50 Reasons to Be Excited About Pop Music In 2013

It is a truth universally acknowledged that in event of a nuclear holocaust two things will persist: cockroaches and pop music. In our monthly Pop for Skeptics column, Rohin Guha explains how the latter need not be a terrifying thing to navigate, nuclear holocaust or not.

No pop fan really knows what to do with himself in January. It’s a special time of year when new fads are still being cooked up and otherwise unremarkable artists — nice to see you again, Nicole Scherzinger! — stand a fair shot at selling more than just a couple records. Some enterprising pop oracles might consult science, the stars, and mathematical trends to make all kinds of predictions about what is set to become “the next big thing.” Others, like me, will wait until some stuff has happened to do that. Sure, with January finally over and done with, it’s probably a bit too late to be making prognostications about what we should look forward to in pop this year, but to borrow a phrase from last year: YOLO. Below, then, are precisely 50 reasons to look forward to pop music in 2013. … Read More

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Hipster Glasses, Facebook, and a Kiki: A Skeptic's Guide to Pop in 2012

With only days left until the end of 2012, the Internet is full of best-of essays and lists and embeddable Spotify playlists that reaffirm critics’ and tastemakers’ street credit and perpetuate the myth that most people writing about music actually have any kind of significant impact on the way that pop music is created, packaged, and sold. I won’t bore you with such gas. Instead, here are some fun superlatives that summarize the world of pop this year, for those of you who may not have kept up with this realm. These are undeniable touchstones — meaning that should you, as esteemed people with ears, have scruples with this list, it would behoove you to make an appointment with a qualified audiologist post-haste. Otherwise, read! Click! Dance! … Read More

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Tears and Tinsel: 9 Thoroughly Modern Holiday Songs

The holidays are that special time of year when old lovers re-emerge, flaring up like cold sores during a first date; it’s when we, shattered by the reality of having accomplished very little throughout the year, drown our anxieties in buckets of wine and platters of chocolate and prosciutto; it’s when we dwell on harsh, undeniable truths and ask ourselves poignant questions like, “Am I going to be alone forever?” and “Will everyone think ill of me if I cram one more custard tart into my eat-hole?” And amid this Titanic-esque mad dash to the end of the year, festive pop music that could mitigate all this stress too often only exacerbates it. So, below, we take a look at a few modern holiday confections that actually put us in the mood to celebrate. In an era of global warming and fiscal uncertainty, these are the kind of ditties that more accurately evoke the 21st-century holiday season than traditional tunes like “Jingle Bells,” “Deck the Halls,” or even an old Bing Crosby standard. … Read More

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A Brief History of Man-Hating Music Videos

With global warming, political unrest, and a cratered international economy serving as the shaky pillars of today’s world, we need pop music now more than ever. As hopeless headlines continue to paint dark horizons for us, pop is one of the few lights to shine through and inspire whimsy. Even the harshest skeptic has no choice but to relent and give into the genre. So we present Pop For Skeptics, a regular Flavorwire column committed to curating and commenting on the best ear candy from the US and around the world.

Misogyny in music, from rock to pop to hip hop, is a phenomenon so ancient and ubiquitous that it doesn’t even surprise us anymore. Neither, in this post-Madonna era, is it strange to see female pop stars treat men like sex objects. But what happens when these artists, besieged not only by their male counterparts but also a catty entertainment press and constant political threats to women’s rights, forgo the soft blows of easy objectification in favor of mounting a full-on attack on men? It’s not necessarily that some of pop’s brightest stars are giving off misandrist vibes; they’re simply mincing fewer words to put men in their place. Inspired by Christina Aguilera’s recent video for “Your Body,” which kicks off with a cheeky promise that “No men were harmed in the making of this video,” we’re taking a look at some of the most man-hating music videos in pop history. … Read More

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Can Calvin Harris Avoid Overexposure?

With global warming, political unrest, and a cratered international economy serving as the shaky pillars of today’s world, we need pop music now more than ever. As hopeless headlines continue to paint dark horizons for us, pop is one of the few lights to shine through and inspire whimsy. Even the harshest skeptic has no choice but to relent and give into the genre. So we present Pop For Skeptics, a regular Flavorwire column committed to curating and commenting on the best ear candy from the US and around the world.

Everybody in the entire world loves Calvin Harris. It’s inarguable. To deny it is to deny the fact that “We Found Love” is now a three-word shorthand that evokes pulsating dance beats and Rihanna’s Amazonian wailing; to deny it would be to deny the ubiquity of one of the most successful pop songs in the 21st century. But with this ubiquity comes a price. In the run-up to the October 30th release of this third studio album, 18 Months, Harris faces a big ol’ fork in the road. He has been raking in collaborators by the handful, including Florence + the Machine, Ne-Yo, Ellie Goulding, and, of course Rihanna. This is the kind of creative promiscuity that invites speculation as to whether Harris will go the way of other quick-to-peak DJ-producers before him, or if he’ll find a way back to the niche where he became a darling in the first place. … Read More

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The Best and Worst Singles from Repackaged Pop Albums

There comes a time in a pop star’s life when she, her business manager, some barnacles from the major label footing the bill for her latest record, and some other freeloaders gather in a conference room and look at how much money she’s been able to scare up a few singles into an album release. They might decide, “We’ve sold quite a lot of records and people want more!” They may note that people are still buzzing about the artist and suggest, “Say, auspicious pop star, how would you like to record another album quickly so we can make another boatload of bucks?” At this point, the pop star might say, “You know what? I’m tired.” But, plucky as they are, major label types will persist: “Okay, well, we have all these live tracks. We have some b-sides and demos, too. We can master them in Garage Band and have you pose for a new album cover and call it a ‘deluxe edition.’” At this point, the pop star might say, “Sure, fine, is there more Cîroc?” Of course, there is always more Cîroc. … Read More

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The Best New Artists from Pop’s Promised Land: Detroit

With global warming, political unrest, and a cratered international economy serving as the shaky pillars of today’s world, we need pop music now more than ever. As hopeless headlines continue to paint dark horizons for us, pop is one of the few lights to shine through and inspire whimsy. Even the harshest skeptic has no choice but to relent and give into the genre. So we present Pop For Skeptics, a regular Flavorwire column committed to curating and commenting on the best ear candy from the US and around the world.

When I bade farewell to New York City, I was also saying hello to an old friend: the Greater Detroit area. Diving back into this part of the world, I found a hotbed of pop genius blooming in my own backyard. Of course, you can peruse any number of sloppy trend pieces about Detroit without finding journalists who are able to recognize signs of revitalization, but are rather obsessed with pushing the narrative of Detroit as a land of ruins. In fact, the national discourse about the city’s cultural revitalization seems stacked against its resurgence. But the joke is on the rest of the world, because when you look at the quality of pop that’s coming out this part of the world, you realize it’s Coachella-caliber chart-ready pop with a futurist edge.

What’s more brilliant is that the city’s pop landscape makes sense of a culture of versatility that has given the world such acts as Madonna, Eminem, The White Stripes, Aretha Franklin, ADULT., Motown, and all of DEMF culture. Unlike the music scenes in bigger markets like New York, L.A., and Austin, Detroit hasn’t lost its specificity to the homogeneity of major label appropriation. Whether it’s decrepit buildings, bustling all-American roads like Woodward Avenue, or the general sense of the region’s ability to synthesize everything from hip-hop to bubblegum pop to EDM, pop stars from Detroit tend to have a special ownership of their hometown that Lady Gaga, for example, can’t seem to match for New York. After the jump, we explore some of the best tracks by these exciting new acts. … Read More

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Bid Farewell to New York With These 7 Pop Songs

With global warming, political unrest, and a cratered international economy serving as the shaky pillars of today’s world, we need pop music now more than ever. As hopeless headlines continue to paint dark horizons for us, pop is one of the few lights to shine through and inspire whimsy. Even the harshest skeptic has no choice but to relent and give into the genre. So we present Pop For Skeptics, a regular Flavorwire column committed to curating and commenting on the best ear candy from the US and around the world.

In life and pop music, nothing is more difficult than saying goodbye. It’s a word none of us want to let fly out of our lips because it indicates that something we’re intimately familiar with has ended and something scarily abstract is about to begin. Perhaps most terrifying of all, then, is saying goodbye to New York City. It’s akin to breaking up with your beloved, if your beloved happens to also embody the most lusted-after lifestyle in America.

I know all about this because I had to leave the city just last week — bidding adieu to everything from the Williamsburg Bridge to Sammy’s Noodle Shop and even the reliably unreliable 7 train — as I decided to swap New York for Detroit, perhaps at Patti Smith’s behest. And while throwing scarves, old mementos from ex-boyfriends, and books written by friends into boxes, I found a little time to construct an ideal playlist of songs that seemed to reconcile and make sense of the heavy emotional baggage that tends to come with having to say goodbye, especially to a city like New York. … Read More

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Pop For Skeptics: Is Frank Ocean Doomed to Become a “Queer Musician”?

On Independence Day this year, Frank Ocean published a beautiful open letter to the Internet. In it, he claimed allegiance to no sexual orientation and eschewed labels, instead wanting to tell readers about a man he fell desperately in love with, the same man who broke his heart. To be able to pair such candor with a body of work that can sometimes be obtuse and abstract is a luxury we rarely get from our favorite pop stars, and perhaps this is why Ocean’s open letter plucked our heartstrings in such a way that the message resonated long after we stepped away from the computer. To call it a “coming out” would be to diminish the grandeur of such a missive; it would insist that Ocean had been leading a lie of a life before clicking PUBLISH on that fateful Tumblr post. That he published the letter on Independence Day resonates in a few different ways: He was free not only of the constraints of a heteronormative hip-hop culture, but those of an increasingly aggressive LGBT-driven pop culture as well. As liberations go, it — like his own music — was poetic. … Read More

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Pop For Skeptics: Why Are Music Videos So Obsessed with Fairy Tales?

Once upon a time, pop stars used to be just like us. But then at some point — probably during their impressionable youth, while the rest of us were stuck in SAT prep classes — they were whisked away to an enchanted world of pop superstardom. It was the promised land of excess and beauty, where everything is magical all of the time. Louboutin heels served as glass slippers; award ceremony afterparties as fancy balls; black limousines as horse-drawn pumpkin carriages; and hunky A-listers as Prince Charmings. Yet it’s an open secret that when most of these pretty young things got sucked into the vortex of pop, they also found themselves having to grow up overnight. While they shirked the banalities of roommates bugging them about the ConEd bill, pop stars found themselves entangled with the messier parts of becoming an adult too soon: contracts, scores of people relying on them to make piles of money, and grueling hours that most of us probably only begin to reckon with as adults.

So it makes a lot of sense that some of the biggest stars in pop have, at one time or another, have employed fairy tale motifs in their music videos — what other trope could so evocatively represent the difference between who they used to be and who they are now? In addition to providing a venue to meditate about who they have become, these children’s stories allow pop stars to reconnect with that younger, perhaps forsaken version of themselves. Perhaps that explains why the fairy-tale music video trend pervades popular music across cultural, geographical, and musical divides. After the jump, we explore some rock and pop stars’ kitschiest fairy tale fantasies — many of which harbor curiously dark messages about coming of age. … Read More

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