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These Justin Bieber-Approved New Balance Sneakers Are on Sale for 40% Off
Rylee Johnston (05/06/2023)
Justin Bieber sported a vibrant pair of pink and purple New Balance 990v2 sneakers, which are currently on sale. Here's where you can buy the stylish sneakers online.
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Justin Bieber loves a good sneaker moment and for fans looking to add his picks to their wardrobe, one of his favorite New Balance styles is currently on sale. The shoe, like his Crocs collaboration, is currently sold-out on the New Balance site, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t grab a pair — and for a fraction of the price.
If you’re looking for some trendy festival gear and are willing to purchase the shoes off of resale sites, the New Balance 990V2 Pink/Purple Sneakers are available on Farfetch for 40% off. You can also find them on StockX, but most sizes are already gone, which means you’ll want to pick up a pair quickly to avoid the dreaded “sold out” message under your size.
The sneakers will add a pop of color to your outfit as seen above in Bieber’s styling of the shoes. Whether you incorporate shades of yellow, purple or pink into your outfit like with a fashionable bucket hat, or keep it neutral with a black T-shirt and brown shorts like the “Peaches” singer, you’ll definitely be making a statement.
Bieber was originally spotted wearing the style on a trip to France with his wife, Hailey Bieber, and their friends including “Collide” singer, Justine Sky, and “Always” crooner Daniel Caesar. Instagram fan account @keepbiebsfresh that spotted the style first and posted how the singer styled the shoes, which you can check out here.
The pink and purple sneakers are made with a suede outer and rubber sole that’ll provide your feet with comfort, support and most importantly — they’re fashionable.
To add more Bieber-approved styles to your sneaker collection, shop below.
These casual New Balance sneakers are one of Bieber’s go-tos and can be seen in a fan’s Instagram post paired with baggy denim jeans and a navy blue hoodie. Since they are made from a neutral gray suede material, it allows them to be paired with basically any shade of top or bottom.
Bring some subtle color to your look with a classic pair of Nike Air Force 1 sneakers. The crisp white base is paired with a deep green shade that will add a light pop of color to your feet. The singer chose to pair these with yellow, red and green tie dye pants and a white and green tie dye top as seen in an Instagram post here.
Buy: Nike Men’s Air Force 1 Shoes in Silver/Coconut $115
Mix your neutrals in with another version of the Nike Air Force 1‘s Bieber enjoys sporting like in this fan’s Instagram post. While he normally pairs them with denim jeans and a pullover, you can also wear them with trousers and a simple white or brown tee.
It’s almost no surprise Bieber is also a fan of the Nike Air Max 90 as it’s the brand’s latest best seller. Thanks to the lifted sole, it’ll really elevate your look and take you (and your outfit) to new heights. See exactly how the star styles them in an Instagram post here.
Hayley Williams Addresses Her ‘You’re Dead to Me’ Message to Ron DeSantis Supporters
Hannah Dailey (05/06/2023)
"That message isn’t the kind that’s going to change a hateful heart," the singer wrote in an open letter.
Hayley Williams definitely got people’s attention when, at May’s Adjacent Music Festival in Atlantic City, she bluntly told Rob DeSantis supporters, “You’re f–king dead to me.” But now, the Paramore frontwoman wishes she’d expressed her feelings on the politician in a more productive way.
“I hate that the only thing I really know to say to people I deem racist or bigoted in any way is ‘you’re dead to me’ when I know that message isn’t the kind that’s going to change a hateful heart,” Williams shared in a Saturday (June 3) open letter Paramore’s Discord channel. “How can I feel soft and tragic about it in one moment and ragey and rigid the next? Because that’s human.”
The so-called “rigid and ragey” moment in question came midway through the band’s set at the Memorial Day Weekend festival, with Williams telling fans in the audience that she’s “very f–king comfortable talking politics.” Then, she added, “If you vote for Ron DeSantis, you’re f–king dead to me. Is that comfortable enough for anyone?”
The Atlantic City show wasn’t the only time distaste for Florida’s Gov. DeSantis was declared on stage at a Paramore concert. During the band’s Friday show in Washington, D.C., Florida’s Rep. Maxwell Frost joined the musicians, where he shouted, “F— Ron DeSantis! F— fascism!”
Elsewhere in the “Still Into You” singer’s new Discord post, she apologized for kicking a couple of fans out of a recent Paramore concert at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Videos of the confrontation went viral online, which Williams said made her rethink how she handled the altercation in the moment.
“As a group – all 25,000 of us or so – exiled these people from the show in record time,” she wrote. “It was a moment that I would not fully process for a couple of days, when a friend showed me a video from the inside of the crowd, up close to the action… I have not been able to shake the feeling that I abused my responsibility and my platform in that moment… that I hurt those two in a way that will outlast the momentary discomfort of their poor concert etiquette.”
NCT 127’s Taeyong Delivers Debut Solo Album, Music Video for Lead Single ‘SHALALA’
Starr Bowenbank (05/06/2023)
The project makes him the first member of the group to make a solo debut.
Taeyong’s debut solo album is finally here. On Monday (June 5), the NCT 127 member released his highly anticipated project, SHALALA, alongside a high-energy music video for the lead single of the same name.
The visual for “Shalala” sees the K-pop star playing a hacker who is so talented at what he does, he disrupts several multiverses, travels hundreds and thousands of years back in time, and even distorts the shape of Earth. Throughout the hip-hop track’s infectious chorus, the NCT 127 rapper expertly hits choreography with the help of a few back up dancers.
“Wow, wow, wow, wow/ Bounce (We jumpin’ around, let’s go)/ Sha-la-la-la, la-la, oh-my-my/ Sha-la-la-la, la-la, I’ma shine,” the K-pop star raps on the track.
SHALALA arrived with six songs alongside the title track: “Move Mood Mode” featuring Red Velvet main vocalist Wendy, “Ruby,” “Gwando,” “404 File Not Found,” “Virtual Insanity” and “Back to the Past.”
Though Taeyong and several other members under the NCT umbrella have released solo songs via their label, SM Entertainment’s SM Station project, he marks the first member of the group to make a solo debut with an album. Taeyong’s last solo release was 2022’s “Fine,” which was uploaded to SoundCloud in November.
As for NCT 127, the group made moves on the Billboard charts earlier this year with the release of Ay-Yo, the album repackage of its fifth studio album, 2 Baddies. The repackaged set peaked at No. 13 on the all-genre Billboard 200, and spent two weeks on the tally.
Watch the video for “Shalala” above, and stream the album in full below.
Ryan Coogler, DJ Dahi & Director Peter Nicks Join Forces to Reimagine ‘Anthem’ for Hulu Documentary
Carl Lamarre (05/06/2023)
The documentary will track director Nicks and producer DJ Dahi's road trip to learn America's roots in music and recreate a reimagined version of the national anthem.
With Black Music Month underway, Hulu is beginning to roll out some of its upcoming documentaries catered to the festivities, notably Anthem.
Directed by Peter Nicks, Anthem will follow composer Kris Bowers (Bridgerton and King Richards) and Grammy-winning producer DJ Dahi’s trek across the nation to rediscover the roots of traditional American Music. During their quest, they find talent from a bevy of genres, such as jazz and soul, to help recreate the national anthem and reflect the modern times in the United States. Joining Nicks, Bowers and Dahi will be Black Panther’s Ryan Coogler and his multimedia company Proximity Media on the production front. Sean Havey, Chris L. Jenkins will also serve as producers.
“Anthem started with the road trip that [Kris Bowers and I] took when we when we went around and started to just feel [and] understand what American music traditionally kind of comes from,” Dahi tells Billboard. “Soul music, country, jazz, native music, blues, and gospel are the foundational music that’s being a part of our being and a part of the different creative processes that people have expressed themselves through. The road trip really helped us see the world.”
Dahi has previously worked with Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar and Drake. Last year, Dahi had production credits on Lamar’s Grammy-winning album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. His prints were on five records: “Father Time,” “Rich Spirit,” “Count Me Out,” “Mirror” and the Billboard Hot 100 top-five single “Die Hard.”
To correspond with the announcement of Anthem, Dahi constructed an exclusive playlist that was instrumental to the documentary and the road trip he and Bowers conducted during their search. Listen below.
Anthem arrives on Hulu June 28.
Lizzo Dances With Drag Stars During Her First Concert of Pride Month: ‘Drag Is Not a Crime!’
Hannah Dailey (05/06/2023)
"You’ve always had my back, and I’ll always have yours," the Yitty founder declared at a recent concert.
Lizzo just kicked off Pride Month with a bold statement. At her Friday (June 2) concert in Thousand Palms, Calif., the hitmaker invited a group of drag performers to dance with her onstage, and afterward posted a sweet message reminding the LGBTQ community that she’s always going to be here for them.
In a video posted to Lizzo’s social media accounts following her Special Tour’s first show of the month, the “About Damn Time” singer waves a huge pride flag up and down while surrounded by drag queens Kim Chi, Angeria Paris Van Michaels and Kahanna Montrese, as well as drag king Tenderoni.
“Drag is not a crime!” yells the Yitty founder into her microphone, prompting loud cheers from her crowd at Acrisure Arena.
“You’ve always had my back, and I’ll always have yours,” Lizzo later captioned the video, adding, “Happy Pride,” bookended with LGBTQ and transgender pride flag emojis.
Tenderoni was delighted to join the star on stage. “Still can’t believe I performed with @Lizzo tonight!!!!!” he shared in one of several tweets after the show.
It’s not the first time in recent months that Lizzo has used her concert stages as literal and figurative platforms for drag performers. In April, she was joined onstage by Aquaria, Kandy Muse, Asia O’Hara and Vanessa Vanji during a show in Knoxville, Tenn. — aka, the state which has been the center of controversy following Gov. Bill Lee’s signing of anti-LGBTQ and anti-drag laws.
“In light of recent and tragic events and current events, I was told by people on the internet, ‘Cancel your shows in Tennessee,’ ‘Don’t go to Tennessee,’” she told her crowd at the time. “Their reason was valid, but why would I not come to the people who need to hear this message the most?
“Why would I not create a safe space in Tennessee where we can celebrate drag entertainers and celebrate our differences?”
See Lizzo’s video below:
Thalia Reveals How It Felt To Work With Rock en Español’s ‘Crown Jewels’
Lyndsey Havens (05/06/2023)
The pop star released Thalia’s Mixtape on April 28, alongside an accompanying Paramount+ series on May 2.
Since Thalia burst onto Latin America’s pop culture scene in the late 1980s as a member of Mexican teen group Timbiriche, and then as a soap opera star, she has often collaborated with next-generation talent from Maluma to Sofía Reyes.
But on Thalia’s Mixtape (released April 28 on Sony Music Latin, alongside an accompanying Paramount+ series on May 2), the pop mainstay takes a different approach by re-creating classic rock en Español hits of her childhood, including Soda Stereo’s “Persiana Americana,” Aterciopelado’s “Florecita Rockera” and Hombres G’s “Devuélveme a Mi Chica.” On the lattermost, she even convinced the band’s David Summers to join her revitalized rendition.
Why revive the idea of the mixtape?
It was that little piece of you inside those songs [that] you would record and include in your playlist. The songs that were my life’s soundtrack were rock en Español. So this was about me looking for my teen idols and finding out: How did they write that song? How did their rebelliousness help us find ourselves? And how can a new generation connect with those songs?
David Summers is on the album, and Soda Stereo’s Charly Aberti is in the Paramount+ series. How did it feel to get their approval?
We’re talking about their crown jewels. These are rock en Español anthems for entire generations. But they also loved the idea of presenting them in another way to a new generation. Honestly, being able to sing with them but also vibe with them in a new way was mind-blowing.
Including the mixtape’s collaboration with Kenia OS, why do you collaborate with rising Latin artists?
It has always felt good to me. It’s a necessity. I think we’re better together, especially when it comes to young artists who go up against so much in an industry dominated by men. It’s important to have another woman backing you up.
Will there be a part two to this project?
More than a part two, I hope it inspires other artists. The first step was Thalia’s soundtrack, but I hope other artists come along and do their own mixtape.
This story originally appeared in the June 3, 2023 issue of Billboard.
This Humble Label Wants to Be a ‘Door-Opener’ for the Regional Mexican Genre
Colin Stutz (05/06/2023)
Rancho Humilde founder and CEO Jimmy Humilde on staying indie-minded while fostering global ambitions for his growing label.
Jimmy Humilde’s first foray into the music business was a party at his sister’s house in Venice, Calif., that he promoted with street flyers. The entrance fee was $5, and Humilde, then 13 years old, made $300. He was hooked.
It was the early 1990s, and the soundtrack of the streets was trance, techno and hip-hop. But Humilde (born Jaime Alejandro to immigrants from Michoacán, Mexico) soon started to include the music of his home in his flyer parties, adding Vicente Fernández and Mexican cumbias into the mix. Then a cousin introduced him to the music of Chalino Sánchez, the underground corrido singer from Culiacán, Mexico, who was kidnapped and murdered at 32 years old in 1992 in what presumably was a revenge killing.
“I didn’t know who Chalino Sánchez was. I didn’t know what a corrido was,” says Humilde, 43, of the songs that narrate the exploits of real and mythical heroes and antiheroes, from 19th century revolutionaries to current-day drug dealers. “But when I met his music, he became part of my soul. He wrote corridos not only for Mexican people but for people who lived in the U.S. that I could relate to.” Sánchez’s songs, combined with his swaggering attitude and combustible persona, planted a seed for Humilde: Why couldn’t there be more music like his, rooted in Mexican culture and appealing to a young, U.S.-born audience?
Nearly 20 years later, his label, Rancho Humilde, is at the forefront of a global explosion of regional Mexican music — the umbrella term for several subgenres that include brass-driven banda, accordion-inflected norteño, traditional mariachi and, increasingly, traditional music that incorporates hip-hop.
Since Rancho Humilde, which translates to “Humble Ranch,” began releasing music in 2017, the label has logged 18 titles on Billboard’s Top Latin Albums chart, including six top 10s, and 41 tracks on Hot Latin Songs. Out of those, seven reached the top 10, including the two-week champ “Bebe Dame.” The label has also placed six songs on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100. Five of them were on the May 6 chart that featured 14 regional Mexican songs, two of them in the top 10 — a breakthrough week for the genre. Fuerza Regida, Natanael Cano and Junior H are among the Rancho Humilde acts that charted.
Humilde and his partners, José Becerra and Rocky Venegas, built the label through unorthodox means, relying almost solely on social media over radio and TV to promote their acts and by working with multiple labels and distributors, which enabled their roster to collaborate with a wider array of artists from different genres at a time when Mexican acts were notoriously averse to the practice.
Almost six years after Rancho Humilde was founded, the label is opening new offices in Paramount, Calif., just outside Los Angeles. Not coincidentally, it’s the exact location where Sánchez once ran his own pager store.
“I’m in it for the future of our culture,” Humilde says. “From the beginning, I wanted to be the door-opener.”
What was it like growing up in Venice in the ’90s?
Hip-hop was my heart. I was a huge fan of LL Cool J, Kool Moe Dee, EPMD — old-school hip-hop. To this day, I still listen to hip-hop a lot. I grew up in a multiracial area. There were a lot of Mexicans, but also a lot of Asians and whites. Corridos and Mexican music were not it. They called me “Jimmy the Paisa,” which in our neighborhood meant “straight Mexican.” So while I did raves and hip-hop events for many years, I was the only one in Venice listening to Mexican music. I was the guy known for tejanas.
With that multicultural atmosphere, why did you enter the regional Mexican business?
I’ve been in the business since I was 14, when I started working as a gopher with another Mexican artist who sang corridos, Jessie Morales, El Original de la Sierra. I realized that we were losing our Mexican culture. The kids weren’t speaking Spanish. It wasn’t cool. I’ve always thought it’s so cool to be Mexican, to have immigrant parents and to speak both languages. I thought I could introduce others to this life. I had to find a way to mix my culture, my Chicano culture, with the Mexican culture. And I did.
What was Rancho Humilde’s breakthrough moment?
“De Periódico un Gallito,” a song by LEGADO 7 we released in 2017. [It peaked at No. 38 on the Regional Mexican Airplay chart.] That corrido talks about a guy who grew up on the streets of Los Angeles and was a drug dealer. That’s the corrido that opened the doors to our music. We basically did a hip-hop song in Spanish. Then we signed Arsenal Efectivo, El de la Guitarra, Fuerza Regida, then Natanael Cano.
Peso Pluma is dominating the charts. He sounds very similar to Cano, with whom he has collaborated.
Peso Pluma calls Natanael “The GOAT.” Natanael Cano opened the lane for everyone. If Nata, Junior H, Fuerza Regida hadn’t existed, this wouldn’t be where it’s at today. Natanael brought swag. He brought that kid that didn’t give a fuck. He brought that, “I’m going to do whatever the fuck I want, and I don’t care” attitude. When I first asked Nata what tumbao was, he said: “I am tumbao.” Before, corridos were listened to by fans with cowboy hats and boots. Today, you’ll see 13-, 14-year-old kids in Jordans listening to corridos tumbaos.
Your artists weren’t the first to blend Mexican and hip-hop sounds, but acts like Akwid in the 2000s didn’t reach the level of success that Rancho Humilde’s artists are having now. Is it simply a matter of timing?
It didn’t work before because the people behind it weren’t real. They weren’t from the streets. They were copying what other people were doing. Akwid is from the streets, but the people behind them weren’t.
What is your strategy for working with multiple distributors? Most labels usually strike a deal with just one. For example, Cano with Warner; Fuerza Regida with Sony.
I’m not committed to just one. Me, along with my attorneys — George Prajin and Anthony Lopez — structured our own contract and our own way of doing business. I don’t have exclusivity with anyone. I don’t think anyone should have exclusivity with anyone. I don’t believe in licenses because there’s only one person that owns our music, and it’s [us]. And I’m also business partners with our artists. We restructured our whole company, and we don’t sign artists to a royalty fee. We sign artists as business partners, we help them build their own labels and businesses, and we do a [joint venture] between labels.
You’re so indie-minded. Why distribute with Warner’s Alternative Distribution Alliance and Sony’s Orchard versus another indie?
My whole goal was to [go global]. And I finally realized that the only people I was going to be able to do it with was with a global company. That’s why I chose Warner at first, then Sony, then Universal; I did a one-off deal with Republic and Universal. I needed the reach. I needed people to learn about this and realize it was different. It wasn’t only about us being banda.
How important is social media to Rancho Humilde’s success?
Social media is Rancho Humilde. We were born in social media. We started with Myspace all the way down to Facebook, all the way down to Instagram and TikTok. But our biggest [avenue] was YouTube. YouTube is huge for us revenuewise, bigger than the other platforms. Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are our main marketing channels. We were never on radio until the most recent hit by Fuerza Regida. The only work we outsource is with our publicist, Monica Escobar, who does everything we don’t do on marketing on our end.
One of the biggest challenges facing successful industries in Mexico are the drug cartels. In recent years, they’ve taken over the trade of limes, avocados and other produce. As music becomes an exponentially more valuable export, how do you protect your business from that influence?
I just feel that certain people got their help as they could. That’s one of the things that kept Rancho Humilde from becoming the most successful label [quickly], because we never had any investors. It was always JB, Rocky and myself. I don’t care who it is. I just don’t believe in investors. Have other companies used that? I don’t know. I’ve never asked. I know drug cartels exist, and my dad always told me the biggest cartel was the government and the church. I agree with that. I don’t fight it. I don’t criticize anyone for what they do. I don’t care what they do.
Rancho Humilde’s 2019 release of Cano’s “Soy el Diablo” remix with Bad Bunny was groundbreaking at the time. Now mainstream labels are signing Mexican acts. What do you think of that?
I don’t see why they wouldn’t, but it’s going to be hard for them to catch up to all the indies already performing at a high level.
What does it mean to you that this music is now popular in places far from Mexico?
I knew this was going to happen. Right before Peso Pluma came in, Nata was already a global artist. He was known in Spain, Chile, Argentina, but the music wasn’t charting as high as it is today. Peso Pluma won’t be the biggest artist. There’s a whole lot coming who will be huge. [But] Peso is like the Daddy Yankee of our genre. He went and opened the doors worldwide, but here come more monsters. If you’re not focused on Mexican music right now, I suggest you do.
Garth Brooks Reveals a ‘Cosmic’ Trick of Coral Reef While Narrating ‘America’s National Parks’ Season 2
Katie Atkinson (05/06/2023)
In a pair of new episodes, premiering tonight on National Geographic, narrator & exec producer Garth Brooks takes us inside the Grand Teton peaks & the Biscayne reef.
As the narrator and executive producer of America’s National Parks, Garth Brooks takes TV viewers on a road trip to some of the most cherished and preserved spaces our country has to offer. When season 2 kicks off Monday night (June 5) on National Geographic and streams starting Wednesday on Disney+, he’ll dive even deeper.
In an exclusive clip from the “Biscayne” episode — one of two back-to-back new episodes premiering Monday night — Brooks narrates an otherworldly scene documenting the sprawling coral reef of Florida’s Biscayne National Park, just south of Miami.
“To protect from the bleaching power of the sun, the park’s coral community have developed their own extraordinary type of sunscreen,” Brooks narrates, explaining that microscopic algae within the reef combat the UV rays by absorbing sunlight and re-emitting it in other colors. “The results are cosmic,” Brooks adds over footage of a neon black-lit reef.
Monday’s other new episode is “Grand Teton,” which kicks off the two-part premiere at 9 p.m. ET on National Geographic by scaling the majestic peaks of Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. Upcoming season 2 episodes, debuting June 12 and 19 on Nat Geo, venture to Southern California’s Channel Islands, Alaska’s Lake Park National Park, and Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park.
Also next week, Brooks will take a break from his current Las Vegas residency to sit down with Billboard for our inaugural Billboard Country Live in Conversation on June 7 in Nashville, taking part in an intimate Q&A with Melinda Newman, executive editor of Billboard, West Coast and Nashville.
Watch an exclusive Brooks-narrated clip from season 2 of America’s National Parks below:
How Keityn Became the Go-To Songwriter For Latin’s Latest Hits
Lyndsey Havens (05/06/2023)
Keityn was named songwriter of the year at the ASCAP Latin Music Awards this year for his work with Shakira, Karol G and others.
Kevyn Cruz was 12 years old when he started writing songs. “My mom gave me my first guitar, and with the first three notes, I learned how to compose,” he recalls. “Little by little, I perfected that art.” Now 26, the Colombian songwriter, known as Keityn, is behind some of the most recent Latin hits by Shakira, Karol G, J Balvin, Maluma and Manuel Turizo, among others.
His women’s empowerment anthems in particular have taken off, with Karol G and Nicki Minaj’s 2019 hit “Tusa” earning him his first No. 1 on the Hot Latin Songs chart and the fiery “Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53” by Bizarrap and Shakira spending five weeks at No. 1 on the same chart in 2023. “It’s what the moment allows me to create,” he says. “I don’t plan things or set expectations. I just let things flow.”
This year, Keityn was named songwriter of the year at the ASCAP Latin Music Awards, a recognition he describes as “something difficult to assimilate, but very happy and motivated with my feet on the ground to continue doing it.”
“Tusa,” Karol G & Nicki Minaj
Keityn did not plan on creating music the day this collaboration was born; in fact, he visited Karol G’s producer, Ovy on the Drums, to play video games and order chicken wings. Yet the hit-maker could not get a violin melody out of his head and asked Keityn to help him write lyrics. “I swear, in less than half an hour, we had ‘Tusa,’ from the pre-chorus to the chorus,” Keityn says. “It flowed too well. The muse was in the house that day. The song was kept in the studio for more than a year, but we knew it was a big hit.” Upon release, it made history as the first title by two women in a lead role to debut atop Hot Latin Songs since the chart’s inception in 1986.
“SHAKIRA: BZRP Music Sessions, Vol. 53,” Bizarrap & Shakira
Following his work with Shakira on “Te Felicito” and “Monotonía,” Keityn was invited to her former house in Barcelona to co-write this empowered dance-pop track, on which she cleverly disses her ex and throws a jab at his new girlfriend. Shakira had first teamed with superproducer Bizarrap, known for his ever-present cap and glasses and intimate studio sessions on YouTube. “The process of this song was a little more complex because Shakira is a woman who likes to give her full attention to each part of the song,” says Keityn. “It took many days changing and removing parts of the lyrics.” The personal, hard-hitting track debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Shakira’s highest placement since “Beautiful Liar” with Beyoncé hit No. 3 in 2007.
“TQG,” Karol G & Shakira
Karol G and Shakira’s sultry “TQG” was a part of Karol’s historic album, Mañana Será Bonito, which became the first No. 1 all-Spanish-language album by a woman on the Billboard 200. Written in Los Angeles in January 2022, Keityn recalls, “Karol invited me because she was doing something in L.A., and she asked me if I wanted to hang out and make music with her and Ovy on the Drums for a couple of days.” He admits he had the intro of the song in his head for days before connecting with Karol, but that it didn’t really flow until he hit the studio with Ovy. Following its February release, “TQG” reached No. 1 on Hot Latin Songs, where it remained for five weeks.
This story originally appeared in the June 3, 2023, issue of Billboard.
CMA Fest Celebrates 50 Years of Connecting Fans and Country Stars, From Dolly Parton to Garth Brooks
Josh Glicksman (05/06/2023)
“There’s nothing else like it in the world,” says this year’s opening-night headliner, Luke Combs.
As CMA Fest gears up to welcome visitors from around the world to downtown Nashville June 8-11, the enduring festival will celebrate 50 years of bringing together country music fans with their favorite artists.
“From a fan’s perspective, there’s nothing else like it in the world,” says Luke Combs, who will perform at Nissan Stadium on the festival’s opening night. “You can go see every act in the genre, from the smallest act to the biggest act, and all you have to do is walk a few blocks. It’s so unique.”
When the inaugural festival was held on April 12, 1972, at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium, it was billed as Fan Fair, drawing nearly 5,000 attendees and featuring performers including Roy Acuff, Bill Anderson, Loretta Lynn, Ernest Tubb and Jeannie Seely.
“[Fellow country artist] Dottie West and I were very close,” Seely recalls. “Sometimes, just to mess with some of the DJs that were visiting, we would cut station promos as each other. I got pretty good at saying, ‘Hi, I’m Dottie West with RCA. Welcome to Fan Fair.’ ”
Since then, the festival — which was renamed CMA Music Festival in 2004 then CMA Fest in 2018 — has evolved into a four-day event that in 2022 featured more than 150 artists and drew an estimated 80,000 fans daily from every U.S. state and nearly 40 countries. Each night features some of the genre’s biggest artists performing at the 70,000-capacity Nissan Stadium. Artists play CMA Fest for free, with a portion of the proceeds going to the CMA Foundation to aid music education initiatives.
“I appreciate so much what the artists give up to be here,” says Sarah Trahern, Country Music Association CEO since 2014. Every year, Trahern writes thank-you notes to each act who plays the stadium and includes notes from children who have benefited from music education. “The artists that play the weekend shows could be playing different places for a lot of money, but they recognize the history, the fan connection and community aspect of the festival,” says Trahern.
Across five decades of uniting artists and fans, CMA Fest has spurred numerous unforgettable moments — several of them involving autograph lines. In 1988, a power outage forced artists including George Strait and Reba McEntire to sign autographs in the dark. In 1996, Garth Brooks appeared at Fan Fair unannounced and signed autographs for 23 hours straight, never taking a bathroom or food break. In 2010, a young Taylor Swift signed autographs for 13 hours. The festival’s recently created Fan Fair X area inside the Music City Center convention center draws on a long-standing tradition of artists and record labels creating often elaborate autograph-signing booths.
Trisha Yearwood, who made her Fan Fair debut in 1991, recalls how in 1996 her then-manager, Ken Kragen, had the idea of creating a recording booth for fans to sing Yearwood’s No. 1 hit, “XXXs and OOOs.” (She broke through five years earlier with “She’s in Love With the Boy.”) “They’d take home a cassette of them singing with Trisha. It worked so well, except for one thing: I couldn’t get anybody to actually sing unless I sang at the top of my lungs with them,” Yearwood remembers. “That was fun, but after about eight hours straight of that every day, I had no voice. I think it was one of the most creative booths at Fan Fair ever.”
Several artists, including Kelsea Ballerini, Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, first attended CMA Fest as fans or even interns.
“I had my headset, my walkie talkie and was driving people around in golf carts to and from their buses to the corrals where artists would sign autographs,” recalls Bentley, who worked as an intern at Fan Fair in 1995. “The first artist I drove was Jo Dee Messina. I remember her being nervous, like, ‘No one’s going to know who I am.’ We pulled up outside the corrals and there’s all these fans shouting her name. I remember going, ‘I think you’re going to be OK.’ I drove Sammy Kershaw around. He was chain-smoking cigarettes the whole time. I still am the biggest Sammy fan of all time. I played my first CMA Fest 10 years later.”
CMA Fest has been held in multiple locations throughout Nashville over the decades. The event moved from Municipal Auditorium in downtown Nashville to the Tennessee State Fairgrounds in 1982. In 2001, the festival returned to downtown Nashville with a larger presence, including programming at Music City Center and Adelphia Coliseum (now called Nissan Stadium), while also shifting from weekdays to a four-day weekend.
In 2004, the audience at the newly rechristened festival expanded exponentially when CBS aired the two-hour TV special CMA Music Festival: Country’s Night To Rock; since 2005, the event has aired on ABC.
“I think televising the festival was groundbreaking,” says executive producer Robert Deaton, who helms the TV specials for CMA Fest and the CMA Awards, as well as CMA Country Christmas. “Unless you went to see a concert, you never got to see these artists perform in their element — you would see them do a song or two on the CMA Awards or on late-night shows. Soon, fans started going, ‘This is the party we want to be at,’ and attendance kept increasing.”
Still, the jump from fairgrounds to stadium “felt like a risk,” Deaton says, and notes that it took time for CMA Fest to grow into its new home. At first, says Trahern, “we sold the floor and a lot of seats on the first balcony, but the second and third balcony were empty. [So] we wanted to grow this into something bigger. We needed better sound, better sight lines, and the only way to do that was to move from the fairgrounds to the stadium.”
The festival has a strong history of guest performers, including Paul McCartney in 1974, Bryan Adams in 1993, The Beach Boys in 1996 and a surprise performance by Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus and Keith Urban of “Old Town Road” in 2019. Deaton says that viewers of this year’s special can expect more collaborations than ever, pairing country artists from different eras, along with some surprise, non-country guests.
Even as this year’s CMA Fest, its corresponding telecast and a forthcoming documentary centered around the festival pay homage to the event’s past and present, Deaton is already looking to future TV specials, where one artist remains on his bucket list: Strait.
“I’d love to get the king, George Strait,” Deaton says. “He can play anything he wants, bring whomever he wants onstage with him. It would be so amazing to have him on the show.”
Expansion isn’t the only way CMA Fest has evolved. Over the past several years, the event has increasingly showcased the breadth of country music, spotlighting artists of color and in the LGBTQ+ community. Last year, the Black Opry was part of CMA Fest, while this year’s festival features Rissi Palmer’s Color Me Country, with Willie Jones, Charly Lowry, Dzaki Sukarno and Julie Williams. Last year, 84 women performed across the festival’s four days; this year’s will feature 106 women artists. CMA Fest attendees can expect performances from both newcomers and fan favorites at the event’s 10 stages, including several outdoor stages that are free and open to the public.
“Supporting underrepresented communities is a key part of our mission,” Trahern says. “We supported the Country Proud show last year and we’ve moved that onto our own footprint at the Hard Rock stage this year. We are excited to continue to have diversity on all of our stages.”
Music journalist and country music historian Robert K. Oermann feels that CMA Fest fulfills a vital role in terms of exposing artists fans may not see — or hear — elsewhere. “Let’s face it, terrestrial radio is never going to change,” he says bluntly. “They are not interested in Black people or women or anything different. So the best thing is for everyone to go around them, and CMA Fest provides that opportunity. I often see artists there that I love who are not on the radio.”
“It really is about music discovery,” Trahern says. “It’s as important to us to have artists in the baby-act stage as it is when they are in the stadium. Megan Moroney is a great example. Last year she played the spotlight stage as an emerging artist, and now she’s playing the Chevy Riverfront stage and our Nissan Stadium platform stage.”
Even as CMA Fest has grown, the uniqueness of the festival’s unparalleled fan focus remains paramount.
“The fans — and it’s everyone from 6 years old to 96 years old — they want to see a show, get an autograph, have personal contact with their favorite artists,” Oermann says. “That connection is beautiful, and there is no ‘We’re cooler than you are’ attitude from the artists. I don’t think you could have a festival like this in other genres of music.”
This story originally appeared in the June 3, 2023, issue of Billboard.