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
The Taylor Swift Essentials: 13 Songs That Display Her Storytelling Prowess And Genre-Bouncing Genius
Ahead of the 2023 GRAMMYs on Feb. 5 and Taylor Swift's "The Eras Tour" kicking off in March, revisit these 13 hits and beloved classics by the 11-time GRAMMY winner.
We're all under Taylor Swift's spell. From her poppy radio hits to her crying-on-the-floor anthems, her discography is as enthralling as it is extensive. She enchants with stories about not just heartbreak and lost loves, but also about wider reflections on life — self-worth, fame, politics, family, moving on, change.
Though Swift emerged as a country icon in high school, she has leapt across genres with ease in the years since, mastering them as well as shaping them. Whether she's busy conquering synth pop or molding indie folk, her songwriting cultivates a divine magic, one that merges reality and fiction with profound intimacy.
After expanding her sonic universe further with Midnights last year, Swift will kick off her "Eras Tour" in March. Simply the name of her tour indicates the expanse and power of her musical career thus far: as she bridges her eras, she builds her legacy.
Her legacy receives a unique nod through her four nominations for the 2023 GRAMMYs: while Swift is nominated for her Where The Crawdads Sing track, "Carolina," she's also nominated for songs that she wrote years ago, around the time of her original Red release. And just this month, Midnights' "Anti-Hero" broke Swift's personal record for her longest-running No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, further proving that she hasn't lost her touch.
By cherishing her past while continuing to mold her musical future, Swift strikingly dominates with staying power. Ahead of the 2023 GRAMMYs and Swift's upcoming "The Eras Tour," here are 13 tracks that highlight Swift's evolution up to Midnights, honoring her trailblazing creativity and versatility.
"Our Song," Taylor Swift (2006)
A song about a song, how meta of Swift. One of her earliest meta songwriting moves, "Our Song" encapsulates a relationship's everlasting beauty with the warm breeziness of riding shotgun. Its lighthearted conversational lyricism emits an infectious joy that helped introduce Swift as a songwriter who is both relatable and captivating.
The banjo-led tune establishes the singer's country roots with a casual, but vivid image: Swift grinning with her elbow on the car door, hair windswept with the windows down. She may have written "Our Song" for a talent show back in high school, but Swift clearly had the songwriting prowess of a superstar — one that grew well beyond freshman year.
"White Horse," Fearless (2008)
Just two tracks after the whirlwind romance of "Love Story," Swift finds herself closing her fairytale storybook to disappointment. While "White Horse" sees the singer question her self-worth and cradle her crushed dreams, the heartbreaking track ended up earning Swift two GRAMMY Awards for Best Country Song and Best Female Country Vocal Performance in 2010. (The singer scored her first GRAMMY wins that year, taking home four GRAMMYs total. To date, Taylor Swift has won 11 GRAMMYs and received 42 nominations overall.)
Although the acoustic ballad wallows in sorrow, gloom eventually blooms into a necessary epiphany: "I'm gonna find someone someday who might actually treat me well," Swift realizes in the final chorus. In this way, "White Horse" prevails as one of the singer's most powerful ballads to date — and judging by what Swift has said about Midnights track "Lavender Haze," that realization has come true.
"Forever & Always," Fearless (2008)
"Forever & Always" is arguably one of Fearless' staple tracks, but what many fans may not know is that the timeless track almost didn't make the album. The pop-rock anthem track sees Swift denounce a hypocritical ex who misled her, and she criticizes them with a slew of questions she already knows the answers to: "Were you just kidding?" "Was I out of line?" "Did you forget everything?" From distress to confusion to anger, the song bursts with warranted rage at a betrayal, cementing Swift as a master of channeling heartbreak.
"Enchanted," Speak Now (2010)
Long before "Enchanted" spiraled into one of Swift's many viral TikTok moments, the Speak Now deep cut bewitched listeners from the second it arrived more than a decade ago. The song hums with anticipation, with early acoustic guitar later giving way to overwhelming yearning and anthemic production.
The way the song progresses is almost like a fairytale, starting with a longing stare and playful conversation before ending with a rosy-cheeked walk home. It's a near-perfect display of Swift's ability to capture an incisive, fleeting romance in song, from the smitten lyrics to cinematic production. And though the love song serves more of a captivating cliffhanger than a finished chapter, its story still leaves listeners blushing all the way home.
"Back To December," Speak Now (2010)
On Speak Now's "Back to December," Swift sifts through wilting roses and missed birthdays to unearth a sorrowful confession. As she comes to terms with her regret over ending a healthy relationship, the track swells with guilt and sincerity. While many of Swift's preceding romantic songs were characterized by longing or criticism, "Back to December" takes the rare form of a bittersweet, candid apology that exhibits maturity and grace.
"Mean," Speak Now (2010)
Complete with banjo and fiddle, "Mean" isn't just the only country-driven track on Speak Now, but it's also one of the last truly classic country songs of her catalog. The album's spunky sixth track goes down as one of Swift's most beautifully berating to date — even alongside "Look What You Made Me Do," "Bad Blood," and "Picture to Burn" — as she lambastes a cruel critic and realizes her self-worth.
Ironically, the Swift track that most put haters on blast is one of her most critically acclaimed, as the song won Swift two GRAMMY Awards for Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song in 2012. "Mean" also thrives as a manifestation — she has certainly become big enough that they can't hit her.
"Blank Space," 1989 (2014)
Nice to meet you, where you been? Swift's 1989 era submerged the singer in heavy synth and kaleidoscopic pop, and the record's exuberant second single "Blank Space" best flaunts Swift's multifaceted artist persona. The illustrious pop song satirizes the media's image of Swift as a serial dater, coasting with a sultry liveliness before escalating into ferocity.
Swift is scathingly and brilliantly self-aware as she acknowledges the world's view of her reputation: "Got a long list of ex-lovers/ They'll tell you I'm insane/ 'Cause you know I love the players/ And you love the game."
She continued poking fun at the "crazy ex-girlfriend" trope in the music video, from wrecking her former lover's car to setting his clothes on fire. The cleverly self-deprecating narrative (and genius visual) helped "Blank Space" become Swift's biggest streaming song to date, garnering a whopping 3 billion views on YouTube alone.
Accolades aside, "Blank Space" marked an important turning point for Swift. It was the first time she used her autobiographical songwriting style to take the power back — and most importantly, prove that no matter what is said about her, she'll keep cranking out the hits.
"Don't Blame Me," reputation (2017)
Defiance defines "Don't Blame Me," the fourth track from Swift's intrepid — and perhaps most unexpected — album reputation. The track personifies catharsis, uplifted by heavy bass and hard-hitting synth. Although the song is loosely about an intoxicating love, its ambition also represents Swift reclaiming her narrative once again.
Drawing comparisons to Madonna's "Like a Prayer" and Hozier's "Take Me to Church," the song marks more than moody melodrama, but shamelessly moving forward. Amid public quarrels with other celebrities — as well as the tabloids' obsession with her personal life — she makes a very definitive statement: don't blame her.
"Cruel Summer," Lover (2019)
"Cruel Summer" strikes Swift's discography in a zealous way, recalling the dreamy worlds of 1989's "Style" or reputation's "Getaway Car." The song sees Swift reminisce about a whirlwind summer romance with bittersweet intensity.
The track's assertive, immaculate electropop writhes irresistibly as Swift navigates the stark pain of secrets and love. Everything about "Cruel Summer" is sharp and exquisite, and the way its bridge bursts with melodramatic vigor is enough alone to make this a vital Swift track, even if it wasn't a single.
"the last great american dynasty," folklore (2020)
"the last great american dynasty" flourishes as one of Swift's most lucid, exquisite storytelling ventures — and as any Swiftie knows, that's saying something.
Reading like a short story, the crisp indie track recounts the life of American socialite Rebekah Harkness, one of the former owners of Swift's Rhode Island mansion. Swift weaves the past and present together seamlessly, drawing parallels between herself and Harkness with vivid detail and keen clarity. On this folklore track, Swift presents a refreshing creative vision by flaunting a new, innovative facet of her songwriting prowess.
"betty," folklore (2020)
Swift's first indie-folk foray, folklore, spins a tantalizing fictional love triangle across three tracks: "cardigan," "august," and "betty." The latter shimmers with reflective hope and heartache from the perspective of a character named James.
The apologetic, harmonica-driven folk rock track is reminiscent of Swift's earlier, country-rooted music — yet, the way its intricate narration uniquely interlocks with other album tracks is more characteristic of Swift's modern storytelling craft. Swinging between lighthearted and forlorn, "betty" cements Swift as a mystical mastermind.
"All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor's Version) (From The Vault)," Red (Taylor's Version) (2021)
Swift's "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)" might very well be her magnum opus. Although the original beloved song from Red was never released as a single, it emerged as a fan favorite for its tragic retelling of visceral heartbreak. And once Swift released a new — and much longer — 10-minute edition of the gut-wrenching track on Red (Taylor's Version) nearly a decade later, it almost instantly became the fan favorite.
The song broke the Guinness World Record for being the longest song to reach No. 1 on Billboard Hot 100 (beating out Don McLean's "American Pie"!), and its cinematic music video "All Too Well: The Short Film" continued to stretch the Swift multiverse. With lucid lyricism, cathartic storytelling, and riveting melodies, "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)" triumphs as the pinnacle example of everything that makes Swift a revered songwriter and certified star — one who continues to shine like an ever-lovely jewel.
"Anti-Hero," Midnights (2022)
"It's me, hi, I'm the problem, it's me," Swift sighs on "Anti-Hero." Self-hatred takes center stage on the lead single from Midnights, inspired by the singer's insecurities, nightmares and fear of depersonalization.
Over a swirl of steady upbeat production, the pop song draws comparisons to the heartbreaking honesty of Lover's "The Archer." Her poetic candor takes on a self-destructive quality ("I'll stare directly at the sun but never in the mirror," she admits) that conveys an all-consuming loneliness — and at the same time, stark self-awareness.
Yet, Swift isn't an anti-hero, she's a mastermind. Serving as a "guided tour" of the things she tends to hate about herself, "Anti-Hero" spotlights not only the weight of Swift's vulnerability, but also its power. This capability transcends beyond Midnights; her sweeping creative force stretches across her past records and conquered genres. And even despite any insecurities, her influence has only continued to grow — showing that Taylor Swift will never go out of style.
Photo: John Shearer/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management
Taylor Swift's Eras Tour Has Officially Begun: Here's What Swifties Have To Say About It
From a colossal three-hour setlist to more than a dozen costume changes, Taylor Swift's Eras Tour is nothing short of sensational. Here's how Swifties are reacting on social media to the GRAMMY winner's massive stadium trek.
It's not every day that a city renames itself after you, but Taylor Swift added this unique honor to her ever-growing list of accolades on March 17, 2023.
The date marks the first leg of Swift's monumental Eras Tour, which kicked off in Glendale, Arizona — or, rather, "Swift City," temporarily renamed in tribute to the 12-time GRAMMY winner's highly-anticipated tour.
The versatile singer/songwriter kicked off her tour playing to more than 69,000 people at State Farm Stadium, breaking the 36-year-old record for the most-attended U.S. concert by a female performer. The record was previously held by Madonna's 1987 performance at Los Angeles' Anaheim Stadium on her MDNA tour.
The tour is the latest example of how Swift continues to one-up herself. After her tenth studio album Midnights smashed records, the Eras Tour emerged as one of the buzziest tours of 2023 (and even sparked a Senate hearing about Ticketmaster). Spanning 52 legs and 22 cities, the tour takes viewers on an odyssey through Swift's vast discography, divided into 10 sections for her 10 studio albums.
Now that the Eras Tour has launched, Swifties who have seen the epic show — and even those who haven't yet — are losing their minds over every detail. Sharing their creative outfits, takes on the setlist, and live reactions to the show's astonishing spectacles, the online Swiftie community is storming social media once again.
“You guys. This is a whole, entire experience,” one fan wrote on Twitter. “This isn't just a concert. This is a FULL experience. I'm not even there and I can tell already. She did this, for ALL her fans. This is incredible.
In honor of Swift's monumental tour launching last week, here are how some Swifties reacted to a few of the biggest moments from the Eras Tour's opening night.
Yes, The Setlist Is Longer Than 'Avengers: Endgame'
Think watching Lord of the Rings or taking the SAT… that's approximately the length of the Eras Tour. Considering Swift's discography, it's no surprise that the setlist is extensive, but fans were still impressed (and shocked) by the whopping three-hour show.
Her massive stadium tour for reputation was just over two hours, and four albums later (or six, if you include Taylor's Version re-releases), Swift needed an extra hour to pack in just a few more of her hits.
nothing but admiration for taylor because Wow this set list is unbelievably LONG— marina ✿ (@bubblewrapboys) March 18, 2023
honestly taylor is insane for such a long and perfect setlist— olka⁷ 🪞 (@komhvmin) March 18, 2023
someone explain how Taylor’s set list is 44 songs long, like how????— neve (@neve41379523) March 18, 2023
"Cruel Summer" Gets Justice As The (Almost) Tour Opener
All Swifties know that "Cruel Summer" should have been a single from Lover, and the popular deep cut is finally getting its deserved attention as the second song in Swift's setlist, after fellow Lover track "Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince." Here are some fans reacting to the fever dream high in the quiet of night.
TAYLOR SWIFT PERFORMING CRUEL SUMMER OH MY GOD #GlendaleTSTheErasTour https://t.co/OZ2mLWLrNX— squid || fan account 💙 (@greedymotivez) March 18, 2023
me being airlifted out of the stadium after experiencing cruel summer at the eras tour— Daniel (@Daniel_Tigerr) March 13, 2023
CRUEL SUMMER BRIDGE OH MY GOD TAYLOR.. HER VOCALS #GlendaleTSTheErasTour pic.twitter.com/bXqQE9AqfX— squid || fan account 💙 (@greedymotivez) March 18, 2023
shout out to my bf for filming me ascend to heaven during the cruel summer bridge without me even asking pic.twitter.com/V8bXRSDt4g— Jemima Skelley (@jemimaskelley) March 18, 2023
I JUST REALIZED THAT IT WAS THE FIRST TIME SHE PERFORMED CRUEL SUMMER LIVE IM SHAKING https://t.co/DYIHDC1fnc— c 💌 (@celestialswiftt) March 18, 2023
Even Kelsea Ballerini, who was 2,000 miles away on a stage of her own, paused her own performance to ask her audience if "Cruel Summer" had made the setlist.
💬 | Kelsea Ballerini stops her set at a concert in Detroit to ask about #TSTheErasTour:— Taylor Swift Museum (@theswiftmuseum) March 18, 2023
“I just have one question. I’m gonna stop after this but I just have one question," she said. "Has she ... is 'Cruel Summer' on the setlist?” pic.twitter.com/ku2EjR5jjR
Swift Assures Fans She Does Indeed Love evermore
Since evermore's late 2020 release, fans have long advocated for Swift to show some extra love to her ninth album. While Swift celebrated the anniversary of its sister album folklore and released the live Folklore: Long Pond Studio Sessions, evermore was alternatively posted on the singer's socials the least, prompting fans to jokingly theorize that she doesn't know evermore exists.
Yet, at the Eras Tour, Swift reassured crowd goers that evermore does in fact hold a special place in her heart. To fans' delight, Swift performed "'tis the damn season," "willow," "marjorie," "champagne problems" and "'tolerate it," amping up the album's soft whimsy into a stadium-level spectacle.
“I’m here to dispel the rumors and prove wrong the allegations that I hate evermore… I don’t even wish people on social media a happy birthday.” SHE’S SO HAPPY AND NATURAL SPEAKING TO US AND MAKING JOKES ABOUT THIS 😭 #TSTheErasTour pic.twitter.com/GW749ZFkYR— Taylor Swift Updates (@SwiftNYC) March 19, 2023
EVERMORE?????? TAYLOR KNOW THAT EVERMORE EXISTS GUYS OMG WTF pic.twitter.com/acNZCOBGVA— Taylor Throwbacks | fan page (@ThrowbackTaylor) March 18, 2023
taylor swift performing tis the damn season is the pinnacle of evermore rights— miguel I arlington 4/1 (@cowboyinwoods13) March 18, 2023
taylor put tolerate it on the setlist pic.twitter.com/VfRqFvGLCw— caro 🧸 (@stylesgala) March 18, 2023
SHE DIDN'T FORGET ABOUT EVERMORE #TSTheErasTour pic.twitter.com/XOt5cOu1Iy— ًm (@jchnnyshan) March 18, 2023
But… Where's The Love For Speak Now And Self-Titled Debut?
It's impossible to please every Swiftie, but some fans spoke up about the Speak Now and Taylor Swift erasure on Swift's 44-song setlist. "Enchanted" was the only song from either album that made it to the setlist, though it's likely Swift will perform more Speak Now songs as her interchangeable "surprise" songs of each show.
it all makes sense now pic.twitter.com/jBsu4lzXTz— snowglobe allie leading the midnights rug campaign (@reckedmaserati) March 19, 2023
@clairenotdanes listen, im SO HAPPY about the setlist but also why speak now erasure 😭 #taylorswift #speaknow #erastour #setlist #swiftie #swifttok #longlive #haunted #taylorsversion #SeeHerGreatness ♬ You're On Your Own, Kid - Taylor Swift
She sang one speak now song …….. pic.twitter.com/ZmrVsxmMKe— shan (@wildIyenchanted) March 18, 2023
the biggest eras tour easter egg we all missed pic.twitter.com/rXctAQ2iVW— lina🧚♀️ (5/21 eras tour!!) (@tswizzlecat) March 18, 2023
6 songs from lover and 5 songs from evermore but only 1 song from speak now pic.twitter.com/LYob2Azk2V— 𝒍𝒊𝒂𝒎🌙 (@NotFancy_) March 18, 2023
From "Gorgeous" To Comical: Eras Tour Fashion Stuns
Whether it's a dazzling iridescent custom Versace for Lover or a golden flapper fringe dress for Fearless, Swift's tour fashion never fails to disappoint — and neither does fans'.
While Swift pulled off more than a dozen costume changes on stage, her fans dressed up in outfits inspired by her eras, iconic lyrics, fanbase inside jokes, and more. See some of the top dressing-for-revenge looks below.
taylor went from “not a lot going on at the moment” to “a lot going on at the moment” in 10 years #GlendaleTSTheErasTour pic.twitter.com/xCP9HjKSx1— Ron || ERAS TOUR (@midnightstrack2) March 18, 2023
the midnight rain costume change is so good stfuuu 😭#GlendaleTSTheErasTour pic.twitter.com/oLaSmEZ8DZ— 𝙠𝙖𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙣𝙖 (taylor’s version) 🦋 (@swiftiestanwbu) March 18, 2023
taylor’s reputation costume was the best part of the show last night like i am obsessed pic.twitter.com/Pj1xnxWVBx— becky 🥐 (@benditlikebecky) March 19, 2023
SOMEONE DID IT YOU GUYS pic.twitter.com/JVDiMMevOQ— lea | eras spoilers🍓SEEING GRACIE (@cowboylikehale) March 19, 2023
they’re having a camp off pic.twitter.com/OxWsZ4nYE6— 𝗮𝗻𝗱𝘆 💫 eras tour TX 4/1 & 4/22 (@xThisIsAndyG) March 20, 2023
We’re dressed up as TVs, a play on Taylor’s Version. 😂— KelseyLioness (@kelseyLioness) March 20, 2023
It was a hit and people took pics with us and all. 😊 @taylornation13 #erastouroutfit #erastour #erastourglendale pic.twitter.com/gwhsOdXEys
I went with a guy and we dressed up as Taylor in her getaway car outfit backstage hugging Joe. A couple girls picked up on it at our show & it was fun. pic.twitter.com/9sxqM2qPJb— Melissa - Eras Tour Vegas 3/24 3/25 (@MelissaEnchant) March 20, 2023
@briannaxrenee SEE U AT NIGHT 2 🏻💕✨ first time at a Taylor concert so excited! #taylorswift #erastour #erastouroutfits #swiftcity #taylornation #glendaletstheerastour #swifttok ♬ ERAS TOUR OUTFIT TRANSITION - paige!
Lucky Fans Caught The Jaw-Dropping, Fearless Dive On Camera
One of the most surprising moments of Eras Tour was most definitely Swift's shocking dive off stage. Stirring a collective gasp from the crowd, the moment served as a transition from her debut era to Midnights.
Between a three-hour show and a flawless swan dive, the Eras Tour begs one question: Is there anything Taylor Swift can't do?
Idk how I caught this @taylorswift13 #GlendaleTSTheErasTour pic.twitter.com/y8FqEwMcWH— Daniel McGreevy (@DanielJMcGreevy) March 18, 2023
📲 UPDATE | Taylor has won the gold medal in the high dive!— kaitlyn 69 (@fearlesskait) March 18, 2023
The dive was the craziest thing ive ever seen I was so caught off guard LMAO— 𝒓𝒚𝒍𝒆𝒆 is seeing taylor!!!! (@ucanbemyjailer) March 18, 2023
Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images
10 College Courses Dedicated To Pop Stars And Music: Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny & Hip-Hop
In honor of Music in Our Schools Month, check out nine college-level music courses that dissect punk and EDM, global hip-hop culture and the discographies and careers of superstar acts like the Beatles and Harry Styles.
There’s never been a better time to be a music-loving college student.
Beginning in the mid to late aughts, an increasing number of academic institutions have begun offering courses dedicated to major music acts. In the late aughts, rap maverick Jay-Z made headlines after becoming the subject of a Georgetown University course taught by Michael Eric Dyson, a sociologist and best-selling author of Jay-Z: Made in America. In the Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z, students analyzed Hova's life, socio-cultural significance and body of work.
It's easy to see why students would be attracted to these courses — which fill up quickly and are often one-time-only offerings. The intertwining of celebrity and sociology present such fertile grounds to explore, and often make for buzzy social media posts that can be a boon to enrollment numbers. For instance, Beyhivers attending the University of Texas at San Antonio were offered the opportunity to study the Black feminism foundations of Beyoncé's Lemonade in 2016. Meanwhile, Rutgers offered a course dedicated to dissecting the spiritual themes and imagery in Bruce Springsteen's catalog.
Luckily for students clamoring to get a seat in these highly sought-after courses, institutions across the country are constantly launching new seminars and classes about famous pop stars and beloved musical genres. From Bad Bunny to Harry Styles, the following list of popular music courses features a little something for every college-going music fan.
Bad Bunny's Impact On Media
From his chart-topping hits to his advocacy work, Bad Bunny has made waves on and off stage since rising to fame in 2016. Now graduate students at San Diego State University can explore the global superstar's cultural impact in an upcoming 2023 course.
"He speaks out about Puerto Rico; he speaks out about the Uvalde shooting victims and uses his platform to raise money and help them," said Dr. Nate Rodriguez, SDSU Associate Professor of Digital Media Studies. "How does he speak out against transphobia? Support the LGBTQ community? How does all of that happen? So yes, it’s very much relevant to journalism and media studies and cultural studies. It’s all of that mixed into one."
A Deep Dive Into Taylor Swift's Lyrics
Analyzing Taylor Swift's lyrics is a favorite pastime among Swifties, so it's fitting that her work and its feminist themes have been the focus of a string of university courses over the years.
In spring 2022, the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at New York University launched an offering focused on the "Anti-Hero" singer's evolution as an entrepreneur, race and female adolescence. The waitlisted course — the first-ever for the institution — drew loads of media attention and Swift received an honorary degree from NYU in 2022.
In spring 2023, honors students at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas can analyze the 12-time GRAMMY winner's music and career in a seminar titled Culture and Society- Taylor Swift.
Kendrick Lamar's Storytelling & The Power Of Hip-Hop
Since dropping good kid, m.A.A.d. City in 2012, Kendrick Lamar has inspired a slew of academics to develop classes and seminars around his lyrical content and storytelling, including an English class that juxtaposed his work with that of James Baldwin and James Joyce.
More recently, Concordia University announced that the 16-time GRAMMY winner will be the focus of The Power of Hip Hop, It’s Bigger Than Us, a course examining the lyrical themes of Lamar’s works, such as loyalty, fatherhood, class and racial injustice.
"No artist speaks to this ethos louder and more intricately than King Kunta, the prince of Compton, Kendrick Lamar, 10 years after good kid, m.A.A.d. City dropped," said Yassin "Narcy" Alsalman, the Montreal hip-hop artist and Concordia Professor who developed the class which launches in winter 2023. “He showed us it was okay to work on yourself in front of the world and find yourself internally, that family always comes first, that community and collective missions are central to growth and that sometimes, you have to break free."
EDM Production, Techniques, and Applications
If you dream of hearing your own EDM tracks played at a massive music festival à la Marshmello, Steve Aoki and Skrillex, this all-in-one course at Boston's Berklee College of Music has you covered. Learn about the cultural origins of the various EDM styles — like techno, trance, drum and bass and more — and the techniques that artists use to achieve these sounds.
In between thought-provoking cultural seminars, students will receive lessons on how to operate the technologies necessary to create their own EDM masterpieces, including synths, digital audio workstations (DAW) and samplers.
Harry Styles And The Cult Of Celebrity
While many celebrity-focused courses center around sociology, the Harry’s House singer/songwriter has inspired his own digital history course at Texas State University in San Marcos: Harry Styles and the Cult of Celebrity: Identity, the Internet and European Pop Culture.
Developed by Dr. Louie Dean Valencia during lockdown, the class will cover Styles’ music along with topics like gender, sexual identity and class — but the singer-songwriter’s personal life is off limits. Stylers who are lucky enough to grab a spot in this first-ever university course dedicated to their fave can expect to revisit One Direction’s catalog for homework.
"I’ve always wanted to teach a history class that is both fun, but also covers a period that students have lived through and relate to," Dr. Valencia wrote in a Twitter post. "By studying the art, activism, consumerism and fandom around Harry Styles, I think we’ll be able to get to some very relevant contemporary issues. I think it’s so important for young people to see what is important to them reflected in their curriculum."
Global Hip Hop Culture(s): Hip Hop, Race, and Social Justice from South Central to South Africa
Since its inception, hip-hop has left a lasting mark on the world, influencing language, fashion, storytelling and beyond. At the University of California Los Angeles, students can learn about how the art form has shaped young minds as they analyze the various hip-hop scenes worldwide.
As part of a mission to establish the university as a leading center for hip-hop studies, UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies launched a hip-hop initiative featuring an artist-in-residence program, digital archives, and a series of postdoctoral fellowships. Chuck D, the founder of the barrier-breaking hip-hop group Public Enemy, was selected as the first artist-in-residence.
"As we celebrate 50 years of hip-hop music and cultural history, the rigorous study of the culture offers us a wealth of intellectual insight into the massive social and political impact of Black music, Black history and Black people on global culture — from language, dance, visual art and fashion to electoral politics, political activism and more," said associate director H. Samy Alim, who is leading the initiative.
The Music Of The Beatles
With their catchy two-minute pop hits, artsy record covers, headline-making fashions and groundbreaking use of studio tech, the Fab Five are among the most influential acts in music history. It’s no surprise, then, that they are the subjects of courses in a number of colleges and universities.
Boston’s Berklee College of Music offers The Music of Beatles, which digs into the group’s body of work as well as the music they penned for other acts. Alternatively, if you’re more interested in their post-breakup works, The Solo Careers of the Beatles dives into those efforts. Meanwhile, the University of Southern California takes a look at their music, careers and impact in The Beatles: Their Music and Their Times.
Symbolic Sisters: Amy Winehouse and Erykah Badu
Whether you want to learn about craft, management, building a career, or marketing your work, the Clive Davis Institute at NYU offers an impressive curriculum for musicians and artists. With seminars focusing on the works of Prince, Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, and J. Dilla, a unique duo stands out: Erykah Badu and Amy Winehouse.
Framing the pair as "symbolic sisters," this two-credit seminar explores and compares how each songstress fused different genres and styles to forge a magnetic sound of their own. Winehouse rose to prominence for her retro spin on the sounds of Motown and Phil Spector and rebellious styling. A decade before "Back to Black" singer hit the mainstream, Badu — who is recognized as one of Winehouse's influences — rose to stardom thanks to her seamless blend of jazz, R&B, and hip-hop and captivating urban-bohemian style, creating a template for singers like SZA and Ari Lennox.
Selena: Music, Media and the Mexican American Experience
From ascending to the top of the male-dominated Tejano genre to helping introduce Latin music to the mainstream, Selena Quintanilla's impact continues to be felt decades after her untimely death. Artists including Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Victoria "La Mala" Ortiz, Becky G and Beyoncé cite the GRAMMY-winning "Queen of Tejano" as an influence.
Throughout the years, her legacy and cultural impact have been the focus of dozens of college courses. In 2023, Duke University continues this tradition with Selena: Music, Media and the Mexican American Experience. The course will explore the life, career and cultural impact of the beloved Tejano singer.
The Art of Punk: Sound, Aesthetics and Performance
Since emerging in the 1970s, punk rock has been viewed as a divisive, politically charged music genre. Its unique visual style — which can include leather jackets, tattoos, chunky boots and colorful hair — was absorbed into the mainstream in the '90s, where it continues to thrive (to the chagrin of hardcore punks everywhere). Over the decades, dozens of subgenres have cropped up and taken the spotlight — including riot grrrl and pop-punk — but very few have left the impact of the classic punk sound from the '70s and its anti-establishment themes.
If you're interested in learning more about the genre that inspired bands like Nirvana, check out Stanford University's The Art of Punk seminar, which explores the genre's visual and sonic origins, as well as its evolution and connections to race, class, and gender.
Meet Me @ The Altar Reveal The 4 "Badass" Female Artists Who Inspired Their Debut Album, 'Past // Present // Future'
Photo: Rebecca Sapp
6 Things To Know About Bonnie Raitt: Her Famous Fans, Legendary Friends & Lack Of Retirement Plan
During "A Conversation With Bonnie Raitt" at the GRAMMY Museum, 13-time GRAMMY winner detailed her career trajectory, history of big-name collaborations, and how her win for Song Of The Year at this year’s GRAMMY Awards was "a total surprise."
For the uninitiated, Bonnie Raitt is just an "unknown blues singer" — albeit one who managed to nab the Song Of The Year award at the 2023 GRAMMYs, plus two other trophies. But to the millions in the know, and the choice few in attendance for a chat with Raitt at the Grammy Museum on March 5, she is a living legend.
Over the course of her decades-long career, Raitt has earned 30 GRAMMY nominations, taking home 13 golden gramophones for tracks like "Nick Of Time," "Something To Talk About," and “SRV Shuffle,” as well as albums such as Luck Of The Draw and Longing In The Hearts. Last year, Raitt was awarded the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award, and at this year’s ceremony, she snagged GRAMMYs for Best American Roots Song, Best Americana Performance and the coveted Song Of The Year.
Before she heads out on a tour of the western United States and Australia, Raitt sat down to chat with moderator David Wild for about two hours, musing not only about her "total surprise" about snagging the Song trophy, but also about her experience at the ceremony. It was an illuminating and downright charming experience — as well as an educational one. Here are six things we learned at "A Conversation With Bonnie Raitt."
Taylor Swift Is A Fan — And A Humble One At That
Raitt recounted being chatted up by Taylor Swift during the GRAMMYs, with Swift telling Raitt backstage that she felt okay losing Song Of The Year to her. Swift's "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)" was in competition, alongside works by Lizzo, Adele and Harry Styles.
Swift also introduced herself to Raitt, whom she’d never met, saying,"Hi, I’m Taylor." Raitt said she responded, "Ya think?" — which made the audience in the Clive Davis Theater crack up.
She’s A Master Collaborator, With More On The Way
"No one commands more respect" amongst their musical peers than Bonnie Raitt, said Wild, who's worked on the GRAMMY Awards as a writer since 2001. Whenever the show’s team has struggled to think of who could best pay tribute to someone like John Prine, Ray Charles, or Christine McVie, "the answer is always Bonnie Raitt."
That’s probably why, as Raitt noted, she’s recorded duets with more than 100 different musical acts — from Bryan Adams to B.B. King. Raitt added that she’d still love to work with Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, and H.E.R., and that fans can anticipate new collaborative work coming from work she’s done with Brandi Carlile and Sheryl Crow.
Raitt added that she’s gotten really into Unknown Mortal Orchestra lately, who she heard about through Bruce Hornsby.
She’s Learned From And Befriended Musical Masters
Raitt was effusive about her love for King, among others, saying that one of the great joys of her career has been sitting at the feet of blues greats like Sippie Wallace and Son House. The singer/songwriter expressed her gratitude for being able to help get so many of these once-forgotten masters both the attention and the pay they deserved. She cited her work with the Rhythm And Blues Foundation as being of great importance to her personally, saying that it’s vital that the roots of blues and jazz are taught in schools today.
Wild also got Raitt to open up about her friendship with legendary gospel-soul singer Mavis Staples, who toured with Raitt just last year. Calling Staples, "all the preacher I’ll ever need," Raitt said she thinks she and Staples bonded over being the daughters of famous fathers. "It’s a great honor of my life being friends with her," Raitt said of her "mutual sister."
Later, Raitt also waxed rhapsodic about another famous daughter, Natalie Cole, who she said she’d been thinking about all day.
Raitt’s Got An Independent Spirit And An Independent Label
A good portion of Wild and Raitt’s chat was devoted to the star’s career trajectory. The two detailed how, as a 21-year-old college student, Raitt signed to Warner Bros. only after they promised her complete creative control of her own indie label, Redwing.
Raitt said it was only with the help of a"team of mighty women" that she was able to go independent. She cited lessons from friends like Prine, Staples, and Jackson Browne, from whom she learned going it alone could be done successfully.
Bonnie Raitt Almost Missed Out On "I Can’t Make You Love Me"
Raitt also talked a bit about her previous GRAMMY triumphs, including her run of nominations and wins around 1989’s Nick Of Time. Her popular single, "I Can’t Make You Love Me," was originally written for Ricky Skaggs, who intended to make it a lively bluegrass record.
Raitt added that she thinks the song "Nick Of Time" struck a chord because she opened up about what it means to be getting older.
She’s Not Planning On Retiring (Or Dying) Any Time Soon
After joking that COVID lockdown felt like "house arrest" and "hibernation," Raitt said that her recent tours have been a blessing. "It feels like I was under the earth without any sunshine," Raitt says, reassuring attendees that she’s "never retiring." She said that while she’s lost eight friends in the past three or four weeks, including the great David Lindley, the 73-year-old is optimistic that she can "be here and celebrate for another couple of decades."
Raitt capped off the event doing what she loves best, teaming with long-time bassist Hutch Hutchinson for an intimate four-song set that included "Angel From Montgomery," "Shadow Of Doubt," "Nick Of Time," and the GRAMMY-winning "Just Like That." Raitt ended the evening by thanking the Recording Academy for inviting her out, joking, "I can’t believe I get to do this for a living."
Bonnie Raitt Essentials: 11 Songs That Showcase The Breadth And Depth Of The 2023 GRAMMYs Song Of The Year Winner
Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Meet Tobias Jesso Jr., The First-Ever GRAMMY Winner For Songwriter Of The Year
"I felt the weight of what it meant," the man behind the curtain of massive songs by Adele, Harry Styles, Marcus Mumford and more says about his win in the brand-new GRAMMY category.
Tobias Jesso Jr. wanted to know how to write a hit song, so he read How to Write a Hit Song. Not that he needed to figure out how to break into the mainstream: he had already written a tune with Sia and Adele that cracked the Billboard Hot 100. But in an effort to take his young career seriously — that of writing behind the curtain for the stars — he cracked open the book at a café.
Just then, a voice: "What the hell are you doing?" He glanced up. It was Sia.
"She was like, 'Why are you reading that?' and I was like, 'I honestly don't know,'" Jesso remembers with a laugh. "I think I just put the book away from that point on and was like, OK, I don't need the books. And I just felt like there's been a different one of those lessons at every step of the way where I'm just like, Man, I think this is what I got to do, and then I just figure it out."
Since that exchange, Jesso has written with a litany of contemporary stars: John Legend, Shawn Mendes, Pink, Haim, Harry Styles — the list goes on. (As per the latter, he co-wrote "Boyfriends" on Harry's House, which was crowned Album Of The Year at the 2023 GRAMMYs.)
And at said ceremony, he received a historic honor — the first-ever golden gramophone for Songwriter Of The Year. As Evan Bogart, Chair of the Songwriters & Composers Wing, recently toldput it to GRAMMY.com: "We're looking for which songwriters have demonstrated, first and foremost, that they're considered a songwriter first by the music community. We want to recognize the professional, hardworking songwriters who do this for a living."
Read More: Why The New Songwriter Of The Year GRAMMY Category Matters For The Music Industry And Creator Community
Clearly, Jesso fits the mold, and possesses technical chops worthy of How to Write a Hit Song. But his realization — that he can literally throw out the rulebook — speaks volumes as to his flexible, collaborator-first and fun-first process.
"I get into a room and I really want to enjoy the people, and the songs will come if we're all just being honest," he tells GRAMMY.com. "If you take a few days or weeks to get to know somebody, all of a sudden, your songs are deeper."
And while working his interpersonal and collaborative magic, he keeps his ears and imagination open — a momentary trifle can become the heart of a song. It happened with Cautious Clay's "Whoa," which came from messing with some, well, whoas.
"It was a little silly at first," says Jesso,the songwriter whose first output was "inappropriate" high-school joke songs. "But now it wasn't silly anymore."
GRAMMY.com sat down with Jesso about his creative beginnings, the experience of working alongside pop titans, and how his inaugural GRAMMY win for Songwriter Of The Year happened during the happiest, most creatively fruitful period of his burgeoning career.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
How did it feel to take home the golden gramophone — the first ever in this category?
It felt tremendous. It felt amazing. It's such an honor to have received it, and I felt the weight of what it meant. I get really stage frightened, and so I kept telling myself there's no way I was going to win, just so I wouldn't be nervous or anything like that.
But weirdly, when I did win, I was very not nervous. I don't know how to put it, but it was the opposite of what I thought I would feel. I don't know if I've never been awarded something so prestigious. My elementary school did a piece on me after I won the GRAMMY, and it was sort of largely a "We didn't see any talent at all" kind of thing.
So, I'd say "tremendous" would be probably the one word I would feel most aptly describes it. I'm just really, really proud of the category and its creation, and super lucky to have been a part of it at all. Especially in the year that it comes out. I was baffled that I was nominated.
I had already felt like that rush of whoa, this amazing thing happened when I was nominated. And then winning was the next level of completely beyond what I could have ever expected.
How does the win help chart the next stage of your career?
As a songwriter, your job is to serve the artist. Your job is to serve the artist — the person who the song's for. And I think because of that, most songwriters have a very serve mentality, which generally doesn't work out well on the business side of things for you.
I think if you took all the producers in the world and took all the songwriters in the world and tried to look at which ones are more business savvy, I'd say nine times out of 10, it's probably the producers.
I think a lot of people — artists or songwriters among them — have imposter syndrome, feeling like they don't really know whether they belong there or they're just lucky or they have what it takes for the next one, even. If they know they had a good run or whatever, they're always going back to the well and praying that there's something in there.
And I think this GRAMMY is almost like having a symbol of a really good run — a really good, fertile time of creativity or something. TI think the way I see it is sort of a symbol of this period of time where I had a lot of ideas, and worked really hard, and managed to somehow win this thing, which is, for me, is huge. It means a lot.
For the songwriting community to have the award to look forward to, to have this symbol of Hey, you can be creative as a songwriter and just be a songwriter who doesn't sing and doesn't produce, and [the fact] you can get this prestigious symbol of your gifts that the world will now recognize — I think that's a wonderful thing for songwriters to have.
Take me back to the beginning of your career writing songs, either for yourself or others. The first time you really embraced this magical act of creation.
I was such a lazy songwriter for so many years because I always loved writing songs, writing songs with my friends in high school and stuff like that. But I never really wanted to play an instrument, and I never really wanted to sing them myself.
I think probably back in high school, in 1998 or '99, it was because they were joke songs. So I probably didn't want to sing them because they were inappropriate or something. I always wanted to. The beginning for me was definitely a sort of moment of hearing Tracy Chapman when I was like, Oh, this is what I'm going to do. Not be Tracy Chapman, but write songs.
From there I was really lazy and I just tried to do as little as possible, but I had this sort of confidence that I was somehow good at it. So, I would sometimes have my friends who played guitar or my friends who played piano, or whoever was around, do the music part for me, and I could just kind of pipe in and direct where I felt like my skillset was.
I started writing on piano for the first time when I was 27. That was a big moment for me where I was. I feel like I finally figured it out. It took me a long time: I still don't know how to play the piano, but I know I'm going to figure this out now.
I made a lot of mistakes along the way with bands and with albums or whatever. Things that just didn't exactly go the way [I planned them]; my gut was eventually telling me it just wasn't right. And then, when I started playing piano, it just finally all felt right, and I didn't think too much about it. I just sort of started doing it.
During that time, I unfortunately had to sing to get my album out, which was sort of a means to an end. But as soon as I was able to, I ducked away from that and started writing. Then I just had a new job. I was like I got promoted or something.
As you honed your ability and developed your craft, how did you follow that chain of connections to be able to write for who you've written for?
It's funny because Adele was the first person I worked with — [but] not in a professional way where managers and stuff like that are involved, and it's not just a friend of mine from high school or something. She was sort of my blueprint for how those things went.
I couldn't have gotten any luckier than with Adele, because her blueprint for how to do a writing session is the most pure in the game. There's nothing to hide behind. There's no producer in the room. She came to my friend's grandparents' where there are no mics; there's no studio equipment at all. There's a piano. And she just goes, "Great, let's write a song."
I don't know that that even exists much anymore. There's not even a microphone to capture what's going on, let alone one of the biggest players in the entire world doing it — just showing up, being like, "Let's write a song." And there's nothing to record her. I thought that was really cool. I'm like, "That's how I write songs. I just sit in front of a piano and just do what I think I like." And she was like, "And me too."
So, that's how we got along real great off the bat. And then from there, I would say it was just the most epic amount of failures and trial and error to figure out what the hell I was doing in every different session. I mean, I was treading water at times, and I felt like I was smoking crack sometimes, because I was so creative in a certain scenario I didn't expect to be creative in or something like that.
I think it's just this kind of learning process. There are a lot of people who are typically geared towards one style of writing. You're the country guy or you're the pop guy, or you're the ballad guy. And I could see that I was getting typecast. I was starting to get typecast, especially early on in my career because ballads, that's just the tempo that's naturally within me. It's sort of my soul tempo to just slow things down. I can write much easier in that tempo. I'll always sort of naturally progress there.
But I wanted to push the limits of that, and I wanted to figure out a way to get out of that typecast. And so I tried as quickly as I could to pick people who would be like, "Please don't play a ballad."
And when I started doing that, it was, again, trial and error. I think Niall [Horan of One Direction] was the first person I worked with who was in the pop world, and he was very much an acoustic singer. So I think that I was going into that session thinking I wanted to do upbeat pop. So I don't know — you get in the door and then you just try to acclimate yourself to the environment and help out as much as you can.
I think that's the best way to put it, because you never know what you're going to be doing. You never know what the artist is going to want from you or not want from you. A lot of the job is just figuring all that stuff out and then trying to just have fun while you're doing it. I think it's just that good energy, good attitude, and good people tend to sort of gravitate together.
How would you characterize the state of your artistic journey at this point?
I would say it feels the richest, in the sense that I'm the happiest I've been working.
I've found my rhythm — my perfect work-life balance kind of thing — so I can spend time with my son. And I think because of all of the time I've spent writing songs and how many songs come out, which is not a lot compared to how much you spend writing, you kind of learn that the relationships you make in the room are really the things that you really take out of it. It can be a lot more than, "I'm just a songwriter here to serve this artist" or whatever.
Lately, probably because of all the time I've spent doing it, I get into a room and I really want to enjoy the people. And the songs will come if we're all just being honest. We all know why we're here. We don't need that pressure in the room, and we don't need the A&R sitting in the room. We can get a song, but let's just be honest and really enjoy each other's company for a while.
And I think once that starts happening, it's way, way more fruitful in the long run. Because if you take a few days or weeks to get to know somebody, all of a sudden, your songs are deeper.
As a songwriter, your job is to point out metaphors or parallels — and things that could spark some interest in an artist's mind. And the better you get to know somebody, the more amazing the writing process can be.
That's been happening a lot in my recent sessions with Dua [Lipa] and Harry, another just amazing person. He is a great guy, but we haven't done that much writing together, but we know each other mostly through Kid Harpoon — Tom [Hull], who's the best.
I'm getting to know the people, and that's the most important part for me — I'm working with the people I want to work with. That's my journey now. I'll always work with new people, but I don't need to work with people I don't really vibe with or listen to. That's not really my interest anymore, especially if I'm in it for the right reasons. I'd say it's just more intentional, and I'm being more honest.
When you walk into a room to write with somebody, what are the first steps, or operating principles?
My operating principle is: Do I want to get to know this person, and do they want to get to know me at all, or do they just want to write a song and not want to open up?
If it's somebody who seems very open to talk, that's usually a good sign. And if not, then you just do what they want. You start writing a song and that's fine too. Sometimes there's great, catchy stuff. It's not always the deepest stuff.
Maybe they're the ones writing the lyrics, so maybe it is. But my operating principle is kind of, if I'm having a good time and everyone's having a good time, we're doing something good. We're not writing a bad song. We're just not. If we were writing a bad song in this room of professionals, we wouldn't be having a good time.
And when you're having a good time, good ideas do come. Even if they are silly at first and they're more openly accepted, and everything in the room is flowing better when those channels of enjoyment are sort of open, and everyone's laughing and having fun and dancing and being silly, that's how you get creative.
I don't know of many songwriters who are just dead serious. I've maybe met a couple. So I think my operating principle is to have a good time. That's going to be the funnest day, no matter what. It's probably going to be a better song for it if you're having fun and you like the people and they like you, and everything's going well.
Why is it crucial that the Recording Academy honor not only public-facing creators, but those behind the curtain?
I won't speak for myself as much as just the amazing people who I've worked with. You can't understand what kind of work has to go into a song. It's so funny, because it's a three-minute thing that sounds like most people can do it in an hour or something, but some of these things take months of work to get right.
I think it's really important to acknowledge everyone involved in each of the processes, because to give credit to just producers and artists, and then it's like, "Yeah, but the storytellers aren't even in the room," is like the congratulating a director and an actor, and then being like, the writer is s—. It's like, what? The movie wouldn't exist without them!
That just wouldn't happen. So, it feels like the right thing. I'm a bit overwhelmed and still a bit in disbelief, but it's snowing in LA, so miracles do happen.
What would you tell a young songwriter who wants to roll up their sleeves and do this?
I would say just be a good person and keep learning. Everyone's not perfect at the start. But if I had to give one piece of advice that was super, super important to me, is the good guys are winning in the end sometimes.
Like I said, the friendships and the artists, you don't want to come in being a d—. And I don't mean that strictly for men. I just mean whoever's coming in, you want to be a nice person. I think there's a lot of good people, and there's a lot of bad people too. You find your crew — energy finds energy.
Meet Stephanie Economou, The First-Ever GRAMMY Winner For Best Score Soundtrack For Video Games And Other Interactive Media