Who knows what the Delta variant or some other gestating mutation holds for artists and concertgoers alike this fall, but we’re confident in saying that live music — Kendrick Lamar’s only show in 2021! Phoebe Bridgers at the Greek! Al Green sharing a stage with Snoop Dogg! — will forge ahead regardless, masked but undaunted.
Meanwhile, a slew of artists, many of whom have been biding their time during the pandemic, will release new albums that run the gamut from expansive reggaeton (Jhay Cortez) to all-eyes-on-Nashville country (Mickey Guyton) to songs about love, history and pestilence from aggressively handsome pop star Sting. Plus, we’ll see two massive rock docs (Todd Haynes’ “Velvet Underground” and Peter Jackson’s “The Beatles: Get Back”) and a surprisingly tender memoir from hair-metal wastrel Nikki Sixx.
Vax up and rock on.
‘Black Girl Songbook’ podcast
Danyel Smith has a rule — or at least she used to — about her bedroom: “No work shall take place in here,” she says. “This is the serene area.”
Yet when Smith, a veteran music journalist who’s served as editor-in-chief of Vibe and Billboard, began recording her podcast “Black Girl Songbook” at home in the early days of the pandemic, her producers quickly decided that the acoustics at her dining table weren’t cutting it. “So then I tried the bedroom and they were like, ‘Oh my God, it sounds so good!’ Now I have a mike and all the engineering doodads in here.” She laughs. “We make it work.”
“Black Girl Songbook,” whose second season just premiered via the Ringer and Spotify, exudes the intimacy of its location. (Mikael Wood)
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Sporting flashy streetwear and shocks of pastel hair, Puerto Rican singer-songwriter Jhay Cortez is one of the most recognizable artists in reggaeton — but when it comes to his burgeoning celebrity status, the Bad Bunny collaborator would rather lie low and keep the sunglasses on, please.
“Artists lose their magic when they reveal too much,” he says, tapping the square frames that mask his face. Video-chatting from a studio in Los Angeles, Cortez has just completed production on his sophomore LP, “Timelezz.” Due Sept. 3, the 17-track collection further evolves his identity as an artist, floating beyond his tropical comfort zone and through the liminal spaces between pop, electronica and hip-hop. (Suzy Exposito)
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‘Metallica Blacklist’ album
A tribute to the 12 songs that make up Metallica’s self-titled 1991 classic (known to most as “The Black Album”), “Metallica Blacklist” honors the record’s 30th anniversary with a wildly expansive 53-artist collection of cover versions by all-star fans likely and not, including Mickey Guyton, the Neptunes, J Balvin, St. Vincent and Kamasi Washington. Highlights? The ripping take on “Holier Than Thou” by L.A. punk band Off!, Alessia Cara’s haunting version of “Enter Sandman” and Miley Cyrus’ bombastic cover of “Nothing Else Matters” — which also features Elton John, Yo-Yo Ma, Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo and others. (Randall Roberts)
Brittany Howard / Jamila Woods / Georgia Anne Muldrow
Howard’s 2019 solo debut, “Jamie,” announced a singer-guitarist with a range even wider than what her acclaimed rock-soul band Alabama Shakes implied. “Stay High” won a Grammy for rock song, capping a year where Howard, Fiona Apple and other women deservedly cleaned up in the genre’s nominations and awards. Her headline date at the Hollywood Bowl overflows with Black female talent, featuring opening sets from Chicago R&B mystic Jamila Woods and L.A.’s virtuosic, genre-exploding producer and songwriter Georgia Anne Muldrow, who whips jazz, beats and cosmic vibes into a sound that feels like tomorrow. (August Brown)
Drakeo the Ruler
This time last year, the South L.A. rapper Drakeo the Ruler was holed up at Men’s Central Jail on gang conspiracy and weapons charges as COVID-19 was spreading through the facility. He’d just issued the acclaimed album “Thank You for Using GTL,” which he’d recorded during jailtime phone calls. Drakeo, whose songs were described in The Times as “sinister and dense, cryptic and dark, versatile enough to set off a party or shoot it up,” was released in November but the pandemic precluded any celebratory concert. This fall he’s scheduled to headline the Novo at L.A. Live. (RR)
Chilean folk chanteuse Mon Laferte takes the Wiltern stage on Sept. 23, and not a moment too soon. She’ll perform songs from her latest album, “Seis,” a stirring paean to the world of regional Mexican music. Inspired by the revolutionary life and times of Costa Rican-born ranchera star Chavela Vargas, Laferte reflects on her own immigrant journey to Mexico City in the aftermath of the 2019 Chilean uprisings as well as Latin America’s escalating pro-choice movement and the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. (SE)
‘Remember Her Name’ album
That it evidently took Guyton’s show-stopping performance at March’s Grammy Awards to secure a release date for her long-awaited debut album says plenty about the barriers to entry for Black women in the Nashville music industry. As its title makes clear, “Remember Her Name” is a big swing, with songs about romance, new motherhood and the struggle for racial justice in America. (There’s also a winningly fizzy tune in which she declares she “don’t need no bougie sommelier” since she already knows she’s ordering rosé.) Yet the album never feels weighed down by the expectations that have been placed upon it. (MW)
Born and raised in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, singer, composer and multi-instrumentalist Aftab studied at the Berklee College of Music after an early life spent absorbing music with equally obsessed family and friends. Now based in Brooklyn, her new album, “Vulture Prince,” is a calm, meditative work drawn from a South Asian lyric poetry form known as the ghazal. Singing mostly in Urdu, Aftab combines stringed instruments with subtle rhythms, layers of her pitch-perfect voice and the occasional synthesizer. Aftab, who recently landed on Barack Obama’s summer playlist, will play at Zebulon in Frogtown. (RR)
For 24-year-old singer and rapper Coi Leray, the stakes had never been higher.
This summer, she was named to XXL magazine’s annual “Freshman Class” list, a coveted honor for rookie MCs (past Freshmen include current superstars Travis Scott, Kendrick Lamar and Megan Thee Stallion). To promote the issue, the honorees traditionally join together to record what’s known as the Freshman Cypher, a showcase and test of their freestyle skills. Leray, in a foursome with fellow Freshmen DDG, Lakeyah and Morray, was given the clean-up spot. In a ramshackle 40 seconds of mike time, she dropped a couple of tame quips — “Watch us all lit / Watch us all get richer” — and then ended her abbreviated verse with an impromptu twerk.
The booty pop, if anything, made for a Cypher that was hard to forget. (The video received over 5 million views on YouTube, making it this year’s most-watched XXL Freshman clip.) But online commenters pushed back with the cartoonish fury of a thousand Comic Book Guys, offended by her cheeky indifference. “Coi Leray must be stopped!” wrote YouTuber No Life Shaq. “It’s all going down in flames,” read the comments. “Worst freestyle ever.”
Inside Republic Studios in Century City, Leray is dressed less like a supervillain and more like a Powerpuff Girl, in a baby pink Saint Jhn sweatsuit and matching Jeremy Scott Adidas sneakers topped with plush teddy bears. She’s spent the better part of the summer in this studio, knocking out songs for a debut album that’s due in late fall. For now, she sits serenely at a baby grand piano, feeling out the notes to “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” (SE)
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‘The Jesus Music’ documentary
While most of the 1990s nostalgia ink is focused on grunge and hip-hop, few remember that in 1994 more than 85,000 fans attended Christian band DC Talk’s concert at Cleveland Stadium. That astounding fact is one of many guiding “The Jesus Music,” a documentary about contemporary Christian music in America. The movement, as defined by sibling directors Andrew and Jon Erwin, was born at the Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, where in the late 1960s a pastor embraced hippie culture to spread the word. “The Jesus Music” features chapters on latter-day disciples including Larry Norman, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, DC Talk, Jars of Clay and Lecrae. When, halfway through, the film arrives at Kirk Franklin, the narrative turns to questions of faith, forgiveness and hard truths about race in the Christian music community. (RR)
Lost in Riddim festival
Railyards District, Sacramento
According to Jehu “Manny” Hunter and Fornati Kumeh, music was a salvation for their immigrant Liberian parents. After toiling day in and day out, weekends were a time to unwind, dress in your most vibrant lappa and pile into the car for a party.
“I remember us being kids, going to African gatherings and seeing our parents, aunts or uncles so immersed in the music,” Hunter says. “They came from their home country to America and were in the fight of their lives, trying to make ends meet. To see the music be therapeutic for them, that’s at the core of what we want to bring.”
“Hence the name ‘Lost in Riddim,’” says Kumeh.
Born out of passion and two years of meticulous planning, Lost in Riddim will take place Oct. 2-3 in Sacramento. Co-founders Hunter and Kumeh, both 31-year-old Sacramento natives, bring their love for the culture stateside with their Afrobeats and dancehall festival.
Featuring headliners WizKid and Burna Boy and artists such as Tiwa Savage, Tems, Amaarae and GoldLink, Kumeh says the hope is to expose more people domestically to the genre and “create a foundation” that will amplify its presence in the mainstream.
“It’s very rare that an Afro-Caribbean festival in the U.S. is actually produced by Africans, who listen to the music and understand the culture,” says Kumeh. “We want to see the culture thrive.” (Ruth Etiesit Samuel)
TLC / Bone Thugs-N-Harmony
YouTube Theater, Inglewood
The brand-new music flagship of the SoFi Stadium complex in Inglewood is purpose-built for broadcasting, but if you go in person, it’s a pretty gleaming place to see shows like TLC’s revisit of its 1994 R&B classic “CrazySexyCool,” one of the genre’s biggest smashes. Gen Z is on a nostalgia kick for this era of R&B, and with Aaliyah coming back on streaming, TLC’s mid-’90s peak more than deserves a return look. Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, fellow travelers of the era, will open the night. (AB)
Remi Wolf got through the pandemic in 2020 the same way so many others did: by walling herself in her apartment and commiserating with her dog.
Wolf, 25, named her buoyant debut album “Juno,” set for release on Oct. 15, in honor of her constant companion. “Juno was there for the writing of every song on the album,” she says of her pup. “He was my buddy every second of the day: peeing on the floor, puking everywhere.” (RR)
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‘The Velvet Underground’ documentary
The Velvet Underground was little more than a tax writeoff to Verve Records when the label issued its Andy Warhol-produced debut album, “The Velvet Underground and Nico,” in 1967. More than 50 years later, director Todd Haynes’ superlative new Apple+ documentary traces the band’s birth, rise and complicated demise. Stylistically striking and scored by a fluid collage of VU classics including “Heroin,” “Sister Ray” and “Sweet Jane,” “The Velvet Underground” features recollections by Warhol Factory superstars, composers La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela, mega-fan Jonathan Richman and surviving band members John Cale and Moe Tucker. Driving the narrative is the magnetic, complicated frontman Lou Reed, whose lifelong goal of being a rock star propelled his every move. (RR)
The Rolling Stones
SoFi Stadium, Inglewood
Picking up where they left off pre-COVID, the Rolling Stones will bring their back-in-action No Filter tour to Inglewood’s new NFL palace minus one key component: drummer Charlie Watts, who died this month at 80 following an unspecified medical procedure. (Steve Jordan, who’s played with John Mayer and in Keith Richards’ the X-Pensive Winos, was tapped to fill in for Watts when the latter announced he planned to sit out the tour.) Assuming the show still goes on, as it was scheduled to at press time, fans will of course miss Watts’ steadfast beat and lovably unflappable presence. But don’t doubt the remaining Stones’ vitality: At the Rose Bowl in 2019, not long after Mick Jagger underwent heart surgery, they were thrilling and hilarious in a woke-up-like-this way. (MW)
‘The First 21: How I Became Nikki Sixx’ memoir
With earlier books by Vince Neil, Tommy Lee and Nikki Sixx — not to mention the band’s collective “The Dirt” and its trashy 2019 Netflix adaptation — Mötley Crüe fans have hardly wanted for tales of the group’s wild ride to hair-metal superstardom. When the pandemic delayed a planned 2020 stadium tour, though, bassist Sixx found himself hiding out in Wyoming with nothing but time to reflect on his pre-Crüe days; the result is this funny yet surprisingly moving memoir of a small-town kid figuring out who he wanted to be. Fun fact Sixx dispenses about that stadium tour now set for 2022: the Crüe invited Van Halen’s David Lee Roth to share the bill but he passed. “I don’t open for bands that I influenced,” Sixx says Roth told him. (MW)
When the L.A. singer-songwriter announced her first comeback tour dates for her pandemic-favorite, Grammy-nominated album “Punisher,” she briefly become a meme for despondency by people who didn’t get seats (“Study Finds Delta Variant Manifested by Woman Who Couldn’t Get Phoebe Bridgers Tickets,” the satire site Reductress wrote). If you made the cut, you’re in luck: Bridgers is only getting better at translating her mix of bleak humor and bleaker snapshots of love and loneliness onto big stages like the Greek — just ask the remaining pieces of her electric guitar how her breakthrough “Saturday Night Live” performance turned out. (AB)
Head in the Clouds festival
Brookside at the Rose Bowl, Pasadena
Back in May, when L.A. teen punks the Linda Lindas went ultra-viral after their set in the Cypress Park branch of the L.A. public library, Sean Miyashiro felt a warm twinge of nostalgia.
“I grew up on emo and rock and loving things with that energy, so I was so stoked for them,” says Miyashiro, 40, the founder of 88rising, a record label and digital hub for ambitious pan-Asian rap, electronic and indie music. “It reminded me of being a really young company and just putting something out and then watching it blow up.”
The Linda Lindas are one of the must-see acts at 88rising’s Head in the Clouds festival, Brookside at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 6-7. (AB)
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Desert Daze festival
Lake Perris, Calif.
As if to ease into autumn’s Delta-variant reality, the ever-chill annual Desert Daze music festival has created a wonderfully sparse roster of rock, jazz, beat and experimental music that stands in stark contrast to the bloat of so many megafests. The all-camping event, which occurs at the bucolic Lake Perris, features headliners the War on Drugs, Kamasi Washington, Tori Y Moi and Japanese Breakfast. But rather than dozens of other acts, each day offers a modest, stress-alleviating eight, including Yves Tumor, Ty Segall, the duo of Tim Heidecker and Weyes Blood, Moon Duo, Sudan Archives and Pachyman. (RR)
Day N Vegas festival
Las Vegas Festival Grounds
This fest is local fans’ first chance to see Kendrick Lamar play live since Coachella in 2017 (and maybe the last one for a while, depending on how Delta goes). That alone is a pretty good argument to double-mask, wash your hands and head to Vegas for Goldenvoice’s flagship hip-hop festival. 2022 Coachella headliner Travis Scott and Tyler, the Creator (on a recent creative peak with “Call Me If You Get Lost”) also are atop the weekend bill, with reams of hitmakers like Lil Baby, Roddy Ricch, Doja Cat, Polo G and Saweetie just beneath. If you have it in you to brave the crowd, it’d be hard to catch more must-see acts in a single outing. (AB)
Nov. 17, 19 and 20
The Forum, Inglewood
Nearly two long years ago, the former One Direction heartthrob launched his 2019 solo album, “Fine Line,” with a concert at the Forum; now he’s circling back to the storied venue for three shows to wrap his repeatedly postponed American tour behind the Grammy-winning LP. “Fine Line” extends the slinky-strummy ’70s vibeology Styles took up on his 2017 debut, though his enlightened rendition of pop stardom feels like a casual renunciation of the old toxic golden-god routine. Arrive early to catch opener Jenny Lewis, who was reanimating classic L.A. rock moves way before it was fashionable. (MW)
‘The Bridge’ album
After spending much of the last decade tending to his Broadway musical, “The Last Ship,” Sting will set out on a maiden voyage this fall when he opens his first residency in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace on Oct. 29. The show, called “My Songs” and scheduled to run through Nov. 13 before returning in June 2022, will precede the Nov. 19 release of “The Bridge,” a new set of pop-rock songs he says were “written in a year of global pandemic, personal loss, separation, disruption, lockdown and extraordinary social and political turmoil.” (MW)
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‘The Beatles: Get Back’ documentary
Skeptics and post-Boomers might be forgiven for rolling their eyes at yet another film about the most discussed and documented band of all time. But even naysayers know that combining “the Beatles” and “directed by the dude who did ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Hobbit’” could yield cinematic gold. Peter Jackson’s three-part, six-hour Disney+ documentary is drawn from 55 hours of never-before-seen footage, originally shot for Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s 1970 “Let It Be” doc, and more than twice that amount of available audio. Jackson described “Get Back” as “the ultimate ‘fly on the wall’ experience that Beatles fans have long dreamt about — it’s like a time machine transports us back to 1969, and we get to sit in the studio watching these four friends make great music together.” (RR)
Once Upon a Time in L.A. festival
Banc of California Stadium and Exposition Park
Snoop Dogg has been the preeminent cool uncle of L.A. hip-hop for at least a few generations. But his Once Upon a Time in L.A. concert, which he’s co-promoting and co-headlining, finally captures the breadth of his lifelong affection for vintage ’60s soul and ’70s funk. Hall of Famers Al Green, the Isley Brothers and George Clinton will square off with sample-material favorites (like Cameo, Zapp and the Chi-Lites), West Coast MC lions in winter (Ice Cube, Too Short, E-40, Cypress Hill) and a few young acolytes (Ohgeesy, Kamaiyah) and contemporary favorites (YG, Drakeo the Ruler) with a similar ear for the good ol’ stuff. (AB)
Before the end of 2021, maybe?
New albums from Adele and Drake
Two of music’s biggest superstars are widely expected to drop their latest LPs before the year is out, though neither has publicly committed to a date. For Adele, her long-gestating project will come more than half a decade after her 2015 blockbuster, “25,” and presumably will address her recent divorce; Drake’s album — called “Certified Lover Boy,” he says — follows 2018’s “Scorpion,” which spun off three No. 1 singles and featured a cameo from Michael Jackson (!). Drake’s album is likely to appear on streaming services with little warning. But watch for Adele, who still sells CDs that require time to manufacture, to undertake a more traditional holiday-season rollout. (MW)
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