meta-scriptK-Pop Superstars TWICE Talk New Album 'Eyes wide open,' Growing Together And Staying Close With Their Fans | GRAMMY.com
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TWICE

 

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K-Pop Superstars TWICE Talk New Album 'Eyes wide open,' Growing Together And Staying Close With Their Fans

The nine-member girl group chats with GRAMMY.com about their expansive new album, their monumental career over the past five years and how they've kept in touch with their global ONCE fan base during these trying times

GRAMMYs/Jan 13, 2021 - 12:03 am

TWICE don't need to ask for attention. With their striking looks and coordinated fashion, the nine-member K-pop ensemble is a sight that's impossible to miss. Backed by their vast discography, a cornucopia of catchy hooks, and synchronized, head-turning performances, the group stays in your mind long after they exit the stage.

Formed in 2015 through JYP Entertainment's reality survival show, "Sixteen," in South Korea, TWICE are a record-breaking, show-stealing, eye-magnet juggernaut. They have more than 10 million cumulative album sales, sold-out tours in Asia and America, including last year's Twicelights at The Forum in Los Angeles and Prudential Center in New Jersey, and an array of releases that regularly top the Korean and Japanese charts. 

But ultimately, it's TWICE's individual charms that pull the listener into their world: the brightness of Nayeon's bunny smile, Momo's killer dance moves, Sana's natural sweetness. It's Dahyun's charismatic sense of humor complementing Chaeyoung's bold creativity, Jeongyeon's sultry allure pairing with Jihyo's unrelenting energy, Mina's graceful resilience matching with Tzuyu's elegance and sensitivity. Like a kaleidoscope slowly revealing different shapes and colors, TWICE shine in beautiful detail the more you get to know them as individuals and as a collective unit. 

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Still, the best phrase to define the group may come from the ladies themselves: TWICE is "[touching people's hearts] once through the ears and once through the eyes," Tzuyu told GRAMMY.com over a Zoom call, followed by cheers and laughter from the other members. The commotion-causing motto is well known for both the group and their fans, known as ONCE. First used by JYP Entertainment founder J. Y. Park, the phrase has since become a defining staple in the TWICE universe. But Momo hesitates. According to her, "it's hard to express TWICE into words, because it's through our performances that people can really get to know us."

Yet, an aversion to their peppy beginnings (see "Cheer Up," "Knock Knock") and the general perception of K-pop as an assembly-line production still keep several eyes shut to their talents. It's not that TWICE feel the need to change or that they care about impressing the unamused. But they do recognize the benefits of exploring new challenges—and therefore earning second thoughts.

In the past few years, the group has explored maturing sounds and visuals and has amplified their participation in writing lyrics and choosing visual concepts. The bittersweet pop of "Feel Special" (2019) reflects the pressures of being one of the biggest girl groups in the industry, while the '80s-infused "I Can't Stop Me" (2020) plays with the temptations of desire. Their latest release, "Cry For Me," released last month (Dec. 18), is a special single for ONCE and builds on yet another novel theme for the group: throbbing revenge underlined by a dramatic instrumental.

Their latest album, Eyes wide open, released Oct. 26 by JYP Entertainment and Republic Records, further signals the band's global success. Charting on the Billboard 200, and peaking at No. 2 on the World Albums chart in the U.S., the 13-track LP showcases a group at their peak. From '80s retro ("I Can't Stop Me," "Up No More") to Japanese city pop ("Say Something") to EDM anthems ("Do What We Like," "Believer"), Eyes wide open is a testament to TWICE's growth, artistry and versatility.

GRAMMY.com caught up with TWICE—minus Jeongyeon, who is currently on hiatus for health reasons—to learn more about their newest album, Eyes wide open, their ever-developing style and their future goals.

This interview was edited for clarity and brevity. An interpreter translated all answers from the group.

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Congratulations, the group celebrated five years together in 2020. How have you been celebrating this landmark in your career?

Dahyun: These five years have been long, but also short when I look back at it. We made a lot of good memories with ONCE, and we also had our online concert this year. It's really sad we couldn't do our fifth-anniversary fan-meet in person, but I hope that next year we can meet offline. I'm also very thankful to the other members, ONCE and all JYP staff.

You recently released a special surprise single, "Cry For Me." Can you talk a bit about this song and how you prepared for it?

Jihyo: Since we haven't had the chance to meet ONCE in person, we discussed for a long time whether to release this song. We weren't thinking about it, but ever since we decided to, we have been practicing a lot to give this special present [to] ONCE.

Mina: Heize wrote the lyrics for us, and we really love that it approaches a new and interesting topic for TWICE.

Sana: We had many concepts in the past, but I personally think that since "More & More," we have been exploring more vibrant, active styles. "Cry For Me" is the completion of TWICE's 2020 story—this is an important point to enjoy the song.

So was it also a surprise for you to release the song?

Sana: It was a surprise performance for fans, but we thought their reaction was so good; we weren't expecting it. So we decided to release it fully, in hopes that fans will love it even more.

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Since Sana mentioned that "Cry For Me" completes this new chapter for TWICE in 2020, how do you view the development of your musical style?

Chaeyoung: We have tried various concepts through our five years together and, most recently, concepts we hadn't tried before. First and foremost, TWICE is bright and energetic, and we know ONCE like that, so we can always go back to this image. But our aim now is to show that TWICE can also have all these different sides, too. We are putting our opinions in our comebacks a lot, and there are many other challenges we want to try. 

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This year, you also recorded English versions of your singles "More & More" and "I Can't Stop Me." How was that experience? Why is it important for you to release English versions of your songs?

Nayeon: When we were recording, we focused on pronouncing the words well so people could understand [them] when listening. Our lyricists also tried to make a natural translation of the meanings from Korean to English.

Momo: The reason why English versions are important for us is because TWICE has gained a lot of attention internationally, so expressing our songs in English means we can be closer to our global ONCE. And since we can't travel overseas now, we are able to meet them through these songs.

Despite the pandemic, you've had a really busy year with promotions in Korea and also overseas, albeit virtually. How have you managed that? What has changed in your schedules?

Tzuyu: Before COVID-19, we were able to meet fans directly in person. There were a lot of performances, concerts and fan meetings. But since now it's a dangerous time, we have done a lot of online events and concerts. At least we can meet with ONCE that way, but we can't wait to do these activities in person again.

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What has changed since your debut five years ago? What has stayed the same?

Chaeyoung: Since our debut, we can't walk around anymore because people recognize us. I also don't feel like I'm getting older. I still feel like I'm 18 years old. [Laughs.]

Jihyo: The familiarity and how close we are has stayed the same.

Momo: I agree. We became much closer since [our] debut.

Dahyun: Our musical performance has grown and changed. While our debut was bright and cute, we reorganized our composition as nine members to show a cooler image—one that many people thought we couldn't. They might listen to "Cry For Me" and think, "How could TWICE do that?" But we are doing it now. A thing that hasn't changed is how much we love our fans and how hard we work for them.

Mina: Many people tell me that they can see our members are really close to each other through our performances, and I think that's a point that hasn't changed since [our] debut.

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Do you feel any pressure in keeping up with all your accomplishments so far?

Jihyo: Numbers and records are important, but I think the most important thing is to live as artists, enjoying our music with our fans.

Nayeon: How many albums we sell and records we break is important, yes. But what kind of tracks we release, how we prepare for them and how we show our artistic abilities is the most important thing for me.

Sana: Debuting was our main goal when we started. But so far, we have gained a lot of awards, fans and attention, so I'm grateful for everything fans have done for TWICE.

Besides meeting ONCE, what are you looking forward to in 2021?

Mina: That the [pandemic] situation gets better.

Momo: Travel overseas.

Jihyo: I want us to perform as nine [members] together again.

Nayeon: We haven't performed our English songs yet, so I want to do that next year.

Sana: I want the same as the other members.

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Kate Hudson Press Photo 2024
Kate Hudson

Photo: Guy Aroch

interview

Kate Hudson Is A Singer Now — And She Doesn't Care What You Think

With her debut album, 'Glorious,' actress Kate Hudson transforms her lifelong love of music into a full-fledged venture as a singer/songwriter. As she details, the album is the truest form of her creativity: "I've never felt more present."

GRAMMYs/May 22, 2024 - 07:37 pm

When legendary songwriter Linda Perry discovered that Kate Hudson could sing, she enabled the actress' childhood dream to come true.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Perry happened to be on a virtual school program during which Hudson sang a rendition of Katy Perry's "Firework." Soon after, Perry called Hudson in for a studio session — and before they knew it, they were creating Hudson's debut album.

But their interaction was much more serendipity than it was coincidence. And perhaps you could say the same for Hudson's breakthrough role as the music-obsessed "band-aide" Penny Lane in 2000's Almost Famous. Music was always Hudson's first love, now manifested as Glorious — a glittering musical coronation.

Across 12 tracks, Hudson shows off her sultry voice over an array of pop-rock melodies, conjuring the enchanting air of Stevie Nicks and the dynamic vocal power of Sheryl Crow. While some may remember hearing Hudson sing in the 2009 film adaptation of the musical Nine or her short stint as a sassy dance instructor on season 5 of "Glee," Glorious shows an entirely new side of the actress. She feels right at home as she rocks the soulful opener "Gonna Find Out," hits you in the heart on the tender ballad "Live Forever," and surprises with belting power on the soaring title track.  

A musical venture has been on Hudson's vision board, first recognizing the pop star prowess of Madonna and Belinda Carlisle when she was just 5 years old. That lifelong aspiration has led her to feeling more assured in her debut album than anything she's done in her career thus far. As she declares, "I've never felt more present in something in my life." 

She's already felt that synergy on stage, too. Hudson made her performance debut in Los Angeles the day after Glorious lead single, "Talk About Love," premiered in January; she's since shocked viewers of "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" and "The Voice" with her prowess ("Who knew Kate Hudson could sing?" one "Voice" fan tweeted). And while her singing career doesn't mean her acting chapter is closed, she's ready for a tour: "I can't wait to actually go out and meet people that I've never been able to meet before."

Below, Hudson details her journey to Glorious in her own words — from letting go of potential criticism, to gaining confidence in her voice (with help from Sia!), to simply enjoying a particularly special life moment.

I would always say no if someone asked me to sing. [Whether] it was a charity [event] or some sort of show, I just always had this thing where I didn't want to put myself out there like that.

I realized I had a fear of being on stage. And I was like, You know what, I've got to just start saying yes. So it started with that — I'm just going to say yes to singing, even if it scares me to death. 

It's my happy place, singing and writing. The only thing that would have been holding me back was the fear of what people might say about it. And that is, I think, the worst possible thing to do — not make art because you're afraid of the criticism. 

I'm always writing, but when Linda [Perry] said, "Will you come in and sing this song?" and I did, and then she asked if I wrote music, and she's like, "We should write together," that was sort of the beginning of what this album became. Getting in the studio with Linda, we had no expectation, we didn't know what it was going to be — one song, four songs. It ended up being, like, 20-plus songs.

It was a real passion project, versus being a younger artist, and wanting that to be my number one vocation. So I was able to be more present in the process and with no expectation. It sort of had that domino effect of starting the writing and then really just loving it — becoming kind of all-encompassing. Once you open the floodgates, there's so much to write about. I can't wait to get back in the studio already.

I think [my hesitation to sing before] was more about, Why am I singing? I find music so precious that, if I wasn't ready, ready, ready, I just didn't want to do it. And it's kind of my personality too. I was the little girl that wouldn't do anything unless I felt like I had perfected it and had the confidence to be doing it.

And then COVID [hit]. Honestly, it was like, Okay, I'm not getting any younger. I want music to be a part of my life in a bigger way. I can sort of see myself, as I get older, being more surrounded by music and writing music, and being more immersed in music like that, because I love it so much. 

I was thinking about this the other day — lately, Danny [Fujikawa, Hudson's musician/actor fiancé] and I write, like, a song a week, and sometimes multiple. I love it, we love doing it together. So it's something that I can't wait to, hopefully, be able to do just more of.

The performance thing is so new for me that it's wild. This past month of performing, and being in front of people, and sharing music, and sharing my voice like that, is something brand new. I call it, like, putting on a new pair of shoes and wearing them in a little bit — going to different places and your voice sounds different in different rooms. 

Trying to really understand what that feels like is so much fun for me, and so interesting, and so exhilarating. But I find that they're two very different things to love, singing live and writing.

When I was little, I just loved pop stars — like, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Belinda Carlisle. I was also very fashion-forward. My mom always let me wear my own outfits, and sometimes I was so insane. When I was, like, 5, I dressed like I was living out my pop star life. So, I think, the whole thing with music, and fashion, and dancing, that was my dream when I was little.

For a lot of performers — people who like to be [doing] musical theater, love to sing, love to dance — we kind of get into all of it. To me, it's the performing aspect. I say to my kids, "Do all of it. You need to get into movement. You need to get into voice. You use all of it." As you see, a lot of great actors are wonderful singers, and love to do musical theater, and started out doing musical theater. Whether it be Leslie Odom Jr., Josh Gad, Annie Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Hugh Jackman — a lot of these people are just so musical and have incredible instruments. 

I never focused on the instrument. I never took real vocal classes. I would sing instinctually, but I never was "in voice" or anything like that. When I would get into writing, it's a little bit of a different thing. Finding that feeling, that energy of, like, what your voice is as a singer/songwriter is a really interesting process. But I've kind of secretly been doing that since I was like, 19 in my living room. [Laughs.]

It took me a lot to find confidence in my voice. Because some instruments have bigger range, some instruments are more intricate — and by instruments, I mean voices. And if I was to compare myself [to anyone], I think it would take away from the freedom I feel when I just love to sing. 

Certain people that I admire that I've worked with, [have] allowed me to feel more confidence in opening up my voice, being able to really just go for it. Like, working with Sia on Music, the film that we did [in 2021], was huge for me. She really helped me feel more confidence in my big, belting voice.

I've always been writing [songs]. It's always been my outlet for myself, whether I think they're good or terrible. [Laughs.] I'd say 19 [is when] I picked up guitar, and I always played a little piano when I was younger, but then I got more into piano at like, 20. People always say, "Where's your happy place?" and I've always said, "My piano." When I'm really sad and depressed, it's just where I go to get it out. And then the opposite, too — when I'm ready to have fun, it's my favorite place to be. 

There's a lot of people that just have a connection to music, love it so much, and don't know what they would do without it. I find it to be the most connective art form. Large groups of people get to feel something at the same time, together, and have these experiences that, I think, are just so important for the human experience, to be that connected through something.

[When I was filming Almost Famous],I still probably felt like, at some point, I will do music, whether it be in a movie, a musical or in my life. And, to be honest, I'm not a calculated person. I really have never been someone who was like, I'm going to do this and then I'm going to do that, and then I have to do that, and that's going to look like this. 

I'm such an Aries. I just want to have fun where I'm at. I like being spontaneous, I like being open to things, and I like being present in where I am. So if you took me back there, I was just so happy to be a working actress. I wasn't thinking, like, Now what?

In reflection, at that time, crossing over [into music] was sort of looked poorly upon— if you're starting to become successful in one thing, you need to stick to that. You have to understand, like, if someone even did a commercial, the perception of it would be like, "Oh that person's career is over."

Now, the world has completely shifted and it just doesn't matter anymore. Which is such a nice thing for a lot of artists.

At the end of the day, these are art forms that we really care about. It's really important to us to make the right movies — when you're creating a character, or when you're writing an album. People might not see [that] from the outside in. It fuels something that is just like, you couldn't live without it. 

So when you get to a certain place that you are being known for what you love, for the art form, and you become a celebrity, the criticism is so extreme. It's so extreme that it's like, if you feed into it, it will stop you from wanting to take any risks as an artist. You start to become precious about things — you get nervous to step out on a limb because it could destroy things that you've been really working hard to build. But the irony of that is, you aren't really an artist unless you're taking those chances. 

Entering this phase of my life age-wise, I've been through all of that harsh criticism so many times that after a while, you realize like it just doesn't matter. What matters is that you're putting your best foot forward, you know?

I'm so happy in my home life. I feel very cozy in my familial unit — my parents, and my brothers, and my partner, and my kids. That allows the safety to feel good putting myself out there like this.

Obviously music is in our life all the time, but [my kids] love it. It's a very comfortable place for all of us — being on tour, being in all these different stages. It's just so funny, I think, for them to see me in that position, versus their dad. [Editor's note: Hudson has three kids; son Ryder with the Black Crowes frontman Chris Robinson, son Bing with Muse singer Matt Belamy, and daughter Rani with Fujikawa.] It's been really fun for them to watch. At least that's what they tell me. 

I think what's really fun for them is to see that the thing that they know that I love, that they've been surrounded by their whole life — which is me singing and writing — I think it's fun for them to actually see that I decided to pursue the thing I love the most.

I'll never forget the first time [performing live] because I felt like I was surrounded by all of my closest friends and family, and they all know what the process has been for me. So it was very special. 

I'm just so happy singing on stage. I can't wait to actually go out and meet people that I've never been able to meet before and have that connection. I can't wait to get into like, the weird places in the world, and experience what it feels like to connect with people in Cleveland, or in Kansas City, or Dusseldorf, Germany!

I was reading something about women and imposter syndrome, and how many women feel that way about all of the things that we've done — it doesn't matter what it is. It's a very popular thing for women to feel when they become successful in something, [that] they don't really deserve it.

I've had that before in my acting career. Those kinds of feelings creep up all the time. I think they do for a lot of women. But, I'm a worker bee. I work really hard, and I put the things out in the world that I feel connected to, and that I hope people love. And if there's success in it, the only thing that would ever make me feel like I didn't deserve it would be someone else, not the work I've put into it.

And the truth is, I think all artists [are] always striving to be better than how we are right now. I think that's part of the deal. If you've thought, like, Yeah, I'm the best. That's kind of weird. That's problematic. For most artists, it's never enough. You're always striving to make things better.

I'm old enough, at this point, to have a good sense of what not to worry about. I would love for people to like what I'm doing, it would make me feel so good. But I also know that everyone's gonna have a different opinion.What I've learned the most is put your head down, do good work and have fun — enjoy every moment and don't overthink it. So that's kind of what I'm leaning into in this process [with].

I definitely want to make more music. That's the thing I know, is that no matter where, or what it's for — whether it's for musicals, film, television, another album — writing is just something I'm never going to stop doing. I started this with no expectations, and I've taken each moment in the moment it presents itself. And I'm gonna stay there.

I've never felt more present in something in my life. Even though it's so crazy right now — I don't even know what day it is. It's been a wildly busy time. But having music being a part of my life like this has just been the greatest, cathartic, joyful transition. I don't ever want that to go away.

I definitely have moments where I wake up and I feel this immense amount of gratitude that I'm getting to share music and that people are hearing it. And the warmth that I'm receiving has felt really special. It does not go unnoticed. 

It's been the most special moment of my life. So far, it's been great. I'm sure my sophomore experience will feel very different. [Laughs.] But right now, I'm just having so much fun.

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Billie Eilish Songbook Hero
(L-R) Billie Eilish in 2018, 2020 and 2023.

(L-R) Scott Legato/Getty Images for Live Nation, Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Global Citizen

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Songbook: A Guide To Billie Eilish's Musical Ventures & Artistic Ingenuity

On the heels of Billie Eilish's new album 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT,' take a deep dive into the albums, visuals and performances that have shaped her award-winning, generation-defining artistry.

GRAMMYs/May 21, 2024 - 06:18 pm

Being a once-in-a-generation artist isn't an easy crown to wear, but Billie Eilish has made it look effortlessly badass. The singer's unabashed honesty and equally raw vocal talent led her to becoming one of the industry's most decorated Gen Z artists before she even reached her twenties.

Eilish first caught our ears in 2016 when the then-13-year-old uploaded "ocean eyes" to SoundCloud. The tender ballad — written and produced by her brother and steadfast collaborator, FINNEAS — was shared with Eilish's dance teacher with the intention of using it as a choreography track. The intimate song transformed the budding artist into an overnight sensation that led to an Interscope record deal that year.

From there, Eilish released her stunning 2017 debut EP, Don't Smile at Me. The trajectory continued at a whirlwind pace with 2019's debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? and her 2021 follow-up, Happier Than Ever, both of which topped the Billboard 200 chart. The albums' successes made her an award show darling, and in 2020, she became only the second artist and first woman to win all four General Field Categories (Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best New Artist) at just 18 years old. As of press time, Eilish has nine GRAMMY Awards and 25 nominations. And at her current age of 22, she's still only just getting started.

The singer may have emerged onto the scene with a subdued voice, but what a red herring that was. Eilish has been a force to be reckoned with from the start, and this edition of Songbook celebrates each chapter of her shape-shifting career thus far, including her recently launched HIT ME HARD AND SOFT era. 

Below, dive into Eilish's music highlights — from her personal projects to soundtrack masterpieces — that have laid the foundation for her growing longevity.

The Melancholic Songstress

Don't Smile at Me (2017)

Don't Smile at Me is a perfectly blunt way to sum up teen angst. With signature songs like the teary "ocean eyes" and the equally earnest ballad "idontwannabeyouanymore," the eight-track project showcased Eilish's propensity for transforming moodiness into art. 

The EP navigated themes of depression and heartbreak, which were funneled through lyrics seemingly ripped out of Eilish's diary. That refreshing intimacy is what makes her such a revered artist, and Don't Smile at Me provided just a glimpse into what her sound would grow into.

WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? (2019)

Depression can often feel like one is drowning in a bottomless pool, and Eilish doubled down on that heaviness with her debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? The lyrics were pulled from Eilish's nightmares and bouts with depression, and with the help of her brother FINNEAS' production and co-writing pen, it all came to life like a wicked horror film. 

If the album is a night terror, then "bad guy" is the sleep paralysis demon smirking in the bedroom corner. It might be the poppiest of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP's singles (it even spawned a remix featuring one of Eilish's idols, Justin Bieber), but the balance of the zany electro and claims of being the "Make-your-girlfriend-mad type/ Might-seduce-your-dad type" shows this flavor of pop is not the bubblegum kind. Other highlights — The Office samples dotted throughout, the eerie taunts of "you should see me in a crown" and "bury a friend," and even an ASMR-worthy Invisalign intro — made the album a thrilling exploration of Eilish's unconventional artistry.

Happier Than Ever (2021)

After WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? saw Eilish in a living nightmare, Happier Than Ever found her confronting those demons — and as a result, feeling and sounding much lighter. Sporting a Marilyn Monroe-esque blonde bob at the time (a complete 180 from her black and electric lime-colored locks), the album presented an even more vulnerable artist. Eilish's overnight success not only came with a tireless music industry demanding more hits from her, but also stalkers, toxic relationships and social media-fueled misogyny — and she addressed all of it on Happier Than Ever.

"Things I once enjoyed just keep me employed now," she grieves on the "Getting Older" opener, coming to terms with the reality of being a pop star. The vulnerability continues with songs like "Not My Responsibility," a response to people constantly dissecting and sexualizing her body; the trip-hop "NDA," which finds Eilish pleading for privacy; and the boisterous title track that sees Eilish belting for the first time. Happier Than Ever wasn't the typical coming-of-age moment that we're used to. But it was born out of an ugly truth, which is an admirable endeavor for an artist who hadn't even reached her twenties. 

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT (2024)

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT almost plays like a "Best of Billie" album, highlighting her award-winning sonic tropes and guiding them into new, expansive territories. She heavily plays on the concept of her third album's title, with both tender ballads and heart-pounding uptempos. 

She also celebrates the menacing teen version of the Billie Eilish many were first introduced to on WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? Only this time, she's even more confident in her artistry; her vocals are the strongest they've ever been, as heard on "BIRDS OF A FEATHER" and "THE GREATEST." There's a beautiful maturity that envelopes HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, making it even more exciting to see how else she'll experiment with this album era.

The Big-Screen Auteur

13 Reasons Why (2017)

Eilish's music is as cinematic as it's poetic, so it's not surprising that she's established herself as a soundtrack queen. Her first foray was for Netflix's hit series "13 Reasons Why," which aired just before Eilish's debut EP release, making it the perfect pairing. The singer contributed the flippant song "Bored" to the series' first season, showcasing the ballad brilliance that was to come from the rising star.

Roma (2018)

Water plays a big part in the critically acclaimed Roma — a feature that's also frequent in Eilish's own music videos, and she further heightened that inspiration for the film's soundtrack highlight, "When I Was Older." With her voice sounding submerged under water, the singer and FINNEAS create a chilling atmosphere that reflects the characters' turmoil. Roma ended up becoming an Oscar-winning film, a not-so-subtle foreshadowing of what would happen to Eilish's own career soon after.

No Time To Die (2020)

The James Bond theme songs often have a somber tone, so it made sense for Eilish to join the likes of Adele and Sam Smith as a contributor. "No Time To Die" is as beautiful as it is haunting, with the singer's voice bellowing with the sweeping orchestra. The song owned awards season, scoring a GRAMMY for Best Song Written For Visual Media and Best Original Song trophies from the Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and more.

Euphoria (2021)

Both Eilish and Rosalía make achingly tender music, and the Spanish singer led Eilish to new, atmospheric heights with Euphoria's "Lo Vas a Olvidar." The song was first previewed in the trailer for Jules' special episode, then was later played in a vulnerable scene where the character reveals how much her girlfriend Rue's relapsing affected her. The pained lyrics ("Tell me if you still miss me / Tell me if you still don't forgive me / What will you do with all this poison?") reflects Jules' heartache. "Lo Vas a Olvidar" marked the first time Eilish sang in Spanish, making her harmonies with Rosalía even more elegiac.

Turning Red (2022)

Under Eilish's edgy demeanor is a pure pop fan, so it was fitting that she teamed up with Pixar to contribute three songs to their Turning Red film. The singer and FINNEAS wrote "Nobody Like U," "U Know What's Up" and "1 True Love," all songs performed by a fictional boy band, 4*Town, a nod to boy bands of the late '90s and early aughts. 

Eilish had made playful songs in the past, but these tunes traded her signature cynical undertone for more nostalgic fun, further revealing her pop versatility. "Writing the songs has literally been the most fun we've had writing," Eilish shared during a Disney press run. "Mei and her friends' passion for 4*Town, it really resonated with me just because I was the same. It's so accurate of how it feels when you're that kind of fan."

Barbie (2023)

Last summer's Barbie was a mammoth at the box office and the charts, partly thanks to Eilish's soundtrack contribution. Reverting back to her teary-eyed ballads, "What Was I Made For?" summarizes the film's central theme of navigating life as a woman in a misogynistic world. 

The beautifully painful tune resonated in and outside of the film, earning an Academy Award for Best Original Song and two GRAMMY Awards for Song of the Year and Best Song Written for Visual Media in 2024. The accolades marked another history-defining moment for Eilish: "What Was I Made For?" became just the tenth song in history to win both an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a GRAMMY for Song Of The Year.

The Poignant Performer

Tours

The bombastic production in Eilish's music practically begs for an audience, so it's bound to be electrifying whenever she hits the stage. She began small in 2017 with the 11-show dont smile at me tour — her first headlining trek — but quickly expanded to arenas. 

She truly hit her stride with 2022's Happier Than Ever, The World Tour. Keeping the staging minimal while sporting her signature baggy looks, she let her vocals (and some electrifying strobe lights) command the attention. Her energy never falters throughout the nearly two-hour long show and neither does the audience, who lovingly shout every single lyric. And it won't be long before she brings HIT ME HARD AND SOFT to the stage — the tour (her seventh) kicks off Sept. 29 in Québec, Canada.

Award Shows

Eilish's fan base goes far beyond the hyper teenagers who flood her concerts. The singer's award show performances also reveal how much her peers admire her. 

With nine GRAMMY wins under her belt, Eilish's GRAMMY performances over the years have helped prove why she's earned them. Following her stage debut in 2020, she returned the following year to perform the Record Of The Year-winning "everything I wanted" as fellow nominees Black Pumas and Harry Styles cheered her on in the crowd. The singer's thunderous "Happier Than Ever" performance received equally roaring applause. 

Eilish reminded of her vocal prowess and ethereal stage presence at both the GRAMMYs and Oscars this year, delivering delicate renditions of "What Was I Made For?" with just FINNEAS and a piano for each show. As those performances displayed, relatability and heightened emotion — as seen with other award show performances, like the cinematic version of "No Time To Die" at the 2022 Oscars and the fiery "all the good girls go to hell" at the 2019 American Music Awards — are what make Eilish's performances so unforgettable.

Concert Film

Eilish transported the vulnerability and intimacy of Happier Than Ever to the silver screen for 2021's GRAMMY-nominated Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles concert film. As its title suggests, the film sees Eilish (a native Angeleno) paying homage to her hometown with a performance at the Hollywood Bowl — even performing alongside the Los Angeles Children's Chorus, which she grew up singing in. 

But the concert film also addresses the pressures of fame like Happier Than Ever the album did. There's a stark contrast between the Eilish on stage, who is seemingly comforted by the lack of an audience inside the Hollywood Bowl, and an animated version of the star, who drives past Happier Than Ever billboards before arriving at a premiere with an overwhelming number of fans and flashing cameras. The film is more than a tribute to her hometown — it shows Eilish coming to terms with her own stardom.

Festivals

As Eilish's star status has ascended, so has her name on festival lineups. Just like her own tours, she gives it her all for these performances, many of which become career-defining moments. 

She first emerged on the scene at SXSW in 2017 and appeared at one of Lollapalooza's smaller stages the following year. But the budding star quickly rose among the ranks, securing bigger stages at festivals like Tyler the Creator's Camp Flog Knaw and Reading & Leeds. She officially graduated in the festival sphere in 2022 when she headlined Coachella and Glastonbury, making her the youngest headliner in the latter's festival history; she's since headlined Coachella, several iterations of Lollapalooza, and even recently became the latest Fortnite Festival headliner. 

Eilish had another full-circle moment at Coachella 2024, when Lana Del Rey — one of Eilish's biggest influences — brought her out as a surprise guest. The pair performed Eilish's "ocean eyes" and Lana's "Video Games," a fitting pairing as fans have often drawn comparisons between the two tracks. "This is the voice of a generation!" Del Rey exclaimed to the crowd following the duets. She might be onto something.

The Visionary

"When The Party's Over" (2018)

Music videos play an integral role in Eilish's artistry, helping to set a visual stage for her narrative lyrics, with many of her videos connecting with each other. The video for the somber piano ballad "when the party's over" wasn't her first, but it officially exhibited the shock factor that she's now known for. 

Arriving a few months before WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, the video shows the then blue-haired singer drinking a cup of black goo, which soon pours from her tear ducts, a visual that was inspired by a drawing gifted by a fan. The video was released a week before Halloween, making it a ghoulish holiday treat for Eilish fans.

"Bury A Friend" (2019)

The singer brought her debut album's nightmarish themes to life for "bury a friend." The video — reminiscent of films and series like The Exorcist, American Horror Story: Asylum and The Haunting of Hill House — accentuates the song's spookiness with dead eyes and needles pierced into Eilish's back. As she told Rolling Stone at the time, it's a visual representation of "honing in on people's fears," a concept that has remained in Eilish's visuals to this day; she continues to face her own fear of water, as seen on HIT ME HARD AND SOFT's submerged album cover.

"Bad Guy" (2019)

"bad guy" may be the singer's most colorful music video to date, but don't let that fool you. Eilish's signature edgy tropes still remain intact — from her bloody nose, to decapitated heads in plastic bags, to the dimly lit crimson bedroom amplifying the trap-inspired switch at the song's end. In between those scenes, though, she pops out her Invisalign before going on a mini-cart joyride, proving that her personality can be just as goofy as it is moody. 

"All The Good Girls Go To Hell" (2019)

The "all the good girls go to hell" video picks up from where "bury a friend" left off, suggesting that Eilish's music isn't just meant to be listened to as standalone singles. Rather, there's intentional connective tissue that is revealed in her videos. 

The syringes injected into Eilish's back gave her 25-foot-long white wings; she dramatically falls from the sky and into a black tar pit. She walks through a grim town while leaving a trail of oil behind her, causing fires to ignite with each step. A big advocate for climate change awareness, Eilish used "all the good girls go to hell" visual to show that her creative vision can spread important messages, too. 

"Happier Than Ever" (2021)

The title track of Eilish's sophomore album, Happier Than Ever, instantly became a fan favorite due to its contrasting two parts, beginning tender and soulful before lashing out into an alternative rock banger. The singer maintained the thrilling transition for the self-directed video, which showcases her knack for visual storytelling. 

The video starts off with Eilish in a vintage-looking room before the lights begin to flicker. She then opens a door that fills the room with water, mimicking the track's flood of emotions. With a powerful song and video like this, she's clearly taken some cinematic tips from her film experiences.

"What Was I Made For?" (2023)

Barbie soundtrack highlight "What Was I Made For?" is a tender hug for women everywhere, including Eilish herself. The singer directed the accompanying video, which shows her donning a '50s-inspired Barbie look as she reflects on the past. 

Sitting at a school desk, she hangs up miniature versions of her own outfits, including looks from videos like "Bellyache" and "bad guy" and the Gucci get-up she wore for her history-making night at the 2020 GRAMMYs. The video was a cleansing of sorts, as Eilish closed a chapter of her career before entering a new one with this year's HIT ME HARD AND SOFT. Though her first video for her third album era — the '90s VHS-inspired "LUNCH" — showed more of her playful side, Eilish has certainly proven that she has plenty more tricks up her sleeve.

All Things Billie Eilish

Billie Eilish in Brooklyn, New York in May 2024
Billie Eilish at the 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT' release party in Brooklyn, New York on May 15, 2024.

Photo: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for ABA

list

Billie Eilish Fully Embraces Herself On 'Hit Me Hard And Soft': 5 Takeaways From The New Album

On her third album, Billie Eilish returns to "the girl that I was" — and as a result, 'HIT ME HARD AND SOFT' celebrates all of the weird, sexual, beautiful, vulnerable parts of her artistry.

GRAMMYs/May 17, 2024 - 07:50 pm

Billie Eilish has never been one to shy away from her feelings. In fact, she doubles down on them.

Since her debut EP, 2017's Don't Smile At Me, the pop star has held listeners' hands as she guides them through the darkest pages of her diary. The EP found a teenage Eilish navigating heartbreak while her blockbuster debut album, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? — which swept the General Field Categories (Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best New Artist) at the 2020 GRAMMYs — was a chilling and raw look into her depression-fueled nightmares. And 2021's Happier Than Ever had her confronting misogyny and the weight of fame.

She could have easily succumbed to the pop star pressures for her third studio album, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, out today (May 17). Instead, she reverts to her sonic safe space: creating intimate melodies with her brother and day-one collaborator, FINNEAS. Only this time, the lyrics are more mature and the production is more ambitious.

"This whole process has felt like I'm coming back to the girl that I was. I've been grieving her," Eilish told Rolling Stone about how HIT ME HARD AND SOFT revisited elements of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? "I've been looking for her in everything, and it's almost like she got drowned by the world and the media. I don't remember when she went away."

Here are five takeaways from Billie Eilish's new album, HIT ME HARD AND SOFT, where Old Billie is resuscitated and comforted by New Billie. 

Heartbreaking Ballads Are Her Sweet Spot

Tenderness remains at Eilish's core, and it's beautifully highlighted on HIT ME HARD AND SOFT. Despite her love for eccentric electro-pop beats, ballads have always been the singer's strong suit. After she first displayed that in her debut single, 2015's "ocean eyes," Eilish won two GRAMMYs and an Oscar for her delicate Barbie soundtrack standout, "What Was I Made For?" — and the magic of her melancholic balladry returned on the new album.

HIT ME's album opener, "SKINNY," mimics the self-reflection of Happier Than Ever's "Getting Older" opener, where she painfully sings about Hollywood's body image standards. "People say I look happy just because I got skinny/ But the old me is still me and maybe the real me/ And I think she's pretty," she muses. 

"WILDFLOWER" cuts in the album's center like a knife to the chest. Eilish's comparisons to a lover's ex-girlfriend are devastating over a bare piano melody — the simplest production on the LP: "You say no one knows you so well/ But every time you touch me, I just wonder how she felt."

HIT ME Isn't Afraid To Get A Little Weird

What makes Eilish so intriguing is her effortless balance between misery and mischief. On lead single "LUNCH," the singer/songwriter taps into the playful attitude of WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? smash "bad guy."

Over an upbeat and kooky production, she lets her carnal fantasies about devouring a woman run wild. The fantasies continue on "THE DINER," with Eilish stepping into the stalker mindset that may be inspired by her own life (she was granted a five-year restraining order against an alleged stalker last year). "I came in through the kitchen lookin' for something to eat/ I left a calling card so they would know that it was me," she winks on the chorus.

She Lays The "Whisper Singing" Criticism To Rest

Eilish's subdued voice has been chided as much as it's been lauded. She first gave naysayers the middle finger on Happier Than Ever's title track, nearly screaming in the song's latter half. On her latest album, she showcases her range even further, from bold belts to delicate falsettos.

The gauzy synths and vocal yearning of "BIRDS OF A FEATHER" is the perfect summer anthem, soundtracking the feeling of kissing your lover as the salty Los Angeles breeze runs through your hair. On the second half of "THE GREATEST," she unleashes a wail-filled fury. 

"HIT ME HARD AND SOFT was really the first time that I was aware of the things that I could do, the ways I could play with my voice, and actually did that," she recently told NPR Music. "That's one thing I feel very proud of with this album — my bravery, vocally."

Her Vulnerability Hasn't Waned

Eilish is quite the paradox, as her superpower is her emotional fragility. Her music has doubled as confessionals since the beginning of her career, and that relatable vulnerability threads HIT ME together. Despite its lighthearted nature, "LUNCH" marks the first time the singer has discussed her sexuality in a song.

"That song was actually part of what helped me become who I am, to be real," Eilish told  Rolling Stone of "LUNCH." "I wrote some of it before even doing anything with a girl, and then wrote the rest after. I've been in love with girls for my whole life, but I just didn't understand — until, last year, I realized I wanted my face in a vagina. I was never planning on talking about my sexuality ever, in a million years. It's really frustrating to me that it came up."

Then there's "SKINNY," which is a raw insight into how much social media's discussions of her body and fame affected her. "When I step off the stage, I'm a bird in a cage/ I'm a dog in a dog pound," she sings. "BLUE," the album's closer, finds Eilish accepting her state of post-breakup sorrow: "I'd like to mean it when I say I'm over you, but that's still not true."

FINNEAS Has Unlocked A New Production Level

FINNEAS — Eilish's brother, producer and confidant — has grown as much as his younger sister since they first began creating music together. He continues to challenge himself both lyrically and sonically to excitedly push Eilish to her creative limits. He explores a myriad of sounds on the album, with many playing like a two-for-one genre special. Named after Studio Ghibli's Spirited Away heroine, the glittery melody and thumping bassline on "CHIHIRO" transport you into an anime video game. 

The first half of "L'AMOUR DE MA VIE" is deceptively simple with its plucking acoustic guitar strings, but soon finds itself under the glare of a disco ball with Eilish's vocals funneled through a vocoder. "BITTERSUITE" is arguably the best reflection of Finneas' experimentation: it starts out with Daft Punk-esque synths before dragging itself across a grim, bass-heavy floor. Then, it crawls into cheeky elevator music territory before ending with an alien-like taunt.

HIT ME HARD AND SOFT is begging to be played live, as seen with fans' raucous reactions after the singer's listening parties at Brooklyn's Barclays Center and Los Angeles' Kia Forum. Fortunately for fans in North America, Australia and Europe, it won't be long before she brings the album to life — HIT ME HARD AND SOFT: THE TOUR  kicks off on Sept. 29 in Québec, Canada.

All Things Billie Eilish

New Kids On The Block Press Photo 2024
New Kids On The Block

Photo: Austin Hargrave

interview

New Kids On The Block's Joey McIntyre Shares His Favorite Career Moments With The Iconic Boy Band

From conquering the Apollo in the '80s to writing songs on NKOTB's celebratory new album 'Still Kids,' the group's Joey McIntyre reflects on a stellar 40-year career in pop music.

GRAMMYs/May 16, 2024 - 09:33 pm

Before Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC ruled the pop roost in the '90s, New Kids On The Block were busy building the boy band template that everyone later followed for international chart success and incredibly ardent fan followings. And it's a legacy they're continuing to celebrate nearly four decades later.

On May 17, NKOTB dropped Still Kids, the group's first new album in 11 years and eighth overall. Standouts such as "Magic," "Runaway," and the album's lead single "Kids" are every bit as light, joyful and catchy as early hits like "Step By Step" and "Hangin' Tough." But they sound more mature than they did as teenagers; their harmonies are stronger and sweeter, while the beats and production sounds more sophisticated and contemporary. Fellow '80s/'90s stars DJ Jazzy Jeff and Taylor Dayne also guest star on the album to help them lean into the nostalgia while still staying current. (Jazzy Jeff will also join them on the Magic Summer Tour, which will make stops around North America from June 14 through Aug. 25 and further continue the throwbacks with Paula Abdul as the third tourmate.)

Of course, it's not a total surprise that New Kids would want their new work to celebrate the old. The group — brothers Jordan and Jonathan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Donnie Wahlberg and Danny Wood — has sold over 80 million albums, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and even an annual New Kids On The Block Day in Boston (for 35 years running!). Their fans, affectionately known as Blockheads, still come out in large numbers to see them perform; according to NKOTB's new label, BMG, they've sold over four million concert tickets since reuniting in 2007 after a 14-year hiatus.

But for McIntyre, the true career highlights aren't the major accolades — it's the moments that really saw NKOTB's talent, and love for one another, shine. In celebration of the release of Still Kids, McIntyre shared five of his most cherished memories from the group's meteoric pop career.

Hollywood Talent Nights At Lee School Before They Were Famous

Lee School is a public school in Dorchester — actually, very close to Jamaica Plain. We all grew up in different towns in Boston. The rest of the guys were from Dorchester and I was from Jamaica Plain, that was like our clubhouse. 

Through the grace of God, there was a lot going on for the people that wanted it. And these community people that just did it out of the goodness of their hearts and would set up a space for kids to come and number one, stay out of trouble, and number two, give it a shot and have a place to dance and sing and dream. 

We would have these Hollywood Talent Nights that [group creator] Maurice [Starr] would put on, and then there were other talent nights. I don't know how often they were, but even if there were three or four a year, maybe even less, it was something to work towards. And we would rehearse, if we weren't rehearsing at Jordan and John's [Knight's] house, in their basement, we would rehearse at the Lee School. 

In the basement of the Lee School, in the backstage, you would walk down the stairs and we'd perform in these little rooms. It was like dressing rooms. They had mirrors; it wasn't big mirrors, but they had mirrors for the waist up and that was a big deal. So we would perform there, and rehearse there, and it was exciting. We had a place to take chances and be inspired and have a ton of fun as well.

It started with the Lee School and then radio shows [on] WILD, the AM station, the only station that would think about playing us at the time — and it was like, How are we going to surprise them this time? There was a ferocity about it. 

Donnie [Wahlberg] is a born leader. Jordan would tell stories about how Donnie would get on the school bus and he'd run the show. He'd tell jokes, he'd rap, he'd make everyone feel good — it's just in his bones. I think we all had the fire, but there was definitely a ride or die vibe about every show we did. 

He worked at a sneaker store, so we'd save up and pool our money together for new outfits, and one time we came on with basketball warmups, those Patrick Ewing basketball warmups. We came on in sweatsuits. First of all, I was freakin' five feet tall, so I was swimming in everything that we had, but we'd come on and for our number we'd sing whatever, and at the perfect moment we'd rip off the sweatsuits and have red glitter suits on. We'd just try to win the crowd over every time.

I think we still have that spirit. We never want to rest on our laurels, we want to surprise people, otherwise it's just not worth it. We've been lucky enough to do what we love to do.

Performing At The Apollo Theater In 1988

We've been able to celebrate that a lot over the years. It really is, in so many ways, the pinnacle for the history of R&B and black music and soulful music, but also rock and roll. The world knew that if you could make it there and survive the Apollo, then you had what it takes to at least give it a shot in the music business.

And we were in that world. In Boston, we played for all-Black audiences. We loved R&B music. That's what we grew up on, so we weren't really necessarily fish out of water because, although we were very excited, and of course had lots of nerves, we'd been hustling as a bunch of young kids for a few years.

We got a chance to perform at the Apollo by literally pounding the pavement. And it was one of those days where Maurice was taking us around, and we were going to people's offices with a boombox, playing music and singing and dancing. And these people, even if they didn't like us, they were impressed. They couldn't argue with the guts that we had and the passion. 

The guy who ran the Apollo — I'm blanking on his last name, his first name was Al — he would host those nights, and we saw him on the street. Maurice was like, "Hey, Al! We want to come up!" So we came up and performed three songs in his office — it wasn't a very big office, either — and he said, "We'll have you down."

We weren't in the competition, we were a special guest, because I think it was on a Wednesday and they had a live night, and then they had a TV show [Showtime at the Apollo]. So we did the live night first, and then we did the TV show and they just went crazy for us. I was a little too young to be in tears, but the rest of the guys, we went up to the dressing room and everybody was in tears. 

We would hang out at the Apollo. The basement in the Apollo, man, you'd have Heavy D and Chuck D and Kool Moe Dee — you know, all the Ds! I just finished one of RuPaul's books… I met RuPaul in the stairwell of the Apollo Theater. He was going up and I was going down and we looked up at each other: "Hey, how you doin'?"

This was a long time ago but, you know, it was just a special place. Back then you had to connect in person. Now we have social media. It's wonderful, you can connect. You can DM people and suddenly connect with your heroes or collaborators and it's great, but back then, you had to be in the place. And that's what the Apollo represented for us. So we were just like kids in a candy store.

Getting Their First Tour Bus

There's nothing like jumping on your first tour bus. Our first manager, Mary Alford, had a two-door Mustang, I would have to sit on somebody's lap in the front seat, and then three dudes would be stuck in the back, and she'd be driving. The big splurge was getting a bigger four-door car to drive down to New York for those trips. We'd still be mashed up. 

You know, just to know you are literally going on the road for the first time. I'm 15, the other guys are, like, 18, 19, and there's really nothing cooler. But we were very emotional for a lot of reasons. For having a chance to do our thing and saying goodbye to our family, our hometown, knowing this is part of making it. So it was pretty cool. 

Working With New Edition

Before I was even in the New Kids, the New Edition album with "Cool It Now" was my [favorite] album. The fact that they were from Boston was amazing, a massive bonus, and we were all, just, goo goo ga ga any time we could meet them or think we could meet them. 

So over the years we would touch base, and then we got to sing together on our album The Block in 2008. But then a couple years ago we did a big mashup performance on the AMAs and I cried like a baby, like, three times. I cried on the phone with Donnie just thinking about it as we started rehearsals. Then I cried afterwards. 

A couple days later was Thanksgiving. We went around the table and talked about what we were grateful for, and the tears just came to my eyes. I couldn't think of anything better to be more thankful for than to work with your heroes. They've just been so gracious, so gracious, over the years. And from where they came and how they really set the standard for us. They really did. 

You don't realize it until the more you live and the more you are in this business. To have people walk the walk and talk the talk, and then be kind and supportive at the same time, it's very cool. Just to be friends with those guys is a dream.

Making Still Kids

You want to give the people what they're looking for and also surprise them at the same time, and I think this album has a good combination. I feel great about the fact that I ended up co-writing half of the album. I've just been writing more, so that was important to me. And I've been lucky enough to write for the group over the years, but this felt a little different. I think it takes guts to stretch and grow with the group, within the dynamics of the group. It's not easy but we've always said, "Let's go, let's give it a shot."

So this was a good combo, this album. It's new, we're definitely harking back to the good old days, but it definitely reflects that we're not 18 anymore. But I think they're that spirit. 

As we get older, we're always reaching back. We want to have that fire and that curiosity we had as kids. We don't want to let the cynicism of life pull us down and at the same time, all that fuels the writing and the expression. So it's exciting to feel good about an album that has the right balance. 

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