Coachella is the biggest music festival in North America. Its stage has been graced by some of music’s greatest and brightest stars making it a staple in pop culture. Through the global pandemic, everyone’s been eager to get back out to festivals since having to miss out on so many, including Coachella in 2020 and 2021. It has not helped that recent tragedies like the passing at Astroworld and new rising cases might derail fans from a third year of shows at the historic valley. Coachella is soldiering forward however, and have already confirmed headliners for 2022. Let’s take a look back over the years at who has headlined and dive into this year’s main stage additions.
Co-founded by Paul Tollett and Rick Van Santen, Coachella got its start in 1999 as a music and art festival. Its origins stem from a Pearl Jam concert in 1993 where the band performed in protest of Ticketmaster. This led to a one-day event in 1999, with the show returning in 2001 and occurring annually ever since. It ballooned from a one-day festival to know a week-long event, including two weekends full of shows back to back with many smaller parties and events taking place during the week.
The event began as a rock affair, featuring the likes of Beck, Tool, and Rage Against the Machine. Other acts included the Chemical Brothers, Morrissey, A Perfect Circle, Jurassic 5, and Underworld. Over the years, the inclusion of more mainstream pop-leaning acts began, with Madonna, Prince, Daft Punk and more starting to pop up in the late ’00s. By 2011, Kanye West made his first appearance, beginning a long-standing relationship with the festival giant.
2012 brought with it Coachella’s first hip-hop headliners. Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg shared co-billing with the Black Keys and Radiohead. OutKast and Drake would take on 2014 and 2015 respectively, solidifying urban music’s dominance over the festival and pushing it further towards the mainstream. The year that Outkast headlined, the show sold out in minutes solidifying it as one of the top music events in the world.
Drake offered them a one-up thanks to a guest appearance from Madonna, which included that viral kiss that had everyone talking. That same year Cochalla won Pollstar’s award for Major Music Festival of the Year. Thanks to artists like Frank Ocean, R&B fans also became familiar with Coachella as he referenced it in his music and began popping up at the festival on smaller stages. Its next major hip-hop headliner would be Kendrick Lamar in 2017. Kung Fu Kenny had become a dominant force in music and was an obvious choice to headline the world’s biggest festival. More surprising was reports that his slot almost went to Beyonce.
The hype surrounding a Beyonce lead Coachella would manifest in 2018 when she took her “Homecoming” set to the desert for two weekends full of show-stopping performances. Christened BeyChella by fans, Beyonce spared no expense making sure she delivered the biggest show in the festival’s history. This included an unprecedented live stream of the first weekend, a Destiny’s Child reunion performance, merchandise, and a live album and documentary which streamed on Netflix the following year.
2019 would be Ariana Grande’s year. Grande became the youngest person to headline Coachella at 25. She split headlining duty with Childish Gambino and Tame Impala. Reportedly Grande was a secondary choice as Justin Timberlake was initially slated to headline. He dropped out due to bruised vocal cords. Kanye West was also shortlisted and had been a potential headliner but opted for a separate performance outside of the festival due to them not being able to meet his staging demands to accommodate his Sunday Service choir. Instead, he treated fans to a church-inspired display on Easter Sunday right outside of the festival grounds.
2020 would see the festival’s first time not happening in almost 20 years. Frank Ocean was set to headline with Travis Scott and Rage Against the Machine. While they were rescheduled for 2021, that too was postponed. Frank is now expected to make his headlining debut in 2023. Travis was dropped due to Astroworld. Stepping up to headline 2022 now officially is Kanye West with co-headliner Billie Eilish. This will be West’s first time headlining since 2011 and Ellish second time performing since 2019. At the time, she was the youngest artist to score top billing at Coachella but this will be her first time officially headlining. While the festival is scheduled for two weeks in April, recent spikes in COVID cases and the postponement of the Grammy has many thinking Coachella might also get put on hold.