On Sunday, January 26, 18-year-old singer-songwriter Billie Eilish took home an impressive five Grammy awards: best new artist, album of the year, record of the year, song of the year, and best pop vocal album. The week before, I had the chance to attend Spotify’s official Grammy party, which included performances by Eilish and the other Best New Artist nominees.
The party was held at the Lot Studios in West Hollywood, and getting into the venue was an adventure in and of itself. After standing in a line to get on a line to get on another line, I’d unfortunately missed the first act, hip-hop sensation Lizzo, but I did get inside in time to catch Eilish’s performance.
Only at an LA music industry event could there be such an unfazed crowd in front of an artist who is about to win a Grammy. Acknowledging how many people were talking, eating, and otherwise failing to give their full attention, Eilish joked, “I’m sorry to make you be quiet for this.”
The audience’s ostensible lack of enthusiasm didn’t reflect the quality of the act, though. Accompanied by her brother Finneas O’Connell on keyboard, Eilish played a mini-set consisting of “I Don’t Wanna Be You Anymore,” “Everything I Wanted,” and, of course, the haunting “Ocean Eyes.” The highlight, though, was their rhythmic yet mellow acoustic rendition of “Bad Guy.”
Next came a very different nominee, funk and soul duo the Black Pumas, who delivered an eclectic meld of rock and R&B on tracks like “Fire,” which was a bit reminiscent of The Black Keys, “Know You Better,” which contained gospel-like harmonies, and the soulful, catchy “Colors,” which featured an animated keyboard solo.
Singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers then took the stage, giving the night’s most energetic performance. She jumped up and down and danced almost nonstop as she cycled through hits like “Give a Little,” with its gorgeous closing harmonies, and “The Knife,” to which she added a classical piano intro. Singing poppy tracks like “Say It” and “Love You for a Long Time,” Rogers came off like she was genuinely enjoying herself, bending down at one point to give audience members high fives.
The audience favorite, however, seemed to be Lil Nas X, who opened with his second single “Panini.” Afterward, he accidentally called out to the audience, “What’s up, New York?” Everyone cheered nonetheless. He followed with “Rodeo,” then brought out Billy Ray Cyrus for an infectious performance of “Old Town Road,” leading audience members to sway and sing along to “I’m gonna take my horse to the old town road and ride ‘til I can’t no more.”
Spanish pop artist Rosalía came on next, appearing alongside dancers in Flamenco-like garb for a show that was visually stunning as well as musically catchy. I left before I got the chance to see the other two nominees, English singer-songwriter Yola and funk group Tank and the Bangas.
While Eilish was the one to take home the award, it’s clear that none of the other varied nominees will be fading from the public eye (or ear) any time soon. The Black Pumas are speaking to a variety of audiences with music that’s poetic and catchy, oldies-inspired and modern at the same time; Rogers is taking over the radio by adding her own original flavor to pop music; Lil Nas X has released several chart-topping songs at the tender age of 20; and Rosalía has a unique sound that’s catching attention worldwide. It’ll be exciting to see what each of them has done by the time the 2021 Grammys air. I’m betting it’ll be quite a bit.
Where to begin? Claire Boucher (who turned 31 on Sunday and now prefers to be addressed as the italicized, lowercase letter ‘c‘) gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal; between the very odd conversation and her recent Instagram posts, it seems like she’ll be appearing in our News Roundups for a while, so buckle up.
First of all, she’s officially announced a new Grimes record. It’s called Miss_Anthropocene, and revolves around the concept of the “anthropomorphic goddess of climate change,” according to her own Insta post. She describes the character thusly: “A psychedelic, space-dwelling demon/ beauty-Queen who relishes the end of the world. She’s composed of Ivory and Oil” and continues, “Each song will be a different embodiment of human extinction as depicted through a Pop star Demonology. The first song ‘we appreciate power’, introduced the pro-AI-propaganda girl group who embody our potential enslavement/destruction at the hands of Artificial General intelligence.”
In the same post, she also hinted that there might be an EP coming soon as well, which would ostensibly contain some of the stand-alone stuff she’s been working on while putting the LP together, like “Pretty Dark.”
On to the interview, which is behind a paywall I can’t afford and don’t want to pay to a conservative pub, so bear with me. c wants to “kill off” Grimes in a “public execution” because she feels limited by the branding she created back in 2009; her vision of herself as an artist is much more expansive, necessitating a Game of Thrones-esque book that will create a “lore” around her art and music. “It’s super, super pretentious,” she notes.
Reiterating her Instagram post, she says that she aims to make climate change “fun” with the new record, feeling that people ignore it largely because it makes them sad. Her solution to this dilemma is a series of “apocalyptic PSAs” in which she sits nude at a Last Supper-style dining table eating species on the brink of extinction, like a big bloody elephant head. You know, fun.
The album features an epic love ballad called “So Heavy I Fell Through The Earth” which Grimes says was inspired by the Assassin’s Creedmovie trailer rather than her relationship with Elon Musk, whom she all but refused to talk about. She did say she “loves him” but was “simply unprepared” for the attention/criticism that dating him has brought her. WSJ did quote an email Musk sent to them about Grimes, saying, “I love c’s wild fae artistic creativity and hyper intense work ethic.”
Grimes tweeted that she was mostly pleased with the interview, but that generally she hates doing them because “it’s like fighting a battle with a fake version of urself to see who the public believes more.”
Red Bull’s NYC Music Academy Lineup is Here
Taking place across NYC throughout May every year, Red Bull Music Academy has become one of our favorite non-festivals – the lineup is always diverse and well-curated, with an eye on slightly more obscure avant-garde acts playing off-the-beaten path venues. Now in its 16th year, the programming for 2019 has been announced, and there’s a lot to be excited about.
For one thing, RBMA will host breakout Spanish singer-songwriter Rosalía for her first live appearances stateside. Her stunning 2018 album El Mal Querer flips Flamenco on its head, and the elaborate visuals that characterized her gorgeous visuals will likely make their way into the two performances scheduled for the newly-reopened Webster Hall.
Also performing over two nights, FKA Twigs returns to NYC for her first shows here since 2015, when Red Bull staged her vogue-opera Congregata in an abandoned hangar. This time, she’ll take over the Park Avenue Armory’s similarly cavernous drill hall. She hasn’t released new music in a while, so we’re curious to see what form these shows will take.
Four more women will bring immersive shows to the fest: Harlem’s own Teyana Taylor presents House of Petunia, a “spectacular audio-visual experience spearheaded by her all-female production company, The Aunties, featuring provocative stage design and mesmerizing choreography from a world-class team of dancers;” Tierra Whack headlines New York for the first time at the iconic Rainbow Room with “quirky and surreal stage design” that mirrors her surreal “Whack World” project; composer and sound artist Holly Herndon premieres the live iteration of her forthcoming album PROTO, “incorporating a fluid ensemble of eight vocalists, Spawn (a nascent machine intelligence), machine learning specialists, choreographers, and visual artists;” and Moor Mother weaves sound and history together with a “large-scale performance” she’s curated alongside an installation by Black Quantum Futurism, both of which are based on the race riots that engulfed America in the “Red Summer” of 1919.
More from RBMA’s press release:
Additional Red Bull Music Festival New York shows include: Rapper/producer JPEGMAFIA, who will showcase his gritty and abrasive beats with a dynamic live show in-the-round; NYC’s Onyx Collective bringing together their notable friends from the worlds of jazz, hip-hop, soul, and R&B for a free and unreplicable performance of intense, genre-expanding jazz at one of New York City’s beautiful parks; and the festival closes with Nyege Nyege Night featuring a propulsive and bass-heavy set from Ugandan DJKampire who – after laying the bedrock for the creation of safe party spaces for women and the LGBTQ+ community at home – will make her US debut, co-headlining with rising singeli duo MCZO & Duke.
Tickets are sold for individual events and can be purchased here.
That New New
Speaking of Red Bull, break out that Hennessy – it’s Jenny Lewis Day, bitches.
Fresh off her Tim Presley collab DRINKS’ sophomore LP and tour, Cate Le Bon has announced her next solo album, Reward, out May 24 via Mexican Summer, with lead single “Daylight Matters.”
Nearly fifteen years after the release of their collaborative EP In The Reins, Calexico and Iron & Wine have reunited to record a full-length, Years to Burn. “Father Mountain” is the first single from the LP, out June 14 via City Slang.
Damien Jurado shared a new song from his stripped-down acoustic record In The Shape of a Storm, out April 12.
Juan Wauters has released the first single from Introducing Juan Pablo, out May 31. “Letter” was written in 2015; the record as a whole is something of a companion piece/prequel to his recently released La Onda de Juan Pablo LP.
Surprising no one, there’s a second volume to Broken Social Scene’s recent Let’s Try the After Vol. 1 EP on the way. Vol. 2 is out April 12 and its first single is “Can’t Find My Heart.”
Papercuts released a new three song EP, Kathleen Says, this week.
Lizzo and Missy Elliott have collaborated on a track, so music is basically over. Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You is out April 19.
Building on the momentum of recent single “Not What I Thought,” Somalia-born, Toronto-based vocalist Amaal brings the heat with another scorcher, “Coming & Going.”
Czarface, a hip-hop and comics collective featuring Inspectah Deck, has just released a collab LP with old Wu-Tang buddy Ghostface Killah. Czarface Meets Ghostface is out now, and so is this rad video for “Powers and Stuff,” seen from the POV of a very good boy.
Obliques are back with their first single since 2017’s “Instant Pleasure.”
Reptaliens’ sophomore LP VALIS arrives on April 26 – on cassette and limited edition pink vinyl. Watch the video for “Venetian Blinds” below.
Kero Kero Bonito released a video for “Swimming,” from last year’s Time ‘n’ Place.
Fat White Family return with a new video directed by Roisin Murphy. “Tastes Good With The Money” will appear on their third studio album, Serfs Up!, out April 19.
Plague Vendor unleash their new John Congleton-produced Epitaph Records LP By Night on June 7, and have shared a rowdy video for the raucous first track “New Comedown.”
Ibibio Sound Machine have a new album, Doko Mien, out today, and have shared a video for “Wanna Come Down.”
The latest video from Colombian breakout “Artist on the Rise” Elsa y Elmar is a journey, fam – and “Ojos Noche” is the Spanish-language alt-country bop you didn’t know you needed. Her next LP Eres Diamante arrives May 17.
Analogue special effects make for some gorgeous visuals in the dreamy new single from Heather Woods Broderick, who releases her newest album Invitation April 19. She’ll open for longtime collaborator and bandmate Sharon Van Etten at Webster Hall May 4.
Following the official announcement of her April 5 release Titanic Rising (and a video for “Everyday“) Weyes Blood shares a video for the album’s next single, “Movies.”
Tame Impala has released a new stand-alone single, “Patience,” to promote a headlining Coachella spot, numerous other festival appearances, and Saturday Night Live debut on March 30.
Honeyblood, now the solo project of Stina Tweeddale, releases their third LP In Plain Sight May 24, and have released a lyric video for “Glimmer.”
Here’s a ripper from new Queens-based band WIVES, who drop a two-part seven inch on City Slang in May.
Wes Miles unironically sings “Got the crew back together/Feels like it’s been forever” on “Bad To Worse,” the first song from Ra Ra Riot since the 2016 release of the LP Need Your Light; it’s produced and co-written by Discovery cohort Rostam Batmanglij.
Iconic surf guitarist Dick Dale, best known as the man behind “Miserlou,” passed away on Saturday at the age of 81.
Did you know that Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst hosts a jazz night at Los Angeles club The Black Rabbit Rose every Thursday? Lady Gaga does – she showed up last week to perform some Frank Sinatra covers.
San Francisco’s Outside Lands have announced the semi-retired Paul Simon as a headliner and reveal the rest of the lineup on Tuesday.
Woodstock 50 has official released their previously leaked lineup.
The Lollapalooza lineup has been announced; we’d save you a click thru and tell you who’s playing except that it’s literally the same bands playing every other festival, but in Chicago.
Justin Vernon and The National’s Aaron Dessner will bring a topsy-turvy version of Berlin event PEOPLE called 37d03d (get it? good, because it’s annoying to type) to Red Hook’s Pioneer Works; it’s a five-day residency featuring experimental-ish musicians like Vernon, Dessner, Sinkane, Boys Noize, Greg Fox, Shahzad Ismaily, and others, culminating in two performances on May 3 and 4.
The David Lynch Foundation, which brings transcendental meditation to sufferers of PTSD, have also announced a lineup for their benefit showcase on May 17 and 18 at Brooklyn Steel, featuring Wye Oak, Garbage, Phoebe Bridgers, Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem, and more.
Rekindling a decades old beef, Courtney Love had some choice words for Kathleen Hanna following the news that the latter’s riot grrl act Bikini Kill would play a handful of reunion shows in LA and NYC this spring. In the comment thread of a Bust Magazine Instagram post lamenting the shows’ record sell-out times, Love referred to Bikini Kill as “the biggest hoax in rock and roll,” later adding: “Two of the band total amateurs. Hanna is a good hype man but her persona is such a diy nonsense dilettante. A big idea they cannot convey, because they suck.” Hanna has not responded and Love has since deleted the comments, but her words reminded everyone that these two feminist icons haven’t seen eye to eye since Lollapalooza ’95, when a backstage altercation ended any hope of them uniting to crush the patriarchy. We have a sneaking suspicion that Love’s dislike of Hanna is rooted in jealousy over Hanna’s friendship with Love’s late husband Kurt Cobain (Hanna is credited with inspiring the title of Nirvana’s breakout single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”). We’re taking Hanna’s side on this one; Love’s comments were petty and we’re impressed Hanna didn’t take the bait.
The saga between Grimes and Azaelia Banks deepens! Back in August, Banks visited Grimes at the home of Grimes’ then-boyfriend, tech mogul Elon Musk. The two musicians were supposed to collaborate on a single, but in a series of social media posts, Banks described being trapped in the home as Musk did damage control over a tweet where he claimed he planned to take Tesla private at $420 a share. Banks says that Musk was on acid at the time, and postulated that he and Grimes had invited her to Los Angeles for a potential threesome. But because the Securities Exchange Commission sued Musk over the tweet, texts between Grimes and Banks from that time period have been subpoenaed, and Banks posted some of the exchange on Instagram; the posts were deleted, but not before someone grabbed screenshots that Jezebel was all too happy to repost (and we are all too happy to recommend you go and read immediately). We can’t get down with either going for the low-hanging fruit of insulting one anothers’ appearances, but have to name Azealia Banks the winner of this spat. Maybe it’s all the practice she’s had talking shit to or about damn near everyone on the planet, but we have to give props to the biting specificity of referring to Grimes as a “brittleboned methhead” who smells “like a roll of nickles.”
And finally, Princess Nokia noted the similarities between her song “Mine” (from her 1992 mixtape) and recently released Ariana Grande single “7 rings.” “Ain’t that the lil song I made about brown women and their hair?” she asks in a video posted to Twitter (and since deleted), concluding “Hmmm… sounds about white.” Soulja Boy also chimed in, claiming Grande had ripped off portions of his 2010 hit “Pretty Boy Swag.” The opening bars of Grande’s single crib more obviously from The Sound of Music‘s “My Favorite Things;” though Julie Andrews has yet to jump on the outrage bandwagon, someone who must be a literal genius mashed up all four artists and it kinda slaps. While we’re no fan of Grande’s ongoing issues with cultural appropriation, we’re calling this beef a draw – there’s nothing new under the sun, especially when it comes to hip-hop samples.
Chris Brown Accused of Rape in Paris
We’ll never forgive Chris Brown for using former girlfriend Rihanna as his personal punching bag – but we’re especially disgusted by the new lows he’s reached this week. A 24-year-old woman accused the singer and his entourage of taking turns raping her in his hotel suite at the Mandarin Oriental in Paris, where Brown had been attending Fashion Week events. The French are notoriously skeptical of rape victims, so it’s no surprise that Brown and the two other men accused of assaulting the woman were released within a few days on their own recognizance; the investigation is still ongoing. Rather than lying low, Brown took to social media in an attempt to discredit his alleged victim, even going so far as to create some truly tasteless merch that plays on the unfounded trope that women lie about sexual assault.
For what it’s worth, this isn’t the first time that someone has accused his entourage of mistreating women in their periphery – there’s a pending legal case against Brown, in which a woman claims she was raped by one of Brown’s friends at one of the singer’s drug-fueled parties.
That New New
Spanish sensation Rosalía released what has to be our favorite video this week, with a clip for “DE AQUÍ NO SALES” from her stunning 2018 album El Mal Querer.
Jenny Lewis is back with Stevie Nicks-ish jam “Red Bull & Hennessey,” a drink we do not recommend. It’s the first single from On The Line, due March 22.
Broken Social Scene shared details on their forthcoming EP Let’s Try The After – Vol. 1, which will arrive next month, along with early single “All I Want.”
Sneaks, the difficult-to-define solo project of queer black feminist Eva Moolchan, returns with Highway Hypnosis, her third studio album.
Sascha Ring, who produces electronic music as Apparat, announced LP5, his first album in six years, with diaphanous lead single “Dawan.”
J. Cole is producing a comp featuring artists from his Dreamville imprint entitled Revenge Of The Dreams II; his track “Middle Child” is the project’s official first single.
Groove Denied, an electronic solo album by Pavement frontman Stephen Malkmus that was reportedly rejected by his label, will be released via Matador in March. The first single is the delightfully weird “Viktor Borgia.”
Lady Lamb announced her next album Even in the Tremor will arrive April 5th on Ba Da Bing Records, and has shared its title track.
Teyana Taylor, Lena Waithe, and Mykki Blanco vogue their way through a ballroom dance-off for the ages in Taylor’s new video for “WTP,” from last year’s Kanye West-produced K.T.S.E.
Capping off her EP trilogy in March with Blue Pine, Munya shared the first of its three songs, “It’s All About You;” all three EPs will be packaged together as a full-length LP released on the same day.
Seattle’s Dude York have released two new singles alongside two previously released singles as the aptly titled EP Happy In The Meantime via Bandcamp.
Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst have appeared on each other’s albums in the past, but now the pair have teamed up to release a surprise record as Better Oblivion Community Center.
Vampire Weekend are back with a pair of singles, titled “Harmony Hall” and “2021;” both will appear on their fourth album and first in nearly six years. Titled Father of the Bride, it’s supposedly got 18 tracks and future singles will be released in pairs as well.
Florence + The Machine released a jazzy stand-alone single and its b-side on the heels of last year’s rousing High As Hope LP.
Ariel Palitz, NYC’s new Nightlife Mayor, sat down with Billboard to share what she’s learned in her first year on the job, and how she plans to support the city’s DIY music community.
The Oscar nominations are in and we’re totally rooting for Lady Gaga, who’s up for Best Actress for her role in A Star Is Born. The film is nominated for best Best Picture, alongside Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody (despite some recent sexual abuse allegations against its director). Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper seem like favorites to win Best Song for “Shallow” but Kendrick Lamar and SZA could give them a run for their money with “All The Stars,” from Black Panther. David Rawlings and Gillian Welch (“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings” from The Ballad of Buster Scruggs), Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (“The Place Where Lost Things Go” from Mary Poppins Returns), and Diane Warren and Jennifer Hudson (“I’ll Fight” from RBG) round out the Best Song nominations.
Spotify introduced a “mute” feature that allows users to essentially block particular artists from popping up on your playlists. It’s a nice compromise given their failed attempt to censor artists they’d deemed problematic, not to mention allowing folks to avoid that overplayed earworm-of-the-moment.
Pickathon 2019 lineups have been announced, with Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats and Khruangbin scheduled to headline.
We’re still not sure if it’s really the Pixies without Kim Deal, but the rest of the band are gearing up to release their seventh studio album (due in September), and a podcast about the band called “The Past Is Prologue” and hosted by Tony Fletcher will debut in June.
Some of hip-hop’s biggest stars, including Jay-Z and Meek Mill, have founded REFORM Alliance, aimed at much-needed criminal justice reform.
As the government shutdown stretches on, musicians from Kiss to Nile Rodgers are donating concert tickets, hot meals, and more to furloughed workers.
Each week Audiofemme gives away a set of tickets to our featured shows in NYC! Scroll down to enter for the following shindigs.