ESPN's Favorite Albums of 2016 (so far)

September, 4, 2016
Sep 4

It’s September and with fall music releases around the corner, we wanted to round up our favorite albums of 2016 so far.

From X Games to The Undefeated, talent from across ESPN sent us their 2016 music shortlists. While we’ve already seen a swell of Grammy-promised releases, a few stand out as ESPN favorites. Drake’s Views and Kendrick Lamar’s unmastered untitled stacked up the most mentions, with notable nods to Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book.

Marcellus Wiley (SportsNation host and former NFL player)
Kanye West - The Life of Pablo: “Rebounded beautifully from the ego extreme sounds of Yeezus. Pablo spiritually fused entertainment and education highlighting Kanye's brilliance once again.” [Spotify]

2 Chainz - COLLEGROVE ft. Lil Wayne: “I expected nothing less from 2 of the best rappers in the game. This is what happens when Jordan and Pippen lock in together. Their mutual respect and long-standing friendship came thru as music to our ears.” [iTunes]

Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J & TM88 - TGOD Mafia: Rude Awakening: “Sometimes you have to forget your higher angels. This is an album you put on in the gym and burn the most calories and set PR's when it's on. It doesn't take you deep, but it takes you there!” [iTunes]

Drake - Views: “When expectations are sky high, what are you to do? You raise your game to that level and enjoy the Views! Enough said…” [iTunes]

Schoolboy Q - Blank Face LP: “He laughs at the sophomore slump label with a uniqueness that's unmatched. Soulful, street wit that's a more thoughtful sound than we're used to hearing.” [iTunes]

Sarina Morales (SportsCenter:AM Anchor)
Drake - Views: "This album is great, not just because 'One Dance' is the most addictive song to listen to. It’s music matched with Drake’s lyrics are good for a nice car ride with the windows down. I can listen to the whole album beginning to end. Champagne Papi wins again." [iTunes]

Meghan Trainor - Thank You: "I’ve never cared for her music, so this is weird for me to put this… but this album is so catchy. I feel like she wore sunglasses the whole time she recorded this album or something because she’s got this cool vibe going. My favorite songs are ‘Me Two’ and ‘I love me’ — I mean who doesn’t want to rock to a song like that?" [iTunes]

Flume - Skin: "Flume is an acquired taste. Start slow with this album -- 'Never Be Like You' is catchy and then make your way to 'Say It'. Once you take those in, I really like 'Smoke & Retribution' and 'Like Water' and 'Free'. This is a “good vibes” album. I am a big fan of their music." [iTunes]

Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book: "'No Problem' and 'Blessings' are worth this entire album. This album has like a retro feel. It’s good. Nuff said." [Spotify]

The Lumineers - Cleopatra: "I love their songs. They are honest. They have a nice folksy feel. Any of these songs could be played at the end of a movie and would make you cry at the end. I like this album to listen to when I decompress from work or while I’m cooking dinner. Hard to pick a favorite on this album, but 'Gun Song' and 'Angela' are two of my faves." [iTunes]

Brandon Graham (X Games Host)
The 1975 - I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It: “Their sophomore effort has put them into another hemisphere. Easily my favorite album of the year thus far.” [iTunes]

Drake - Views: “No one in hip-hop has dropped more music than him in the last two years. Crazy that he just keeps getting better.” [iTunes]

Ro James - ELDORADO: “When your debut album is the best R&B album of the year you're doing it right.” [iTunes]

St. Lucia - Matter: “The best pop album of the year could've come out in 1985 and we wouldn't know the difference.” [iTunes]

Raleigh Ritchie - You're a Man Now, Boy: “Perfectly crafted debut album that equal parts hip-hop, electronic, and R&B.” [iTunes]

Sarah Spain (espnW columnist and SportsCenter Contributor)
Beyoncé - Lemonade: “Beyoncé's Lemonade takes my top three spots because it's the only album I've bought this year! Chalk it up to a busy six months planning my wedding, I guess. And I know an album about cheating and heartbreak is an odd choice for a blushing bride, but man is it a good one! I love that it can be at different times powerful and empowering, beautiful and rough, sad and angry, subtle and in-your-face.” [iTunes]

Marcus Matthews (The Undefeated)
Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book: “Musical blessing.” [Spotify]

Drake - Views: “Not the hot fire we expected coming off the beef with Meek Mill but still full of bangers to party to.” [iTunes]

Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered: “Great surprise and who needs titles when the bars speak for themselves.” [iTunes]

Kanye - The Life of Pablo: “I missed the old Kanye but this new Kanye is cool as well.” [Spotify]

Beyoncé - Lemonade: “Brilliant Bey, as always.” [iTunes]

Jay Harris (SportsCenter:AM Anchor)
Anderson .Paak - Malibu: "It's smooth, it's a groove, it's mixes hip hop, R&B, and rock, and it's lyrically interesting. And I'm a sucker for real instruments and people who play." [iTunes]

Esperanza Spalding - Emily's D+Evolution: "She's a bass player. I'm a bass player. I dig her." [iTunes]

BJ The Chicago Kid - In My Mind: "The audio person on my show played "Turnin Me Up" going into break one morning, and I was hooked. It's soul music." [iTunes]

Beyoncé - Lemonade: "It's Beyoncé. What else do you want me to say?" [iTunes]

Jalen Rose (former NBA player & ESPN Contributor)
Drake - Views [iTunes]
Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered [iTunes]
Royce da 5’9” - Layers [iTunes]

Will Reeve (SportsCenter Contributor)
Mumford & Sons - Johannesburg: “It’s not technically an album, but Mumford & Sons’ EP Johannesburg is fantastic. They’ve evolved to have an entirely new sound, but it suits them perfectly, and suits me perfectly when I feel like singing at the top of my lungs (in the car or the shower only, of course).” [iTunes]

The Knocks - 55: “I’ve gotten big into The Knocks this year. Their album 55 is unique and gets me going right away.” [iTunes]

Kendrick Lamar - untitled unmastered: “There’s nobody like (or as skilled as) Kendrick Lamar. untitled unmastered is another display of Kendrick’s continued and incomparable mastery of his craft and the issues that matter the most to him and society.” [iTunes]

St. Lucia - Matter: “Listen to ‘Dancing on Glass’ by St. Lucia—or anything else from Matter—and I guarantee your mood will improve immediately. They have such a fun, engaging sound, and great vocals all around.” [iTunes]

Chance the Rapper - Coloring Book: “Another one that’s not technically an album, but indisputably bangs, is Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book. He’s a guy to look out for in the future; unique flow, fresh perspective. Plus, the features on this mixtape are insane.” [Spotify]

For all the latest music heard on ESPN, check out ESPN Music on Spotify!

Stecker Family Hits Wisconsin

September, 2, 2016
Sep 2

Tomorrow marks a big day for the Stecker family. Pop star Skylar Stecker and her father, former NFL running back Aaron Stecker, head to Lambeau Field where Skylar will perform the national anthem for the Wisconsin Badgers game. This is a special event for Aaron, as he started off his college career with the Badgers. Seeing his daughter take the field with her own passion brings his love for the game full circle. Aaron mentioned:

“I’m so proud to see where she’s come from and how’s she’s grown over these years and she just keeps getting better and better which is awesome to see.”

Skylar is no stranger to singing national anthems in major arenas, having performed for the New Orleans Saints, UCLA, and Green Bay Packers games in the past. Through the support of her father and family, she has launched an already incredible music career, most recently dropping her single “Let It Show” (video above) and a remake of the classic “Sweet Dreams” with JX Riders (below). Her collaboration with JX Riders has climbed all the way to the #1 spot on the Billboard Dance Chart. As far as looking to the future, Skylar says

“I want to continue to grow and inspire other people…I love doing music and it’s amazing to see other people I’ve touched with my music.”

We look forward to seeing what Skylar has in store in the coming months and hope to see her take the field for more College Football games on ABC/ESPN with her father cheering on. Watch Skylar perform the national anthem on ABC at the start of the Wisconsin v LSU game tomorrow at 2:30PM CT.

September Music of The Month on ESPN

September, 2, 2016
Sep 2

SportsCenter's Sarina Morales has all your Music of the Month on her very own Spotify playlist!

Jason Aldean: "Lights Come On" off his upcoming album They Don't Know (iTunes | Amazon)

St. Paul & The Broken Bones: "Healing" & "Flow With It (You Got Me Feeling Like)" (iTunes | Amazon)

Taking Back Sunday: "Call Come Running" & "In The Middle of It All" off their upcoming album Tidal Wave (iTunes | Amazon)

Joey Montana: "Hola" (iTunes | Amazon)

Banks & Steelz: "Giant" off their new album Anything But Words (iTunes | Amazon)

Bang Data: "Tu Revolución" off her latest album Soy (iTunes | Amazon)

Danger Twins: "No Other Like You" & "Like a Champion" off their EP Danger Us (iTunes | Amazon)

Follow @ESPNMusic on Twitter for the latest!

First Take Tunes

September, 2, 2016
Sep 2

Oxymorrons: "Awesome" (iTunes | Twitter)

Klokwize: "The Rush" feat. Dayy off his latest album The Superhero Tapes (iTunes | Amazon)

Chef'Special: Their latest single, "Amígo" (iTunes | Amazon)

The Prestigious One: "Talk That" feat. DJ Meechie off his latest album Everything's F.I.N.E. (iTunes | Amazon)

Follow @ESPNMusic on Twitter for the latest!

August Music of the Month

August, 9, 2016
Aug 9

SportsCenter's Sarina Morales has all your Music of the Month on her very own Spotify playlist!

Islander: "Think It Over" feat. HR & "Better Day" off their new album Power Under Control (iTunes | Amazon)

PJ: "Can't Stop" & "Rare" off her new album Rare (iTunes | Spotify)

Jidenna: "Little Bit More" & "Chief Don't Run" (iTunes | Spotify)

Pitbull: "Green Light" feat. Flo Rida & LunchMoney Lewis (iTunes | Amazon)

Los Enanitos Verdes: "Travelin' Band" (iTunes | Amazon)

Bang Data: "Fortunate Son" (iTunes | Amazon)

Diamante Electrico: "Up Around The Bend" (iTunes | Amazon)

Lindsey Stirling: "Something Wild" feat. Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness from Disney's Pete's Dragon in theaters August 12th (iTunes | Spotify)

Follow @ESPNMusic on Twitter for the latest!

New Music on First Take

August, 1, 2016
Aug 1

DJ Snake: "Talk" feat. George Maple off his new album Encore (iTunes | Amazon)

Jarreau Vandal: "Small Talk" off his EP Suburb Superhero (iTunes | Amazon)

Jay Odell: "Lit" (YouTube | Facebook)

Ohana Bam: His latest single, "Blow Your Mind" (iTunes | Spotify)

Follow @ESPNMusic on Twitter for the latest!

July is a busy month for NEEDTOBREATHE. Between releasing their 6th studio album, H A R D L O V E, and bringing their talents to the MLB All-Star Weekend Concert Series stage tomorrow, the South Carolina rock group has their bases fully loaded.

The Grammy-nominated group will be in good company this weekend, as they open for alternative rock group OneRepublic. In anticipation of the 87th MLB All-Star Game in San Diego, the league has stacked a lineup of free concerts that’ll please fans across the lines of genre.

Having last spoke with the band in March about their Annual Golf Charity Tournament, ESPN Music was able to catch up with NEEDTOBREATHE's lead singer, Bear Rinehart, about the All-Star Game and the band’s love of America’s favorite pastime.

According to Rinehart, playing at the MLB All-Star Concert resonates on a personal level. He says he and his brother, NEEDTOBREATHE guitarist, Bo Rinehart, grew up with diamond-shaped hearts.

“All of us played and are pretty huge fans. And when I say played, I mean we grew up with pitching machines in our backyards and spent every waking moment learning to hit the curve from each side of the plate,” Rinehart said.

The All-Star roster brings together the brightest and boldest stars in the MLB. While Rinehart’s a Braves fan, it’s not a Atlanta player that he’s the most excited to see. It’s a Boston one.

“Big Papi has to be the story this year for me, but how can you not want to see Trout and Harper go at it?” he said.

While Rinehart knows the Braves is in a transitional period, that doesn’t mean that he’s not keeping the faith. He’ll get a chance to watch Atlanta pitcher Julio Teheran play for the National League team next Tuesday.

“I know we're in a rebuilding year, but I think I've watched at least 80% of the games. It's fun for me to watch the young guys come up and get a chance. I can't wait to see what we can do in the next few years,” Rinehart said.

The band heads back on their headlining tour, Tour de Compadres, this August. The tour starts with a massive homecoming concert in their hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. On the track “Great Night,” the song features an appearance by Charleston-based folk group Shovels & Rope.

Keep up with the newest from the band on Twitter and make sure to check out H A R D L O V E, coming out next Friday, July 15th.

The MLB All-Star game is on July 12th. Make sure to tune into ESPN after the game to catch all the best highlights.

July Music on First Take

July, 1, 2016
Jul 1

We're bringing you fresh new music to the First Take set all month long!

Chill Moody: "I Came To Win" (iTunes | SoundCloud)

Jerreau: "The Flow (Four Stories)" feat. Kaine off his latest album Never How You Plan (iTunes | Amazon)

Paper Route: Their single, "Laugh About It" (iTunes | Amazon)

Ricco Barrino: His latest single, "Remember My Name" (iTunes | Spotify)

Follow @ESPNMusic on Twitter for the latest!

July Music of the Month

July, 1, 2016
Jul 1

SportsCenter's Sarina Morales has all your Music of the Month on her very own Spotify playlist!

Sak Noel & Salvi: "Trumpets" feat. Sean Paul (iTunes | Amazon)

Tropkillaz: "Stop!" feat. Buku (iTunes | Amazon)

Blink 182: "Kings of The Weekend" & "The Only Thing That Matters" off their new album California (iTunes | Amazon)

Snoop Dogg: "Legend" & "Fireworks" feat. Swizz Beatz off his new album COOLAID (iTunes | Amazon)

Logic: His new singles "Flexicution" & "Deeper Than Money" (iTunes | Amazon)

Red Hot Chili Peppers: "Feasting On The Flowers" off their new album The Getaway (iTunes | Amazon)

I See Stars: "Two Hearted" & "All In" off their new album Treehouse (iTunes | Amazon)

Grenade Fontaine: "Encore" (SoundCloud | Instagram)

Follow @ESPNMusic on Twitter for the latest!

Set It Off front man, Cody Carson, has come a long way since his early YouTube days. Covering All Time Low songs in his college dorm room, he had no idea that seven years later his band would be sharing a tour ticket with them.

Perseverance has been a through line for the Tampa-based pop-punk band. Set It Off’s new single, “Uncontainable”, carries on that theme. In the music video for the latest single, seen above, Carson literally puts on the gloves as he steps into the role of rookie boxer struggling in an underground league.

If the song feels like a pre-game locker room anthem, that’s no accident.

“We knew going into this that this has a sports sound to it,” Carson said. “We want people to hear this song and get just amped up and just lose their minds and feel like they can take over the world.”

Inspired by the Rocky franchise, the band wanted to combine the classic rise-of-the-rookie narrative with the grime and underground haze of Fight Club.

During the filming of the video, Carson was living his own Rocky story: Going from pop-punk vocalist to fight stuntman.

“I had never done stunts before, fighting scenes or anything like that,” he said. “Closest I got to that was wrestling with my friends on a trampoline in high school.”

He had no idea he’d be throwing punches at a stunt double who played “The Cousins” in Breaking Bad.

With only a one day shooting schedule, there was not much room for error.

“I got really excited and very nervous at the same time,” he said. “I’m like this guy knows what he’s doing; I’m just a singer in my band.”

Set It Off is slated to head back on the Warped Tour trail this summer where fans can look forward to hearing new songs off of the band’s next album. Although there’s no official release date yet, Carson is ecstatic about the new album and feels that the writing process was their most relaxed and impressive effort yet.

“We’re really confident in this record. I fully believe it’s way better than anything we’ve ever done.”

If their new single is any indication, then we feel pretty confident about it too.

Keep up to date with all things Set It Off on their Facebook and Twitter.

Jon Weiner

2016 Sports and Music Festivals

June, 4, 2016
Jun 4

If you're loving the 2016 X Games, be sure to check out these other Sports and Music festivals happening this summer:

SportBeat Festival

Center of Gravity Festival

Ontario Beach Sports & Music Festival


June Music of the Month on ESPN

June, 1, 2016
Jun 1

It's officially Summer and we've got the playlist for you! Check out our June artists of the month:

Deorro: "Bailar" feat. Elvis Crespo (iTunes | Amazon)

Leslie Grace: "Aire" feat. Maluma (iTunes | Amazon)

Meghan Trainor: "Watch Me Do" & "I Love Me" feat. LunchMoney Lewis off her latest album Thank You (Deluxe) (iTunes | Amazon)

Moosh & Twist: The duo's new singles "Woah" & "The One" (iTunes | Amazon)

The Temper Trap: "Alive" & "On The Run" off their upcoming album Thick as Thieves (iTunes | Amazon)

Ziggy Marley: "Start It Up" & "We Are More" off his new album Ziggy Marley (iTunes)

Follow @ESPNMusic on Twitter for the latest!

June Music on First Take

June, 1, 2016
Jun 1

Check out what Stephen A. Smith is rocking out to all month long on First Take:

Animal Island: "Our Style" off their new EP, Animal Island (iTunes | Amazon)

COIN: Their newest single, "Talk Too Much" (iTunes | Amazon)

Lil' Niqo: His latest single, "The Truth" (iTunes | Amazon)

Mario: His latest single, "I Need More" (iTunes)

Follow @ESPNMusic on Twitter for the latest!

Tomorrow, 3OH!3 releases their fifth studio album, Night Sports.

From recording in their Boulder home studios, to stripping the influence of more commercial-leaning producers, the electro-pop duo is getting back to their roots.

Night Sports isn’t as much of a departure as it is a return.

ESPN Music chatted with one of the two 3OH!3 frontmen, Nat Motte, about the new album and his love for Colorado sports.

“I think we really overtly just wanted to get back to basics on this record and that translates to us as getting together and having a good time and trying to put everything else out the door in terms of influence,” he said. “On this we’re pretty autonomous in terms of doing it all ourselves.”

The band’s mission statement for the album is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s under-thought.

“Just to make music that’s energetic, that’s fun, that’s hopefully catchy and has a little bit of a hard edge,” he said. “We try to take that ethos into everything we do, whether it’s our music videos or our live shows and everything in between."

That doesn’t sound too different than the selling point of the band that pumped out summer ballads such as “Don’t Trust Me,” “My First Kiss” and “Starstrukk.”

Night Sports maintains that same energy.

But what is missing from the album are the commercial pop features that introduced the group to the likes of Katy Perry and Ke$ha fans.

What they’ve stripped out, in terms of commercial features and pop moments, they’ve replenished with what Motte calls “self-imposed” influences.

Motte has his own theory for the lack of collaborations on the album:

“I think more so just because no one wants to come to a creepy basement in Colorado, which is where we both started making music,” he said.

The two are staying close to home and they’re fine with that.

“Sean and I have the shortest morning commutes in the world. We just kind of go to our home studios and start working, so it’s nice to be able to do it like that.”

The same goes for their favorite sports teams. The Boulder-based group has enjoyed their fair share of the Colorado sports franchises’ success, having performed at the Denver Broncos Super Bowl victory parade this past February.

“We’ve been lucky enough to see three Super Bowls in our years and it was awesome to be involved in the celebration,” he said. “I can’t take much credit for the actual Super Bowl victory, but I’d like to.”

With a towering stature of six foot eight, it’s easy to assume Motte has seen some game time himself.

“The question I get asked pretty much every day is, number one, “how tall are you?” and the subsequent question is “do you play basketball?” he said.

While he never made it to college hoops, Motte can still dream.

“There’s still time. I have 4 years of eligibility to play for the University of Colorado and I think as a 32 year old man, you can’t give up on your dream,” he said.

This summer, 3OH!3 heads back out onto the Warped Tour trail.

With thousands of attendees, unpredictable weather and a ceaseless touring schedule, the Warped Tour is a sport of its own.

“You know, to be honest it’s pretty right in the sports world because you're doing a thirty to forty minute set, you know, sometimes in a hundred, a hundred and ten degree temperatures.”

But that won’t keep them from playing it.

“We’ll always keep coming back,” he said. “It kind of breaks that wall down between music and musician. That’s something that’s been really dear to us in our careers and music.”

For the latest on 3OH!3, follow them on Twitter and be sure to check out Night Sports available for download tomorrow!

Jimmy Fontaine

May Music of the Month 2016

May, 6, 2016
May 6

April showers bring May PLAYOFFS! That's how the saying goes, right? Check out the music you'll be hearing all month long on ESPN »

AXWELL^INGROSSO: "Dream Bigger" (iTunes | Spotify)

Obie Bermúdez: "Vida De Colores" & "Porque Te Quiero" off his new album #Cambios (iTunes | Amazon)

A$AP Ferg: "Strive" feat. Missy Elliott & "New Level" feat. Future off his latest album Always Strive and Prosper (iTunes | ESPN Music Exclusive Interview)

TINI: "Born to Shine" off her self-titled album TINI(Martina Stoessel) (iTunes | Amazon)

The Young Wild: "Moment Goes" & "Ain't Got Nothing On Me" off their new EP All The Luck (iTunes | Spotify)

Kygo: "Carry Me" feat. Julia Michaels off his upcoming album Cloud Nine available now for pre-order! (iTunes | Amazon)

Sofia Carson: Her new single "Love Is The Name" feat. J Balvin off his upcoming album Cloud Nine (Spotify | Facebook)

Andy Black: "Stay Alive" feat. Matt Skiba off his new album The Shadow Side (iTunes | Amazon)

Follow @ESPNMusic on Twitter for the latest!