meta-scriptFrom "Old Town Road" To "Small Town Girl": The Growing Connection Between Rap & Country | GRAMMY.com
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Rapper Blanco Brown

Photo: BBR Music Group

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From "Old Town Road" To "Small Town Girl": The Growing Connection Between Rap & Country

Hip-hop music and culture are weaving their way into the fabric of country music. Yet the marriage of hip-hop's liberal sensibilities with the often conservative culture of country music presents unique challenges.

GRAMMYs/Sep 12, 2022 - 03:05 pm

Dec. 17, 2021 was an average new music Friday; there were no superstar album launches or hotly anticipated single drops. But when music fans dove into their favorite streaming service, they may have stumbled on a new song that had them taking a double-take: Superstar country artist Morgan Wallen had released a new single called "Broadway Girls," featuring Southside Chicago's own Lil' Durk.

On the surface, the collaboration may have appeared odd. Wallen is  a traditional country artist who sports plaid cut off t-shirts and cowboy boots on stage, and tells tales of dirt backroads. “Broadway Girls” is a follow-up to Wallen's Dangerous double LP, which set the record for the most weeks ever at No.1 on the Billboard Country albums chart. Lil' Durk, best known for his Voice of the Heroes collaborative album with Lil' Baby and his appearance on Drake's "Laugh Now, Cry Later," is a rapper from the Southside of Chicago.

That rebellious spirit is reaching the youth in small town America. Kidd G, an 18-year-old from Hamilton, Georgia, a town of just over 1,000 people, grew up freestyling and listening to artists like Chance the Rapper. He is now cracking the Top 40 country charts with emo sing-rapping flows such as those on "Small Town Girl."

Country rap artist UpChurch, formerly known as Upchurch the Redneck, began his career as a comedian posting videos to YouTube. His 2021 album Same Ol, Same Ol charted as high as No. 17 on the Billboard country albums chart and he currently has over 1.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify. His most recent project, People’s Champ, features a collaboration with Boosie Badazz on the song "YZ Remix," where the two rap of Range Rovers, creeks, pistols and country living.

These artists follow a trend in country music that has been happening for several years now: Hip-hop music and culture are weaving their way into the genre's fabric. Yet the marriage of hip-hop's liberal sensibilities with the often conservative culture of country music presents unique challenges. Even for its own artists, country music has traditionally been less than welcoming to ideas that don't fit neatly within the genre's narrative.

During a 2003 concert, the Chicks' lead singer Natalie Manes called out then-President George H.W. Bush's war in Iraq, telling the audience that she was "ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas." As a result, the Dixie Chicks (the group has since dropped "dixie" from their name) were banned from country radio.

And while she wasn’t banned from country radio as a result of her statement, Maren Morris openly supported Joe Biden and Kamala Harris during the 2020 Presidential election saying that she believes "country music is for everyone, and so is this country." The statement stood out in an overwhelmingly conservative country music fanbase.

This begs the question, is country music ready for hip-hop's infiltration and outspoken views?

"Social media and streaming's ability to remove context from culture has significantly benefited hip-hop and country's commingling," says Marcus K. Dowling, the Tennessean's country music reporter. "A 'great song' is now far more defined by sound than by its vocalist's racial, ethnic or social background."

A 2013 article in the Tampa Bay Times titled "Country and rap music are more alike than you think" highlighted the similarities between the genres, including their respective penchants for partying and the sense of pride that runs through their individual musical styles. "Rappers and country stars…share the same template," Sean Daly wrote.

The template Daly speaks of is rooted heavily in the pride both genre's artists share for their hometown roots. There isn't much difference between Lil' Durk talking about the gritty streets of the Southside and Wallen talking about the dirt-filled backroads of his Tennessee hometown. Through their music, each artist holds their upbringing in high regard.

One artist that has managed to blur the lines between country music and hip-hop with significant success is Blanco Brown. As the self-proclaimed inventor of "trailer trap" music, Blanco saw monster success in 2019 with his single "The Git Up," which topped the Hot Country Songs chart and landed in the Top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100.

Brown grew up in a rural Southern town and was drawn to the relatability of country music. "What drew me to it was growing up in Butler, Georgia, in the summertime listening to Sammi Smith," says Brown of his affinity for the female country music legend. "I can relate to that. I don't know nothing about no drugs, no prostitutes," Brown says, referring to hip-hop's penchant for lyrics about drugs and sex.

The blending of country and hip-hop first saw a flash of success in 2004 when Nelly collaborated with country legend Tim McGraw on the single "Over and Over," which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. But instead of setting off a wave of prosperous country and rap collaborations, the meshing of the genres largely disappeared.

"People still didn't understand what it was," Brown says of the 2004 collaboration. "They just thought it was a cool song. You had Nelly, and Tim McGraw in their prime and Tim McGraw was already legendary."

In 2012, Nelly, again mixed country and hip-hop by appearing on the remix of "Cruise," the hit song by country duo Florida Georgia Line.

This time, "Cruise" spurred more country and rap collaborations from artists like Ludacris, Carrie Underwood, Jason Aldean, Young Thug, and others, though no song reached the same height. That was until 2019, when a new song eclipsed not only "Cruise" but also any expectations of what could become of country meeting rap music.

In March 2019, Columbia Records re-released "Old Town Road," a twangy country-rap ode to riding horses over a trap-influenced beat that was originally released independently in December 2018. Athen-unknown Black artist named Lil' Nas X, had unwittingly recorded what would become one of the best-selling singles of all time — accelerated when Nas X released a remix of "Old Town Road" with country legend Billy Ray Cyrus.

It would also put rap and country at the forefront of the music industry together as they had never been before. But aside from the monstrous success of Lil Nas X, why are these two genres finding such paired success? Blanco Brown chalks it up to music fans driving cultural shifts in the sounds of the industry.

"The world knows what it needs and wants. That's how to create new things," says Brown. "Why separate the two genres? There shouldn't ever be a musical genre, and those things should have never been put in place. The world is starting to hear things with a free form abstract ear."

And Brown is looking to capitalize on the brewing marriage of rap and country music with a collaborative album with one of hip-hop’s biggest superstars.

“TIP is my homie”, says Brown referring to multi-platinum rap superstar T.I. “We got a whole album together. We’re going to name it Trailer Trap. Trailer park music meets trap music. I’m just bridging the gap by bringing him in.”

But there is also something else at play. Despite the significant challenges of racial divides highlighted by evening newscasts across America, rural America, which has traditionally been an overwhelmingly white  demographic, is changing. And along with that change comes more co-mingling of musical tastes.

"Population shifts have moved rural whites and urban-to-rural Black people much closer together than ever before," says Dowling. "So for millennials — especially those from not-so-traditionally urban upbringings, racial differences are far less common than ever."

And while we do know that music streaming has made people draw less defined lines between the genres of music they listen to, Brown again stresses the similarities between the two genres.

"They are one and the same. It's storytelling," Brown says of country and hip-hop's uncanny abilities to weave strong narratives. "The artists in both of those worlds want them to work together, and it's radio that holds it back. When I walk into sessions with these country producers and songwriters, they say, " Man, we've been waiting for your style."

It doesn't appear that the fans or artists have been holding back the further co-mingling of country and hip-hop but rather the engrained Nashville establishment.

"Country music's establishment will always solidly be on the fence regarding anything that oversaturates its already lucrative and thriving revenue streams," remarks Dowling.

A fuller embrace of hip-hop will require country to more deeply diversify its already existing revenue streams. The jury is still out on whether this trend will continue, but these rising artists and popular appetite for this meld is a sign that audiences, and industry, are shifting toward acceptance.

Black People Helped Invent Country Music, Yet Gatekeepers Haven't Let Them In. The Black Opry Is Changing All That.

Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X
Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X

Photo: Courtesy Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X

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New Music Friday: Listen to Songs From Megan Thee Stallion, Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X, BTS' RM & More

May 10 is quite the stacked day of new music across all genres — from Post Malone & Morgan Wallen's country collab, to Stray Kids' team-up with Charlie Puth, to The Chainsmokers and Kings of Leon. Check out some fresh releases to enjoy this weekend here.

GRAMMYs/May 10, 2024 - 06:55 pm

As the summer quickly approaches, artists from every genre continue to unveil new music for warmer weather. Friday May 10 is particularly packed with anticipated and surprise releases from both emerging talents and established names.

The new albums alone prove just that: pop songsmith Alec Benjamin's 12 Notes, folk-rock band Judah & the Lion's The Process, regional Mexican stars Grupo Frontera's Jugando a Que No Pasa Nada, and GRAMMY-winning R&B singer Andra Day's Cassandra, to name a few.

Meanwhile, a big, cool glass of major rap releases is here to help wash down the piping hot Kendrick and Drake beef served up over the last week. Full album releases debuted from Gunna, Chief Keef, and Ghostface Killah — the latter featuring guest spots from Nas, Kanye West, Raekwon, Method Man and more. Hottie Megan Thee Stallion's powerful new single, "BOA", sets the stage for her Hot Girl Summer tour which officially starts on May 14. New songs from Ice Spice, Kodak Black, NLE Choppa, Coi Leray, G-Eazy, Yung Gravy, Ski Mask the Slump God set the playlist for a weekend full of slappers.

There's tons of collaborations, too, including the much-teased pairing of Post Malone and Morgan Wallen with "I Had Some Help," a track that showcases Malone's furtherance into country in a catchy, reflective anthem. But country music lovers also have more to enjoy this weekend: Orville Peck's duets project, Stampede Vol.1, features the likes of Willie Nelson and Elton John," while Scotty McCreery's Rise & Fall and Avery Anna's single "Blonde" fill the fuel tank for a rodeo-ready summer. 

BTS's RM delivers another solo track "Come Back to Me" and Stray Kids dropped a new collaboration with Charlie Puth, coming fresh off the K-pop group's appearance at the Met Gala earlier this week. And the electronic and rock scenes are not left behind, with A.G. Cook exploring a new twist on Britpop and Sebastian Bach's release of Child Within The Man.

Dive into today's releases from Megan Thee Stallion, The Chainsmokers, RM, Stray Kids with Charlie Puth, Camila Cabello with Lil Nas X, Post Malone and Morgan Wallen below. 

Megan Thee Stallion, "BOA"

Megan Thee Stallion's new single "BOA" continues to play up the themes of empowerment and self-realization that define her current musical phase and comes just days ahead of her Hot Girl Summer Tour starting on May 14. The song's cover art features Megan with a striking snake, a recurring symbol of rebirth that has been significant in her recent work, appearing in tracks like the Billboard Hot 100 hit "Hiss" and the 2023 song "Cobra." 

"BOA" is a continuation of Megan's snake-themed narrative, but serves as a saccharine homage to her favorite late-'90s and early 2000s anime and video game classics. The music video features references to Scott Pilgrim, One Piece, Dance Dance Revolution, and iconic 3D fighting games like Mortal Kombat, complete with visuals and Gantz-inspired outfits.

Speaking to Women's Health about her upcoming summer album, Megan discussed the personal growth and renewal she has experienced, inspiring this new era of music. "I was inspired to create this album about rebirth because I feel I am becoming a new person physically and mentally," she shared.

Camila Cabello & Lil Nas X, "HE KNOWS"

Camila Cabello teams up with Lil Nas X for the tantalizing new song "He Knows," delivering a radio-friendly track that's as catchy as it is lustful. The new music mirrors the infectious energy of their recent appearance at FKA Twigs' Met Gala afterparty, where they both were seen dancing the night away behind the DJ booth. 

"He Knows" serves as a precursor to Cabello's highly anticipated fourth solo album, C,XOXO, — set to drop on June 28 — and teases a glimpse of Cabello's evolving artistic direction. The single follows on the heels of her recent hit "I LUV IT" featuring Playboi Carti, part of the  reimagining of her sound and artistic brand.

RM, "Come Back To Me"

BTS member RM has released a new single, "Come Back To Me," accompanied by a music video. The relaxed track gives fans a taste of his upcoming second solo album, Right Place, Wrong Person, set to release on May 24. 

In the song, RM explores themes of right and wrong, capturing the complex emotions of wanting to explore new avenues while wishing to stay comfortable in the present. "Come Back To Me" features contributions from OHHYUK of the South Korean band HYUKOH, and Kuo of the Taiwanese band Sunset Rollercoaster. Additional credits include JNKYRD and San Yawn from Balming Tiger. RM first performed "Come Back To Me" during a surprise appearance at BTS bandmate Suga's concert in Seoul last summer, noting it as a favorite from his forthcoming album. 

The music video for "Come Back To Me" was written, directed, and produced by Lee Sung Jin, known for his work on the Netflix show "Beef." The video features actress Kim Minha from the Apple TV+ series "Pachinko" and faces themes of identity and self-reflection, showing RM confronting different versions of himself. Its cast includes notable Korean and American actors such as Joseph Lee, Lee Sukhyeong, and Kim A Hyun.

Post Malone & Morgan Wallen, "I Had Some Help"

Post Malone and Morgan Wallen blend their distinct musical styles in the much-anticipated release of their collaborative single "I Had Some Help." Merging Malone's versatile pop sensibilities while leaning into his country roots with Wallen's, well, help, the duet is a unique crossover that has had fans clamoring to hear more since the two first teased the song earlier this year. 

Finally premiering during Wallen's headlining performance at Stagecoach Festival on April 28, the uptempo song explores themes of mutual support and shared experiences, encapsulated by the lyric, "It ain't like I can make this kind of mess all by myself."

The collaboration has sparked significant buzz and showcases the duo's chemistry and shared knack for storytelling. This single highlights their individual talents as well as their ability to bridge genre divides, already promising to be a hit on the charts and a favorite among fans.

The Chainsmokers, No Hard Feelings

Maestros of mainstream emotion, The Chainsmokers continue to master the art of turning personal reflections into global anthems with their latest EP, No Hard Feelings. The six-song project see Alex Pall and Drew Taggart exploring the emotional highs and lows of modern relationships, weaving their signature dance beats with pop sensibilities as they have since 2015's "Roses." 

The duo's latest release serves as a soundtrack to both sun-kissed days and introspective nights. The collection includes the single "Friday," a collaboration with Haitian-American singer Fridayy, described by the duo as a direct descendant of "Roses." Other tracks, such as "Addicted," also underscore the Chainsmokers' knack for capturing the zeitgeist of contemporary love and loss.

Kings of Leon, Can We Please Have Fun

Kings of Leon return with their signature blend of rock and introspection on their ninth studio album, Can We Please Have Fun. The LP finds the band infusing their established sound with fresh, unbridled energy, reminiscent of their early days yet matured by years of experience. The album features standout tracks like "Mustang" and "Nothing To Do," which mix playful lyrics with serious musical chops, showcasing Kings of Leon's unique ability to combine rock's raw power with catchy, thoughtful songwriting.

The band is set to bring Can We Please Have Fun to life on their 2024 world tour, starting in Leeds, United Kingdom on June 20 and wrapping in Bridgeport, Connecticut, on Oct. 5. Fans can expect a high-energy series of performances that blend new tracks with beloved classics, all delivered with the Kings of Leon's legendary fervor.

Stray Kids & Charlie Puth, "Lose My Breath"

Stray Kids have teamed up with Charlie Puth for their latest release, "Lose My Breath," a track that blends K-pop dynamism with Western pop flair, written by Stray Kids' own producer team 3racha (Bang Chan, Changbin, and Han) along with Puth. The TK song details a whirlwind of emotions, describing symptoms of breathlessness and heart-palpitating moments encapsulated in the lyrics: "I lose my breath when you're walking in/ 'Cause when our eyes lock, it's like my heart stops." 

"Lose My Breath" is described as a "warm-up" for Stray Kids' forthcoming album, set for release this summer. The track further highlights the global appeal of Stray Kids ahead of their highly anticipated headlining set at Lollapalooza in August. It also continues Puth's engagement with K-pop, following his previous work with other K-pop acts including his collab with BTS' Jungkook, "Left and Right," and "Like That," a song he co-wrote for K-pop girl group BABYMONSTER

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

Taylor Swift performs with Stevie Nicks at the 2010 GRAMMYs
Taylor Swift performs with Stevie Nicks at the 2010 GRAMMYs

Photo: ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

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11 Artists Who Influenced Taylor Swift: Joni Mitchell, Stevie Nicks, Tim McGraw & More

From Paul McCartney to Paramore, Emily Dickinson and even "Game of Thrones," read on for some of the major influences Taylor Swift has referenced throughout her GRAMMY-winning career.

GRAMMYs/Apr 22, 2024 - 11:24 pm

As expected, much buzz followed the release of Taylor Swift's 11th studio album, The Tortured Poets Department, on April 19. Fans and critics alike have devoured the sprawling double album’s 31 tracks, unpacking her reflections from "a fleeting and fatalistic moment in time" in search of Easter eggs, their new favorite lyrics and references to famous faces (both within the pop supernova’s closely guarded orbit and the historical record). 

Shoutouts abound in The Tortured Poets Department: Charlie Puth gets his much-deserved (and Taylor-approved) flowers on the title track, while 1920s screen siren Clara Bow, the ancient Greek prophetess Cassandra and Peter Pan each get a song titled after them. Post Malone and  Florence + the Machine’s Florence Welch each tap in for memorable duets. Relationships old (Joe Alwyn), new (Travis Kelce) and somewhere in between (1975’s Matty Healy) are alluded to without naming names, as is, possibly, the singer’s reputation-era feud with Kim Kardashian. 

Swift casts a wide net on The Tortured Poets Department, encompassing popular music, literature, mythology and beyond, but it's far from the first time the 14-time GRAMMY winner has worn her influences on her sleeve. While you digest TTPD, consider these 10 figures who have influenced the poet of the hour — from Stevie Nicks and Patti Smith to Emily Dickinson, William Wordsworth, Arya Stark and more.

Stevie Nicks

If Taylor Swift is the chairman of The Tortured Poets Department, Stevie Nicks may as well be considered its poet laureate emeritus. The mystical Fleetwood Mac frontwoman earns an important mention on side A closer "Clara Bow," in which Swift ties an invisible string from herself to a pre-Rumours Nicks ("In ‘75, the hair and lips/ Crowd goes wild at her fingertips"), and all the way back to the 1920s It Girl of the song’s title.

For her part, Nicks seems to approve of her place in Swift’s cultural lineage, considering she penned the poem found inside physical copies of The Tortured Poets Department. "He was in love with her/ Or at least she thought so," the Priestess of Rock and Roll wrote in part, before signing off, "For T — and me…"

Swift’s relationship with Nicks dates back to the 2010 GRAMMYs, when the pair performed a medley of "Rhiannon" and "You Belong With Me" before the then-country upstart took home her first Album Of The Year win for 2009’s Fearless. More recently, the "Edge of Seventeen" singer publicly credited Swift’s Midnights cut "You’re On Your Own, Kid" for helping her through the 2022 death of Fleetwood Mac bandmate Christine McVie.

Patti Smith

Swift may see herself as more "modern idiot" than modern-day Patti Smith, but that didn’t stop the superstar from name-dropping the icon synonymous with the Hotel Chelsea and punk scene of ‘70s New York on a key track on The Tortured Poets Department. Swift rather self-deprecatingly compares herself to the celebrated Just Kids memoirist (and 2023 Songwriters Hall of Fame nominee) on the double album’s synth-drenched title track, and it’s easy to see how Smith’s lifelong fusion of rock and poetry influenced the younger singer’s dactylic approach to her new album. 

Smith seemed to appreciate the shout-out on "The Tortured Poets Department" as well. "This is saying I was moved to be mentioned in the company of the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Thank you Taylor," she wrote on Instagram alongside a photo of herself reading Thomas’ 1940 poetry collection Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog.

Emily Dickinson

When it comes to iconic poets, Swift has also taken a page or two over her career from Emily Dickinson. While the great 19th century poet hasn’t come up explicitly in Swift’s work, she did reference her poetic forebear (and actual sixth cousin, three times removed!) in her speech while accepting the award for Songwriter-Artist of the Decade at the 2022 Nashville Songwriter Awards.

"I’ve never talked about this publicly before, because, well, it’s dorky. But I also have, in my mind, secretly, established genre categories for lyrics I write. Three of them, to be exact. They are affectionately titled Quill Lyrics, Fountain Pen Lyrics and Glitter Gel Pen Lyrics," Swift told the audience before going on to explain, "If my lyrics sound like a letter written by Emily Dickinson’s great-grandmother while sewing a lace curtain, that’s me writing in the Quill genre," she went on to explain.

Even before this glimpse into Swift’s writing process, Easter eggs had been laid pointing to her familial connection to Dickinson. For example, she announced her ninth album evermore on December 10, 2020, which would have been the late poet’s 190th birthday. Another clue that has Swifties convinced? Dickinson’s use of the word "forevermore" in her 1858 poem "One Sister Have I in Our House," which Swift also cleverly breaks apart in Evermore’s Bon Iver-assisted title track ("And I couldn’t be sure/ I had a feeling so peculiar/ That this pain would be for/ Evermore").

The Lake Poets

Swift first put her growing affinity for poetry on display during her folklore era with "the lakes." On the elegiac bonus track, the singer draws a parallel with the Lake Poets of the 19th century, wishing she could escape to "the lakes where all the poets went to die" with her beloved muse in tow. In between fantasizing about "those Windermere peaks" and pining for "auroras and sad prose," she even manages to land a not-so-subtle jab at nemesis Scooter Braun ("I’ve come too far to watch some name-dropping sleaze/ Tell me what are my words worth") that doubles as clever wordplay on the last name of Lake Poet School members William and Dorothy Wordsworth.

Swift revealed more about why she connected to the Lake Poets in her 2020 Disney+ documentary folklore: the long pond studio sessions. "There was a poet district, these artists that moved there. And they were kind of heckled for it and made fun of for it as being these eccentrics and these kind of odd artists who decided that they just wanted to live there," she explained to her trusted producer Jack Antonoff. "So ‘the lakes,’ it kind of is the overarching theme of the whole album: of trying to escape, having something you wanna protect, trying to protect your own sanity and saying, ‘Look, they did this hundreds of years ago. I’m not the first person who’s felt this way.’"

Paul McCartney

Paul McCartney and Swift have publicly praised one another’s work for years, leading to the 2020 Rolling Stone cover they posed for together for the special Musicians on Musicians issue. The younger singer even counts Sir Paul’s daughter Stella McCartney as a close friend and collaborator (Stella designed a capsule collection for Swift’s 2019 studio set Lover and earned a shout-out of her own on album cut "London Boy").

However, Swift took her relationship with the Beatles founder and his family a step further when it was rumored she based Midnights deep cut "Sweet Nothing" on McCartney’s decades-long romance with late wife Linda. While the speculation has never been outright confirmed, it appears Swift’s lyrics in the lilting love song ("On the way home, I wrote a poem/ You say, ‘What a mind’/ This happens all the time") were partially inspired by a strikingly similar quote McCartney once gave about his relationship with Linda, who passed away in 1998. To add to the mystique, the Midnights singer even reportedly liked a tweet from 2022 espousing the theory.  

The admiration between the duo seems to go both ways as well, with the former Beatle admitting in a 2018 BBC profile that the track "Who Cares" from his album Egypt Station was inspired by Swift’s close relationship with her fans.

The Chicks

From her days as a country music ingénue to her ascendance as the reigning mastermind of pop, Swift has credited the Chicks as a seminal influence in her songwriting and career trajectory. (Need examples? Look anywhere from early singles like "Picture to Burn" and "Should’ve Said No" to Evermore’s Haim-assisted murder ballad "no body, no crime" and her own Lover-era collab with the band, "Soon You’ll Get Better.") 

In a 2020 Billboard cover story tied to the Chicks’ eighth album Gaslighter, Swift acknowledged just how much impact the trio made on her growing up. "Early in my life, these three women showed me that female artists can play their own instruments while also putting on a flamboyant spectacle of a live show," she said at the time. "They taught me that creativity, eccentricity, unapologetic boldness and kitsch can all go together authentically. Most importantly, they showed an entire generation of girls that female rage can be a bonding experience between us all the very second we first heard Natalie Maines bellow ‘that Earl had to DIE.’"

"Game of Thrones"

When reputation dropped in 2017, Swift was on a self-imposed media blackout, which meant no cover stories or dishy sit-down interviews on late-night TV during the album’s roll-out. Instead, the singer let reputation speak for itself, and fans were largely left to draw their own conclusions about their queen’s wildly anticipated comeback album. Two years later, though, Swift revealed the dark, vengeful, romantic body of work was largely inspired by "Game of Thrones."

"These songs were half based on what I was going through, but seeing them through a 'Game of Thrones' filter," she told Entertainment Weekly in 2019. "My entire outlook on storytelling has been shaped by ["GoT"] — the ability to foreshadow stories, to meticulously craft cryptic story lines. So, I found ways to get more cryptic with information and still be able to share messages with the fans. I aspire to be one one-millionth of the kind of hint dropper the makers of 'Game of Thrones' have been."

Joni Mitchell

Swift has long made her admiration of Joni Mitchell known, dating back to her 2012 album Red, which took a cue from the folk pioneer’s landmark 1971 LP Blue for its chromatic title. In an interview around the time of Red’s release, the country-pop titan gushed over Blue’s impact on her, telling Rhapsody, "[Mitchell] wrote it about her deepest pains and most haunting demons. Songs like ‘River,’ which is just about her regrets and doubts of herself — I think this album is my favorite because it explores somebody’s soul so deeply."

Back in 2015, TIME declared the "Blank Space" singer a "disciple of Mitchell in ways both obvious and subtle" — from her reflective songwriting to the complete ownership over her creative process, and nearly 10 years later, Swift was still showing her appreciation for Mitchell after the latter’s triumphant and emotional appearance on the GRAMMY stage to perform "Both Sides Now" on the very same night Taylor took home her historic fourth GRAMMY for Album Of The Year for Midnights.

Fall Out Boy & Paramore

When releasing the re-recording of her third album Speak Now in 2023, Swift cited two unexpectedly emo acts as inspirations to her early songwriting: Fall Out Boy and Paramore

"Since Speak Now was all about my songwriting, I decided to go to the artists who I feel influenced me most powerfully as a lyricist at that time and ask them to sing on the album," she wrote in an Instagram post revealing the back cover and complete tracklist for Speak Now (Taylor’s Version), which included Fall Out Boy collaboration "Electric Touch" and "Castles Crumbling" featuring Paramore frontwoman Hayley Williams.

Tim McGraw

For one of Swift’s original career inspirations, we have to go all the way back to the very first single she ever released. "Tim McGraw" was not only as the lead single off the 16-year-old self-titled 2006 debut album, but it also paid reverent homage to one of the greatest living legends in the history of country music. 

In retrospect, it was an incredibly gutsy risk for a then-unknown Swift to come raring out of the gate with a song named after a country superstar. But the gamble clearly paid off in spades, considering that now, when an entire generation of music fans hear "Tim McGraw," they think of Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift's 'The Tortured Poets Department' Is A Post-Mortem Autopsy In Song: 5 Takeaways From Her New Album

Ariana Grande on The Voice set in 2021
Ariana Grande on 'The Voice' set in 2021.

Photo: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

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New Music Friday: Listen To Songs From Ariana Grande, Lil Nas X, Jay-Z & More

The year is already off to a massive start, with Jan. 12 spawning new releases from 21 Savage, ITZY, Jennifer Lopez and many more. Check out some of the hotly anticipated tracks here.

GRAMMYs/Jan 12, 2024 - 04:50 pm

January always marks fresh starts and clean slates as the world collectively turns the page from one year to the next. The world of music is no exception: the second week of 2024 is filled with artists embarking on new eras and album cycles.

On the full-length front, 21 Savage unveiled his third solo LP, american dream, with guest assists from the likes of Summer Walker ("Prove It"), Doja Cat ("N.H.I.E."), Young Thug and Metro Boomin ("Pop Ur S–t") and more while Kali Uchis celebrates her just-announced first pregnancy with longtime boyfriend Don Toliver by delivering her second Spanish-language studio set Orchídeas.

Meanwhile, Reneé Rapp brings the new Mean Girls musical movie to life as Gen Z's Regina George, with a soundtrack that also features Megan Thee Stallion, Auli'i Cravalho, Angourie Rice and more, and K-pop act ITZY makes a statement on their sophomore Korean-language album, Born To Be, which gives all five members a chance to shine with individual solo tracks on top of swaggering bangers like "Untouchable" and the title track.  

In addition to star-studded album drops, Jan. 12 sees several big single releases too. Press play on hotly anticipated musical resets from Ariana Grande and Lil Nas X, lead singles from Jennifer Lopez and Sheryl Crow, and a monumental collaboration between D'Angelo and Jay-Z for the new movie The Book of Clarence below.

Ariana Grande — "yes, and?"

Ariana Grande is officially back and ready to own everything. For "yes, and?" — her first new musical offering since 2020's Positions — the superstar is doling out heavy-hitting words to live by, disguised as a glossy pop confection that takes an irresistible cue from Madonna's "Vogue."

Both an exercise in self-affirmation and a runway-ready Pride anthem, "yes, and?" finds Grande unapologetically sharing her truth in a way she hasn't since 2018's "thank u, next." Her voice dripping with honey, the soon-to-be Wicked star slyly addresses the recent tabloid fodder surrounding her personal life. 

"Now I'm so done with caring/ What you think, no, I won't hide/ Underneath your own projections/ Or change my most authentic life," she vows in between spine-tingling harmonies and plenty of vocal fireworks. Ari only gets more blunt from there, clapping back with her whole chest about the obsession with her body, relationship status, sex life and more. In her words, "Yes…and?" 

Jennifer Lopez — "Can't Get Enough"

Jennifer Lopez's ninth studio album, This Is Me… Now, has been a long time coming. But if lead single "Can't Get Enough" is any indication, the sequel to 2002's This Is Me… Then will be well worth the wait when it arrives Feb. 16. The track, which samples the late Alton Ellis' 1967 release "Still in Love," is a fizzy, funky delight that pops like a blast of champagne straight out the bottle.

On the song's chorus, the multi-hyphenate superstar giddily professes just how much she loves being in love (and back in love with now-husband Ben Affleck). And while the accompanying music video pokes fun at her trio of past marriages, fans can rest assured she's singing the lovestruck lyrics to the same Dunkin'-lovin' guy she was serenading 21 years ago on This Is Me… Then.

Jeymes Samuel x D'Angelo x Jay-Z — "I Want You Forever"

A new D'Angelo single would be a major event. So would a new Jay-Z single. After all, it's quickly coming up on 10 years since the neo-soul star released his last album, 2014's Black Messiah and the rap mogul's last solo single was the title track off 2017's 4:44.

However, director Jeymes Samuel managed to coax both men back into the studio to join forces for the soundtrack of his new biblical film The Book of Clarence starring Lakeith Stanfield. On "I Want You Forever," D'Angelo holds court with a hypnotic, repetitive hook before ceding the mic to Hov for the song's lone, pleading verse. 

Lil Nas X — "J CHRIST"

Nearly three years after giving the devil a lap dance in the hellish music video for his No. 1 hit "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)," Lil Nas X is flipping the script and ascending to heaven on his new single "J CHRIST." Well, not for too long — turns out a giant stripper pole connects the celestial realm with the fires of purgatory, and Lil Nas X is equally at home in each.

The track's high-concept, cinematic music video has it all: angelic doppelgängers of everyone from Taylor Swift, Mariah Carey and Oprah to Michael Jackson and Barack Obama; Lil Nas cooking up a cauldron filled with human limbs; and yes, even the rapper pinned to a cross in a visual sure to enrage the critics who were already up in arms before the track was even released. But by song's end, as Lil Nas X takes on the role of Noah emerging from a worldwide flood, the GRAMMY winner makes clear the hip-hop banger isn't just religious cosplay — it's a new beginning.

Sheryl Crow — "Evolution"

Sheryl Crow is uncharacteristically on edge on "Evolution," the lead single and title track of her forthcoming 11th studio album. The queen of bright singer/songwriter jams like "All I Wanna Do" and "Soak Up the Sun" (and newly inducted Rock and Roll Hall of Famer) takes aim at the encroaching threat of artificial intelligence to the music industry and creativity at large on the spacey track. 

To top it all off, she even recruited Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine to concoct a supercharged guitar solo that ratchets the uneasiness up to 11 as Crow warns, "Where are we headed in this paradise?/ We are passengers and there's no one at the wheel."

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Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

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He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at GRAMMY.com every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

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