Photo: Michael Kovac/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
10 Must-See Moments From The 2023 GRAMMYs: Beyoncé Makes History, Hip-Hop Receives An Epic Tribute, Bad Bunny Brings The Puerto Rican Heat
The 2023 GRAMMYs marked a triumphant — and historic — return to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena, where modern superstars and living legends came together for a memorable celebration of music in all its forms.
A wide, uplifting tapestry of sounds was saluted and rewarded during the 2023 GRAMMYs. The telecast's pluralistic approach delivered a view of the present as a time of musical splendor while also celebrating its past — from hip-hop's legacy, to Latin's cultural influence, to pop's boundary-pushing stars.
Between history-making wins from Beyoncé and Kim Petras, a major victory by a young jazz sensation, and celebratory performances honoring greats, there was plenty to be reveled both on and off the GRAMMY stage. Below, take a look at the highlights of another memorable edition of Music's Biggest Night.
Bad Bunny Sticks Close To His Caribbean Roots
After global star Bad Bunny celebrated a year of extraordinary achievements — both artistic and commercial — the Puerto Rican tastemaker used his GRAMMYs performance to celebrate his Caribbean roots.
Benito could have picked an obvious selection, like the crowd-pleasing single "Tití Me Preguntó." Instead, he focused on the soulful roots of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic by performing electrifying renditions of "El Apagón" and "Después de la Playa."
Bad Bunny has demonstrated time and again a gift for reinventing Latin genres. And yet, "Después de la Playa" kept its insanely syncopated beats and feverish brass section faithful to traditional merengue. The late Dominican icon Johnny Ventura would have been proud.
The Fans Receive A Much-Deserved Spotlight
The awards, record deals and critical raves are indispensable elements of stardom. But in the end, it is the contributions of average fans that sustain a career. With that in mind, the GRAMMYs organized a roundtable with 10 studious fans, each making a case for their favorite performer to win the Album Of The Year award.
To their delight — and genuine surprise — host Trevor Noah invited them on stage for the coveted award, asking one of the most devoted fans in Harry Styles' pack to announce his win. The two shared a joyous embrace before she handed him his golden gramophone, serving as a touching closing reminder that the fans mean everything.
The Magic Of Motown Becomes Transformational
A brisk tribute to Motown co-founder Berry Gordy and musical genius Smokey Robinson — three songs, augmented by an inspired Stevie Wonder — proved that words will never be enough to capture the label's contribution to pop culture. A factory of beautiful dreams, Motown gave us a string of timeless hits that combine aural poetry with propulsive rhythms, honeyed hooks and virtuoso arrangements. Seeing the 82 year-old Robinson perform the 1967 classic "The Tears of a Clown" was one of the evening's most dazzling moments. (The performance also featured Wonder's rendition of the Temptations' "The Way You Do The Things You Do" and a duet with country singer Chris Stapleton on Wonder's own "Higher Ground.")
Honoring The Past Shows The Future Is Bright
2022 was a year of artistic triumph, but also of tremendous loss. The In Memoriam segment of the telecast was sobering, also honoring performers who are lesser known in the United States but definitely worthy of a mention — such as Brazil's Erasmo Carlos and Argentina's Marciano Cantero.
It began with a stately rendition of "Coal Miner's Daughter" by Kacey Musgraves in tribute to country legend Loretta Lynn, then continued with Quavo and Maverick City Music honoring Migos' Takeoff, ending with an homage to Fleetwood Mac's Christine McVie from Sheryl Crow, Bonnie Raitt and Mick Fleetwood. Many artists were lost during the past 12 months, but their music lives on.
A Queen Breaks Records — To A Disco Beat
Beyoncé was allegedly stuck in traffic when she won her third GRAMMY of the evening — Best R&B Song for the joyful single "CUFF IT" — which, as Trevor Noah noted, put her one win away from making GRAMMY history. Luckily, by the time her name was announced for that record-setting feat, she was in attendance — and very much in shock.
Her seventh studio LP, RENAISSANCE, won Best Dance/Electronic Album. The win put her GRAMMY total at 32, marking the most wins of all time. Visibly emotional, Beyoncé first took a deep breath and said "I'm trying to just receive this night"; before heading off stage, she made sure to honor the queer dance pioneers who inspired the album, an exuberant tribute to classic dance format.
Hip-Hop Shines As A National Treasure
2023 marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop — so, naturally, the GRAMMYs put together perhaps the most legendary celebration possible. Featuring the Roots, Run-DMC, Queen Latifah, and many, many more, the nearly 15-minute performance highlighted the genre's influence from past to present.
The parade of legends tracing the history of the genre was breathtaking. From Grandmaster Flash ("The Message") and De La Soul ("Buddy") to Missy Elliott ("Lose Control") and Lil Uzi Vert ("Just Wanna Rock"), the extensive medley gave hip-hop its rightful place of honor as the most compelling musical movement of the past 50 years.
The Art Of Songwriting Stands The Test Of Time
One of the show's most endearing images was the utter shock on Bonnie Raitt's face when she was announced as the winner of the Song Of The Year GRAMMY — perhaps because her competition featured the likes of Beyoncé, Adele and Harry Styles. "This is an unreal moment," she said. "The Academy has given me so much support, and appreciates the art of songwriting as much as I do."
In retrospect, Raitt's win shouldn't surprise anyone who is aware of her superb musicianship — and her 15 GRAMMYs to show for it. A rootsy, vulnerable song, "Just Like That" is the title track of her eighteenth studio album; the song also took home the GRAMMY for Best American Roots Song earlier in the evening.
Lizzo Dedicates Her Grammy Win to Prince (And Beyoncé)
By the time Record Of The Year was announced, the prodigiously gifted Lizzo had already brought the GRAMMY house down with rousing performances of the funky "About Damn Time" and the anthemic "Special." But clearly the best was yet to come, as the former track took home one of the night's biggest honors.
As Lizzo began her speech, she paid homage to Prince, who both served as an idol and a mentor to the star. "When we lost Prince, I decided to dedicate my life to making positive music," she said, going on to explain that while she first felt misunderstood for her relentless positivity, mainstream music has begun to accept it — as evidenced by her win for "About Damn Time."
Before leaving the stage, she made sure to give one more idol a shout-out: Beyoncé. "You changed my life," Lizzo said, reflecting on seeing the "BREAK MY SOUL" singer when she was in 5th grade. "You sang that gospel medley, and the way you made me feel, I was like, 'I wanna make people feel this way with my music.' So thank you so much."
Contrary To Popular Belief, Jazz Proves It's Far From Dead
It only takes one listen to the wondrous voice of young Bronx singer Samara Joy to understand that she follows the same path once walked by Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald. Joy's second album, Linger Awhile, includes atmospheric versions of such classic nuggets as "Misty," "'Round Midnight" and "Someone To Watch Over Me."
The rising star was already a winner going into the telecast, as Joy took home the golden gramophone for Best Jazz Vocal Album in the Premiere Ceremony. But when she beat out mainstream hitmakers like Latto, Anitta and Måneskin for the coveted Best New Artist GRAMMY, Joy not only set her place in the jazz firmament — it hinted that the genre may be ripe for a revival.
The Pop Concept Album Lives On
It's not only the stunning beauty of its melodies, and the pristine warmth of the production. Harry's House is a special album partly because of its vaguely conceptual sheen — the pervasive feeling that the 13 songs within are interconnected, an intimate journey into the singer's creative soul.
At the telecast, Styles performed an ethereal reading of his luminous mega-hit "As It Was." His well-deserved win for Album Of The Year confirmed that it's perfectly valid to mix accessible pop with a sophisticated unifying theme — and if you do it really right, you may just win a GRAMMY.
Essential Hip-Hop Releases From The 1990s: Snoop Dogg, Digable Planets, Jay-Z & More
In the '90s, hip-hop officially left the underground for full commercial fanfare. During hip-hop's golden age, rappers were multifaceted in their flow and lyrics, creating music that is now legendary.
Three decades ago, hip-hop made a turn from the underground to commercial fanfare. The eclectic sensibilities of the 1980s created space for artists of all stripes, leading to the golden age of hip-hop, and releases that are now considered an integral part of the genre's canon. By the 1990s hip-hop was a chart-topping entity and enterprise, where artists were popularized through streetwear campaigns and brand deals.
In this decade, rappers were multifaceted in their flow and lyrics — whether rugged and hard-spitting, or poetic and fervently expressive. Artists like psychedelic hip-hop group De La Soul, salacious femcee Lil' Kim and Atlanta heavy-hitters Outkast expanded rap’s palette. Beats ranged from synthetic to weighty 808 drum patterns, all which redefined the genre’s 20-year presence.
Hip-hop chronicled truth and fantasy, providing listeners both deeply resonant and vividly divergent soundtrack whose influence continues to be felt. Decades later, records released in the 1990s are legend, and many of them appeared on the 65th GRAMMY Awards stage in a massive tribute to hip-hop.Here are 10 signature albums that bridged the golden age and the digital era of hip-hop.
De La Soul - De La Soul Is Dead (1991)
By 1991, conscious hip-hop pioneers De La Soul were over the "D.A.I.S.Y. Age" introduced on their seminal debut album 3 Feet High and Rising. The Long Island trio, composed of Posdnuos, Maseo and the late Trugoy the Dove jazzed up their sound on sophomore effort De La Soul Is Dead, marking a radical transition from hip-hop "hippies" to earnest rhymesayers.
Posdnous and Trugoy melded simple production (courtesy of Prince Paul) with complex bars on "Pease Porridge," and also explored the traumas of sexual molestation through metaphor on "Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa." Although De La Soul Is Dead received mixed reviews, the LP was one of the first albums to earn a five-mic rating in hip-hop publication The Source. "Still progressing and proud of it, De La has successfully escaped being trapped in the sophomore jinx with grooves that are harder than a brick wall," the throwback review reads.
With De La Soul Is Dead, the group, whose back catalog just arrived on digital music services in March, evaded the dreaded sophomore slump and cemented their place in hip-hop history.
Snoop Dogg- Doggystyle (1993)
After Calvin Broadus — then performing under the moniker Snoop Doggy Dogg — released his breakthrough album Doggystyle, West Coast rap was never the same. Playing on inspirations from classic Blaxploitation films and early funk pioneers, Snoop kept his posture smooth while rhyming over beats from Dr. Dre (who also discovered the Long Beach native), and welcomed fellow then-newcomers like The Lady of Rage, Tha Dogg Pound, Warren G and RBX as features.
Giving listeners "just a small introduction to the G-Funk era," Snoop helped usher in a soul-laden gangsta rap sound that stood in distinct contrast to the East Coast’s grittiness and jazz influence. The iconic "Gin and Juice" and "Who Am I (What’s My Name?)" have long been summertime cookout staples, while the eerie "Murder Was the Case" preceded Snoop being acquitted of murder just three years later. Now a 16-time GRAMMY nominee, Doggystyle marked Snoop’s debut as a hip-hop elite.
A Tribe Called Quest - Midnight Marauders (1993)
Three albums into their career, A Tribe Called Quest didn’t let up on Midnight Marauders. The Queens-bred group, which included Q-Tip, the late Phife Dawg, Ali Shaheed Muhammad (and occasional member Jarobi White) flaunted their lyricism and expansive musical knowledge on the 1993 release, which was navigated by a robotic "tour guide."
Q-Tip and Phife’s wordplay is nimble throughout the album, but truly spotlighted on the Trugoy the Dove-assisted "Award Tour," the amorous "Electric Relaxation" and "The Chase, Pt. II." "8 Million Stories" and "Midnight" were solo moments for Phife Dawg and Q-Tip, respectively, each who had brushed up their penmanship since ATCQ’s 1991 reinvention on The Low End Theory. Both atmospheric and imaginative, Midnight Marauders showcased ATCQ’s range as a progressive hip-hop act.
Digable Planets - Blowout Comb (1994)
Jazz rap trio Digable Planets maintained their cool just one year after winning a GRAMMY Award for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group. In 1994, Ishmael "Butter Fly" Butler, Mariana "Ladybug Mecca" Vieira and Craig "Doodlebug" Irving followed with Blowout Comb, their second and final studio album. With a minimalist approach, Digable Planets trekked through urban and Afrocentric themes soundtracked by live instrumentation and spoken word.
Emotionally stirring and thematic, "Black Ego" saw Digable Planets tackling economic injustices and Black nationalism with nods to Blaxploitation films Cleopatra Jones and Superfly. The group asserted their refusal to go commercial on laidback earworm "Jettin." Seventies slang and references to New York City boroughs floated throughout Blowout Comb, and although singles "9th Wonder (Blackitolism)" and "Dial 7 (Axioms of Creamy Spies)" didn’t chart, the album reintroduced Digable Planets in their most authentic form and reached No. 32 on the Billboard 200.
2Pac - Me Against the World (1995)
With an awareness unrivaled by his contemporaries, Tupac Shakur's penultimate album, Me Against the World, exploredhis complexities. By March 1995, the rapper had served one month in prison on sexual abuse charges, and had used his previous year of freedom to record arguably the most poignant LP of his lifetime.
On the titular track, Shakur examined impoverished Black communities and morbid thoughts of mortality. A sample of Stevie Wonder’s "That Girl" textures "So Many Tears," where 2Pac vocalizes music industry woes, his depression and even predicts an early death. "Dear Mama," (which inspired the FX docuseries of the same name), was 2Pac’s dedication to mother and former Black Panther Party member Afeni Shakur; it became the third song by a rap act to be placed in the Library of Congress.
The latter song and Me Against the World would both earn Shakur his first GRAMMY nominations. While he didn't win, both are masterpieces that signaled the rapper’s coming-of-age.
Jay-Z - Reasonable Doubt (1996)
Jay-Z gave a solid lyrical offering on his 1996 debut. A landmark album on the now-defunct Roc-A-Fella Records, the 14-track Reasonable Doubt brought mafioso and luxury rap into the ring, as Jay-Z gave semi-autobiographical tales of street life.
On "Feelin’ It," the Brooklyn rapper boasts his riches and opulent lifestyle, while the Issac Hayes-sampling "Can I Live" explores the close calls that the hustle brings. Hov’s stream-of-conscious flow highlighted production from the likes of Ski Beatz, DJ Premier and Clark Kent.
Reasonable Doubt predicted Jay-Z’s thriving future without a doubt, as he’s since taken hip-hop’s throne as a coveted 24-time GRAMMY-winning artist (in addition to 88 nominations).
Lil’ Kim - Hard Core (1996)
Brooklynite Lil’ Kim carved out space for risque rap on her 1996 solo breakout Hard Core. Less than six months after the murder of her mentor the Notorious B.I.G., the former Junior M.A.F.I.A. member achieved solo commercial success for her provocative lyricism and appearance. Whereas many of her contemporaries adopted a more androgynous style, Lil’ Kim played up her sex appeal onstage and on record.
The raunchy "Big Momma Thang," which samples 1978 Sylvester deep cut "Was It Something That I Said," shows Lil Kim’s allyship with queer listeners. Lil’ Kim asserted her hood dominance on "No Time," while flaunting her affection for being classily "draped in diamonds and pearls." Although Hard Core was Moderately received, Lil’ Kim’s rap successors —Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B — would later speak highly of the Queen Bee’s NSFW magnetism. Nearly 30 years later, contemporary women in hip-hop continue to strive for Lil’ Kim’s unapologetic influence.
Missy Elliott - Supa Dupa Fly (1997)
Hip-hop hadn’t witnessed fly until Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott stepped onto the scene. The Virginia-born rapper and singer/songwriter had once been a part of R&B group Sista before partnering with producer Timbaland. The two both wrote and produced almost the entirety of Aaliyah’s 1996 album One In A Million. By the late ‘90s, Elliott’s pen was in demand, giving her the confidence to share her unconventional sound and look as a solo act.
Her 1997 debut, Supa Dupa Fly, redefined what it meant to be a woman in rap. Over Timbaland's bass-thumping production, Elliott went full-on futuristic. She humorously teased her sexuality on the audacious "Sock It 2 Me," while the bouncy "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)" sampled Memphis soul vocalist Ann Peebles with peculiar lyrics like "my finger waves these days, they fall like Humpty."
Two decades before being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and receiving the Black Music Collective's Recording Academy Honors award, Elliott took the rap world by storm. Ahead of its time yet heralded, Supa Dupa Fly and Elliott’s one of a kind style showed the artist’s peers and successors how to be creative anomalies.
Outkast - Aquemini (1998)
The South had something to say on Outkast’s third album Aquemini. The duo of André 3000 and Big Boi asserted their southern charm and immaculate rhyme schemes on the 16-track album that catapulted them to stardom. As the two rappers perfected their individualism, Aquemini also showed 3000 and Big Boi seamlessly meshing their styles together.
More spacey than their sophomore album ATLiens, Outkast doubled up on their down home twang on the funky (but controversial) "Rosa Parks." The two questioned reality from dystopian technology on the surreal "Synthesizer" with P-Funk legend George Clinton. Listeners can visualize a juke joint scene on the reggae-tinged "SpottieOttieDopaliscious," where 3000 and Big Boi intertwine tales of a violent nightclub encounter and a cursed romance.
Aquemini ushered a turn in Dirty South hip-hop, where the region gained national respect for its storytelling, realism and unique flow.
Dr. Dre - 2001 (1999)
Super producer and rapper Dr. Dre brought out the all-stars on his 1999 sophomore solo album 2001. The LP reunited the now seven-time GRAMMY-winner with his prodigies Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Xzibit, Nate Dogg and Kurupt, while ushering in a new age of West Coast rap. Seven years after his groundbreaking debut album The Chronic, the former N.W.A. member was "Still D.R.E."
On the aforementioned track, written entirely by Jay-Z, Dr. Dre flexed his near 15-year impact in hip-hop. "The Watcher" detailed the Compton native reaching music industry plateaus despite paranoia of "a new era of gangstas." Strip club anthem "The Next Episode" harkened back to Dre and Snoop’s "Nuthin’ But A 'G' Thang," while "Let’s Get High" captured a raunchy house party. On 2001, now certified 6x platinum, Dr. Dre was at his most carefree while setting the bar high for a new generation of hip-hop.
Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for the Recording Academy
The 2023 GRAMMYs Nominated For Three Emmys: See The Categories Below
In an awards show crossover to remember, the 2023 GRAMMYs telecast has been nominated in three prestigious categories at the 2023 Emmy Awards.
An Emmy for the GRAMMYs? It's happened before, and it could happen again.
The 2023 Emmys nominations list has been revealed, and Music's Biggest Night is well represented.
The 2023 GRAMMYs have been nominated for Emmy Awards in the Outstanding Production Design For A Variety Special, Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction For A Variety Special and Outstanding Sound Mixing For A Variety Series Or Special categories.
In the first category, the 2023 GRAMMYs compete with "The Oscars," "Encanto At The Hollywood Bowl," "Carol Burnett: 90 Years Of Laughter + Love," and "The Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show Starring Rihanna."
The second category also contains "Encanto At The Hollywood Bowl," as well as "2022 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony," "75th Annual Tony Awards," and "The Weeknd Live At SoFi Stadium."
Also nominated in the third category are "Bono & The Edge: A Sort Of Homecoming With Dave Letterman," "Elton John Live: Farewell From Dodger Stadium," "Saturday Night Live • Co-Hosts: Steve Martin & Martin Short," and "Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert."
Check out the complete list here, and watch this space to see if the GRAMMYs will take home the world's most prestigious TV award!
Photos: Andrew White
What To Expect At Beyoncé's Renaissance World Tour In The U.S.: Rhinestones, Samples & An Incredible Supporting Cast
Beyoncé recently wrapped the European leg of her soul-stirring Renaissance World Tour. Ahead of her American run, which begins in Philadelphia on July 12, read on for a play-by-play from Spain that will hint at what's to come in the U.S.
According to the Spanish press, Beyoncé is a goddess, which, at this point in her 30 years career, is a rather irrefutable claim. Yet the artist is proving her status once again via her 56-date Renaissance World Tour, which arrives in the U.S. on July 12.
"Beyoncé isn't a human, isn't divine, she's something much more powerful," Spanish publication El Confidencial proclaimed after her June 8 date in Barcelona, her eighth tour stop.
I can't really argue with these claims, likely scribbled furiously by some of the men sitting near me inside Barcelona's Lluís Companys Olympic Stadium. There, the pop diva brought her GRAMMY-winning RENAISSANCE album — which celebrates queer Black culture, house music and disco — to life in a show that also samples from her rich catalog.
Yet the humanity behind the most-decorated GRAMMY winner could be felt acutely throughout: when she'd shout out to the audience, or when she gave the floor to her daughter Blue Ivy or her incredible dance crew, and in the simple act of hearing her unparalleled voice in person.
It's impossible to attend this stellar show — a two-and-a-half-hour work of art — and not attempt to calculate all the work and care that Beyoncé and her team put into executing a live celebration of RENAISSANCE and her wider catalog. One of the writers in my midst looked like he was performing calculus to determine how the hell Queen Bey brought so much magic on stage.
Beyoncé will launch the North American leg of her tour in July in Toronto. If you are lucky enough to score a ticket, you’re in for a treat; the performance features a runway show of iconic looks (which change nightly), an energetic setlist brought to life by a large, stellar live band, and a ballroom performance. The show has been executed flawlessly of course, but by the time Queen Bey and her crew bring it to the U.S., they’ll have put in hours and hours of practice for what will undoubtedly make for a heavenly event.
Read on for a lowdown of what Beyoncé served up at her record-breaking Barcelona show (the sold-out crowd of 53,000 was the largest audience for a solo female artist in Spanish history) to get a taste of what you can anticipate when she brings the energy, glitz and glam to a city near you.
Expect Uninterrupted Dance Floor Ecstasy
"My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom," Bey wrote in her announcement of the RENAISSANCE album last summer. "I hope it inspires you to release the wiggle. Ha! And to feel as unique, strong, and sexy as you are."
She’s brought that intention fully to life with the Renaissance tour, creating collective moments to stadiums full of dancing, euphoric bodies.
The expert curation of seemingly endless looks, incredible choreography and seamless setlist filled with "remix" moments made it hard to sit down. The show is so action-packed, you'll be catching your breath if you try to track every single sample and gravity-defying dance move. Even when the queen left the stage for a costume change, her incredible dancers continued the energy and kept the eye-catching show going.
Just as the album plays like a DJ set, with each track leading directly into a juicy teaser of the next track, the stacked setlist of 40 songs is just as lively, energetic and flowing. "Samples" from across her catalog and her influences were woven into every song, offering fresh renditions of her music and a non-stop delivery of groove.
Beyoncé's voice was impeccable; her vocal range shined through the expansive set list. On tracks like "Heated," Beyoncé reminded us she’s a badass rapper who can throw down bars.
The Custom Designer Looks Are A Show In Itself
The show’s plentiful fashion moments channeled the sparkle and glam of the disco era through a Afrofuturistic, space age lens, to eye-catching effect. Expect more fresh variations of her Renaissance lookbook stateside to be revealed each night.
In Europe, Bey rotated her looks for each show, an extra special treat for fans (and surely for the fashionista herself) as she debuted new ones. Her European tour was filled with outfits from established and smaller designers — including some local brands — with Balmain, David Koma and Loewe designs aplenty. To commemorate Juneteenth at her Amsterdam show, she exclusively wore outfits by Black designers. The coordinating accessories were on-point as well; apparently, the singer brought 41 pairs of custom Jimmy Choos on the trek.
In a rather legendary moment in Barcelona, Ms. Carter returned from a costume change lounging on a gigantic golden shell as she sang "Plastic Off The Sofa." In her peak shimmery moment of the evening, she soon revealed her head-turning golden custom Loewe catsuit, covered in sparkling red-fingernailed hands. She rocked sparkly black red finger-nailed gloves and gold rhinestone booties to match. The dancers wore matte, mesh catsuits, each with their "hands" in different positions.
Other stunning ‘fits from her Barcelona show included a colorful psychedelic mesh dress by David Koma paired with rimless bedazzled space-age sunglasses. She donned a silver, red and black leather space suit from Fendi with matching thigh-high boots, silver gloves and an upcycled fur stole she added on later.
During the jaw-dropping "Mind Control" act featuring "America Has A Problem," Queen Bey channeled her nickname in a futuristic killer queen space bee look from Mugler with thigh high patent high-heeled boots and antennaed helmet. She’s served up an artsy, buzz-worthy selection of bee-inspired couture during this segment (near the end) of the show.
The BeyHive also adorned themselves in rhinestones, sequins, silver-everything, and cowboy hats and boots to pay tribute to their queen.
It’s Not Just Glitz & Glam, There’s Plenty Of Feels
Beyoncé’s 11-year-old daughter Blue Ivy also made headlines during the European tour. During the impactful The Lion King: The Gift cut "My Power," Blue stole the show and spotlight. She rocked the same red suit as the dancers, but stood out as she danced next to her mom, deftly hitting every move with power.
Kendrick Lamar's social justice anthem "Alright" was powerfully woven in with "My Power" and brought into the sonic, visual conversation, expanding the two tracks to new heights. This led to Bey’s inspiring Juneteenth 2020 track, "Black Parade" and ended with everyone on stage holding up their fists in the Black power symbol as the stadium cheered.
It's been almost a year since RENAISSANCE lead single "Break My Soul" dropped, and much has gone on in the world since. The refrain "you won't break my soul" remains a pertinent mantra, a cold glass of lemonade when things feel unbearable. And hearing the echoes of tens of thousands of voices singing it in unison felt like we could harness at least a little of Beyoncé's history-making, era-defining superpowers.
During 4 opener, "Love On Top," Beyoncé turned her mic to the crowd to amplify their voices. It felt as if the entire, 53,000-person audience — probably some of the staff too — was singing along in a moment of collective love and unity.
Bey Shares The Stage With A Collective Of Powerhouse Dancers & Musicians
Just as she brought in an impressive team of co-producers collaborators to craft RENAISSANCE, she assembled a stellar cast of dancers, singers and musicians to help bring it to life on stage. Yes, everyone doled out the big bucks to see Beyoncé perform, but she clearly and beautifully made space for everyone to shine.
According to her website, there are 23 dancers, including Blue Ivy and Les Twins — a twin brother duo and regular Bey guests who can contort into gravity-defying shapes. In addition to sharing the credits online, she also made sure to shout everyone out during her final song.
"Pure/Honey" featured a full-on ballroom moment where the dancers with real-life ball experience, including Honey Balenciaga, wowed the audience. Together, they offered full-on, tens-across-the-board-worthy ball with dips, duckwalks and so much more.
During an epic rendition of Bey and Jay-Z’s "Crazy in Love," her band got a chance to shine. The horn players came out front for their moment, and the female saxophonist got down for her solo. During the show, they served up world-class sound from an elevated silver platform.
When the star left to change after "Crazy in Love," her backup singers flawlessly sang Diana Ross' 1976 disco classic, "Love Hangover." They were serving futuristic Supremes in matching holographic silver dresses and gloves as a giant disco ball moved towards them, as if magnetized by their disco realness.
Patron Saint Beyoncé Took Us To Church
Beyoncé and her angelic voice were raised in the church, and during the show, the "Annointed" act brought her vision of worship to life, where all are welcome.
To announce the segment, lasers spelled out "Annointed" on the screen, followed by a gold and green church. In yet another breath-taking style moment (one that’s seemingly consistent throughout the tour) Queen Bey appeared in a long all-white robe-like dress. As she held her arms out in cross-form under the UV light, it was transformed into stained glass rainbow print. Japanese fashion brand Anrealage made that miracle possible.
As if her mind-blowing technicolor dreamcoat wasn't enough, Bey threw it off to reveal a shimmering Balmain silver sequin and pearl bodysuit, complete with a silver rhinestone-encrusted church hat. Her choir’s robes were also transformed by the light, but they also revealed black mesh outfits (presumably much easier to twerk in).
This extravaganza led into "Church Girl," albeit a slowed down version, which added drama and showcased her heavenly vocals. When she went into "drop it like a thotty," the music sped up and the dancers started twerking. In a similar contrast of party-heater and soulful ballad, the 2007 Swizz Beatz-co-produced heater "Get Me Bodied" led to a stunning rendition of "Before I Let Go." The act ended with an a cappella moment where one of the dancers adorably looked at the real-life goddess with pure admiration.
On "Church Girl," Beyoncé preaches her vision of spirituality — you can be sexy and have fun as a child of God. And perhaps it's exactly the dancing with abandon, shaking your troubles away, that supports your path towards righteousness.
The Flawless Production Will Leave Your Head Spinning – In A Good Way
A massive, high-definition screen that ran the width of the stage with an archway in the middle provided extra context and visuals during the show, announcing each act and adding to the set with images of disco balls, robot legs, dancers, and more. The lighting and lasers were also amazing and added a dance club energy to the stadium.
The stage itself was also large and unique, with an additional catwalk jutting from it, and a circle surrounding it. The stage brought Beyoncé closer to the lucky fans at ground level, and allowed plenty of space to slay.
Stage props included a silver space tanker and disco horse, both of which Beyoncé rides on, along with robot arms that fan her off during "Heated." During that song — which she revealed is her favorite from RENAISSANCE — a towering circle of mics surrounded her.
While it's quite hard to measure fabulous against fabulous, the Virgo queen progressively one-upped herself throughout the show. She saved the best for last, though, opening the jaw-dropping final act with Jim Morrison quote "Whoever controls the media controls the mind" flashed on screen, between "MIND" and "CONTROL," with Bey's face in the middle. It felt like a playful nod to the conspiracy theory that Bey and Jay are part of the Illuminati, as well as to the very real overload of information (and misinformation) we experience 24/7. The screen flashed images of fire, clocks, reCAPTCHA prompts, and more to a medley of Destiny's Child's songs.
This organized chaos set the tone for "America Has A Problem" during which a fake stock market ticker — with symbols like "HNY" that alluded to her song titles — inched along the edges of the screen. The supposed master puppeteer sat at an "on air" news desk, a la her RENAISSANCE photo shoot.
And for the final moments of magic on stage, Beyoncé took us to heaven. She rode out on a disco horse a la the RENAISSANCE cover (and Bianca Jagger at Studio 54) to Donna Summers' disco hit "I Feel Love." She wore an impossibly long, blindingly shimmering disco cape, and wrapped the show with the "I Feel Love"-sampling track and RENAISSANCE closer, "Summer Renaissance." As silver confetti burst into the audience, she flew through the air high above the stage, her regal cape fluttering like angel wings.
Photo: Erika Goldring/WireImage, Daniele Venturelli/Daniele Venturelli/Getty Images for Luisaviaroma, Scott Legato/TAS23/Getty Images for TAS Rights Management, Astrida Valigorsky/Getty Images, Don Arnold/WireImage, Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Atlantis Paradise Island, Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
15 Must-Hear Albums This July: Taylor Swift, Dominic Fike, Post Malone, NCT Dream & More
From the highly anticipated 'Barbie' soundtrack to a celebration of Joni Mitchell's iconic Newport Folk Festival return, check out 15 albums dropping this July.
The first half of 2023 is already behind us, but July gives us much to look forward to. The warm sun, tours and festivals abound, and a heap of exciting releases — from Colter Wall's country music to NCT DREAM's K-pop — will surely make this season even more special.
We start it off with Taylor Swift and her third re-recorded album, Speak Now (Taylor's Version) on July 7, the same day Pitbull returns with his twelfth studio album, Trackhouse. Post Malone will deliver his fourth LP, AUSTIN, and Blur returns with their first album in eight years. And for the classic music lovers, folk legend Joni Mitchell will release At Newport — a recording of her first live performance since 2015 — and rock maven Stevie Nicks will drop her Complete Studio Albums & Rarities box set.
To welcome the latter half of a year filled with great music so far, GRAMMY.com offers a guide to the 15 must-hear albums dropping July 2023.
Taylor Swift, Speak Now (Taylor's Version)
Release date: July 7
Taylor Swift fans are used to gathering clues and solving puzzles about the singer's intricate, ever-expanding discography. Therefore, in her hometown of Nashville concert last May, when she announced that Speak Now (Taylor's Version) would come out on July 7, it was not much of a surprise to the audience, but rather a gratifying confirmation that they had followed the right steps.
"It's my love language with you. I plot. I scheme. I plan. And then I get to tell you about it," Swift told them after breaking the news. "I think, rather than me speaking about it ... I'd rather just show you," she added, before performing an acoustic version of Speak Now's single, "Sparks Fly."
Shortly after, she took it to Instagram to share that "the songs that came from this time in my life were marked by their brutal honesty, unfiltered diaristic confessions and wild wistfulness. I love this album because it tells a tale of growing up, flailing, flying and crashing … and living to speak about it."
Speak Now (Taylor's Version) is Swift's third re-recorded album, following 2021's Red (Taylor's Version). It will feature 22 tracks, including six unreleased "From the Vault" songs and features with Paramore's Hayley Williams and Fall Out Boy. "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 shared on Twitter. Swift is currently touring the U.S. with her acclaimed The Eras Tour, which will hit Latin America, Asia, Australia, UK, and Europe through August 2024.
ANOHNI and the Johnsons, My Back Was a Bridge For You To Cross
Release date: July 7
"I want the record to be useful," said ANOHNI about her upcoming sixth studio album, My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross. The English singer says she learned with her previous LP, 2016's HOPELESSNESS, that she "can provide a soundtrack that might fortify people in their work, in their activism, in their dreaming and decision-making," therefore aiming to make use of her talents to further help and inspire people.
Through 10 tracks that blend American soul, British folk, and experimental music, ANOHNI weaves her storytelling on inequality, alienation, privilege, and several other themes. According to a statement, the creative process was "painstaking, yet also inspired, joyful, and intimate, a renewal and a renaming of her response to the world as she sees it."
My Back Was A Bridge For You To Cross "demonstrates music's unique capacity to bring harmony to competing, sometimes contradictory, elements" — qualities that can be observed in the album's contemplative pre-releases "It Must Change" and "Sliver Of Ice."
Release date: July 7
GRAMMY-winning singer/rapper Pitbull has recently broadened his reach into an unexpected field: stock cars. Together with Trackhouse Entertainment Group founder Justin Marks, he formed Trackhouse Racing in 2021, an organization and team that participates in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Now, to unite both passions, the Miami-born singer is releasing Trackhouse, his twelfth studio album and first release since 2019's Libertad 548. "In no way, shape, or form is this some kind of publicity stunt," said Mr. Worldwide of the upcoming album during a teleconference in April. "This is real. This is all about our stories coming together, and that's why the fans love it. […] This right here is about making history, it's generational, it's about creating a legacy."
Preceded by singles "Me Pone Mal" with Omar Courtz and "Jumpin" with Lil Jon, it seems that Trackhouse, despite its innovative inception, will continue to further Pitbull's famed Latin pop brand. This fall, he will also join Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin on The Trilogy Tour across the U.S. and Canada.
Dominic Fike, Sunburn
Release date: July 7
Multitalented singer, songwriter and actor Dominic Fike also joins the roll of summer comebacks. His second studio album, Sunburn, comes out July 7, and follows 2020's acclaimed What Could Possibly Go Wrong.
In recent years, the Florida star found great exposure after landing a role in the HBO hit series "Euphoria" as well as the upcoming A24 drama Earth Mama, which is slated to release on the same day as Sunburn. The past three years were also marked by collaborations with a handful of artists, from Justin Bieber ("Die For You") to Paul McCartney ("The Kiss of Venus") to his Euphoria co-star Zendaya on "Elliot's Song" from the show's soundtrack.
Sunburn marks Fike's joyful return to music, aiming to portray "the aching and vulnerable revelations of a young artist still growing and putting their best foot forward," according to a press release. Through 15 tracks, including singles "Dancing in the Courthouse," "Ant Pile," and "Mama's Boy," Fike will explore themes of "heartbreak and regret, addiction, sex, and jealousy."
One week after Sunburn's arrival, Fike will embark on a tour across North America and Canada, starting July 13 in Indianapolis.
Lauren Spencer Smith, Mirror
Release date: July 14
Lauren Spencer Smith said on TikTok that she's been working on her debut album, Mirror, for years. "It has been with me through so much in my life, the highs and the lows, and it means more to me than I can put into words. It tells a story of reflection, healing and growth," she added.
The 19-year-old, British-born Canadian singer is unafraid to dive deep into heartbreak and sorrow — as she displayed on her breakthrough hit "Fingers Crossed" — but offers a way out by focusing on her growth. "I went through a hard breakup, and the album tells the story of that all, the journey of that and now being in a more happy relationship. The title comes from the one thing in my life that's seen me in every emotion through that journey — my bedroom and bathroom mirror."
Like a true Gen Zer, Smith has been teasing the 15-track collection and its upcoming world tour all over social media. On July 14, the day of the album release, she kicks off the North American leg of the tour in Chicago, before heading to the UK, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
Colter Wall, Little Songs
Release date: July 14
"You might not see a soul for days on them high and lonesome plains/ You got to fill the big empty with little songs," sings Colter Wall on the titular track off his fourth studio album, Little Songs. The Canadian country star says in a press release that he wrote these songs over the last three years, and that "I penned most of them from home and I think the songs reflect that."
Born and raised in the prairies of Battle Creek, Saskatchewan, Wall found inspiration in the stillness of his surroundings. With this album, he bridges "the contemporary world to the values, hardships, and celebrations of rural life" while also opening "emotional turns as mature and heartening as the resonant baritone voice writing them," according to a press release.
Little Songs is composed of 10 tracks — eight originals and two covers (Hoyt Axton's "Evangelina," and Ian Tyson's "The Coyote & The Cowboy.") He'll celebrate the album's release with a performance at Montana's Under The Big Sky festival on the weekend of the LP's arrival.
Release date: July 14
British singer Mahalia celebrated her 25th birthday on May 1 by announcing IRL, her sophomore album. Out July 14, the R&B star claims the album to be "a real reflection of the journeys I've had, what actually happened, and a celebration of everyone who got me there."
The 13-track collection will feature names like Stormzy and JoJo, the latter of whom appears on the single "Cheat." Before the release, Mahalia also shared "Terms and Conditions," a self-possessed track that pairs her silky voice with delightful early-aughts R&B.
"I'm so proud of this album, and so proud of how much I challenged myself to just let those stories out," she said in a statement. "We're all fixated on how we can make ourselves better but I want people to also reminisce on lovely or painful situations they've lived through and how they've helped shape the people they are now."
IRL is Mahalia's follows 2019's highly-acclaimed Love and Compromise. In support of the release, she has announced UK and Europe tour dates from October through November.
NCT DREAM, ISTJ
Release date: July 17
The Myers-Briggs Personality Test (also known as MBTI) is a current craze in South Korea, therefore, it was only a matter of time until a K-pop group applied its insights on their music. Although none of NCT DREAM's seven members has the ISTJ personality type, that's what they decided to call their upcoming third studio album, out on July 17.
The 10-track collection comes in two physical versions: Introvert and Extrovert, the first letters and main differentiators in any MBTI personality. Spearheaded by the soaring "Broken Melodies," where they display an impressive set of vocals, their comeback announcement on Twitter promises "The impact NCT DREAM will bring to the music industry."
Since September, the NCT sub-group embarked on The Dream Show 2: In A Dream World Tour, which crossed Asia, Europe, North America. The group will wrap up July with four concerts in Latin America.
Blur, The Ballad of Darren
Release date: July 21
"The older and madder we get, it becomes more essential that what we play is loaded with the right emotion and intention," said Blur's guitarist Graham Coxon in a statement about The Ballad of Darren, the band's ninth studio album set to arrive on July 21.
Maybe that explains why The Ballad is their first release in eight years, and represents "an aftershock record, reflection and comment on where we find ourselves now," according to frontman Damon Albarn. During a press conference in May, bassist Alex James reinforced the positive moment that they find themselves in, stating that "there were moments of utter joy" while recording together.
Produced by James Ford, the album contains 10 tracks, including the wistful indie rock of lead single "The Narcissist." On July 8 and 9, Blur is set to play two reunion gigs at London's Wembley Stadium, followed by a slew of festivals across Europe, Japan and South America.
Barbie: The Album
Release date: July 21
The most-awaited summer flick of 2023 also comes with a staggering soundtrack. Scored by producers Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt, Barbie: The Album features songs by hot stars like Dua Lipa, Lizzo, and Ice Spice, as well as some surprising additions, such as psychedelic star Tame Impala and K-pop rookie sensation Fifty Fifty.
As undecipherable and alluring as the actual movie plot, the album tracklist only increases expectations for Greta Gerwig's upcoming oeuvre. Is it all a satire? Is it a serious take on "life in plastic" and consumerism? Is it about nothing at all? You can try to find some clues through pre-release singles "Dance the Night" by Dua Lipa, "Watati" by Karol G, and "Angel" by PinkPantheress.
Greta Van Fleet, Starcatcher
Release date: July 21
Fans who attended the three final shows of Greta Van Fleet's Dreams in Gold Tour this March already got a sneak peek of the band's upcoming third studio album, Starcatcher. Among their most popular hits, the quartet played five new songs — or half of Starcatcher — including singles "Meeting the Master," "Sacred the Thread," and "Farewell for Now."
In a statement about the album, drummer Danny Wagner said that they "wanted to tell these stories to build a universe," and that they wanted to "introduce characters and motifs and these ideas that would come about here and there throughout our careers." Bassist Sam Kiszka adds: "When I imagine the world of Starcatcher, I think of the cosmos. It makes me ask a lot of questions, like 'Where did we come from?' or 'What are we doing here?' But it's also questions like, 'What is this consciousness that we have, and where did it come from?'"
Just a few days after release, Greta Van Fleet will embark on a world tour. Starting in Nashville, Tennessee on July 24, they will cross the U.S. and then head over to Europe and the UK in November.
Post Malone, AUSTIN
Release date: July 28
In a shirtless, casual Instagram Reel last May, hitmaker Post Malone announced his upcoming fourth studio album, AUSTIN, to be released on July 28. Titled after his birth name, the singer shared that "It's been some of the funnest music, some of the most challenging and rewarding music for me, at least" — a very different vibe from the more mellow, lofi sounds of 2022's Twelve Carat Toothache — and that the experience of playing the guitar on every song was "really fun."
Featuring 17 tracks (19 on the deluxe version), AUSTIN is preceded by the dreamy "Chemical" and the angsty "Mourning," and sees Malone pushing his boundaries in order to innovate on his well-established sound. The album will also be supported by a North American 24-date trek, the If Y'all Weren't Here, I'd Be Crying Tour, starting July 8 in Noblesville, Indiana and wrapping up on August 19 in San Bernardino, California.
Stevie Nicks: Complete Studio Albums & Rarities box set
Release date: July 28
To measure Stevie Nicks' contribution to music is an insurmountable task. The Fleetwood Mac singer and songwriter has composed dozens of the most influential, well-known rock classics of the past century ("Dreams," anyone?), also blooming on her own as a soloist since 1981, when she debuted with Bella Donna.
In the four decades since, seven more solo albums followed, along with a trove of rarities that rightfully deserve a moment in the spotlight. Enter: her upcoming vinyl box set, Stevie Nicks: Complete Studio Albums & Rarities. The 16xLP collection compiles all of her work so far, plus a new record with the aforementioned rarities, and is limited to 3,000 copies. It's also the first time that Trouble in Shangri-La, In Your Dreams, and Street Angel are released on vinyl. For those who can't secure the limited set, a version of Complete Studio Albums & Rarities with 10xCDs will be available digitally.
Joni Mitchell, At Newport
Release date: July 28
Last year's Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island was one to remember. During one evening of the fest, a surprise guest graced the "Brandi Carlile and Friends" stage: it was none less than legendary folk star, Joni Mitchell. And what's more? It was her first live appearance since 2015, when she suffered a debilitating aneurysm.
During that time, the 79-year-old singer quietly held "Joni Jams" at her home in Los Angeles — inviting musicians that ranged from Elton John to Harry Styles to participate — with organizational support offered by Carlile. With Mitchell's special appearance at Newport, the coveted experience of a Joni Jam was available for thousands of fans.
This month, the release of At Newport eternalizes the headlining-making moment, bringing her talents to an even bigger audience. Among the classics in the tracklist are "Carey," "A Case of You," and "The Circle Game," proving that Mitchell is still as magical as when she stepped on the Newport Folk Festival stage for the first time, in 1969.
Jennifer Lopez, This Is Me… Now
Release date: TBD
In 2002, J.Lo was everywhere. Her relationship with actor Ben Affleck ensued heavy attention from the media, and her This Is Me… Then album — which featured hits like "Jenny from the Block" — was a commercial success, with over 300,000 first-week sales in the U.S.
How funny is it that, 20 years later, the singer and actress finds herself in a similar situation. After rekindling with Affleck in 2021, she announced the sequel to her 2002 release, This Is Me… Now, and stated in an interview with Vogue that the album represents a "culmination" of who she is.
A press release also describes This Is Me… Now as an "emotional, spiritual and psychological journey" across all that Lopez has been through in the past decades. Fans can also expect more details on the new-and-improved Bennifer, as many of the titles among its 13 tracks suggest, especially "Dear Ben Pt. II."
Although an official release date has not yet been revealed, on June 29, Lopez posted a cryptic image on social media with the caption "album delivery day" — suggesting that the highly anticipated This Is Me update may not be far away.