Ariana Grande Would Rather Listen to Miley Than Kanye and Drake’s Beef

Last night, while some ventured into holiday revelry and others followed along holding their breath as online drama unfolded, Kanye West aired out his grievances with Drake via a tweetstorm. The entire thing took hours. Kim Kardashian West eventually weighed in, too. And all the while, Ariana Grande was readying the release of her latest single, “Imagine.”

To back up for a moment, Ari’s been downright prolific lately, dropping her fourth album, Sweetener, in August and beginning essentially an entire new campaign with the mega-viral “Thank U, Next” in early November. She’s got an album of the same name ready to go, and “Imagine” was due to be our next taste of it. She was pumped. Everyone was pumped.

And then Kanye tweeted about Drake. Ari, though, was understandably more focused on her impending song, so she sent out a quick reminder on Twitter as the hour approached. “If y’all could please jus behave for just like a few hours so the girls can shine that’d be so sick thank u,” she tweeted. “Imagine” soon followed.

It’s a great song, one that captures a certain kind of affection and attraction and aims to preserve it as the best, most celebratory memory, the kind you want to keep coming back to again and again. Some fans think it’s about Ari’s late ex Mac Miller because he had the word “imagine” tattooed on his right arm. She also called the song the “denial” to the acceptance found in “Thank U, Next,” but later clarified it was meant to be wide open to interpretation among her fans and their own experiences.

Grande’s tweet also shouted out pal Miley Cyrus, who was gearing for a release of her own: a cover of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” featuring Mark Ronson and John and Yoko’s son, Sean. Cyrus underscored the point with a quick tweet cosign: “Didn’t they hear the news?! War IS over! Thank you, next!”

Interestingly enough, “Happy Xmas” is indeed a John Lennon cover, while Ari’s “Imagine” is not — it just happens to share the title. Was this planned? A masterstroke of social marketing? A coincidence? Who knows, man. But both songs are out, and you can (and should) listen to them now.

Zayn’s Icarus Falls Is 27 Tracks And 88 Minutes Of Pure R&Z

“Sweet baby, our sex has meaning,” Zayn sings to begin the smooth, yacht-tastic “Let Me,” the lead track on his second album, Icarus Falls. It’s finally out as of Friday (December 14), and much like his 2016 debut, Mind of Mine, it’s full of the hazy, soft R&B he first left One Direction to explore. There are moody showcases for Z to flex his golden voice, like the Malay-produced “Stand Still,” and plenty of serene, tender moments of romantic abandon, like the skin-on-skin mentions on “Natural.”

But none of those things are what you’ll notice first. You might not even notice the cover art that much, honestly. But you’ll certainly take note that Icarus Falls has 27 songs, and it’s 88 minutes long. It’s a beast.

For reference, Toy Story is only 81 minutes long. In fact, Vulture put together a really handy list of films under 90 minutes last year — Icarus Falls is longer than all of them. However, it is not, in fact, longer than Drake’s Scorpion or Migos’s Culture II, two behemoths likely designed to be sprawling in order to help boost chart performance.

Of course, Zayn released a whopping nine songs ahead of the album, dating back to April, so he kind of had to double, or in this case triple, down on music for the actual release. He notably didn’t tour behind his first album also, giving himself time away from the rigors of the road to focus on himself. The dude had to show us what he’s been up to.

Icarus Falls is worth spending some time with, letting each song sink in and finding your favorites. Throughout, Zayn shows the same kind of eagerness he flaunted for weeks on Instagram earlier this year when he teased a slew of new music. Likely some of that acoustic noodling ended up here as complete songs, which is kind of neat.

It’s also remarkable how much Zayn sounds like Jeff Buckley on “Satisfaction,” and it made me laugh how the album’s only two features — Nicki Minaj on “No Candle No Light” and Timbaland on “Too Much” — are buried at the very end, like a reward for your dedicated patience.

There’s a lot to dig into, so stream all 88 minutes of Icarus Falls above. It’s perfect for a long car or train ride.

Albums Of The Year: BTS Transcend Language And Cultural Barriers With Love Yourself: Tear

“Have I lost myself, or have I gained you?” a singer croons, his breathy timbre floating over a smooth melody like smoke from an ember. The lyric is a beautiful conundrum, not unlike the artists behind it.

A lot has been said about Korean group BTS, their passionate fans (known as ARMY), and their unprecedented success on the U.S. charts this year, but not enough attention has been paid to their music — an impressive catalog of songs across a mix of musical genres, some self-produced and all sung almost entirely in Korean. Since making their debut in 2013, the seven members of BTS — RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, Jimin, V, and Jungkook — have been open about their own personal struggles, often channeling those fears and anxieties into their music in the hopes of healing those who need to hear it most.

With this intent to speak to their generation directly, the septet make music that would best be described as self-care, from hook-heavy pop and playful R&B to slick hip-hop and moody stadium anthems. Nowhere is that more apparent than on their seminal 2018 album, Love Yourself: Tear, a prismatic piece of work rooted in deep loss and self-reflection.

The second release of the group’s Love Yourself trilogy — which began with Love Yourself: Her last year and concluded with a compilation album, Love Yourself: Answer, in August — is their most vulnerable, as most middle chapters are. On Her, BTS wove a narrative of love and innocence; with Tear, it begins to unravel as doubt and grief settle in.

The album opens with “Singularity,” a solo track that finds vocalist V questioning the mask he wears to conceal his true feelings. “Even in my momentary dreams, the illusions that torture me are still the same,” he sings. “Did I lose myself, or did I gain you?” Meanwhile, Tear‘s anthemic lead single, “Fake Love,” co-written and co-produced by leader and rapper RM, reflects the emptiness of giving so much of yourself to someone or something only to lose yourself in the process. On “Paradise,” a standout R&B track co-written by British artist MNEK, BTS ask their listeners to “stop runnin’ for nothin’ my friend” and live in the moment. “It’s alright to not have a dream,” Jungkook sings. “If you have moments where you feel happiness for a while.”

These messages transcend language. These are pains and problems that everyone can relate to, regardless of where they’re from, and BTS help put them into perspective. That’s why 40,000 euphoric fans — of different genders, ethnicities, and ages — filed out of New York City’s Citi Field the night of BTS’s historic stadium show in October with the same hopeful feeling.

Of course, analyzing Tear through its 11 songs feels incomplete. Visual imagery is an integral part of K-Pop, and BTS in particular construct meticulously plotted narratives that fuse their visual aesthetics — like those of Tear, which just received a Grammy nomination for best recording package — with the messages in their music. Rapper Suga said it best when he described K-Pop not as a genre but rather as integrated content. “K-pop includes not just music, but clothes, makeup, choreography,” he said back in September. “All of these elements amalgamate together in a visual and auditory content package that sets it apart from other music or other genres.”

For example, take “Airplane Pt. 2,” a Latin-infused track co-written by Ali Tamposi, who also penned Camila Cabello’s “Havana.” The song itself is catchy and current, a dreamy analog for the pop-star life. But to watch BTS perform the song live is to watch seven idols in full command of their artistry, where every subtle movement is part of a larger story. In many ways, it’s more than an album; it’s a fully realized, 360-degree package.

With Love Yourself: Tear, BTS cemented themselves as one of most vital acts in pop music today. And they accomplished this by not compromising on who they are as Korean artists and performers, while promoting the kind of empathy that’s not often front and center in today’s algorithmic pop.

So it’s time to stop referring to BTS as “phenomenons.” That’s an ephemeral term we often give to things we find hard to explain. Their success isn’t actually all that hard to understand: They bring people together. The process of loving yourself is a journey that never really ends, but through music and through moments of connection — forged online or in-person — you’re reminded that you don’t have to do it alone, that your flaws don’t have to define you. In doing so, BTS embrace their fans just as the fans embrace them.

As RM once said, “Please use me, please use BTS, to love yourself.”

Ariana Grande Hits The Highest Of High Notes In Her ‘Seasons Of Love’ Cover With Frankie

Serious question: Does Ariana Grande ever sleep? While we patiently await tonight’s arrival of “Imagine” — the umpteenth song she’s dropped this year — the Sweetener singer is keeping fans fed with yet another new release.

This time, Ari teamed up with her brother, Frankie, to cover the Rent classic “Seasons of Love.” In the accompanying video, the siblings — along with Frankie’s friends Ben, Jon-Erik, and Dominic — take to a candle-lit studio to belt the Broadway tune from behind the mic. Frankie sings a full-verse solo that showcases his shockingly impressive range, while Ariana returns to her Broadway roots by tackling the powerhouse solo sung by Joanne in the musical. To absolutely no one’s surprise, she nails those sky-grazing whistle notes with ease.

In a press release, Frankie gushed, “I am beyond honored to have worked on this incredible project with my best friends in the world including my wonderful sister. Thank you Ariana for vocal producing as well as adding your magical voice to this beautiful song. I am so happy that I got to sing with you on one of our favorite Broadway songs from one of our favorite Broadway shows, RENT! “

Following the cover’s release on Thursday (December 13), Ari returned the love by tweeting, “How beautiful does @FrankieJGrande sound? I’m so proud of him and the year he’s had. The whole thing makes my heart so full. Thankful I got to be a part of it.”

The Grande siblings’ “Seasons of Love” cover was recorded to promote Fox’s live version of Rent, which airs in January 2019 and counts Vanessa Hudgens, Tinashe, and Jordan Fisher among its stars. Kiersey Clemons is taking on the role of Joanne in that version, and Ari’s definitely given her something to live up to!

Ariana Grande Can’t Stop Dropping Hints About Her Upcoming Thank U, Next Album

Turning her Twitter replies into a full-blown press conference, Ariana Grande couldn’t stop revealing more details on Thursday afternoon about her upcoming Thank U, Next album.

As fans flooded the singer’s mentions with questions, Grande shared as much as she could about “Imagine,” her new single dropping tonight, and the album at large. And despite the fact that Grande has already revealed so much about Thank U, Next, her latest tweets show she’s playing by her own rules for this album release.

As the hours tick down to the release of “Imagine,” fans looked for answers about the single’s cover art. Grande confirmed that a photo from her Instagram story, in which the word “imagine” is written in Kanji, is the official cover art.

Looking beyond tonight’s single release, fans got answers about the Thank U, Next tracklist, which Grande said is now complete and consists of 13 songs.

Those songs include titles like “In My Head” and “Fake Smile,” according to Grande’s afternoon tweets. With previously teased song-title teases in her “Breathin” and “Thank U, Next” music videos, many of the 13 tracks have already been named.

And while Grande won’t specify any favorite tracks besides all of them, she didn’t shy away from sharing her grandmother’s standouts.

Perhaps of most interest to Grande’s fans, it’s looking like Thank U, Next is slated for an early 2019 release at this point. The pop star was quick to calm her fans’ nerves, though: She promised to drop another snippet from the album by the end of this year.

With all those details laid out, Ariana ended her press conference – or at least logged off Twitter for the time being — before the “Imagine” release at 11 ET tonight.

Katy Perry’s ‘Immortal Flame’ Is One Of Her Biggest Power Ballads To Date

Katy Perry has been awfully active for someone who hinted at a musical break after last year’s rough Witness release. A few weeks back, she debuted the original holiday bop “Cozy Little Christmas,” and before that, she covered “Waving Through A Window” from Dear Evan Hansen. On Thursday (December 13), she continued her pattern of unexpected releases with “Immortal Flame,” a soaring number that fits right in with past power ballads like “Rise” and “Unconditionally.”

“Dreams hardly ever do come true / I guess I’m lucky ’cause I found myself waking up right next to you,” Perry sings, promising to love with all her “raging heart.” Her passion builds on the climactic chorus as she dramatically belts, “I want to live a thousand lives / And be your immortal flame.”

The new song also comes with a digital twist: It’s part of Perry’s partnership with Final Fantasy Brave Exvius, a popular mobile game that’ll even feature the singer herself as a playable character (along with her furry pal Nugget). If you’ve ever wanted to save the world with Perry in your party, now you can!

The 34-year-old isn’t the first star to pop into the Final Fantasy universe — last year, Ariana Grande went digital in the same game as “Dangerous Woman,” sporting the latex black bunny getup she favorited during her Dangerous Woman album era. Her character didn’t come with any original songs like Perry’s does, but that’s OK — Ari’s been plenty generous to her fans lately. And now Perry’s doing the same for her KatyCats, musical break be damned. We love a productive pop queen!

Albums of the Year: Cardi B Cemented Her Place Among Rap’s Elite With Invasion of Privacy

By Trey Alston

Despite dethroning Taylor Swift‘s “Look What You Made Me Do” from the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 in September 2017, Cardi B‘s “Bodak Yellow” felt like some cosmic joke. The track, which was the first No. 1 from a female rapper since Lauryn Hill‘s “Doo Wop (That Thing), seemed to set Cardi up to be the next internet rap star, in the vein of Trinidad James, to make an astronomical amount of noise before her 15 minutes would swiftly expire. Instead of her momentum fizzling, the clamor around her grew through the end of the year, bleeding into 2018 thanks to follow-up singles “Bartier Cardi,” in December, and “Be Careful,” in March. Other elements were mixed in, chiefly some well-timed features on G Eazy’s “No Limit” and Migos’ “Motorsport.” A perfect storm was brewing for her industry takeover, but her debut studio album would have to succeed where most debuts, especially those by internet sensations, failed. Invasion of Privacy needed to be authentic, tenacious, and adventurous.

It released on April 6 and brought about an earned explosion of interest and critical praise for Cardi. It’s an album that’s defined by the notions of truthfulness, transparency, sexual liberation, and craftsmanship. Over the course of thirteen tracks, Cardi’s debut packs a trifecta of snarky punchlines, charisma, and lively energy that normally escapes newcomers in at least one of the three categories. She sounds like a rap veteran operating without fear or uncertainty. It sounds timeless, unrestrained by contemporary conventions, and is a testament to the two years spent honing her sound on her two Gangsta Bitch mixtapes.

“Get Up 10” transfers the crown from Meek Mill to Cardi B for the best album introduction of the past decade (previously “Dreams and Nightmares (Intro)” held the title). From the get-go, the tone of the album is established. Visceral images about poverty barrel into the mind as she raps about the night-and-day differences of her new life. But there’s a pressing urgency to her rhymes, a commitment to plead her truths to inspire and reflect instead of brag. Her emotions can be felt through the brutal emphasis she puts on curse words, but it’s important to know that this ferocity isn’t synonymous, in her case, with anger. It’s excitement.

From the ashes of the somber opening blooms an album that finds footing in various worlds across its multiverse. Invasion of Privacy is a vast album with drastically different beats, with each track being able to be separated into its own individual world. Overarching notions like sexual freedom and emotional clarity materialize and connect these disparate realms together. A stunning detail is that these ideas are given room to breathe and never overstep each other. She layers fresh waves of sexual braggadocio on “Money Bag” — where she talks about her sexual ability — and her newly-sculpted body just before on “Ring,” where she circles an emotional breakdown at the prospect of a tumultuous, infidelity-ridden relationship.

“I Like It” expertly mixed the realms of reggaeton, trap, and salsa thanks to its fusion of Cardi B’s charisma, Bad Bunny’s energy, and J Balvin‘s serene delivery. In an oral history for Billboard, label executives revealed that the four-minute collaboration took over six months to congeal after being first suggested by the CEO of Atlantic Records. Cardi always felt that the song needed a little bit of this, a little less of that. That’s perfectionism in the works. But these kinds of decisions are largely responsible for Invasion of Privacy sounding as polished as it does, helping it to transcend time.

An enduring, nagging thread through Cardi’s year has been the reportedly unfaithful behavior of ex-husband Offset. Nevertheless, she chose to work on their relationship, she didn’t choose to accept infidelity. Invasion of Privacy spoke directly to Offset, and, by extension, the rest of the world, with its centerpiece “Be Careful.” The commanding song strips away the album’s fascination with 808s and striking adlibs for a decidedly more intimate, up-close conversation with her then-partner set to the backdrop of an interpolation of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor.” It’s a striking claim of agency, of a scorned woman’s power, demanding that her partner get his shit together, or get to stepping. Her lyrics were poignant, striking icicles in the veins of partners everywhere who were the victim of similar situations, or for the victimizers who put their partners in that state of mind. When she abruptly ended things with Offset in December, fans were quick to note that she appeared content, even happy in her announcement while Offset, on the other hand, appeared dejected in subsequent public appearances. Maybe “Be Careful” was a declaration and foreshadowing of this ending.

In all, Invasion of Privacy was exactly as authentic, tenacious, and adventurous as Cardi needed it to be to elevate her prestige. Because of it, she’s entered the sanctuary of worshipped rap elites such as Nicki Minaj, Kendrick Lamar, and Drake. The album’s overbearing confidence immediately wins you over, even if you hadn’t listened to Cardi’s music beforehand. It’s won over, not just the industry, but the world as well.

Janet Jackson, Radiohead, More Are 2019’s Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Inductees

Every year, the internet gets very mad about who didn’t get nominated for or inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And every year, there are valid points about inclusion, especially as it comes to the race and gender of the folks who end up with guaranteed spots. There’s also the larger question of whether or not such designations matter at all — much like whether art needs to be commodified and rewarded with shiny baubles like Grammys and Oscars — or if it’s really just the music that’s important.

These are all worthwhile conversations to have! But it’s also worthwhile when legitimate legends do get recognized and inducted. In fact, it’s worth celebrating. This year, Janet Jackson, Stevie Nicks, and Radiohead lead an impressive class of inductees, as revealed on December 13.

The Rock Hall also welcomes goth-pop phenoms The Cure, arena-rock scorchers Def Leppard, glam experimentalists Roxy Music, and ’60s baroque-rock forebears The Zombies to its 2019 class.

Also nominated this year were Rage Against the Machine, Kraftwerk, MC5, Rufus & Chaka Khan, LL Cool J, Devo, Todd Rundgren, and John Prine.

The newly inducted artists will (presumably) accept their newest honor in March 29 ceremony at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. I say “presumably” because certain artists — namely Radiohead — have made known their feelings on the very idea of an institution dedicated to Rock and Roll greats. “I don’t care,” the band’s guitarist Jonny Greenwood — no stranger to awards himself — reportedly said in a 2017 interview about the band’s then-potential recognition.

Then again, it’s terribly exciting for anyone’s faves to be honored at such a level. And if MTV’s reigning EMA Global Icon Janet Jackson will be there, that sounds unequivocally great to me. Relive her expansive 2018 EMA performance below while you count down the days until the ceremony.

Taylor Swift’s Reputation Stadium Tour Is Coming To Netflix Very Soon

Miss out on Taylor Swift‘s Reputation stadium tour? Or maybe you went but sat so high up that you could barely see what was happening onstage and had to watch everything on the massive screens? Don’t worry — she’s got you covered.

The singer’s ending 2018 by giving something back to her fans: namely a chance to experience the globetrotting, 53-date Reputation tour with an intimate, professionally shot, immersive concert film, coming to Netflix on (fittingly) New Year’s Eve.

Swift announced the new movie on social media on Thursday morning (December 13), which also happens to be her 29th birthday. “You made this tour so insanely fun for all of us on stage, and I’m really excited that we will have this memento of the memories we all made together this year,” she wrote on Instagram.

The clip she teased features plenty of sweeping, crane-aided shots of her Reputation live set, from the quiet piano numbers to the storytelling guitar tunes to the all-out, high-concept dance numbers. Swift’s pals and tour supporting acts Camila Cabello and Charli XCX made a quick appearance alongside her onstage too, as they tended to do.

It’ll be a strong way to end the year from Swift, who’s been keeping things low-key since wrapped the Reputation tour in November. Last week, she joined Hayley Kiyoko onstage in New York City for a surprise team-up on “Delicate,” and earlier this week, she shouted out young songwriter Maggie Rogers for a dynamite cover of her own “Tim McGraw,” calling it “heavenly.”

Oh yeah, and she also left Big Machine, her record label of the past 15 years, to sign with Republic and to own all her own master recordings going forward. That’s a pretty big deal, too.

Catch Taylor Swift Reputation Stadium Tour premiering on Netflix at 12:01 PT on December 31.

Taylor Swift Reacts To Maggie Rogers’s ‘Tim McGraw’ Cover: ‘Heavenly’

“When you think Tim McGraw…” you probably think of Taylor Swift‘s starry-eyed 2006 debut single. But now you’ll also be able to think of the song’s latest rendition, which comes courtesy of indie-pop whiz Maggie Rogers.

The 24-year-old released her cover of the Swift classic on Wednesday (December 12) as part of her Spotify Singles release. It’s a warm interpretation that picks up the tempo a bit and replaces the original’s twangy flavor with radiant synths; all without losing an ounce of its magic.

On Instagram, Rogers wrote, “This song is classic songwriting at its finest and has meant so much to me for the last 10 years. I hope you love it as much as I do.”

Looks like her wish came true, because Swift herself gave the cover her stamp of approval, sharing it on her Instagram Story and calling it “heavenly.”

Overall, it’s been a solid year for nostalgic Swifties eager to revisit the mid-aughts. Swift treated fans to at least one deep cut at every one of her Reputation Tour shows this fall, including, of course, a live version of “Tim McGraw” that she performed alongside the real Tim McGraw (a glow-up if I’ve ever heard of one!).

As for Rogers, her Spotify Singles session also included a hushed, stripped-down take on her recent most single, “Light On.” That song is one of a dozen tracks that will be included on her major label debut, Heard It in a Past Life, due out on January 18. Maybe her new fan Taylor Swift will even pick up a copy!