We Only Said Goodbye With Words: Remembering Amy Winehouse 10 Years Later | GRAMMY.com (2024)

We Only Said Goodbye With Words: Remembering Amy Winehouse 10 Years Later | GRAMMY.com (1)

Amy Winehouse

Photo Credit for Images (L-R): Chris Christoforou/Redferns, Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images for NARAS, Rob Verhorst/Redferns

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On the 10th anniversary of her passing, GRAMMY.com honors Amy Winehouse with an industry round-table tribute featuring the artists, creatives and journalists she's inspired through her music and style

Bianca Gracie

|GRAMMYs/Jul 23, 2021 - 11:00 am

To truly understand Amy Winehouse, you have to be in tune with the unfiltered version of yourself. Through her whiskey-soaked vocals and lyrics that sang more like ripped diary pages, the singer pulled at heartstrings worldwide.

A Southgate, North London native, Winehouse first emerged onto the music scene with 2003’s Frank. Partly inspired by Frank Sinatra (one of her many influences), the debut album was an engaging collection of breezy, jazz-soul ditties that commented on everything from local gold diggers (the cheeky "F*** Me Pumps") to annoying boyfriends ("Stronger Than Me").

But the artist’s global breakout moment is attributed to 2006’s follow-up and final album, Back to Black. While Frank teased Winehouse’s innate talent, this sophom*ore record showcased a budding legend before the world’s very eyes. The album is unabashed in its rawness, with Winehouse triggering listeners with once-deeply hidden memories of the emotional rollercoaster that relationships bring: the distracting love bombing, the painful heartbreak and trying to pull yourself out of the pits. Back to Black’s foundation is honesty, reflecting the artist’s own personal life at the time — from her tumultuous relationship with then ex-beau and future husband Blake Fielder-Civil to her battle with addiction and the mobs of British paparazzi tracking her every move.

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Back to Black was a refreshing fusion of ‘60s girl group doo-wop, contemporary R&B, pop, reggae, and soul. The magic that Winehouse created with collaborators Mark Ronson, producer Salaam Remi and Sharon Jones' band The Dap-Kings led to massive success. Back to Black took home five out of six GRAMMY Awards (including Record of the Year for "Rehab"and Best New Artist). Following her untimely death, Winehouse won best Pop/Duo Performance in 2011 for her "Body and Soul"collaboration with Tony Bennett, as well as Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for Nas’ "Cherry Wine"in 2012.

Along with her gripping music, Winehouse made a stamp on pop culture through her nostalgic fashion style. A mix of ‘60s Motown, rockabilly and British ‘80s punk, she became known for her signature to-the-sky beehive hairdo, overly extended winged eyeliner, cherry-red lips, Monroe piercing and love for short co*cktail dresses. In 2020, her style was commemorated in the GRAMMY Museum’s "Beyond Black – The Style Of Amy Winehouse"exhibit with assistance by her stylist Naomi Parry and longtime friend Catriona Gourlay. Winehouse’s legacy remains strong to this day: she paved the way for artists like Adele, Duffy, Estelle to cross over stateside, and also inspired a new generation of singers who admired her musical bluntness.

On the 10th anniversary of her passing today (July 23), GRAMMY.com honors Amy Winehouse with an industry round-table tribute featuring the artists, creatives and journalists she's inspired through her music and style.

The quotes and comments used in this feature were edited for clarity and brevity.

She Tapped Into Everyone’s Emotions

Alessia Cara (GRAMMY-winning Canadian singer/songwriter): I remember seeing the "Rehab"video for the first time and being glued to the television. She had big curly hair like mine, sitting on a stoop and singing with the most beautiful voice I'd ever heard. From then, I watched every video I could find on YouTube and learned every song. She made me want to learn the guitar, made me fall in love with jazz, and made me understand the undeniable power in simplicity and honesty. I saw so much of myself in her, in ways that I just couldn’t find in a lot of people on the radio at the time. To this day, if I write a lyric that feels a little too close for comfort, I think of her and how she would have said it anyway and it puts me right back on track. The real magic lies just past discomfort. It’s embedded in the truth. There is no one who did it more impactfully than her, but I always keep that sentiment in my pocket when speaking of my own feelings in my music; It’s shown me the reason for music in the first place. It’s an escape, a shoulder, a mirror. She never took it lightly and because of that — neither do I.

Charlotte Day Wilson (Toronto singer/songwriter): Amy's music was soulful, unafraid and deeply personal. As a teen who was obsessed with Motown, I was instantly hooked when I heard Back to Black for the first time. Her swagger as a vocalist, her crass yet timeless lyrics, the production, everything just hit perfectly and I know those elements/ influences live in me in many ways as an artist.

Suchandrika Chakrabarti (London-based journalist, comedian and performer of "I Miss Amy Winehouse"show): When I look back at my memories of the 2000s, so many of them are soundtracked by Amy’s music. I was born in the same year as Amy Winehouse – 1983 – and she’s six months younger than me. She was born in a suburb of north London, and I was born in a suburb of east London. We could’ve gone to the same school. She moved to Camden and made it her home in the 2000s; I worked and partied in Camden during the same period.

Amy always felt three steps away, perhaps pulling pints in The Hawley Arms or listening to the after-hours rockabilly music in the backroom of Marathon Bar (a kebab shop that used to host late-night parties), or having a smoke as she invited a gang of people back to her Camden flat for an after-party. Yet, she was a record-breaking global mega-star that I somehow didn’t run into around Camden!

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The Amy I read about and saw in interviews was incredibly likable and unafraid of the media machine. Her kind of London accent wasn’t (and still isn’t) often heard on TV, and she would not play by the rules of a nice, media-trained pop starlet, choosing instead to criticize other acts, talk about her relationships and bare her soul, or storm off, depending on her mood. She could give as good as she got, particularly towards older male journalists who wanted to view her with an objectifying eye.

Most of all, she was funny. Earlier on in her career, she could undercut the dramatically heartbroken image of herself that her songs suggested by just turning up to interviews and being her own sarcastic, quick-witted self. Amy entertained the public off-stage as well as on, and I always wanted to know what she would do next. I was always rooting for her.

Lolo Zouaï (R&B/pop singer/songwriter): My favorite part about her music is her songwriting; her voice sounds so timeless but her lyrics have an edge to them. She doesn't filter what she wants to say which is such a beautiful contrast that I try to emulate in my lyrics.

Daya (GRAMMY-winning pop singer-songwriter): Amy’s ability to pick you up wherever you are and place you right in the middle of whatever she was going through was transcendent. To see the world through her lens has impacted me greatly as a person, songwriter and artist. What I love most about her as a person was her stubbornness and reluctance to compromise — she knew exactly what she wanted and didn’t care to cater to industry expectations or appeal to any specific audience. I constantly find myself trying to channel that energy when I’m met with resistance to my work. She’s easily one of the greatest artists that’s ever lived, and I feel lucky to have been alive at the same time as her.

Mike Spinella (Senior Director, Original Content at Pandora): I had the privilege to work with Amy in 2007 when she came to the United States to promote Back to Black. I had been booking talent and developing new content at AOL Music and became aware of the U.K. buzz surrounding her talent and instantly iconic voice. The record felt timeless immediately, it was brilliant — perfect, really. I had the opportunity to book Amy in our studio, where she gave a remarkable stripped-down performance, it was the first time I had seen her perform in person. Her extraordinary talent was undeniable at that moment. This was a very impactful moment in my career, being able to share her performance with the world. I am extremely proud to have played a role in reaching a large audience in the U.S. at that stage of her career with this timeless content.

Her Music Was Both Charming & Timeless

Alessia Cara (singer): Amy had this unmatched ability to tap into specific details of her life in a way that made you think of your own. She was brutally honest, sometimes to the point that made you uncomfortable. But it’s only that type of honesty that can hit a certain nerve in people — one that feels like she’s holding a mirror right up to your face. The older I get, the more her lyrics shape-shift their meaning to me. She detailed the human experience (specifically sadness) in ways that if you didn’t relate to in the past, you eventually will. You can go back to those songs and think, "Wow I get it now." Her music is timeless because the shared experience of love and loss is timeless.

Suchandrika Chakrabarti (journalist, comedian and performer): Her music is about the biggest things in life: love, sex, trust, pain, emotion. Amy’s songs manage to make each of us the "Main Character"in the imaginary film of our life, her dramatic soundtrack scoring our highs and lows, our sadnesses and our triumphs. That’s why she seemed like the perfect fit for a Bond theme; it’s a shame that it didn’t work out.

I’ve been researching a lot of media from the time to write my show, and Mark Ronson’s quote about Amy writing the single "Back to Black"in two or three hours really stuck with me. Her lyrics could have been diary entries, polished into poetry and set to melodies that can make you jump onto the dancefloor or fall onto your bed in despair. Her pain was raw, and part of her processing it was to make it into music. That part made sense, but it was sharing it with the public that I think took its toll on her.

The contrast between her stage presence and her "real"presence in interviews and on the streets of Camden was utterly fascinating. She didn’t need to try to capture our attention with a fancy home, designer clothes or perfectly prepared soundbites for headlines. The talent reeled us in, and we just wanted to know everything about the person who could make this music at such a young age. She burst into fame apparently complete, any apprenticeship in music already done and dusted.

Daya (singer): Her honesty, pain and the blatant rawness with which she talked about the struggles of love, sex, drugs, addiction, and temptation cuts through. It’s timeless because it touches on universal human emotion and experiences that will exist and be shared as long as humans are alive on earth. She was completely unfiltered, politically incorrect and unconcerned with what others think, and I think that is and will always continue to be a refreshing take, especially now at a time when art/music can feel increasingly watered down or made "safe"to cater to whatever will work in a mainstream or commercial way.

Mike Spinella (Senior Director, Original Content at Pandora): What struck me right away was Amy's unique style. Her sound was modern and classic all at the same time. Having witnessed Amy perform several times, including in an intimate studio session, it was easy to see how her sheer talent and captivating presence would inspire musicians for generations to come. Beyond the music, what also struck me was her sincerity, love and appreciation for the artists who influenced her as well as her peers. Amy embodied the creativity of a true artist and it showed in her work. Her career will continue to inspire those who have not yet discovered her brilliance.

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Her Sense of Fashion Style Was Unapologetic

Nicholas Vega (GRAMMY Musem’s Curator and Director of Exhibitions, who helmed the "Beyond Black – The Style Of Amy Winehouse"exhibit last January): Amy’s style has proven to be timeless and has influenced a number of artists (and continues to do so). This is undeniable. There are certain elements of her style that other artists have adopted — whether it is the beehive hairdo, eye make-up, tattoos, or fitted dresses. But the most influential attribute of her style has to be her sense of individualism. Her stylist and friends were influential in helping her develop her look, but ultimately Amy took bits and pieces of trends and styles that she admired to create her own look. This is so essential because she could have very well let her team tell her what and what not to wear. Her interest in fashion extended well beyond her own personal wardrobe, as this is clearly visible in her direct involvement in 2010’s Fred Perry campaign and the different looks she developed with her stylist Naomi Parry. When talking about Amy’s style or "look,"this is what stands out the most to me.

Daya (singer): Her style and image were provocative in a way that really drew you in immediately. It was very "cool girl who doesn’t give a f***" while still alluding to glamour and opulence that kept it interesting and mysterious and elevated. She was beautifully extravagant without trying too hard, and she showed her body in a way that felt empowering and emboldening to me. Her general attitude toward style has influenced me heavily: she single handedly got me into eyeliner when I was a teen and it’s still my favorite item of makeup.

Opening night of the Beyond Black - The Style Of Amy WinehouseExhibit at theGRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles |Photo:Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

She Created Soulful Hits

Charlotte Day Wilson (singer): [Back to Black single] "Love Is A Losing Game"was an instant classic and remains one. It's a song I turn to when I need someone to echo my pessimism towards love & its potential for longevity.

Nicholas Vega (GRAMMY Musem’s Curator and Director of Exhibitions): My all-time personal favorite Amy Winehouse song is "In My Bed"off the Frank album. Sampling Nas’ [2002 hit] "Made You Look"was genius! Sampling is such a huge part of hip-hop and the beat from "Made You Look"was actually lifted from the Incredible Bongo Band’s “Apache” from 1973. There are few instances where hip-hop beats are used by artists from other genres of music — it’s usually the other way around. With a hip-hop beat serving as the record’s backbone, combined with her soulful voice and emotionally raw lyrics, Amy’s creativity is certainly on full display.

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Suchandrika Chakrabarti (journalist, comedian and performer): "Tears Dry On Their Own"is my favorite song and video. From the sample of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's soaring "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"from 1967 to the lyrics speaking of growing up, changing her ways and being her own best friend, this should be Amy’s anthem rather than "Rehab."The sample draws a direct comparison between the two songs: "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"is about two people whose love cannot be dimmed by distance, whereas "Tears"is about one codependent person finding the strength to walk away, no matter the imagined obstacles, or the urge to try just one more time.

The other songs on Back to Black are about the pain and of surrendering to one’s own destructive patterns in love, but "Tears"is a manifesto for change. There’s much more hope in the lyrics, even though it can sound more downbeat in the melody than "Rehab"or "You Know I’m No Good."That’s the sly secret at the heart of Amy’s songs: the lyrics and the melody work beautifully together, but they each provoke two different emotions in us.

The video has always struck me as being inspired by two memorable Richard Ashcroft videos from the Britpop era. The obvious one is his strut down East London’s Hoxton Street as the frontman of The Verve in 1997’s "Bitter Sweet Symphony."Amy, being a woman and (despite the beehive, only 5’3") emulates on Hollywood Blvd.

The quieter scenes with Amy in a hotel room call to mind Richard Ashcroft’s "A Song For The Lovers"in 2000. While he moves around his large hotel room with a sense of joy, Amy longingly sits alone in her small room. I think that we would have got more songs like "Tears Dry On Their Own"as Amy got into her 30s. There’s self-acceptance and maturity that makes it stand out from the other tracks on Back to Black. Plus, it’s just a great song to belt out at karaoke.

Lolo Zouaï (singer): I love so much of her music but the song "Wake Up Alone"is my favorite. I love to listen to her music in the morning because of the way it makes you feel so present.

Daya (singer): You Know I’m No Good" holds a special place in my heart because it was my favorite song to sing when I was 10 and still is one of them now. I used to cover it on the ukulele all of the time, and I was always drawn to the seduction and provocation of it without even knowing it at the time. It’s interesting to fully comprehend the layers of the lyrics as an adult now. It also really made me want to work with a big band at some point in my career.

Mike Spinella (Senior Director, Original Content at Pandora): It is hard to have a favorite song when Amy made so many perfect ones. But I will choose the song I probably have listened to most: "Tears Dry on Their Own." It encapsulates everything I love about Amy's music: an ear-worm tune that showcases Amy's one-a-kind vocals, blending struggles, heartbreak and truth into a candy-coated melody, all while paying homage with an interpolation of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's classic "Ain't No Mountain High Enough."

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She Was A Budding Icon Gone Too Soon

Alessia Cara (singer): I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. It was my second year of high school, so I was sitting on my bed writing an essay on my laptop. My mom came in, sat on my bed with me, and told me. I remember feeling my heart sink. One of my first thoughts after the initial questions of how, why, and where, was selfishly: "Oh my God. I will never meet her."Looking back, it’s kind of an ambitious thing to say. The thought that me, a high school student from Brampton, would have definitely met her had it not been for her passing was so far-fetched, yet it was crushing. As long as she was alive, there would still be the one percent chance that I’d run into her and get to tell her what she meant to me. But this solidified that I would never have that chance.

That moment sparked so many devastating truths. She was never going to write a song again. We will never hear her sing again. How was someone so poignantly human, with an endless stream of emotions, never going to feel a single emotion again? It felt like she was robbed of the chances she was supposed to have. I felt her pain through her words and the thought that her life ended within that pain felt so wrong. Death never feels right, but this felt especially wrong.

Thinking back now, her passing ultimately taught us all the true purpose of songwriting and how music lives on despite any circ*mstances. Her words continue to touch whoever hears [them] — even 10 years later — and will continue to for generations. She’s still very much alive within that. I didn’t get to know her, but her art makes us all feel like we do. Her spirit is transcendent and her heart is still on earth, every time we dance around our kitchens to "Tears Dry On Their Own"or ugly cry to "Love is a Losing Game."Through her beautiful work and the awe she continues to leave us in, Amy will always be here.

Suchandrika Chakrabarti (journalist, comedian and performer): It was a Saturday lunchtime when the news broke. I was at home in Finsbury Park, which is about a 10-minute drive from Camden. I couldn’t tell you which medium brought me the news first — radio, TV, or online — but the moment I knew, I was on all three at once, trying to find out more.

I was utterly shocked. Amy had been photographed walking around London just two days earlier, looking much healthier and stronger than she had in a long time. I genuinely thought that she would be able to turn things around. She was only 27, six months younger than me. Of course, there would be more songs, there would be more sightings of her around Camden, she would shepherd her goddaughter Dionne Bromfield into a promising music career of her own...

I was working in broadcast news at the time and two days after her death, I was sent down to the scene outside her flat to collect interviews. It was an extraordinary scene. The buildings on Amy’s streets are gorgeous mid-19th-century townhouses arranged around a large rectangle of grass, and every inch of it was covered in mourners.

These were teenagers, not 20-somethings like Amy or myself. They had created their own festival outside Amy’s home: drinking, smoking, and smearing their black eyeliner with their tears. It seemed like a strange tribute to a singer who had probably died due to drugs or alcohol — at this point we didn’t know for sure — and I still wonder now what those fans got from being there. I suppose they felt that they were being witnesses to the private, lonely death of such a public, much-photographed star.

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Her Artistry Impacted A New Generation

Charlotte Day Wilson (singer): Just that the world of music was a better place with her in it. There will always be an empty space where she should've remained.

Nicholas Vega (GRAMMY Musem’s Curator and Director of Exhibitions): As I closely worked with her family and friends to develop the "Beyond Black – The Style of Amy Winehouse"exhibition, it became immediately clear that there are so many rich layers to her story. Having been able to hear first-hand accounts from those who knew her best and to be able to examine and analyze different objects from her personal collection, I learned that she was truly dedicated to her craft. Her passion for music and [music-making] was such a huge part of her DNA. Although she was blessed with a beautiful and soulful voice, she did not take that for granted. This really stands out as something special, as many people do not know this side of her story.

Suchandrika Chakrabarti (journalist, comedian and performer): While Amy’s music is timeless, she lived in a very specific age. One in which her obvious difficulties were met with mocking headlines, cruel jokes on TV and a lack of support. We watched a career and life unfold, blossom and then end in real-time. So much more has to be done to care for people in her position. It would be nice to think that future generations of fans will find the values of the 2000s archaic, and that Amy’s sad trajectory in full view of the world won’t be repeated.

Lolo Zouaï (singer): She was always authentically herself and just wanted to make music because that was her way of coping with her life, which was not easy. She never wanted to be famous, she was just born an artist and felt everything so deeply.

Daya (singer): I would hope that her addiction and death don’t cast a shadow on everything that she was and everything she contributed to the world. I hope her legacy continues to live on as one of the most important and brilliant songwriters and pop culture influences who’s ever lived. She was undergoing heavy personal battles and the people around her — combined with the industry/media — continued to manipulate and exploit her for their own monetary or social gain. It was completely unfair and tragic what happened to her, which shouldn’t at all take away from the beautiful artist and person she was.

Big Voices, Ballads and Blockbuster Hits: How 1996 Became The Year Of The Pop Diva

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In 1996, the Spice Girls' spirited anthem not only dominated the charts and airwaves, but also put girl groups on the map. If you want to uncover the magic behind their meteoric rise, "you gotta listen carefully…"

Chloe Sarmiento

|GRAMMYs/Jul 8, 2024 - 08:44 pm

Who could have guessed that a track recorded in under an hour would become an iconic celebratory anthem of female empowerment and friendship? It seems like the Spice Girls did.

The music industry was ripe for a bouncy pop hit in 1996, and "Wannabe" entered the arena with undeniable power. With an infectious blend of dance-pop and hip-hop, as well as catchy lyrics promoting female empowerment, "Wannabe" carried on the spirit of the early '90s riot grrrl movement while delivering a radio-friendly bop.

The Spice Girls' debut single proved that the girl group wouldn't be wannabe stars for long. The song spent four weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, and was certified platinum multiple times in the U.S., United Kingdom, Australia, and several other countries.

Producer Richard Stannard told BBC that the now-canonical British quintet battled Virgin Records to release "Wannabe" as their debut single (executives pushed for "Love Thing"). While both songs would appear on Spice, the Spice Girls' 1996 debut album, the group's instinct and confidence paid off. Twenty-eight years later, "Wannabe" remains an iconic pop song and one of the Spice Girls' most enduring tracks.

While the Spice Girls may have seemed like an overnight success in America, its members had been working their way through the British music scene for years. In March 1994, hundreds of aspiring stars crammed into Dancework Studios in London after an advertisem*nt was posted in The Stage magazine looking for the next girl band.

The groups were randomly split up, taught a dance routine, and then had to perform the song for talent managers and father-son duo, Bob and Chris Herbert. One month later, with 10 girls left, the initial final four — Melanie "Scary Spice" Brown, Melanie "Sporty Spice" Chisholm, Victoria "Posh Spice" Adams, and Geri "Ginger Spice" Halliwell — were all chosen to form the final group with a then-17-year-old Michelle Stephenson. The group moved into a home together, where they received additional dance training and vocal coaching. However, Michelle was soon replaced by Emma "Baby Spice" Bunton, completing the lineup of Spice Girls that as we know them today.

"Of course I regret I'm not a multi-millionaire like them. But at the time I left the group I knew I was doing the right thing and I still think it was the right thing," Stephenson told The Mirror in 2001. "It wasn't my kind of music and they were not living the lifestyle I wanted."

Read More:

The group's charisma and corresponding archetypal personalities were put on display in the music video for "Wannabe." The iconic, single-take music video shot in London’s Midland Grand Hotel (now St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel), became as legendary as the track itself. In 2015, Billboard included the video for "Wannabe" in a list of 10 iconic girl group videos, solidifying the video's lasting impression.

Directed by Johan Camitz, the video was the perfect visual introduction to the group: Ginger Spice unapologetically dances through the hotel in a sparkly Union Jack leotard alongside Scary Spice, whose bold persona is conveyed through carefree dances that included whipping her hair around. The group's distinct, playful personalities remained a key selling point used throughout their career.

"Wannabe" producers Matt Rowe and Stannard first saw the Spice Girls at a showcase, and the duo instantly knew that they had the next group of superstars. Soon after, Rowe and Stannard worked with the group to produce "Wannabe," and the chemistry was undeniable.

In her 2002 book, Catch a Fire: The Autobiography, Brown recalls that the producer duo understood the group's vision and automatically knew how to blend "the spirit of five loud girls into great pop music."

"Wannabe" was an inescapable radio hit in the '90s — for all the right reasons. From the punchy beat and distinctive vocal inflections, to the shouts of "if you wanna be my lover," the song remains as a persistent earworm.

Even science backs that claim up. According to a 2014 study conducted by the University of Amsterdam and Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry, researchers found that study participants were able to identify and name "Wannabe" in an average of 2.29 seconds, making it the quickest recognized song in the study. This was ahead of Lou Bega’s "Mambo No 5" and Survivor’s "Eye of The Tiger," and underscores "Wannabe’s" celebrated and timeless status.

While the song itself is a lively, carefree summer anthem perfect for blasting in the car with the windows down, its lyrics resonate with a powerful message of female empowerment and friendship, standing tall above conventional romantic themes.

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"Girl Power embodies much more than a gender," Gerri Horner, formerly Halliwell, told BBC in 2017. "It's about everybody. Everybody deserves the same treatment, whatever race you are, gender you are, age you are. Everybody deserves a voice."

With such a strong debut as "Wannabe," it's clear why the Spice Girls weren't just a one-hit wonder. The British girl group went on to deliver dozens of other pop hits like "Say You'll Be There" and "2 Become 1," which defined the late '90s and early '00s. Released months after "Wannabe," Spice would spend 15 weeks at No. 1 on the Official Charts U.K. Album Chart and also topped the U.S. Billboard 200 chart. The album sold more than 23 million copies worldwide.

Even after 28 years, the meaning of "zig-a-zig-ah" remains a mystery, but it's a small price to pay for the beloved dance-pop song we cherish today.

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We Only Said Goodbye With Words: Remembering Amy Winehouse 10 Years Later | GRAMMY.com (8)

Scene Queen

Photo: Danin Jacquay

interview

"I'm cool taking sticks and stones thrown my way if it means that 10 years down the line there's gonna be another girl that tries to do what I do and gets zero flak for it," Scene Queen says of her take-no-prisoners album, 'Hot Singles In Your Area.'

Glenn Rowley

|GRAMMYs/Jul 3, 2024 - 02:14 pm

"F*** the scene, I’m the queen!" Scene Queen announces early on her debut album, Hot Singles in Your Area. Delivered in a snarky sing-song, the exclamation serves as something of a mission statement for everything the singer has set out to accomplish with her winking metal-pop persona.

On Hot Singles (out June 28 via Hopeless Records), the artist calls out the bad behavior that’s run rampant in the alternative music scene for decades. From the insidious grooming of teen fans ("Headline spot goes to the abuser/ Half my idols are f—ing losers," she sings on blistering lead single "18+"), to the blatant discrimination experienced by female artists in the genre (opener "BDSM"), and date rape drugs and sexual assault ("Whips and Chains") — Scene Queen takes unflinching aim.

Born Hannah Collins, Scene Queen isn’t out to destroy the genre she grew up loving as a Warped Tour-obsessed teenager in suburban Ohio. Instead, she’s using her perspective as a queer female artist and knack for razor-sharp songwriting to make the scene safer, more accountable and, ultimately, more inclusive.

Featuring high-octane collaborations with the likes of The Ready Set ("POV"), WARGASM ("Girls Gone Wild") and 6arelyhuman ("Stuck"), Hot Singles in Your Area is also an unabashed pleasure ride that introduces listeners to Scene Queen’s unique brand of sexual freedom, self-love, queer pride and self-deprecating humor.

"My fans know that I'm playing into the joke of it a lot," Collins says from her home in L.A. "But a lot of people still don't understand it."

Ahead of her album release, Scene Queen opened up exclusively to GRAMMY.com about finding her voice in the metal space, the pop icons who inspired her persona (from Britney Spears to Paris Hilton, Dolly Parton, and Jessica Simpson), standing up to misogynists, hom*ophobes and haters, and more.

How does it feel to be on the verge of finally releasing your debut album?

Really exciting! But also terrifying in a way. With [2022 EPs] Bimbocore Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, I feel like I told the story of, "Who is Scene Queen? What is this project?" Like, she's very loud and out there and opinionated, and in your face and whatever.

But this record touches on everything in my life that happened for me to become this version of myself — why I needed to become Scene Queen. I made a whole record about being independent and reclaiming my power and sticking up for myself and sticking up for people in the scene…In a weird way, I'm making jokes this entire album, but it’s a vulnerable album in the sense that I'm revealing a lot via the lens of humor.

How did the Scene Queen persona come about?

I grew up in the alternative space. Like, I went to a million Warped Tours and all of that stuff. I was at shows in Cleveland, like, every weekend during high school. I've been listening to bands like Hawthorne Heights and stuff since I was 8 or 9 years old. So when I was 18, I moved out to L.A. from Ohio, and that was around the time that all of these bands started dropping members left and right because they were finally getting called out for, like, predatory behavior or what have you — just being, generally, not great people.

Coming into adulthood, you start looking at things through a different lens, like, Oh, that was a weird interaction or Oh, I feel weird that they let me do that at 16 years old. It really felt like, as a woman, the scene wasn't a safe space for me anymore. Then suddenly, during COVID, the only thing I wanted to listen to was, like, super alternative music.

TikTok introduced me to a lot of bands like The Home Team, that were combining pop-punk with, like, R&B — I always loved that experimental stuff. And I was listening to a ton of BABYMETAL and WARGASM, experimental metal-pop stuff. But I told myself the only way I would come back into the alternative space was if I did it on the terms of what I wished I’d had in the scene growing up.

So now I operate my entire persona as this elevated version of myself because I feel like people need that. Scene Queen is like a superpower for me in a way — she helps in my day-to-day life as Hannah, too.

What makes the Y2K era such a key element of the Scene Queen aesthetic?

Growing up in that time, super hyper-feminine women were often vilified, especially in rock music. If you were super girly at a show, people would assume that you were there to sleep with the band. Like, you weren't as worthy of being there as a man. When I was in high school, I actively chose to dress in mostly all black because I just didn't think I would be taken seriously.

So I wanted to pull that whole era into it and just be like, I'm actively going against everything I grew up with and what the scene told me was acceptable. And now I'm gonna be the antithesis of what any of the people that were misogynistic — or also just underestimated me — would want from me. And now I make the choice every day to irritate those people. [Grins.]

Growing up, were there female artists you looked up to in the scene?

I just came off of a tour with PVRIS, and [Lynn Gunn] was one of the first queer people I ever knew of within the scene. Which is so crazy to think of back then, that I only had one example of that. She was just, like, openly queer and didn't feel the need to... I don't know, she didn't come out to anyone, she just always existed that way and people didn't criticize her for it. It was the first time that I saw that and was like, Oh, maybe I would be able to do that someday."

But behind the scenes, she was on the receiving end of so much misogyny, because men didn't think they could get something out of her, 'cause they knew that she was a lesbian and whatever. She was enduring 10 years of misogyny and hom*ophobia so that someone like me could come around 10 years later and be this voice in the scene.

So it's cool that I'm getting recognition, but the only reason that I'm able to do this now is because so many women just took extreme hate and terrible things behind the scenes before me. And I still get massive flak for it now. The end goal of all of this, and I think if you ask any woman, they'll tell you the same thing: I'm cool taking sticks and stones thrown my way if it means that 10 years down the line there's gonna be another girl that tries to do what I do and gets zero flak for it. Someday I hope we get there.

What other female artists helped inspire your Scene Queen persona?

So there's two different versions of this answer. On the pop side, I'm so obsessed with 2000s pop princesses and also just pop icons in the sense of, like, that bimbo aesthetic. I allude a lot to Britney Spears in my music. Also Paris Hilton. Dolly Parton. Jessica Simpson. Women that, like, knew how they were perceived by the media and played into it, but were so the other way.

Like if you've ever seen the Paris Hilton documentary [2020’s This Is Paris], she talks about how she put on this voice and everything, because people were just gonna assume that she was dumb anyway. So she completely capitalized on that and was like, "That's fine, I'll take your money and make my career successful. If you're already gonna assume negatively about me, then that's my superpower." Those people really inspired me, and that's very much the aesthetic drive behind my project.

In the alternative space, there are bands that I grew up with that I was also super into like We Are the In Crowd, VersaEmerge, In This Moment. So there's a lot of women that have helped create the Scene Queen project without knowing.

How much of the album is autobiographical?

It tells the whole tale of coming [to L.A.] and getting my foot in the door, the music industry experience of it all. No one talks about having this second coming of age in your twenties and thirties where you're actually figuring out who you are. I was one of those people that didn't come out, or didn't even fully process that I was queer, until I was in my twenties.

I was just so scared about it 'cause I grew up in a small conservative town. And then I came here and was just like, I need to work in music so bad that I don't even want to think about dating! [Eventually,] I realized I spent all this time trying to be independent and confident. And now I'm going into the dating world.

Some days you feel like an absolute sex god and the next morning you wake up, and you're on a first date and you have word vomit, and you don't know how to interact with people. So you get a song like "Oral Fixation" where it's just about having absolutely no game when you're dating for the first time. The record really tells the whole story of becoming all of this chaotic mess that is Scene Queen, which is both making fun of itself and hypersexual, and this, and this, and this.

Read more: 15 LGBTQIA+ Artists Performing At 2024 Summer Festivals

You play around so much on the album by mixing really serious topics with a sense of humor. How do you balance that in your songwriting?

I always come into a session with the baseline idea of subject matter and title. This album was a lot easier because it's a concept album in a sense, and I thought of all these [explicit] categories that I could've used… Take "Oral Fixation," for example. That was the first song I wrote for Hot Singles other than the title track. I realized I could write it about word vomit and, like, choking on something, instead. Or, like, the last song of the record is called "Climax" because it's the high point of the record, but it’s actually a really wholesome song.

And then "BDSM" means "Beat Down slu*t Metal," but also "Big Dumb Stupid Men." I decided to make that the opening track because I was getting all of these comments that were like, "Scene Queen's a man hater!" for criticizing anything men do in any capacity. This was after my song "Pink Push-Up Bra," which is so specifically about sexual assault that I was like, "OK, of I can't even criticize people that sexually assault women as being bad, then sure, I’ll put it as the first track."

What was your motivation behind the hypersexualization in some of the songs?

I think people don't understand that you can be fully confident with yourself and your sexuality and think you're a good person, and worthy of love and worthy of sexual pleasure, while also not taking yourself too seriously. You can still make fun of yourself but also know your self-worth.

As much as I make these self-deprecating jokes, at the end of the day I refuse to be treated poorly. And I think that comes across in all the songs about sexual pleasure and sexuality. You learn at a young age — especially if you've been closeted for a long time — [the feeling of] I robbed myself of so much joy for so long. I deserve to get off for something. [Laughs.] I deserve a little bit of joy in my life. So I tried to write that.

"M.I.L.F" is obviously a raunchy, very sexual song. But that song came from spending a summer in Nashville, and I was always just like, "Tennessee: conservative." But there's this huge population of people who have stayed or moved to Tennessee; who grew up listening to country music but then shied away from it because their beliefs no longer resonated with the [genre's] subject matter. So I wanted to have a song for those people who are like, "Yeah, I still wanna go chug a beer and jump off a boat on a lake, but also, I am pro-gay marriage and whatever."

I wrote a song that I knew the people who were country elitists, that would never like me anyway, would be horrified by. And the way I did that was via very explicit lyrics and the most sexual content ever. But it ends up being one of the rowdiest songs in my live set, because so many people truly do want to just put a hat on and do a line dance. They just don't want to be judged when they do it, you know?

So it ended up being this weird statement that I didn't necessarily fully think it would be, but it's one of my favorite parts of my set now. Having that little hoedown for the hoes every week is really fun for me.

I actually just attended this charity event at Stonewall for this organization called Inclusion Tennessee, where I learned that Nashville is the largest city in the country without its own LGBTQ center. Queer people in those types of communities are still fighting constantly for resources and inclusion and acceptance.

It is so wild, too, 'cause there's this discussion around Chappell Roan making that statement at Gov Ball about not performing at the White House, and then going to play in Charlotte, where North Carolina obviously has conservative views as a whole. There are so many pockets of queer communities that are actively seeking out someone that will advocate for them and give them a voice, and I think it is so cool. It's such a privilege to get to be one of those people now.

This summer, you’ll be co-headlining idobi Radio’s Summer School Tour. What are you looking forward to about that?

That tour, in and of itself, is so cool and exciting for me. Because one, it has the rotating co-headliners, which emphasizes the importance of music discovery. You have to show up at the beginning of the day to see who you want to see. Anyone that grew up with Warped Tour obviously is going to be stoked to have something like that.

But also, there are so many queer people and women and people of color on that tour. The lineup is so diverse and I feel like if that tour had existed in the 2010s and 2000s and ‘90s even, that never would've happened. So the fact that the initial launch looks that way makes me so hopeful for the future of it.

OK, last two questions: What’s the most memorable Warped Tour set you ever saw? And what are your top 3 "Bimbo" pop songs?

Most memorable Warped Tour set: I'd probably say the first time I ever crowd-surfed. I think I was, like, 13, it was to the band Sleeping with Sirens, and that was just the pinnacle of, like, "I love alternative music!"

Then as far as the "Bimbo" pop songs, hmm...I have to say "I’m a Slave 4 U" just because that Britney Spears music video is so iconic — the dancing, all of it. We gotta do a Paris Hilton song. It was hard to be in a mall food court in the late 2000s and not be humming "Stars Are Blind." Yeah, soundtrack to my youth, for sure. And then "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton even though that’s country, not pop. Like, how do you not want to trot out there to [sings], "Hopped out of bed and I stumbled to the kitchen..."? It just gets the bimbo vibes going.

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LISA from BLACKPINK

Photo: The Chosunilbo JNS/Imazins via Getty Images

list

Hot summer days require even hotter tunes. Here are some fresh-out-the-oven songs and albums by Hiatus Kaiyote, Lucky Daye, Headie One, Kaitlin Butts, and more.

Morgan Enos

|GRAMMYs/Jun 28, 2024 - 05:09 pm

We’ve been feeling the heat for a minute now, but summer is finally, officially, upon us.

What do you have on deck to soundtrack it? Perhaps you’re checking out Camila Cabello’s fourth offering, C,XOXO. Or Jxdn’s expectations-bucking new album, When the Music Stops. And there are so many other worthy candidates for your playlist — from Lupe Fiasco’s Samurai to Omar Apollo’s God Said No.

No matter where your stylistic compass points, this Friday release day has got something for you. As you gather your sunscreen and shades, let’s breeze through a cross-section of what’s out there.

LISA — "Rockstar"

K-pop loves its solo releases, showcasing how the various members of a group can shine individually while combining with ecstatic chemistry. Enter LISA, one-fourth of Korean titans BLACKPINK, who's already turned heads with her 2021 debut album, Lalisa.

"Rockstar" is another swing outside her main gig, featuring serrated chiptune production and LISA's commanding rap flow. The gritty, urban, futuristic video is a visual treat, and the chorus's boast of "Lisa, can you teach me Japanese?" is a multilingual flex — as well as a maddeningly unshakeable earworm.

Kelsea Ballerini & Noah Kahan — "Cowboys Cry Too"

The "Peter Pan" heavyweight and four-time GRAMMY nominee Kelsea Ballerini has called 2024 "a new chapter of music." Her collaboration with folk/pop singer/songwriter Noah Kahan, "Cowboys Cry Too," is the tip of the spear.

More than a month after the pair performed together at the 2024 Academy of Country Music Awards, their first recorded team-up is an aching, yearning ballad about breaking down a gruff exterior and revealing true emotions.

"Cowboys cry too/ They may not let 'em fall down in their hometown thinkin' they still got s*** to prove," Ballerini sings in the chorus. "That well runs deep/ But when he's showin' his skin, lettin' mе in, that's when he's toughest to mе."

Lil Nas X — "Here We Go!" (from the Netflix film 'Beverly Hills Cop: Axel F')

"So excited to release the best song of all time this friday!," Lil Nas X proclaimed on Instagram. (And on a Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack, no less!)

"Here We Go!" comes at an inflection point for the "J Christ" singer: "sorry I've been so scared with my art lately," he added in the same post. "I'm coming around to myself again. I will make you guys very proud."

This pro forma banger certainly inspires pride: tenacious lines like "I'm livin' and livin' I wanna die/ They tryna get even/ I'm beatin' the odds" will get under your skin. As for Beverly Hill Cop: Axel F, the Eddie Murphy joint will whiz to your screen July 3 via Netflix.

Lucky Daye — 'Algorithm'

Lucky Daye picked up a win for Best Progressive Album at the 2022 GRAMMYs, for Table for Two. After a slew of nominations for work with Beyoncé and Mary J. Blige, he's investigating the Algorithm.

The single "HERicane" was just a teaser, with songs like "Blame," featuring Teddy Swims; "Paralyzed," featuring RAYE;" and "Diamonds in Teal" expanding on and honing his soul-funk-R&B vision.

"Don't know pickin' sides/ 'Cause I'm rollin' in desire," he dreamily sings in the gently roiling "Diamonds in Teal." "I don't know which lie's true/ Or maybe I do, or maybe I'm you." It's a suitable mission statement wrapped in a stealthily seductive package.

Hiatus Kaiyote — 'Love Heart Cheat Code'

A jazzy, soulful, psychedelic band of Aussies, Hiatus Kaiyote has been wowing audiences for more than a decade. Whether through sampling or features, they've crossed paths with Drake, Anderson .Paak, and Beyoncé and Jay-Z.

Love Heart Cheat Code builds brilliantly on their last three albums: their 2012 debut Tawk Tomahawk, 2015's Choose Your Weapon, and 2021's Mood Valiant. Tracks like "Telescope," "Everything's Beautiful," and "Make Friends" are burbling brooks of atmosphere, groove and vibe.

Boulevards — 'Carolina Funk: Barn Burner on Tobacco Road'

Any fans of deep, pungent funk grooves should investigate Boulevards immediately. The project of mastermind Jamil Rashad, their new album Carolina Funk: Barn Burner on Tobacco Road tips its hat to yesterday's funk with a contemporary twist, bringing a refreshing spin on the well-trod template of syncopated basslines and stabbing horns.

Across highlights like "Do It Like a Maniac Part 1&2" and "Run & Move," Boulevards shows — once again — that few can nail this gritty sound quite like Rashad and crew.

Headie One — 'The Last One'

British drill-inflected MC Headie One first made a splash overseas with his 2023 debut album, Strength to Strength. Less than a year later, he's returning with The Last One.

Back in 2022, he hinted at the existence of his sophom*ore album in his non-album track "50s" — "The fans calling for 'Martin's Sofa'/ It might be the first single from my second," he rapped.

Helmed by that single, The Last One features Potter Payper, Stormzy, Fridayy, Skrillex, and more. The album is a leap forward in terms of production, scale and exploration.

Katlin Butts — 'Roadrunner!'

Any theater kid worth their salt knows at least a few bars from the musical "Oklahoma!"; country sensation Kaitlyn Butts has just unfolded it into an entire album.

"It's a love story but there's also a murder and a little bit of an acid-trippy feel to it at times; it's set in the same place where I come from," she said in a statement, noting she saw "Oklahoma!" with her parents every summer during childhood. "Once I got the idea for this album," she continued, "I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before, and it turned into something that completely encompasses who I am and what I love."

A laugh riot as well as a colorful, openhearted statement, Roadrunner! does the old Rodgers and Hammerstein chestnut good.

Read more:

Amaarae — 'roses are red, tears are blue — Fountain Baby Extended Play'

Futurist Afropopper Amaarae made a gigantic splash with her second album, 2023's Fountain Baby — even Pitchfork gave it their coveted Best New Music designation.

That lush, enveloping album just got an expansion pack: roses are red, tears are blue — A Fountain Baby Extended Play is a continuation of its predecessor with six new songs. The oceanic "wanted," featuring Naomi Sharon, is a highlight, as is a remix of "Disguise" with 6LACK.

"Ooh, I'll be wanted/ I've been wanted," a pitch-shifted Sharon sings near the end, as if turning over the phrase. "Wanted" is one way to describe Amaraae's position in the music landscape.

Learn more:

MC Lyte — "King King" (feat. Queen Latifah)

The 50th anniversary of hip-hop may have come and gone, but hip-hop is forever. Today, legendary hip-hop pioneers MC Lyte and Queen Latifah continue to bear the flame of the genre as an elevating force with "King King," a conscious, uplifting offering.

"This is dedicated to all the kings and all the soon to be kings/ We're counting on you/ We love you/ This is for you, you and you and you," MC Lyte begins, while Latifah holds it down on the chorus with "This your crown hold it/ Even if it all falls down show it/ You know the world is watching now I know you get tired from keepin' it all together/ We need you."

During Women's History Month in March, MC Lyte released "Woman," the first single from her upcoming album, featuring hip-hop icons Salt (of Salt 'N Pepa), Big Daddy Kane, and R&B singer Raheem DeVaughn. MC Lyte's first new album in nearly a decade drops this summer; keep your eyes and ears peeled.

Learn more:

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Camila Cabello attends the 2024 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

Photo: Karwai Tang/WireImage

feature

With her fourth album, 'C, XOXO,' Camila Cabello introduces a new sound inspired by the sweaty dance floors of the Miami club scene. Here's a breakdown of the musical shape-shifting that's led the star to her hyperpop venture.

Rob LeDonne

|GRAMMYs/Jun 28, 2024 - 01:18 pm

When Camila Cabello unleashed the singles "I LUV IT" and "HE KNOWS" from her highly anticipated fourth album C, XOXO this past spring, it was obvious that the pop superstar had completely flipped her previous sound on its head. Decidedly hyper-pop, the album is tailor-made for the club, with Cabello saying it's all sonically dedicated to the late-night culture of her home city of Miami.

While her new sonic direction might be a bit jarring for those who were fans of her previous bubblegum flavors or Latin-inspired tracks, it's not entirely surprising that she's trying something new with this album. Since her 2016 departure from the girl group Fifth Harmony, the singer has been known to take musical chances when it comes to her career. Now, she adds frenetic club tracks to the list.

From the innocence of her breakthrough to a more grown-up sound and every detour in between, this is how Camila Cabello's artistic voice has evolved through the years.

Reality Show Breakout: Classic Covers

It may seem hard to believe now, but there was a time when Cabello was just another singing talent vying for her big break when she attended a cattle call audition for "The X Factor." Cabello's interest in performing actually came as a shock to her parents. "She was so shy, so shy," her mother Sinuhe told the New York Times in 2018. "We didn't even think music was a possibility for her."

Oddly enough, her successful audition with Aretha Franklin's soul classic "Chain of Fools" never even aired (the show reportedly couldn't get the rights to the song). Nevertheless, you know the rest: she was grouped together with Ally Brooke, Normani, Dinah Jane, and Lauren Jauregui, and Fifth Harmony was born. The group quickly became known for powerhouse vocals on covers ranging from Elie Goulding's "Anything Could Happen," to Cabello belting out solo while performing The Beatles classic "Let It Be" during their stint on the show; the quintet ultimately placed third.

Girl Group Launching Pad: Party-Friendly Anthems

As part of Fifth Harmony, Cabello's initial sound was decidedly pop-dance songs, perfect for a high school prom — a fitting style for the then teenage star. Songs like their dynamic debut single "Miss Movin' On", the playfully sexy "Work From Home," and horn-tinged "Worth It" cemented them as bona fide pop breakouts. But eventually, Cabello realized that her and her group mates were drifting apart.

"I started distancing myself from the group vision," she admitted to the Call Me Daddy podcast earlier this year. "It felt like you know they were still really passionate and into that and so, I was just like, 'I'm not happy here anymore, it doesn't feel aligned.'"


With that, Cabello shocked fans when she departed the group in December 2016. "Fifth Harmony wasn't the maximum expression of me individually," she told Seventeen a couple months after her surprise departure, alluding to her shift to more personal songs. "My fans are really going to know me from the music I'm writing. My goal is to be brave and open up my soul."

Solo Stardom: Personal Pop Confections

By the time Cabello's self-titled debut studio album was released in 2018, it was apparent that leaving the group that made her a star would pay off. Her initial forays into solo stardom came in the form of collaborations, first in 2015 with eventual on-and-off flame Shawn Mendes on "I Know What You Did Last Summer," and then with Machine Gun Kelly for 2016's Pop Airplay-topping (and Fastball sampling) "Bad Things." But her 2017 collab hinted that she was destined to be a superstar: "Havana."

Featuring Young Thug, the salsa-inspired song earned Cabello her first No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. It also marked a difference from her former bubblegum sound, and proved the Cuba-born star could successfully bridge the gap between mainstream success and her own story. Meanwhile, the single "Never Be The Same" (for which she recruited Frank Dukes, known for his work with Lorde and Post Malone) proved she could embody a more adult pop sound.

"I feel like the best way to come up with something new and different is just to be the you-est you possible," Cabello told the New York Times when the album was released. "If you pull from all the different little parts of yourself, nobody can replicate that."

Cabello also embodied these hallmarks for her sophom*ore album, Romance, which featured a heartfelt ode to her dad, "First Man," and several songs inspired by her, well, romance with Mendes. That included "Señorita," which actually featured Mendes; the song quickly became Spotify's biggest streaming song of the summer of 2019. And with a sultry Latin flair, "Señorita" offered another nod to her roots — and the sounds that would soon be the focus of her music.

Sonic Trip Down South: Latin Roots

With the success of songs like "Havana" and "Señorita" in mind, Cabello made her junior album a full-on salute to her Cuban heritage in the form of Familia. Each track is decidedly Spanglish, from lead single "Bam Bam," an inspired collaboration with Ed Sheeran (who featured her on his own Latin-inspired track, "South of the Border," in 2019), to "Hasta los Dientes,"which featured the Argneitian star María Becerra.

"This [album] has been finding my way back," she explained to GRAMMY.com at the time. "A big part of that is my roots, and my heritage. I want to spend the most time in Latin America and in Mexico because it just makes me feel like myself."

According to the star, the album bolstered her confidence; in turn, it helped her fully feel free to express herself. "There's no walls of any of that other, like, ego stuff up. So that's why [Familia] was the most fun experience, and what I think is my best work so far."

Read More: How Camila Cabello Found Herself With 'Familia,' An Album That Ties Together Her Latin Roots And "An Unfiltered Me"

Latest Chapter: Hyperpop Diversion

With the first single from her fourth project, "I LUV IT" (featuring Playboy Carti), it was obvious Cabello was about to embark on yet another complete reconstruction of her sound. The song served as a tantalizing hint that the singer's next album, C, XOXO, ventured in a hyperpop direction. In reality, it's a concept album based on long, late, wild, and sometimes melancholy nights in Miami. Second single, "HE KNOWS" with Lil Nas X, marked further proof.

"We wanted to see how we could take these cadences that have a certain swagger and contrast it with beautiful music and pretty chords and lush guitar," Cabello told PAPER Magazine of her latest process earlier this year. But while not every song exhibits that oft-discussed Charli XCX-influenced hyperpop sound, her aforementioned lead singles arguably do."We were mixing and matching to find something new and inspiring. If it's a sweet melody, let's make the music scary. If she has a rap flow, let's make the music acoustic."

The album's tracks also develop with an ominous aura. "Pretty When You Cry," for example, sounds like it's sung while sitting on a sidewalk outside the club one late night with mascara streaking; in the distance the listener hears the warped, low echoes of an inspired sample of Pitbull's "Hotel Room Service." As a result, the music is the starkest contrast yet from her bubblegum past — further proof that Cabello's penchant for genre-swapping has turned into a singular aspect of her superstar career.

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