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His celestial falsetto and otherworldly sound have bewitched everyone from Stephen Colbert to Solange. Now, his second album is about to send him stratospheric

On a nippy, drizzly February afternoon in Brooklyn, Moses Sumney is trying to track down some glasses he lost across town. Using an app, he is attempting to convince a stranger named Frank to deliver them to him. It is distracting him. Every time his phone buzzes, he is hoping its a status report. I just want to know if hes actually doing it, or if I have to do it myself like everything else! he blurts out, the last three words crescendoing theatrically. His comment is telling: for the last several years, the 28-year-old singer-songwriter and polymath has become used to doing it all.

Sumney is preparing to release his highly anticipated second album, gr, which will complete his evolution from highly publicised indie prospect to singular musical frontiersman. His songs actively defy classification, pushing the boundaries of soul, jazz and alt-rock, while maximising a bewitching voice. His debut album, 2017s Aromanticism, an inquisitive reimagining of what lovelessness can mean, was hailed by critics as one of the years best; gr takes things further, offering up Sumneys most immersive music yet. It is also his most uncompromising work, not a double album but one album split in half, each comprising boundary-pushing sounds that exist in the margins.

As a person, and as a presence, Sumney is the opposite. Tall and chic, he stands out at all times. Today, he is wearing a clear black tank top under a black army jacket, a trenchcoat wrapped round his shoulders. As we take seats for our interview in a nondescript studio office, he quips that the ambience makes it feel like a deposition. He offers to take off the shades hiding his eyes but would rather wear them. He does a lot of gesturing with his hands, which are adorned with gold rings. He speaks clearly and carefully at all times, as if used to being misunderstood.

A few nights previously, Sumney made his late-night TV debut on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Surrounded by a 10-piece orchestra beneath mood lighting, he delivered a gripping performance of his latest single, Cut Me; the studio crowd, at first unsure what to expect, were won over by his penetrating falsetto. When he shuffled off stage, Colbert couldnt help but exclaim: My son played [Sumney] for me and I thought: What is that voice?!

Sumney was born in San Bernardino, California, and spent most of his childhood there. The son of Ghanaian pastors, he never felt constricted by organised religion but found a sense of spirituality that informs the songs he makes. When Sumney was 10, the family moved back to Ghana, and he struggled with the transition. I basically didnt do well on any front: socially, academically, spiritually, emotionally, physically, he says. Its a tough time to just transition to this entirely different sort of way of life, especially because children are demonic. Growing up across two drastically different cultures divided the ways in which he self-identified. One of the many things that inspired this album was the realisation that this shift created a sort of statelessness in me, Sumney says. When Im in America, Im the African in America; when Im in Africa Im the American in Africa. So your relationship with a national identity is inherently fractured.

After listening exclusively to country music for the first 10 years of his life, he found his calling as a singer, but his parents objected. Sumney chose to develop his skills clandestinely. He started writing his first songs when he was 12, on the school bus and in class (My grades were terrible), learning to play guitar from YouTube videos and hiding his songbook under his mattress. He didnt sing publicly until he was a teenager, when his family returned to California and he joined the high-school choir. Throughout the interview Sumney takes himself very seriously, and it is easy to see why: without any external support for his dream, the only way to see it through was with the fuel of extreme self-belief.

At university in California, Sumney studied creative writing with a focus on poetry, a ruse to throw his parents off the music scent. I could kind of get away with saying I was getting an English degree because my mom was like: Well, you can still be a lawyer, he laughs. While there, he honed his musicianship. I begged the jazz kids at the cafe on campus to play with me, he says. He worked more diligently at the guitar, using a loop pedal so he could be self-sufficient. He learned to do it all.

The future is green… Moses Sumney. Photograph: Christopher Lane/The Guardian

Things moved quickly from there. When Sumney released his first EP, Mid-City Island, in 2014, he almost immediately became an indie sensation: playing sold-out shows, opening for Sufjan Stevens, befriending Solange Knowles (he later sang back-up on her song Mad). His haunting, reverbed folk songs quickly enchanted the music scene in a city full of people chasing their big breaks. I was being wined and dined fantastically by record labels and lawyers and A&R people and publishing people, and I would take every meeting because I had no food.

However, Sumney made the active decision not to sign a record deal, because I wanted creative control. He had a day job for a while, running social media for a pizza chain (My wages were shit, but I got free pizza). Soon, he realised his larger musical vision was paying the price. I was getting quite comfortable. Thats when I was like: no, I just have to suffer. He left not long after, and it was the last job he worked. He put all of his effort into his music, resulting in 2016s Lamentations, an EP of intimate soul hymnals constructed round lightly fingered riffs. He finally released a single with Terrible Records, co-founded by Grizzly Bears Chris Taylor, and did shows with art-rock band Dirty Projectors before finally signing with current label home Jagjaguwar in January 2017.

Sumneys sound is always shifting, and there has been some debate over where to place his music along the spectrum. It is his supernal voice that disarms listeners, that sends a tingle down the spine, but more than anything else his music is defined by its unwillingness to be categorised. As a black musician performing in many predominantly white spaces, Sumney often, wrongly, gets classified as R&B, which he rejects. I definitely rage against that, he says. I have done so, so much and it still happens. My music is just not R&B music, and thats fine. I love R&B and I think there are elements of it in the music, and on this record I went even closer to it than I have in the past. But its very obviously racist when people call me an R&B act.

His work, he says, is difficult to define because its all over the place. When something exists that cannot so easily be categorised, people will still try to categorise it. That practice is a deep cultural flaw. He adds, somewhat flippantly, reclining in a chair that isnt built for it: I dont really care any more what people need to say in order to define me. Because the definition isnt for me its about me, but its for them. Its for their understanding. (For what its worth, he defines his sound as an amalgamation of soul, jazz, folk and experimental indie rock.)

Soul? Jazz? Folk? Sumney at Coachella 2018. Photograph: Rich Fury/Getty

This blurring of borders also extends into how he thinks about creating. His debut album Aromanticism, which he dubbed lovelessness as a sonic dreamscape, was a blatant pivot away from traditional songcraft about romantic love. In a 2017 Tumblr post, Sumney explained that the concept album sought to interrogate the idea that romance as personified by a destined companionship or inevitable coexistence is necessary. Instead of ballads, he sang about the absence of intimacy. The songs arent about seeking closeness but about feeling an irreconcilable distance, as demonstrated by one poignant lyric on Doomed: Am I vital / If my heart is idle?

Gr is even less conventional in nature. The album, which Sumney worked on with musicians such as Oneohtrix Point Never, Thundercat and Adult Jazz, explores displacement from absolutes. Voiceover work from writers Taiye Selasi and Michael Chabon and actors Ezra Miller and Michaela Coel directs the experience. Greyness is a metaphor for being in between extremes, to having an identity on any scale whether it be sonic or romantic or national that is neither one thing nor the other. I wanted to really claim that space and name that space. Its the void. Its nothingness. And nothingness, to me, is not just an absence; its its own presence.

This compulsion to wade through grey areas is inherent to me, Sumney says. Its not really something I have to try to do; its my experience. But I also consider myself a little bit of a social scientist in a way. One of the many things I would have loved to study further is sociology: the relationship between sociology and the personal, and how we internalise our socialisation.

It has been more than an hour now and Moses Sumney still hasnt received confirmation on the status of his forgotten specs. Whens my friend going to bring my glasses? he jokingly sings in a playful cadence. Before he can get an answer, members of his team come rushing in to whisk him away into the photoshoot he is already behind schedule for. He sings his response, with the bravado of someone in a Broadway musical: Here I come!

And then he vanishes, his black coat whizzing behind him.

Moses Sumneys gr: Part 1 is out now, with Part 2 out on 15 May

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Our monthly column continues with further thoughts on festival equality and the lost soul star Kenny Carter. Please share your own observations in the comments

Boys in love

Laura Snapes, deputy music editor
Pops leading men once kept their love lives secret to preserve the illusion of availability. But todays fans arent naive, and social media have made most major musicians dating lives into a soap opera whose narrative they would rather control. Post #MeToo, simply objectifying your significant other (or slagging off an ex) sits less well, so a generation of pop boys have embraced a softer side of masculinity, opening up about how love has changed them or how theyre not worthy of its saving graces.

While male sensitivity is still in perilously short supply, generally, these gambits feel like the equivalent of a 1950s businessman having his boss over for dinner to use his stable home life as a ploy for promotion. When Ed Sheeran sings about leaving the party to go and hang out with his wife, hes signalling his superiority over shallow social gadflies. When Justin Bieber sings about his wife, Hailey Baldwin Bieber, on his latest album Changes, he isnt telling us about her interior life or why he loves her beyond the fact that shes a) super hot, b) apparently perpetually available to him; hes using marriage as a panacea to telegraph his maturity after all that unfortunate business with drugs, the abandoned monkey, terrorised neighbours, etc. Bieber is Wife-Worthy now, and that is all he needs us to know.

A risk worth taking … Kevin Parker. Photograph: Daniel Knighton/Getty Images

James Blake has half a decade on Bieber, but his 2019 album Assume Form didnt offer much more in the way of personal introspection. He tirelessly surveyed how his relationship has made him a better man, a better lover; how the gift of love exposed his flaws and precisely what those flaws are. The effect was less radical emotional transparency than the album-length equivalent of the meme in which girls in clubs look bored out of their skulls while blokes chew their ear off. Its a beg for a pat on the back and the acknowledgment of his good man bona fides a trait equally present in recent tracks by Stormzy (Lessons) and Harry Styles (Falling), in which they admit to disrespecting their former partners, then do pretty much precisely that all over again by dragging their private business into the spotlight.

Theres a fine line between sensitivity and self-aggrandisement, one that both King Krules Archy Marshall and Tame Impalas Kevin Parker get on the right side of on their new albums. While making Man Alive!, Marshall had his first kid and moved north, away from his lifelong home in the capital, to be with his partner. In his inimitable slack-jawed bark, he finds his footing in domesticity. Passport in my pockets getting old / Feel the weight of the world dissolve, he sings on Airport Antenatal Airplane, as he learns to settle. Theme for the Cross invokes scar Alberto Martnez Ramrez, who drowned with his 23-month-old daughter Angie Valeria as they tried to cross from Mexico to the US, in a contemplation of the seriousness of fatherhood. His family role neutralises his youthful nihilism: Why stop reading when the page is about to turn? he asks on Energy Fleets. The sound of this autodidact opening up, asking his lover to complete him and offering himself in return, feels quietly profound.

Tame Impalas The Slow Rush charts a similar evolution. Parkers 2015 album Currents was mired in solitude; his new album finds him newlywed and staring at the horizon. Unlike Bieber, he doesnt frame marriage as a full stop, but a risk worth taking, a mutual leap into the unknown. I know we promised wed be doing this till we die, and now I fear we might, he sings on One More Year. The long haul takes work and reciprocity; Parkers facility with turning the hard yards into his most complex and well-balanced album yet suggest a man up to the task.

Is equality at festivals becoming the new normal?

Alexis Petridis, chief music critic
This year seems to be turning into an annus horribilis for festivals. At the time of writing, Covid-19 has yet to claim any UK events, but the outlook seems grim: according to a tweet from Against Mes Laura Jane Grace, insurance companies are putting pressure on artists to pull out of events by changing their terms, so artists arent covered if tours or festivals are subsequently cancelled due to coronavirus.

But let us ignore the pandemic and dwell instead on one quietly positive development. For years now, people have complained about the vast gender disparity at festivals, with posters edited to remove the male artists (leaving a largely blank poster with a few names desultorily dotted around). People have got angry, others have been dismissive, while some have suggested that like the lack of female representation at this years Brit awards its not really the festival organisers fault, but rather a deeper-rooted problem with the music industry and its inability to develop female artists.

Theres certainly a lot of truth in that argument. Its hard to think of a mainstream pop or rock genre, past or present, that isnt, or wasnt, dominated by men. Off the top of my head, I can only come up with disco, where female stars Gloria Gaynor, Patti LaBelle, Grace Jones, Loleatta Holloway, First Choice outnumbered their male counterparts.

Somethings shifting … Nova Twins at Rockaway Beach festival. Photograph: Tony Jupp

But even so, something quietly appears to be shifting in the world of festival bills. Wide Awake, scheduled to be held in Brixtons Brockwell Park in June and headlined by Metronomy and Black Midi, has a noticeably balanced lineup: Goat Girl, Sheer Mag, Dream Wife, Marie Davidson, Los Bitchos and Lena Willikens all feature. The organisers say they hope their blueprint for booking will encourage other festivals. The recent Rockaway Beach festival held at Butlins Bognor Regis in January didnt sport the kind of glaring disparity that you might expect from an event catering to indie fans of a certain age. Higher up the scale, in 2019, Primavera embraced a 50/50 split as the new normal, and now doesnt even make mention of its gender parity, but just gets on with it.

Wide Awake also say they want the industry to view 50/50 gender spilt lineups as the norm, with promoter Tash Cutts saying: A gender-equal billing should not be a cause for celebration. Wide Awakes booking policy isnt mentioned anywhere on the festivals website, which devotes a lot of space to its other worthy aspect, a robust environmental policy including a pledge for zero landfill. None of these festivals seems to want a medal for their efforts, theyve just gone ahead and done it, as if its entirely normal. Which, of course, it should be.

Unearthing Kenny Carter, souls unluckiest lover

Ben Beaumont-Thomas, music editor
A genre coinage that has never really caught on, but perhaps should, is deep soul, the name given by record collector Dave Godin to a certain kind of emotionally raw mid-century soul music informed by the downbeat lyrical themes of the blues. Godins compilations of this stuff, Deep Soul Treasures (on Ace Records), are full of fleetingly famous soul stars whose seven-inch singles a certain kind of pork pie-hatted gentleman would spend his childrens university fund on, but the rest of us have never even heard of.

One such artist Ive discovered via volume five is the wonderful 1960s also-ran Kenny Carter. Biographical info is scant he was signed to RCA but walked out on the deal and into obscurity, apparently but you can reasonably surmise that his love life was, to be frank, an absolute shitshow.

There is no kind of breakup that Carter seemingly hasnt gone through, or weathered with anything but extremely poor judgment. Whats That on Your Finger sees him bump into his ex, instantly tell her how lonely he is and ask to take her hand, and well, the horror in his voice suggests the question of the title is rhetorical. On How Can You Say Goodbye, he hopes his ex is just playing a game by leaving him that seems unlikely, Ken, and even if she was, that would make her an absolute monster who you shouldnt be with anyway. Dont Go begins with a note of acceptance that is quickly and ill-advisedly swept aside: I cant make you stay, but Ive gotta try, he sings, launching into a histrionically pained chorus where he never a good look, this badmouths her new boyfriend. All his songs seem to be addressed directly to the woman in question while aggressively clasping her hands, except Ive Gotta Find Her, which is addressed to his mates just before running off to address the woman in question, aggressively clasp her hands, etc. If it was today, those mates would be organising an intervention via a specially created WhatsApp group.

All of which makes his ballad Im Not the One quite heroic in its maturity. It begins with Carter binning off the woman himself. Surely not? It turns out hes magnanimously ending what sounds like a pretty decent relationship the kind you suspect a lot of people got into in an era that demanded swift marriage with someone who just doesnt have the hots for him: You only love me like a brother, and it would be so wrong for me to stay. Plot twist! The final verse reveals theres another guy involved not only is Carter giving up the woman he loves, hes giving her up to the man he knows she loves more. It is a really unusual song, dignified and moving with a horribly believable love triangle.

Im Not the One is aided by some of the finest production Ive ever heard in 60s pop, with waltzing Walker Brothers-style strings. Prior to reappearing on Deep Soul Treasures, it was only previously available in an inferior Larry Banks version without the backing vocals a reminder that, as well as Kenny Carter being the most unfortunate man in soul, there are still perfect musical diamonds out there waiting to be unearthed.

Further reading

John Andrew Higgins (@blueicehiggins)

What does a 9 inch ice core sound like when dropped down a 450 foot hole? Like this! Credit to @peter_neff for the idea and @Scripps_Polar, @sciencejenna, @GeosciencesPU, @US_IceDrilling, and @paleosurface for the execution!

February 7, 2020

Try listening to Beatrice Dillon inside and outside your head, Chris Richards, Washington Post
Chriss writing is always required reading, but in the intro to his excellent appraisal of Beatrice Dillons equally excellent debut album, he links to a clip of some polar scientists dropping a nine-inch ice core down a 450ft ice hole. The sound it makes is mindblowing: someone (Dillon?) needs to make an hour-long mix of it, stat.

Grimes live from the future, Brian Hiatt, Rolling Stone
Grimes has been pretty press-shy on the campaign for her latest album, Miss Anthropocene. Rolling Stone got the most in-depth profile, with Hiatt spending two days with Claire Boucher on the grounds of the massive Los Angeles complex where she lives with Tesla founder/boyfriend Elon Musk. Its easy for Grimess reputation to shadow the reality of her art and existence, and this revealing piece does a good job of getting past the nonsense that builds up around her.

Sturgill Simpson has a lot to get off his chest, Steven Hyden, Uproxx
Burning more bridges than Michael Bay on a blockbuster budget, the alt-country star goes off on his (now presumably former) record label, the alleged Grammys corruption and his hatred of touring in this remarkable and invigorating interview.

Your thoughts

Every month wed love to hear your thoughts about any music that youve been loving, or indeed hating but have strong opinions on nonetheless. Post your observations in the comments below and well post some of the best ones next month.

This month, PeterlooSunset says: Traditionally the first few months of the year are ebb tide for new music, and 2020 is no different. But Ive been completely blown away by a new album called The Myth of Separation and Selfhood by Tongues of Light, a project of Lancashire avant-folk musician Sam McLoughlin. The album splices together various audio snippets from New Age healing videos and the like on YouTube, in particular videos containing a modern variation of speaking in tongues called Light Language, and sets them to music to staggering effect. Tongues of Lights long form ambient pieces, stylistically lying somewhere in between New Age proper and the music of Laurie Anderson, are the perfect antidote to the disastrous fast food effect that algorithms catering to Spotify ADHD are having on contemporary pop music.

Texavery, meanwhile, mused on observations about David Gray and a certain kind of 00s comfort pop: I used to wish I was born old enough to remember the 60s or punk, but luckily I absorbed the fallout from the rave scene and subsequent creativity of music eg Leftfield, Portishead/Massive Attack, Super Furry Animals etc. To me, David Gray represents the excitement funnelled into a style of music that really required no emotion or energy not that Im knocking it at all but I guess it represents a time of comfort and smooth sailing. Its hardly surprising radio stations like Virgin still have him on heavy rotation. Whatever gets you through the day.

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Billie Eilish and Lizzo are competing for a string of the top prizes, but could the likes of Ariana Grande, Lana Del Rey and Rosala cause upsets?

Noise threatens to drown out the music at the 2020 Grammy awards. A line had been drawn under the tone-deaf leadership of Neil Portnow, who had presided over the ceremony since 2002 between 2013 and 2018, Grammy winners were 91% male, but, after a 2018 ceremony where men swept the board again, Portnow said it was on women to step up and create opportunities for themselves.

A woman, Deborah Dugan, replaced him; a taskforce was appointed, and in December they published their report, calling for greater diversity in the Academy voters. Any hopes that they had moved on, though, were scotched last week by Dugan being suspended for alleged misconduct; Dugan countered by saying she had been sexually harassed, that the Academy had covered up an alleged rape by Portnow, and that the voting was corrupt.

So we go into this years ceremony more jaded than ever, but the irony is that, no matter how poisonous the Academy is and regardless of whether it is rigged or not, we ended up with a much more diverse range of nominees this year. Leading the pack are Lizzo with eight noms and Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X with six each a vibrantly youthful and non-conformist trio. But will the Academy members shake off the past and vote for the future?

Record of the year

Bon Iver Hey, Ma
Billie Eilish Bad Guy
Ariana Grande 7 Rings
HER Hard Place
Khalid Talk
Lil Nas X ft Billy Ray Cyrus Old Town Road
Lizzo Truth Hurts
Post Malone & Swae Lee Sunflower

Aside from the merely pleasant HER and Khalid tracks, this is a strong field. While lots of eyes are on Lizzo and Eilish, this could perhaps be Ariana Grandes year. Its her first time with nominations in the big four categories rather than being patronised in the pop awards and, with its My Favourite Things melody, doddering Academy voters might listen to 7 Rings and say: Hey, its one I know! Triumphant earworm Old Town Road is the longest-running No 1 in US history; Bad Guy is a showcase of the kind of fiendish genius usually employed by Hollywood horror movies to construct elaborate ways for teenagers to get killed. But an Academy eager to telegraph its modernity might go for Lizzo: Truth Hurts is a great underdog story, reaching No 1 two years after release, and her charisma is near universally infectious.

Will win: Lizzo Truth Hurts
Should win: Billie Eilish Bad Guy

Album of the year

Bon Iver i, i
Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell!
Billie Eilish When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Ariana Grande Thank U, Next
HER I Used to Know Her
Lil Nas X 7
Lizzo Cuz I Love You (Deluxe)
Vampire Weekend Father of the Bride

This is Grandes best chance of a big win. Thank U, Next is a superbly realised almost-concept album about heartache, grief and moving on that can be witty, even caustic, but never cruel it sealed her as one of the three or four definitive pop stars of our time. Lizzo, HER and Lil Nas X are hampered with too much 6/10 material across their albums; Lana Del Rey was the critical hit of the year and will certainly beat out fellow Pitchfork darlings Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend, but may not cut through to the more august and mainstream Academy members. Eilish was the inescapable pop-cultural breakthrough of the year, and her album has such terrific range and invention. She will, hopefully, squeak this.

Will win: Billie Eilish
Should win: Billie Eilish

Song of the year

Lady Gaga Always Remember Us This Way
Billie Eilish Bad Guy
Tanya Tucker Bring My Flowers Now
HER Hard Place
Taylor Swift Lover
Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell
Lewis Capaldi Someone You Loved
Lizzo Truth Hurts

Piano-driven ballads dominate the songwriting category, including Taylor Swifts only big nomination. Lover is such classic American songcraft, though Lewis Capaldis powerful Someone Like You is the best of these ballads and it would be a British win to remember. Eilish is streets ahead in terms of songwriting innovation and should win for that Duh! alone. But, while Truth Hurts most famous lyric (I just took a DNA test, turns out Im 100% that bitch) may have been plagiarised and its British author later added to the credits, Lizzo has this sewn up. The lyrics are hilarious, and it is a massively successful example of that new school of songwriting where a single melody is repeated over and over until the brainwashed public is involuntarily chanting it and then clawing hopelessly at their faces.

Will win: Lizzo Truth Hurts
Should win: Billie Eilish Bad Guy

New artist

Black Pumas
Billie Eilish
Lil Nas X
Maggie Rogers
Tank and the Bangas

Nice to see some country-soul curveballs here in the excellent Black Pumas and Yola, though the less said the better about the tune-free Tank and the Bangas at any rate, theyre all making up the numbers. Maggie Rogers didnt really break beyond her fanbase with her underrated debut album, and Im sure the Academy will see Lil Nas X merely as a two-hit wonder. Lizzos debut album came out in 2013, whereas Eilish has only just turned 18 and feels like the rightful owner of this award. But you can bet than every Latinx voter is going to be going for the astoundingly talented Rosala, who won big at the Latin Grammys and could cause an upset here.

Will win: Billie Eilish
Should win: Billie Eilish

Pop solo performance

Beyonc Spirit
Billie Eilish Bad Guy
Ariana Grande 7 Rings
Lizzo Truth Hurts
Taylor Swift You Need to Calm Down

Just as performances where you cry, shout and climb inside the carcass of a bear win you Oscars, the leading pop award rather behoves you to give it some welly not for nothing has Adele won it three times. Eilish and Grandes variously murmured and chatted performances will appear to the Academy like weirdo arthouse choices here, and even Swift is in a relatively conversational mode. Beyoncs ponderous Spirit was the lame old wildebeest eaten by the younger jackals on the Lion King soundtrack, so this is Lizzos to lose.

Will win: Lizzo
Should win: Billie Eilish

Rock performance

Bones UK Pretty Waste
Gary Clark Jr This Land
Brittany Howard History Repeats
Karen O & Danger Mouse Woman
Rival Sons Too Bad

Anyone looking for evidence of backroom dealing in the Academy might well make Bones UK their exhibit A: Pretty Waste is the kind of creative vacuum beloved only of nihilistically cocaine-addicted LA music industry execs looking for something to soundtrack rock bottom. The rest is pretty good. Rival Sons riffs and hollering make them the most tangibly rock thing here Karen O essays 60s pop, and Brittany Howards History Repeats is a kind of bluesy funk tune, but with mainstream rock stranded out on a sandbar while rappers and pop stars taunt it on jetskis, they need to blur the genre lines. Gary Clark Jr could edge this with his politically charged This Land, half-rapped over a heavily skanking backing.

Will win: Gary Clark Jr
Should win: Rival Sons

Rap performance

J Cole Middle Child
DaBaby Suge
Dreamville feat JID, Bas, J Cole, Earthgang & Young Nudy Down Bad
Nipsey Hussle feat Roddy Ricch & Hit-Boy Racks in the Middle
Offset feat Cardi B Clout

Many voters hearts will go with Nipsey Hussle, whose murder last year robbed the world of a skilful, soulful MC who united backpacker hip-hoppers and mainstream rap fans. Racks in the Middle also features Roddy Rich, who has broken through spectacularly over the last year. But the track pales next to two others here: DaBabys Suge is a slowly prowling piece of minimalism that makes Offset sound fussily overworked in comparison; its ridiculous that DaBaby isnt up for best new artist. He is rather damaged goods after a series of run-ins with the law, however. That could hand Middle Child the win, on which J Cole raps as if hes high-stepping across the surface of a lake, his triplet time full of balletic grace.

Will win: J Cole
Should win: DaBaby

Country solo performance

Tyler Childers All Yourn
Ashley McBryde Girl Goin Nowhere
Willie Nelson Ride Me Back Home
Blake Shelton Gods Country
Tanya Tucker Bring My Flowers Now

If you scoff at country, youll probably always scoff at country, but this spread of songs shows off the admirable breadth of the genre and may pique your interest yet. Willie Nelsons song is a bit something-and-nothing; Tanya Tuckers Bring My Flowers Now is nominated in the song of the year category, and its live-for-today message and simple piano backing will appeal across the Academy, but its rather workmanlike. Ashley McBryde outdoes her in the ballad stakes, but its Tyler Childers and Blake Shelton both strongly channelling the gospel and soul music that not so secretly underpins country who are the strongest here. Childers song would make for a classy first wedding dance, while Sheltons stirring ode to proud Christian labour, while deeply unfashionable, will have you gazing soulfully across a cornfield.

Will win: Tanya Tucker
Should win: Tyler Childers

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LA-born singer joins previous poll toppers Adele and Ellie Goulding in wake of her Brits rising star award last month

Soul singer Celeste has been named the BBCs Sound of 2020, the broadcasters annual poll to evaluate the years brightest new musical hopes. Her win follows her victory in the Brits rising star award in December.

In a statement, the 25-year-old British-Jamaican star reflected on her recent run of success: I could never have predicted half of the things that happened Im so grateful for every opportunity Ive had so far and am looking forward to what 2020 will bring.

BBC Radio 1 DJ Annie Mac described Celeste Waite, who grew up in Saltdean, near Brighton, as a phenomenal talent: Her songwriting is personal and poignant but with universal appeal. I think she could easily join the long list of Sound Of winners who went on to be global stars. Previous winners include Adele, Sam Smith, Haim and Ellie Goulding.

Celeste: Strange video

Celeste began writing music and performing in bands as a teenager. At 16, she was discovered by a manager after she posted her first song online. He encouraged her to take writing classes and she started working with writers and producers at Trevor Horns Sarm studios.

Lily Allen signed Celeste to her label Bank Holiday Records, an imprint of Warner UK, and released her debut EP, Milk & Honey, in 2017. The following year, Celeste signed to Polydor. Her single Strange made the BBC Radio 1 playlist, and she was recently named BBC Music Introducing artist of the year.

She tops an unusually band-heavy Sound of 2020 list: Inhaler, a fronted by Bonos son Elijah Hewson, came in at No 5. R&B singer Joy Crookes was placed fourth, with punk rapper Yungblud in third place. Leicester band Easy Life were placed second. Each of the top five acts is signed to a major label.

The award is voted for by 170 industry professionals from musicians including Billie Eilish and Lewis Capaldi, to DJs, journalists, festival bookers and TV producers.

Celeste will perform at the Brit awards on 18 February.

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From John Fahey, the Sonics and the Waitresses to Slade, Wizzard and Mariah Carey, we count down the best festive numbers

50. John Fahey

The First Noel

Tiring of the fact that no one wanted to buy albums of experimental American primitive guitar music, but they bought White Christmas every year, John Fahey recorded an album of Christmas instrumentals. It was, by a margin, his bestselling record. Atypical of his work, but beautiful.

49. The Sonics

Dont Believe in Christmas

The Sonics believed some folks liked the taste of straight strychnine, so of course they didnt believe in Christmas. What happened when they stayed up late to try to catch a glimpse of Santa? Well, sure enough, dont ya know / The fat boy didnt show. Cheeky so-and-sos.

48. Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler

Christmas Day (I Wish I Was Surfing)

Sounding much more like Ash than Emmy the Great and the loudest, most raucous thing on their 2011 Christmas album this is a song that sounds joyous, but is really about the desire to escape, to anywhere that isnt cold. So long as its not alone.

47. Little Joey Farr

RocknRoll Christmas

Rocknroll and rockabilly are a treasure trove of Christmas novelty numbers (try Marlene Paulas I Want To Spend Xmas with Elvis), but weve only got room for one. So, given Christmas is all about the kids, bless their souls, lets have a song by an actual kid who promptly disappeared from the pop world.

46. Lou Rawls

Santa Claus Is Comin to Town

One imagines this would be the soundtrack to Don Drapers Christmas as creamy as eggnog, with a supple swing thats nagging but not unobtrusive, its exactly the sound of an idealised Christmas from the 60s. Rawls made a ton of Christmas albums, but his first from 1967 is the best.

45. Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Rudy Sarzo & Simon Wright

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

How would Christmas sound reimagined by Black Sabbath? Almost exactly as you would imagine, to be honest. The most oddly foreboding of all the big Christmas songs suits the grinding and roaring. And it helps, naturally, that it contains a reference to Satans power.

44. Saint Etienne

I Was Born on Christmas Day

From fire and brimstone to prosecco and chocolate, bursting with optimism for the winter: Getting groovy after Halloween / Mid-November, got back on the scene / Im so glad that I just got my pay / I was born on Christmas Day! A song as sweet as a selection box.

43. The Free Design

Close Your Mouth (Its Christmas)

Probably the song that goes on in Don Drapers apartment after Lou Rawls, when the hip young kids have arrived. Get to know the people in your house, they sing. You might like them. Draper knocks back a whisky, raises an eyebrow and shakes his head.

42. Sally Shapiro

Anorak Christmas

A gorgeous bauble from the mid-00s wave of Scandinavian music that crossed electropop with the feyest indie. Sally falls in love on a Tuesday before Christmas, at a gig with a band that we both liked. But will she end up by herself or in the perfect kiss?

41. Solomon Burke

Presents for Christmas

The king of rocknsoul pitches himself somewhere between a revivalist preacher and Santa Claus: We want to give out a present to everybody this Christmas! All around the world for every man, woman, boy and girl! he exclaims in the intro. One of the few artists whose spoken sections routinely rival the songs (track down a copy of Soul Alive! if you dont believe me).

40. Joy Zipper

Christmas Song

Blank-faced and affectless, heres Christmas for the shoegazers from the duo briefly toasted at the start of the last decade. Kevin Shields and David Holmes produced, and you can bet Beach House were listening.

39. Neil Halstead

The Man in the Santa Suit

Truthfully, this version is only here because the Fountains of Wayne original an homage to the Kinks Father Christmas isnt on Spotify. But what a perfect, sad song: And hes a big red cherry / But its hard to be merry / When the kids are all laughing / Saying: Hey, its Jerry Garcia.

38. The Everly Brothers

Christmas Eve Can Kill You

The Man in the Santa Suit is a laughfest compared to this Everly Brothers number from 1972, about a hitcher alone the night before Christmas. Organ and pedal steel sound like the wind whistling through the trees as our hero trudges on: The sound of one man walkin through the snow can break your heart.

37. Santo & Johnny

Twistin Bells

Do we need cheering up? I think we do. Thank goodness, then, for the twangy guitars of Brooklyn duo Santo & Johnny, the gaudy, overlit shop window that contrasts with the stark loneliness of the Everly Brothers.

36. Run-DMC

Christmas in Hollis

Hip-hop hasnt been a huge source of Christmas songs, but Run-DMC were on top of it back in the first golden age. What would you do if you found Santas wallet on Hollis Avenue? Its a perennial question. Run decides its best to post it back; he is rewarded for his honesty.

35. Shirley & Dolly Collins

The Gower Wassail

Two of the greatest British folk voices combine for a drinking song that, if were honest, is unlikely to be ringing out in pubs this Christmas. The asceticism of the British folk tradition can be a useful astringent amid the sleigh bells and tinsel.

34. Tracey Thorn

Snow in Sun

Originally from Scritti Polittis sublime 2006 album White Bread, Black Beer and reworked by Thorn on her gorgeous album Tinsel and Lights which is enough to qualify it as a Christmas song here is a featherlight breath of winter to freshen your face.

33. Mahalia Jackson

Go Tell It on the Mountain

You cant really have Christmas without acknowledging that someone significant was born on 25 December and not just Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne. The queen of gospel wants you to spread the news far and wide, and she imparts her message with due gravitas.

32. Big Star

Jesus Christ

Big Stars Third is the least likely album to contain a Christmas song, but amid the desperation and despair was this huge burst of fervour. Did Alex Chilton mean it? Was it a joke? Its effect is magnified by the music that surrounds it on the rest of the album.

31. Calexico

Green Grows the Holly

Gorgeous and stern, and undoubtedly the best adaptation by an Americana band of any poem written by Henry VIII. The horns bloom, like the flowers of the song, turning something indisputably English into a desert lament.

30. Jimmy McGriff

Winter Wonderland

McGriff opens with a squall of organ that doesnt lead you to believe Christmas is coming anytime soon, then takes Winter Wonderland at such a leisurely pace that it takes a moment to recognise it. (If you like this, try Jimmy Smiths Christmas 64 as well.)

29. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

Aint No Chimneys in the Projects

When you live in poverty, certain logistical problems come to mind. Namely, if youre in a big public housing block, how does Santa get the presents underneath the tree? A fabulous addition to the long line of socially conscious soul and funk Christmas music.

28. Sons of Heaven

When Was Jesus Born?

We all know the answer, but when its posed this beautifully, in such impeccable close harmony, the obviousness of the question can be forgiven. There are many versions of this, but its a hard song to do anything but beautifully.

27. Thea Gilmore

Listen, the Snow Is Falling

Yoko Onos is the original version and Galaxie 500s rendition is more celebrated, but Thea Gilmore gets the perfect ratio of iciness to wonder it sounds like a Christmas tree, if such a thing were possible. The 2009 album Strange Communion is highly recommended.

26. The Temptations

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Oh, wrap yourself in the blanket of those glorious voices! Motown took Christmas seriously, with the result that you could probably do this list entirely from Motown tracks. This one gets selected because what is really a fairly dismal song is transformed by a perfect arrangement.

25. Clarence Carter

Back Door Santa

Pure Christmas filth. Back Door Santa can make all the little girls happy / While the boys are out to play. But dont mistake him for Father Christmas: I aint like old Saint Nick / He dont come but once a year. I dare you not to dance, though.

24. Ramones

Danny Says

Merry Christmas (I Dont Want to Fight Tonight) is better known as a Ramones Christmas song, but the sublime Danny Says gets the nod, qualifying on the grounds that the desperate, lonely band are stuck on the road deep in winter and it aint Christmas if there aint no snow.

23. Cristina

Things Fall Apart

No matter how bad your Christmas is, its not as bad as Cristinas. Mind you, given its the early 80s New York art underground, she was probably forbidden from liking something so bourgeois. Even a party cant cheer her: I caught a cab back to my flat / And wept a bit and fed the cat.

22. Joni Mitchell


Joni Mitchell is bereft, too, on this gorgeous piano ballad, when Christmas just makes her mourn her relationship and flee Laurel Canyon for her home in Canada, where there might be a frozen river she could skate away on, away from everything.

21. David Banner

The Christmas Song

Completing the mini-run of joyless Christmases, heres the most joyless of all when the only way to pay for Christmas is to rob and deal and kill. The climactic jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way is not intended as cause for celebration.

20. Lindstrm

Little Drummer Boy

Hans-Peter Lindstrm takes almost 43 minutes to assemble a Christmas song from electronic squiggles, through the martial drumbeat, to the melody coming in at eight minutes. It then spends a further 25 minutes warping and mutating, picking up and discarding musical phrases, before exploding orgasmically in its final 10 minutes or so.

19. William Bell

Every Day Will Be a Holiday

It doesnt actually mention Christmas, but gets counted and not just by me as a Christmas song because of the little horn lift from Jingle Bells, for it being about being lonely waiting for his baby to come home (presumably for Christmas), and because its B-side was Please Come Home For Christmas. Its also a fabulous piece of Stax soul.

18. Belle and Sebastian

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

On the 2000 charity album Its a Cool Cool Christmas which was pretty strong Belle and Sebastian took on the most beautiful of all the Christmas hymns. Something so delicate suited them. Also recommended: El Vez merging Feliz Navidad and Public Image.

17. The Staple Singers

Who Took the Merry Out of Christmas?

The Staple Singers are worried: too many wars, too much space exploration means people are searching for light and cant seem to find the right star. Jesus isnt just another baby boy, they warn. So show some respect. Glorious.

16. The Watersons

Sound, Sound Your Instruments of Joy

Just listen to the voices: this is Christmas as it must have sounded when it was a religious festival in the depths of winter, rather than an excuse to rack up debt. Make your own fun! Maybe weave an Action Man out of three pieces of straw! And yet its so beautiful.

15. Eartha Kitt

Santa Baby

Were into the start of the big songs now, and Eartha Kitts contribution is the precise opposite of the Watersons vision of Christmas. She wants a sable, a convertible, a yacht, a platinum mine She wants every sensation. And whats Jesus got to do with anything?

14. Otis Redding

White Christmas

Who knew the most famous Christmas hit of all could be so emotionally wrought? Where Bing Crosby sounded as if he was fondly pondering his Christmas, Otis sounds like hes breaking into a sweat trying to will it into existence through sheer force of desire.

13. The Pretenders

2000 Miles

Sometimes simple is best: Robbie McIntoshs guitar playing on the Pretenders 1984 hit is a model of folk-rock restraint, taking from the Byrds, and offsetting Chrissie Hyndes voice and lyric with a sense that everything, somehow, is going to be OK.

12. Bob Seger and the Last Heard

Sock It to Me Santa

Santas got a brand new bag! hollers Bob Seger, who was a Detroit R&B shouter years before he became a heartland American beard rocker. Sock It to Me Santa is a fabulous explosion garage rock and soul brought together into something made for the best bar in the city on Christmas Eve.

11. Wham!

Last Christmas

A big Christmas hit that was unlike previous UK seasonal singles it wasnt wrapped in sleigh bells, there was nothing consciously novelty about it. Perhaps George Michael had been paying close attention to some of the great US Christmas soul singles, because this was a heartbreak song that just happened to be set in December.

10. Darlene Love

Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)

A Christmas Gift to You from Phil Spector codified the sound of Christmas: maximal, filled with signifiers of the season (there is nowhere sleigh bells cant be draped). Darlene Loves Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) was the standout on a record on which the quality didnt drop from start to finish.

9. Wizzard

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday

Roy Woods enduring contribution to the season owed a huge debt to Phil Spector theres almost certainly a kitchen sink section at work somewhere in the mix but it transcends imitation by its sheer verve. It was recorded in summer, with the studio air conditioning turned down to make everyone feel wintry. Attention to detail, right there.

8. Slade

Merry Xmas Everybody

Christmas 1973 brought not just Wizzard but the most enduring of all British Christmas singles. Forty-six years later, people still bellow Its CHRISTMAS! in Noddy Holders face, which, apparently, gets a little wearisome. The whole thing was Jim Leas mums idea why didnt Slade have a song they could release every year? She got her wish.

7. Donny Hathaway

This Christmas

It wasnt a hit at the time, but took off when it was included on a 1991 reissue of the 1968 Atco compilation Soul Christmas. To which you can only say: why did it take the world so long to notice? Its a Christmas song that stands up regardless of the season. And according to the publishing body Ascap, its now the 30th most performed Christmas song of all time in the US.

6. Tom Waits

Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis

Probably not one to play when youre unwrapping the presents. A character study that begins grimly, then offers hope, as the narrator says things are getting better before ripping the rug away without ceremony. Do you want to know the truth of it, she asks: Charley, hey, Ill be eligible for parole come Valentines day.

5. Marvin Gaye

Purple Snowflakes

A song so beautiful its almost otherworldly Marvin Gayes flawless falsetto, the unexpected chord changes, the sense of mystery. Yet its wrapped up in the most comforting of Christmas imagery chestnuts roasting, blankets of white without ever explaining why the snowflakes are purple.

4. The Waitresses

Christmas Wrapping

Like Cristinas Things Fall Apart, Christmas Wrapping was originally written for the Z labels 1981 compilation the most punching-above-its-weight Christmas comp ever. Its a fabulous stream of consciousness, during which Patty Donahue talks herself from wanting to miss Christmas to knowing she cant miss Christmas, that bursts into joy at its horn refrain.

3. Low

Just Like Christmas

Lows 1999 Christmas EP released as a gift to fans was one of the most unexpected seasonal delights: ascetic indie band embracing the season without irony. Its lead track was a joy, the discomfort of touring reminding them of when they were young, and it feeling just like Christmas. Just two verses, and a repeated refrain perfect.

2. The Pogues

Fairytale of New York

Theres almost nothing left to be said about Fairytale of New York, a song that has been impossible to avoid for more than 30 years. Such is the strength of the songwriting and the grace of the performance that, despite the overexposure, it feels fresh every single time. That a scrappy folk-punk band produced something that will endure as long as Christmas itself is a real Christmas miracle.

1. Mariah Carey

All I Want for Christmas Is You


The best Christmas songs should only work at Christmas. They should make you feel festive, in the same way that the 174th repeat of The Snowman does. They should work anywhere in shopping centres, in bars, pumping out of PAs in gig venues after the band has gone off, on the radio in a cafe, in your home or on your headphones. All I Want for Christmas Is You is all of those things. Its a shameless pastiche of Phil Spector thats so brazen and joyful and simple it took Carey and Walter Afanasieff only 15 minutes to write that it transcends its lack of originality. Its the rare modern Christmas song that has become a standard, and deservedly so.

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Lizzo scores eight nominations with Eilish and Lil Nas X on seven, but British artists largely snubbed in major categories

The 17-year-old pop sensation Billie Eilish has become the youngest artist to be nominated in all four of the most prestigious Grammy award categories: record, album and song of the year, and best new artist.

Her gothic, innovative single Bad Guy, which topped the US charts, is nominated in the song and record categories, while her similarly chart-topping album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is nominated for the album prize. She completed a sweep of the top categories with a best new artist nomination, and has six nominations in all. Her album engineers got a nod in the best engineered album category, including her brother and collaborator Finneas, who received three nominations.

The most nominations were for Lizzo, who received eight, including in the top four categories. The powerhouse Minneapolis singer, known for her vociferous support of body positivity as well as her showboating flute solos, has been a slow-burn success, first releasing music in 2013 but scoring breakthrough hits this year with Juice, Tempo and US No 1 hit Truth Hurts.

Lil Nas X received six nominations, including three in the top categories, predominantly for his song Old Town Road. It is indisputably one of the most successful songs of the year, breaking a US chart record with its 19 consecutive weeks at No 1 Mariah Carey and Boyz II Mens duet One Sweet Day had held the honour since 1996. All three of Eilish, Lizzo and Lil Nas X have never received a Grammy nomination before.

Ariana Grande, who receives five nominations. Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

R&B singer HER scored five nominations, including record, album and song of the year, with Ariana Grande also earning five, including record and album of the year her first appearances in the major categories. Wisconsin singer-songwriter Bon Iver was nominated four times, including record and album of the year, while Beyonc in a relatively minor year with no solo album release still managed to secure four nominations, for her Lion King soundtrack work as well as her Coachella concert film, Homecoming.

While recent years have seen Grammy success for the likes of Ed Sheeran and Adele, British artists were mostly shut out of the top four categories. Lewis Capaldi received a nomination for song of the year for his ballad Someone Like You, which has topped the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Bristol country-soul singer Yola was nominated for best new artist, and received three further nominations in American roots categories.

Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke earned three nominations in specialist categories, with Chemical Brothers scoring three, and two for R&B singer Ella Mai. Other nominated Brits include the 1975, Bring Me the Horizon, James Blake and Elvis Costello. A surprise inclusion was Bones UK, a Camden rock band who, despite their low profile, secured a nomination for best rock performance with their song Pretty Waste.

Lil Nas X also crops up in the rap categories, this time with his single Panini in the running for rap/sung performance. The genres biggest prize, best rap performance, features a posthumous nomination for Nipsey Hussle, the LA star who was shot dead in April.

Snubs include to Taylor Swift, who might have expected more than just one nomination in major categories song of the year for Lover, the only song in the category to feature a single songwriter and Ed Sheeran, whose collaborative album No 6 Collaborations Project only generated one nomination, for pop vocal album. Sam Smith received no nominations for their major US hit Dancing With a Stranger, nor did Halsey, whose single Without Me spent 29 weeks in the US Top 10 and went five times platinum.

The total lack of nominations for Solanges acclaimed album When I Get Home, or Bruce Springsteens Western Stars, is also surprising the Guardian has asked their record labels if their albums were put forward for nomination.

A British success story … Yola. Photograph: Alysse Gafkjen

Grammy nominations 2020: the major categories

Album of the year
Bon Iver
i, i
Lana Del Rey Norman Fucking Rockwell!
Billie Eilish When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Ariana Grande Thank U, Next
HER I Used to Know Her
Lil Nas X 7
Lizzo Cuz I Love You (Deluxe)
Vampire Weekend Father of the Bride

Record of the year
Bon Iver Hey, Ma
Billie Eilish Bad Guy
Ariana Grande 7 Rings
HER Hard Place
Khalid Talk
Lil Nas X ft Billy Ray Cyrus Old Town Road
Lizzo Truth Hurts
Post Malone & Swae Lee Sunflower

Song of the year
Natalie Hemby, Lady Gaga, Hillary Lindsey & Lori McKenna, songwriters (Lady Gaga) Always Remember Us This Way
Billie Eilish OConnell & Finneas OConnell, songwriters (Billie Eilish) Bad Guy
Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth & Tanya Tucker, songwriters (Tanya Tucker) Bring My Flowers Now
Ruby Amanfu, Sam Ashworth, D. Arcelious Harris. H.E.R. & Rodney Jerkins, songwriters (HER) Hard Place
Taylor Swift, songwriter (Taylor Swift) Lover
Jack Antonoff & Lana Del Rey, songwriters (Lana Del Rey) Norman Fucking Rockwell
Tom Barnes, Lewis Capaldi, Pere Kelleher, Benjamin Kohn & Sam Roman, songwriters (Lewis Capaldi) Someone You Loved
Steven Cheung, Eric Frederic, Melissa Jefferson & Jesse Saint John, songwriters (Lizzo) Truth Hurts

Best new artist
Black Pumas
Billie Eilish
Lil Nas X
Maggie Rogers
Tank and the Bangas

Best pop album
Beyonc The Lion King: The Gift
Billie Eilish When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Ariana Grande Thank U, Next
Ed Sheeran No 6 Collaborations Project
Taylor Swift Lover

Best rock album
Bring Me the Horizon Amo
Cage the Elephant Social Cues
The Cranberries In the End
I Prevail Trauma
Rival Sons Feral Roots

Bon Iver. Photograph: Publicity Image

Best alternative music album
Big Thief
James Blake Assume Form
Bon Iver i, i
Vampire Weekend Father of the Bride
Thom Yorke Anima

Best urban contemporary album
Steve Lacy Apollo XXI
Lizzo Cuz I Love You (Deluxe)
Georgia Anne Muldrow Overload
Nao Saturn
Jessie Reyez Being Human In Public

Best rap album
Dreamville Revenge of the Dreamers III
Meek Mill Championships
21 Savage I Am > I Was
Tyler, the Creator Igor
YBN Cordae The Lost Boy

Best R&B album
BJ the Chicago Kid 1123
Lucky Daye Painted
Ella Mai Ella Mai
PJ Morton Paul
Anderson .Paak Ventura

Best dance/electronic album
Apparat LP5
Chemical Brothers No Geography
Flume Hi This Is Flume (Mixtape)
Rfs Du Sol Solace
Tycho Weather

Best country album
Eric Church Desperate Man
Reba McEntire Stronger Than the Truth
Pistol Annies Interstate Gospel
Thomas Rhett Center Point Road
Tanya Tucker While Im Livin

Best Americana album
Calexico and Iron & Wine Years to Burn
Madison Cunningham Who Are You Now
Keb Mo Oklahoma
JS Ondara Tales of America
Yola Walk Through Fire

Best Latin pop album
Luis Fonsi Vida
Maluma 11:11
Ricardo Montaner Montaner
Alejandro Sanz #ELDISCO
Sebastian Yatra Fantasa

Best gospel album
Kirk Franklin Long Live Love
Donald Lawrence Presents the Tri-City Singers Goshen
Gene Moore Tunnel Vision
William Murphy Settle Here
CeCe Winans Somethings Happening! A Christmas Album

Best pop solo performance
Beyonc Spirit
Billie Eilish Bad Guy
Ariana Grande 7 Rings
Lizzo Truth Hurts
Taylor Swift You Need to Calm Down

Best pop duo/group performance
Ariana Grande and Social House Boyfriend
Jonas Brothers Sucker
Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus Old Town Road
Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello Seorita

Best traditional pop vocal album
Andrea Bocelli S
Michael Bubl Love (Deluxe Edition)
Elvis Costello and the Imposters Look Now
John Legend A Legendary Christmas
Barbra Streisand Walls

DaBaby. Photograph: Earl Gibson III/REX/Shutterstock

Best rap performance
J Cole Middle Child
DaBaby Suge
Dreamville ft JID, Bas, J.Cole, Earthgang and& Young Nudy Down Bad
Nipsey Hussle ft Roddy Ricch and Hit-boy Racks in the Middle
Offset ft Cardi B Clout

Best traditional R&B performance
BJ the Chicago Kid Time Today
India.Arie Steady Love
Jerome Lizzo
Real Games Lucky Daye
Built For Love PJ Morton & Jazmine Sullivan

Best rap/sung performance
DJ Khaled ft Nipsey Hussle & John Legend Higher
Lil Baby and Funna Drip Too Hard
Lil Nas X Panini
Mustard ft Roddy Ricch Ballin
Young Thug ft J Cole & Travis Scott The London

Best rap song
Chancelor Bennett, Cordae Dunston, Uforo Ebong and Daniel Hackett, songwriters (Ybn Cordae ft Chance the Rapper) Bad Idea
Noel Cadastre, Aubrey Graham, Anderson Hernandez, Khristopher Riddick-tynes, William Leonard Roberts Ii, Joshua Quinton Scruggs, Leon Thomas Iii and Ozan Yildirim, songwriters (Rick Ross ft Drake) Gold Roses
Jermaine Cole, Dacoury Natche, 21 Savage & Anthony White, songwriters (21 Savage ft J Cole) A Lot
Ermias Asghedom, Dustin James Corbett, Greg Allen Davis, Chauncey Hollis Jr and Rodrick Moore, songwriters (Nipsey Hussle ft. Roddy Ricch and Hit-boy) Racks in the Middle
DaBaby, Jetsonmade and Pooh Beatz, songwriters (DaBaby) Suge

Best R&B song
Dernst Emile Ii, David Swagg Rcelious Harris, HER and Hue Soundzfire Strother, Songwriters (H.E.R. Ft. Bryson Tiller) Couldve Been
Emily King and Jeremy Most, Songwriters (Emily King) Look at Me Now
Chris Brown, Tyler James Bryant, Nija Charles, Aubrey Graham, Anderson Hernandez, Michee Patrick Lebrun, Joshua Lewis, Noah Shebib and Teddy Walton, songwriters (Chris Brown ft Drake) No Guidance
David Brown, Dernst Emile Ii & Peter Lee Johnson, Songwriters (Lucky Daye) Roll Some Mo
PJ Morton, Songwriter (PJ Morton ft Jojo) Say So

Best rock performance
Bones UK Pretty Waste
Gary Clark Jr This Land
Brittany Howard History Repeats
Karen O and Danger Mouse Woman
Rival Sons Too Bad

Best metal performance
Candlemass ft. Tony Iommi Astorolus: The Great Octopus
Death Angel Humanicide
I Prevail Bow Down
Killswitch Engage Unleashed
Tool 7empest

Best country solo performance
Tyler Childers All Yourn
Ashley McBryde Girl Goin Nowhere
Willie Nelson Ride Me Back Home
Blake Shelton Gods Country
Tanya Tucker Bring My Flowers Now

Best country duo/group performance
Brooks and Dunn with Luke Combs Brand New Man
Brothers Osborne I Dont Remember Me (Before You)
Dan and Shay Speechless
Little Big Town The Daughters
Maren Morris ft Brandi Carlile Common

Brandi Carlile. Photograph: Brandi Carlile/Alysse Gafkjen

Best country song
Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth and Tanya Tucker, songwriters (Tanya Tucker) Bring My Flowers Now
Jeremy Bussey & Ashley Mcbryde, songwriters (Ashley McBryde) Girl Goin Nowhere
Miranda Lambert, Hillary Lindsey, Lori Mckenna and Liz Rose, Songwriters (Miranda Lambert) It All Comes Out in the Wash
Eric Church, Clint Daniels, Jeff Hyde & Bobby Pinson, Songwriters (Eric Church) Some of It
Shay Mooney, Jordan Reynolds, Dan Smyers and Laura Veltz, songwriters (Dan and Shay) Speechless

Best rock song
Danny Carey, Justin Chancellor, Adam Jones and Maynard James Keenan, songwriters (Tool) Fear Inoculum
George Daniel, Adam Hann, Matthew Healy & Ross MacDonald, songwriters (The 1975) Give Yourself a Try
Ezra Koenig, songwriter (Vampire Weekend) Harmony Hall
Brittany Howard, Songwriter (Brittany Howard) History Repeats
Gary Clark Jr., Songwriter (Gary Clark Jr) This Land

Producer of the year, non-classical
Jack Antonoff
Dan Auerbach
John Hill
Ricky Reed

Best compilation soundtrack for visual media
Various artists The Lion King: The Songs
Various artists Quentin Tarantinos Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Taron Egerton Rocketman
Various artists Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper A Star Is Born

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The soulful singers third LP is timeless and contemporary at the same time, with shades of everything from Whats Going On to Screamadelica

Michael Kiwanukas first two albums established him as a folksy symphonic soul man akin to Bill Withers and Terry Callier, and set the bar pretty high. This one knocks it skyward. Together with producer-to-the-stars Danger Mouse and London hip-hop producer Inflo, the British-Ugandan 32-year-old has broadened his territory to stretch from Donny Hathaway-style melancholy soul through to Rolling Stones-y gospel rock, psychedelic soul and breakbeat. There are strings and harps, samples of civil rights campaigners, Hendrix-type frazzled guitars and Burt Bacharach-type orchestrations. The dreamlike, revelatory quality is reminiscent of Marvin Gayes Whats Going On and Primal Screams Screamadelica.

Michael Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka album art work

Unusually, in these streaming-led times, Kiwanuka is a contemplative song cycle intended to be listened to in one extended sitting, which he says is a reaction against this fast-paced, throwaway, machine-led world. It sounds timeless and contemporary; the instrumental interludes and the stylistic and tempo shifts all hang together because of his warm, sincere vocals and fantastic songwriting. At the core is Kiwanukas inner battle between anxiety, self-doubt, spirituality and wisdom, which is then set against racism and rueful glances at the state of the world. Thus, killer opener You Aint the Problem is both an encouraging nudge to himself and a sharp put-down of attitudes towards immigration: If you dont belong, youre not the problem.

Hero compares the murder of 60s activist Fred Hampton with recent US police shootings (on the news again, I guess they killed another), also referenced in the insistent Rolling (No tears for the young, a bullet if youre wrong). Piano Joint (This Kind of Love) and Hard to Say Goodbye are beautifully pensive and Final Days ponders nuclear apocalypse. But for all its melancholy, Kiwanuka is never downbeat. There are moments such as the Time is the healer gospel choir in Ive Been Dazed, or hopeful closer Light when positivity bursts through with such dazzling effect you want to cheer. Kiwanuka is a bold, expansive, heartfelt, sublime album. Hes snuck in at the final whistle, but surely this is among the decades best.

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Pixar has given us such masterpieces as ‘Up’ and ‘Coco’ that not only kept us glued to the screen but also invoked some truly deep emotions within our hearts. That’s why it’s no surprise that once the company announced their new project, people were pretty enthusiastic about it. And behold, the first trailer for ‘Soul’ just dropped and it already has over 3 million views on YouTube, as well as 117k likes. If that doesn’t showcase the audience’s interest in this new adventure, then only people’s reactions to it can.

Pixar has dropped a teaser for their next movie and it is about death and reincarnation

The computer-animated fantasy adventure film comedy film ‘Soul’ follows the life of Joe Gardner, a middle school music teacher, who has long dreamed of performing jazz music onstage. As he finally scores an opportunity to do so after impressing other jazz musicians during an opening act at the Half Note Club, his dream completely crumbles when Joe suffers an accident that separates his soul from his body.

Gardner’s soul is then transported to “You Seminar” a center in which souls develop and gain passions before being transported to a newborn child. There, Joe has to work with other souls to return to Earth. There he meets 22 (who is played by Tina Fey), a soul with a dim view on life after being trapped for years at the You Seminar.

The movie is set to be released in June 19, 2020 and stars Jamie Foxx in the main role. It is directed by Pete Docter and produced by Dana Murray, with the screenplay from Mike Jones, Kemp Powers and Pete himself. Foxx’s co-stars include Tina Fey, Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs. The score is written by Nine Inch Nail’s duo Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, while Jon Batiste will be writing jazz songs for the film.

Here is Pixar’s first trailer for ‘Soul’ that gives us a glimpse at the main character, Joe Gardner

Here’s how people on the internet reacted to the trailer

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This documentary, shot during recording sessions by the charismatic queen of soul in a Los Angeles church, is a transcendent joy

Theres an oceanic swell of euphoria and joy in this extraordinary film, effectively a rediscovered concert movie showing the creation of Aretha Franklins gospel LP, Amazing Grace, recorded over two nights in 1972 in front of a live congregation and accompanied by the Southern California Community Choir. The concert was at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Watts, Los Angeles, the interior being dominated by a vivid fresco of Christs baptism, a painting that by now might have almost pop-art status.

Sydney Pollack shot the original footage but the project had to be abandoned because sound and vision had not been properly synchronised. Only decades later has digital technology permitted this match-up to be achieved under the supervision of Alan Elliott.

Franklin is stunningly charismatic in her very reticence and restraint. Unlike the churchs ebullient and charming pastor, James Cleveland, who MCs the event, Franklin never addresses the audience other than in her singing, sometimes from the pulpit, sometimes from the piano keyboard; she is dressed simply, almost sacrificially, in a plain dress. Her one purely dramatic gesture comes at the very end when she turns and sings directly to the choir an electrifying, enigmatic gesture.

The most heartwrenching moment arrives when Cleveland invites Franklins father, the Rev CL Franklin, to address the congregation, which he does, talking fondly of Arethas childhood. At another stage, he rushes forward while she is singing and mops her brow, just as he might have done when she was a girl.

Yet, however moved we all are, Franklin herself remains calm between numbers, as if in the studio rather than on the concert stage, yet perhaps sensing, as a true artist, that it is her audience and not she who must cry.

I felt wrung out at the end of this film. How incredible must it have been for those who were there in person.

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At an immersive, city-wide multimedia presentation of her new album When I Get Home, the singer-songwriter explains how her childhood home of Houston nourished her creative spirit

Its one thing to think with your spirit, says Solange Knowles. Its another to actually live it through your body. The Solange of today works with feelings, grooves, and frequencies in mind. If A Seat at the Table, her breakthrough third album, was a lyrically dense record about the complexities and struggles of the black American experience, then When I Get Home, her latest release, is the sonic manifestation of that blackness. Staccato rhythms and meditative mantras designed to ground and heal her after time on the road ripple on through the bodies of her listeners. Its an album about settling into familiarity: with yourself, the people around you, and the places one calls home.

At the SHAPE community center in the third ward of Houston last Sunday evening, the record comes to life during a screening of a film, also entitled When I Get Home, that Solange created and directed to accompany the album. Despite the celebrities in attendance, this isnt a premiere. The album arrived days before, with the film launching simultaneously on Apple Music and the recently revived, early-internet social network Black Planet. Instead, it is a celebration of her return to her roots.

Listen to Almeda by Solange

After previous projects reflected time spent in the deserts of California and a township in Cape Town, Solanges native Houston serves as the inspiration for her latest and most challenging work. For years, she existed to most people as just the little sister of global superstar Beyonc; her talents needed the right outlet to radiate. Her first taste of the spotlight was as a backup dancer for her sisters group, Destinys Child. By her late teens, she began crafting songs for the group and its members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, plus gospel girl group Ramiyah. She even worked on two of her sisters best and most underrated hits, Upgrade U and Get Me Bodied, from Beyoncs second solo album BDay.

With blockbuster producers including Timbaland and The Neptunes, Solo Star, Solanges debut album released in 2002 at the age of 16, now sounds more like the inner workings of her label and management than anything she would make for herself. It was not until Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams, her second album released nearly six years later, when she began to break through, at least in the indie world. Influenced by 60s and 70s Motown, the album was a far cry from her debut, abandoning what was fashionable to focus on the aesthetics that moved her most a tactic that later fed into the minimalist synths structuring 2012s True EP.

But it was not until A Seat at the Table in 2016 that the rest of the world began to take notice. The album, which makes weighty ruminations on black American female identity feel universal, went gold in the US and led to headline festival performances. Cranes in the Sky, a fan favourite single from the album, won her a Grammy for best R&B performance.

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Thank you to alll of uuuu! Im coming up for air and overwhelmed with gratitude for all the love U sharing. Thank you for always giving me the space to expand and evolve and express. For constantly opening up my world, and allowing me to show you my own new ones. I express for survival, for breath. This shit gave me so much joy to make! I wasnt afraid. My body wasnt either, even at times of uncertainty. I love and appreciate u guys infinitely. You make me feel safe and held even in this big big strange world. I cant thank you enough. Its been hard to answer where home is, hard to know if its past or future…this album and film is one stream of thought and reflection into answering that. I thank you for your time and energy experiencing it with meee. So much love!

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So where is Solange now? Consider a scene toward the end of her film. Tens of dancers, in varying shades and sizes dressed in black, gather around a white circular object in a sparse, desert-like setting three curved, disconnected and multi-tiered structures form a circle, with groups interspersed throughout. This is not just a music video, it is video art, a sculpture of massive proportions, performance art, and more, all for one song. She turns the genre of R&B into a massive, interdisciplinary space to explore, build, and play.

Im thinking about the possibility of maybe some young black girl in 20 years needing to reference a black sculptor whos making work that large, and in landscape like that, and the blessing and privilege [that] I might come up in that search, Solange begins. Of course, I want to make these massive landscapes and express these parts of me … because its beautiful, and I want to make astounding work. But I really want to make work to be discovered 50 years from now.

Time on the road promoting and performing for A Seat at the Table mentally, physically, and emotionally disjointed her. I had so much to give on my last project while also needing to heal and work on myself, she says. [A Seat at the Table] was for everybody. I wanted it to be. And [When I Get] Home is for me.

I think any time you go through something like that, you crave things that remain the same, she says, referring to the gruelling tours for her previous album. I know that at any given time in my life, I can come back here, to Houston, to third ward, and have these anchors. And she did quietly renting a house and writing new music to reflect her journey. The longer I was here, the more these sort of things that might have been mundane to me, visually, started to really enrich me.

Guests from the screening got a closer glimpse of Solanges Houston, her first home. There was Emancipation Park, first formed in 1872 the oldest in Texas, it was once the only public park open to black people in the state. A friendly middle-aged security guard roaming the premises spoke of how the neighbourhood had changed as a result of gentrification. What was once the battleground of an infamous shootout between Houston police and the Black Panthers, has since transformed into a vast, inviting space, featuring everything from a community centre and playground, to pools, athletic courts, and a live concert venue.

In 2016, she made headlines as an advocate and participant in the #BlackBank movement, which encouraged black Americans to move their money into black-owned banks Knowles chose Unity National, the only African American-owned bank in Texas. Inside a nearby branch, a spokeswoman offers cards and pamphlets about its services while red leather chairs, typically reserved for staff and customers, were used as seating for a screening of Knowless film.

And there was the Vita Mutari salon, previously owned by Solanges mother, Tina Knowles Lawson, for 20 years. The singer describes it as a ground for her creativity, and although the family no longer occupy the space, the current owners continue to maintain that creative spirit, with large pieces of art lining the walls and neon coloured bottles of hair products.

Each location (there were nine in total) held meaning for Solange; bits and pieces of this Houston found their way into her work. Blackness will never go away, she says. Its who I am. Its what I know. Ill always be a black woman, and Ill always create work from this black womans body. Ill always be from third ward.

Texans are grounded in their culture. Although the state may often be the source of ridicule by outsiders, there has been and always will be innovation born out of its simultaneous vastness and insularity. Only here could you get a mix of zydeco tunes, rhinestone-covered African American cowboys, block-wide churches, barbecue, purple drank and Nasa. Its this editing this commingling and distillation of seemingly disparate things that defines When I Get Home.

Artwork from When I Get Home by Solange. Photograph: Saint Records

Editing gives me the space to experiment and then hone back on the things that were whack, Solange says. I feel a lot of safety and comfortability in editing. She says it accounts for 80% of her work. When I Get Homes long, insular and solo writing sessions, as well as the improvisational studio sessions with a bevy of collaborations in the vein of free-form jazz, will be indiscernible to the average listener but she took bits and pieces from those sessions and folded them into overall tracks.

Focusing on specific lines became not only a part of the editing session, it became the foundation of the album. Inspired by the likes of Alice Coltrane and Stevie Wonders Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants, repetition such as the brown liquor, black braids, black waves of standout track Almeda, or the lyrics to Binz, reclaiming the concept of CP (coloured peoples) time helped reinforce the frequencies she craved to heal. When I said, I saw things I imagined, maybe the first four times, I didnt actually really believe it, but by the eighth time, its coming into my spirit, coming into my body, she says.

Back at SHAPE, the most important faces in the crowd are not celebrities or cool kids. They are the childhood friends who once formed a rough band with the artist during her adolescence. They are the young, Texas-bred creatives who collaborated on the film, and the Instagram hotties who steal the show in its Solange-less parts. These are her people, the true essence of home, even if the rest of us were just getting to know them. All of them helped form her singular vision; all of them mattered. She calls the whole project a true reflection of who I am, the things that I love to listen to, the things that I love to experience; a snapshot of myself. It just feels good. Thats what home does to you.

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