As The Grammy Museum closes in on its 10th Anniversary, it’s a prime time not only to celebrate their powerful and provocative exhibits (permanent and passing through) that remind us of the power of music to change the world for good – but also to rejoice in what is probably the museum’s greatest gift to fans of all genres. It’s the ongoing opportunity to sit in the intimate, acoustically tuned space of the 200 seat Clive Davis theatre and enjoy legends and up and comers as they are interviewed with industry luminaries and then given time to perform some of their hits.
On an evening dubbed “Meant To Be” after their ubiquitous, insanely catchy smash crossover hit, pop singer/songwriter and vocal powerhouse Bebe Rexha held court with Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley, aka Florida Georgia Line, one of country music’s most popular duos of the last decade. The timing of their visit was perfect. Just a few weeks ago, Forbes magazine noted that the song was tied for longest running #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart with Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road.” The week of their appearance at the Grammy Museum, it had long surpassed that, with 37 weeks at the top. The three had just won “Choice Country Song” at the Teen Choice Awards the night before.
Before the evening culminated with what everyone was waiting for - a rousing, singalong, dance-along, clap-along performance of that song by Rexha and FGL – there was the candid interview portion of the evening. Moderated by Billboard West Coast Editor Melinda Newman, it was insightful as it was lighthearted and hilarious. Newman introduced them by talking about the insane sales, charts and global influence stats that “Meant to Be” has achieved. Turns out that Rexha, a prolific songwriter who has penned hits for many other artists (most famously “Monster” by Eminem and Rihanna, was unfamiliar with the duo when they hooked up for a songwriting session. The three weaved a fanciful tale about the evening they wrote the song, which turned out to be quite magical. Rexha says she loves the “first date” collaborations more than any other kind. FGL had collaborated with other pop stars before and told her “You do what you do best and we’ll do what we do best.”
Other highlights were the FGL guys talking about how the song has made them famous in countries they can’t even pronounce; Bebe’s hell-day studio confessions to co-writer Justin Tranter that led to her solo hit “I’m a Mess”; her desire to change the landscape for women in the industry and empower them; and them discussing their family lives while she talked colorfully about buying a new house with a pool. They all had a poignant, introspective moment when an audience member asked the question, “Beyond what you do, who are you?”
The individual performance slots by both artists were limited to two songs each, but they made the most of their ten minutes while the audience grooved and sang along. Bebe did the original version of her earlier hit, the thumpin’ personal independence anthem “Me, Myself & I” with only piano and guitar accompaniment, and her fiery, I’m optimistic though I’m terribly flawed confessional “I’m a Mess.” FGL’s set was pure rowdy fun, hitting all the targets and showcasing the duo’s picture perfect harmonies on their ultra-infectious latest smash “Simple” and their rambunctious 2012 hit “Cruise,” which launched their career. Naturally, their joining forces on “Meant To Be” was the highlight of the night, provoking a response from the standing crowd more like that of an arena audience than one attending a night at the museum. Overall, the night was a testament to the power of collaboration and why artists should always think outside the box and collaborate with artists who are rockin’ it in other genres.
Photos by Alex Kluft