“A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre”
Directed by Gerald Barclay and RZA
Culture Representation: Taking place in 2021, the documentary film “A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” features a racially diverse group of people (mostly African American and white) who are connected in some way to hip-hip group Wu-Tang Clan’s concert with the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, on August 13, 2021.
Culture Clash: Wu-Tang Clan and the Colorado Symphony defy the expectations of naysayers who think that hip-hop and classical music cannot be a good match.
Culture Audience: “A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Wu-Tang Clan and people who are interested in documentaries about unusual musical pairings.
On August 13, 2021, hip-hop supergroup Wu-Tang Clan performed with the 60-piece Colororado Symphony at the iconic Red Rock Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. “A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” chronicled this event on stage, backstage, and a few places elsewhere. It’s an entertaining but predictably formatted concert documentary with some film editing that’s a little rough around the edges. If anything, this movie is proof of how hip-hop and classical music can work well together. “A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” had its world premiere at the 2023 Urbanworld Film Festival.
Directed by RZA (a founding member of Wu-Tang Clan) and Gerald Barclay, “A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” shows how RZA was the driving force to pair Wu-Tang Clan with a symphony orchestra. RZA, who is also film composer, mentions at one point in the documentary that the inspiration for him to perform on stage with music that wasn’t all hip-hop started in 2016, when he performed the soundtrack to “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” (a 1978 martial arts film), live at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. That experience led to more opportunities for RZA to show more musical versatility in a live concert setting, he says in the documentary. RZA’s love of martial arts cinema has always been a big influence on Wu-Tang Clan.
“A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” has plenty of on-stage footage, but the movie includes a great deal off-stage footage, such as exclusive interview clips with RZA and the other members of Wu-Tang Clan: Method Man, Cappadonna, Ghostface Killah, U-God, GZA, Raekwon, Masta Killa and Inspectah Deck. Young Dirty Bastard, son of former Wu-Tang Clan member Ol’ Dirty Bastard (who died of a drug overdose in 2004, at the age of 35), makes a guest appearance during the concert and almost steals the show.
Ever since Wu-Tang Clan burst out of New York City’s Staten Island to become one of the most influential forces in hip-hop—starting with Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 debut album, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”—there has always been intrigue and controversy surrounding the group. All of the members have strong individual personalities (and have solo careers), which has led to periods of infighting and musical hiatuses for Wu-Tang Clan. RZA has branched out to becoming a film director and a comic book entrepreneur.
It’s been several years since the group’s had a new studio album (the most recent album is 2015’s “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin”), but Wu-Tang Clan still performs semi-regularly. This particular concert documentary shows them in good spirits and expressing overall camraderie. Raekwan comments, “I’m loving the togetherness.”
Masta Killa says of performing with the Colorado Symphony: “Having the orchestra there raises the bar. The goal was to raise it to the highest level possible. Are we there yet? I don’t know. We’ll know if this is a night to remember or a night where RZA just needs to shut the fuck up and stick to hip-hop.”
Method Man, the Wu-Tang Clan member with the most confident swagger on stage and offtsage, is shown in doing some weight lifting in a gym in the beginning of the documentary. He points to the spiderweb tattoos on his biceps, to proudly show how physically fit he is. He gives a lot of credit to RZA for being a visionary for Wu-Tang Clan and says, “We’re blessed that we’re still getting booked … A lot of our peers are dropping like flies.”
In the documentary, RZA reflects on a time when hip-hop wasn’t considered “real music” and has now evolved to be accepted into the mainstream. Case in point: Colorado Symphony resident conductor Christopher Dragon, who conducted the orchestra for this concert, says in the documentary that he grew up listening to Wu-Tang Clan and comes from a generational time period when hip-hop was fully accepted as real music. Dragon shares vivid memories of being 10 or 11 years old and listening to Wu-Tang Clan music that his older sister would play when she would drive them in a car without their parents around. Needless to say, Dragon is an enthusiastic musical partner for this concert.
Other people interviewed or featured in the documentary include Colorado Symphony artistic general manager Izabel Zambrzycki; Colorado Symphony viola player Mary Cowell; Colorado Symphony manager of ortistic Operations Dustin Knock; music producer Oliver “Power” Grant; WuMusic Group general manager Tareef Michael; DJ Mathematics; Jon “DJ Skane” Lugo; Young Dirty Bastard brand/operations manager Divine Everlasting. A diverse assortment of Wu-Tang Clan fans, who are not identifed by their names, are also interviewed at the concert. They say typical fan things, such as how the music affected their lives in positive ways and mention their favorite Wu-Tang Clan songs.
RZA comes across as the deep thinker of the group—someone who would rather show people what he can do, rather than brag about what he can do before it gets done. Although he occasionally says some cliché statements (“Music is a universal language”; “Wu-Tang is for the people”), RZA is the person in the group who makes the most effort to be inspirational in unifying not just the members of the group but also the people in the audience. Toward the end of the concert, RZA leads the audience to put their pands up to form the letter “w,” which not only stands for Wu-Tang Clan but also, as RZA says: “These w’s represent wings. You can fly above anything.”
Red Rocks Amphiteatre is unique and famous for being a venue that exists among natural rock formations that surround the venue. The beauty of the Red Rocks Amphitheatre location is well-showcased in the documentary, which has some stunning drone camera shots, as well as memorable wide-angle shots that allow viewers to soak up the atmosphere of this electrifying concert without actually being there.
The concert features many of Wu-Tang Clan’s best-known songs, including “Protect Ya Neck,” “Can It Be All So Simple,” “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit,” “It’s Yourz,” and “Triumph.” A few solo songs are performed, such as Young Dirty Bastard doing his version of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and Method Man doing his own solo hit “Bring Da Pain.” In other words, it’s a crowd-pleasing set list.
Will people who don’t like hip-hop enjoy this documentary? It depends on how open-minded viewers are to seeing a documentary that might have music that isn’t necessarily a genre that they listen to on a regular basis. “A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” does a fairly good job of balancing the on-stage footage with the off-stage footage, but a few of the editing transitions are a bit choppy. Despite these minor flaws, it’s great to see a hip-hop documentary that isn’t a negative stereotype of being about feuding or violence. Wu-Tang Clan has defied a lot of expectations in the group’s long career. This documentary stands as a worthy testament of how taking musical risks can lead to meaningful creative rewards.
Culture Representation: Taking place in 2022, this documentary film of jazz/pop musician Jon Batiste features him, his wife Suleika Jaouad, and a racially diverse group of people (African American, white and a few Asians) as he prepares to do a one-night-only “American Symphony” show at New York City’s Carnegie Hall while experiencing difficulties in his personal life.
Culture Clash: At the time that Batiste was experiencing some career highs (including winning five Grammys that year), Jaouad was battling cancer, which came back after years of being in remission.
Culture Audience: “American Symphony” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Batiste and movies about couples or family members dealing with health challenges.
“American Symphony” is a documentary about love on many different levels in telling the story of musician Jon Batiste and his writer wife Suleika Jaouad during her cancer journey. There are no real surprises but the movie is a bittersweet celebration of life. “American Symphony” is also a musical treat for people who appreciate Batiste’s unique artistry. He also composed the score for this documentary. “American Symphony” had its world premiere at the 2023 Telluride Film Festival.
Directed by Matthew Heineman, “American Symphony” (which was filmed in 2022) features voiceover narration from Batiste and Jaouad, indicating that this is as much a documentary about her as it is about him. Batiste just happens to be more famous than his wife, but it’s clear from watching the film that they treat each other as respected equals. Batiste and Jaouad have been a couple since 2014. Their 2022 wedding ceremony is shown in “American Symphony.”
In 2011, Jaouad was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and chronicled her cancer journey in The New York Times column/vlog “Life, Interrupted,” which won an Emmy Award. Batiste is an Oscar-winning composer (for Disney/Pixar’s “Soul”) and was the bad leader/music director for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” from 2015 to 2022. In 2022, he was nominated for 11 Grammys and won five Grammys, including Album of the Year for “We Are.” That same year, he also did a one-night-only show “American Symphony” concert at Carnegie Hall, with the show featuring his original music that reworks classical and jazz.
The documentary shows that at the same time Batiste is experiencing these career highs, Jaouad’s cancer has returned. The day that Batiste found out that he was nominated for 11 Grammys was the same day that Jaouad had to begin chemotherapy. Later, she had to get a bone marrow transplant. “American Symphony” shows how Batiste and Jaouad experience emotional lows that are raw and intense. However, the documentary is a testament to inner strength and the power of a loving support system.
“American Symphony” is also Batiste’s personal reflection of what music has meant to him in his life and how he had to stay true to himself, when other people were telling him to change so he could “fit in” better at the places where he wanted to be. Born in 1986 and raised in the New Orleans area, Batista goes back to his alma mater of Juilliard, which he describes as very “European classical,” not a “black Southern thing.”
The bond that this loving couple has is joyful to behold. Batiste says of Jaouad: “I learn from her all the time to look into the darkness and despair and to face it—but you can’t let it consume you.” Jaouad comments that what she admires Batiste’s ability to deal with life’s extremes: “I actually don’t know how to hold such extremes.”
“American Symphony” juxtaposes dreamy-like scenes of Batiste relaxing in nature (there are multiple shots of him in ocean water) with the stark and harsh realities of hospital visits with Jaouad. Batiste’s “American Symphony” concert is a rousing and emotionally moving conclusion that expresses many of the emotions that he poured into writing this symphony. People who watch this memorable documentary will appreciate its message that life is a symphony whose music and lyrics are still being written.
Netflix will release “American Symphony” in select U.S. cinemas on November 24, 2023. Netflix will premiere the movie on November 29, 2023.
Culture Representation: This biographical documentary film of activist/poet Nikki Giovanni features her first-person perspective, as well as commentary from African Americans and white people who are connected to her in some way.
Culture Clash: Giovanni, an outspoken critic of white supremacist racism, discusses overcoming an abusive background, family conflicts and resistance to her activism.
Culture Audience: “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching documentaries about unusual political activists.
“Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” is a journey into a unique life and perspective that might not be for everyone, but it stands firm in its authenticity. This documentary about poet/activist Nikki Giovanni is bold and somewhat unconventional, just like Giovanni. The movie evokes outer space travel as an apt metaphor for how ideas and influences can transcend boundaries.
Directed by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” had its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary. The movie is told almost entirely from the perspective of Giovanni, with narration of some of her poems by actress Taraji P. Henson. The movie has the expected mix of archival footage and interviews conducted exclusively for the documnetary. However, “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” has added elements of atmospheric scenes of outer space, since Giovanni talks a lot about space travel and Mars.
The movie opens with a quote from Giovanni, “The trip to Mars can only be understood through black Americans.” If that sentence intrigues you, then this documentary might be your type of movie. Giovanni says in the documentary’s opening remark: “I don’t remember a lot of things, but a lot of things I don’t remember, I don’t choose to remember. I remember what’s important, and I make up the rest. That’s what storytelling is all about.”
In voiceover narration, Henson can be heard saying a line from Giovanni’s writing: “I think I’ll run away with the ants and live on Mars.” In another voiceover, Giovanni says: “I’m a big fan of black women, because in our blood is space travel, because we come from a known through an unknown. And that’s all that space travel is. If anybody can find what’s out there in the darkness, it’s black women.”
During a public Q&A with journalist/writer Touré, to promote her 2017 non-fiction book “A Good Cry: What We Learn From Tears and Laughter,” Giovanni comments on the enslaved black female slaves who were kidnapped in Africa and forced to live an enslaved life in the United States, where they were often raped by their white enslavers: “Being forced to have sex with aliens, whatever they put in us, we held it, and then we birthed it, and then we named it, and then we loved it. Why wouldn’t we do that on Mars?”
Giovanni was born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni on June 7, 1943 in Knoxville, Tennessee, but spent much of her childhood living in Ohio. Sometime in her childhood, she was given the nickname Nikki. Her parents Yolande Cornelia Sr. and Jones “Gus” Giovanni (who were sweethearts at Knoxville College) worked in public schools. Nikki graduated from Fisk University in Nashville in 1967. She has been a professor of writing and literature at Virginia Tech since 1987.
Nikki first came to national prominence as part of the Black Power movement that rose in the late 1960s. The documentary includes many archival clips of her appearances on TV shows, including “Soul!,” where she was a frequent guest. “Going to Mars” has has footage of several of Nikki’s speaking appearances, including at the 2016 Afropunk festival.
She also gets candid about her parents’ volatile marriage and says that her father often beat up her mother. Nikki says in a voiceover: “It was a stormy relationship at various points, but we know that deprivation gives us stormy relationships.” Later, she is shown saying during a WHYY radio interview about how she felt about her abusive father at the time she lived with him: “It was clear I was going to have to kill him, or else I’d have to move.”
Nikki’s complicated emotions about race and gender includes admitting to her prejudices. In a “Soul!” interview she did in 1971 with writer/poet James Baldwin, when she was at the height of her Black Power fame, she confessed that her biases were affecting her personal life: “I don’t like white people, and I’m afraid of black men. What do you do? That’s a cycle. And that’s unfortunate, because I need love.”
Nikki found love with her wife Virginia Fowler, who recruited Nikki to work at Virginia Tech. The two women are both cancer survivors: Nikki battled lung cancer in the 1990s. Fowler is recovering from lung cancer and breast cancer. Fowler talks a little bit about her cancer journey, but Nikki doesn’t really discuss her own cancer experiences in the documentary.
Nikki’s selective memory is also shown when someone named Tom calls her to ask Nikki to discuss her time at an unnamed magazine, but she declines to be interviewed. Nikki says it’s because she had a seizure and “doesn’t remember much.” She also chooses not to go into details about the relationship that resulted in the birth of her only child Thomas Govanni, who was born in 1969, and she raised him as a single mother.
Nikki doesn’t talk about the turbulent relationship that she’s had with Thomas, but Fowler comments that Nikki and Thomas were estranged for a number of years and have since reconciled. Thomas and his daughter Kai Giovanni appear briefly in the documentary, which shows Kai going to Nikki’s house for the first time.
Perhaps the biggest drawback of this documentary is that the most candid comments from Nikki are not things she said in exclusive interviews for the documentary but things she talked about in archival clips. Much credit should be given to the documentary’s research and editing teams for including a lot of this rarely seen footage. The documentary’s editing artfully weaves outer-space footage with the rest of the footage so that viewers feel like they are taken on a cosmic journey through Nikki’s life.
Most of the documentary’s original footage of Nikki consists of her at her home (such as a scene of her doing some gardening), hanging out with friends such as performer Novella Nelson, or making public speaking appearances. The most vulnerable that Nikki gets in the documentary is toward the end, when she copes with the grief over the death of her beloved aunt Agnes, who passed away at age 94. The documentary shows Nikki getting the news of the death and later speaking at Agnes’ funeral. Nikki comments during a moment that she is now the oldest living person in her family.
Nikki’s outlook on life can be summed up in two of her speaking appearances that are featured in the documentary. In a Q&A at the Apollo Theater with educator/actress Johnetta Cole, Nikki says: “I honestly think the most important word for me is ‘duty.’ … Our people have a great history, and it’s our duty to tell that story.” At another speaking appearance at a library in front of children, Nikki (who has written several children’s books) says: “I’m very fortunate that I just don’t care what people think about me.”
HBO released “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” in select U.S. cinemas on November 3, 2023. HBO and Max will premiere the movie on January 8, 2024.
The following is a press release from The Recording Academy:
Topping the list of nominees for the 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards® are SZA (9), Phoebe Bridgers (7), Serban Ghenea (7), Victoria Monét (7), Jack Antonoff (6), Jon Batiste (6), boygenius (6), Brandy Clark (6), Miley Cyrus (6), Billie Eilish (6), Olivia Rodrigo (6), and Taylor Swift (6). As the only peer-voted music award, the GRAMMY Awards® are selected by the Recording Academy®’s voting membership body of music makers, who represent all genres and creative disciplines, including recording artists, songwriters, composers, producers, mixers, and engineers. The nominees were announced via a livestream event on live.grammy.com.
“We are thrilled to kick off GRAMMY® season with this year’s diverse and genre-bending slate of nominees, representing the best of their craft and an incredible year of music,” said Harvey Mason jr, CEO of the Recording Academy. “From breakthrough acts to legacy artists, we are amazed by all the musicians recognized for their outstanding contributions to music today. We can’t wait to spotlight these remarkable creators and celebrate another amazing year in music on Feb. 4.”
This year’s eligibility period includes recordings released between Oct. 1, 2022 – Sept. 15, 2023. The final round of GRAMMY voting, which will determine GRAMMY recipients, will take place Dec. 14, 2023 – Jan. 4, 2024. The 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards will return to Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena on Feb. 4, 2024, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT. Prior to the Telecast, the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony® will be held at Peacock Theater at 12:30 p.m. PT and will be streamed live on live.GRAMMY.com and the Recording Academy’s YouTube channel. The 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards will be produced by Fulwell 73 Productions for the Recording Academy. Ben Winston, Raj Kapoor and Jesse Collins are executive producers.
The following is a sampling of nominations from the 66th Annual GRAMMY Awards’ 94 Categories. For a complete nominations list, visit GRAMMY.com.
1. Record Of The Year
Award to the Artist and to the Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s) and/or Mixer(s) and mastering engineer(s), if other than the artist.
Worship Jon Batiste Jon Batiste, Jon Bellion, Pete Nappi & Tenroc, producers; Serban Ghenea & Pete Nappi, engineers/mixers; Chris Gehringer, mastering engineer
Not Strong Enough boygenius boygenius & Catherine Marks, producers; Owen Lantz, Catherine Marks, Mike Mogis, Bobby Mota, Kaushlesh “Garry” Purohit & Sarah Tudzin, engineers/mixers; Pat Sullivan, mastering engineer
Flowers Miley Cyrus Kid Harpoon & Tyler Johnson, producers; Michael Pollack, Brian Rajaratnam & Mark “Spike” Stent, engineers/mixers; Joe LaPorta, mastering engineer
What Was I Made For? [From The Motion Picture “Barbie”] Billie Eilish Billie Eilish & FINNEAS, producers; Billie Eilish, Rob Kinelski & FINNEAS, engineers/mixers; Chris Gehringer, mastering engineer
On My Mama Victoria Monét Deputy, Dernst Emile II & Jeff Gitelman, producers; Patrizio Pigliapoco & Todd Robinson, engineers/mixers; Colin Leonard, mastering engineer
Vampire Olivia Rodrigo Dan Nigro, producer; Serban Ghenea, Michael Harris, Chris Kasych, Daniel Nigro & Dan Viafore, engineers/mixers; Randy Merrill, mastering engineer
Anti-Hero Taylor Swift Jack Antonoff & Taylor Swift, producers; Jack Antonoff, Serban Ghenea, Laura Sisk & Lorenzo Wolff, engineers/mixers; Randy Merrill, mastering engineer
Kill Bill SZA Rob Bisel & Carter Lang, producers; Rob Bisel, engineer/mixer; Dale Becker, mastering engineer
2. Album Of The Year
Award to Artist(s) and to Featured Artist(s), Songwriter(s) of new material, Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s), Mixer(s) and Mastering Engineer(s) credited with 20% or more playing time of the album.
World Music Radio Jon Batiste Jon Batiste, Jon Bellion, Nick Cooper, Pete Nappi & Tenroc, producers; Jon Batiste, Pete Nappi, Kaleb Rollins, Laura Sisk & Marc Whitmore, engineers/mixers; Jon Batiste, Jon Bellion, Jason Cornet & Pete Nappi, songwriters; Chris Gehringer, mastering engineer
the record boygenius boygenius & Catherine Marks, producers; Owen Lantz, Will Maclellan, Catherine Marks, Mike Mogis, Bobby Mota, Kaushlesh “Garry” Purohit & Sarah Tudzin, engineers/mixers; Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers & Lucy Dacus, songwriters; Pat Sullivan, mastering engineer
Endless Summer Vacation Miley Cyrus Kid Harpoon, Tyler Johnson & Mike Will Made-It, producers; Pièce Eatah, Craig Frank, Paul David Hager, Stacy Jones, Brian Rajaratnam & Mark “Spike” Stent, engineers/mixers; Miley Cyrus, Gregory Aldae Hein, Thomas Hull, Tyler Johnson, Michael Len Williams II & Michael Pollack, songwriters; Joe LaPorta, mastering engineer
Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd Lana Del Rey Jack Antonoff, Zach Dawes, Lana Del Rey & Drew Erickson, producers; Jack Antonoff, Michael Harris, Dean Reid & Laura Sisk, engineers/mixers; Jack Antonoff, Lana Del Rey & Mike Hermosa, songwriters; Ruairi O’Flaherty, mastering engineer
The Age Of Pleasure Janelle Monáe Sensei Bueno, Nate “Rocket” Wonder & Nana Kwabena, producers; Mick Guzauski, Nate “Rocket” Wonder, Jayda Love, Janelle Monáe & Yáng Tan, engineers/mixers; Jarrett Goodly, Nathaniel Irvin III, Janelle Monáe Robinson & Nana Kwabena Tuffuor, songwriters; Dave Kutch, mastering engineer
GUTS Olivia Rodrigo Daniel Nigro, producer; Serban Ghenea, Sterling Laws, Mitch McCarthy, Daniel Nigro, Dave Schiffman, Mark “Spike” Stent, Sam Stewart & Dan Viafore, engineers/mixers; Daniel Nigro & Olivia Rodrigo, songwriters; Randy Merrill, mastering engineer
Midnights Taylor Swift Jack Antonoff & Taylor Swift, producers; Jack Antonoff, Zem Audu, Serban Ghenea, David Hart, Mikey Freedom Hart, Sean Hutchinson, Ken Lewis, Michael Riddleberger, Laura Sisk & Evan Smith, engineers/mixers; Jack Antonoff & Taylor Swift, songwriters; Randy Merrill, mastering engineer
SOS SZA Rob Bisel, ThankGod4Cody & Carter Lang, producers; Rob Bisel, engineer/mixer; Rob Bisel, Cody Fayne, Carter Lang & Solána Rowe, songwriters; Dale Becker, mastering engineer
3. Song Of The Year
A Songwriter(s) Award. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.
A&W Jack Antonoff, Lana Del Rey & Sam Dew, songwriters (Lana Del Rey)
Anti-Hero Jack Antonoff & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)
Butterfly Jon Batiste & Dan Wilson, songwriters (Jon Batiste)
Dance The Night (From Barbie The Album) Caroline Ailin, Dua Lipa, Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Dua Lipa)
Flowers Miley Cyrus, Gregory Aldae Hein & Michael Pollack, songwriters (Miley Cyrus)
Kill Bill Rob Bisel, Carter Lang & Solána Rowe, songwriters (SZA)
Vampire Daniel Nigro & Olivia Rodrigo, songwriters (Olivia Rodrigo)
What Was I Made For? [From The Motion Picture “Barbie”] Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell, songwriters (Billie Eilish)
4. Best New Artist
This category recognizes an artist whose eligibility-year release(s) achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and notably impacted the musical landscape.
Gracie Abrams Fred again.. Ice Spice Jelly Roll Coco Jones Noah Kahan Victoria Monét The War And Treaty
5. Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical
A Producer’s Award. (Artists names appear in parentheses.)
• Being Funny In A Foreign Language (The 1975) (A)
• Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd (Lana Del Rey) (A)
• Midnights (Taylor Swift) (A)
Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II
• JAGUAR II (Victoria Monét) (A)
• Bus Stop (Don Toliver Featuring Brent Faiyaz) (T)
• Just Face It (Dreamville With Blxst) (T)
• Kings Disease III (Nas) (A)
• Magic 3 (Nas) (A)
• Magic 2 (Nas) (A)
• Slipping Into Darkness (Hit-Boy & The Alchemist) (S)
Actual Life 3 (January 1 – September 9 2022) Fred again..
Quest For Fire Skrillex
Field 2: Rock, Metal & Alternative Music
13. Best Rock Performance
For new vocal or instrumental solo, duo/group or collaborative rock recordings.
Sculptures Of Anything Goes Arctic Monkeys
More Than A Love Song Black Pumas
Not Strong Enough Boygenius
Rescued Foo Fighters
Lux Æterna Metallica
14. Best Metal Performance
For new vocal or instrumental solo, duo/group or collaborative metal recordings.
Bad Man Disturbed
Phantom Of The Opera Ghost
72 Seasons Metallica
Hive Mind Slipknot
15. Best Rock Song
A Songwriter(s) Award. Includes Rock, Hard Rock and Metal songs. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.
Angry Mick Jagger, Keith Richards & Andrew Watt, songwriters (The Rolling Stones)
Ballad Of A Homeschooled Girl Daniel Nigro & Olivia Rodrigo, songwriters (Olivia Rodrigo)
Emotion Sickness Dean Fertita, Joshua Homme, Michael Shuman, Jon Theodore & Troy Van Leeuwen, songwriters (Queens Of The Stone Age)
Dynamic Maximum Tension Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society
Basie Swings The Blues The Count Basie Orchestra Directed By Scotty Barnhart
Olympians Vince Mendoza & Metropole Orkest
The Charles Mingus Centennial Sessions Mingus Big Band
33. Best Latin Jazz Album
For vocal or instrumental albums containing greater than 75% playing time of newly recorded material. The intent of this category is to recognize recordings that represent the blending of jazz with Latin, Iberian-American, Brazilian, and Argentinian tango music.
Quietude Eliane Elias
My Heart Speaks Ivan Lins With The Tblisi Symphony Orchestra
Vox Humana Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band
Cometa Luciana Souza & Trio Corrente
El Arte Del Bolero Vol. 2 Miguel Zenón & Luis Perdomo
34. Best Alternative Jazz Album
For vocal or instrumental albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new Alternative jazz recordings.
Love In Exile Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, Shahzad Ismaily
Quality Over Opinion Louis Cole
SuperBlue: The Iridescent Spree Kurt Elling, Charlie Hunter, SuperBlue
Live At The Piano Cory Henry
The Omnichord Real Book Meshell Ndegeocello
35. Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new traditional pop recordings.
To Steve With Love: Liz Callaway Celebrates Sondheim Liz Callaway
Pieces Of Treasure Rickie Lee Jones
Holidays Around The World Pentatonix
Only The Strong Survive Bruce Springsteen
Sondheim Unplugged (The NYC Sessions), Vol. 3 (Various Artists)
36. Best Contemporary Instrumental Album
For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new contemporary instrumental recordings.
As We Speak Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer, Featuring Rakesh Chaurasia
On Becoming House Of Waters
Jazz Hands Bob James
The Layers Julian Lage
All One Ben Wendel
37. Best Musical Theater Album
For albums containing greater than 51% playing time of new recordings. Award to the principal vocalist(s), and the album producer(s) of 50% or more playing time of the album. The lyricist(s) and composer(s) of 50 % or more of a score of a new recording are eligible for an Award if any previous recording of said score has not been nominated in this category.
Kimberly Akimbo John Clancy, David Stone & Jeanine Tesori, producers; Jeanine Tesori, composer; David Lindsay-Abaire, lyricist (Original Broadway Cast)
Parade Micaela Diamond, Alex Joseph Grayson, Jake Pedersen & Ben Platt, principal vocalists; Jason Robert Brown & Jeffrey Lesser, producers; Jason Robert Brown, composer & lyricist (2023 Broadway Cast)
Shucked Brandy Clark, Jason Howland, Shane McAnally & Billy Jay Stein, producers; Brandy Clark & Shane McAnally, composers/lyricists (Original Broadway Cast)
Some Like It Hot Christian Borle, J. Harrison Ghee, Adrianna Hicks & NaTasha Yvette Williams, principal vocalists; Mary-Mitchell Campbell, Bryan Carter, Scott M. Riesett, Charlie Rosen & Marc Shaiman, producers; Scott Wittman, lyricist; Marc Shaiman, composer & lyricist (Original Broadway Cast)
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street Annaleigh Ashford & Josh Groban, principal vocalists; Thomas Kail & Alex Lacamoire, producers (Stephen Sondheim, composer & lyricist) (2023 Broadway Cast)
Field 5: Country & American Roots Music
38. Best Country Solo Performance
For new vocal or instrumental solo country recordings.
In Your Love Tyler Childers
Buried Brandy Clark
Fast Car Luke Combs
The Last Thing On My Mind Dolly Parton
White Horse Chris Stapleton
39. Best Country Duo/Group Performance
For new vocal or instrumental duo/group or collaborative country recordings.
High Note Dierks Bentley Featuring Billy Strings
Nobody’s Nobody Brothers Osborne
I Remember Everything Zach Bryan Featuring Kacey Musgraves
Kissing Your Picture (Is So Cold) Vince Gill & Paul Franklin
Save Me Jelly Roll With Lainey Wilson
We Don’t Fight Anymore Carly Pearce Featuring Chris Stapleton
40. Best Country Song
A Songwriter(s) Award. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.
Buried Brandy Clark & Jessie Jo Dillon, songwriters (Brandy Clark)
In Your Love Tyler Childers & Geno Seale, songwriters (Tyler Childers)
Last Night John Byron, Ashley Gorley, Jacob Kasher Hindlin & Ryan Vojtesak, songwriters (Morgan Wallen)
White Horse Chris Stapleton & Dan Wilson, songwriters (Chris Stapleton)
41. Best Country Album
For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new country recordings.
Rolling Up The Welcome Mat Kelsea Ballerini
Brothers Osborne Brothers Osborne
Zach Bryan Zach Bryan
Rustin’ In The Rain Tyler Childers
Bell Bottom Country Lainey Wilson
42. Best American Roots Performance
For new vocal or instrumental American Roots recordings. This is for performances in the style of any of the subgenres encompassed in the American Roots Music field including bluegrass, blues, folk or regional roots. Award to the artist(s).
Butterfly Jon Batiste
Heaven Help Us All The Blind Boys Of Alabama
Inventing The Wheel Madison Cunningham
You Louisiana Man Rhiannon Giddens
Eve Was Black Allison Russell
43. Best Americana Performance
For new vocal or instrumental Americana performance. Award to the artist(s).
Friendship The Blind Boys Of Alabama
Help Me Make It Through The Night Tyler Childers
Dear Insecurity Brandy Clark Featuring Brandi Carlile
King Of Oklahoma Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit
The Returner Allison Russell
44. Best American Roots Song
A Songwriter(s) Award. Includes Americana, bluegrass, traditional blues, contemporary blues, folk or regional roots songs. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.
Blank Page Michael Trotter Jr. & Tanya Trotter, songwriters (The War And Treaty)
California Sober Aaron Allen, William Apostol & Jon Weisberger, songwriters (Billy Strings Featuring Willie Nelson)
Cast Iron Skillet Jason Isbell, songwriter (Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit)
Dear Insecurity Brandy Clark & Michael Pollack, songwriters (Brandy Clark Featuring Brandi Carlile)
The Returner Drew Lindsay, JT Nero & Allison Russell, songwriters (Allison Russell)
45. Best Americana Album
For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental Americana recordings.
Brandy Clark Brandy Clark
The Chicago Sessions Rodney Crowell
You’re The One Rhiannon Giddens
Weathervanes Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit
The Returner Allison Russell
46. Best Bluegrass Album
For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental bluegrass recordings.
Radio John: Songs of John Hartford Sam Bush
Lovin’ Of The Game Michael Cleveland
Mighty Poplar Mighty Poplar
Bluegrass Willie Nelson
Me/And/Dad Billy Strings
City Of Gold Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway
47. Best Traditional Blues Album
For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental traditional blues recordings.
Ridin’ Eric Bibb
The Soul Side Of Sipp Mr. Sipp
Life Don’t Miss Nobody Tracy Nelson
Teardrops For Magic Slim Live At Rosa’s Lounge John Primer
All My Love For You Bobby Rush
48. Best Contemporary Blues Album
For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental contemporary blues recordings.
Death Wish Blues Samantha Fish And Jesse Dayton
Healing Time Ruthie Foster
Live In London Christone “Kingfish” Ingram
Blood Harmony Larkin Poe
LaVette! Bettye LaVette
49. Best Folk Album
For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental folk recordings.
Traveling Wildfire Dom Flemons
I Only See The Moon The Milk Carton Kids
Joni Mitchell At Newport [Live] Joni Mitchell
Celebrants Nickel Creek
Jubilee Old Crow Medicine Show
Seven Psalms Paul Simon
Folkocracy Rufus Wainwright
50. Best Regional Roots Music Album
For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental regional roots music recordings.
New Beginnings Buckwheat Zydeco Jr. & The Legendary Ils Sont Partis Band
Live At The 2023 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Dwayne Dopsie & The Zydeco Hellraisers
Live: Orpheum Theater Nola Lost Bayou Ramblers & Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra
Made In New Orleans New Breed Brass Band
Too Much To Hold New Orleans Nightcrawlers
Live At The Maple Leaf The Rumble Featuring Chief Joseph Boudreaux Jr.
Field 6: Gospel & Contemporary Christian Music
51. Best Gospel Performance/Song
This award is given to the artist(s) and songwriter(s) (for new compositions) for the best traditional Christian, roots gospel or contemporary gospel single or track.
God Is Good Stanley Brown Featuring Hezekiah Walker, Kierra Sheard & Karen Clark Sheard; Stanley Brown, Karen V Clark Sheard, Kaylah Jiavanni Harvey, Rodney Jerkins, Elyse Victoria Johnson, J Drew Sheard II, Kierra Valencia Sheard & Hezekiah Walker, songwriters
Feel Alright (Blessed) Erica Campbell; Erica Campbell, Warryn Campbell, William Weatherspoon, Juan Winans & Marvin L. Winans, songwriters
Lord Do It For Me (Live) Zacardi Cortez; Marcus Calyen, Zacardi Cortez & Kerry Douglas, songwriters
God Is Melvin Crispell III
All Things Kirk Franklin; Kirk Franklin, songwriter
52. Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song
This award is given to the artist(s) and songwriter(s) (for new compositions) for the best contemporary Christian music single or track, (including pop, rap/hip-hop, Latin, or rock.)
Abundance In Millets Falu & Gaurav Shah (Featuring PM Narendra Modi)
Pashto Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer & Zakir Hussain Featuring Rakesh Chaurasia
Todo Colores Ibrahim Maalouf Featuring Cimafunk & Tank And The Bangas
62. Best African Music Performance
Amapiano ASAKE & Olamide
City Boys Burna Boy
UNAVAILABLE Davido Featuring Musa Keys
Rush Ayra Starr
63. Best Global Music Album
For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental Global Music recordings.
Epifanías Susana Baca
I Told Them… Burna Boy
This Moment Shakti
64. Best Reggae Album
For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new reggae recordings.
Born For Greatness Buju Banton
Simma Beenie Man
Cali Roots Riddim 2023 Collie Buddz
No Destroyer Burning Spear
Colors Of Royal Julian Marley & Antaeus
65. Best New Age, Ambient, or Chant Album
For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental new age recordings.
Aquamarine Kirsten Agresta-Copely
Moments Of Beauty Omar Akram
Some Kind Of Peace (Piano Reworks) Ólafur Arnalds
Ocean Dreaming Ocean David Darling & Hans Christian
So She Howls Carla Patullo Featuring Tonality And The Scorchio Quartet
Field 8: Children’s, Comedy, Audio Books, Visual Media & Music Video/Film
66. Best Children’s Music Album
For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new musical or spoken word recordings that are created and intended specifically for children.
Ahhhhh! Andrew & Polly
Ancestars Pierce Freelon & Nnenna Freelon
Hip Hope For Kids! DJ Willy Wow!
Taste The Sky Uncle Jumbo
We Grow Together Preschool Songs 123 Andrés
67. Best Comedy Album
For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new recordings.
I Wish You Would Trevor Noah
I’m An Entertainer Wanda Sykes
Selective Outrage Chris Rock
Someone You Love Sarah Silverman
What’s In A Name? Dave Chappelle
68. Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording
Big Tree Meryl Streep
Boldly Go: Reflections On A Life Of Awe And Wonder William Shatner
The Creative Act: A Way Of Being Rick Rubin
It’s Ok To Be Angry About Capitalism Senator Bernie Sanders
The Light We Carry: Overcoming In Uncertain Times Michelle Obama
69. Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media
Award to the principal artist(s) and/or ‘in studio’ producer(s) of a majority of the tracks on the album. In the absence of both, award to the one or two individuals proactively responsible for the concept and musical direction of the album and for the selection of artists, songs and producers, as applicable. Award also goes to appropriately credited music supervisor(s).
AURORA (Daisy Jones & The Six)
Barbie The Album (Various Artists)
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Music From And Inspired By (Various Artists)
Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3: Awesome Mix, Vol. 3 (Various Artists)
Weird: The Al Yankovic Story Weird Al Yankovic
70. Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media (Includes Film And Television)
Award to Composer(s) for an original score created specifically for, or as a companion to, a current legitimate motion picture, television show or series, or other visual media.
Barbie Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, composers
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Ludwig Göransson, composer
The Fabelmans John Williams, composer
Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny John Williams, composer
Oppenheimer Ludwig Göransson, composer
71. Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media
Award to Composer(s) for an original score created specifically for, or as a companion to, video games and other interactive media.
Call Of Duty®: Modern Warfare II Sarah Schachner, composer
God Of War Ragnarök Bear McCreary, composer
Hogwarts Legacy Peter Murray, J Scott Rakozy & Chuck E. Myers “Sea”, composers
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor Stephen Barton & Gordy Haab, composers
A Songwriter(s) award. For a song (melody & lyrics) written specifically for a motion picture, television, video games or other visual media, and released for the first time during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.)
Barbie World [From “Barbie The Album”] Naija Gaston, Ephrem Louis Lopez Jr. & Onika Maraj, songwriters (Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice Featuring Aqua)
Dance The Night [From “Barbie The Album”] Caroline Ailin, Dua Lipa, Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Dua Lipa)
I’m Just Ken [From “Barbie The Album”] Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Ryan Gosling)
Lift Me Up [From “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Music From And Inspired By”] Ryan Coogler, Ludwig Göransson, Robyn Fenty & Temilade Openiyi, songwriters (Rihanna)
What Was I Made For? [From “Barbie The Album”] Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell, songwriters (Billie Eilish)
73. Best Music Video
Award to the artist, video director, and video producer.
I’m Only Sleeping (The Beatles) Em Cooper, video director; Jonathan Clyde, Sophie Hilton, Sue Loughlin & Laura Thomas, video producers
In Your Love Tyler Childers Bryan Schlam, video director; Kacie Barton, Silas House, Nicholas Robespierre, Ian Thornton & Whitney Wolanin, video producers
What Was I Made For Billie Eilish Billie Eilish, video director; Michelle An, Chelsea Dodson & David Moore, video producers
Count Me Out Kendrick Lamar Dave Free & Kendrick Lamar, video directors; Jason Baum & Jamie Rabineau, video producers
Rush Troye Sivan Gordon Von Steiner, video director; Kelly McGee, video producer
74. Best Music Film
For concert/performance films or music documentaries. Award to the artist, video director, and video producer.
Moonage Daydream (David Bowie) Brett Morgen, video director; Brett Morgen, video producer
How I’m Feeling Now Lewis Capaldi Joe Pearlman, video director; Sam Bridger, Isabel Davis & Alice Rhodes, video producers
Live From Paris, The Big Steppers Tour Kendrick Lamar Mike Carson, Dave Free & Mark Ritchie, video directors; Cornell Brown, Debra Davis, Jared Heinke & Jamie Rabineau, video producers
I Am Everything (Little Richard) Lisa Cortés, video director; Caryn Capotosto, Lisa Cortés, Robert Friedman & Liz Yale Marsh, video producers
Dear Mama (Tupac Shakur) Allen Hughes, video director; Joshua Garcia, Loren Gomez, James Jenkins & Stef Smith, video producers
Field 9: Package, Notes & Historical
75. Best Recording Package
The Art Of Forgetting Caroline Rose, art director (Caroline Rose)
Cadenza 21′ Hsing-Hui Cheng, art director (Ensemble Cadenza 21′)
Electrophonic Chronic Perry Shall, art director (The Arcs)
Gravity Falls Iam8bit, art director (Brad Breeck)
Migration Yu Wei, art director (Leaf Yeh)
Stumpwork Luke Brooks & James Theseus Buck, art directors (Dry Cleaning)
76. Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package
The Collected Works Of Neutral Milk Hotel Jeff Mangum, Daniel Murphy & Mark Ohe, art directors (Neutral Milk Hotel)
For The Birds: The Birdsong Project Jeri Heiden & John Heiden, art directors (Various Artists)
Gieo Duy Dao, art director (Ngot)
Inside: Deluxe Box Set Bo Burnham & Daniel Calderwood, art directors (Bo Burnham)
Words & Music, May 1965 – Deluxe Edition Masaki Koike, art director (Lou Reed)
77. Best Album Notes
Evenings At The Village Gate: John Coltrane With Eric Dolphy (Live) Ashley Kahn, album notes writer (John Coltrane & Eric Dolphy)
I Can Almost See Houston: The Complete Howdy Glenn Scott B. Bomar, album notes writer (Howdy Glenn)
Mogadishu’s Finest: The Al Uruba Sessions Vik Sohonie, album notes writer (Iftin Band)
Playing For The Man At The Door: Field Recordings From The Collection Of Mack McCormick, 1958–1971 Jeff Place & John Troutman, album notes writers (Various Artists)
Written In Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos Robert Gordon & Deanie Parker, album notes writers (Various Artists)
78. Best Historical Album
Fragments – Time Out Of Mind Sessions (1996-1997): The Bootleg Series, Vol. 17 Steve Berkowitz & Jeff Rosen, compilation producers; Steve Addabbo, Greg Calbi, Steve Fallone, Chris Shaw & Mark Wilder, mastering engineers (Bob Dylan)
The Moaninest Moan Of Them All: The Jazz Saxophone of Loren McMurray, 1920-1922 Colin Hancock, Meagan Hennessey & Richard Martin, compilation producers; Richard Martin, mastering engineer; Richard Martin, restoration engineer (Various Artists)
Playing For The Man At The Door: Field Recordings From The Collection Of Mack McCormick, 1958–1971 Jeff Place & John Troutman, compilation producers; Randy LeRoy & Charlie Pilzer, mastering engineers; Mike Petillo & Charlie Pilzer, restoration engineers (Various Artists)
Words & Music, May 1965 – Deluxe Edition Laurie Anderson, Don Fleming, Jason Stern, Matt Sulllivan & Hal Willner, compilation producers; John Baldwin, mastering engineer; John Baldwin, restoration engineer (Lou Reed)
Written In Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos Robert Gordon, Deanie Parker, Cheryl Pawelski, Michele Smith & Mason Williams, compilation producers; Michael Graves, mastering engineer; Michael Graves, restoration engineer (Various Artists)
Field 10: Production, Engineering, Composition & Arrangement
79. Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical
An Engineer’s Award. (Artists names appear in parentheses.)
Desire, I Want To Turn Into You Macks Faulkron, Daniel Harle, Caroline Polachek & Geoff Swan, engineers; Mike Bozzi & Chris Gehringer, mastering engineers (Caroline Polachek)
History Nic Hard, engineer; Dave McNair, mastering engineer (Bokanté)
JAGUAR II John Kercy, Kyle Mann, Victoria Monét, Patrizio “Teezio” Pigliapoco, Neal H Pogue & Todd Robinson, engineers; Colin Leonard, mastering engineer (Victoria Monét)
Multitudes Michael Harris, Robbie Lackritz, Joseph Lorge & Blake Mills, engineers (Feist)
The Record Owen Lantz, Will Maclellan, Catherine Marks, Mike Mogis, Bobby Mota, Kaushlesh “Garry” Purohit & Sarah Tudzin, engineers; Pat Sullivan, mastering engineer (boygenius)
80. Best Engineered Album, Classical
An Engineer’s Award. (Artist names appear in parentheses.)
The Blue Hour Patrick Dillett, Mitchell Graham, Jesse Lewis, Kyle Pyke, Andrew Scheps & John Weston, engineers; Helge Sten, mastering engineer (Shara Nova & A Far Cry)
Contemporary American Composers David Frost & Charlie Post, engineers; Silas Brown, mastering engineer (Riccardo Muti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra)
Fandango Alexander Lipay & Dmitriy Lipay, engineers; Alexander Lipay & Dmitriy Lipay, mastering engineers (Gustavo Dudamel, Anne Akiko Meyers, Gustavo Castillo & Los Angeles Philharmonic)
Sanlikol: A Gentleman Of Istanbul – Symphony For Strings, Percussion, Piano, Oud, Ney & Tenor Christopher Moretti & John Weston, engineers; Shauna Barravecchio & Jesse Lewis, mastering engineers (Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, George Lernis & A Far Cry)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 & Schulhoff: Five Pieces Mark Donahue, engineer; Mark Donahue, mastering engineer (Manfred Honeck & Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)
Field 10: Production, Engineering, Composition & Arrangement
81. Producer Of The Year, Classical
A Producer’s Award. (Artist names appear in parentheses.)
David Frost The American Project (Yuja Wang, Teddy Abrams, Louisville Orchestra) (A) Arc II – Ravel, Brahms, Shostakovich (Orion Weiss) (A) Blanchard: Champion (Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Latonia Moore, Ryan Speedo Green, Eric Owens, Stephanie Blythe, Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra) (A) Contemporary American Composers (Riccardo Muti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra) (A) The Guitar Player (Mattias Schulstad) (A) Mysterium (Anne Akiko Meyers, Grant Gershon & Los Angeles Master Chorale) (A) Verdi: Rigoletto (Daniele Rustioni, Piotr Beczala, Quinn Kelsey, Rosa Feola, Varduhi Abrahamyan, Andrea Mastroni, The Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra) (A)
Morten Lindberg An Old Hall Ladymass (Catalina Vicens & Trio Mediæval) (A) Thoresen: Lyden Av Arktis – La Terra Meravigliosa (Christian Kluxen & Arktisk Filharmoni) (A) The Trondheim Concertos (Sigurd Imsen & Baroque Ensemble Of The Trondheim Symphony Orchestra) (A) Yggdrasil (Tove Ramlo-Ystad & Cantus) (A)
Dmitriy Lipay Adès: Dante (Gustavo Dudamel & Los Angeles Philharmonic) (A) Fandango (Gustavo Dudamel, Anne Akiko Meyers & Los Angeles Philharmonic) (A) Price: Symphony No. 4; Dawson: Negro Folk Symphony (Yannick Nézet-Séguin & Philadelphia Orchestra) (A) Rachmaninoff: The Piano Concertos & Paganini Rhapsody (Yuja Wang, Gustavo Dudamel & Los Angeles Philharmonic) (A) Walker: Lyric For Strings; Folksongs For Orchestra; Lilacs For Voice & Orchestra; Dawson: Negro Folk Symphony (Asher Fisch & Seattle Symphony) (A)
Elaine Martone Ascenso (Santiago Cañón-Valencia) (A) Berg: Three Pieces From Lyric Suite; Strauss: Suite From Der Rosenkavalier (Franz Welser-Möst & The Cleveland Orchestra) (A) Between Breaths (Third Coast Percussion) (A) Difficult Grace (Seth Parker Woods) (A) Man Up / Man Down (Constellation Men’s Ensemble) (A) Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 (Franz Welser-Möst & The Cleveland Orchestra) (A) Rachmaninoff & Gershwin: Transcriptions By Earl Wild (John Wilson) (A) Sirventés – Music From The Iranian Female Composers Association (Brian Thornton, Katherine Bormann, Alicia Koelz, Eleisha Nelson, Amahl Arulanadam & Nathan Petipas) (A) Walker: Antifonys; Lilacs; Sinfonias Nos. 4 & 5 (Franz Welser-Möst & The Cleveland Orchestra) (A)
Brian Pidgeon Fuchs: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1 (John Wilson & Sinfonia Of London) (A) Music For Strings (John Wilson & Sinfonia Of London) (A) Nielsen: Violin Concerto; Symphony No. 4 (James Ehnes, Edward Gardner & Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra) (A) Pierre Sancan – A Musical Tribute (Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Yan Pascal Tortelier & BBC Philharmonic) (A) Poulenc: Orchestral Works (Bramwell Tovey & BBC Concert Orchestra) (A) Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 3; Voclaise; The Isle Of The Dead (John Wilson & Sinfonia Of London) (A) Schubert: Symphonies, Vol. 3 (Edward Gardner & City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra) (A) Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 12 & 15 (John Storgårds & BBC Philharmonic) (A) Tchaikovsky: Orchestral Works (Alpesh Chauhan & BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra) (A)
82. Best Remixed Recording
(A Remixer’s Award. (Artists names appear in parentheses for identification.) Singles or Tracks only.)
Wagging Tongue (Wet Leg Remix) Wet Leg, remixers (Depeche Mode)
Workin’ Hard (Terry Hunter Remix) Terry Hunter, remixer (Mariah Carey)
83. Best Immersive Audio Album
For vocal or instrumental albums in any genre. Must be commercially released for physical sale or on an eligible streaming or download service and must provide a new immersive mix of four or more channels. Award to the immersive mix engineer, immersive producer (if any) and immersive mastering engineer (if any).
Act 3 (Immersive Edition) Ryan Ulyate, immersive mix engineer; Michael Romanowski, immersive mastering engineer; Ryan Ulyate, immersive producer (Ryan Ulyate)
Blue Clear Sky Chuck Ainlay, immersive mix engineer; Michael Romanowski, immersive mastering engineer; Chuck Ainlay, immersive producer (George Strait)
The Diary Of Alicia Keys George Massenburg & Eric Schilling, immersive mix engineers; Michael Romanowski, immersive mastering engineer; Alicia Keys & Ann Mincieli, immersive producers (Alicia Keys)
God Of War Ragnarök (Original Soundtrack) Eric Schilling, immersive mix engineer; Michael Romanowski, immersive mastering engineer; Kellogg Boynton, Peter Scaturro & Herbert Waltl, immersive producers (Bear McCreary)
Silence Between Songs Aaron Short, immersive mastering engineer (Madison Beer)
84. Best Instrumental Composition
A Composer’s Award for an original composition (not an adaptation) first released during the Eligibility Year. Singles or Tracks only.
Amerikkan Skin Lakecia Benjamin, composer (Lakecia Benjamin Featuring Angela Davis)
Can You Hear The Music Ludwig Göransson, composer (Ludwig Göransson)
Cutey And The Dragon Gordon Goodwin & Raymond Scott, composers (Quartet San Francisco Featuring Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band)
Helena’s Theme John Williams, composer (John Williams)
Motion Edgar Meyer, composer (Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer & Zakir Hussain Featuring Rakesh Chaurasia)
85. Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella
An Arranger’s Award. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.
Angels We Have Heard On High Nkosilathi Emmanuel Sibanda, arranger (Just 6)
Can You Hear The Music Ludwig Göransson, arranger (Ludwig Göransson)
Folsom Prison Blues John Carter Cash, Tommy Emmanuel, Markus Illko, Janet Robin & Roberto Luis Rodriguez, arrangers (The String Revolution Featuring Tommy Emmanuel)
I Remember Mingus Hilario Duran, arranger (Hilario Duran And His Latin Jazz Big Band Featuring Paquito D’Rivera)
Paint It Black Esin Aydingoz, Chris Bacon & Alana Da Fonseca, arrangers (Wednesday Addams)
86. Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals
An Arranger’s Award. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.
April In Paris Gordon Goodwin, arranger (Patti Austin Featuring Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band)
Com Que Voz (Live) John Beasley & Maria Mendes, arrangers (Maria Mendes Featuring John Beasley & Metropole Orkest)
In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning Erin Bentlage, Jacob Collier, Sara Gazarek, Johnaye Kendrick & Amanda Taylor, arrangers (säje Featuring Jacob Collier)
Lush Life Kendric McCallister, arranger (Samara Joy)
Field 11: Classical
87. Best Orchestral Performance
Award to the Conductor and to the Orchestra.
Adès: Dante Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic)
Bartók: Concerto For Orchestra; Four Pieces Karina Canellakis, conductor (Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra)
Price: Symphony No. 4; Dawson: Negro Folk Symphony Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor (The Philadelphia Orchestra)
Scriabin: Symphony No. 2; The Poem Of Ecstasy JoAnn Falletta, conductor (Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra)
Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (San Francisco Symphony)
88. Best Opera Recording
Award to the Conductor, Album Producer(s) and Principal Soloists, and to the Composer and Librettist (if applicable) of a world premiere Opera recording only.
Blanchard: Champion Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor; Ryan Speedo Green, Latonia Moore & Eric Owens; David Frost, producer (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus)
Corigliano: The Lord Of Cries Gil Rose, conductor; Anthony Roth Costanzo, Kathryn Henry, Jarrett Ott & David Portillo; Gil Rose, producer (Boston Modern Orchestra Project & Odyssey Opera Chorus)
Little: Black Lodge Timur; Andrew McKenna Lee & David T. Little, producers (The Dime Museum; Isaura String Quartet)
89. Best Choral Performance
Award to the Conductor, and to the Choral Director and/or Chorus Master where applicable and to the Choral Organization/Ensemble.
Carols After A Plague Donald Nally, conductor (The Crossing)
The House Of Belonging Craig Hella Johnson, conductor (Miró Quartet; Conspirare)
Ligeti: Lux Aeterna Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (San Francisco Symphony Chorus)
Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil Steven Fox, conductor (The Clarion Choir)
Saariaho: Reconnaissance Nils Schweckendiek, conductor (Uusinta Ensemble; Helsinki Chamber Choir)
90. Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance
For new recordings of works with chamber or small ensemble (twenty-four or fewer members, not including the conductor). One Award to the ensemble and one Award to the conductor, if applicable.
American Stories Anthony McGill & Pacifica Quartet
Beethoven For Three: Symphony No. 6, ‘Pastorale’ And Op. 1, No. 3 Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax & Leonidas Kavakos
Between Breaths Third Coast Percussion
Rough Magic Roomful Of Teeth
Uncovered, Vol. 3: Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, William Grant Still & George Walker Catalyst Quartet
Field 11: Classical
91. Best Classical Instrumental Solo
Award to the Instrumental Soloist(s) and to the Conductor when applicable.
Adams, John Luther: Darkness And Scattered Light Robert Black
Akiho: Cylinders Andy Akiho
The American Project Yuja Wang; Teddy Abrams, conductor (Louisville Orchestra)
Difficult Grace Seth Parker Woods
Of Love Curtis Stewart
92. Best Classical Solo Vocal Album
Award to: Vocalist(s), Collaborative Artist(s) (Ex: pianists, conductors, chamber groups) Producer(s), Recording Engineers/Mixers with greater than 50% playing time of new material.
Because Reginald Mobley, soloist; Baptiste Trotignon, pianist
Broken Branches Karim Sulayman, soloist; Sean Shibe, accompanist
40@40 Laura Strickling, soloist; Daniel Schlosberg, pianist
Rising Lawrence Brownlee, soloist; Kevin J. Miller, pianist
Walking In The Dark Julia Bullock, soloist; Christian Reif, conductor (Philharmonia Orchestra)
93. Best Classical Compendium
Award to the Artist(s) and to the Album Producer(s) and Engineer(s) of over 50% playing time of the album, and to the Composer and Librettist (if applicable) with over 50% playing time of a world premiere recording only.
Fandango Anne Akiko Meyers; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor; Dmitriy Lipay, producer
Julius Eastman, Vol. 3: If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich? Christopher Rountree, conductor; Lewis Pesacov, producer
Mazzoli: Dark With Excessive Bright Peter Herresthal; Tim Weiss, conductor; Hans Kipfer, producer
Passion For Bach And Coltrane Alex Brown, Harlem Quartet, Imani Winds, Edward Perez, Neal Smith & A.B. Spellman; Silas Brown & Mark Dover, producers
Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City, the musical comedy film “Dicks: The Musical” (based on the stage show “Fucking Identical Twins”) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few black people, Latin people and Asians) portraying the working-class and middle-class.
Culture Clash: Two sexist and egotistical salesmen, who are rivals at the same company, find out that they’re identical twins, and they go on a quest to reunite their divorced parents, one of whom is living life as a gay person.
Culture Audience: “Dicks: The Musical” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of the stage production on which this movie is based; the movie’s headlining stars; and comedy musicals that don’t have much to offer but gimmicky raunchiness.
“Dicks: The Musical” isn’t as clever and funny as it thinks it is. A better movie would have been about Megan Thee Stallion’s scene-stealing Gloria Masters character. The film makes a terrible pivot into glorifying the crime of incest. Incest is never okay. Worst of all, this abrupt change into an incest story is unnecessary and reeks of a desperate way to create shock value as a gimmick, not because it makes sense to the story.
Directed by Larry Charles, “Dicks: The Musical” is based on the stage show “Fucking Identical Twins,” which was the original title of the movie before it was changed to a title that’s more marketable and less offensive. Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson (two alumni of the comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade) are the writers and title characters of “Fucking Identical Twins,” which started out as an Upright Citizens Brigade sketch. Sharp and Jackson are also the writers and stars of “Dicks: The Musical.”
You can tell that “Dicks: The Musical” is based on a comedy sketch, because the very flimsy and simplistic plot gets repetitive and dull in too many sections, in order to fill up the time for a feature-length movie. There are only a few standout musical moments. Most of the songs are trite and forgettable. Jackson, Sharp and Karl Saint Lucy co-wrote the songs, with Marius de Vries (the producer of the movie’s soundtrack) also sharing co-songwriting credit on some of the tunes. “Dicks: The Musical” had its world premiere at the 2023 Toronto International Film Festival.
The identical twins at the center of the story are Craig Tittle (played by Sharp) and Trevor Brock (played by Jackson), two hard-driving, very competitive and extremely rude salesmen. In the very beginning of the movie, bachelors Craig and Trevor have known each other for a while but have no idea that they are brothers. The “joke” is that Craig and Trevor don’t look identical at all.
Craig (the uptight brother) and Trevor (the flamboyant brother) work for the same vacuum company and are fierce rivals at their job, which rewards the employee with the highest sales revenue. Craig and Trevor also happen to live next door to each other in New York City. The story is narrated by God (played by Bowen Yang), who is portrayed as a sarcastic gossipper who sees and knows everything.
Trevor and Craig both consider themselves to be politically conservative “alpha males” who are the best at everything they do. They are also homophobic and sexist, because they think heterosexual, cisgender men are superior to everyone else. How awful are Craig and Trevor? They’re nasty to pregnant women and don’t hesitate to do things like push a pregnant woman out of the way if she’s hailing the same taxi.
Craig was raised by a single father. Trevor was raised by a single mother. Through a series of events, Craig and Trevor find out that they are long-lost identical twins whose parents divorced when Craig and Trevor were too young to remember their parents being married. Craig and Trevor’s parents cut each other out of their lives completely after the divorce and did not make themselves known to whichever twin son wasn’t in their custody. Craig and Trevor were raised to be believe that whichever parent raised them was widowed.
Trevor and Craig think there’s a social stigma if their parents are divorced. Craig and Trevor agree to temporarily put aside their brotherly feuding, in order to reunite their parents, with the hope that their parents will remarry. (The filmmakers of “Dicks: The Musical” openly acknowledge that “The Parent Trap” is an inspiration for this part of the story.) Craig and Trevor decide to disguise themselves as each other when they visit whichever parent didn’t raise them.
When Craig (disguised as Trevor) meets his mother Evelyn (played by Megan Mullally) for the first time, he finds out that she’s a lisping eccentric who lives alone and doesn’t have a vagina, because the vagina has separated from her body and can fly like a bird. (Evelyn’s flying vagina is used as a sight gag multiple times in the movie.) When Trevor (disguised as Craig) meets his father Harris (played by Nathan Lane) for the first time, he finds out that Harris has been living alone as a gay man.
Harris has two pet creatures in a cage called the Sewer Boys, who are about the size of squirrels and are described in the movie’s production notes as coming from “the bowels of New York’s septic system” and looking like “rat demons.” The Sewer Boys (who can stand up and have human-like hands) don’t speak human languages but mostly grunt, mumble and hiss. One is named Backpack (voiced by Tom Kenny), and the other is named Whisper (voiced by Frank Todaro), but their personalities are indistinguishable from each other.
Just like a bird parent, Harris feeds the Sewer Boys with food that he chews in his mouth and spits into their mouths. (Harris usually misses the mouth target.) It’s a sight gag that’s over-used and yet another example of how this movie runs ideas into the ground with too much repetition. The rest of “Dicks: The Musical” is an occasionally hyper but mostly empty tottering of weak nonsense, where each scene tries to outdo the previous scene by becoming increasingly bizarre. The problem is that not much of it is very amusing.
Gloria is the vulgar-talking, crude-thinking, ultra-feminist supervisor of Craig and Trevor. She likes to pit employees aganst each other and only cares about two things in her job: bossing people around (sometimes with physical violence) and making as much money as possible for the company with her sales team. One of the few highlights of “Dicks: The Musical” is Gloria’s solo musical number “Out Alpha the Alpha,” which is hilarious in its filthy adult language as much as it is well-choreographed.
Gloria and God are two of the most interesting characters in the movie, but they get less than 15 minutes of screen time each in this 86-minute movie. Evelyn and Harris are also much more entertaining than their sons Craig and Trevor. Mullally and Lane portray these parental characters with a lot of gusto, but the dialogue and songs written for them become irritating after a while. (Mullally’s husband Nick Offerman has a cameo in the movie as a politically conservative activist named Steve Chaney.) Viewers are mostly stuck watching the witless and boring antics of one-dimensional Craig and Trevor, as they occasionally warble mediocre musical songs.
“Dicks: The Musical” is clearly a case of two guys who created hollow characters for themselves and then surrounded these characters with silly distractions that they want to pass off as a “movie plot” and fool people into thinking that it’s “edgy” comedy. Foul language or provocative topics can be part of comedy that pushes boundaries. But when a movie tries to push the idea (such as in the horrendous closing song “All Love Is Love”) that something is wrong with you if you don’t celebrate incest and bestiality, then it has crossed the point of no return into being pretentious garbage.
A24 released “Dicks: The Musical” in select U.S. cinemas on October 6, 2023, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on October 20, 2023. A sing-along version of “Dicks: The Musical” will have a one-week release in U.S. cinemas on October 27, 2023. The movie will be released on digital and VOD on November 10, 2023.
Culture Representation: Taking place from August 7 to August 9, 2023, at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, the concert documentary film “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” features a predominantly white group of people (with some black people, Latinos and Asians) who are concert performers or audience members at a Taylor Swift concert.
Culture Clash: Music superstar Taylor Swift gives her last 2023 U.S. concert on her 2023-2024 “The Eras Tour,” where she performs songs from every era of her career so far, including songs about her relationship breakups and personal problems.
Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of Taylor Swift fans, “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” will appeal primarily to people who enjoy watching high-energy and stylish pop concerts.
“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” shows an artist in full command of her craft and stage presence. Even if you don’t particularly care for Taylor Swift’s music, this concert documentary radiates positive energy. However, the on-stage talk seems too rehearsed. Swift is known for reinventing herself through her music (she has done albums of country music, pop music and folk music), but she has maintained a public persona that’s a mixture being of confident celebrity and being a relatable “regular person” who confesses her insecurities and failings in her songs.
Directed by Sam Wrench, “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is a documentary showing highlights from concerts that Swift performed on her mega-successful The Eras Tour. The concerts took place at the SoFi Stadum in Inglewood, California, from August 7 to August 9, 2023. There is no backstage or off-stage footage, until the end credits, when there are clips of her rehearsing and footage of fans in the parking lots of her concerts. Except for the end credits, which has “Long Live (Taylor’s Version)” as the song playing in the background, this is a concert film from start to finish.
Wrench has directed several other concert documentaries, including 2022’s “BTS: Permission to Dance on Stage – LA,” “Lizzo: Live in Concert” and 2023’s “Billie Eilish: Live at the O2” and “Brandi Carlile: In the Canyon Haze – Live from Laurel Canyon.” His experience with concert documentaries is very apparent in this slickly helmed film that has plenty of close-ups of Swift smirking and preening for the cameras like a diva in total control of her audience and very aware of where each camera is on stage. She plays acoustic guitar on many of the songs and occasionally plays piano.
The movie opens with giant billowing orange-red fabric engulfing the stage and looking like giant flower petals before Swift emerges like a sparkly butterfly in her sequin-filled leotard and Christian Louboutin boots. The part of the stage that extends to the audience is shaped like an electric guitar. During this 168-minute movie, Swift performs hits from every album she recorded up until The Eras tour: From her self-titled 2006 debut album (released when she was 16 years old) to her 2022 “Midnights” album. Each era is named after one of her albums. On stage, she’s flanked by a small army of musicians and diverse backup dancers.
There are expected numerous wardrobe changes for Swift during the show—her outfits are either close-fitting, sparkly pop star gear or romantic-looking frilly dresses—from designers such as Robert Cavalli, Alberta Ferretti and Atelier Versace. She also gives the predictable declarations of gratitude to the fans for all of their support. The song-and-dance numbers are well-choreographed and enjoyable to watch. However, even though Swift has won numerous awards in her life, she’s never going to win any awards for Dancer of the Year.
Early on in the concert, Swift points an index finger at the audience and swerves around the stage to get people to scream wherever she’s pointing. She then flexes up one of her arm muscles and coos to the stadium full of adoring fans: “You just made me feel so powerful. I guess I’m trying to say, ‘You’re making me feel like the man.'” And (you guessed it), she then performs her hit “The Man.”
For someone who is famous for pouring her personal life into her songs, Swift doesn’t get too personal when she talks to the audience in between songs. During this concert, the most that she will mention about her personal thoughts is saying when she wrote her Grammy-winning 2020 “Folklore” album, she decided to make it a concept album of a fantasy world of imaginary Victorian-era characters, in order to forget that she was a “lonely millennial covered in cat hair” (she famously has cats as pets) and “watching 700 hours of TV.”
But it seems somewhat misleading for Swift to describe herself as a lovelorn bachelorette when she wrote “Folklore.” At the time, she was in a committed relationship with British actor Joe Alwyn, who co-wrote and co-produced several of the album’s songs under the pseudonym William Bowery. Swift and Alwyn began dating in 2016, and they split up in early 2023.
You’d have to be completely cut off from pop culture not to have heard at least one of Swift’s catchy songs. It’s why people who don’t really like Swift’s music have to admit that she has a knack for writing songs that stick in people’s heads. This concert flm is also a good overview of how she’s evolved from a teenage country singer writing songs about high school romance (“You Belong With Me”) to an adult pop star cursing when expressing dark and angry thoughts (“Vigilante Shit”). A high point of the concert is a very rousing rendition of “Bad Blood” that will get most viewers, at the bare minimum, moving their heads or feet in time to the music.
The concert has some visual effects that look very impressive in a movie. Before the “Reputation” Era part of the concert begins, a giant snake hologram appears to take over the stage. Before the “Midnights” Era part of the concert begins, Swift jumps into a chasm on the stage, with the visual effects making it look like she’s swimming in a pool underneath the stage. The stage design includes some stylish props, including a moss-covered piano for her “Evermore” Era songs. For “Look What You Made Me Do,” her backup dancers are in plexiglass cages that are meant to make them look like toy dolls in boxes.
“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” breaks tradition with most concert documentaries released in cinemas because it’s distributed by AMC Theatres Distribution (owned by cinema company AMC Entertainment) instead of a movie studio or a special-events movie company such as Fathom Events or Trafalgar Releasing. AMC worked with sub-distribution partners to bring the movie to its rival cinema companies, such as Regal and Cinemark. In Europe, “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is at Odeon Cinemas. Pre-sales have guaranteed that “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” movie is a blockbuster hit.
What does this mean for the future of concert documentaries? Movie theater companies can now bypass movie studios by distributing movies themselves and thereby not have to share the ticket revenue with movie studios. Likewise, artists can keep their rights to their concert films, instead of selling the rights to a movie studio that can distribute these films. Swift’s trailblazing success with “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” will ensure that other artists will follow the same business model. “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” (a concert documentary from Beyoncé’s 2023 “Renaissance” tour) is already set for release through a similar deal with AMC, on December 1, 2023.
“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is pure escapism, full of glitz and glamour. Don’t expect to hear any sob stories or political rants from Swift on stage, because that’s not what her fans want when they see her in concert. On the other hand, everything she says and does on stage looks so calculated, there aren’t any moments that truly look spontaneous. Swift also mentions the words “SoFi Stadium” so many times during the show, you have to wonder if she got paid extra money for this brand promotion.
Even when Swift goes to the front of the stage to embrace a girl (who’s about 5 or 6 years old) in the audience, it looks like this girl was chosen well in advance. (And based on her front row seat, whoever brought this girl to the concert paid enough money to ensure this kid would be seen by Swift on stage.) It would’ve been more admirable if Swift did something like that for a fan who didn’t have such privileged seating.
Swift shows a little too much neediness for the audience to adore her while not particularly opening up to the audience on a personal level in return. It’s the type of concert where she could say the exact same things but just change the name of the location to wherever she happens to be doing the concert. That’s a “cut and paste” style to performing live—not making each concert audience feel truly unique.
“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is enjoyable to watch but it will not go down in history as one of the all-time greatest concert films. The best concert films (such as 1970’s “Woodstock,” 1978’s “The Last Waltz” or 2021’s “Summer of Soul”) are transformative experiences that go beyond what a well-oiled machine looks like. “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is a well-oiled machine that gets the job done in delivering entertaining and mostly uplifting hits but doesn’t give any further insight into the artist’s soul.
Here is the song list for “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour”:
“Lover” Era “Miss Americana & the Heartbreak Prince” (intro) “Cruel Summer” “The Man” “You Need to Calm Down” “Lover”
“Fearless” Era “Fearless” “You Belong With Me” “Love Story”
“Evermore” Era “Willow” “Marjorie” “Champagne Problems” “Tolerate It”
“Reputation” Era “…Ready for It?” “Delicate” “Don’t Blame Me” “Look What You Made Me Do”
“Speak Now” Era “Enchanted”
“Red” Era “22” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” “I Knew You Were Trouble”
“Folklore” Era “The 1” “Betty” “The Last Great American Dynasty” “August” “Illicit Affairs” “My Tears Ricochet”
“1989” Era “Style” “Blank Space” “Shake It Off” “Bad Blood”
Culture Representation: The documentary film “Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd” features a nearly all-white group of people (with one Latino) discussing the life of Pink Floyd co-founder Syd Barrett, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2006, when he was 60 years old.
Culture Clash: Barrett, who was in Pink Floyd from 1965 to 1968, rocketed to fame when the band’s first two singles and first album were hits, but his drug abuse, mental breakdowns and increasing unreliability led to him being fired from the band, and he became a recluse from the mid-1970s until his death.
Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of Pink Floyd fans and rock music fans, “Have You Got It Yet?” will appeal to people interested in true stories about the psychedelic 1960s and the highs and lows of fame.
“Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd” is a fitting biography of Syd Barrett (co-founder of the British rock band Pink Floyd), with an impressive array of exclusive interviews with his associates. Some viewers might be surprised that many people interviewed for this documentary (including co-director Storm Thorgerson) died years ago. There have been several books and articles written about Barrett (who died of pancreatic cancer in 2006, when he was 60 years old), as well as a few unauthorized documentaries about him.
However, “Have You Got It Yet?” (which has narration by actor Jason Isaacs) is by far the most comprehensive documentary about Barrett’s life because of the numerous people who were close to him who are interviewed for this film. The documentary also has a few of Barrett’s famous musician fans weigh in with their thoughts. There’s also commentary from some psychiatrists (because Barrett had serious mental health issues) and a few writers.
Directed by Thorgerson (who died in 2013) and Roddy Bogawa (one of the producers of this documentary), much of “Have You Got It Yet?” was obviously filmed several years before this documentary was completed and released. Thorgerson, who knew Barrett since the early 1960s, was a longtime colleague of Pink Floyd’s because Thorgerson was a co-founder of the art design group Hipgnosis, which designed almost all of Pink Floyd’s album covers since 1968. In “Have You Got It Yet?,” Thorgerson’s voice is heard asking and reacting to many of the questions asked of the people interviewed. He also appears on camera to do his own interview commentary.
A lot of facts about Barrett are already known to many people who are knowledgeable about rock music. Born in 1946, in Cambridge, England, his birth name was Roger Keith Barrett. He got the nickname Syd as a child, although his family still called him Roger or Rog. Barrett was the third of five siblings who grew up in a middle-class home with married parents. His pathologist/botanist father Arthur Max Barrett encouraged Syd’s artistic inclinations.
Syd became an avid painter of abstract art and a musician, with the guitar as his main instrument of choice. Several people in the documentary describe Syd as highly intelligent, constantly curious, and very talented, before he became a recluse and many people he knew were no longer in contact with him. Johnny Gordon, a childhood friend from Syd’s art school days, remembers that Syd “had a flair way beyond his years.”
Syd’s father Arthur died of cancer in 1961, when Syd was 15 years old. There’s nothing in the documentary that talks about how Syd was emotionally affected by his father’s death. It’s mentioned that the family moved to a new house in Cambridge after Arthur died. Moving to this new neighborhood led to Syd meeting his first serious girlfriend: Libby Gausden, who lived near the Barrett family and met Syd at a local public swimming pool.
Gausden, who is interviewed in the documentary, says that she and Syd dated from 1961 to 1964. She remembers, “He was kind, he was gentle, he was generous. He liked buying presents. He wrote to me all the time.” Syd attended Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology, where he met future Pink Floyd member David Gilmour, who also knew Gausden. She says that Gilmour was with her at the swimming pool on the day that she met Syd.
Gilmour remembers how Syd was at the time: “He walked with a bounce.” The romance between Syd and Gausden fell apart in 1964, after Syd moved to London to go Camberwell College of Arts. During his time at Camberwell College of Arts, Syd’s next serious girlfriend was Jenny Spires, who says in a documentary interview that she and Syd began dating about a week after they met. She describes him as fun and romantic, but she broke up with him for reasons that she doesn’t give details about in the movie. Spires vaguely says that she just wanted to move on from the relationship.
Out of all of his siblings, Syd was closest to his younger sister Rosemary Breen, who became his caretaker during Syd’s reclusive years. Breen remembers Syd this way before he had his drug-induced mental breakdowns: “He was always wanting the next bit of fun.” She also says that she only saw Syd perform once with Pink Floyd, sometime in the late 1960s. Breen remembers that Syd didn’t look like he was having any fun, and she wasn’t interested in seeing him perform on stage again after that experience.
Breen being in this documentary is crucial to why “Have You Got It Yet?” stands out from other accounts of Syd’s life. She is the only person interviewed in the documentary who knew what Syd was really like during all the years when he chose to disappear from the public eye. The pain of what she went through is etched all over her face when she talks about Syd’s reclusive years (she says he was incapable of having a job), but she also shares her fond memories of what Syd was like before fame and drugs destroyed a lot of the vibrancy that he had in his youth.
Like many British rock stars who found fame in the 1960s, Syd went to art school, which was a viable option for teenagers who couldn’t see themselves working in traditional or conventional jobs. When Syd moved to London in 1964, he ended up living in the same apartment as the musicians who would be in the original lineup of Pink Floyd: vocalist/bass guitarist Roger Waters, keyboardist Richard “Rick” Wright and drummer Nick Mason. (Pink Floyd, which was formed in 1965, was originally called the Pink Floyd Sound, and later the Pink Floyd.) They were influenced by blues music, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles.
Syd sang lead vocals, played lead guitar, and wrote most of Pink Floyd’s songs at the time. He also came up with the band’s name, which was a combination of the first names of two blues musicians he admired: Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. By all accounts, Syd was Pink Floyd’s original mastermind.
In the documentary, Waters says of Pink Floyd’s success: “It wouldn’t have existed if it hadn’t been for Syd. We would’ve been one of thousands and thousands of bands who come up … and then disappear.” In the first few years of Pink Floyd, the band quickly went to the forefront of the emerging psychedelic rock scene, where LSD (nicknamed acid) was consumed as often as many people drank coffee or drank alcohol.
Although Pink Floyd’s music and image changed after Barrett was ousted from the band in 1968, Pink Floyd was considered one of the pioneers of psychedelic rock. The characteristics of psychedelic rock included long jam sessions for each song, experimental noises, and hypnotic and dazzling light shows. At the time, it wasn’t just different to perform rock music this way. It was revolutionary. Syd began making enough money as a working musician in Pink Floyd, so he eventually quit art school and never went back.
The documentary “Have You Got It Yet?” gets its title from a notorious song of the same name that Syd wrote where he deliberately kept changing the song. The ironic joke was that the answer would be “no” if anyone asked in reference to fully knowing the song: “Have you got it yet?” In the documentary, Nick Laird-Clowes (of Dream Academy fame) describes Syd’s songwriting this way: “He has a strange bridge of Edwardian musical vaudeville and his own particular brand of psychedelia.”
After signing with EMI Records, success came quickly for Pink Floyd, whose first two singles, released in 1967—”Arnold Layne” and “See Emily Play”—hit No. 20 and No. 6, respectively, on the United Kingdom’s singles charts. The band’s 1967 debut album, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” was a Top 10 hit in the United Kingdom. By all accounts, Syd was uncomfortable with fame, and his drug use escalated. He began to disappear when the band needed to work.
Peter Jenner, who was Syd’s former manager, says in the documentary: “There was religious acid-taking at that time. Syd was one of the saints of that underground cult.” Unfortunately for Syd, he became a “poster boy” for excessive drug use, which led to his personal downfall. In addition to Syd having drug-induced mental breakdowns, it became more difficult for him to function and communicate. If he showed up somewhere, it wasn’t unusual for him not to know where he was or not recognize people he knew.
Gilmour remembers visiting Pink Floyd in 1967 and being dismayed at the deterioration of Syd: “He had lost his bounce and spark. And that was really an odd and uncomfortable moment.” In 1968, guitarist/vocalist Gilmour joined Pink Floyd as a fifth member, around the time that Syd started to become increasingly unreliable and estranged from the rest of the band. Syd was eventually fired a few months after Gilmour became an official Pink Floyd member. In the documentary, Mason says the obvious about Syd: “He didn’t want to be a pop star.”
Syd’s personal life was also in shambles. Lindsay Korner, who dated Syd at the height of Syd’s fame, describes how he went from being a sweet-natured guy to being erratic and abusive. Korner says she ended her relationship with Syd after he physically attacked her with a mandolin.
Gala Pinion, who was Syd’s fiancée in the early 1970s, describes having a co-dependent and wildly unpredictable relationship with him. He ended their engagement by sending her a breakup letter, and then he sent her another letter a few days later to say that he changed his mind. The relationship didn’t last anyway. Syd never married and did not have any known children.
With the help of Gilmour as a producer and musician, Syd released two solo albums in 1970: “Madcap Laughs” (which was a modest hit) and “Barrett” which was a flop. In 1972, Syd was briefly in a band called Stars, with drummer Twink and bass player Jack Monck. Syd quit Stars after the band did a few performances.
Syd’s last known recording sessions were in 1974, for a third solo album that never happened. For the rest of his life, Syd withdrew from being a public artist. Syd continued to make paintings, but friends and associates in the documentary say that he often destroyed his artwork soon after showing it to people. It’s mentioned more than once in the documentary that Syd often thought of himself as two people: Roger the painter and Syd the musician.
Hardly anything is said in the documentary about whether or not anyone tried to get Syd any professional help for his problems with drugs and mental health. Gilmour briefly mentions that Pink Floyd tried everything to help him, but Syd refused to get professional help. When Syd was still in the music business, Syd didn’t reach a point where he had to be involuntarily put into an institution. And remarkably, even with his widely known drug addiction at the height of his fame, he was never arrested for drug possession or other drug-related crimes at a time when many of his rock star peers were being targeted for drug busts.
The domestic violence incident with Syd’s ex-girlfriend Korner was not reported to police, which isn’t too surprising, since most victims of domestic assault decline to press charges. Korner describes the attack as very out of character for Syd, but it was enough for her to decide to end her relationship with him. It’s unknown if Syd received psychiatric help while he was under the care of his sister. Neither she nor Syd’s ex-fiancée Pinion mention Syd getting professional help during the years that he was out of the public eye. Pinion describes Syd’s mother as being very doting to Syd, but his mother was in denial about his problems, even when there was glaring evidence that he was very unwell.
Syd essentially cut off contact with the people he knew from his Pink Floyd life, except for one notorious incident. “Have You Got It Yet?” includes the well-known story of how Syd showed up unannounced during one of Pink Floyd’s recording sessions for the band’s 1975 album “Wish You Were Here.” The album’s title song, as well as the album track “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” were about Syd. When Syd showed up at the recording studio, he looked very different from the last time his former bandmates had seen him: Syd had a completely shaved head and he had gained weight.
Mason admits that he didn’t recognize Syd at first and thought he was a random stranger who had wandered into the studio. Phil Taylor, who was Gilmour’s guitar tech at the time, took the famous photos of Syd at the recording studio. Taylor remembers that this Pink Floyd reunion with Syd was bittersweet but mostly sad because Syd’s memory was foggy, and he was not in the right mental shape to be a fully functioning musician.
It was the last time Syd’s former Pink Floyd bandmates saw him in person. For the rest of Syd’s life, he struggled with financial problems and mental health issues. Syd occasionally appeared in “where are they now” tabloid stories, which featured ambush photos taken of him outside. Syd’s former Pink Floyd bandmates did not attend his funeral.
As most Pink Floyd fans know, the band had its biggest hits after Syd was no longer in the band. Pink Floyd’s 1973 album “Dark Side of the Moon” and 1979 album “The Wall” remain the band’s best-selling albums. But that didn’t mean turmoil didn’t leave Pink Floyd. Waters (who quit Pink Floyd in 1984) has been feuding off and on for years with Gilmour. As of this writing, Waters continues to actively tour as a solo artist (his concerts feature many Pink Floyd songs), while Gilmour and Mason have settled into semi-retirement. Wright died of lung cancer in 2008, when he was 65.
Pink Floyd’s last tour was in 1994, in support of the album “The Division Bell.” Gilmour has stated in many interviews over the years that Pink Floyd will no longer tour or release studio albums of new songs. The last such Pink Floyd album was 2014’s “The Endless River.” In 2022, the first new Pink Floyd single was released since 2014. Gilmour, Mason, bass guitarist Guy Pratt and keyboardist Nitin Sawhney recorded the Pink Floyd single “Hey, Hey, Rise Up!,” featuring vocals from BoomBox singer Andriy Khlyvnyuk, as a song protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The proceeds from the “Hey, Hey, Rise Up!” single (which was released in April 2022) went to the charity Ukrainian Humanitarian Relief.
The last one-off Pink Floyd reunion performances featuring Waters, Gilmour, Wright and Mason were the Live 8 all-star charity concert at London’s Hyde Park in 2005, and the 2007 “Madcap’s Last Laugh” Syd Barrett tribute concert at the Barbican Centre in London. The Live 8 show was the last time that Waters, Gilmour, Wright and Mason performed songs on stage together as a band. They performed the Pink Floyd song “Breathe (In the Air), “Breathe (Reprise), “Money, “Wish You Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb.” Waters performed separately from “Have You Got It Yet?” shows part of the Live 8 performance of “Wish You Were Here” during the documentary’s closing credits.
The closing credits also has an “in memoriam” montage of all the people in the documentary who were interviewed but were deceased at the time the documentary was released in 2023. They include Syd’s friends such as Thorgerson, John “The Vet” Davies, Nigel Lesmoir Gordon, Anthony Stern, Mick Rock, Peter Whitehead and Duggie Fields. Andrew “Willow” Rawlinson, one of Syd’s childhood friends, is probably the most opinionated of the friends who’s interviewed in the film.
Other interviewees who knew Syd include friends Seamus O’Connell, David Gale, Aubrey “Po” Powell, Diana McKenna and Sue Kingsford. Colleagues were are interviewed include former Pink Floyd lighting engineer Peter Wynne-Wilson; former art professor Jasper Rose; musician Jerry Shirley, who worked on Syd’s “Barrett” solo album; music publishers Cora Barnes and Peter Barnes, who say they helped Syd get his publishing royalties sorted when Syd was financially broke; and former manager Andrew King.
Famous fans have nothing but praise for how they say Syd influenced them. The Who guitarist/chief songwriter Pete Townshend says, “The only time I deliberately missed a gig with The Who was when I heard that Pink Floyd was doing a concert. And I didn’t tell the band [The Who], and I went to the UFO Club and took some acid and danced like a hippie.” Other musicians and artists express their admiration for Syd, such as Graham Coxon of Blur, Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT, former Catherine Wheel member Rob Dickinson, Cedric Bixler-Zavala of the Mars Volta, art curator Will Shutes, biographer Julian Palacios, comedian Noel Fielding, writer Mark Blake, and biographer Rob Chapman.
“Have You Got It Yet?” doesn’t make Syd’s drug use look glamorous but it doesn’t completely condemn it either, since most people interviewed in the documentary seem to believe that Syd’s drug use fueled Syd’s creativity, even if it harmed him in the long run. The documentary admirably includes the perspectives of several psychiatrists who give facts and opinions about how psychedelic drug use affects people’s brains and mental health, with the caveat that individual effects can vary. The psychiatrists interviewed are Julian Leff, Sam Hutt, Mark Collins, David Nutt. And philosopher Tim Freke is interviewed too.
“Have You Got It Yet?” has a very good and cohesive mix of archival footage with the exclusive documentary interviews. The movie isn’t a completely fawning tribute because it discusses Syd’s flaws and as well as his admirable qualities. The most impactful parts of the documentary are those that not about the glitz and glamour of rock stardom but in moments when people describe Syd as a human being instead as of an icon.
Gilmour expresses regret about not visiting Syd during Syd’s most reclusive years, even though he says the Barrett family discouraged people from Syd’s Pink Floyd life to visit Syd. Some other people in the documentary also share similar feelings of regret. It’s a lesson in humility that fame and fortune aren’t always what they’re hyped up to be and certainly can’t buy the things in life that really matter.
Abramorama released “Have You Got It Yet? The Story of Syd Barrett and Pink Floyd” in select U.S. cinemas on July 14, 2023, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on July 21, 2023. The movie was released in the United Kingdom on May 15, 2023.
Culture Representation: Taking place in 2020, in various parts of the United States, the documentary film “Anthem” features a racially diverse group of people (African American, white, Latino, Native American and a few Asians) who are connected in some way to the documentary’s mission to find a variety of American residents to create a new U.S. national anthem.
Culture Clash: People disagree on what “patriotic” music and lyrics are supposed to be for Americans.
Culture Audience: “Anthem” will appeal primarily to viewers who are fans of the documentary’s stars Kris Bowers and DJ Dahi, as well as fans of documentaries about racially diverse people joining together for a common cause, but this movie bites off more than it can chew on this weighty subject matter.
Although “Anthem” might have had good intentions to do something groundbreaking in music and American culture, it really looks like a half-baked experiment and an excuse to take a road trip. This documentary is supposed to be about a diverse group of people creating a new U.S. national anthem, but people of Asian heritage are mostly excluded from this movie. It’s a travelogue and a long commercial for the song that’s performed at the end. And that song? After all the buildup and hype in this documentary, the song that the group comes up with—”We Are America”—is really just a bland and forgettable pop tune. There’s nothing iconic about this song at all.
Directed by Peter Nicks (who is seen briefly in the movie), “Anthem” (which had its premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Festival) looks like the type of movie that seems like a great idea on paper. But the complexities involved in doing this concept justice just seemed to be too much for this documentary’s filmmakers. There’s a lot of footage of film/TV composer Kris Bowers (“King Richard,” “Bridgerton”) and hip-hop artist DJ Dahi on a road trip to six metropolitan areas of the U.S., where they spend a lot of time sitting in on local band rehearsals and nodding along to whatever the people are saying in the interviews.
It’s explained in the movie, when Bowers and DJ Dahi meet in Los Angeles, that these two artists didn’t know each other before the road trip. Bowers and DJ Dahi (whose real name is Dacoury Dahi Natche) have amiable chemistry together, but this documentary would have been more interesting if the two taking the road trip were music artists who know each other very well. Bowers (who is one of the producers of “Anthem”) and DJ Dahi are also quite passive in their conversations with the local music artists. The questions they ask are often boring and needed more curiosity and charisma, if the intent was to recruit these singers and musicians to be in the group that’s writing and performing this “new national anthem.”
The documentary explains that this “new national anthem” is not intended to replace “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It is intended to be a more updated national anthem that is a better reflection of how much more diverse the United States is in the 2020s, compared to when Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1814. The inherent problem, of course, is that with so many more music genres that didn’t exist in 1814 but were invented in the 20th century (including rock, hip-hop and electronic dance music, to name a few), it’s impossibe to come up with a new song that everyone in America can agree is the best representation of America.
Various cultural experts such as Nikole Hannah-Jones, Shana L. Redmond and Mark Clague weigh on what it means to even think about creating a new national anthem. They all say the obvious: Some people will think it’s an inspired idea, while others will think it’s highly unpatriotic. For many people in America, “The Star-Spangled Banner” represents freedom. For other, people “The Star-Spangled Banner” represents oppression.
Redmond comments that any deviation or different version of the U.S. national anthem is “seen as an affront.” It’s also noted in the documentary that people of color who perform different musical arrangements of the national anthem tend to get the harshest criticism. Jimi Hendrix and José Feliciano are mentioned as examples of how their versions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” got a lot of backlash when Hendrix and Feliciano first performed these versions in the late 1960s.
Considering how vast the United States is, in terms of land space, Bowers and DJ Dahi realistically could not go to every major city if the documentary had time constraints. However, going to only six regions—Detroit; Clarksdale, Mississippi; Nashville; New Orleans; Oklahoma; and the San Francisco Bay Area—still seems a bit skimpy, considering that only one of these regions (the San Francisco Bay Area) is not in the South or Midwest. In each region, Bowers and DJ Dahi visit with local musicians to get their thoughts on music and possibly recruit some of these musicians to be a part of the making of this “new national anthem.”
For this documentary, Detroit was chosen to represent R&B music in America; Clarksdale was chosen to represent blues music in America; Nashville was chosen to represent country music in America; Oklahoma was chosen to represent Native American music; and the San Francisco Bay Area was chosen to represent Latin music in America. For unknown reasons, “Anthem” ignores cities and spotlights for rock and hip-hop, two of the most important American-made music genres. And it’s a baffling omission, considering that DJ Dahi is a hip-hop producer who has worked with hip-hop artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Travis Scott and Drake.
The interviews range from generic to fairly insightful. In Detroit, keyboardist Joseph “Amp” Fiddler comments: “We love this country. We love the people in our country. But does our country love us?” In Clarksdale, harmonica player Terry “Harmonica” Bean says about the blues: “The music that you hear from here, America gets the credit for it, but it comes from Africa … The blues will never die. We’re just passing it on, passing the torch.”
Discussions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” also extend to perceptions of the American flag and its offshoots. In Clarksdale, singer/keyboardist Eden Brent reflects on how she, as a white woman living the U.S. South, changed her mind about the Confederate flag over time when she learned how many people see the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism. She says that even though some people might defend the Confederate flag as being a symbol of “Southern pride,” people shouldn’t forget that the history of the Confederate flag was about fighting to keep slavery legal in the United States.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, self-described radical activist musician Cecilia Peña-Govea (whose stage name is La Doña) openly talks about how the U.S. flag has become a symbol of greed and destruction for her. In Nashville, singer Charity Bowden says the U.S. flag and “The Star-Spangled Banner” will always be a source of pride for her, especially since she comes from a military family. It’s at this point in the movie that you know the filmmakers are going to be like reality TV producers and have Peña-Govea and Bowden working in a room together, and the two women inevitably clash with each other. And sure enough, that happens. By contrast, one of the artist highlights of the documentary is seeing poet Joy Harjo show her entrancing talent in the recording studio.
With all this talk of diversity throughout “Anthem,” there is surprisingly very little representation of people with Asian heritage in the documentary’s selection of musicians and singers who get the spotlight. In New Orleans, trombonist Haruka Kakuchi is shown briefly with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Singer-songwriter Thao Nguyen is seen playing “We Are America” during the movie’s end credits. People of South Asian heritage are excluded in this movie, in terms of the prominently featured musicians and singers.
Other people featured in the documentary include lighting director Briana Nicole Henry and the following music artists: Larae Starr, Dennis Coffey, Paul Randolph, Anthony “Big A” Sherrod, Lee Williams, Ruby Amanfu, Jack Schneider, Zachariah Akil Witcher, Ellen Angelico, Megan Brittany Coleman, Preston James, Glen Finister Andrews, Charlie Gabriel, Wendell Brunious, Richard Moten, George Coser, Dana Tiger, Watko Long, Miguel Govea, Naomi Garcia Pasmanick, Sergio Duran and Esai Moreno Salas. The credited songwriters for “We Are America” are Amanfu, Bowden, Bowers, Peña-Govea, Harjo and DJ Dahi, under his real name.
Although the technical aspects of “Anthem” are well-done, the documentary doesn’t look like a fascinating history lesson that blends music and American history. Instead, the documentary looks like a hastily assembled hodgepodge of people brought together to write and record a “music by committee” song that, frankly, does not sound all that majestic and is very underwhelming for a so-called “national anthem.” Regardless of what your definiton is of “patriotism,” or what you think about the United States, “Anthem” is a documentary that falls very short of its intention to be a trailblazing project.
Culture Representation: Taking place mostly in 2016 in New York City, the documentary film “Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music” features a predominantly white group of people (with some African Americans) who are connected in some way to drag performer Taylor Mac and his one-time-only, 24-hour performance of pop hits.
Culture Clash: During his performance, Mac discusses some of the racism and homophobia behind some of history’s most popular songs.
Culture Audience: “Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music” will appeal primarily to viewers who are fans of drag performers and music documentaries that focus on unconventional artists and unusual performances.
Vivacious and engaging, this concert documentary starring drag performer Taylor Mac offers a bittersweet presentation of iconic pop songs, without glossing over some of these songs’ problematic histories. It’s an extremely unique 24-hour performance. The 2016 show took place as a one-time-only event, at St. Ann’s Warehouse in New York City’s Brooklyn borough. During this 24-hour continuous performance, Mac performed popular songs from 24 decades (each decade got its own hour), from 1776 to 2016. Attendees had the option to sleep at the venue in a separate room.
Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, “Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music” had its world premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Festival. The majority of the documentary’s footage is of highlights from this epic concert. The rest of the documentary consists of behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with principal members of the events team.
Mac explains in the beginning of the film that he conceived this event as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the AIDS crisis. The show starts with 24 musicians on stage, but after each hour, one less musician goes on stage, until the last hour, when Mac is be the sole performer on stage. The decreasing numbers of band musicians on stage are supposed to be symbolic of how communities and families lost people to the AIDS crisis.
Mac also says in the documentary, “The show is about our history of Americans. That history is in our souls.” He also says that “a queer body can become a metaphor for America.” He later adds, “I learned my politics from radical lesbians.”
Mac gives a brief personal background about himself, by saying that he grew up in Stockton, California, which he describes as a very homophobic city that’s overrun with a lot of “ugly tract houses.” After he graduated from acting school, Mac says that he had difficulty getting auditions. However, he found work at New York City drag nightclubs. And the rest is history.
Some of the key people on the event team also give their perspectives of the show. Niegel Smith, the show’s co-director, calls it a “radical realness ritual” that “asks us to move closer to our queerness.” During one of the audience interaction parts of the show, Mac tells audience members to slow dance with people who are of the same gender. The song selection for this same-sex slow dance is “Snakeskin Cowboys,” a song made famous by Ted Nugent, who is a political conservative. It’s obviously Mac’s way of reclaiming the song and putting it in a progressive queer context.
Matt Ray, the show’s musical director, comes from a jazz background. He says the biggest problem in America is “lack of community.” This 24-hour performance, says Ray, is Mac’s way of trying to bring back community to live events. Machine Dazzle, the show’s costume designer, is seen in costume fittings with Mac, who says that he gave no creative restrictions on how Dazzle could make the costumes. Also seen in the documentary is makeup artist Anastasia Durasova.
It’s no coincidence that the performance starts with the year 1776, since it’s the year of the Declaration of Independence of the United States. Freedom, liberation and fighting against oppression are constant themes throughout the show. During his performances of popular songs from each decade, Mac gives historical context of what was going on in the United States at the time when the song was popular and why some of the songs have a much more disturbing meaning than they seem to have.
“Yankee Doodle Dandy,” performed in the hour covering the years 1776 to 1786, sounds like an upbeat and patriotic song. But Mac also reminds people that during this time, the United States was also built on the enslavement of black people and the destruction of Native Americans. The 1820s song “”Coal Black Rose” has racist origins, since it was originally performed by white people wearing blackface makeup, and the song’s lyrics are about raping an enslaved black woman. For the 1830s song “Rove Riley Rove,” Mac says he’s performing the song to evoke a mother or nanny during the Trail of Tears era, when the Native Americans were forced to go on dangerous and deadly routes when they were forced off their ancestral lands.
Not all of the songs performed have depressing and bigoted histories. When Mac gets to the 1970s decades, he performs songs such as Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and David Bowie’s “Heroes.” For “Heroes,” which is performed in the context of the Cold War between Russia and the United States, two giant inflatable penises—one with a U.S. flag decoration, one with a Russian flag decoration—float around on stage. Mac straddles at least one of these inflatable sex organs.
Other songs performed in the show include Laura Branigan’s 1982 hit “Gloria” (which Mac interprets in the performance as a sexual liberation song); the Rolling Stones’ 1969 classic “Gimme Shelter”; and “Soliloquy” from the 1945 musical “Carousel,” which Mac was his father’s favorite song. Mac also says that his father died when Mac was 4 years old.
Audience members are encouraged to sing along and participate. And sometimes, Mac invites audiences members on stage during the performance, such as when he selects the oldest person in the room (a man in his 80s) and youngest person in the room (a 20-year-old woman) to dance on stage together. In another part of the show, audience members throw ping pong balls at each other.
Mac doesn’t do all of the lead vocals during the show. There are also guest singers, including Heather Christian, Steffanie Christian, Thornetta Davis, and Anaïs Mitchell. However, there’s no doubt that Mac is the star. He has a charismatic command of the stage, even though he’s not a great singer. He has a wry sense of comedy and keeps the energy level fairly high, even though performing this 24-hour show would be exhausting by any standard.
“Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music” has a simple concept with an extravagant and very flamboyant presentation. If drag performances and some bawdiness meant for adults have no appeal to you, then watching this documentary might be overwhelming or a little hard to take. The performance in “Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music” will never be duplicated by Mac, but this memorable documentary is the next best thing to being there.
HBO and Max will premiere “Taylor Mac’s 24-Decade History of Popular Music” on June 27, 2023.
Culture Representation: Taking place from 2019 to 2021, in various parts of the U.S., the comedy mockumentary film “Cypher” features a predominantly African American cast of characters (with some white people, Asians and Latinos) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.
Culture Clash: Real-life rapper Tierra Whack becomes the target of a conspiracy-theory cult.
Culture Audience: “Cypher” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Tierra Whack, hip-hop culture and movies that poke fun at how social media plays a role in how celebrities are perceived and how they interact with fans.
“Cypher” is an inconsistent but mildly interesting mockumentary starring real-life rapper Tierra Whack as herself. The movie could have done more with its conspiracy cult storyline, but what’s there is fairly amusing. “Cypher” had its world premiere at the 2023 Tribeca Festival, where became the first mockumentary to win the festival’s Founders Award for Best U.S. Narrative Feature. It’s the top prize at the Tribeca Festival. And this top prize might lead viewers to believe that “Cypher” is a prestigious film. It’s not.
“Cypher” (written and directed by Chris Moukarbel) is nowhere near the level of an Oscar-worthy film. It’s not even the type of movie that will win any MTV Awards. It’s a moderately entertaining mockumentary to watch for people who like or have tolerance for hip-hop culture. Everyone else will be bored or turned off by this hit-and-miss comedy. As far as music-industry mockumentaries go, if 1984’s “This Is Spinal Tap” is the gold standard, then “Cypher” is like imitation bronze. Imitation bronze has a purpose, but just don’t expect it to be gold.
As many music celebrity mockumentaries tend to do, a great deal of “Cypher” shows the artist on tour. The movie’s title is explained by an on-screen caption saying that the definition of “cypher” is “a gathering of rappers freestyling together in a circle.” The beginning of “Cypher” has the obligatory backstory on Tierra Whack (yes, that’s her real name), who was born in 1995. For the purposes of this review, the Tierra Whack character in the movie will be referred to as Tierra. The real-life Tierra Whack will be referred to as Whack.
From an early age, as Tierra says in an “interview” for the movie, she was introduced to hip-hop by her mother. She also started writing poetry while still in elementary school, which led to her being a freestyle battle rapper in her hometown of Philadelphia. At age 15, one of her rap videos went viral, and she became an Internet sensation. (Nyla Naveah has the role of teenage Tierra.) Tierra got a record deal as a direct result of her Internet fame.
Just as in real life, “Cypher” shows that Tierra’s debut album “Whack World” (released in 2018) became a hit, and she became a fan fave of other music celebrities. The movie has snippets of artists such as Rihanna, Cardi B and Billie Eilish praising Tierra Whack. “Cypher” is supposed to take place from 2019 to 2021, but some of the timeline looks off in the movie.
Tierra’s entourage consists mostly of people under the age of 35. They include her co-managers Kenete Sims and Johnny Montina; hair stylist Jamilah Curry; makeup artist Camille Lawrence; and photographer Nick Canonica. A few music producers who are “interviewed” in the film include Warren “Oak” Felder and Jay Melodic. All of them play versions of themselves in “Cypher” and say the usual sycophantic things about Tierra that people would say about celebrities who are paying their salaries.
“Cypher” director Moukarbel can occasionally be heard (but is never seen) on screen talking to the people he’s interviewing for the movie. “This Is Spinal Tap” director Rob Reiner played mockumentary director Marty DiBergi in “This Is Spinal Tap.” Moukarbel does not make his presence in “Cypher” compelling or amusing. In other words, there is no Marty DiBergi-type director character in “Cypher.”
However, film producer Natalia-Leigh Brown portrays herself as a producer of this mockumentary. (In real life, Brown is not a producer of “Cypher.”) The Natalia-Leigh character is intensely driven and, in many ways, seems more in charge of the movie than the director. Viewers will either find her kind of hilarious or really annoying.
“Cypher” wastes some time with repetitive “goofing off on tour” footage from 2019. After a concert in Philadelphia, Tierra falls off the stage and mildly injures herself. She’s mostly embarrassed instead of hurt by anything physical from this tumble. After the concert, she and her entourage are hanging out at a diner when Tierra meets a 58-year-old woman named Tina Johnson Banner (played by Chris Anthony), who claims to be a devoted fan of Tierra.
Tina seems shy and hesitant at first when she approaches Tierra, who invites Tina to sit next to her at the table. This scene cuts back and forth between the conversation that Tina and Tierra are having by themselves and the innocuous conversation that members of Tierra’s entourage are having at a nearby separate table. It isn’t long before Tina starts to get weird and makes Tierra feel uncomfortable.
Tina gives a rambling monologue about sounds influencing people’s thoughts. She says there’s a video that explains everything. At this point, Tierra is done with the conversation and politely but firmly tells Tina that it was nice meeting her, but Tina needs to leave Tierra alone now. Tina is reluctant to leave, but before she does, Tina makes these cryptic comments to Tierra: “Watch the video” and “Don’t let them use you.”
At first, Tierra thinks this was just a harmless encounter with an offbeat fan. But then, Tina sends Tierra a bizarre video about belonging to a group called Warren, which has worked for years to decipher a document called the True Vision Manuscript that they discovered in the early 20th century. The True Vision Manuscript was supposed to be written by a secret society in Europe called Oculus, an offshoot of the Freemasons. Part of the True Vision Manuscript translation says that there’s a “chosen one” who has to pluck an eyebrow hair to gain true powers.
It’s at this point in “Cypher” that viewers will be turned off from or intrigued by finding out more about this mystery. And things get weirder. Tierra finds out that Tina has gone missing. Tina’s young adult daughter Marigold Johnson (played by Bionca Bradley) has been going on social media blaming Tierra for Tina’s disappearance, because Tierra was the last-known person to have seen Tina. Police start to investigate.
Tierra wants to find out the truth too, partly to clear her name, and partly out of curiosity. During this investigation, Tierra and her entourage find videos online or elsewhere, showing that Tierra and her entourage have been filmed with hidden video cameras by an unknown stalker or stalkers. The rest of the movie then becomes a tangled web of solving the mystery of not only Tina’s disappearance but also the translation of the True Vision Manuscript.
It should come as no surprise that Warren is a cult-like group that’s obsessed with the True Vision Manuscript, which is believed to hold the answers to a conspiracy. Tierra says she doesn’t believe in conspiracy theories. Where “Cypher” falters a little bit is that it can’t quite keep the momentum of the mystery going in a consistent way, resulting in a shift in the movie’s tone that’s sometimes awkward. One minute, Tierra is acting like a hip-hop Nancy Drew. The next minute, she’s preoccupied with recording her next album.
Luckily for “Cypher,” Whack is a natural actress who often holds scenes together when other people in the scene are acting a little too fake and corny. It might seem easy to play a version of yourself in a movie, but it’s actually much harder to do this type of performance in a mockumentary. Except for the over-the-top conspiracy cult part of the plot, much of this mockumentary could pass for a real documentary.
The choppy editing and shaky camera work in “Cypher” is intended to make the movie look hastily compiled, as if the information in the movie is too urgent to wait for more polished editing. “Cypher” is not a must-see film for mockumentary enthusiasts. However, it’s worth checking out for viewers who are up for a fairly bizarre ride that mixes music-industry shenanigans with conspiracy-theory investigations.
UPDATE: Hulu will premiere “Cypher” on November 24, 2023, the same date that the movie will premiere in select U.S. cinemas.