Brandi Carlile Sings 'The Joke' Solo on 'Ellen' - Rolling Stone
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Brandi Carlile Performs Solo Acoustic ‘The Joke’ on ‘Ellen’

Songwriter forgoes the drums and string section for a moving take of her Grammy-winning song

A few days removed from delivering a stunning version of “The Joke” at the 2019 Grammy Awards, Brandi Carlile appeared on Ellen to play a haunting acoustic version of the two-time Grammy-winning track.

“The Joke” has become a staple not only of Carlile’s live shows in the year since it was released on By the Way, I Forgive You, but also of her television appearances. Still, there’s a fresh power in seeing her sing it alone. Without the drums kicking in or an intensifying string section, there’s an eerie stillness to her singing. And, though she doesn’t jump up and down with excitement at song’s end like she did last Sunday night, there’s clear joy in having hit that signature big note of the final refrain.

Carlile’s appearance on Ellen also had a special significance — during one of her three acceptance speeches at the Grammys, the singer paid tribute to host Ellen DeGeneres for inspiring her to come out as a teenager. “It’s a brave thing to do, too,” DeGeneres tells Carlile after the performance. “Most people that are performing, they worry about their career, so it’s a brave thing for you to be open and out.”

Carlile won three Grammys last weekend, for Best Americana Album, Best American Roots Song and Best American Roots Performance.

In This Article: Brandi Carlile


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