meta-scriptA Timeline Of Taylor Swift's GRAMMYs History, From Skipping Senior Prom To Setting A Record With 'Midnights' | GRAMMY.com
A Timeline Of Taylor Swift's GRAMMYs History, From Skipping Senior Prom To Setting A Record With 'Midnights'
(L-R) Taylor Swift in 2021, 2013, 2010, 2016, and 2009

Source Photos (Clockwise, L-R): Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Michael Caulfield/Getty Images, Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images, Kevin Mazur/WireImage

feature

A Timeline Of Taylor Swift's GRAMMYs History, From Skipping Senior Prom To Setting A Record With 'Midnights'

Since receiving a Best New Artist nomination at just 17 years old, Taylor Swift has had quite the GRAMMY run. As she adds another Album Of The Year nod thanks to 'evermore,' revisit all of Swift's GRAMMY highlights from 2008 to now.

GRAMMYs/Apr 2, 2022 - 05:11 pm

Editor's Note: This article was edited on Feb. 5, 2024 to reflect her win and nominations at the 2024 GRAMMYs.

Throughout her illustrious career, Taylor Swift has won 11 GRAMMYs and has received 42 GRAMMY nominations overall, earning her first nod at just 17 years old.

Now 33, she's part of GRAMMY history: When Swift's folklore won Album Of The Year in 2021, she became the first female artist to win the award three times. Along the way, Swift has delivered countless memorable performances and moving speeches on the GRAMMY stage — and this year, she furthered her GRAMMY legacy with another first.

Swift's powerful video for her beloved song "All Too Well" — the 15-minute epic "All Too Well: The Short Film" — won the singer her 12th golden gramophone at the 2023 GRAMMYs, and another one that made history. She became the first artist to win Best Music Video for a clip solely directed by the artist, further cementing her place as a GRAMMY legend.

As Swift celebrates another GRAMMY win, take a look at the country-turned-pop superstar's legendary journey and history at the GRAMMYs.

2008 — 50th GRAMMY Awards

Nomination: Best New Artist

Seventeen-year-old Swift was up early on the morning of Dec. 6, 2007 to announce the nominations for the 50th GRAMMY Awards. Little did she know, she would also be receiving her first nomination, for Best New Artist.

The singer attended her first GRAMMY Awards at 18, revealing in a red carpet interview with CBS that she opted to attend the ceremony over her senior prom. With it being her first GRAMMYs, she couldn't help but fangirl, telling the CBS reporters that she was excited to see Foo Fighters, Feist and Kanye West — the latter of which she met later that night, when she presented him and Estelle with the GRAMMY for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "American Boy." 

2009 — 51st GRAMMY Awards

Performance: "Fifteen" with Miley Cyrus

Swift performed her raw, emotional single "Fifteen" as a duet with fellow teen star Miley Cyrus. They traded verses as Swift played guitar during the stripped-down performance, proving that they don't need theatrics to command a stage.

2010 — 52nd GRAMMY Awards

Wins: Album Of The Year (Fearless), Best Female Country Vocal Performance (White Horse), Best Country Song ("White Horse"), Best Country Album (Fearless)

Nominations: Record Of The Year ("You Belong With Me"), Song Of The Year ("You Belong With Me"), Best Female Pop Vocal Performance ("You Belong With Me"), Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals ("Breathe")

Performances: "Today Was a Fairytale," "Rhiannon" and "You Belong With Me" (the latter two with Stevie Nicks)

"This is my first GRAMMY, you guys!" Taylor Swift exclaimed with charming exhilaration, showcasing her gramophone for "White Horse" at the pre-telecast of the 52nd GRAMMY Awards.

While accepting the award, Swift said that she "lived in awe" of those who were also nominated in the category, as well as her producer Nathan Chapman and all the talented musicians in Nashville. "Thank you to anyone who is a GRAMMY voter and decided it might be a good idea to vote for me for this, because I'm so happy."

Swift attended the award ceremony with her mom, Andrea, and excitedly embraced her mother when Fearless was announced as Album Of The Year. With that award, Swift became the youngest artist ever to win the category. She took home four awards overall that night.

"My dad and my little brother are losing their minds in the living room right now," Swift said in her Album Of The Year speech. "This is the story all of us, when we are 80 years old, and we are telling the same stories over and over again to our grandkids, and they're so annoyed with us — this is the story we're gonna be telling over and over again, in 2010, that we got to win Album Of The Year at the GRAMMYs."

To top off her memorable night, Taylor also performed alongside Stevie Nicks, who joined her for a duet of "Rhiannon" and "You Belong With Me." Nicks later told TIME that Taylor Swift's face just lights up like a star, and she couldn't say no to performing with her.

"Taylor is writing for the universal woman and for the man who wants to know her," Knicks said. "The female rock 'n' roll-country-pop songwriter is back, and her name is Taylor Swift. And it's women like her who are going to save the music business."

2012 — 54th GRAMMY Awards

Wins: Best Country Solo Performance ("Mean"), Best Country Song ("Mean")

Nomination: Best Country Album (Speak Now)

Performance: "Mean"

When Swift took to the stage to perform "Mean," she substituted some lyrics to fit the occasion:  "But someday I'll be singing this at the GRAMMYs, and all you're ever gonna be is mean."

She received a standing ovation, and the fun lyrical nod would become something Swift repeated in other GRAMMY performances.

"Mean" won Swift two more GRAMMYs that night. "It's always going to mean the world to me, the idea of getting to go to the GRAMMYs, and the idea of getting to, possibly, have a chance at winning a GRAMMY," she said after winning Best Country Solo Performance in the pre-telecast. "But this one really means a lot to me… There's really no feeling quite like writing a song about someone who's really mean to you, and someone who completely hates you, and makes your life miserable, and then winning a GRAMMY for it."

2013 — 55th GRAMMY Awards

Wins: Best Song Written For Visual Media ("Safe & Sound," from The Hunger Games)

Nominations:
Record Of The Year ("We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"), Best Country Duo/Group Performance ("Safe & Sound")

Performance:
 "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"

Swift opened the 55th GRAMMY Awards with her Red hit "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," creating a human circus with the performance. Swift took to the stage in a glittering white ringmaster costume, complete with a glamorized top hat and baton. 

In the pre-telecast ceremony, Swift and the Civil Wars' "Safe & Sound" won the GRAMMY for Best Song Written For Visual Media, from The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond's official soundtrack. After Swift thanked her collaborators — as well as Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins and the film's star Jennifer Lawrence — The Civil Wars' John Paul White quipped, "I think it's appropriate that Taylor thanks us, because we've been carrying her for a while, and it's getting a little tiring."

2014 — 56th GRAMMY Awards

Nominations: Album Of The Year (Red), Best Country Album (Red) Best Country Duo/Group Performance ("Highway Don't Care"), Best Country Song ("Begin Again")

Performance: "All Too Well"

Swifties have long held "All Too Well" as the star's unofficial signature song, and her performance of it at the GRAMMYs is demonstrative of why it is so beloved.

Swift seemed to leave it all on the stage in the soul-baring performance, giving life to the deep, emotional lyrics as she both sings and plays the piano. One can't help but wonder what it would be like if Swift had performed her original 10-minute version, which she later released in her 2021 re-recorded Red (Taylor's Version).

2015 — 57th GRAMMY Awards

Nominations: Record Of The Year ("Shake It Off"), Best Pop Solo Performance ("Shake It Off"), Song Of The Year ("Shake It Off")

Though Swift didn't have any wins to celebrate at the 2015 GRAMMYs, she made headlines for her endearing dance moves during the performances — staying true to the name of her nominated single, "Shake It Off."

2016 — 58th GRAMMY Awards

Wins: Album Of The Year (1989), Best Pop Vocal Album (1989), Best Music Video ("Bad Blood")

Nominations: Record Of The Year ("Blank Space"), Song Of The Year ("Blank Space"), Best Pop Solo Performance ("Blank Space"), Best Pop Duo/Group Performance ("Bad Blood")

Performance: "Out of the Woods"

Serving as the GRAMMY opener once again, Swift delivered a stunning, high-energy performance of "Out of the Woods." Near the end of the song, she welcomed everyone to the 2016 GRAMMY Awards then playfully continued her performance after saying, "right now it's 1989" — a nod to her album that would win big.

Swift won three of her seven nominations, including Album Of The Year for 1989, and became the first woman to win the award twice. In a memorable and moving speech, Swift sent an important message to her young female fans.

"There are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame," she declared. "But if you just focus on the work, and you don't let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you're going, you'll look around and you will know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there. And that will be the greatest feeling in the world."

Earlier, 1989 won Best Pop Vocal Album at the Premiere Ceremony. Though she couldn't be in attendance, her producer Jack Antonoff made sure she was still involved, calling her on stage as he accepted the award. After screaming in excitement, Swift had a serious question for Antonoff: "Is James Taylor there? Can you tell James Taylor I love him?"

2018 — 60th GRAMMY Awards

Nominations: Best Country Song ("Better Man"), Best Song Written For Visual Media ("I Don't Wanna Live Forever," from Fifty Shades Darker)

This GRAMMY year was a unique one for Swift, as she was honored with two nominations for contributions she made to albums other than her own. Her Zayn collaboration for Fifty Shades Darker, "I Don't Wanna Live Forever," was nominated for Best Song Written For Visual Media, and Little Big Town's "Better Man" — which Swift wrote by herself — was up for Best Country Song. (Taylor would later release her own recording of the ballad on Red (Taylor's Version) in 2021.)

2019 — 61st GRAMMY Awards

Nominations: Best Pop Vocal Album (Reputation)

After taking a longer break than usual between albums, Swift thrilled fans of her pop music with the innovative Reputation. The album received a GRAMMY nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album.

2020 — 62nd GRAMMY Awards

Nominations: Song Of The Year ("Lover"), Best Pop Vocal Album (Lover), Best Pop Solo Performance ("You Need To Calm Down")

After kicking off a new career chapter with 2019's Lover — Swift's first release on Republic Records — she was honored with three more GRAMMY nominations. The album's romantic title track gave Swift her fourth Song Of The Year nod.

2021 — 63rd GRAMMY Awards

Win: Album Of The Year (folklore)

Nominations: Song Of The Year ("Cardigan"), Best Pop Solo Performance ("Cardigan"), Best Pop Duo/Group Performance ("Exile"), Best Pop Vocal Album (folklore), Best Song Written For Visual Media ("Beautiful Ghosts," from Cats)

Performance: "Cardigan," "August" and "Willow" medley

Swift delighted pandemic-weary fans with the surprise album, folklore. The album was wholeheartedly embraced by music lovers and critics, and took home a GRAMMY for Album of the Year — making Swift the first female artist in history to win the honor three times.

Swift's acceptance speech included an affectionate nod to her partner, actor Joe Alwyn, who is credited as a producer and songwriter on both folklore and its follow-up, evermore. "I had the best time writing songs with you in quarantine," she said. The singer also performed a lush medley of songs from folklore and evermore, bringing a combination of glitz and whimsy to the night. From a Mother Nature-inspired set of a cottage in the woods, she performed acoustic versions of "Cardigan," "August" and "Willow" alongside collaborators Jack Antonoff and Aaron Dessner.

Taylor was still embracing the joy of the night a few days later, posting photos with the caption "Oh, my, what a marvelous time!" Swifties know that as part of the opening to Taylor's song "Starlight," a fan-favorite from Red.

2022 — 64th GRAMMY Awards

Nominations: Album Of The Year (evermore)

To celebrate her fifth Album Of The Year nomination, Swift shared a video of an impromptu performance of evermore cut "Champagne Problems." "SO stoked evermore has been honored like this," she captioned the post, also congratulating her fellow nominees.

Though Swift already made GRAMMY history with her Album Of The Year win for folklore, winning for evermore would further solidify her place as a GRAMMY legend. But even without a win, Swift has already created quite the GRAMMY legacy — and has plenty of stories to tell her grandchildren.

2023 — 65th GRAMMY Awards

Wins: Best Music Video, Short Form ("All Too Well: The Short Film")

Nominations: Song Of The Year ("All Too Well"(10 Minute Version) (The Short Film)), Best Country Song ("I Bet You Think About Me” (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault)), Best Song Written For Visual Media (Carolina [From Where The Crawdads Sing])

Swift made GRAMMY history yet again at the 2023 GRAMMYs, this time thanks to one of her all-time fan favorites. "All Too Well: The Short Film" won the golden gramophone for Best Music Video, helping Swift become the first artist to win the category with a sole directing credit for their own music video.

Although "All Too Well" couldn’t prove victorious in the Song Of The Year category, Swift seemed to still have quite the night, between having an instantly viral conversation with her former flame Harry Styles and jamming out to Lizzo and Bad Bunny.

2024 — 66th GRAMMY Awards

Wins: Album Of The Year (Midnights), Best Pop Vocal Album (Midnights)

Nominations: Record Of The Year ("Anti-Hero"), Song Of The Year ("Anti-Hero"), Best Pop Duo/Group Performance ("Karma"), Best Pop Solo Performance ("Anti-Hero")

Another GRAMMYs, another record for Taylor Swift. At the 2024 GRAMMYs, Swift was awarded Album Of The Year for a fourth time, becoming the first artist in history to win the Category four times. (She had been tied with Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, and Paul Simon.) 

"I would love to tell you that this is the best moment of my life, but I feel this happy when I finish a song, or when I crack to code to a bridge I love, or when I'm shortlisting a music video, or when I'm rehearsing with my dancers or my band, or getting ready to go to Tokyo to play a show," she said in her acceptance speech. "For me the award is the work." 

Her other win for Midnights marked another big moment for the singer and her Swifties — not only was it her 13th GRAMMY (13 is her lucky number), but it was also an album reveal.

Swift announced that her 11th studio album, titled The Tortured Poets Department, will arrive April 19 — something she said she's been keeping a secret for two years. As she promised at the end of her speech, she immediately shared the project's kittenish cover art, which features a black-and-white image of Swift lying on a bed with her arms wrapped around her body.

Before leaving the stage after her Album Of The Year win, Swift said that she is "unbelievably blown away" that her music makes others as happy as it makes her. "All I wanna do is keep doing this," she declared. "So thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to do what I love so much."

2024 GRAMMYs Red Carpet Fashion Highlights: Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, boygenius & More

GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Doja Cat & SZA Tearfully Accept Their First GRAMMYs For "Kiss Me More"
(L-R) Doja Cat and SZA at the 2022 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

video

GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Doja Cat & SZA Tearfully Accept Their First GRAMMYs For "Kiss Me More"

Relive the moment the pair's hit "Kiss Me More" took home Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, which marked the first GRAMMY win of their careers.

GRAMMYs/Mar 1, 2024 - 06:11 pm

As Doja Cat put it herself, the 2022 GRAMMYs were a "big deal" for her and SZA.

Doja Cat walked in with eight nominations, while SZA entered the ceremony with five. Three of those respective nods were for their 2021 smash "Kiss Me More," which ultimately helped the superstars win their first GRAMMYs.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, revisit the night SZA and Doja Cat accepted the golden gramophone for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance — a milestone moment that Doja Cat almost missed.

"Listen. I have never taken such a fast piss in my whole life," Doja Cat quipped after beelining to the stage. "Thank you to everybody — my family, my team. I wouldn't be here without you, and I wouldn't be here without my fans."

Before passing the mic to SZA, Doja also gave a message of appreciation to the "Kill Bill" singer: "You are everything to me. You are incredible. You are the epitome of talent. You're a lyricist. You're everything."

SZA began listing her praises for her mother, God, her supporters, and, of course, Doja Cat. "I love you! Thank you, Doja. I'm glad you made it back in time!" she teased.

"I like to downplay a lot of s— but this is a big deal," Doja tearfully concluded. "Thank you, everybody."

Press play on the video above to hear Doja Cat and SZA's complete acceptance speech for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

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

11 Women Pushing Amapiano To Global Heights: Uncle Waffles, Nkosazana Daughter, & More
(Clockwise) Khanyisa, Boohle, Kamo Mphela, Uncle Waffles, DBN GOGO, Pabi Cooper

Photos: Fundokwakhe Majozi, Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images; Courtesy of the artist; Jerritt Clark/Getty Images for UnitedMasters; Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty Images; Leon Bennett/WireImage

list

11 Women Pushing Amapiano To Global Heights: Uncle Waffles, Nkosazana Daughter, & More

While Tyla may have brought amapiano to 2024 GRAMMYs stage, a vast network of women are responsible for bringing the South African sound to the world. Get to know 11 of the artists at the forefront of amapiano music.

GRAMMYs/Mar 1, 2024 - 04:15 pm

After South African singer Tyla won the inaugural golden gramophone for Best African Music Performance at the 2024 GRAMMYs award show, many likely wondered why her international breakout single "Water" garnered such global appeal. 

Beyond the R&B sensibilities that made its sound approachable to Western audiences, what really drew crowds to "Water" was the vitality of South African dance and elements of amapiano — a subgenre of house and a child of kwaito, South Africa’s post-Apartheid freedom sound. Punctuated by amapiano’s log drums and insistent shakers, brought to life through the frantic backside movements of bacardi  and Tyla’s aquatic theater, "Water" used genre fusion to carry South African sound across global airwaves.

What’s more, Tyla is part of a vast network of women propelling amapiano to the world. Zimbabwean singer Sha Sha’s breakout in 2019 created a monumental shift in a genre that was largely the terrain of boys and men, and since then the amapiano scene has seen many other women follow in her wake. The likes of Mawhoo, Ami Faku, Bontle Smith, and Nobantu Vilakazi consistently emphasize the genre's soulful heart through dreamlike vocal work, grounding the very hits that have made amapiano the widespread phenomenon that it is today.

Everything from the skillful improvisations of dancing schoolgirls, to lively performances from women DJs and vocalists has allowed amapiano’s essence to be communicated clearly to the world. A vast web of women are pushing the genre both within and beyond South African borders; read on for a list of 11 influential women who are key in elevating amapiano to global heights.

DBN Gogo 

It’s not that controversial: everybody loves Gogo. Born in the city from which she derived her name, Durban, DBN Gogo has steadily become one of amapiano’s most sought-after acts. From her 2021 smash hit "Khuza Gogo" featuring amapiano stars such as the late Mpura, to later hits like "Possible," "Bambelela," and "Bells," Gogo has made a name for herself as a highly-dependable hitmaker and an equally compelling performer. It was her, of course, who created the viral dakiwe dance challenge, inspiring countless dance variations and solidifying her position as amapiano’s queen of cool.

Even while she has offered the genre mass mainstream appeal, DBN Gogo's personal projects reveal her lasting dedication to preserving amapiano’s authenticity. Her 2022 debut album, What’s Real, is a warm, rich body of work, while her newest EP Click Bait is a genre-diverse wonder that transcends the boundaries of ‘piano itself. 

Since her breakout years ago, she has not even remotely backed down, taking over multiple AfroNation stages yearly, performing at Coachella in 2022, and featuring twice on the GRAMMY-nominated Black Panther: Wakanda Forever soundtrack. Dropping the Shakes & Les-assisted "Funk 55" in 2023, a track that is still dominating South African nightlife as we speak, Gogo is on an unending mission to take the world by storm.

Nkosazana Daughter

With a spiritual sound and an angelic voice to match, it’s safe to say that Nkosazana Daughter is amapiano’s sweetheart. Breaking out via an Instagram Live with DJ Maphorisa and Mpura during lockdown, the 23-year-old has proved that her ethereal vocals can impart a distinct sense of purity to any song she features on. 

She has since voiced dreamy hit singles like "Dali Nguwe" and "Sofa Silahlane" with frequent collaborator Master KG, and worked with continental artists including Tanzania’s Harmonize and Nigerian Afropop stars Mr. Eazi, Omah Lay, and Young Jonn. Last year, she asserted herself in a big way, releasing her debut album Uthingo Le Nkosazana

"Uthingo," meaning "rainbow" in Zulu, communicated to the world the vast color and love she had to bring to the scene. Nkosazana Daughter called amapiano’s greats to her world, working with the likes of Kabza de Small, Maphorisa, and Sir Trill throughout the project as well as Master KG on the lead single, "Amaphutha." She has already started the year with a bang via her successful hit "Keneilwe," proving her determination to come into 2024 with an unrelenting force.

TXC

Tarynn Reid and Clair Hefke are the dj duo that have proved the importance of intentional performance while pushing ‘piano. The pair are known for mixing amapiano party hits while clad in matching sets; Clair often holds down the fort while Tarynn drives crowds wild with impassioned dance moves. 

The duo has become a symbol of amapiano’s global appeal, ruling the Piano People stage at AfroNation in Miami, closing Boiler Room’s Soulection stage in London, and taking on Qatar’s 2022 Fifa World Cup stage alongside acts like Lil Baby. What’s more, they have consistently shown dedication to growth, expanding their title from DJ duo to production duo, including producing their debut EP.

That release, 2022's A Fierce Piano is a rich collection of tracks featuring assists from some of the genre's smoothest vocalists: Daliwonga and Murumba Pitch. Following up with "Vuka Mawulele" and their latest single "Turn Off the Lights," TXC have shown that their future as creatives in amapiano is limitless. 

Babalwa M

While the amapiano scene is fraught with disagreements surrounding origins, dates, and pioneers, all unanimously agree that Babalwa M is the queen of private school amapiano. Known for its deeply jazzy, soulful approach to amapiano, "private school" is a distinct subgenre that Babalwa’s vocals have refined throughout the years alongside its king, producer Kelvin Momo.

Listening to the transcendental vocals laced through tracks like "Aluta Continua" from her debut album of the same name, it should come as no surprise that Soweto’s own Babalwa M found her voice through the church choir.

Babalwa M's most infamous contributions to the private school archive come in the form of collaborations with the aforementioned Momo. Her near-spiritual vocals on tracks like "Feza," "Sukakude" and, most recently, "Amalobolo" from his newest project, have made even the most surface level consumers invested in the beauty of private school. Coming off of the heels of her most recent track "Maye Maye," Babalwa M is determined to continue sharing the sublimity of private school with the world. 

Uncle Waffles

Nobody quite epitomizes amapiano’s globalization in the way that Uncle Waffles does. 

It all boils down to one fateful day: a DJ booked for a 2021 club night in Soweto was unable to make their set, so Uncle Waffles was called in. She played Young Stunna’s "Adiwele," gyrating with incomparable cool as she responded to the crowd’s impassioned cries. A video of her dancing at this set went viral, generating a dance challenge that can still be seen at club nights today and converting her into an overnight sensation. Suddenly, Swaziland’s own Uncle Waffles was juggling bookings from all over the world. 

Since then, the cosmos has become the limit  — she has shut down Coachella, sold out US and UK headlines shows, and received cosigns from Drake, Kelly Rowland, and Ciara. Waffles' hit single "Tanzania" was even featured in an amapiano-influenced set during multiple stops of Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour. What’s more, she has proved that her talents transcend the stage with three projects in her catalog: Red Dragon, and 2023’s Asylum and Solace. 

With global hit singles "Yahyuppiyah" and "Peacock Revisit" from 2023, and her constant re-definition as a style icon, dancer, and creative director, Uncle Waffles continues to show the world that she cannot be confined to any one creative medium.

Chley

Slick-tongued Chley is widely understood as a secret weapon for any producer looking to cook up an amapiano anthem. Taking on music as recently as 2021, she’d already collaborated with prominent amapiano producers Mellow & Sleazy, Konke, and Musa Keys a year into her music career - voicing hits like "Kancane" and "M’nike." Chley was catapulted to a new level of fame once featured on Uncle Waffles’ "Yahyuppiyah," offering a rapid-fire verse that netizens all over the world fought hard to replicate.

Since then, she has featured on bangers such as "Vuma" with Felo Le Tee and Mellow & Sleazy, "Shu!" with Tanzania’s Diamond Platnumz, Gogo’s "Funk 55," and Ggoldie’s "Asambe." With a discography bound to make even the most conservative of listeners get up and dance, Chley is certainly one to watch in the midst of amapiano’s ever-evolving scene.

Kamo Mphela

Kamo Mphela burst onto the scene after one too many videos of her dancing went viral — an expected outcome for a girl who consistently danced and MCed at block parties on the streets of Joburg. Her rise to fame fatefully coincided with amapiano’s nationwide popularization, allowing the multi-talented dancer to latch on to the township sound and never let it go. 

She soon jumped on tracks like "Sandton" alongside Kabza and Maphorisa in 2019 and "Amanikiniki" with Major League DJz in 2021, then released her own tracks "Percy Tau" and "Nkulunkulu" on her debut EP the same year. She’s since released smash hits, featured on the Wakanda Forever soundtrack, and offered a thrilling performance ahead of Davido at London’s O2 arena.

Throughout her career, Kamo Mphela has redefined the role of the dancer in amapiano’s landscape, not confining herself to the sidelines but instead positioning dance as a central component of any amapiano performance worth its salt. This radical ethic has allowed her to become widely regarded as one of amapino’s most notable performers, and she consistently ensures that her music embodies this weighty title. Her 2023 singles "HANNAH MONTANA" and "Dalie" came with expert dances — the latter with a viral dance challenge that has kept the song at a steady position on South African charts. 

Boohle

Hailing from the Vosloorus township of Johannesburg, Buhle Manyathi is all about soul. Kicking off her career as part of a gospel troupe in 2016, she later transitioned to Afro house and amapiano, releasing a multi-genre debut album, Izibongo, in 2020 and EP Sfikile in 2021. It was only a matter of time before she became the vocalist behind some of ‘piano’s biggest hits, voicing "Mama" with Josiah de Disciple (and its gorgeous Afro house remix from De Capo), "Siyathandana" alongside rapper Cassper Nyovest, and the glorious "Ngixolele," produced by Busta 929. 

Several top charting positions and awards later, she came out with arguably her most global single, "Hamba Wena" alongside Deep London. Igniting a global dance challenge created by South African steppers Hope Ramafalo and Hlongi Mash, "Hamba Wena" captivated the globe  and reasserted Boohle’s seemingly endless ability to produce ‘piano anthems.

Lady Du

Music was always in the cards for Lady Du, but it was amapiano in particular that changed the scope of her career. Reared in a family of influential DJs and producers, she kicked off her career as a Hip-Hop DJ before pivoting completely into ‘piano. 

Dropping both "Catalia" and "Woza" in 2021 — both with production from ‘piano pioneer Mr JazziQ — Lady Du suddenly had 2 gigantic hits under her belt, the latter becoming one of the biggest songs in the early days of amapiano’s globalization.

She has since offered roaring vocals on Busta and Mpura’s "Umsebenzi Wethu," hard-hitting rap on 9numba and TOSS’ "uMlando," and Mzansi flare on international features such as "I Did It" with Nigeria’s Niniola. 

Lady Du reaffirmed her centrality in the scene in 2023, dropping her debut album Song is Queen and later, the Megadrumz-produced single "Tjina." The percussion-heavy tune quickly turned global club nights upside down, secured high positions on South Africa’s streaming charts, and emphasized Lady Du’s centrality in amapiano’s sprawling ecosystem.

Pabi Cooper

or Pritori princess Pabi Cooper, winning is easy. Hailing from South Africa’s administrative capital Pretoria, Pabi broke out as a 21-year-old with the party-starting "Isphithiphithi," a hit produced by Busta 929 in 2021.

2022's "Banyana Ke Bafana" was a widely popular hit, propelled by irresistible verses from the Pritori trifecta of Pabi, vocalist Ch’cco, and rapper Focalistic. Her debut EP, Cooperville, introduced audiences to a vast world of her making, with soulful numbers like "MAMA," alongside more street-centric jams like "Waga Bietjie" and "Angeke." 

Today, Cooper has solidified herself as a symbol of youth power, mesmerizing South African crowds through her concert series Cooper FC and snagging a BET nomination in 2023 for Best New International Act. She also carries her hometown on her back wherever she goes; last year saw her release "Jukulyn" alongside Pretoria’s Jelly Babie, a track dedicated to a township of the same name and rooted in the city’s bouncy, infectious sound bacardi. 

Khanyisa

Khanyisa may have started off her career as a social media influencer, but she has seamlessly evolved into an amapiano star. Performing covers and skits to the millions of followers she amassed on TikTok, Khanyisa wielded relatability and humor as her social media superpowers. 

It wasn’t until her irresistible breakout "Bheka Mina Ngedwa" with Lady Du and her official debut "Ungangi Bambi" in 2021, both delivered with the same vitality that offered her acclaim online, that Khanyisa formally secured popularity within the amapiano space.

Since, Khanyisa has featured on popular tracks such as "Vuka Mawulele" with TxC and the  danceable "Zula Zula" with Villosoul. In 2023, she proved her role as an undeniable hitmaker, releasing the log drum heavy "SUKA" and "NGIMOJA" with producer of the year Tyler ICU. With her successful pivot to musical fame, it is clear that Khanyisa’s future as a player in amapiano is incredibly bright. 

10 Alté Artists To Know: Odunsi (The Engine), TeeZee, Lady Donli & More

Freddy Wexler On Helping Billy Joel "Turn The Lights Back On" — At The 2024 GRAMMYs And Beyond
Photo: Lester Cohen/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

(L-R) Billy Joel, Freddy Wexler

interview

Freddy Wexler On Helping Billy Joel "Turn The Lights Back On" — At The 2024 GRAMMYs And Beyond

"Part of what was so beautiful for me to see on GRAMMY night was the respect and adoration that people of all ages and from all genres have for Billy Joel," Wexler says of Joel's 2024 GRAMMYs performance of their co-written "Turn The Lights Back On."

GRAMMYs/Feb 26, 2024 - 09:11 pm

They say to not meet your heroes. But when Freddy Wexler — a lifelong Billy Joel fan — did just that, it was as if Joel walked straight out of his record collection.

"I think the truth is none of it is that surprising," the 37-year-old songwriter and producer tells GRAMMY.com. "That's the best part. From his music, I would've thought this is a humble, brilliant everyman who probably walks around with a very grounded perspective, and that's exactly who he is."

That groundedness made possible "Turn the Lights Back On" — the hit comeback single they co-wrote, and Wexler co-produced; Joel performed a resplendent version at the 2024 GRAMMYs with Laufey. Joel hadn't released a pop album since 1993's River of Dreams; for him to return to the throne would take an awfully demonstrative song, true to his life.

"I think it's a very raw, honest, real perspective that is true to Billy," Wexler explains. "I think it's the first time we've heard him acknowledge mistakes and regret in quite this way."

Specifically, Joel's return highlights his regret over spending three decades mostly on the bench, largely absent from the pop scene. As Joel wonders aloud in the stirring, arpeggiated chorus, "Is there still time for forgiveness?"

"Forgiveness" is a curious word. Why would the five-time GRAMMY winner and 23-time nominee possibly need to seek forgiveness? Regardless — as the song goes — he's "tryin' to find the magic/ That we lost somehow." The song's message — an attempt to recapture a lost essence — transcends Joel's personal headspace, connecting with a universal longing and nostalgia.

Read on for an interview with Wexler about the impact of "Turn the Lights Back On," why he thinks Joel took such an extended sabbatical, the prospect of more new music, and much more.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

**You did a great interview with Rolling Stone ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs. Now, we're on the other side of it; you got to see how it went down on the telecast, and resonated with the audience and world. What was that like?**

It's why I make music — to hopefully make people feel something. This song has really resonated in such a big way. More than looking at its commercial success on the charts or on radio, which has been awesome to see, the comments on Instagram and YouTube have been the most rewarding part of it.

Why do you think it resonated? Beyond the king picking up his crown again?

I don't think the song is trying to be anything it's not. I think it's a very raw, honest, real perspective that is true to Billy. I think it's the first time we've heard him acknowledge mistakes and regret in quite this way. And to hear him do it in a hopeful way where he's asking, "Is it too late for forgiveness?" is just very moving, I think.

Forgiveness? That's interesting. What would any of us need to forgive him?

He has said in other interviews, "Sometimes people say they have no regrets at the end of their life." And he said, "I don't think that's possible. If you've lived a full life, of course you have regrets." He has said that he has many things he wishes he would've done differently. This is an opportunity to express that.

I think what's interesting about the song is it has found meaning in various ways with various people and listeners. Some people imagine Billy is singing to former lovers or friends. Other people imagine Billy is singing to his fans asking, "Did I wait too long to record again?" Other people wonder if Billy is singing to the songwriting Gods and muses. Did I wait too long to write again?

In Israel, where the song was number one — or is number one, I haven't checked today — I think the song's taken on the meaning of just wanting things to be normal, wanting hostages to come home and turn the lights back on. So, you never know where a song is going to resonate, but I think that Billy just found his own meaning with it.

You know the discography front to back. What lines can you draw from "Turn the Lights Back On" to past works?

I think it draws on various pieces of his catalog, right? "She's Always a Woman" has a sort of piano arpeggio in the chorus. To me, it feels like a natural progression. It feels like, on the one hand, it's a new song. On the other, it could have come out right after River of Dreams. To me, it just kind of feels natural.

**Back when you spoke with Rolling Stone, you said you couldn't wait to hear "Turn the Lights Back On" at Madison Square Garden. How'd it sound?**

Amazing. Billy is a consummate live performer. I think he's one of the few artists where everything is better live, and everything is always a little bit different each time it's played live.

It's been really cool to watch Billy and the band continue to change and improve the song and the song's dynamics for the show. He told me tonight that tomorrow night in Tampa, I think they're going to try to play with the key of the song, potentially — try it a half a step higher.

Those are the sort of things I think great artists do, right? It's different from being on a certain type of tour where every single song is the same, the set list is the same, the key is the same, the arrangements are the same.

With Billy, there's a lot of feeling and, "Hey, why don't we try it this way? Let's play it a little faster. Let's play it a little slower. Let's try it in a different key." I just think that's super cool. You have to be a really good musician to just do that on the fly.

What have you learned from him that applies to your music making, writ large?

I've learned so much from him. As Olivia Rodrigo said to us at GRAMMY rehearsals, "He's the blueprint when it comes to songwriting."

He has helped raise the bar for me when it comes to melodies and lyrics, but the thing I keep coming back to is he's reminded me that even the greatest artists and songwriters ever sometimes forget how great they are. I think we need to be careful not to give that inner voice and inner critic too much power.

Can you talk about how the music video came to be?

Well, I had a dream that Billy was singing the opening two lines of the song, but it was a 25-year-old version of Billy. It was arresting.

When I woke up, I sort of had the vision for the video, which was one set, an empty venue of some kind, and four Billy Joels. The Billy Joel that really exists today, but then three Billys from three iconic eras where each Billy would seamlessly pick up the song where the other left off.

The idea behind that was to sort of accentuate the question of the song — did I wait too long to turn the lights back on?

And so, to kind of take us through time and through all these years, I teamed up with an amazing co-director, Warren Fu, who's done everything from Dua Lipa to Daft Punk, and an artificial intelligence company called Deep Voodoo to make that vision possible.

What I'm driven by is the opportunity to create conversations, cultural moments, things that make people feel something. What was cool here is as scary as AI is — and I think it is scary in many ways — we were able to give an example of how you can use it in a positive way to execute a creative artistic vision that previously would've been impossible to execute.

Yeah, so I'm pleased with it and I'm thankful that Billy did a video. He didn't have to do one, but he liked the idea of it. He felt it was different, and I think he was moved by it as well.

What do you think is the next step here?

It's been a really rewarding process. And Billy is open-minded, which is really cool for an artist of that level, who's not a new artist by any stretch. To actually be described as being in a place in his life where he's open-minded, means anything is possible. I could tell you that I would love there to be more music.

I'd love to get your honest appraisal. And I know you're not him. But his last pop album was released 31 years ago. In that long interim, what do you think was going on with him, creatively?

Look, I'm not Billy Joel, but I think there were a number of factors going on with him. Somewhere along the way, I think he stopped having fun with music, which is the reason he got into it, or which is a big part of the reason he got into it. When it stopped being fun, I don't think he really wanted to do it anymore.

Another piece to it is that Billy is a perfectionist, and that perfectionism is evident in the caliber of his songwriting. Having always written 100 percent of his songs, Billy at some point probably found that process to be painstaking, to try to hit that bar where he's probably wondering in his head, What would Beethoven think of this? What would Leonard Bernstein think of this?

I think part of what was different here was that, perhaps, there was something liberating about "Turn the Lights Back On" being a seed that was brought to Billy. In this way, he could be a little disconnected from it, where maybe he didn't have to have the self-imposed pressure that he would if it was an idea that he'd been trying to finish for a while.

Ironically, he still made it. Well, there's no "ironically," but I think that's it. There's something to that.

Billy Joel's Biggest Songs: 15 Tracks That Best Showcase The Piano Man's Storytelling And Pop Hooks

GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Baby Keem Celebrate "Family Ties" During Best Rap Performance Win In 2022
Baby Keem (left) at the 2022 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

video

GRAMMY Rewind: Watch Baby Keem Celebrate "Family Ties" During Best Rap Performance Win In 2022

Revisit the moment budding rapper Baby Keem won his first-ever gramophone for Best Rap Performance at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards for his Kendrick Lamar collab "Family Ties."

GRAMMYs/Feb 23, 2024 - 05:50 pm

For Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar, The Melodic Blue was a family affair. The two cousins collaborated on three tracks from Keem's 2021 debut LP, "Range Brothers," "Vent," and "Family Ties." And in 2022, the latter helped the pair celebrate a GRAMMY victory.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, turn the clock back to the night Baby Keem accepted Best Rap Performance for "Family Ties," marking the first GRAMMY win of his career.

"Wow, nothing could prepare me for this moment," Baby Keem said at the start of his speech.

He began listing praise for his "supporting system," including his family and "the women that raised me and shaped me to become the man I am."

Before heading off the stage, he acknowledged his team, who "helped shape everything we have going on behind the scenes," including Lamar. "Thank you everybody. This is a dream."

Baby Keem received four nominations in total at the 2022 GRAMMYs. He was also up for Best New Artist, Best Rap Song, and Album Of The Year as a featured artist on Kanye West's Donda.

Press play on the video above to watch Baby Keem's complete acceptance speech for Best Rap Performance at the 2022 GRAMMYs, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

How The 2024 GRAMMYs Saw The Return Of Music Heroes & Birthed New Icons