her Christmas EP & More

The Title Is A Reference To Her Height

Speaking to Cosmopolitan about her opening slot on Taylor Swift's Eras Tour, Carpenter called performing those sets "a tall order."

"This is not even to sound like a pick-me, like when girls are like, 'I'm so small, I can't reach the top shelf' — I'm literally five feet tall," she said mirthfully. "So sometimes when I'm on that stage, it feels so huge that I just have to be larger than life in some capacity."

She's worked her height (or lack thereof) into the promotional machine behind
Short n' Sweet: billboards the country over say things like, "When I say I hate short people, Sabrina Carpenter is NEVER included."

We Have The Album Cover

On the cover of Short n' Sweet, the sunkissed singer looks over her shoulder with a kiss mark on her shoulder, against a striking azure sky, her blonde hair hanging down.

The Eras Tour Harkened A New One

As mentioned, Carpenter got the opening gig of a lifetime — warming up the Eras Tour across America, Australia and Asia. Speaking with Cosmo, she revealed the tour wasn't an end to itself, but a launching pad to new adventures.

Read more: Behind The Scenes Of The Eras Tour: Taylor Swift's Opening Acts Unveil The Magic Of The Sensational Concert

"I'm starting to feel like I've outgrown the songs I'm singing [on The Eras Tour]," she explained, "which is always an exciting feeling because I think that means the next chapter is right around the corner." Behold: that chapter is now.

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Charli XCX Press Photo 2024
Charli XCX

Photo: Harley Weir

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Charli XCX's Road To 'Brat': How Her New Album Celebrates Unabashed Confidence & Eccentricity

As Charli XCX releases her sixth studio album, revisit the creative decisions and ventures that led to 'Brat' — and how it all helped her become one of pop's most innovative stars.

GRAMMYs/Jun 6, 2024 - 05:32 pm

Charli XCX is a product of the internet. A teen during MySpace's peak years, Charli — born Charlotte Aitchison — landed her first gigs thanks to the platform. Her first amateur album, 14, caught the attention of a promoter organizing illegal raves in London, and soon enough, she was performing at those parties as Charli XCX — fittingly, a former online username.

Even though 14 never had an official release (and Charli has declared her distaste for it, calling the project "terrible MySpace music"), her earliest beginnings became the throughline to her current work. MySpace was a breeding ground for creativity and Charli used it to explore niche — and unheard-of — genres. To date, she's touched on every iteration of pop, including electro-pop and dance-pop, even being heralded as the figurehead for hyperpop. As a result, she's not your stereotypical pop star.

Just over a decade after the release of her debut album, 2013's True Romance, Charli XCX is bringing everything she's done from her MySpace beginnings to present day with her sixth studio album, Brat. Leaning on the time spent performing at raves and clubs as a young teen, she embodies the same childlike and larger-than-life approach she had when she was first starting.

Charli XCX was signed to Asylum Records in 2010 but felt lost, according to an interview with The Guardian. The process of figuring out her artistry earned her a trip to meet with producers in Los Angeles, where she met American producer Ariel Rechtshaid. After they wrote her eventual single "Stay Away," everything started falling into place. "I was freaking out: I had found a piece of myself in this crazy world where people are trying to drag you apart and make you into something," she recalled. "That's when things started to come together."

Before she even released her debut album, Charli XCX first found global success as a songwriter. After penning the club-ready song "I Love It," she opted to give it away to Swedish synth-pop duo Icona Pop because it didn't suit the sound Charli was leaning into. But she did feature on the 2012 track, which became a global smash and landed at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 — solidifying Charli as an artist to watch.

Almost a year later, Charli XCX released her major label debut with True Romance, her first studio album, in 2013. Although it didn't land on any major charts or spawn any hits, what the album did have was a clear, catchy direction. When reflecting on the album to NME, she stated that she was "just a MySpace kid" inspired by things that seemed out of reach for her, like the plots in teen movies and party photos from club scenes. True Romance was also integral to Charli discovering herself "as a person"; she's said that the album helped her better understand her voice, confidence, style, and stage presence.

Although True Romance didn't immediately make Charli XCX into a household name, it did usher in new opportunities for her as an artist. One of those opportunities was working with then-up-and-coming rapper Iggy Azalea on the track "Fancy," which marked a breakthrough moment for both rising stars. Along with spending seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and scoring Charli XCX her first two GRAMMY nominations (Record Of The Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance), she has insisted that "Fancy" helped open the doors for her to write for bigger artists.

Following the taste of the mainstream after "I Love It" and "Fancy," Charli XCX seemingly veered towards a poppier and brighter sound — and soon found herself on the charts as a solo act. Charli XCX's first top 10 solo hit, "Boom Clap," was first featured in the 2014 film The Fault in Our Stars and eventually became the lead single to Charli XCX's sophomore record, Sucker. Working with the likes of Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo, Rostam Batmanglij of Vampire Weekend, Benny Blanco, and more, Sucker showcased XCX's whip-smart songwriting and tongue-in-cheek aphorism, changing out gritty synths for glittery guitars and sky-soaring drums. 

But the new sound didn't necessarily indicate a new direction. She has admitted that she was chasing chart points with Sucker rather than writing songs that she enjoyed, and pieces of the album "feel fake" to her as a result. Still, Sucker helped validate what Charli already knew about herself, even if she got a little lost along the way. As she told The Guardian in 2018, rebelling on the outskirts of mainstream music is where she's meant to be, creating her "own language" and her "own world."

Shrugging off feeling rather stifled post-Sucker, Charli XCX began working with Scottish producer Sophie in March 2015. In October of that year, the singer released the track "Vroom Vroom" and unveiled an EP of the same name a few months after, both of which signaled that Charli was embracing a more experimental electronic sound and marking a change in sonic direction for her.

"I've worked with Sophie on the new EP and what we create together speaks for itself," Charli said about Vroom Vroom. "The album goes to other places and I can't wait for people to hear it. I feel the most creative I have in a long time and I couldn't be more excited for the next chapter." 

Although the EP didn't go over as sweetly as Sucker and True Romance did with critics and fans, Vroom Vroom is now heralded as a pioneering work in the hyperpop genre. When speaking with Vulture about the highs and lows of her career, she credits Sophie's production for the EP title track being a "f—ing masterpiece," noting that the song, in particular, was complex and niche, teetering between underground and mainstream. As she declared, it's why the song has "only retroactively found praise by those who now have a taste for that genre of pop."

Read More: Get Glitchy With These 7 Artists Essential To Hyperpop

In 2017, XCX's work in hyperpop continued with two Top 40 tracks, "After the Afterparty" and "Boys," the latter of which became an instantly viral track thanks to its sultry cameos from a slew of male celebrities. Both were meant to be part of Charli's third studio album, but after the album leaked, she opted to release two more electronic experimental mixtapes — 2017's Number 1 Angel and Pop 2 — rather than labelling them albums. Much like the way Charli approached her earlier recordings, the two mixtapes were her return to experimentation, and, by not calling them albums, she could freely create and avoid charting pressure from her label

From the fall of 2018 to the fall of 2019, XCX released a slew of singles with other artists — "1999" with Troye Sivan, "Blame It on Your Love" featuring Lizzo, "Gone" with Christine and the Queens, and a few others all leading up to the release of her third album, Charli. Equal parts explorative and expansive, Charli saw XCX explore every emotion in abundance. Although she didn't move too far away sonically, at the time Charli was the "most personal album" she had ever made. She told The Standard that it "encapsulated all sides" of who she is, because she'd rather create the music she wants to create instead of sacrificing her art for a thinly veiled attempt to become a bigger artist.

Five years separated Sucker and Charli, but the star only took eight months to release her next album, 2020's How I'm Feeling Now. A six-week DIY experiment throughout the early months of the COVID-19 lockdown, How I'm Feeling Now became Charli's pandemic album. Produced alongside longtime producer AG Cook, she crafted an album that touched on the universal experiences everyone was going through ("I'm so bored – what?/ Wake up late and eat some cereal") and bristled with longing to return to a sweaty and sticky dance floor. 

While Sucker was Charli trying to appease the public at the expense of her art, her snarky fifth studio album, 2022's Crash, leaned into that mindset tenfold. Playing a dramatized "soulless" caricature of herself, Charli wrote and promoted the conceptual album satirically, stating that it's her "major label sell-out" album by heavily leaning into the concept of selling one's soul to get what you want. And it worked: the album debuted at No. 1 on the UK Albums Chart, her first time ever hitting No. 1 in the UK, in addition to debuting at No. 7 on the Billboard 200, which was her first top 10 and her highest-charting album to date in the United States. 

Looking back, XCX felt that Crash, much like Sucker, didn't resonate deeply with her. "There were songs on Crash that I would never listen to," she asserted to The Face earlier this year. Longing to change things up, yet again, brings Charli to Brat

For an artist who is truly a sonic shapeshifter, it makes sense that she'd eventually return to her club roots on Brat. "Von Dutch," the album's lead single, serves as a throwback to her teens with its punchy synth-driven electropop melody reminiscent of her earlier tracks. The album's second single "360," an electro-pop ear-worm, features Charli's signature on-the-nose songwriting, singing, "I went my own way and I made it, I'm your favourite reference baby." It's apt, then, that the music video brings together the internet's "It Girls" — Julia Fox, Gabbriette, Emma Chamberlain, and many others — to try and find the next viral sensation, all while poking fun at the ridiculousness of the influencer world.

"I just want to be able to make the music that I want to make without having to sacrifice any of my artistic decisions," Charli told The Standard during the release of Charli. "I don't ever want to become something that I'm not because I've done that before. I didn't even know myself properly as a person let alone as an artist. I think I've figured out who I am now."

Five years later, and the release of Brat is, in a way, her coming full circle. Pairing her origin story — illegal raves, club nights and the internet world — with a decade of working on her own music and collaborating with big-name artists has been the catalyst to Brat. But it's also her official declaration that she's staying true to her artistry, for herself but also for her fans.

As she told British GQ ahead of Brat's release, she still grapples with the temptation of tapping into a more commercial sound. "Sometimes I tempt myself with going there, but I think the problem is my fan base knows that that's not who I am, so they kind of smell a rat, and they're like, 'This is inauthentic.' But then I think that sometimes puts me in this position where the masses are like, 'What the f— is this?'

"But I would in no way be as happy, creatively satisfied or, honestly, as good as some of the people who are operating on a hugely commercial level," she adds, "because maybe I'm just not built for it."

And maybe she's not. But her unashamed and unfiltered confidence is exactly what's made her such a beloved star, as well as what brings Brat together — and it's likely what we'll continue to see from Charli XCX from now on.

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Troye Sivan performs in concert during Primavera Sound Festival on May 31, 2024 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Xavi Torrent/Redferns)
Troye Sivan performs during Primavera Sound Festival on May 31, 2024

Photo: Xavi Torrent/Redferns

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9 Outstanding Sets From Barcelona’s Primavera Sound Festival 2024: SZA, Amaarae, Charli XCX & More

Barcelona’s illustrious city festival celebrated 20 years of big music moments at Parc del Fòrum. From Vampire Weekend to Troye Sivan, read on for nine unforgettable sets from Primavera Sound 2024.

GRAMMYs/Jun 5, 2024 - 06:04 pm

Primavera Sound is known for its heavy-hitting lineup and even bigger surprise guests. The Spanish festival celebrated 20 years in 2024, and transformed Barcelona's Parc del Fòrum into a masterclass of genre diversity and LGBTQIA+ inclusivity. There, under mostly sun-soaked skies, a wide range of international and native acts lit up multiple stages from May 29 - June 2.

Primavera Barcelona always promises an eclectic mix of performances that showcase native Spanish talent as well as major international headliners to get the party going. However, it’s not just the massive talent that pulls in the crowd. While the mainstages were graced by American superstars  Lana Del Rey,  SZA and Troye Sivan, the festival’s line-up was elevated by the vibrant non-stop DJ stylings of rising Brazilian star Clementaum and the divinity of Arca — who was rightfully labeled "madre!" by a buzzed up Boiler Room x Cupra activation. 

Primavera Sound’s diverse lineup guaranteed a highlight for every kind of festival goer: from the dad rocker to the 20-something throwing themselves head-first into new music. The festival amped up the energy and was keen to ensure a safe space for all music lovers (including regularly signposting a pro-LGBTQIA+ "Nobody Is Normal" campaign). If you weren't in Barcelona to experience the magic happening at Parc del Fòrum, read on for nine highlights from Primavera Sound BCN.

Arca Delivers A Divine Boiler Room Performance

Drawing on heavy doses of electronica, pop and techno, Venezuelan producer and DJ Arca’s unpinnable sound is exactly what made her sets unmissable. Arca set Primavera alight with two incredible sets: an early morning rave on the Amazon Music Stage on May 31, and a second, more intimate event inside Boiler Room x Cupra’s industrial set up on June 1.

The musician's Boiler Room set brought the club to Barcelona, weathering attendees through a humid thunderstorm with sweaty, fusion beats and remixes (Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Zedd) that made her experimental anthems even more exceptional. 

Read more: 8 Essential Latin Electronic Releases: Songs And Albums From Bizarrap, Arca & More

Vampire Weekend Ignite Indie Nostalgia On Their Primavera Return

We all love a bit of Spanish sunshine, but nobody seemed quite as home on-stage as Vampire Weekend. Having last played at the festival in 2008, the 16-year wait was well worth it with a set list doused with indie rock nostalgia and new bangers that kept the late-night crowd grooving.

It’s not easy to keep a mainstage crowd going on opening night (especially as the band faced some line-up changes for the festival) but Vampire Weekend's catalog-spanning performance rocked. They ran though hits "A-Punk, "Campus" "Oxford Comma," and new tracks ("Classical", "Gen-X Cops", "Connect")  from their new fifth album, Only God Was Above Us – a record which frontman Ezra Koeing described as "feeling perfect" on stage. 

No Vampire Weekend set is complete with some curveball covers. This year, to match the beat of their long-overdue festival return, the band kept things fresh with an incredible cover of Sbtrkt’s "New Drop, New York" performed against a smokey, dark red stage backdrop. Whether performing their own catalog, making surprise appearance alongside French rock band Phoenix  or dropping electric covers, Vampire Weekend prove they’re music more than hitmakers — they’re also a summer festival bucket list act too. 

Troye Sivan Kept His Headliner Set Hot

Troye Sivan kicked off his mainstage set on Friday night dripping with innuendo. Replete with sexy outfit changes (including a pair of crotchless pants), effortlessly cool choreography and a very well-positioned mic in his pelvic region, the two-time GRAMMY nominee showed Barcelona that he not only has stadium-worthy tunes but is a stadium-worthy performer. Performing a medley of hits from his third studio album Something To Give You, Sivan's infectious pop tracks were perfectly timed to sexy and immaculately polished dance choreography (featuring his reliable backup dancer troupe of Simone Nolasco, Mauro van de Kerkhof, Benjamin Williams, Ainsley Hall Ricketts and Theo Maddix) against a campily creative set. 

The singer yearned alongside Spanish musician guitarricadelafuente on a silver silk bed as they duetted "In My Room," and belted out Ariana Grande’s "supernatural" in front of a mesmerizing anime video backdrop. Whether it was intimately crooning to synth-pop summer banger "Honey" or throwback hit "1999," Sivan was undoubtedly a mainstage highlight. As he wrapped up his set, the singer shouted out Barcelona's art and culture as an inspiration for Something To Give You. The Primavera performance was one of the biggest shows of his life, and closed this set with his anthem queer hit "RUSH."


Read more:
Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Troye Sivan On "Rush," The Importance Of Dance-Pop & The Spirituality Of Partying

Yeule Opens Primavera With An Electric Set

Kitted out with tattoos, American flag-styled cargo trousers, a heather gray bikini top and chunky boots,  yeule is exactly as you see them: an uncategorizable phenomenon. While their set clashed with major alt-metal and indie acts Deftones and Pulp, yeule’s distorted, glitchy universe was more than immersive; it was an electronic, energetic undertaking that swept the audience away. Away from the main stages, yeule’s set felt like a charged techo-pop portal to their world of emotional, alt-rock tunes.

Shaped by everything from nu-metal, Avril Lavigne and My Chemical Romance, yeule sounds neither human nor computerized. Often conceptualized as being something of a "cyborg identity," yeule's music translates with a darkly alluring style onstage. They opened with the melodic "Electric" from their second studio album Glitch Princess, while the rest of the setlist beautifully emulated their recent album Softscares; an emotional futuristic electro-pop record. The musician’s punk rock inflected "cybermeat," "sulky baby" and "dazies" were highlights, pulling the crowd closer to the stage as well as new listeners in from nearby smaller stages. 

Performing against a flickering urban city backdrop illuminated the midnight sky, yeule's set created the perfect isolated, small-stage universe to hear their deafening screamo notes during "Bite My Neck" and the hauntingly mellow electro-rock closeout track "software update."

Clementaum Brings The Brazilian Party Spirit To The Boiler Room

The Boiler Room x Cupra stage was the place to be this year. While the Parc del Fòrum never fails to pull together an eclectic mix of talent, Primavera Sound truly thrived in showing its ability to channel the club, ballroom and EDM into a live festival setting. There was never a set that didn’t bring the festival goers in glam outfits and the ultimate dance party vibes. However, the raging techno beats of Clementaum that most caught our attention.

Playing to a packed room with festival-goers tightly crammed in even behind her decks, Clementaum led a chant ("Vai Brazil!") as her country’s flag was proudly waved in the crowd.  Feeling more like a late-night rave, the Brazilian DJ had us thriving on deep beat drops and pummeling beats that you couldn’t help but dance to. Artfully skilled, Clementaum fuses Afro-Latin rhythms, ballroom culture and amped-up electronica for an incredible, heart-racing high.

The trance beat-packed El NICK DGO x Clementaum banger "Dale Pal Party" had everybody dancing, while a full-throttle remix of "Puttuna" pushed things into another level. However, her live rendition of "Pirigótika" (a track with Brazilian singer Bibi Babydoll) was her hallmark performance, and proved that if you haven’t heard of Clementaum, be sure this won’t be the last time you come across her name. 

Amaarae’s Captivating Set Can't Be Boxed In By Genre 

There’s nothing Amaarae can’t do. Taking over the Amazon Music stage on May 30, the Ghanaian American Afrobeats musician can take on anything from punk to R&B. In Barcelona, Amaarae’s chameleonic talent showcases that no style (or genre) is too much for her to turn into a captivating set.

Amaarae proved that whatever mood she brings to stage, she devours, from effortlessly performing slow burner "Wasted Eyes" to silkily switching to "Disguise," a song of desire and domination, and segueing to alternative anthem "Sex, Violence, Suicide." 

Learn more: Meet The Latest Wave Of Rising Afrobeats Stars: AMAARAE, BNXN, Oladapo & More

Charli XCX Proves Her Pop Legacy For Primavera’s Final Night

Nobody throws a party like the ultimate "it" girl Charli XCX. From ranging pop bangers ("I Love It" to "Party 4 U"), the British pop star kept crowds dancing until 4 a.m. — and for good reason. While fans weren’t frightened away by heavy rain and thunderstorms during the festival’s final night, Charli XCX and her fans made Primavera’s final night one to remember. 

And, if you were lucky, you might’ve caught the star pull off an incredible surprise DJ set alongside co-collaborator A.G Cook, and finance The 1975 band member George Daniel. While the early announced pop-up set for her upcoming sixth studio album Brat fell just outside of the festival on Sunday, the sweaty beach-side crowd was packed with fans flocking from Primavera Sound to make sure they got their early hit of Charli XCX ahead of her mainstage set later that night. 

Ethel Cain Gets Political (And Personal)

Following the breakthrough of her sophomore album Preacher’s Daughter, Ethel Cain has been on an unstoppable rise. A goth-pop mix of Lana Del Ray and heartland-style emo rock, the Tallahassee-born musician is crafting her own Americana aesthetic shaped by desire, death and South Baptist Christian influences.

While playing a late afternoon set, the singer stepped out under the blazing sun delivering incredible vocals to fan favorites "Crush’’ and "House of Nebraska." The singer’s set highlights were elevated by two things: a new song and a political call-out that broke the divide between the festival crowd and on-stage artist. Dressed in a ‘Free Palestine’ t-shirt and with a keffiyeh hanging from her mic, the musician denounced genocide and advocated for the people of Gaze before launching into her viral anti-pop song, "American Teenager." 

Amidst her anti-war advocacy, the singer also slotted into a somber new song "Amber Waves," showcasing her penchant for eerie melodies and what fans can expect on her currently untitled upcoming project. 

Learn more: 15 LGBTQIA+ Artists Performing At 2024 Summer Festivals

SZA Brings Stardom, Swords & The Splits To 'SOS' Set

Whether it’s the instantly recognizable intro to "Good Days" or the viral rotations of "Kill Bill," SZA has long been dominating and driving contemporary pop and R&B. The GRAMMY winner highlighted her artistic versatility with deep cuts and chart hits (including those from her massively popular sophomore album SOS) to a packed mainstage crowd.

With a stage set designed to look like a ship, SZA was amplifying the message of SOS loud and clear – with hits, charismatic stage movements and impressive vocals to match. And, she didn’t stop there. From knife play routine to "Kill Bil" to full-throttle Miley Cryus-style and riding an anchor to dropping the splits mid-set, SZA gave a performance that continuously raised the bar. 

Read more: How 'SOS' Transformed SZA Into A Superstar & Solidified Her As The Vulnerability Queen

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