meta-scriptTaylor Swift To Headline Amazon's Prime Day Concert Feat. Dua Lipa & More | GRAMMY.com

Taylor Swift 

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Taylor Swift To Headline Amazon's Prime Day Concert Feat. Dua Lipa & More

Prime members will be able to livestream the exclusive show from all over the world and have access to it afterwards for a limited time

GRAMMYs/Jun 27, 2019 - 10:52 pm

Multiple GRAMMY-winning pop star Taylor Swift is set to headline Amazon Music's "Prime Day" concert that will stream live on Prime Video. SZA, Dua Lipa and Becky G will also have performances.

The concert will celebrate "the best in Amazon entertainment" and will take place at an undisclosed location on July 10. While no tickets will be sold, select Prime members will have exclusive access to the concert. Prime members will be able to livestream the show from all over the world and also have access to it afterwards for a limited time.  

"We can’t wait to celebrate Prime Day with an extraordinary night of unforgettable performances, for members around the globe,” said VP of Amazon Music Steve Boom in a statement. “Prime Day brings members the best of both entertainment and shopping. To celebrate, we’ve curated a lineup across multiple genres with performances from artists our customers love. We’re looking forward to celebrating Prime Day with this can’t-miss, one-of-a-kind event."

Swift recently confirmed her seventh studio album, Lover, and released a video for her latest single, "You Need To Calm Down."

Go-Go Given The Royal Treatment At Inaugural D.C. Block Party

Danny L Harle attends Last Days Opera After Party at Chateau Marmont on February 06, 2024 in Los Angeles
Danny L Harle

Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Photonia

interview

Danny L Harle's Quest For Pop Euphoria: How Working With Dua Lipa Led To A New Level Of Creative Joy

The songwriter and producer talks about crafting Dua Lipa’s ‘Radical Optimism’ and the UK’s Eurovision entry for 2024. "It was all about making space for the great emotion of the song," Harle says.

GRAMMYs/May 6, 2024 - 01:51 pm

**"I’ve got an obsessive mind," admits producer Danny L Harle. "I often can't sleep at night because I've got melodies circling in my head. I get haunted by melodies, and I think that's why some people trust me, because they know that I will not let it go unless I think it's absolutely perfect."

That dedication to crafting powerful pop melodies has resulted in a treasure trove of earworms on Dua Lipa’s new album Radical Optimism. Harle was recruited by Lipa as one of the album’s co-producers, alongside Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker and songwriters Tobias Jesso Jr and Caroline Ailin.

It's no surprise that Harle was recruited to craft a record that seeks to find light and happiness where darkness prevails. Since his 2015 debut EP Broken Flowers, Harle has created dance-pop that examined the relationship between melancholia and euphoria, as well as the grandeur and escapism of a rave. 

After releasing a string of singles via PC Music, Harle dropped his first album, Harlecore, in 2021 with Mad Decent. The ecstatic spirit of Harlecore, which is centered around a virtual rave headed by four imaginary DJs, echoes in Harle’s latest collaboration as co-writer and producer of the UK’s Eurovision song, "Dizzy" by Olly Alexander. 

"There is good pop music and more algorithmic pop music, pop music which is more guaranteed to work and is less interesting," Harle says. "I just really like good pop music, and that, for me, always seems to start from my research with people."

It was Harle’s naturally synergistic approach to collaboration that led to his work with Lipa. He has also worked with yeule on their album Glitch Princess, and the likes of Charli XCX. But it was his production and writing on  singer Caroline Polachek's  debut solo album that caught Dua Lipa's ear. "She appreciated the spirit of collaboration with that album and wanted me to make her album."

Read below to get a taste of how Danny Harle made Radical Optimism and other earwormy, dancefloor hits.  

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Hey Danny! What’s that cool instrument behind you?

It’s an electric double bass, which is my main instrument: bass guitar and double bass. I use that on some of the Caroline Polachek stuff. There's certain artists who come into the room and see that and they're like, "We have to use that." And some people try to pretend it doesn't exist.

It’s fascinating; I used to play that instrument when I was younger, and then gave it up. There was a 10 year gap, and then I found a place much later in my life where it could fit in. I stopped playing bass guitar at one point as well. 

Then I found myself in a session with NAO, and she was like, "Can you play bass guitar?" There was one literally on display outside, the Squire bass, so I picked it up and we made a track together. She was in a session with Nile Rodgers the next day playing it to him, and he loved it, and then it was on the Chic album [It’s About Time]! At that point I lost any preconceptions I had about needing good gear to make a great sounding music.

Did you do a lot of the bass work on Dua’s album?

I did a fair amount of it, but a lot of it is a collaboration with me and Kevin Parker. All that time he's spent touring and playing the bass live is time that I've spent in front of a computer. So it's hard to compare bass skills, as much as it's my instrument. 

Alongside being a great live player, Kevin has a particular skill for making an instrument sound great when it is recorded, which is a completely different thing. There were some times where I was like, "I prefer the way that it sounds when you do it." And then sometimes he would ask me to do it as well. It was a really nice, trusting partnership. 

The process of the album was very trusting; a sense of being able to say when you think something could be better, but also understanding that trusting someone else is good at what they're doing. It was a very rare environment, but the atmosphere of respect and trust was quite an incredible thing to experience. If you hear what anybody says involved in that process, they'll say those are some of the best sessions they’ve ever had in that respect. 

We were talking about this key Motown idea, which is that happy songs go best over a sad melody. It doesn’t have to be the melody, it can be the music sounding sad; "Tears Of A Clown" by Smokey Robinson is a good example. There's something very resonant in that combination. 

"Houdini," "Training Season" and "Illusion" are all in minor keys, aren’t they? It makes for such melodically rich stuff that’s different from your average four chord pop progression.

Yup. It’s not as simple as happy song, happy chords. It adds richness to the emotional landscape of the song, and that was a key element in that. 

It was a room full of people who are excited by hearing new melodies and approaches and structures. That’s why you don’t really hear the same melodic patterns that music’s fallen into these days on the album. I find that particularly inspiring. 

You’ve written with stars like Charli XCX and Rina Sawayama before, but this is your first extended project with a pop star. You first made pop music to engage people as a virtually unknown musician, but now that attention is guaranteed. Did that change the way you think about pop?

Not at all. My approach to this stuff, especially these days, is that I can just do my thing. I'm very honored to work with the people I've been working with. Very early on in my career when I was trying to make pop music in that way, it would always go horribly wrong. Whereas now I just try to make good music. 

Some people can just make a pop song and I can't do that. I'm like, "Let's make a good song." I personally believe that there is good pop music and more algorithmic pop music, pop music which is more guaranteed to work and is less interesting. I just really like good pop music, and that, for me, always seems to start from my research with people just trying to make the best music. 

How did you make this record more personal to Dua in terms of influences and not just lyrically?

It all stems from her at the center of it; so much stuff happens to her. It’s insane, the amount she’d have to say before every session — [like] "These tracks are actually making points." 

Then it would be a case of finding an instrumental with a certain emotion, and out of natural conversation, there’d be a sense of connection [from] a phrase someone would hit on. [But] it would always stem from her as the center of the whole thing. It was just a very organic way of writing and we were very privileged with the rich life Dua leads to draw from. 

This record was a tight songwriting team — where did you fit into it?

I was contributing to all of the tracks in all factors: lyric ideas most rarely, but also melodic ideas, songwriting ideas, mainly from a production standpoint.  

I would be in the corner on my computer, and I would constantly be in conversation with everybody. We might have Kevin on a guitar, and then I’d be making some electronic arpeggios to go with that. I’d be constantly AirDropping stuff to Cam Gower, the greatest vocal engineer in the world, and he would be stacking what we had in ProTools. Sometimes I would take Cam’s session and put it into my computer — like with ‘Illusion’, because there’s stuff that goes on that affects the whole track in a way that I needed to do to get that dancey feel. 

It's quite a global, almost old-fashioned producer role I was taking. I think that was a valuable thing for Dua in certain cases, because I would know about every song on the album. If we were writing with new writers, I'd be like, ‘we already said this idea in that song.’ I would have an eye on the whole thing and be a soundboard for the overall project. 

Let’s start with the opening track, "End Of An Era" is unexpectedly calming and gentle. What prompted you guys to make this the opener?

I just love the idea of starting an album with the track called "End Of An Era"; it is quite an alarming thing to see. I love the tone of the track, the joy of it, but also the fairy-godmother-style commentary going over it as well. 

It's about that heart-eyes emoji feeling of knowing you're irrationally in love in the moment where you rethink everything about your life. I just thought the emotion fit really well. The album has a story to it, and it's a great opener for that story.  

The track "These Walls" expands Dua’s voice in a way I haven’t heard her sing before. Could you walk me through the production of that song?

With that song, I didn't want to get in the way of the purity of the message. It’s very important to understand when a track does not need to be a production showcase, you are in service of the storytelling. 

It was all about making space for the great emotion of the song and having occasional moments of departure, and always being relevant to what is being said. When she says "Did you really mean it when you said forever?", the track disappears into a strange fantasy synth moment. That idea is [that] your mind might get taken away by the thought of forever, just for a moment, as a sort of impossible idea. That's what the music's doing — it takes you out and it lands you straight back into the track.

There’s also a moment of self-deprecating humor: "If these walls could talk / they’d say you’re f—ed.". Was that humor fostered by the close relationship all the songwriters had?

Absolutely. That kind of thing is often the most memorable bit of a song, if placed correctly in the most tasteful area. There’s a track on the yeule album Glitch Princess, where it’s these big Charles Ives chords I wrote. It sounds like it’s gonna be a nice piano ballad, but the first line is "feels like s—." [Laughs.] It takes you by surprise, but it fits with the mood of the track. 

With Dua, it’s tastefully placing it where it fits in the story, and that point in the chorus, it felt perfect. It also reminds me of this idea in the [software] engineering world: the rubber duck principle. They have a rubber duck there because engineers will want to ask a question, but often when you’re asking the question, you’ll realize the answer to it. The rubber duck is there so you can ask the question and it’ll tell you the answer because you already knew it. ‘These Walls’ reminds me of that; if these walls are saying I’m f—ed, you know you’re f—ed. 

The climax of the album is "Falling Forever." It’s super ballsy, and the drums are mixed so loudly. Tell me about how this track came to be.

It’s a beautiful one, that one. A great thinker said it sounds like a thousand galloping horses. That one came about in the sessions with [producer and songwriter] Ian Kirkpatrick. He came in with the chords you hear at the beginning, and I really enjoyed the idea of having a galloping rhythm. You don’t hear the gallop very often, I can’t think of one other song that’s done that in recent history. 

I also thought up the "how long" thing — I thought it would be fun to make the word ‘long’ really long. Those were my key contributions to the song. Ian Kirkpatrick, his drums are so fantastic. You’ve gotta let him get on with it. 

The vocals are also so close there’s subtler production going on earlier in the album, but this song punches you right in the face.

It’s so great. It’s very much an approach that I have with singers where I want them to do a thing that makes their voice sound f—ing amazing. The first time I thought I achieved that with Caroline was with "Parachute," using everything her voice can do: the runs, the high register, the emotional low register. This is a showcase. "Falling Forever" does that with Dua. "These Walls" is an interesting comparison as well, it shows a real range of emotion that Dua is capable of in a way I find really exciting. 

It’s indescribable to hear her sing in the room. I had the privilege of having her recording demo vocals on an SM-7 [microphone] like this sitting in front of her. It is unbelievable to hear that: just a human making that sound in front of you, it’s like nothing else. It’s like witnessing a wonder of the world. Also to use the specific, occasionally metallic sound she can make with her voice, to use it when necessary as part of an expression of something, the way she phrases things is incredible as well. 

Does the message of Radical Optimism — of finding grace in the chaos — match the euphoria you want to explore in music?

There is a sense of melancholic euphoria as well, the Elizabethan side of things. I would say there's a Venn diagram of euphoria that fits with Dua. 

On the track "Happy For You," there are certain ravey things going on where Dua was like, "What’s that sound?" It’s these chords Kevin wrote, and I start stuttering them. 

Also the flute mellotron in the song "Maria," she was immediately like, "Yep: I love it." I was so happy because it’s so my thing, that cyclical melody. Also, the bit in "Illusions" before the chorus where it goes to a major chord before the chorus, I love the sound of the unexpected major chord. Having repeated moments like that, I think, was the reason why I was asked to stay on the project; we clearly had chemistry, but it was interesting how macro it was. 

That unexpected major chord moment also appears in your Eurovision song with Olly Alexander, doesn’t it?

I've written some more tracks with him that do that. I've really been enjoying that with Olly because his voice is so agile and can really make sense of more complicated chord sequences. 

Another thing I've been enjoying with him is when there's sparseness and letting the vocal melody spell out the harmony and maybe occasionally go minor and major over one bass note, which is something I really, really enjoy. 

I've always been a big fan of Olly Alexander, I’ve wanted to work with him my whole career. I believe I tweeted at him in 2009 saying hi. But I think people who like my stuff could hear that he has the kind of voice that I really like: a very virtuosic, melodic voice. [We] just had immediate chemistry, musically. We've written a fair amount of music and he’s a very exciting artist to be involved with. 

The UK has a pretty shaky track record with Eurovision. Did you feel any of that pressure?

No, there wasn't that thing in my head. I just love Olly’s voice. And collaborating with him is just fantastic. I've had ideas for Olly for years now, and it was a dream to be able to actually enact some of them.

What’s next in store for you?

My own album. I've got another one that I'm finishing up at the minute that I'm very excited about. It was delayed by two and a half years because I got all of my dream projects offered to me at the same time and I wanted to make sure that I did them all properly. But now I can get back to doing my own stuff. 

It feels so good to be back at the grindstone, sitting in my studio writing beautiful things, making beautiful objects to present to the world. It’s the dream, really.

Behind Mark Ronson's Hits: How 'Boogie Nights,' Five-Hour Jams & Advice From Paul McCartney Inspired His Biggest Singles & Collabs

Dua Lipa at the 2024 GRAMMYs
Dua Lipa at the 2024 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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Dua Lipa Is Confidently In Love On 'Radical Optimism': 4 Takeaways From The New Album

As Dua Lipa continues the dance party she started in 2017, her third studio album sees the pop star more assured — and more starry-eyed — than ever before.

GRAMMYs/May 3, 2024 - 03:13 pm

As someone who has dedicated her life to being a performer, Dua Lipa's recent admission to Apple Music's Zane Lowe seems almost unfathomable: "I never thought of the idea of being famous."

Stardom may not have been on her mind as a kid, but Lipa is now, indeed, one of the most famous pop stars on the planet as she releases her highly anticipated third album, Radical Optimism

In the seven years since her acclaimed 2017 self-titled debut, Lipa has achieved several highs — like three GRAMMY wins, including Best New Artist in 2019 — as well as the subsequent lows that can often come with global stardom. And though the singer also admitted to Lowe that it "took me a while to find my voice," Radical Optimism is her most self-assured album yet — one that hinges on the title being not only the project's name, but also its defining approach to Lipa's present-day vision for her life.

"Radical Optimism and the way that I see it is this idea of rolling with the punches, of not letting anything get you down for too long. Of always seeing the positive side of things. Of being able to grow and move forward and change your perspective regardless of what's happening in your life…I think it's a big part of maturing and growing up."

The entire album was crafted in her native London over the course of a year-and-a-half, with Lipa enlisting a small band of collaborators — including her righthand co-writer Caroline Ailin, Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, Danny L. Harle and Tobias Jesso, Jr. — to create a cohesive, buoyant body of work tinged with disco, funk and bits of psychedelic pop.

Naturally, "radical optimism" is a core thread that runs through all eleven songs as Lipa reflects on falling in and out of love, grapples with her fame and confidently declares that everything that came before Radical Optimism was just a practice run. After all, as she brazenly declares on the LP's second single, "Training season's over." 

As you enter Dua's latest musical world, dive into four major takeaways from Radical Optimism below.

Radical Optimism Isn't Just A New Era — It's A Whole New Perspective

When Lipa accepted her GRAMMY for Best Pop Vocal Album in 2021, she declared she was officially done with the "sad music" that had fueled her breakout debut album. And if 2020's Future Nostalgia was, in context, a kind of clubby, '80s-driven turning point for the artist, she fully embraces the Radical Optimism promised by its follow-up's title. Lipa's newfound attitude is both clear-eyed and relentlessly positive across the album's 11 tracks, whether she's gushing over a new love on giddy opener "End of an Era," being kept up all night by thoughts of a seductive crush on "Whatcha Doing" or cutting her losses and ditching out early on the spellbinding "French Exit."

Even "These Walls," on which she watches a doomed relationship fade to black, is approached with a sense of inevitability laced with clarity and astute kindness. "But if these walls could talk/ They'd say enough, they'd say give up/ If these walls could talk/ They'd say/ You know you're f—ed/ It's not supposed to hurt this much/ Oh, if these walls could talk/ They tell us to break up," Lipa sings over gossamer production and a piano line by Andrew Wyatt.

You Can Still Find Her On The Dance Floor

The rollout for Radical Optimism was front-loaded with the release of three singles ahead of the full album in the form of "Houdini," "Training Season" and "Illusion." Between the three subsequent music videos and a thrilling live performance at the 2024 GRAMMYs in February, Lipa signaled that her third LP would be filled with her signature style of scintillating dance floor bangers.

The rest of the album more than delivers on that promise, with an overall BPM that rarely falls below what's needed for a full-blown aerobic workout — perfect for over-the-top choreography, of course. And in case the Service95 founder's commitment to the dance floor isn't already apparent, just look at the history-making hat trick she recently pulled off on the Billboard's Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart: as of press time, "Houdini," "Illusion" and "Training Season" occupied the top three spots, marking a first for any female artist in modern music history.

She's Redefining Love On Her Own Terms

If the litany of love songs on Radical Optimism are any indication, it's safe to say Lipa is head over heels these days (with boyfriend Callum Turner, perhaps?). Opening track "End of an Era" may mark the beginning of a new musical journey for the singer, but it's just as much about the thrill of a new relationship. Later on the track list, she uses album cut "Falling Forever" to grow an initial spark of infatuation into a red-hot love affair as she yearns, "How long, how long/ Can it just keep getting better?/ Can we keep falling forever" on the lovestruck chorus.

Lipa also makes it clear on the shapeshifting highlight "Anything For Love" that she's "not interested in a love that gives up so easily." As she refuses to accept the modern paradigm of ghosting, non-committal situationships and running away when things get hard, the song morphs from a tender piano ballad into danceable, mid-tempo groove, giving the listener just enough breathing room to wrestle with the questions of what kind of love they'll accept before dancing it out.

She's Putting Her Emotional Growth On Full Display

It's been almost seven years since Lipa spelled out her "New Rules" for a generation of pop lovers, and some of the most affecting cuts on Radical Optimism prove the British-Albanian star has accrued even more hard-won wisdom since her early days of "If you're under him, you ain't gettin' over him."

Penultimate track "Maria" finds Lipa thanking the ghost of her current lover's ex-girlfriend for making him a better man: "Never thought I could feel this way/ Grateful for all the love you gave/ Here's to the lovers that make you change/ Maria, Maria, Maria." 

Meanwhile, on album closer "Happy for You," the singer turns her attention not to a lover's ex-girlfriend, but to an ex who's moved on from her and found himself happier than ever. It's a complex, but decidedly mature feeling to realize you're genuinely happy for someone you used to love, but Lipa encapsulates the emotion perfectly. 

"Oh, I must've loved you more than I ever knew/ Didn't know I could ever feel/ 'Cause I'm happy for you," she sings on the chorus. "Now I know everything was real/ I'm not mad, I'm not hurt/ You got everything you deserve/ Oh, I must've loved you more than I ever knew/ I'm happy for you."

The grown-up sentiment finishes the album on a bittersweet emotional high — proving that no matter what life throws at her, Lipa will remain radically and unapologetically optimistic to the end. 

GRAMMY Rewind: Dua Lipa Champions Happiness As She Accepts Her GRAMMY For Best Pop Vocal Album In 2021

Dua Lipa performing at 2024 Time 100 gala
Dua Lipa performs at the 2024 TIME100 Gala in New York City.

Photo: Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

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Dua Lipa's Road To 'Radical Optimism': How Finding The Joy In Every Moment Helped Her Become Pop's Dance Floor Queen

Four years after 'Future Nostalgia,' Dua Lipa's third album is finally upon us. Look back on her journey to 'Radical Optimism,' and how it's the result of the pop megastar's evolving quest for new ways to celebrate each moment.

GRAMMYs/May 2, 2024 - 01:52 pm

Long before Dua Lipa reached pop megastardom, she declared the mantra that would soon become the core of her art: "It has to be fun."

Whether in club-hopping evenings or tear-streaked mornings, Lipa has continuously found a way to bring catharsis and movement into every moment — and, subsequently, every song she's released. So when she announced that her new album would be called Radical Optimism, the second word seemed obvious. But what would radical mean for Dua Lipa, and how did she get there?

Considering her time as a model prior to her music career taking off, many found it easy to write off the London-born singer as by-the-books pop, all-image artist. But even before taking a listen to her self-titled debut, Lipa's upbringing reveals far more complex feelings and inspirations.

The daughter of Kosovo Albanian parents living in London, Lipa took notes from her musician father, digging deep on the likes of the Police, David Bowie and Radiohead, while dancing to Ciara and Missy Elliott with her classmates. After a four-year stint in Kosovo when her family relocated, the then 15-year-old Dua moved back to London to stay with a family friend and build towards an inevitable music-oriented life, which began with clubbing incessantly and posting covers of Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera on YouTube.

Lipa was still working in restaurants when she first made contact with the music industry, burning the candle at both ends — as well as a third end unseen to mortals. "I'd finish work, then go out to whatever nightclub was happening until, like, 3 in the morning," she recently recalled to Elle. "Then I would wake up and go to the studio until I had my shift again at, like, 8 pm."

Warner Bros. Records caught wind of those sessions and signed her in 2014, leading to even more time in the studio (and, likely, less waitressing). Her debut single, 2015's "New Love," showcases everything that would lead to her eventual pop takeover: the resonant, sultry vocals, a propulsive beat, and a video full of effortless cool.

There would be seven more singles to follow from 2017's Dua Lipa, with the budding pop star co-writing a majority of the albums' tracks, alt R&B icon Miguel collaborating on a song, and Coldplay's Chris Martin providing additional vocals on the closer. While there are plenty of hits to take away ("Blow Your Mind (Mwah)" is a particular favorite in its grand and stompy disco sass), the true star here is "New Rules." Detailing the "rules" to avoid a problematic ex, the song could be cloying and twee, but Lipa's chill swagger sells the dance floor intensity and female empowerment in equal doses.

Listeners around the world agreed, as the song marked Lipa's first No. 1 in the UK and several other countries, as well as her first top 10 hit in the U.S. It also earned Lipa spots at festivals, a performance on Later… With Jools Holland, and five nominations at the 2018 Brit Awards — the most of any artist that year. She laid out a pretty clear manifesto after winning British Female Solo Artist: "Here's to more women on these stages, more women winning awards, and more women taking over the world."

As that year went on, Lipa solidified her own role in that mission. She became a hot collaboration commodity, first linking with Calvin Harris for the UK chart-topping "One Kiss"; then teaming with Mark Ronson and Diplo's Silk City for another club hit, "Electricity"; and even being recruited for Andrea Bocelli for "If Only," a track on his 2018 album, . Her breakthrough was cemented in GRAMMY gold at the 2019 ceremony, too, as she won two golden gramophones: Best Dance Recording for "Electricity," and the coveted Best New Artist.

Early word of the Dua Lipa followup, Future Nostalgia, was that Lipa was amping the disco energy. "[The album] feels like a dancercise class," she hinted in July 2019 to the BBC, who also reported that the now full-fledged pop star was working with Pharrell, Nile Rodgers, Tove Lo, and Diplo.

Lead single "Don't Start Now" was co-written with the team behind "New Rules," and the hyper-elastic bass, MIDI strings, and honest-to-goodness cowbell more than lived up to her promise of disco domination. The track went platinum in five countries, a feat that would go on to be topped by multiple tracks on the album, including the smoldering "Physical" and the INXS-interpolating "Break My Heart."

The album's March 2020 release was a thing of anxious beauty. It could've been pure tragedy to release an album designed for sweaty, crowded clubs in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. And when the album leaked a full two weeks prior to its release, even Lipa wasn't sure if her timing was right. "I'm not sure if I'm even doing the right thing, but I think the thing we need the most at the moment is music, and we need joy and we need to be trying to see the light," she said in an Instagram Live days before the album's release.

True to that spirit, Lipa's openhearted enthusiasm and unadulterated fun made the album a staple of lockdown dance parties and wistful dancefloor daydreams. In a bit of chicken-and-egg magic, the album's runaway hit is the inescapable "Levitating." The song's buoyant synth pulse, clap-along disco groove, drippy strings and punchy hook add to something far greater than the sum of its parts. And DaBaby's in-the-cut remix verse helps fulfill Lipa's rap-meets-pop dreams. But it definitely didn't hurt to have the track basically overrun TikTok — and a video produced in partnership with the platform — at a time when we were all stuck at home, looking at our phones as a way to connect with the world.

That was only the beginning of the pop star's effort to make the most of the pandemic era; Lipa continued to find innovative ways to bring fans into her disco-fueled sonic universe for some joy and connection. For one, she evolved Future Nostalgia into a remix album: Club Future Nostalgia, featuring electronic minds like Moodymann and Yaeji, as well as high-profile guests like BLACKPINK, Madonna, and Missy Elliott. And while fans who had grown connected to the album were hungry for an event to attend, she developed Studio 2054. The technicolor, gleeful live-streamed event saw millions of viewers virtually join Lipa in an immaculately choreographed, star-studded dance party — one that further displayed her magnetic personality and in-the-moment attitude.

Through the entire Future Nostalgia era, Lipa's purpose further proved to be more than the music. Yet again, it was about the amount of fun and energy it was able to provide to fans, something that proved to resonate in an even bigger way than her first project.

"[Future Nostalgia] took on its own life. And that in itself showed me that everything is in its own way for its own specific purpose, for its own reason," she told Variety earlier this year. "As long as I'm being of service and the music is there and it's a soundtrack for a moment in time, or in someone's life, then I've done what I was supposed to do."

Before getting to work on her third LP, Lipa kept the dance party going with new and old collaborators. First, she scored another UK No. 1 and U.S. top 10 hit alongside Elton John with "Cold Heart (Pnau remix)"; later, she was enlisted for feel-good singles from Megan Thee Stallion and Calvin Harris' 2022 albums. Then, a reunion with Mark Ronson led to a summer 2023 detour in Barbie land, resulting in another disco-tinged smash, "Dance the Night," for the blockbuster film's soundtrack (as well as her acting debut!).

With the good vibes clearly not fading, Lipa was primed for her next musical venture. In November, she unveiled the lead single to her next project, "Houdini," a swirling track that features a trio of new collaborators — and a brilliant, if seemingly dissimilar, set of co-writers at that: former PC Music electronic experimentalist Danny Harle, Tame Impala frontman (and retro psychedelia mastermind) Kevin Parker, and breezy Canadian singer/songwriter Tobias Jesso Jr. But with her trusty songwriter pal Caroline Ailin also in tow, Lipa retained the same trademark dance pop pulse amid crunchy bass and stomping percussion — putting the Radical into the Optimism.

She kept the same team (and energy) for the album's subsequent singles, "Training Season" and "Illusion." The former thumps and jitters underneath Lipa opting for a willowy falsetto in the chorus, a song that can unite Tame Impala psych addicts and more traditional poptimists at the club. And where earlier Lipa tracks might have been more eager to get to a bright punch, "Illusion" smolders patiently, trusting that the vocalist's charisma can buoy even the subtler moments.

While the album's first three singles carry echoes of the propulsive, dance floor energy of Future Nostalgia, Lipa took more notes from a more modern pop era than the disco days on Radical Optimism. "I think the Britpop element that really came to me was the influences of Oasis and Massive Attack and Portishead and Primal Scream, and the freedom and the energy those records had," she told Variety. "I love the experimentation behind it."

But, she insists, that's not to say that she's produced the next "Wonderwall." This isn't Dua Lipa's Britpop turn, but rather her latest experiment in finding freedom and embracing the moment.

"When I hear 'Teardrop' by Massive Attack and I'm like, 'how did this song even come to be? It feels like it just happened in a moment of real freedom and writing and emotion," she continued in the Variety interview. "And I think that was just the feeling I was trying to convey more than anything."

And in her mind, that freedom needs to remain at the core of everything — whether working through a global pandemic or working on a new project. "I think it's important that we just learn to walk through the fire and not hide away from it, or shy away from it," she added. "That's just optimism. It's probably the most daring thing we can do."

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A graphic with showing (Clockwise from bottom left): Kamasi Washington, Mdou Moctar, Billie Wilish, Arooj Aftab, Zayn, Twenty-One Pilots, Dua Lipa
(Clockwise from bottom left): Kamasi Washington, Mdou Moctar, Billie Wilish, Arooj Aftab, Zayn, Twenty-One Pilots, Dua Lipa.

Photos: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella; Ebru Yildiz; Kelia Anne MacClusky; Frazer Harrison/Getty Images; Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images; Ashley-Osborn; Kevin Winter/Getty Images For The Recording Academy

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15 Must-Hear Albums In May 2024: Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, Sia, Zayn & More

A fresh crop of spring releases is on the way in May from much-loved pop, rock, and alternative artists. From Dua Lipa's 'Radical Optimism,' to Sia's return on 'Reasonable Woman,' read on for 15 thrilling May releases.

GRAMMYs/May 1, 2024 - 02:18 pm

As a month that welcomes rising temperatures and blooming flowers, May will also bring a flurry of new albums. In its first week, Dua Lipa will put forth her third LP and inject the world with a good dose of Radical Optimism. She will be joined by Sia and her tenth album, Reasonable Woman, and by R&B newcomer 4Batz, who will debut with the mixtape U Made Me St4r.

On May 17, it's Billie Eilish's turn to drop the much-awaited Hit Me Hard and Soft, as well as the return of Cage the Elephant with Neon Pill, and former One Direction member Zayn experimenting with new sounds on Room Under the Stairs.

Later on, Twenty One Pilots drop their final concept album, Clancy, and Sam Tompkins and Tems will both make their studio album debuts with hi my name is insecure and Born in the Wild, respectively. The month will close off with Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab's Night Reign, but before that, there's plenty of other releases to explore.

GRAMMY.com compiled a list with 15 must-listen albums dropping in May 2024 so that you can take a stroll at this month's burgeoning, diverse garden.

Dua Lipa - Radical Optimism

Release date: May 3

"A couple years ago, a friend introduced me to the term 'radical optimism'," said Dua Lipa in a press statement about her upcoming third album, out May 3. "It struck me — the idea of going through chaos gracefully and feeling like you can weather any storm."

This perspective on life inspired the British-Albanian singer both personally and musically. Radical Optimism comes brimming with the "pure joy and happiness of having clarity in situations that once seemed impossible to face." With 11 tracks and production by Danny L Harle and Kevin Parker, the record spins psychedelia and Britpop into a "tribute to UK rave culture," as Lipa described it in an interview for Rolling Stone.

Read more: Dua Lipa Danced The Night Away with "Training Season" & "Houdini" | 2024 GRAMMYs Performance

A preview of the sounds she will approach in the successor of 2020's Future Nostalgia can be seen through singles "Houdini," "Training Session," and "Illusion." Starting June, Lipa will perform a string of concerts in Europe and headline Glastonbury Festival in the U.K.

Kamasi Washington - Fearless Movement

Release date: May 3

It's been six years since jazz virtuoso Kamasi Washington released his latest album, 2016's Heaven and Earth. Hence, his return is highly anticipated: Fearless Movement will come out on May 3, and is described in a press release as Washington's first "dance album." 

"It's not literal," he explained. "Dance is movement and expression, and in a way it's the same thing as music — expressing your spirit through your body. That's what this album is pushing."

Fearless Movement was also inspired by the here-and-now, and the changes that Washington went through since the birth of his first child. "Being a father means the horizon of your life all of a sudden shows up," he shared. "My mortality became more apparent to me, but also my immortality — realizing that my daughter is going to live on and see things that I'm never going to see. I had to become comfortable with this, and that affected the music that I was making."

Washington's daughter also earned songwriting credits in "Asha The First," after coming up with a melody while playing on the piano. In addition to her, the LP also features appearances from André 3000 on the flute, Terrace Martin, Thundercat, Patrice Quinn, George Clinton, BJ The Chicago Kid, and more.

Soon after the release, Washington will kick off a North American tour throughout June, and then head over to Europe and the U.K. in October and November.

Charlotte Day Wilson - Cyan Blue

Release date: May 3

Following her acclaimed 2021 debut LP, Alpha, Canadian multihyphenate Charlotte Day Wilson dives into Cyan Blue for her sophomore release. "You passed through me like a light, but part of you would always remain," she shared about the record on Instagram. "Imprinted, stacked, a palimpsest of love and pain that left me with a world of blue. These are the stories and the palette I was given to paint them with."

Read more: Press Play At Home: Watch Charlotte Day Wilson Perform A Lithe Version Of "I Can Only Whisper"

Day Wilson has a gift for turning intimate reflections into timeless artwork, and this album sees her experimenting with a more carefree approach. "Before, I was extremely intentional about creating music with a strong foundation, a bed of artistic integrity…" she shared in a press release. "But that was a bit stifling, like, ‘Let me just make a great piece of art that will stand the test of time, no pressure.' Now, I think I'm getting out of this frozen state of needing everything to be perfect. I'm more interested in capturing feelings in the moment as they happen and leaving them in that moment."

Cyan Blue will feature 13 tracks, including singles "I Don't Love You" and "Canopy." For those lucky to experience Day Wilson's inimitable voice live, she will be touring North America from May through July.

Mdou Moctar - Funeral for Justice

Release date: May 3

"This album is really different for me," shares Mdou Moctar, the band's namesake, singer, and guitarist, in a press release about their upcoming release, Funeral for Justice. "Now the problems of terrorist violence are more serious in Africa. When the U.S. and Europe came here, they said they're going to help us, but what we see is really different. They never help us to find a solution."

Funeral For Justice doesn't hold back on examining the struggles of Niger and of the Tuareg people (of which Moctar, guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane and drummer Souleymane Ibrahim belong.) Recorded during the two years that the band spent touring after the release of 2021's acclaimed Afrique Victime, it is described as "louder, faster, and more wild," with fiery guitar solos and "passionately political" lyrics that permeate nine meteoric tracks.

"Mdou Moctar has been a strong anti-colonial band ever since I've been a part of it," adds bassist and producer Mikey Coltun. "France came in, f****d up the country, then said ‘you're free.' And they're not." So far, the band shared lead single "Funeral for Justice" and the mesmerizing "Imouhar" — an elegy to their Tamasheq language, which is at risk of dying out. "People here are just using French," said Moctar. "They're starting to forget their own language. We feel like in a hundred years no one will speak good Tamasheq, and that's so scary for us." 

After performing at Coachella in April, the band is set to tour the U.S. in June and Europe and the U.K. in August. The run includes several festival appearances, like Bonnaroo, Green River, and Glastonbury.

4Batz - U Made Me A St4r 

Release date: May 3

Viral R&B and hip hop singer 4Batz initially announced his debut mixtape, U Made Me A St4r, for April, but the release was postponed for a month. "Been making some of the best s**t of my life the last couple weeks," he shared on Instagram. "So ima push the mixtape to 5.3.24 so it can be perfect for yall." 

The contrast between 4Batz's tough appearance and high-pitched love songs propelled him to the stars. He garnered the attention of artists like Kanye West, Robin Thicke, and Drake — who ultimately signed him to his record label OVO in order to release this mixtape. Drake also featured on a remix of 4Batz's 2023 hit, "act ii: date @ 8."

Although there's not much info on the tracklist or any upcoming activities, the Dallas-born singer is excited by the mystery: "I'm really in love with this EP," he told Billboard in a recent interview. This EP's gon' break the f**kin' internet, world, all this s**t."

Sia - Reasonable Woman

Release date: May 3

Since the release of lead single "Gimme Love" in September 2023, fans have been eagerly awaiting for Australian superstar Sia's new album. Titled Reasonable Woman and set to drop on May 3, this is her 10th studio release overall, and her first proper pop solo LP since 2016's This Is Acting.

Anticipation only grew as Sia shared a number of lofty singles in past months, including the Kylie Minogue collaboration "Dance Alone," "Incredible" featuring Labrinth, and the recent "Fame Won't Love You," with Paris Hilton. Through the LP's 15 tracks, the singer collaborated further with Chaka Khan, Tierra Whack, Missy Elliott, Kaliii and Jimmy Jolliff.

Behind the scenes, Reasonable Woman also held a star-studded list of producers, engineers, and writers, such as Greg Kurstin, Jesse Shatkin, Benny Blanco, Bülow, Cashmere Cat, Mark "Spike" Stent, Rosalía and more.

Billie Eilish - Hit Me Hard and Soft

Release date: May 17

In April, when a series of billboards and posters with lyric snippets and Billie Eilish's signature "blosh" logo appeared in major global cities, fans knew that her anticipated third LP would be announced soon. A few days later, the GRAMMY and Oscar-winning artist shared a video teaser for Hit Me Hard and Soft, set to release on May 17.

Eilish took it to Instagram to disclose her excitement, and that she is "not doing singles i wanna give it to you all at once." As usual, the record was written by herself and brother, producer, and musical collaborator Finneas O'Connell. According to a press release, Hit Me Hard and Soft includes ten tracks, and "does exactly as the title suggests; hits you hard and soft both lyrically and sonically, while bending genres and defying trends along the way." The album launch also focuses on sustainability by using "the most sustainable practices available" with a page on her website dedicated to ecological production details. 

In an interview with Apple Music's Zane Lowe, the musician teased title track "Hit Me Hard and Soft" and b-side "Chihiro," which references the main character in Studio Ghibli's 2001 animation, Spirited Away. "I feel like every time you put anything out, it feels like your nudes leaked a little bit, and I think this [album], specifically, is like that," Eilish added. "Something that Finneas and I said to a couple of people when we were starting to play it for people was that we kind of made the album that if somebody had said, you know, ‘I want you to make an album, and no one is gonna hear it'... We pretty much, with exceptions, made that album. We made an album without really any — or much — thought of other people."

Of Montreal - Lady on the Cusp

Release date: May 17

Lady on the Cusp is the 19th album from of Montreal, the band project of multi-instrumentalist and singer Kevin Barnes. Inspired by a relocation from Athens, GA — where Barnes lived for nearly three decades — to Vermont together with his partner, songwriter Christina Schneider (aka Locate S,1), Lady is shaped by his reflections on that experience.

According to a press statement, the album is a "reintroduction" to of Montreal, comprising 10 "funny and sad, sexy and brooding, playful and serious" tracks. This carefree approach can be seen on lead single "Yung Hearts Bleed Free," which was influenced by Leos Carax's 1984 film Boy Meets Girl and by Bootsy's Rubber Band, as well as on the laid back "Rude Girl on Rotation."

Two weeks after dropping the album, of Montreal will embark on a major tour across the U.S., starting in Athens, GA, and wrapping it up on July 2 in Asheville, NC.

Cage the Elephant - Neon Pill

Release date: May 17

After winning Best Rock Album at the 2020 GRAMMYs for Social Cues, Cage the Elephant went through a rough patch. In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, lead vocalist Matt Shultz weathered a mental health crisis, and the band lost several close family members and friends, including Matt and Brad Shultz's father.

Five years later, the alt-rock sextet is ready to reemerge with their sixth studio album, Neon Pill, out May 17. "To me, Neon Pill is the first record where we were consistently uninfluenced, and I mean that in a positive way," said Matt in a statement. "Everything is undoubtedly expressed through having settled into finding our own voice. We've always drawn inspiration from artists we love, and at times we've even emulated some of them to a certain degree. With this album, having gone through so much, life had almost forced us into becoming more and more comfortable with ourselves… We just found a uniqueness in simply existing."

Produced by John Hill, the record spans 12 tracks that "alchemized a season of tragedy and turbulence" into a whirlwind of riffs and emotions. A preview of Neon Pill can be seen through the title track and singles "Out Loud" and "Good Time." To celebrate their return, the band will tour North America throughout the summer, including performances at Bonnaroo, Hangout Music Festival, and Oceans Calling.

Zayn - Room Under the Stairs

Release date: May 17

For his fourth full-length album, Room Under the Stairs, British singer and One Direction alum Zayn enlisted an unforeseen co-producer: Dave Cobb. Known for his work with Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Bruce Springsteen, and Lady Gaga, Cobb is responsible for aiding Zayn to step into a new musical direction.

Swiping his signature moody R&B, Zayn dives into country and adult contemporary for the upcoming release, as can be seen in debuted singles "What I Am" and "Alienated." In an interview for the Call Her Daddy podcast last year, the singer shared, "I'm doing a record I don't think people are really gonna expect. It's a different sound for me. And it's got some more narrative going on, like real-life experiences and stuff. My daughter's mentioned in there a couple of times".

"I think the intention behind this album fully is for the listener to get more insight on me personally as a human being," Zayn explained in a teaser video. The 15-track collection follows up 2021's Nobody Is Listening, and was written over the course of several years at Zayn's home in rural Pennsylvania. "That's why it's raw," he added. "It's just me writing this. I didn't want anybody else to be in between me and the music and the music and the people listening to it."

Twenty One Pilots - Clancy

Release date: May 17

On May 17, 2015, Twenty One Pilots released their breakthrough LP, Blurryface. The record also marked the beginning of an intricate concept album series — which is due to come to a conclusion almost a decade later, on May 17 of this year.

Titled Clancy, the final piece of the puzzle states that "a new chapter begins," while making several references to the GRAMMY-winning duo's past works. On lead single "Overcompensate," for example, they mirror the outro of "Levitate" and rehash lyrics from "Bandito," both tracks off their 2018 LP, Trench. Clancy was produced by frontman Tyler Joseph and Paul Meany, and contains 13 tracks.

Most recently, TOP shared the single "Next Semester," alongside dates for an extensive world tour that will cross North America, Australia, New Zealand, The U.K., and Europe.

Sam Tompkins - hi, my name is insecure

Release date: May 24

"I really like being in the company of my friends," shared rising British singer Sam Tompkins in a press statement. "But if you take me out of my comfort zone, and have me hang out at a party or an event or whatever, I just go inside myself and I find any excuse to get out of it."

That statement helps explain why Tompkins titled his anticipated debut album hi, my name is insecure, set to drop on May 24. Despite a genuine talent to produce stirring songs, the Brighton native still struggles with social anxiety and depression — themes that appear often in his lyrics, and contribute to his global resonance.

Tompkins is "championing authenticity without taking himself too seriously," and that might be why his work is so relevant. A tracklist for the LP has yet to be revealed, but Tompkins's sensitive writing can be seen in a slew of singles, including "phones in heaven," "someone else," and "see me."

Tems - Born in the Wild

Release date: TBA 

Nigerian singer Tems earned the eyes and the ears of international media with her Afrobeats-infused R&B. First raising attention with her feature in Wizkid's 2020 single "Essence," she later built up a devoted fandom through two EPs: 2020's For Broken Ears and 2021's If Orange Was a Place. In 2022, she was credited as a featured artist in Future's "Wait For U," which led her to win a GRAMMY for Best Melodic Rap Performance.

This month, Tems will finally release her long-awaited debut album, Born in the Wild. The official announcement came with a teaser video for the title track, disclosed one day after her Coachella set in April. "It's all over the news, all over the news, I know this/ Under the sun, struggling to find my focus/ When I was young, younger then/ I was always running away," she sings, reflecting on her childhood in Lagos. "I grew up in the wilderness/ Didn't know much about openness." 

Born in the Wild follows Tems' 2023 singles, "Me & U" and "Not an Angel." The singer has yet to reveal further info about the record, as well as a definite release date.

Kameron Marlowe - Keepin' the Lights On

Release date: May 31

Powerhouse country singer Kameron Marlowe is gearing up to release his sophomore effort, Keepin' the Lights On, at the end of May. "The namesake of the album came from a conversation with my dad over the holidays about how he's always thanking the man upstairs for keeping it all together, especially when times get tough," he shared in a statement.

"For me, this record is a reminder of hard work, dedication and keeping the promises that we make," he continued. Featuring 16 tracks, including previously released singles "Quit You," "Strangers" with Ella Langley, and "Tennessee Don't Mind," Marlowe stated that the LP "explores everything from loss to love, depression to joy, and overcoming the voices in your head telling you you're not good enough."

"It's still crazy to me that people are listening to a small town boy from Kannapolis, North Carolina, but here I am releasing my second album. I can't wait for y'all to hear it," he added. Marlowe is currently on his Strangers 2024 North American tour, where he plays some of his new tracks. 

Arooj Aftab - Night Reign

Release date: May 31

Just like the night, Pakistani singer Arooj Aftab's voice is deep and mysterious. Unsurprisingly, the night is also her "biggest source of inspiration," as she shared in a recent press release about her upcoming record, Night Reign, out May 31. 

Following 2021's Vulture Prince (from which single "Mohabbat" won Best Global Music Performance at the 2022 GRAMMYs), the album is a nine-song compilation about how "some nights are for falling in love, some are for solitude and introspection, some are to be annoyed at a forced social gathering — and so go the stories of Night Reign." The list of collaborators include the soulful Cautious Clay, musical ensemble Chocolate Genius, jazz artist James Francies, and more.

Aftab shared the single "Raat Ki Rani" as a preview of the album, and announced a North America, U.K., and Europe tour throughout the rest of the year. She will also support Khruangbin for a run of fall shows in Washington, DC, St. Louis, MO, and New Orleans, LA.

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